Tag Archives: necrology

Necrology: Drona

During the previous Vaults of Pahvelorn session (February 3), there was another PC death. In fact, it came perilously close to a TPK. The setup was as follows: there were two chambers, one external (pictured to the south in the map) and one internal. The external room was a makeshift shrine to demonic invaders and was guarded by several fanatical savage worshippers and a priest dressed in demon-lookalike armor. These foes were dispatched quickly but without great stealth.

Following that fight, the party went through the door leading to the inner chamber, and encountered a black armored demon warrior (actually, these creatures have armor as skin, much like an exoskeleton). He was positioned behind a heavy table on the northern side of the room.

Both sides were aware of the other, so there was no need to check for surprise. We went directly to initiative, which the black armored demon warrior won. I asked the players where all the PCs were to confirm that no characters had stayed behind in the previous room, and they verified that everyone was in the 10′ x 20′ hallway leading to the chamber. The demon warrior then discharged an energy weapon, which was 4d6 area effect damage (save versus spells for half).

All PCs and retainers were in the weapon’s area of effect. The damage dice came up 16 in total, so even those that made the save still took 8 damage. The PC Drona (fighter 3) was killed, as were two retainers (Eraria’s apprentice Genk and Drona’s retainer Gillim). Given that this was combat damage that reduced them to 0 HP, the various characters also got the standard death saving throw that I use to determine if 0 HP means true death or just unconsciousness, and those three mentioned above all failed that save as well (if I recall correctly, Eraria and a few other characters were also reduced to 0 HP, but made their death saving throw and so were successfully revived after the combat).

Session as recounted by the player of Drona:

The party returns to the barrow, which looks to have been fortified since their last visit. Tarvis and Darulin foolishly step into a snare trap, and the party are ambushed in the entry way. They make quick work of the savages that attack them, and charm their leader. The party makes their way into the barrow, led by the charmed man. Entering the second level, the party is ambushed once more. They make short work of the fellows and continue South. Beyond that path leads to a room full of more savages. A sleep spell gets rid of most of the group, and Fitzwalter gets rid of their leader. Drona and Gillum run the rest of the sleeping fellows through. Beyond the final door is a short corridor leading into a small room. At a desk sits a demon, similar to tangle. He shoots the party with a crazy magical crossbow. DEAD!

Final thoughts. Engaging in a frontal assault robbed the party of potential surprise. Also, approaching in a tight formation exposed everyone to the demon’s weapon.

RIP Drona, fighter 3 (picture by Gus L)

Necrology: Satyavati

Tomb/prison of Ibarkaju

It seems like analyzing player character deaths might be a good way to discuss the issues of risk and fairness, so I am going to make this a regular feature. This exercise is not intended to be a celebration of lethality or a collection of macabre DM trophies. Instead, I want to think about the interplay between clues, hazards, and player decision-making. Basically, I’m interested in reflecting on the actual play experience of specific character deaths because I think they can help inform scenario design. Rulings required to adjudicate will also be noted.

The first entry is a relatively straightforward death. The magic-user Satyavati was slain by animated statues that were guarding the tomb or prison of an ancient wizard. This is how the session went down. The party entered a 50′ x 30′ hexagonal chamber that had pillars carved in the form of stately warriors running down the room. At the north end was a plain stone slab upon which was lain a perfectly preserved body in loin cloth. There was writing all over the body and slab recounting wizardly crimes. The figure on the slab was holding a stone tablet over his chest that was inscribed with magical symbols.

Satyavati cast read magic on the tablet, and it turned out to be the equivalent of a scroll of protection from evil, which he cast. As the characters were investigating the area around the body, two of the columns animated, stepped down from their pedestals, and attacked. There were several rounds of combat (one of the PCs needed to make a save against paralysis, which was successful; though the players didn’t know what it was for, it still scared them and they retreated).

As they moved away from the slab, the statues disengaged and resumed their pedestal positions. Safely at the south end of the room, the characters regrouped. Someone suggested that Satyavati approach and continue to investigate since he still had protection from evil active and had not been attacked previously. They didn’t know whether or not it would ward away the statues, but thought that it would be worth a shot. As he approached, the statues animated and attacked again. Satyavati lost initiative, and was reduced to 0 HP by the attacks. He then needed to make a save versus death (we don’t play with auto death at 0 or negative HP, but instead use a saving throw) which was automatically failed due to a previous effect (which the player knew about).

Ramanan (the player of Satyavati) described the session thusly:

The party ventures off to the glass forest of Pahvelorn. They investigate the statue of St. Azedemar, the disgraced cleric / wizard killer. They move on toward the Ziggurats, and come across some 6-legged moles, who are being eaten by a werid fury centepede snake. A battle ensues, but the party of Gavin are victorious. Entering the Ziggurat, a staircase leads down to a submerged chamber. The party manages to cross the first room they find, despite a giant ooze that makes their life difficult. The second room contains an altar, which the party decides to muck around with–twice: Satyvati didn’t survive the second time. My next saving throw is a automatic fail. DEAD!

Referee note: the chamber with the ooze was partially flooded, not totally submerged. The “automatic fail” saving throw was the result of a “natural 1s” LotFP table (from Green Devil Face 5) that we have been using, the text of which is:

7. Your next saving throw attempt automatically fails.

Yes, this effect is dissociated, but we have been having lots of fun with this table.
Were any rulings required? I needed to decide if animated statues counted as evil for the purposes of the protection from evil spell. This is something that I had already determined beforehand, though the players did not know the mechanics. Undead and summoned creatures are “evil” but constructs are not unless they are possessed by a spirit. I’m in favor of things like this being mysterious and requiring experimentation and discovery. The danger was clear here, and the choice to potentially reengage with the statues was made explicitly. Further, there were a number of second chances involved (initiative, statue attack & damage rolls), so chance could have still saved the intrepid magic-user.

RIP Satyavati, magic-user 2 (picture by Gus L)