The battle interactive, From Dawn Till Dusk, was what Stalb had been preparing his whole unlife for. The Empire of Netheril had taken over the fortress of Spellgard – now named Saharelgard — and were compelling its oracle, Lady Saharel, to serve their will. Their dominance was not yet assured, but with reinforcements on the way, soon the pass would be closed and Netherese control of the area would be absolute. Only a twelve-hour window of opportunity was left to liberate Saharel and prevent the Shades from achieving a major victory.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t many Living Forgotten Realms players at the con, further testament to the fragmentation of gamers between Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, and other games. With just two tables – one higher level and ours consisting of 3rd-level Stalb, Matt’s 3rd-level ranger Genel, and two 1st-level Halflings – we were not positioned for success. But our heroes tried anyway.
There was also the option to go after the “Glory Tier.” Instead of an average party level increase in difficulty from 2 to 4, it was more like a half, which would make the scenario more appropriate for 3rd-level characters. With the option to change our minds from scenario to scenario, we tried it. That was our first mistake.
Our newbie troops rallied to infiltrate Saharelgard by attacking a mercenary vanguard camp. Stealthy creeping up to the unaware mercs, Genel fired an arrow through one guard’s throat with a critical hit, instantly killing him. On the other side, one of our ninja Halflings fired his bow and killed another guard. In the surprise round we were struck fast and hard. Things were looking up…
And then the commander stepped out of the tent. Summoning shadows around us, we proceeded to be completely swarmed. Additionally, a sizzling wagon full of explosives was ready to go off. Both Halflings went down. Genel was in trouble. Stalb, whose only area attack is triggered by a death, couldn’t get a single minion killed. We delayed the attack until reinforcements came, but it was hardly a success. That was the last time we tried the glory tier.
The next scenario we charged a wall. Magical artillery made it clear why clustering together in a group was a bad idea. Our ninja Halfling made it to the wall before being knocked unconscious and then faking that he was healed enough to get up. Unfortunately, he never fooled anybody. Genel and Stalb pulled up the rear, but we didn’t successfully eliminate all the guards before reinforcements arrived.
It was time to find the magical pillars that acted as a summoning portal for both monsters and our means of escape. Our job was to protect friendly casters from the inevitable beasts that would materialize once they started the ritual to remove the pillars. We positioned ourselves on all four sides – another mistake, as it would turn out, when two golems came pounding out of the pillar. After getting soundly trounced and losing one of our casters “reinforcements arrived” – which is another way of saying the DM felt bad for us and ended the scenario because we ran out of time.
After a deliberation on whether to save the Oracle or imprison her in the Shadowfell for eternity, the higher level heroes decided on the moral route (Stalb’s a revenant, being doomed to the Shadowfell doesn’t seem so bad). The problem was that we were running out of resources: We were simply out of healing surges. We had two aces up our collective sleeves: liquid shadow that would give us more healing surges and use of another daily power, and bonuses from the Oracle herself since we were keeping her alive. We used them all.
We wandered through a maze in which we had to close a series of gates. Both our Halflings were knocked unconscious before we could close the majority of them. Another fail. So far we had failed four out of four scenarios and we were all getting frustrated.
We then needed to load the pillars on the wagons. We decided that we were going to succeed at this task no matter what the cost. Circling the wagons, we spent every action point on helping the casters get those pillars on the wagons. We took a pounding from two ogres, but by golly we got those wagons loaded and escaped. Our first success!
And so we stumbled on, most of the characters hovering just near death. After several skill challenges dealing with random Netherese attackers, we made it to the final portal to make good our escape. But we hadn’t made enough skill challenges to open the portal — so we had to finish opening it first even as we were attacked.
Again we concentrated solely on our goal – get the wagons through the portal! – and ran forward, heedless of the threat. We managed to get the portal open on a critical success, and then winged humanoids started dragging the carts away from the portal while yet another gauth beholder paralyzed us.
We knew better now. Sticking together, Genel and the Halflings laid waste to the opposition. We used every magical resource at our disposal. One wagon through!
There were no healing surges left, but because we were able to kill off minions, Stalb grew stronger. We rallied and another wagon went through!
With just one wagon left, the gauth wasn’t about to let us win so easily. Stalb used his last power to double any attack on the beholder, and Genel finished him off. Success!
So what did we learn from this battle interactive?
- Never play a battle interactive at 1st level.
- Every party needs an area effect damaging power. When minions surround your character that have 1 hit point, it’s critical to be able to take them out quickly.
- When you’re in it for the long haul – you need to work together as a team. It took a lot of failures before the four of us learned that lesson.
Stalb and Genel leveled to 4th and we were exhausted by the time the game was over after midnight. But it definitely tested both player and character mettle, and we learned a lot about how our characters work. We optimized them so that the weaknesses we discovered in the battle interactive will be accounted for the next time we play. What more can you ask from a battle interactive?