Keira’s adventure continues with question two of the 9Qs. Game mechanics and behind the scenes information is written in ITALIC.

Q2: What overtly troubling event remotely tied to the results of Question 1 occurs, confirming that something seriously adverse to the heroic motivation is afoot?

Be the GM first: Use the random idea generator to inspire an unusual event and then roll a d6 twice to express that event in an encounter featuring (1-2) intrigue, (3-4) pursuit, and/or (5-6) combat. Be the player next: Use the heroes’ abilities to respond to the event as per their heroic motivation and the RPG’s rules. Be the GM once more: Close the encounter by resolving NPC reactions to the heroes.

Story Cube: Towers with crosses on top. Interpretation: The first thing that springs to my mind is a church, so the encounter will have something to do with churches, religion or clerics etc. That also fits the adventure seed. Encounter: Intrigue and combat. I also decided to ignore the strict GM-Player alteration. Instead, I will just describe the action and use the GM emulator when needed.

Keira continues onward towards Fiveleague House, making good time. After two and a half days of uninterrupted travels she reaches the outskirts of Fiveleague House, a large and fortified inn and tavern, late in the evening.

At this time I find myself thinking about the concept of the “extended rest”. D&D 4e is a lot about resource management with expendable daily resources like action points and daily powers. The management of these resources is part of the underlying game system and an important part and I need a way to prevent the phenonomen of the “15-Minute Adventure Day” where you basically take an extended rest after every encounter to go into the next encounter fully healed. Since the passage of time is handled in an abstract story focused way using the 9Qs I will implement the following mechanic: If more than one day is about to pass and the hero is assumed to take an extended rest, I will roll a random encounter check for the extended rest. The chance of a random encounter is 30% and it can be reduced to 20% with a successful Nature or Dungeoneering check (depending on location) vs. a moderate DC of the hero’s level. If a random encounter occurs it will always be a combat encounter of the hero’s level and the rest is interrupted, which means the hero does not gain the benefits of an extended rest. This rule does not apply when taking a rest in a tavern or inn or an otherwise secure or fortified place. It will be implemented from this point on for future encounters.

It is already dark and a pale moon gives off only very little light but Keira can make out two humanoid shapes in the darkness, standing close to each other in the shadows of the wooden pallisade (Perception vs. DC 16, failure). She can’t make out any more details and assumes, that the shapes are guards taking a little break from their duties and having a little chat (Do the shapes notice Keira? Perception vs. DC 16, success. To determine the DC I used Keiras “passive” Stealth, I just added 10 to her Stealth skill modifier and I rolled a natural 19 for the opponents.). As she comes closer the talking stops abruptly and one of the shapes vanishes further into the shadows which strikes Keira as an unusal behavior for guards. Keira grasps her staff firmly and raises her voice, ready for anything. “Who goes there in the dark!? Show yourself if you mean no harm!”, she shouts into the direction of the two shapes. A human shape in a hooded cloak steps out of the shadows into the pale moonlight. “No need to worry traveler. I mean you no harm”, the shape answers.

“That is good to hear, but what about your friend? Where did he dissapear to?” The shape doesn’t look like a guard of any kind. From the tone of the voice Keira assumes he is male. He appears to be a little overweight and carries no visible weapons. His hooded cloak is dark grey and made from sturdy cloth.

“Oh he? Just a call of nature if you know what I mean. We were just about to go inside ourselves.”

Keira nods (Perception vs. DC 19, success on the spot, rolled a 19!) as she notices a ring on the mans finger in shape of a broken skull. The symbol of Vecna! Did the delegation already arrive? She needs to find out but she needs to be watchful.

“Well then, let’s wait for your friend and let’s go inside together.”

“Oh you just go right ahead. My friend and I, we were in the middle of discussing business. I am a spice trader you know.”

“Spice trader? I see. Oh well, I just go right ahead then.” With these words Keira heads towards the wooden gate that leads to the inner buildings and guestrooms of Fiveleague House. As soon as she believes she is out of sight she slips into the shadows and tries to sneak up on the man she just spoke to. Maybe she can eavesdrop on their conversation and verify if they are indeed only talking business.

Skill Challenge of level 2 with a complexity of 2 (6 successes before 3 failures). Skills: Stealth (3 successes), Perception (3 successes), Arcana (to use cantrips like “ghost sound” for distraction, 2 successes). Success: Keira catches the content of the conversation unnoticed. Failure: Keira is discovered. Skill challenge is a failure (5 successes, 3 failures, close call). Keira gets 250 XP for the challenge. Yes, for those of you unfamiliar with 4e, you still get XP for a failed skill challenge. Nice huh?

Keira casts a quick cantrip, ghost sound, to cause some noise, the sound of fighting cats, to emenate from a nearby bush.

She uses the sound to cover her own noise as she sneaks closer. The second shape comes back from the shadows and the two continue their conversation. After the “spice trader” said something the other shape suddenly stares right into Keiras direction and raises his hand, signaling the “spice trader” to stop talking. Did he see her?

Before she could further think about it, the shape draws a hand crossbow from underneath a cloak, together with a curved scimitar, and leaps backwards, firing a poisoned bolt. Now Keira can make out details. A drow! With darkvision! What are drow doing with Vecna worshipers?!

Time for the instant monster manual again. I need a level 0 cultist and a level 0 drow:

Cultist of Vecna, Level 0 Human Controller:

AC 14, Fort 10, Ref 12, Will 14, HP 18, Init +3, Speed 6, Arcana +8, Religion +8, History +8, Diplomacy +8

Dagger: +5 vs. AC, 1d4+4 damage

Vecna’s Command (standard action, ranged 10): +3 vs. Will, 1d6+3 psychic damage and slide the target 2 squares.

Web of Lies (standard action, area burst 1 within 10, enemies in the burst): +3 vs. Reflex, 1d4+3 psychic damage and the target is slowed until the end of this character’s next turn.

Drow Assassin, Level 0 Drow Lurker:

AC 14, Fort 12, Ref 14, Will 10, HP 16, Init +8, Speed 6, Perception +8, Stealth +8, Athletics +7, Acrobatics +8

Scimitar: +5 vs. AC, 1d6+3 poison damage

Hand Crossbow (ranged 10): +5 vs. AC, 1d6 poison damage and ongoing 3 poison damage (save ends)

Cloak of Shadows: This character can make a Stealth check to hide if he has any cover or concealment (except cover from creatures) as long as he ends his move 3 squares away from where he started the move. He still takes the normal penalty for moving more than two squares.

I planned to resolve combat on a erasable battlegrid that I made by using 1-inch gridded flipchart paper underneath a clear plastic desktop writing pad (far better than a chessex battlemap because of the smoother surface and the possibility to put professional poster maps underneath as well). Because my game time for the night was up I ended up running the battle at work during lunch break (yes, I am a geek and I had my netbook with me) improvising with the barest of supplies but I was surprised how well it went: I drew the map on squared paper with a ballpen in ink and marked the positions on the map with a soft pencil stroke (K for Keira, C for Cultist and D for Drow).

I updated the positions after every round and removed the former positions with an eraser. For rolling dice I used my Android dice roller app. Like I said, it went so well I find myself thinking about doing it like this all the time when I play solo. It saves a lot of time and foremost you don’t need a lot of table space. The cinematic part happens in your mind anyways.

The crossbow bolt only grazed her shoulder but the wound was deep enough for the drow poison to enter her bloodstream. She felt dizzy. The cultist uttered a dark prayer in a strange language and a streak of black foglike energy lashes out at her head, trying to get inside her brain. Thanks to her arcane studies her mind is fortified against such attacks, rendering the attempt useless. Now it was her move. She concentrates and reaches into her inner arcane power, focusing it in her hands and mind. She shouts the arcane words and a bolt of force strikes the cultist, who meanwhile had closed in on her. He stumbles but does not fall. But Keira is not done yet. Not breaking her concentration she digs deep into her inner strength. Sweat builds on her forehead. Staff in hand she clutches it tightly while stretching out her other hand. “VAS ORT GRAV!” The words of power cut through the night as a blue bolt of lightning shoots from her staff and hand, converging in front of her body and streaking outward towards the cultist. He opens his eyes wide in surprise as the lightning bolt strikes him with such powerful force that he stumbles backwards, burning through his cloak and into his flesh. The last thing he sees is a flash of light as another magic missile strikes him in the head, killing him. Now Keira can concentrate on the drow. She looks around but can’t see him. Suddenly a bolt shoots out of the darkness. There, behind the bush! Keira feels dizzy and weak. The poison is still running through her system, eating away at her stamina and life force. She pulls herself together and dashes forward. The drow changes position but one glimpse of him was all Keira needed. “IN POR YLEM!” The magic missile shoots forward. For the drow, there was no escape as the bolt of force burns through his chest, leaving a smoldering hole. Eyes wide open the drow falls to the ground.

End result: Keira survived with 4 HP left. In the first round, after being poisoned and damaged by the bolt and missed by the cultist’s Vecna’s Command attack, she used wizards fury (minor action) and fired one magic missile (minor action) and one arc lightning (standard action) at the cultist. She then spend her action point to get another standard action and casts magic missile again at the cultist, killing him. After that it was a hide and chase battle against the drow who used his Cloak of Shadows after every move and fired a bolt at Keira with combat advantage thanks to him being hidden. Thanks to Wizard’s Fury Keira could take two move actions and still fire a magic missile, so she moved to a position one square away and fired a missile. Of course there was some metagaming involved since I as player knew where the drow was hiding but I played it so that Keira had to move so that there was no cover or concealment between them and the drow still had an edge by gaining combat advantage for every attack. After all it was a close call and a fun encounter which costs Keira quite a few resources: one daily power, one action point and four healing surges. Since an extended rest is not a sure thing anymore it might get pretty close in future encounters (unless of course, Keira rests at Fiveleague House). Keira gets 100 XP.

After the battle Keira can finally concentrate on her healing magic. She purges the poison from her system and a green warm glow heals her wounds.

That is my fluff description of using healing surges 😉

What are drow doing in league with Vecna followers? She searches the bodies, takes the ring from the cultist and the quiver of poisoned crossbow bolts from the dead drow. The cultist’s dagger is decorated with a large ruby which she also takes. She then hides the bodies in the underbrush and makes her way into Fiveleague House to see if the cultist has friends with him.