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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:55 pm 
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tGoH is (not was) a tremendous inspiration. The mechanics make the point that a group of low epic PCs can't just go mount the heads of the LotN on their wall on a nice Sunday afternoon, which was desperately needed at the time. The flavor is the gold though. It has fired my imagination for years, and continues to do so. Well done Gate's team!


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 11:37 pm 
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[quote="KingCrazyGenius"]It's one thing to have the stat block in front of you for occasional reference, knowing what to add to the rolls, etc. It's another thing entirely to have to pause the game for a few minutes while you re-familiarize yourself with one of Belial's **** powers. Oh, and Fierana just showed up because of course she did, and she has powers too. And that pile of pit fiends isn't getting any smaller.


A thought occurs to me that I never gave an explanation for how I get around this. Normally, I transplant the stat block onto a word document and read it from there. Makes it much easier to read and allows me to format it in a way that I can notecard it essentially.

Generally, when I am going to use a Lord of the Nine (hasn't occurred yet), it generally means I am going to have to throw what amounts to an entire Court towards my group of some 12 to 18 players (divided into 3-4 groups that play for weekly games over a 3 month period; With one seasonal event where everyone is invited to play together). This means for this encounter, hypthetically it will be Belial's Court, I will be throwing:

Quote:
  • Belial
  • Fierana
  • Gazra
  • 99 Hamatulas
  • 36 Erinyes
  • 18 Fallen Planetars
  • 9 Pit Fiends

Belial begins by deploying his Might of Hell and tethering a Dispel Magic to it to harrow his would be spellcasting attackers and activating his Adoration aspect of his Aura of Hell, and finally will spend his Standard action targeting a group of enemy creatures with Mass Cure Light Wounds, using Eternal Torment to either outright remove them from the fight or hamper their ability to threaten him. Anyone who is doubled over in pain becomes a target for the Erinyes' and Fallen Planetars (see below).

Fierana, by default, begins the encounter by making use of her Arouse the Passion ability. Fierana will then make use of the second manifestation of Passion's Lips to force any males to submit to her will and fight their own comrades. Those that survive will quickly find themselves smacked with a Quickened, Empowered, Corrupt Meteor Swarm on groups that manage to resist her charm OR (in the more probable event, if probable is even appropriate) a single creature is still standing she will forgo making use of that usage of her ability and instead use a Quickened, Empowered, Corrupt Fire Strike on a single creature.

If after Beliel and Fierana's combined assault, no creatures are left standing and capable of fighting or providing any suitable resistance, the remaining creatures will spend their time disarming, capturing, or killing any remaining survivors. Any survivors the Lord and Lady deem "interesting" will most likely be taken into Phlethogos to be thrown into the Lake of Fire, tortured, and raped repeatedly (not necessarily in that order mind you). Otherwise the encounter goes on:

Gazra will move 5ft next to Fierana to, not only break line of effect on any creature who might have her in their sights, but to also grant her the benefits of Evasive Preceptor and Uncanny Dodge Enabler (knowing full well the redundancy of it all). He will then use Epic Combat Expertise to to grant Fierana a +5 dodge bonus to her AC. A single creature that manages to successfully save against Fierana's Passion's Lips will be forced to make a reroll on the save due to Gazra's Adjust Probability. Should Fierana fall in battle (highly unlikely), Gazra will make use of his Call Back ability within a 24 hour period, most likely immediately after combat has subsided. Should Fierana fall in combat, Gazra will begin to back up Beliel (fluff be damned).

The Pit Fiends will often simply make use of a Quickened Fireball before making use of their Greater Invisibility to quickly turn invisible and move into a harrowing position for any potential charging creatures or simply to break line of effect for either Beliel or Fierana.

The Erinyes' will make use of their Entangle ability to capture creatures rendered helpless by Beliel's Eternal Torment ability. Creatures unaffected will be targets of the Erinyes' Charm Monster and become willing hostages if they are not outright slaughtered by any males dominated by Fierana's Passion's Lips. Generally they will communicate with Beliel and Fierana telepathically to judge whether a creature will be captured or left to the Planetars (see below).

The Planetars will cast Death Knell and use a combination of Coup De Graces on the helpless creatures that are rejected by Beliel and Fierana. Against more lively opponents, the Planetars will make use of their Destruction spell-like ability to outright kill any potential survivors who might get in their way.

The Hamatulas are essentially a last resort if not an outright clean up crew, often helping the Planetars in finishing off any remaining opponents. When pressed into duty, these Hamatulas will break line of effect (and often line of sight) with any such creature that might threaten Beliel, Fierana, and Gazra.


Any DM running an encounter with anything higher than a Duke of Hell as a solo encounter against a party, isn't playing the NPC to their fullest potential. And keep in mind, this is Beliel. Imagine how horrific it would be if it were Asmodeus? Imagine if it were Beelzebub? or Mammon? or Dispater? Frankly, the only ones I can imagine fighting solo are Mephistopheles and maybe Leviathan (and by alone, I mean encased in a block of Ice and fighting via proxy by means of 4 or more Barregons).

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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 4:33 am 
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Lazarous wrote:
Any DM running an encounter with anything higher than a Duke of Hell as a solo encounter against a party, isn't playing the NPC to their fullest potential. And keep in mind, this is Beliel. Imagine [snip] Dispater?


Yeah, I wonder what it would be like to DM a game where the PCs are trying to take on Dispater, and it turns out you've got a lot more to worry about than just His Iron Grace?


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:33 am 
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Selah wrote:
Lazarous wrote:
Any DM running an encounter with anything higher than a Duke of Hell as a solo encounter against a party, isn't playing the NPC to their fullest potential. And keep in mind, this is Beliel. Imagine [snip] Dispater?


Yeah, I wonder what it would be like to DM a game where the PCs are trying to take on Dispater, and it turns out you've got a lot more to worry about than just His Iron Grace?

Hah!


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:58 am 
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Selah wrote:
Lazarous wrote:
Any DM running an encounter with anything higher than a Duke of Hell as a solo encounter against a party, isn't playing the NPC to their fullest potential. And keep in mind, this is Beliel. Imagine [snip] Dispater?


Yeah, I wonder what it would be like to DM a game where the PCs are trying to take on Dispater, and it turns out you've got a lot more to worry about than just His Iron Grace?


It's pretty complex and requires a lot of work to do it justice. I've never (yet) had a group of PCs take a serious swing at a Lord of the Nine, but I've had a few Dukes of Hell get iced by PCs. I've generally found it works best as a series of adventures, a campaign arc if not the focus of an entire campaign. For example, one time a group of PCs I wanted to ice a former Duke of Hell. He'd just recently been stripped of rank as a result of the PCs actions. As the PCs were newly risen quasi-powers (DvR0) with hopes to rise higher, they wanted more legendary deeds under their belt and less evil plotters working against them.

So the upshot of that is that they took a run at him. He'd relocated to Avernus as an outcast devil, sh he'd managed to avoid immediate execution. 'course, it doesn't mean other devils wouldn't go after him. So the PCs couldn't put it off and had to get things done. This is what it involved.

- Rallying a heavenly crusade against Avernus. This was to prevent the PCs from being overwhelmed by diabolical numbers and retaliation from the Lord of the First (who wasn't fond of the PCs at all). This required some diplomacy to set up, use o war rules and setting up the long trip from the heavens to Avernus. The actual trip involved trying to keep the crusade a secret as long as possible, fending off diabolical spying and scouting attempts and fighting through Acheron to find a proper and large enough portal to Avernus. This included fighting off both locals and diabolical assaults, including weaponized and mobile cubes of iron. You know, the island to continent sized ones that float around Avernus. The devils hollowed the smaller ones out and converted them into warships.

- Fending off hellish attacks as they transversed Avernus. This was largely army scale engagements that involved pushing back Blood War defenders and local reinforcements. Lots of army-scale preparation and effort here, as well as a few noteworthy normal combats when the PCs engaged enemy commanders. These tended to be moving skirmishes, as the crusade couldn't afford to get pinned down.

- Reaching the former Duke's hideaway and laying siege to it. This involved fending off more attacks (including the Supreme Legion of Abigor) as they cracked the former Duke's defenses. Then the PCs went in and fought his defenses. This was a fairly typical (but timed) adventure against devlis employing all the dirty tactics they could. It also involved a special guest, a DvR0 advanced nightwalker sent by a greater power who was both interested in the former Duke and wanted to screw over the PCs. Lots of ugly battles, including facing down and destroying the nightwalker.

- Finally facing the former Duke. He was alone for this battle, but the former Duke had contingencies and powers in play that put the PCs at a massive disadvantage. This made minions untenable since they'd just get screwed over too. A bit of a copout, but after so many mass battles, I wanted a change of pace. Of course, the PCs had taken their own preparations, which helped deal with that disadvantage and the former Duke was slain.

- Escaping the forces that had gathered around the crusade. Yet more warfighting. Notably, a named NPC from the Gates of Hell (Natara) got killed during this. The PCs had an allied follower who was a charger-build as well. The PCs + that follower faced her down. The follower barely survived the exchange. Natara didn't.

- Breakout and finally securing escape from Hell - by dealing with Beezlebub, who they convinced to secretly help the PCs so that the escape would reflect poorly on both Abigor and by extension Bael. A finale that was dabbling in diabolical politics, since no run in Hell should only be combat.

So the conclusion? Not only is it a ton of work, it requires effort to keep things interesting. I find it's best to think of it as far more than the battle but all the circumstances around it and leading up to the fight. You really need to bring your A game and be creative. It isn't a single fight that happens in a vacuum. Anyway, this was only a former Duke of Hell. Imagine the sort of things someone like Dispater or any Lord of the Nine is going to have. It's really a war unto itself, with facing your foe being akin to one of the final battles of the war.

It's heaps of work as the DM but really rewarding to see your PCs go through. I recommend it if you have the right group for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:00 pm 
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Selah wrote:
Lazarous wrote:
Any DM running an encounter with anything higher than a Duke of Hell as a solo encounter against a party, isn't playing the NPC to their fullest potential. And keep in mind, this is Beliel. Imagine [snip] Dispater?


Yeah, I wonder what it would be like to DM a game where the PCs are trying to take on Dispater, and it turns out you've got a lot more to worry about than just His Iron Grace?


The short answer: He wouldn't.

The long answer: You'd never get close enough to figure it out. Dispater isn't honestly built to be fighting head to head solo or as a group since the way he (and many Courtiers) is(are) built encourages a mentality of playing any group against one another and making the encounter outright unbearable to point of absurdity.

From the Iron Tower to his Iron Curtain to being wrapped in his Esoteric Aegis, the very idea of getting close enough to harming Dispater is obscenely difficult, if not outright impossible. Hell, Acedia's Influence makes fighting him outright impossible should you fail against it (since slaying fiends is a Good act, as defined by The Book of Exalted Deeds, and Dispater is obviously a fiend). Adding in factors like his Iron Staff of Dis, his Rod of Dis, and the actual abilities of his Iron Tower and the fight has essentially gone from "obscenely difficult" to "impossible", requiring you to make a DC 1d20 + 19 Strength check just to attack, cast spells, and even receive reflex saves against him (or as a result of succeeding in attacking him). To mention that he is one of the few Lords of the Nine that actually make use of multiple contingencies (in addition to Contingent True Resurrection) only adds more rust against the idea of ever killing him in a head to head fight.

If I recall correctly, Dispater is supposed to be a shadowy corporate overlord in The Gates of Hell. Untouchable and to many, infallible. To say that whoever stated this entity out accomplished this, is an understatement of the highest magnitude. Whoever stated out Dispater, has essentially created an encounter so outright unbearable, that the idea of ever taking down Dispater (and ever hoping to succeed), must be the result of some Epic Campaign in and of itself. One that doesn't take place in a fight or a war. No, this will be quite possibly one of the most annoying types of Campaign settings of all time: A business war. One fought through secrets, lies, and conspiracies that pits the party against one another.

Simply put: Dispater, either through accident or intentionally, is not strictly viable as he is stated out to be fought in a classic D&D sense.

However, lets assume for a moment that Dispater is to be fought in a head to head, all out brawl. Let's assume that he is placing all of his chips on the table over a fist fight. What would such an encounter look like? Well for one, it would look nothing like an encounter with Beliel. Not only because Dispater doesn't have many combat focused followers, but for the fact that anyone being added to the fight would barely serve much of a purpose. After all, The Iron Tower makes it fairly moot and even if we assume that someone willingly went through the effort to cast The Circle of Locking the Nine Gates just to get him out of the tower, they still have everything else to contend with... More specifically, the very real possibility of him just using Antimagic Field (Dispel check 1d20 + 68 made each round he is still inside the circle.) to deactivate the spell and just return to his Tower and start an office pool on which assassin will kill the guy who summoned him and at which time.


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:10 pm 
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The joke here Lazarous is that for years Selah ran The Iron Siege, in which challengers attempted to kill Dispater. I don't think a single one of them ever even made it to the Iron Tower. Pretty much all of them were killed very quickly.


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 1:14 pm 
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Aluroon wrote:
The joke here Lazarous is that for years Selah ran The Iron Siege, in which challengers attempted to kill Dispater. I don't think a single one of them ever even made it to the Iron Tower. Pretty much all of them were killed very quickly.


Interesting. I may actually begin spreading the word of this challenge again. I am a massive subscriber to the idea that "If it has statistics, it can die." and this challenge just seems like a massive spit into the eye of that philosophy. An interesting conundrum is that Dispater can reasonably resist Asmodeus' Control Creature (Devil) salient ability. As can Mephistopheles, Lilith, Leviathan, and Mammon. Not as well as Dispater, but they can effectively tell him to die in a ditch. The point being that it is entirely possible for Dispater to fight Asmodeus in a head to head fight and have a reasonable chance of victory.


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 2:14 pm 
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Until you realize that Asmodeus can eliminate that fun little template that gives Dispater his powers.


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 Post subject: Re: Book of Vile Darkness [Old Prestige classes]
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 3:00 pm 
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Kain Darkwind wrote:
Until you realize that Asmodeus can eliminate that fun little template that gives Dispater his powers.


Ah, yes. Forgot about Overlord of Hell. In my defense, Asmodeus has only come up in discussion in my group as an encounter once (and we determined that we would have more fun fighting Deities and Demigods Zeus with his Divine Splendor). Since you're here Kain, do you mind explaining how Merorem might fight optimally given his listed stat block? I feel I cannot do the character justice without going into what is the equivalent of Scry-and-Die tactics and bordering "Wizard-In-The-Sky" tier fighting.


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