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Exasperated Rants

The Eye of Vecna and the (almost) Total Party Kill

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
The party got their current quest as a side effect of completing their last quest. But, before I get into that, I need to back up all the way to the first session.

In the very first session, there was a Half-Orc Barbarian in the party, but the player got bored half way through the game, and he turned on the rest of the group, and tried to kill them for kicks. Well, he got beaten rather quickly, and I managed to work him into the story as having been placed there by the very guy they were trying to stop. It worked pretty well. Barbarian ended up captured and jailed. He escaped some time later.

Fast forward about 10 levels, and the same guy is back. He is now a scary dangerous badass who is gathering the Orc tribes under him through threats, intimidation, and promises of glory and reclaiming what they believe to be theirs - The very town the party resides in.

The party quickly learns that he has been accomplishing this by collecting Artifacts of power. After they beat him in a massive clash of armies that was a pain to get through and I recommend never trying under any circumstances, they found out he was heading to locate another artifact: The Eye of Vecna.

They managed to track him down and even got to the Eye before he could. Then they fought him and finally slew the comrade who betrayed them.

At this point, the party had 2 Artifacts in their possession. The first was a battle standard which the Ranger now carries. The second was the Eye of Vecna, which the party agreed was an evil and dangerous thing which must be destroyed. A few rumors later and they set off to find the Dragon who possesses a map that will lead them to a tower which contains the spirit of a Wizard who knows how to destroy the Eye. This was not going to be a simple task!

All the while, someone has to carry the Eye. Every extended rest, the Eye would make an attack against the holder's Will defense. Or for you 3.5 edition players, the holder has to make a Will save to overcome the influence of the Eye of Vecna. This was a fairly open roll, so the players knew if the attack was a success or a failure. I made the attack roll a little higher than normal because I expected the entire party to share the burden, and pass around the Evil Artifact when they could feel it starting to weaken their resolve. Well, rather than taking turns trying to carry the Eye without being driven mad, the party Artificer who had the highest Will defense had determined he and he alone would carry the Eye. This continued until he had failed 4 out of 5 attempts to resist the Eye. As it so happens, 4 was the magic number before the Eye would be able to attack at the worst possible time (The middle of a dangerous combat encounter), and force the character to implant the eye in his skull. More on that specific encounter can be found here.

The party found itself trapped on another plane, in the lair of the most devout followers of Vecna. They were quite surprised to find a Necromancer whom they had previously killed was also there, and quickly found out that this was him in the afterlife, and their old Necromancer enemy was now something called The Voice of Vecna. The situation comes down to this: The party gets a rest, and the influence of the plane has an adverse effect on them, halving their total healing surges and restricting access to daily attack powers. This was to partly prevent another instant kill situation like I've had in the last three major big bad evil guy boss fights. Each member had access to one daily attack power at the first round of combat, and unlocked another daily attack power in the 10th and 15th round. Every 5 rounds, the Necromancer would summon another undead monster, this was selected at random from a pool of 4 creatures. It was, at the core, a balanced encounter which had then been taken up a few notches in difficulty. Those of you familiar with Maptools who have an interest can find the campaign file here.

The Ranger did just as I expected him to; he focused entirely on the Necromancer. Ordinarily, this would be the best move; kill the guy who is summoning more monsters and you have effectively killed anything he would have summoned later. However, the rest of the party focused entirely on the ever refreshing pool of undead abominations. With the ranger split off from the party in combat, he had a difficult time being successful in putting down the Necromancer quickly.

The party Rogue was doing very well at taking out a Blaspheme Knight (Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead, Page 136), which had very quickly shown itself to be a potential problem. However, just before he could finish it off, the Warden who was flanking with him moved elsewhere, and without his sneak attacks, the poor Rogue was no longer able to deal the damage needed to drop the Knight.

The Cleric threw down what healing he had, but very quickly discovered the consequences of only having 1 Radiant damage attack (not counting Turn Undead). The result: Our Cleric just couldn't exploit the radiant Vulnerability found in the undead.

By the end of the encounter, the Ranger had witnessed his friends slaughtered in front of his eyes, and was knocked down to his last hitpoint, and knocked out. He woke up in front of his town, covered in the blood of his friends. His artifact was missing. His animal companion was nowhere to be found. Oh, and did I mention he now had a scar on the back of his hand in the shape of the mark of Vecna? This scar would be an important story element later.

I'm pretty sure I broke him.

This all begs the question: How did this happen?

I may have planned to kill as many as possible, but I also set up the fight to be reasonably fair. The party lacked 2 of the most important things in a successful party: Synergy, and Preparation. It seemed that each player had come up with their own plan that was independent of everyone else. When I see player characters shouting orders to one another in the heat of combat ("You hit him from the left, I'll hit him from the right. Keep him busy and I'll work my way around back to stop that Mage"), I smile. It shows thought and effort. If the party had focused on a single plan and everyone went with it, they would have stood a better chance. For example, if the Warden and the Cleric had focused on keeping the summoned Blaspheme monsters busy while the Rogue and the Ranger go to kill the real prizes - The Artificer and the Necromancer - you'd have a pretty good plan. With the Warden, who has the highest HP, taking the blunt of the attacks from several monsters you're putting him where he does best - absorbing damage and keeping the enemies off of your allies. Putting the Cleric there to support him means he has plenty of healing available to him, and can keep this up for some time. The Ranger and Rogue, on the other hand, deal the most damage out of the entire party. If the two of them had teamed up to focus on the real bad guys, the Necromancer would have gone down a lot faster, and they might have even taken down the Artificer.

The second problem was a lack of preparation. You would think that association with an artifact of untold evil which is trying to possess your companion would make you want to prepare yourself for potential undead. Hell, you would think that you would want to give yourself the ability to deal typed damage anyway. The party had been hording their gold for some time, and they could have spent a small amount on a few potions which they could then keep on hand until necessary. I glance through the consumable items section of Adventurer's Vault and see many low cost items that can make a huge difference in the right battle. Yes, using a consumable item means you have spent the gold to pay for it, and no longer have that anymore once the encounter is over. But so what? Use it when the situation calls for it, you'll be glad you had it. A Potion of Clarity can make all the difference between a hit and a miss when you use a daily power. A Regent could provide just the little extra push you need to turn the tide.

With both of them, you can work together quite well.

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Updated 08-02-2010 at 05:20 AM by Teksura (Campaign file is in a different location now.)

Evil Plots , My Game


  1. Aerthos's Avatar
    So the party has been reduced to one character who has been psychologically broken, it appears. Sounds like fun!

    With any luck the party will think of the whole thing as a learning experience (some coaching on the value of expendables may or may not be necessary).
  2. Ao's Avatar
    That was a good read. I'ma check out the campaign file here soon.