Thursday, August 21, 2014

K34 - and thus died the Kraken

This session is the conclusion of a side adventure with alternate characters that pitched the Kraken against Gandalf, Quickbeam, Elphir, Beorn and Gwaihir the Eagle-Lord. 

The setup

Time 0 for session 3
It all resumed with the Eagle-Lord lying face up under a yard worth of water, grappled by the Kraken. The Kraken had been lured in really shallow water after the lake was partially drained and Gandalf lured it from the depth using a blue sphere of light. The blow from the diving Eagle was harsh, but the Kraken was still a serious threat.

Quickbeam was then carrying Elphir of Dol Amroth on his shoulder while Gandalf was slinging anemic fireballs to the beast. 

Felling the beast

If you laugh at the GM's artwork, you won't be invited anymore.
While Quickbeam and Elphir were wading to the Kraken, Gandalf propelled Beorn (in bear form) halfway to the beast.  Gandalf then offered a reprieve to the Eagle-Lord by casting a spell to push away water around both creatures' head. This beached the Kraken which was embroiled with the Eagle. By then, Beorn caused much damage with its claws and disabled a basal tentacle. Quickbeam put Elphir on the ground so the knight let out a power-blow that tore a large gash in the beast's side. Beyond the gash, a void full of stars was sucking in air. Elphir was struck by horror at this sight and failed to prevent tipping over into the emptiness. 

By his side, Quickbeam tore an even bigger hole in the Kraken's side while Beorn knocked one of the large eye off its socket. The beast had absorbed by then well over 100 HP of damage to its head and became unresponsive. 

Quickbeam used a tentacle as a rope to climb down into the oblivion while Beorn simply jumped straight in to follow the listless Elphir. When Gandalf arrived, all that he could see was Quickbeam hanging over a bottomless void. His intuition told him to Jump!, and so he did. Quickbeam let go and all fell into a maelstrom.

Underneath Middle-Earth

An underwater cave.

Down they fell for something like a minute until their bodies entered a gigantic underground cave. They fell in a lake. Only Elphir had a hard time to reach the island in the middle, but made it without harm. 

Overhead, there was a terror of tentacles wrapped around a colossal stalagmite hung some 80 yds over they heads. A beating organ was contained into a sack high up in the dark. Quickbeam grew a few of his spears and threw them at the hanging sack. Gandalf shaped a spire out of limestone such that everyone could climb and catch a hanging tentacle. They proceeded up, except for the wizard who lost his nerve and headed back down. 

Elphir attempted a strike which failed to penetrate the membrane. Beorn lost his grip and fell back down in the water. Quickbeam stabbed the heart and was followed by Elphir. A trickle of blood turned into a flood. The tentacles twitched, then let go of the stalagmite which began to free fall. 

The Kraken was in fact holding the massive cylinder of stone. Gandalf saw the mass coming down and shatter the island as it touch the ground. The island sunk, which triggered an earthquake. High above, the others were hanging from the sack, looking down in disbelief as a crack in the bottom of the lake drained the water. Gandalf and Beorn held on to dear life until the water was gone. 

The crack started to widen and ran along the lake bed until it hit the cave's wall. Then, a huge snapping sound deafened everyone as the crust of middle earth fractured. Gandalf stood there, listening as the fissure ran in multiple directions for hundred of kilometers. 

He didn't see this one coming, from the fissure, noises could be heard. Some peril bigger than the Kraken had been awaken. 


And thus ended the side adventure. What happened to the slaying crew is unknown. On that day, Bain was writing at his desk when he felt a dull earthquake running from West to East. Khazek was sleeping under a tree in the Eastern forests. Thordar was drunk under a table. Gror was sparring with his battle-guard. How about Lathmelen? Lathmelen was reading a book. Ngai, her cousin now Queen of elves looked at her and said: "I think that destiny is knocking at your door."

Monster/Adventure design notes

I didn't want to model the Kraken as a simple monster.  It was instead a sequence of challenges to overcome. 

  1. Interference by a swarm of Huorns: That got neutralized fairly well because it turned out that one of the PC was a bloody Ent (Quickbeam).
  2. A deep lake: It got overcome by draining part of it, which was anticipated. Using magic to find the weakness in the wall, then enlisting an Engineer from Tharbad was a good idea (Credit to Gandalf and Elphir).
  3. Drawing the Kraken out: In shallow water, Gandalf used a light to bait it. The Kraken bit the bait and ended up in a dangerous position. Gandalf removing the water around its head to beach it was a great idea (Gandalf). The Eagle-lord helped pinning it down as well by making it an attractive morsel to grapple (Gwaihir).
  4. Getting to the portal (See design notes underneath) and triggering something that matters to the main arc of the campaign.
The physiology of the Kraken was undefined. If had nearly infinite tentacles and couldn't be completely killed by striking the head. Here is how the Kraken worked at the surface of the lake:
  1. Three ranges for tentacles attacks (ST 40):
    1. 20 yds radius: small tentacles, severed at 10 HP (DR12), SM -1
    2. 10 yds radius: medium tentacles, severed at 20 HP, (DR12), SM 0
    3. 5 yds radius: large tentacles, severed at 40 HP, DR12, SM 1
    4. The head could take 80 HP before compulsory withdrawal, which it didn't manage to do because of a massive major wound knocking it down (Beorn's). SM 2
  2. Attacking tentacles was random:
    1. A successful Tactics placed a tentacle in range of an attack.
    2. The odds of a tentacle in each respective rings were: CR8, CR10 and CR14
      1. The bulk of the damage was done by armed parry against unarmed tentacle attacks.
  3. The Kraken has Per-8 in the air, and Per-12 for movement in the water. It could make as many attacks as its margin of success. 
    1. Wrestling-21 (bent on obnoxious deceptive attacks)
    2. Brawling-19
More importantly, the Kraken wasn't the guardian of some dinky door but rather a bait placed by the dark lord. The Kraken existed in two places, connected by a gate. Morogth knew that such a beast would be an attractive target for heroes. So he cursed the beast to hold on to a huge rock which threatened to shatter the crust of the world. The prophecy was fullfilled. What it did to Middle-Earth is material for the next chapter of Reclaiming Khazad-dum.

My regrets as a GM

  1. The Kraken didn't have enough punch: it should have struck more and harder. I don't know if I scared my players at all with it. 
  2. Many PCs were awesome strikers and somewhat redundant. I wish that I had designed a challenge where each player was more of a distinct asset. 
  3. I wanted to wrap up by the end of this session, so I made the last bit easier and thus a bit anticlimactic. 
  4. Syntactic magic is cool, but i'd be curious to hear from the players on how it worked out in practice: too strong? 
  5. High-powered campaigns are difficult for me to wrap my head around. However, I think that the spirit of the side-adventure was pulpy-fun so we rolled dice and giggled through the session.

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