One stack of paper seems to be a transcript of a roleplaying game. The priest shakes his head. "He wanted to convince me that roleplaying isn't Satanic, so he brought this to show me. I think I'd be more convinced if he didn't call his players 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.'"
All right, before the pizza came, you were just about to go around the corner that, you hope, leads to the central courtyard of the mage's tower. Ready?
"Hold on--does anyone need healing?"
"Looks like we're all at full strength. Of course, it's not as much of an issue for me."
"What? Hand me your sheet...how do you manage to have this many hit points?"
"Well, I mean, I got lucky. I've rolled the maximum every time, even at first level."
"I did too, though--Allen, do you realize your character Torg has literally twice as many hit points as my character Ranam? And we have the same Constitution bonus--in fact, my constitution is one higher than yours?"
"Cut it out, you two. I don't want to hear it. I'm a level above all three of you and I have fewer hit points than either of you two. Rolling the maximum each time, my ass. I'm using your dice next time--I got a different number every time I rolled."
"Well, your Con is four points lower than Torg's."
"A different number each time? Cool! We're using your dice next time we play Settlers of Catan."
Come on, you four. Usual marching order?
"Yeah, that works."
Good. Easy for me to keep track of, because it puts you in order alphabetically by character name. R, S, T, U...got it. OK. You go around the corner and find yourself in a garden. Or it would be a garden if anything grew in it, but instead, it consists of masses of lava that have hardened into unnervingly distorted shapes, and the burnt husks of trees.
"Well, this is cheerful."
"You know, this would look a lot less dismal if we had a single magic weapon. This feather fall ring is gonna be really helpful while I'm getting chopped to pieces."
"Please don't start. If you go off on how underequipped we are, Allen will start complaining again about how we're not allowed to play multi-classed characters."
In the middle of the garden, smiling at you, stands a man in wizards' robes. He has bright orange hair and ruddy skin. On either side of the man are two shorter companions. One is a sort of brass-skinned dwarf with fire for hair, naked but for a copper skirt, holding a hammer. The other is floating a little off the ground, and seems to be a large mouth full of teeth attached to perhaps ten long, spindly claws.
"Do you mind if we call the dwarf a 'fire-dwarf' so we don't mix him up with me? I don't want anyone saying they're attacking the dwarf and suddenly I think my friends have turned on me."
"All right, the gnome has the same number of hit points as me, so I'll cast...hey, can I cast a touch-activated spell on him if I'm not next to him in the marching order?"
I'm going to say no--someone you're next to, yes, but any more movement than that and you're going to have to start rolling initiative.
"Oh...forget the gnome then, sorry. I'll cast 'Endure Electricity' on Ranam instead. Our sources did say this guy's an electricity mage, right?"
"Hey, if she's casting a spell, I'm casting 'Shield' on myself."
Noted. The mage does in fact notice both of you casting spells, but doesn't comment. Instead, he says, "Welcome to my home. My name is Verwald, and these are my servants, Gorlich," gesturing to the dwarf--sorry, to the fire-dwarf, "and Mifi," gesturing to the floating thing.
"Mifi? Its name is Mifi?"
"Deborah, your character has a wisdom of 17. You know better than to snicker at things that might kill you."
Verwald says, "I trust that you are here on a mission of goodwill? Perhaps you've come to sacrifice your village in my honor?"
"Um, no. We're actually pretty much here to take the crown you're guarding."
"Oh, good work, Ulrich. I'm sure he'll just hand it right over."
"Ah," says Verwald. "I'm afraid I can't give you that. Here's a counteroffer--why don't you...die?" All right, roll for initiative, folks.
"Thanks, Ulrich. 'We're only here for the crown.' What's your Wisdom, again?"
"My Wisdom is just fine, thanks. I think you're only picking on me because I'm playing a character with a different gender than mine, which makes you the only female character in the party."
"Well, if one of the boys had played a female character...ugh, nine."
"Eleven over here. I'm playing a woman in the other game I'm in."
Let me roll for the bad guys...all right. The order's going to be Ulrich, Gorlich, Torg, Mifi, Sarah, Verwald, and then Ranam. Ulrich, you're up.
"All right. I'll step sideways to get a clear shot, draw my bow, and shoot at Verwald."
Go ahead. He's about forty feet away from you--how's it look?
"Uh...two? With bonuses, um..."
Don't bother, I don't think that's going to hit. OK, Gorlich throws his spear at the half-elf and...yeah, that's going to hit. And--pretty solid hit in the arm, so you'll take one less than max damage. Torg?
"He just hit Ranam? I'm drawing both swords and charging him. I can't use the short sword on a charge, but...I rolled a thirteen for the bastard sword. Modified, that's--"
Hold on, hold on. It's been too long since we did combat--remind me how you're managing two weapons?
"Feats. Ambidexterity, two-weapon fighting. Exotic proficiency, for the bastard sword. And then weapon focus and weapon specialization for each sword."
I've got to start paying more attention when you people gain levels. What else did you take when I wasn't watching, whirlwind attack and forge ring?
"No, those are all the slots I've got for feats."
Thank heavens for that. Anyway, what with your bonuses, the bastard sword'll hit him. Roll damage.
"Ah crap. Rolled a 2. At least with bonuses that means I do the same damage to him that he did to Ranam."
Noted. Seeing you do this, Mifi moves in to rake at you with all four claws...wow, I don't usually roll this well. That's four hits. For damage...well, pretty much dead on average, since I rolled four different numbers there. Still, you'll be feeling that. Sarah?
"Hmmm. There is a lot of fire, isn't there? No, no, I'm going with our information: I'm casting 'resist electricity' on myself."
Got it. Your chanting mixes with some muttering from Verwald, who's sprinkling phosphorus around, and when he's done waving his hands around he's surrounded by a violet flame.
"My turn? I'll join in that chanting. If I'm going to get spears thrown at me, I want a better armor class, so 'mage armor' it is."
OK. Round 2.
"Oh, good, is it my turn again? I'm clearly not hitting anything with this bow, and now that they're in melee it'll only be worse. So I'll sheathe it...no, that's move-equivalent. I'll just drop it and run over to help Torg. I'll draw my rapier and whack at that Mifi thing...got a 17?"
That'll hit. Damage?
"Ah, hell. Rolled a 1, so 2 points of damage. That 17 was my only good roll of the session, I bet."
Faced with the two of you, Gorlich makes a decision and whacks Torg with his hammer. And...that'll hit, and for damage...looks like it was a pretty solid blow. OK, Torg, which one are you going for?
"Gotta stay on the fire-dwarf. An attack with each sword--and both of these should be hits, I think?"
Yup. Roll damage.
"Awright! Max damage on both! What is that, three times the damage he did?"
Yup--and not only that, it's enough to take him down.
"Aw, yeah! Victory dance! Victory d--"
Um, Torg? Can you pause long enough to make a fortitude save?
"What? Oh, um, yeah...oh. Um, if I rolled a 2, that's kind of bad, isn't it?"
Yeah, pretty much. What everyone sees is this--Torg's swords pretty much cut the fire-dwarf into ribbons, but he's so busy dancing that he doesn't notice Mifi shriek and turn to look at him. Suddenly Torg freezes, one leg raised in mid-dance. What now, Sarah?
"I could try to help Torg, but I've already used 'Freedom of Movement' to help get us in here, and somehow I feel like he deserves it for that dancing. So I'll cast 'Prayer.' I know it's only a third-level spell, but somehow taking 'Control Water' and 'Tongues' as my only other fourth-level spells is starting to look like the wrong choice."
"Gee, thanks a--"
"Quiet--you're paralyzed, remember?"
Since Sarah doesn't seem like a threat and Torg's been neutralized, Verwald turns his attention to the rogue. He does something with some powder and what seems to be a snake's stomach and holds out his hand. Suddenly an arrow shoots out of it and...what are you wearing for armor, Ulrich?
"Studded leather and a +1 buckler."
Then yes, it hits Ulrich rather solidly for maximum damage, no saving throw. Ranam?
"Damn it. Verwald's the clearest threat, so I'll lob some magic missiles at him and...well, max damage for all but one, which is one less than max damage."
Pretty good--but as they reach him, you can see them dissipate as if they're hitting an invisible barrier. Looks like he's got a shield up too. Round 3. Ulrich, it's you again.
"I'm going to step to the opposite side of Mifi from where Torg is--maybe he'll wake up and we'll have it flanked. Then I'll whack it with the rapier again...ah, nice. If that roll hits, which I think it does, then I'll do...um, well, I rolled a 1 again for damage."
Let me see? That hits, yes. Skipping the dead and frozen, Mifi gets a chance to counter--Ulrich, your turn to save against paralysis.
"Sure thing! That should be...um, that should have been easy. Damn."
Well, you're paralyzed for a bit. But if it's any consolation, the thing just tried to take a chunk out of Torg, but his armor blocks the bite, so you're not the only one rolling badly. Sarah?
"The least I can do for Becca is cast 'cure light wounds' on her character...of course, it would have been nice to have rolled better than the minimum, but it's something."
Verwald sees that you're not a threat, and reaches into a pocket to pull out a piece of flint and some oil. He says something mystical and two bolts of fire shoot forth at, let's see...let's say one at Christopher and one at the human. Max damage to the human, and...Chris, same amount to you that you would have done last round. Unless either of you make a reflex saving throw?
"No. Can I borrow a new d20 from someone?"
"Ack, I didn't make it either. Isn't this guy supposed to be using electricity?"
Oh, and since we're talking about last round, Ulrich needs to take some more damage. Looks like it'll be half last round's. Ranam?
"Um...yeah. I'll try 'hold person' on him."
A very good thought. Unfortunately for you, it looks like he makes his will save, which takes us into round 4. Mifi's up, and she's mad. She's going to try to take a chunk out of Torg: yup, that'll work. Minimum damage, but she's attached herself to you.
"Great. It's like being nibbled to death by gerbils. Do something good, Sarah?"
"Cure moderate wounds on myself. Sorry, guys, but I've got to stay alive here. Sheesh, why do I bother rolling? 2d8, and I still roll two lower than my bonus on the spell."
Seeing that you're no threat and that Mifi has things under control, Verwald sees no reason you should have a spell up that he doesn't, so he casts a 'protection from elements' spell on himself. Ulrich, this is the last round of acid damage, and it'll be...the average of the last two rounds, apparently. Ranam.
"OK, this should be good. Mifi is some sort of fire creature right? I'll hit it with a ray of frost. Max damage! And no save."
Even so, Verwald looks pretty unimpressed. "Try a real spell next time," he sneers, and we're into round five. Torg, you're still out, but Ulrich wakes up. What are you going to do?
"Is there any question? I want to hit this overgrown poodle. 16's a hit, right?"
If you mean Mifi, then yes. What's the damage?
"Er. Well, I just doubled the damage I've done this combat..."
Not enough to take her out. Mifi, as long as she's attached to Torg, is going to be doing damage and draining blood. The blood drain is definitely going to hurt, even though the effect is temporary, so you may lose from that--
"Yeah, looks like I'm going to."
--and then the actual damage is...the same amount, so take that much damage again.
"Did you take into account--"
Yes! I keep track of these things, I promise. That takes all the modifiers into account. When I say 'take this much damage,' it means, well, take that much damage. Don't make me pull out the Wandering Damage Table. OK. Right. Sarah?
"If this thing is latched onto Torg, I'm attacking it, but first I'm calling on Kord to enhance my strength. That'll help. And...damn it, I can't believe I missed!"
All right, then...
"No, no, I'm not giving in that easily. I'm calling on Kord again in his aspect as a god of luck, and by my god I'm going to reroll that. I'm not going to let this thing kill Torg while he's helpless. OK. Roll...aha! There! That hit--and damage is...well, I rolled what Ranam rolled last round, but at least that means doing more damage than he did."
Wow, sure enough--and the thing releases its hold on Torg and falls to the ground, unmoving.
"Whoohoo! You got it off me! Do a victory dance, Sarah!"
You've all been moving your miniatures as your characters move, right? This is where everyone is right now?
"Yup. I've been keeping track. We're all there, where we just took down Mifi."
"Aw crap. I think he's about to--"
Verwald looks pretty annoyed by now. With no warning, he raises his hands and--
"I think maybe I'll hold off on that victory dance, if that's OK, Torg."
--a large bolt of lightning shoots out of his hands and hits all four of you.
"I knew it! Next battle we spread out. Got that, guys?"
"Hey, at least we've got some spells up for this one. About time he actually cast an electricity spell."
So, let's see, Lightning Bolt. It looks like for damage it does...twice Chris's current hit points, which is pretty respectable. This should be interesting. Let's see...reflex saving throws?
"Oh, thank god, made it."
"About time. Me too."
"Um...I made it, if that..."
Nope, sorry, you're not moving, so you're taking full damage from this. The rest of you should be able to work out your own damage. Once you're all done correcting your hit points, it's Ranam's turn.
"OK, let's see if this can get through that little protection spell he has up. I'm casting ice storm. And...max damage!"
Ah, good call! Well, he's still standing, but that one pretty clearly got to him.
"Hah! How's that for a real spell, you bastard?"
"It's my turn, right? I'm charging him, attacking...hitting, I think, since I rolled an 18, and...max damage!"
Not bad--but it looks like you're going to take half of your remaining hit points as damage from the protective spell he has up.
The good news is that Torg recovers this turn.
"Really? Kickass. I'm assuming I saw Ulrich take that damage--my eyes were frozen open, after all--so I'm going to draw my bow and fire...aw yeah! Natural twenty!"
That's a critical threat--reroll?
"Does a 17 hit?"
Unfortunately for me, yeah.
"And...look at that, max damage! On a critical!"
And with that, Verwald screams and goes down. Looks like you survived.
"Barely. Can I get a healer over here?"
"Guys, it's midnight. Can we stop here, and the first thing we'll do next session is see how many hit points we've got left and distribute the healing potions?
"Sounds good to me."
"All right, but I've got first dibs on the healing."
Sure thing, we can stop here. Anyone need a ride home?
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