Spires of Xin-Shalast 16

At the end of the previous session, the party were making their way around the terraces of the Heptaric Locus looking to hunt down the ice devil Gamigin, in the belief that he held one of the Sihedron Rings that would allow them to get up the mountain and defeat Karzoug.

They had been waylaid by a couple of Scarlet Walkers, but these had just been a distraction sent by Gamigin to test their abilities, and possibly force them to use up a few spells. Gamigin was intelligent and well prepared, and was expected the group to arrive shortly, so had also called in support from elsewhere in the city.

This session began with the party using dimension door to get to where Gamigin was hiding out in the VIP seating at one end of the arena. The map for this took some careful thinking because of the multitude of different heights at each point of the map, as well as doors leading underneath the viewing stands.

Tactical map for the Heptaric Locus

Initially, they were attacked by a couple more scarlet walkers. Then the main gate beneath the VIP area opened in to the arena, and four more walkers came scuttling out, and started climbing up onto the balcony. Serena summoned a gold dragon at this point, which flew above them and rained down fire where it could.

Scarlet Walker

The walkers though were followed by something much larger – a rune giant, which was so large it towered above the 30ft high walls of the arena.

Whilst Grodok and Solassar fought their way past some of the walkers, Gamigin threw his returning spear at Serena, then headed inside to keep out of the way of any magic that might be hurled his way, allowing his allies to either deal with the problem, or at least weaken them considerably before he had to do anything himself.

I didn’t want this encounter to be easy for the party, and I tried to play Gamigin with some intelligence. He also had charisma and influence in the city, so I figured he would have some allies he could call upon when needed, in order to lay a trap for the party.

The rune giant climbed up onto the balcony without too much difficulty, and landed a solid blow on Solassar as he sprung in to attack one of the walkers. Esheiri then hit it with one of the most useful high level spells – Maze. It vanished into its own pocket dimension, taking it temporarily out of the fight.

Serena summoned some air elements to attack the walkers, whilst Solassar made good use of his acrobatics to leap over balconies and up and down stairs, stabbing at things and darting away before they could respond. It took a few rounds, but the walkers were dispatched with a mixture of melee and chain lightning, and the elementals were sent in to chase the devil, followed quickly by Grodok.

At this point the roof of the arena smashed open, and a dark winged shape blotted out the light – a dragon. To be precise, an undead ancient ravener white dragon named Naguss which Gamigin had called in. Gamigin was expecting Naguss to strike at anyone on the terrace, but the dragon was distracted by the gold dragon that had been summoned earlier, and decided to go for it instead.

In hindsight, I think the dragon should have arrived a round earlier, to keep the pressure on the party rather than giving them a round to rest and heal. It would have been tactically more appropriate for the white dragon to have gone straight for the characters, since they were the bigger threat, but Naguss wasn’t here to defend his own property or life, so I decided he would be more likely to get distracted in this instance. If the group ever decide to hunt him down, then such distractions probably won’t work.

Whilst the two battled it out, the group made their way into the tunnels that Gamigin had fled down. The elementals were not having much luck – protected by magic Gamigin was almost impossible to hit, and even Grodok was having difficulty.

It was only after some dispel magics were used on him to drop his mage armour and shield that he really started to get hit, so at this point he decided to begin preparations for a retreat. The place he had retreated into were the upper parts of the dungeon complex beneath the Heptaric Locus, and full of passages that he new well. He’d also prepared some surprises for any attackers.

Outside, Naguss slew the gold dragon, freezing it with cold breath and then sucking the life force from it. Serena sent the air elementals back out to try to slow it down, then sealed the doorway with a wall of stone. Which was a fortunate choice, because the following round the rune giant figured out how to get out of the maze.

Esheiri tried a dimensional anchor on Gamigin, but it failed due to his spell resistance. It was definitely the right thing to try though. As he retreated down the stairs and back down the corridor, Grodok followed and blindly stumbled into a pit. Not only did the 50ft drop shake him, but the boiling acid that then poured in put a damper on his spirits.

As usual Solassar darted down the stairs, leaping over the pit and tried to stab the devil, but misses. He darts back to safety, but with everyone now at the top of the corridor Gamigin decides a cone of cold would be useful rather than a teleport. Esheiri tries another dimensional anchor, which works this time preventing him from escaping.

Solassar makes another spring attack, stabbing it hard and crippling it, preventing it from running too fast, Esheiri follows up with a chain lightning and only acts to soften it up for a final destruction from Serena. It’s spell resistance fails it at the end, and it is consumed in holy fire.

Grodok flies slowly out of the pit in time to see the burning ashes of the devil crumple to the ground. They grab the devil’s ring and spear and flee on a word of recall in case either the dragon or giant decide to try and get inside the tunnels.

The fight lasted all evening, and I think went well, with some real threats that could have done serious damage (if not death) to the party which were cancelled with a mixture of luck and good thinking.

Though I would have had Gamigin teleport out the following round if he could, I’m glad the party succeeded in anchoring him because it gave a more satisfying ending to the fight. There’s nothing more annoying (as a player) than enemies running away undefeated. If it’s a long running ‘big-bad’, that’s one thing. If it’s a minor side-boss then not getting the satisfaction of a clear victory isn’t great. The cat and mouse game that would have followed if Gamigin had escaped would have been a pain to run as well, so it also simplified my life.

One thing I had hoped they would get from this encounter was an idea as to how tough a rune giant was. This they failed to do, and was commented on by a player as well, since they have plans to assault the fortress where there are said to be several such giants. It just means that any battle in the fortress is going to be that much more exciting…

Samuel Penn