13th Age – Second Darkness – Session 4

by wolvercote66

shadow demon Yet another PC death!  Before we get to that, my table completed the first book of this Pathfinder adventure path in our last session.  So we’re on to book 2 of the path, “Children of the Void”.  The story continues with my three PCs agreeing to assist their Elven ally, Kwava with an investigation of a nearby island.  Rumors of drow sightings have reached his ears and he enlists the PCs to do a bit of exploring.  After a bit of set-up and background discussion they are off.  Upon landing, they opt to bushwhack along the hilly coastline instead of using a clearly visible trail.  Some exploration ensues but no harm done and in time they arrive at a campsite.  The inhabitants are prospectors, led by a recurring NPC that two of the original PCs have dealt with.  Some role-playing and detective work leads them to believe that this fellow is hiding a secret.  The secret turns out to be drow related.  The group discovers not far from the campsite, a cave along the shoreline.   Neglecting to check for traps, the cleric sets off a ward and not long after upon entering the cave, two drow surprise the group.  Surprise turns outs to be a factor in this night’s session.  It’s a free shot that if successful, puts any PC in a hole right from the beginning.  Two drow turn out to be a solid challenge for our group, as they just kept hitting!  However, in time they are slain, though one PC was knocked unconscious and the cleric burned through five recoveries.

If you’ve followed these session reports from the beginning, you’ll remember a few things.  One, there are only three PCs. Two, in the process of converting this module, I’ve had to create 13th Age versions of all of the creatures.  Most of which don’t have an “official” play-tested version, forcing me to create my own. Lastly, balancing out the encounters in a way that straddles the line between pushover and “oh crap!” is not always going to be perfect.  So, seeing how tough of a time the PCs had with two drow and the evening still being young, I leveled the group to three. I whipped out already completed third level versions of the characters and we spent a few minutes reviewing what was new. An easy process for the rogue and barbarian but the cleric took a little extra time.  Having done that, I felt better about sending them further into the cave.

After a role-playing encounter with a wraith that did not resort to combat, the group once again were surprised.  This time, it was a Shadow Demon, gain, a DM created version.  It was here that our plucky Tiefling Rogue was most cruelly slain by said DM created Shadow Demon. The surprise round resulted in 30 points of damage, round 1 the cleric healed her but she took 15 more and I believe this left her in the single digits. The next round both attacks landed for 30 total damage again, taking her below the point of no return.  I may have left out a round there but there was no escaping the fact that she had been killed. Luckily I had a prepped 2nd level Wood Elf Ranger on hand as a replacement character.  She charged into the cave soon after the death of the rogue.

As I have said before, I take no joy from PC death.  It kills player involvement/connection, it can create storyline issues, it’s generally a bummer.  On the positive side, it reminds the player that their characters while heroic are quite mortal and not all monsters are easily overcome.  It’s the circle of Roleplaying life, (cue the music) and I as a DM try to learn and adjust going forward.  Was the Shadow Demon too difficult? Ultimately no, for the other characters took it down with little trouble.  Sometimes, the dice roll in your favor and sometimes you die.

The rest of the night proceeded apace and the group completed about 95% of the book.  We’ll be on to book three in two weeks.  I have some backup characters to prepare and more monsters too.