Well, the 3rd and final installment in my 3.5e foray as a PC. Seeing as how I am going to try to recall this bugger from almost 6 months in the past, you will have to excuse my piss poor post.
Rejoining our heroes from last session, the Exposition-Matic Druid we rescued told us the entire low down on the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG) we would be facing down to put an end to this story thread. The guy is named Vandor and is a Blighter, one of the myriad of supplemental classes. They seem to be quasi-Druids who can cast a fireball centered on themselves (which does not hurt them) at will. I'm sure ( or at least hope ) that the power has restrictions, but I don't know since I don't own the sourcebook.
Vandor is currently being held prisoner in the town at the end of the river that were are traveling on. Only, the twist is that he escaped from prison, but is apparently still hiding out in town. We make our way to town, but large sections of the city are blocked off (I can't remember why for the life of me.) Some PCs go into a tavern and start trouble with an NPC, while Josh talks to a bum who knows all about underground sewer tunnels that can take us to where Vandor is hiding. Josh also talks/skill checks his way into a library of sorts to find an old layout of the city to guide our journey. This also leads to the RIVETING skill check when Josh asks if anyone else is in the library, prompting Justin to call for a Search check...
Armed with our knowledge we stroll towards the bad part of town ready to kick ass. Well, the party him-haws and it takes a while before everyone actually agrees to enter the building complex where the BBEG is hiding.
Throughout these last 3 adventures, the concept of wandering monsters, overland encounters, and any content besides the path from start to finish are all completely absent. Call it meta-gaming, but the end result is that I (we) have nothing to fear from non-scripted encounters. So it is all the same whether we charge through the wilderness or through the bad pat of town, it seems to be all the same in the end. That's typically why I am usually so insistent on moving forward with little regard to other lines of thought. Not much reason to try to deviate from a path when the DM only lays railroad tracks.
Regardless, we run headlong into some 3e-brand encounter planning, with a set of encounters designed with the DMG guidelines about summing up enough encounters with X challenge rating for a night's session. First encounter is a couple of adventurer types who are a room or two ahead of us. We pursue trying to talk to them, but eventually we run into a group of bugbears/gnolls/whatever, with some bodies on the ground. The demi-humans fight to the death (not sure if there was a reason or just the total absence of the concept of moral and self-preservation among intelligent humanoids), and in a twist, some of the bodies turn out to be dopplegangers that attack us after the fight. Now, it is an interesting turn of events to use these guys to lure us into an encounter, but why did they wait until we killed all of the bugbears to attack? Or, let us move on, weakened from the fight, and wait to attack us at our weakest moment?
Well, they go down and we get some plot exposition. It seems we weren't the first guys to try to tackle the BBEG and one of the survivors of a previous party shows up to give us the tactical low down on the rest of the night's hacking. We trudge onward with an NPC in tow and suddenly some monster/demon/devil/whatnot appears in front of us and DOINKs.
We head upstairs, closing in on the BBEG, or at least our allotment of rated encounters towards 100%. We come across a wall of iron blocking out way. Thankfully, a small pack of rust monsters eats its way through from the other side and battle is joined. It's rather hokey, that is iron wall was set up, but then rust monsters are around? And all staged just for us?
Through the former wall and we encounter the bodies of a previous party of adventurers. In true Final Fantasy fashion, we are able to loot the corpses dry, try on new arms and armor, and fully equip and prepare ourselves for the boss who waits patiently in the next room without disturbing us.
Now, this final fight was a pretty good challenge, I will have to admit. It was just the BBEG, but not a typical DOINK. This guy's ability to do an area of affect damage to anyone within melee range really put us off of our game. It was a constant struggle to try to do damage to him without getting caught in his super attack. There was a good twist that we all missed, he had one of his plague plants in the room, so if we went towards it, he wouldn't use his fire attack dealy for fear of destroying it.
We ended up taking him down without any permanent casualties, presumably ending the plague threat. Justin confirmed this by asking us if we wanted to play the same characters in the next campaign. This is totally alien to me, why build up a character and develop a persona to just ditch them after every episode?
Either way, we finished another railroad, but this one at least went through some pretty scenery, so the enjoyment factor was a notch higher than previous adventures. It was still a linear adventure with everything preplanned and no real room for creativity, negotiation, or clever plans. There was at least one challenging encounter and some room for smart thinking, even if we missed it.
Maybe Justin's DMing got better over the months between this session and now, but I never took the chance to find out. Trying to block off 6 or so hours every Sunday is entirely beyond me. Until last December, I had not been playing with them for over 3 months. Either way, he was describing one upcoming session where the PCs were going to trudge through a forest full of vampires to kill a master vampire to lift the curse on some Paladin NPC. Not really a good indication of a change in adventure styles.
Oh well. On to the next 1e session I DM'ed...