Thursday, 15 June 2017

Warlord of Galahir: Soiled Goods

Our last foray into the Galahir! Save the merchant! Grab the loot! Kill the warlord! Increase productivity! Be happy!

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

As usual, Kraken, Leofa and Stylus (me) played over Skype. And to judge by the mission's introduction, we're not the only ones phoning it in.

Ah yes, the infamous fluff introductions. This one can't seem to remember which gender Thessilar is supposed to be (maybe elves do it differently), it also gives us the charming image of Pietor Grube, the merchant we've rescued, soiling himself. Tolkien would be proud.

Anyway enough carping about how Mantic seem allergic to proofreaders, tonight we play the sixth and final mission of Warlord of Galahir!

We do! Despite the pictures you're seeing, we actually eschewed physical board and models for the excellent Roll20 website. I used it for a while for running Pathfinder sessions over the net, and after a bit of fiddling about to remember how it works, I managed to patch together a copy of the map with working models for us all. Made a big difference, too - far fewer Skype woes or blurry video problems. We all knew who was who and what was where. 

I felt a bit bad that I'd relegated the models to the shelf, though, so I took them out afterwards to feebly attempt to justify the long hours spent painting the bastards to mock together some vanity shots. 

It seems straightforward enough: collect up four scattered treasure tokens and kill the end boss, Thrundak Skullsplitter. We must also keep the hapless (and now soiled) merchant in tow without getting him killed, although we are permitted to lose one regular member of our party before the mission fails.

The first corridor opens onto a pair of Orcs and a pair of Goblins. There's also some treasure in the corner, but there's a wall of green to negotiate first.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

The Gladewalker goes first, and we collectively decided that his Malevolence spell (the one that auto-wounds everything within short range) was just too powerful. Accordingly, he has Death Surge, which has similar effects, but at least requires a dice roll and line-of-sight to work.

However, this spell is enough to hose down most of the greenskins. The Elf takes up position in the corridor and plinks off one of the goblin guards, freeing up the Salamander to charge into the room and whack the Orc Greatax.

He at least whacked back, beginning a long series of slight dents in the heroes' health bars. 

The final Orc Morax doesn't stand much of a chance, and is swiftly dealt with as we collect our first bit of treasure and decide which door we go through.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

We pick the right-hand door, which leads to a narrow corridor and a long queue for us.

At this stage, we were so cocky that we sent the Dwarf off on a solo mission to open the left-hand door, but he fumbles it, and Leofa's concerns about splitting the party (because that's never worked well for us) bring him back to the fold.

The corridor leads to a long room with three doors on one side (bet they all lead to the same room) and three goblins on the other - so it doesn't feel like we've hit the fiercest resistance yet.

Triple goblins! That would win you something on a fruit machine. 

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

Three goblins aren't going to stand up for long, and so it proves. The Elf and Gladewalker have picked off two, and the Salamander the last one, before the Dwarf and Merchant can even catch up with us.

There's a second pile of treasure to be collected too, so we're halfway there.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

We open the middle of the three doors to find - to our utter astonishment - that they all lead to the same room.

Now come on, be fair. This is possibly the first Mantic-written map we've played where not all the doors from the first area lead into the next one. A three-way junction! They're spoiling us!

Moreover, this looks like the end-level chamber, as it contains Thrundak himself, accompanied by a fairly light bodyguard of two Orcs and two Mawbeasts.

Not only is the bodyguard light, but Thrundak is actually standing with his back to all the doors, either to maximise his evil posing or to examine the large and tempting chest just behind him.

The first Mawbeast runs up to take a chomp out of the Salamander, but gets swatted down in short order.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

As we get our heroes into position, so does the Overlord- placing Thrundak and another Mawbeast on either side of the doorway. Whoever is foolhardy enough to step through the door is going to get clobbered.

Despite my suggestion to throw the merchant through first (I think we gave up pretensions to heroism a few missions ago), it's the Salamander who steps into the breach. He smacks down the Mawbeast, then turns and deals a wound to the Orc Warlord too. No so tough, after all!

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

On our next turn, we start getting a bit tactical, and open up a second doorway to allow reinforcements in (currently the Salamander is obscuring the only entrance).

Duly opened, the Elf and Dwarf pile into the Orc Warlord, outnumbering him while they quaff battle potions and use experience points (which we've been saving up all campaign, but now gives us an additional dice).

Unfortunately, something goes terribly wrong, and the Orc Warlord blocks every attack we throw at him. Our offensive power is now seriously denuded, and we've still got the end-level boss in our grill.

And his bodyguard. Who so far, are sitting it out, as they have ultimate faith in their boss. Tough though orcs are, they aren't fast, and it's going to take a turn or two to get them to join in, but at least they set off as I also crack a door on the far wall open to let in a goblin archer as reinforcements.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

As the Orc reinforcements rush up to make our situation worse, the Gladewalker nets them with a Hold Fast spell (which can be cast, recharged with a crystal, then cast again). That at least should keep them out of our hair.

Thrundak is directing most of his attacks against the Elf, who is steadily losing a wound per attack. But we have plenty of Healing Potions left, and with the Dwarf's Transfusion spell soaking wounds off the front line, it's very difficult for the Overlord to put any one hero under pressure.

By this point, in fact, if I was somehow allowed to pool wounds on to the heroes, I'd have killed one and a half of them. 

For our part, we can't seem to angle ourselves right to get behind the Orc Warlord and make our attacks easier (or cast Vile Visage to turn him around). It turns out this was moot, at Thrundak had an amulet that meant that all his arcs were front arcs.

And all his orcs are front orcs, too.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

The Dwarf takes a break from saying prayers to attack with Holy Might, and chips off a wound. Downing the last of our Battle Potions, the Salamander attacks again, and both of his attacks strike home to kill Thrundak Skullsplitter (truly the lamest of villains we've yet to encounter).

Sigh. He held you up a couple of turns, at least. But villain of the campaign probably goes to the Orclings in Bouncers.

We celebrate our victory by shooting the Goblin Spitter that was edging into range, and mopping up the permanently-immobilised Orcs that could only watch as we tore down their boss like crepe paper bunting.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

Scooping up the third piece of loot (and failing to open the nearby treasure chest - you know, if the treasure was actually inside these chests, it would be a lot harder) we face the final door of the mission.

Orcs don't tidy up. It's their greatest weakness. 

And this is where I reckoned the map was going to outfox us: the fourth piece of loot doesn't lie behind this door, it was behind the one right back at the beginning (the one the Dwarf couldn't open). So to complete the mission, we have to trek all the way back to the start, which will exhaust our time limit and have hordes of angry greenskins charging through the entrance to stop us.

But no ... the dungeon level is circular, and whichever door we took would have led us around in a convenient loop. No need to double back - this final door does contain the last piece of loot (and so if we had gone in the other direction, the outcome would have been the same).

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

The guardians of this room are two swarms of Orclings and, while they can be situationally awesome, they're not much good on their own, or when time is not a factor. We scatter the two swarms and grab the last piece of loot.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Warlord of Galahir - Mission 6: I Believe These Are Mine.

The mission is a success, the campaign is over and we can head off to buy the merchant some new trousers.

Back at the tavern

Well that was ... unexpectedly easy. They do say you should warm down after strenuous exercise, but you don't expect it to happen in the final mission.

I saw it coming, in fact. After three campaigns, I've finally got some measure of Mantic's map writing. It's hard to predict which maps are going to be tense races for time and which are going to be a straightforward romp, but this one looked too small and underpopulated for the time limit given. That's why I'd cheated slightly and given Thrundak the magic amulet, for all the good it did him.

Even with us holding back the heroes' full potential (swapping out the Gladewalker's spell, trying to be restrained with the Dwarf's healing spell, threatening to use the hostage as a speed bump), this was a pretty easy level to clear. As we moved room-to room, the Overlord never really had enough minions to threaten us - so we could sweep each section in safety.

Thrundak himself is a pretty easy mark - I've had hoped for some useful abilities (all he can do is inflict Green Rage on his Orcs, which drops them down a wound) or magic items that give him an added level of protection. I'd say you need someone of Grund's combat level - as it was, this combat-light party really didn't struggle much against him.

Although he's not helped by a fairly sparse entourage - where is the green hoard? Greenskins are deadly when used in numbers, not individually. And no Trolls at all in the final level? Weak sauce.

This is all true. You could leaven this criticism slightly by pointing out that our heroes were a homebrew. Perhaps the original Dwarf Fighter and Gladewalker Druid might have made a much tougher go of it, they're both slowed and have less hitting power. But then they're also slower and a lot less fun to play as. 

And so the finale ends on a damp squib (that's three campaigns so far - Mantic need to work on their finales).

Er, and their early game. And occasionally the mid-game too. And some of their rule writing. And the CEO's beard.

Now, I know we grumble a lot about Mantic's rules. To work them out a bit, and balance them with some deserved praise, I'm brewing a final review of Dungeon Saga after what is now fairly extensive experience with it. Watch this space. 

When we play the next campaign, I think we'll allow the Overlord to set the power levels of the missions - we could have easily thrown in half a dozen more greenies into this one.

It's a shame, as greenskins make for pretty good antagonists in a dungeon - although there is a second campaign book that we could look at.

Just the Dragon and the Daemon to go!

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