Monday, December 14, 2015

Briefly Sort-of-Reviewing Assault on Castle Stormbringer

Spoilers maybe? There's a trapped book and a storm giant. So if that ruined it, you have my pity.

Yesterday, I finished running Assault on Castle Stormbringer. It's out of print, so you've got two options: find a pdf online, or go on Amazon or Ebay and shell out $30. Either way, you're money ahead. I got a good 16 hours of game time from it; your mileage may vary, but it's still a pretty cheap two-to-four session adventure.
Cover art by Chuck Whelon.

It's a simple adventure really: The heroes need to infiltrate a castle built by storm giants for storm giants (it's enormous) and kill Stozari Stormbringer, a maniacal storm giant druid. There are a few clever traps and a lot of high-hit-point monsters to fight, and some outside the box thinking is required to even get into the damn place without fighting an army of giants.

My players like a challenge. I sent three of them in at level 9 (geared as roughly level 11) with a level 11 NPC Bard, and oh my god so much killing.

This was their roster (And I should mention: I ran Pathfinder, not D&D 3.0, the system for which it was originally written. Conversion took about 10 minutes).

Ariosto, the Paladin (Warrior of the Holy Light archetype)
Mancy, the War Priest
Vruk, the Hunter (with Hakumet the lion)
Eldorel, the Bard-who-somehow-survived

They put out a lot of damage. The Paladin can hit for over 100 in a turn if he doesn't flub his attacks, and the Hunter plus his kitty (plus the Bard's bonus damage) aren't far behind (and make up for it by being amazing with skill checks). The War Priest was a new character and died mid-way through the session, so I never got a chance to see how much face he could really melt if he tried, but he did have a few emotionally satisfying ogre kills.

So, yeah, War Priests shouldn't read books. Or roll 1s.
And they really shouldn't do both at the same time.
(Not sure who the artist is on this one)

And I killed two of them. The War Priest died to a trap, and the Paladin died during the final glorious combat. They made it out with barely half the treasure, limping and broken and ecstatic they'd overcome such an insanely hard opponent. They spent most of their loot on resurrecting the Paladin and will probably spend the rest rebuilding the city that the storm giantess destroyed during the preamble. It was really a wonderful session.

I think it was the aesthetic of being tiny heroes hiding under chairs or lifting up ogre mattresses to see if there's anything underneath that really brought this mod to life. Something as simple as a change of scale can go a long way toward making an environment seem fresh.

Stozari herself is a hell of an opponent. I edited her only slightly. Instead of fighting her in her lair, the PCs ambushed her at breakfast, so I replaced her usual coterie with a pair of Ogre Barbarians and the Ogre Mage Druid which escaped from an earlier fight. This made the Challenge Rating of the fight slightly higher, so I dropped Stozari's lowest attack with her greatsword - my reasoning is that it's way more fun to be nearly killed than to be killed outright in one activation, and Stozari could kill any one of them outright if she hit on three attacks in a round, but would need to get lucky to do it in two.

I'd love to hear other folks' experiences with this mod, if you've had 'em.

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