Category Archives: Descent: Journeys in the Dark

The Chain


Descent–Labyrinth of Ruin Campaign

Let the Truth be Buried, Part One

After a long hiatus due to the birth of my daughter, we finally got back to the table to continue our Descent: Labyrinth of Ruin campaign last night.  We had a full table, including newcomer Stef, “The Doctor of Broken Hearts.”  He’s a non-gamer, but a very old friend of mine, so it was nice to have him over, and he was a good sport, and, frankly, did better with Raythen than Alex’s last outing with the ally.

I had selected Let the Truth be Buried for our quest, as it seemed to be both beneficial to the heroes as well as interesting in play.  M picked Volucrix reavers for her open group.   I think it was a very good choice, as the win conditions for the heroes necessitate eliminating all of these monsters, and the reavers have both numbers and strength on their side.  Plus, as Stef put it, “those guys look scary.”  Yeah, yeah they do.  We did have a bit of a rules discussion early on, trying to figure out the purpose of the master reaver’s “Ravage” ability when “Skirmish,” seems to serve the same purpose, but after a quick jaunt online, it seems that Ravage gives the master reaver the ability to attack twice even is skirmish is somehow disabled through Cursed or another game effect.  It seems a bit weak, but these guys are still a headache.

Our two goals being to defeat Splig and destroy the reavers, we sent Jain and Tarha down the corridor towards the zombies and reavers, and left Avric and Synd to rush Splig and his accompanying goblins.  Raythen gave us an early head-start on treasure, granting us the Treasure Chest card on the first turn with his Sharp Eyes ability.  The Helmet of Dusk or some such item was drawn, and Jon equipped it for Syndrael, granting her +1 to all of her attributes.  Nice.

Maranda’s goblin archers proved a tough group, and they showered Syndrael with arrows, the master archer finally dropping the knight in the first turn.  Ouch!  This was definitely one of the best beginnings M has had in a quest, and we were now very worried and fearful of her Act 2 monsters, as we were still using only Act 1 equipment.

M continued to hammer away at our tanks, even as Tarha and Jain fought their way through the zombies and reavers.  I believe Avric also dropped a reaver, but he, also, was defeated.  I think Rick spent most of his turns healing himself and Syndrael, with some occasional attacks interspersed.

M seemed to be having some trouble getting Splig into a good position to move the chain, but she was able to defend him rather well, consistently putting him out of reach of our melee attackers, putting the chain in their way, and surrounding him with goblins so that he could use his Not Me ability.

I sent Jain up ahead toward the last Reaver, using her Heroic Feat to run up to him and fire on him point blank.

Tarha ran away from the zombies attempting to engage her to try to get back to the main battle with Splig and the Goblins.  Jain eventually made her way across the bridge and rained arrows down on Splig, bringing him 1 point away from defeat, but her second attack that round, sadly, missed, and Jon, who had been rolling X’s (as well as crappy defence and other rolls) all night, finally redeemed himself and took down the King of All Goblins, giving us the win.

Slight Misplay: Jain must exhaust her Bow Mastery card in order to gain an additional surge on her attacks, meaning she can only gain one extra surge per turn.  I believe this only came up once, as typically she rolled an X during one of her attacks each round.

Another Slight Misplay: Yes, Jon DID have “Guard,” the class ability that gives him attacks of opportunity, so he likely missed a few chances to deal damage to nearby monsters.

Of course, we forgot about Splig’s Not Me! ability quite a few times early on, and we also did not realize that drinking potions does not count as an action, so there were certainly some missed chances to heal up stamina and health here and there.

The biggest misplay, I think,  was M’s who did not realize that it did not take an action to “whip” the chain at the end of each turn.  I think had she done this effectively a few times, she may have defeated Synd and Avric once more each. There was also some confusion over whether a hero should take damage when the chain end was moved out from beneath them, but I believe this only happened once before I caught on and clarified.

As this session ran overly long, we could only finish the first Encounter of this Quest.  It was a nice win for us, but I think the heroes are still nervous about the next Encounter, as we are in a sad state right now health-wise, and we are not thrilled with the special Falling rules of the next encounter.  We do always seem to pull out victories despite the challenges before us, but I’m sure M is hungry for a win of her own at this point, and I think that could present a real turning point for her, allowing her to choose future quests as well as giving her additional Overlord XP’s.

I will say that M seemed to play very well tonight, plotting monster placement to block movement and line of sight, and using cards whenever advantageous.  I did regret not being able to use Jain’s ability to trash one of her OL cards, but this game always does a great job of making you think very hard about your actions each turn and what you really have time to do.  M also did well to continually hammer away at the perceived weakest character, forcing Avric to constantly heal us or forcing us to stay close to him to utilize his healing aura.  Which is what he’s there for, of course.

Jon did a nice job, as well, of getting Syndrael right the heck in the way of Splig and his chain, but Maranda countered by “falling back” with Splig for a turn or two, effectively hiding behind the chain and goblins while waiting for the monsters to defeat or move her obstructions.  Eventually, of course, the goblin king had to emerge, and we had the hard task of killing him even as he displaced attacks to his henchmen a great deal of the time.

This encounter was also interesting as it was one of the first in which Tarha did not seem to be the key player for us.  I think she needs a new rune to match the power level of the new Act 2 monsters, though Blast and the Sun Stone are still nice power boosts to her original Arcane Bolt.  I know I’m also anxious to get Jain the Bow of the Eclipse, as her newly purchased Bow of Bone is already showing its weakness; not being able to get the additional green die once Jain has moved is very restrictive.  Syndrael also could use a serious weapon and armour upgrade.  Luckily , we were able to grab all four treasure tokens.  If we can pull of a victory in the next encounter, we’ll have another 300gp to add to our stash and buy more gear.

I’ll admit I was exhausted and ready for the game to be over when it ended, even as I was disappointed that we only got through the single encounter.  (Oh, StB– I was wrong– the last quest we played, Interlude: Fortune and Glory, WAS 2 parts.)  Just the same, I woke up this morning jouncing for another session, so hopefully with the summer coming up, we’ll be able to finish up this quest and carry on with the campaign quickly and consistently.  Hard to believe that it’s been about a YEAR since we began, but that’s adulthood for you.  So many games, so little time.


Fortune and Glory, Part 2: Out of the Skillet…

SR: 2/28/2015

Descent (2nd Edition): Labyrinth of Ruin

Interlude: Fortune and Glory, Part 2

“Can you feel it?  It’s close.  Three… three to open…?” the blind old lady muttered.

“I don’t feel anything but hurt right now,” Jain replied, “But I think I hear more of those fire bugs chittering down below.”  She swatted at her still-smoking cloak, smothering the last of the flames from their previous encounter.

A savage howl echoed throughout the corridors before them.

“Hell-hounds,” Syndrael pointed out as the howl was joined by several others.  “Sounds like a whole pack.”

“Nice boots…” Jain said to the elf.  Syndrael raised an eyebrow at the wildlander.  

Avric adjusted his armor and began to utter a prayer of healing.

Raythen trotted on ahead of the group.

“Well, let’s not sit here rusting, mates.” The dwarf said. “As they say, out of the skillet, and into the flame…”

Steve the Blonde had mathed this quest out pretty well before we began, and we knew that we would have a slim chance of success, even with perfect luck.  Our strategy was laid out— we would send Jain (with the prisoner) and Raythen ahead through the path of least resistance, following up with Tarha with the Sunstone to assist with monster blasting and potentially aiding with the lock.  Syndrael and Avric would rush the Hall to soften up the large monster group in case the first two search tokens proved unfruitful.

We started with Avric providing well-needed healing to the group (except Raythen, who we ruled could not benefit, not being a Hero.)  Tarha led the attacking with a well-placed blast, taking out a minion hell-hound, a minion lava beetle, and bringing the master hell-hound down to a single hit point.

Jain took Syndrael’s Elven Boots for the additional movement, and Synd used her special ability first off to give her and Jain an additional move action.  Syndrael was able to take out the master hell-hound and then Advance to the second line of hounds in the hall.  Jain used her own double-move/attack ability, giving her a total of 4 moves for her turn (Syndrael’s ability + Jain’s ability + standard move).  Raythen made his way farthest past the Lava Beetles that M had chosen as her small monster open group, but sadly was cut down on M’s first activation of her nasty master beetle.  His roll of double-null on his two brown dice sealed his fate, and he was down for the count.

Maranda pulled back with the hell-hounds, drawing each of them back in a defensive position in front of the remaining search tokens.

Our strategy remained in tact.  Jain rushed to the search token and hoped for the best.  SUCCESS!  Extremely fortuitous for our group.  Even with Syndrael positioned deep in the hallway, we knew it would be much tougher if one of the first two searches didn’t prove fruitful, as we would need to get the prisoner to the other side of the board to open her lock, and that would take valuable time.  A master ettin popped out of the open doorway on Jain’s side of the board, and as the party pulled back to regroup and take out beetles before they could reach Jain, the hellhounds rushed forward, as well.

The group did fairly well in closing the distance to aid Jain, but M did well in placing the master Ettin to block the corridor between them and their comrade.  Jain discarded the prisoner and the first lock, and took a swing at it for a couple damage.  Her next attempts would have been success, but M’s card-play took the wind out of our sails, nuking two successes in a row.

The rest of the party continued pushing onwards for a last stand at the secret passage, everyone but Tarha reaching the door.  The debate began over whether we should sacrifice the sun-stone to deal 10 damage to the last lock once Tarha reached us.  Steve was very reluctant to do so, as the advantages with Tarha were pretty big, but I was concerned that we would be too tight on time for any other options.  Luckily, Synd and Avric were able to deal some decent damage to the lock even as Jain completed the final attribute tests.

A small amount of damage remained to be dealt to the lock, and the monsters swarmed in at us.  Even with the hell-hounds now taken out by Tarha, we now had several lava beetles and two ettins breathing down on us.

The final roll came through during our 6th turn, and we were able to blast the final lock without using Tarha’s precious trinket.  Success!

This played out like many of our Descent outings— it started out looking nearly impossible for the heroes, then quickly shifted in our favour, then finally tensed up again as time grew short and we grew close to our objective.

I was a bit surprised that M chose Hellhounds as her large monster group, but I guess she figured their mobility and numbers were superior to a small group of slower-moving monsters.  I think I would have chosen something more menacing in her place— crypt dragons, demon lords, chaos beasts, or golems, but that would have presented its own challenges, as only one of them could bear its brunt onto the heroes at a time from the hallway due to their size.  Also, their movement and size would likely have prevented them from joining the others at the secret passage.  Us finding the unique search token on the first attempt was pretty huge.  We might have had a small chance of success if that had failed, with Synd being so far along the other side of the map, but it would have required a lot of work to get Jain and the prisoner back through the gauntlet of monsters to discard that lock.  I know M forgot to use at least one OL card near the beginning of the encounter, so that was probably a tough break for her, as well.

We did have quite a debate about the Pierce ability.  My position was that Pierce allows damage to be dealt up to the pierce number so long as sufficient hearts and shields were rolled, but Steve the Blonde felt otherwise, that Pierce merely negates shields.  The example we used to illustrate our point was, the hero rolls 2 hearts with Pierce 2, and the Monster defends with 4 shields.  In my argument, the hero would still deal 2 damage, the pierce providing unblock able damage for 2 points, but it appears that Steve is correct in that this example would deal NO damage, as the remaining two shields would then absorb the hearts regardless.  While I can’t find an official clarification on this, the rule does read “the ATTACK” ignores x shields, which seems to imply that Steve’s interpretation is the correct one.  (I have since been able to thematically justify this to myself, as well.)

Overall, a very enjoyable outing, and a nice way to go out before our hiatus for baby-welcoming activities, toddler birthday parties, etc.  We did manage to purchase some nifty Act I items for Jain and Synd, and we had fun advancing the class cards, as well.  I think we’re all excited to see how the heroes fair agains the tougher Act II monsters and the challenges ahead.


Fortune and Glory…? Yyyeah… Rrright…

Session Report: 2/21/2015

Descent: Labyrinth of Ruin Campaign

Interlude:  Fortune and Glory— Encounter 1

“‘A Prisoner Shall Lead the Way,’” Avric read the glowing script carved into the rock entrance.  “That mean anything to anyone?”

Murmurs and grumbles were the only answer for a few moments, then Syndrael spoke in her authoritative, lofty elven lilt:


“Nay.  Nothing about that in Hulldyr’s maps or notes,” the normally taciturn dwarf muttered as he fumbled among the cloth scraps found among his dead leader’s possessions.

“Only one way to find out then— in we go,” Jain led the way into the cavern.  “I’m just glad there are don’t seem to be any of those spiders that spit poison in your eyes nearby.”  Her voice echoed back to the others as they followed her into the darkness.

A door greeted them a short way into the corridor.  The grumbling ogrish voices from beyond were loud enough to be heard.

“We may have other problems, though,” Avric contributed.  “Of the big, two-headed giant type.”

“Two-headed ogres,” Syndrael corrected.  “They’re called Ettin.”

Widow Tarha remained in the rear, silent as usual.  As the group approached the door, a skittering noise emerged from the entrance behind them.

“Well, I have some good news and some bad news,” said Raythen as he made his way past his comrades to open the door.  “Good news is, there aren’t any of those giant poison-spitting spiders around.”

“And the bad news,” asked Avric.

“Well, how do ye all feel about giant lava-spewing beetles?”  The dwarf’s wry smile was suddenly illuminated by a fiery mass that emerged from the entrance and flew toward the party.

“Scatter!  Everyone in!  And close that door behind you!” the Widow Tarha broke her silence with a bark that the rest of them couldn’t help but obey.

The quest began as these usually seem to, with the heroes in a seemingly very difficult situation.  With an endless spawn point behind us, two Ettins to get through to where we could only presume M had placed our objective, and all of us poisoned due to a bad travel encounter on our way, we were ready for an uphill battle.  We decided upon our usual tactic of sending Raythen to scout for treasure, also using him as a dedicated door opener/closer when needed.  The first two Ettins weren’t too bad of a challenge, as they were forced by the corridor into single-file, and we only had to face one at a time, but the double-grey defense die was a tough challenge.  Jain was repeatedly stymied in her shots against them, and it was quite a different obstacle than the usual swarms of weak enemies we had faced prior.  Tarha was kept from effectively using her trusty Blast ability to its best effects, and M turned the table on us nicely with her choice of the Lava Beetles, as we now had to choose every turn whether to stay together to make best use of Avric’s abilities and concentrate our fire, or to spread out in order to avoid the lava blasts.

We found ourselves in a split-party situation mid-game, with Tarha having revealed the red objective/lava beetle spawn point just after the spider den.  Jain followed up, leaving Avric and Syndrael to act as rearguards for their hopefully hasty escape once the prisoner had been found.  The green objective token was where we suspected, as far as possible from the exit, so Jain used her fast movement to run to Tarha and grab the prisoner from her, making her way back towards the group.

We regrouped near the spider lair to find ourselves with enemies on many fronts due to the revealed spawn points and alarm.  We were all being battered.  Avric used his healing abilities several times to help us, and Syndrael tossed Jain a Stamina and Health potion, as well, which she used quickly and to great effect.  Alas, Jain still proved too tempting and easy a target, and she found herself defeated nonetheless.

Aided by the others, she staggered onward, and the group formed a moving wall, with Avric and Syndrael in front, Tarha and Jain in the rear, hoping to punch through the opposing wall of lava beetles and ettins that now clogged the next choke-point.  We had closed the door behind us, as well, hoping to delay the impending swarm of lava beetles from that section of the dungeon.  Jain’s yew bow continued to prove ineffective, and the OL was able to use the ranged and blast effects of the beetles to great affect against her unarmored person.  She found herself defeated once more even after the corridor was cleared.  Another ettin appeared, as M smartly used a minion lava beetle to keep the alarm active.  We thought we finally had a clear path to the exit, but M made another smart play by forgoing attacks against us and camping the master ettin on the exit tile, even as the lava beetles behind us blew threw their doors and began spewing their fire at us from afar.

Finally, we were able to defeat the ettin and carry our now-wounded prisoner out the exit.  Syndrael stopped for a parting shot at the nearby beetle, hoping to give it something to think about, but she missed completely and was forced to turn tail and run to give us a hard-fought and somewhat pyrrhic victory.

I did wonder a bit as to why M didn’t try to just throw Jain or any of the other characters back with the Ettin, but I can’t complain, as I do think we were all anxious to end the scenario.  I’m also still pondering how things would be playing out if she concentrated fire on Tarha to try to take the SunStone.  Soon that may not be an issue, as it may be discarded in the next encounter.  Also, I need to remember that the OL role is tough, with lots of moving pieces to keep track of.  It’s probably like our decisions on whether to search for treasure or concentrate on the objective at hand.  There are always many things you’d like to accomplish, but you need to prioritize and play situationally.

This encounter took much longer than I expected, as I had originally hoped to get through both encounters of the Interlude in one night.  Still, it was quite an enjoyable struggle.  M reveled in finally being able to use Blast against us, and I’m sure she was happy that Tarha was essentially neutralized for this encounter.  In retrospect, I wish Jain had taken the Sunstone from Tarha along with the prisoner, as that may have helped her chip away at some of the enemies she had faced, or at least gain a few extra fatigue points along the way.  (With her “swap damage for fatigue,” that may have made the difference between her being defeated at least once.”  It was impressive to see the kill-counts for both Avric and Syndrael shoot up this time, and I think Jain’s ineffectiveness was pretty good ammunition for my case to buy her a new weapon and some armour as soon as possible.

Hopefully we can finish this quest soon, as I’m sure we’re all anxious to see how our weakened party fares against the next challenge… and whether or not the prisoner was worth the effort.  We did well with the treasure-seeking this round, as that has been a crucial part of our overall strategy, but the 100gp quest reward will still be well-needed, particularly in light of Jain’s lackluster performance and the impending “leveling up” of the monsters in Act II.

I’m really digging how this seems to be a turning point in the adventure, both in the fluff AND in the balance of the game.  The group dynamic is much different with four hero-players, and it’s fun to see Steve the Blonde’s master strategist mentality balanced out by the “Let’s just Leroy Jenkins this bitch!” attitude that Jon can sometimes have.  I think all players contributed to the overall strategy and enjoyment of the game, and this was definitely one of the better sessions.  Even Jon is started to get into the game now, and for Rick to make the trek even with the impending bad weather, I think it’s safe to say that this is becoming a favourite with most of the group at this point.

I do wish I had more of the figures painted at this point for the upcoming scenarios, but with Space Hulk to finish and a new baby on the way, I don’t think that will happen for some time.

“Synd, let’s go!!!  We’re getting out of there!” Avric called back from the cavern exit.

The elf’s eyes blazed with vengeance as she held her position on the steps and took one last swing at the fiery insect before her.  Her blow merely glanced off the creatures chitinous exoskeleton.  She thought she heard it hiss as it’s tail illuminated with more fiery death.

“Right!  Coming!”  she yelled back as she turned and fled to the stairwell to join her comrades.  She arrived at the landing the group was resting at.  After barricading the door behind them, she turned to see the rest of the bloodied and battered party catching a breath.  Jain stood over the newly-rescued old woman and spoke.

“I sure hope this blind bitch was worth it.”