Two characters were enthusiastic about making the assault, and two or three characters thought it was a very bad idea. (My original intention had been that it would be a very bad idea for them to attack now.) But I'd been obsessing about the vampire fight so much that I asked the holdouts to give in and fight the vampire, so I could unwind. (I definitely need to make sure that they don't regret their choice too much OOC.)
My goals for Garrett (the vampire) were these:
1. keep the PCs from getting the dagger Weeping Wounds.
2. stab as many people as possible with Weeping Wounds.
3. dominate as many people as possible (protection from evil would prevent it from mattering to this fight, but the domination could still be established for later).
4. cause other damage with level drain and blood drain.
I'd set two deadlines: finish preparation by 8pm, finish the night's session by 11pm. Both of these deadlines were missed, but not by much. I felt pleased with how quickly we got things underway, actually. The plans involved a lot of scrolls and magic items, so that everyone went in equipped with fly, improved invisibility, see invisible, protection from evil, and a 2nd-level stat booster. They only had one scroll of teleport for the return trip, so that Prolix could carry wall of force. Larissa was polymorphed into a troll, with a reduce spell cast on her to let her fit into the weight limit of the teleport.
So they teleported in. Kyle and Prolix got initiatives higher than the vampire's, but rolled a lot of 1's on their attacks.
The vampire Garrett cast a stinking cloud from a wand into the center of the group of NPCs, then scrambled up a tapestry to perch on the cable supporting it.
My original plan for Garrett had been to use a wand of dispel magic freely to level the playing field. But I came up with another idea at close to the last minute, for Garrett to use a wand of stinking cloud to obscure their vision, while he used his own keen senses (and immunity to poison) to stay combative. This fit nicely with the disease theme I'm maintaining, but I think it was Tactical Error #1. It might have been better for him to use two stinking clouds, but the single one only covered half the vertical distance of the chamber, so didn't inconvenience PCs very much. The stinking cloud nauseated Kyle for a bit, and Larissa was nauseated by rolling a 1 on a Fortitude save to overcome the evil aura. (This was not quite according to the rules. Normally, a paladin has to use detect evil deliberately, which Larissa hadn't, and the risk of being stunned by detecting great evil depends on character level, and Larissa would be too high-level to be at risk. So I set it as a Fortitude save with a comfortably low DC, and I planned to have Larissa roll the Fort save and succeed, at which point I would say, "you maintain control; you have the option of whether to start retching or not." But, well, she rolled a 1.)
Turok came at Garrett with a true strike-enhanced disarm attempt, and knocked Weeping Wounds out of Garrett's hand. I did manage to use this to imply that Turok's sword Kotara-Nar took a bite out of Weeping Wounds the way it has been eating the magic of other weapons--which might not be a good thing when when the weapon eaten is an artifact of disease.
Prolix then displayed his usual amazing knack for having just the right spell by casting levitate on Weeping Wounds. This brought it off the ground, closer to Garrett on the wire. On his next turn, Garret leapt lightly down to the throne, grabbing the dagger from the air along the way.
However, Turok then disarmed him again, and Prolix levitated Weeping Wounds away. At this point, I made Possible Tactical Mistake #2: I decided that going back and forth over Weeping Wounds would be boring, so Garrett could attack Turok now and reclaim Weeping Wounds later. This gave Prolix time to grab Weeping Wounds and stow it in his pack. (The other tactical mistake: this would have been an excellent point for Garrett to call for Melisande, his female vampire minion.)
Meanwhile, Liandra managed to touch Garrett with a cure serious wounds spell, doing 25 points of damage. This was by far the most damage they managed to do to Garrett with any attack.
Garrett grappled Turok and managed to drag him through a trapdoor in the center of the hall, which then locked behind him. Prolix pulled out the perfect counter again, with a knock spell. Kyle held open the trapdoor while Larissa and Liandra rushed in to help Turok.
Garrett's grappling was highly effective; he managed to do unarmed damage (including two negative levels) every turn and pin to drain blood; the combination was doing substantial damage to Turok and giving Garrett 15 hit points per round. Meanwhile, the brown mold at the bottom of the pit was freezing Turok even further.
Just as Turok was about to succumb, Liandra managed to fly down and touch him with a restoration spell, restoring all his negative levels and all his Constitution drain. This restored about 40-60 hit points to Turok, but it didn't really change the situation; Garrett knocked him down again pretty quickly.
At some point, Prolix dismissed the reduce on Turok and cast enlarge on him so that he could grapple better. This made little difference to the grappling, but it meant that not all the PCs could be transported by a single teleport. This was probably the biggest mistake the players made.
Turok finally fell unconscious, and Garrett dropped him and turned to face Liandra and Larissa. This was Possible Tactical Mistake #3, but I have no regrets because the result turned out to be very cool. Larissa grabbed the unconscious Turok and flew him out of the pit; Liandra followed and cast restoration on him again. Kyle let the trapdoor slam shut. The result: all the PCs were out of the pit, and Garrett was slowed by the need to use gaseous form to extricate himself. The PCs decided to make a break for the outside. (It was at this point that I started feeling wholly doomed in my attempts to achieve Garrett's goals, because I'd lost Weeping Wounds, and everyone was healthy.)
At this point, they encountered Garrett's minion, the vampire Melisande. She cast dispel magic a couple of times, without doing a whole lot of good. The PCs kept making a break for it, and Prolix cast a wall of force to block pursuit. They rounded the corner and found Melisande and two driders coming the other way.
Melisande then gloated and cast a wall of force of her own in front of them. This was good and upset the players a bit, but it was also Possible Tactical Mistake #4: she cast the wall between the PCs and the bad guys, when she could have blocked the exit and preserved access to them. (Another possible tactical error: the gates to the outside would be locked, because they weren't expecting visitors. But this is probably not an error; they wouldn't have held the PCs in very long.)
The vampires tried to get in as quickly as they could (and Garrett did manage to dominate Turok), but this gave the PCs a chance to organize. Three of them used the scroll to teleport out together, and Prolix used dimension door to get a little ways out with Turok. (This was a play error, I think--I think Turok was still enlarged.)
End result: the vampire is undamaged, three of the party are back in Cardior, and Prolix (with the dagger Weeping Wounds) and Turok are about 800 feet from the vampire's castle, with Prolix very low on spells. This is good, because although it doesn't end the campaign, it definitely gives the party some challenges for their audacity--especially Turok and Prolix, who were arguing most strongly for tackling the vampire immediately.
Some more play errors:
- I did remember to roll the vampire's sense checks to find invisible creatures, but I consistently forgot to roll his miss chances from concealment. (Is there a miss chance when you're grappling an invisible foe? I don't think so.) (Melisande had cast see invisible, so there's no problem there.)
- I shouldn't let my players act like a hive mind so much. Saying "you might want to delay for a moment" is not very in-character--it'd be much better to shout, "Wait, Kyle, I'm coming!"
- My players were very good about my request to engage Garrett in dramatic conversation, but I wasn't good enough to repay them with dramatics on Garrett's behalf. This is an area in which I hope to improve.
Those interested in this game may like to read Monica's account as well; it's striking how different our perspectives are.