The unfortunate truth is that I reached a point where my game passed my point of preparation. And I haven't been able to catch up effectively, because I've been putting a lot of my energy into work instead of D&D.
So I've gone back to the basics of "see a monster, hit a monster." For two sessions, the PCs tromped through the Caverns of Laryn, fighting every sort of sound-related monster I could find. And randomly generated treasure tables. (Though sadly I haven't updated my treasure-generation Perl script to D&D 3.5.)
Truth to tell, this has actually been pretty darn fun. In some ways, I wish I had a more interesting dungeon--but "see a monster, hit a monster" has been pretty entertaining. Particularly since we've had some exciting combats.
Combat summaries as I remember them:
- a pack of ghasts were easy fireball victims.
- three cloakers were pretty easy to fight.
- one Yrthak went down easily to Liandra's languor.
- two squamous spewers were easy prey to the party's ranged attacks.
- After they made their way to the center of the caverns and encountered the sleeping bard Therion, they carried him out and made camp. During the night, they got attacked by five ghasts plus an abyssal ghoul. This was a pretty exciting fight, because the abyssal ghoul's sneak attack power let him nearly take out Kyle in the first round of combat, and its high AC and SR made it a very tough opponent.
March 20, the PCs returned Therion to his protected sleep and romped around killing more monsters.
- Destrachans turned out to be pretty wimpy.
- One rukanryk went down easily, so I brought out another one that managed to shatter Liandra's armor and weapons.
- Finished off the evening with a fight with a 9-headed pyrohydra that again turned out to be an exciting fight, starting with it hitting Turok with six heads and leaving him able to count his hit points on one hand. Interestingly enough, the PCs didn't try cutting off its heads--and apparently they didn't need to, because its fast healing of 19 wasn't enough to overcome their damage. They were helped by the hydra's being completely unable to roll well enough to see through Prolix's illusions, which kept it at bay much longer.
On March 30, I felt ready for them to leave the Caverns of Laryn, but it had become clear that that the party really didn't have enough hooks to have a strong next adventure. They're heading towards the Gorge of Fire to boost up Turok's sword... but since I have more ideas for an eye-themed adventure than a fire-themed adventure, I declared that the Lake of Optalis was on the way.
I did a lot of stalling in this session, because I was badly unprepared. My stalling included playing out the party's scrying conversations with all their usual remote confederates. (I had been willing to let Prolix make his attempt to retrieve his spellbooks in this session, but he seemed inclined to bide his time.)
I did get to reveal one surprise I'd been looking forward to. The players have been at least semi-expecting Turok to eventually become the Emperor of Agondre. But Lord Marius (one of their connections to the world of politics) has been arguing that the best candidate is... Larissa. She's a paladin of honored reputation, she has a Charisma above 20, and most importantly in Marius's eyes, she's from the Gastreyr, and he's out to advance the fortunes of that province above all else. So it really makes sense for him in-character. I'm looking forward to seeing how this will play out.
But those stalls ran out, and I ran a fight with an ulgurstasta. (Big wormlike undead monster from the Fiend Folio with an escort of skeletons.) This didn't pose nearly as much of a threat as other fights, because it didn't have strong magical defenses. But its vomiting out necromantic acid for 3d6 points of Constitution drain for those who failed their saves added some excitement and left Prolix able to count his maximum hit points on two hands.
I think that perhaps what I need to advance the plot along is some way for the PCs to work more directly towards being able to take on the vampire Garrett. If they were able to quest to get the McGuffin of Vampire-Be-Gone, they could do that, then return to engage Garrett a second time, and there would be a much stronger sense of direction than there currently is. But I'm not sure how to do that... if you have ideas, please do let me know--but consider e-mail, since my players can read this entry.