First a fire element roc, which was crippled by the range at which it was engaging. (I decided that there was no conceivable way that a monster described as "an eagle with an 80-foot wingspan, only on fire" could engage someone any closer than the limits of visibility.) But now I've realized that the run maneuver is valid for flying creatures, so the next flyer encountered at long range will not face quite as many cold balls before engaging. It did manage to grab hold of Liandra just before it died, so there were some threatening implications.
The dead fire roc solved some of their problems of how to camp for the night; they hacked out part of its chest and used that and its wing to construct a fairly sturdy shelter (albeit a far from elegant one). I did give some hints on that, but it turned out that Lori had already thought of that possibility. Yay Lori!
Then, during the night, I hit them with a troll with the half-dragon (red) template. I'd fretted about this before; by the CR numbers, it seemed fairly easy, but if it hit with two claws, it could easily kill a PC. And it could fly and regenerate almost any damage except acid.
So, I equivocated: I gave the troll one level of barbarian to raise its CR numbers, and I stacked the deck in favor of the PCs:
- I didn't hide the previous journal entry about the idea
- I let them see it with a few rounds to prepare before it attacked them,
- and I let them recognize it as a half-dragon troll and recognize its strength.
It was a satisfactory fight. It caused a fair bit of mayhem (with its breath weapon actually being pretty useful, because of the high DC because of its high Con). It did not manage to hit with two claws and rend anybody--but if it had rolled 1 higher on its second claw attack on Turok, it would have hit and rent for an extra 3d6 + 35 points of damage when Turok only had 20-something hit points, almost assuredly killing him. So the players did feel threatened.
But they did manage to get it down to being unconscious. I had ideas of them trying to leave it massively damaged and move away only to have it come chasing them later--but the players apparently had the same ideas, and they were very concerned to kill it now. I'd had one really kewl idea for how they could kill it: by drowning it in the river of lava at the bottom of the valley. But instead, they used acid in a coup de grace, and I ruled that Kyle could sneak attack with the acid (particularly against an unconscious target that's been cut to pieces, it makes sense to me that you could appy acid to a particularly vulnerable spot)... and the troll failed its coup de grace Fortitude save on the first try. (Though since it had a +18 Fort save while raging, the party was very lucky to have Kyle along for the sneak attack damage--it would almost certainly have made its save against a normal coup de grace for 2d4 points of acid damage.)
I'm getting ready to move on from constant combat, though, and I wish we could go a bit faster. A big constraint on our time is Lori's early bedtime; we're gathering at 7 and ending play at 10, so often there's only a couple of hours of actual play in. I'd like to get to the end of the valley at the end of the next session, but I don't know whether that's feasible or not.
In the meantime, I'm doing planning for the PCs taking the fight to Garrett again, including the question, "How do I make a thrilling fight if Liandra has access to a sunbeam spell that destroys any vampire that fails its save?"