[Let's Read] The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (4e)

Gilphon

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Double Actions and Dual Brain? That's odd. Normally those are for creatures with two heads.

Maybe when they say he's thrall to Vecna, that's not just a sinister way of saying he's a worshipper. Maybe there's a piece of Vecna inside his head. Two minds are within his body, one controlling the other.

Oh- damn it. He's got the Head of Vecna. That's gotta be it. I'm kind of annoyed at myself for coming to this conclusion, and I don't know how it works, but that's what this is, isn't it? I don't know whether I want this to be an intentional reference slipped way under the radar, or something my own weird mind came up with on its' own.
 

Dungeoneer

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Double Actions and Dual Brain? That's odd. Normally those are for creatures with two heads.
Well... I've seen solo monsters get double initiative for a variety of reasons. Most often if the creature is supposed to be very fast. "Dual Brain" is hard to explain away, though, I'll admit. I sort of assumed it was something along the lines of your first guess:

Maybe when they say he's thrall to Vecna, that's not just a sinister way of saying he's a worshipper. Maybe there's a piece of Vecna inside his head. Two minds are within his body, one controlling the other.

Oh- damn it. He's got the Head of Vecna. That's gotta be it. I'm kind of annoyed at myself for coming to this conclusion, and I don't know how it works, but that's what this is, isn't it? I don't know whether I want this to be an intentional reference slipped way under the radar, or something my own weird mind came up with on its' own.
Wow... that would be... quite a twist. heheheh

I feel like if he had the head he'd be higher level!
 

Gilphon

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Hmm.

The thing about the heads of Vecna is that lots of fakes exist- for some reason, it's a popular to trick those seeking power into offing themselves. Distinguishing the genuine heads from the frauds in a major problem for adventurers on such a quest, especially because the 'genuine' ones are grown through cloning, and thus philosophical question about what 'genuine' even means are raised.

Regardless, a useful rule of thumb is the true heads typically have both eyes, while forgers usually remove one. The head that originated the Artifact that would lead one to believe differently is always kept very close to Vecna's main body, and he doesn't have a whole lot of reason to inflict the same injury on his clones. Forgers generally aren't well-read enough to know that, though, and when they are, they don't assume the same is true for their marks.
 

Dungeoneer

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So do people in possession of a head usually replace their own head with it? Or do they just keep it nearby and consult it frequently for friendly advice? And if they're swapping heads, wouldn't people notice? "Hullo Edward, you look much more Vecna-like than usual these days!" "Why it must be this new haircut!"
 

Dungeoneer

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Well, this thread is starting to get ahead of itself. Heh. Heh heh. I slay me.

Meanwhile, we’re here! Yay, at the end of days!!!!


Or at least we're at the end of both the “Dark Threats” chapter and the Campaign Guide as a whole. Kind of hard to believe. We've come a long way together, stranger. Well, fear not, the Encounter Book is still to come, so we’re not quite finished yet. But a major chapter of our journey is closing. It’s been a long road, but hopefully an interesting and enjoyable one!

Our final ‘dark threat’ is a monster who is almost a quest unto herself:

THE WIDOW OF THE WALK


Time for another Sever-related ghost story:

The bridge that connects Cauldron Isle and Briarborne Isle is known as “Widow’s Walk,” and it is haunted. Set foot on the bridge after dark, and you will face The Widow in question, and boy is she pissed.

The Widow of the Walk was originally the matriarch of a merchant clan that was part of the great uprising against Rolan. You know, that one that went so well. During the attempted coup, all five of her children were killed, being among ”the first wave that attacked the prince’s palace.”

Restless and angry, the Widow’s spirit now patrols the Widow’s Walk bridge from dusk ‘til dawn. The only way to free her, ‘tis said, is to bring her five cherished objects - one belonging to each of her slain children. Only then will she go to her eternal rest.

Of course, you might be thinking that you’d rather leave well enough alone, but it seems that the Widow is ”an invaluable source of information for anyone who wants to know about the city’s tumultuous and complicated past. She knows which houses were involved in the rebellion and has details about how the Sever occurred.”

So looks like your PCs may be running around trying to put this particular restless spirit to bed after all.

**THE WIDOW’S CHILDREN**

The book suggests that finding the five objects belonging to the Widow’s slain children and returning them to her might comprise a major quest. And given where these items are supposed to be, it might indeed.

The Widow's five children were:

Alain - A fighter with a greataxe engraved with dragon talons. When he was killed, the Deathless Watch took the axe, and it is now in Prince Rolan’s personal collection.

Brandis - A commander who wore an adamantine helmet with a nightmare’s tail for a plume. Currently in the possession of the vampire Teliko, Grandmaster of Shadows to the Tenebrous Cabal.

Cassi - An expert in unarmed combat who wore a crystal-studded headband that helped her ”focus and strike unerringly.” Prince Rolan gave the headband to House Carradh for siding with him against the rebels and Olisk Carradh now has it.

Pieter - Spy, assassin, poisoner. His special poison dagger is in the possession of Dedrek Harskel, head of House Harskel.

Staci - This crafty battle mage - Wait, her name is Staci? Really? Geez. Okay. Ahem. Staci was a battle mage with a willow staff. While attempting to halt the cataclysm of The Sever she was instead swept up in it, and her staff is now somewhere within the Undercity.

So basically, assembling this collection will require you to, at minimum, overthrow or infiltrate the Tenebrous Cabal, House Harskel, House Carradh, and Prince Rolan’s palace. Not to mention, you’ll be paying a visit to the Undercity. Niiice.

And what do you get for all your pains? How about an encounter with a high level solo?

**LET’S FIGHT!!!**

The Widow of the Walk is an undead shadow humanoid and Level 18 Solo Controller. She can fly, although not very high (altitude limit 1) and she has phasing, not to mention to immunity from charm effects, sleep effects, and stunning effects.

As a solo monster she is quite unusual. Almost all her abilities are triggered actions. She also has zero, none, nada rolled attacks. Basically, her schtick is to use a power called [Obey Your Mother] to dominate anyone who ends their turn within five squares of her. That domination is automatic, by the way! No attack roll! Dominated targets immediately take another turn to dish out misery to their compatriots. The Widow can assign them a bonus based on one of her five children: “Alain’s Aggression,” “Brandis’s Battle Cry,” “Cassi’s Clout,” “Pieter’s Poison,” and “Staci’s Spellcraft.” Should the dominated target’s attack be successful, the Widow uses [Favored Child] to make it deal extra damage and give them 5 temp HP.

Lest you think the trick here is to avoid getting close to the Widow, as a minor action she has a ranged at-will called [Summoned Home] which makes a selected target choose between ending its next turn within five squares of her or taking 25 psychic damage. Once again, there is no attack roll here, it just happens.

Finally, the trait [Ghostly Grace] makes the widow insubstantial while moving, so basically she can shrug off OAs.

No attack rolls. Immunity to most effects. Phasing and insubstantial. Triggered actions out the wazoo. The Widow of the Walk is a pretty crazy solo monster. My main thought is that you are going to need a certain amount of buy in from your players, DMs. I like the occasional monster that messes with the ground rules of combat. Keeps players on their toes. But this monster takes ALL the ground rules, stuffs them in a bag full of rocks, and tosses them in the river. Some groups might feel that this is just straight up unfair, so be cautious.

If your party is up for it, though, this definitely seems like a memorable solo. It’s so far out of the normal bounds of a typical stat block that it’s hard for me to guess how it will actually play out on the grid, but the Widow sure sounds tough! She is basically immune to all the usual tricks and she uses the PCs against each other. Zounds.

Is the Widow the much-sought-after 4e solo monster that represents a genuine stand alone threat?? I'd love for someone to run an encounter against her and report back!!

**ROLEPLAYING THE WIDOW**

The book points out that the Widow, being a ghost, has a hard time telling memory from reality. She initially mistakes PCs for the long lost children (see: [Obey Your Mother]) that they most resemble and may also associate PCs keeping their distance with her dead husband Gregan, who drowned at sea.

Eventually, however, the PCs can knock some sense into her. When she gets down to her bloodied value, the Widow becomes lucid and realizes that she’s dead, her children are dead, and that the PCs are definitely not her children. At that point she may answer a few questions. However she will soon slip back into a delusional rage and attack once more.

If defeated, the Widow returns at dusk two days later. The only way to get rid of her permanently is to bring her children’s most treasured objects to her.

Then she at last will leave the bridge and set off towards waiting Letherna.

The Widow represents a nice quest that ties a lot of things together. However I wish they would tell you in the book what information she possesses that is so valuable that it is worth infiltrating or fighting virtually all of the city’s major powers.

Well… that’s it! That’s the final page of the Campaign Guide! Okay, I guess it’s not quite the last page. There’s an ad for the D&D Encounters program. “Play in an ongoing D&D campaign - one epic encounter at a time!” Is Encounters still a thing? I have no idea.

Next time I’ll crack open the Encounter Book. Not quite sure how I’m going to break that down yet. Guess I’ll play it by ear. As always, if there’s anything you want to see more of or less of or any questions you have, let me know.
 

junglefowl26

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Must be hard to tell day from night in the Shadowfell....then again I bet most of the inhabitants get used to it.

I am surprised there doesn't seem to be a place that clearly lays out what happened with the Sever. I will be interested to hear your theory though.
 

Dungeoneer

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I am surprised there doesn't seem to be a place that clearly lays out what happened with the Sever. I will be interested to hear your theory though.
So, I've looked back through the campaign guide to see if I missed anything and skimmed through the encounter book and done some Googling and I can't find anything about this. So apparently the 'answer' burned in my brain is completely made up. But I am so convinced that I heard it somewhere that I'm still hesitant to take credit for the theory that follows. And at any rate, the pieces certainly fit together pretty well.

So here's the explanation that I made-up/recalled/hallucinated about What Happened During The Sever:

Some people believe that Prince Rolan has a secret alliance with the Keepers, or even that they serve him. This is, however, untrue. The Keepers are as alien to Rolan as to anyone else. Rolan has, however, divined over the centuries the true nature of the city he rules. He has realized that the city is, after a fashion, a living, sentient thing. And he also realized that the strange, warm cavern known as Shadowheart, hidden away in the depths below the Deathless Palace, is in fact Gloomwrought's literal, beating heart. It was here that the city began, here that its power is centered, and here that the Keepers control its growth and change - although the mechanisms through which they do this are obscure.

Rolan watched the Keepers and studied the Shadowheart, but through the long years he did not attempt to interfere. Until...

The noble houses rose up together against the Prince in a coordinated attempt to overthrow him. Rolan was enraged. How dare they presume to challenge him, the one true rightful ruler of Gloomwrought?? As his troops clashed with the rebels before the very gates of the Deathless Palace, Rolan swept down ancient and hidden passages and staircases to the Shadowheart.

Given another thousand years, Rolan might have had time to fully understand how the Shadowheart controlled the city's transformations. He could have used it like a finely honed weapon, targeting his enemies and their forces directly. But Rolan did not have the luxury of such deep understanding. His knowledge was broad and his tools were crude. He knew that the massed clumps in the shallow pool of ruby-colored liquid in the center of the cavern seemed to represent the city itself. So he fell upon the districts that his enemies called home, smashing and bludgeoning soft, vulnerable tissue.

Above him, the city convulsed in cataclysm. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands perished.

No doubt the Keepers came to defend the bleeding heart of their home, but Rolan would have been prepared for them. Even though he was one man, he was ancient and skilled and he would have brought weapons and wards to fend them off while he wreaked his havoc.

At last, satisfied with his work, he escaped the Keepers and the cavern and ascended above to survey the aftermath of the event that would come to be known as The Sever.

The damage Rolan did to the Shadowheart never truly healed. It became a mass of scar tissue, no longer alive, but paralyzed, lumpen, and ugly. On the surface above the district known as the Ghost Quarter likewise remains inert, and free of change and growth, unlike the rest of the City of Midnight.

And that is how the Sever happened!

Maybe.
 
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