Friday, 21 July 2017

IV.33: Servants of Rhashaak

Masvirik’s Prison, in Khyber
Lharvion 6, 997 YK

The great tunnel descended at a steep angle, taking them even deeper into the underworld of Khyber. While nothing felt natural about this place, this tunnel at least was clearly made by living creatures; it was larger than the volcanic tunnels that they had traversed until now, and its slow, steady spiral downwards seemed constructed to lead to a place beneath them. In places there were steps carved into the sloping rock which made the group’s descent easier.

Anaya could sense that their goal was close now. The sense of malignant evil that she had felt throughout the caverns was strong here, flowing up from a source that lay beneath them. The Flame was present here also, however, and even stronger than it had been around the imprisoned demons above. Anaya’s connection to the Flame had never been stronger and she felt that, whatever lay ahead, its power gave her the strength to face it. Her thoughts were on the tale of the Tira Miron, the founder of her Church, whom the Flame had granted the power to reseal the prison of Bel Shalor. Anaya was sure that the Flame had the power to overcome the evil that they faced here; she only hoped that she had the strength to wield it.

Discern Realities(Nyseris): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Partial success.
What here is not what it appears to be?

“This tunnel was s–surely made by the dragons, after Masvirik was first imprisoned here,” said Nyseris. “The Blackscales carved these steps later—perhaps so they could reach the chamber where their master is held.”

It took them only half an hour to reach the end of the tunnel. Anaya, who had seen this place in the vision that the Flame granted to her months ago, knew they were approaching the end before they saw the light; she warned the others to prepare themselves.

Make a move that follows: This place is ancient, and appears as in Anaya’s vision.

The tunnel opened up into vast underground cavern, nearly half a mile across. Huge Khyber crystals, larger than any dragonshards that Anaya had ever seen, protruded in many places, and great flows of lava poured into the chamber from several other tunnels leading into the cavern. The dominant feature, however, was the huge pillar of silver fire that stood at its centre; standing over two hundred feet high and reaching nearly to the roof, it bathed the entire cavern in the light of the Flame. Though its surroundings could not be more different, the flame was a counterpart to the Eternal Flame in Flamekeep. There was a shadow within the flame, however; as she reached out to the power of the Flame, Anaya could also feel the evil that it concealed, the vast and dormant energy of the Overload trapped within.

Anaya lowered her gaze to their target. Before the Flame, lying pressed against the stone floor, was the ancient black dragon that she knew to be Rhashaak, the corrupted guardian of the jungle, now leader of the Blackscales. He looked small at this distance, with the the central Flame towering over him, but the tiny forms of the Blackscale lizardfolk standing near him showed that the distance was deceptive and he must be a massive creature. Flowing cords of silver fire were tangled around him, pinning him in place, as they had done since the dragons imprisoned him here eighty thousand years ago.

Time to deliver on that failed roll from Vaalyun last time. Use a threat from an existing faction or type of creature. Think dangerously of course—this is a large group of enemies, but it has to be enough that they would expect to be able to take down the heroes. If Vaalyun had not failed that roll, the heroes arrival would have been a surprise and this group would have been smaller, making it more of an incidental fight.

The group had more immediate concerns, however. A large group of Blackscale lizardfolk, perhaps thirty strong, stood before them, arrayed on the floor of the cavern below where the tunnel opened into the cavern. At their center stood three lizardfolk shamans, and they were flanked by warriors armed with spears and bows. The silver light pouring from the giant flame behind them glinted off of their dark scales.

“Welcome to the kornari di whedabra, Anaya of the Flame,” said the foremost shaman. They wore an unnatural-looking skull—of a demon, perhaps—as a helmet, and carried a long staff topped with a Khyber dragonshard. “You have been expected.”

Anaya stepped forward. Her hand was already glowing with the light of the Flame, but she drew more deeply on the Flame’s power and the light grew more intense; some of the Blackscales averted their eyes before her burning light. “We come here in the service of the Silver Flame, which holds a great evil imprisoned within this cavern. Let us pass, and leave this place, never to return.”

Show signs of an approaching threat: Powerful spellcasters, and they have a use for Anaya if they can capture her.

“We have worked for thousands of years to free our master from the flames,” said the shaman. “We learned the rituals to weaken his bonds, but we lacked the means to untie the knot—one who could control the silver fire itself. Our prayers to the Cold One were answered and you have been brought before us; soon, we will be able to free our master. What happens here is fated, Anaya of the Flame.”

Interrogator(Esthana): 2D6(2 6) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Proof required: some will flee once they see you living up to your reputation

Esthana stepped up beside Anaya, speaking loudly so all the lizardfolk could hear. “You have tried to take us prisoner before. How many of those that you sent returned? More than a dozen of your warriors died by my hand, and the few wise enough to flee left without their prisoners.” The Templar drew her sword, the silver fire burning along the blade. “Leave now, or die in this place.”

There were signs of nervousness amongst the lizardfolk now. The Blackscale warriors were a little larger on average than even the gul siksta lizardfolk of Nyseris’ tribes, with some reaching nine feet tall; each carried a spear and shield, apart from a group on one side armed with hunting bows. But there were worried looks exchanged between some of the front lizardfolk as they looked up at the two Templars, and it was clear that Esthana’s reputation did preceed them.

Jilg dout ordah!” cried another of the Blackscale shaman; Anaya presumed it was a call to order, and the lizardfolk warrior seemed to regain a little of their poise.

“This is not your land, or your place, outsiders,” said the first shaman. “Give up the cleric, and we may be merciful.”

Cast a Spell(Magic Weapon)(Nyseris): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
+d4 damage per attack
Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +3 = 9 Partial success.
+1 to all Esthana’s rolls; Put someone in a spot: you’ll be a prime target in what happens next

Seeing no other way, Anaya glanced to Esthana, and then turned and nodded to Nyseris and Vaalyun, who were standing a few yards behind them, higher up the slope to the tunnel entrance. Nyseris immediately called on the power of the Flame, and Anaya felt the power flow into the ranger as silver flames surrounded their bow.

Jilg wer sunathear,” cried the first shaman, raising their staff. “Svent shio lyriki!

Okay, let’s break down the opposition:

  • 6 warriors - group 1
  • 6 warriors - group 2
  • 6 archers - group 3
  • 6 personal guard for shamans - group 4
  • 3 shamans with 3 servants. As before, for the shaman I will use the abilities of an Orc Shaman but keep the usual lizardfolk hitpoints and armour.

This is a similar sized group to the cultists that the party fought (with Nyseris absent) in the jungle long ago, when they were lower level; but the lizardfolk are tougher than cultists and the shamans are a dangerous group. The party should be able to manage it though.

Dragonmark(Shadows and Darkness)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 1) +2 = 6 Failure!
Monster(Shaman 2): Twist the Elements: deal d8+3=5 damage, ignoring armour)

Around a dozen lizardfolk warriors began advancing up the slope. The second shaman stepped forward as well, pointing towards the newcomers while chanting something in Draconic. Cracks appeared in the cavern floor around the Templars, releasing great jets of flame that reached up fifteen feet into the air. One was right beside Vaalyun and he threw up his arm to shield himself from the sudden flames; he stepped away and was still standing, but part of his jacket was burned away, and the leather armour underneath was badly burned as well.

Called Shot(Head)(Nyseris): 2D6(5 2) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Deals d8+d4=8 damage to Shaman 3, 6 after armour, killing them. Put yourself in danger: Vaalyun failed to deal with those archers, so Deal damage: d8+2=3 damage, 2 after armour

As the third shaman stepped forwards, preparing to cast another spell, Nyseris loosed her arrow. Trailing silver light as it flew, the arrow flew true and buried itself in the eye of the shaman, killing them instantly. Seeing this, the Blackscale archers loosed their first volley at Nyseris; perhaps due to the jets of flame obscuring their view, only one of the arrows found its target.

Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +3 = 9 Partial success.
+1 to all rolls for Esthana; put yourself in danger
Defend(Esthana): 2D6(3 1) +2+1 = 7 Partial success.
Hold 1
Volley(Anaya): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d6=4 damage, 2 after armour; put yourself in danger

Anaya touched Esthana on the shoulder, saying “The Flame is with you, here more than ever.” Calling on the power of the Flame, and the silver light from her hand seemed to flow from her and surrounded Esthana herself. Esthana stepped in front of her as the lizardfolk advanced towards them. Anaya drew her bow and loosed an arrow at the lizardfolk just as they began their charge; her arrow caught one in the shoulder but did not slow its advance. Six of the lizardfolk swarmed around the two Templars, and Anaya only had time to unshoulder her shield before she was fending away their spears.

Esthana is outnumbered by enemies far taller and stronger than her, but she is nearly unbeatable in close quarters when the Flame’s blessing is on her. As always, she is using her shortsword to be precise, using her dexterity to hack-and-slash.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(2 4) +3+1 = 10 Success!
Deals d10+d6=9 damage, ignoring armour

That’s 13 damage in total (with Anaya’s arrow) so group 1 is at 23/36, 2 dead.

Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +0 = 6 Failure!
Takes d8+1=7 damage (but…)

Spend hold(Esthana): Divert attacks to self: takes 4 damage after armour

Esthana met the charge easily, calmly sweeping aside the first spearpoints of her attackers and moving in close. Outnumbered by the much larger and stronger Blackscale warriors, she moved in close and struck with precision, stabbing one lizardfolk through the heart, and then cutting through the throat of another. Anaya was in trouble though so Esthana turned back, ignoring a spearpoint that jabbed into her side just below her breastplate, and put herself between Anaya and another of the lizardfolk, giving her fellow Templar time to draw her sword.

So group 1 is aiming for Anaya, who is lousy in close quarters and badly needs Esthana’s protection; because of the ritual that she needed to memorise to free Rhashaak, she doesn’t even have a healing spell currently.

Group 2 is charging further upslope at Nyseris. And group 4, the archers, are looking at Nyseris also.

The shamans of group 5 will continue to harass everyone, and group 3 are their personal bodyguard who will hold back for now; they are now making a shieldwall to stop the party sniping the remaining shamans.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 5) +2 = 11 Success!
No hits from the archers
Blot out the Sun(Nyseris): 2D6(3 5) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d8+d4=7 damage to first, 5 after armour
Deals d8+d4=3 damage to second, 1 after armour
Dragonmark(Shadows and Darkness)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 4) +2 = 10 Success!
Shadows block the line of sight of the archers
Blot out the Sun(Nyseris): 2D6(2 6) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d8+d4=3 damage, 1 after armour
Deals d8+d4=6 damage, 4 after armour.
Put yourself in danger

The backline are doing great now. Group 2 has 21/36hp left, 2 dead, and the archer group is out of action for a while; but Nyseris is going to be swarmed in a moment. We’ll come back.

More of the Blackscales continued on towards Nyseris, but the ranger rapidly loosed arrows at the advancing warriors. Afraid of the silver fire burning around each arrowhead, the Blackscales slowed their advance, sheltering behind their shields as they moved up the slope, but Nyseris found the gaps in their shieldwall and several arrows found their targets. Nyseris had moved into the lee of one of the fire jets, to shield themselves from the archers below, and so the archers turned towards Vaalyun instead; but the elf raised a hand in their direction and suddenly the bank where the archers stood was engulfed in darkness, hiding the archers and preventing them from seeing their targets.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(4 3) +3+1 = 11 Success!
Deals d10+d6=7 damage

Another one dead, group 1 at 16/36, half dead. Three is still too many for Esthana to keep Anaya fully shielded from them, though, and she had a lot of put-yourself-in-danger rolls earlier, so she still has to fight.

Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(6 2) +0 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d6=1 damage (armour negates), Separate them: being backed up into a fire jet.

Esthana can Defy Danger to get back beside Anaya and relieve the pressure on her.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Esthana): 2D6(5 5) +3+1 = 14 Success!
You’re back beside Anaya again

Anaya’s best move is to Aid Esthana, as she has two bonds with her fellow Templar, and she has the superior version of Aid that she took at last level-up:

Esthana swept aside another spear thrust from one of the lizardfolk warriors then, stepping forward, reversed her stroke and slashed a deep wound across the chest of the hulking warrior. Her sword cut effortlessly through the creature’s thick hide, and the creature fell to the stone floor screaming as its flames burned at their wound. Anaya did not have the same speed and, though she was able to score a hit on one of the warriors, she was soon being driven back at spearpoint, and was in danger of being driven into one of the jets of flame that now dotted the slope. But Esthana, dodging around the lizardfolk, rolled under their spears and came up between Anaya and the warriors facing her.

With A Little Help from my Friends(Anaya): 2D6(2 3) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger, +1 forward to you and Esthana
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 1) +3+1+1 = 7 Partial success.
Deals d10+d6=8 damage; Monster(Shaman 2): More fire

Yikes, with bless and aid and Esthana’s stats, even double-1s isn’t a failure. Group 1 at 8/36, only two lizardfolk still up.

The shamans can see that their warriors are losing, and decide to start lighting more fires. I am choosing not to bother dealing damage to Esthana most of the time, as her armour and HP is high enough that it’s really hard to kill her; it is more productive to keep putting Anaya in danger, who will die quickly if she isn’t helped out.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Esthana): 2D6(2 2) +3+1 = 8 Partial success.
Separate them

The Blackscale warriors—three remained fighting Esthana and Anaya—moved again to encircle the Templars, and this time Anaya moved to protect Esthana’s exposed side—as her friend was unable to carry a shield. The lizardfolk were both taller and had greater reach with their spears and Esthana and Anaya were hard-pressed, but working together they managed to keep the spearpoints at bay. When a gap appeared, Esthana ducked and rolled forwards, coming up in between two of the lizardfolk and using the momentum of her roll to drive her sword upwards through its chest.

Perhaps realising that their warriors were not getting the job done, one of the shaman raised their staff again, pointing at the two Templars. The ground shook and there was a sound of cracking stone, as the cracks in the ground began to grow longer, and more flames vented upwards from the enlarging fissures. A narrow crevasse opened up across the slope, and Esthana had to roll downslope to avoid it; a wall of flame rose along the crevasse, dividing the two Templars.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 6) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals 2d4=4 damage ignoring armour (magic missile wand)
Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d8+d3=11 damage, 9 after armour; Put someone in a spot: the enemy are on you now

That 9 is a single last arrow before they close, so I’ll only let it kill one. Group 2 has 14/36hp left, 3 dead.

Nyseris’ spear was broken a few chapters ago, so it’s a short spear now; that costs them here, they have to defy danger to get in past the long spears of the Blackscales.

Defy Danger(Str)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +2 = 8 Partial success.
You break one of their spears; but Deal damage: d8+1=6 damage, 5 after armour

Nyseris is at 15/22 with 3 lizardfolk warriors attacking them. Unlike Esthana, the ranger has no plate, no-one helping them in the melee, and no awesome sword.

The archers have had time to reposition, so:

Dragonmark(Shadows and Darkness)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 4) +2 = 11 Success!
The archers are surrounded by darkness again

Vaalyun’s crowd control here is avoiding the golden opportunities that would otherwise occur because no-one else can do anything about these archers right now; as we saw in the fight outside Count Zuokas’ manor, the GM can give these free attacks if the heroes are too busy to act on the threat.

Further up the slope, Nyseris’ arrows had injured several lizardfolk and dropped one to the ground. Vaalyun fired a magic missile from his wand at another; the creature’s chest exploded and it collapsed immediately. As the remaining four lizardfolk charged, Nyseris loosed one last arrow, which caught the lead Blackscale in the throat and killed them instantly; then the ranger cast aside her bow and grabbed her spear. The spear haft had been broken during their descent from the surface, so Nyseris’ had broken the haft cleanly and now wielded it like a short sword; but that left the ranger at a disadvantage given the reach of their enemies’ spears.

Nyseris took Viper’s strike a while back, and finally gets a chance to use it, since they now have weapons in both hands.

Viper’s Strike(Nyseris): 2D6(2 6) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d8+d4+2 (for snake companion) = 8 damage, 6 after armour (killing one)

As the first Blackscale jabbed forwards, Nyseris sidestepped to avoid the strike and grabbed at the spear with their free hand, twisting with their strong grip and snapping the spear in half. They could not dodge all of the spears, though, and Nyseris took several cuts from the other two Blackscales. Needing a distraction, Nyseris threw new animal companion at one of the assailants; the snake wrapped itself around the neck of the lizardfolk, and bit into their neck. As the warrior flinched, Nyseris took advantage, barging into their shield and stabbing first with one spearhead, then the other. The Blackscale warrior dropped their weapon, staggered from their injuries, and fell to the ground.

Using the +1 forward from her With A Little Help from my Friends.

Hack and Slash(Anaya): 2D6(3 4) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d6=3 damage, 1 after armour; takes d8=5 damage, 3 after armour.

Anaya is at 14/17 HP.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 2) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Deals 2d4=6 damage (ignoring armour); Change the environment: Monster move(Shaman 2): Twist the Elements

That’s the last of group 1 killed.

Anaya found herself one-on-one with the last Blackscale warrior near her. Trading blows with the creature, she held it at bay for a few seconds, and managed to jab her sword under the warrior’s shield and into their gut. Undeterred, the warrior pushed their shield forward, bashing Anaya’s head, and she fell to the ground, dazed. As the warrior raised their spear, ready to strike down at the cleric, suddenly an bolt of arcane energy struck them in the head from behind; Anaya had to shift to avoid the body as it fell to the rock floor, before rolling into the fiery fissure just below her. Vaalyun, who had fired the bolt from his position further up the slope, lowered his wand and began looking around for more targets.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
You get to safe ground

Anaya was beginning to rise when a more violent rumble shook the ground of the cavern. She scrambled to her feet and up the slope as the ground beneath her began to crumble. Several feet of ground around the fissure crumbled and collapsed, rock falling away into a lava flow below. The rising flames died away, but now the entrance to the cavern was broken up by several deep chasms filled below with lava. Vaalyun, who was directly in the path of the opening fissure, had to throw himself to one side to avoid falling in.

The shamans are still active and trying to target all the unengaged heroes. Monster move(Shaman 1): Casts Hold Person.

Defy Danger(Wis)(Esthana): 2D6(3 4) +1+1 = 9 Partial success.
You escape the effect, but Separate them: she is lower down, below the chasm that opened, and about to run into the archers emerging from Vaalyun’s darkness spell
Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(4 3) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Deals d8+d4=8 damage, 6 after armour (killing one); takes d8+2=3 damage, 2 after armour.

Group 2 is down to 6/36 HP, one warrior still standing.

Defy Danger(Wis)(Esthana): 2D6(5 4) +1 = 10 Success!
Deals d10+d6=9 damage

Esthana found herself alone at the foot of the slope, standing at the edge of the darkness that Vaalyun had summoned and facing more Blackscales forming a shield wall in front of the shamans. She heard one of the shaman shouting something in Draconic, and heard the answering crack of stone as the chasm opened up behind her, blocking her escape. Another shaman, the first that had spoken when they entered, raised their staff and pointed it at Esthana over the shieldwall, and the Templar immediately felt the arcane effect trying to seize her limbs and hold her in place. She immediately fought the effect, straining to move one foot forward and then the other, keeping her sword in front of her. After a few moments she broke free of the effect, and heard the shaman’s curse as they realised that their spell had failed.

To charge the shield wall alone was risky, and Esthana could hear the lizardfolk inside the area of darkness coming towards her as well. Choosing to deal with the lesser threat first, Esthana dived into the darkness herself. Surrounded suddenly by the unnatural blackness, the only light that penetrated the cloud at all was the silver light of her sword; but she could hear the lizardfolk near her, and used her greater speed to attack them before they even realised she was there. She ran one through with her sword before they could react, its death cry adding to the panic that the other lizardfolk felt as they realised that the Templar was amongst them.

Okay, Esthana gets the benefit of her Interrogator move earlier now - she threatened death and has dealt out plenty of it now. The remains of groups 2, 3 and the hangers-on in group 5 all flee, their morale entirely broken.

Defy Danger(Str)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 4) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome

Emerging from the darkness again, Esthana saw that many of the Blackscales were fleeing now: the archers were scattering across the cavern, along with some other lizardfolk from the shamans’ group. The last lizardfolk that had been attacking Nyseris further up the slope had also fled. The entrance to the cavern was littered with lizardfolk dead, scorched with flame and split by lava-filled fissures. Only the six Blackscales in the shield wall and the two remaining shamans held their ground.

Still bloodied from the fighting yet undeterred, Nyseris ran down the slope and jumped the chasm. The lizardfolk barely made it to the far side, hitting the face of the chasm at chest height and dropping one of their broken spearheads as they grabbed at the rocky edge.

Esthana quickly moved to aid the ranger, but before she could help Nyseris up, the lizardfolk shaman was shouting and gesturing. “Itrewic astahi! Svent astahi jaka!”

The remaining lizardfolk warriors began to edge forwards, clearly reluctant to engage the Templar. Esthana turned to face them, covering Nyseris as they scrambled out of the chasm.

One great feature of Dungeon World is that combat isn’t special; Esthana can seamlessly move into social moves to try to exploit the established fiction.

Interrogator(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Proof required - and the  12 dead lizardfolk on the ground, plus your sword that is “wreathed in silver fire, a symbol of good and law” are ample proof.

“I have faced and slain greater foes than you.” She held her sword up, silver flames playing across the blade and their light reflecting from her breastplate. “Enough of your kind have died today—are you so sure that you want to join them?” The Blackscale warriors stopped in their tracks, looking around nervously, and some began to back away.

I wasn’t sure what to do here. Suddenly it seems like there’s no real fight left in the fight, and yet I need to give the shamans a chance to use their magic - which they haven’t made a lot of effective use of yet. I thumbed through the DungeonWorld wizard playbook, looking for suitable spells, and considered having them summon a demon, but we have fought demons before. I decided on Polymorph Other, as an interesting spell that they could use to do something new.

Introduce a new faction or type of creature: I have wanted an excuse to put a hydra in the campaign, because Make a move that follows: Vaalyun has a five-headed hydra on his jacket. I guess now is the chance. Polymorph Other usually allows the GM to add a twist against the player, but instead I’ll make it a twist against the caster: Think dangerously, the monster is bound not to attack its caster but will attack their allies.

The shaman was screaming at his own guards now in Draconic. Esthana waved her sword threateningly, and the warriors took a further step back. Clearly incensed, the shaman stepped forward while chanting something, striking two of his warriors on the back. Immediately it was clear that his spell was not one merely to encourage them. Both fell to the ground, screaming in pain; their bodies began to bulge and bloat, shifting in shape. Reaching out in agony, one of them touched the other with their hand, and they became stuck together, writhing in pain and growing in size until their original forms had merged and bloated into a monstrous creature that towered over them. The only parts of the original lizardfolk that were recognisable were the heads, now protruding from the massive torso on long sinuous necks, and several more similar heads burst out from the creature’s body, all twisted in pain and rage.

Esthana and Nyseris stood at the edge of the chasm, awe-struck at this new monstrosity. The other lizardfolk warriors turned and fled; the other shaman lingered too long, and one of the monster’s heads snapped out, biting down on the shaman’s head and crushing it in its bite. Only the first shaman and the monster remained standing before them, barring their path to Rhashaak.

Charge!(Esthana): +1 forward for you and Nyseris
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +3+1+1 = 11 Success!
Deals d10=1 damage

Hydra is at 15/16, but you can’t kill it attacking the heads.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 2) +2+1 = 9 Partial success.
Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask: you can move in the open around the hydra to get to the shaman, but they’ll get to hit you with damaging spells; or you get tangled with the hydra.

“For the Flame!” cried Esthana, brandishing her sword and charging down to meet the monstrosity. Nyseris charged with her. Esthana veered left, swinging at the creature’s outstretched heads when she was within striking range; she scored a hit on the jaw of one head, but it recoiled from the blow and reared out of reach. Nyseris went for the other side of the creature, trying to duck under it and through to the shaman behind, but the creature lowered one head and long neck low, blocking their charge and forcing the ranger to defend themselves. An arrow from Anaya’s bow whistled in and stuck firmly in the creature’s scaly hide; several of the creature’s heads let out angry hisses.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(5 5) +1 = 11 Success!
Deals d6=2 damage, negated by armour
Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +2 = 10 Success!
You know how to kill it
Seeing Red(Esthana): 2D6(1 3) +1+1+1 = 7 Partial success.
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: d10+3=5 damage, 4 after armour

Nyseris is at 11/22 HP.

“Go for the heart, if you can,” yelled Vaalyun. “Apart from that, the only thing that can harm a hydra is fire!”

Esthana saw that the creature was afraid of the silvery fire around her blade, but it would be hard to reach the creature’s heart—particularly with a short sword. Glancing to her right, she saw the lava chasm behind them, and decided what she must do. She began to circle around behind the hydra; on the other side, Nyseris was being attacked by several of the creature’s heads; one managed to catch the ranger’s arm in its jaws, biting deeply and drawing blood.

Interrogator(Esthana): 2D6(5 4) +1+1 = 11 Success!
It recoils from the threat, and releases Nyseris.

Nyseris goes for the shaman again.

Defy Danger(Dex)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 3) +2 = 6 Failure!
Deal Damage: d8+3=6 damage from a firebolt, ignoring armour

Nyseris is at 5/22 HP.

Behind the creature now, Esthana pressed closer, swinging her sword strongly at any of the heads that came near to her. “Back you abomination! Back—or face me, if you dare!”

The hydra’s heads recoiled from her blade and, as she advanced, the monster backed away from her. It had to release Nyseris, and now all its attention was on the Templar before it, with her fearsome sword trailing silver fire.

Esthana wants to drive this creature all the way into the lava chasm. This isn’t really a Parley, since either choice here is dangerous to the creature and it actually has a better chance against Esthana than if it falls into the pit. But Be a Fan of the Characters: Esthana’s plan is reasonable and follows from her Seeing Red, and her enhanced Parley seems like a better fit than anything else. She has +1 forward from her Seeing Red as well.

Interrogator(Esthana): 2D6(4 6) +1+1+1 = 13 Success!
Well with that good a roll, she would have succeeded with any stat anyway. She gets what she wants.

Not letting up at all, Esthana rolled to her left, moving closer to the monstrosity and cutting into one of its many necks. The creature hissed in pain and fear, backing away on its short, clawed legs. It was nearly at the edge of the chasm now, but Esthana gave it no pause for thought, slashing up at its many heads, keeping its attention on the danger of the weapon before it. Before it realised where it was, it put a foot over the edge of the chasm; as it lost its balance, the heads hissed and darted wildly in all directions in panic. Esthana planted a firm kick into the side of the creature and sent it toppling down into the lava below; she had to throw up her arm to shield her eyes as the huge creature’s fall caused molten lava to splash up even above the level of the cave floor. With one last shriek of pain, the creature was gone.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 5) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Take what you can get; Deals 2d4-d6=4 damage

Given Nyseris’ HP, they are probably on Last Breath if they don’t succeed this roll.

Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
Deals d8+d4=8 damage, 6 after armour

Esthana turned around, in time to see Nyseris deal the killing blow to the remaining shaman. The shaman was chanting something in Draconic once more, but the ranger’s first strike drove their spearhead straight into the throat of the shaman, cutting off their spell before it could be completed. With their other hand, the ranger impaled the shaman on their other spearhead; the last of the Blackscales slumped to the ground, dead.

“Impressive, Templars,” boomed a voice from across the cavern. From within the bands of fire that constrained him, Rhashaak had turned his head to watch the battle. “Approach, bearers of the Flame: you may present yourself before the master of Haka’torvhak.”

The party did quite well there; for once they managed to cast all their buffs and played to all their strengths throughout. I probably played the fight a little straightforwardly, as it was mostly Anaya that came under pressure; but Esthana as usual chopped the Blackscales up and left too little behind for them to threaten the other characters. This party has solved the game, I think.

End of Session(party): +1 XP to all for defeating a notable creature; Esthana, Anaya, Nyseris all met their alignment goals too.

Anaya: 1 failure, alignment goal, session goal; at 8XP.
Esthana: 0 failures, alignment goal, session goal; at 4XP.
Nyseris: 2 failures, alignment goal, session goal; at 7XP.
Vaalyun: 1 failure, session goal; at 4XP.

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