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Let's Play: The Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box classics)


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#101
Endrosz

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I'm a little embarrassed that it took so many tries, but the first one was a real sucker punch: "Here's a beholder and a medusa plus some spare change minotaurs, in your face, no warning".

 

If you're defeated by a patrol, it's not game over, instead you're thrown into the arena without your money and equipment. But I only know this from a walkthrough, I never got there myself.


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#102
Enoch

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If you're defeated by a patrol, it's not game over, instead you're thrown into the arena without your money and equipment. But I only know this from a walkthrough, I never got there myself.

That is definitely what happened to me, thanks.  



#103
Endrosz

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Chapter 22: MythDrannorBusters
 

I sort out the big haul of loot from Zhentil Keep, and put away all those Bracers to a mule character. I'll need money for some Hold Monster scrolls (4500/piece) and lots of healing potions (1600/piece) for the Oxam's Tower optional challenge.
 
We have a suspicion about the guy at the Standing Stone, which is confirmed.

foGG2XM.png
 
 
nLnnLjs.png?1
 
Alma: -- Back to square minus one. Immortal spirit, probably backed by the Pool of Radiance, occupies the body of some strong monster, has an army under his command, just like back in Valjevo Castle. But this time, we have bonds that are controlled by him. And now he shares control with no one else. The dice was loaded in his favor from the beginning, he knew we would find a way to remove the other bonds.
Szilva: -- Never lose hope. The sun rises every morning, and it washes away all fears, worries and doubts from yesterday. Without hope, without renewal of spirit, evil would win every time. Lathander, the Morninglord, the Heavenly Inspiration, the Conquering Dawn embodies all of that and more. We have his sacred relic with us, which allows us to harm extraplanar spirits like Tyranthraxus.
Eper: -- For once, I welcome your preaching. Thanks, I needed a morale boost.
 
And to break the doom and gloom, the comic relief gallops by:
 
WptF5GG.png?1
 
Citrom: -- Yes, run after her endlessly! Serves you right, you drooling idiot!
 
The ruins of Myth Drannor are not a friendly place. In the first area, resting is impossible as we're attacked by the local fauna immediately: giant spiders (poison), phase spiders (blink, poison), and thri-kreens (paralyze). The other residents are elven spirits, the long-dead builders of the place, and they've seen enough looters, so they're easily offended. After a few steps, one of them appears:
 
 
9yvg0hq.png

The spirit tells us he has seen the thri-kreen enter some enchanted webs, and then they say a word (krrkik) and gain strength.
 
Barack: -- Does this web have side effects like the magical muscle-increasing dust I'm using? I have so much trouble with all the extra hair...

We find the web she speaks of in a building nearby.
 
Eper: -- I don't like this... Entering spider webs voluntarily is for chosen ones who die in an idiotic fashion.

And Eper is right, we are attacked by spiders as we enter the web, which limits us to 1 MP and decreases to-hit.
 
Eper: -- If I had an electrum piece for every time we walked into a trap, despite my warnings...
Narancs: -- ...it still would be less money than if I had an electrum piece for every time you rushed us into danger, because, 'treasure'!
 
But the real surprise comes after the spiders are dispatched.


o8ccPG6.png
 
Barack: -- You shouldn't play dirty tricks on me, or I'll tell on you to my mom!
Citrom: -- That's supposed to frighten anyone?
Barack: -- My mom is a very high ranking druid. Once a bullying boy ripped my shirt, and she summoned an elder water elemental which drowned him! And laid waste to an entire village before its time was up, teeheehee. My mom is very supportive.
Citrom: -- Your mom is dangerous, I take back what I said. And... a lot of other things I said about you earlier.
 
Random encounters here are pretty dangerous because of the one-hit kills, and the phase spiders' blinking is excellent defense for them.  At least Cloudkill works:

raPWtYp.png
 
In the southeast corner, another spirit speaks to us.
 
fiCPTeq.png
 
Eper: -- As I was saying...
Szilva: -- I sense that this spirit is pure of heart. Figuratively speaking, of course. We should trust her.
Eper: -- You trust people with a pure heart? They're the ones who turn into blind zealots most often...
 
 
 
phQIkfT.png?1
 
 
Barack: -- Oh, I'm sooooo envious! I should've become a Swanmay! Alma, you're already our leader, leave some fame for us, too!
Alma: -- I always give you all the responsibility you can handle.
Barack: -- Meanie!
 
As we approach the central building, a strange figure appears. He says: 'Hail, bonded ones'.

J6CJ4xj.png

oL3T3nX.png?1
 
Narancs: -- Catch him by surprise? You mean, like hiding in his bathroom?
Citrom: -- Or sending him a prank gift, which drains the Pool of Radiance when opened?
Alma: -- I'm just happy that we have an ally here.
 
Inside the building, we fight a large group of thri-kreen and find some treasure. The mantis warriors are less dangerous than the spiders.
 
The east building has a lot spiders, and one of them drops Szilva, the only one who can remove poisoning, another one drops Barack. This triggers a hasty leave, then a visit to Ashabenford's temple. The building doesn't have any treasure, just bones.
 
Near the graveyard, a chance encounter happens with a patrol of the Knights of Myth Drannor. A quick understanding is reached that we share a common enemy, and they promise to help us with the final battle by creating a diversion.
 
Narancs: -- If there will be a final battle at all...
Barack: -- Oh don't be such a sourpuss. In my favorite books, the final battle is epic and the heroes are victorious!
Citrom: -- In my favorite books, the final battle is tragic and the heroes are eternally damned.
Eper: -- In my favorite books there is a hollowed-out part where the merchant has hidden the key to his personal treasure chest.
 
We meet a lone Red Plume warrior. He talks about his ancestors by disturbed foul spider-things, and promises a magic bow
, caemir, ancestor, foul spider things, bow - radiates magic
 
Narancs: -- Since when do humans have elven ancestors? This guy is either a con or another rakshasa.
Szilva: -- *casts Detect Magic* The bow is real, not an illusion, and it's strongly magical. Maybe he's partially elven, like, had an ancestor from Myth Drannor many generations ago?
Eper: -- Easy reward. We killed any number of foul spider-things already.
Alma: -- All right, let's do this... But I also think it's strange that a Red Plume walks here alone.
 
Another ambush, Narancs's hunch was right. It has far fewer monsters than in random encounters, plus one rakshasa, no big deal. Still in the graveyard:


XpzEGFZ.png
 
Alma: -- No, you don't.
Eper: -- Whyyyyyy? What need they have for it? Are there beauty pageants or balls for elven spirits? And if we don't take it, some other looter will! At least we respect them whenever it doesn't lessen our loot!
 
The last building in this area has a spirit guard at the entrance. He is pleased with our presence, recounting all the occasions when we acted honorably.  He grants passage to the building behind him, which is a noble, maybe even royal family's huge, multi-level mausoleum by the looks of it.

Inside two suits of armor "guard" the stairs up.
 
Eper: -- Look at the craftsmanship, it's from before the Weeping War! Worth a lot to art collectors even if it isn't magical! I wonder...
Alma: -- *shoves Eper towards the stairs*


MdBOWuv.png

And it's strong stuff: staff sling +3 (Szilva), ring of invisibility (Eper), ring of prot +2 (Narancs), a light crossbow +5 plus 12 blessed quarrels, which kill rakshasas on hit.
 
Szilva: -- See? Doing the right thing brings payoffs, too.
Eper: -- *tears in his eyes* Just like my old ring... I will be backstabbing enemies with extra nostalgia power.
 
The ring of invisibility is a very strong item in the Gold Box games, it works like an endless Improved Invisibility. Cannot be targeted by ranged attacks incl. spells, no disengagement attacks and not broken by attacking. This item causes me to rearrange some gear, Eper gets the Bracers AC 2 from Citrom and instead of using ranged attacks, he will dart around the battlefield (MP 12, no armor), happily (back)stabbing everything.
 
Backstabbing is difficult in the GB engine. Every time a unit is attacked from behind, it turns to face the attacker. But every unit is capable of only one such turn every round. If another attack comes from behind (which must be another direction than the one which provoked the free turn) during the same round, it becomes a flanking attack (to-hit bonus), or a backstab if it's by a rogue. Since the engine doesn't display which round is the current one, and there are often other mobs behind a target's back, it can be difficult to execute backstabs.
 
Having visited everywhere, we move deeper into the ruins. The second area is what I call 'Rakshasa Town'. Just past the south entrance:
 

KL0jCdT.png
 
(By the way, both plumes of smoke are animated)
 
Narancs: -- Now here's the problem. Is this a rakshasa, or an illusionary rakshasa created by a rakshasa, or an illusionary rakshasa created by an illusionary rakshasa created by a rakshasa, or...
Alma: -- I never turn down a peaceful offer. Tricks didn't help the rakshasas we met so far, right? They won't help this one, either, if he just plays with us.
 
The rakshasa introduces himself as Tirsheya, and has an offer for us. Their kind loves gambling, and he suspects that another player is cheating. He says the nearby storehouse has proof. If we kill the monsters guarding it, we get to keep what's in the storehouse, he's only interested in the proof.
 
 
The storehouse is guarded by a pack of hell hounds and margoyles, the two common monsters in Rakshasa Town.

f0LfxAl.png?1

After the fight, another rakshasa appears with a full retinue. He gives us a choice regarding the two of them:

oIM8Xpy.png?1
 
Alma: -- We've given our words to Tirsheya, he didn't cheat us, nor did he threaten us. Easy choice.

FsaeMxy.png
 
In this fight, we have our very own rakshasa! Sadly, he leaves after. It was really cool to have a basically magic immune target on our side, with spells of his own. :)
 
As we progress deeper, Nameless appears another time:
 
 
qj6NiAU.png
 
We were getting on with it...

The buildings here are mostly ruined, but we find a park-like place. Here, we spot a hobbit rushing into the dense bushes, a hell hound chasing after him.

 

Eper: -- Yes, the little ones are in danger! That's exactly how conning works!

 

Disregarding Eper, we chase the hobbit, and walk into another rakshasa trap. After the fight, we must turn back. Trying to rest in Rakshasa Town triggers an attack immediately, like in the Burial Glen.

0zqoB5T.png?1
 

On the way back there is another random encounter with two rakshasas, I fight to the very end, but fail, need to reload. That combination of magic immunity plus AC -4 plus starting behind a wall of melee mobs is a real killer. And I can't prebuff since it happens randomly.

 

We leave the ruins for R&R, and come back through the other entrance. What follows is the most shameful, shortest adventuring day of this Let's Play. During the battle, the lightning bolts decimate one mage, a Stinking Cloud disables Szilva and Eper, then when the two rakshasas run out of the higher level spells, one of them charms Barack. I still win, but only with three party members standing. Barack had to be Hold Monster'd and coup-de-grace'd after two failed Charms of my own, charming doesn't expire by killing the caster. I need to turn back after moving two tiles...

 

On the next trip, we discover a man chased by hell hounds.

 

Eper: -- Alma, 'fess up, you're a masochist, you like lightning bolts ripping through your body. You want to rescue this illusion, too?

Alma: -- Yes. I'd rather err on the side of compassion.

 

But the man isn't an illusion. He's an escaped slave of the rakshasas.

Ped5hdF.png
 

Szilva: -- Choking on your own words, Eper?

Eper: -- I won't, until that treasure is in my hands. Whispers are whispers.

 

Eper does choke on his words after we find the hidden treasure as indicated. A long sword +5, gauntlet of dexterity and... a girdle of storm giant power!

 

But when I equip it, it is bugged just like all the other Stregnth-raising options: it sets Str to 100, which has no bonus at all. I was, really, really frustrated at this point. There are two difficult battles before us, and I really counted at least on this Girdle to help.

 

Maybe it's not the code, it's the character data, since the problem is everywhere? A suspicion arises that it's the transfer from Pool of Radiance which twisted the Str values, probably along with Szilva's changed charisma. I check the data in a hex editor, and YESSSSSS, the problem is there. A pair of values lists each attribute's base and current value, and all of the characters have 64h (100 decimal) or 32h (50 decimal) as the base value, and 11h (17) as the modified value. Just a few edits, and then a reload. The characters look okay, the girdle works! But the walls have disappeared from the iso display. Another save and reload fixes the wall problem, maybe the character files have CRC?

 

And then I test the other options, Enlarge gives 22 Strength, as it should, with a level 11 mage. Frustration is replaced with joy. We really needed those Strength boosts for the remaining challenges. This boosts melee DPS by about 150%, better to-hit and much higher damage combined. Enlarge's duration is measured in turns (that's 10 rounds), it's possible to cast it upon entering an area, and having the buff on basically full time.

 

Eper gets the girdle, and turns into a murdering invisible stabber.


Edited by Endrosz, 16 January 2015 - 10:39 AM.

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#104
Endrosz

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The central building has a rakshasa raj. 'You have a boldness that is refreshing', he says, and doesn't appear hostile (but the others with him do).
 
Alma: -- Civility is always returned by us, my lord. Speak, we're listening.
Eper: -- He sure is rich...
Szilva: -- And we're so alive -- yet.
Eper: -- Good point.

RAmXRaH.png?1IaUfVUs.png?1
 
Another ally, this one removes the rakshasas from the Temple where T resides. That'll most certainly help. A few more allies like this, and we can just hang back, and watch them finish T!
 
The final building has a gathering of rakshasas engaged in their favorite pastime.

yeDzxvg.png

This battle has... 6 rakshasas! Which kill our entire party with ease. I could use the blessed quarrels from the elven tomb, but I need them for an ever harder battle. And besides, it's still only 1 rakshasa felled per round, and 4 is more than enough to kill us by round 3.
 
The invisible wall tactic doesn't work, because they have True Seeing, as I learn the hard way. But Minor Globe of Invulnerability still works, so on the third try, I sneak away my other characters to the sides, and let the rakshasas waste all of their spells on my mages. There are some margoyles, too, but they fall on round 1 to two fireballs, as usual.
 
Here's how the setup looks like, the narrow corridor only allows three rakshasas to claw on my mages. The others are below, behind a corner.

QldtrHo.png
 
By the time they're out spells, Citrom is almost down. I move the others behind the mages (it's a crazy risk to move through two tiles with Stinking Cloud in them) and start firing ranged weapons. Citrom falls on the same round when the stinking clouds clear up, and they tear up Narancs later. The cavalry's already on the rescue, however, and the battle is won afterwards.
 
This is a satisfying victory, all party members played their part. After another R&R round-trip, we leave in a good mood towards the final area:
 
wj8JK5w.png
 
---
 
This is a fork in the Let's Play. Unlike in the other GB games, if Curse is won, I can't continue playing. I get dumped into the Training Hall menu, and 'Begin Adventuring' does nothing. So here I'll continue with the final confrontation, but the next chapter will start from a save at this point and continue with Oxam's Tower.
 
Before I go into the finale, a little explanation about losing characters in battles. The Gold Box engine implements an optional rule of the AD&Đ Player's Handbook, where a character below 0 HP isn't dead until she reaches -10 HP. Between -1 and -9, she is "dying" and loses 1 HP each turn until she's bandaged by another character or healed by magic. So in this LP, when I write that someone "goes down" or "falls" or "creamed" etc. that means she's not dead, but at 0 HP after bandaging, in an "unconscious" state. I write "killed" whenever a character actually dies, whether to big damage or lack of bandaging.
 
I thought I could use Raise Dead to lessen the number of reloads, but I forgot about one 2nd edition rule: Raise Dead decreases Constitution by 1. Permanently. Only the 7th level Resurrection is able bring back someone fully restored, which is not available to Szilva, of course, but it's not available in temples, either! So, sadly, deaths still prompt reloads, because permanent Con loss doesn't fly with me.
 
Stone or poisoned status can be reversed in temples without loss of anything.
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#105
Endrosz

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Chapter 23: Cease of the Azure Bonds

 

Tyranthraxus meets us at the entrance. He wears the form of a Storm Giant.

Eper: -- I'm as strong as Tyranthraxus! Hey T, we should arm wrestle, the winner takes all, whaddyasay?

The bonds are activated, he takes away our three special items (Helm of Dragons, Gauntlet of Moander, Amulet of Lathander) and forces us to walk into the Grand Temple's chapel. Well, at least it didn't last long...

86cU4VI.png?1

Alma: -- Umm... plan?
Narancs: -- Right back at you.
Barack: -- *weeps quietly* My dear pets, I will never see them again...

A priest of Bane is standing at the pool in the middle, before the altar.
Bf6IzHX.png

All three of the relics disappear, although the priest moves in a strange way, with exaggerated movements.
j76PH6Y.png

RgrABlG.png

Alma: -- I will name one of my children after you!
Nameless: -- I'm Nameless, remember?
Alma: -- I'll name an unspeakable horror from the Outer Planes after you!

T isn't pleased.
WCvTcsz.png?1

5VjIyVN.png?1

"Kill them my pets", he says, then rushes off, but for the first time, we sense fear in his voice.

Szilva: -- As I said, never lose hope! Lathander's light will prevail over Bane's shadows!

3Vwebf5.png

The Knights of Myth Drannor are assaulting the Grand Temple, making our job easier. Joint Operation "Flame Quenching" is well underway. The battle is not difficult, it only has one high priest plus some hell hounds.
The Helm of Dragons always indicates where T is relative to our position, we don't need to stumble around. Resting is impossible here, needless to say -- the bonds' power is returning, we need to hurry. We even feel the power returning as we move. One random encounter happens, but a well-placed choke point Stinking Cloud disables about 2/3s of the hounds and margoyles as they come at us, and there are no rakshasas with them. We only take three small hits, which are cured by Szilva.
Upstairs, on the upper level of the temple, the Helm of Dragons shows the northeast corner. Gogogo! Before the door, before buff up, including Haste (which I don't use normally) and Enlarge (22 Strength on the frontline, finally) and and Fire Shield on the mages (they will get mobbed by melee).

The bonds' power is recharged by the time we reach T, our haste doesn't matter. Railroading! I quit this campaign! You suck, GM!

T76mTsY.png

Suddenly we can overcome the bonds, "with a great force of will"? Yes, that is exactly how railroading GMs operate. They throw you into an unavoidable mess, ignoring your every effort, then they throw a deus ex machina at you, and call it an epic adventure. I call it 'meh'.

This is how it looks like. There are a total of 8 high priests in the back and uncounted margoyles between us, which have a surprisingly good to-hit and three attacks per round. Plus T, of course.
cao7ZZ3.png

Tyranthraxus has a large initiative bonus, even with Haste it's possible he starts the battle. He can throw 15d6 (!!) damage lightning bolts like a storm giant (no surprise, he could breath fire as a bronze dragon), and this isn't stopped by Minor Globe. I have no defense against this strong damage ability, except boosting saves with Prayer and Protection From Evil 10' (since he's evil, unlike a real storm giant), but that's not much.

Another problem is that the party starts the battle with a wall behind Narancs and Eper. If T targets the middle or the right of my ranks, the bolt will bounce back from the wall, and hit two characters, at least one of them twice. 15D6 once is usually survivable with a successful save for everyone, two such hits are a guaranteed death to non-fighters. With a failed save, even one hit can be fatal to non-fighters, depending on the damage roll.

He also has True Seeing, so I must assault right away with melee, invisible walling doesn't help against him. Invisibility does help a lot against the other mobs, though, because it protects from the priests' Hold Persons, and prevents disengagement attacks by margoyles, allowing free tactical move. But to get there, the ranks of margoyles need to be cleared.

First try, T wins init, hits Narancs, he can't cast Fireball, and Citrom has the Wand of Fireballs (and I didn't find a single FB scroll in Curse). Without both mages throwing a fireball, we can't clear out that big pile o' monsters between T and us. Second round, bolt kills two characters, reload.

Second try goes much better, I am able to clear with the mages, but on the second round, he wins init, and kills Eper outright with an extreme damage roll (over 80) and a failed save.

Third try, Eper is first, I move him away from the back of Alma to the side and delay. Which is like a Lathander-suggested precognition, because after that, T blasts Alma with a rebounding bolt, dealing a total of 85 damage, leaving her with 4 HP (and that's with successful saves). Eper just vacated the space behind her, he escaped certain death. On the plus-plus side, the rebounding bolt continues through the monster ranks, tearing a line through the margoyles and even killing a high priest at the back:

uYjZtmj.png

You just throw these bolts while we wait outside the room, okay T? They're magnificently sizzling, play as much as you like!

My mages come up early, and clean the room about 75%, we have space to move. One margoyle takes away Alma's remaining 4 HP, damn your 20s, margoyles. She has -8 AC, additional -4 from the invisibility. The others move through the openings to the back of T and delay until the end of turn (with haste, they have enough MP to cruise through the enemy ranks). Then they reveal themselves and attack. A total of 4 hits from Szilva, Eper, and Barack, T drops to about half health. 3 surviving margoyles kill themselves by attacking the mages, with Fire Shield-retaliation and former Fireball damage. This is the first time I used Fire Shield, it's helpful here because the frontline abandons the mages.

At the start of the second round, only 3 margoyles and 5 High Priests stand (plus T, of course), concentrated around Narancs. He comes up early, and throws a Fireball right at himself, trololol Minor Globe of Invulnerability.

gPGpuGf.png

Eper delivers two hits to T, he's down to 12 HP. Szilva is up, T is lagging. Oh man, we waited for this so long:
bUhoK2B.png

Barack goes back to the mages and kills the remaining two enemies. We won!

The spirit of T rises and basically repeats the same speech he gave back at Valjevo Castle -- as long as the Pool is intact, the bonds remain, along with him, and he can just occupy another body at will.

But we got all the relics back, thanks to Nameless's infiltration and sacrifice, and the Gauntlet of Moander is able to suck up the Pool. Which causes both T and his bonds to disappear, too:

72KYZxL.png?1

JFQYcCZ.png

Alma: -- ...
Barack: -- I will have astraphobia for the rest of my life...
Citrom: -- *claps near her ear*
Barack: -- *faints*

Szilva: -- As I said, friends, never lose...
Eper: -- ... the content of your bowels. Die with dignity, if you must.
Narancs: -- He was an interesting villain... Maybe when I start walking the Planes myself, I'll try to find out where he came from.
Citrom: -- Some knowledge comes at a terrible price, we just witnessed that. Don't be so eager to search for his origins.
Barack: -- *comes to* I had a dream where we fought Tyranthraxus, and my sweet badger Tenacious B jumped up at his throat and killed him, but then a lightning bolt struck and everything faded to white! What happened?
Szilva: -- That's exactly what happened, my child.

After the victory, a slideshow starts, unlike in other cases, it's not "Press Enter/Return to continue" after each screen. So I missed some of those, I went to YouTube to capture them.

RVOqyqy.png


yUvBIxq.png

Citrom: -- And now my festive mood is ruined. Gah, Nacacia, you're not allowed a happy ending with Gharri, it destroys mine!
Nacacia: -- I have a confession to make, Citrom. This entire azure bonds thing was a plot by me to keep you from Gharri. As long as you were occupied with the bonds, I was free to make him chase me through the Dalelands, and whip up his desire to get me. Men are hunters, you know that, I needed time.
Citrom: -- ...
Nacacia: -- The look on your face! *laughs* You almost believed it!


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#106
Enoch

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Nicely done.  Bring on the Mulmaster Beholder Corps!


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#107
Endrosz

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I DID IT! I destroyed the Mulmaster Beholder Corps plus guests without the Dust of Disappearance! Here's one screenshot as proof. I have an exam upcoming on Saturday, I'll only write the post after that. The battle took about two hour, without prep time and previous fails.

 

kRrONZ1.png

 

Meanwhile, if you're interested in how's this possible, check out these videos. A fellow Gold Box player created them. His party does include multi- and dual-classed characters, and he possibly reloaded to get better HP rolls, so it's somewhat easier for him, but not by much.

 

 

 

PS: I did it!

PPS: I did it!


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#108
Nepenthe

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I've done it in the past and I can't remember it being anything THAT special with the dust of disappearance (improved invisibility for all).

#109
Magnum Opus

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Yes.  Dust of disappearance/invis.sphere (in a pinch), a haste spell or three, a lot of ranged weapons, and an absolutely crucial wall to separate the party from the Corps so that they come at you in singles or doubles instead of waves, and the battle requires more patience than anything else.  Also:  provoking attacks of opportunity.  Not so good against the Drow Elf Lords, but pure magic against the beholders.  Is supposed to be a free attack, but IIRC it consumed their attack for the entire round.

 

Still, one beholder sneaking around that corner at the wrong time spelled absolute doom for my entire group on more than one occasion, so congratulations are in order.

 

Good fight.






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