Our heroes finally arrive in Chicago where the worst winter on record has hit, hard. It’s like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow, and only the hardiest Chicargo residents (Chicargoids?) are braving the weather. The heroes have to ditch the bus on the outskirts and trudge through snow to the comfort of their hotel. But, before they get there…..
The two sessions covering events of 9th and 10th September were FUN! Picture the scene: a snow covered all-but-deserted city where the Demon Lord Jack Frost holds court. Three lone heroes (and their luggage). And a LOT of wandering ice-themed monsters. This is the streets of Chicago like you’ve never seen them before! We had battles against Chillborn Zombies in a mall, Ice Trolls up Central Avenue and a Shardstorm Vortex Elemental Wendigo strike as they near the business district. Looming over everything like a gigantic edifice is Willis Tower, a vast structure covered entirely in ice. Jack Frost’s palace, and portal to the Plane of Winter itself!
Over the two sessions, there were six encounters in total – three planned, and three Wandering Encounters. I’ll write about those, next time.
Here’s my brief notes for the three set-piece encounters. Even though we’re playing High-Speed D&D, I’ve included XP values and level as a general gauge of difficulty.
Shopping Mall, 1977XP
Objective: Find snow-shoes and cold weather clothing, fast!
Terrain: All difficult until they find snow-shoes
Trap: Level 8 Pit Hazard (Ice breaks, fall to lower mall level, 350XP)
- 4 Chillborn Zombies (Level 6 Soldier, 250XP)
- 4 Zombie Rotters (Level 3 Minion, 38XP)
- 2 Gravehounds (Level 3 Brute, 150XP)
- 1 Corruption Corpse (Level 4 Artillery, 175XP)
Notes: There’s nothing worse than Ice Zombie Mallrats. Picture your typical zombie, cover it in frost and cheap jewellery, and you’re there. This is a small group of mall shoppers who got caught in the harsh cold of demonic winter and are too dumb to die. Maybe the mall was built on Native American holy ground or something. I dunno. Seriously, putting them out of their misery is the humane thing to do. 4e Zombies are great fun because you can build whole encounters with them (like this one) and not feel short-changed. Even just using the ones from the Monster Manual you’ve got Brutes, Soldiers, Minions and even Artillery. You’ve got everything from tough zombies who just will not stay dead (I’m looking at you, Zombie Hulk!) to ones that hurl “black globs of necrotic filth”. Yuck! My favourite is the Chillborn Zombie. First it freezes you, then it smashes you. Add in the Chillborn Aura (which, unlike most Auras, is cumulative!) and they’re like a walking Refrigerator of Doom. Oh yeah!
Ice Trolls on the Avenue, 2000XP
Objective: Make it to the city centre
Terrain: Difficult in snow drifts, normal otherwise with snow-shoes. Plenty of deserted cars and trucks for cover (and for the Trolls to smash).
Trap: Any car caught in the blast of an area fire attack has a 25% chance of exploding (Burst 2, 3d10+5 damage).
- 4 Ice Trolls (Level 7 Soldier, 500XP)
Notes: This was an easy encounter, and that’s what made it fun. I should have added more variety into the mix, but sometimes it’s not a bad thing to toss in an encounter where the heroes can really let rip and feel like they’re in charge for once. The Ice Troll stats from MM2 aren’t the best monsters in the book; they can regenerate, do a load of damage with their Mace and are vulnerable to fire, and that’s about it. Their Aura should really do more than just Slow anyone in it’s area of effect. Whoop-de-do.
When your adventuring party has a blasty fire Wizard (such as Annette Weber), Ice Trolls are a walkover. Especially when the team realized they can blow cars up. After almost getting creamed by the Mall Zombies, This was a welcome change of pace. Kudos goes to Daniel for successfully Sneak Attacking a Troll. That’s badass.
Wendogos in the Windy City, 2400XP
Objective: Make it into the hotel!
Terrain: Difficult in snow drifts, normal otherwise with snow-shoes.
- 3 Shardstorm Vortex Elementals (Level 7 Skirmisher, 300XP)
- 2 Ice Trolls (Level 7 Soldier, 500XP)
- 2 Chillborn Zombies (Level 6 Soldier, 250XP)
Notes: This was one tough encounter! When one monster can Slow you, another Immobilize you and a third toss you around like a ragdoll and reduce your defences, it’s not going to be an easy fight, and it wasn’t. I gave the Shardstorm Vortexes the Cold subtype and made ’em Large instead of Medium (because, frankly, a Medium-sized Elemental is just wrong) but otherwise this was a straight by-the-book encounter. High point of this battle was Caroline going toe-to-toe with a Shardstorm Vortex and scoring a crit with her Flaming Spiked Chain. If there was ever a mental image that deserved to be turned into a Boris Vallejo picture, that was it!
I had planned to only have one session inside Chicago proper before they approached Willis Tower, but as we were having so much fun killin’ cold things on the streets it stretched to two. As the next is the 11th session, this puts Daniel, Annette and Caroline (and a new hero!) into the Paragon Tier and ready for their trip into the pits of Wint’ry Hell!
The first thing they need to do though, is work out how to get inside.