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Author Topic: Final battle... please help make it memorable!  (Read 8405 times)

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Offline tal_1173

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« on: April 18, 2005, 11:21:28 AM »
My players are about a year or so from finishing my campaign, but I want the final battle to be as memorable as it possibly can.  I already have some ideas of what I want to happen, but I think brainstorming will be more productive if I leave my ideas out of this thread.  

How do I make the final fight between a group of 6 players and a very powerful Lich challenging, memory, and scary?  This will be the first and last time the players will actually meet this creature after two years of dealing with its minions.

Offline Cheka Man

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2005, 04:14:25 PM »
I'm not a GM, but I would think the envioroment would help set the scene.Where are they fighting the Lich? Can it go etheral for short periods of time?

Offline Araith

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2005, 04:14:28 PM »
Some of my most memorable fights as a player was when the fight was crazy/weird...don't know how to explain it quite right...Just...when things are thrown at you when they aren't expected. But it has to be realistic, not your walking through town on a sunny day...then your in a cave with 3 illiads!! Know what I mean?

That's all I can really say, throw something at them they won't expect...crazy traps or monsters or contraptions...those were some of the best fights I was in as a player.
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Offline ephemeralstability

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2005, 04:32:48 AM »
You could couple it with a problem-solving exercise. Don't let them use weapons, make them come up with something creative. Strip them of their weapons, or give the Lich such overblown immunity to such things that they have to come up with something better. That way it becomes as memorable as their imaginations will allow.

And as goes without saying (especially since the Lich is undead) perform the final combat in the dark or by candlelight. Also, try running it in real time (if a round lasts five seconds of game time, give each player five seconds to think through their characters moves and make the relevant die-rolls).

That said, remember there's only a limited amount a GM can do to make a combat memorable: it's largely up to the players and their actions.

ephe!
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Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2005, 08:27:34 AM »
A game I played in not long ago that had contact with a lich. We didn't end up fighting her but did end up agreeing to do her a small favor to be propelled a much closer to our original goal. The enemy of my enemy is a tolerant friend. The problem when you have a whimp for a leader.

We were in a series of underground caverns/ buildings. An old city that was raized and fell under the surface. We had to swim down a swift moving river to get to the entrance to her crypt. Now, anyone wearing armor had to remove it and only simple and non-bulky items could be carried. Character's who couldn't swim had to have spells cast on them or they could not go.

There was a minimal amount of creature resistance in the water. It was there mainly to slow us down. As it was we were hard pressed to get to the openning of the underwater crypt before passing out from holding our breath so long. Couple that with a small bout of under water combat and it adds to the frustration.

Once we got into her crypt, we had minimal equipment, 1/3 of the group was still left on shore to watch the belongings left behind, because they couldn't swim, or wouldn't depart with their equipment.

Imagine being cold and wet, in little more than underware with hardly any weapons and no armor, seperated from a portion of your group that you have grown accustomed to fighting alongside. Entering a dark crypt with only a sputtering torch because it got damp and looming before you is an undead creature powerful enough to send chills to your soul.

Then tell them they have to fight.

On a side note, most contact I have ever had with powerful undead, or when I have used them, I have always noticed or used a device or an item that was held seperately or protected on the body of the undead that protected their spirit, thereby making them undead. In order to destroy or kill them that item must be destroyed not the physical body.

Hope that helps.
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Offline Preacher

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2005, 09:23:23 AM »
This is a story a player once told me about another GM.  I never witnessed it but I used similar tactics.  

When the players arrived, they found the room dark and candle lit, with music playing in the background.  

The GM explained that since they were adventuring thru caves he wanted to try adding a bit of ambiance. And that he would take the players reactions to his surprises as what there characters would do.   Which worked amazingly well.  

During the game, the music became very low and menacing, there was also a scratching sound that the players couldn't identify.  

GM in a lowered voice told them that there was something comming at them in the tunnel.  The music became more menacing at which point he lifted a box on the table that the players hadn't noticed, and released a turantula.  

This caused most of the players to jump, and the GM interpreted this as their characters being surprised and in shock.  

It's hard to get the timing right in the music, but I've found that sometimes putting weird sound bytes in the music helps throw in an odd battle or sometimes nothing at all.  

Another trick is to have more than one player, that way you can play multiple recordings at the touch of a button.

Offline tal_1173

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Thanks, and more specific questions.
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2005, 02:52:16 PM »
Thank you for your ideas, I've never thought about using sound clips...


Here are some more specific questions... I am still learning the higher level spells, so help with that area would be great.

What combinations of spells would be good to have on contingency?

What are some interesting ways to protect the phylactery?

What about an interesting settings for its home? flying fortress, underwater, another plane?

What about some interesting ways a lich could capture someone?  

How about ways the lich could protect its home and itself while it is there?

What would have to happen to force a lich to stay and fight against threatening foes rather than fleeing?  And therefore how to prepare for that?

Ideas of how to inspire fear in the players when they finally meet up with this thing?

What class(s) should it have?  Cleric, Sorcerer, mystic theurge?  

Any thoughts are welcome and greatly appreciated!!

Offline Mourngrymn

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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2005, 03:30:07 PM »
To answer a few of those questions, remember that in order to become a lich one must be powerful so they will not be easily over powered regardless of the power of the players.

A lich will usually not flee unless it is 100% sure it will be destroyed. Arrogance comes with power such as theirs.

A lich will undoubtably continue to fight if it knows it's phylactery is in danger. Having possession of it or destroying it can mean many a bad day for the lich.

Spells... pretty much whatever. I would recommend if you use stock spells, alter them for the lich only. After al lthey have had time to study and alter and prepare spells to their liking.

The phylactery would be their most protected item. It could be anything but usually gems. Can be found in jewlery or statues, septers etc.

I enjoyed the underwater setting. It was different and difficult to get to. Not just a follow this hallway taking rights until you enter bad guys throne room.

Something I always liked was in Conan : The Barbarian. In the beginning of the movie when he fell into the cave and found the dead king. I always imagined what it would be to just fall into a room by some odd reason, caving in floor etc. And see a skeleton sitting in a throne. Only to get up when you walk toward it or try to take something from it.

I hope this helps.
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Offline Cheka Man

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2005, 03:48:40 PM »
A  way to keep a lich  in one place could be a pentacle drawn around the area to stop the lich fleeing if it starts to lose the fight.A lich, I would think, would not flee at first if it's home were invaded.

Normally liches are found in places like tombs or perhaps old castles.How about a lich that rules a town, and grants some positive benifits as well as the negative stuff to it's subjects? So then you would have some of the townspeople coming to the aid of their lich lord.

Offline EchoMirage

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2005, 05:08:31 PM »
What about the battle taking place on a mountaintop, lashed with torrential rainand beaten by winds, amongst standing monoliths and ancients statues, with the lichcalling lightning down from the skies,or evenmaking the statues do his bidding?
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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A pretty basic stock situation you got here...
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2005, 09:03:47 PM »
Here's how I would set it up (and keep in mind that I loathe D&D and it's rules, and I'm a low-magic sort of guy)...

The lich dwells in a grandiose tomb (try something like the tomb of the Egyptian Queen Hapshetsut) at the back of a barren slot canyon. The way to the steps of the tomb-palace is a long causeway lined with statues of the lich in his glory in life. The moon is shining down, and shadows are sharply defined, with large blocks and geometries of light and darkness (a chiaroscuro, if you are familiar with the term).

The heroes enter the tomb's portico, ascending the titanic steps. As they come to the main doors, said doors open of their own accord, yawning wide and allowing a blast of foetid air to buffet their faces.
The heroes walk in, possibly feeling trepidation.

The way to the lich is fairly straightforward- the side chambers are up to you, but the path to the lich goes straight forward and slowly descends (a ramp going down into the earth). As the ramp descends, the heroes see that the walls are inset with alcoves containing either statues of the lich in life (statues whose eyes follow them eerily) OR cobwebbed corpses and mummies, stood up against the alcove walls in poses of agony or sorrow.

As the ramp descends even further, the heroes enter the bottom-most section of the tomb, a section never finished. Masonry blocks become sporadic among the tunneled stone ramp. The heroes begin to hear a strange, muffled booming (as if from far-off, or within the walls) and a similarly-muffled echoing shout (heard as if from very, very far-off).

The ramp descends even further, and here the stone is not even worked- it is merely a hacked out shaft. The players begin to see the remnants of the old work crews- dead, of course, their dessicated corpses and mouldering bones lying in stacks along the walls.

Finally, after what has seemed like hours of descent, the ramp-tunnel bottoms out, and the stand in an absolutely black tunnel. Their torches suddenly fizzle out.

A flame lights up ahead of them, tracing the path in exact accordance with the ramp. As they walk ahead (warning: old videogame cliche), flames trace their path, lighting as they take steps.
{For an extra gruesome touch, perhaps the small light that the flames provide reveal floor-to-ceiling stacks of bones)

At the end of the dark gallery, all the flames extinguish. Instead, four lanterns suddenly burst into light, revealing the throne-chamber of a ghoulish king- a pillared walk to where the lich sits, skull-face grinning evilly, upon a throne (either of skulls or of gold, whatever), surrounded by a huge mass of flickering black candles which encircle the throne and create a sea of hard wax. Behind the throne, there are piles and piles of great stone jars- some are filled with bones, others with dust, others with stranger things.

It is utterly silent. The lich rises like a wraith, and raises his bony hands in a gesture of malevolence, and gasps out a vile curse upon the hero's souls in it's whispering, echoing voice.

The lich is invincible to pretty much anything the heroes throw at it and it hurls dangerous spells and summons nasties (probably calls horrible undead from the stacks of bones which lie among the pillars). It has hidden it's phylactery (a figurine or whatever) in one of the jars behind it's throne, possibly submerged in dust.

Anyway... It's a pretty straightforward battle, nothing too tricky, but that's something like what I'd do.
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Offline Nobody

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2005, 08:50:08 AM »
OK, now for setting, Underground is always ideal for a lich, but you can always have fun with portals. For example, the area where the Lich was most influential would be no place near where the heroes fing his secret hidden HQ, but in the deepest area of that HQ, is a portal which takes them to an otherwise unreachable area five miles beneath the earth, in the area's most troubled by the lich.

Now, for home defense, Darkness. Nothing beats pitch darkness to confuse and confound foes. Then you can couple that with Barriers. Barriers are underrated in these situations, but a few good walls can really make things difficult. Perhaps you should have closing doors to seal the heroes IN as they get closer to the Lich's chambers. Also, having walls move about inside the room (espescially one ehanced by darkness) is a great way to keep things interesting, and players on their toes.

The best way to capture somebody is to posses their body. Design some sort of stupidity test for the players (like a test of greed), and whoever draws the short straw will get a personal visit from the lich. Then the lich throws out a hand of darkness, and darkness surtrounds both of them and they dissapear.

Let us make the theif the victim. When the rest of the heroes get to the final room, the very thief who was captured, now works for the lich, plus, he has new abilities, plus he has the control of the undead minions. You could even select a player who you know would actually enjoy fighting his old party. Put an item around his neck that when destroyed would destroy the control over his body, and you are good to go. Talk about memorable, and, with the addition of his new abilities like dark-vision, steal item, and all sorts of other stuff, you can give them all a healthy respect for what a thief can do.

As for minions, I would make some minions that are espescially designed to grapple, in order to keep other players still while your other minions try to kill them. It really forces teamwork because the fighter can't simply dispatch everybody in the room now, he has to depend on others to watch that he doesn't get entangled. There are all sorts of monsters that you can design a non-strength based save vs. Grapple for. Perhaps the grapple comes with levitating them into the air for example, giving them serious penalties to their own abilities, but allowing for other players to get them down.

Thats all for now, but i will add stuff later

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Offline MoonHunter

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2005, 11:31:56 AM »
Man, I take two days off and somebody pops up with my kind of thread. Sigh. Okay. I am going to apologize to dumping all this in huge lumps, but I want you to get the information I can give you while you still need it.

Lights, Camera, Action. The ending of a great story arc is like the ending of a movie. You should think of it in those terms. You already have the begining and most of the middle, check out how to end it. This is general GM advice, but check it out.
http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=1451.0

Campaign Climaxes or Story Arch Climaxes need to be set up. Here is an article which you might find useful.
http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=1296.0

Also some general advice on how to run a good fight scene can be found here.
http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=2100.0

I personally have found that running a combat quickly adds to the excitement of the combat. It makes the game faster pace, akin to movie fight scenes (which if you watch them; the action seems speed up, there are more cuts to different angles and they happen quickly). Compare a lazy fight scene to a high energy fast one. So check out this article.
http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=615.0

Also a cool place to fight is always handy. So make the environment as well as the foe memorable. (If you don't believe me, look at Mortal Combat 1 (the movie)... those fight scene are good, but the ones with the enviroment being cool are great... the same effect can be found in other movies as well.)  Remember the setting is a character, it deserves to be interesting and fleshed out. Give the players things to work with, so they can swing, knock over, jump from, things in the world.

If there is going to be a HUGE BATTLE with armies and such framing your climax, check this one out.
http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=1109.0
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Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2005, 11:46:05 AM »
Quote from: "EchoMirage"
What about the battle taking place on a mountaintop, lashed with torrential rainand beaten by winds, amongst standing monoliths and ancients statues, with the lichcalling lightning down from the skies,or evenmaking the statues do his bidding?


I like this idea as well. Adds to the unusual environment and not a normal place one would go category. I imagine the fight in LOTR between Gandalf and the Balrog on top of the snow covered ruin.
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Offline Kinslayer

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2005, 01:34:01 AM »
For an unusual setting, try something completely different than the old subteranean crypt.  Instead, have the fight on a busy street, surrounded by innocents, perhaps even those who would aid the lich, due to an illusion (now he looks like a victim of the pc's beating up on a beggar, nobleman, or young girl).  Perhaps the people will aid the liche, as he is their protector.  

Instead of darkness--which the pc's will be ready for--have the area brightly lit, blindingly so.  There's no reason why a liche wouldn't have a grande open stone garden, filled with collumns & shrubs.  It's noon on a clear day, the sun is beating down (pitty anyone in armour, metal or otherwise, or just weighted down with excess equipment... which would be any given pc).  With a command word from the lich, the pillars light up, each as bright as the sun.  The lich wouldn't be hindered by the bright light, but the players certainly would be.  

As to the phylactery, if the lich doesn't have to keep it close, or contact it occassionally, or spawn directly from it if its body is destroyed, then dump it in a hole & cover it with concrete.  Throw dirt over the concrete, and plant a garden in the dirt.  The pc's will NEVER get to it then.  If that isn't feasible, dump it in a well.  The lich can cast levitate to get to it if needed, or to rise out of the well after reforming, but the pc's aren't likely to find it down there, especially if there is other debris at the bottom of the shaft.  Also, you can hide the phylactery in plain sight:  make it part of the door to get into the lair, pace it around the neck of a non-animate skeleton, or encase it in an ugly clay statue--the lich must break it open piggy-bank style to get to it, but it's too ugly & common looking to have any value to the pc's; placing other ugly clay art around (the lich's hobby) aids this non-magical illusion.
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Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2005, 07:56:53 AM »
In my experience, the mundane always get the first and closest scruitiny.
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Offline tal_1173

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2005, 08:54:31 AM »
I like the idea of a garden at noon using very bright light instead of darkness as a weapon, thanks Kinslayer.  So, here is my current plan for how the lich will fight turn by turn.  

Round 0: Since the lich knows exactly where the players are at, it will have many protection spells already cast.  Also, it will spectral cast and a number of minor illusions.  These illusions make it look the lich is attacking with 10 spectral hands at once.  Imagine opening a door and having 11 glowing green diembodies hands flying at and around you.  

Round 1: Quicken animate dead causing 48 HD of skeletons rise from the ground to surround and attack the players.  The players should be able to fight their way through these things rather quickly, this is just a delay tactic. This is followed by a casting harm through the real spectral hand or it may cast destruction on the wizard.  If the players are in a group the lich would cast fireball with energy substitution and admixture.  There is another feat that allows a person to add negative energy in the mix.  So the lich would do 10d6 cold and 10d6 negative energy damage.

Round 2: Continue to cast harm, and quicken curses through the spectral hand.  Maybe the crazy negative cold fireball again.

Round3: By now the skeletons should be dead.  The statues standing around the garden are actually greater stone golems that surround and attack the players. The lich may then cast summon monster 9.

Round 4: The lich continues to cast touch attacks, the crazy fireball, or destruction until everyone is dead.  If the players survive to where the lich is running out of spell slots, it teleports away.

Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2005, 11:38:45 AM »
So it seems you don't want the players to overcome this enemy.

The fodder of skeletons are not an issue. But the onslaught of everything else seems real daunting from a player perspective, which it should. However there should always been some winning hope available. And the way you detailed it seems like they are being setup to loose. Which is fine if you plan on bringing the two opposing forces back together again for another final conflict.

Just my thoughts.
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Offline tal_1173

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Too hard?
« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2005, 01:46:22 PM »
It is not my goal for this fight to be impossible, but very difficult.  The final battle is designed for six level 25 player characters. Does this make it more plausible for them to live?

Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2005, 02:42:11 PM »
Yes... but then levels really mean nothing as different game systems have different ideas on levels and ranks.

But yes that helps. :)
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Offline EchoMirage

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2005, 08:14:07 AM »
Now, you might consider, istead of using uber-powerful spells, to make the fight challenging in a different way. Of course you could give the lich a vampire tarrasque mecha as a lap dog, but that's ... boring. Try to include challenging terrain, spells that can be overcome, but not by dice but by wits...

what if the lich teleports between islands on a lavalake or pillar tops? It could be hard to chase him down to bring that Holy Avenger +137 to bear. Perhaps it is not an ability of his, but a gate network that the players can figure out? ->instant challenge!

What if instead of wimpy skeletons he summons something HUGE the players can't battle, and have tu run from it even as they chase the lich?
he could be impervious to damage yet somehow these immunities could be turned off (even if briefly) - perhaps that some of his minions hold special stones that canbe used to negate the lich's immunity to holydamage ... for one turn. So in order to keep it suppressed, some of the players might have to butcher minions, and use the stones, while the rest pummels the lich. Give it a little more thought than just choosing the nastiest spells and best items.
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Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2005, 08:49:13 AM »
I was in a game not long ago where one of the reoccurring villians had an imunity to nearly everything. However, it had one bane and that was physical hand to hand damage did three times the normal amount of damage to it, where even the mightiest of holy weapons or other strong powerful magic spells and items did far below the minimum. Certain spells didn't even affect him because of a very high resistance to magic.

If I remember correctly anything other than physical hand to hand (punching or kicking) did 1/4 of the actual damage. Top that with a slow regeneration ability and the villian was nearly unstopable. But when punches started to land, it began taking three times the normal damage and it couldn't regenerate.
Acolyte Ysuron the Undying Grymn – Necromancer Cult – Level 1
STR: 1 | END: 3 | CON: 4 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 6 | INT: 5
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Offline Preacher

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2005, 02:21:17 PM »
What about the lich itself?  It's just as important to have a history for the lich as to having a great location.

Having the players discover the lichs history and even motivation will go a long way in making it a memorable final fight.  That way they won't remember it as an amazing fight with a Lich... but as the destruction of  So-and-So the forgotten mage bent on destroying player X's family line as revenge for a past wrong.

Offline Mourngrymn

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2005, 03:22:12 PM »
Even make the history that they uncover, whether it is incorrect or not, to seem like the lich is a victim of some other stronger power. Yet when they meet the lich and try to side with him he reveals his real demeanor.

Perhaps the lich is trapped and needs to be released. The history that they find shows a honorably warrior or priest caged by magic by some undead thing or powerful creature. Have the creature be difficult for the party to deal with but not overly so. The creature should not be evil or good, but unbiased, it is just making sure the lich isn't let free and will destroy anything getting near.

That way, when they dispatch the gaurdian and release the prisoner, the lich pops out and says thank you. Where they go from there is up to the party and the Dm but the lich shouldn't be too nice to them.
Acolyte Ysuron the Undying Grymn – Necromancer Cult – Level 1
STR: 1 | END: 3 | CON: 4 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 6 | INT: 5
Authentic Semi-Retired Strolenite©®

Current completed guild quest.
Necromancer's Cult Quest - Acolyte
Current guild quest.
Necromancer's Cult Quest - Deathpriest
Hewdamia

Offline Dragoon God

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Final battle... please help make it memorable!
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2005, 01:20:15 PM »
I like that. The Lich being trapped in the gem I mean.  If it were up to me I would put  the setting inside an old mountian fortress. The fortress would be in the mountain. The party will be forced to go down as a door(wich would lead up) is locked. So the party travels in darkly lit corridors, full of traps that poision, paralyze, and hold. Not to mention the minions they must fce.

 Then they get to the bosses room. But, the Lich isnt there, another beast is. Te party must defeatthis semi-boss to obtain the key to the loced door at the  beginning of the fortress. Now the party has to backtrack through the dark corridors, and then into an even bigger maze tha leads to the top. On the top of the mountain the party must fight the powerful Lich. It should be night now, and the party should have a difficult time fighting the uber Lich. Have the moon make all attacks useless while it is showing, and when the clouds cover it the Lich is succeptible to attack. But, with the moonlight covered pitch blackness confuses the player. So, to recap, the moonlight powers the Lich into an uber boss, but when the light is covered and the Lichvulnuable, darkness decends. That would be a memorable fight.
"Impossible is just a word to make everyone feel better about giving up"- Dragoon God