Hey, everyone!

Hey, everyone!

Hey, everyone! Just recently started up a DW campaign this past Friday and the first session went pretty well. I plan on tying  up the introductory adventure next session and as such I have been thinking of some neat and climatic battles to cap off the current dungeon. What my brain keeps settling on and visualizing is an Earth Elemental the size of a house coming up from the stone and rampaging throughout the area and the party. What Id love some help and suggestions on is how other DMs have ran massive monsters who aren’t too susceptible to the standard hack and slash of normal weapons while also imparting on the players that it isn’t an impossible fight.

For some background the party consists of a Fighter, Mage (Storm Focus), Priest (Travel/Sky domains), and a Battlemaster (Grim World). They have recently descended into a deep cave to stop an Elvish / Fae sorceror from enacting some vile ritual. They have already stopped the sorceror’s minions from kidnapping youthful sacrifices from a nearby farmhouse and now plan to stop him for good. Deep in this cave they will soon find a massive cavern housing an underground forest nurtured by many underwater springs and sunlight given off by colonies of strange beetles.

Depending on how they proceed they will likely fight through groups of satyrs and fae touched goblins or avoid the fights by sneaking through the forest, possibly encountering other wonders or threats. Eventually, however, they will reach the ruin of a temple where the ritual is to take place. Outside the temple will be a massive area of out of place stone and standing rocks. My idea is that a if blood of a divine or arcane nature is shed upon the rocks the spirit of the stones inside will be awakened, pulling itself, and any standing upon the beast, up into the air. As the Priest had to travel barefoot throughout this treacherous landscape (a price asked of his god for a 7-9 invocation roll so that he may bear the suffering of unfortunate travelers) blood on the stone seems likely.

So with that all said I want this encounter, if they do in fact encounter it, with the Earth Elemental to be the physical brute force “boss fight” counterpart to the mystical Elf preparing his ritual. I’m just afraid this idea might be a bit overboard and will scare my party away! Or worse, have them rush in like its just another run of the mill ogre without heeding my warnings of its size, strength, and ferocity. It will have a weakness, of course. Perhaps an area near its “head” will be vulnerable to attack, or that they must chip through to its fiery core, or lure it into water. I may find out that for myself as the battle unfolds.

After that wall of text I just want to hear anyone else’ input on the encounter. What experience do you have in your own games of fighting colossal, yet beatable beasts? How did you / your players react? Thanks for any advice and input you may have!   

10 thoughts on “Hey, everyone!”

  1. I think you have a fantastic concept here. Just be ready to back up your warnings. My take follows (if it were me running this).

    If someone gets too close, have it move to slap them away (they will likely respond in some way that Defies Danger). When someone fails the Defy Danger (6-) deal damage and narrate that the target flies 50 yards before crashing to the ground in a tangle of brush and vines (knocked away from the rocky area and into the strange forest). Moves like this remind them of the scale of their foe. Also narrate the sense of futility when standard steel strikes it, a little chipping of rock from the creature, but it doesn’t even seem to notice it’s been hit. Play up the effects of magic on it. Also, make sure that the fighter does have options of a kind. Maybe vines could be used to trip the creature, etc. Almost always, the players will surprise me with their ingenuity – it’s important for me to reward that in these types of encounters.

  2. Sounds like a fun concept to me. Players will and should learn that simply rushing in isn’t always the best way. Just tell them when they want to rush in that this might not be wise. 

    The move you are looking for is:

    Tell them the consequences and ask. 

    Chris McGee i would even damage twice there. Once for being hit, once for being crushed against something in full flight. 

  3. Chris and Tim make good points.  I’d also consider whether the Fighter’s weapon can damage it–it’s a very special weapon after all.  

    Edit: This might be a question for the Fighter player, of course.

  4. I also want to commend you for being open to the stone spirit not being encountered at all!  You’ve clearly digested Play To Find Out What Happens.  You’re not intent on railroading them into a “final boss fight.”

    If they do meet the spirit… One of my favorite parts of DW is that encounters are not expected to be “set pieces” or “leveled” to the party.  Occasionally we may face a stone elemental the size of a house.  In those situations the best solution might be to run away!   

    However, if they are focused on defeating it, hint that Spout Lore and Discern could be useful (new players often don’t use them).  And don’t pull punches.  As Chris and Tim said, back up your warnings and use ‘Tell them the consequences and ask.’   (And be willing to use the Last Breath move.)

  5. Give your earth elemental some character beyond invulnerability and damage dealt., make its weaknesses around what it wants – the desires of its stony heart –  rather than gaps in its stony hide. What happens if the players don’t mess with either the elemental or ritual (impending doom)? Work the elemental’s desires from this premise.

    Maybe the players can befriend / control / trick the elemental?

  6. Chris McGee Thanks for the advice and compliment! I definitely plan on having it slap people around a bit if they are careless or unlucky. Awesome way to split the party up too. Also while I want simple sword strikes to be generally futile on the beast I am also afraid annoying my players. I mean, they most likely had to brave a defy danger roll just to get near the guy! Should I just make it obvious that it looks like a simple steel sword won’t do much to him or is it better to have them find out the hard way?

    Tim Franzke “Tell them the consequences and ask” – Good advice and I’ll keep it in mind. Will probably help my above issues as well. And also double damage sounds pretty rough! At least they can take solace in the fact that they aren’t next to the beast anymore =P

    Ben Kaser Hmm, the fighters signature weapon, passed down from his grandfather, does contain some sort of magic. Runes had appeared upon its blade the moment it tasted blood after the Fighter’s first kill. First kill ever as hes practically a headstrong young farm boy out on his first adventure. But a fighter’s weapon is such a personal thing. You think it best to ask him what powers he would want it to possess before I just slap something on it for him? And yeah, Dungeon World and this community has really opened my eyes to the “play to find out what happens” idea. Loving it so far.

    Nathan Roberts Wow, that something to think about. I was really only imagining the elemental as a brute while the evil sorcerer was the real dramatic antagonist of the adventure. Maybe the elemental is as much a victim as the farmers back on the surface? Will think on it some more!

  7. If the sword is magical, then let it be. I’ve always deferred to Excalibur – it was the sword in the stone for a reason to me. Ask the fighter if it deals full damage against the stone – if so, perhaps some smithing/repair is necessary after the battle (until repaired, the sword deals damage minus 1d6, for instance, as it is dulled from the battle). If it deals less than full damage up front, then it doesn’t wear out – sort of a negotiation.

  8. My two cents regarding the whole “player frustration” thing: if you’re going to make some of the party work hard and think hard to damage it, make all of the party work hard and think hard to damage it.

    “Fighter, your entire class focus doesn’t work unless you find a weak spot, but Mage, you can just fire a lightning bolt at it” is an attitude that’s way too easy to fall into. Make the fight an epic nailbiter for everyone (if it happens), especially since this particular Mage’s focus already gives you some, for want of a better word, Pokemon justification to use. 😉

  9. James Etheridge Haha I thought of the Pokemon justification as well. I feel like the mage will start off with some lightning bolts to test the monster first but if he moves water I have some interesting ideas to turn failed rolls around on him. Like the rainstorm you conjured up managed to dislodge dust and small stones from the beasts craggy hide. Looks like they are imbued with same bit of life the larger elemental has and now you have a small army of dust/stone monsters swarming over you! I think I’m going to love the mages free form magic for this reason of turning things around on the party!

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