It’s been said of 4e that it’s difficult to really scare the players, that some of the risk of the original game has been eroded. I have some sympathy for that view what with surges, death saves etc. Encounters will very rarely result in a TPK and there’s good reasons for that. 

Last night’s session showed that there is still a part of the D&D experience that frightens players to their very core, the gaze attack. We are playing through Pyramid of Shadows, about as old school an adventure as you could get for 4e. One of the encounters on the second level is against an ogre and a medusa. When I read through this part of the adventure I don’t recall thinking there was anything particularly special about it, but D&D 4e continues to show that it’s a game to be played rather than read.

The clues were all there, the chamber was full of life sized statues of adventurer types. The ogre was wearing a blindfold. But for a failed perception check they’d have even heard a hissing sound from the darkness. The party charged in anyway (to be fair, the previous 9 levels of play through the H series have taught the players to expect nothing less) and a couple of rounds later I was asking the rogue and the fighter for their fortitude defences.

The petrification attack doesn’t do damage, it just escalates from slowed, to immobilised, to petrified with every failed saving throw. Jules and Steve had rotten dice last night but it was one of those occasions were everyone is watching the d20 roll across the table. Ten or more and everyone’s ok, 9 or less and it’s goodnight to characters that have been over a year in the playing.

Both failed their saves. Two characters taken out in less than a minute.

The other two characters still had the medusa and a raging ogre to take care of before they could even think of trying to assist their now-stoney comrades. They both got targeted by the gaze as well but were fortunate enough to slay the medusa before the conditions got too bad.

So, the party has no Remove Affliction ritual (and even if they had, there’s penalties to it’s use). All they have is a nature check and a hope of scoring high enough to hit DC 30 where the vital lore is hidden. Stepsy rolls, with assists from Raelthos, Ilvelios and even Vyrellis (who was less than pleased to see one of her life shards turned to stone!).

31. That was too close.

The lore check reveals that a medusas blood applied to the lips of a petrified victim within 24 hours might save the character with a heal check. Job done!

So after all that we learn that running out of hit points is a minor inconvenience compared to the pure terror invoked by the classic death gaze of a mythological creature. A great session with a great finish.

Medusa Archer (Female)


Level 10 Elite Controller


Medium natural humanoid


XP 1,000



+10 Senses Perception +13
HP 212; Bloodied 106
AC 26; Fortitude 23; Reflex 24; Will 25
Resist 10 poison
Saving Throws +2
Speed 7
Action Points 1


Snaky Hair (standard; at-will) • Poison

+15 vs. AC; 1d6 + 5 damage, and the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage and takes a -2 penalty to Fortitude defense (save ends both)



Longbow (standard; at-will) • Poison, Weapon

Ranged 20/40; +15 vs. AC; 1d10 + 5 damage, and the medusa archer makes a secondary attack against the same target


+13 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 10 poison damage and takes a -2 penalty to Fortitude defense (save ends both)



Petrifying Gaze (standard; at-will) • Gaze, Petrification

Close blast 5; blind creatures are immune; +14 vs. Fortitude; the target is slowed (save ends). First Failed Save: The target is immobilized instead of slowed (save ends). Second Failed Save: The target is petrified (no save)







16 (+8)


21 (+10)


17 (+8)


18 (+9)


12 (+6)


22 (+11)



© 2009 Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved. This monster statistics block has been generated using the D&D Adventure Tools.




Filed under RPG

2 responses to “Petrifying!

  1. Here’s how Julio’s character saw the fight with the medusa:

    Flynn paused in the doorway, casting a furtive glance left and right he stepped in to the chamber not noticing the discarded healing potion vial until it was crushed with a sharp crack under his heal. Before he had time to curse his carelessness Flynn’s attention was drawn to the monstrous Ogre at the rear of the chamber who swung his shaggy head towards the sound, sniffing the air and licking his lips “oooman” he rumbled “mmmm….dinner!”. As the beast took a shambling step towards the hapless rogue Flynn could help noticing the bandages covering the Ogre’s eyes, “typical” he though, “couldn’t be deaf could he”.

    A shout erupted behind Flynn and Sebastian charged in to the room, slamming straight in to the Ogre, almost too fast to see Flynn noticed an arrow fizz from an unseen archer and pierce Sebastian’s thigh, blood welled but Sebastian charged on regardless. “That won’t do” thought Flynn “that won’t do at all” and with that he sprinted around the corner to give the hidden archer a surprise of their own.

    Blade drawn Flynn entered the fray, as he rounded the corner his step faltered and the colour drained from his face “Medusa!” Flynn shouted almost involuntarily, dropping in to a stance Flynn lashed out at the Medusa stunning the beast and giving him time to think. “Medusa” he thought “just as I thought today couldn’t get any worse a bloody Medusa!” All further thoughts were swept aside as he circled the monstrous form, battle was entered, who knew how it would end……

  2. Noumenon

    Your players failed six saving throws in a row without making any??? That’s lower than a 1 in 100 chance!

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