D&D Encounters (Week 12)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 3, 2010

After 12 weeks the adventure came to a thrilling conclusion. The PCs finally came face-to-face with Xeres. But he wasn’t alone. The ensuing battle was a worthy conclusion to season one of D&D Encounters, Halaster’s Lost Apprentice.

D&D Encounters is a 12-part adventure from Wizards of the Coast and it’s played out one encounter each week over 12 weeks.

This was one of the most exciting combat encounters I participated in over the 12 weeks. The excellent use of terrain made things a lot more interesting. A river of freezing water ran across the battleground. It was only 2 squares across, making the jump check pretty reasonable for those unwilling to use the slick bridge to cross. Anyone unlucky enough to fall or be forced into the water took some cold damage and began rushing downstream towards a waterfall. The monsters, of course, had push, pull and slide effects which forced PCs to pay close attention to where they ended their movement.

Xeres began on the other side of the river and we quickly learned he had company. Two archers, one at the top of a 20-foot high waterfall and the other hidden in the mists below, had a clear line of sight on anyone trying to jump across the river.

Being trained in Athletics (base check +9) meant that my Warlord could make the 2-square jump easily with a running start. Even making the jump from a standstill only required a roll of 11, still a 50/50 chance of success. Being a guy who likes playing the odds I decided to move where I wanted and not worry about the water. So on my first turn I jumped across… and rolled a 1. Even though I made the 10 DC the DM ruled that I slipped and fell when I reached the other side. I was ok with that call; after all I rolled a natural 1. I was just glad I didn’t end up in the drink. As it turned out, being prone for the first round of combat was a good thing.

Two other PCs, the Fighter and the other Warlord also jumped across on their turns. Since standing targets are easier to hit, the two archers shot at both of them. The Warlord was hit as he was making his jump, increasing the DC (think of that scene from the Matrix where Morpheus is running for the chopper and gets shot in the leg). Even with the circumstance modifier, he rolled high enough to make it across.

Xeres moved in to fight the PCs smart enough (or dumb enough?) to remain on their side of the river and not risk jumping across. The Psion, Sorcerer, and Paladin were all subject to his burst attack and took considerable damage. A hidden choker emerged from the shadows and began attacking the prone Psion. The Sorcerer attacked the choker but it deflected the attack onto the already wounded Psion. The Paladin moved into position and went to work. Attacking twice (thanks to an action point) and using a daily power, the Paladin took the choker from full hit points to 0 in one round. Things were looking good. Until we split the party.

Seeing that the rest of the group had things well in hand, the Fighter and I decided to take care of those pesky archers. He focused on the one at the bottom of the waterfall, pushing him into the drink numerous times before finally killing him. After the archer was knocked into the river, the Fighter revived the unconscious Fayne.

Meanwhile I started climbing up the cliff face. The dammed archer deliberately moved into the only vacant square at the top of the waterfall, forcing me to remain perched on the edge. After missing me with his bow (natural 1), he switched to his short sword. Karma being what it is he scored a crit on his next attack. I tried to grab him and pull him off the ledge, while he tried to bull rush me off in the same way. My 17 AC, 17 Fort and 18 Strength gave me the upper hand and I eventually threw him off.

Things were not going well for the rest of the party. Xeres kept knocking them prone and pushing them into the water. Add to that a hidden deathjump spider under Xeres command, and the four PCs facing the big baddie were having a very difficult time. The Psion ended up in the river only a few squared from the second waterfall. Failing his save and remaining in the frigid water, he eventually fell over the edge – the damage from the fall knocking him unconscious.

The Drow Sorcerer, who Xeres felt necessary to taunt through the entire fight, used his darkfire to light up Xeres before hitting him for the kill shot. We have to acknowledge the huge assist from the Psion. Early in the combat he caused Xeres to take 5 ongoing psychic damage. Xeres failed his save 5 times. We figured that the damage from the original attack plus the ongoing damage probably accounted for half of the damage Xeres took during the encounter. The Psion’s death was not in vain.

The round before Xeres was blasted by the Sorcerer, our mysterious patron and benefactor Fayne appeared at the bottom of the waterfall and revived our Psion friend. He was unconscious and successfully making death saves, but not completely lost. Fayne triggered his second wind and the Psion awoke in the same round Xeres was defeated. Fayne sensed Xeres demise and thanked the Psion and the party. She then gave him the party’s final reward. It was a good thing we decided to recover his body (since we assumed he was dead) or else he could have made off with a substantial amount of gold.

Looking back over the 12 weeks I have to admit that I had a lot of fun. Most of the encounters were very creative and quite different from week to week. The added excitement of new players each week meant you didn’t know what the party was going to look like. One week you had all melee combatants, the next all ranged. Some weeks there were no healers and the next week there were three. I think Wizards of the Coast should be proud of the way the D&D Encounters program turned out.

I want to again thank Liam, Jonathan and Monty for DMing D&D Encounters at our FLGS. Without you guys there wouldn’t have been any games at all. I’d also like to thank the folks at Dueling Grounds in Toronto for hosting D&D Encounters.

Next week we move on to D&D Encounters season two. Set in the Dark Sun campaing world and using pre-generated characters, season two is bound to be every bit as exciting as season one. I’ll be moving behind the screen as the DM so the weekly recaps will take on a slightly different tone as I offer the DMs perspective.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.

Now that the adventure Halaster’s Lost Apprentice is finished, what are your thoughts? What did you consider to be the highlight of the 12 weeks? Which encounters did you like best? If you could change one thing what would it be?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kenneth McNay June 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

this week was a pretty fun conclusion, but since the season is over and none of use are going to transport these characters into LFR or a home game, it is a bit of a deflated ending.

The coolest thing was that the cleric (sole leader roled PC) got grabbed and taken by the choker. The player was unaware of the death rules and thought he was dead at -10. So, he declared himself dead and kinda watched now and then. As the fight neared completion, the fighter used a power that gave every ally within 5 a pool of HP. We relooked at the dead cleric and saw that he had not been actually dead! it was awesome! the cleric came back to life from unconscious and began to struggle against the choker by casting astral comdemnation.

The team rallied to free the cleric before the choker could reassert the hold and add damage. Everyone survived this encounter because of that little mishap in calculations and rules.

we’re all excited and trepidatious for Dark Sun. We are excited to start a new story and many feel a love for Dark Sun as a setting that wasn’t felt for FR. We are excited for new characters with more meaty backgrounds.

I’m trepidatious because, though the group has slowly become more stable, I’m supposed to allow only 6 players. and I have to enforce that they are using the pre-gens. I’m not sure what we’ll do if one or two walk-ins appear. I’m only running one table and there haven’t been enough regulars to support two running tables each week. even our organizer doesn’t come anymore. he shows up every few weeks to check on attendance, but doesn’t run a table.

i’m considering having the pre-gens from DDXP and from Penny Arcade’s podcast as a just-in-case if there is a need for a walk-in once in a blue moon, but fear that a seventh or eighth player will want to become a permanent addition to a group which should remain 6 or fewer.

2 Lahrs June 3, 2010 at 10:50 am

Week 12 helped make up for a very week 11. The battle was exciting, and our DM added two additional monsters, though we never asked him which ones… I will have to ask next week. This was by far our most difficult fight, and the tension it created was great. Three of six party members dropped at varying points. It was also our longest, running nearly 3 1/2 hours. Our two new guys took up a lot of time as we discussed strategy and they worked on becoming more comfortable with their powers. We didn’t mind, but we did have two wives and a husband call us in the middle of the session wondering where their spouses were. lol.

We had five natural 20’s rolled, which is normally cause of excitement. Unfortunate, three were rolled by one person, all were saving throws. Can’t complain over made saving throws, but damage would have been nice. Worse, our two other crits were against the two ropers, who were kind enough to deflect the damage to an adjacent party member. Just one of those days.

As a shielding swordmage, I am always in front of the pack, and I was also number one on the initiative order. There is nothing more frustrating than failing a perception check, so you have to knowingly (out of character knowledge) walk under a spider, and I paid the price, a lot of initial damage, being knocked prone, and ongoing poison damage. Fortunately, I was able to teleport away to safety the next round.

I put my shielding aegis on one of the ropers in round two, and we also knocked an archer into the water, who failed his save many times (though never made it over the waterfall). This quickly neutralized two enemies from dealing damage, or at least reducing the roper by a good amount.

From there it was a slug fest. Our monk went down first, but with two defenders, we managed to pull the monsters off enough to let our healer do his job. The assassin came through with her daily, which allowed her to place two shrouds a round instead of one, and with four shrouds, the revenant’s dark reaping ability and some good damage roles, we finally took Xeres out after dropping two other characters, a warden and mage.

I feel a bit dumb though, as none of us thought of reviving Fayne during battle. Xeres, the ropers and the spider were giving us enough problems, and kept us quite busy, so I guess it never came up.

Here is my one major complaint concerning Encounters as a whole, the Delver cards. Since most of our party members started in weeks 1 – 3, all of us hit the 50 renown point thresh hold, but there were only two cards between 2 tables, each getting one to pass out. In my opinion, this was completely unfair to have people consistently show up and keep track of all renown points, just to see someone else get the reward and they get nothing. I am sad to see the same thing is happening in Dark Sun.

Ameron, I will also moving behind the DM screen in Dark Sun, which will be my first in 4.0, and I am excited. I haven’t had a chance to read over the campaign yet, so this may be answered tonight when I sit down and begin to plan everything out, but what happens if you have more than six members in your party? We are going to have another two people show up, which will be split between the tables, but that still leaves us with seven people, the DM, and six pre-gens? We may have to split into three tables of five (four + DM), but our two groups would prefer not to break up into groups that small if possible.

3 Jeff June 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Week 12 ended quite well for us. The Invoker convinced the Choker, Xeres and the Spider to withdraw once they were bloodied and Xeres took his archer friends with him.

Going in our Warden and myself, the Runepriest had 0 surges. So it was a kinda of hit and try to not get hit for us. Our Rogue did 43 points to Xeres in one round due to a crit with CA and then action pointing to do another 10.

All in all quite fun, though I am not sure if we will continue all the way through season two as at least one player is stopping and another two may not want to come back after the first week as there was an assumption that we would be starting with level 3 characters and being able to make our own. So level 1 pregens were a bit of a let down. Guess we will see how it goes.

4 Dungeon Newbie June 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I do not have a first hand account myself, but my friend(who does not wished to be named)has one. He says the best part was when a Sorcerer managed to cast some sort of explosive fireball spell and hit BOTH archers. Then,the fighter pushed Xeres to the area where the archers had been and used a scroll of teleportation to retreat. Sorcerer attack repeat, with the fighter pushing Xeres to the correct area every now and then. Meanwhile, the rest of the party obilterated the other crap.

5 Ameron June 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

@Kenneth McNay
The death and recovery of the Cleric sounds awesome. You couldn’t have planned that better if it was scripted.

Here’s how I plan to handle the Dark Sun pre-generated characters at my table. I have 2 copies of each character. I’m going to let the players choose from the pool of 12. So there is likely going to be 2 versions of Shikirr (the Thri-Kreen) and 2 versions of Yuka (the Mul) and 0 versions of Barcan (the Sorcerer). As much as I want to allow players to use characters other than these 6 pre-gens I think the encounter are deliberately designed to work with this group. Changing that dynamic may unbalance the encounters.

@Lahrs
Wow, 3 1/2 hours for one encounter. Talk about a war of attrition.

I agree that the limited number of delver reward cards was a huge miss-step by Wizards. I’m going to offer copies of the 30 and 50 point cards to everyone who played season 1 and comes back for season 2 (assuming they had enough points). Just remember that you have to choose 1 card at the beginning of each encounter, so having 3 cards may cause some players undue stress if they pick a card that doesn’t help them.

@Jeff
I’m going to DM season 2. If I’d just kept going as a player I think I’d be less motivated to come out every single week. But we’ll see how it goes.

@Dungeon Newbie
You need to join your friend (who does not wish to be named) and start playing Wednesday nights at your FLGS (friendly local gaming shop). It’s designed for players of all ages and experience level and it only takes about 1 1/2 hours a week.

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