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?