D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 30, 2010

Week 2 proved to be a great mix of role-playing and action. As promised during the D&D Encounters seminar at Gencon, this adventure has plenty of opportunity for role-playing and skill challenges in addition to the hack and slash. Our group is fortunate to have players that are looking for more than just a chance to roll dice and kill monsters. The DM is fostering a great atmosphere for fleshing out the characters and the story.

Before jumping into the recap I wanted to talk about the pre-generated characters. Although we’ve only had two weeks to use the pre-generated characters, I’ve found them great to play and a lot of fun. More thought and consideration went into building these PCs than we saw in the Dark Sun pre-gens. I wonder how much of this praise should go to the creative team who built the PCs and how much should go to the D&D Essentials rules? In either case, I’m happy to keep playing the pre-gens and really have no interest in rolling up a new PC once character builder is updated.

We began right were we left off last week. We’d rescued Gordi and realized that he was in bad shape. A successful Heal check revealed that he’d been poisoned and that he needed medical attention quickly. We hit the road and returned to Restwell Keep. Along the way we realized that the guards at the gats of the Keep might ask questions we don’t want to answer if they recognize Gordi, so we disguised him. That worked and we made it back inside the Keep and to Benwick’s apartment where he tended to Gordi’s wounds.

Benwick thanked us for rescuing his friend and was happy that we found proof of the Cult of Tiamat’s involvement. He again asked us to keep things quiet until Gordi was well enough to fill in the missing details about what actually happened. To show his appreciation Benwick offered to buy us dinner – an offer we gladly accepted. We made our way to the tavern where we had a chance to talk away from prying ears.

Sola and Quinn decided that they didn’t like all of Benwick’s secrecy. Although we have no reason to doubt Benwick’s word, we also don’t have strong reason to trust him implicitly yet. The party discussed options. If we could meet with the Keep’s Lord we could inform him of what was going on. However, it was unlikely that we could gain an audience without giving a lot of people details that we didn’t want to share (yet). The only other option seemed to be to inform the priestess. We decided that we would give her a high level heads up about what had transpired so far. This way if things went bad for us, at least one other person of authority within the Keep could corroborate our story.

Benwick met us for dinner. During dinner he returned our weapons, which we’d agreed to surrender at the gate. He explained that we should keep them hidden unless we needed them. He also gave us the name of a contact in the guard that we could trust with details of what transpired.

After Benwick left we noticed the priestess had arrived in the tavern. Merric decided to play the part of the drunken fool and drew everyone’s attention to one end of the bar with his tumbling and summersaults. Quinn and Sola approached the priestess and told her what the party had been up to sicne arriving in Restwell Keep. We deliberately left names out of the conversation. Berrian and Hagen kept watch to see if anyone was paying too much attention to us. They realized a Halfling across the bar was paying a lot of attention to Quinn and Sola rather than the Rogue acting like a fool.

Merric, getting a signal from his companions looking out that the Halfling was a person of interest, started to move his “act” towards him. The Halfling clearly didn’t want to be engaged so he got up and left when he realized what Merric was up to. The party quickly gathered together and left to pursue him, Merric a few steps ahead of everyone else.

When we got into the street, we discovered that the Halfling had friends and that they were ready to ambush us. Fortunately we were on our guard and exceptional perception checks from everyone but Berrian meant that everyone except the Wizard got to act in the surprise round.

It’s important to note that the player running Merric decided to tweak him a bit using the Essentials rules. This gave him a couple of different powers from what’s printed on the pre-generated character sheet. He began combat with full hit points but only two healing surges remaining. Knowing he needed to avoid damage, Merric planned to hide when he could and attack from range. Unfortunately the ambushers were on him before he could escape to a safe hiding place and he took a couple of hits right away.

After trading blows during the surprise round we really got into it. Quinn engaged one of the bandits and the Halfling. Hagen, Sola and Berrian and were beset upon by the minions and another bandit. Taking the brunt of the damage, Hagen fell unconscious by the end of the first round. Fortunately Sola acted last in the initiative and was able to revive him before things got out of hand.

Merric was four squares away from the party when combat began and had to contend with a bandit and a minion on his own. He hit the bandit for enough damage to bloody him. Realizing that he needed to get out of harms way, Merric opted to run around a corner and hide. It drew two opportunity attacks. One connected but did the minimum damage.

Berrian made great use of his Beguiling Strands and managed to hit most of our attackers who had very kindly arranged themselves in a tight blast-friendly formation. He then used his fey step to teleport onto the nearby roof, taking him out of the melee.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, it’s important to focus fire and drop foes quickly rather than spread out the damage. Unfortunately we are a new party and are still discovering what our allies can do. So we continued to each attack different targets wounding them, but not killing any. We also attacked the tougher bandits before the minions which meant that we took a lot more hits than we needed to. Fortunately Berrian kept using Beguiling Strands and took care of the minions after only a couple of rounds.

Realizing that the party was in trouble early on, Sola decided that using Sun Burst to give all allies within 5 squares temporary hit points could make a big difference. However, Merric was too far away. I decided to to delay until after Merric acted. I told him that he needed to end his turn with 5 squares of me to gain this benefit. He moved closer, attacked, didn’t drop his foe, and then used a new power that let him shift 2 squares. The additional move gave him cover and let him hide, but it also moved him out of range of Sola’s power. So everyone else got 5 temporary hit points except Merric.

With the minions dispatched we kept spreading the damage around the three bandits and the Halfling, blooding all of them and dropping none of them. Both Hagen and Quinn fell during the next round. I decided to attack using Brand of the Sun which allows an ally to make a save. I’m not sure if this applies to death saves or not, but our DM allowed it. Quinn rolled an 18. With the +2 from Sola’s Sun Domain power he was back in action.

We continued grinding against the enemies trading blows. Merric managed to move in and gain a flanking bonus from his allies. He hit and dropped one of the bandits. Berrian used Arc Lightning to hit and kill one of the bandits and the Halfling. The final bandit tried to run. Merric, using a throwing dagger, easily took down the last enemy.

When the fight ended Benwick’s contact from the watch approached us. She explained that she arrived just as the combat was ending. We took a short rest, checked the bodies and exchange pleasantries. Before we could discuss anything of substance we noticed that Benwick’s apartment was on fire. I guess next week’s encounter will be a rescue mission.

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1 Gormal September 30, 2010 at 9:47 am

Thanks for a great night again.

2 Lahrs September 30, 2010 at 10:37 am

I was a bit disappointed with my group on Wednesday as the role playing that went so well in week 1 seemed to die away. I think next week I am going to dish out a 15XP bonus to the first that role plays, which will hopefully get others involved. Besides that, things went well.

Our cleric noticed a halfling who was a bit more interested in the conversation than he should have been, so the cleric and two others decided to follow him out into the streets while the rest stayed behind to enjoy a nice dinner and a free healing surge.

Our group of three was ambushed by the halfling, and based on a suggestion from the official D&D boards, they also encountered a very full street full of civilians, a few of which turned out to be goons and bandits. Unfortunately, only the cleric had the incite to figure out which were actually civilians and who were the enemies, the other PC’s had to find out the hard way.

Merric high tailed it back to the inn to get reinforcements, which left Hagen and Berrian to fend off everyone until the rest of the party survived. Beguiling strands, which proved very beneficial in encounter 1, was too risky to use with all of the townsfolk milling around. Once the townsfolk realized what was going on, they started to flee, but it took a total of three rounds for them to all leave, and sadly one died at the hands of the Halfling Thief. This will bring consequences and being investigated in a later encounter.

In the end, the PC’s worked well together. They too still have trouble with focus fire, but I am hoping in a few weeks we can get it straightened out. A few of the bandits and goons ran as soon as they saw they were losing the fight. The PC’s looted the bodies, but nothing was supposed to be on them, so I quickly added a ring of Tiamet on the thief. When Sal emerged, the PC’s instantly remembered what she looked like from Benwick’s description, but right when they started to question her, they noticed huge billows of black smoke pouring out of a building. I asked everyone what their next action was, and then called it a night before they were resolved.

Not sure about others, but did the session seem very short? It may have been due to the lack of role playing, but we seem to have zipped through this session, especially compared to session 1.

3 Al September 30, 2010 at 11:01 am

Minor point, Ronnick’s apt. was the one that has smoke coming from it not Benwick’s.

4 Jason September 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Minor point. It’s Ronnick’s bank–not his apartment.

I think. I need to grab my module.

5 Al September 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

They’re one and the same. He works out of his home.

6 Ameron October 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Don’t thank me, I was just another player. Kudos to Al for DMing another great session. And of course, thanks to Wayne at Dueling Grounds for hosting D&D Encounters.

Adding innocent bystanders would have made this a very different encounter (and made a lot more sense). I’m not knocking the DM, after all he played it as written. I guess I’ve gotten so used to this kind of thing I just assume that most PCs can spot the difference between combatants and non-combatants. I guess in the back of my mind I assumed there were others about and they all scattered when they noticed a fight in the street.

Our group took about 45 minutes to get through the combat after close to an hour of role-playing. But I can see how a few lucky rolls, focused fire and quickly dispatching the minions could make this fight go by pretty quickly.

@Al & Jason
Thanks for clearing that up. I didn’t have the adventure in front of me when I was doing this week’s recap.

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