D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 5)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 21, 2010

Chapter 2 of the Keep on the Borderlands – A Season of Serpents began this week. This season of D&D Encounters is running well at my FLGS. We’ve managed to run one solid table every week. On top of that new players keep coming out to try their hand at D&D. Some with absolutely no 4e D&D experience and other who are old pros looking for a pick-up game.

Even though we see new faces every week we’re having difficulty getting them all to come back. The good news is that the interest is there and that the players seem to be having a really good time (I know I am). The negativity that clouded our FLGS during the final weeks of D&D Encounters Dark Sun seems to have disappeared and we’re picking up a lot of positive momentum. I think we’ll start to see more regular attendance moving forward and perhaps have enough people to run two tables.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and want to join us, we play on Wednesday night at Dueling Grounds. D&D Encounters begins a 6 p.m. every week.

This week we were a party of six again. All the usual suspects were present and accounted for: Quinn, Eldeth, Hagen, Sola, Barrian and Barrian. Even though Merric was available two players still preferred to play Wizards. So down a Rogue and up a Wizard we proceeded with the encounter.

The party awoke after a restful night by the well. None of the Kobolds returned to bother us during the night. When the sun rose over the horizon we used the daylight to search for any signs of where the Kobolds might have run off to. A natural 20 on Eldeth’s Nature check helped her spot the tracks the fleeing Kobolds left from the previous night’s encounter. After a few hours of following the trail the party arrived at Dragontooh Hill.

The tracks led to the bottom of a 20-foot waterfall. From the ground as they approached the party noticed that the waterfall spewed forth from a large cave opening. Quinn easily climbed the slick rocks to the top of the falls. Once there he noticed a knotted rope which he lowered for the rest of the party to use to reach the top more easily. Everyone managed the climb without incident.

The river originated deeper in the cave. The party realized that there was faint light originating from chambers further within. Quinn decided to investigate. He noticed more knotted-ropes hanging from the ceiling. Grabbing the nearest rope, Quinn jumped across the river and on to some flat rocks jutting above the water’s surface. Using the rope made the jump considerably easier. With the others coming up behind Quinn, he moved deeper into the cave. After a few steps a Squelching Ooze surprised Quinn and attacked.

Seeing how easily Quinn made it across, some of the other party members tried swinging across too. Hagen grabbed the rope and jumped. He didn’t quite make the distance to the rocks so he decided to hold on to the rope and return to his point of origin. Eldeth showed Hagen how it was done and easily jumped across, using the rope but not really needing it. On his second try Hagen made it, but he was attacked by a Squelching Ooze as soon as his feet landed on the rocks.

The two Wizards decided not to risk falling into the rushing water so they let Sola go next. She got halfway across and then fell in the water. The current pushed her back 10 feet but she easily managed to fight her way onto the far bank. And that’s when she too was attacked by a Squelching Ooze.

Eldeth and Hagen worked together to try and take down the closest Ooze. The Wizards contributed as artillery firing Magic Missiles at the Oozes and using Beguiling Strands to keep them away from the rest of the party. When the Ooze was hit it used its squelching stench to push Hagen into the water. Eldeth was pushed into the chamber, closer to where Quinn was battling his own Ooze.

From across the river a Kobold Ooze Talker emerged from behind some giant mushrooms, threw an ooze orb at Quinn and hit him squarely.

As usual we split the party and all attacked different targets making the combat more difficult and take a lot longer. Eldeth charged the Ooze battling Quinn and landed a solid blow. She decided to tack on her Power Strike for an additional d12 but only rolled a 1. For the next few rounds the Ooze focused its attacks on Quinn while the two Fighters flanked it.

Hagen had a hard time getting out of the water as the Ooze nearest to him kept on attacking. Sola drew an opportunity attack in order to move into a flanking position. The opportunity attack hit for 14 damage (1 off of the max). Her attack was a solid hit with a 17 on the die, combat advantage from flanking not even factoring into it. However, Hagen made good use of the flank and managed to hit on his turn.

The remaining Ooze kept attacking the nearest opponent, which was Sola. When Sola moved to flank with Hagen she left herself open to a flank from the other Ooze. Sola managed to stay in the thick of things despite taking a lot of damage. A combination of her Sun Burst (which granted temporary hit points), Blessing of Battle (which provided her with resist 2 to all damage) and Healing Word kept her going throughout the encounter. For a couple of rounds in a row she drew attacked twice – either from two Oozes, or once from an Ooze and once from the Koblold. Luckily her high AC helped her avoid getting hit more than once each round.

The Wizards easily took out the Kobold, one using Hypnotize to have an Ooze attack the Kobold and the other pelting him with Magic Missiles. The Kobold was the first monster to fall during this encounter.

In the same round Quinn and Eldeth destroyed the Ooze they were fighting, Hagen destroyed the Ooze he was fighting and Sola, with some help from a Magic Missile, managed to destroy the Ooze she was fighting.

When the combat was over the party carefully searched the Kobold and then the rest of the chamber. Sola’s keen eyes (and her only natural 20 of the night) noticed a body at the bottom of the river. When the party drudged up the body they found a suit of magical armor on him. Everyone immediately claimed it. When reasonable arguments failed we decided to do things the old fashioned way – an old-school roll off.

Barrian rolled highest and ended up with the armor. So now we’ve got one Wizard with a magical staff and another with magical armor. Meanwhile the Fighters and Clerics who actually run into combat are still using their mundane gear. Oh well, that’s the way things work out sometimes.

I had a lot of fun playing this encounter. The monsters were a suitable challenge. They were relatively easy to hit, but had a lot of hit points. They hit hard (2d6+3) but didn’t connect with every attack. The DM’s hot dice had them score some serious damage at the outset, but as things progressed the dice seemed to randomize sufficiently and the monsters missed more often than they hit. The Kobold was more annoying than anything else. He was taken down by a few good Magic Missiles and attacks from his own allies thanks to one of the Wizards Hypnotize spell.

The PCs took a lot of damage but it was spread out pretty evenly. No one fell unconscious but Quinn, Hagen and Eldeth were all bloodied by the end of the combat. Had we not had two Clerics I think at least one of the heavy hitters would have fallen which would have made things a lot more difficult.

Next week I’ll be vacationing in sunny Florida. That means I’ll miss next week’s encounter and there won’t be a week 6 article. But don’t worry; I’ll be back at the gaming table for week 7.

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1 Lahrs October 21, 2010 at 10:52 am

Sometimes the tactics are sound, but the dice are plain evil. Our monk (yes, monk) rolled three 1’s in a row before switching dice and doing much better. We joked that when it came to loaded dice, he was doing it wrong and we all laughed at his expense. He is one of our regulars so we knew he would take it well.

Unfortunately, we made a mistake with our dwarven fighter. He failed his check to wade across the water and was knocked back two spaces and over the 20 ft waterfall taking 14 damage on the way down. The mistake was that dwarves get to knock off one space when it comes to being pushed, which would have kept him on top, but the mistake was not noticed until the session was almost over.

Overall, the fight went well, despite being down a monk, since he wasn’t hitting, and the fighter, since he fell down the waterfall and it took a few turns to get back into the battle. The remaining four used focus fire and our rogue did some nice damage against the kobolds with two of the pots he picked up from the kobold slingers in the last session. Unrelated to last night, I pulled two kobold slingers from the minis packs I bought last night, a week too late. Oh well.

I asked the group if they wanted a bigger challenge before they began, and once I mentioned they would be rewarded, they agreed and I added an extra ooze and kobold ooze talker. This proved much deadlier than I had planned because of our monk and fighter being essentially out of combat for a few rounds. What saved them is we had two Essentials clerics and vets playing them, so the healing was well used while it lasted. My wife is enjoying player her wizard.

The essentials wizard really adds a more of a controller feeling, which is the point of the class. Beguiling strands to move monsters into position (sadly the slide was removed from the Game Day wizard and replaced with push, which isn’t always as affective) and the hypnotize were both put to good use. As a sidenote, the more we use the Essentials characters, the more we are enjoying them and the new feel of some of the classes. We are looking forward to Heroes of the Forgotten Realms for the additional classes. I already have a copy on pre-order, fortunately I get a nice 20% DM discount from the shop.

We had a debate on whether the oozes could be knocked prone. Although the text box did not state they could not, we discussed whether an ooze could actually be knocked down. Incidentally, it was my players who agreed an ooze couldn’t be dropped, but since I saw no rules on the monster box, I said they could, and this proved to be valuable.

In the end, the players emerged victorious, though quite battered. I decided their bonus would be two healing potions to make up for the extra beating they took, particularly from the ongoing acid damage the second kobold ooze talker was dishing out.

We had a lot of fun, and they liked the extra challenge, though we will need to make sure we remember all of the racial and class powers so we do not have accidental damage like we did last night.

As always, we do a roll on who gets the magic item(s), this time the item was a level 5 piece of armor. The monk won, and I will present him a level five bloodweave cloth armor in the next session. This is quite potent armor and will help with the more difficult encounters.

2 Ameron October 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Once again you’ve provided another great comment block. Thanks for sharing your experiences with week 5. We had a lot of new players at the table so the DM is trying to keep things by the book. I like your idea to ask the PCs if they wanted a more difficult encounter, adding more monsters when they agree, and rewarding them accordingly.

Since we’ve had two players using Berrian from the beginning one of the players has reworked his PC using the Essentials books to distinguish him from his fellow Wizard. The rest of us are (still) waiting for the Character Builder to get updated with the Essentials rules before dropping the pre-gens. But I agree that the more we play them the more fun I’m having.

3 David W October 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

This is my first time posting here, and as a pre-cursor to my report, I just wanted to say how much I absolutely love reading everyone’s input on their Encounters experiences. It’s always a thrill to read just how differently each group plays the adventures.

Our group started off recaping last week’s adventure before setting off for the cave. We had five players:
Homebrew Ranger
Homebrew Rogue
Homebrew Cleric
Homebrewed Wizard

I’m sure you’ll note right off the bat: zero defenders. On the plus side, we did have two clerics.

To kicks thing off, the guy playing the homebrewed cleric decided he’d climb up the side of the waterfall first. Two rolls of natural 1 later and we had a very perturbed cleric with a sore bum from the falls and a group afraid that the waterfall may be cursed or trapped in some way shape or form.

The rogue in the group finally got brave and easily shimmied up to the cave, throwing the rope down to the other players.

After everyone was situated in the opening area of the cave, the hb-cleric decided that he’d charge forward and attempt to swing across the river bed to the other side. As he grabbed hold of the rope and started to pull down I let out a slightly cackling chuckle and reminded the group that they hadn’t even examined the rope yet. For all they knew it could be attached to a giant bell that alerted the sleeping dragon at the far end of the cave to their presence. “Dinner’s here!”. (We have a moderately new group to 4E and DND in general, so I always like to remind them that not everything is always as it seems in DnD, even if it usually is what it looks like in Encounters).

After a multitude of successful perception checks, and a dungeoneering check by the rogue, the group determined that the rope was sound and could be safely used. Unfortunately, the cleric rolled a 1 on their perception, so he essentially had no idea there was a rope there to begin with, and had to be handed it by one of the other characters.

Grabbing a firm hold of the rope, the cleric rolled his check and …surprise! Another natural 1. We decided after this that the players would find a way to sneak this cursed die into my dice bag and replace it with a more apt to succeed d20 instead.

So now, our poor cleric was precariously dangling from the rope above the shallow water. Remembering that they all had adventuring packs with them, the player playing Sola decided to get out their rope and toss the dangling cleric a line in hopes that he’d grab it and they’d be able to pull him back in. They succeeded and the hb-cleric immediately tried another attempt to swing across the river.

Success! This time, he made it safely across the water and tossed the rope back to the other players. But of course, as he turned around, he found himself face to face with one of the oozes from the encounter. My first roll of the night! What do I roll? But of course! A natural 20. We immediately passed that dice to the poor cleric to use. He took 15 points of damage, finding himself bloodied before he even knew what happened.

As I said earlier, it’s a moderately new group, so the idea of focused fire is still pretty new to them. As the first round progressed, the players saw the other 2 oozes emerge from the back of the cave and the excited kobold came running up to join the ooze in doing as much damage to the poor cleric as possible.

Figuring he’d take the risk, one of the players threw the rope back to cleric and he attempted to grab and swing across before the monsters could do too much damage to him. This provoked an attack of opportunity from the ooze, to which I rolled a 1 (really odd dice rolls at this session…). By this point, the kobold was standing right next to the ooze, so I ruled that in its rage at the cleric for swinging away, the ooze flailed widly at him and accidently smacked the kobold. This outraged the kobold which led to two hilarious rounds of the kobold and ooze fighting eachother (“Bad oozie! BAD OOZE!”) before remembering that there were others around. (This also gave the group a bit of time to reorganize).

Eventually, the group got seperated and pushed back into corners with the hb-rogue and wizard on opposite sides of the river from the rest of the group. Several brutal attacks from one of the oozes knocked the rogue unconcious as the other oozes started …oozing… their way towards the rest of the group.

At this point combat was clearly centered around the entrance of the cave, with the players towards the outer edge and all of the monsters in the river or very near it.

As the wizard’s turn came around, I saw a ominous look on his face. I knew he was about to do something sinister that could not be talked about in front of the faint of heart. And so our brave wizard, who had been throwing nasty little magic missiles the entire fight, decided that now was the time for him to blink behind the group of monsters, and use ‘beguiling strands’ to attempt to knock them all off of the top of the waterfall to the ground below.

4 successful hits later and the party was standing all alone at the mouth of the waterfall, with the ranger shooting off arrows from the lip of the entrance and shouting “I got them, they’re all dead!”. Granted, all of the monsters but one died from the fall, but since the ranger was the only one to look over the edge and check, he decided he’d take credit for the kills instead.

I decided that the piece of magical armor would make more sense if it were hidden in the pool behind all the poisonous mushrooms (why were they there in the first place if not to be used?). After a successful nature check by Sola identifying the mushrooms and a critical dungeoneering check by the wizard that indicated that the shrooms appeared to be intentionally ‘grown’ there in order to guard whatever was behind it from the outside, the group decided they’d attempt to ‘deflate’ all of the mushrooms with their spears and take a look. The group cautiously approached the pool. A gas bubble from beneath the surface of the water bubbled up as the group approached and a skeletal arm flopped on the ground at the feet of the ranger.

After readying themselves for combat, the group sat there waiting for an attack. After nothing happened, the rogue investigated more closely and found that the skeleton was just bobbing up and down from the gas bubbles underneath it, and happily snatched up the beautiful piece of magical armor, which he described to the others as “just some poorly made piece of scrap leather.”

All in all, I’d say the group had a great time with this one. I know I really enjoyed it! Looking forward to seeing how the coming weeks work out. I’m absolutely loving this season of encounters!

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