Using the information gained from the small copper dragon at the end of last week’s encounter the PCs rushed into the swamp in hopes of saving Benwick from ambush. Our party this week consisted of Berrian, Hagen, Quinn, Sola and two unique characters, an Assassin and a Wizard. So with a full roster we braved ahead.
We arrived at the ambush site just in time to witness the ambush taking place. As we approached we overheard the Dragonborn leader addressing Ronnik and telling him that they will “seal their arrangement with blood.” The Dragonborn was standing menacingly over Benwick; Ronnik was standing over Benwick’s fallen comrades Sal and Gordi. Four lizardfolk address Ronnik in Draconic before attacking the PCs.
For the first time in many weeks the heroes rolled decent initiatives. I suggested that we learn from previous mistakes and focus our attacks on one opponent, or at least on one area of the map. That suggestion fell on deaf ears. The Assassin acted first, and charged Ronnik. Quinn acted next and charged the Dragonborn. Now we had to PCs attacking different opponents on opposite sides of the clearing.
Knowing that the Assassin (played as a Rogue in weeks 1-7) had a tendency to be a little bit reckless and bloodthirsty, I decided to help him. Sola charged and attacked Ronnik, but missed. Hagen, following Quinn’s lead charged towards the Dragonborn. Ronnik attacked the Assassin, scoring nearly the maximum damage and bloodying him.
The party was now in three groups. Sola and the Assassin had engaged Ronnik, Quinn and Hagen engaged the Dragonborn, and the two Wizards remained at the edge of the clearing all alone. The lizardfolk decided to divide and conquer.
The Assassin was hit with a greatclub and was knocked unconscious. Sola was hit with a poisoned javelin for 8 damage and 5 ongoing poison damage. Fortunately for Sola, I choose an Amulet of Health +1 as the neck item she discovered last week (which provides resist poison 5) so what should have been a serious blow was merely a minor inconvenience. The other lizardfolk attacked Quinn with the greatclub and knocking him prone. And the final one threw a javelin at the Wizards, but missed. The Dragonborn pounded on Quinn bloodying him.
The Wizard moved up and used hypnosis to have one of the lizardfolk attack his companion. Berrian used arc lightning to score two solid hits. After one round we had successfully attacked and damage just about every monster on the board, killing none. We’d also spread ourselves out too far to be helpful to one another.
The Assassin made a death save, not getting any better or worse. Quinn activated his Defender Aura drawing the attention of nearby monsters. He then stood up and retaliated against the Dragonborn.
On my turn I decided to gamble. Rather than use a Healing Word on the unconscious Assassin I instead used Soothing Light to grant him a save with a +2 bonus. This combined with my Sun Domain feature (granting an additional +2) meant that he’d revive himself if he rolled a 16 or better on his death save. He rolled exactly 16. I then moved closer to Quinn, Hagen, the Dragonborn and one of the lizardfolk. I attacked the lizardfolk with Sun Burst scoring a solid hit and granting Quinn, Hagen, the Wizard and myself 5 temporary hit points. At the end of my turn I failed my save against the ongoing poison (good thing I had the resist 5 poison from the amulet).
Hagen continued to help Quinn and the two of them focused on the Dragonborn. The Wizard used Beguiling Strands to push the lizardfolk back, keeping them too far away from Berrian to attack him. Berrian, who hasn’t moved more than a few squares in any of the last three encounters, stood his ground and kept using Arc Lightning to singe two lizardfolk at a time. Ronnik disengaged from the combat, keeping to the edge of the clearing and watching the battle unfold.
During the next round the Dragonborn was defeated along with one of the lizardfolk. The ongoing 5 poison was starting to take a noticeable affect on the party as we all kept failing our saves. Had Sola not chosen an Amulet of Health she would have been out of combat and likely dead-dead. She failed that save 6 times before finally making it.
The lizardfolk continued to be more trouble then they were worth scoring hit after hit and poisoning everyone round after round. By the time the PCs took them all down we were in bad shape. Sola, Quinn, the Assassin and the Wizard were all out of healing surges and nowhere near full hit points. Both Clerics had used both of their Healing Words so the party was completely out of healing. In our sorry state we tried to resolve the situation with Ronnik peacefully and without any more bloodshed.
Ronnik wasn’t having any of it. He refused to talk. Sola noticed that he seemed to be under some kind of influence, possibly magical or alchemical. Regrettably Ronnik would not allow the PCs to help him. He eventually snapped and began attacking us. This second phase of combat was long and brutal. Since we didn’t have time for a short rest some of the heroes were still trying to save against the poison or trying not to die.
Again we ended up splitting our forces. Some of us tried to revive our fallen comrades while the heavy hitters took down Ronnik without killing him. Eventually we succeeded. Ronnik was subdued and all of the PCs were saved before anyone accumulated 3 strikes (although Berrian and the Assassin were both rolling death saves with 2 strikes already against them).
The party, accompanied by Benwick, Sal, Gordi and the bound Ronnik returned to Restwell Keep. Based on Ronnik’s erratic behaviour and utter shock at learning that his house had burned down, the PCs were not entirely sure that the evidence we’d accumulated until this point was entirely accurate. There seemed to be more going on then we knew. Unfortunately Ronnik was almost immediately found guilty of his crimes and hanged.
If it turns out that Ronnik was not guilty and an innocent man was put to death then I’m a bit disappointed with the adventure. It seems to force the PCs to take certain actions without questioning them. We’ve been expressing concern that something bigger was going on but the way the adventure is designed we weren’t really afforded the opportunity to investigate. We weren’t given the opportunity to try and “cure” Ronnik before returning him to the Keep, nor were we given adequate time to try and prove or disprove his claim of innocence. In fact we weren’t allowed to talk to him at all after we handed him over to the authorities.
During this chapter the PCs recovered the missing Serpent’s Eye jewel. Because of our reluctance to trust anyone after seeing how thing unfolded, we were penalized and not given a full reward. We didn’t intend to keep the gem, but didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands again. So we instead decided to see that it was returned to its rightful owner ourselves. Apparently if we’d blindly handed it over to Ronnik we’d have earned 75 gp, but because we played and acted smart, we only got 40 gp.
I’m still having fun playing D&D Encounters, but I’m not really getting into the bigger story. I feel like it’s just week after week of hack and slash (which I’m ok with). I want to get into the story and the role-playing, but the adventure doesn’t seem to present much flexibility. We’ll see how thing progress next week as we begin chapter 3 and the PCs level up.
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.