D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 9)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 18, 2010

Level 2. It took nine weeks, but we finally made it. In addition to this week’s write up we’ve got level 2 versions of the pre-gens available for download below. This week’s encounter began a few days after the events from chapters 1 and 2. Our DM waved his Wand of Revisionist History and we suddenly remembered things differently now that we’d had a week to think about it.

After returning to Restwell Keep and turning Ronnik over to the guards, he was tried for his crimes. The evidence the PC already acquired was quite damning. Ronnik was found guilty after only a few days of deliberation and is scheduled for execution. The PCs spent some time trying to find anything to prove of disprove Ronnik’s innocence since the revelations that happened during the last encounter. All they found was more damning evidence including confirmation that Ronnik purchased supplies from the nearby outpost that were later found in the Cult of Tiamat hideout. No one in the keep had anything good to say about Ronnik either. It turns out he wasn’t very popular.

After a few days rest, Benwick invited the party to dinner with the hint of a new job opportunity. Once at Benwick’s home he introduced us to the captain of the watch, Gorn Hammerfall. He explained that Gorn is a direct descendent of the Dwarven bandit lord Greysen Ramthane, a former resident of the keep. Before Greysen was overthrown by Nerath’s forces he hid his wealth somewhere in the keep. Gorn has found the bandit’s cache but needs our help getting it. He’s concerned that if Lord Drysdale (the current lord) discovers the loot he’ll keep it himself even though it’s Gorn’s by right.

The treasure Gord is most desperate to possess are Dwarven relics related to his family history. If we retrieve the relics he offered us any magic treasure found within as compensation. He also offered us 1/3 of any coins – Gorn collecting 1/3 and Benwick collecting the other 1/3.

Gorn explained that he and a friend already tried to get into the catacombs but met with heavy resistance. His partner, a Human named Ralv was killed during a battle with constructs. In addition to our primary objective he’s asked us to recover Ralv’s body.

The players were reminded at the beginning of tonight’s encounter that their original motivation for coming out to the Chaos Scar and Restwell Keep was to earn fortune and fame as brave adventurers. With that reminder in place the PCs quickly agreed to take on this quest for Benwick and Gorn and headed into the catacombs of the keep in search of Dwarven relics, a fallen ally and magical treasure.

Our party was made up of five this week: Berrian, Quinn, Sola, an Assassin and a Wizard. We entered the first room cautiously, hugging the wall and proceeding slowly as a group. We discerned that the weapons on the walls would cause serious damage if we were forced into them. We also noticed that the large statue in the centre of the room had a flail in one hand and a key in the other.

As we rounded the first corner we were beset upon by constructs hiding in the alcoves. The Hammerers pounded on Quinn and the Assassin. Our plan was to try and focus fire on a single opponent until it fell. It was a good idea, but the Hammerers could slide us on a hit so we were dragged apart and forced to fight many monsters simultaneously, spreading the damage around rather than focusing it. Fortunately our Wizard used Beguiling Strands to free the PCs who were grabbed by the Hammeres and force the constructs into adjacent squares. Berrian (who was tweaked a bit when he leveled up) used an Ice Burst spell to hit all four constructs.

The attacks from the Hammerers and the Stone Harrier were painful, but the real punishment came from the statue. In addition to its regular attack it got a free swing every time we attack one of the monsters. And the monsters were smart enough to keep moving us within the statues reach.

The combat was an old-school hack and slash. The forced movement was a pain in the butt, however the combat was pretty straight forward. As we finally started dropping the Hammerers things got a lot easier.

The Assassin managed to jump up and grab the key from the statue’s hand. The rest of the Hammerers fell shortly thereafter and Quinn went toe-to-toe with the Stone Harrier. Sola discovered a control panel at the statue’s base and with the assistance of Berrian and the other Wizard we disable the statue just as Quinn finally destroyed the Stone Harrier (with help from the Assassin).

This was the first encounter in a few weeks where none of the PCs fell unconscious. This was in part because of smarter tactics and teamwork. No one intentionally ran away from the group. We tried to keep the monsters close enough that the controllers could hit more than one every round. Although the Wizards don’t do striker damage, hitting four creatures on your turn makes a huge difference – especially if you can do it a few rounds in a row.

When the combat ended we discovered Ralv’s body. He had a few gold pieces on him along with a healing potion. We moved him back to the entrance-way so that he’d be easily recovered if we didn’t make it out later. A close examination of the key revealed that it fit perfectly into the lock at the far end of the room. After a short rest we turned the key and proceeded to the next room.

Level 2 Pre-generated Characters

Unlike D&D Encounters season 2 where all the choices associated with leveling the characters were spelled out and provided in the DM’s package, Wizards of the Coast has not provided any direction with regards to leveling up the pre-generated characters for season 3. Their whole push is towards building your own character, especially now that the new Character Builder with D&D Essentials is available to all DDI subscribers. However, some of us have found the pre-generated characters a lot of fun to play and just want to keep using them.

I know that a couple of the people at my FLGS don’t have any of the D&D Essentials books yet and do not have a subscription to DDI. So for anyone who falls into a similar category, or for anyone who’s too busy or too lazy to level up the PCs yourself (this is the category into which I fall) we want someone else to just level up the pre-gens. And what do you know, someone has.

On the Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons forumsthere’s a lively discussion on what the level 2 versions of the pre-gens should look like. Roger Davis (posting as hoofrog) was kind enough to level up all the pre-gens and post the PDFs. Remember that the choices made when these versions were leveled up were completely arbitrary choices – there’s not really a right or wrong answer here. However, I’ve looked them over and most of the folks who posted on the forums agree that these level 2 PCs look pretty good.

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.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TheKyle November 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

For our group, I was thankfully able to access the web-based Character Builder at the table and updated two player characters that way. The downside is that the Character Builder can’t add some of the equipment handed out in the campaign, so we substituted where possible. (As an aside, I’ve submitted a report to WotC to outline what I perceive the problem is.) The end result is that the players could make their own characters, even if they were using a pregenerated character as a base and felt like they were involved in how their character progressed.

2 Lahrs November 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

I bought two copies of Forgotten Kingdoms (one by accident), and with the little time I have spent with the book, I am again thoroughly enjoying the essentials line. Still, I did not force my players to switch over, so anyone using their own character can still use my character generator since it has not been updated. The people using the pre-gens leveled up with a stat card much like what Wizards gave in Dark Sun, but I think I will bring the .pdf’s Ameron linked to.

Yesterday was a special day for me since my brother was able to join for a game. We rarely get to see each other so it was great to relax, have fun, and play D&D. My brother has played D&D off and on for as long as I have (at least 12 years), so this time I didn’t give the group the option of a harder battle, I just threw it at them. I have been incredibly lucky in that our tables are very stable with regulars. What this has done is built up a trust between the characters and players and there has been increased discussion of tactics, creating a stronger party overall. My brother and his experience allowed for a demonstration of even deeper tactics, and he asked much more pointed questions of Benwick and Gorn. I think this was very beneficial to the group, as my brother had no idea of the story beforehand, and his questions of Benwick, just to get my brother up to speed, fleshed out a lot of questions missed by the group the first time around.

I was asked one question that stumped me, so I went along with the book, but it seemed foolish. Gorn, decked out with two hammers, was asked why he couldn’t join, and the response was he had to work. To my players, that just seemed a very weak reason to not follow them down to their potential death. And just after typing the last sentence, maybe I should have said Gorn was too afriad to go in, especially after seeing his friend killed. Oh well, missed opportunity.

With Gorn’s description of what happened when he and Ralv first went in, the group had a fairly good idea of what to expect, and experience told them that the key was not just sitting there to be grabbed unchallenged. The wizard used mage hand to get the key, which instantly started the battle.

Initiative order hurt the group a lot. The Statue Flailer’s (I think that was his name, book not in front of me) turn was right after our fighter (my brother), which proved to be an issue. The fighter would attack an enemy, flailer would strike with his reaction swing, then the flailer was up and would hit him again, this all happened after our clerics went, and the fighter was down to 2HP before round one was over.

Interestingly though, not a single swing was aimed at the flailer for the entire fight. The group, after round three, decided to fall back outside of the flailers range and concentrate on the other enemies. With a solid perception check, our rogue noticed a gear box below the statue and went in to disable the device. This took only two rounds as he used an action point, and the rogue successfully went untouched for the entire battle. After a few heals from our clerics, the fighter was in top shape, but our monk is down to only four healing surges for the rest of the chapter, so the group allowed him to take the healing potion found on the dead body.

This was essentially a straight up hack and slash, and the party worked well together to overcome the challenge. Looking forward to next week.

3 Ameron November 23, 2010 at 8:48 pm

@TheKyle
As critical as a lot of people are of the new character builder I think it’s going to be a hit with new players, especially the D&D Encounters people. I suspect that many groups will do exactly what you guys did and level up at the gaming table.

@Lahrs
Our table was made up of players who had been there every week so we pretty much skipped the role-playing at the beginning. The PCs decided to agree with everything they were told knowing that if things were amiss they’d likely figure it out after they finished in the dungeon.

I wonder how the encounter would have played out if the PCs used Stealth to move around the outskirts of the room and just go to the door. If the PCs avoided triggering the monsters and used Thievery to open the door could they have avoided the combat all together? It would have made for a quick and boring encounter but it would have avoided the dangers within.

4 Lahrs November 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

I had the same thought, but considering the golem would activate if anyone came within three squares, I felt the chances of it happening where incredibly slim. The book did give a DC for picking the lock, so the scenario could have played out, and it would have resulted in a boring encounter. If it did occur, I was going to let the group go back in and fight a “free battle” where none of their resources would have been used, just so we had something to do, and they did succeed in the challenge without using resources.

I have more to say on this, but anything else said has a potential for being a spoiler.

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