Never underestimate the how quickly you’ll get an audience with the Lord of the keep when you announce that dragons are going to attack. Of course, having a solid reputation for heroism and a couple of witnesses to corroborate your claims doesn’t hurt things either.
We began right where we left off last week. We’d just defeated Benwick’s men, killing Gorn and subduing the others. Upon learning the details of Benwick’s plan from his cronies, we marched our prisoners directly to the inner court where we demanded an immediate audience with Lord Drysdale. His guards were somewhat reluctant and even suspicious of us initially, but mention of two black dragons en route to level the castle had a way of getting them to grant us the audience we requested.
The guards ushered us right to the Lord’s audience chamber where we recounted everything that happened, beginning with the pending attack from two black dragons. Always play your best cards first. No point in holding them back and then not getting a chance to play them (the same thing pretty much goes for daily powers).
We also made sure to mention that Ronnik might not be guilty and that Lord Drysdale might want to consider looking at the new evidence before making a ruling on Ronnik’s final fate. I then rocked the Diplomacy check with a 25 so Lord Drysdale didn’t think I was just some jerk trying to tell him how to run his keep.
He called to his men and ordered them to begin preparations for defending the keep from the possible dragon onslaught. He then charged the party with finding Benwick and the dragons and gathering information. Of course if we could stop the attack on the keep that would also be looked upon in very favourable light. We accepted his assignment and after a much needed extended rest we were off to the swamplands in search of the dragons’ lair.
The journey through the swampy marshlands was difficult and hazardous. To make things even more difficult our party makeup underwent some significant changes since the last encounter. Quinn and Sola were the only regulars present this week, but they were accompanied by two new adventurers. A Human Rogue armed with a hand crossbow and a Dragonborn Sorcerer. Strikers are always welcome, but their combat optimization meant that this skill challenge was going to be really tough. If only Berrian or our other Wizard were here this week. But alas were only a party of four.
As expected we got lost, got bitten by insects, fell in a river and got lost again, before finally finding the markers that led the way to our destination. By the time we reached the clearing the entire party was down a healing surge. Considering Athletics and Endurance were strong skills for three of the four PCs we really did poorly with the rolling. But that just made for a more interesting role-playing session.
If the dice continued to roll that badly we might not have survived the first combat of this chapter. Luckily things changed for the better… at least with regards to the dice.
We entered the clearing and didn’t see any signs of danger so we proceeded. First the Rogue. He moved towards the webs intending to use them for cover. Unfortunately a giant spider hiding in the webs attacked him before he even realized what was happening. The Rogue was bleeding from puncture marks and was taking ongoing poison damage.
Before anyone could go to the Rogue’s aid, two big lizardmen with spears came out from the brush and threw them at the Rogue. Both hit, bloodying him.
Quinn moved up to help the wounded Rogue and landed a crushing blow against the spider. The Sorcerer then attacked the spider, but just couldn’t kill it. It clung to life by the thinnest thread. Realizing that the poison damage could be a significant threat to the party, the Sorcerer used a class feature to change his normal resistance to poison and grant resist 5 poison to the Rogue.
Just as Sola was about to move towards the spider and go for the kill, darts shot out from foliage, but didn’t hit anyone. Sola moved to help her allies and got a crit on the first attack. Too bad the monster only had 1 hit point left. Oh well, a kill’s a kill. The attack granted the Rogue a save against the ongoing poison and he made it (not that it really mattered with his newly gained resistance).
The Rogue then moved closer to the lizardmen and tried to shoot them with his crossbow. As he moved through the webbed area he was held tight and immobilized. No worries, he could still shoot and was still within the requisite 5 squares for combat advantage to apply. A hit for over 20 points of damage. This is the kind of output our party has been sorely lacking in previous weeks. Welcome aboard strikers. Failing his save, the Rogue remained tangled in the webs.
Before anyone else could act a second spider emerged from beneath the webs and attacked Quinn. He took his damage like a man and didn’t complain. He in turn hit the second spider. The Sorcerer then blasted it and easily killed it. Did I mention how awesome it is to have two strikers who can really dish out damage?
The lizardmen threw javelins again hitting Quinn and the Rogue. The Rogue returned fire, but was unable to add sneak dice. He hit but damage was marginal. He again failed his save and remained entangled in the webs. More darts came out of the bushes and still none of them hit any of the heroes.
Sola decided that she should delay and wait for Quinn to move into melee before she did. That way his aura should keep her from getting attacked. Quinn managed to get around the webs without getting stuck. He engaged the closest lizardman. Sola came off of delay and followed him right in as soon as she healed the bloodied Rogue. She too managed to avoid the webs.
The Sorcerer provided ranged support and with Quinn, Sola giving it to the lizardman in melee combat he didn’t last very long. One down, one to go. The Rogue finally managed to free himself from the webs around the same time the attackers with the darts stating hitting. Fortunately they were using poison and couldn’t do enough damage to injure the Rouge, the Sorcerer or Sola (who was wearing an Amulet of Life which provided her with resist 5 poison). We decided to ignore the needlers until the big guys were down.
Two more rounds of combat was all it took to defeat the second lizardman. Quinn and Sola flanked him, while the Sorcerer attacked form a safe distance. The Rogue wanted to help too, even though without combat advantage and sneak dice his damage was pitiful. However, we managed to get the lizardman down to just a few remaining hit points and it ended up being the Rogue who got the kill shot. Never underestimate a striker’s ability to kill something.
After killing the annoying needlers we searched the clearing and discovered a body within the webs. The corpse was dead beyond recognition, the spiders having long ago feasted upon it. However, we did find magical arm items on the body. We decided to give those to our new Sorcerer friend who proved himself invaluable during the combat.
For the first time ever, the party focused fire and took out the monsters quickly and orderly. Having the resist poison made a huge difference too. In the end neither Sola nor the Sorcerer ended up taking any damage. The Rogue on the other hand already burned through half of his healing surges.
I don’t know if the DM accoutered for one less player, two of which were relatively new to 4e D&D, but I though this encounter played out very well. Having the role-playing and the skill challenge at the beginning was a welcome change from the constant hack and slash of the last chapter. This encounter was challenging but we managed to handle it. Good tactics and strong offense made all the difference. The fact that the DMs dice got ice cold after the first round certainly helped as well.
Next week our group is going to play two encounters (week 14 and week 15). We’re concerned that we won’t get enough people together to play the week between Christmas and New Years. We’ll still post the write up one week at a time so don’t worry, no spoilers in next week’s recap. How are other groups handling the game during the holidays? Is anyone else doing a double next week or are groups more likely to do a make-up game afterwards?
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