D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands (Week 15)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 30, 2010

After taking a bunch of short rests to maximize healing, the party continued following the stone markers deeper into the swampland in search of Benwick and the Black Dragons.

We played a double session last week so the party for this encounter remained unchanged at seven. There was Berrian, Hagen, Sola, a Dragonborn Sorcerer, a crossbow-firing Human Rogue, a Human Wizard and a Human Cavalier. With a party this large the DM had to add more monsters in order to keep things challenging. I think his modifications over the past two encounters were balanced and appropriate given the party’s composition.

Any time you have seven players in the party you know combat will take a long time. This week’s encounter took us over two hours to complete. We took a serious pounding, which I’ll describe below. In order to keep this write-up to a reasonable length I’m going to skip over some of the more routine actions and just focus on the most exciting, interesting, stupid or controversial things. So just because I don’t account for everyone’s actions every round don’t think they weren’t contributing.

The party approached a clearing as quietly as they could and most of the PCs made adequate Stealth checks. Sola and the Cavalier, both wearing heavy metal armor, stood apart from those hiding as they brazenly walked along the path in plain sight. When they entered the clearing they saw a giant lizardfolk Bruiser standing atop a ruined dais.

The Cavalier charged forward and attacked while the Rogue fired his crossbow from the bushes. Suddenly, more monsters showed up and joined in the combat. Three lizardfolk Brawlers emerged from hiding and engaged the party. One rushed the Cavalier, one rushed Sola and the final one attacked the Rogue who coincidentally had tried to hide in the adjacent square. All three Brawlers successfully grappled the heroes, fortunately only the Cavalier actually took crushing damage. The Rogue eventually managed to escape the Brawler’s grasp without any assistance, but couldn’t get far enough away to use his crossbow without provoking opportunity attacks.

The Wizard used Beguiling Strands to push the two Brawlers away from Sola and the Cavalier, freeing them from the grappling attack and bunching the lizardfolk into a tight formation next to the giant Bruiser. The Sorcerer took advantage of the monsters’ grouped formation, moved up and hit all three of them with his ice blast.

Hagen moved closer to the Bruiser and used a bull rush to knock the giant into the gaping pit behind him. Unfortunately the monster only fell 5 feet as a net was carefully strung across the opening to prevent this exact situation from causing any real problems. The two Brawlers attacked Hagen and the Cavalier, grabbing them both and holding them in place for the giant Bruiser. The Bruiser got out of the pit without issue and attacked the grabbed heroes.

Fortunately for the heroes, the three monsters were positioned perfectly for the Wizard’s sleep spell. Both Brawlers and the giant Bruiser were hit. With any luck they’d all fall asleep and things would get a lot easier in one more round.

The Cavalier and Hagen escaped and focused on the giant Bruiser. The Brawlers fought back, attacking the Cavalier and Hagen and missing them both. The bad news was that both Brawlers made their saves against the Sleep spell. The Bruiser then swung his greatclub and pounded the Cavalier. The good news was that he failed his save and fell asleep.

Berrian provided cover using Arc Lightning and hitting two Brawlers while the Wizard, the Sorcerer, Hagen and the Cavalier all attacked the unconscious giant scoring automatic crits with their melee attacks. The sleeping giant awoke when he made his save the very next round.

The Rogue finally avoided the Brawler nearest to him and tried to shoot into the bigger combat. Unfortunately he was unable to gain combat advantage because all of the monsters were adjacent to other monsters. If he choose to shoot at the big guy, he’d have to settle for a basic attack without sneak dice.

Realizing that we still hadn’t killed anything and were falling back into our old tactic of attacking separate foes Sola shouted to the party to move between the wall and the dais. This way we can limit the number of access points melee combatants can reach us and we’ll be grouped close enough for the clerics to heal those who really need it.

Hagen and the Cavalier heeded Sola’s call and the three of them regrouped. The Brawler that had first attacked the Rogue went around the dais and engaged Sola and the Cavalier from one end. Hagen faced the Bruiser from the other direction. The Sorcerer moved towards the wall and easily climbed to the top, hopefully keeping him safely out of range of the heaviest hitters.

The Rogue, realizing that he couldn’t get combat advantage against the giant Bruiser with his crossbow decided to draw his short sword and move into melee. He easily flanked the giant foe and scored a solid hit for 30 points of damage (only 2 off of his maximum). Regrettably the Bruiser retaliated against the striker and bloodied him with a single swing of his greatclub.

The Sorcerer, the Wizard and Berrian worked together to take down the most badly wounded Brawler. The Wizard, seeing the Rogue take a pounding decided to offer himself as an alternative target and moved closer to the giant Bruiser. Berrian used Magic Missile to guarantee a hit on the closest spitting drake.

The Cavalier and Sola continued fighting the Brawler adjacent to them. The Cavalier rolled a 1 on his attack roll and opted to use the reckless breakage rule (something we haven’t seen invoked since chapter 1). He rerolled the attack and got a 2. Goodbye weapon. Now he was forced to fight hand-to-hand. The Brawler managed to land a solid hit on the weaponless Cavalier knocking him unconscious. The Spitting Drake standing a few squares behind the lizardfolk targeted Sola, but fortunately for her it missed. On her turn Sola used Heal to revive the fallen Cavalier and used her healing magic to keep Hagen above bloodied.

Hagen battled on, going toe-to-toe with the giant Bruiser. With the Wizard providing a flanking bonus he managed to hit without difficulty. The Bruiser swung his greatclub at Hagen, hitting and bloodying him. However, Hagen had his Lesser Aspect of Wrath activated and the giant Bruiser took 3 points of radiant damage because he ended his turn adjacent to Hagen. This damage bloodied the monster and he got to use his Tail Swipe as an immediate reaction to becoming bloodied.

There was some debate about whether or not the damage that caused the triggering action happened on the monster’s turn (which would mean he couldn’t use the immediate action) or whether it happened afterwards (in which case three PCs were getting attacked). The DM ruled that it happened after so Sola, Hagen and the Cavalier all took 16 points of damage and fell prone. This again brought the Cavalier below zero hit points.

Everyone decided that this round they would attack the giant and try to kill him before he could drop anyone else. Berrian used Magic Missile, the Rogue moved in to flank and scored another solid hit with his short sword, the Sorcerer attacked from atop the wall and hit, and finally Hagen managed to kill the creature.

The dying Cavalier managed to roll a 19 on his death save (+2 from Sola, bringing it to 21) and woke up under his own power before either Cleric had the opportunity to revive him with magic.

After the big boss fell, the clean up was merely a formality. Everyone ganged up on the remaining Brawler. We dropped him without killing him which meant that we might finally learn something about our final objective before rushing blindly into the dragon’s lair.

The spitting drakes took two more rounds to eliminate, but thanks to Beguiling Strands we easily controlled their positions on the battle map.

An interrogation of our prisoner revealed that Benwick and one of the black dragons had gone to build more alliances with other lizardfolk tribes. Only one black dragon remained in the lair, but it is protected by traps. The Brawler believes that there is a great deal of treasure in the dragon’s lair, but he did admit that he’s never been inside himself so that’s just his belief.

We took a couple of short rests to heal up. More than one PC will be going into the final encounter without any healing surges. About half of the party has already used their daily power. Most of the party does have action points remaining for the final fight.

The DM has been telling us from the beginning of this chapter that the final encounter is going to be tough. He fully expects more than one character to die. He’s predicting a TPK based on the limited resources we possess and lack of healing surges party-wide. We’re about due for some heroic deaths.

I hope that some of us survive. My character (Sola) is just below full hit points and has 3 surges remaining. I still have my action point and the use of my daily power. I plan to survive. Let’s see if that’s a prediction I can fulfill.

How is your party holding up? Do you have characters with zero surges left? Have you lost any PCs up until this point? What do you think your party’s chance of survival is based on your resources?

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1 Matthew. December 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm

The Bruiser only used its Tail Swipe once?

Tail Swipe | RECHARGE [emphasis mine] when first bloodied
Trigger: The bruiser takes damage from an enemy within 2 squares of it.
Attack (Immediate Reaction): Close blast 2 (creatures in the blast); +7 vs. Reflex.
Hit: 2d8+6 damage, and the target falls prone.

Oops. 🙂

2 Ameron December 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I don’t remember if the Bruiser used the tail swipe earlier or not. With seven players it’s often tough to catch everything that’s going, on especially when it’s not happening to your character. I suspect that the DM used it earlier in the battle and I just missed it (which is why it’s not in my write-up). He definitely used it when he got bloodied and I clearly remember taking 16 points of damage.

3 Randy Marchese January 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm

That was a hell of a session that week (I’m the crossbow wielding rogue). Just for info if I die die (I have no healing surges left) do I come back for the next encounter or do you have to find a revival scroll or something for me.

4 Arbanax January 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Another great write up, despite sounding heavy in combat and little in RPlaying, its still interesting to read. Thanks for sharing, it would be my hope after however many weeks of playing the party didn’t just kaput with a TPK, even if the path to victory meant a few heroic deaths to get there.

5 Gaptooth January 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

This is slightly off-topic, but I can’t find a contact form or address anywhere:

I’d love to see some tips for running D&D Encounters from a GM’s perspective. Do you already have a resource like that on the site? Is it something Dungeon’s Master might cover in future?

I have a lot of GM experience in a variety of games, but running an Encounters game has it’s own challenges. In particular, it would be great to hear how GMs deal with creative player-initiated twists that enrich the story but deviate from the pre-determined adventure path. In home games, bangs like these are what make the game pop, and you’re free to run with it, but Encounters seems to rely on predestination. How much freedom do you give the players to direct their characters from scene to scene? How much freedom do you give yourself to follow the interests and goals players bring to the game, and to spike the encounters accordingly?

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