This was it, the final culmination of everything we’d worked for over the past 19 weeks. The heroes helped defend the keep over the past three weeks while Benwick and his allies, the black dragon and the lizardman army, attempted to take control. This week the heroes had their final showdown with Benwick. There were only two possible outcomes: The death of Benwick or the death of the PCs. Let the showdown begin.
Knowing this was the final week of D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands we had a great turnout. We had a party of eight including Berrian, Eldeth, Hagen, Quinn, Sola, a Cavalier, a Rogue and a Runepriest. The extra party members meant the DM had to balance the encounter by adding more monsters. Add to the mix three soldier minions, the priestess Chendera and a friendly bailiff named Kendon and the battle was a very busy and crowded scene.
The two defenders, Quinn and the Cavalier, were both down to just one healing surge each. The Rogue had none. Sola on the other hand had six. Eldeth, who was absent during the previous encounters in this chapter, had all of her surges. This meant that the guys who had traditionally been at the front of the battle needed to step back and let a few of the others take point. Unfortunately Quinn rolled the highest initiative and Sola the lowest, so despite our best intentions things got ugly fast.
With so many combatants on the map the combat was extremely crowded. This meant that any time Benwick used a blast or burst attack it targeted a lot of the PCs at once. We decided to keep two of our three soldiers, along with the Rogue and Berrian, near the front doors. This kept them out of harms way from melee attacks and let them provide covering fire as necessary.
Quinn was the first combatant into the room and he failed to notice the first Deathrattle Viper hiding behind one of the columns. It attacked him, bloodying him in the first round. The Runepriest and Sola moved up to help him. Sola used her Cure Light Wounds to grant Quinn healing without expending a surge.
Eldeth raced past the first melee battle and charge directly towards Benwick. She managed to land a solid blow early in the combat. Unfortunately she too failed to notice a hidden Viper and was also attacked.
The Cavalier, Hagen, Chendera and Kendon worked their way up the other side of the room towards Benwick. None of them noticed the Vipers either. For better or worse, this group managed to stay together and two Vipers engaged them simultaneously.
Benwick launched his snake pellets early in the first round and all four of the stupid snaked managed to hit and blind their targets. Chendera was effectively removed from the entire battle as she failed her save at least five times in a row.
Much like every other battle this season we did an excellent job of facing off against all of the opponents simultaneously, spreading the damage across all of them and dropping none. With so many of the PCs down to their last few hit points and healing surges things didn’t look good.
During the third round Benwick called out to Kendon and invited him to switch sides and join him. Quinn, the next to act, tried a Diplomacy check to convince Kendon not to listen to Benwick. Unfortunately he wasn’t convincing enough because Kendon changed sides mid-battle. This was made additionally painful because by this point Kendon had +2 to all defenses (from Hagen’s daily power) and 5 temporary hit points (from Sola’s encounter power). Talk about insult to injury.
It took a couple of rounds for us to finally destroy the first Viper and all of Benwick’s snakes from the snake pellets. By then the Cavalier was unconscious, the minions were all dead, and the Runepriest kept falling unconscious and then getting healed. It was bleak.
I’d like to note for the record that tonight of all nights was when karma decided to balance the scales for our table. Berrian, who had rolled stellar throughout D&D Encounters, began rolling the worst rolls of the season. Quinn, who’s damage rolls had been consistently high, rolled 1 on just about every attack. Meanwhile, the DM hit with almost every attack, doing maximum damage more than twice every round. The DM also rolled more crits during this encounter than in all of the previous 19 encounters combined. I know that what goes around comes around but ouch!
The battle raged on for almost 3 hours of real time. For the last hour everything on the map was bloodied. Tactics were pretty much gone as the group was all mangled together in one massive grouping. Everyone just kept swinging and attacking the closest combatant. Eldeth finally managed to drop Benwick to exactly 0 hit points.
Kendon was still fighting and two Vipers were still on the board when Benwick fell. With a very realistic chance that the PC would die as well, I did what any good leader should. Sola ran over to the unconscious Lord Drysdale, pickup him up and then fled the combat. She called out to the heroes to follow here into the narrow passage where the remaining combatants couldn’t surround them. Chendera was first to follow and she quickly healed Lord Drysdale, ensuring that he would live despite the hero’s fate.
One round later Kendon and the remaining Vipers realized that things were done and they fled. A few PCs kept firing at them as they ran away, but it was clear that they weren’t going to keep fighting back. The PCs were successful. We defended the keep and saved Lord Drysdale.
With the encounter over the DM described the aftermath of the siege. Lord Drysdale agreed to change the way he rules Restwell Keep. He realized that if he’d been more attentive to everything in the keep things might not have escalated to the level they did. The PCs were again acknowledged as heroes. They were rewarded with gold and magical treasures. The reputation they came to the keep on the borderlands to establish was earned though blood and deed.
Sometime over the next week I’ll post an article that sums up my thoughts on D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands. But until then, here are some of the highlights.
I thought that 20 weeks was too long for a game that’s only played one week at a time. Howeer, I believe it would make an excellent adventure for a group just starting out that could do one chapter at a time in one sitting.
I really liked the pre-generated characters this time around. They were much better than those provided for the Dark Sun adventure in season 2.
My biggest criticism is the way rewards were handled. I felt that the distribution of loot, specifically magical treasure, was extremely mismanaged. We had a couple of players show up for the first few adventures and then never come back. Before they left they claimed a couple of items. This meant that subsequent encounters were that much more challenging because no one in the group had a +1 sword or +1 armor as the author might have believed. Awarding two items at the end of the adventure was just insulting since none of these character will ever be used again.
I also felt that the monetary rewards were unnecessary since there was nothing of any real value the PCs could purchase. The PCs weren’t going to earn enough to buy a level 1 magic item so what’s the point. If I ever ran this adventure again I’d just tally up all the cash and when the party had enough to get a magic item I’d add it to the next encounter’s rewards.
But I don’t want to focus on just the negative. As I said I really enjoyed the adventure and I’m really looking forward to season 4, D&D Encounters: Marc of the Phantom Brigade that begins next week. I’ll be the DM for my group so the weekly recaps going forward will offer more insight from that point of view.
To everyone who participated in D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands, I hope you enjoyed your experience. Be sure to thank your FLGS for hosting the event and be sure to purchase something from them. If you don’t support them then they have less reason to keep hosting these weekly games. I’d like to thank Wayne at Dueling Grounds in Toronto for his continued support of the D&D Encounters program. I’d also like to thank our DM, Al for doing such and excellent job over the past 20 weeks.
How did the final encounter go for your group? Did the heroes emerge victorious? Did anyone die? What are your overall thoughts on this season of D&D Encounters?
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, including the pre-generated characters for the upcoming season 4 of D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade.