D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 24, 2011

The morning began with a difficult river crossing followed by an unexpected goblin ambush in the woods. With any luck the heroes might actually reach the ruins of Castle Inverness without any other mishaps or violence. This week’s encounter began at dusk, just as the caravan spotted the ruins of Castle Inverness in the distance.

Brother Splintershield, the leader of the new community, called the caravan to a halt. He beckoned the adventurers to come forth along with Malgram and his scouts. Splintershield and his acolytes are planning to perform a ritual on the site of the castle ruins. This will consecrate the ground, protecting it from evil. But before he can begin, he wants to make sure things are safe.

Malgram and his Rangers agree to search the perimeter. Splintershield asks the PCs to check the actual ruins. They look abandoned from here, but better safe than sorry. The party, this week consisting of Belgos (the Dragonborn), Jarren, Keira, Valenae, a Battlemind and another Rogue, agreed to check it out.

When the group reached the front gate, or what’s left of it, they did a preliminary search. They found nothing out of the ordinary. Jarren decided to check for magical auras and found one. The main gate was at one point a great archway. The arch has long been destroyed, but the supporting columns still radiated a faint residual protective aura. It’s harmless but noticeable to all passing through the main gate.

After passing through the main gate the party decided to split up to cover more ground. Jarren decided to stay near the main gate and keep watch. He climbed on top of the wall and observed.

Keira and the Battlemind explored the North West tower and an old abandoned wagon nearby. They found nothing of note, but figured the wagon was easily salvageable with a bit of work. Valenae passed the wagon and ventured towards the graveyard where she found 13 gravestones. They appeared well tended despite their age. One of them bore the inscription “Oldivya Vladstone. Wife and friend.”

Belgos spotted a fountain near the South East tower and really wanted to check it out. The Rogue accompanied him. As they passed by the base of the main tower they decided that the fountain could wait. They explored the base they found strange writing on the original castle cornerstone but no one in the party could decipher it.

Everyone but Jarren met up near the fountain where they traded stories of their findings. Together they all move towards the fountain and South East tower. As soon as they got near the fountain, everyone but the Rogue rolled exceptional Perception checks (three 20s and a 19) and spotted two very large oozes emerging from within the fountain. The oozes moved swiftly, and got right next to the party.

Valenae and Keira both knew all about these Ochre Jellies and informed the party. Belgos shifted away from the adjacent ooze and then tried to scale the wall and get a better vantage point from which to use his bow. However he couldn’t find secure footing and failed. He then used his breath weapon to deal the first blow against the ooze.

Next the Battlemind marked both oozes and attacked. The Rogue and Keira each took different oozes and both dealt a lot of damage early. Valenae hit early and granted everyone temporary hit points. Jarren used Magic Missile from way off in the distance, hitting an ooze.

The creatures tag-teamed the Battlemind, hitting him hard and dealing ongoing acid damage.

The heroes decided to focus fire on the ooze that was more hurt, bloodying it. That’s when it split into two smaller Ochre Jellies, something the party was well aware would happen. They then focused on one of the smaller oozes killing it in the next round.

Jarren continued providing ranged support from almost 20 squares away, hitting more often than not with Arc Lightning. Belgos kept firing from the other side of the battle, but wasn’t able to get up the wall no matter how hard and how often he tried.

After the first little ooze fell Keira and the Battlemind focused on the larger original Ochre Jelly. One round latter they blooded it and it too split into two smaller oozes.

The Battlemind continued drawing attack from the marked Ochre Jellies and took a lot of hits during the fight. Thankfully, Valenae kept healing him and providing resist 2 to all damage.

The party made short work of the Ochre Jellies after they split into smaller creatures, easily destroying then all. The defender took a lot of damage, but not nearly as much as I expected him to take. I missed him with 6 consecutive attacks near the end of the battle.

Good tactics and three strikers made a huge difference. Having Jarren stay so far out of the battle meant he was completely safe. After almost failing three death saves last week I can’t blame him for being so cautious.

When the party finally searched the fountain they found a magical +1 Orb of Inevitable Continuance. Jarren got this item since he’s the only one who could use it.

I was a bit concerned about how thing might have turned out when the PCs split the party, but it all ended up working out ok in the end. It was one of those rare times when splitting the party didn’t turn out to be a terrible idea.

One quick note about the characters at my table. I know that Wizards of the Coast wants people to only use D&D Essentials books for character creation. However, at our FLGS we didn’t want to impose this restriction. We certainly encourage everyone to use the new books, but with our numbers dwindling the last thing we want to do is loose a player because he can’t play the character he wants to play. As long as his PC is 4e legal, I’m happy to let anyone play at my table. That’s why we have a Battlemind in our party.

As an added bonus this season we’re recording our D&D Encounters experiences and making them available to you as downloadable podcasts courtesy of The Shattered Sea. Listen to the Week 3 Encounter. Bear in mind that these recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at time it may be difficult to hear everyone.

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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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alton February 24, 2011 at 10:15 am

I am with you with creating 4e compatible characters. I have a couple of players who did not want to play the pregens. Unfortunately, none of them have subscriptions to the character builder and don’t have the books for Essentials. They all have the PHB! I just look over the character beforehand and approve it before my gaming session.

Isn’t this a great season? I am enjoying it immensely.
Alton´s last blog post ..Review- Lord of the White Field

2 Albert February 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I’m with you on letting people play what they want to play. As long as its cool with the DM then by all means!

This week our table was at eight or nine people. Some of the players showed some dissatisfaction that they only had two turns before the thing was over.

We did all of the looking around and info gathering stuff. half of the party went to the graveyard and the other half went to the fountain, while one guy went to scope out the center tower.

When the jellies attacked they got a surprise round on our ranger. After a few turns the graveyard team was able to make it to the fountain. There were four of these jellies and we made quick work of them. Nothing really happened just killed Jellies and roamed around for a Lucky Blade that nobody could use. >_> I hate this new treasure system…and No gold makes me look forward to the exp that much more…

3 Sunyaku February 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

At our FLGS, we are limited to Essentials, but our numbers are actually increasing slightly over the previous season. Some players noted that they intentionally took a break from “Keep on the Borderlands” because they simply didn’t want to experience a rehashed adventure they had already been through.

One thing I’m a little dissapointed with is the treasure table. I may stop using it. In two of our games, players received items that aren’t in any of the Essentials product books. I assume these items would have been in the supplements that were delayed, or deferred into eternity.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Long Distance Gaming with Remote-Virtual Play

4 Lahrs February 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Things finally got back to normal for our Encounters group. Our second DM was able to return and our parties were back down to a reasonable level. However, since one of my regulars failed to show, we only had four in my group, a tiefling Hexblade, a dragonborn hunter, a human paladin and a half-elf druid with bear companion.

Last week saw the party defend Faldyra, and although she begged for them to remain quiet on the attack, they told Malgram anyway. Malgram is rather upset with Faldyra and Splintershield, who needed the herbs for the ritual, so Splintershield gave the group a healing potion for their troubles. The module states the exploration was supposed to happen at dusk, but the party refused to go, preferring to wait until morning. However, the druid and hexblade decided to do some scouting on the outside boundaries of the ruins, but turned up nothing. Our hexblade, with a 26 on stealth, was able to dart in and out of the shadows with ease, remaining completely hidden. Unfortunately, the bumbling druid (nat 1) was unable to follow in his friends footsteps, so he constantly resorted to yelling out for his friend. Still, nothing was found, so despite the attempt to silently scout, nothing occurred and they went back to report that they found nothing.

I was able to find a nice color map of the area on the official Wizards forum, which I allowed the group to pass around, helping give a nice visual. They approached cautiously, but after the shiver went down their spine and the feeling of having passed through time, the paladin stepped back through, turned, and made sure she could see everyone. She could, but the group decided they may need some extra help so they went back to Malgram and asked if he could spare any mercenaries. I have a rule which makes many skill checks only usable if a person is trained in the skill. At this point was trained in arcana, so after a successful diplomacy check, Malgram provided an apprentice mage. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but I let the paladin play both her character and while in battle, the mage pre-gen that came with the module. Upon return, he examined the ruins, and while expressing over and over he was just an apprentice, he discussed his findings, it was a magic barrier that once held strong long ago, but the effects had almost died away, which explained the small shiver but lack of any complications otherwise.

The group began a sweep of the front towers, finding rubble and nothing of interest along the way, before going straight to the fountain. Our druid inspected the fountain with a nature check, and luckily spotted oozes coming out of the fountain, preventing a sneak attack. The hexblade had readied an action since coming through the gate, so I allowed him his attack before rolling initiative.

I usually up the difficulty of the encounters, as I have found the group tears through them too easily otherwise, so I added in a third slime, and for the first time in a long time, it greatly slowed the battle down. The oozes defenses were average, but 153 HP each (102 plus the 51 after dividing) made the battle go on for too long.

Before the battle began, I asked each person to describe the damage type with each attack due to the oozes acid resistance, but I didn’t want to give any more information away. The battle was going smoothly when the person playing the mage asked if she should try a cold attack or lightning, the group suggested cold, which she did, dropping the ooze into the bloodied range and forcing a split. I described the split as the group heard a big squelch and shuddering as the ooze divided in half. The druid however believed I had suggested it became cold and cracked apart, and despite the rest of the group understanding what I had said; now believed cold damage would make them split. Cold attacks were now banned (by the players) to prevent further splintering. Two turns later, the hex blade did an attack with necrotic and fire damage on a different ooze, which also split. At this point, all elemental attacks were banned. Next round, the paladin, who is attacking the last ooze which hadn’t split, did a basic attack, no elemental damage, and this ooze then split as well. I couldn’t help but chuckle as a fierce panic and debate spread through the group on what to do next. They were afraid to attack the second halves, fearing they may split as well. The big problem is they did not know if the oozes were bloodied, as I never mentioned they were. They asked, but how do you describe a bloodied ooze? I let them roll, but the two trained in dungeoneering failed their checks.

The battle took almost two hours, which was excessive for our group, but we were all having so much fun, it didn’t matter. In fact, between the fantastic RP, which earned everyone some extra XP, and a bewildered fight against a multiplying enemy, it was one of our favorite encounters yet. When it was over, they discovered a flaming sword stuck in the fountain, and after removing it, clean water began to flow, which will provide a great water source for a newly forming town.

It was getting late, so I called the session there, but I told them the encounter was not over, so they will not be getting their HP or encounter powers back just yet, and I am going to let them finish exploring next week. They all left with the fear of what may be lurking in the grave yard or central tower.

The encounter went on long enough, and with the smaller groups each person had more turns, and the Fortune cards actually were put to use with mild success. I still don’t want to make an overall statement, but at the moment, only two people seem interested in buying packs, one from each table.

@Sunyaku – Check out this link here: http://community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons/go/thread/view/91301/26956953/Magic_Item_tables_for_March_of_the_Phantom_Brigade . It should take you to the official Wizards forum and a thread with the magic item table and where to find a description of each item. I didn’t realize, but many of them come straight from the original 4th PHB. So far I have had no issues with the magic chart, but I am going to make sure they don’t get multiples of items, and if only one or two players is next in line for an item, I will make sure they get something they can use.

5 Sunyaku February 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm

@ Lahrs – Thanks for the link — I found this one in the thread as well:

http://skitzinc.wikispaces.com/file/view/Season+4+Rewards.pdf/200138380/Season%204%20Rewards.pdf

Someone threw all the items in the treasure table into a PDF that you can cut up and give to players.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Heroes of Shadow- Shadowfell Traps- Terrain &amp Hazards 1

6 Feeroper February 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Hey Ameron,

My schedule finally got changed at work and now Ill be able to play in encounters for the 1st time ever as I now get off in time.

Ill hopefully be coming to Dueling Grounds this week to play, and was wondering, do I need to sign up via Warhorn or anything like that? Or do i just show up?

I assume I just roll up a level 1 character or use one of the pre-gens?

Sorry for all the questions. Ive never done Encounters before. Thanks!

7 Al February 28, 2011 at 8:48 am

I’ll answer for Ameron, since I’m the 2nd DM this season at Dueling Grounds. Feeroper just show up and bring a level 1 character and you’ll play at my table this week because Ameron’s played a double last week due to scheduling issues.

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