Surrounded by 20 Phantom Brigade soldiers, the party of seven decided to attack Salazar Vladistone and fight their way out of the burning town of Inverness. What looked like the making of a TPK ended up being one of the most exciting weeks of D&D Encounters I’ve played so far.
When running last week’s encounter I decided to give the players a compelling motivate to fight the Phantom Brigade soldiers rather than avoid them or flee. The PCs found Faldyra passed out in her home choking on smoke and about to be consumed by fire. They rescued her, but that meant that this week’s encounter needed some tweaking.
As written, last week’s encounter was supposed to be nothing more than a hack and slash battle with some ghosts. Faldyra wasn’t supposed to be rescued until this week. Since they already rescued her I had to make a few adjustments.
The party took a short rest after rescuing Faldyra and defeating the ghostly soldiers from the previous encounter. The fastest way out of the burning town was through the same gap in the wall they used to get in, just past the cemetery. Unfortunately Vladistone was already in the cemetery with a squad of Phantom Brigade soldiers.
“Find her!” ordered Vladistone to the phantom soldiers. “This is her fault! I want her found and brought to me unharmed.”
The PCs realized he was looking for Faldyra. They didn’t know why, but he said that she wasn’t to be harmed. Perhaps they could escape without any further need for bloodshed? A dozen Phantom Brigade soldiers soon discovered the party hiding behind a nearby house. The PCs realized that they were badly outnumbers so they went along willingly with the ghosts.
This week the party consisted of Belgos (the Dragonborn variant), Fargrim, two Jarrens, Keira, Valenae and another Wizard (this one specializing in charm magic). Faldyra was also on their side so the party had seven PCs and one NPC.
The ghost soldiers brought Faldyra to Vladistone while keeping the rest of the PCs further away. Vladistone stood near his wife’s gravestone. “Why won’t she appear?” He demanded of Faldyra. “What vile spell keeps my wife from me? Answer ,Wizard!”
Faldyra looked back at the party. The more astute realized that she had no idea what was going on or what Vladistone was talking about. “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I can perform a ritual to try and have her appear before you.” The desperate Vladistone reluctantly agreed.
“I will need their help,” she said. “This ritual requires powerful magic and I will have a greater chance of success if the others assist me.” Vladistone nodded and Valenae, Jarren and the charm Wizard all joined Faldyra near the gravestone. “We’ll need space, please stand back,” she said to Vladistone and his troops. They obeyed and stepped back.
“I don’t think this will work, but we have nothing to loose,” she whispered to the three PCs.” Valenae and the Wizard quickly concoct a contingency plan just in case things didn’t work as expected.
Faldyra began the ritual and the three spellcasters accompanied her, all rolling successfully on their assist. The other Jarren observed and realized that the ritual Faldyra was attempting had almost no chance of working. He quietly told the other party members to be ready. When the ritual ended things could get ugly.
As Faldyra neared the end of the ritual the assisting PCs knew without a doubt that it wouldn’t work. As soon as Faldyra reached the last syllable the charm Wizard began enacting the contingency plan. He cast Ghost Sound. A successful Arcana check (17 on the die) allowed him to hide the casting in the final gestures of the ritual. The Ghost Sound imitated the muffled voice of a woman.
A natural 20 on the Bluff check made it convincing enough that Vladistone rushed to the gravestone as he called out to his wife. His guard down, Valenae attacked and hit with Smite Undead. The hit pushed Vladistone 5 squares away from the battle and immobilized him.
Before going into any more details about how this played out let me explain what I thought would happen. As written, this encounter was supposed to have Vladistone and three Templars. I added two more Templars, bringing the total to five and added 15 Squires (minions from the previous encounter). I never intended to use them all against the party.
I expected these overwhelming numbers to keep the party from attacking right away. After the ritual failed I was planning to have Faldyra convince Vladistone that she needed the proper components to perform the ritual successfully. He would have then sent half of the soldiers away to gather the materials. However, the players attacked before I could thin the numbers. So they were stuck battling 21 opponents. Even with Faldyra as an active NPC this encounter had ugly written all over it.
With Vladistone away from melee and immobilized the PCs got to work on the rest of the Phantom Brigade soldiers. They didn’t know which ones were minions so they cast a wide net. Fortunately the charm Wizard was next in the initiative and used Beguiling Strands to take out four minions. He then turned around, used and action point and hit three more minions. Just like that 1/3 of the opponents were gone.
Fargrim and Keira both attacked Templars, hitting hard early on. Unfortunately the ghosts were all insubstantial so even good hits still only inflicted half damage. When the Templars acted three of them used their Frightful Majesty to daze six of the eight party members. The other two Templars took full advantage and pounded on the heroes while they were dazed.
As the battle continued the PCs did what they always do and spread out the damage equally among the five Templars. Belgos used his disruptive shot to again immobilized Vladistone. An action point later Belgos also used Clever Shot to slide him another 2 squares further away.
Vladistone then failed his save on the next two rounds. He was limited to using his crossbow, unable to move and get into melee. When he finally did make his save to negate the immobilization he was knocked prone before the start of his next turn. He stood as his move action but was still too far to engage anyone by charging.
It wasn’t until the sixth round of combat that Vladistone finally engaged the PCs in melee. By then they’d killed all of the minions and three of the Templars, leaving only two bloodied Templars. Vladistone managed to get close enough to use his Spectral Fury and attack two opponents. He used his action point and did it again.
The PCs took a lot of damage during the battle. Belgos, Fargrim, both Jarrens and the charm Wizard were all unconscious and making death saves at separate points during the battle. Fortunately Healing Word and two successful Heal checks from nearby allies brought everyone back into combat except the charm Wizard. He was only unconscious for the last round and was revived after the fighting was over.
The PCs managed to surround the bloodied Vladistone and unleashed everything upon him. He survived just long enough to used his Vengeance-Drive Fury (close burst 1) on his final attack, hitting five PCs before Valenae scored the only crit of the combat to destroy Salazar Vladistone.
The PCs quickly rummaged through the burning debris to recover some much needed supplies before abandoning the charred remains of the town they’d worked so hard to build over the past six months. They met up with Malgram and the refugees at the edge of the forest and began the long journey to Hammerfast.
So ends chapter two of D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade. When chapter three begins next week, two months have passed and the PCs are back in Hammerfast. We’ll see how the events from chapters one and two shape the final chapter.
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 8 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.
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