This week marks the beginning of D&D Encounters season 5, Dark Legacy of Evard. After two weeks of discussion and speculation, the new season is finally here. Some DMs are starting at level 1, as the program intends, while others have decided to let players keep using characters developed during previous season of D&D Encounters. This season will no doubt be full of excitement, so let’s embark on the 13-week adventure together with our field report on week 1.
We expected a good turn out for the first night of the D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard but we had no idea just how good our turn out would be. By the time we were ready to begin we had two tables with seven players at each table. A few minutes later we had two more players show up bringing each table up to eight players. About half way through the encounter four more players showed up. Regrettably we had to turn them away. In part because the tables were already so full and in part because we were well into the combat by then. It looks like we’ll have to enlist another DM for next week. Hopefully our FLGS can get another copy of the adventure by then.
At my table we had four players who were playing 4e D&D for the very first time. One other player had some experience with LFR, but this was his first time out to D&D Encounters. The other three players were veterans, returning from last season.
The party at my table consisted of Jarren 1 and Jarren 2 (pre-gens from last season), an Eladrin Warlock, a Half-Elf Druid and a Human Vampire. The other three characters were the new Dungeon’s Master pre-gens Dolora the Tiefling Cleric, Byshir the Vryloka Blackguard and Drenda the Eladrin Vampire.
The adventure began with the heroes stopping in the town of Duponde. They took shelter from the wind and rain at the Old Owl Inn. While there they met a few interesting NPCs including three Dwarves from Hammerfast in town to fix the damaged bridge, a Human scholar and his Halfling servant in town doing research for a book, the captain of the watch, as well as the simple bartender and the owner and proprietor of the Old Owl Inn.
The heroes socialized with the few patrons in the tap room, exchanging pleasantries and learning a bit more about each of them. During the conversation they discovered that the scholar, a man named Nathaire, was writing a book about the famed Wizard Evard, probably known best for his spell Evard’s Black Tentacles.
When the captain, Grimbold, got up to leave and begin his rounds, Tilda, the owner of the Old Owl Inn decided that it was a good time to close up shop for the evening. The PCs retired to their chambers on the second floor and settled in for a good night’s rest despite the storm raging outside.
A few hours later the heroes were awoken by a powerful sensation. They felt like they were being wrenched in multiple directions and were unable to orient themselves. Although nothing in their rooms was missing, objects seemed slightly askew and shadows pressed in on any candles or lamps still alight.
The heroes quickly gathered their gear and met in the hallway. They realized that they’d just experienced shadowfall as the entire Inn passed into the Shadowfell. Screams and sounds of breaking crockery from downstairs immediately caught their attention. Someone was being attacked. The PCs rushed downstairs to investigate.
When they reached the common room they found Harald, the barkeep, motionless on the floor. Two small Gargoyles had clearly attacked him. Glancing around the room they could make out more of the small flying creatures. They looked remarkably like the one perched outside the Old Owl Inn.
The Human Vampire rushed the Gargoyle closest to Harald and attacked. Jarren 1 moved behind the bar and used Arc Lightning to attack and hit both Gargoyles near Harald. Drenda moved up with the other Vampire and destroyed the first Gargoyle. Jarren 2 used Magic Missile to hit the other injured Gargoyle.
Before the rest of the party could act, four Gargoyles flew at the heroes and attacked. The Human Vampire and Jarren 2 were knocked prone and dazed in the process.
The Warlock fired at the closest Gargoyle, but was unable to move to a more tactically advantageous position now that some of the Gargoyles were swarming the party. Dolora used a Healing Word right away to heal Jarren 2. She then moved and attacked one of the Gargoyles. Byshir didn’t have to go anywhere because one of the wounded Gargoyles had flown into an adjacent square. She hit it and destroyed it.
The other four Gargoyles fluttered around the party, attacking and knocking the Warlock prone. The rest missed horribly.
Finally the Druid and her bear companion worked to take down a fresh Gargoyle in an adjacent square. Two solid hits bloodied the little pest. The Druid was the only PC to notice a shadowy form moving in one of the corners. It seemed to be advancing on the party.
The battle with the Gargoyles continued with half of the party trading blows with half of the Gargoyles. Before the end of the second round three Shadow Stalkers moved undetected into the melee and attacked the Druid, Jarren 1 and Dolora. Jarren managed to dodge out of harm’s way, but the other two were engulfed in their own shadows. Fortunately the Druid managed to save at the end of her turn and expel the Shadow Stalker from her square. Dolora was not so lucky.
The Shadow Stalker that gave Dolora the “necrotic hug” wouldn’t let go. Dolora failed her save four times in a row. Fortunately as a Death Domain Cleric she had resist 5 necrotic so the blows weren’t as damaging to her as they would have been to the other party members.
The Gargoyles kept falling with regularity, one or two every round. Later in the combat two new Gargoyles joined the fight. They first attacked the Human Vampire who spend a considerable amount of the battle prone and dazed. They eventually redirected their attacks towards Byshir with no luck. Her high AC saved her from taking a single point of damage during the combat. Jarren 2 and the Druid were not so lucky. The combined healing powers of the Cleric and the Druid were the only things that kept Jarren 2 and the Druid in the battle. The bear companion’s defensive aura helped a lot as did his incredibly powerful claw attacks.
With teamwork and focused fire the party eventually destroyed all 10 Gargoyles and the three Shadow Stalkers. For a group using new and unfamiliar characters they did remarkably well. Although a few characters really took a beating, a few ended the combat relatively unscathed. I was very impressed at how quickly everyone picked up on just what their characters could do.
The biggest challenge I find when running a table with this many players is that it does take a while to get through an entire combat round so people can get distracted easily. With new players and new characters there was constant chatter around the table, regardless of who was acting. It was necessary in this situation and it turned out to be quite helpful as the more experienced players assisted the newer players.
The set up and the role-playing took just over an hour. The group got right into the social interaction at the beginning and didn’t just try to skip ahead to the fighting. They got immersed into their characters and tried to act as they felt was appropriate. Very few actual checks were required, and I thought it ran very smoothly.
Everyone at our FLGS decided to begin this season at level 3. This let returning PCs begin with any loot they’d accumulated in the previous season. I think this was a big reason our numbers were so high. Between previous seasons we saw a lot of turnover, but this time we didn’t loose anyone.
As for scaling the encounter I decided to run the monsters exactly as they were printed. The Gargoyles were level 1 skirmishers (worth 100 XP each) and the Shadow Stalkers were level 3 lurkers (worth 150 XP each). My plan was to just add a few more monsters to make up for the empowered characters. When I realized we were running a party of eight I had to do some quick math to ensure a suitable challenge without overwhelming and killing the PCs.
The encounter I ran ended up being worth 1,450 XP or about 175 XP per character. According to what was printed in the adventure, a party of five level 1 PCs would earn 125 XP for the combat and 125 XP for the role-playing – a total of 250 XP for the encounter. My level 3 party, equipped with a few magical items, more hit points and better defenses earned 50 XP more than that; a fair reward in my opinion.
How did the first week of D&D Encounters season 5 go at your FLGS? Did you see increased numbers like we did or did you loose players? How many groups decided to begin play above level 1? Did anyone use the Dungeon’s Master pre-gens? If so what did you think of them?
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