Trapped in the Shadowfell, the adventures looked for answers. How did the entire town of Duponde end up here? More importantly how will they return home? And what happened to the Wizard and his Halfling companion? Could they have anything to do with this or were they dragged out of the Old Owl Inn while the heroes fought the Gargoyles last week?
My FLGS ran two super tables last week with eight players at each. We even had to turn players away after we began. Anticipating another strong showing we were prepared to run three tables in stead of just two. As it turned out we ended up with three DMs and 13 players. So we ran two tables with four players at each and a third table (mine) with five players.
The party at my table was made up of Jarren 1, Jarren 2, a Dragonborn Barbarian, Eladrin Warlock and Half-elf Druid. I’d say that the players ranged from moderate to almost no experience. Realizing that the group lacked any hard-core veterans I decided to take it easy on the party when it came time for combat. As it turned out they still had a lot of trouble, but well get to that shortly.
Things picked up about 15 minutes after the end of last week’s encounter. Unlike the March of the Phantom Brigade, this season’s adventure doesn’t have the urgency for the PCs to rush from one encounter to the next. This is good news for the players as it allowed them to take multiple short rests and maximize the benefits of healing powers between encounters.
The adventurers and the other guest staying at the Old Owl Inn all gathered in the common room after the combat ended. The guests were frightened and confused. The PCs explained the situation and that scared the guests even more than not knowing.
The three Dwarven engineers in town to fix the bridge were incredibly excitable. The brothers decided that the safest course of action was to barricade all of the doors and windows and defend the Inn from any more monsters. Before anyone could stop them they broke apart tables and started boarding up windows.
Tilda tried to stop the Dwarves from destroying the furniture but had no luck. Someone finally asked what happened to the annoying Halfling. It was then that the PCs and Tilda realized that the Wizard Nathaire and his Halfling companion Remy were not in the common room with everyone else.
The PCs checked out the rooms where these two were staying and didn’t see any signs of a struggle that might indicate that they were taken against their will. The PCs went out the side door, an exit that they couldn’t see during the combat and could have easily been the way that the missing two could have left the premises, and with a natural 20 on Perception found tracks.
As the heroes followed the tracks into the main street they discovered that the entire town of Duponde experienced shadowfall and was now in the Shadowfell. The townsfolk seemed scared and kept inside their shops and homes, locking doors and windows. In the distance the PCs could hear creatures and every now and then caught glimpses of shadow creatures out of the corner of their eye.
Not long after the PCs left the Old Owl Inn they ran into Grimbold, the commander of the town’s militia that they’d met earlier at the Inn. He asked the party for their assistance. Grimbold and his men took to the streets to keep order and defend the town form the shadow monsters. However he currently has two situations that require immediate attention.
The Halfling, Remy, was seen fleeing the town and running into the forest. As he passed through the North gate a guard tried to stop him but was stabbed in the process. Grimbold suspects that Remy is involved with whatever caused Duponde to shadowfall or at least knows something.
Grimbold’s other pressing issue is that his men are ill-equipped to fight monsters. The armory was crawling with monsters and those creatures already killed men who were trying to arm themselves. He asked the PCs if they would either track down the Halfling or clear out the armory.
Without hesitation the PCs agreed to go to the armory. After all, once the townsfolk were armed they could defend themselves and that would give the adventurers time to investigate what’s going on without having to worry about the locals. Grimbold provided directions to the armory and told them that he’d send his men along shortly to collect arms and armor after the PCs took care of the dangers.
When the PCs approached the armory they discovered that they had to cross over the aqueduct. The water wasn’t incredibly deep, but there were two bridges. No need to get wet. They decided to split up. The Druid and Warlock took one bridge and the Barbarian and two Jarrens took the other. Big mistake.
As soon as they decided to split up I knew things were going to get ugly. The two Jarrens may have a lot of firepower but they’re incredibly soft. Sure they have the Barbarian there to help, but he’s pretty much the same as them; excellent output, terrible defenses. With the Druid, the party’s only healer more than 5 squares away things went downhill fast.
Since being in the Shadowfell the PCs observed that light sources illuminate only half as much as they normally do in the real world. Since it was night in the Shadowfell things were exceptionally difficult to see. Four PCs decided to carry light sources. Both Jarrens used magical light, the Barbarian light a torch and the Warlock cracked a sun rod.
Slowly they all crossed the bridge. No sign of monsters. I allowed everyone to make Perception checks as minor actions once they brought the light near a hidden creature. The first few checks failed. Finally the Barbarian spotted a Shadow. He threw the torch into the Shadow’s square making it visible to everyone. The Warlock then spotted two more.
I let the PCs move for two rounds before I had any of the monsters attack. This let them all get across the bridges (except for Jarren 1 who typically chose to remain back and fire into the melee). By the time the monsters acted the PCs had already killed three minions and spotted a Spider Swarm on the side of the armory.
Now it was time for the monsters to fight back. The Spider Swarm engulfed Jarren 2. A giant Deathjump Spider pounced on the Druid and her bear. The Shadows all found targets and gave them the Shadow Meld or as I kept calling it the “necrotic hug.”
I’m not sure why, but this was about the time that the party decided to ignore the minions. Although no one actually said it, the attitude was “they’re only minions” so everyone left them alone. After the way things turned out that’s a mistake they won’t make again any time soon.
The minions were level 1 lurkers. They had terrible defenses and, being minions, were easily destroyed by any attack that deals damage since they only have 1 hit point. However, when the Shadow hit with the necrotic hug it merged with the PC and couldn’t be attacked directly. On a hit, the hug did 4 points of damage. The PC then took 4 ongoing damage at the beginning of their next turn. The hug persisted until they saved, at which time the Shadow was expelled into an adjacent square.
The problem was that they kept hugging the PCs. When they successfully hugged (which they did, almost every round), the affected PC took 8 damage each round (4 from the initial hug and 4 from ongoing damage). The Wizards never bothered to target the Shadows with Magic Missiles and just get rid of them. Instead they were too focused on getting the swarms with blasts and bursts.
The Barbarian got the strange notion that there was magic to be found in the armory so he spent far too many rounds trying to get inside while the fighting was still in progress. He did manage to used his acid breath to destroy the first Spider Swarm but then went right back to the door. When he finally got in he spent another two rounds searching for magical treasure (the whole time being hugged by a Shadow). By the time he realized that there was nothing magical inside and rejoined the fight the Druid’s bear and Jarren 2 were unconscious, and Jarren 1 was about to fall because of the ongoing hug damage.
Just as things looked truly lost, things fell into place. The Druid and Warlock finally managed to kill the Deathjump Spider that the bear had softened up considerably before falling unconscious. Then the Warlock, who until this point had only taken damage from one necrotic hug, took on the role of defender. He intentionally put himself in harms way, drawing a Shadow hug and the Spider Swarm’s full brunt. This went on for two rounds while the Druid revived Jarren 2. Both Wizards then used Magic Missile to take out the remaining minions.
Everyone was down to less than ¼ of their hit points by the end of the fight. With the immediate danger taken care of they were able to take multiple short rests and once again maximize healing magic. While they tended to their wounds the town’s militia arrived on scene and began donning armor and equipping themselves with the swords and crossbows now safely accessible.
The encounter, as written, has 2 Spider Swarms, 1 Deathjump Spider and 3 Shadow minions. It’s designed for five level 1 characters. We had four level 3 characters so I had to make a few adjustments. I added 5 more minions (2 for each PC). I also upped the damage on the Death Jump Spider from 1d6+3 to 2d6+5 (as is indicated on the updated monster damage chart from the DMG). These were my only changes – and it nearly killed them.
How did things go for you this week? Both of the other tables at my FLGS opted to search for Remy in the forest. Which encounter did your table run? For those who were at the armory, did anyone else face the kind of difficulties that my players did? Did anyone else dismiss the minions as inconsequential and then come to regret it?
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