D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 19, 2011

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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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dixon Trimline May 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

Oh man, this is so fascinating, now that I’ve actually started PLAYING in these games. Last night was my first Encounters, and I. Loved. It. After a brief discussion, our table of 4 1st lvl characters (Knight, Paladin, Druid, and Wizard) decided to go to the armory, and had all sorts of fun with the spiders and shadows.

We suffered a few necrotic hugs, but we saw the value in eliminating those horrible minions as quickly as possible. Then the defenders ganged up on the deathjump spider while my druid and wolf focused on the remaining spider swarm.

I suffered the most damage (maybe I shouldn’t be charging into combat so much), but nobody fell, and the wizard had a GREAT moment where he annihilated the spider swarm with his Fountain of Flame daily. Once again, tons and lots and piles of fun.

2 Bobbydrake75 May 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

My party was a group of 6, Knight, Cleric, Fighter, Striker(not sure), Binder, and Shaman. Since I was a wee babe of roleplaying the first thing that I remember people saying was clear: Never split the party, ugh! So what happens 5 of the PCs make their way across the right bridge and the slayer tries to hide and go left. Striker versus spider swarm equals epic fail. What is worse I as the shaman was forced to put myself into a bad situation and leave the main group behind to try and save the striker without a clue. Long story short the striker nearly died and the right side of the fight did just fine. I bounced my spirit bear between the two groups to provide THP and the battle was won, I never lose an HP and ended with 4 THP!! Fun, but I was dissappointed by the fact that the experience that I earned in the first adventure was not transferred to the 2nd character. I’m not one to change horses mid-ride but I didn’t like the Vryloka Blackguard. All and all this wednesday night encounters isn’t a bad deal.

3 armageddonsocks May 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

Just wanted to say thank you, Ameron, for posting so much about Encounters. It was your blog that really got me interested in checking out this event for the first time last season, and now I’m running this season.

We had 4 tables going at Active Imagination. I believe it was 2 tables of 5 and 2 tables of 4, though I may be mistaken. I had 5 players, one of which was a very young (possibly < 10 years old – I never got a chance to ask) boy who was brand new to D&D. All 4 tables wound up choosing The Armory encounter – I'm glad of that, myself, since I felt that chasing down Remy was less interesting and less heroic than helping to defend the town, even though the end results of chasing down Remy would likely result in more exposition on the overall plot.

I had Tilda actually ask everyone in the Old Owl for help boarding up the lower level and securing the building against any further attacks. The dwarves were only too happy to do so. The players joined in, taking the interior doors off their hinges to use as braces on most of the outside doors – which lead them to discovering Nathaire and Remy were not in the building – and with a little investigation noting that neither of the two had slept in their beds during the night, nor had they taken their horses.

The necromancer found a short essay that Nathaire had accidentally left behind, a work focused on shadow magic with a lengthy entry about Evard and a hint of his presumed fate in Duponde. This was the book that lead Nathaire to the town in the first place, and Nathaire's notes scribbled in the margins about the unmarked tomb confirmed to the players that he was likely at the graveyard (something they were already guessing at).

Once the inn was secured, the players decided to venture out and investigate the graveyard – Tilda gave them directions to the site and requested that they send any poor citizens they encountered the Old Owl for shelter. The players set off confidently, unfortunately this dark reflection of Duponde was at best difficult to navigate if you were familiar with the "real" version of the town and the players were soon lost in the darkness. This set them up well for the encounter with Marshall Grimbold, and they were soon arriving at The Amory after choosing that option and getting their bearings set.

I did not modify any of the creatures for my table – I felt the low damage from the spiders (d6+3 as I recall) was a good balance against the swarms natural resistance to melee/ranged damage and the double dose of ongoing damage that the spider poison and the shadow leeching provided.

My players also split up crossing the bridges and that was their biggest tactical mistake. They had 2 Paladins (Eladrin and Vrylocka) an Elven Scout, a Dwarven Death Priest and a Human Necromancer. At the northern bridge they had the Eladrin Paladin, the Death Priest and the Necromancer. The other Paladin and the Scout crossed the south bridge. None of the monsters were revealed until the players had crossed the bridges, at which point things began going downhill rapidly for the adventurers.

It was fortunate that the Vrylocka and the Death priest were able to ignore the necrotic damage from the Shadows. This gave them a couple extra rounds before the Shadows wised up and detached themselves from those two characters (who actually declined to save against the effect to keep the minions on them and dealing 0 damage) and tried to attack the others.

The both Paladins and the Scout were taken out at one point. A desperate situation came about when both Paladins were dying adjacent to the Spider Swarms – both of which were at near-full health still. A healing word from the Death Priest and a valiant rescue effort by the Scout got both Paladins clear of the spiders and let the Necromancer bloody both of the swarms with a single Burning Hands attack.

It was a tough fight for the players, but they did succeed. They rested for a moment to patch themselves up and investigate the body of the poor watchman who had unlocked the doors of the Armory. While unable to save him, the players victory meant the town militia would be properly equipped to mount a defense of the benighted town.

Soon after the battle was over other watchmen and townsfolk began to arrive, most of them appearing terrified, ready to bolt home and hide from the menacing shadows that had invaded their town. The sight of the player characters, the news that these stranger travelers had won a victory against the darkness and secured the key to defending the town, inspired new determination and confidence among the citizens of Duponde.

I hope everyone had a much fun at their games as we did.

4 Anarkeith May 19, 2011 at 11:18 am

We had four 1st level characters (cleric, slayer, binder-warlock, and a ranger) that were potent but light on hp. I altered the minions slightly so that once they were expelled from their “necrotic hug”, they vanished. They dealt plenty of damage as it was due to some failed saving throws. At one point the whole party was down to single digit HP’s, and all the spiders were still alive. As they mopped up the spiders, I talked through the demise of the death jump spider since they had it dazed and weakened.

We ran a bit long on the rp’ing portion of the session. Since everyone was enjoying it, I just let it run for a bit. Exploring Duponde after the shadowfall was creepy fun as well.

One of my players ran a cleric called “Reverend Righteous”, sort of a Southern preacher style. Epic fun! We played at Card Kingdom, a new, cool gamestore in town.

5 Captain Spud May 19, 2011 at 11:31 am

As someone who doesn’t get to play Encounters myself, I love reading these recaps and back-seat driving your players. :)
Captain Spud´s last blog post ..Coles Notes- Minions pt2

6 Ameron May 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

@Dixon Trimline
I’m glad that you were finally able to participate in D&D Encounters. I thought that I’d get bored of doing just one encounter week after week, but here we are over a year later and I’m really having a great time.

Assuming you continue playing, be sure to comment regularly and let us know how things are going at your FLGS. The shared experience of playing the same encounter and then comparing notes afterward is a big part of what I find so appealing.

@Bobbydrake75
A lot of players assume that as long as all the PCs are on the same map together that you haven’t split the party. But when the leader can only heal you from 5 squares away, you’d better stay close together. I’m glad to hear that my table wasn’t the only one that split up and used both bridges. It was a poor tactical decisions but it seems to have been the common approach (oh well, live and learn).

When you change characters you still retain the XP the previous PC had earned up to that point. You don’t keep their swag. Your DM may not be aware of this change that was introduced during this season of D&D Encounters. I encourage you to point this out to the DM. Just be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make you look like a jerk.

From Dark Legacy of Evard, page 2, Creating a Character section.

“Changing Characters: Players can switch characters during a D&D Encounters season. If a player wants to do so, he or she can bring a new character with an amount of XP equal to the character he or she previously played in the season. However, the new character does not keep any treasure or items from the previous character.”

@armageddonsocks
Thank you for the kind words. We know that a lot of people want to play in D&D Encounters but can’t for whatever reason. By sharing our experiences every week we hope that it lets anyone who can’t play still share in the experience. Glad to hear that you’re out there playing and DMing now. It really is a lot of fun (as you can now attest to).

The combat may have been listed as a level 1 encounter but I suspect level 1 parties had a lot of trouble overcoming it, especially if they lacked a controller with blast or burst powers.

Choosing to intentionally fail the save against the Shadows is a brilliant tactical decision from the players whose characters have necrotic resistance. Simply brilliant!

I like that you worked in some role-playing where the PCs got a chance to be role models to the townsfolk. After all, they are the heroes of this story so they should get some glory.

@Anarkeith
I think that having the Shadows disappear when the PCs save is a great idea, especially for a party that’s only level 1. The objective is to have fun and not strive for a TPK every week. If they’re having fun with extensive RP then do what you have to do to speed up combat and ensure that the PCs don’t all get killed. Sounds like you’ve got a good group.

@Captain Spud
I’m glad you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy playing them. BTW your pre-gens are a huge hit at my FLGS and the files have been downloaded hundreds of times from our site already. Thanks again.

7 Bill Newsome May 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The table I ran this week found the encounter more difficult than the initial encounter with the gargoyles and lurking shadows. Since many of the players at my store were concerned with starting over at level 1 again this season, I allowed them to make level 3 characters. This encounter saw Jim (Human Fighter), Healy (Dwarf Cleric), Fredericka (Human Male Fighter), Hauk (Human Druid), and X (an unnamed Vryloka Vampire) face off against 2 Thornskin Frogs, a Sporeback Frog, and an Umbral Sprite Swarm. Fredericka took on the Sporeback Frog but kept being pulled into the water by the frog. The others concentrated on the swarm and the Thornskin Frogs. Since the combat ran long, I had the umbral sprite swarm give up and fly away when it was close to death and the other creatures had been killed, but not before successfully stealing a sunrod from the vampire’s pocket.

I must say I’m excited at the prospects for roleplaying this season!

8 QuackTape May 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I ran a full table of 9 players (we don’t have a second DM) with 2 leaders, 3 controllers, and 4 strikers. Given the numbers, I started off with 3 swarms and 2 death jump spiders but had a 3rd spider and the shadows in the background waiting. The party split up over the two bridges (the dark vision vampires leading each side) which wasn’t too bad. They had a leader on each side and a fairly good split.

The three swarms surprised most of the party and charged in. (yay for gloomy darkness?) One then retreated which caused some PCs to chase it into isolation and the death jumps attacked. The poison damage was ripping people apart so I held off on the Shadows and decided not to have them get ambushed.

9 Astrolounge May 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Our table played the same encounter yours did, but since I was playing a Vampire with Resist 5 necrotic I kept TRYING to get the shadows to hug me, since they were incapable of actually damaging me. However they were steadfastly refusing to show me any love in favor of latching onto our Invoker every round and keeping him near death for the whole encounter. although on the plus side it did lead to a funny discussion of whether or not you could voluntarily fail a saving throw.

10 Alveric May 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm

“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.”

YEE-OUCH! I know what almost killed ‘em, extra super-minions that disappear when they hit, and your nasty damage stats. Yes, the DMG errata reads “2d6+5″ for 4th-level single target damage, but there’s two things: (1) the Deathjump Spider is already statted correctly (matches the Monster Vault stats, which are post-MM3) and (2) you forgot about that ongoing 5 poison damage! If “2d6+5″ is average 12 damage, the “1d6+3 +5 ongoing” is something like 6.5 plus an average of one round of 5 ongoing, which is 11.5 damage. So it’s pretty much right on already. If you wanted to scale damage from a 4th-level Deathjump spider to a 6th-level, the difference on the damage table is only two, so you’d adjust to “1d6+5 +5 ongoing.”

Here’s what I did at my 3rd-level table: dropped a spider swarm for only four players, and pumped up all the creatures 2 levels. This means (per that DMG errata) I added +2 to all of their defenses, attacks and damage. I added 16 hit points (8hp(soldier/skirmishers) * 2 levels) to the deathjump spider and spider swarm. For the minions, I added the +2 to defenses and attacks also, but only +1 to the fixed and ongoing necrotic damage because that seemed right and no rules cover determining minion damage. (No hit point increase for minions, obviously.)

So you might want to try just leveling up your bad guys next week using the “+2 / +16″ rule of thumb. Then you can adjust creature count based on the number of players at your table…

11 Seb Wiers May 20, 2011 at 12:41 am

Alveric might well be my DM…. though I think for our (5) player level 3 table we had 2 deathjumps, 2 swarms, and 3 shadows (1 showing up mid-fight). If we’d been dumb(er), some folks might have gone down, but as it was we got through pretty clean (though most folks burned several surges during / after).

Problems?

-At least for our group, it was far from obvious that the shadows were minions and so could (and should) be swept aside ASAP. That was a major mistake.

-The fact that all the monsters had ongoing damage effects was potentially brutal, so my druid spent fair portion of his standard actions using Heal skill to grant savings throws before their turn came up and the damage came due. I suspect that groups that didn’t do something to clear ongoing damage were in bad shape…

-We had some blasty effects that helped a fair bit with the swarms, and pushy effects that could have been used to shove monsters into the (in our game empty) ditch for falling damage. Neither got used for such until near the end of the fight, but they were pretty decisive once they got implemented.

12 David Argall May 20, 2011 at 1:55 am

Songs of Song-2-the start of the hunt

Once we had restored a sort of order to the inn, our noble party [At least the others claim noble blood, and as a tiefling, I know I have some. Only nobles were allowed to do the foul deeds that created the tiefling race.] set out to find out what had happened. We soon figured out we had somehow been transported to the Shadowfeld, one of the many alternate dimensions that border our reality, and one with a particularly bad reputation. But we could learn little more, in particular whether this was something permanent or we could return to our normal work by just surviving.
This is one reason I persuaded the others to follow a possible lead to that knowledge when we ran into the town lawman and he offered us the choice of several chores to restore the town with. That servant of a missing mage fleeing town at top speed had to know something about what had caused all this and if I am to sing the epic of what happened here, I must know that.
So we followed what seemed to be his trail, with the best evidence of that being a lack of other ways to go. It was when we were crossing a bridge that we found this was the right, or maybe wrong, way to go.
I don’t know if the giant frogs were natural or something out of shadow. Not that I really cared since they wanted to eat us either way. The cloud of insect people was definitely shadow, and just as hostile, and way harder to fight. The cloud pretty much battled Horag and Kargun to a draw, and as much as could be determined in the confused mess of combat, had the better half. Kargun was knocked unconscious until I managed to cure him and one of the frogs almost drowned Horag [a fate I was terribly unsuccessful in helping her avoid. It was Kargun who pulled her from the water.] Chief honors went to Lord Kelsin the wizard whose spells first killed the frogs and then started hurting the cloud, which tried to flee, only to be cut down before it could manage it. [I did manage to stab a frog a couple of times, but my chief contribution was healing everyone, and will be of singing their praises later.]
Once we recovered, we discovered that the halfling servant had also been attacked by the frog and had escaped them, tho he dropped several items of minor value as he fled. Hardly worth picking up, but it did mean we were on the right path.

The table I DMed also tried the armory, as apparently did the other tables at the store. Since the monsters rolled well on init, I chose to have them just attack the party before they could cross the bridges. Probably not what was intended by the mod now that I think of it, but this too seems to have been a popular choice around my parts.
Inexperience hurt. The fighter insisted on taking on one swarm by himself and telling the others to battle the other. This resulted in both swarms still in the fight with 40+ damage each instead of one dead if they had concentrated damage. It also resulted in a fighter making death saves. Tho the fighter did have a point. Due to the narrow dock on that side, he would have had trouble taking part in the fight once his swarm was dead.
But victory was achieved [The other monsters were taken out fairly quickly.] and the party will try to patrol the streets next week.

13 Arbanax May 20, 2011 at 4:38 am

Hey guys I love hearing about encounters and the games as run, what do you have to do to run one. I’ve not got a RPG near me and the nearest is about 40 miles away and according to the Wizards website their not running anything. Other than them the closest is 200 miles away. So what does a DM have to do to get ahold of the material to run the game?

Great write up as always, can’t believe how often the party splits up, DOH!

Thanks

Ab

14 Gormal May 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Because of other commitments i am unable to attend encounters but love reading Through the post weekly. Thanks again Ameron. If I see Remy in my travels I will tel him to go back to town there are some people that have something special for him.

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