D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade (Week 13)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 5, 2011

This is it, the grand finale. Would the heroes find the Arrow of Time? And if they did would they use it to slay the Dragon, Actherimos? The fate of Hammerfast, Salazar Vladistone and the PCs themselves would all be decided by the night’s end.

The week there were seven PCs in the party – Belgos, Jarren 1, Jarren 2, Valenae, a Dragonborn Fighter, a Dwarven Runepriest and a Human Wizard. After completing the rooms in the upper level of the Monastery over the previous few encounters, I allowed the party to take an extended rest before proceeding. They simply did not have the necessary resources to proceed otherwise. Everyone began this week’s adventure refreshed and at 100%. Full hit point, full healing surges, all daily powers and one action point a piece.

They proceeded down the staircase and into the caverns below. The cavern seemed to be in the midst of an earth quake, rocks and dust falling from the ceiling. However, the Time Trap they encounter on the upper level seemed to still be active on the lower levels as well. At least it was until the party began proceeding through it.

As soon as the first PC entered the cavernous passageway time began again and the rocks started falling as the earthquake began again. The PCs tried to rush through the debris, avoiding any falling rocks, but they weren’t that lucky. Everyone in the party was bloodied by the falling rocks and the choking dust before they finally managed to work together and move through the danger zone.

When they emerged in a large cavern they again saw a tableau frozen in time. Before them were the Earthquake Dragon, Actherimos, and 10 Duergar Thugs. At the Dragon’s feet at the far end of the cavern was the remains of Salazar Vladistone, the Arrow of Time still clutched tightly in his cold dead hand. Everything in the cavern was stuck in the Time Trap, unaware of their surroundings and unable to move.

The heroes were in a tight spot. If they returned the way they came they’d take more damage from the falling rocks. If they advanced any further they’d likely negate the final remnant of the Time Trap, freeing the monsters before them. They decided to take a short rest and then they charged forward.

It’s important to remember that the party was made up of seven heroes, all of which were still pretty much at full power. Sure they all lost a few surges in the cave in, but not enough to sway the course of the coming fight. As such I used 10 Duergar minions, and had them attack with crossbows or warhammers.

Knowing that the Dragon was going to be hit with seven daily powers during the battle, I had to beef it up considerably. I doubled its hit points to 250 and added +1 to all of its defenses. I drastically altered the Rising Tremors power. It was supposed to only be activated if the Dragon spent two round expanded its aura from 1 to 3 and then from 3 to 5. I made it so that the power could activate every round as a burst 3. If the Dragon held off for one round then it would be burst 5 the next time it used this power. This proved to be a very suitable challenge for this party, as you’ll discover below.

As the first PC entered the cavern time became fluid again. The Dragon and the Duergar were disoriented for only a second before realizing that the PCs were in the cavern with hostile intentions. The Dragon attacked. It moved towards the party, attacking the Runepriest and the Fighter with its Rising Tremors aura. It then used its Earthen Maw to bite down on the Fighter. Although this attack was successful, the power didn’t recharge for the entire combat (lucky for the PCs). The Fighter was unable to get into melee combat on his turn and then failed his save, becoming petrified. He saved on his next turn, only missing out on a single round of combat.

Over the next two rounds Belgos, Jarren 1, Jarren 2 and the Wizard used their ranged powers to eliminate all but three of the minions. The rest of the party engaged the Dragon in melee. No one made an attempt to get out of the burst 3 aura so every round the Dragon attacked the entire party. My ice cold dice probably only hit one or two PCs each round. The Dragon was much more successful with its Double Attack. It focused on Valenae, the Runepriest and the Fighter since they were all within melee range. It hit two of them almost every single round.

Eventually Valenae used Fey Step to teleport to the other side of the Dragon and tried to retrieve the Arrow of Time. The three remaining Duergar Thugs tried to stop her but were unsuccessful. When she grasped the Arrow of Time, a new combatant entered the cavern – the ghost of Salazar Vladistone. “I remember now. How much I wanted to see my Oldivya. I know what you intend to do with the arrow, and I ask you – please do not send me back. I could not bear to return to that time and be without her again.”

Valenae reluctantly agreed to give Salazar the arrow if he helped the party defeat the more immediate threat, namely the Dragon. Salazar agreed and joined the side of the heroes.

With seven PCs and one phantom ally attacking the Dragon it didn’t take much monger to defeat it. However, by the time the Dragon was down to his final few hit points it did manage to take out the Fighter, the Runepriest, Jarren 1 and Jarren 2. All of them were making death saves. The Fighter managed to roll a 20 and got himself back into the fight. Valenae used Healing Word on the Runepriest bringing him back into the fight. The two Jarrens both got two strikes and were rolling against ultimate death. For three rounds they both managed to roll 10 or over but not high enough to spend a healing surge.

After the Dragon fell, Vladistone moved next to Valenae to claim the Arrow of Time. She betrayed him and attacked. This divided the party. The Wizard, Belgos and Valenae wanted revenge on Salazar and sought to kill him (again). The Fighter, Runepriest and now conscious Jarren 2 felt it was more important to honour their word to the ghost, so they attacked their own allies.

Salazar was pushed away from Valenae and then immobilized. This gave the party time to fight among themselves. Valenae and Jarren 2 both fell unconscious from friendly fire. The Runepriest managed to throw the Arrow of Time closer to Vladistone before the Wizard used a Magic Missile to knock out the Runepriest. The Wizard then revived Valenae with a healing potion.

Belgos kept knocking Vladistone prone so that he couldn’t get close enough to the arrow to collect it. But as the party kept knocking each other out, fewer heroes were left to impede Vladistone. Eventually he managed to get the Arrow of Time and then escape the cavern by phasing through the wall. By then he was down to less than 10 hit points. Two more Magic Missiles and he would have perished.

After Vladistone left I stopped the party in-fighting. It was all done in character and the players weren’t genuinely mad or angry with each other. In the end none of the characters were permanently killed, although a couple came dangerously close. I don’t generally allow the PCs to fight each other, but their internal conflict was played out in the role-playing thought the season so it seemed like a fitting way to end the adventure. I don’t think this party of seven is likely to adventure together next season.

When the PCs finally returned to Hammerfast the Phantom Brigade has dissipated and the city was once again back to normal. Scouts reported days later that the ghost tower at Inverness had disappeared. It seems that Vladistone kept his word and returned the Arrow of Time. Hopefully completing that task allowed him to once again speak with his beloved wife and finally find peace.

So ends chapter three and concludes the adventure D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade. How was the final night of D&D Encounters season four at your FLGS? Did anyone see a TPK? How did the cave in trap work for you? I found it really confusing and don’t think I ran it at all like the designers expected. But my table had fun and really had to work together to get through so I think that my changes were well received.

Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master tomorrow for our D&D Encounters: March of the Phantom Brigade Report Card. Find out our overall impressions of the 13-week adventure now that we’ve played it in its entirety.

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 13 Encounters. Bear in mind that these recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone.

D&D Encounters season five begins next week. Check out our Dark Legacy of Evard Preview and our exclusive Pre-Generated Characters.

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.

Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!


1 Alphastream May 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Nice account. Thanks for this series! Your table is clearly in good/fun hands!

2 Seb Wiers May 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I’m guessing your table had the “sympathetic Salazar” plotline. We got the “Nuttier than Ed Norton in Fight Club” version of Salazar.

Huh, our story went rather differently. We had 5 members- Belgo, Velane, Thom (halfling knight, Dex 20, melee training, hide, heavy shield, scimitar), a Theifling infernal warlock, and myself as Frimgar (Dwarf Slayer, Strength 20, axe expertise). All but the warlock were level 2; the warlock was level 3.

We did NOT get any extended rest, from the time we left Hammerfast, to the end of the adventure. We did “knock the ritual out of the park” the previous week, which got us some healing potions and extra healing surges, but some of those left with a player who was at a different table this week (the warlock replaced him). It was a good thing we did well on the ritual, since Frimgar was DEAD (went from 5 HP to -20 in one hit); the DM let me roll in the challenge anyhow, as an attempt to resist eating with my ancestors in the great hall. I picked healing (to realize I was dead and figure out hot to restart my heart); I got a higher DC, but rolled a natural 20. The DM pulled two successes from our challenge pool to raise Frimgar; seeing as he was a dwarf who died fighting Duergar while on the steps of the alter in a temple of Mordrid, gaining some divine intervention seemed a posibility.

Long story short, we were pretty damn banged up. Frimgar had 2 surges, and the rest weren’t much better off.

We had similar trouble getting through the rocks, but did much better once Belgos realized he had a daily that allowed us to move full speed. Party members ranged from unscathed (Frimgar) to near dead (Belgos).

The hallway being an encounter, our GM ruled we’d reached a milestone and each got an AP. Also, any 3 of us (our choice) could act via surprise if we didn;t spend more than 5 minutes plotting / updating our sheets. While doing that, we got a short rest and had some arguments about how to handle the situation due to confusion in (the player’s or character’s) understanding of the situation. With an Intelligence of 8, Frimgar didn’t have much to say, but came down on the side of keeping it simple and doing whatever the crazy elf mage said we should, so (with 4 minuted down) I turned to say I was charging that dragon.

For the surprise turn, Frimgar and Thom sprinted through the frozen Duergar, avoiding the (still temporaly disdvantaged) opportunity attacks (Thom’s AC vs those is 26, so… yeah.) Thom got to Salazar’s body and picked up the arrow of time, then spent an AP sprinted back to hold it out for the ranger (who had the bow Faldayra made for firing the arrow safely- apprently any other use would have unforseen consequences). Valdane used his daily to give us all 5 temp HPs and take out a thug.

The surprise round over, Frimgar (who rolled an 18 inititieve) charged the dragon at the top of the round, and inflicted 30 HP damage (powerstirke) but had to use his AP to land the hit. And then the dragon went… using some sort of magic to lock Frimgar’s legs in stone, and doing some (9) damage. It then flew away, provoking another 15 HP damage from Frimgar, and dual attacked Velane and the Warlock.

Long story short, the dragon fought its way closer and closer to the ranger, catching him in its second aura and knocking him out just before we’d managed to do the 150 or so HP’s damage needed to ensure the arrow would work on it (pretty sure that was bloodied, maybe a bit past, if that helps judge any encounter adjustments). Everybody except Frimgar and Thom are unconscious, and both of them are prone; Frimgar a square from the dragon, Thom next to the body of Belgos maybe 4 squares further.
Frimgar crawls over to the dragon and makes a grab attack, hoping to slow it just enough that it can’t reach Thom, who then grabs the bow and fires it while prone (bracing it on his feet and pulling back with both hands, as its an elven longbow); the arrow, being effectively self-guiding for such a badly wounded target, does its job, causing the dragon to collapse in on itself like a bad special effect, as Salazar’s screaming, cursing ghost got sucked into the fading image of his body.

The party collected itself an limped back to Hammerfast (our horses having now not been ridden there) with something like 20 HP among them, to find that nobody but Faldyra knew of what had (or rather, had not) transpired over the last few weeks.

The End?

3 QuackTape May 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm

How did the game end for us? The one leader in the party took the arrow and booked it leaving everyone else to fight the dragon!

I also tweaked the encounter but instead of upping the dragon I turned four of the minion Duergar into full monsters (2 guard, 2 scout from the prior encounter). This also allowed me to give an out for when the dragon died since the Duergar were likely to surrender at that point.

Without either the dragon being killed with the arrow or Salazar calling of his ghost army, Hammerfast was effectively totaled. I’m tying right into next season with this so their quest heading into Dark Legacy is to get aid from the nearest large city instead of the original motivation provided in the adventure. It works really well despite not having a happier finale to the end of March of the Phantom Brigade. Hopefully everything will resolve well at the end of Dark Legacy.

4 Claire May 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

We started the encounter this week a little bit out of it, as no one at our table (including our DM) had been present for the encounter the week before. Our game store runs two tables every week, with people swapping between the tables depending on who arrives when and a good game of rock-paper-scissors. Half of our players were late to the encounter (starting at eight PM rather than seven), and it just so happened that those of us who were late had no clue what had transpired the week before. Oops.

Anyways, I was playing with a group of six. Two Warpriests, two Paladins, a Slayer and a Hexblade. One of the Warpriests made it to level three, and one of the Paladins was still level one, but other than that the group was level two.

We began with running down the stairs and sprinting through the cave-in. We had an elf with the ability to run through difficult terrain, who pretty much made it all the way through in one turn. Within two turns she had moved all the way to where the edge of the map was and where she could see the dragon, and the cave in stopped. It helped that the DM rolled low, and we suffered basically no damage from the falling rocks.

Afterwards we were greeted with the time field of eight Duergar, with Actherimos the Dragon at the back of the room with Vladistone’s corpse. We took a short rest to use one or two healing surges for those who had been hit by falling rocks, then argued amongst ourselves for our battle strategy for five or six minutes. Then our DM told us the time field was starting to slip, and we jumped into the game for not wanting to lose our first attack.

We took out the minions pretty easily, both of our paladins popping defender’s aura the first round. After that it was the six of us versus Actherimos, but we weren’t rolling too well and didn’t feel like we were doing much damage.

Now, our group is one to fully exploit the role play aspect of D&D during battles. It was at this point in time that one of the paladins decided to crawl down the dragons throat and slash him from the inside (and rolled high enough to achieve this, despite setbacks the DM attempted to put in place), and the Warpriest playing Hagen decided to deliver his Thundering Steel attack to the dragons testicles. Once again rolling high enough to overcome the setbacks and penalties the DM tried to place on the attack.

Our D&D group is odd, yes, but the encounter was fun and funny.

While the dragon (and only enemy on the feild) was otherwise occupied, our Slayer ran and grabbed the Arrow of Time from Salazar’s body. At that point in time Salazar’s ghost himself showed up, and asked if we were going to give him the arrow.

After Salazar promised he would use the arrow to try to find his dead wife again, we rolled with insight to see if he was telling the truth. With rolls that ended in the 20s and low 30s, we decided to trust him.

One member of our party, the Drow Hexblade, wanted to betray Salazar, but with five-against-one he never got the chance.

Salazar, as an act of good will, joined our fight only to deliver the final blow and kill the dragon. The dragon spit our paladin back out (who suffered 20 damage for digestive juices and hitting the wall a little too hard), and collapsed.

We had already convinced Salazar to stop attacking Hammerfast while we were in the dungeon, and after we defeated Actherimos he called off the attack completely, then left to do his ghostly bidding.

Through the final encounter for March of the Phantom Brigade, no one died (although the abundance of healers in our party may have helped with that), and everyone had fun.

I stuck up a less technical, more role-play centric version of what happened in our fight against Actherimos on my own blog, if anyone’s interested. (linked in the “Website” portion of this posting form).

5 funkfugiyama May 5, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Ameron, I really enjoyed reading your weekly updates. Each one made me wish I had Wednesday nights off. I am looking forward to more vicarious fun with the next D&D Encounter!

6 Al May 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

Oh boy! Where should I start? My DM dice for the final chapter this season have been pretty hot and this group has taken some casualties. So after session 12, I gave my players a couple of options. They could either keep their existing characters and level up to 3 (they had missed a couple of RP XP opportunities) keeping their remaining number of surges or having 2 surges but whichever was higher also having full hit points. Or, bring in a brand new level 3 character at full but lose any magic items that they had found from the previous character. All but one whose PC died during session 12 choose to keep their existing characters. For the entire season I pretty much had a full table of 6 players but occasionally falling to 5 due to scheduling conflicts. However for the finale only 4 of the regulars could make it, but I had a previous seasons veteran player show up and a completely brand new player that a couple of the regulars brought along.

So the line-up for the finale was: a quickly levelled up Brandis – 3rd level Cavalier (previous season veteran), Madresh – 3rd level Warlord (new player), Boogie – 3rd level Barbarian who tries to be a rogue but is really bad at it, however his attempts at being a scoundrel are pure hilarity (season regular), Riya – 3rd level Orb Wizard (season regular), Naraan – 3rd level Cavalier(?) (season regular who switched character in an earlier session in chapter 3) and Alyssa – new 3rd level Cleric (season regular whose character died during session 12. I just realized that the only PC to actually make it through the whole adventure (though he did die once during the prior 12 sessions) was Boogie.

As you’ll see in the description that follows Boogie plays a bit of a role on how everything ends up so I just want to illustrate a couple of Boogie moments during the season. After exploring the Inverness ruins the first time, much to the horror of Brother Splintershield and later to add to Salazar’s anger, Boogie decided to start digging up Oldiviya’s grave, Splintershield made a beeline and got to him about halfway through and forbade him to continue. Another time occurred while combat was still ongoing, Boogie decided to disengage and started looting the bodies. It happened to be one of the encounters that an item was to be found so I had him roll perception to find it and he did, I had him roll for what it was and it was something that he could palm so he decided to keep it without telling the party unfortunately for him his total thievery check was somewhere around 5. So pretty much everyone who had line of sight saw what he had done… let’s just say some non lethal combat followed the encounter.

So after a very quick recap for the 2 new people, the party started down the stairs. Unlike Ameron I decided prior to not up the challenge and run the encounter as written, because like I wrote at the top my DM dice were quite hot during chapter 3 and the group had already suffered from it. I do most of the rolling in front of the screen so the players can see, so it turned out to be a wise decision as my dice showed no sign of cooling down. Much like Ameron’s group most of the party suffered through the cave in part, the worst being poor Madresh who came out bloodied, slowed and taking ongoing 10 from the choking dust. Unlike Ameron’s group however who stopped and healed up before attacking and breaking the Time Stop ritual, for some reason only known to him, Brandis seeing a surprise opportunity decided to charge in. The fight was on.

I had pre rolled initiative for the dragon and the thug minions which I had broken up into 4 groups of 2 based on minis. The Dragon was at the top and Brandis was second so that meant that the dragon was last to go since it was Brandis who started things, most of the PCs stayed at the top of the cave away from the cave in effects and healed up. Brandis killed 1 Thug on his charge, Boogie killed 1 on his charge and another with swift charge and Riya with a well placed Orbmaster’s Incendiary Detonation took out the rest. I didn’t manage to do much with the minions, a couple hits against Brandis before they all died. Riya was last to act on turn 1.

Round 2: Actherimos wasn’t very happy with Riya (who had wandered a little too far afterwards) who had just killed the bulk of his minions, so he advanced on the wizard and used his claw & bite attack against Riya scoring 2 solids hits and dropped the wizard who still had damage from the cave in. Actherimos also expanded his aura to 3. The rest of the group advanced and tried attacking the dragon but most attacks were against its AC of 20 and missed, poor Madresh although no longer slowed was still taking ongoing 10. One of the leaders healed Riya who got up and used Phantom Bolt against Actherimos, unfortunately they were all in his aura and suffered his Rising Quake effect and knocked prone.

Round 3: Dragon (look silly humanoids all fall down) is quite pleased with himself. He expands his aura to 5 and proceeds to bite Brandis with Earthen Maw while staying 2 squares away from everyone else. Brandis got up and shook off the bite (made his save) and besides Riya getting up and firing another spell at the Dragon not much was accomplished against him.

Round 4: Dragon – (look they all get back up, not for long) time for a little Rising Tremors action, my dice were motoring by this time and I hit everyone except for Boogie. The dragon also recharged his Earthen Maw attack last round and decides to attack Boogie with it but misses. So, pretty much everyone except for Boogie is well bloodied or hovering just above bloodied and about half the party don’t make their first save to get back up. The Dragon has around 87 hps left, and Boogie is the only character capable of doing much this round. Seeing his opportunity he makes a dash for the arrow… and now the fun really begins. Salazar appears and says his spiel, Boogie agrees to the request for the arrow as long as Salazar helps kill the dragon, now I had to check with the player to make sure that his intent is to follow through with the deal and he said that Boogie wouldn’t. So I had Boogie make a Bluff check, with a respectable total of 17. One problem against Boogie however was that he took every opportunity possible to antagonize Salazar whenever he could throughout the season so when I made my insight check my total was also 17. So Salazar was doubtful of Boogie and insisted on getting the arrow first before helping the party, so basically he stays back at the entrance doing nothing but negotiating.

At this point I’m going to stop with the Blow by Blow for the next 2 rounds because not much happens besides the players nicking the dragon occasionally and the dragon using claw & bite attacks and hitting with one of the 2 against however he sees as his biggst threat. The interesting part however is inter-player negotiations with Boogie to give the arrow up to Brandis who convinced Salazar that he was trustworthy. Boogie however decides to switch tact again and now offers the arrow to Actherimos in exchange of helping to kill Salazar by describing the arrow as an arrow of slaying.

Round 7: Dragon surrounded on 3 sides just above bloodied with a fully recharged Rising Tremors. Lets loose and again hits everyone but Salazar (who is out of range because it wasn’t his turn yet). It then attacks with claw & bite but can’t get to Boogie. Now we got a player or 2 unconscious but the party still has a few resources left. Most of the party is busy trying to get back up, Salazar seeing everyone but the dragon is down moves into range and charges a downed Boogie who attacks him back while prone and makes his save to get up next round.

Round 8-9: Dragon now flanks Boogie with Salazar both of them bring Boogie to unconscious. Rest of the party now end up splitting up attacks between a pissed off Salazar who wants the arrow and the dragon who wants to keep the arrow from everyone’s hands but his own. Naraan charges Salazar, Riya fires Icy Rays at both and hits Salazar. Remainder heal wounded except for Boogie and Madresh, and attack Actherimos finally bringing him well below bloody and vulnerable to the arrow. Salazar and Naraan (who had picked up the arrow from Boogie) duke it out. Dragon has recharged Earthen Maw.

Round 10: Dragon lets loose with the final Rising Tremors of the encounter but does minimal damage except to Narran who suffers a crit and joins Madresh and Boogie unconscious. He also attacks Alyssa with Bite and Claw bringing her down. Party members Brandis and Riya in the single or low 10’s hps. Salazar while prone reaches over and grabs the arrow and makes his save to get up next round. Riya fires Magic Missile at Actherimos and saves to get up, Brandis throws a javelin at the dragon while prone but misses and fails save to get up.

Round 11: Dragon engages Salazar with Earthen Maw and hits. Salazar gets up swings at dragon but misses and he fails his +2 save vs. Earthen Maw so he is also petrified. Riya fires Magic Missile at the dragon. Brandis again tries to throw a javelin while prone but misses again and fails his get up save.

Round 12: Dragon has had enough, near dead and with the arrow now in petrified hands, with the way to the exit clear Actherimos moves to the entrance. Salazar again fails his save vs. petrified. Brandis is out of javelins but does make his save to get up. Does Riya let the dragon escape to wreak havoc across the Nentir Vale? Hell no… although unaware of how wounded Actherimos is at the time. Riya desperately lets fly another Magic Missile and hits it with exactly the amount of damage needed to bring the great beast down.

Round 13: Salazar saves and is no longer petrified, he glares at the remaining members daring them to attempt to take the arrow from him. The 2 survivors with such little resources know there is not much that they can do to stop him from leaving, so they begin to tend to the unconscious, much to their dismay they find that Madresh and Boogie have succumbed to their wounds but the others can still be saved.

Upon their return to Hammerfast they find the city still under siege and Faldyra waiting hopefully for good tidings. Alas, the party after explaining the events at the monastery are unsure. It appears at first that they may have failed because the siege is still upon them; however, there has been no sighting of Salazar himself. Maybe there still is hope… It takes 2 more days before word from the walls that the Phantom Brigade has disappeared and another week before a scout team sent to Inverness ruins returns with news. The tower has once again disappeared and there is a new grave that appeared next to Oldiviya’s. It’s headstone reads “Salazar Valdistone beloved husband to Oldiviya Valdistone”.

I’d like to thank all my players for a great season.

7 Lahrs May 6, 2011 at 9:48 am

My group had been cruising along without too many problems this entire season, so like QuackTape, I tweaked the encounter and greatly upped the difficulty. Gone were the eight minions, replaced by 5, level 4 Galeb Dhur artillery. I thought they fit into the rock/earthquake theme nicely. With the Geleb Dhurs rock throw attacking (1d10+3, close burst 1 difficult terrain) and a rechargeable encounter power knocking players prone, I effectively locked down the battlefield while giving the earthquake dragon a chance to double attack with ease.

For the first time in four seasons, I killed a character. I am not the type of DM that ever goes out for the TPK, but I think this kill is going to go a long way in improving Encounters at my table. I think my group had lost the fear of danger and became quite complacent. The attitude in the battle changed, and the encounter was much better for it.

The biggest difference I faced as a DM in this encounter was the inclusion of two ranged characters. Before, everyone was melee, but I had a straggler show up for the first time in weeks and a mathematically fixed ranger, who was now able to hit (she had been using a +3 bonus instead of the +9 she was supposed to be getting). Playing it safe, the two rangers staid out of the effects from the Galeb Dhur and wrecked havoc from afar.

Further complicating things for the enemies, the players layered status effects on the dragon, knocking it prone, dazed and immobilized. Although the dragon still was able to double attack and had a reach of two, the inability to move allowed the PC’s to gang up and whittle the dragon down.

Our newly created blackguard went down twice, but the paladin made sure to heal him each time, but despite the one player death, the group still came out without too much trouble. There was a small argument about what to do with the arrow, and the group finally settled on giving the arrow back to Vladistone. The rogue however had a different idea and attempted to steal the arrow first, but Vladistone proved to be quite capable at intimidation and the rogue was sure to change his mind. Vladistone took the arrow and left.

It wasn’t my best run encounter. I had multiple college finals the next day and unfortunately my mind wasn’t fully into the session. I regret that. I believe the group still had an enjoyable night, but they really did not get a full description of what happened afterward, and I left them hanging. Sometimes you have a little too much power as DM.

Next season should be good though. I already have a Deck of Despair from the Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond supplement, and I like them better than the fortune cards.

8 David Argall May 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Party of 5 with me as DM.

I’m still not sure I ran the avalanche correctly [or even that it is sensibly designed]. However the party managed to slog thru it with what was probably the intended amount of damage, enough to make them think a short rest was a good idea, but not any disaster.
I read the text as saying the dragon would kick back until its earthquake power was at its max, so the party had some time to dispose of the minions. [Since I never said they were minions and they rolled damage, they were never fully sure if they were minions or not.]
The dragon had some fun for a little while, but the party managed to mark him and hold him still for pounding while one of them grabbed the arrow. The ghost appeared and begged for it, but they had not been sympathetic towards him and gave him the finger, not the arrow. Salazar tried to punish them for that, but the cleric had a successful turn undead and he ended up too far away to do anything.
In the meantime, the party decided that since they didn’t have many bows, they would just stab the dragon with the arrow. Fortunately the dragon was already seriously hurting, and was vulnerable to the arrow on the 2nd stab. So everybody survived as the dragon became bones.
I failed to give them the conclusion, but they were more interested in the loot anyway [which was distinctly stingy. I trust the next adventure will pay the adventurers better.]

The table where I was to play didn’t get off due to the DM having some problem. There is talk of playing it later, but the odds are not good of course.

9 Seb Wiers May 6, 2011 at 10:21 pm

There was loot??? At our table it was assumed that, with the dragon having never existed (killed with the arrow) any loot the dragon had (including Salazars body) went poof.

10 David Argall May 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm

As with most of the encounters, there was a magic item available for discovery. But there was no gold that I could discover in any encounter. A normal Living FR PC would have had about 500 gp at that point.

11 Ameron May 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

You’re welcome. The decision to keep posting these weekly write ups was made, in part to give those who can’t participate a chance to read about the adventure, and in part to let those who are playing read how my table might have done things differently.

If you’re ever in the Greater Toronto Area, you’re welcome to join us at Dueling Grounds on Wednesday nights. We always have room for one more player.

@Seb Wiers
Excellent write-up. Thanks for sharing.

I was actually surprised that my group initially agreed to cooperate with Salazar Vladistone. But the adventure said to have him play nice as long as the PCs agreed to give him the Arrow of Time.

Awesome! I love it when the players take unpredictable actions. Working in the destruction of Hammerfast into the next season of Encounters is an excellent idea. I look forward to hearing how you plan to have this impact the new adventure.

I think we all know at least one player that has fought his way out for the belly of one beast or another. It can be exceptionally heroic or incredibly stupid depending on the circumstance. Sounds like it was a little of both in this case.

I think there was a tremendous opportunity for rich role-playing throughout this adventure. If it had been a home game I might have explored this in more detail. But with the way D&D Encounters runs you have to really reign in the players and keep them to the script. I’ll check out your site and see how a more role-playing heavy session played out. Thank for the write up and the link.

Glad to hear you’re enjoying the weekly reports. You keep visiting the site and I’ll keep writing them up. What did you think of the actual play podcasts?

Thanks for the incredibly detailed account for the final encounter. Your table really seemed to have a good time week after week (despite a couple of near-TPKs). Maybe next season we can shake things up and throw you a few of the newbies. 🙂

I like minions, but in a final battle like this a few non-minions would have made things a lot more fluid. As it was my guys barely moved. It was really a race to 0 hit points. Your adjustments really sound like they added to the encounter even if you don’t think you brought you’re A-game.

I’m curious to hear how the new Deck of Despair will work. Please be sure to let us know after you’ve tried them in play.

@David Argall
The avalanche cave-in trap was tough to decipher; I’d be amazed if any two groups ran it the same way. It just wasn’t clear to me. Listen to the podcast for how I ran it. My guys had fun but it seemed like it was just a time-waster and a way to deplete resources.

I too found the ending a bit anti-climatic. It was really up to the DM to provide a satisfying ending after the combat. Although there wasn’t great loot, you have to remember that there was a lot of treasure doled out over the adventure. But I agree that some kind of dragon horde would have been nice.

@Seb Wiers
I think the adventure said to roll randomly for one item. I don’t have it in front of me, but that sounds right.

@David Argall
Although the adventure didn’t award gp, I gave all the PCs a healing potion at the end of each chapter to represent the gold they would have earned in any other kind of play. This seemed more valuable than any monetary reward as the potions saved characters lives.

12 Gormal May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I really hate that I can no longer join Al’s groupon wednesdays as other commitments have transpired. Looks like the table has had lots of fun. Hopefully next september I will be able to rejoin.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: