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.
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.