Last week the party discovered that a group of Tiefling bandits had turned the remains of Vontarin’s mansion into their base of operations. The PC managed to kill the Tieflings that were on the main floor, and after the combat found a trapdoor leading into the basement. This week they decided to continue their search for Vontarin’s ghost by going downstairs. But during what should have been a fairly routine and straightforward exploration of Vontarin’s basement, the party was betrayed by one of their own while another put material gain ahead of helping his allies.
This week we ran two tables at our FLGS. The party at my table consisted of six PCs – Jarren 1, Jarren 2, an Eladrin Warlock, a Dragonborn Paladin, a Human Blackguard and a Half-elf Druid with a bear companion. Our numbers have dropped noticeably over the past few weeks, but we attributed this to the nicer weather outside and students finishing their final exams. With any luck will gain a few players come July.
The party took complete stock of the mansion’s ground floor at the end of last week’s encounter so when we began this week they were ready to descend into the basement through the trapdoor in the floor.
The Paladin went first, followed closely by Jarren 2. When the Paladin reached the bottom of the stairs he noticed a statue of an imp, but paid it no mind. That was, until fire came roaring out of its mouth hitting both the Paladin and Jarren 2. Both heroes ran past the statue calling up the stairs to the rest of the party to be wary.
The Warlock was next to come down the steps and tried to better understand how this fire-breathing statue trap might have been activated. A Perception check revealed that it wasn’t a mechanical trap, but rather a magical one. It was Jarren 1 following closely behind the Warlock that made a great Arcana check and informed the party that a password might be require to bypass this hazard.
The Paladin suggested saying “Nimdel” the word they found carve onto the surface of the table in the kitchen. The brave Warlock tried it and then moved in front of the statue. No fire. It worked. The rest of the party managed to enter the basement safely.
Once everyone was in the basement they immediately proceeded through a set of iron doors. No one showed the least interest in exploring the room itself once they realized none of the Tieflings or Vontarin were present here. The only exception was Jarren 2 who continued to show an unusual fascination with normal material goods. While the rest of the group proceeded through the iron doors he took inventory of the casks of wine and tankards of ale.
In the hallway through the iron doors was a cloud of thick purple mist. The Warlock and Jarren 2 tried to detect any sense of harmful magical emanation but were unsuccessful. Finally the Paladin took a deep breath and rushed forward. He emerged on the other side of the mist unharmed. The Warlock, Blackguard and Jarren 2 all followed him though.
Once past the mist they found a door to the North and a door to the East. The one to the North looked like it was once chained, the chain itself and a broken religious glyph remained on the floor in the hallway. After a short argument on which way to proceed, Jarren 2 opened the door to the east.
With the door open the party saw that the room contained numerous cages with straw lining the floor of each. In the room were seven Tieflings. Two immediately assume a a ghostly, Smoke Form and moved towards the heroes. The fight was on.
The Blackguard, new to the party, saw potential for gain and as a chaotic evil character decided to betray the party. “Brothers,” he announced to the Tieflings already in the room. “I am here to join you. Accept my aid in defeating those who seek to destroy you.” He then made a Diplomacy check, but didn’t convince any of the Tieflings. All they saw was a band of adventurers ready to attack them. The party, however, believed every word and now treated the Blackguard as a foe.
During the first two rounds of combat a lot of unusual things happened. The first was the Blackguard switching sides. The second was everyone’s desire to get the most advantageous tactical position. This is not usually a bad thing, but in the close quarters of the room with cages, such movement allowed the minions to make opportunity attacks against multiple PCs. The fact that the minions dealt damage on both a hit and a miss made for a lot of lost hit points early in the combat.
The third unusual thing that happened was Jarren 2’s blinding fascination with treasure. After taking numerous opportunity attacks (and getting bloodied in the process) he then ran towards the crates at the far end of the room and began rifling through them in search of magical treasure. He completely abandoned his party and stopped fighting while his greed took over. One of the Blackheart Tieflings in Smoke Form solidified next to Jarren 2 and delivered a devastating Sly Attack witch inflicted 2d6+14 damage. Jarren 2 was down and the first PC making death saves.
Meanwhile the other Tiefling Ruffians (all minions) attacked the nearest opponents. Two attacked the Paladin and three attacked the Blackguard. The other Blackheart Tiefling materialized in the hallway next to Jarren 1 and scored a crit with his Sly Attack for 26 damage.
It took a few rounds before the heroes got into their groove and started working together better. However, by then everyone but the Druid was badly wounded and well below bloodied.
The Warlock used a burst 1 attack to target two Ruffians, one of the Blackhearts and the Blackguard. He hit and destroyed one of the minions, while damaging the Blackheart and the Blackguard. Jarren 1 used Beguiling Strands to destroy two more minions and knock the traitorous Blackguard unconscious.
During the third round the door to the North room opened and three more Tieflings joined the battle. The two new Tiefling Ruffian minions attacked Jarren 1 and dropping him, while the other Tiefling Blackheart assumed his Smoke Form and waited to pounce during the next round.
A round after the reinforcements arrived one more Tiefling joined the fight, a Hellmage. He fired his Infernal Bolt at the Paladin dropping him. One of the Tiefling Blackhearts materialized from Smoke Form and attacked the Druid’s bear, destroying it with one blow.
The PCs were in big trouble. Jarren 1, Jarren 2, the Paladin and the Blackguard were all making death saves. The Warlock managed to stay on his feet for one more round before he too fell unconscious. The Druid managed to avoid taking any damage for the first few rounds and was able to throw around some healing, reviving Jarren 2 and the Paladin.
The Tieflings worked to keep the wounded opponents down and focused on them as soon as they were revived. Fortunately for the PCs the Blackhearts alternated between assuming Smoke form and using their Sly Attack. This let the heroes revive each other using Heal to trigger unconscious allies’ second wind.
The party was facing a near TPK with all of them so badly wounded. Once revived Jarren 2 continued to ignore the fight and he kept searching through the boxes for magical treasures. The Paladin and the Warlock each managed to destroy a Tiefling Blackheart, but ended up loosing a healing surge a piece as their foe’s essence assumed Smoke Form one last time and engulfed the heroes before dissipating.
The Hellmage, who had been firing into the melee and dropping those heroes who regained consciousness, grabbed the unconscious Jarren 1 and pulled him into the North room. The remaining Tiefling Blackheart guarded the Hellmage’s his retreat. The Paladin and Warlock, perused while the Druid, now bloodied as well, administer first aid to her fallen comrades (some of whom were still making death saves and were at 2 strikes).
When she managed to revive the Blackguard he made an impassioned plea to the group and offered an apology for his actions. They agreed not to kill him but told him they would if he even looked like he was going to turn on them again.
The Tiefling shouted an ultimatum to the party. “If you want your friend to live, everyone must fall back into the room with the cages, close the iron doors and let me and my comrade leave without further bloodshed. We’ll leave the Wizard here and you can tend to his wounds when we’re gone. If you so much as step one foot closer I’ll destroy him.”
Realizing that they were badly damaged and likely to be killed if they didn’t comply, the heroes did as they were instructed. The Hellmage and his Blackheart companion fled as fast as they could. It was at this time that Jarren 1 finally managed to roll a 20 on his death save and regain consciousness just in time to realize what was going on. He let the Tieflings escape.
Before any of Jarren 1’s allies could come to his aid, he got up and searched the room beyond. It was clearly some kind of magical laboratory. Doing a quick search he found two potions of healing (which he kept and didn’t tell the party about) as well as a magical staff that the Hellfire Mage must have left behind in his haste to escape.
The party eventually joined Jarren 1 and searched the rest of the basement. In one of the sarcophagus they found 1,000 sp, 240 gp, and a necklace worth 250 gp. They also found a suit of +1 Black Iron Armor.
After all was said and done the party took a bunch of short rests in order to maximize their healing. Even with this advantage most PCs have between 2-4 healing surges remaining going into the fourth of five encounters remaining.
I was really surprised at how difficult this encounter was. As written it’s a level 2 encounter designed for five level 2 PCs. We had six level 3 PCs so I switched a minion for a Blackheart. The Blackguard’s duplicitous actions and Jarren 2’s self-centered greed were things I could not have foreseen and by the time they happened things were already in motion. The party became four level 3 PCs with two bystanders.
I don’t think my entire table will survive the remaining encounters. I’m predicting that next week we see at least two character deaths. They just don’t have the resources they’re going to need. Add to that a lot of party in-fighting and it spells disaster. But despite these challenges it’s been a lot of fun to run and play. I can’t wait to see how things turn out in the coming weeks.
How did things go at your FLGS this week? Did anyone suffer a TPK? Was anyone able to use diplomacy to avoid some or all of the fighting?
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