D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 23, 2011

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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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Durn June 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

Sounds like a wild session. I had none of those shenanigans at my table but five green players with 2nd level characters. They too got worked over and allowed the Hellmage to parlay and escape. I predict a death or two in the next two sessions as well.
One thought is how to bring Harummor back in to the game later? One thought is to write him up as a PC warlock and offer him as a replacement when someone dies…

2 j0nny_5 June 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

For whatever reason, we only had 7 show up last night. Ran two small groups, mine only had three players. I adjusted quickly in my head, but was worried when, toward the end, the hell mage dropped one, then two players. The final combatant popped a daily to kill the final enemies in a moment of greatness… then BOTH dying players rolled a 20 on their death saves. Lol.
j0nny_5´s last blog post ..Adventure: The Shadowfell (Part 3 – Entering The Bleak Fallows)

3 Captain Spud June 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

“I’m chaotic evil!” player griefing has no place in a public event. Kick that player out and don’t let him piss on other people’s sessions ever again.
Captain Spud´s last blog post ..Coles Notes: BONUS – Wrath pt1

4 Bobbydrake75 June 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

My group was really messed up with three new players, Rogue, Ranger and Wizard. Ol’ Swamy was there with Gozer the knight backing him up. The trap nailed me even though I think that my passive perception should have spotted the trap. It burned a few of the PCs and we worked our way forward into the hallway with the fog/mist and we started with the door on the right only to find ourselves flanked by 2 different sets of evil forces. The whole 2d6+14 is really out a hand for a 2nd level group when coupled with the fact that the creature is untouchable most of the rest of the time. The 3 encounters have drained our defender of all but 2 of his healing surges. 2 combats left is bad for me on two different levels. First I’ll be gone on the 6th of july which will mean that I’ll miss the important end of the chapter battle. Second I’ll likely miss when they finally give out a impliment magic item … grrr. Well at least it will be good for the group next week when I blow my daily.
As to the PC turning sides, I would have been pi$$ed off if I was at that table. The encounter is setup for 5 players and not only did he change it to a 4 player group but he raised the difficulty of that battle significantly by joining the other side. Had I died in that situation I would have got up and told the DM that I would not be back if that player was at my table.
Till next week…

5 John June 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

We had to collapse our two tables into one, so we were a party of 7. Numbers worked to our advantage at the fork in the map. We were able to cover the East door with a ranger and a thief while the bulk of the party fought their way into the North room, and the mage hovered inbetween for fire support. So even though the sheer number of enemies was daunting, we were able to dispatch all of them with some solid small unit tactics. In the end, the Hellmage was the only one left, and he yeilded and submitted to interrogation. There was some contention as to whether we should execuite him, but fortunately civility won out and we let him go. Next up is a return to the Chapel of Peace, with a lot of questions that need to be answered.

6 Aaron deOliveira June 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm

It was fun battle that took a while to turn for my party.

Dwarf Sentinel w/ Bear
Drow Warpriest
Eladrian Mage
Reverant Theif
Elven Hunter

We normally have a Human Cavalier as a tank for the party but he wasn’t there that night.

So we get past the statue with some minor burns (feeling stupid about not thinking of the Nimdel scrawled upstairs). Nothing eventful until we get to the 2 doors. We make perception checks at the doors to see what’s on the otherside. We hear “conversations” behind the cage door and “chanting” behind the lab door.

We opt to deal with the “conversations first”. The Dwarf Sentinel w/ Bear takes point. Entering the room the Dwaf sees the tieflings and with a successful perception check ascertains that none of them have ranged weapons. Not wanting to be surrounded, the Dwarf Sentinel and the party immideatly back out of the room. The Sentinel has the Bear (Str 20) brace the door so the tieflings can only come through the door one at a time and sideways at that. This prevents them from surrounding the party or gaining opportunity attacks.

Inititiave was rolled and the Dwarf Sentinel, the Eladrian Mage and the Reverant Thief all went before the tieflings. The Mage & the Thief held actions to attack whoever came through the door first.

After the 1st minon died coming through the door, the tiefling mage joined the battle at the other door. The Sentinel & the Warpriest blocked the doorway as the hunter used ranged attacks. The Eladrin Mage also dropped area affects on the tiefling mage’s minions.

The hexblade with the tieflings eventually slew the bear and broke through, but by then the party had already dropped the mage. So the whole party was able to concentrate their attacks on the hexbland and his minions.

It was intense since they outnumbered us from the begining and we didn’t have a true tank. It got even more tense when the mage showed up. We didn’t know the battle had turned until we dropped the tiefling mage. After that we figured we had a good handle on the flow of battle. It got a little scarey when the bear died, but by then there were only 2 minions with the hexblade.

I liked this chapter because there was a very real chance for the baddies to do damage. I also liked that there was a lot of different ways to approach the battle tactically.

I especially appreciated that our DM understood what we were trying to do tactically and let us describe what we were going for in detail before we made any checks so that we actually attempted what we wanted rather than making a check only to find out that it didn’t do what we thought it was going to do.

7 Seb Wiers June 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Our table was back (more or less) to its normal configuration this week:
Marius- level 4 eladrian vampire
Sir Brannins – level 4 human knight
Yaedof & Skoorgah- level 4 summer sentinel druid and his bear companion
Ebon Cross- level 4 tiefling shadowpact warlock
Selta- level 4 elf hunter ranger

We proceeded down the stairs in the above order, and Marius agreed to scout ahead. He triggered the trap, with nobody else nearby, and then went on to ascertain that the room was clear. Not knowing if it would trigger again, Sir Brannis followed him (with the bear on his heals for defensive help) and triggered the trap, flaming both knight and bear. Fed up with this, Sir Brannis decided to smash at the stature, attempting to wreck the mechanism. At this point, Ebon (the only one with arcane skill) came down to investigate, and determined that runes in the floor were the traps trigger. Not knowing how to disarm them, he procedded to blast the statue from a distance with force bolts, to little effect. Eventually he just puzzled out how to disable the runes (natural 20 on a second arcane check). (We didn’t ever get the password from the table- as part of the fulfillment of Yaedof’s fortune last week, the table with the password carved in it was obliterated by flames when two tiefling minions started fighting over the card game as we were getting ready to move into the house, making that encounter easier but this one harder).

The mist in the hall beyond the room presented little concern for Marius (who doesn’t breath), so he went right through. The rest of us followed, with some caution. We debated over which door to go through, eventually deciding on the door that had a broken symbol of Pelor on it. But apparently we had been to loud- as soon as we opened the door, we were ambushed by the tieflings inside the crypt, as well as having the door to the torture chamber opened to reveal more opponents.

We dealt with all these minions fairly easily, but when the “bosses” showed up, things got tight. Our knight went down again, and my druid was down to 14 HP before using his second wind. The vampire got bloodied fairly quickly, and then the DM asked him to make a bluff check. After a fairly bad roll (14 total) the DM said “the red-skinned tiefling turns on you and says ‘eat glowing fire, vampire’”. With that he took 14 radiant flame damage (19 because of vulnerability) and 5 ongoing radiant flame (10 with vulnerability); and then his turn came up. This left him (after regeneration) at 1 HP, and he promptly killed the red tiefling- who apprently had a last gasp “see you in hell” power that caused 16 radiant fire… yup, 21 with vulnerability, enough to put the vamp at -20, aka “negative bloodied”, aka dead. With that, the last remaining tiefling transformed back to smoke and ran away.

So, was it a TPK? No. One of our 5 was dead, the rest were still standing. The DM allowed us to use (all of) materials from the laboratory to re-form the vampire’s body – effectively a no-cost ressurection ritual that cost us whatever treasure we would have gotten from the lab. The vamp will come back with 1 healing surge, the knight is also down to 1 (and down a few HPs), my druid is down to 3, and the others are pretty much at (or close to) full (they haven’t been here every week). We didn’t even attempt diplomacy, and its unlikely it would have worked.

Currently it seems (from journal entries by the Tiefling bosses) that Navire visited the mansion looking for something, overwhelming the gang with such power that they could not even try to oppose him. When he could not find what he sought, he left for parts unknown.
So, dangerous shadowmancer on the loose, seeking McGuffin. Will we figure out what it is he seeks, and prevent him from obtaining it? Only time can telll…

8 Ameron June 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

@Durn
I never thought about bringing the Hellmage back into the game as a reoccurring NPC villain or possible alternative PC in the even of a player death. Good idea.

@j0nny_5
I’d much rather run two small tables than one really big one. The difficulty, as you found out, is that if your party is too small and one or more guys falls unconscious things can get ugly fast. Sounds like everything worked out ok. Having multiple PCs self-stabilize with a 20 on a death save can be a wild occurrence. It happened to us at GenCon last summer during a level 20 LFR game. Talk about a turning point in the encounter.

@Captain Spud
My initial thought was the same as yours, but I’m a big supporter of “say yes.” I cautioned him before we actually had this play out and the player was willing to accept the consequences. Just to be clear, even though he said he was changing sides, he never actually did. He never attacked the other PCs, yet the PCs and the Tieflings all treated him as an enemy (which is why he fell unconscious so quickly). Without friends on the battle field he was forced to make death saves for most of the fight since no one was going to heal the traitor. Now that we’ve tired this once I’m not going to let it happen again. If this character can’t work with the party then he’ll have to find another party to adventure with and the player will need to roll up another character.

@Bobbydrake75
Although the adventure indicated that a passive perception check could spot the trap, I didn’t let my guys find it without an active check either. Only two guys took damage and it was only half since the trap missed them.

I have to agree that I felt the Smoke Form Tieflings were pretty powerful for level 2. But in my mind it forced the party to use smarter tactics (which they didn’t). Although most of my players are low on surges, none of them have used daily powers yet and I believe at least 3 or 4 of them still have an action point. So if they play smart they should have a decent chance of survival.

The other players actually though it was funny that the Blackguards attempt at betrayal failed so miserably. I think if he’d managed to stay on his feet longer things might have played out differently but as it was they were willing to forgive him at the end of the encounter. This group has had a lot of in-fighting since Keep on the Borderlands so I was willing to indulge a little more of it this time around.

@John
Had the PCs allowed the Tieflings to come to them and use the hallway as a chokepoint and the smoke as cover, things might have played out very differently. This is where experienced gamers make all the difference. None of the players at my table have more than 6 months of D&D experience so there’s a lot of rookie mistakes. So far no one has spared their opponents so this group is sorely lacking in information.

@Aaron deOliveira
It sounds like your group had a great time this week. I tip my hat to your DM for allowing you guys to do what you wanted even though it was perhaps unconventional. Good on the DM and good on the players. I keep thinking that if I was a player this season I would have tried a lot more diplomacy than I’ve seen at my tables. Not everything needs to be a hack and slash blood bath.

@Seb Wiers
Again, this is another example of a great DM who used some quick thinking to turn a negative into a positive. Sounds like your party had a great encounter even though it resulted in one PC death. Sometimes the battles that you don’t win outright are the most fun and the most memorable.

9 Captain Spud June 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

“Say Yes” is great in a normal game where you have the time and freedom to explore the consequences of unorthodox actions.

In a public game where the DM is stuck on rails and working on a clock, players doing their best to derail the session are just being a**holes. There isn’t the time or freedom to make anything interesting happen from their actions; they’re simply acting like 6-year-olds and spoiling things for the other players.
Captain Spud´s last blog post ..Cracking the Blister: Alexia Mistress of the Witchfire

10 Seb Wiers June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm

@ Ameron – yeah, our GM does a great job in general. He puts in a lot of prep work, what with adjusting the encounter levels upwards & adding various extras (like those fortunes) which probably makes it easier for him to wing stuff like that on the spot. I think the assumption in Encounters is that resurrection will be available at the end of each session / between sessions, so it makes sense to plan out how you would work that into the story.
You have mentioned several times adding / upgrading monsters to preserve encounter level parity. Our DM tends to keep the same number of major monsters (afaik), maybe adding occasional extra minions. However, he levels them by boosting attack / damage / defense / HP. I think this leads to slightly easier encounters for the same XP budget; among other things, it better rewards focus fire and avoids “damage waste” when a PC over-kills a weakened target. On the other hand, it also makes things a bit less predictable, because there’s (sometimes) the risk that one good hit can take away half your total HPs, and the monsters tend to hit pretty often.

11 David Argall June 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Songs of Song – 7. Going down

Most of us headed into the basement of the manor to check there. The first thing we found was a trap, and it was not my or our finest hour as we blundered around and set it off several times, exhausting much of our healing. About the best I can say was that we got a good lesson on why we should take prisoners as the bandits who were disputing our passage obviously knew some way to easily and safely get past this problem, which they could not tell us since we had killed them. Sadly, I fear not all of my companions took this lesson to heart.
We next found a strange cloud. My party likely would have taken my assurances that it was harmless much more seriously if I had not just told them that the previous trap was harmless. But eventually they got up their nerve and we entered, and exited the cloud without harm.
Facing two doors, we had the wisdom to listen at them and the good luck that Thia managed to hear that someone was behind one, and to very quietly open the door. The result was a quick slaughter [tho we at least spared some this time.]
Now the other door opened and another gang of bandits came after us. Not a wise decision on their parts. Horag, Kargun, Thia, and Dee were powerful fighters even if they did take quite a few wounds and very much regretted that I was out of healing. Our enemies were soon outnumbered or down.
Seeing that the foe were tieflings like me, I was reminded of my ability to curse and hurt those who hurt me and I rather rashly jumped into melee. I will likely not be that rash again since I took a fair amount of damage, but this time, it allowed me to both save the life of Thia and to down the enemy leader, ending the fight.
Sparing the leader proved wise as he, after a little “encouragement”, was able to tell us a great deal. The most pleasant was that they had a fair amount of loot that no longer had an owner, and if we are not now rich beyond our wildest dreams, we at least are not in much danger of a poverty-striken old age [tho reaching such an old age is still not at all a sure thing.]
The bad news was that the undead wizard we seek was not there. He had been, but had gone elsewhere, and we have very limited ideas about where. So now we take our prisoners back to town, where they can be meatshields in its defense and thus make up for some of their crimes. Hopefully we can find some leads on where our target is.

[ooc -rolling 1s on skill checks vs traps can make them a lot more painful.]

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