Dusk is but a few short hours away and the town of Duponde is about to once again shift into the Shadowfell. The heroes were unable to find the Wizard Nathaire, the one responsible for triggering Evard’s curse and beginning this chain of events. They headed back to town for a brief rest before night fall and were once again called upon to help defend the town from the creatures that lurk in the realm of shadows.
This week at my FLGS we ran two tables each with six players. The party at my table consisted of a Jarren 1, Jarren 2, a Drow Wizard, a Shade Assassin, a Drow Ranger and a Dragonborn Paladin. Over the past two seasons of D&D Encounters we’ve had a few younger gamers join the regular Wednesday night crew. This week the number of younger gamers increased since school is out.
Five of the six players at my table were between 11-14 years-old. Two have been playing at my table for weeks, three were first timers. As the DM I had to decide if I should change the way I was planning to run the encounter. I asked the new players if they were experienced gamers of if this was their first time playing D&D. They all assured me that they’d played many times before and were experienced gamers. With that being said I decided not to change anything and run the game as I would regardless of the average age of the players at my table.
Before we began I felt it was important to curb the resources of the new players. One thing that’s been problematic in the past is that a new guy joins mid-way through a chapter with full healing surges and all of his daily powers and the encounter becomes a cake walk. It also creates resentment among the players who struggled and sacrificed through the other encounters to get this far. So I reduced the number of healing surges for all of the new players.
Their maximum number of surges was 6, 6, and 7. I had them lower them to 3, 3 and 4. I then let each of them roll a die – evens that number stood, odds they got one more. The guys with 3 each both rolled even, the guy with 4 rolled odd so he bumped up to 5. The other three players who participated in the encounters during weeks 4-6 were at 2, 3 and 3 so the new guys were on par with the rest of the table.
I cautioned everyone that they needed to get through this week’s encounter and next week’s encounter with whatever surges they currently had remaining. I stressed the importance of teamwork and smart tactics, especially without a leader in the party. I even repeated it just to make sure everyone heard me. Unfortunately when the rubber hit the road the players all did their own thing and paid dearly for it.
The adventure picked up with the PCs leaving Vontarin’s mansion after fighting off the Tieflings in the previous two encounters. They returned to Duponde and to the Old Owl Inn to get a meal and have a rest before nightfall. Upon their arrival they met Grimbold. He asked them what they’d learned and they recapped the details of their adventures from the previous few weeks.
With the sun setting and night nearly upon the town once again Grimbold asked the heroes to assist him and the town again tonight. He explained that most of the townsfolk had gathered at the Chapel of Peace or the armory to ride out the night. His men had the Chapel secured but he could use the PC’s help guarding the armory from any shadowy threats. He also told them that his men spotted a cloaked humanoid near the South Gate but they lost him. They don’t know who this mysterious figure was but they are very interested in finding him and deal with him as soon as possible. The PCs debated both options and after a 3-3 vote they finally agreed to go after the hooded figure thinking that perhaps it might be Nathaire.
When they arrived at the South Gate they noticed movement within a nearby old, run-down house. As they approached the house four plant creatures dropped from the trees and attacked the PCs. The plant creatures (Twig Blights) extended vines from their arms, strangling four PCs and then pulling them into adjacent squares. The heroes then within striking distance, the Twig Blights all attacked their entwined foes, three hitting of them.
The PCs fought back but a lot of poor rolls led to very few hits. At the top of the second round more Twig Blights (these one’s minions) joined the fray, flanking the heroes where possible. Now this was a pivotal point in the encounter. If the PCs worked together then they could have easily take out the minions quickly and avoided a long, drawn out battle. Unfortunately everyone wanted to be the hero and they all did their own thing.
The two PCs not entangled moved out of the melee. Jarren 1 climbed a tree. This is typical behaviour for him. He likes to find a perch and fire into the battle. Jarren 2 meanwhile started heading towards the house and got a crossbow in the chest for his trouble.
The PCs unloaded on the regular Twig Blights with their best encounter powers. No one wanted to use a daily power yet. Unfortunately it was going to take a few hits to drop them and they all attacked different opponents. The Ranger and the Paladin didn’t even try to escape the grab. The Paladin, low on healing surges and getting clobbered, refused to mark any opponents. He didn’t want to draw any unnecessary fire. This left the nice soft Wizards wide open for attacks.
Finally, after a few rounds, Jarren 1 managed to destroy three of the five minions in one attack with Beguiling Strands. The other two Wizards each used Magic Missile to ensure all the minions fell that round. By then the minions had combined to inflict at least 50 points of damage to the PCs, hit points they could not afford to loose.
Even with the minions out of the way, the real Twig Blights still hammered the party. The Ranger and the Wizard were both knocked unconscious. Without a leader other PCs had to give up standard actions to revive them. Fortunately they rocked the Heal checks and revived fallen comrades quickly.
The cloaked figure continued firing his crossbow at the most wounded-looking PCs, hitting every round for 1d8+5. Realizing that things were looking incredibly bad, all three Wizard pulled out their daily power, Fountain of Flame. This made all the difference. They quickly realized that the Twig Blights had fire vulnerability 5. In addition to the awesome damage inflicted with the initial attack, any Twig Blight inside the zone took 10 damage at the beginning of his next turn. With three zones strategically placed on the map it only took one more round to destroy the remaining Twig Blights. Had they Wizards opened wit their big guns things would have gone very differently.
When the PCs finally rushed the house in search of the hooded figure firing the crossbow, he was long gone. He took off as soon as he saw four Twig Blights fall in the same round. The PCs will never know who the mysterious humanoid was.
Going into next week’s conclusion to chapter 2, the PCs at my table are going to be hurting. Two of them have no surges left, but both are at or near full hit points. Three others have a single surge remaining, but only one of those three is at full hit points. Only Jarren 1 (who avoided serious damage by climbing a tree) has surges to spare for next week.
After the encounter I talked to the new players and explained the importance of balance over min/maxing. All three of them had a starting Constitution of 10 which was why they had so few surges. I suggested that they consider tweaking their abilities and raising their Con to at least 12 and to strongly consider taking the Durability feat.
One of the new players complained (half-heartedly) that if the PCs were that hurt they should just be able to take an extended rest. I told him that if his PC couldn’t handle at least four consecutive combat encounters without an extended rest then he should look at changing some things on his character sheet. A starting Dex of 20 is nice, but living is better.
How was this week’s encounter at your FLGS? Did anyone loose a PC this week? Any TPKs? How many PCs are going into the final fight with no healing surges? Who took the other option for this week’s encounter and faced off against the Wererats? Did those parties fare better than mine did?
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