D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 8)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 30, 2011

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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1 QuackTape June 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

My players opted to stay and guard the armory. It was quite uneventful since their presence seemed to drive off any creatures going bump in the night, that is until Tilda and the rest of the residents from the Old Owl in came running up (Tilda suffering from a nasty look bit on her leg that looked infected). They explained that the in was under attack big some large rats and the party set out to save the Inn (again).

Once there they were attacked by half a dozen were-rats inside. They did a fantastic job calling targets to help deal with the regeneration of the lycanthropes though so it didn’t end too poorly. The Knight called them while the Binder and Nethermancer played artillery, with a Death Cleric and Vampire helping too in close range. The wererats got some flanking on the Vampire and Cleric causing a nice portion of damage, but given the strong tactical decisions being made at least once enemy dropped each round.

Surge wise the party is hurting pretty bad. I gave them a scroll of Comrade’s Succor before the encounter so they rebalanced their surges. Now with one more encounter to go no one has more than 2 surges left meaning that they’ll have their work cut out for them at the end of Chapter 2.

2 Bobbydrake75 June 30, 2011 at 11:27 am

Our adventure this week brought us back to Duponde trying to chase down the Halfling. We encountered the evil plants and they pulled the two defenders off the road along with myself, Ol’ Swampy (Shaman). I knew that this week was going to be my last as I’m on vacation next week and therefore out of town. I also knew that the party was hurting on Healing surges, especially the one defender Knight who was down to three. I waiting until the minions closed and I popped my daily, Spirit of the healing Flood. A close burst 5 enemies only that laid waste to our enemies. I hit 6 of 7 attacks including 2 criticals!! This also gave each ally Regen 2 when bloodied and 10 HP back as a minor. We as a group rolled well and stomped the encounter only spending 1 Healing surge on the wizard. I feel bad because I’m not going to be there to help them through the final battle but I hope that I gave them the strength that they needed going into it. Woot! I lived through 8 encounters!! Good luck with the final adventure this chapter, I can’t wait to hear what happens.

3 Seb Wiers June 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm

How was this week’s encounter at your FLGS?
-Varied results. Tower Games (Minneapolis) runs 4-6 tables each week, one (where I sit) a reserved table for leveled characters.

Did anyone loose a PC this week?
-Not that I know of. Certainly not at our table- this was the first week nobody went unconscious, though my Druid dropped to 1 HP and his bear got “killed” twice.

Any TPKs?
-Nope. I can recall maybe 1 time in the 17 sessions (each with 4-6 tables) there was a “TPK” (K being “knockout”).

How many PCs are going into the final fight with no healing surges?
-At my table, none. We had two characters with zero surges, one with 1, and one with 4. Our GM let us shift surges around, on the basis that we’d likely have the ritual to do so by this point in a normal campaign, given our level / skill set / demonstrated team spirit. Still, just one surge each, though (afaik) we are all full HPs. We got good use from the “free drinks” twitter buff – http://t.co/TkNmfqC

Who took the other option for this week’s encounter and faced off against the Wererats?
-At least one of the 4 groups, but they didn’t actually faced the were-rats. I think they changed horses mid-stream and went hunting for the hooded figure. As a result, the inn burned to the ground!

Did those parties fare better than mine did?
-Sounds like it would be hard to do much worse. My write up is getting pretty long, so I may make it a separate or linked post when done.

4 David Argall July 2, 2011 at 2:32 am

SONGS OF SONG – 8. A partly successful hunt

Once again we returned to town with prisoners, but not the object of our quest. As before, the prisoners were spared their likely deserved fate so they could be troops for the hard pressed defenders. And we were sent off on another mission. A rumor spoke of a shadowy figure in the poor section of town, which might have been the wizard we want, or his assistant. So again we tried to hunt him down.
This involved many hours of weary, and worrisome, walking, but eventually we found him in an empty house, just as something else found us. This was a batch of plant creatures who outnumbered us and quickly attacked. Thia and Horag were quickly wounded badly. Even so, the battle was likely ours, but I took no chance and used my most powerful song, scattering or destroying the opposition. [I also healed Horag, choosing her on the entirely rational point that she was the hotter of the two chicks. {Well, rational to the male mind anyway, and I did heal Thia next.}]
With the enemy scattered, it was no problem for Kargun, Thia, and Horag to flank one of our more powerful foes, cut him down and then work on the other. In the meantime, Dee and I worked at luring our target out of his shelter and then taking him prisoner. All in all, the battle was quite successful.
However, the war is another question. Our prisoner proved to be neither wizard nor assistant. However, it did turn out he was a minion of our foe, and he was able to tell us [after a little encouragement, mostly by Dee] that a big attack was going to happen that night.
As we rush back to warn the others, we can at least hope our troubles were worth it.

5 Sunyaku July 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm

People are pretty low on resources going into the last battle… unfortunately at my table, they thought this was the last encounter of the chapter, so a couple daily powers may have been squandered unnecessarily. We’ll see how it turns out. My character, Trogdor, is in good shape… his beefy majesty well in tact.

6 Byron Roberts July 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Our group opted to look for the hooded figure…

We only had three people at our table, and three at the other table, which decided to stay at the armory and managed to finish their encounter in only an hour. I joked that they needed to get their asses over to our end of town, and that’s actually what they did… they ended up joining in where they got ambushed by the trees.

No one died, but we definitely had as close a call as you can get. One of our paladins, who refused a “free” healing surge earlier because he already had plenty, ended up going into one of the trees at some point, which subsequently was set on fire. He miraculously didn’t fall out of the tree after becoming unconscious, which would have dropped him below his negative bloodied value and killed him for real, owing to a super nice GM. He did ultimately fall to within one point of his negative bloodied value, but the GM reminded him that he had +1 resist for some reason, which allowed him to survive long enough to be healed.

7 Seb Wiers July 3, 2011 at 7:48 pm

As I mentioned, my blow-by-blow writeup of the encounter was getting quite long, so here’s a summary to give folks an idea of how it went:

By way of scene setting, I mentioned it was my 40th birthday and I’d just gotten a job offer, so drinks were on me- twitter buff drinks (http://t.co/TkNmfqC) and soft drinks from the store’s vending machine, that is!

Our group did pretty well. We had the usual four players this week (its a “reserved” table); our occasional fifth is reportedly opting out of the rest of the season.
-Marius, 4th level eladian vampire
-Ebon Cross, 4th level tiefling shadow pact warlock
-Sir Branis, 4th level human knight
-Yaedof (and Skoorgah), 4th level dragonborn sentinel druid (and bear) (my character)

Yaedof Bloodbane
Journal Entry #8 from “A Brief Stay in the Town of DuPonde”
(later archived as “The Dark Legacy of Evard”)

As a last step to wrapping things up at Vontarin’s estate, I wrapped the remaining two drake eggs in as much insulating material as I could find, and secured the bundle to Skoorgah’s pack. Breaking open severl bottles of wine, our group was cristnend- the “Fighting Fell Drakes” have vowed to free DuPonde (and themselves) of the curse which has befallen them after Nefare’s foolishness.
Battered, but with spirit still strong, we took advantage of the remaining daylight to return our evidence (the hexblade’s journal and ledgers) to Grimbauld, reporting on the tiefling gang we’d taken out and the information we had collected. He was quite rightly upset to hear of the mounting evidence that Nathare was roaming the countryside, clearly quite mad with power and looking for… something.

Hearing Grimbauld’s concerns, we quickly and unanimously opted to go after the cloaked figure lurking on the city’s south side, despite doubts about our ability to play “cat and mouse” in an urban environment. We suspected it might be Nathares missing manservent, or perhaps the dark figure from the previous encounter (in session 3, the “shadow bolter” managed to escape), and figured anybody else sent after him would likely fail to capture him, if they even survived the attempt. All of these things proved true…

Highlights of the fight included
-Dark Bolter positioned on the roofline of a large mansion (not inside the building), with Marius, Skoorgah, and Yaedof going after him.
-Marius being flung to the ground from 20 feet high several times and landing on his feet, taking no damage each time
-Ebon taking out 4+ targets (including the Dark Bolter) over the course of the fight without taking a single point of damage himself
-Branis slugging it out toe-to-toe with one of the plant soldiers for 3 straight rounds
-Yaedof climbing to the roof in pursuit of the Dark Bolter (a risky move that left him at 1 HP, but cleared the way for a good combined attack, then AP for a crit hit with tending strike, before using healing word on himself. This forced the Dark Bolter to retreat by leaping to a neighboring tree and then having his bear to make a flying tackle across the gap to bring them both crashing to the ground (where Ebon knocked him out).
-The final reveal that the Dark Bolter was (what remained of) Nafare’s halfling manservant, and Nafare was utterly possessed by Volatarin.

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