After defending the armory from the undead attack last week, the PCs ended the encounter and took a much deserved extended rest shortly after the morning sun crested the eastern horizon. When they awoke Grimbold met them and they traded tales of what happened the previous night.
Grimbold explained that he was at the Chapel of Peace and led the militia as they defended the church. The undead threat didn’t manage to get inside the church but he did loose a few of his men in the process. As the PCs already knew, many of the townsfolk including members of the militia continue to loose the little hope they had left.
Grimbold explained that the undead he faced were all dressed in the cassocks of Pelorite monks. The PCs confirmed the same adornments on the skeletons they faced. When examining the skeletons in the morning daylight, Brother Zelan speculated that someone broke into the crypts at Saint Avarthil Monastery to awaken these poor souls as undead minions. Grimbold agreed that it was at least worth investigating. He asked the PCs if they would travel to the Monastery, a mere two hour journey from Duponde, and try to figure out what happened. The PCs agreed to help.
This week our numbers dropped sharply. We ended up only running one table of six. The party consisted of a Human Rogue, Human Vampire, Human Ranger, Eladrin Cleric and two of the Dungeon’s Master pre-gens: Byshir the Vryloka Blackguard, Dolora the Tiefling Cleric. For those counting that was four strikers and two leaders. For the first time in a long time all six players were experienced gamers. I’m not sure what happened to our other usual players (including the noticeably absent kids) but it was a nice change to see the players pay attention and know what they want to do when it was their turn.
When the PCs arrived at the crypt they discovered the door had been forcibly opened and symbols of Pelor intended to keep the doors sealed had been destroyed. This was the second time they’d see this in as many days. Just the day before, while in Vontarin’s basement, the PCs discovered that one of the doors had been chained with an identical seal – also destroyed so that the door could be opened.
The heroes debated letting one or two of the sneaky guys go in ahead of the party, but in the end everyone decided to stick together. After all there’s strength in numbers. Inside the crypt they discovered signs of desecration and vandalism. Burial niches along the walls were broken open and the remains of whoever was inside removed. This was clearly where the skeletons originated.
As the Ranger and Rogue moved forward they encountered two Skeletons in the adjoining room to the south. The Ranger engaged the first one, hitting and bloodying him. The Rogue engaged the other, but missed. The rest of the party was a little bit behind the two scouts so they all needed to take double moves just to catch up. Two more Skeletons approached from the south, surrounding the Rogue. Knowing that he was in over his head he shifted away and then backed up to rejoin the rest of the group.
From the stairs to the east, a small dark shadow creature which they later learned was a Hex Knight entered the room and fired his crossbow at the PCs, missing horribly. The heroes all ganged up on the Hex Knight and with five of the six PCs surrounding him, they defeated him quickly. Unfortunately when he was killed a part of his shadowy essence thrashed out at all the adjacent PCs. The darkness clung to their bodies, blinding them.
The Skeletons waded into melee, not having to worry about opportunity attacks from the heroes that couldn’t see. With combat advantage they hacked at the heroes, the Ranger and Rogue taking the brunt of the attacks. The Rogue moved away from the sounds of combat, used his second wind and then saved successfully, getting his sight back. The rest of the party wasn’t as lucky.
After the Tiefling Cleric and the Ranger both failed their saves, the Eladrin Cleric realized that he could do more good aiding his allies than fighting. He used his powers and his Heal skill to grant allies saves. This selfless act didn’t go unnoticed.
With some of the PCs still blinded they had a really difficult time hitting the Skeleton minions. The Rogue moved downstairs to see what other threatening creatures lurked in the chamber below. He discovered another Hex Knight, a Blazing Skeleton and a few more Skeletons. The Ranger, still blind, followed him down.
From the chamber to the south another Hex Knight appeared and attacked the Blackguard and the Vampire, hitting only the Vampire and doing ongoing damage as well as normal weapon damage. The Blackguard and Vampire focused their efforts on subduing this Hex Knight but had no luck. Likewise the Hex Knight kept focusing his attacks on the Blackguard but couldn’t penetrate her awesome AC. The Vampire took a few hits, but nothing too serious.
The Tiefling Cleric kept fighting the Skeleton minions but couldn’t hit anything (cold dice will happen). The Hex Knight at the bottom of the stairs engaged the Ranger and Rogue, inflicting a lot of damage to the blinded Ranger. The two PCs gave as good as they got. The Rogue landed a devastating hit for nearly max damage and the Ranger used and action point to get 4 attacks before moving back up the stairs to join the rest of the party where he could get closer to the Cleric making Heal checks. As it turned out he finally saved and regained his sight so the move was unnecessary.
The Hex Knight followed the Ranger up the stairs. The Rogue decided not to take an opportunity attack as he passed by. The Ranger, now sighted, took an opportunity attack and killed the Hex Knight. This time only three PCs were adjacent to him when he died, so the Ranger and both Clerics were all blinded again.
The Rogue realized that the Blazing Skeleton was a ranged attacker so he decided to kill it before any of the other PCs came downstairs and into the monster’s sights. In one round the Rogue managed to inflict enough damage to bring the Blazing Skeleton down to less than 25% of his maximum hit points (thanks in part to good use of an action point). In the next round the Rogue destroyed the Blazing Skeleton, taking only one hit in the process. For a level 5 monster he didn’t really pose that big a threat to this party.
The remaining Hex Knight continued battling the Blackguard and the Vampire. Unable to land a single blow on the Blackguard, the Hex Knight moved so that he could target the blinded Ranger and the Vampire and kept hitting both of them. The Eladrin Cleric kept working to grant the other Cleric and the Ranger saves against the blindness but neither could roll the 10 or more needed to save.
A few pesky Skeleton minions continued attacking the party. They didn’t do a lot of damage on a hit, but they kept hitting. The blind PCs kept drawing opportunity attacks as the fumbled around the battlefield and the Skeleton minions kept hitting on these free attacks (aided by the combat advantage the PCs granted them for being blind).
Eventually the PCs managed to take out the few remaining Skeletons and then all four strikers ganged up on the Hex Knight and destroyed him. This time the blindness didn’t really matter as there were no more enemies in the crypt.
When the PCs searched they discovered that one of the finely decorated sarcophagi had marks on the lid indicating that it had been opened recently. The Eladrin Cleric, a loyal Palorite refused to let the greedy party desecrate the tomb. However, the five PCs managed to do what they wanted despite the Cleric’s objections. Inside they found a stash of coins, gems and a magical amulet bearing the symbol of Pelor. The Cleric refused to take any of the treasure as it was sacrilegious. The rest of the PCs divided up the loot.
This was by far my favourite encounter of the season so far. The abundance of strikers meant that the monsters were going to take a serious beating (which the did). I used my now commonplace two-hit minions (as described in yesterday’s article). Based on some of the comments I received I continued to refine them a little bit. On a crit I had the minions do double damage (so 8 instead of the normal 4). I also planned to have bloodied minions do double damage but none of the bloodied minions ever hit so that never came into play.
My dice were on fire. I began the night by rolling a 20 for the first monster’s initiative. I went on to roll 7 20s during combat (all attacks by minions). Three of those came during opportunity attacks. But given the output the party was capable of I think it all balanced out in the end.
The Blackguard and the Eladrin Cleric didn’t sustain a single point of real damage all combat. Both had temporary hit points that they lost during the fight but never had to touch their real hit points. The Ranger needed to use three healing surges by the end of the encounter, but that could have been much worse since he was blinded for about ¾ of the battle. I kind of felt bad for him, but what can you do? It all comes down to the dice.
I was amazed and pleased to see that the player running the Eladrin Cleric was content to help his allies and not feel that he had to contribute to the fighting. If not for his Heal checks some of the other PCs would have been blind a lot longer and things could have gone downhill fast. This more than anything else reminded me that experienced players are more likely to know their character’s role and are content to play it. Randy, I tip my hat to you, buddy. Good job.
How did this week’s encounter go at your FLGS? Did any other groups see their numbers drop now that summer is in full swing? Did anyone find this encounter too hard for their party? Did anyone find it too easy? Any TPKs this week?
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