D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 10)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 14, 2011

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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1 Bobbydrake75 July 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I returned from my vacation to learn that none of my fellow players had fallen. This last session seemed like a push over for us. We slayed the minions and had little trouble with the other four, though the DM forgot to use several of the baddies double attacks.

I noticed something that was a little disheartening. The take 50 HP of damage in one combat award seems to be making too many in my party strive to get to that 50 even if it means playing incredibly foolishly. Taking 2-3 OA and then counting on the leaders to pump their HP. Has anyone else seen this?

2 Ameron July 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I have been incredibly disappointed with the way the rewards system has changed since Fortune Cards debuted. A few players tried using them when they were introduced last season but after a few weeks they stopped. They found that it just slowed things down too much. Now that the rewards are just more Fortune Cards (which we’re not using) no one cares about renown points at all. We stopped tracking them all together.

As far as your particular example, I too have seen this happen. Of the 20-30 character we’ve seen at the tables this season only 2-3 have been leaders (healers). More often than no there is no leader in the party. Once players realize that there is no healing support forthcoming they smarten up in a hurry.

3 David Argall July 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm

SONGS OF SONG-10. Counter-attack

After a much needed rest, we woke to find a plan was in place. A rather desperate and dubious one, but still a plan. Clues hinted a ruined monastery might be the enemy base, and so we were dispatched to check it out and see what we could learn and do. So far it has worked well.
Finding the place was no problem, but it took precious hours of daylight. Counting the time to get back, there may not be much time left until dark, and we do not know if there will be another dawn. But at least we found this was the source of last night’s attack.
Exploring further, we ran into a pack of undead and battle was quickly joined. [I am not quite sure who struck first. Battle was fully joined by the time I turned the corner. However my companions seem to think not being in the front line is cowardly and I doubt they delayed much.] We soon had a jammed passageway between us and most of the undead [in large part jammed by these small shadow humanoids who were tough to handle]. However, an attempt to take us in the flank allowed those of us who were not in front to fight effectively.
Horag and Kargun were making progress cutting down those who blocked the passway, but a trick I had learned lured one of the defenders into attacking Dee and I, and allowing the two blackguards to concentrate on the other defender, who did not survive long. It took Dee and I somewhat longer to dispose of the 2nd, after which he could help Thia and Byshir, a human blackguard, deal with the flank attack and I could help out our leading blackguards, who had cut thru the undead and were now battling the main threat, another flaming skeleton. The two of them took quite a bit of damage, with me doing some curing, before the rest of the party finished off the flankers and rushed to their rescue. Dee managed the final blow by luring the fiery enemy into falling into a pit, the damage putting out his light.
We had kept 2 of the little humanoids alive, and now they talked, telling us that the wizard we are after is indeed here, or rather will be after dark. Right now he is trapped in shadows. They also told us the wizard had other forces in the area. Unfortunately for them, they also told us they had been creating undead to send against the town, which caused my companions to kill them. [They had a point. We really have no way to keep them prisoner and we can’t have them making another army to attack with.]
Looting the area produced some useful wealth, and a magic well that seems to have boosted our defenses. Hard to say how long that will help, but we will take what we can get.
But now we must plan how to proceed.

4 Durn July 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I walked into the store last night and got to rapping with the owner. He asked how Encounters has been going. I said, “Oh yeah it’s been great. A couple of kids have been at every session. Good regular group.” Of course they didn’t show up this time. Luckily, one of my regulars did, about five minutes late finding me sitting at an empty table with battle-mat and dice at the ready.
We waited for a bit and finally her friend showed up, another newbie to the D&D. Usually I call three players a quorum, but for Encounters, two was fine. There I was, playing Dungeons and Dragons with two girls, a first in my long gaming career! I tried to drag the cashier into the mix, but he had to catalog Magic cards, so I just added a Knight to the Thief and Cleric party. The Knight’s tag line was “Don’t you DARE ignore me!” which is fitting for an NPC. After a quick recap, the heroes entered the Crypt below the Monastery.
I didn’t mod the encounter for the 3 PCs. This made for a tense fight, with all the heroes bloodied by the end, and some close calls along the way. This was a “connected room dungeon” battle. My goal was to get the players to explore a bit of it as the battle progressed and keep it from getting static. I was able to guide it in that direction and I ‘m glad I did. These are the little DM lessons to be learned from Encounters.
There were some memorable moments. The thief, on fire thanks to a Blazing Skeleton, jumped into a Holy Well to find that this holy water gave her a blessing as well! The cleric had to make some decisions about healing herself or the knight, and finally there was a bit of discussion about whether to desecrate a coffin to get some treasure. Pragmatism won.
On reflection, I’ve been really lucky with the continuity of the player group so far. Today was the first time I sat down and wondered if anyone would show up. I’m sure glad that didn’t happen the first week I showed up to DM Encounters.
Tonight I won at D&D because one player on her fourth week of brought in another new recruit, so the Encounters plan is working. Huzzah!

5 Chet July 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm


1) I’m confused why the Ranger stayed blinded until he made a saving throw. The Hex Knight’s stat block reads ‘Killing Dark’ is triggered when he’s dropped to 0 HP, then the effect is that each adjacent enemy is blinded *until the end of his or her’s next turn*. But it sounds like it made for a more interesting encounter having the heroes make a saving throw.

2) Did the experienced party think to, or did the DM hint at, as was stated by David Argall above, checking out the well, or to question the second Hex Knight before killing it, to garner important info, rather than a pure hack ‘n slash?

3) I also like the way the pit came into play with David Argall’s encounter. Not that it has to. (I’d say it’s not really meta gaming to look at the terrain and contents of the rooms and think, well we better use it or check it out).

4) It’s too bad the blazing skeleton didn’t provide more of a challenge. (I would have added another popping out of the crevice lol)

5) I have read the module (I’m not DM-ing nor playing, but I’ve read this chapter and the prelude to it) and it suggests that if they hadn’t garnered pertinent info from a ‘dark one’ a.k.a. Hex Knight, they could find a scroll, carvings, tablet whatever, which provides the information that David Argall mentioned (only in different words). Although, the module as written does say it’s only a suggestion. So it’ll be interesting how or if the party acquires the info about the Wizard and his servants. (Too bad about the well ; )

6) I did like the option as written, of what could happen had the heroes taken the loot or left it alone.

These updates are fun to read. I have it marked in iCal to check in every week!

6 Sunyaku July 15, 2011 at 12:39 am

Our party crushed this encounter. It was a race to have the ‘privilege’ to take a creature down. Although it did help out a lot that Trogdor rolled high initiative and took out 4 minions in the first round, finally earning that renown award. 🙂

I also find it very odd that WotC gave away armor with resist fire/necrotic… that has made it easier for certain players to tank with minor healing support.

7 OnlineDM July 15, 2011 at 1:22 am

My party romped pretty easily through this encounter, too. We had eight at the table (no second DM), but they were all 1st-2nd level, so the scaling was a bit tricky. They did fine in the end. I ran it a second time with a party of four 3rd-level characters and ran it exactly as written, which also worked out just about right.

I’ve had the same experience with Fortune Cards that you have. The players are excited about tracking Renown Points, but when they ask what the points are for, the answer is disappointing. No one uses Fortune Cards.

@Chet: If I remember correctly, Ameron is scaling his encounters up because he had his players start the season at 3rd level (continuing their growth from last season). My guess is that he either intentionally made the blindness a (save ends) condition as part of the leveling… or he just misread it (that happens, too).

8 Durn July 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

I just handed each of my players a Fortune Card at the end of Chapter 2. I had five different ones in my DM pack and five players that night so it was simple. Its just another encounter power since 3rd level doesn’t offer too much for most of the pre-gen classes.

9 Durn July 16, 2011 at 2:34 am

um… otherwise, noone is using the cards though.

10 Chet July 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The The Shadowfell – Gloomwrought and Beyond Despair Deck is interesting. Maybe not for Encounters but homebrew campaigns set in the Shadowfell. A review here: http://tinyurl.com/3oh3pdl

Fwiw, Dark Legacy of Evard “Black Library” map is a reprint of the Fantastic Locations The Frostfell Rift. (Mini’s Skirmish v2 Starter and 4e Red Box Starter both use “Crossroads” and “Monster Lair”, Fantastic Locations “Dragondown Grotto” used for 4e H1 Keep on Shadowfell “A:4 Burial Site.”)

11 Randy Marchese July 17, 2011 at 12:28 am

Hey thanks for the acknowledgement Ameron. I really felt sorry for the ranger or at least I think he was. I just kept trying to help him but the damn dice just wouldn’t go above 10 and by the end he and I were getting fed up. The end of this encounter really threw me through a loop I had to fight my own temptations of the possibility if loot and power weapons and items but in the end I stayed true to the character. It kinda weird when I’m the pillar of light in this campaign since most of the builds are dark heroes who don’t mind bending or outfight breaking any sense of morality

12 Kiel Chenier July 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Some may be wondering:

“Where are the video recap? Where’d they go?”

Well, a bunch of scheduling conflicts have prevented a few episodes from being completed, but they’re coming up soon.

In the meantime, check out my new blog and source for DIY D&D, ‘Dungeons & Donuts’.


13 Ameron July 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

@David Argall
Great write-up. As usual, thanks for sharing. I’m glad to hear that your party decided to keep some of their opponents alive and not just kill everything. The NPCs have a wealth of information that none of the players at my table have even thought to try and get from them. Knowledge is power and many players forget that.

Yet another fantastic write-up, thank you. Sounds like things worked well enough even though you were running a really small party. We’ve been pretty consistent with our attendance, but this week was an anomaly. We’ve had a lot of brand new players join our games over the past few seasons, most of who have come back for more. The D&D Encounters program is defiantly working.

1) In order to make the encounter more suitable for a level 4 party I made the condition save ends. Otherwise all the other numbers, hit points, defenses and attack scores remained unchanged. It certainly made things more exciting (unless you were the player running the Ranger).

2) The players at my table are blood thirsty. None of them ever wants to keep their opponents alive. I’ve suggested it a few times but the person who delivers the killing blow always decides to make it lethal damage.

3) My party was extremely reluctant to move around. When they encountered the first few skeletons they locked themselves down and waited for the monsters to come to them (for the most part). Only two of the PCs even made it down to the larger chamber and the pit wasn’t more than dungeon dressing.

4) I’m not a big fan of the blazing skeleton. For a level 5 artillery they don’t really do a lot of damage. With two of six PCs playing Tieflings the ongoing fire damage didn’t even hurt them. I was kind of glad that the blazing skeleton was destroyed so quickly.

5) They’ve found many well-placed scrolls, books, journals, and diaries. After all I had to keep them informed somehow. At the beginning of next week’s encounter they’ll find another journal with some of the details they’ll need to move forward.

6) I was really hoping that the Cleric of Pelor would be able to keep the PCs from opening the sarcophagi, but when it was five against one it was clearly not going to be the case. I was just happy to see that the adventure’s creator accounted for that possibility and rewarded good role-playing.

We had three Wizards in the party at one point and minions didn’t pose any challenge at all. Having three guys with Beguiling Strands, Magic Missile and Arc Lightning meant that all of the minions were destroyed by the beginning of the second round. That was a big reason I started using the two-hit minions. But when the party has only a single controller, using a few normal minions and letting him mow them down reminds him why he’s valuable to the party.

None of the PCs at my table ended up with that armor, but the two Tieflings both have resist fire 7 so fire damage poses no threat. Between the Tieflings and the Wizards I’ve had to tweak a lot of things to make the adventure more challenging.

Thanks for providing the link. I really like reading about how other groups overcame the same encounter with different party make-up and even with weaker or more powerful characters.

You’re right about the save ends. This time it was intentional to make the battle tougher for higher level characters. But I do miss stuff like that all the time, I must admit. ?

I asked my players if any of them wanted the Fortune Card rewards and only one even expressed interest. The look nice but are not a strong enough incentive for my players. We still use the rewards cards from the first few seasons. They’re more versatile and it gives the players who have been there since day one something special.

I’ve heard that the Despair Decks add a new element of danger, but I have yet to see any of the cards myself. In truth I assume that they’d just slow things down much like the Fortune Cards so I’m not likely to use them in my games.

I had no idea that this was a reprint, but it doesn’t surprise me. I believe the map of Mother Grivelda’s cottage is from the new red box set.

@Randy Marchese
I think you’re doing a great job with this character. I hope you’re enjoying the experience. Although your previous character (the Rouge) was capable of dealing a lot of damage I didn’t get the sense that he was going to provide much satisfaction long-term. I think your current Cleric will do that.

@Kiel Chenier
Thanks for the update, Kiel.

14 Chet July 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm

@ Ameron

Thanx for taking the time. (Everyone’s input has been helpful).

Q: Could you provide a short example of how you and the players go about the exploration phase to find hidden or not so hidden information after combat, as you answered “5) They’ve found many well-placed scrolls, books, journals, and diaries. After all I had to keep them informed somehow. (I agree!!).”

A: The Mother Grivelda’s cottage map looks like it’s from the “Reavers of Harkenwold Dungeon Master’s Kit Adventure Encounter E4: Hunted!” It’s just turned on it’s side. I don’t blame WotC for leveraging what they already have, so they can be a little cost effective art-wise. They used one map for the first two ambush encounters in H1 Keep on the Shadowfell. You used the first half for the initial encounter, then that plus the map extended to create the next encounter which makes some people laugh but the economy works especially for a very first Level 1 4e module encounter.

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