D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 21, 2011

During last week’s encounter the PCs discovered the crypts of the Pelor faithful disturbed and the remains of many monks transformed into unholy undead. They dealt with the situation and ensured that no more skeletons would be forthcoming from that crypt. The Pelorites could once again rest in peace. With nightfall only a few hours away, the heroes were uncertain of what to do next. So they began this week by searching the crypt for clues.

This week we had 10 people at our FLGS. That meant one massive table with nine PCs or two tables with 4 PCs at each. We opted for two smaller tables. I ended up with a Dwarven Fighter, Eladrin Wizard (Jarren variant), Eladrin Avenger and Human Druid with bear companion – so a defender, controller, striker and leader. It’s been a long time since I’ve run a party of four and actually had all four roles represented. I was looking forward to seeing how things played out.

The PCs searched the crypt before they ventured onward. While going through the Dark One’s packs they found some notes written on a few loose sheets of paper. On one sheet, Vontarin gave the Dark Ones instructions. These Dark Ones were to keep creating more undead and have them ready for tonight. Other Dark Ones were to keep searching the rest of the Abbey by day while Vontarin searched the library in the Shadowfell. Further down the page Vontarin left very clear instructions that the Dark Ones should meet him in the library as soon as the sun set and Duponde shifted back into the Shadowfell.

This new lead was just what the PCs needed to get moving. They took a 15 minute rest to maximize healing before venturing up the hillside, through the forest and on to the ruins of the abbey.

I didn’t expect that they’d have any trouble with the skill challenge. Man, was I wrong. The Druid began with a Perception check and found tracks the Dark Ones left behind. Following the tracks they headed deeper into the woods, however, the tracks eventually got to a rocky area and they lost them.

The Fighter decided to climb a tree and get a better look at the surroundings. He climbed about 20 feet up a tree and then fell. Fortunately he was trained in Acrobatics, made his check and didn’t take any falling damage. The Avenger tried the same tactic and met with the same difficulties. He took minimal damage from his fall.

The Wizard tried using Nature to see what areas of the forest might be experiencing unusual animal activity. He grossly misjudged his findings and led the party in circles for about an hour before the Druid made a follow-up Nature check to set the party on the right course.

As the party got closer to the Abbey they realized that they were making a lot of noise and tried to move as quietly as possible. All four of them failed their Stealth check. The Avenger was the closest, only missing by 1. The skill challenge needed one more check. Success or failure rested on the result of the final check. The Avenger decided to use Religion to get a better understanding of the Abbey grounds. He rocked it and got a 21. The party succeeded.

They approached the abbey walls and made their way up a few stairs and towards a small chapel. As they entered the courtyard they saw two Tar Devils who did not immediately see the PCs. The heroes got a surprise round. The Fighter and Avenger charged and hit the first Tar Devil. The Druid and Wizard moved into better positions.

The Fighter (who rolled a natural 20 on his initiative for the first time in two seasons of D&D Encounters) attacked and hit the Tar Devil again, bloodying it. The Avenger, attacked the Tar Devil, killing it before it even got to attack. He then used his action point to move away and charge the other Tar Devil.

The Tar Devil attacked the Avenger with Tar Strike scoring a crit for 23 damage and 5 ongoing fire damage. The Druid sent in the bear to help the Avenger and beef up his defenses. Outside the abbey walls, two Leeching Shadows emerged from the foliage and attacked the Wizard who was all alone. One missed with the necrotic hug, but the other got him.

The Wizard used his Fey Step to teleport closer to the action and then used Magic Missile to destroy the Leeching Shadow he could see. He then made his save and expelled the other hugger.

From the windows of the structures, two Shadow Bolters fired their crossbows at the Avenger and Fighter. The Avenger was hit, the Fighter was not. The Fighter charged the nearest Shadow Bolter, crashing through a window and pinning him to the ground. The Avenger kept going toe to toe with the Tar Devil. With the Tar Devil now designate his Oath of Enmity he got to roll two attacks, easily hitting round after round.

The Leeching Shadow tried to hug the Wizard again, but failed. The Wizard shifted and used Magic Missile to destroy the Leeching Shadow and put an end to the necrotic hugs in a big hurry. The Druid used his Healing Word (or rather the Druid equivalent) to help the Avenger.

Meanwhile inside the building the Fighter marked the Shadow Bolter, keeping him in place and keeping him from firing at anyone else. The Shadow Bolter was in a tight spot. If he tried to crawl away, stand and shift, or fire his crossbow while adjacent to the Fighter he’d provoke an opportunity attack. He could switch to his dagger but did much less damage that way. Oh well, he decided to risk it. He stood and fired. The Fighter missed with his opportunity attack. The Shadow Bolter hit.

The Black Bolt crossbow attack was supposed to do 1d8+5 and if the target provokes an opportunity attack he takes 5 damage automatically. I misread it and had it doing 5 ongoing damage (save ends) instead. When I realized my mistake a couple of rounds later I decided to keep it that way especially because the party was already doing so well in the fight. I figured that even though there were only four PCs, this was a level 4 party doing a level 3 encounter. And if the Shadow Bolter kept using his crossbow in close quarters he’d draw extra attacks (which would likely drop him that much faster). If the dice had cooperated then this wouldn’t have been an issue. As it turned out, cold dice resulted in the Fighter taking a lot of damage.

The Fighter continued to keep the Shadow Bolter marked. The Shadow Bolter continued to use his crossbow while adjacent to the Fighter. The Fighter missed on both the opportunity attack and his regular attack three rounds in a row. The dice came up 1s and 2s six times in a row. The Fighter was getting destroyed with the crossbow. But on the plus side the rest of the party was able to work together to face the other combatants.

In the courtyard the Avenger, Wizard, Druid and bear companion easily took down the second Tar Devil. The Avenger cautiously moved to the door of the building where the Shadow Bolter was hiding. The Bolter rolled a natural 20 on his Stealth check in the dark room. The Avenger entered, rolled an awful Perception check and failed to see him in the dark. The Bolter got off a quick shot on the Avenger before ducking behind some objects in the room and hiding again.

The Druid sent the bear to block the doorway and then threw a sun rod into the dark building removing the Shadow Bolter’s advantage. The Wizard and the Druid, hearing the screams of agony from the Fighter moved to the window to see what was going on. The Druid healed the Fighter but that didn’t help for long. The Wizard continued using Magic Missile to chip away at the Shadow Bolter’s hit points.

The Fighter eventually dropped the mark allowing the Shadow Bolter to flee. The party let him go. The Fighter had only 4 hit points remaining and was still taking the 5 ongoing damage. If he didn’t get healing fast he’d be unconscious.

The Druid moved into the room through the destroyed window and drew a healing potion. He decided to make a Heal check to give the Fighter a save. If that failed he’d use an action point to administer the healing potion. Fortunately the Heal check worked and the Fighter saved.

In the other building the Shadow Bolter got another a couple more good shots in on the Avenger before jumping out a window in order to avoid the bear. This left the Bloter wide open in the middle of the courtyard. The Fighter, seeing the remaining Shadow Bolter outside charged him, but not before he used his second wind as a minor action, and drank the potion the Druid gave him as another minor action. One more round was all it took. The party ganged up on the final combatant and easily took out the last Shadow Bolter. The wounded Shadow Bolter that fled did not return to the fight.

The party took a much needed short rest and healed up. The Fighter ended up using 5 healing surges, the Avenger 3, the Druid 1 and the Wizard 0. Considering that the Fighter took no damage during last week’s encounter, I didn’t think that his sacrifice this week was out of line. He’s still got 5 more healing surges going into the final two encounters.

After the short rest they searched the buildings and found the Dark One’s stash. In addition to money they found a +1 Lifedrinker weapon which the Avenger claimed (since he was the only one without a magic weapon). Just as the PCs decided to head towards the library, the sun set below the horizon and the world once again shifted back into the Shadowfell.

How did your table handle this week’s encounter? After two encounters, are some parties already below half of their resources? With two more encounter left in the adventure do you think everyone at your table will survive? Are players excited to be heading towards the conclusion? Are any groups getting fed up with this season and just want it to be over already?

Next week we’re going to be running a marathon session in which we’ll be completing the final two encounters in one shot. With two of the three DMs heading to GenCon the following week it seemed like the right thing to do. Skipping the final encounter of the adventure would only anger the players and hurt our already dwindling numbers. I suspect that next week we’re going to have a full house. Is anyone else playing encounter 13 before the “play date” because of GenCon?

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1 Durn July 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I thought I’d answer the Q’s this time. We have a couple characters very low on Surges. The thief has one. She might die. Everyone is pretty excited about the game. It has been a great season. The “two wizards” story is a little convoluted to explain to people, but no one seems to care. The Gen Con thing is a good point. I may be out of town for other reasons so I should really think about doing that. My play report is below.

Red Castle Games in Portland, OR
In which I encounter an entirely new table, and conquer it!
I arrived at the game store to pick up my specially ordered Dire Boar mini, and to run a D&D Encounter, the 11th of the current season, nearly the end of the line. I had been quite smug about my returning player ratio but that began to fall apart last week. This week I took a call at the store from a trio of players who were late but promised to arrive. They never did.
Instead, a young lad of 14 or so was waiting for me, a neophyte to the Dungeons and Dragons, though he had his own dice. He was soon joined by an even younger lad with his mother in tow. Mom sat in the corner with her Kingsolver book while her son bellied up to the table for his first D&D experience. Both chose fighters. Then the ladies arrived from last week, with a third friend as well. Suddenly we had five players, potentially eight if the others showed, and I was scrambling for enough characters and minis. Luckily I had enough stuff floating around my traveling kit. The third gal was also a first timer. That made the most experienced player a veteran of 5 sessions. They were all figuring their d20 from their d12.
The characters were an Elven Thief, an Eladrin Cleric, a Drow Hunter, a Dragonborn Knight, and a Dwarf Slayer.
I explained the game a bit, but didn’t sweat it too much. “Roll your d20 and add the number. Use your red powers! Here’s a damage die. Ok let’s go!” I certainly didn’t try to explain how an rpg works, rather I threw them right into it. I recapped the story a bit and asked for the players to describe their character’s actions as they explored the ruined monastery in the last rays of the setting sun. They eased into it. I took a skill check from each and moved the narrative right into the fight. Who needs a skill challenge? This is just storytelling guided by dice. The dice were not particularly strong and so the heroes were ambushed.
As they entered the abbey, the Dark Elf Hunter was shot in the throat with a poisoned dart. Suddenly there were goblin-like Dark Ones with their goaty hooves, living Shadows grasping, and fiery Tar Devils attacking from all sides! The ambush was brutal, and although the cleric was attentive to her duties, handing out healing and extra saves, there were still a couple of near casualties.
Everyone had a great time and looks forward to the next week as we near the finale.
As a public DM, this was a particularly satisfying game for me, seeing the quiet excitement on the faces of the young boys, and the sort of silly fun the ladies were having was a real treat. The youngest kid just said, “I hit it with my axe,” every time, but he said it with great enthusiasm. The older boy took his role as protector quite seriously and saved the thief with a natural 20 on a First Aid check. (I made them do their addition each time the rolled.) The ladies came up with rude names for their foes and cursed the dice that brought their side of the table a steady stream of 3 and 4s.
It was very different from playing with experienced gamers, less attention to rules, but a keen sense of that wonderment we all search for in these games of fantasy. This kind of experience may be closest to what I am personally looking for in D&D. It is like the best days teaching in a classroom, holding court with an enthusiastic and engaged audience, guiding the discussion towards it’s logical conclusion. Fun times.

2 David Argall July 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Songs of Song-11. Ambushed

Faced with the knowledge the undead wizard will be unavailable until after dark, we decided to wait for dark, on the plea of our vampire, Dee, who does not like the sun. [My own opinion of doing something useful in the meantime was outvoted.] This of course led to us mostly stumbling around in the dark once night fell and we were back in the Shadowfeld. Even by Shadowfeld standards, it was dark indeed. So we had to carry lights, which in turn meant the enemy saw us from far away, and had a nasty ambush prepared when we arrived.
We suffered greatly in the opening moments. Thia was almost dropped and Targun, Deathface [a drow cleric], and Dee were badly hurt. However my companions include some powerful fighters. First their little shadow creatures were disposed of and then we beat off their tar devils. So Dee was free to disrupt their artillery, some more dark ones. One by one the rest of us were able to join him. Once I had landed the killing blow against one of the devils, Targun was able to find a devious path to pin down a dark one, and then Thia dived thru a window to assist him. Thia did most of the damage, but they slowly put him down. In the meantime Drod, a halfling thief came to help Dee, followed by Deathface & I. Trapped and backed into corners, they were not able to do much damage and were slowly cut down.
Once again, we had prisoners, who were willing to talk. Not that they told us much of value. The undead wizard was said to be in a building right near by, which had just changed from ruins to complete in the blink of an eye. Well, our dealings there should be completed fairly quickly, so we are able to merely tie up our prisoners. Now if we can just succeed with the wizard…

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