D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard (Week 9)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 7, 2011

This week things began with a little bit of role-playing as the party had their first skill challenge in many weeks. The success or failure of the skill challenge had real implications on the forthcoming combat encounter. As this was the fifth and final encounter of chapter 2, the PCs were in rough shape and knew that a major climax was going to happen before the night was up. They would not be disappointed.

This week I had seven at my table. The party consisted of Jarren 1, Jarren 2, a Shardmind Bard, a Shadar-kai Vampire, a Drow Ranger, an Elven Ranger and a Goliath Warden. For the second week in a row I had a lot of younger gamers at my table. It made for a much longer and slower night, but the game was still a lot of fun.

During last week’s encounter this party did not manage to capture or kill the Dark One Shadow Bolter. He managed to escape while the PCs fought the Twig Blights. This week they spent time trying to track down the elusive archer, but had no luck. He was simply gone.

The heroes returned to the town square where they met up with Captain Grimbold. He told them that most of the town’s folk had huddled in three defensible locations to ride out the night: The Chapel of Peace, the Lady’s Manor and the Armory. His men had the Chapel and Lady’s Manor pretty much secured but they could really use help securing at the Armory. The only soldiers there were relatively inexperienced. The PCs agreed and headed to the Armory.

When they arrive the people within were scared. The events of the past two days and nights had crushed their spirits and hope. These are normal, regular, people who had never used weapons. They just wanted things to return to normal, but few believed that would actually happen. It was up to the heroes to bring hope back to these terrified folk.

The Bard made a rousing speech (Diplomacy) and reassured the people that things would be alright. His confidence was infectious and many were relived. Jarren 1 decided that a big lie (Bluff) was called for. He spun a yarn about a religious prophecy (Religion) that told of events similar to these. In this prophesy seven heroes made the difference and emerged victorious. He showed the people the holy symbol that Brother Zelan gave him and explained that the prophecy specifically said that the heroes would brandish this symbol which he held. Things would be alright.

The Vampire and the Drow Ranger entertained the younger kids with a slapstick performance (Athletics). Jarren 2 recalled other well known stories (History) about small forces defeating overwhelming numbers, giving the people hope. The Elf Ranger took special care to make sure that everyone was in good physical health (Heal), providing first aid and food to those who might need it.

Each of the heroes also had to call upon their own inner reserves to keep their own spirits up (Endurance). Five of them made it, two did not. But those who did were able to help the one who were still feeling the crushing despair of being in the Shadowfell.

With these acts of kindness, the party was able to easily instill hope back in these people. The seven soldiers who were stationed at the armory found the courage to join the party in patrolling the immediate vicinity.

For the next couple of hours the PCs carefully patrolled the few blocks surrounding the Armory. As the PCs were finishing a patrol circuit and returning to the Armory they heard the sounds of battle. With dawn less then an hour away the Armory was under attack.

Skeletons were trying to get inside the Armory. Two other skeletons engulfed in fire and hurling fireballs attacked the Armory from the apex of the nearby bridges. The Drow Ranger and the Vampire rushed the closest skeletons, easily hitting and knocking them down. But these minions weren’t as fragile as the PCs expected. With a successful hit the minions was knocked prone and bloodied, but not killed. It took a second hit to destroy these skeletons. Two soldiers stayed out of melee and fired at the skeletons with their crossbows, missing horribly.

Two skeletons came around the Armory and using bows shot Jarren 1 and killed one of the soldiers. Jarren 1 (now an Eladrin) used his Fey Step to teleport on the roof of the Armory. From there he lowered a rope allowing the others to climb up more easily. Jarren 2, the Bard, and the four remaining soldiers all climbed on to the roof before pulling the rope up behind them.

The Warden followed the Vampire and Ranger, avoiding the minion Skeletons and charged the Blazing Skeleton on the bridge. Fortunately the Warden had a power that provided resist 5 to all damage so the creature’s fiery aura didn’t hurt him. The two exchanged blows for a few rounds. The Warden shrugged off most damage, including the ongoing fire as well as the fiery aura.

Two skeleton archers on the far side of the canal took aim at the soldiers on the roof, eventually killing two. The other Blazing Skeleton also targeted the PCs on the roof, hitting the Bard and Jarren 2 in two successive rounds, igniting both on fire. Neither made their save for a few rounds.

At the top of the third round, with the four melee skeletons defeated, six more entered the combat. This kept the Vampire and both Rangers pretty busy. Meanwhile on the roof, two Shadow Stalkers appeared and attacked the PCs who thought they were safe. The necrotic hugs incapacitated Jarren 1 and the Bard. The PCs on the ground had no idea that their friends on the roof were in real danger.

By this point most PCs were bloodied (except the Warden). The PCs had between zero and two healing surges so they needed to destroy these enemies fast. The addition of the Bard to the party was a literal life saver as he was able to heal Jarren 2 and the Elf Ranger when both were down to their last couple of hit points. The guys on the ground decided that the Blazing Skeletons were a more serious threat than the minions so they ignored the minions and focused their attacks on the Blazing Skeletons. They even provoked opportunity attacks in order to get there faster.

The battle on the roof was getting ugly fast. One of the Shadows couldn’t hold his hug as Jarren 1 kept saving and ejecting him from his body. The other one held the Bard tightly reducing his hit points in leaps and bounds every round. The mobile Shadow took out one of the soldier leaving only one left in the battle. He would survive until the end.

Jarren 1 realized that the Shadows were bad news so he climbed off the roof and helped the ground fight. Two Arc Lightning attacks later two more minions were down. The Rangers both used Twin Strike to destroy the remaining minions. It was Jarren 1, grasping the holy symbol that killed the final Blazing Skeleton with a Magic Missile.

The PCs on the roof couldn’t hit the Shadows, but neither could the Shadows hit them. Jarren 2 and the Bard both jumped off the roof into the wagon below. The Bard could not make a save. The other shadow tried attacking Jarren 1 but was finally destroyed by the combined force of the party. The other Shadow was eventually expelled from the Bard after three of the PCs made successful Heal checks granting the Bard additional saves.

The final shadow was no match for the seven PCs focusing fire. The heroes were bloodied and out of healing surges, but the battle was over and they’d won. Six of the seven soldier died during the fight. During the entire fight only one soldier actually hit with an attack. The PCs searched the skeletal remains and realized that all of the undead wore garments similar to those worn by monks.

The sun broke over the horizon and the town of Duponde returned from the Shadowfell to the normal world. However, this transition was sluggish and not as quick as the one the day before. Another night or two and Evard’s curse would keep Duponde in the Shadowfell forever.

The PCs did remarkably well. Some were playing new PCs so they had daily powers, actions points and healing surges that they wouldn’t have had if they’d played all of the previous four encounters of the chapter. Add to the mix seven level 4 PCs and I knew that I had to beef things up. Even though they rocked the skill challenge I still had the reinforcement arrive on the third round.

As described above I made the minions two-hit minions. When a Skeleton was hit they were bloodied and knocked prone. This forced a minion who survived until his next turn to use his move action to stand. It also made finishing him off easier for melee combatants as they’d have combat advantage attacking the prone opponent. I asked the players what they thought of my enhanced minions and they all really enjoyed fighting them.

I gave the Blazing Skeleton an encounter power that was a burst 1 within 10 that didn’t inflict damage right away but caused 5 ongoing fire damage (save ends) on a hit. This encouraged the PCs and soldiers not to bunch up. I also added a second Shadow Stalker. This proved to be just the right balance.

The encounter took two and a half hours. This was due in part to the younger players not paying attention, the two-hit minions and a lot of poor rolling in the second hour by the players and the DM. I felt that this was a very exciting conclusion to the chapter and the players agreed.

So ends chapter 2 of Dark Legacy of Evard. When we pick things up next week the PCs will learn more about why the Skeletons were all dressed in monk’s robes and priestly garments. With only one chapter remaining you know that a showdown with Nathaire is inevitable. Will the PCs break Evard’s curse or with the entire town of Duponde remain in the Shadowfell forever?

How did people find chapter 2? Do you think having that fifth encounter was too much or do you think pushing the players into one more combat was just what D&D Encounters needed? Did anyone let the party take an extended rest before the end of the chapter? What have people enjoyed most about this season of D&D Encounters so far? Do you think that it’s as good as last season, better or about the same?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Argall July 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm

SONGS OF SONG-9. A Night survived

The threats grow worse, but for the moment, we survive. That was not easy. Our first night, we were too scared to notice, but the Shadowfeld is a most depressing place. People, ourselves included, were losing the will to resist. All were sinking into despair. We tried various ways to keep up morale, with fair success, but if we have to work at that now, how can we hope to succeed if we are cut off from our home? Our survival for much longer is most endangered.
However, we did turn back the current challenge. The patrols were doubled in size and I joined one along with several of my companions and a number of the locals [many of whom said they were inspired by our efforts]. When we were near the armory, we run into the main undead attack. This was unfortunate for Kargun since he went around the right side of the building while everybody else was going around the left, and met more of the undead than he could handle. The blackguard did not lack for courage [brains? Maybe.] as he charged into them, apparently hoping some of us would be coming to his rescue. But even if this had been a reasonable idea, the undead cut thru the armory and blocked us from helping him.
However we were mostly interested in putting out the fire of this one burning skeleton. Since it burned all who got near it, I would have assumed the best strategy was to stand back and missile it down. However my melee friends, Thia, Vorak, a human barbarian, Dee, and Horag chose to swarm it, take some burns and stamp it out quickly. Given the result, I can’t really insist they were wrong either.
Then we jumped into the armory and started disposing of those who had taken shelter there. Again we unloaded massive melee damage and soon were spilling out of the armory to rescue Kargun, just barely in time. Shadowfane, a shapeshifter Shaman, did the healing that kept him on his feet, or at least allowed to get back to them.
We lost two of the locals, but the attackers were wiped out. Tactically, the battle was a tremendous success for us. But how many more undead await us? And can we stop our slide into Shadow? We are in great peril.
But the sun is back now, and for a little while we can rest.

2 Sunyaku July 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm

We crushed the skill challenge with ease, but nearly had a TPK in the combat. Two leaders, and three melee strikers. Almost everyone was unconscious at some point in the fight. The Vryloka Blackguard died, after failing three deaths saves this combat. He was knocked unconscious FOUR times. Ugh. Not good to be Vryloka and bloodied. (>.>)

My character, Trogdor (the burninator) used his majestic ability to smell fear peasants (insight) which aided the rest of the party in their understanding of the shadowfell’s grip on the citizens of Dupond.

In the combat, Trogdor, accompanied by the minion Ally (or was it Ally’s sister?) tried to sneak around the far side to flank the undead… only to be foiled by a shadow hiding in the corner. “Somebody get this freakin’ shadow away from me”, he cried, before falling unconscious. Fortunately, Trogdor had drawn a healing potion that round, which was easy for Ally to find and feed to him (which the DM ruled counted as reviving an ally lolz). From there, a solid hit with Trodor’s “burninate a peasent” (blazing doom of the void) power left the shadow bleeding… followed up by a max damage “Burninate the Countryside” (dragon breath) attack for 15 more points… enough to kill the shadow.

The remainder of the combat was very dissapointed. Trogdor connected with a couple shimmering rays of majesty (eldritch bolt) that jumped up and bit the shadow bolter in the face. Then Trogdor wanted to burninate more, but he was all out of his usual burnination. So he lit a torch, and proceeded to run the bolter down, and swing a pint of oil at the bolter, but was unable to connect. As the bolter tried to escape the whiffing trogdor, he was struck down by other party members. :-(

Note: Level two Trogdor took 65 damage this combat, bringing his average damage per combat up to 40.8. Trogdor earned the 50+ damage in one session renown award for the first time this season. It’s a good thing he has 10 surges, a surge value of 13, and lots of temporary hit points… (>.>)

3 Kiel Chenier July 8, 2011 at 8:45 am

My table handled the combat with ease. Rather than make the minions tougher, I doubled their numbers, filling the poster map with skeletons, which also came in waves (a Perception check was required to spot the oncoming bony menace).

Went okay, but only one minion out of the eight survived (Duponde guards named John, Paul, George, Ringo, Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha). It was George, who was sheltered by his PC.

While I love the Encounters Program, its really beginning to wear on me as a DM. Looking less and less forward to each next session. Though Derek/Ameron deserves a lot of credit. His table is always packed and he handles the younger players with ease.

4 Sebastian July 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

We only had 3(!) players at our table this week; our vampire player was absent. That left us with:
-Sir Branis, lvl 4 human knight
-Ebon Cross, lvl 4 human shadow pact warlock (I’d been posting him as being a tiefling, because that’s the mini the player uses)
-Yaedof and Skoorgah, lvl 4 dragonborn sentinel druid w/ “bear”

We knocked out the skill challenge pretty easily, everybody rolling successes with the exception of Yaedof rolling a 1 when he tried to look like an imposing guardian outside the armor (intimidate). Ebon lead the group in a rousing prayer (religion) and told a few whoppers about how powerful his defensive magics were (bluff), Branis helped the frazled adults tend to their children (endurance), and Yaedof tended to the injured (heal) and kept an eye out to make sure he could talk down anybody who was starting to crack and spread panic before they got that far (insight).
However, the more meaningful part of the pre-fight role play was perhaps the re-appearance of a pair of twins, who were entertaining the crowd with various childish antics (including some surprisingly skilled juggling) while also perhaps picking a few pockets and caching a pair of short swords for later retrieval. Yaedof pointedly told them to stay inside and use the swords to bash anything that came through the windows (they denied having swords, but did not promise to stay inside).

The fight itself was tough but not over-whelming. Each player got to control a minion soldier, who acted immediately after their character. (They all died pretty fast- Ebon’s lived the longest.) We faced a lot of (leveled) minion skeletons, only one flaming skeleton (who was damn tough and had a HUGE attack bonus) and a non-minion living shadow (who came inside the building to attack Ebon Cross, forcing him to go outside to seek help fairly early in the fight). Each PC had one healing surge (thanks to the DM allowing us to pool surges in a ritual).

The fight began rather poorly for me; I charged the flaming skeleton, figuring my resistance to ongoing damage and ability to dish out radiant damage would let me handle it better than others would. Sadly, both the charge and my action point “tending strike” missed. After that, I let the flaming bones back off and went to aid Ebon. At one point, Yaedof was well below bloodied and had to choose between bringing back Skoorgah or using second wind; I brought back Skoorgah because the flaming skeleton was in perfect position for a Bull Rush (which Skoorgah does much better than Yaedof) to knock it into the river, and Skoorgah managed to do it! Having a 4rth target back on the map was also a good thing, because (sadly) the flame corpse managed to climb back out of the river, still on fire, after missing only one turn.

None of the PC’s got knocked out (unless you count Skoorgah dying twice, again) BUT the two boys did both join in the fight (we perhaps should have done more to prevent this). One was killed early on by skeletons, and the other was horribally disfigured when, in a rage of sorrow, he charged the flaming corpse. After the fight, Yaedof tried to console him and failed (low insight roll); as I was bundling up his brothjers body so we could go the the chapel, the surviving brother committed suicide by jumping in the river.

For me, this was a good encounter- a tough fight, but even more so, some good role-playing with actual (and dark) consequences. I think this season is much better than last because it has a better cast of recurring characters; the NPCs (both villain and ally) last season seemed a bit two dimensional. There also seems to have been a bit more variety to the combats, though that could be because our table is running lvl 3+ characters (and monsters).
I think 5 encounters for chapter 2 was about right. It really gave the “pushed to the ragged edge” feel to the final fight. However, I had designed my character knowing I’d need to go 5 encounters without extended rest (and even then, came up short on surges).

On another note, I’ve already racked up 60 renown this season. I’d designed my character to be tough and flexible in order to ensure maximum renown rewards, with the potential to tag every award, and have puled it off!
-Created my own character (didn’t use CB)
-Attended 9 sessions
-Survive 8+ sessions without death
-Took 50 damage in a fight (ch 2)
-Moment of Greatness (ch 1&2)
-Revive a Dying Ally (ch 1&2)
-Hit for 15+ damage vs 1 enemy (ch 1&2)
-Kill 3 enemies in one attack (ch 2)

5 Durn July 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm

This Encounters season has been humming along. I’m proud to say I’ve had a majority of returning players for the last couple months. We must be having fun!
At the end of Chapter 2 the heroes have been investigating the Curse of Evard that has been laid upon the town and now the must defend the populace from the depredations of a second night in the netherworld known as the Shadowfell. This night the townsfolk have barricaded themselves into the Armory, and other safehouses, but rumour stirs (confirmed by the interrogation of a grey goblin with cloven hoofs) that an army of the dead is marching upon the town.

The group for the last few weeks has consisted of Miranna, a Shade Binder(Warlock); Belgos, a Drow Hunter (Ranger); Brandis, a Paladin (who has willingly been corrupted by a devil’s sword to become a Blackguard); Valinnae, a Cleric of Pelor; and Keira, an Elven Thief.
During their patrols the heroes felt a malaise and deep despondency drag at them, and though they shook it off, they were obliged to help prop up the moral of the local militia, who seemed ready to pack it in. The Cleric showed them the light of Pelor, while the Blackguard, Drow and Warlock told of much worse tales than theirs, and that combined with a whiff of rum perked them and they had a small army of their own to command! Each player received a small card with Militia Minion stats and got to choose a mini fig. I suggested they name them but nobody did.
The band of defenders returned to the Armory to discover it was under attack! Swarms of skeletons with spears battered the Armory doors, and two blazing pyrotechnic skeletons orchestrated the events. A lurking shadow stalker waited for an opportunity to strike.
The ranged abilities of the monsters combined with the big building made for a different sort of fight. The heroes were hurt and very vulnerable to being in a fire corridor, especially when the fire skeletons started lobbing mortars. However, the army was mostly minions and the militia’s firepower was quite effective against them. The thief ended up defeating the shadow stalker upon the roof, while the Cleric unleashed Aspect of Wrath to slay all skeletons who approached, and take down both Blazing Bones as well (I think). The Blackguard caught on fire and jumped in the river.
The army was defeated, no heroes died (all but one guardsman died), and dawn broke over the town. Just another night in the Shadowfell. Everyone made 3rd level and everyone got a random Fortune Card.

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