After wrapping up the battle with the bandits at the Wall last week the PCs had a brief interaction with a Half-Elf NPC named Seldra who directed them to the House of a Thousand Faces in the Blacklake district if they wanted to find out more about the Lost Heir. We picked things up this week with the heroes walking the few miles from the Wall to the Winged Wyvern bridge where they intended to cross over into the Blacklake District.
We had enough players to run two full tables of six at my FLGS. Some of our regulars showed up, but not all of them. There were six new faces this week which is always nice. With school beginning I suspect that attendance will be sporadic for a few weeks while everyone settles back into a normal routine. My table consisted of an Eladrin Warlock, Dragonborn Warden, Deva Necromancer, Kalashtar Psion, Drow Ranger (Belgos the pre-gen) and Eladrin Cleric (Valenae the pre-gen).
During the previous few encounters I’ve made a big deal about the badges that the PCs were awarded from the Lost Heir and Lord Neverember. I’ve been comparing the civil unrest to a heated sports rivalry and the badges to team crests. Think of the hatred between N.Y. Yankee fans and Boston Red Sox fans. By wearing one badges or the other it’s like wearing one of these two baseball teams’ logos proudly. Fellow supporters will be happy to help while those who support the other team will treat you more harshly. Wearing both is just going to anger everyone. Refusing to wear either may get you suspicious looks but shouldn’t put you any further ahead or behind by remaining undeclared.
So after a reminder about the badges and the consequences of wearing or producing either the PCs with them decided to keep them hidden. When they arrived at the bridge there were guards stopping people from crossing over. I gave the players a chance to discus how they wanted to handle this. They could show Lord Neverember’s badge and get past the guards without incident, but this would not go unnoticed and people might assume they support Lord Neverember – something they may not want to declare at this time.
The players decided to send two PCs up to the guards and find out what it might take to get past the guards. The first PC reached into his pocket, produced his badge and said he wanted to cross. So much for subtlety. The guards immediately announced that these men were working for Lord Neverember and that they should be allowed to pass without incident. Although it made the crossing easy it also wasn’t necessarily what the whole party wanted to do. Oh well.
When I ran this encounter at my other FLGS they absolutely did not want to show their badges. They spoke with the guards and after a couple of Insight and Streetwise checks realized that the guards were Mintarin mercenaries who could likely be bribed. The players then discussed options.
One plan had them paying the guards and then stealing the money back. Another had them using Stealth and misdirection to crawl under the bridge and swim in the lake. They even thought about paying the bribe, and then showing Lord Neverember’s badges and claiming to be secret police. They would then Intimidate the guards into handing over any bribe money they’d already accepted from other travelers. In the end they haggled over the price of the bribe and managed to pass without showing either badge. It took almost an hour to play out. The role-playing was great and it was a very fun social encounter. I was amazed at how differently two groups handled the exact same situation.
When the heroes from the original party got across the bridge and down the first few steps, six Plaguechanged humans rushed out of the nearby buildings and charged at the PCs. The Grunts managed to win initiative. One charged the Warlock but missed. The other two Grunts worked together to grab and attack the nearest PC, in this case the Necromancer. (Why the Necromancer was first when there was a Warden and heavily armored Cleric in the party was anybody’s guess.) One successful grab and one successful hit later the Necromancer was unconscious.
The Warlock Fey Stepped out of melee, fired at the nearest Grunt and hit. The Ranger fired a couple of arrows at the others, hitting one. The Warden moved up to help the unconscious Necromancer. He attacked and hit one Grunt and then marked both that attacked the Necromancer.
The Plaguechanged Wretches rushed into the melee. The first attacked the Cleric, the second attacked the Psion and the third attacked the Ranger. The Cleric avoided damage but the other two PCs were not as lucky.
The Psion moved away from the melee, attacked and bloodied the Grunt. The Necromancer made his death save but did not regain consciousness. The Cleric used Healing Word to bring the Necromancer to life and then granted everyone 5 temporary hit points even though his attack missed.
The Grunt grabbing the now-conscious Necromancer was subject to the Warden’s mark and when he tried to attack the Necromancer the Warden was able to slide the Grunt away and save the Necromancer from getting attacked (which absolutely saved his life). However, the other Grunt was able to grab the Necromancer again, rolling a crit on his only attack with set damage. The remaining Grunt attacked and hit the Cleric for big damage.
The Warlock decided that it was time to use his daily attack so he targeted a Grunt that already took damage. He hit and killed the Grunt; however the Grunt managed to stay on his feet, the Spellplague transforming him into a minion. The Warden used his dragon breath on the Grunts, hitting both before attacking and hitting one again.
The Wretches moved in and continued pounding on the Warlock, Cleric and Psion. The Psion and Necromancer fought back giving as good as they got. The Cleric healed himself and then used his daily power which granted him 10 temporary hit points (which he desperately needed).
The Grunts attacked and missed. The Warlock used a daily item power to teleport himself to safety and teleport the adjacent Wretch off the bridge and into the river. The Warlock then used a burst attack and targeted the wounded Wretches. The attack hit and bloodied both simultaneously. Both of their immediate reactions were triggered, blasting everyone nearby including three of the heroes. The Necromancer was knocked unconscious. The Cleric was knocked unconscious. The Psion was knocked unconscious. The monsters were still standing.
The Ranger and Warden both continued fighting but couldn’t drop any of the monsters. One of the Wretches attacked the Warden, the other attacked the Warlock. Both missed. The Psion then rolled a 20 on his death save bringing him back to consciousness. The Necromancer and Cleric both failed their death saves. The Grunts attacked the Warden and one grabbed him successfully.
The Warlock targeted the most wounded Grunt and killed it. He then used his action point to target the most wounded Wretch and killed it as well. The Ranger attacked and hit the Wretch in the water, hoping to bloody him before he got close to the heroes. The Warden attacked the remaining Grunt twice thanks to timely use of his action point. The two attacks finally dropped him.
The Wretch on the bridge attacked the Warlock but couldn’t drop him. The other one managed to get out of the water but couldn’t get close enough to attack anyone. The Psion attacked the wet Wretch with a summoned creature hitting and bloodying it. The resulting explosion only got the spirit in the blast. The Cleric and Necromancer both failed their death saves again.
The Warlock and Ranger eventually dropped the Wretch on the bridge. The Warden engaged the wet Wretch and locked him down while the strikers moved in and killed it.
As soon as the last monster fell the two PCs making death saves were up next. The Cleric rolled an 18 and with his +2 class feature revived himself. The Necromancer failed and got strike three. However, because the battle was technically over he didn’t really die.
When the PCs finally recovered from the battle they searched the bodies of the Plaguechanged creatures and found 20 gp each along with a +1 viscous weapon which they gave to the Ranger.
This was a really tough encounter. It was supposed to be a resource drain and it certainly was. Three of the PCs have either one or zero healing surges left going into the final encounter. I thought that the damage output by the monsters was really high considering that the heroes were all level 1 still.
The Wretches that exploded when bloodied was a real shocker for both tables at my FLGS. As much as I liked the power, I felt it was a mean trick to play on inexperienced players running level 1 PCs. The only saving grace was that it was indiscriminate and damaged everyone, including the other monsters.
If I’d been running this encounter during a home game, I’d have let the PCs flee after a round or two. The ensuing chase would have become a skill challenge to lose the pursuing monsters. However, D&D Encounters doesn’t encourage this kind of behaviour. Players expect to have a full combat encounter every week. They don’t want to run after a single round even if they’re in over their head.
Did you players enjoy week 5? How many PCs were killed by the Plaguechanged attackers this week? How many PCs are heading into next week’s encounter with one or zero healing surges?
As an added bonus this season we’re recording our D&D Encounters experiences and making them available to you as downloadable podcasts. Listen to the Week 5 Encounter. Bear in mind that these recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at time it may be difficult to hear everyone.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.