D&D Encounters: Lost Crown of Neverwinter (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 22, 2011

After a thrilling bar brawl (the second in four sessions) the party took a much needed extended rest upon completing last week’s encounter. However, before we proceeded with this week’s adventure we first needed to resolve some of the outstanding issues that still lingered from week 6.

The problem we faced last week was a lack of information which caused players to struggle with motivation for their PCs. I had to try to answer the repeated question “Why are we doing this?” Based on the fantastic comments left here and on the Wizards forums last week along with details I managed to pick out of the adventure after re-reading it, I think I managed to get the train back on the tracks. (A big thanks to Erik Scott de Bie, author of Lost Crown of Neverwinter, for replying personally to some of the comments left here last week.)

The PCs are trying to remain as neutral as possible in the conflict. They have accepted a substantial commission from Lord Neverember to investigate the Lost Heir. They are looking for proof of the Lost Heir’s true motives, intentions, and origin and if they can get the Lost Heir to meet with Lord Neverember so much the better.

The rebel group The Sons of Alagondar were disorganized and effectively useless as a force for implementing change before the Lost Heir arrive. Now the Sons of Alagondar have fallen in line with the Lost Heir and are willing to follow his lead no matter where it takes them. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that the Dead Rats, a mercenary organization that uses violence to accomplish its goals, seems to be working with the Sons of Alagondar. Whether they’ve secretly infiltrated the organization or have joined them openly is not clear yet. The heroes have been directed to find the Dead Rats. From there they should be able to engage the Sons of Alagondar and eventually the Lost Heir himself.

Once I filled in these gaps for the players they were back on board and had the information and motivation that they were lacking last week. We were now ready to begin chapter 3 in which the party would attempt to infiltrate the Dead Rat’s hideout, the location provided by Charl the Halfling at the end of last week’s adventure.

This week we had one DM (me) and 10 players. I had absolutely no desire to run one massive table nor did I want to turn anyone away. The solution we came up with was dividing the players into two groups and running the encounter twice in a row. Since the encounter was likely going to be a quick one anyway I was fine with this compromise. However, I’ve asked the coordinator at the FLGS to try to get another copy of the adventure so that we can enlist the assistance of a second DM for the rest of the season.

Normally when you break a large group into two smaller parties like this you pay attention to who’s playing what character and try to ensure balanced groups with all the roles represented. However, since this was a hasty decision the only real consideration was who could stay for the late game. This made for two very different and unbalanced parties. The first group had two leaders and the second party had none. In the end both parties survived and neither run-through took more than an hour.

The first group ended up with a Warforged Druid (PHB2 build), Tiefling Warlock, Human Bard, Eladrin Cleric (Valenae per-gen), Fargrim (pre-gen). The second group ended up with a Goliath Fighter (Battlerager), Kalashtar Paladin, Gnome Bladesinger, Tiefling Battlemind, Human Wizard (enchanter). In the details below and in our weekly podcast we’re going to follow the adventure of the second group.

The party, still recovering from last week’s fight at the House of a Thousand Faces, needed to make a decision regarding Charl before they took their extended rest. The Eladrin and Half-elf brother and sister that ran the place revealed to the party that they were Harpers. They asked the party to leave Charl with them. He is a great source of information and they’d like to ask him some questions before turning him over to the authorities. The party agreed and the Harpers gave them two healing potions as a token of appreciation.

With that detail taken care of the PCs rested. The Harpers woke them up a little after midnight and the PCs set off to Blacklake district to find the boathouse and the entrance into the Dead Rats’ hideout.

The swampy terrain was awkward but not difficult to traverse. The fumes from the swampy area did prove troublesome for the Bladesinger and the Wizard, both of whom failed their Endurance checks. The result was -1 to speed during the forthcoming combat encounter for these two PCs.

When the PCs arrived at the boathouse the Battlerager managed to roll a natural 20 on his Perception check which revealed the presence of strange-looking plant-like humanoids. Once their presence was pointed out to the party the Wizard and Battlemind managed to identify them with Arcana checks and informed the party that these were Twig Blights.

Realizing that they were spotted, the Twig Blights moved in and attacked. The Seedlings managed to shift between the PCs, flanking them, ganging combat advantage and inflicting a lot of damage quickly. The Wizards made short work of them with Beguiling Strands.

The Swampvines used their Poison Lash to grab and pull the Wizard and the Battlerager away from the group and further into the swamp. Once these PCs were adjacent to the Swampvines they raked them with their claws. The Twig Blight Lurkers worked well together. One went invisible while the other moved tactically for combat advantage and attacked the Bladesinger.

Each round the Twig Blight Lurkers alternated attacking and going invisible. Once invisible, I had the Lurker move adjacent to a PC that attacked with ranged powers. When that PC attack with a ranged power or move more than 1 square (not realizing that the invisible creature was right next to him) the Lurker took an opportunity attack. This let the Lurker still get a basic attack on turns when it gave up its standard action to turn invisible. The next round it attacked with its special Blighted Claw attack before going invisible again the following round and starting it all over again.

The combat was pretty straight forward for the heroes. The Poison Lash attacks were bothersome but not hindering. The Wizard made excellent use of Beguiling Strands to break the grabs with forced movement (despite the Twig Blight’s Rooted racial trait that reduced forced movement by 3 squares). The weakened condition was a real pain for the Bladesinger. She spent multiple rounds dealing half damage as she couldn’t make the save.

In the end the party showed intelligence and smart tactical awareness. They focused fire as much as possibly dropping the Twig Blights one by one. The invisible attackers did manage to knock the Bladesinger unconscious at one point but the Paladin immediately revived her with Lay on Hands. As the monsters starting dropping the final Twig Blight Lurker used his invisibility power to flee.

After the combat while the heroes took their short rest they searched the old canoe off the shore. Inside they found a decomposing body. On it they found 10 gp each and a magical item. I let the player running the Bladesinger roll the loot since she had the roughest time this week. She rolled a 20, which meant two items. I then rolled 2d20 to see what the party found.

The first item was +1 Veteran’s Armor. The second roll was another 20. Unfortunately it specifically says that if a 20 comes up again you just reroll it rather than roll two more times. I figured that since we rolled two 20s the second item should be player’s choice. The group agreed to let the Wizard get a magical item since he didn’t have one yet. He chose a +1 Orb. The Battlerager Fighter took the +1 armor.

The encounter was fast and fun. It took us just under an hour each time I ran it. The drain on the party’s resources wasn’t too bad so that shouldn’t put them too far behind the eight-ball moving forward.

How did this week’s encounter go at your table? Did anyone suffer any losses or even a TPK? What’s the average party level? Are any DMs letting new players begin at level 2 at this point or do all new players start at level 1? I’m having new players start at level 1 but I know some of the DMs at the other FLGS where I play had everyone advance to level 2 at the beginning of this chapter.

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 7 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.

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1 Jordan Quackenbush September 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

This is my first week back to Encounters since slaying the white dragon, due to work, personal, and car issues in the other weeks. Thankfully Dungeon’s Master kept me up on the happenings of the campaign!

For me, this week was not unlike that week with the dragon. With the dragon, our tiefling mage put it to sleep, and my elven ranger literally did half-damage. Our DM is magnanimous and lets us use action points to re-use a daily – yes, something not normally allowed, if I read the Compendium correctly. So Sure Shot + Quarry can do about 47 damage, action pointed, and then an encounter. Needless to say without much more bragging, slaying the dragon took about 30-45 minutes for 4 level one characters, with one character going unconscious.

Last night at my FLGS, the process was fairly similar. The 5 of us were all level 2, and while at first the twig blights seemed to be an obnoxious fight, the minions dropped quickly thanks to an area burst for three and a fighter cleave for two. I used my daily and encounter and eradicated two of the more “boss” enemies in each, and the other two were dealt with rather quickly. Again, the battle only took 30-45 minutes, and I think the only one of us even close to bloodied was the summoned bear.

While these were fun adventures, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that the entire encounter took less time than it took for me to drive round-trip to the event. I’m fairly new to D&D, and being a husband and homeowner (like many of us, I imagine), I don’t often have time to put in to playing – so when I can dedicate a night to play, I want something that will last 90-150 minutes, like the group I DM that sporadically meets. Less than an hour might have been good for the 14-yr old who was at the table and had homework for tomorrow (well, this week is fall break), but I want more for my “money.”

Aside from the complaining, I am grateful that my local FLGS runs Encounters, and that life events actually allowed me to participate this week after being out for all of Chapter 2.

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

@Jordan Quackenbush
I’m with you when it comes to disappointment from quick adventures. If I’m going to make the effort to come out I want to feel like my time was well spent. At my Monday night game I ran this encounter twice (as described above) and at my Wednesday game all the DMs ran the week 7 and 8 encounters back-to-back. As the DM, if I see a short encounter I always prep the next one just in case there’s time to run two in one week. The added bonus this time around was that next Wednesday night we can skip D&D Encounters and not fall behind. We’re going to run Lair Assault in its stead. That’s win-win.

3 Wendy McLaren September 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Our party is pretty firmly on Lord Neverember’s side. First, the Lost Heir took credit for killing the dragon, when they all know it was their own Lady A. who cast the killing fireball. Then, they hear that the Lost Heir is somehow in cahoots with the Dead Rats (this was how they interpreted the information) and might be using the nefarious group to stage attacks, letting the Lost Heir “save the day.” They are pretty certain that Seldra either isn’t telling them something, or possibly, she has a crush on the Lost Heir. She does tend to gush on about him. 😉

I didn’t have good minis to use for the monsters, so I changed things up a little. (I hate using generic “Monster” tokens.) The Twig Seedlings became Swamp Beetles and the Twig Blights became Toad Blights. I didn’t change any of the mechanics, just the description. I did have grabby-type minis, so those were the same.

The invisible toads gave them fits. They were sure there were more, just hiding. Some of the party wanted to cross the log, and some chose to brave the swamp. The first time one of the party blundered into a toad made everyone hesitate about moving. The Swampvines wouldn’t let them just dawdle, though, and pulled them closer.

My group does appreciate a fairly quick adventure, while the players at the other table all want to go on. As a result, they are a few sessions ahead of ours. This seems to work out well for everyone.

4 Bob, the slutty Eladrin Wizard September 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Correction Derek… Twas the Enchanter not the Bladesinger that went unconscious.

5 Sunyaku September 22, 2011 at 11:32 pm

At our FLGS, it seems any roleplaying interaction with the plot has completely dissolved. The party just travels where the DM tells them they need to go and then they kill things. Since every player has not attended every week, the story is even HARDER to follow. 🙁

The previous seasons of encounters seemed to have much better roleplaying opportunities (and plots)… I’m not sure what happened with season.

6 Mark September 23, 2011 at 4:59 am

I don’t like it when a lot of players are not able to attend. It is harder to plan as a group and everything looks so disorganize.

7 Jordan Quackenbush September 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

@Sunyaku, Mark
My group is so laid-back, that the story aspect the DM reads at the beginning is nearly always missed from being talked over. Shame, because I like the story aspects and appreciate a more serious, engaged group – like the group I DM from time to time.

I really wish my DM would run a couple in a row, but he’s shot down that idea. Shame. It would make it more worth my time.

We had no minis, not even really for the PC’s. The FLGS had just changed locations earlier in the month, so things weren’t where they should be, and players forgot theirs. So, we ended up having Warhammer marines and such for our minis. Pretty epic, given that mine was a sniper, and I managed to kill each foe when I attacked him the first time.

8 Paik the Kenku Monk September 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I have actually run the adventure out of order. Having Lord Neverwinter meet the team and get them on his side. It seemed to solve the “who am i working for” argument (Thanks Dungeon’s Master!). I agree with the encounters being too short or easy. I have added many more enemies (up to 4-5 more depending on amount at table) to the fights and the group seem to do just fine.

I increased the Dragon’s HP by 150 and the group still did fine.

Overall I am a little disappointed at the encounters but this is my first time on the DM side in 20 years so I am enjoying pounding the heck out of the players as they get cocky with Sure strike + Hunters quarry…I just hit them with more and more enemies.

9 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 30, 2011 at 7:55 am

D&D Encounters – Only On Wednesday

I was contacted by Wizards and asked to clarify and correct some details I recently posted in my D&D Encounters articles and the follow-up comments; specifically details about playing on nights other than Wednesday. I was asked to post a correction and clear up any confusion my comments might have caused.

During the D&D Public Play seminar held at GenCon this summer there was some discussion about playing D&D Encounters on nights other than Wednesdays. I wrote in my articles that although D&D Encounters happen in most locations on Wednesday, Wizards understand that this will not always be the case for every store. Where I was mistaken was in saying that Wizards was ok if your FLGS runs D&D Encounters on a different night. Apparently I misunderstood the intent of what was said.

Wizards wants to be very clear that they are “committed to our program’s structure, and we do not want stores to think it’s OK to run on nights other than Wednesdays.” Wednesday is the mandatory day to run D&D Encounters. Wizard does periodically check to ensure that stores run D&D Encounters sessions on Wednesdays. If they discover that a store is not compliant, it can lead to punitive action (such as pulling the program from the store).

Stores can run whatever other D&D events they want on any other night and schedule or report their sessions under the “D&D Game” sanction rule. If the store organizer has any questions about it or how it’s done, they can contact their WPN representative.

I realize that my comments about it being ok to play D&D Encounters on other nights of the week, comments that I now realize were made in error, may have caused some confusion. Hopefully this post will clear up any misunderstandings and set the record straight.

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