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.