We began this week’s encounter after the party completed their short rest in the boathouse. The PCs easily found the trapdoor under a dirty old rug in the centre of the room. When the party was fully recovered from the previous encounter they ventured down into the sewer pipe.
When I read this chapter I realized that the encounters for weeks 7 and 8 were both very straight forward and wouldn’t take very long to complete. Forearmed with this knowledge we ran back-to-back encounter last week which certainly provided added continuity.
I was unable to play in my Monday night game so we’re back to following the exploits of the Wednesday night group at Dueling Grounds in Toronto. The party was made up of a Deva Wizard (Necromancer), Halfling Bard, Halfling Rogue, Eladrin Ranger (archer), and Genasi (Watersoul) Swordmage. Some players had extensive D&D experiences while others were fairly new to the game. This kind of mixed experience level always makes for interesting encounters.
As the party descended into the sewers they noticed that the pipes themselves were made of sturdy Dwarven craftsmanship, however, there were noticeable signs of damage and neglect. Remember that Neverwinter suffered the effects of an earthquake and volcano eruption only a few decades earlier.
When the PC reached the bottom of the ladder they had to navigate the sewers to actually find the Dead Rats hideout. Along the way they noticed more than a few bodies in various states of decay – some quite recently deceased other years or decades dead.
The Wizard began the arduous task or navigating the sewers by looking for any telltale signs that someone else might have passed this way recently. With a Perception check he noticed little signs of recent passing, a scuff mark made when someone stumbled or a hand print on a wall where someone steadied their balance. He also eliminated various paths that showed absolutely no signs of disturbance, clearly not a route that would bring the party closer to their goal.
The Swordmage searched for hidden passages, paying particular note of magical auras. Whenever the party thought an area seemed suitable for a possible hidden passage, he made Arcana checks. His diligence paid off when they found a hidden passage locked with a magical seal. A natural 20 allowed the party to easily deactivate the Arcane Lock and pass through.
The area beyond the secret door was a lot more hazardous, filled with difficult terrain and pitfalls. The Bard tied a rope around his waist and took point, hopping over sinkholes and navigating narrow ledges. While he balanced on a narrow, slime-covered ledge to get across a particularly wide gap, he slipped. Fortunately he managed to grab the ledge and pull himself up on the far side. He then secured the rope and the rest of the party crossed safely.
The Ranger used Dungeoneering to try to spot any structural weaknesses. The successful check allowed her to point out danger zones and kept the party from accidentally collapsing loose debris on themselves.
The next time the party was faced with a large pit in their way the Rogue jumped across. When she got to the other side she found ropes already tied off, allowing people to swing across safely.
As the physical dangers seemed to finish, a new danger assaulted the party – a foul stench of rot and decay. Everyone needed to make an Endurance check. Three PCs made it, three failed. The PC in the lead saw an open sewer pipe ahead. If he could close it, the smell would likely subside enough for the PCs to pass safely and only this PC would need to worry about the results of the Endurance check. However the party hadn’t indicated who was in front. I had them all roll a d20 – highest in the lead, lowest in the rear. The Wizard rolled highest so he was first. Fortunately he was one of the three PC who made the check. He was able to close the pipe before anyone else was subjected to the ill effects.
The sewers eventually became part of an underground passageway. The heroes went down some stairs where they ended in a larger, cleaner area where they found a statue of a Halfling. The PCs moved cautiously down the next passage, waist deep sewer water in the middle.
As the Rogue, Bard and Ranger advanced, the Rogue noticed two Crocodiles hiding in the filthy water. She warned the party about the Crocodiles just as a Rat Swarm poured out of small pipes in the wall and ceiling.
The party managed to get a surprise round before the monsters could act. The Swordmage attacked and hit one Crocodile and the Rat Swarm with a blast. The Swarm didn’t know what hit it and was bloodied. The Rogue landed a solid hit on the Crocodile. The Wizard used a blast and hit a Crocodile and the Rat Swarm, destroying the Swarm in the process.
During the first full round of combat the Wizard risked opportunity attacks from the Crocodile to move to a safer location. He was fortunate and didn’t get hit, but his plan backfired. The area that was devoid of monsters initially was suddenly occupied by two Giant Rats that appeared from the large sewer pipe. The poor Wizard was all alone and took the full brunt of a Rat’s attack.
At first the PCs tried not to go into the filthy water, but after a few rounds they realized that positioning was more important than keeping to the dry areas. As they became bloodied, those in the dirty water contracted Filth Fever.
The Swordmage marked the Crocodile and tried to keep it from attacking his allies. This unfortunately meant that the Swordmage ended up taking a lot of heat during the combat. Meanwhile the Ranger and Rogue divided their attacks as they each attacked a different Crocodile.
The Wizard continued to draw opportunity attacks as tried to move away from danger. The marked Crocodile attacked and scored a crit. The Swordmage acted and hit the Crocodile but couldn’t inflict enough damage to drop it before the crit connected. The Wizard was still standing but had very few hit points remaining.
The monsters (attacking PC’s randomly) all seemed to gang up on the Swordmage. He took a lot of damage but managed to remain conscious.
Mid-way through the combat a new player joined the party, and Eladrin Avenger. The striker brought much-needed firepower to the floundering party. He engaged a Giant Rat, designating him as his Oath of Enmity target and then attack from range, gaining temporary hit points. He then used his action point to charge and rolled a 19 bloodying the Giant Rat.
The Swordmage took an attack from the Crocodile. He then attacked it in retaliation but missed. Taking advantage of his Genasi racial power he then shifted away from the Crocodiles.
At this point the five monsters were all bloodied. The Wizard wasn’t able to kill the crocodile, but the Rogue could and did. This let the Wizard use an immediate reaction to gain a whole bunch of temporary hit points which he desperately needed in order to survive the encounter.
The heroes managed to bring all the remaining monsters to less than 10 hit points but couldn’t kill them. Almost any attack would kill a monster if it hit, but the dice went cold for the PCs. Everyone attacked and missed while the monsters continued to chew through the PCs’ hit points.
Finally the Rogue managed to kill one Giant Rat and the Avenger managed to kill the other. The Swordmage kill the last Crocodile. The Wizard killed the Rat Swarm with a blast. In one awesome round the heroes finally managed to attain victory and kill all the monsters.
After the short rest everyone was infected with Filth Fever and needed to make a saving throw. The Ranger was the only PC not to make the save.
The inexperience of some players meant that they didn’t always use the best tactics; however, I’ve played with veteran players who don’t either so that’s not unusual. The PCs attacked multiple creatures simultaneously rather than focus fire on one at a time. This made things a lot more difficult and caused the PCs a lot more damage than they likely needed to take.
It was fortunate (and completely by chance) that two of the PCs managed to use blasts on the Swarms. If the party had not possessed such powers in their arsenal things could have been much, much worse. The addition of the Avenger (another striker) mid-way through the encounter also helped.
I liked this encounter a lot and was very happy to see a skill challenge of sorts at the beginning. This was one circumstance when the inexperienced players did better than more experienced ones. I told them to do what made sense for the situation and not to just look for a way to use their skill with the highest modifier. This resulted in some great creativity and fun role-playing. It made what could otherwise have been a straight combat encounter into something more rewarding.
What were your thoughts on this week’s encounter? Did you find it too easy, too difficult or just right? What did you think of the skill checks at the beginning? Did the players enjoy it or did they just find it another boring excuse to roll dice?
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 8 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.