The party rested briefly after their battle with the crocodile and the rats from last week. They spotted foot prints and realized that the Dead Rats hideout must be close. The foot prints led deeper into the sewer, and as they rounded the next bend they saw light. As they crept up to the next turn they saw a lowered portcullis and header the sound of voices. They’d found the Dead Rats hideout.
We had a good turn out this week, 12 people in total. That gave us enough for two solid tables. The party at my table consisted of a Human Wizard, Eladrin Cleric (Valenae pre-gen), and three Tieflings, a Bard, Battlemind and Warlock.
Taking a few steps back from the portcullis the party quietly decided on how to proceed. The Battlemind noticed that the portcullis, although rusted and old, had a brand new lock securing it. Any attempt to open the gate would be a lot more difficult if the lock wasn’t dealt with first. And even if the lock was bypassed opening the gate would surely create a lot of noise.
With some not so subtle hints, I reminded the party why they were here in the first place: they sought information. Killing everything would make it harder to question them about the Lost Heir or the Sons of Alagondar. Realizing that diplomacy might be their best approach, the Bard and Warlock decided to approach the gate and see if the Dead Rats were willing to talk.
They actually managed to approach quietly enough not to alert the Dead Rats. Once they got closer they overheard two of them arguing. They were talking about the party and describing them in great details, even using their names. One accused the heroes of being hounds of the usurper. The Tieflings realized that talking might be more difficult than they first though, but felt committed to trying it.
They called out to the Dead Rats and said they were here to talk, not fight. The Dead Rats were startled. Two moved closer to the gate while three others scurried out of sight. The Bard tried to use his Bluff and Diplomacy skills to keep the Dead Rats calm while the two sides tried talking. The Dead Rat leader demanded payment for the information the PCs wanted. He asked the Bard to relinquish his magical shield.
The Battlemind being the only PC with a badge from the Lost Heir decided to join the parley, ready to show it if necessary.As he approached he made an Insight check and realized that the gestures the Dead Rat leader made while talking to the PCs was in fact a signal to the rest of the Dead Rats. He whispered this to the Bard and Warlock.
Realizing that something was amiss, and reluctant to part with his only magic item, the player running the Bard decided it was a good time to discus how they were going to pull a fast one on the Dead Rats and betray them. The Warlock and Bard started planning who would go where and what they would do. I’d cautioned these players only a few minutes earlier that once the encounter began any conversations between players would be the same as conversations between their characters, especially when they were discussing things they’d just learned or if they wanted to talk to characters far away.
When the Dead Rat leader, only two squares away, heard this conversation he initiated the attack, shouting to his men to kill the PCs. He and the other Dead Rat nearest the portcullis both threw daggers at the party. Two hit the unsuspecting Bard square in the chest, bringing him to exactly 0 hit points.
As soon as the combat began the PCs realized that the Dead Rats were in fact Lycanthropes. After throwing their daggers they shifted into rat form and scurried to better positioning.
The PCs divided assault. The character with ranged attacks did so through the portcullis. The Cleric began by healing the Bard and then he and the Battlemind, both melee combatants, worked on getting the portcullis open. The Battlemind failed his Thievery check (by 1) but the Cleric made it with flying colours. The next round the two managed to get the gate open, eliminating any advantage the Dead Rats had for staying behind it.
The combat was quick and exciting. The Dead Rats worked together to gain combat advantage by flanking. This allowed them to use their daggers to maximum effect dealing 2d6+6 damage. My damage dice were hot and the extra d6 they gained from flanking really made a big difference early in the combat. After hitting with the dagger, the Lycanthropes changed into their rat form. Although their stats don’t change when in this form, I gave them +2 to all defenses because of their reduced size. But even with this bonus to defenses, the PCs still managed to hit a lot.
While in rat form, the Lycanthropes only dealt 1d4+4 damage on a hit. If they had combat advantage the hit also inflicted stage 1 of Filth Fever. I ruled that any bite from a Wererats in rat form resulted in contracting the fever. Considering the damage was so minimal and they were filthy Wererats this seemed appropriate. As it turned out they only managed to bite the Battlemind and he spent half the fight bloodied in the water anyway so it made no difference.
The Battlemind, Cleric and Bard worked really well together. They focused on two Dead Rats and kept them locked down near the opened gates. Another Dead Rat made the mistake of engaging the Warlock alone. In the first round of combat the Warlock (using his action point) attacked him twice. He scored a crit on the first attack and killed him on the second. Seeing the seriousness of this opponent, another Dead Rat managed to slip by the melee and caused the Warlock endless amounts of grief. Fortunately for the Warlock the lone attacker couldn’t flank so he never got the extra d6 damage. The final Dead Rat remained back by the loot and kept throwing daggers with amazing precision at the party.
The PCs spread the damage around nicely attacking a different Dead Rat each round. This let the other regenerate 5 hit point per round which made things more difficult than they needed to be. They eventually managed to drop two Dead Rats in the same round. The Warlock meanwhile chased his attacker back into the hideout where the two remaining Dead Rats finally got combat advantage on him.
This only happened once as the injured Dead Rat fell to the party’s focus fire the next round. The fifth Dead Rat managed to go the entire fright without taking any damage. He changed into rat form and managed to hide among the garbage and loot scattered thought the lair. Rather than continue to look for him, the greedy Warlock and his equally greedy companion the Bard both stopped fighting in order to go through the loot before the rest of the party. It took the Battlemind, Cleric and Wizard another round to get into the lair. They all searched for the final Dead Rat, the Wizard firing blasts in hope of getting the rat in a lucky shot. The Bard and Warlock kept looting.
The Dead Rat snuck up behind the Warlock, transformed into his human form and then backstabbed him for maximum damage (I had hot damage dice all night). The party all retaliated but couldn’t quite kill the last opponent. Struggling to stand, the Dead Rat managed to pull a rope concealed near the loot. It was attached, through a series of pulleys to a lever on the far wall. When he pulled the rope, the lever on the other end shifted, opening the floodgates on the far wall with a loud groan. Dirty, black water flooded the Dead Rats’ lair, flushing the PCs, the bodies of the dead Lycanthropes, the last living Dead Rat, and all the loot and garbage away through a large sewer pipe.
The PCs had to make checks to avoid taking damage as they were carried through the drains and pipes by the rushing water. Everyone but the Battlemind lost a healing surge as they were banged and bruised during the ride. They were eventually spit out in a series of underground caverns. The Dead Rat managed to regenerate all his damage during the ride through the pipes but he was knocked unconscious by the impact at the end of the journey.
The PCs took a short rest and searched through the waterlogged loot. They found 100 gp each along with Gauntlets of Blood. The tied up the unconscious Dead Rat and prepared to interrogate him at the beginning of next week’s encounter.
This chapter has been very thrilling so far. The fights have been challenging but not overly so. They do seem like filler and don’t really seem to be advancing the plot too much, but my group is really enjoying the hack and slash. By now the players are really starting to get to know their characters and that is certainly helping the combat move faster.
After three fights they all have more healing surges left than I expected. I think the PC with the fewest still has 3 remaining after healing up, a far cry from the last chapter where most of the PCs were dead on their feet by the time they got to the last encounter. Having two leaders in the party helps to maximize healing, but all around better tactics are a big part of their success.
Next week they face the final encounter before they get an extended rest. They will also get answers next week which should set the stage for the final chapter of the adventure. Two of the PCs were unable to shake off stage 1 of the Filth Fever so things could get a lot worse for them if they don’t make their Endurance check. Stage 2 Filth Fever is the loss of 1 healing surge and -2 to AC, Fort and Ref.
How is your party managing through this chapter? Are you enjoying the hack and slash or do you miss the role-playing opportunities from the pervious chapter? Did anyone else try to talk to the Dead Rats during this encounter? Did anyone avoid the fight all together?
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