This week we began season 7 of D&D Encounters and started out journey Beyond the Crystal Cave. Although technically season 7 began last week with a slot 0 session, we opted to just take the week off. When we began this week everyone was refreshed after having a week off and came prepared with a brand new level 1 character. Most players were excited to try the new racers, classes and themes from the Heroes of the Feywild and I’m pleased to say that more than one player had his very own copy of the book. The DMs were the only ones who purchased the Neverwinter Campaign Guide last season, much to the disappointment of our hosts.
Our numbers still continue to hover between 7-10 people. This week we had too many for one table and not enough for two so I ran a party with seven PCs. The issue we’re facing at our FLGS is that even if we had enough players to run two tables we don’t have a secondary DM. Our previous back-up DMs are no longer coming out for D&D Encounters and the players that are coming out don’t have enough experience to feel comfortable being the DM. We may have to throw someone to the wolves and let a rookie run a second table if out number increase significantly.
Meanwhile at the other FLGS where I play we had three full tables with six players at each, so I guess geography and scheduling has a lot to do with it too.
The seven player party consisted of a Pixie Bard (Master Skald) [Unseelie Agent], Human Seeker [Unseelie Agent], Hamadryad Paladin (Cavalier), Wilden Monk [Sidhe Lord], Satyr Warlock (Hexblede) [Unseelie Agent], Pixie Rogue (Thief) [Fey Beast Tamer], and Elf Monk/Ranger Hybrid.
A year before the events of week 1 the town of Crystalbrook began experiencing unnatural winds and mists. From within the strange fog, blue-skinned Fey creatures emerged to pillage the town and murder the people. Those in Crystalbrook blame these attacks on the Fey creatures that live in the nearby Sildaine Forest. Meanwhile residents of the Sildaine Forest who have suffered similar attacks believe the problems to stem from primal spirits awakened when residents of Crystalbrook began practicing black magic.
Over the past year both sides took bolder steps in assigning blame resulting in numerous altercations; altercations that have resulted in some deaths and continue to escalate. It was starting to look like war was inevitable.
However two weeks ago everything changed when Orlando (son of Lady Anna Tamora, ruler of Crystalbrook) and Juliana (daughter of Lord Carric, chief of the Sildaine Elves) went missing on the same day. Both Tamora and Carric knew Orlando and Juliana were lovers, but neither knew the extent of the relationship.
As the parents focus on finding their missing children they have temporarily ceased their petty bickering and asked Count Varis Sybar, ruler of the nearby town of Sybar for aid. Count Varis realized this was an opportunity to restore peace in the region and sent word for adventures who could act in his stead as mediators.
The Adventure Begins
Once the players were brought up to speed on the adventure background each of them needed to select one of three backgrounds: Crystalbrook, Sildaine Forest or Sybar. This was a very creative way to get everyone on board without having to come up with some lame excuse for why this eclectic group of PCs would agree to adventure together. By having them all hail from one of the three affected areas in the region they have a stronger motive to work together and resolve the situation to everyone’s mutual benefit. It also makes interaction with the local NPCs a lot easier. As it turned out we had three PCs from Crystal Brook, three from the Sildaine Forest and one from Sybar.
The adventure began with the heroes gathered in Count Varis’s palace. They introduced themselves and then we began. Count Varis explained the situation and asked the PCs for help. He offered them 50 gp up front and another 50 gp when they returned both children safely (and alive) to their parents. He also alluded that the grateful parents may offer their own rewards if the PCs were successful. The PCs agreed (which was good or else it would have been the shortest season of D&D Encounters yet) and then proceeded to Crystalbrook (only because it was closer than the Sildaine Forest).
As they approached Crystalbrook they saw the strange fog and mist rolling over one of the town’s walls. From the nearby gate they could see and hear the sounds of combat. They rushed to investigate, ready to fight if necessary.
Fighting the Fey
Normally I do a pretty detailed play-by-play of how the combat went, but as this was the first session and there was a lot of story to cover, I’m only going to share the combat highlights.
Right off the bat I had all the PCs make knowledge checks and they were able to identify the little blue Fey creatures as Xivorts – not that it did them much good.
The Net Casters managed to entangle everyone as they came through the gates. They used their bolas on PCs with bows or other ranged weapons forcing them to attack from the ground (and suffer the -2 attack penalty for doing so). The Slashers stayed away from entangled PCs that did not possess ranged weapons or implements. This frustrated the melee combatants without bows or other ranged attacks.
The players felt that it was unfair they couldn’t extract themselves from the nets by any means other than a saving throw (or teleportation). I described the nets as living vines that would constantly wrap themselves around the heroes no matter how much they squirmed. After being trapped and practically useless for multiple rounds one of the players running a melee combatant asked if he could use a standard action to grant his adjacent ally a save. I said yes, it required a Heal check of 15 or more. He then asked if he could use Thievery or Athletics to make the check given the circumstances. I was impressed and absolutely said yes to that. The next round the PCs worked together and helped each other escape.
With two Pixies in the party we got our first taste of 3D combat. What a huge pain in the butt. I’m not going to get into it too much here as I’m going to write a post about it next week, but I already dislike the flying PCs. The Pixie Rogue flew on top of the wall and then used his sling to attack from above. He also used his Pixie Dust to let the Seeker fly up to the other wall. When the monsters realized they were getting destroyed from above I had the Darters focus fire. With three Darters making two attacks each and my dice burning up the table, I managed to bring the Seeker from full to 0 hit points in one round. The Rogue managed to kill one of the Darters but on the next round still took four hit reducing him to single digit hit points.
I employed really good tactics with my monsters and the PCs did what they always do and everyone targeted a different monster, killing none in the first few rounds. Eventually they took out the Netters first and that allowed them to move around and clean up the rest of the Xivorts. A couple of the PCs are down to only three healing surges. This should make the remaining three encounters very interesting.
We’re Not Done Yet
In almost every previous session of D&D Encounters the combat was the climax of the night. When the fight was done the session was done. Well this week things were a little bit out of the ordinary. Although there was a good chunk of expository and role-playing before the fight, there was still a fair amount to do afterwards as well. After all the PCs just got to Crystalbrook and hadn’t yet met with Lady Tamora.
The town guards showed up shortly after the last of the Xivorts were defeated. They asked the heroes what happened, clearly suspicious of the strangers covered in blood and exhausted from fighting. When the guards spotted the PCs from Crystalbrook they relaxed a bit. The PCs from Crystalbrook explained why there were here, why they were fighting and who their companions were. Wendig the town drunk corroborated their story although he embellished parts and told a few outright lies to make the heroes sound better.
The heroes had little trouble convincing the guards of their true intentions and when they mentioned that they were going to try to find Orlando the guards realized that the PCs were not a threat. The guards escorted the PCs to Tamora Manor where they met with Lady Tamora.
The guard accompanying the PCs explained what happened and dropped a few local names of people who witnessed the fighting. The PCs introduced themselves and explained that they were sent by Count Varis to try to find Orlando and Juliana and return them safely to their respective homes.
Lady Tamora displayed signs of outward hostility to the foreigners and only spoke directly to the PCs from Crystalbrook. She showed the PCs the note she found in Orlando’s room after he disappeared. Although only signed “J” she knew it was from Juliana. Lady Tamora believes Juliana lured Orlando away from the safety of Tamora Manor so that the Elves could kidnap and imprison him. Blinded by her grief she refused to believe that anything else was possible.
When asked of the Crystal Cave mentioned in the note she referred to it as a dangerous place in Fey territory. When Orlando first disappeared she sent a search party to the Crystal Cave to see if he was there but they have not yet returned.
The heroes from Crystalbrook promised to do whatever they could to ensure Juliana’s safe return. Lady Tamora wished them good luck and offered those from Crystalbrook a healing potion. She seemed embarrassed that she could not offer more than that at this time. She thanked them and bid the party farewell.
Wasting no time the PCs then made their way to the Sildaine Forest to meet with Lord Carric. They were stopped by armed guards on the border of Fey territory. They were given seconds to explain who they were and what they were doing here. This time the heroes from Sildaine Forest stepped up and explained the story. The guards gladly escorted them to Lord Carric.
When they met him face-to-face he was clearly wrought with grief. He had difficulty hiding his emotions around the PCs. Clearly he missed his daughter and was very concerned for her safety.
After the PCs recounted all that had happened so far, including their meeting with Lady Tamora, Lord Carric agreed to help in any way he could. He explained that Juliana had asked a great deal about the Crystal Cave and the land of the Fey recently but until she disappeared he didn’t see it as suspicious. He just assumed she was interested in Fey lore which he always encouraged her to study.
The PCs showed him the note and he was able to confirm it was Juliana’s writing. The reference to the Crystal Cave left little doubt in his mind that she’d gone there looking for a crossing into the Fey Wild. Lord Carric offered to provide the PCs with a map to the cave to speed up their search. However, when he looked for the map he realized it was missing. Juliana must have taken it.
Growing even more concerned for Juliana’s safety, Lord Carric begged the PCs to find his daughter. She is unaware of the real dangers present in the Fey Wild knowing only the happy tales from children’s stories. If she’s gone to the Crystal Cave and crossed over into the Fey Wild then she’s going to need help. The PCs agreed and Lord Carric offered one of the locals from the Sildaine Forest a healing potion to take with his thanks.
I ran this adventure twice this week and both groups took over two hours to complete it. Since it was the beginning of a new adventure the players were willing to sit through more of the talking parts then they usually would. The combat was extremely grueling at the table with seven players. Add to that new characters built using classes and races no one’s played before and it was a very slow session. I think that will change as familiarity sets in.
Despite the longer than usual session everyone seemed interested in knowing what happens next. Many players purchased the Heroes of the Fey Wild book already and a few more said they likely would in the coming weeks. This is a product offering that really seems to have people excited and as such there is increased excitement for this season of D&D Encounters.
What were things like during the first week at your FLGS? How was your turnout? Did you get a lot of new players? How many of the players used some elements from the Heroes of the Fey Wild when creating characters?
We continue to record our D&D Encoutners sessions and make them available to you for download every week. This season I’m going to try to record the games at both FLGS where I play so that you can hear how two very different groups handled the same encounter. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone.
D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 1) – Podcasts
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