D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 8, 2011

Last week’s encounter had the party battle an Echo Spirit and an Ochre Jelly. When the combat was over the party took a short rest, searched the cavern for treasure and then found The Oracle. The Oracle directed the party deeper into the cavern if they wanted to find Juliana and Orlando.

This week I was only able to play at one FLGS. I was in Seattle at the Wizards of the Coast head office for the last few days and by the time I got home Wednesday I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to do more than one session. I’ll be making up the missed session for the Harry T North crew next week. Anyone who’s been listening to our podcasts should note that I’ll still record and post the other week 3 encounter, but it won’t be up until next week.

This party consisted of a Half-Orc Barbarian (Berserker) [Unseelie Agent], Hamadryad Druid [Fey Beast Tamer], Human Assassin, Eladrin Sun Elf Warlock (Hexblade) and two of the pre-gens Belgos the Drow Ranger and Jarren the Human Wizard.

The heroes continued through the caverns and following the sounds of rushing water eventually came to a large cavern partly filled with a large muddy pool. The water feeding the pool originated further into the cavern. In the centre of the pool were three large mounds of mud.

Hands protruded from two of the muddy mounds, each reaching for the other. One hand was larger, muscular and masculine, the other more delicate and feminine and wearing a gold ring. While some PCs jumped to the conclusion that this was Juliana and Orlando trapped in the mud, PCs from the Sildaine Forest weren’t convinced since Juliana doesn’t wear a ring like that; however it was possible she acquired one since disappearing. Someone needed to free the bodies from the mud prisons to be absolutely sure.

The Assassin and Barbarian entered the room with caution, keeping only a few squares ahead of the party. Neither saw or heard anything that alarmed them. The impatient and impulsive Ranger moved right up to the pool, skirting past his allies. The pool radiated natural (Fey) magic which the Ranger detected when he approached the water. His sharp eyes noticed movement beneath the waves and he alerted the party that danger could be forthcoming.

The Ranger waved the Hexblade closer to him, pointed to the creature in the water and told his ally to blast it. The Hexblade couldn’t see whatever the Ranger was pointing at, but trusting his ally’s judgment he let loose an Eldritch Bolt. The shot missed horribly earning criticism from the Ranger.

As the Hexblade’s attack sent waves across the top of the pool, three humanoid forms rose from beneath the surface. Muddy bodies with glowing eyes arose from the dirty water and took shape. The creatures stagger forward towards the PCs and attacked: two from a distance, while the one next to Belgos engaged him in melee.

Five smaller Mud Men then emerged from the mounds in the centre of the pool and rushed the party. These were clearly mindless automatons that attacked instinctually. The strikers (Assassin, Barbarian, Ranger and Hexblade) had no trouble destroying three Mud Men Graspers (minions) on their turns.

Bother sides exchanged fire, the Barbarian, the Graspers and the closest Mud Man being the only ones to engage in melee. Each round a new Grasper emerged from the mounds in the centre of the pool and then moved and attacked the closest PC.

The Barbarian and the Ranger worked together and focused fire on the closest Mud Man. The Barbarian hit but couldn’t manage to kill it because of poor damage rolls. However, the Ranger hit and destroyed it.

The badly wounded Hexblade realized that without a leader in the party he’d need to heal himself, so he opted to use his second wind and drink a Healing Potion. It may not have been glamourous but it certainly saved his life.

The Mud Men continued focusing on the closest PCs, the Ranger and the Barbarian and hit both. One of the Mud Men moved away from the party and behind a sheltered area. The rest of the party attacked the one they could see with ranged attacks and slowly chipped away at its hit points.

The Graspers tried grabbing the PCs but cold DMs dice meant the creatures missed horribly. The Barbarian kept destroying the Graspers as quickly as they appeared from the mud mound.

The Hexblade charged the wounded Mud Man and brought him down to 1 hit point. The Mud Man then attacked the Hexblade but missed (brrr, cold DM dice). The Druid targeted the Mud Man with 1 hit pint but missed. The Barbarian swung and missed. Jarren attacked and missed (luckiest monster ever).

When a new Grasper emerged from the mound next to the wounded Mud Man it made a Heal check on his ally and triggered its second wind. The Mud Man now had more hit points and would likely survive another round.

The Assassin hit the Mud Man and brought him back down to 1 hit point. The Ranger then unloaded on the Grasper and the wounded Mud Man but missed both. He then used his action pint to repeat the attack hitting and destroying both – an excellent use of his action point.

The Barbarian, Assassin, Druid and Jarren moved past the mud mounds to find and destroy the final Mud Man. The Mud Man fired at the party and then moved around a corner away from the PCs (my only 20 of the night was on this creature’s Stealth check to hide). Jarren used a burst attack and managed to get the Mud Man in the area of effect, hitting him and creating a zone of fire that would force the Mud Man to move.

The Assassin moved to a square where he could see the Mud Man, fired at him but missed. The Mud Man moved out of the fiery zone and targeted Jarren, the source of his pain, but missed (my fourth 1 of the night). The Assassin finally managed to destroy the last Mud Man.

Meanwhile the Hexblade and Jarren investigated the mud mounds to determine if the bodies were Juliana and Orlando. Every round a new Grasper minion emerged from the mud. For three consecutive rounds the emerging Grasper managed to grab and engulf the Hexblade. And for three consecutive rounds the Ranger killed the Grasper before the Hexblade suffered any ill effects.

Between the attacks the two PCs managed to break the mud off of the bodies. Within were two Humans, a male and female, both dead and mummified by the mud. A male Halfling was in the third mound.

The Hexblade quickly searched the bodies and their gear. He found 30 gp and decided to keep this for himself. He managed to pocket the loot undetected thanks to an exceptional Thievery check. Before the Hexblade and Ranger could try to claim the magical weapon for themselves, the rest of the party moved back into sight. No further Graspers emerged from the mud once all three Mud Men were eliminated.

After some dispute on who should keep the magic weapon, the Assassin ended up with it. The PCs from Crystalbrook identified the bodies as Kale (male Human Warrior), Bella (female Human Hunter) and Dane the “gentleman adventurer” (male Halfling). These were three members of the search party sent to find the missing lovers. Two other members of the group were unaccounted for, brothers named Hamish and Argus. They have a reputation as fierce warriors and likely survived the fight against the Mud Men although there was no sign of where they went.

The PCs took a short rest before stripping the bodies of anything valuable and giving them a proper burial. Among the gear they found a gem hidden in the Halfling’s boot.

At this time the players running the Hexblade and Jarren had to leave early so only the four remaining PCs continued down the tunnel.

After travelling for a few more minutes they noticed the cave walls were covered in small crystalline formations that reflected the PCs’ light and looked like stars twinkling. The party reached a larger room with a pool. From beneath the surface of the pool crystals rose up towards the surface. A faint tinkling sound emanated from each of the crystals – the sounds actually being a strange music that grew louder in larger crystalline formations.

They continued heading through the passageway which eventually ended in a cavern filled with these crystals. A waterfall on the far side of the cavern fed the pool, but the falling water and the pool at the bottom seem to be frozen in time. Droplets of water hung in mid-air.

Incredibly powerful Fey magic emanated from the room, specifically from the direction of the waterfall. Remembering the message The Oracle provided, the PCs believed that they needed to pass through the waterfall. When they approached they could see light through the waterfall and a room on the other side. Before crossing over to the Feywild the PCs searched the pool.

The Assassin saw a silver locket which he scooped from the water using his new magical dagger. Inside the locket was a picture of Juliana; however the locket was a known family heirloom belonging to Orlando’s family. Clearly the lovers came this way.

When the PCs were ready to pass through the waterfall they found they could walk on the water because it was frozen in time. They realized that passing through the water would be more difficult than first expected. The Assassin sliced the water, making a gap in the slowly falling droplets. He then backed up, took a running start and then jumped trough the opening. An incredibly high Acrobatics check allowed him to do a diving somersault through the opening and then land safely when he reached the other side.

The Druid decided to go very slowly and push through the waterfall. Using Endurance she managed to establish a slow and constant rhythm. A few rounds later the Druid made it though successfully. The Barbarian slashed the waterfall and then forced his way through with an Athletics check. Jarren used Arcana and successfully made the water resume its normal speed allowing him to walk through without any resistance.

On the other side of the waterfall the PCs found themselves in a round room with a couch and table. The floor was covered with an exquisite mosaic pattern. On the floor were two shattered glasses and a decanter. An intricate knot-work pattern surrounds a fresco of an enchanted forest that covered the entire back wall. The only break in the picture was a tunnel that led away from the chamber. The party decided to proceed though the tunnel and that were the session ended.

After last week’s incredibly difficult encounter I didn’t make many adjustments to the encounter as written even though there were six PCs. I bumped each of the Mud Men’s maximum hit points up from 43 to 60 but everything else remained the same. With so many strikers in the party this was a really good compromise.

How did things go this week for your party? Were they more cautious or employ smarter tactics after last week’s thumping? Did anyone have any real difficulty this week? How did groups find the skill challenge to break through the waterfall?

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 3) – Podcasts

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1 Sunyaku December 9, 2011 at 12:31 am

Congrats on going to Seattle! I assume your store was also in the top 8 public play programs then? A representative from our store was up there as well. 🙂

2 David Argall December 9, 2011 at 10:55 pm

VICTORIES OF VORDAL – 3.Dark and light

Following the trail created by the whistle was easy since it led directly down a tunnel until we reached a pond. Some mounds of mud got our attention because of some hands sticking out of them, one of which had a ring. We knew [or at leat hoped] this was not the couple we were after since the trail led past them. But that ring merited investigation, even if we feared it was a trap.
It was, and a flood of mudmen jumped out of the water and after us after Quarion Feycrown, the eladrin mage tried to use a mage hand to take the ring. They were of no great threat to us, but their real purpose was to hold us in place while their betters downed us with large and punishing balls of mud. Abraxus the dragonborn paladin and Merill the halfling thief suffered much of the damage.
Realizing that the minions would keep us pinned too long [ooc-Since we had 7 PC, our DM added waves of minions instead of the rare one.], I ordered those who could move to concentrate on the greater threat instead of trying to clear out the nearer enemy. [Ironically, I had ordered most of these people back earlier since they were the more vulnerable.] Merill, Quarion and Jarren the human wizard were able to move forward and concentrate fire on the real threat. [I was not able to take my own advice since several of the minions kept after me, but I was able to heal the wounded.] Ryltar the drow ranger also started attacking their missile people, but minions distracted him too.
The wizards and the thief were quite effective in clearing out most of the big mud men and the lesser ones began to run low too. Cyrus the elf scout got the last of the mud throwers with a very powerful blow. Soon we were free to examine that ring and the bodies more closely.
The dead proved to be most of the party that had been sent out before us to find the missing prince. We give them a brief service and devoted their gear to the goal they had died to achieve.
Continuing on, we found the tunnel becoming more and more magical. Finally we found another pond, with a strange waterfall at the far end. But before we could examine it, we also noted a locket in the water. It had belonged to the missing prince and had a picture of the elven lass. Clearly she had lured him here for whatever devious purpose she had in mind. [The devious fey in the party didn’t admit to anything, but didn’t object to continuing.]
The waterfall proved to be stopped. Our wizards talked about time running slower in the feyworld, which seems insane, But it turned out that the waterfall was a wall when we tried to push thru, but only water when we tried that very slowly.
So we found ourselves in a room, where there was more evidence that the couple had passed this way, and so we continue to trail after them.

SEASONING OF GREENBOW – 3. Dirty and Clean

The passage continued to lead deeper into the mountain, tho I was not sure if we were above or below the level of the cave entrance as it went both up and down. However, it eventually led to a muddy cave, where we beheld a grim sight, the hands of a man and a main coming out of lumps of mud. We debated whether there was any hope at all that our mission had not come to a tragic end, but as we did so, the inhabitants of the pond, some antimated mud figures got up and attacked us.
Fortunately, most of us were alert, and they did not achieve the surprise they had hoped. They did manage to surprise Taragdin the Satyr thief and he was seriously hurt. So was I for that matter, But Bin the changling psion managed to cut down their numbers And Petunia Petals the pixie wizard managed to finish the one who was attacking me. Thereafter, it was just a matter of moping up. Violet the pixie bard kept us , Taragdin in particular, on our feet. Tamlin Parsnips the pixie barbarian gave out good damage, perhaps as much as I did. And quickly out foes were reduced to the mud they had come from. [The whole area being rather magical, I should not be surprised to see them come back or be replaced. However, they did not do so while we were there.]
We were surprised to find the mud on the victims to be tough, and none of us were physically strong. However, eventually we confirmed that these were the bodies of a man and a woman. [Also a halfling . It seems those mud men could be deadly.] Happily for us, they were not the couple we sought. We had heard that the humans had sent out a party too and it seemed like these were some members of it.
Continuing on, we reached a very strange waterfall, which was falling at an extremely slow speed, perhaps an inch a minute. It is said that time in the feywild can run at strange speeds And so this seemed to be a sign this was our way in. Adding to this feeling was a locket we found, which had a picture of the missing lass, which was likely lost as the couple crossed the waterfall.
Our own crossing was more difficult than expected. Bin especially had a bad time until we figured out the trick and managed to enter a room on the other side of the waterfall. There we found evidence that the couple might have come that way, and so traveled on in much better spirits.

3 B.J. December 10, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Our session this week started late, but ended up at its usual time. Again, our group is playing a week ahead of schedule, so I can’t comment too much. The session most folks played this week was apparently much easier than the mission from the previous session.

4 Sentack December 13, 2011 at 10:15 am

I felt this encounter was pretty interesting, specially with the respawning minions. At my table, I had a Dragonborn Fey-pact Hexblade, a Thri-Kreen Swarm Druid, an Elven Thief, and a Human Skald. Although they lacked a Defender, the Druid’s natural damage reduction worked well for the group. Over all, it was a pretty fun as the DM and the players seemed to enjoy themselves. Roleplay wise, discovering most of the members of the original “A” team was pretty interesting. The players themselves took the bait pretty well expecting the two hands to belong to the lost young lovers. The post combat waterfall again, felt like it was too late. Once the combat was over, I was losing the players. Partly from expectations and partly from things running late. Over all, I agree with comments made earlier in the run. Roleplay first, combat next. Combat caps the session and that provides closer.

Looking forward to the next session.

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