The heroes finished last week’s encounter by passing through the waterfall and emerging in a room with a couch, a wooden table and a fresco of an enchanted forest. They followed the only passage towards the sounds of crashing waves and weeping.
This week I managed to run the encounter twice. The beginning of the encounter was pretty much the same for both groups as it was a huge information dump designed to set the stage for the rest of the adventure. I’ll provide specifics about how the two groups handled things differently later in the article. For now let’s get right to the story.
As the heroes continued through the passage it seemed to transform from support beams to actual trees. The change happened so gradually that the PCs didn’t immediately realize they were no longer in the cave, but in a forest. They found themselves in a wide circle of toadstools. They worn path they followed along side the same stream continued towards the sounds of the weeping. Behind them they could hear the crashing of waves.
The toadstools were identified by the PCs as a fairy ring commonly found at Fey crossings. They had clearly traveled beyond the crystal cave and into the Feywild. Accepting their predicament they followed the path towards the weeping. On the ground they noticed small tracks likely belonging to Xivorts. Other, newer tracks were made by people wearing human-sized shoes.
The PCs followed the path towards the sounds of a woman weeping. When the reached a clearing they saw the weeping elf maiden sitting in a patch of clovers – it was Juliana, only her hair was now black and not the usual brown. Leprechauns danced around her, trying to cheer her up by singing, joking and performing all the while calling her Caerwyn.
When Juliana saw the heroes approach she stopped crying and asked the if they could help her. She asked them “Where are we?” They heroes explained that they had followed her into the Feywild and were her to rescue her and Orlando. She seemed confused but recalled a male companion. She called him Porpherio and said that they travelled through a cave before ending up here and falling asleep. When they woke he left Juliana alone and ran after a beautiful woman.
With the Leprechauns continuing to call Juliana Caerwyn the heroes asked about the names. She said she was Caerwyn. And she said she was Juliana. Likewise the man she called Porpherio was also called Orlando. The duplicity seemed to awaken realization in Juliana that something was clearly wrong.
The Leprechauns were able to provide some additional details in the form of cryptic rhymes (witch most of the players did not understand at all). However Arcana and History checks let the intelligent PCs translate for the dimmer PCs.
They are currently on an island in the Feywild called Porpherio’s Garden. Porpherio is Caerwyn’s husband. Together they once ruled this garden. They slept for a very long time before awakening, however something is wrong. Caerwyn’s mind is part of Juliana’s and Porpherio’s is part of Orlando’s.
An evil Hag named Soryth attempted to perform a ritual that would wrestle control of the island from the slumbering Porpherio. A Dryad named Uma, an agent of Porpherio’s mother Tiandra, learned of the plan and informed a giant named Ragnar loyal to Oran, Caerwyn’s father. Ragnar and Uma attacked Soryth and interrupted the ritual. This is most likely how things came to be as they are now.
Caerwyn’s father Oran, the Green Lord, is one of the most powerful archfey alive. Porpherio’s mother Tiandra, the Summer Queen, is also of the archfey an equally as powerful as Oran. The two have a tempestuous romance punctuated by bitter feuds.
At that moment Soryth stepped into the clearing, a top the rocky outcropping. The Leprechauns scattered and attempted to hide in the forest. Angered that the ritual’s magic failed, she called out to Caerwyn (Juliana) and vowed to recapture her and complete the spell.
Soryth warned the PCs not to get involved and when they took hostile actions she called for her dark little soldiers. Moments later Xivorts emerged from the forest. Soryth then cursed the PCs to remain on the island and then charmed a Leprechaun not fast enough to find cover, commanding him to do her bidding. The heroes sprang into action and attacked Soryth.
Take 1 – Harry T North
This party had six players and consisted of a Human Seeker [Unseelie Agent], Pixie Rogue (Thief) [Fey Beast Tamer], Wilden Monk [Sidhe Lord], Hamadryad Paladin (Cavalier), Elf Monk/Ranger Hybrid, and a Pixie Bard (Master Skald) [Unseelie Agent].
This group managed to get all the information through role-playing before the combat began. When the fighting started three PCs attacked and scored hits on Soryth. Unfortunately it did little to stop her. She used her Visions of Desire (area burst 2 within 10) and managed to target five of the six PCs. Since the attack dealt damage on a hit or miss, I managed to bloody almost everyone in the fist round. Soryth then grabbed Juliana and used Dream Step to disappear with her captive.
With the Hag gone the party focused on the five Xivorts and the charmed Leprechaun. They focused fire and took the Xivorts down with little trouble. The Leprechaun didn’t want to hurt the party so he went invisible on the first round and then used False Presence in the second round, forcing one of the PCs to attack an illusionary figure and take psychic damage in the process. However, the Paladin used an interrupt to take the hit – the only one she took all combat.
While the party took out the last of the Xivorts in round four, the Monk tried using Diplomacy to talk the Leprechaun into surrendering. It didn’t work. The next round the party attacked the Leprechaun and bloodied him. Attempts to get him to surrender were much easier after that, ending the combat quickly and with minimal bloodshed to the heroes or the Leprechaun.
This was one of the most coordinated efforts this group has had fighting multiple foes. They worked together and focus fire. They realized that they didn’t have to kill the charmed Leprechaun and tried talking to him, a tactic that eventually worked. The combat part of the encounter lasted between 20-30 minutes. Considering how badly beat up this party was after the second week, this was a quick victory that they desperately needed.
Take 2 – Dueling Grounds
This party had six players and consisted of an Eladrin Sun Elf Warlock (Hexblade) [Fey Beast Tamer], Satyr Rogue (Thief) [Fey Beast Tamer], Belgos the Drow Ranger, Jarren the Human Wizard (Mage), Eladrin Wizard (Witch), Human Assassin.
Knowing how easy the last group had things, and seeing six PCs and two beast companions on the map, I decided to add one more Xivort to the mix. After all, this group had plenty of resources remaining and could take a few hits. Unfortunately no one was playing a leader (something I didn’t realize until well into the combat). The absence of a healer really gave team monsters a huge advantage which they exploited.
This group didn’t get much information before the fighting. They were restless and were ready to kill the Leprechauns believing that they were responsible for Juliana’s strange condition. When Soryth appeared they realized their error.
Much like the other party, they unloaded on Soryth in the first round. She managed to get four PCs and one beast companion in the burst, bloodying and immobilizing all four PCs and killing the companion (hot damage dice tonight). Jarren was one of the four PCs hit and he was knocked unconscious. Before Soryth attacked, Jarren managed to climb a tree. When he was hit by Soryth he got to make a save against the forced movement but failed. He fell 20 feet and took 18 points of falling damage. He remained unconscious for the rest of the encounter.
The Xivorts targeted the bloodied, immobilized PCs and managed to knock the Witch unconscious on the second round. She never regained consciousness.
Belgos couldn’t save successfully and remained immobilized. The pesky Leprechaun used his False Presence power on Belgos and he ended up taking ongoing 10 psychic damage. He managed to remain conscious for only one more round before the ongoing damage knocked him unconscious and eventually killed him. He failed to save against the ongoing damage three times. He did save against being immobilized but by then he was unconscious.
The Hexblade used Fey Step to move out of the Xivorts line of sight but he too failed his save against immobilization again and again. The Xivorts eventually found him and ganged up on him after the other PCs were down. He fell quickly and just couldn’t make his saves.
The Rogue and Assassin managed to go the entire combat unscathed. The Xivorts pretty much left them alone and focused on the wounded PCs. When these were the only two left standing the Xivorts couldn’t connect. The last men standing flanked for combat advantage and eventually destroyed all the Xivorts.
The Leprechaun focused his attention on the remaining animal companion and eventually killed it (he was scared of the ferocious Displacer Beast). The heroes didn’t try to use Diplomacy on the Leprechaun until he had only a few remaining hit points. He eventually surrendered.
When the combat was over the Leprechauns came out of hiding and helped the PCs with their wounds. The heroes were asked to entertain them as payment after which the Leprechauns gave them all the information they missed at the beginning.
Where the previous group worked well together, this group did not. They all acted independently, and the entire group suffered for it. No one was willing to give up a standard action to help fallen comrades. This was one of the worst combat encounters I’ve ever run. Players were angry that they were killed or knocked unconscious and felt cheated that they didn’t really get to play. I felt bad, but in most cases their problems came down to bad rolls and poor teamwork.
I couldn’t believe how differently the two groups handled the combat. It really goes to show how players can make all the difference.
My only real complaint about the way this encounter was set up was that they PCs had no chance of defeating Soryth. Those players who used their daily powers on her in the first round were angry when she disappeared. I liked that she hit them once and then vanished but it seemed like a cheat. I think her actions should have been part of the narrative, including the attack, that way the heroes could focus on the Xivorts.
With the Chapter 1 completed I have to say that I am enjoying the adventure so far. The players really seem interested by the Fey setting and I’m looking forward to more encounters in the actual Feywild.
How did your group make out this week? Was your experience more like my first or second group? Any TPKs? What are your thoughts on Chapter 1 now that it’s completed?
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 4) – Podcasts
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