D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 5)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 22, 2011

It was only yesterday that this adventuring party met for the first time in Count Varis’s palace. Since then they fought and bled together. They met with Lady Tamora, ruler of Crystalrook, and they met with Lord Carric, ruler of the Sildane Forest. They followed the trail of the two young lovers, Juliana and Orlando, and crossed into the Feywild to find them. They battled an Echo Spirit, an Ochre Jelly, Mud Men, and a Hag along the way. It was a very eventful day that ended with a much needed and well earned rest. But now the party is awake and new challenges await them Beyond the Crystal Cave.

This week I was only able to play at one location. The other group ran into some scheduling conflicts and we’ll likely need a few make up sessions during the holidays to get back on track. At the FLGS where I did play I was the only DM able to make it out this week. I’ve run large groups before but I didn’t want to do so again this week. So when I arrived at my FLGS I asked one of the players if he’d be willing to go behind the screen this week.

Although he’d never run a game before I know he was eager to try. I also knew that every week he lugged every D&D book he owned, including the red box, to and from the game. He reluctantly agreed. We ended up with two DMs and eight players, so four per table. I took the younger players, leaving the veterans to play with the new DM. In the end things worked out pretty well for both tables.

The party at my table consisted of the following PCs: a Hamadryad Ranger (Scout), a Tiefling Paladin (Caviler), a Satyr Bard (Master Skald) [Fey Beast Tamer] and Belgos the Drow Ranger (Hunter). After last week’s massacre one of the more experienced players decided to swap out a striker for a leader. Good call.

The heroes needed help if they were to rescue Juliana and Orlando. They had to decide if they were going to seek aid from Ragnar, agent of the Green Lord or Uma, agent of the Summer Queen. After a few minutes of debate the party decided to try and get Uma to help them. The Leprechauns pointed them in the right direction and bid them good luck.

It didn’t take long before they met three Pixies and a Hamadryad. The Pixies were very curious and had many questions for the PCs. They answered with good humour before the Hamadryad stepped in to clam the Pixies down. The PCs eventually explained who they were, why they had come and their intention of finding and rescuing Juliana and Orlando.

The Fey creatures told the PCs that if Soryth had captured Juliana and Orlando then they were likely imprisoned in the Hag’s fortress, the Palace of Spires. Unfortunately Soryth’s curse prevents any native Fey creatures from entering the Palace. However, the PCs might be able to get inside. The Hamadryad said that Uma may indeed be able to help them but she was unlikely to trust these strangers unless they prove themselves first.

The Pixies suggested that the heroes accomplish two objectives simultaneously, helping everyone in the process. They told the heroes of a Fey camp nearby where many Satyrs and Wildens were overindulging on honey mead. They refused to work, and instead carried on and drank all day long. The Pixies had a plan that would scare the lazy Fey into action and demonstrate that the PCs had no loyalty to Ragnar.

Ragnar is supposed to have control over animals in the Feywild. If the PCs were to lure a family of bears away from their cave and have them disrupt the Fey party it would embarrass Ragnar by demonstrating that the animals were not completely under his control. This would help the party win Uma’s favour.

The Pixies gave the PCs six clay pots filled with honey and mead. They told the PCs that the bears would find this irresistible and that they could lure the bears to camp with it. With that the PCs were off.

The heroes managed to navigate the woods with relative ease. The two Rangers easily followed the natural game trails and kept the party’s movements hidden. The Bard kept climbing trees to get a better vantage point while the Paladin kept alert for animal tracks. They party eventually found some bear tracks and followed them right to the bear’s cave. When they arrived they spotted two smaller bear cubs playing.

They devised a plan to lure the bear cubs away from their sleeping mother and into the camp. The Paladin lay his shield flat on the ground and poured three pots of honey into the concave bowl. He tied one end of his rope to the shield’s straps and took the other end. He and the Bard slid the shield filled with honey out towards the cubs. They immediately caught the scent and began following the shield.

The Paladin and Bard worked together to keep the shield just ahead of the bears, even allowing them to get a few tastes along the way, but never catch it. The Rangers moved silently on either side of the path keeping up with the cubs.

When the PCs reached the bottom of the hill the bears had consumed all the honey in the shield and were hungry for more. The heroes rushed the camp with the bears in hot pursuit. Most of the inebriated Fey ran for the forest at the sight of the PCs and the bears, but two Wildens and two Satyrs who were very drunk or very brave remained in camp to guard the mead.

The heroes won initiative and rushed the nearest mead barrel. A nearby Satyr was so outraged when the Paladin rushed the barrel and attempted to destroy it that he maneuvered to rush the Paladin and try to push him into the fire pit. Unfortunately he was too drunk to hit.

The Bard, his animal companion and the Ranger Scout all clamoured around the mead barrel. However, they decided to attack the Satyr and leave the barrel alone. Meanwhile Belgos climbed a large tree in the middle of the campsite to avoid getting mauled by the bears.

The Wildens wasted no time rushing to the forest where they targeted the heroes from the cover of the foliage. With the Wilden minis off the map (because they were hidden) none of the PCs focused any effort on finding them or stopping them. They paid for that mistake later in the fight.

The two young bears entered the melee, ignoring everyone and heading straight for two barrels. The PCs did not take opportunity attacks as the bears went by, but the Satyrs did, hitting both bears. The cubs cried out, alerting their mother and bringing her into the battle by the end of the next round.

The three melee PCs worked together to take out the closest Satyr but by then the mother bear arrived. Having heard the cubs cry out in pain she charged the nearest target, the Ranger Scout. He was hit twice for over 30 points of damage, more than enough to drop him from full to unconsciousness. However, the Paladin did his job as a defender and took the full brunt of both hits himself falling unconscious for his troubles. The next round the Bard healed him and brought him back into the battle.

The Wildens kept shooting the bear cubs as they approached new mead barrels which only enraged the mother bear. She lashed out at the closest targets – PCs as often as Fey. When a Satyr attacked a cub and managed to push it into the fire, the mother bear charged the poor drunken Fey and killed him with a single blow.

Belgos finally spotted one of the Wilden in the forest and managed to hit him with a few arrows. The Ranger Scout followed Belgos’s line of fire and easily found the Wilden in the brush. The Wilden skirted away from the Ranger Scout but had to move into the clearing. Belgos lobbed a clay pot at him, covering the Wilden with honey. Bloodied and being aggressively licked by two bear cubs the Wilden surrendered.

The Paladin moved into the forest and found the last Wilden. The Paladin took two arrows to the chest and almost fell unconscious again before he managed to Intimidate the Wilden into surrendering.

The party used Nature, Diplomacy and Heal to calm the wounded bears down and convince them that the party posed them no harm. They fed the final two honey pot to the bear cubs and that seemed to win them over completely.

The PCs returned to the Hamadryad and the Pixies with their great tale of adventure. The Fey were saddened to hear that one of the Satyrs was killed but they felt he caused his own death by attacking a bear cub in front of its mother. The Hamadryad rewarded the party with a suit of +1 Sylvan Armor, silver rings for each PC and mistletoe, one of the four plant keys they required.

Did your party seek aid from agents of the Summer Queen and bait the bears as we did or did they seek aid from agents of the Green Lord and try to wrangle Unicorns? Did any groups have significant trouble with this week’s encounter? How much of the party’s resources were expended? With this chapter running five encounters are any PCs already down significantly more than 1/5 their healing surges?

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 5) – Podcasts

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1 Sentack December 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

I ran the game once and watched a second game. Both games went to Ragnar and both relatively failed the task. The Ragnar encounter was a little odd because it was much more of a subtle skill challenge in a combat encounter that took a lot more hand holding to convince the players to do something more then just attack. It felt like to me that it was a lot easier to muck up and fail the Ragnar encounter then the Uma encounter. By the sounds of it, the Uma encounter was relatively straight forward. Lure bears to Ragnar camp (Success = Bears come peacefully. Failure = Players running for their lives into the camp with all bears in tow) and then a much harder but much more visible task of bashing the mead barrels. It sounds like to me a party might have a much easier time of figuring that out compared to the Ragnar challenge of trying to convince a bunch of Unicorns to leave the protection of Uma to go to Ragnar, specially when combat breaks out rather unexpectedly. It seems to me it’s much more reasonable to see players just go for the mead barrels in the Uma challenge and win that without striking a blow at the Satyrs & Wilden period.

Still, it was nice to see a choice, and players actually had the option of talking to both camps, but you had to pick one choice. There wasn’t a middle ground option, but relatively that’s fine. If played well, this was a pretty amazing session for Encounters, in my opinion.

2 tedluck December 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

I had a lot of fun with this encounter. It opened up some role play at the table more so than most hack’n’slash encounters. The party consisted of a Satyr Paladin (me), Tiefling Skald, Human Wizard (pregen), a pixie berzerker, and a pixie witch.

We went to see Ragnar, and were met by his entourage. When we were told that the cousin Basil was sent to kill Orlando, we immediately asked where Basil went so we could rescue the kid we were sent to find. Unfortunately they wouldn’t trust us unless we helped them with some mischief, so we were off to hunt some unicorns.

The Skald and Wizard both successfully convinced the unicorns that we needed their help, and they should come with us. When it came to my turn, I played the part of the impatient warrior who just wants to get on with it, so I lasso’d a unicorn. This made the Skald mad since he had worked so hard to let the unicorns know we didn’t mean any harm. He removed my lasso and completed the first skill challenge with a successful diplomacy check.

Then the Dryad and pixies showed up. Some of our party immediately went after the pixies, but the unicorns didn’t like that, reminding us that these are there friends. I attempted to bluff the unicorns into heading to greener pastures on our side of the feywild and failed. Other members of the party continued to talk to the unicorns and attack the pixies. One of the pixies fell, but a unicorn walked over to it and brought it back to life with a touch of its horn.

On my next turn, instead of bluffing, I tried to convince the unicorn to come with us by sheathing my sword and walking up to two pixies, putting them in my defender aura. Not attacking, just making sure they stopped shooting at my friends. Unfortunately the pixies shifted away and took damage from my aura, prompting the unicorn to heal them up.

In the end we convinced them to come with us. Once the pixies and dryad saw that the unicorns were not in any danger, they left us alone.

I enjoyed this encounter because it was a break from the norm of go here, kill this. In retrospect, not a lot happened, but there were some fun moments of role play, especially between myself and the skald, and the unicorns.

3 Tabi December 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

My party also chose the Summer Fey, but this encounter went horribly, horribly wrong almost from the start. We lost sight of the ‘destroy the barrels’ goal and it turned into a horrible hack and slash nightmare of doom. The only one who stayed on course was the pixie bard, and we nearly lost our fighter.

At one point one of the players convinced the bears to follow him, then ran around one of tents. However, there was no barrel on the other side, so the baby bears ‘playfully’ mauled him, knocking him to -14 (2 from death!). When the opportunity came up a few rounds later for an opportunity attack against them, he took it in anger, and forgot that mama bear was right behind him. Oops.

Thankfully no one died, but we burned a lot of unneeded powers and are left with very few surges. Lesson learned, albeit the hard way.

4 Randy Marchese December 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Hey it’s the the player turned DM on that night at FLGS. The reason I was reluctant was because I had less than 20 minutes to read the encounter I was going to run (plus being my first time it’s always intimidating). I basically had to run the encounter by the seat of my pants but it wasn’t too bad. All the guys at the table were players I knew and played with before with only one new guy.

The real big problem was with the second skill challenge with the unicorns. The skill challenge title said finish in the title so I thought it was at the end of the encounter but after reading further it said at the beginning of the encounter. So that threw me through a loop. The players unfortunately failed that challenge but in the text it said if they failed after round 2 Robin would yell out to them and they would retreat. This didn’t make sense to me because it would be an awfully short encounter so this kind threw a wrench in the game for me and I was frantically trying to see if I was reading it wrong which I wasn’t. In the end I just made Robin come out at the end of the fight and the Unicorns ran off as was going to happen anyway since they failed the second skill challenge.

In the end it was not bad for my first attempt and having very little time to prepare. Lucky I am one of those players who’s been at encounters every week so I know how they are played and know the story (though I couldn’t remember some of the names of the NPC). I keep going over it and I keep looking at all the mistakes I made but that’s me being overcritical of myself.

5 David Argall December 24, 2011 at 2:22 am


I hope I have learned something of tactics and strategy this day, But I would have preferred to have had a less painful lesson.
The leprechauns advised us to seek out one of the archfey as allies in order to succeed in our task. Considering the matter, we chose the lady and headed to her camp. We were intercepted by some pixies who insisted we would have to show we were not allied with the other archfey. [It seems that the two archfey failed in their mission and like what you would expect of silly fey, are busy blaming each other rather that sticking to the mission like sensible dwarves would do.] To prove that, they insisted we harass the other camp.
This, they wanted us to achieve by means of a silly plan, but it at least had the possibility of nobody getting killed. We were to lure some bears into the other camp where they were expected to destroy barrels of honey mead. This would show we sided with the lady and, they insisted, might sober the drunks up enough so they would concentrate on the actual enemy. We had our doubts, but had every reason to expect similar folly from the other camp. So we started after the bears.
We had some difficulties luring the bears, but eventually they started moving in the desired direction, but when we reach the camp, things went painfully wrong. I was at least partly at fault here. Thinking the bears were starting to stop, I hit one with a sling stone to encourage it to come after us, which it did, and so did the others, all of them concentrating on me for my attack. The result left me unconscious for most of the fight and likely would have been fatal except that the honey mead was close and quite attractive.
I only learned later what happened to the others, which was mostly painful. But it seems that the defenders balanced my error with one of their own, tho their error was most painful to us. Ignoring the bears , they attacked us, correctly thinking we were responsible for the fuss, and most of us were soon badly wounded. And we were mostly busy pouring our honey on the barrels of honey mead to encourage the bears and so could give them little damage. Strategically, they should have tried to drive off the bears, who, once they were done with bashing me, were quite effecting at destroying the barrels of mead. So it was soon clear our mission would be “successful”, if any of us survived to celebrate.
Fortunately the defenders began to realize the bears were a greater threat, which allowed us to bind our wounds enough to stagger away from the fight. Most of us showed our talents as healers to the full, and most of us were very much in need of healing. Cyrus the elven ranger revived me. I managed to revive Kross the drow rogue. Merill the halfling rogue got Cyrus back on his feet. And Malcolm the drow ranger got Orla the elf rogue up. Even so, we were all badly hurt and so we fled as the bears continued to destroy the mead.
The pixies that put us up to this folly were pleased at least and have promised us an audience with the archfey.


Our next actions were over my protests, tho I did not protest loudly.
When we woke, the leprachans advised seeking out one of the great fey as an ally. The vote was for the male and so we went. We soon met up with several satyr, who advised us their boss would only see us after we proved our worth, by stealing two unicorns from the other fey. That was not an idea I liked, but we were advised the other fey would likely have some trickery we were to play on them if we tried to get their favor, And they claimed there was some chance the trick would get the quarreling fey to talk and then unite against the witch. So again I was outvoted.
Finding the unicorns and approaching them was not difficult, tho Tam Lin the pixie barbarian and the tiefling warlock were not as sneaky as they though, However, we found the unicorns were not as alone as we thought and a dryad and several pixies started objecting to our plans to take the unicorns away.
Complicating the picture was that we had been warned that attacking any guards might make our job harder, and of course we could hardly morally kill those who were innocently doing their jobs in any case. Petunia the wizard did forget and wounded one of the pixies, but for the most part, we had to ignore all the arrows shot at us [Happily they were poor shots.] while we sweet-talked the unicorns into going with us. [My own sweet talk is rather limited, but fey are easily amused and so I managed to get the unicorns feeling friendly towards us,] Violet the pixie bard, Bin the changling psion, and joined Tam Lin and Petunia in trying to persuade the unicorns we were nice guys and we would show them a good time at the satyr camp. Eventually they proved sufficiently persuasive.
However, the most impressive part of the battle was Taragdin the satyr thief charging the dryad and hitting on her rather than trying to hit her. She hit him and took him prisoner. However he did not seem interested in being rescued as we left.with the unicorns. [Nor were we shocked when he appeared at the satyr camp with absurd tales of his romantic poweress. The other satyrs seemed to believe him anyway.]
The satyr seemed quite pleased and impressed with our exploit, and soon arranged a meeting with their boss. Of course, they also insisted on our entertaining them. [Not my best time as I fumbled some juggling.] So we seem to be making some progress.

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