During last week’s encounter the PCs had to decide if they were going to seek aid from Ragnar or Uma. Both groups I played with ended up helping Uma’s followers and lured the bears into Ragnar’s camp. This week the PCs were rewarded for their actions. If they helped Ragnar’s people wrangle the unicorns then they met with Ragnar; if they baited the bears they met with Uma. Both of my groups met with Uma.
Uma welcomed the PCs into her grove. She gave the heroes a chance to tell their tale, explain who they were, why they were here and how she could be of service. After the PCs said their piece Uma answered their questions and provided them with additional details of what was happening on Porpherio’s Island.
Uma explained that the Hag Soryth is an uninvited guest who came to the island in an attempt to take control if it from Porpherio. When her attempt to do so failed she snatched Juliana and returned to the Palace of Spires, a tiny plane connected to the island through a magical maze. Soryth will likely try the ritual again when she gets a hold of Orlando.
Orlando was last seen following a Nymph into the forest. Uma asked the PCs to find the Nymph and bring Orlando back to the Dryad’s grove. Uma believes that she can undo the foul magic that the Hag caused when the ritual was disrupted. However, both Ragnar and Soryth also seek Orlando so the heroes must hurry.
Ragnar knows that Soryth needs both Orlando and Juliana to complete the ritual for control of the island; his solution is simple – kill Orlando and the Hag cannot complete the ritual. He’s already dispatched his cousin, a Verbeeg named Basil, to complete the task.
The PCs agreed to find Orlando, protect him from harm, and bring him back to Uma so that she could work her magic to return him to normal. She thanked the PCs and provided them with the last known location of the Nymph. The heroes bid her good day and headed into the forest.
Shortly after they left Uma the forest descended into a narrow hollow. There was a clearing with trees that looked odd and strangely humanoid. In the roots of one of these trees they spotted a sword, its jeweled hilt gleaming in the sun’s light. Being PCs they couldn’t resist this obvious greed trap.
Take One – Harry T North
Having missed a couple of sessions because of the holidays we ran a few back-to-back sessions in one shot to get caught up. We had a party of five for three sessions in a row which made for a quick pace and excellent consistency. The party consisted of a Dryad Warlord, Elf Ranger/Monk Hybrid, Satyr Warlock (Hexblade) [Unseelie Agent], Pixie Bard (Master Skald) [Unseelie Agent] and Satyr Paladin (Cavalier).
The party made their Perception checks and realized something was amiss, denying their attackers a surprise round. Despite the realization that there was danger, the party still plowed ahead greedily seeking the shiny bauble. The Paladin managed to get his hands on the weapon before any of the fighting started and was happy to learn it was magical. (I didn’t reveal its properties; just that it had a +1 enchantment.)
Suddenly the party was beset upon from all sides. The two Bloodthorn Vine soldiers were unable to grab anyone initially, but once they did it was practically impossible for the PCs to escape (they rolled terrible escape checks). The result was a lot of automatic damage as the Bloodthorn Vines crushed them.
During the second round the Vine Horror moved closer to the melee. The PCs clearly saw him coming but made no effort to engage him. The next round he easily got in the middle of the battle and used his Vicious Vines (close burst 3) hitting four of the five PCs. Although I scored two crits on the attack, it didn’t cause any immediate damage.
However the ongoing 10 and the restrained really caused the Paladin a lot of grief. He failed to save seven times in a row. If not for his high initial hit points, a potion of healing, a daily power that allowed him to heal, his second wind and the party’s leader, he would have been dead-dead three times over. To make matters worse, he had no ranged attacks and was unable to join the melee, a mere two squares away. He couldn’t have been more useless if he was dead. Kudos to the player for taking it in stride and not loosing his cool; sometimes the dice just have it in for you.
The Barkburr Trees posed little difficulty. The Ranger/Monk rocked the monster knowledge check at the outset and knew that he had the option to suppress the attacks for one round at a time or for the entire encounter with good Nature checks. His Nature score was +12 so he couldn’t fail the DC 13 to suppress the attacks. As a minor action every round he shut down the tree and then fired into the melee. He eventually decided to just deactivate the tree’s attack powers as the combat wound down.
Wit the exception of the Paladin the party took minimal damage and had little difficulty with this encounter. After the combat was completed they searched the area and found two jewels and a suit of Gloaming Armor +1. The Paladin kept the +1 Sword which he learned was a Luckblade. Unfortunately it didn’t bring him much luck when he needed it most.
Take Two – Dueling Grounds
Unfortunately the numbers were dismal this week, likely because most people are off for the holidays. We only had five people by game time. As the other DM was already set up when I arrived I decided to play this week. This was my first time as a player since Keep on the Borderlands.
The party consisted of a Human Assassin, Satyr Bard (Master Skald) [Fey Beast Tamer], and Goliath Berserker. I wanted to play a character with ranged attacks (since I knew that there was a good chance I’d become slow or immobilized during the fight) so I went with Belgos the Drow Ranger (Hunter). After we began three additional players showed up. The party gained an Eladrin Wizard (Witch), Eladrin Sun Elf Warlock (Hexblade) [Fey Beast Tamer] and Drow Assassin. As you can probably imagine, having only one leader with a party this size lead to tremendous grief and hardship.
Most of the PCs made their Perception checks and realized that creatures were hiding in the nearby foliage. However, the promise of treasure lured some PCs in like moths to a flame. The Bard and Drow Assassin both advanced towards the sword but were attacked by the Barkburr Tree for their trouble. Three Bloodthorn Vine soldiers then emerged and attacked the party.
Most of the PCs did a fairly good job focusing fire and we managed to drop the first one by the second round. However, that’s when the Vine Horror arrived on the scene and used his Vicious Vines (close burst 3) hitting five PCs and one beast companion.
The poor Bard who was struck by the Barkburr tree in the very first round failed three consecutive saves and became petrified. He did manage to grab the sword before succumbing to the petrifaction but never got a chance to use it. Fortunately for the player he had a fey beast companion that he could run for the rest of the encounter.
With the leader out of the fight it got really ugly really fast. The Drow Assassin managed to grab the magic sword but fell unconscious the next round. The Hexblade then moved in to try and claim the weapon. He too managed to grab it for only a single round before falling unconscious. The Bard’s beast companion, an Owlbear, took the sword but before he could escape with it he was also hit and fell unconscious. Clearly the Luckblade was actually an “Unluck blade.” Everyone who touched it met with a terrible fate.
The Berserker was the next to fall unconscious with the Witch going down the next round. My Ranger managed to make it next to the Barkburr Tree early in the combat, but my +9 Nature wasn’t enough to suppress the tree’s attacks with any consistency. I was eventually hit and became petrified. However, in the final round before I turned to wood, I managed to draw sap from the tree and smear it on the Bard’s forehead, freeing him. When he awoke everyone else from the party was unconscious or petrified except for the Human Assassin who was himself only one failed save away from becoming a tree.
In the end the Drow Assassin failed three death saves and died. The Warlock failed two death saves and blew trough 5 healing surges by the time the combat was done. The Witch also expended 5 healing surges. Had I continued playing Belgos, he’d be down 4 healing surges after one encounter.
This encounter was almost a TPK, but it was a lot of fun. Despite half the table being unconscious early on, there was a great deal of laughter and humour. Sometimes when bad things happen the only thing you can do is laugh at the misfortune.
I found that this encounter, although fun to play and certainly an interesting setup, seemed unnecessary. The items were clearly a greed trap which the party paid for and then some. I don’t like chapters that are five encounters during D&D Encounters. Most players are inexperienced and don’t build characters that are capable of surviving four encounters let alone five. This was an excellent example of the kind of misfortune and bad tactics that just suck up resources and really don’t advance the plot. The information Uma provided at the beginning could have been added to the start of the next encounter. I realize that this particular encounter was a throwback to the original module, but it seemed really unnecessary.
How did your party do this week? Did you have PCs in your party with excellent Nature scores allowing you to turn off the trees or did you suffer horribly like our second group? Did you think this encounter was necessary or did you think it felt tacked on like I did?
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 6) – Podcasts
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