D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 8.)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 12, 2012

This week we had enough players for two solid tables. I took the under-13 crowd and had five players. The other table took the adult gamers and ran a party of six. We had three bran new players among the groups, none of them having any previous D&D experience. The younger player joined my table, the older players joined the other.

My table ended up with the following compliment: a Bullywug Assassin [Fey Beast Tamer], Deva Cleric, Revenant (Elf) Sorcerer, Fargrim the Dwarf Fighter (Slayer) (pre-gen), Beliel the Drow Warlock (pre-gen). This gave us four strikers and one leader which actually worked out great.

The PCs took a short rest on the bank of Porpherio’s Isle after last week’s eventful river crossing. Now that they were actually across the river they took in their surroundings. They realized that the isle wasn’t as large as they first thought – a mere 200 paces across. The palace covered the majority of the small island, but outside were a few trees and some roses growing in the shade.

The palace looked as if it was constructed from white marble. Water fell from the domed roof and into a channel that surrounds the palace before flowing into the lake. A curved staircase led over the channel and into the palace.

The PCs immediately plucked a few rose petals, the final plant key required to access the Palace of Spires, Soryth’s home. Afterwards they looked around for any signs of passage. In the dirt they found boot tracks made by a humanoid, possibly Orlando. They also made an exceptional Perception check and notice the tracks left by Sir Oakleaf, the Treant.

Proceeding cautiously they climbed the stairs and entered the palace. Once inside they emerged in a large oval chamber. A large table with chairs set at opposite ends was at the centre of the room. Crystal glasses were set at each end of the table, one filled the other overturned, its contents spilled on the table and floor. A nearby decanter on a silver platter was filled with water.

Two painting hung on the walls. One depicted a handsome man with silver hair and lavish clothing. The other depicted a beautiful female fey with black hair and dressed in royal fashion. The PCs easily identified the woman as Caerwyn. They logically assumed the other was Porpherio.

Although there were long stone shelves containing numerous books and tomes (as well as concealed treasures) the PCs made absolutely no effort to examine it.

As the PCs explored the room they noticed a trapdoor in the floor. They cautiously opened it and found a man hidden inside. He was startled and frightened, and threatened them with his rapier. They immediately recognized him as Orlando. A few seconds later he recognized the PCs from Crystalbrook and emerged from the hole, glad to be in the company of friends. It was clear that Orlando had merged with Porpherio just as Juliana had merged with Caerwyn.

The PCs explained who they were and why they were here. They explained that Orlando was in great danger from a murderous Verbeeg who could arrive at any moment. Orlando seemed oblivious to the danger and only wanted to know where Caerwyn was. The PCs didn’t immediate reveal what happened fearing that it might worsen his confused state. Orlando eventually threatened to leave the isle without them to search for her if they didn’t reveal what they knew. This got them talking.

After they filled Orlando in on all the details he was even more anxious to find and rescue Caerwyn. They agreed to help him do just that, but they feared for his immediate safety. They instructed him to get ready to hide in the secret compartment in the floor if they yelled out “Danger!” He reluctantly agreed, knowing that they’d be leaving soon anyway.

As the Slayer opened the door to leave, a giant Verbeeg stood in the doorway. He had green skin and golden hair. He carried a large spear and wore wooden shield. Basil had arrived. He politely introduced himself before declaring that he was here to kill Orlando on Ragnar’s instructions.

As the party started making a game plan for how to stop the giant from attacking, Basil addressed them again. He suggested that the PCs fight him and that the winner would claim Orlando as their prize. Nether side need kill the other, just compete for victory.

The PCs agreed but as the Verbeeg spoke the Assassin shouted out “Danger!” signaling to Orlando to hide. Just as the combat was about to begin, Orlando managed to get back through the trapdoor and close it shut. He should be safe in there while the others fought.

One big problem that we’ve had at my FLGS, especially with the younger players, is that they keep changing characters. Sometimes it’s because they don’t like their PCs and other times it’s because they made poor choices and got killed. The result is that fresh, new PCs join the party every week. They have full hit pints, full healing surges, an action point, and all their daily powers. I’ve tried to enforce some kind of penalties to represent expended resources but they refuse to play if they can’t come in fresh. I’ve given up trying to win this battle. So this week we only had one returning character, the rest were fresh. The returning character had only played in one previous encounter so he was pretty much at full resources too. Expecting the party to have trouble facing off against Basil I let them play the PCs as they were.

The combination of a striker-heavy party and full resources made this a really fun and relatively balanced fight exactly as written. Whether by dumb luck or shrewd planning (I’ll bet the former) the party managed to spread out around the room. The Slayer was the first PC to engage Basil in melee and feel the sting of his Sweeping Repost. Realizing that he could do this as a free action, the other three strikers reverted to ranged attacks. Even the Cleric decided that Sacred Flame was his best option, staying well away from Basil.

The PCs never got close enough to each other for Basil to get more than one with his Lunging Sweep blast 3 attack, and after he used it once against a single PC he never managed to recharge it. Basil used the absence of a melee threat to use his Bewildering Bold ranged basic attack to its fullest potential attacking three times per round thanks to Hunter’s Momentum. It did 2d6+5 on each hit, about the same average damage as his Spear’s 1d10+7 except the ranged attack targeted Will.

Basil bloodied three PCs early but after that couldn’t manage to get more than one each round. The PCs unloaded all of their daily powers on him as fast as they could. They use action points and ate through his 220 hit points in no time. The Slayer rolled 11 and 10 on his 2d12 damage in the first round and then scored a crit in the next. The Warlock hit right after the crit and rolled maximum damage, crit the hard way as we say at my FLGS.

When Basil was down to 20 hit points he offered a truce and conceded victory. I went down the initiative order giving each PC a chance to agree to the truce or continue fighting. Four agreed, the fifth attacked. Basil retaliated by moving to the trap door, flung it open and stabbed Orlando three times. Fortunately he only hit twice and Orlando was still alive. The Slayer, with only 4 hit points remaining, stood from prone, changed his stance and swung his mighty Great Axe. He hit and inflicted exactly 20 damage to Basil, knocking him unconscious before the Verbeeg could jab him with the giant Spear.

The table cheered and everyone gave a round of high fives. It was a thrilling conclusion to an action packed battle.

I think this was one of the most entertaining encounters so far this season. After a lot of story and role-playing it was fun to have a straight-forward, hack and slash combat encounter. Unlike the encounter from week 2 against the Echo Spirit and Ochre Jelly, the PCs never felt that victory was out of hand. They realized Basil was powerful but they enjoyed the challenge. I think that fighting only one monster really made a psychological difference in a good way.

The only disappointment came when we rolled for magic treasure. I let the player running the Slayer roll the d20 for loot since he landed the killing blow. He rolled a 1 after a night of exceptional attack rolls. So the party found two Healing Potions in Basil’s pack. They were bummed that it wasn’t a magic weapon or anything else more permanent than potions.

How did things go at your FLGS? Did Basil kill everyone or did the PCs hold their own? How many groups protected Orlando and how many saw him killed before their very eyes?

We continue to record our D&D Encounters 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 8.) – Podcasts

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sentack January 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

We had two tables at our store and the results were nearly completely opposite. My table had hot dice, the perfect abilities to lock him down and rolled exceptional damage. As a result, Basal, who lasted 5 rounds, only managed to bloody two targets, knock out one (Who was back up very quickly) and barely seemed like challenge. I’ve seen this problem before where a combination of good powers and hot dice resulted in a Solo feeling like nothing more then a mild nuisance.

The other table, had very cold dice, Had three natural 1’s in one round and very low damage rolls and general bad luck. That team lost Orlando and did finally defeat Basal, but almost after a near TPK. Not a great victory for that team.

This seemed like a great encounter, that sadly for me was marred by PC’s that were way too effective against the situation. Hence once again while I don’t care 100% for Solo’s. It reminded me of the time in Lost Crown when the dragon attacked, and because the fighter locked it down, it’s flurry attack never had any teeth.

2 Alton January 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Sounds like you have been getting a great turnout. My tables have been thin lately, not because of lack of interest but different work schedules of a lot of my players. Small town, small crew. Great recaps though.

3 Durfaroth January 13, 2012 at 2:01 am

I play a berserker satyr (unseelie agent) and a few of our party had heard that this wasn’t going to be a pretty fight, especially since all but myself were really hurting for healing surges and we knew we would be without one of our controller that couldn’t make it. Luckily we were able to deal quite a bit of damage and got Basil bloodied after a few painful rounds. At the end I charged in with a life-ending strike and action pointed for a Batter Down to knock him prone. Another hit and he’s accepting defeat except that I (after received word from the Unseelie Court via the DM to not allow Basil to leave this island alive or else) am 5 ft away from Basil and going in for the kill. Cleric readies and action to grab me if I should attack, I bluff the cleric that I won’t attack. Halfling rogue moves in between Basil and me as an unwilling ally so that I can’t move through his space but readies an action to attack Basil should something happen anyway. I leap over the halfling (Satyr’s Leap), Basil’s ready action attacks me, rogue’s attacks Basil, and I finishe off Basil with a shadow-wrought sword through the chest. Only a few of us have a surge left and I’m going to have to watch myself around the pissed off druid that went through all the work negotiating the terms of the fight with Basil to try and not make any more enemies. One session left before extended rest, here’s hoping for hot dice.

4 Yagokoro January 13, 2012 at 11:46 am

Our store runs three tables. I’m relatively new, and play with three of my buddies (one of them also relatively new) and usually a random fifth person in one, and the others have five or six veteran players who know their stuff. I’m a Human Mage (Enchantment School, Tuathan w/Continue the Story), my buddies are a Human Mage (Evocation School), a Pixie Skald, and a Pixie Rogue. The Rogue had to fill in as DM at another table this week, but another buddy of mine decided to come play with a nicely-built Pixie Scout, and we had a Drow Hexblade (Fey Beast Tamer) for our random fifth.

I think partially because the DM went a little easy on us (I was starting today with one hit point and no healing surges, and the Hexblade was down to two surges) or because we’d gotten lucky and good, we actually probably had the easiest time of it. While my party has a track record for whizzing every dialogue/non-combat situation somehow, we were on point tonight. It also helped that unlike the first six encounters, I had taken notes and compiled all the info we knew, so it was easy enough for me to figure out how all the pieces fit together and I could properly fill Orlando/Porpherio in on what he needed to know.

In any case, thanks to good info, good rolls, and good ideas, what could have been (and at a couple of points almost was) a diplomatic disaster that would have forced a fight to the death and Orlando getting killed instead turned out to be the non-lethal option, Orlando hiding, and the Scout getting a surprise round plus winning initiative to do 38 damage and knock him prone before anything happened.

Basal didn’t go down easy, though, and he blew away the Hexblade’s blink dog in the first round, much to his chagrin. He wandered close to me, but I managed to hit him with Beguiling Strands and force him into the wall while I hid under the table and stayed there the rest of the fight. My mage buddy failed a Phantom Cage attempt, and from then on just moved around and plinked him with Magic Missile. I did the same, using my minors for Mage Hand to move the Skald around the field when necessary, and the Hexblade got a crit and a couple of good damage rolls. The real MVP was the Scout, though. Sweeping Riposte was little to fear for him thanks to 21 AC, and Basal seemed to miss every attempt to hit him with Bewildering Bolt. We bloodied Basal, but unfortunately around that point the Hexblade’s dice started going cold and the Scout finally went down to a couple of heavy hits. Thankfully a round or two later we’d beaten Basal enough for him to yield, and either nobody was interested in killing him or the DM accepted my decision on the matter since the offer to yield came on my turn.

We all realized how lucky we were at that point when the DMs of the other two tables came over to share stories. Apparently, at the second table Orlando almost got killed and half the party went down, and at the third Basal went absolutely ballistic on someone and took him from his max of 33 HP down to -31 in a single round.

5 B.J. January 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I briefly mentioned this last week in the comments section, but one of our characters was totally killed in the first volley from Basil. One critical hit and the guy’s character was just down and out. A level 2 Pixie Witch probably shouldn’t go out in front of the rest of the party like that anyway, but it was equally shocking and hilarious. Most of us thought this guy was going to be a huge problem, but we dispatched him within a few rounds. No one else got bloodied or really harmed by Basil. My only problem with the “Solo” session was that it was way short. We didn’t start at our usual time, but we still ended up being finished in around forty-five minutes. Very wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

6 Astrolounge January 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm

After his initial attack, Basil didn’t have a single turn in which he wasn’t prone and dazed. He could end the daze with his solo-ness, but he never had the action to stand up. Especially funny since he can apparently do so as a minor.

7 David Argall January 13, 2012 at 11:16 pm

SEASONING OF GREENBOW – 8. A big fight

So we find the other half of our goal, and we have to fight to keep it too. Well, at least the fight went better.
The wizard fellow who used to rule this place sure had some impressive digs. This palace of his is about as big as anything I have ever seen, and it was just his personal dining room. Real impressive place. Of course it kinda distracted us from our job of finding this human fellow. Fortunately our satyr noticed something odd, and followed it to a trap door.
Inside was our quarry, and like the girl, he was way confused, and apparently some sort of mix with souls from both sides. However, when we told him the girl was in danger, he was eager to rush out and rescue her. So it looked like this our mission was going to be easy. That is when the big fey we had been told about showed up.
He hadn’t heard about the change in plans to not kill our lad [and pointed out that we weren’t really sure there had been a change. The boss fey had really only said he would think about it.] So he was going to do some head chopping. [Which for a bit looked like it would be Bin’s head. The changling had been imitating our boy for some reason and fooled the enemy until he decided he was not the sacrificing type and changed back to his normal form.]When we objected, he proved a sporting type and offered us a “friendly” battle. We took care to keep our lad safe and battled away.
Unfortunately Violet, our bard, had gotten a little too close to the large fey and he charged her and beat her up pretty bad. Tamlin our barbarian pixie also took quite a few lumps. But I managed to poke him hard with my arrows, while Petunia used this fire spell to burn him pretty good. Bin suffered some damage and took some too.Our satyr snuck around to surprise him with more arrows, one of which was the final blow that convinced him to let us take our human back to the head fey to discuss the matter.
Hopefully, the rest of the day will just be talk. While I am in good shape, Violet and Bin are in bad shape and may not survive another fight. But we have all the keys we need to attack the witch and we may be able to pull that off on the morrow.

VICTORIES OF VORDAL- 8. Big and Brutal battle

We achieved our goal. It remains to be seen if it will be worth it. The cost at least was not low, and we may have been on a fool’s errand.
After our battle at the lake, we found ourselves considering a small palace. We had some who wanted to look around, but most were willing to stick to the mission, and there was a possible trail. So inside we went.
This led to a grand dining room. Here again, we faced distractions, and Quillion, our wizard, was, perhaps not surprisingly, lured over to a wall of books. However several of us saw a trail and followed it to a trap door, which we opened after a little hesitation, and found our missing lad. Like the lady, he was confused and not fully there, in several senses, as he seemed to part of the mind and body of the former ruler of this place. However, we managed to convince him to come along, and were just starting to do so, when we were interrupted.
This big fey slipped thru the door to our surprise, [well, to most of our surprises. Orla the elf rogue, and Cyrus the elf ranger, admitted they had spotted him earlier, and had not bothered to tell the rest of us. However, there was no time to tell them to keep us informed in the future.] The lout told us he was here to kill our prince. While he did have an arguable case [The evil witch was wanting to do a ritual that required our lad as a key component, so killing him might make the ritual impossible.], we were not interested, and hoped the great fey might find a better solution.
Eventually, he offered to take us on in ritual combat, he against the bunch of us [and he expected to win too.] After trying to make sure the rules didn’t allow him to cheat, we agreed and the battle was on.
It was almost over right away. He was way faster than we expected and several of us were badly hurt before we could do anything. But we rallied and started giving him big damage too. Yorke Reeve, the half-orc ranger, did the most damage, but Merrill, the halfling, and Kross the drow rogue also gave him serious cuts. Orla and Quillion were also hurting him.
But he kept on hurting us. Cyrus was the first one down, despite my curing him, and Kross and I were out for the count soon after that too. But finally Yorke got in the final blow and the giant went down.
So we could cure up and escort our prince to the lady fey and hope she can devise a better answer than killing our boy. All in all, it has been a very rough day, and we can only hope we face no more challenges.

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