Last week the PCs found Orlando (fused with Propherio) and defeated the Verbeeg Basal who was trying to kill him. After the contest of champions in which the PCs emerged victorious, Basal rewarded the party with a magical item and then agreed to accompany them and Orlando back to Uma.
The return trip back to Uma’s grove took a couple of hours and by the time they got there, night was upon them. When they reached their destination they saw Uma with her Nymphs and Pixies on the eastern bank and Ragnar with his Satyrs and Wilden on the western bank with the Treant, Sir Oakstaff, straddling the stream between he two groups.
Uma and Ragnar shouted insults and blame at each other with Oakstaff trying to mediate a resolution. As they noticed the PCs approach with Orlando and Basal the bickering stopped. Uma bade Orland come to her so that she could protect him and mend his wounded mind. Ragnar meanwhile demanded that the PCs bring Orlando to him. Oakstaff once again called for peace.
The PCs were in the spotlight now and had to explain what had transpired during the previous couple of encounters. They explained that they had defeated Basal in combat and that Orlando’s fate was up to them. Since they were acting on Uma’s direction they felt that it was only right to see that he was delivered safely to her.
Orlando, until this point still confused and skittish, had a moment of clarity. Porpherio’s personality took control and he spoke with authority. He explained that the part of his spirit merged with Orlando and the small part merged with the fiend Kalbon would return to Propherio and Caerwyn’s tomb if the physical hosts were killed. So killing Orlando would not have stopped the Hag Soryth from completing her ritual. And killing Soryth (partly merged with Caerwyn) and Kalbon (partly merged with Propherio) will actually free the imprisoned parts of the lover’s spirits.
Uma and Ragnar realized their folly and made up. They agreed to work together, along with the PCs to stop Soryth from doing any more damage. However, since the native Fey creatures were barred from entering the Palace of Spires the Archfey lords asked the PCs if they would use the four plant keys they acquired to breach the Hag’s fortress and stop her. The PCs agreed without hesitation.
As a thank you for finding and returning Orlando, Uma and Ragnar each present the PCs with a magical item to assist them on their quest. Ragnar also demands that Basal present the PCs with another of his own magical treasures for sparing his life. Each PC was also given a Potion of Healing.
Uma revealed that if they had something of Soryth’s in their possession Uma could enchant it to protect the PCs from the Hag’s most potent spells. The PCs produced Soryth’s Bloodstone that Juliana ripped from the Hags neck during their struggle in the Leprechaun’s grove. Uma, Ragnar and Oakstaff worked together to enchant the item and presented it to the PCs. They were told to keep it with them and that those who oppose the Hag would be protected.
The PCs were exhausted by this point and needed an extended rest. They set camp and got ready to sleep. However, before any of them could get any meaningful sleep some PCs heard trouble approaching and aroused the others from their bedrolls. When Soryth’s Bloodstone was enchanted the Hag felt a backlash of positive energy and realized that someone would be coming for her so she sent her agents to recover the Bloodstone. The party was beset upon by Xivorts.
Take One – Harry T North
This week we held steady at five players. The party consisted of a Wilden Monk [Unseelie Agent], Human Seeker [Unseelie Agent], Hamadryad Warlord, Elf Ranger/Monk Hybrid, and Pixie Bard (Master Skald) [Unseelie Agent]. This group has been very consistent thought the adventure and by now they all know what the other PCs are capable of doing. During the previous few encounters they’ve really began working well together and saw a lot of synergies as they played off of each other’s abilities.
The two Xivorts rolling the logs didn’t last very long. Since the party was alerted to their attack the PCs managed to scatter before the logs could target multiple PCs. The first log rolled over one PC but missed, The second managed to hit the one PC in its path. Without the logs to provide cover the strikers made short work of the exposed Slashers.
The Net Caster only managed to get the Bard in the net keeping him from the action for multiple rounds while he struggled with the net. Out of game we felt that the Pixie should have been able to just fly out of the net but we stuck to the D&D mechanics and made the PC continue trying to save successfully.
With the PCs taking cover and working together the Xivorts realized that a brash frontal assault probably wouldn’t work. They took to the forest’s edge and tried to gain concealment from the PCs whenever possible. The combat took a long time as the PCs and Xivorts played Cat and Mouse with each other, sneaking in and out of the forest and shooting anything that moved. In the end the PCs managed to take out all the Xivorts without any casualties, although most of the PCs were at death’s door following the fifth encounter of the chapter.
Take Two – Dueling Grounds
Our numbers continue to fluctuate between 7 and 12 people. Some weeks we don’t quite have enough to make two tables, while others we’re fine to split into two groups. This week we had 8 people so we went with one massive table. I opted to play having already DMed the encounter once. This party was very striker-heavy so output wasn’t really a problem. The challenge was healing and healing surges. As mentioned before some of the players are quite young and don’t track healing surges properly. When they do run out of surges they just make a new character for the next session. So we had some PCs with more than enough surges (the younger players) and some PCs with only 1 or 0 surges (the older players). I decided to play a Paladin so that I could use Lay on Hands to heal the guys playing correctly if the need arose.
The party consisted of a Human Assassin, Goliath Berserker, Human Wizard (Arcanist), Eladrin Sun Elf Warlock (Hexblade) [Fey Beast Tamer], Bullywug Assassin [Fey Beast Tamer], and Drow Assassin [Fey Beast Tamer]. I was playing Alvenor, the Human Paladin pre-gen from D&D Encounters: Halaster’s Lost Apprentice.
Failed Perceptions checks to detect the sneaking Xivorts meant that half the party got crushed under the logs. Fortunately the DM only hit one out of three PCs with the first log and two out of four with the second. The real challenge was the Net Casters. Since PCs couldn’t try to escape until the end of their turn with a save the Paladin and Berserker, both lacking ranged attacks, were almost removed from the fight. Fortunately smart tactics let the Paladin grant the Berserker an extra save and then I made my save on the first try.
Even though the DM added a couple of extra Xivorts the combat only took three and a half rounds. Of course with seven PCs and three beast companions each round took about 20 minutes of real-time. The party had a tremendous amount of firepower at their disposal, including an abundance of daily powers and the sheer volume that accompanies 10 attackers on team heroes. For the first time this chapter the PCs managed to give as good as they got.
I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: Chapters in the D&D Encounters adventures should not exceed four encounters. Many of the players are inexperienced and parties don’t always work well together because players don’t know one and other. Many parties lack a leader and healing surges are not always used to their maximum effect. The result is PCs who cannot survive five encounters without an extended rest.
That being said I have to admit that the combat part of this week’s encounter really seemed unnecessary. The role-playing and story progression that happened at the beginning was good but could have easily been tacked on to the end of last week’s fight. The ambush in the night was almost like punishment to most of the PCs. Had I not taken pity on the PCs and given them some free healing surges before the encounter started there would have been some character deaths if not a TPK.
This chapter as a whole was tough on a lot of players as their PCs really took a pounding. The monsters they faced hit hard and hit often. The only encounter that didn’t overwhelm them was the fight against the solo monster, Basal. It’s this kind of unrelenting punishment that gives new players the wrong sense of what D&D is all about. They certainly got a lot of opportunity to role-play which I think was the chapter’s big saving grace, but every week they just got their butts handed to them. It really crushed their spirit both in and out of game.
Now that chapter two is completed what are your thoughts? Are players dropping out of D&D Encounters because their PCs keep getting killed? Do you find that you have to keep handing out free healing surges in order for the PCs to have any kind of chance at survival? Is the vast array of NPCs baffling your players or are they following the story without too much difficulty? Are people still as enamored with the Feywild after nine weeks or is the honeymoon over?
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 9) – Podcasts
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