At the very end of last week’s encounter the PCs managed to open the doors to Soryth’s Palace of Spires with the help of their reflections from the pool. This week we pick up at that exact spot. The PCs got the benefits of a short rest last week after the fight in the garden, but before solving the puzzle to open the doors. So fully recovered (or at least as much as possible given their dwindling healing surges) they proceeded.
Looking through the now opened doorway the PCs could see a great hall beyond. Bright light shone through skylights illuminating the room. At the end of the hall was a fountain in which two jets of water spiraled upward through the air as if the water was alive. To one side of the hall was a table with four chairs and set with a crystal decanter and four glasses. On the right and left side of the hallways were two doors, squawking sounds emanating from the one on the left.
Before the PCs could pass through the now open doors, statues on either side of the door, carved to look like Elvin maidens with scimitars again intoned in unison “Enter in peace,” the same phrase they uttered after the PCs opened the doors at the end of last week’s session.
Take One – Harry T North
We had a great turn out this week, two DMs and 12 players, so we ran two full tables. At my table was a Satyr Paladin (Caviler) [Fey Beast Tamer], Dwarf Rogue (crossbow build), Human Seeker [Unseelie Agent], Dwarf Cleric, Elf Cleric, and Wilden Monk [Sidhe Lord].
The Paladin brazenly tried to enter the hallway but was blocked by an invisible barrier. He tried slashing the field with his sword but was still unable to pass. The Rogue tried putting away his weapons and entering the hall. He was able to do so without resistance. The rest of the party followed suit and in the all went.
They began by investigating the water fountain. The water was actually two beautiful water nymphs. When the PCs tried talking to them their only response was “Soryth bound us to bar passage to all until day conquers night and rocks teach birds to sing.” Additional questioning yielded no further information. Attempts to attack the nymphs were futile and ineffective.
The party then split up to explore the rest of the rooms simultaneously. The Monk and Seeker entered the room to the left where they squawking originated. Insider they discovered the room was the master bedroom, full of lavish and expensive looking furnishings. On the far wall was a tapestry depicting Propherio and Caerwyn surrounded by all manner of living creatures from the real world and Fey world joined in song.
In a transparent dome on the ceiling songbirds sat on perches but they continued squawking rather than singing. The heroes searched the bedroom for rocks but found none. The Monk decided to go back into the garden and get some rocks.
The Paladin and Dwarf Cleric entered the room to the right. Inside he discovered this was the steward’s quarters. The room was dark and even the light from the hallways couldn’t brighten it completely. The scent of brimstone and burned wood filled the room. The fine furnishing within were all burned and charred. On the floor a soot stained arcane rune eclipsed a mosaic of the sun. The heroes searched the room, careful not to step on the magical runes, but found nothing valuable.
The Elf Cleric and Rogue remained in the hallway trying to get the water nymphs to be more helpful but failing miserably. When the Monk left the master bedroom he explained that he was going to get some rocks. The Rogue realized that the goblets on the table were actually crystal. In fact these were likely the same singing crystals that the PCs saw in the Crystal Cave and in the Porpherio’s Palace. The Rogue brought them into the master bedroom and within a few seconds the birds stopped squawking and stated to imitate the humming crystals. The rocks taught the birds to sing.
As the Monk was returning from the garden, rocks in hand, a dark figure dropped down into the entry hall from the inverted water surface above the fountain. The bulking humanoid with massive arms, orange skin and large bat-like wings smelled of brimstone. Kalbon had arrived. He landed in front of the fountain and said to the PCs “You are too late, fools. But I welcome you. You’re just in time to die.”
By calling the PCs fools I immediately decided that Kalbon would speak like Mr. T, calling everyone “Foos!” I did a decent enough job during this encounter, but I really nailed in it the second time through. I encourage you to listen to the podcast.
Emerging from the same watery portal, two Pixies armed with bows fly out and target the closest PCs. The heroes realized that these Fey creatures, much like many of the other Fey creatures they’d encounter so far, were clearly under Soryth’s control. It was unlikely that the heroes would need to kill them (although this party had killed many of the charmed Fey along the way so far).
The Paladin was first to act. He drew his sword and rushed Kalbon. Before anyone else could go the two statues guarding the front doors animated and immediately charged the Paladin. The rest of the party realized that the statues were responding to the exposed weapon. Some PCs decided that they would risk retaliation and fight with their weapons, others were not willing to risk it. This revelation gave the Monk a huge advantage during this encounter.
The Paladin decided that he could take down the statues and let the rest for the party focus on Kalbon and the Pixies. It only took the statues two more rounds to destroy him.
The rest of the party (except the Rogue) fought Kalbon with only their bare hands. They did less damage than they’d normally do but at least they were hitting and getting the secondary effects of their powers.
The Rogue being a ranged attacker had little choice but to use weapons. Fortunately the statues were busy pummeling the Paladin. First he took out the two Pixies and then he easily bloodied Kalbon in just a few rounds. However, once the Paladin dropped, the statues came after the Rogue focusing him to drop his weapons.
Kalbon hovered just below his bloodied value for a long time. He had three of the PC unconscious but couldn’t get the others to fall. The Rogue finally decided that he would risk the attacks from the statues to deal the damage that could end the fight. He took a few good solid hits for his trouble but in the end the strikers awesome output made all the difference. They defeated Kalbon and then immediately dropped all weapons deactivating the statues.
Take Two – Dueling Grounds
This week we had another solid turnout with two DMs and 12 players, including two brand new players. At my table of six we ended up with a Human Shaman, Human Wizard (Arcanist), Shade Assassin, Revenant (Elf) Sorcerer, Half-Elf Cleric and Fargrim the Dwarf Fighter (Slayer) (pre-gen). The Sorcerer and Wizard were both out of healing surges so tactics were going to be especially important this week.
The Assassin was the first to attempt to enter the hall and was the first barred because he was holding weapons. The Wizard tried to pass through next and since he only had a staff, had no trouble entering. The Cleric was the first one to suggest putting away weapons and with that insight the party managed to gain entrance.
They took a few minutes to look around the entry hall. They approached the fountain and spoke with the nymphs where they were told “Soryth bound us to bar passage to all until day conquers night and rocks teach birds to sing.” The Assassin and Fighter examined the decanter and glasses on the table and the Fighter realized that they were made of crystal and not glass.
The party then decided to split up and explore the adjoining rooms. The Assassin pulled out his rapier and then opened the door to the right. The statues activated and charged him scoring two solid hits. This brought him down to 3 hit points. As we cycled through the rest of the initiative order the rest of the PCs took no actions and no one drew weapons… except the Cleric.
The Cleric drew his greatsword and attacked a statue. When the Assassin’s turn came around again he wisely sheathed his weapons. The statues did not attack him; instead they turned to attack the only other armed PC, the Cleric. However, as a free action the Cleric dropped his sword before the statues could attack him. With no other armed combatants in the hall, the statues returned to their bases on either side of the doors.
The Assassin and Sorcerer entered the steward’s quarters and the Sorcerer was able to figure out that the ruins on the floor were the cause of the magical darkness. He began making Arcana checks to remove the symbols while the Assassin used Thievery to do the same.
Meanwhile the Wizard, Shaman and Fighter all entered the master bedroom to investigate the squawking noises. It took them a few minutes to realize that the crystal glasses were indeed rocks and that the humming was a song. They brought in the glasses and got the birds to sing without difficulty.
As the birds sang out Kalbon and the Pixies appeared. Since the Cleric was the only PC in the entry hall, Kalbon unloaded on him (all the while telling them that he “Pitied the foos!”). The Fighter used throwing hammers (tossed safely from within the master bedroom) to attack Kalbon, while the Wizard fired magic missiles. The Shaman sent her spirit bear into melee. The Assassin attacked one of the Pixies from within the steward’s bedroom, bloodying him.
I ruled that the statues would only attack if weapons were used in the entry hall. Since the PCs were staying in the bedrooms they were free to use weapons. Unfortunately it meant they had little room to maneuver once Kalbon came in after them.
The Sorcerer made the third and final check to remove the runes but flubbed his Arcana check badly. The resulting explosion only did 3 damage to him and the Assassin (who by this time had received healing from the Shaman and Cleric).
Kalbon was enraged by the accuracy of those shooting at him from the master bedroom and charged in. The close quarters meant he could use his Horned King’s Assault to maximum effect blasting all 3 PCs and bloodying all of them.
The Assassin and Sorcerer no longer had line of sight on Kalbon so they focused on the Pixies. The Sorcerer remembered how successfully the party has used Diplomacy to get charmed Fey to back down in previous fights so he tried reasoning with them this time too. His Diplomacy check was over 20 and it convinced the bloodied Pixie and the healthy Pixie to both flee the battle.
For the next few rounds the PCs battled Kalbon in the confines of the master bedroom. He knocked the Wizard unconscious, but the Shaman was able to revive him even though he was out of surges (good thing someone could dole out hit points without needing healing surges).
As seems to be the case every week, my dice cooled off during the second half of the combat. I hit less often and when I did my damage rolls were 1s and 2s on (on d10s and d8s). The heroes were fortunate enough to hit consistently and it didn’t take long to bring Kalbon down. His fire aura caused a change of tactics mid-way through the fight, but in the end the PCs took the 5 points of damage and crushed the devil.
After taking a short rest the Wizard had only 2 hit points and no healing surges. The Assassin and Sorcerer were both at full hit points but neither has any healing surges left going into the final fight.
This was where merciful players were rewarded. If they’d been nice to the Fey until this point and not killed everything they encountered, the Pixies were easily dispatched. Likewise, players who realized that the statues only attacked armed PCs needed to decide if risking that wrath was worth it. Fighting unarmed meant less damage when they hit and it meant the fight would likely drag on a lot longer. Fighting with their magical weapons (since most of the party had one by now) meant they’d be able to take Kalbon down more quickly but would likely take a few solid hits from the statues in the process. The biggest mistake the PCs could make was to draw weapons and then ignore Kalbon and attack the statues.
Since I was running tables of six I only changed one small detail. When Kalbon bloodied or dropped an opponent I had him regain 10 real hit points rather than get 10 temporary hit points. This meant he got little benefit early in the fight (especially if he was still at full hit points when he bloodied his first opponent), but it also meant that he could benefit if he bloodied multiple characters in one turn. This worked really well and saved me from having to adjust any of the other attack or defense scores.
I like this week’s puzzles a lot more than last weeks. Learning from last week’s hardships I let the PCs make some checks to try and interpret the clues or get a better understanding of what to do after they exhausted their player knowledge. The challenge with the birds was pretty straight forward but the challenge with the runes needed a bit more hand-holding.
Next week is the final encounter of season 7. The PCs face off against Soryth. Are your players excited as they approach the finale or are they just eager to be done with this season? How do you think they’ll do given their current state? Does anyone expect a TPK in the final week?
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 12) – Podcasts
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