D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 12)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 9, 2012

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.

Afterthoughts

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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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeffrio February 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

I’m ready to be done. 4E has lost all of its charm for me. The rules and especially the combat system seem arbitrary at best.

2 Jason February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I’m confident my group can handle Soryth. I’m also looking forward to being finished, but not necessarily because I don’t like this season. I’m just looking forward to generating my next character! I’m a bit of an altoholic.

I’m more looking forward to the Underdark materials than I am the Elemental Chaos stuff, though.

3 darkl26139 February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

We fared well with this encounter. Our party took heavy damage the first few rounds but was able to trap Kaldon by using daze, immobilize, and knock prone powers. This allowed most of the party to hit him from range. My character is a paladin so I stayed two to two and took damage for it but I had enough surges/powers not to worry about it. Our moment of greatest came when one of the witches dominated a statue and used it against Kaldon. One party member was knocked out by the statues but no one else went down. By the end the mages were down to 1 or 2 surges each. The rangers had 3 each. Since my character is a paladin I used my second wind to heal one of the mages. We retreated to the garden to take advantage of the extra hit points gained when we rested. Overall I enjoyed this session more. The puzzles allowed for role-playing and the villain had clear motivation for attacking. It was also nice to be rewarded for sparing the other fey. It was nice to have our action before this session mean something. This is exactly the type of thing I have been complaining that encounters lacked. Overall I would say this was one of the better balanced encounters which made it more fun. I am curious as to how it will end next week.

4 The Unlucky Paladin February 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I say that paladin was doing great. and it was more than two rounds before you took me down! It was three at best! Besides, I was attacking them on principal! And, if I stopped then they’d have swarmed the rogue… Since he was doing roughly 18dmg to Kaldon each turn I thought it would be best to him in the action for awhile.

5 Yagokoro February 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I was somewhat surprised to find out last night that my table was the only one that had a good track record in being merciful with the mind-controlled fey. The other two tables had to fight the pixies, somewhat to their detriment. We, however, were the only table that contended with the statues for the most part, since most of us were pretty dependent on weapons. For the first time in a long time, our Pixie Rogue was back with us, but other than that, no change to our party makeup.

This encounter ran the gamut of tension. It started out with cheering and awesomeness because our merciful actions combined with the flower I picked up last week that identified me as a friend of the fey snapped the pixies out of their trance and caused them to leave the field. Then we rocked Kalbon with some good damage in the first round, and he missed his attacks. Then things took a turn when the statues showed up and rocked my mage buddy pretty hard. The DM’s streak of cold damage dice ended in pretty spectacular fashion. My mage buddy got healed only to immediately go down from a near-max damage hit from the statues, and I risked going down to provide a flank for the hexblade (who was going to charge, action point, and attack again) and paid for it. It ended up coming down to everyone still standing being bloodied and out of healing, and the hexblade being convinced to finish off Kalbon in what might have been the final round of the fight (Kalbon and the statues would have gone before the next standing party member could).

Next week will be the interesting conclusion, as I’ve been looking forward to settling things with Soryth ever since she showed up to mess us up after the cave, as well as getting to make judicious use of the Bloodstone’s properties. However, the rogue and I are the only ones with surges left, and my mage buddy is running bloodied. I’m looking forward to the conclusion to this, my first full season, and to trying to do even better next season.

6 Sunyaku February 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Tables at our FLGS have declined significantly in the last few weeks. The story killed it. People lost interest once they realized they were playing “Romeo and Juliet” meets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Shockingly enough, a 12 year old at one of the kid’s tables even made this connection!

I don’t think anyone expects to lose to Sorith– our table had a shot at killing her IN THE FIRST ENCOUNTER. We dazed her, slowed her, knocked her prone, and pushed her 13 squares away (from her starting location) in the first round, before she had a chance to react. Sorith barely got away with Julianna. I think we could have taken her.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..New Character Theme: Black Powder Barrister

7 B.J. February 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Our group had been merciful to the Fey, so this wasn’t a terrible battle. However, the final battle was pretty brutal for us, but I won’t say any more until next week.

8 David Argall February 13, 2012 at 3:07 am

VICTORIES OF VORDAL – 12. The man is down

Entering the Palace proved a problem, for me at least, since some magic blocked me, until I realized it required putting my weapon away. Typical fey folly, making it very hard to do something, while making it quite easy to do almost the same thing. Just not clear thinking like dwarves.
We were hardly inside before we met the male half of this team of evil fey, who did prove to be quite tough. Fortunately we had given those forced to fight for him more mercy than they deserved, and now that paid off as his supporters left him, and he had to deal with all of us without help, or rather without living help. 2 living statues joined his side as soon as we drew our weapons again and seemed to be tougher than he was. Again fey arrangements were found to be flawed by their folly as the statues would only attack those using weapons. So it was quickly clear that we needed to blast the fey and then drop our weapons and the statues would then ignore us.
The plan was not that easy to carry out. In fact, I was badly hurt and almost down by the time we achieved success. And I was not the only one hurt. Still, Quillion the eladarin wizard, Kross the drow rogue, Richard the human paladin, Regar the human barbarian, Cyrus the elven hunter, and Orla the elven thief managed to slam the fey until he went down and then we could heal up and continue to the mail event.
That’s when we found that fey foolishness in action again. We have to do two “impossible” tasks before we can continue, and if past experience is any guide, this will prove to be only a bother. But the witch waiting for us will be a great deal more.

SEASONING OF GREENBOW – 12. Got a Big Prize

That palace was a strange place that insisted we put our weapons away before we entered. So we did and sailed right in. Inside we found a couple of doors, both of which led to dead ends. While I searched without much luck for the way to continue, the others mostly tried to clean up this one room that was full of darkness. I don’t really understand why, tho it was full of demon taint, so I hardly objected. The room did look a lot better afterwards, and so I suppose Petunia and Violet the pixie skald deserve some credit.
When they were done, they wanted to play with the other room, while I was trying to get a couple of water fey to pay attention to me and tell me how to get deeper into this place, when we suddenly found we had visitors, one of them quite nasty. That major male fey who was backing the witch dropped in to give us a bad time.
However, the battle started quite well for us when his pixie troops said we had been nice to people [or at least hadn’t killed them when we had the chance and a decent motive, or excuse]. So we were friends of the fey and they were not going to attack us. Nasty fellow didn’t like that of course and threatened to eat them. I rather rashly told him to pick on somebody his own size, forgetting I was, and was almost within reach. Fortunately Bolvar the dragonborn paladin jumped in his way before he could take advantage of my ‘offer’, and Tamlin took him on too. They, and I, didn’t do much damage to him, but we thought we were handling him.
But then, he gave Tamlin some massive wounds and just about put him out of the fight, and Violet was too far away to cure him. We had to scramble to keep him from being squashed.
Making that harder was that the two statues decorating the place decided to jump in and start attacking those of us with weapons out, which included Tamlin. But Bolvar managed to stop the death blow, and get Tamlin out of a tight spot. However, he then put himself in it and ended up decorating the ground.
However Bin the psion changling made what seemed an interesting discovery. The statue did not attack him after he put his magic orb away. That could have meant many things, but just maybe the statues would not bother us if we dropped our weapons. Rather iffy, but we concentrated fire on the enemy and when finally an arrow of mine dropped him, we tried putting our weapons away, which proved quite successful.
Anyway, the fey in the fountain told us that if we could get the birds to sing properly, and use this weird method to do so, they could take us to the rest of the palace. A rather common fey trick, to make it easy to do what seems impossible. It took us a little while to get the idea, but Bin finally got the idea and we were in. Now after a little rest and healing, we get to walk up a waterfall, and see if we can win the rematch with this witch.

9 Joe Lastowski February 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Interesting to see that you’re allowing things like monks & assassins at your table. My understanding was that only Essentials & Heroes of Feywild were “legal”. But whatever, if it works, that’s cool.

We’ve had a satyr bard in my group who introduced himself as King Horn, a very suave ladies’ man sort of character. Ever since he found out that Kalbon was called the Horned King, he’s been referring to him as “the imposter” and talking about what he’d do to him. It was fitting that he got in the killing blow on Kalbon. The statues were pretty rough, but folks managed to focus on Kalbon and then sheathed their weapons. I’ve been fairly surprised at how unmerciful the PCs at our store have been with slaughtering mind-controlled characters, but I guess that’s their option.

I’m pretty excited about the fight with Soryth, because she’s just got a lot of fun mechanical powers. It might get frustrating for PCs, who will end up attacking eachother a LOT… but I’m hoping that the rewards after the fight will make up for that.

Encounters has never been a great story tool, but it’s been reasonably effective at helping folks learn the system. When I get new players in my home campaign, I invite them to join me for a week or two in Encounters, because it makes the many rules of combat easier to grasp.

And yes, I love having famous actors “play” various major NPCs, too. Don’t think we had one for Kalbon, but the two fey generals were Michael Dorn (Worf) & Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi), which instantly gave the players a sense of their opposing philosophies.

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