D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 15, 2012

During last week’s encounter the party was ambushed by Dwarves. After defeating them, the party continued though the Badlands south of Easting in search of The Sunset Shrine where they hoped to find a cure for the Abyssal Plague.

The terrain ahead was treacherous and would require perseverance in the form of a series of skill checks if they were to avoid any serious hardships and still make the Sunset Shrine before nightfall. Fortunately two new adventurers arrived on the scene to assist them in their endeavour.

Our all-Genasi party welcomed two new members into their ranks this week as we had new players join the group. One of the new players was friends with one of our regulars so he made a Genasi in order to fit in better. The other player had never played before so he used one of the pre-gens – regrettably there were no Genasi pre-gens.

Our table of six ended up with the following PCs:

  • Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
  • Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
  • Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
  • Sandsoul Genasi Ranger (Hunter) [Unseelie Agent]
  • Earthsoul Genasi Fighter
  • Halfling Rogue (Merric pre-gen)

I explained to the players that travelling through the Badlands would require some skill checks. I allowed them to use whatever skills they felt might help the entire group make their way through the horrendous terrain. The Rogue used Perception to look for any signs of the Dwarves’ tracks and found them easily.

When the party came to a large gorge the Fighter and Assassin worked together using Athletics to climb down one side, climb up the other, placing pitons and ropes along the way to assist the rest of the party.

The Swordmage used History to see if he remembered any other temples or structures in the area. Getting a better vantage from a high outcropping of rocks he noticed a few stone monolith arrangements (think Stonehenge) and from those was able to better plot the party’s route to the Teeth.

Along the way the party made a series of Endurance checks. Each time four of the six made the check with flying colours and the party continued on without the need to overextend themselves (and therefore did not lose any healing surges).

The Assassin noticed an ominous figure matching the party’s course, following them in parallel from the nearby rocky hills. They realized that it was a Galeb Duhr and decided to approach it. The Galeb Duhr allowed the PCs to get close enough to converse. First it addressed them in Dwarven (which none of them understood) then it tried Giant (which none of them understood). Finally it spoke in common, it’s rocky accent making it sound like Sly Stallone’s Rocky Balboa (I have a sense of humour, you know).

The party befriended the earthy creature and convinced it of their intentions to attack the Dwarves and enter The Sunset Shrine. The Galeb Duhr told them what he knew of the area and asked that they free his ally, a Human named Malgrym who was captured by the Dwarves. The party agreed. The Galeb Duhr warned the party about some Drow camped nearby. If they wanted to get the jump on them they needed to move quickly and quietly.

Since the party did so well on the skill challenge, and the fact that they befriended the Galeb Duhr, I gave them some latitude when they tried to sneak up on the Drow camp. The Assassin and Rogue both got over 20 on their Stealth check so I allowed them to place themselves anywhere on the outer edges of the map. Fortunately some of the others in the group flubbed the Stealth checks so I let the Drow hide before the party arrived. The two sneaky PC started in the top right corner of the map near the rocks.

The Assassin was fortunate enough to make a remarkable Perception check and noticed a giant spider only two squares away just as the combat began. He fired at it with his crossbow but missed. The Spider moved in and poisoned him.

The loud party members were attacked by the other Spider. The Barbarian moved up activated his defender’s aura. The Ranger moved to the tree in the bottom left corner of the map to get a better view of the terrain. The Fighter and Swordmage tried hitting the Spider but failed miserably.

The Drow Leader moved into the fray where the majority of the party was bunched together and coordinated her attacks with the Spider. The Rogue, who until now had been on delay, jumped into the order and attacked the Drow leader, scoring a crit on his first attack. The Drow Scout, seeing the Rogue’s incredible display of output engaged him doing considerable damage.

The Swordmage marked the Drow Leader trying to draw her fire. She obliged him by attacking once and used Attack Command to direct the Spider or Drow Scout to attack another PC.

The Assassin shifted away from the Spider and fired at the Drow Leader. He then failed his save and was now immobilized. It would be three more rounds before he saved. The Spider continued to attack him each round brining him to within 1 hit point of unconsciousness. Thanks to Second Wind and a Healing Potion the Assassin managed to stay on his feat and finally destroy the Spider.

The Barbarian tried to lock down the Spider but once he switched from defender mode to striker mode the Spider moved onto softer opponents. The Drow Leader used her Cloud of Darkness to get away from the Fighter, Swordmage and Barbarian but only had a one round reprieve before the Fighter engaged her, using a daily power that marked her for the entire combat.

The Drow Scout managed to knock the Rogue unconscious, and then with the Spider’s assistance managed to flank the Swordmage. The Barbarian engaged the Drow Scout while the wounded Swordmage revived the Rogue and then used his Second Wind. A round later it was te Barbarian who fell unconscious and the Assassin (who finally made his saving throw) who managed to revive him, triggering his Second Wind with a Heal check.

The Ranger spent the entire combat perched in the tree, helping her allies who seemed to be in the most trouble. It was her arrows that killed the Spider and the Drow Scout. However, she opted to shoot the Drow in the leg and not kill him.

With only the Drow Leader remaining the Swordmage tried using Intimidate to get her to surrender. She refused to submit to any male surface dweller. However by the next round she was hurt really badly. She agreed to surrender to the only female in the party, the Ranger who by now had climbed down from the tree and approached the melee. The Ranger wasn’t interested in taking another prisoner and killed the Drow Leader.

With both Spiders dead, the Drow Leader dead and the other Drow unconscious the party regrouped before reviving the wounded Drow Scout. The Halfling was the only party member to speak Elvin so he questioned the Drow. The Drow realized he was likely going to be executed so he cooperated in hopes of being spared or freed.

He told the party that he was an advanced scout for a Drow riding party. He was watching the roads, marking the caravans and determining appropriate targets. However when he discovered the Dwarves worshipping Ghaunadaur he used a magic scroll to inform his leader. Once she arrived the two of them, along with the pet Spiders, watched the Dwarves and attacked their scouts. They let the larger party go by and were planning to ambush them when they returned. The assumed the PCs were the Dwarves which was why they were ready for them.

The PCs decided to let the Drow go, providing him with provisions and a dagger, but striping him of all other valuables, including his armor. The Drow party possessed two magic items and substantial wealth in the form of gems and jewelry (30 gp for each PC). In order to make the combat more interesting I rolled up the treasure ahead of time and equipped the Drow with these items: Bracers of Mighty Striking for the Drow Scout (adding +2 to his damage since both of his attacks counted as basic attacks) and a +1 Amulet of Protection for the Drow Leader.

The PCs moved on and set up camp for the night taking their extended rest before venturing into The Sunset Shrine at first light. So ends Chapter 1 of the Elder Elemental Eye.

With the first chapter finished I must admit that I was surprised and somewhat proud that the party made it through all three encounters without a leader. I’ve been playing D&D Encounters since the beginning of the program and the biggest problem I see week in and week out is the lack of healing. The PCs take massive damage and start falling unconscious. Without a leader things go from bad to worse. Sometimes one or two PCs end up dead-dead, but usually it’s just a case where they get revived during the short rest and blow through all of their healing surges too quickly. But this party is doing remarkably well.

Never underestimate the value of a strong offense and good tactics. With the defenders locking down the biggest, baddest enemies and taking the bulk of the attacks, the softer strikers can do what they do best and deal lots of damage every round. At the end of the first chapter everyone had plenty of healing surges left. This was the first time I’ve come to the end of a chapter and there wasn’t at least one or more characters out of healing surges.

Realizing that the strikers were capable of dealing so much damage, I increased the monsters hit points in every encounter so far and this party still handled things beautifully. I can’t wait to see how things turn out for them as we move forward.

How did this week’s encounter go at your FLGS? Did the Drow pose any significant challenges or did your party mow them down? Did you allow either Drow to surrender or did you just kill them? What are your thoughts on the first chapter as a whole? Did you find it too hard, too easy or just right?

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: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 3) – Podcasts

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1 Joe Lastowski March 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

Modern Myths, Northampton, MA
This was a really well-balanced encounter. My table had a fairly balanced group, though (amusingly) none of them were trained in Perception (not even the Scout/Ranger). They did well enough on the skill challenge that they didn’t need to make the Stealth checks against the Drow & spiders. In fact, the Galeb Duhr had pretty much told them what to expect, as our cleric was of the Earth domain and had a “speak with stones” power, so the Galeb Duhr was very inclined to be his friend.

The fight was not too tough, but not too easy. Chalindra’s ability to give a spider ally an extra attack really played havoc with the party. At various points in the fight, we had 3 different people dying (ongoing poison really did people in), but they were all revived (by different party members, giving folks lots of extra renown for “Revive a Dying Ally”). In the end they beat the drow down to almost dead, until they surrendered (it was after 9:00 at that point), so interrogations will commence next game (or maybe in-between games via email or Facebook, so folks have the info if they end up at another table next week).

The only real issue we ran into was that, due to lower initiatives for the party, the enemies ended up crowding them near the edge of the map, so much of the rest of the terrain didn’t get used, and we ended up having to use additional tiles on the map edge to represent where they would logically be standing (our sorcerer never likes to get in-close and always retreats to fire from a distance). Also, we had two characters with Gauntlets of Blood, but they both forgot they had them, and that extra damage would have really mattered against the spiders. Oh well, live and learn.

Our other “issue” was in no way related to the game. The gaming space is above a cooking store that’s in the same strip mall… and they had a cooking class where someone burned something. So most of the skill challenge happened with fire alarms going off around us, though I just told my group that somewhere in the Badlands there were rumored to be Crickets of Unusual Size, which brought some levity to the otherwise annoying situation.

Also, to drive home the idea of giant spiders, we had a brief cameo from Muffinhead, my chilean rose-haired tarantula, to remind people that even normal-sized spiders can look scary. On the map she would have been Gargantuan, though, so we couldn’t use her as a mini. Oh well.

2 tedluck March 15, 2012 at 12:33 pm

The skill check went well. I essentially led them down the path the module had set out asking for skill checks along the way. They hadn’t quite succeeded by the time they talked to the galeb duhr but he warned them about the drow and the pass the stealth check and set up in the more advantageous position on the map. They spotted the drow, and a couple of them were able to see the spiders.

Because it made sense, I gave the party a surprise round. The wizard proceeded to drag the male drow 6 squares from his spot using an enchantment power, while others used ranged attacks to hit the nearby spider and the female drow.

I rolled high on initiative for the female and spiders, the spiders rushed in to bite the closest targets, while Chalindra used her whip to pull one of the party members down the ridge. I did a bit of damage, and was feeling good about the encounter.

And then it was over.

Because it was the last session, everyone pulled out their daily powers and laid waste to the enemy. The male drow was dead before his turn came up in the first round. The spiders were dead soon after. And Chalindra, now bloodied, threw down her weapon and surrendered for fear of her life. They almost didn’t listen to her, preferring to rid the earth of evil drow. One of my players, who rolled 2 for initiative, didn’t even get a turn except for the surprise round because everything was dead before we got to him.

I considered dumping more spiders on the board just to prolong the encounter, but refrained when I realized it was already getting late at that point due to the skill challenge and run up to the encounter. And it’s not that bad to let the heroes be heroes once in awhile, but they better watch out in the next chapter. No more mister nice DM.

3 Alphastream March 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I’m really glad to hear this is going so well. I know the development team worked really hard on these encounters – they were once far more brutal.

I ended up running the first session last week from my phone (thanks to pictures a friend sent of the first session) when the store I visited during a work trip did not have a packet! Hopefully it encouraged the store to get back into ordering Encounters.

I almost made it to my local store yesterday, but at the last minute my son needed some time together. I’m glad it was an enjoyable session.

4 Sunyaku March 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm

We successfully surprised the Drow, but since they weren’t the dwarves we were looking for, we thought it would be very rude, bordering on chaotic evil to attack them outright. I was saddened a little when one of our party cleared their throat and addressed them, and the response from the female drow to her male companion was “kill them”. I mean, I get we’re non-drow with a few half-elves and all males to boot, but it seems rather foolish to attack an opponent that surprised you in the twilight when you don’t know their numbers. I would have expected a least a LITTLE conversation… at least enough to determine that there weren’t dozens of us sneaking around. I guess I just think of Drow as smarter/sneakier than that.

It could have been a neat opportunity to extend the skill challenge– with a failure resulting in a spider surprise attack, and a success possibly granting “close range” surprise round beatdown… or maybe even a chance to restrain one of the drow before combat.

5 David Argall March 17, 2012 at 2:12 am

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 3. Ambushing Darkness

Resuming our journey, we found the countryside almost as much a barrier as the dwarves had been. Canyon after canyon going in all sorts of directions, and most of them soon proving to the wrong way. We were hard pressed to find the proper path. But we finally did it, only to be confronted by this strange rock creature.
We decided not to be hostile and it claimed to be enemy to the dwarves we sought as well as to some drow who were on the path ahead. After urging us to deal with them, it left us to do the fighting. Possibly it set us up to do its dirty work, but at least so far we have no reason to think we have been gulled. There were indeed drow ahead, and we have no reason to think they were there innocently, even if we were not their preferred victims. Still, I do have qualms about sneaking up on them and attacking without warning.
It was distinctly effective. While we did little damage during the surprise, we were soon in good position to do so. Of course, they were also in good position to hurt us, as Lucien the elf thief found out. Despite giving lots of damage, he took enough to go down too. But Velitatial the genasi wizard scored well with his dust storm and my fire blast ended several of the spiders that were helping the drow.
Opal the human monk, Irreal the tiefling hexblade, and Pelligrin the human paladin attacked the male drow to serious effect, with Pelligrin amusing us by trying to leap from rock to rock while chasing the drow. Fortunately the fall did not hurt him, and he was able to keep up with the enemy.
Freya the eladrin warpriest indulged in a serious catfight with the female drow [tho I suspect the racial factor was more important than the sexual] and with the help of others, had her seriously hurt, so much so that she offered to surrender. That was accepted and her co-operation was distinctly more useful than the dwarves had been. [We were just a random encounter to her and she has some mission up here, possibly spying, that required her staying alive.] In any case, we got some nice loot, and a little aid about how to continue.
We rest, and in the morning, we should find this temple.

6 Alton March 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

We just finished our 3rd session with all the catchup we have been doing at our store.

This was the best session ever.

Here is the tale. The drow caught the party by surprise and got to act first. Both Chalindra and Rebrizz concentrated on the paladin and struck him twice during the surprise round.

The barbarian waltzed in and spoke during combat taking a chunk out of Tebrizz. The others of the party(3ranged scored solid hits on the male drow). The paladin provoked from Tebrizz on his following turn and got critted, but he himself scored a solid blow. Things were going well, but on the male drow’s next turn both sword attacks dropped the paladin to 1 point away from his bloodied value.

The wizard was attacked by one spider and Chalindra and was instantly bloodied and poisoned and knocked unconcious.

The barbarian succeeded a history check to determine that the drow HATE elves. He offered the party elf as payment for passage (knowing they were totally unmatched with all the damage they took in the one round)

The elf being bloodied himself(but his collegues not), decided to take the offer and slayed the elf after combat ended. With satisfaction on the drow’s faces, they told the party which way to go and ushered them on their way without another word.

It was a creative way to win an encounter.

The wizard was not too upset since he can come back at the start of the next session. It was well thought out. I couldn’t say no.

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