D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 4)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 22, 2012

This week marks the beginning of chapter 2. We decided to have all character advance to level 2 whether or not they’d actually played all of the previous encounters. We realized after tracking XP over the previous few seasons that when some of the party lags behind in the XP department it just weakens the party as a whole. It makes the encounter unnecessarily more difficult and people don’t have as much fun. Moving forward everyone will level simultaneously at my FLGS.

We continue to have good numbers for this season, with brand new people joining us every week since we began this adventure. At the FLGS where I played the adventure you’re going to read about below we’re holding steady with two DMs and 12 players. At my other FLGS we’ve gone from 8 players last season to over 20 this season. This week we had three DMs all running tables of six. Our fourth DM can’t play every week so we’ve begun actively recruiting another person to DM. I have no idea why this season has attracted so many new players and frankly I don’t care. I’m just glad we continue to have strong attendance. It wasn’t that long ago we could barely put together one table.

With the addition of a new player last week, our all-Genasi party became 1/6 Halfling. The new player came up with an interesting reason for why the Halfling joined this elemental-based group – he believes that they’re deities. He professed his devotion to them and literally worships the ground they walk on. He’s so humbled to be in their presence that he does whatever they ask him to do. It’s already made for some great role-playing moments and the Genasi PCs are certainly letting the admiration go to their flaming heads.

The party looked like this:

  • Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
  • Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
  • Cindersoul Genasi Wizard (Sha’ir) [Primordial Adept]
  • Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
  • Sandsoul Genasi Ranger (Hunter) [Unseelie Agent]
  • Halfling Rogue (modified Merric pre-gen)

This week’s adventure began after the PCs finished their extended rest. They all leveled up and had all of their resources replenished as is the usual result of an extended rest. They broke camp and ventured towards the Teeth of Ghaunadaur where they expected to find the entrance to the Sunset Shrine.

I had the PCs roll initiative just to keep things orderly, but I didn’t have the monster appear for a few rounds. This gave the party ample time to explore the map and get an idea of what might be coming.

The Rogue managed to climb on top of skinniest rock, near the fallen log. He had difficultly climbing but just made the check (with a 20 on the nose). Once the rest of the PCs realized how hard it was to climb up they quickly abandoned that idea. The Swordmage moved closer to the teeth to examine them more closely. The Wizard and Assassin both moved closer to the stairs. The Ranger kept a close look on the surrounding, watching for movement.

Those PCs trained in Arcana (the Wizard, Assassin and Swordmage) all felt the faint emanation of residual magic from a bygone era. They concluded that at one point in the distant past these giant stones were part of some powerful protective magic.

The Ranger and Rogue both rocked their Perception checks and noticed splattered mud droplets around the mud pools. The Ranger realized that the pools were too shallow and cool to hide pockets of gas that might explain the pattern. Once they alerted the party of this, the Earthsoul Swordmage sensed (with Arcana) that the pools were earth elemental in nature. The party remained cautious of the pools.

The Assassin and Wizard noticed doors at the bottom of the stairs. Nether sensed magic but both were reluctant to proceed down. The Swordmage joined them and immediately cautioned them that there was a magical glyph protecting the door. He suggested they finished scouting the area before worrying about it.

At that point the wind picked up and a dust cloud formed into the humanoid shape of a Dust Devil. The blowing wind became a humanoid Air Elemental. From the muddy pools three Mud Men arose.

The Dust Devil managed to surprise the PCs and blasted the three heroes at the top of the stairs, blinding them in the process. The Air Elemental disappeared, going invisible and flying full-out towards the only PC on the top of the rocks. Then the party went to work.

The Rogue got combat advantage on the Mud Man closes to the blind PCs and unloaded on him. The Ranger moved safely out of harm’s way and then targeted the same Mud Man that the Rogue did bloodying him. The Berserker engaged the wounded Mud Man and although he didn’t quite kill him, he trapped him in the defender’s aura.

Although blinded, the Assassin, Swordmage and Wizard teamed up on the Dust Devil and managed to score a coupe of hits. The Mud Men in the aura attacked the Berserker while the other two used ranged attacks against the blind PCs. The Dust used Devil Gale Blast to knock the three blinded PCs prone before finally ending his movement in the Berserker’s aura and attacking him.

With all the monsters out of range for the Rogue to gain combat advantage, he had no other choice than to come down. So he jumped. Unfortunately he took 10 points of damage even after making an Acrobatics check. He then crawled and fired from his prone position to kill the wounded Mud Man.

The invisible Air Elemental (who was going to try to push the Rogue off the ledge) just swooped in and attacked him, doing almost max damage and bloodying the Rogue. The rest of the party divided their attacks. Those PCs who could see again worked together to destroy another one of the Mud Men while the rest of the PCs kept chipping away at the Dust Devil’s hit points.

Once the first Mud Man died I had another emerge from a random pool, but by then they PCs were already well in control of the situation. They didn’t seem to think the Air Elemental posed a big threat so they ignored it for a while. It gave up on the Rogue and moved its attention to the Wizard easily bloodying him too.

After all four Mud Men were defeated the party shifted their efforts to the annoying Air Elemental. It died quickly once six PCs started shooting at it. The Dust Devil actually managed to survive two more rounds on its own before the PCs finally killed it.

They took a short rest and searched the area. In one of the pools they discovered the remains of an unfortunate Dwarf that drowned in the mud. His gear was destroyed, except for the fine +1 Armor of Escape.

With their short rest completed and the party healed up (the Rogue and Wizard were really the only ones who took any real damage) everyone moved towards the door. The Swordmage explained how the glyph worked and knew that an Arcana or Thievery check could disable it. The Rogue volunteered to try Thievery. He didn’t want his deities risking themselves. The Assassin provided assistance while everyone else stayed safely back. The Rogue easily made the check and the doors opened quietly. The party proceeded into a hallway filled with statues that all looked as if tainted by aberrations. Next week with pick things up in the hallway.

This group is really having fun with this adventure. I was a little bit worried about their lack of a leader, but they continue to use strong tactics, communicate openly with each other, and demonstrate how successful a strong offence can be in D&D. I continue to beef up the encounters to challenge this party and they continue to rise to the occasion. This week I added a fourth Mud Man (since there were six players), increased the Mud Men’s hit points from 43 to 50, increased the Air Elemental’s hit points from 23 to 40 and increased the Dust Devil’s hit points from 47 to 70. It didn’t even faze them.

For the fourth week in a row no one missed a turn because they were unconscious. The group is doing a really good job of helping each other, triggering an ally’s second wind with a Heal check or reviving an unconscious ally. They didn’t even need to use any of their Healing Potions this week. I think that everyone can learn from this group. When you know there’s no one with healing magic or the like you play smarter. You have to or your PC will die.

How did you group handle this week’s encounter? Did anyone climb on top of the rocks? Did they fall or get pushed off and take a whole lot of damage? Did your group disarm the door trap or did it explode in their faces? Did any PCs die at your table?

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 4) – Podcasts

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Lastowski March 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

Modern Myths, Northampton, MA
Another great encounter this week. Our party was a mix of older-Essentials and newer Elemental Chaos classes, but they did fairly well. Our defender ended up starting near the dust devil, which made it much less mobile. Though it managed to blind several folks, my players were on fire with their dice, and critical hits don’t care if you’re blinded. The lesser air elemental was also not super tough, as our 2-sword ranger almost killed him in one charging flurry of blades. The mud men were more of a problem, hitting hard and teaming up on targets so they could slow and then immobilize PCs. Couple PCs got down to single digit hit points, but nobody died.

The players were all commenting afterward about how balanced this fight felt, too. None felt overpowered by the monsters, but neither did they feel it was too easy. People cheered when someone hit for a lot of damage, and everyone teamed up to heal/give temp HP to folks who dropped too low (or, as they say, got “very” bloodied).

Prior to the fight, I also had fun with our earth domain priest, who again used his “speak with rocks” power to chat with a nearby stone… this time one of the Teeth of Ghaunadaur. The tooth said that he used to have lots of really close friends, but they all had breakdowns and left (a reference to the earthquakes & sinkholes that created the badlands).

Also, while I always prefer to have plastic minis (don’t like the monster tokens at all), it worked out really well to just create the mudmen out of clay, then giving them a slimy look with some modge podge. Hooray for craft store creativity and a spare Saturday afternoon!

2 Alphastream March 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I’m really glad to hear it. This is one that was tough during playtesting (ok, it was a bloodbath) and it is great to see it worked out well.

3 The Gimper March 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

At my FLGS we’re running 30-35 players each week. We have 5 tables running with a minimum of 6 at each table. I’m not sure why this season is so much more popular than past seasons (and often it starts out with more players than it finishes). It’s been a real challenge for our DMs to run with tables of 8 and 9, but those of us playing are having a good time.

This week we only had 6 at our table, so it went very quickly. We have two elementalists in the party so we made short work of the Dust Devil (I’m playing a Firsesoul Genasi Fire Elementalist. Doing 1d12+1d6+1d10+6 to two targets with an Elemental Bolt and Elemental Escalation means I’m usually dealing out 20+ points of damage.) Of course it didn’t hurt that we were rolling like rock stars. One player rolled 3 20s, and 2 other players rolled 2 20s. Even the DM rolled 3 20s.

-Rico

4 Sentack March 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

This was a real tough battle in the game I played in. Thankfully the Dust Devil only knocked people down every time it shifted around the battlefield and in our game, it got to do that EVERY turn. (The DM made us roll the recharge, and it was 5+ every time.)

We defeated the encounter but at great cost to us. Everyone spent at least 2 healing surges and most spent 3. Luckly I was playing a Skald so everyone got a good bonus to each surge spent so it was a lot less then it could have been.

Outside the encounter, my table was horrible at the examination aspects of the night. Nobody really searched the area, nobody really examined the map. Everyone just ran to the door and tried to open it. Even opening the door was a disaster as a Slayer just smashed the door with his hammer and triggered the trap instantly.

There’s very little you can do to make the individual encounter nights interesting when all you have at your table at the time is a bunch of “bulls in a china shop” players running around taking all the DM’s time.

5 Alphastream March 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Sorry to hear it, Sentack. Something I do in these cases is have each player tell me their name, race, class, theme, and 1-2 lines about their PC (such as backstory or motivation). Then in these “dead” moments I look at this list and I draw from it. “Hey, dwarf prospector, you notice something strange about these walls… if you took a closer look it might help you figure out what is troubling you” and then cue the skill checks and hopefully some RP as well. Doing this for 2 PCs at one time is often especially effective, because they naturally tend to compete to do more first, which is good in the case of deafening silence!

6 TJ March 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Somehow, the Encounter group that I’m in here in Reno seems to be a week ahead of you. We had this encounter last week. It was a ton of fun. I’m playing an Eladrin Mage – Evocation focus. The other players are using the pre-made Encounter Characters on the color laminated cards. We are having a blast with this. I’m a newbie, but I started DM-ing an Essentials campaign with some friends and we are all new. The Encounters has been fun because it has allowed me to play as a character and get that perspective. Plus, the guy running the game answers all of my DM-related questions.

One fun note from this encounter was when I hit the dust devil (I think) that has a weakness to fire. I used the Burning Hands power and got a critical hit. Even though the creature still had 1 HP after I hit it, the DM felt that it would be more dramatic to have me blast the thing away on that hit. It was a good example of storytelling during an encounter.

One negative note, the store where we play also has other games going on – I think it is called Heroclix. Anyway, I find it hard to concentrate on role-playing during the pre- and post-fight times with all of the noise of the other games going on. But that is a small gripe.

7 Eamon March 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Those stupid rocks. I was so proud of myself for having thought to buy a Climber’s Kit and immediately ascended the nearest plateau to keep watch, but once the fighting started I tried rappelling and fell thirty feet straight down, taking 22 points of damage. An embarrassing way to start an encounter, for sure.

Opening the door was also an exercise in hilarity, as I kept missing my Arcana check over and over. Luckily the DM’s rolls were equally bad, so either the trap would miss or do under five points of damage, absorbed by my Versatile Resistance. We rolled against that damn door at least a dozen times before we cracked it.

8 David Argall March 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 4. Finding the hideout

As expected, we woke to find ourselves within an easy walk of our goal. Of course, what followed was not easy, and we have likely not met the serious opposition yet.
At least we were cautious in our approach, tho that did not always work well for us. Velitatial the genasi wizard thought she would be quite safe if she perched herself 30 feet up on a spire of rock, and she was almost correct. Only one of the guardians could reach her. Unfortunately it did and…
However it seemed like a good idea at the time, and the rest of us were busy looking for traps. We did find several suspicious circumstances and started using what seemed good defensive measures. However, when I reported that one of the mudpools might house some sort of elemental guardian, Fellegrin the human paladin decided to test that by tossing a rock in the pools, and things rapidly turned violent. Monsters appeared what seemed like everywhere. It seemed like everybody had one, tho it soon turned out to not quite that disorganized. Felligrin was being mobbed by several and Lucien the elf thief had two mud men gang up on him. [He got one, and was managing to hold off the other until we came to his aid.]
I managed to kill off the dust devil while Irreal the female tiefling hexblade disposed of one of the mudmen. Freya the female eladrin warpriest managed to drop another mudman and supplied some healing.
As said, Velitatial was in the worst trouble, being grappled by this air elemental. She was knocked out and to our surprise the elemental carried her down rather than just kicked so she would fall all that way. We weren’t sure why. He may have had rape in mind, or perhaps a more seductive approach [tho he had been pretty violent up to then.] Possibly he had just been told to collect prisoners for sacrifice. In any case, we did not wait to find out and the elemental was dispersed before he could do any of the options.
That left only the last mudman attacking Lucien and it was quickly eliminated. Then we had to restrain Irreal who was wanting to kill Fellegrin for setting off this attack. It was rash, but it wasn’t that bad an idea, and we certainly do not want to hurt one of our allies when more enemies are near. Personally I think it was Irreal’s time of month that made her so cranky. [A theory I have not suggested to her or any of the other ladies of course.]
Checking the entryway, Velitatial found, and disabled, a magic trap, which means that Fellegrin may have set off the ambush early, and reduced our danger instead of increasing it. Hopefully that will calm Irreal down. In any case, we now proceed into the actual hideout and face the true danger.

9 Johnny Fry March 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm

if you want another DM for DG I have a decent amount of DM experience and don’t mind running encounters.

10 Marcus10kill March 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm

The gaming groups at my local store got through the encounter but it was a difficult fight for the group that had three new players. Luckily the paladin in the group was effective with his healing and willing to take it on the chin during the battle for the sake of the party. No one set off the trap but that was mostly due to some good dice rolls.

This season of D&D encounters has seen a marked increase in the number of players, which is to be expected in the springtime. I also think the Internet discussion on the new version of D&D has sparked interest in the game.

Knowing that the D&D Fortune Cards: Spiral of Tharizdun which the more experienced group use when they get to 3rd level, supported both the Player’s Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos supplement and the D&D encounters seasons, The Elder Elemental Eye. Plus the next encounters session I wrote an arching story line for one of our DM’s so she could continue this encounters session into the next session with players staying with their original characters.

This has been a great encounters session so far and I’m interested to see how it turns out.

11 Sunyaku March 28, 2012 at 2:12 am

One of the PCs randomly decided to take the blindfighting feat as he leveled up his character minutes before the fight. Hilarity ensued.

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