D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 5)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 29, 2012

After defeating the elemental guardians last week, the party descended the staircase where they disarmed the trap and opened the door to the Sunset Shrine. Before them was a long, downward sloping corridor. On either side of the hallway were statues. The statues nearest the door looked somewhat humanoid, but as the party proceeded downward they noticed the statues became more aberrant.

As the party continued down the hallway they could see light flickering and smell smoke from burning fire in the room ahead. When the slopped passage finally leveled out the PCs stood before a vast room. In the centre were two huge rolling fires, and in-between them stood a Dwarf with fiery red hair wearing yellow robes.

Throughout the room was rubble from collapsed pillars. The party also noted several doors leading out of the chamber, all of which were closed. At the far end of the chamber two scaffolds provide Dwarven crossbow men with clear shots at the party. Between the platforms was an iron portcullis that bared passage to another long hallway beyond. Behind the gate was a Dwarf in Purple Robes who said “Your arrival has been foretold.”

This season we’ve managed to remain very consistent with our numbers and our players, week over week. This week our table had four Genasi and one Halfling and looked like this:

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

The heroes realized that things were about to get ugly so the Rogue tried to convince the Dwarves he was here by mistake. The purple-robed Dwarf rambled incessantly, clearly a bit crazy, and told the PCs that they weree in the right place at the right time. None of the other PCs could think of anything to say to improve the situation and prepared to rush the Dwarves. However, before they could act the Bolters fired initiating combat.

The Dwarf behind the Portcullis stepped back, deeper into the hallway where he pulled a lever dropping a solid stone barricade on his side of the portcullis. Azryg, the yellow-robed Dwarf in the middle of the room used his Wrathful Eruption to blast four of the five PCs still clustered together near the entrance.

The Barbarian then rushed Azryg to get him inside the defender’s aura. The Swordmage ran around the rubble and tried to get to the Bolters, but even with a double move it was too far. As he passed the open passage on the east he heard the sounds of approaching footfalls. Reinforcements were on the way.

The rest of the party moved away from the entrance and out of the zone Azryg created, focusing their attacks on the leader. The Bolters opened fire on the approaching Swordmage (rolled a 20) and the Barbarian in the middle of the room (rolled a 19). Two PCs were bloodied earl in round two. Without a leader on team heroes things could get bad. And they did. Dwarven Warriors accompanied by Norkers entered the room from the east and the doors to the north-east. Four engaged the Swordmage and four engaged the Ranger.

The Barbarian continued to go toe-to-toe with Arzyg trading hit for hit and miss for miss. Meanwhile the Assassin managed to get into the rubble where he had cover from the bolters and a clear line of sight on Azryg. The Rogue also tried this tactic but two of the Norkers saw him and after missing the Ranger moved to a softer target.

The Bolters continued to hit the PCs, nearly dropping the Swordmage and badly wounding the Barbarian. Once the Swordmage finally dispatched the Warriors and Norkers surrounding him, he moved under the scaffolding and managed to pull it apart, bringing the Bolter down from his vantage point.

The Ranger (a Hunter, controller build) managed to take out the rest of the minions quickly, saving the Rogue from more damage. Unfortunately by this point the Barbarian had switched from Defender to Striker leaving Azryg free to go where he pleased. When the assassin’s next attack bloodied the Dwarf he went into Flamerage, growing to large size and gaining reach which he used to pound on the Ranger. Lacking the fire resistance that the Barbarian possessed, the Ranger fell quickly under Azryg’s might blows.

The Assassin heroically used his Heal skill to trigger the fallen Ranger’s second wind, reviving her before she could miss a turn. This was the second time this season the Assassin has done this successfully despite a 3 in Heal.

The Rogue, who until this encounter was the most consistent attacker, missed with every single attack roll. He didn’t hit anything all night. Even with combat advantage and his action point he missed every single time. He even switched dice but that didn’t help. Until this week a strong offense lead by the Rogue made up for no leader in the party. This week they experienced the dangers of being striker-heavy.

The Barbarian and Swordmage managed to destroy both scaffolds and take down the two bolters. Unfortunately the bolters managed to score a few more hits before they were killed. The Assassin and Rogue flanked Azryg while the Ranger fired from a safe distance. It took three rounds, but in the end the Assassin and Ranger managed to drop Azryg. The Rogue was the only one to get hit during the final few rounds.

When all the combat was finished the PCs took a much needed and well-deserved short rest. The Rogue was down 7 of 8 healing surges after two encounters. The Swordmage and Barbarian also spent a lot of healing surges but as defenders they’re still fine. This was the first time in three sessions that the Ranger took any damage at all. The Assassin was the hero of the night hitting on all but one attack and taking no damage.

When the fighting ended the PCs heard cries for help coming from the east passageway. The Swordmage ventured down the hall alone and found a sorry-looking Human in one of six cells. The Human showed obvious signs of torture and abuse. He pled for help and when he told the PCs his name was Malgrym they immediately freed him. They cleaned his wounds and offered him food and water. He showed noticeable improvement almost immediately.

He shared what little knowledge he knew about the Sunset Shrine and the Dwarves. He continually talked about the Amorphous One, a monstrous blue ooze that guards the way deeper into the temple. The ooze sleeps in the form of the high alter in the Great Shrine. Malgrym also talked about something called the Black Cyst, likely a room of some kind. He saw the mad Dwarf stirring a red mass flecked with gold there. The Black Cyst lies beyond the Great Shrine and through the black obelisk.

One of the heroes walked Malgrym back to the door and escorted him outside. The Galeb Duhr was waiting outside and thanked the PC for helping his friend.

The party then searched the rooms to the east, beyond the cells. The Swordmage and Rogue went north where they discovered a chapel. At the far end of the room was a large pool of dirty water. They were cautious but neither could figure out what the pool was used for. They decided to avoid it just in case. From there they proceeded south into the torture room. While searching the implements of torture they discovered a +1 weapon.

The Barbarian, Ranger and Assassin when south and discovered a rune circle on the floor. It radiated faint magic as if it was used recently to summon something. However, it was safe now. The still avoided it, just to be safe. To the east they entered the study where they found many books and papers on oozes and aberrant monsters. In a desk drawer they discovered a potion of healing.

The party regrouped, exchanged notes and then proceeded back to the main chamber were they would decide how to proceed next week.

This was the toughest fight for this party so far. The Rogue’s poor luck really hurt the party’s offence. With more monsters alive longer, the party took much heavier damage than they had in any previous encounter. Their biggest tactical blunder was focusing all their attacks, especially ranged attacks, on Azryg and completely forsaking the Bolters. They knew from the crit early in the combat that the Bolters could inflict up to 20 points of damage on each strike, but it still took six or seven rounds before the first one was even threatened. Their uncanny accuracy and hot damage rolls were devastating.

It will be interesting to see how this party adjusts its combat style to keep the PCs with fewer surges away from harm during the next two encounters.

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 5) – Podcast

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Lastowski March 29, 2012 at 10:36 am

Another decent fight for my table at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA.

The PCs, Azryg, and the bolters all had higher initiatives, with the minions not coming in until late in the round. This meant that many PCs positioned themselves to deal with Azryg, then were surprised by the arrival of so many minions. It was the kind of fun chaos that you always want in a D&D game.

Azryg, though he was billed as a sorcerer, made much more sense as a sort of fire-themed monk, which was how I ran him (there were some great head-to-head kung-fu-movie scenes between him and our dragonborn monk). The bolters were sort of an afterthought, as they weren’t rolling well and were fairly far-off, so by the time the party got to them, I gave the party a way to instantly bloody the bolters by knocking down the platforms. Needless to say, with everyone else gone, the bolters did not last long.

I also found that it helped folks to visualize the cover from the fallen pillars by actually laying down some plastic pillars I had from a WizKids minis set, so everyone could see exactly what was where in terms of sight lines.

The party really liked the idea of a dungeon crawl (they’ve been somewhat lacking in previous seasons of Encounters). It felt very much like an iconic D&D experience.

2 david schwarm March 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Fantastic write up! My table just barely made it through the combat section before the shop had to close-we did not do any of the investigation you describe, but we still had a very fun night–that fight was tough & well written.

3 Ameron (Derek Myers) March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm

@Joe Lastowski
Knowing that my players will often have their PCs’ clamor in the doorway, I decided to hold back the minions for a few rounds. This let the melee PCs get into the thick of things. When the minions arrived during round 3 (which I hinted at with “the sounds of footfalls approaching”) those PCs who thought they were safe from the Bolters now had to contend with Dwarven Warriors and Norkers. I brought out two of each in round 3 and two more of each in round 4. Using minions in waves keeps the PCs on their toes because they never know if another wave is forthcoming.

4 Feetz March 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Poor teamwork nearly resulted in a tpk at my store. Several characters went down multiple times. The Genasi Elementalist thought it would be a good idea to go down one of the hallways. I told him he saw several enemies approaching him but he stuck with it. The minions swarmed him, shut the door and locked it. They knocked him out and dragged him away. The party attempted a rescue but gave up for the most part because they were being assaulted by the rest of the enemies. One character was insistent about saving the Elementalist and went down the hall. He too was captured. What fate will become of their fallen comrades? The party will have to explore if they want to find out.

5 David Argall March 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 5. Big Fight

As we entered this ancient abandoned[?] temple, we began to find hints the ancient builders were not nice people. Of course, they may have just had odd tastes, but…
However, the current occupants are definitely not nice. We reached a large chamber which had several dwarves waiting for us. We tried talking, but they insisted we become demons or dead [or both] and so it wasn’t long before a fight broke out.
Technically Opal the monk may have started it, but they were the ones who started out producing major damage. Their cleric leader hit us with a very powerful spell that seriously hurt nearly all of us, and a bunch of norkers threatened to hold us in position so that cleric could hit us again.
It was a moment I shall remember as one of my best, even if my companions felt others were worthy of more honor. My spells disposed of the norkers, allowing my companions to escape the trap, and then I was able to direct them in a risky tactic that worked very well indeed. [ooc-My fortune card enabled the party to give the cleric 20 hp damage. Of course, if things had gone a little different, we might have suffered 20 points, but ...] They charged out and overwhelmed the cleric, Lucien the elf thief getting in the final blow.
[That was a near and scary thing as the cleric became a giant dwarf during the fight, a fact that terrified us at the time, and amused us once we had cut him back down to size.]
We only had a second to cheer our victory, and even if our victory now seems assured, the dwarves were not giving up [except for their leader, who fled, and blocked the passage behind him]. Several crossbow fired again and Opal went down. [She was back up right away. Apparently a bolt hit her a blow on the head as she was confused enough to say again “Hi, I’m Opal.” her introductory remark every time we meet anyone.]
Others took damage too and Felligrin the human paladin saved Freya the warpriest, and these bolters were up on a platform, making it hard for some of us to reach them. But Velitation and I soon show two of them that they were not out of the reach of spells. And Felligrin managed to destroy the poorly made platform the others were on, allowing Irreal the female hexblade and Lucien to get the last two. [I tried to persuade the others to spare one, at least long enough to question, but they probably would not have told us much, if anything.]
With the battle over, we heard a cry as we healed up. Investigating, we found the kidnapped friend of that stone man, who had obviously suffered at the hands of the dwarves. He gave us some vague warnings about the rest of this lair, but he was somewhat unhinged, and I worry we were remiss in letting him leave on his own, [but we could hardly leave him in a cell, and it is much too dangerous to have him with us.] so he was only of a little help.
We have searched part of this complex, and now must start on the rest. With a little luck we will find our way around that blocked passage, but we may need more than a little luck to get past what is beyond it.

6 Durfaroth March 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Lack of fire resistance on our side and hot dice on the DM’s side resulted in a epic, tooth-n-nail battle where Azryg started becoming quite furious that the PC’s he would knock unconscious would keep getting back up. Finally, we were all down and dying but our awesome DM decides he would let us roll death rolls for a chance to get back up while Azryg moved from PC to PC snapping necks so they wouldn’t get back up. Our fire obsessed wizard gets up just as Azryg reaches for his neck, dodges his attack, and is off by 1 AC… Azryg only had 6hp left. And thus our DM dishes out his first TPK ever. Great fun though.

7 Sunyaku March 30, 2012 at 12:01 am

DM scaled up for 7 players, and the party took a beating. By the end of round two, everyone was bloody, and two players were unconscious. We managed to pull through, but man, it was rough. My barbarian berzerker has used 5 of 9 surges, and I’ve probably burned through over 40 temp hit points in the last two encounters using ignore pain, berzerk vitality, and temps from the cavalier.

8 BOSCO'S April 4, 2012 at 1:33 am

Party of five.

Controller – Drow Hunter Ranger (Belgos pre-gen – He’s been playing the same character for four seasons, our joke is that at the end of every season his evil Cleric of Lolth sister casts a ritual to steal all his XP’s from the last season.)
Controller – Human Wizard – Shiar (modifed Jarren pre-gen, a bit strikerish for a Wizard, loaded with every fire power there is.)
Striker – Half Orc Slayer (Flavored as a Barbarain, but they’re not legal this season, our only player under 18)
Defender – Human (?) Knight (new character)
Leader – Dwarven Cleric

Brutal week. Those bolters are killing machines and Large Azaryg’s reach was tough too. I had trouble rolling less than 17’s for the bolters. Everyone burned an action point. Most of them burned some or all of their dailies. If the Wizard hadn’t given the whole party Resist Fire, and if the Cleric (!) hadn’t used his daily burst power to slaughter five minions (A moment of greatness as well as a kill 3+ minions renown award) I think we could have had a total party kill.

The Slayer and the Wizard both took 50+ points of damage. By the time they finally finished off the dwarves they were clean out of healing, and they almost lost the fighter to failed death saving throws before they stabalized him. Their Healing surges are running pretty low.

They didn’t knock down the platforms the bolters were on, despite my hints. Instead our controller tried to shift them off to hit them with falling damage. He discovered that’s not so easy to do against dwarves.
As a DM it’s been great to have so many bad guys with resistance to being shifted and knocked prone, but it’s been hard on our Hunter, since that’s his main attack.

I strongly hinted that the Wizrd should use his Daily to create a zone of Protection from Missiles but he held off, since he was saving it for later.

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