D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 8.)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 19, 2012

After last week’s bloodbath which resulted in the death of one character, the PCs took an extended rest in the great shrine. They awoke fully recharged and everyone had advanced to level 3. The heroes were shocked to see that their dead comrade, the Firesoul Genasi Wizard who was killed by the Ooze during last week’s encounter, had returned to life overnight. Sort of.

The Wizard’s desire to complete the party’s task of stopping this cult and finding a cure for the Abyssal Plague was so strong he was granted a second chance and was returned to life (unlife) as a Revenant. His connection to arcane magic was still strong but now it manifested from the recesses of his very being and he became a Sorcerer.

Some of the PCs were a bit freaked out by the transformation while others (especially those with really low intelligence) didn’t really notice anything different or if they did they didn’t care.

This week we had 11 players and two DMs. My party of five now had the following characters in play:

  • Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
  • Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
  • Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
  • Elf Ranger (Scout)
  • Revenant (Cindersoul Genasi) Sorcerer (Elementalist)
    formerly a Wizard (Sha’ir) [Primordial Adept]

The Assassin and Swordmage, both trained in Arcana understood what had happened as they were familiar with Revenants. The Swordmage was more curious than anything else. When the Assassin realized that the Revenant didn’t need to eat or drink (and thereby wouldn’t try to sneak sips of his ale) he was perfectly accepting of the situation.

The party gathered their things, and headed down the spiral staircase. As they descended they heard meaningless and maddening whispers. The stairs ended in a room with four passages. Above each passage was a symbol which the party deciphered as air, earth, fire and water. However, the element markings were within symbols of Ghaunadaur and the Elder Elemental Eye.

Deciding not to split the party, they ventured down the path with the fire symbol since three of the five PCs had fire resistance. As they passed through the cavernous maze each PC felt the assault of the whispering madness. It attacked them on physical, emotional and psychological levels. Only the Barbarian made a successful skill check to resist the effects. However, despite the confusion they did manage to make their way through the maze succeeding on the group Insight check.

The heroes stood at the edge of a large room. Glowing coals covered the floor and a hazy cloud of smoke-filled the room. On the far side they saw a door. As they approached the coals the elemental power of fire seemed to sense their presence and the PCs were assaulted by the fire and smoke. They each tried to get across but only the Barbarian managed to avoid the fire’s wrath. The party failed their subsequent Stealth check and each PC lost a healing surge before they managed to get through the door.

Through the door was the Temple of the Elemental Eye. The sunken room was shaped like an inverted pyramid, with each of the two lower levels 10 feet down. In the centre of the room was a 30-foot obelisk of black crystal.

Seeing no immediate creatures the PCs entered the room. The Assassin moved right up to the base of the obelisk. As soon as he reached the bottom level the whispering grew louder, the fires flickered and four Plague Demon Lashers appeared. Two creatures of streaming black crystal emerged from the obelisk. It was clear that the monsters were intent on destroying the PCs.

Since we started this season of D&D Encounters we’ve had a lot of strikers in our group. This week four of the five PCs were strikers. So as I’ve done with almost every encounter so far, I increased some of the monsters’ hit points. I pumped the Lashers’ max hit points from 30 to 50. It made the battle more difficult, but these experienced players were up for the challenge.

Since the Assassin triggered the monsters before any of the other PCs could enter the room I needed to draw them away from the door. Fortunately the Lashers had powers that would let them do that. Another strong motivator was that I had three of the six monsters gang up on the lone Assassin knowing that at least a couple of the PCs would come to his aid (which I’m glad to say they did).

The Swordmage and Barbarian did their jobs as defenders locking down three of the monsters early. The heroes did have a bit of a panic attack and they all targeted different opponents after taking some decent damage early. However after a few rounds they finally calmed down and remembered that when they work together they have a better chance of victory.

The Lashers managed to grab the Sorcerer and pull him to one side of the room, while another Lasher grabbed the Assassin and pulled him to the opposite side of the room. The Swordmage went toe-to-toe with one of the Black Cyst Elementals in the middle of the room while the Scout and Barbarian remained near the door they entered through.

When the first Lasher near the door was down to his very last hit point he fled and managed to elude opportunity attacks and get behind the obelisk. The Swordmage was grabbed by a Lasher and pulled deeper into the room where the monster ganged up on him, almost dropping him to 0 hit points. The Barbarian raged and went full striker as he charged to assist the wounded Swordmage. The two, working together managed to kill one of the Black Cyst Elementals and two Lashers. Unfortunately the Scout was left alone near the door and the other Black Cyst Elemental went to town on her.

The Scout managed to get a few good blows in (thanks to Elven Accuracy) but after a couple of rounds she was down and making death saves. By this time Sorcerer was also getting close to unconsciousness but the Assassin, from across the room, managed to kill the Lasher on the Sorcerer.

The Black Cyst Elemental seeing the wounded Sorcerer nearby moved in to try to finish the wounded Revenant. However, the Barbarian and Swordmage stepped in and killed him with a few well-timed hits.

With the Lasher nearest to the Assassin the only one remaining it didn’t take long for three strikers and one defender to finish him off. With the monsters defeated they revived the wounded Scout and searched the Temple.

They found +1 Earthsplitter Axe and two Healing Potions among the cultist’s equipment. The Scout was the only PC without a magic item so she took the Axe. Since that was her weapon of choice anyway no one objected to her claim.

The areas of the obelisk where the Elementals emerged from were now magical portals (a detail confirmed by the arcane characters). The heroes took a short rest at which time everyone but the Scout needed to save against infection of the Abyssal Plague. They all failed. Seeing no reason to stay in the temple the PCs went through the gate.

Even though one of the PCs fell unconscious near the end of the battle, I think this week’s encounter was great. I really liked the opportunity to role-play at the beginning. I didn’t realize how much I missed structured skill challenges until I had the pleasure of running this one. The players seemed to get into it, but they did try to use their best skills even though there were sometimes more obvious options.

About half way through the fight I was concerned that giving the monsters more hit points might have been a mistake, but a few decent attacks from the PCs and I realized that if I had left the numbers as printed the fight would have been over in about 15 minutes. Not only that but I doubt anyone would have expended more than one healing surge. The combat certainly takes longer when the monsters are tougher but I think the players appreciate the challenge. I know that when I was player I was disappointed when the session didn’t run at least an hour. This week we were closer to two with the first hour encompassing the role-playing.

How did the role-playing and skill challenge at the beginning go for your party? Did anyone split the party? Which elemental route did your group take? Was the combat appropriately balanced for your group? Did anyone die or experience a TPK?

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 8.) – Podcast

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1 Sentack April 19, 2012 at 10:01 am

I DM’ed again this week and my table actually did pretty well at this encounter. The funniest things were that in two situations, the enemies were tempted to do something that actually and actively didn’t hurt the PC’s at all. One creature tried to throw a player off the scaffolding (Who had an item of feather fall, effectively) and the other player was pushed into the fire! Who had fire resistance.

In the end, This wasn’t a bad first encounter and my table actually walked away fairly wounded, I actually felt that my monsters did too well for the first encounter of the day. Trying to make the fight feel like a fight without brutally beating on the players is occasionally tricky but the players at my table were not level 3 yet. I might ask about adopting the “Auto Level” rule.

2 Alphastream April 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I actually had the chance to play this one. We did very well, primarily because we fought on the stairs and kept the foes from choosing where to fight. My huntress never rolled below an 11 and I was able to use immobilize and prone to make the fight all about a single black cyst elemental. The DM missed the part about being able to teleport, so once the second elemental stood it went the long way around. I dropped it at range before it could reach us.

Overall, it was an ok fight. Our defender took a ton of damage (going unconscious once), but we otherwise had a fairly easy time of it. A lot seems to depend on how the monsters can move the party. I think when I playtested this I had both elementals engage a single melee target and brought him to the obelisk (for constant cold damage) and this brought the rest of the party down (which led to more cold damage) and then the lashers boxed them in and it was a TPK. Our table last night also had a lot of control in the form of the swordmage and our huntress, plus good defense (druid with concealment companion, cavalier with defender aura). Results could vary widely on this encounter.

3 David Argall April 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 8. Defeating Demons

Rested up, we headed down the staircase to find the cause of this plague, which remains a mystery, for now, tho we seem closer to a solution.
Step one was choosing an element and despite our preference for fire, we selected air, which involved some strange delusions of falling. However, we somehow managed to overcome them and reached this massive room with a clearly magical tower in the center. Since it seemed empty, we started to explore, … somewhat too casually. I can’t say I was completely innocent in getting the party rather spread out, tho I can claim that the altar I was examining was not something we should leave unexamined at our rear. But I did fall back a fair distance. So I was about to suggest the others not scatter so much when Felligrin the human paladin tripped some barrier and suddenly we had lots of demons swarming us.
Felligrin was the first to suffer since he was in the lead and the bigger demons attacked him. He was to need considerable attention from Freya the eladrin warpriest as he got pounded a lot. He explained that this was his job, but he was going well beyond his job this time.
Opal the human monk pretty much found herself going one on one with a demon and winning fairly easily. Somewhat surprising. Only a couple of days ago we were seriously pressed by demons like this, but now they were mostly distractions from the more serious foes. But our battles have greatly improved our skills and we all have magic to help us. So we are much the tougher now, and need to be.
Freya showed courage in keeping Felligrin on his feet despite her own serious wounds. This was more than Lucien the elf thief showed, but an archer is wiser to stay away from melee. Ironically this was almost his end when the greater demons broke away from Felligrin. One almost trapped Lucien, but the elf managed to scramble to open ground.
Velitation the genasi wizard deemed himself in considerable trouble when two demons attacked him at the start of the fight. But with help from me, he got free and then managed to fly to safety.
My own efforts were notable, and as usual not noted sufficiently. 4 demons died by my mystic flames, not to mention my having to go toe to toe with one of the greater demons and twice risking my hide to aid the party. But as usual, others got more credit for less. Ah well, I can hardly do this by myself. Indeed, the entire party felt itself challenged by these demons.
But now we rest and loot and then we shall head thru the portals the demons opened and came thru. We should meet more challenge there.

[note: In the list of sessions, the link to this session goes to #7 instead of 8.]

4 Kiel Chenier April 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I ran this encounter at Dueling Grounds in Toronto this week, bringing with me some of the veterans of the D&D Encounters webseries. A good time was had by all. I did, however, learn a few hinge about running 4e games.

The skill challenge was great. I let the players explore the hallways as they saw fit, coming up with whatever solutions they could to escape the suffocating and turbulent wind elementals. They had some creative ideas.

Things got bogged down in combat, however. I’m lamenting how long 4e combat takes to run, especially when playing with a couple people who were more experienced with 3e. I’m considering running the next session without a map and minis, just to see how people play differently.

5 Sunyaku April 21, 2012 at 12:37 am

Losing surges in the maze, and taking damage in battle, my berzerker is down 5 of 9 healing surges after this first encounter. 🙁

6 Eamon April 22, 2012 at 1:06 am

We destroyed this episode in under an hour, but it might’ve just been luck: the DM’s dice were absolutely ice cold. Only three of the five of us took any damage whatsoever, and half of my damage came from using Righteous Shield to absorb a hit on my ally. I liked the skill challenge though: we had a person at our table who was brand new to D&D and was really surprised by the opportunity to exercise her imagination.

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