Last week’s encounter ended with the PCs taking a short rest and then stepping through the magical portals in the black obelisk. This week they emerged from the portal and discovered that they were on the road to Easting once again. Before them was Easting’s central square where they spotted the tree-shaded pond, the Thirsty Ox tavern, and the white-plastered temple. Near the edge of the village they saw a building burned to the foundation, the smell of smoke still strong in the air. Déjà vu!
Our numbers held steady with 12 players and two DMs. This has made for excellent consistency and party development. The players have really gotten to know their PCs and the party worked well together now that they have a good understanding of what everyone else is capable of doing. They’ve even come up with a few synergized attacks where one PC will use power X followed by another PC using power Y which results in something really cool. It’s great to see this kind of development at D&D Encounters.
Here’s how the roster shaped up at my table this week.
- Sandsoul Genasi Ranger (Hunter) [Unseelie Agent]
- Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
- Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
- Revenant (Cindersoul Genasi) Sorcerer (Elementalist)
- Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
- Elf Ranger (Scout)
One of the benefits of having consistent attendance is that five of our six players participated in the initial encounter in Easting way back in week 1. This made it a lot easier for me as the DM to set the mood and they had a much easier time noticing differences between this visit to Easting and their last.
The party decided to split up and investigate, dividing into the same groups as they did during their original investigation. The Ranger, Barbarian and Sorcerer checked out the burned building. They expected to find their own footprints in the ashes but saw that things lay undisturbed. They also expected to find five graves behind the house but found none. Instead the charred remains of the burned family were still inside the house.
They decided to do the right thing and burry these bodies. While moving the corpses they examined the remains and determined that none of them was infected with the Abyssal Plague when they died. The PCs found a shovel leaning up against the burned house. It remained in pristine condition despite everything else around it being burned. A Religion check revealed the symbol of Torm on the handle of the shovel. They PCs realized that this might be the god’s way of telling them to bury the dead (which they were going to do anyway).
The Assassin, Swordmage and Scout went to the temple. Next to the entrance was a statue of a faceless, robed figure with demons cavorting at his feat. This was not the statue of the bountiful Chauntea that was here the first time. Inside the temple was empty. There was an exit across from the door they came through and a small hole in the floor. Fearing a trap they gave the hole a wide berth and proceeded to the courtyard out back. They discovered two burned skeletons: one (male) wearing robes and one (female) wearing heavy armor and armed with a sword. The sword was unblemished and when examined they discovered the symbol of Torm on the blade.
They examined the bodies and confirmed that the female was infected with the Abyssal Plague before she died. The PCs left the bodies and left the temple. They decided to examine the statue more closely and realized that it held a black crystal shard that radiated magic. They took the shard but did not bring it inside the temple.
After each group completed their familiar yet different exploration of the burned house and temple all the PCs made Insight checks to try and get a better understanding of what was happening. Five of the six PCs failed the check so they learned nothing new (and gained no benefits during the combat encounter).
Together again they all headed towards the tree and pond. As the leaves fell from the tree they turned to ash. At the foot of the tree was a makeshift altar with a shining plate gauntlet upon it. The gauntlet was splattered with blood and a gory dagger rested along side black candles burning with violet flames.
The PCs realized that the gauntlet represented Torm and that this was a serious affront to the good deity. They tried to remove the gauntlet and clean it but it wouldn’t budge. When the candles were snuffed they immediately reignited. They realized that they needed magic to set things right so they tried using Arcana and Religion but were unsuccessful. Finally the Barbarian (wielding the shovel of Torm) and the Scout (wielding the sword of Torm) used the blessed items to forcefully remove the offending items from the altar.
This time four of the PCs made the significantly easier Insight check and earned the party +1 to all defenses in the upcoming combat as they started to realize that this was some kind of dreamscape.
With this realization the environment began to change. The sky turned red and all the buildings in town collapsed, except the nearby barn where the infected townsfolk were imprisoned during the first trip to Easting. When the PCs approached the barn they noticed skeletal remains inside. From these bodies sprang forth small, four-legged, red creatures with crystalline black spikes and fanged beaks that open sideways.
Four of the six PCs were grouped together at the front of the barn so three Plague Demon Scavengers attacked them. A fourth left the barn and started making his way around the other side. From the edges of the map the PCs realized that Plague Demon Harriers were also advancing on their position.
The first wave of monsters managed to score a couple of hits and the Swordmage took the brunt of the damage. The Sorcerer opened the combat with a damage-heavy attack bloodying one Scavenger and badly wounding another. The Assassin discovered that the approaching Harriers were only minions as he dropped one. The Scout managed to kill the bloodied Scavenger and bloody the other wounded one.
From inside the barn a Demonic Nothic attacked the Swordmage with Warping Gaze, bloodying he poor defender. The Nothic then disappeared to everyone but the Swordmage.
The Barbarian easily dropped the bloodied Scavenger and then advanced into the barn in search of the missing Nothic. The Ranger meanwhile shot and killed the closest Harrier minion while she hunkered down in the remains of the nearby house ruins. The Swordmage marked the nearby Scavenger and Harrier before scoring a decent hit on the Scavenger. He then saved successfully and the Nothic reappeared.
The Scavenger that was going around the barn joined the fray attacking the Scout and missing. From the recesses of the barn a fifth Scavenger appeared, rushing around the barn and charging the Swordmage. The two Harriers joined the melee while two fresh ones appeared on the fringes.
The Sorcerer backed away a few squares from the dangerous melee and instead took out one of the approaching Harrier minions. The Assassin and Ranger continued picking off minions, killing one each.
The Scout rolled two 20s destroying one of the fresh Scavengers on one turn. The Nothic moved into melee and used his Forbidding Glare (close burst 2). He managed to get four PCs in the burst. The Barbarian was the only one to take full damage, everyone else took half on the miss. The Barbarian left the Nothic for now, seeking easier prey and finding a Scavenger. A hit brought it to bloodied.
The remaining Scavengers and minion managed to flank the Swordmage and Scout but couldn’t hit with their actual attacks. But they would score hits as each of the next three PCs to act would draw opportunity attacks.
First the Sorcerer (adjacent to a minion) decided to use a ranged attack to target the Nothic. The Sorcerer missed, the minions hit. The Swordmage similarly wanted to get into a more advantageous position and moved. The adjacent minion hit. However, the Swordmage also connected which severely wounded Scavenger and pulled him away from the melee. The Scout wanted to attack the Nothic so she moved her max speed missing when she got next to him. The adjacent Scavenger hit.
The Nothic was able to shift and use his Warping Gaze on the Scout but missed. From there it was all downhill for the party. The Assassin and Ranger took out the final minions while the Barbarian took out the bloodied Scavenger. During the next round the PCs easily killed the remaining Scavenger and pounded on the Nothic while he again missed them. The Ranger managed to get the kill with a well placed arrow in its one eye.
The Nothic shattered in a flash of light and the world began to blur and spin. As the scene settled the PCs found themselves in a black room with cold light. Before them was a familiar red-haired Dwarf in violet robes. “Why does it remain silent?” he asked.
We pick things up here next week. When the PCs awoke in reality one of them realized that they possessed a +1 something. In our party the Sorcerer was the only PC without a magic item so he claimed it as a +1 implement.
This week I made absolutely no changes or adjustments to the encounter. I wanted to let the strikers feel heroic after the pounding they took last week. The combat was exciting but really quick. Only the Swordmage and the Sorcerer took any real damage but they both had ample healing surges remaining after the combat ended.
I really liked the exploration of a somewhat familiar scene. It worked well with this group because all but one player was there for the fist week and had a good recollection of what they did the first time. As the DM I was able to build on the actions they took the first time through and remind them of little details. Although the shovel and sword were in the descriptive text I added the detail about the Torm symbol. I knew it was a detail the group would jump on and they did.
How did your group find the return to Easting? Did they realize it was a dreamscape? How many of the players were actually there for week 1 and realized there were subtle differences? Was your group as inept at Insight as mine? How did the combat go? I thought the Nothic was a little bit underpowered, but perhaps it was just because my group could deal so much damage – what did you think?
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 9) – Podcast
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