D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 9)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 26, 2012

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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adirassi April 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Well, our exploration went alright, minus of course our non-common speaking drow warlock getting a natural 1 on the insight check and from that point on believed that there were 7, then 14, then 21 people following us. our dragonborn weaponmaster decided to take a nap infront of the altar, and then i rolled a 28 on the nature check to tuck him in. he disappeared and the DM joked about him returning home to his family, at which point his actual family walked in to give him a ride home. we all had a good laugh.

in combat, we had the following party:
Human two-blade ranger (me,)
Human warpriest
Goliath Templar
Half-orc paladin
tiefling elementalist
and the drow warlock.

our party was fairly well balanced and combat went smoothly. we had good damage output, our defender took the minions damage while they lived, and the sorcerer blasted the minions and one non-minion to hell with one move. i had saved all my fun moves which were; Off-hand strike, ruffling sting, and Jaws of the wolf, so when the guy on the roof decided it would be a good idea to disappear to everyone except the heaviest hitting striker… i unleashed hell. rangers quarry one turn, then i hit something else, and then he jumped down and got into my melee range. I hit with off-hand strike, ruffing sting and jaws of the wolf. everything hit and one of the jaws criticalled for 4d10 + 1d8 + 1d8 (crit die) + 35. it came out to about 70 or 80 damage. ending the encounter with a bang, or should i say NOVA?

2 Joe Lastowski April 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Setup for this adventure was a little annoying, though fun enough when I got down to it. While week 1’s fight didn’t require the 2nd floor of the barn, this week’s session specifically stated that the Nothic Mindwarp was hiding up there. In past Encounters seasons, there have been beautiful 2-story maps (like that library from Legacy of Evard… which was recently reprinted in the D&D lost temples map pack). This time, though, there was nothing, so I ended up getting some 1 inch wood blocks to stack up and some cardboard to build a 3-dimensional 2nd floor. Of course, the players really dug this, and I got really into it as I built it, and it looked really cool when I was done… but from an ease-of-play standpoint for organized play, it was not easy to run without that second floor mapped-out somewhere.

The rest of the encounter was great, so I don’t want to sound like a negative norker. The nightmare Easting was fantastic, and really drew my players in to the insanity that was floating just below the surface. Many of these players had played through Legacy of Evard, so it was also fun to describe the differences between the longer, sinister shadows in the Shadowfell and the insane not-rightness of the environment in this Tharizdun-inspired dreamscape.

Initially, the party was very hesitant to try different things with each of the 3 pre-barn sites, but when I explained the mechanics to them about the Insight checks, they were more willing to try things to out-maneuver the malevolent intelligence that was shaping the world around them.

In the combat, the party stayed mostly outside of the barn for the first several rounds, which made the mindwarp less effective. Instead I had it screaming in their mind and causing dangerous terrain effects outside (like lighting trees on fire), so that eventually the party realized that the force controlling this pseudo-reality was inside the barn. The second floor provided problems for much of our party, but the windlord monk was thankfully able to fly up to the mindwarp and take it out in 2 rounds or so with a critical hit on a daily power.

I’m really interested to see how next week’s session goes, because as it’s written, the party DOES NOT GET A SHORT REST before the next session. As soon as the mindwarp dies, the dreamscape fades and they’re face-to-face with Zarnak. This’ll mean that while it’s a new encounter, healing surges will not get spent. And will encounter powers recharge? The Rules Compendium (p. 91) says they will not recharge without a short rest. I’ll need to crunch the numbers to see if my party could reasonably survive the Zarnak fight without recharging encounter powers.

3 Frank April 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

No, the book expressly says they get the benefits of a short rest when they are ejected from the Dreamscape.

4 Ameron (Derek Myers) April 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm

@Joe Lastowski & Frank
I wasn’t sure about how to handle the rest/no rest between week’s 9 and 10 but Frank is correct that at the beginning of week 10 it does specifically state that when the party awakens from the dream state they received the benefits of a short rest even thought technically they didn’t take 5 minutes to catch their breath. However, I might disregard this special ruling and have them face the week 10 encounter down resources. I wouldn’t normally do this, but my group took so little damage in the previous fight that it might make for a really interesting and exciting battle. Remember that completing an encounter counts towards a milestone whether you rest or not, so everyone will get an action point for week 10 regardless of how your DM chooses to run things.

5 Joe April 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Ah, I totally missed that. I’m glad, though. I ran the numbers, and there’s no way my regulars would survive next week without a short rest in-between. Thanks, Frank & Derek.

6 David Argall April 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 9. Mindgames

Going thru the portal, we found ourselves back in the diseased village, or so we thought for a second. But then we realized something, something bad, was different. It took us awhile, but we eventually realized we were in some sort of a dream of the village. Now the problem was how to get out.
That, we never really figured out, at least before the fact. We simply blundered around doing what seemed the right thing to do, and it seemed to work. Some bodies needed burying and so we did. A temple and a shrine needed clensing and so we did. And a building needed checking out and so we did. We think all that helped, but we really don’t know, except for the last.

That was a suspicious looking building, and Lucien, our elf thief, chose to sneak around and scout it out. This rapidly proved to be a bad idea. Demons popped up everywhere and he was cut off from us and under heavy attack, with us distracted enough to not be able to help him.
Not that this did more than distract us. Despite something interfering with my magic [ooc-not rolling above a 4], we were just rolling thru opposition that would have been serious not long ago. Felligren, the human paladin, Irreal the female tiefling hexblade, and Freya, the eladrin warpriest combined to put one down right away, and Velitation contributed some magic that hurt the others. So they were doing no more than delaying us a trifle.
That of course looked to be long enough for the rest of them to take out Lucien, who was running away from one, only to run into more foes. Nearly cornered, he decided he was not going to escape and decided to attack the most important looking foe, and was lucky enough to strike a fatal blow.
This is when we discovered that that foe was the one maintaining the dream we were struggling to get out of. When he died, so did the dream, and we found ourselves leaving the dream. That was good, but we were definitely going somewhere, and we don’t know whether that was good or not.

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