At the end of last week’s encounter the PCs emerged from the dreamscape Easting in a room made of black stone where they saw the Dwarven cult leader Zarnak addressing a pool of glowing red liquid with gold and silver flecks. “Why does it remain silent?” he asked no one in particular. “No matter!”
As we approach the thrilling conclusion to this season of D&D Encounters we continue seeing most players week in and week out. The other table at my FLGS had their usual six PCs while my table was down to five. The party at my table had the following PCs:
- Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
- Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
- Sandsoul Genasi Ranger (Hunter) [Unseelie Agent]
- Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
- Elf Ranger (Scout)
So far this party has done remarkably well without a leader (much better than I expected them to do). They’ve managed their few healing resources conservatively and began this week with two healing potions in their inventory. Sensible use of second wind and the understanding that dying allies need help has turned this party of strikers into a real force to be reckoned with.
Although this week was the penultimate encounter of the season, it was the final battle with the Dwarves and the chance for the PCs to stop the Abyssal Plague. This party has consistently mowed through the monsters in record time, so most weeks I’ve increased the monsters’ maximum hit points. I decided to make this climax really tough so I doubled the Templar’s hit points from 48 to 96 and Zarnak’s hit points from 112 to 224. It certainly made things more interesting.
As the party emerged from the magical gateway Zarnak and his two Dwarven Templars noticed them right away. “Why are you here?” he asked them. “To kill you and stop this madness!” cried the Slayer as she charged the nearest Templar and opened the battle with two devastating blows (which would have more than bloodied the Templar if his hit points had remained unchanged).
The Swordmage had the intelligence to make an Arcana check on the portal from which the PCs just emerged. He realized that it could be manipulated with a successful check stopping any additional creatures from passing through. He felt that this was more important than fighting the Templars so the Swordmage hunkered down and for the rest of the battle made Arcana checks to keep the portal closed.
The Templars tag-teamed the Scout each using their Lure and Smash power, but only one was able to hit. The Assassin moved away from the portal and fired at the wounded Templar scoring another hit.
Zarnak moved away from the red pool and closer to the party. Realizing that the Swordmage was keeping the portal closed he made two Mind Shock attacks on him but missed both. The Barbarian moved around the mob scene in the centre of the room and engaged Zarnak in melee, locking him down.
The party did an excellent job of focusing fire and bloodied the first Templar early in the second round. The Barbarian continued going toe-to-toe with Zarnak for a couple of rounds but the cult leader kept hitting him with Lightning Scourge and sliding him one square which let him attack the Swordmage without retribution. Unfortunately Zarnak just couldn’t hit the pesky Swordmage.
By the fourth round the Templars had bloodied the Scout who was just destroying them with two hits every round. Zarnak used his Thunderous Outrage to hit the Assassin, Barbarian and wounded Scout. The Scout was pushed into one of the pools which she discovered contained necrotic seepage. She fell unconscious in the pool as the ooze ate away at her remaining life force.
The Barbarian shifted from defender to striker and destroyed the badly wounded Templar before rushing to the pool. The Ranger also opted to stop fighting and help her fallen comrade. She rushed over to the Scout and successfully pulled her out of the pool. The Scout failed on death save before being revived with a healing potion on the next round.
The remaining Templar and Zarnak realized that they were loosing this fight and needed to get the portal open so reinforcements could arrive. They both moved closer to the Swordmage to try and either kill him or force him to fight them and forgo Arcana checks. The result was a mob of combatants near the portal.
It didn’t take long for the villains to realize that the Swordmage had a decent Will so they moved into melee to target his AC. The Templar managed to hit a few times, but Zarkan had the worst attack rolls I’ve ever seen from a big boss.
The Barbarian and Assassin moved to flank where possible and managed to score some big hit chipping away at their foe’s hit points. When the Scout finally rejoined combat (after spending her second wind) she easily killed the wounded Templar. The Ranger got back into the action too, hitting Zarnak every round and knocking him prone. In fact, these Dwarves were the least sure-footed Dwarves in existence. I must have rolled, and failed, over 10 saves for them to stay standing when effects would knock them prone. Fortunately they didn’t need to go far so they just kept standing on their turn.
When the PCs finally bloodied Zarnak he recharged Thunderous Outrage and got the four PCs in range, scoring a crit on the Scout knocking her unconscious again. The Swordmage decided to use his standard action to attack and risk the Arcana check as a minor action. His attack hit, but his Arcana check failed. Finally! I carried out. But then he used his action point to try the check again as a standard action and rolled a 20. The portal remained closed.
From that point on it was just a race to zero hit points. I would have called the fight but it was getting pretty dicey. The Scout was still down and the others were only a few hit points away from falling. But in the end three strikers vs Zarnak ended with the PCs killing him.
The combat was over but not the encounter. The Swordmage continue to keep the portal closed while the rest of the party moved cautiously closer to the glowing red pool. As soon as they got within 5 squares they realized it was source of the Abyssal Plague. The pool seemed to have a life-essence, an energy of pure evil.
The Assassin who was trained in Arcana used it to try and close the portal that allowed the evil to exist on this plane. The Scout who was trained in Nature used primal energy to rebalance the affront to nature that the plague represented. The Barbarian and Ranger both moved closer and upon seeing glyphs on the altars used Thievery to mar the symbols.
Sensing that their efforts were indeed working to fight the energy of the Abyssal Plague, the Assassin and Scout again used their knowledge skills successfully. The Barbarian and Ranger both used Endurance to drain the pool’s energy through them, finally destroying the source of the Plague.
The PCs then used the gateway to teleport to the mouth of the shrine and take a much needed and well-earned extended rest. In the morning they returned to Easting where they discovered things were returning to normal. The sick were getting better and the townsfolk had already begun rebuilding. They remained in Easting for a few days where they were honoured and thanked for their bravery and heroics. The session ended with the PCs on the road to Iriaebor to report back to Lady Bron and the Merchant Council.
The players found this a very satisfying ending to the adventure and are a little bit confused about what they’ll face next week. When the combat ended I explained that I doubled the monsters’ hit points and the PCs felt that was a perfect balance. Anything less and they felt they’d have completed the final fight to quickly and too easily.
The dice really favoured the PCs during this session which made thing much more exciting. I’ve never seen so many 19s rolled. There were at least 10. The Barbarian who was due for a good night hit with every attack and scored a crit when he needed it most. Karma dude, karma.
The entire table agreed that the Swordmage deserved the most credit for the victory. Even thought he only made one attack roll all fight his instinct to use his first action to make an Arcana check on the portal and the subsequent selflessness to kept the portal closed save the group from the endless outpouring of minions. The combat lasted seven or eight rounds and considering there could have been as many as five new monsters each round the Swordmage stopped the equivalent of up to 40 monsters – truly a moment of greatness.
The PCs managed to keep the fighting well away from the pool of the Abyssal Plague (truly more by accident than design). My instinct was to skip the skill challenge at the end since there was no real danger, but I felt it was still necessary. After all some failed checks could harm the party and most were well below bloodied. It wasn’t going to take many failed checks to potentially kill the party. But they all made their checks with flying colours so there was no issue.
How did your party do this week? Did anyone else manage to keep the portal closed? How many groups tried to complete the skill challenge during combat? What changes (if any) did other DMs make to the Dwarves to beef up this encounter? Did anyone suffer 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 10) – Podcasts
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