D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 10, 2012

Upon finding evidence that the Abyssal Plague had infected the inhabitants of the town of Easting the heroes risked life and limb to traversed the subterranean shrine where a cult of evil Dwarves in service to Tharizdun (The Elder Elemental Eye) plotted to spread the plague across the Forgotten Realms. After two days of chasing the Dwarves through the shrine, battling them and their minions, the heroes finally found and destroyed the cult leader and the Voidharrow, the source of the Abyssal Plague the cultist were using to infect the locals. With the threat of the Abyssal Plague stopped, and Easting returning to normal, the PCs venture back to Iriaebor to report of their deeds and collect the reward promised them by the Merchant Council. And with that they adventure comes to an end… or does it?

This was the final week of D&D Encounters season 9. Although last week seemed like the conclusion to the adventure there was still one more loose end that was resolved in the final encounter. We had 11 players and two DMs (exactly as we did last week) at our FLGS. My table of five remained unchanged.

  • Windsoul/Firesoul Genasi Assassin
  • Earthsoul Genasi Swordmage [Earthforger]
  • Firesoul Genasi Barbarian (Berserker) [Ironwrought]
  • Sandsoul Genasi Ranger (Hunter) [Unseelie Agent]
  • Elf Ranger (Scout)

This week’s encounter began with the PCs on the road from Easting to Iriaebor. A week had passed since they defeated the Dwarven cult and they have had ample time to rest and recover from their adventures. They presented their report to the Merchant Council along with sealed and signed testimony from Father Evendur confirming the party’s heroics. They were paid 50 gp as promised and awarded free room and board for a month at the Wandering Wyvern, one of Iriaebor’s finest inns.

The PCs spent the next week enjoying the finer things available to PCs flush with coin and beaming with talk of heroic deeds. The Scout hired a local Bard to sing songs of the party’s accomplishments, with particular focus on the Assassin’s shortcoming and soft approach to problems. The Ranger indulged in fine food, the Barbarian indulged in fine women, and the Assassin indulged in fine spirits. The Swordmage was the only Genasi still focused on returning home and visited the sage who might have the means for the party to do so (assuming the rest of the Genasi PCs wanted to leave and give up their new-found pleasures).

While the PCs spent their days doing whatever they felt like doing, they made a point of eating dinner together each night at the Wandering Wyvern. One night an Elvin adventurer entered the tavern and asked for the PCs by name. The Barkeep pointed them out and the Elf joined the PCs.

He was dressed in hunter’s clothing, armed with a short sword, dagger, and crossbow. His gear was old, used, and dirty. His weapons were rusted and nicked from repeated use. His hair was matted and knotted, his face dark and dirty with the dust of the road. Yet despite his appearance he seemed polite as he engaged the PCs.

He introduced himself as Belbol Zhaun and explained that he’d heard the songs about these PCs and wanted to meet them personally. He also had information that they might find useful which he felt compelled to share with them. The Swordmage and Scout both realized that the Elf’s name literally meant “bringer of knowledge” in Elvin, a subtle way that he was telling them he was using an alias and wanted to remain anonymous. As he spoke to the PCs he continually addressed the females, showing them respect while all but ignoring the men.

The Swordmage concluded that this “Elf” might actually be Drow. He then noticed that the pants this hunter was wearing were indeed the same pair he’d given the Drow scout the PCs spared during their march across the Badlands. With this realization he warmly welcomed the Drow and blew his cover to the rest of the PCs.

The Drow (real name Tebrizz) explained that he felt indebted to the PCs, specifically the female Ranger, who had spared his life. When he saw an opportunity to help the party he decided that this was a suitable form of repayment. While the PCs battled the Dwarves in the shrine Tebrizz continued searching the area for others following The Elder Elemental Eye. He found signs of a lone Drow, but by the time he caught up to her she’d come to Iriaebor. He’s spotted her a few times but was not able to get her alone. Attacking her alone would be futile, so he watched and waited.

In the past few days this Drow no doubt heard the songs about this party and realized that they weakened her god by killing his followers and destroying the source of the Abyssal Plague. She believes killing the PCs will bring her Tharizdun’s evil blessing.

With his warning delivered, Tebrizz again thanked the Ranger (and the rest of the party) for kindness he did not expect and left them to their fate.

The PCs took immediate steps to search the inn for signs of the Drow or any other followers but found nothing. They scouted the perimeter but also found nothing. They decided to post a sentry overnight on a nearby roof, but after a full 24 hours they saw no evidence of this mysterious Drow or her companions.

A few days later during breakfast the PCs heard a loud crash and then screams outside of the inn. They rushed to the windows where they saw one of the local barmaids pinned under an overturned wagon. The barmaid’s sister was nearby screaming for help. The Ox pulling the cart struggled to free itself but was stuck in the fountain. The driver seemed unable to coax the animal out of the fountain and seemed almost indifferent to the woman dying under his wagon.

The Assassin was first to go to the woman’s aid with the Barbarian following close behind. They managed to easily get the cart off the woman and administered a healing potion. From under a blanket on the cart a giant Spider emerged and attacked the PCs. The Ranger remained inside the inn and fired her bow at the Spider.

The man driving the cart (a Berserker) armed himself with a mace and attacked the Barbarian. Another Berserker emerged from behind the fountain and attacked the Assassin. The Swordmage and Scout ran outside to join the melee. The Scout managed to get into a flank with the Barbarian and attacked the Berserker on the cart.

From on top of the inn, a Drow female threw a shuriken and hit the Assassin. He risked an opportunity attack (which missed) and flew up to the roof. He was surprised to discover that the Drow had another large Spider on the roof with her. The two worked together to try to take out the Assassin.

On the ground the innocent bystanders managed to flee into the safety of the inn. The ox managed to break free pushing the card back towards the melee. Fortunately the Ranger, Swordmage and Berserker manage to avoid getting run over. The Barbarian and initial Berserker, both in the cart fell prone with the sudden movement but suffered no damage.

The Drow realized that the Assassin was almost dead so she left him for the Spider to finish off as she leapt down to the street and joined in the melee. She didn’t attack but instead used an illusionary feign. The Berserkers worked together with the Spider to gain flaking but they kept missing the PCs. The Spider hit consistently, inflicting ongoing poison to different PCs every round.

As the heroes were on the verge of killing the Berserkers, the Drow’s feign paid off and she managed to shift and attack four times. Two devastating blows (with flanking bonus) dropped the Scout and then two more (also with flanking bonus) dropped the Swordmage. She then used her action point to badly wound the Barbarian.

Rather than risk dying alone on the roof, the Assassin jumped off (taking only 4 damage for his trouble) and joined the rest of the party. He then administered a healing potion to the fallen Swordmage. The Spider followed him but missed on its attack.

The Ranger joined he party and revived the Scout with a healing potion. Unfortunately the combined efforts of the near-dead Berserkers managed to both hit and kill the Scout (dead-dead). This was the push the PCs needed as they rallied back to victory. They easily destroyed the Berserkers and one of the Spiders. The other Spider and the Drow continued to flank and attack but the party was working well, marking and focusing fire.

When the Drow was finally the only remaining enemy she used her Darkness Globe to gain concealment. However, when she fled the scene the Ranger and Assassin both spotted her. They followed her and fired. Both attacks hit and they managed to kill her before she could flee.

With the Drow and her allies defeated the PCs had successfully eliminated all members of the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye in this region. It cost them the life of their Elvin friend, but in the end even the side of good must make some sacrifices.

And with that we end another season of D&D Encounters. Next week we’ll have the report card on the season as a whole, but for now I’m interested in hearing how this final encounter played out at your FLGS. My group had fun despite losing one of the PCs this week (only our second fatality of the season).

The encounter itself really felt unnecessary and tact on. Having the Drow from week 3 reappear to warn the party was a good way to reward them if they let one or both Drow live. However, there was no down side if they’d killed the Drow. By sparing the Drows’ lives they should have received some kind of bonus, even a +1 during the first round of combat would have been a reminder that heroes who act in the service of good are rewarded.

In order to tie this encounter into the overall story arc better I’d have had the evil Drow appear earlier in the adventure and then get away. This way the PCs would know that at least one foe was still at large and when faced with an opportunity to stop her they’d likely jump at the chance.

I’ve been saying it all season and I’ll say it again, good tactics made all the difference this week again. This party has become a well-oiled machine and understands the value of teamwork and assisting fallen comrades. When I played this encounter a second time the party suffered a TPK because no one was willing to help each other. I’m going to miss this party of Genasi strikers. It was a neat concept that added something extra to the dynamic and the weekly games.

How did your party fare against the Drow and her followers? Did anyone face a TPK? Did any of the PCs flee? After all, their job was done and there was no reason for them to fight.

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 11) – Podcasts

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Skeeter May 10, 2012 at 11:27 am

Our table really struggled on the final encounter. Only four players, so the DM removed one spider. Before my character’s first turn, the drow attacked me and took me from full HP (28) to negative 16, thus killing me. But we asked the DM to play it as written, so that’s the way it went. Two other PCs were quickly killed and the fourth ran off screaming for help. So a TPK after just a couple rounds. Ouch!! I thought this was a difficult encounter.

2 Alphastream May 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Nice account. I really liked that lurker mechanic. Brutal and flavorful. As a playtester I did worry it was a bit much, but I’m glad you survived it!

3 PaladinAustin May 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I’m not sure if you left some stuff out or if our DM really decided to rub our faces in it. The first major difference was the drow female, whom we’d spared, from session 3 decided to turn against us when the fighting started. She had all of the same powers as her counterpart. Also when the drows were dropped to 0, they popped back up on their next turn with 44HP and a recharge on their quad attack power. The berserkers popped back up after being dropped to 0 as well. All of that wound up being a little rough. We had 4 players of our 7 drop (3 were brought back up). We finally finished them all off, but it was a pretty difficult encounter, especially with no healers. It also didn’t help that the DM was rolling 20s, 19s, and 18s all night. At one point it was asked if this encounter was designed specifically to end the season on a sad note with a guaranteed TPK.

4 Eamon May 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I’ve seen a couple people here and elsewhere complain about this being a tacked-on adventure, but it was one of my favorite encounters of the past three seasons, hands-down. Our DM did an excellent job of letting us RP our return to town as heroes: while two of our party immediately went to the inn to get drunk and find warm company (and eventually lit upon the twins), our healers went to the poorer part of town to help cure inhabitants with the plague, while my character went to a Moradin church to deal with some existential angst– which is where the drow informant spotted me and the adventure began.

In fact, we were so into the RP that that even when we shifted to battle we kept up with the role-play to the point where our drow– usually our main striker– rushed to heal the twins instead of just camping out somewhere safe and unloading on the bad guy. We all ended up doing a lot of things that weren’t the best moves strategically but were clearly what our characters would do, which added a whole other layer of complexity to an encounter that was incredibly tough to start with (I personally took over 90 points of damage, 80 of which were from the Drow Assassin unloading on me, hitting 3-for-4 twice).

In the end, we eventually battled our way through the mess of spiders and cultists to surround the Drow, but he escaped at the last second. Normally I would’ve been bitterly disappointed, but since we were able to protect the townspeople, save both the barmaids and the ox, plus see a pair of twin boys named after our healers for helping their mother through a difficult childbirth– all in one day– we walked away from the table glowing.

5 Alphastream May 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm

PaladinAustin, the berserkers do have the ability to rise back up (with 19 HPs). There should be only one drow, but if you were a table of 7 it may be that your DM was trying to scale upwards. The XP for the encounter is an even 1,000, for a level 5 encounter for 5 players. Adding 6 players should take us to 1,200XP, and for 7, perhaps to 1,400 (though I could argue a bit higher). Under that logic, and assuming just an extra drow, you had a 1,350 XP encounter, which is ok. But, it is a strong encounter and that is the strongest foe.

So, I’m not sure. Your DM may just have been trying to give a larger than recommended table a good challenge. It is trick scaling for 7 players.

6 David Argall May 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

THE BRIGHTNESS OF NURI – 11. Rematch

Having bragged about how easily we were meeting the challenges, we got a reminded we were still pretty small stuff. We won, but people can say they rescued us, not us rescuing others.
Everything started quite well. We left the village with the cheers of the locals in our ears, and arrived at the city to a warm welcome and an eager audience for our tales of glory. So we were quite enjoying ourselves at a local tavern that night, so much so that we paid little attention to the arrival of one of our former foes, nor the warning she provided.
Of course we can claim that the warning came too late for us to properly consider it as the screams of an “accident” almost immediately distracted us. We just naturally rushed into the street and saw an ox had run into the fountain and one of the barmaids was in great danger.
We really should have been aware of the ambush. It was not done that well, and we were realizing it was a fake even as we poured into the street. But the girl really did need rescue, and so Lucien the elf thief rushed out to her aid despite the clues. His success got him pounded and others like Open the monk suffered as well.
We got our first bit of rescue even as we were realizing we were in trouble. Valdryc, a female human fighter, attacked some of those after us. But there were still more of them than of us, or at least it seemed like it.
Still, it looked like we were OK as we recovered from the unexpected attack, but then we put one of them down, and he promptly got back up! [We are still not sure what was going on, but Freyda told us of a nasty ritual which allows the victim to die twice, making him much tougher in combat. Since the victim was sure to die once, and permanently, even if he was not hurt in the battle, only a crazy cultist would accept it, but that was what we were facing. That meant we were facing a lot of quite tough opponents. But at least we had some idea of what was going on.]
The drow leader of this ambush was tricky and hurting us a lot. And my magic was not working as well as I could have wished. Felligrin the human paladin did good damage to several foes and distracting others, but he eventually went down, as did Iriel the tiefling hexblade. Freyda soon exhausted her healing and there were lots of us badly hurt. We were in serious difficulties.
But now we got some more aid. A bard we had been tipping well started distracting the opposition and another barmaid managed to revive Valdryc who had also gone down. Then we managed to put a couple of these cultists down for the 2nd [& final] time and things started to look a lot better. Next we disposed of that drow leader and things were looking good. Opal got a cultist and I finished my 2nd [I might have spared him, but with their tendency to get back in the fight, we didn’t want to take a chance that they would get up again.] and we could see victory. Iriel killed a giant spider that was threatening a barmaid [giving her a problem and an opportunity. She owed her life to two of us, which is a serious problem for a lass. However, nearly any time a lass is matched against two lads, she outnumbers them, as they each want to beat the other guy’s time. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.]
So the opposition was reduced to 1 spider, who realized its master was no longer controlling it and so it tried to get away, with no success.
So victory was ours, but only with a large amount of help and with all of us hurt, mostly seriously. They may not have killed us, but they at least killed our feeling we could beat anybody. Still, we will be eager to face new adventures.

7 Madfox11 May 14, 2012 at 5:55 am

The last encounter was intended as an introduction to the next season, although it is also a great way to start a home campaign (there is a cult of Tharizdun in the city, we need to find it). I was asked to add it. I wish I had thought about introducing the drow villain herself earlier, probably would have been better, although it is not something easily done with this setup. (For the curious, I was giving a short summary with a few predefined villains, terrain and the number of encounters and from there I had to design the adventure. If I had thought of this, I probably would have been able to add it. It just never crossed my mind.)

8 Joe Lastowski May 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

My table did okay with this encounter, though from a design perspective, there were several enemy powers that felt like “cheating” to the players. The first were the “go back to full HP after hitting 0 HP” powers that the barbarians and drow assassin had. The second was the 4-attack power that the drow assassin had. I also saw a different table at my store where there was confusion with the fall apart/pull together powers, and one DM was running BOTH powers (which were each standard actions) every round, though the somewhat out of game “you cannot attack if you don’t hit the DC 21 Insight” thing was really frustrating players at that table, who knew she wasn’t dead after she did that combo a few times, but still had to hold or ready their attacks until she was “alive” again.

I tried to mitigate the apparent “cheesiness” of some of the powers by making them situationally appropriate. For instance, when the two barbarians dropped, I didn’t revive them right away. I waited for the drow assassin’s next turn, and had her use a minor action to call upon the power of Tharizdun to “raise” them as lvl 1 skeletons. That seemed to make sense to the PCs, and they didn’t call shenanigans.

I tried to spread the assassin’s 4 attacks out among several PCs, hitting no more than twice per PC, so that I didn’t immediately slaughter one character, and that at least made her “dangerous but not stupidly deadly.” The spiders then attacked the wounded characters, which also made sense dramatically, because I told the players the spiders could sense their wounds, with the added kick of ongoing poison damage… all of which really tied into the “drow + spiders + poison = bad” theme that players will need in mind for next season.

Finally, I only used the Fall Apart/Come Together combo once, and I did it in conjunction with a use of Cloud of Darkness. Our Fire Elementalist Sorcerer saw the cloud of darkness, and let off an empowered fiery blast power that hit every square in the cloud. I lamented off-camera about how I wished they hadn’t enacted that “cut HP in half, double the damage power” new rule for big NPCs (which Chris Perkins and others have mentioned in various discussions and blogs on the Wizards site), and when the cloud of darkness went away, there was the “dead” body of the assassin on the ground. The sorcerer, who has been overjoyed at the ability to do 30+ damage per round, went right along with it, which made the surprise while everyone was focusing on saving the crushed girl that much better.

Oh, and to mitigate the cheese factor on the assassin’s “recharge to full HP” power, I just doubled her HP initially (normally a lvl 4 elite lurker should have about 88 HP anyway).

Despite my reservations about the powers, it was still a fun fight. The PCs all enjoyed it, and the end result was an epic final battle. The combination of multiple assassin hits and ongoing poison damage got a couple folks close to death, though the fact that everyone was fully rested for this final battle really made the difference, and ensured the PCs had the resources to survive.

9 Sunyaku May 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

One part story, one part DM, two parts this encounter didn’t connect to the story arc for us at all. It was random, and felt basically unrelated to the story. Very anti-climactic.

10 Josh May 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

We had a group of 6. Luckily we saw the spider in the cart before we went to help the girl so we were alerted that this was a trap. We actually left the girl under the cart for a while until we could kite the spider and two dwarf escorts away. Then our monk lifted the cart and pushed it on top of another of the dwarfs because of a natural 20 on the athletics check. In the meantime My Drow archery ranger climbed up the Inn to start peppering the courtyard with sniper fire and inadvertently discovered the two Drow and spider on top of that building and the four drow on tops of other buildings. (Our DM let us all level to 4 before the fight since he made it extra hard). The Battlemind then teleported to my aid while the Bladesinger and the Cleric helped to fight off the spider and dwarves. We quickly found the roof to be a lost cause and the Battelmind launched himself off the roof and landed on the Drow Rogue that was throwing four shurikens a turn. Pushing her back and knocking her down. Then my drow ranger leaped off of the building onto one of the dwarves. From there we regrouped and started concentrating our firepower to start dropping foes. We had not knocked any of them out up till this point. The monk performed a leaping strike to knock one of the spiders from the side of the building and then the towns guards showed up and engaged one of the female drow and one of the male drow. Two towns guard fell and one that was gravely injured ran off to ring the town warning bell. The remaining guard fought with us and lived. In the next two rounds we had finished off all of the male drow and one of the females. We had cornered the one with the four-shuriken attack power and slaughtered her. The other three were still peppering us with shurikens and ranged attacks. By the time we had climbed the buildings to engage them the bell could be heard ringing in the distance waking up the militia. At that point the three remaining females dropped their clouds of darkness and ran away. Our DM then told us that he was very surprised that any of us survived, let alone all of us. The only thing that saved us was that we had seen the spider leg in the wagon and that prompted me to climb the building to get a better vantage point and discovering the spider and 6 more hidden drow. In the end we saved the town, the girl, the ox, and our own skins. All while eliminating the cult and stemming the invasion. It was really awesome.

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