After fighting their way into Mithral Hall, ancestral home of the Dwarven clan Battlehammer, and meeting with King Connerad Battlehammer himself, the heroes received a strange letter from Axelcrantz. In the letter, Axelcrantz (a Dwarf that none of the PCs had ever met before) wrote of things that had happened and things to come. He claimed that the he would meet the heroes when they arrived at Citadel Adbar at some time in the future. Curious about whom this Dwarf may be and what he may have to say, the PCs headed to the Citadel to rendezvous with him.
This week we had two DMs and only four players. The second DM decided to head home and take the week off and I ran the only table at my FLGS. About 10 minutes into our session one more player arrived bringing us up to five players. As we’re in Canada and don’t have Thanksgiving this weekend there was really no reasonable explanation for the sharp decline. Hopefully next week we’ll be back up to two tables.
The party eventually rounded out as follows: Drow Assassin, Pixie Vampire, Half-Orc Barbarian, Shade Warlock (Binder) and our last minute arrival was the Revenant [Gith] Bard. Four of the five were my regular players from the previous two sessions. As we’ve been switching up the tables this season it was nice to be back to the familiar for a week.
Act 1 – Citadel Adbar
This week’s adventure began when the PCs arrived at Citadel Adbar after months of travel (the distance from Mithral Hall is over 350 miles as the crow flies). Although the Darkening had reached this far, the Orc armies had not.
The PCs requested admittance into Citadel Adbar but the guard captain, a Dwarf named Thanar, refused them. He explained politely that King Harbromm instructed the door remain closed to everyone. When the PCs explained who they were, where they’d been, and why they were here Thanar softened a bit and agreed to send for Axelcrantz. When Axelcrantz arrived he immediately vouched for the PCs.
Thanar suggested Axelcrantz go outside to talk to his friends. Once together, Axelcrantz treated the PCs like old friends even though they’d just met. He told them of the Matharic the Drow and the Wand of Tir’Lien. Matharic and his Drow soldiers occupied an outpost beneath Citadel Adbar a century earlier and were eventually killed by a Dwarven army. However, Matharic’s ghost still haunts the outpost and the wand was likely still somewhere nearby. He stressed to the PCs that they needed to find the wand.
I played Axelcrantz as an all-seeing stoner (high on the mushrooms found in the Burning Grove on pg. 36). He was kind and loving with erratic mood swings. He went from happy to sad at the drop of a hat. It got a lot of laughs and really got the other players involved in the role-playing. (I strongly encourage you to listen to the first 20 minutes of the actual play podcast to hear me ham it up).
With a bit more coaxing from the PCs Thanar agreed to escort the PCs to the King. When they arrived in the throne room the king was not impressed. He seemed more angry with Thanar for opening the gates against orders than anything else.
The PCs once again explained who they were, what they’d been up to over the previous few sessions and how they could help the Dwarves. They offered to rid the King of the troublesome ghost haunting his outpost. He agreed to let them perform this service as payment for taking the wand from his kingdom. They agreed.
This was another fun role-playing encounter. This was the third king the PCs had met this season so they were getting good at impressing royalty. However, mentioning that they’d recently been in front of King Obould Many-Arrows didn’t win them any points with King Harbromm, nor did having a Half-Orc or Drow in the party (although the Drow had enough sense to hide her true heritage).
Act 2 – Duergar Camp
The outpost was currently inhabited by Duergar. King Harbromm instructed the PCs to get rid of them by any means necessary. When they arrived at the outpost they tried talking to the Duergar. The Dark Dwarves explained that they’d be happy to leave but they were cursed. If they tried to leave they’d be killed by the ghost. They pointed to the bones on the bridge as evidence of the last Duergar to try and leave.
The PCs talked their way inside and agreed to exterminate the ghost. The Duergar explained that the ghost seemed to only attack individuals who were dumb enough to venture off alone, so the party immediately split up.
The Barbarian and Bard explored the kitchen and found a magic cauldron that made soup. The Vampire and Warlock went up to the commander’s quarters where they found books and a locked desk. The Assassin checked out the barracks but missed the hidden gem and ring.
The Bard wandered away from the Barbarian busy eating soup in the kitchen and examined the carper in another chamber. The carpet (a Mimic in disguise) attacked him. The surprise round and the subsequent 20 on initiative had the Mimic acting twice before the Bard could respond. With only a few hit points left the Bard tried to flee. This was when the Duergar decided to get involved.
One of the Duergar attacked the Bard but missed, two attacked the Assassin all alone in the barracks and the final one and the commander readied crossbows on the staircase while they awaited the PCs on the upper levels.
The PCs took a real pounding. This was the first week that they were truly challenged in combat. The Bard should have been unconscious but I forgot to add the +2d6 sneak dice on the first attack. I also didn’t make use of the Mimic’s Shapeshifting after it was exposed. Had I done so, its resist 10 in object form would have made it a lot harder to defeat (not that the PCs had an easy go of it).
The Duergar minions did a lot of damage before the PCs realized they were just minions and took them out. The PC captured the Duergar commander. He refused to give them any useful information nor would he beg for freedom or a quick death. They killed him in cold blood (something I did not approve of as the DM).
With no other dangers the PCs finally managed to open the desk in the commander’s quarters where they found the enchanted paper with the blue key. When pressed against the blue lock painted on the floor beneath the carpet they managed to open a hatch to the caverns below.
Act 3 – Haunted Cavern
Among the remains of many Drow and Dwarven skeletons the PCs spotted the Wand of Tir’Lien. Nearby was the ghost of Matharic. The PCs tried to reason with him, but his mind was clearly broken. He wasted no time with parley and attacked the party.
Many of the PCs were still battered and bruised from the fight with the Mimic and Duergar so they tried to use tactics that kept them away from the ghost. The Barbarian was the only one not really hurt so she continued to engage Matharic in melee. As none of the party had attacks that dealt radiant or force damage the fight took a long time.
Despite the Barbarian falling victim to Matharic’s Touch of Chaos and almost killing the Vampire, the party eventually destroyed the ghost and claimed the Wand of Tir’Lien. They returned to report to the king and meet up with Axelcrantz before taking a much needed and hard earned rest.
After three weeks of complaining that the combat encounters weren’t tough enough the party finally got what they wanted – a tough fight. I warned them at the top that this week had combat and that it was tough but they didn’t listen. They grossly underestimated the difficulty of the first combat. I reminded them afterwards that not every encounter in D&D needs to be completely balanced.
They were even more surprised when they had a second combat encounter after the first really tough one. Again, I told them that this season they need to expect more. When they were facing Matharic’s ghost only one PC still had an action point and only one had a daily power. It was a good lesson in resource management.
This was in fact a very tough week. The combat with the Mimic could easily kill a PC if the party split up and didn’t work together. Hopefully most players realize by now that there are many ways to handle problems, and that fighting isn’t the only solution. Talking their way past the Duergar was certainly easier than fighting them. Unfortunately they also needed to keep an eye on the sneaky buggers as they eventually turned on them.
I felt that the combat encounter with Matharic was flat. There was no guidance in the adventure on how to run him. There was no description for the terrain features so the map held few surprises. Any party that was badly wounded in the first fight was going to have trouble defeating the incorporeal undead.
This was a very long session. We really had a lot of fun with the initial role-playing with the guards, Axelcrantz, and the King. When the PCs came upon the underground outpost they had a good role-playing exchange with the Duergar as well. I think we were about 90 minutes into the session before the Mimic attacked the first PC. Because the monsters had so many hit points (Mimic 71 hp, level 8 lurker; Matharic’s ghost 73 hp, level 6 controller) the combat took forever.
The players felt cheated that they couldn’t take a short rest after the fight with the Mimic and the Duergar. This is not the first week they’ve had more than one fight, but it was the first week in which the first combat really hurt them. I felt their whining was uncalled for and out of place and told them as much. Some players understood but a couple were genuinely angry. Since no one died in the end I think all was forgiven.
How did your table do this week? Did anyone fall to the Mimic or the ghost? Were there any TPKs? What is the general attitude so far this season? Are players taking advantage of the increased role-playing opportunities or do they just want more combat? How many players felt this week’s combat was too tough?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
Each week I record a podcast with Marc Talbot (Alton) from 20ft Radius in which we recount that week’s experiences with D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective FLGS and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently.
Actual Play Podcasts
We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.