Best. Session. Ever. Yeah, I said it. This was my favourite session of D&D Encounters that I’ve ever played. It had everything I want in a game including thrilling combat and lots of great role-playing.
After defeating the Drow spellcasters last week the PCs found battle plans outlining a Troll invasion of Nesmé. If Nesmé were to fall, it could spell disaster for nearby Silverymoon. So this week we picked things up with the heroes arriving at Nesmé. And not a moment too soon as Troll were attacking the town, two of which divert to intercept the PCs. Right off the bat the PC found themselves in a really tough combat.
This week we had ten players and two DMs. I had one brand new player at my table which is always a welcome addition. The party consisted of the following characters: Revenant [Gith] Bard, Half-Orc Barbarian, Pixie Vampire, Shade Warlock (Binder), and Eladrin Cleric (Valenae pre-gen).
Act 1 – Mission to Nesmé
Within five minutes of sitting down and starting the session the PCs were in combat. This was the first time this has happened this season and the players loved it. They quickly realized that the Trolls (level 9 brutes) were not going to be pushovers. The fight took about 45 minutes and the party expended considerable resources before finally destroying the Trolls.
One big change this season is that the encounters are not just one combat and done. And the players now realized this so when they defeated the Trolls they knew that there was more to come. In previous seasons as soon as the monsters were dead people would pack up and get ready to leave. It’s nice to see the change in the mentality of our players.
With the Trolls defeated the PCs entered Nesmé and realized that the town was in shambles. It had clearly seen better days. The people were not really capable of defending their town and needed help badly. The Town’s First Speaker (mayor) ushered the PCs into a more private setting and explained to them what’s going on (or more accurately what’s not going on) in Nesmé. He begged the PCs for help; he even offered them a magic holy symbol as compensation. The symbol – Corellon’s Gaze – was capable of fending off The Darkening like many other items the heroes possess. They have five now for those counting.
Act 2 – Assets
I really liked how this section was put together. The town had a Battle Value. As the PCs bolstered or repaired certain assets in town they could raise the town’s Battle Value. When the Trolls eventually attacked, the PCs would have to face some of the monsters themselves. Since the PCs couldn’t be everywhere, the Battle Value was a way for the DM to determine how the rest of the defenses were holding up during the attack.
The party could attempt to help the town as a group or split up. Each task required various skill checks and a certain number of days to complete. Some tasks could be tried over and over again, while others could only be attempted once. All the groups at the two FLGS where I play split up.
Scene 1 – Riders of Nesmé
The riders were suffering from a rift in leadership. The veteran leader was recently accused of treason by a younger officer. Half the horsemen sided with their commander while the other half believed the claim and sided with the upstart. The Vampire, Bard and Cleric needed to bring the two groups together for the betterment of Nesmé.
After discussing the situation with both sides, and getting two slightly different accounts of the events, they eventually supported the veteran. With a swaying speech about loyalty and consistency being the best weapons against an army of Trolls they got most of the riders back on side. The young upstart and a few of his most loyal followers left.
Scene 2 – Catapults
The Barbarian decided to take this on by herself. Despite no training in Thievery she’d spent enough time in warrior culture to know all about siege weapons and their workings. She rocked the Thievery check to figure out how to fix the catapults, and then with the help of the local trades people she used Athletics to do the heavy lifting. Three days later the catapults were back in working order.
Scene 3 – Sharpshooters
After smoothing things over with the riders the three PCs met with the archers. They didn’t like them. The archers were angry, aggressive, abusive, and all around jerks. The only thing that would win over the archers was if the PCs could make the sun break through The Darkening. Since it worked for Axelcrantz in the last session they decided to give it a try. The Cleric spent the day studying the wand before using Religion to activate its power and dispel The Darkening over Nesmé. The archers were not only impressed but now they could see any approaching targets.
Interlude – Reconnaissance
The Warlock, the only PC trained in Stealth, decided to do some recon of the Troll army by himself. He spent four lonely days observing the Troll army and learned all about them. The chief and his vanguard were powerful and well armored. It would take a seasoned fighting force to defeat them (like the riders of Nesmé). The Warriors that made up the bulk of the army would attack en mass where they believed the walls to be weakest and undefended (unless the newly repaired catapults were repositioned). Small sea-faring trolls planned to infiltrate the town by swimming up river and sneaking into the unguarded docks (unless a large enough force was there ready to ambush them). Finally there were Drow spellcasters who were planning to lob spells at Nesmé from a safe distance (which would be less safe now that the archers could see them).
Scene 4 – Town Watch
When the PCs regrouped and compared notes they realized that they had just enough time to whip the townsfolk into a fighting force. They divided up the tasks of recruiting new volunteers, providing training and maneuvers to the inexperienced, and providing leadership and discipline to the scared people of Nesmé. They were successful on all accounts.
Act 3 – Battle for Nesmé
By putting all the pieces together, using the repaired assets, deploying the troops where they would do the most good, and inspiring confidence through leadership, the PCs played a vital role in defending the town when the attack came on the ninth day.
Four Trolls managed to get over the wall near where the PCs were stationed so they took care of them. Having taking considerable damage in the initial fight, the PCs learned from their experience and changed their tactics. The Warlock was able to use his powers to slow and immobilized the Trolls, giving the party time to focus fire. The Bard managed to dominate a Troll and kept hold of him for three rounds. Character with ranged attacks used them as much as possible to avoid the Trolls massive reach and incredibly output.
This was a really challenging fight, especially because the PCs had almost no healing magic left when it began. PCs did fall during this battle, but they players worked together to revive the fallen as quickly as possible. No one died but it took everything in their arsenal to defeat the Trolls and save Nesmé. All action points and daily powers were expended before the battle was done.
With Nesmé safe the heroes were hailed as heroes and spent some time resting and recovering before moving on to the next leg of their adventure against the Drow and The Darkening.
This was a great session, but it was really long. My first group took 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete it. The second group took 2 hours and 45 minutes (and the DM scaled back the final fight). It was the combat the really made the clock run long. The Trolls were certainly tough but that was only a part of the problem. The players were not used to these characters. They’ve leveled up every week and they were not familiar with what they could do. Every time they used a new power they had to stop, read it, look it up in some cases, and then go. This doesn’t happen at home because you spend a lot of time learning and playing your PCs at their current level before you go up. Don’t get me wrong I like that we get to level every week but I think this week it made for extra challenges.
Had I realized how long the combat was going to take I would have done a few things differently as the DM. First I would have pre-rolled all the Troll damage rolls. Either that or just used average damage. I would also have reduced the Trolls max hit points from 120 to 90.
I did throw my PCs a bone when it came to the Troll’s regeneration. When a Troll was reduced to 0 hit points it was supposed to come back the next round with 15 hit points. First of all I just made him a minion that way anyone could knock him down with a hit. Secondly I said that when the minion Troll was knocked down he stayed down for 5 minutes before regenerating enough to regain consciousness. This let the PCs get fires started after the fight was over and burn the remains. If anyone had possessed fire powers or items I would not have been this generous.
Although I’ve been told the Battle Value mechanic isn’t new, this was the first time I’d seen it. I loved it. My only criticism was that it didn’t easily allow for PCs to jump into the longer 3-day tasks on the second or third day. This meant that some PCs couldn’t do anything while they waited for their allies to finish repairing the catapults. I’d have tried to find a way to make each takes day-by-day oriented. It might still take three days but the PCs doing the jobs could be more flexible as schedules freed up.
Despite my minor criticisms I still think this was one of the best sessions I’ve ever played in D&D Encounters. Let me know what you think. Did you think it was as good as I did? What were your high and low points? What did you change or what might you have changed now that you’ve played it once?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
Recounting Encounters is a weekly podcast I record 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. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes under 20ft Radius.
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.