D&D Encounters Season 12, Against the Cult of Chaos, is finally underway. After a long break, Wednesday night D&D returned to FLGS across the country and around the world. This season returns to the more traditional D&D Encounters mold with one normal encounter each week. For an overview of what’s on tap this season I encourage you to check out our D&D Encounters: Against the Cult of Chaos – Preview.
One significant change this time around is that DMs have a choice of running the adventure using the 4e D&D mechanics provided in the adventure or downloading the play test kit and running it using the D&D Next rules. At both FLGS where I play we polled our regulars to gauge their interest. We had one or two at both locations say they were interested in trying D&D Next but they wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if we stuck with 4e. As none of the DMs have been involved in recent D&D Next play testing we opted to just stick with the 4e rules we already know.
At our FLGS we had 15 people, just enough to split into three tables. Despite losing a few of our regulars after the long break, we did have three brand new players join the fun. I got a good mix of experience and anticipation at my table. The party consisted of a Drow Wizard, Tiefling Ardent/Battle Mind (hybrid), Pixie Wizard (Witch), and Elf Fighter (Slayer). The player running the Ardent is the DM this season at another FLGS and the player running the Slayer was playing D&D for the very first time in any edition.
SPOILER WARNING: This season the party is given a lot of freedom to explore the town of Hommel Lane in whatever order they see fit. There are three threats to the village that can be uncovered and tackled in any order. If you have problems separating player knowledge from character knowledge then you may want to skip these weekly recaps until after you’ve completed week 7.
Part 1 – To Hommel Lane
Strange happenings are afoot in the distant and remote community of Hommel Lane. Canoness Yeeday of the Lawbringer faith sent word for heroes to travel to Hommel Lane and help with the trouble plaguing the area. The Druids of the Old Faith similarly sensed a terrible imbalance between the forces of good and evil and requested assistance.
The adventure began with the PCs on their way to Hommel Lane. Leading the caravan was Sir Hadarai Moonbrook, Paladin of the Lawbringer, and his three squires. The wagons loaded with goods belonged to the Halfling teamster Wyndell. Also along for the journey was one other passenger, Carjo a Half-Elf.
As the party took a brief rest on the final day of their two-week journey, Sir Moonbrook was possessed by some kind of spirit. He pointed to his squires as they began writhing in pain. He then spoke to the party “You are too late. This land and your lives belong to me now.” With that the possessed Paladin and his three squires, eyes glazed over and faces devoid of expression, attacked the party.
The fight was challenging, especially for a brand new party. The Drow Wizard went toe-to-toe with Sir Moonbrook, opening with his daily power (and a good thing too). Meanwhile the other three PCs each faced off against the nearest squire. Wyndell and Carjo found themselves in the middle of the fight, but by the end of the second round they managed to flee to the safety of a large tree’s branches.
The heroes fought to incapacitate and not kill. Before knocking Sir Moonbrook unconscious the spirit controlling his actions continued taunting and threatening the party. “I am the substance of nightmares. When you weak mortals stare into the darkness and beg for your lives, I am what answers.” By the time they defeated the final squire all four PCs were bloodied. No one fell unconscious, but it was a very close call.
After a short rest the PCs bound the Paladin and squires before they awoke. The squires seemed free of their compulsion and were promptly released. Sir Moonbrook was not as lucky. The squires encircled him and tried a banishment prayer. He regained control only momentarily. “The force within me is strong, and it grows stronger by the second. I contain it for now, but I don’t know how long I can keep it trapped. Get me to Hommel Lane, to the temple…” With that warning the party packed up and made all haste to reach Hommel Lane before nightfall.
Part 2 – Hommel Lane
The adventure allows the PCs to explore Hommel Lane as they see fit. They can go to any building and interact with any NPCs. This freedom of choice gives the players a lot of latitude makes the adventure less linear.
Temple of the Lawbringer (13)
First stop was the temple to drop off Sir Moonbrook. The squires called for Canoness Yeeday but it was Devi, another of the faithful who answered. Upon leaning of what transpired Devi suggested putting Sir Moonbrook in a cell for his own safety and the safety of those around him. Only the Canoness possessed the power to free the Paladin and regrettably she was currently on a holy pilgrimage to battle a terrible evil.
Devi thanked the PCs for their part in defeating the evil forces and assured them that Sir Moonbrook was in capable hands. She suggested that the PCs head to the Golden Grain Inn to seek rooms for the night if they planned to stay in Hommel Lane for a while.
The Wizard and Witch headed to Wyndell’s home to collect a reward he’d promised them after the initial combat. Wyndell’s wife Treenie invited the PCs inside while her husband gathered their reward. It was evident that these Halflings were experiencing hard times. Their home was clean, but sparse. Their food and furnishings were not as refined as Wyndell implied during their two-week journey to Hommel Lane.
While the Wizard pressed the Halfling for a reward the Witch and Treenie spoke in hushed tones. Treenie explained that many of Wyndell’s shipments were intercepted by bandits of late. It’s taken a significant financial toll on the family. When pressed for details she revealed that Wyndell’s heard rumours that the bandits have a base out at the old Moat House. Unfortunately no one is brave enough to investigate.
Vilma’s Cottage (17)
The Ardent and Slayer headed to Carjo’s house to visit him and his gran-gran for tea. Vilma welcomed the PCs into her humble cottage and thanked them for their part in keeping her grandson safe. She served them special tea and fed them Elvin crumpets. Gran-gran may have looked old and frail but her mind was sharp. It was readily apparent that she sees and hears more than most believe.
When asked why the PCs had come to Hommel Lane the Slayer answered quite directly that she was looking to make a name for herself and put her combat prowess to good use by kicking some asses. Gran-gran immediately suggested that the Slayer should start by taking care of the bandits. From what Vilma’s heard the bandits were hiding out at the Moat House. She’s also heard that they might be part of a devious cult, another good reason to kick their asses.
Before the PCs left, Vilma asked them if they followed the Old Faith. The Slayer did, but the Ardent did not follow any faith. Vilma suggested that anyone in the party who followed the Old Faith should visit the Druid Ramne Ashstaff in the Sacred Grove. He has a good grasp of events going on in Hommel Lane and might be able to offer the party some assistance. Vilma also hinted that back in her younger days she and the Druid were linked romantically.
Slumbering Serpent Tavern (16)
The party regrouped in front of the Tavern where Belba, the proprietor, greeted them and practically forced them inside. She offered the PCs dinner and drinks at very reasonable prices. When the PCs asked if there were rooms for rent, Belba told them that there were none. She explained that they were in the midst of renovations and hoped to have more rooms available soon. Unfortunately the lazy carpenter Ross kept brushing them off.
When the PCs mentioned that they were likely heading to the Golden Grain Inn to find rooms after dinner, Belba offered them a free round of drinks if they’d do her a favour while there. If they ran into Ross she wanted the PCs to scare him good and get him to fulfill his promise to finish the renovations he started a month ago. They accepted and happily drank their free round.
After dinner the PCs decided head to the Golden Grain Inn, book lodgings, get a good night’s rest. Next session they plan to head to the Moat House in search of the bandits.
I really like the way this adventure is structured. Giving the party the freedom to roam the city and chart their own path really makes this feel more like a traditional D&D old-school adventure. Players who really want to do some serious role-playing have ample opportunity to do so. Those more interested in combat can easily find creatures with which to do battle.
The open-ended approach does make it a lot more difficult for DMs. I thought I’d done ample preparation but I still found myself flipping form page to page while running this session. With so much going on and so many people to potentially interact with, players need to get into the habit of writing down names and relevant details when they talk to NPCs (if they don’t do this already).
Next week, each adventuring party will undertake one of three possible adventure paths. My group seemed pretty interested in finding and fighting the bandits so I didn’t really play up the other possible scenarios. Of course, had hey gone to different locations in town during this week’s session they might have heard different information which could have led them down a different path.
We ended up playing for about two and a half hours this week and I really didn’t want to stop. The group was having a lot of fun meeting new NPCs but the FLGS was closing so we had to call it a night. I think the sessions will get shorter once the PCs explore more of the town and start to get a better idea of what’s really going on.
How did your first session go? Did your numbers drop following the long break? Did you have any new players? What locations in Hommel Lane did your party check out this week? Where are they heading next week? How many groups are running D&D Next? How many of these groups had new players show up just to try the new rules?
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. This season we welcome another gamer to our podcast, Craig Sutherland, one of the other DMs that runs and plays with me in Toronto. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.
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.