D&D Encounters: Against the Cult of Chaos (Week 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 14, 2013

against-the-cult-of-chaos-coverD&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.

Teamster (10)

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.

Thoughts

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.


Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rogue #1 February 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

Our group consisting of a Revenant Changeling Sorcerer, Hengeyokai Ranger, Kenku Assassin (Executioner – Way of the Ninja), and a Dwarf Runepriest decided to split up at the town. At first we all decided to go to the temple of the lawbringer together. After we dropped off the paladin we went our own separate ways. The Sorcerer and the Ranger decided to go to the sacred grove while the Runepriest and Assassin decided to go get drunk at the brewery.

After which the sorcerer-ranger team went to get information that would be productive. However, since the Runepriest-assassin team was drunk they decided to play the characters that way, and thought “Let’s go cow tipping!” So, they went to one of the farms. Sadly, they didn’t tip any cows but, they milked some of the cows at least, they think it was a cow… After all what happens in the barn stays in the barn.

Next, the group decided to try to get back together after the drunks went to Vilma’s house. It was after this the group actually met up. The non-drunks told the drunks to go sleep it off which they did. All and all, it was a great adventure.

2 Weezoh February 14, 2013 at 11:09 am

We are running two tables at the flgs, one next and one 4e (I’m running the Next table) pretty much the usual suspects last night; one no-show but i’m sure that was due to the five inches of snow we were in the process of receiving rather than anything to do with the break.

The game went well, the opening encounter was handled easily by 6 characters against the knight and 4 squires. There was some brief investigation in the town afterward with them getting clues to all three plotlines in one form or another but we had to call the game early due to the aforementioned snow.

Looking forward to next week although I don’t know what their plan is at this point so I’ll be ready to run any of the sessions. I like the squires trying to banish the possession – nice touch! Curious why you combined Elmo and Ross unless it was just a typo.

3 Joe Lastowski February 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

It was a fun first session for us at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. Most everyone has found the NEXT playtests to be lacking, so everyone ran this as 4e. There were 3 tables of 5-6, and I had 6 at my table.

A lot of time was spent as the characters got to know one another (and Sir Moonbrook), and the party spent considerable time debating which was better between The Old Ways and The New Laws. Because folks were familiar with 4e mythology, we decided to tell folks that while they could worship any god they wanted, there were two big philosophies (Old Ways/Nature/Freedom & New Laws/Civilization/Order). Some gods had followers in both camps… Ioun’s old ways folks listened to wise women & ancient traditions, while her new law followers wanted to document the Official Version of everything, since knowledge needed to be recorded in books. It made for some interesting inter-party roleplaying.

The fight itself wasn’t that hard. Sir Moonbrook’s dice were frozen – he didn’t hit even once – but the squires did reasonably okay. The party’s archer was resting in a tree when the possession happened (he insisted that was where his character always rested), so I changed the squire’s “shift 1 after hitting” power to one that allowed them to slide a hit enemy 1 square, which made for some precarious saving throws for the archer. I also decided midway through that the teamster lost control of his horse, which knocked over some PCs (and enemies) in the road, keeping things a bit more dynamic.

The fight took a little while, as many folks were learning their characters still, so there wasn’t a lot of time when they got to Hommel Lane for wandering. Our store’s DMs have decided to go with “The Straight Path” order for the adventure, since we often have folks who have to switch tables from one session to the next (or get pushed to another if we have to bump it to 4 tables), and we wanted to provide as much continuity as possible for the players.

So basically we hand-held the players as the only available NPCs all had stories that would lead them towards the Caves of Chaos next session.

We also developed our own random magic item lists, since the adventure provided none (though it mentions early on how to handle who gets the magic items). Tried to pick items that had interesting effects and fun powers that are more than a generic +1 or an item that everyone always takes. I think it’s a decent list.

Overall, I like the feel of this adventure setting, though the specific encounters very much feel like they were mashed together from three unrelated old adventures. Hopefully we can find enough through-lines to make this town make sense with its confluence of cults.

4 ~Rob H. February 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“We also developed our own random magic item lists, since the adventure provided none (though it mentions early on how to handle who gets the magic items). Tried to pick items that had interesting effects and fun powers that are more than a generic +1 or an item that everyone always takes. I think it’s a decent list.”

Do you think you could share that random list of magic items on this site?

Does anyone else have any idea of where a DM can get a list like that?

This is the first time I am DM’ing 4e D&D & even an Encounter event, I have not DM’ed D&D since the early 1980′s. It is going very good.

I know about the older books that this season is based on. They are some of my favorite adventures.

I have Game Mastered other system and I am in a local RPG Meetup.com, RTR = Raleigh Tabletop RPG Meetup here in Raleigh, NC. They have many workshops on playing & running RPGs. Also a ton of gaming events. I have learned a lot to improve my gaming.

Luckily I have a few players that have played in other RPGs with me before. I have two players that have DM’ed for kids, so I have some support and back-up help. The rest are new or newish players, so if I make a mistake or two they won’t know right away. LOL

But with the others’ help, we are making sure that we are teaching the Next Gen. right.

So any help or suppport I can get is great. I have loved reading this blog after every night of gaming as a player for the last few seasons of Encounters. I join in during Never Winter and have not stop yet. Espeacially when WotC had Beyond the Crystal Cave Season. That is one of the Best ever, in the old format & in the new Encounter format!

Thanks,

~Rob H.

5 David Schwarm February 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Fantastic recap.

6 Sean_Mc February 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

At our FLGS, we had one DM, one player/DM who switches as needed, and 6 players (including myself). We went with 2 table of 3 players instead of 1 table of 7 players. During Week0 we voted nearly unanimously to use Next, and built our own characters.

The first battle showed those of us used to 4E that hit points are not to be taken lightly! With only d8 worth of possible recovery until the next extended rest, not getting hit is a big priority.

Our VERY capable DM agreed that the “open world” approach was a lot more fun, but also tough on the person running it.

Question for those who are DMing this season – an issue at both tables was not being sure of when the session was supposed to end! From looking at past season adventures, there has always been a clearly-defined “ok, THIS constitutes one week’s session”. Are our DMs missing something, or is it just unclear?

7 ~Rob H. February 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

@Joe Lastowski, this might have gotten lost in my 1st post.

Do you think you could share that random list of magic items on this site?

Does anyone else have any idea of where a DM can get a list like that?

~Rob H.

8 dude February 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

the group we run has grown also with a lot of new faces and its great to meet and play with new people. but it is also a challenge to keep everyone together and exploring the different locations of the town. more role playing is great plus the combat encounters are challenging. something i found helpful was to write down the location and names of people at that location as a quick help guide for me, and i enlarged the town map.

9 Alex Wilson February 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I ran the game in Next format as the Dungeon Master for a group of five players. One Human Wizard (the old faith), one Dwarf Fighter, one Human Fighter (bounty hunter), one Human Cleric (lawbringer), and one Human Monk. I was fairly new to Next, and so were a couple of the players so we were hoping to learn the rules and be a part of the playtest. Due to the heavy amount of roleplaying and simplicity of the Next rules, I felt afterwards that we hadn’t achieved much from opting in to using the Next rules. This adventure is a heavy roleplaying orientated game, and having huge restrictions on race and class did not seem to help the flow of storytelling, gathering information and plot hooks.

Still I had two devices to allow the characters to arrive at the same destination. The Dwarven fighter had come from the Eastern mines and recruited the help of the Lawbringer Cleric PC, with aid of a map they found the location to meet Sir Moonbrook. The other adventurers had followed glowing crystals which lead them to Sir Moonbrook. Not sure if this worked entirely but it seemed a nice alternative on how to introduce the adventurers to Sir Moonbrook and his squires.

Sir Moonbrook told the adventurers of the evil besot in Hommel Lane and requested their help. When asked about gold rewards and wenches, the Paladin replied that some duties are for the greater of mankind.

The characters were also introduced to Wyndell and Carjo. Then set about towards Hommel Lane after a brief surveillance of the area.

Upon reaching the stream, and stone bridge, the players sensed an encounter, and the possession of Sir Moonbrook and his squires unfolded. The players did not know whether to attack or not, and so delayed, this was bad news for Carjo who was hit by a Squire and bloodied.

After a huge scuffle, the players did very well in the encounter which from the outside looked like pandemonium. They subdued the Paladin and squires, and even shackled and gave aid to the Paladin. Unfortunately they neglected Carjo who had been knocked unconscious. Carjo died on the journey to Hommel Lane. Wyndell managed to escape and suffered no injury.

Of course the party of adventurers knew they had to head to the temple but upon entering the town had passed the keep, the tower, the constables quarters, the carpenter, the boarding house… until reaching ‘The Golden Grain Inn’. Very happy with the patronage, the reduced drinks, the reduced rooms, and with only mild suspicion the party of adventurers partook in the games, notably the Bounty Hunter, who took part in every game. The Dwarf won the arm wrestling and decided to get drunk, the Wizard went out back to look at the tattoo and got knocked out, the Cleric just followed a girl, who he was trying to seduce, into the kitchen before being knocked out by two thugs, and of course the Bounty Hunter who lost in every game, and in darts was offered the opportunity to re-throw his last dart, but didn’t see the trapdoor until it was too late. With Only the monk in the game, who had gone outside to explore and depart himself from the rabble, had explored the town (I gave him a print out of the map) had returned to the Inn to find a drunk Dwarf. The monk wanted to go to the Temple, and Bertram Beswill the barkeep explained that is where the other adventurers had disappeared to.

Of course they had left Sir Moonbrook shackled and on the back of the cart.

Well 3 adventurers down, any advice?

10 Vobeskhan February 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

We had to rescheduleour usual early table due to work commitments and our late table was low on numbers due to the weather taking a bad turn but I still ran for those that had turned up, then ran a catch-up via roll20 for those that had to work.

http://vobeskhan.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/dd-encounters-season-12-against-the-cult-of-chaos-session-1/

Having read others posts on here I was able to really flesh the town out for the catch up session and I think this helped to make the players feel like their actions really mattered.

I’m really liking the old-style feel to this adventure especially with the players having the freedom to explore not only the town but also which order to tackle things. In the end both my tables have chosen the same option so far (so prep for next week will be easier) and I’m really looking forward to a more than familiar looking bandit lair.
Vobeskhan´s last blog post ..Horgar’s Journal – more from our DnDNext playtest adventure

11 Shawn February 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

@Alex: Wow. Part of the fun of D&D is answering questions exactly like this. Here is how I would handle it, but others can chime in. The three who were captured were taken to the cells in the church. Moonbrook escapes and temporarily regains his right mind, and goes to the church as well. He gets into the basement and frees the three prisoners just as the two non-captured PCs get there. At that point, however, the possession takes over again. All the PCs are together and able to act, but now that must fight Moonbrook again, in addition to the other cultists there. The game is back on track, but the PCs have a bit of a harder time of it because of the foolish decisions.

12 Alex Wilson February 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm

@Shawn Thanks, Shawn, I want to shake your hand in person and talk to you some more about this. Maybe even buy you a pint of Old ’63. Then capture you! It is quite hard to deliver now, but you have given me a great amount of help. Unfortunately I have heard that one of the non-captured players isn’t able to make the next session. Making it even more frustrating for me, but I am trying to put my mind in their shoes, and thinking about how I would like the adventure to be if I was playing it. I might have to change a few encounters, and I am really going to give your idea a go!

13 Alphastream February 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm

@Joe When I reviewed the material I was concerned it might be too much of a mashup of “three unrelated old adventures” (even three I have loved over the years, four to five if we include other adventure aspects). But, in playtesting it really was only with a few grognards (like me) that this was an issue. I think as DM the key is to play it less as discrete elements mashed together and more as inspiration from old classics. The town shouldn’t feel like either Hommlet or Orlane, but rather its own town. When we run it, we can try to be inspired by what we liked in those classic adventures. Ideally, for a grognard it is a fun tip of the hat and for a new person just a cool town. I would favor dropping any classic names if you have grognard loremasters at your table and just let them pick up on the similarities without any names raising a warning in their brains.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: