D&D Encounters: Against the Cult of Chaos (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 28, 2013

against-the-cult-of-chaos-coverLast week the party faced the bandits in the Moat House, this week they ventured to the Caves of Chaos. One of the things that I’m really enjoying about this season of D&D Encounters is that the players decide the order of events.

Despite some inclement weather in the GTA we still had a remarkably good turnout. We ran three solid tables with only two regulars absent. However, we had one new player show up so that was a plus. I think it really speaks to the quality of this season’s adventure that the players aren’t finding excuses to miss weeks. In the past a little bit of snow might have kept 1/3 of our regulars away, but not this season.

My table had four players from last week and one brand new guy. The returning players were running an Elf Fighter (Slayer), Pixie Wizard (Witch) and Tiefling Ardent/Battle Mind (hybrid). The player who was running the Fargrim pre-gen last week brought a Half-Orc Barbarian this week. Our fifth player was brand new to D&D having never played any edition before. He opted for Ryltar, the Drow Fighter (Slayer) pre-gen.

When we left our heroes last week they had captured the bandits and were marching them back to Hommel Lane so they could face trial for their crimes. As part of their punishment each prisoner had to carry some of Wyndell’s stolen crates back to town. The PCs decided to head straight for the constable’s office to surrender their prisoners.

Constable Grover Ruskal gladly accepted the prisoners but was hesitant to do more than that. He explained that there was a mayoral election in a couple of weeks and that one of the topics of debate was what to do with prisoners. Until then they’d have to stay locked up. The PCs provided their statement of what happened at the Moat House. They made sure to include every single detail, not leaving anything out.

The party seemed unsure what to do next so Ruskal suggested they follow-up on the lead the bandits provided and question the two suspects. He even offered to deputize the party for the job. Some of the PCs were not interested in talking. They wanted to kill more monsters. Ruskal told them about the Caves of Chaos.

He explained that usually the Kobolds, Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins and other monsters all fought one and other which the town had no issue with. Better each other than the people of Hommel Lane. However, recently the monsters all started working together and that was dangerous. A couple of weeks ago a local adventuring party led by Otis went to investigate. They haven’t been heard from since.

Still unsure of a plan the party went to the Golden Grain Inn to grab lunch and talk over their options. The locals ushered them as heroes hearing they’d captured the bandits. Bertram, the Inn’s owner, suggested the PCs venture to the Caves of Chaos. After all they’re clearly capable of great things based on their deeds thus far. The ego stroking worked and the party decided to head to the caves after lunch.

It took the party about four hours to reach the Caves of Chaos. As they approached the valley they were beset upon by a phantasmal attacker. The ghost wore plate armor, carried a shield in his right hand and wielded a sword with a curved blade in his left. On the shield was a stylized symbol of a griffon. “Die, servants of chaos! You shall not live to help your foul master this day!” it yelled as it attacked the party.

The Barbarian realized that this ghost may not be their enemy so he spoke to it, explaining that the party was here to investigate the strange happening and fight the monsters of chaos (rolled a poor Diplomacy check). The ghost paused but did not lower his menacing stance. The Elf Slayer echoed the Barbarians claims (rolled a decent Diplomacy check) convincing the ghost to back down.

The Witch made a History check and remembered seeing the same griffon symbol around Hommel Lane, however she couldn’t quite remember where.

The ghost warned the party of terrible evil in the valley beyond. He explained that a Chaos Mote, a source of evil energy was growing in the temple nearby. While he was alive the ghost came here to stop this growing evil. He sacrificed his own life in an attempt to stop the Chaos Mote but it wasn’t enough. Now he’s bound to this valley near the Caves of Chaos.

When the PCs asked if the ghost knew of Otis he said yes, a week earlier Otis and his companions came this way. The ghost tried to help them. He told them the location of a powerful magical artifact, a sword called the Chaos Blade. The blade has the power to destroy the Chaos Mote when used in conjunction with two other powerful items. He pointed Otis and his companions towards the cave where the sword was hidden. Unfortunately he has not seen any of the adventurers since they entered.

Enticed by the lure of a magic sword, the party ventured off to find Otis and retrieve the blade. They asked the ghost for help but he explained that he could only manifest in certain locations in the valley and not inside the caves.

He did emphasize to the PCs that their primary objective must be to retrieve the sword and get it away from these caves until it could be used to destroy the Chaos Mote. There were literally hundreds of creatures nearby and they were already aware of the presence of the heroes. The monsters would try to stop them from retrieving the sword so the party needed to act quickly before they were overrun.

When the PCs reached the cave they didn’t see any signs of monsters so they proceeded inside. The Witch was badly wounded from the previous encounter and only had 1 healing surge remaining. She decided to stay outside, hiding in a tree ready to lay supportive fire from a safe distance.

Once in the cave the party set off an early warning trap announcing their presence to the monsters within. They were beset upon by three Kobolds from inside while two more started making their way to the cave mouth outside from another tunnel. With some teamwork they took out four of the five without difficulty.

The Ardent ventured deeper into the cave setting off another trap. Boulders fell from the ceiling hitting him and the nearby Barbarian. Before they could get up two Orcs came rushing at them from deeper in the tunnel.

The Witch saw three more Orcs coming from the outside. She blasted at them but missed. One threw a hand axe at her but missed while the other two charged the Drow Slayer keeping guard at the cave mouth. He took two solid hits and was badly bloodied.

The Elf Slayer and Barbarian managed to take out two Orcs adjacent to them only to realize that the Orcs got free swings when they died (fortunately both attacks missed). The Drow wasn’t as lucky. He killed one Orc but took a hit from the dying enemy.

The Ardent moved deeper into the cave and found Otis alive but badly wounded. A sword was buried in Otis’s chest, the hilt glowing and pulsating in time with the wounded man’s heartbeat. The Ardent realized healing Otis while the sword was still impaling him was useless so he tried to remove it. Otis awoke and screamed for him not to remove the sword. The Ardent agreed to help Otis up and get him out without removing the sword.

The Barbarian moved in the opposite direction where he heard approaching creatures. When he rounded the corner he saw two sneaky Goblins. He charged and killed one, then charged and missed a second one.

The Witch saw a huge Ogre approaching the caves and cried a warning to the party. The Drow, nearly out of hit points, took the brunt of the Ogre’s first attack. It completely leveled the PC.

Two more Goblins swarmed the Barbarian and the critters managed to drop him. The Slayer realized they needed to get out of here so she went to help the Ardent carry Otis. When she saw the magic sword she pulled it out of the wounded man. She immediately realized its properties and knew if she killed a creature she’d get temporary hit points. She charged a Goblin and killed it.

With things looking grim the Witch used her daily sleep spell on the Ogre and two nearby Orcs. She hit both Orcs and rolled a natural 20 on the Ogre. The table exploded with cries of excitement seeing the crit. Unfortunately the spell does no damage. I decided that the 20 deserved some recognition so I told the players I’d impose a penalty to the Ogre’s first save. This seemed fair.

The Ardent used his heal to get the Barbarian back on his feet. The Barbarian and Slayer killed the remaining Goblins and made their way towards the exit where they’d need to get past the Ogre. The Ogre, now slowed, used an Orc as a missile and threw it at the Slayer holding the magic sword. The attack missed. The Ogre rolled his save: 11. However, with the penalty imposed from the crit he failed and fell asleep.

The Ardent rushed to the fallen Drow and triggered his second wind while the rest of the PCs grabbed Otis and started making a break for the exit. The Witch spotted four Hobgoblins approaching from the outside and managed to drop three of them with an Freezing Burst.

The Ogre made his next save and woke up. Although prone was capable of making opportunity attacks. All the PCs were adjacent to him. The Drow used his Cloud of Darkness to engulf the Ogre thereby allowing all the heroes to get away without drawing opportunity attacks in the process. In the distance the PCs could hear a lot of Kobolds approaching and the Ogre got to his feat. Suddenly their ghost friend appeared and began to battle to Ogre. The rest of the lesser creatures recoiled in fright at the sight of the ghost and this gave the PCs time to flee and heal Otis.


I had so much fun this week. The idea of wave after wave of minions coming at the party is something I’ve used in my home games before but never so effectively. I decided that some of the monsters should come from inside the tunnels and some from outside. This made the battle a lot more challenging and didn’t just create a choke point the heroes could plug while they easily picked off monsters.

This encounter really demonstrated the need for a balanced party. A group without a controller was going to have a lot more difficulty getting out of this alive than a party with one. In my case we had three strikers who were hitting and dealing over 20 damage with each hit, but since the minions only had 1 hit point each it didn’t matter. Attacks that targeted more than one creature would have been better.

Had the sleep spell not worked as well as it did the party’s lack of a defender would have made things almost impossible as the Ogre could have attacked whomever he wanted to without any consequences.

The fortunate happenstance that led our controller to stay outside made a huge difference. I had her make Perception checks every round to notice the approaching monsters from outside. She could then warn the party of what was coming next. Her defensive position in the tree also gave her cover and she ended up not taking any damage in this battle.

After this week’s awesome display of heroics I’m not sure how the party’s going to top this week’s session.

How did things go at your FLGS? What encounter did your party do this week? Did any tables suffer a TPK? There were some TPKs this week and last week at the two FLGS where I play.

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.

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1 Joe Lastowski February 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm

We ran this session during week 2, and had very similar results to what you experienced. A very fun session. We ran it in 4e.

As all the named items are somewhat “evil” artifacts, I had fun using the chaos blade (the first artifact they got) to tempt whomever held it psychically.

My table went to great lengths to heal Otis while removing the sword simultaneously (I was reminded of tales of trying to install the Head of Vecna… they were that serious about doing it all simultaneously). Once it was out, the cries of various critters outside started the combat.

In order to make the fight more dynamic and not just a bottleneck/Thermopylae situation, I had the Caves of Chaos start doing random damage at the end of the round to any player still inside the caves. I wrote all 8 damage types down & had a player still inside the caves roll a d8 at the end of each round, doing 5 points of that damage type (the randomness represented the chaos).

At one point, someone mentioned maybe Otis trying to help, and he didn’t need much prompting. I don’t remember if it’s written that way in the adventure, but I decided Otis was the great, great, great, grand-son of Haffron, who sadly did not have Haffron’s legendary combat skills. In fact, he was an untrained NPC, so to highlight this I showed the party that whenever he attacked, he was rolling a d12 instead of a d20 on his attack rolls. Needless to say, he didn’t last long.

The wave after wave was rough on the party, since they’d already spent many of their healing resources on Otis. Two folks almost died, and I ended up skipping the wave of goblins, because they would have TPKed the party. My favorite moment was when the party’s drow wizard decided they must all be minions, so he could run out and use some low-damage slowing power on them all… only to realize that not only were his dice cold, making him miss most of them, but that the Ogre was definitely NOT a minion, and had enough reach to charge him from 4 squares away even while slowed, knocking him to bloodied in one hit. After that, he was less confident in his charge-out-away-from-everyone-else strategy, as the healers had to fight to get near him. A very dynamic and epic fight, and players were glad to return to the town for a well-deserved night’s rest afterward. Haffron gave the party the basics on how to listen to the sword as it guided them to the next artifact, and as the party left, Otis appeared all ghost-Jedi style next to his ancestor, though we decided that when the party looked back, Otis inexplicably now looked like Hayden Christiansen. Folks got a good laugh out of that.

2 Peter B February 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Organizing Encounters this season, which, by tradition at our FLGS, means I actually get to sit down and play.

Our party was made up of almost entirely new PCs (two people hadn’t played the last two weeks, and I TPK’d the week prior and re-rolled a new PC), but the general opinion was that we were continuing the assault on the Cult of Chaos under the Moathouse.

We used the evidence found by the two PCs that had completed the bandit assault to force the traders in Hommel Lane to turn over the robes and password to the secret base, and then proceeded to sneak in through pure force of charisma (+12 to Bluff, yay charisma based PCs!) We then got to Lareth, who wasn’t paying as much attention as he should have, and he got surprised by the party (DM rolled badly on his initiative, so the boss went last, which was good, because the table’s PCs were pretty wonky ourselves, with the healer going first and the defender near the end). While we started to focus our fire on him, bloodying him by the middle of the second round, he had to pull all of his stops, including blowing his nasty encounter abilities on his first action, and forcing his minions to get bottle necked at his room’s doors. Our Invoker and Monk held back the waves while my Ardent used a pike to stay behind the Berzerker and Slayer, the three of us continuing to lay the smack on Lareth, who fell in the middle of the third round.

After that, it was just clean up, with us forcing the minions to wait behind the guards, by which point it was lost for them, but, because of the tactics, they continued to get their butts handed to them until the last one was defeated. Our party was mostly good, so we took prisoners (except for Lareth, who the Slayer decided to kill when his blow downed the priest), and we triumphantly returned to Hommel Lane to declare the threat from the Moathouse ended.

Oh, also, I decided that, after reading the module back during character creation, the artifact gained from the corpse of Lareth would work as any type of implement, because we could potentially have any class up, and thus any implement needed.

3 Vobeskhan February 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Ran our usual two groups as a single large group due to people missing, my mistake and one not to be repeated.

The session/adventure itself went well with the party genuinely feeling they were overmatched at one point with the goliath down for the second time and almost everyone else heavily bloodied (apart from the elven hunter who decided to table dance while blamming arrows into the bad guys (Aspect of the Dancing Serpent and the playing chose to say she was table-dancing). At one point she used rapid shot which included one of the minotaur allies in the AOE and he ended up being the only one she actually hit!

Big thanks to @ameron_dm and @TwentyFoot thanks for another great podcast discussing their weeks enc’s. Will definately be “borrowing” several of their ideas.

4 Justin March 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

At our FLGS we had a very similar situation for the 2nd week like everyone else. Our party was made up of one New Player (Playing the Dwarf Slayer), Minotaur Runepriest (Me), Tiefling Witch, Kenku Rogue (Thief), Elf Beastmaster Ranger, Gensei Swordmage (played by 6yr old daughter).

After the initial assault on the Moat house we looked worn and ragged but still able to keep going. We only let one of the minions survive and questioned him at length about everything. He really did not know anything. We tied him up to take to the constables. The Runepriest (with 2 failed death saves) and the Witch had 1 healing surge, while the Rogue and Beastmaster had 4 left. The Slayer and the Swordmage still had a lot left (matter of fact the Swordmage had only used 2). So after collecting all the goods in the moat house we saw the door that said “Do not enter” the Witch said, “Oh I bet there is something great in there” and opened the door. She stepped inside and was assaulted by 4 crazed bandits which in one turn bloodied her. The Slayer jumped into the room and took out most of the bandits before the Witch stepped back and blasted the rest with Arc Lightning. The Witch used her last Healing Surge and we searched the room to find nothing. After leaving the room we found the chest in a different room and knew it was going to be trapped. So on a Nat 20 roll for Perception we found out that there was a secret compartment that would allow us into the chest. The Kenku also found out if we tried to open it the normal way it would of destroyed the contents within. The Kenku then pulled out a nice ledge full of all the items stolen and that someone in town was buying them. That would be great information to have back in town. We then found some stairs down to a door that was magically locked and decided to return back Hommel Lane since the lock required some type of magical password.

Since the ox that was used to drag the cart of goods was in bad shape everyone decided that we just needed to hook the Minotaur up to the reins also. So I got to pull the cart while my daughter laughed and laughed. As the group approached town we saw that the pawn shop with the drake guards was ransacked. We search the pawn shop and found blood all over the back room but no body. We also found footprints leading out of the shop and to the forest but decided that since we had a cart of goods we needed to deliver it first. We made it to the teamster’s place and returned the goods for a large amount of money and had the teamster turn in the bandit we captured. Taking a look at the teamster’s ledger and the one we found we were able to determine that all the shops in town have been targeted except for one. We were able to sell off all the extra armor and weapons we had collected from the dead and get a sizable amount of money to spend but alias there was nothing much available that we needed. The Minotaur got some climbing supplies and some throwing hammers while the Kenku got some footpads and a rubbing kit.

We headed over to the one store that was unaffected by the bandits and met the Half-Orc and Human owners. The Dwarf kept trying to get the Half-Orc to tell us stuff but the Human kept stepping in to stop this. The Minotaur then tried to get the Human to show him some things but botched the roll so bad (nat 1). So the GM had him roll an acrobatics check to see if he did anything else and yes another nat 1. So it is true about a bull in a china shop. The Minotaur started to knock things over and make a general commotion while the dwarf thinking this was a good idea joined in knocking more things over. The Swordmage just laughed and the Witch kept wanting to buy some more components.

The Kenku shook her head and decided to search for their ledger. The GM had her roll stealth and perception and she got a 19 and 18 on the die. She was able to find one ledger and also a scrap of robe that matched the ones that the bandits had. She then rolled a 25 on perception and found a way into the back room. She nat 20 the stealth roll to sneak back into the back room and found all the missing goods and lots of robes. She grabbed a robe for everyone and headed back.
At seeing this we questioned the women and we able to get the magical words to get thought the barrier. With that knowledge we headed back to the Moat House and used the words to get into the new area.

In the new area we were stopped by two guards and asked what our business was. The Kenku used her ability to mimic voices to mimic the woman’s voice from the store. With that and a nice bluff roll we got into the area. Only the Witch and Swordmage were good so they made d20 rolls and both succeeded, at what we did not know. We made it all the way to a door with flanking guards. The guards asked us what our business was and we told them we were here to see the leader Lareth. We worked with Lareth to open a doorway to Mishka and learned what the demon’s goals were. Mishka froze us all with it’s power as it talked so we could do nothing. After we learned everything we were lead out of the room and the doors closed and barred behind us. It was at this point the GM had the Witch and Swordmage roll again. The Witch succeed but the Swordmage got a 3 on the die. She fell prone and the guards all yelled, “Intruders. Destroy them for Mishka”.

This started the battle which started off badly. First the two guard attacked and both hit (one on the Minotaur and one on the Beastmaster). Both hits hit for max damage and bloodied both of us. Lucky the Runepriest went right after and blew his daily (Rune of the Undeniable Dawn). This killed off 3 minions that were still in bed next to us and hit both guards. It also raised all the defenses for everyone in the group +2 (power). Also I used the Rune of Mending on the Elf thus raising everyone’s defenses +1 untyped. Well because of that we were able survive all the attacks from the minions and the guards. Even Lareth’s Will attacks just missed because of the +2 power bonus. The battle lasted for a long time with the Beastmasters Cat being instant killed from an attack and the Runepriest finally falling to an attack by Lareth. It was nervous when the Runepriest rolled his death save (since he already had 2 from the last encounter) and just passed with a 10. Lareth was finally killed by the charging dwarf slayer and he killed killed Lareth. Then he took Lareth’s plate armor (because it was so cool looking). We were able to find the scroll and it was given to the Witch to use going forward.

By the time the dust settled we hard the Runepriest healed with a Cure Light Wounds potion (4 hp), Witch with 3 hp left and 0 surges, Kenku with 1 hp and 0 surges, Beastmaster with 1 hp and 1 surge, slayer with 20 hp and 5 surges, and Swordmage with 15hp and 4 surges. This was a great encounter and everyone is pumped for this weeks encounter.

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