D&D Encounters: Against the Cult of Chaos (Week 4)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 7, 2013

against-the-cult-of-chaos-coverLast week the PCs traveled to the Caves of Chaos where they faced wave after wave of monstrous minions. They managed to save Otis, retrieve the Chaos Blade, and escape with their lives. They were too wounded to make the long trip back to Hommel Lane so they camped and took an extended rest.

They questioned Otis who was very forthcoming. He explained that the ghost who helped them was none other than Hafferon Hommel. He told Otis and his adventuring party all about what was really going on including that existence of a chaos mote, an imprisoned deity of evil trying to escape a celestial prison, and three items of power that were needed to seal the rift and stop this god from slipping through. The first item was the Chaos Blade blade which the party now possessed. The second was the Scroll of Final Words which the ghost beleived was in possession of an evil cleric known as “Beautiful.” The third was the Death Circlet which was currently in the possession of great evil near Hommel Lane.

This week I ran a table of five PCs. Elf Fighter (Slayer), Pixie Wizard (Witch), Tiefling Ardent/Battle Mind (hybrid), Drow Wizard, and Ryltar the Drow Fighter (Slayer) pre-gen.

Druet Cottage (2)

The party escorted Otis home. His parents were thrilled to see that he was still alive. They thanked the party for their part in his rescue. The PCs didn’t linger. However, the Drow Slayer later returned to see if the family would cough up a reward for Otis’s rescue. Alahn, Otis’s brother, was not impressed that this adventurer would expect payment for doing the right thing, especially since one of the other PCs found a magic sword. The Drow Slayer used Intimidate to explain that a reward wasn’t out of line; after all he didn’t get the sword. Alahn reluctantly came around. He understood what it was like to be the odd man out. He produced a set of magical armor that looked beat up but still did the job.

Alahn asked the Slayer for a favour. Ross, the town carpenter and a longtime friend of his, recently started behaving oddly. All his life Ross and his family followed the Old Faith. A couple weeks ago they all disappeared in the middle of the night. Ten days later they returned to town devoted followers of the Lawbringer. Ross refused to talk about where he’d gone or why he had such a sudden change of faith. Most nights Ross and his wife could be found partying in the Golden Grain Inn. The Slayer agreed to question him.

Sacred Grove (15)

The party ventured to the Grove after leaving Otis. The only PC of the Old Faith was the Elf Slayer. The old Druid, Ramne Ashstaff, welcomed everyone. His animal friends had already informed him of the PCs time at the Caves of Chaos and their rescue of Otis. He admired the magical sword the Slayer now carried and reminded her that many would envy her treasure. She should be sure to use it in the cause of good. Sensing the good in her heart he offered her a Healing Potion. He trusted that the magic healing would be used on the one who needed it most.

The PCs told the Druid everything that had happened so far (they really don’t see value in keeping secrets). They asked if he knew how to bypass the magical door in the Moat House but he did not. They asked him about the about some of the other strange happenings in Hommel Lane, specifically they asked about Canoness Yeeday.

Ramne found the timing of her trip odd. She felt that the town needed to stand united and gather everyone together regardless of their faith to face the strange happenings in Hommel Lane. She even called for reinforcements saying that no one individual could hope to defeat this evil. Yet now she’s on a solo pilgrimage to battle the evil forces? The story doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s possible that someone made up this story about her disappearance and that something terrible has befallen her. The PCs agreed to look into it.

Constable’s Quarters (21)

The PCs checked in with the Constable when they returned to Hommel Lane to see what happened with the bandit’s co-conspirators in town. Ruskal told them he questioned the suspects but there was no proof of their involvement. All he could do was keep an eye on them. However, if the PCs found evidence of their involvement beyond the accusation of some bandits he’d arrest them.

Temple of the Lawbringer (13)

The two arcane characters, the Witch and Wizard, visited the temple. They met with Sister Devi and asked her about the two other magical items. She had no idea what they were talking about. They then asked her if she knew of any magic that could bypass magically locked doors, which she did not. The Drow pressed her rather aggressively about Canoness Yeeday, convinced that she would have the answers the PCs sought. Again Devi was unable to help, but both PCs could tell she was getting nervous at this line of questioning (two Insight checks over 20).

Sister Devi suggested that if they wanted to know more about where Canoness Yeeday had gone they could talk to a few townsfolk whom she met with just before she left. They might know something. She believed they could find all three at the Golden Grain Inn. The PCs thanked her and left.

Trading Post (9)

The Ardent needed some supplies so he went to the Trading Post. He also thought he’d see if he could dig up any dirt on Raynen and Gremag, the supposed spies working with the Bandits, while he was there.

He first tried to buy information from Gremag, but she was reluctant to sell information. He then tried to convince her that he wasn’t actually part of the party (being a Tiefling in a group of all Fey), he was merely a hanger on. He said he’d only just met them on the way to Hommel Lane. He was in fact here to meet with someone “Beautiful” and that he was told a contact here could help with that.

Gremag told him trust was earned not bought. She slipped him a key and asked that he get this to one of the bandits in prison. Once he was free she’d tell the Ardent anything he wanted to know about the Beautiful man. He reluctantly agreed.

When the party regrouped the Ardent told them about his arrangement. If he freed the bandit Gremag would give him the pass phrase for the secret door. The PCs decided to enlist the Constable’s help. They told him everything and asked him to play along. However poor Diplomacy checks made it an up hill climb. He agreed to let the PCs spring the one bandit but they would be held responsible for any crime he commited once out. They agreed.

When the Ardent and his prisoner returned to the Trading Post, Gremag wasn’t there, but Raynen and three other clerks were. The prisoner casually moved towards the clerks where they welcomed him with open arms. The Ardent asked for Gremag and was told she was in the barn next door. When he tried to get the prisoner to come with him he refused. When he tried to force the issue the clerks all pulled crossbows on him and told him to leave, which he did.

Ready to kill someone, the Ardent found Gremag in the barn. She happily revealed the pass word to the door and thanked the Ardent for getting her boyfriend released from prison.

Golden Grain Inn (20)

The heroes were again welcomed with open arms when they visited the inn. Bertram, the owner, gave them free food, free drinks, and free rooms. After all they captured the bandits and rescued Otis. Tonight he was throwing a big party in their honour. In addition to bottomless drinks, he told them he’d sponsor games and competitions to let regular people take on the newly crowned heroes. Some of the PCs wanted to head for the Moat House dungeon right away, but the majority voted to spend the night here partying and participating in the competitions.

When the fun began the Pixie Witch and the Ardent both decided to compete in the drinking games. Despite the Pixie’s small size she managed to down three full pints before falling into her glass. The Ardent managed to defeat the other two competitors with his sixth beverage.

The Elf Slayer arm wrestled. She had to fend off the taunts and trash talk from the locals. Apparently their champion “Wee Big Gertie” was undefeated. Gertie was so confident that she’d win she offered to wager her magic dagger against the Slayers magic sword. The Slayer refused that bet but would compete for money. The match was over before it began as Gertie mopped the floor with the Slayer. Gertie offered a rematch if the Slayer would put up her sword as collateral. She again refused. The crowd called her chicken. Gertie was willing to bet her dagger if the Slayer would agree to be her personal servant for a week if she lost. She agreed… and lost to a 19 and 20 on my DMs dice. Tough beat.

The Wizard spent the night finding the people Sister Devi told him to speak with. One finally revealed (after an outstanding Diplomacy check) that the Canoness feared for her safety saying that there was corruption within the Temple of the Lawbringer. The next day she disappeared. The villager was scared so she had not returned to the temple since that day.

The Drow Slayer found the carpenter, Ross, and as agreed tried to talk to him to find out what happened. Ross was a total jerk and refused to talk. The Drow pushed but Ross pushed back. The Drow eventually decided to give him space but keep an eye on him. An hour later the carpenter and his wife quietly got up and headed through a back door. The Drow realized that the door wasn’t an exit or a restroom so he followed them. Behind the door was a staircase leading down. He listened and heard nothing. Before heading down, he gathered the PCs, told them what he saw, and led them downstairs.

In the cellar the PCs found supplies in the front room and a table set up for a poker game in the back room. The Wizard announced that he wanted to search for secret door. As he pulled back a curtain revealing a door, Bertram appeared at the top of the stairs.

“What are you doing in my cellar? I’ve shown you nothing but goodwill and generosity and this is how you repay me, by stealing from me?”

The PCs immediately tried to explain what they were doing but Bertram was angry. He threatened to get the constable and have the PCs arrested. This got them nervous. The Wizard asked what was behind the door. Bertram said he kept rare vintages in there to stop some of his less than honest employees from being tempted. The Wizard didn’t buy this story so he flung open the door revealing two Bullywugs in a secret passage.

The heroes jumped into action to fight the monsters. Fortunate positioning allowed the Wizard to blast the monsters and bloody both of them in the first round. Bertram called for reinforcements and four goons from the bar ran down the stairs and into combat with the PCs.

The Witch’s Beguiling Strands took out two of the minions in round one and the other two in the next round. Bertram engaged the PCs in melee while his companion, Derek Desleigh, stayed safely behind him firing his deadly crossbow at the PCs.

The Drow Slayer was the only PC to take a hit from the Bullywugs before they were both killed. The Ardent used a power to grant all PCs 14 temporary hit points which insulated everyone nicely. The Drow Wizard’s Cloud of Darkness shielded most of the PCs from repeated crossbow shots.

Eventually the PCs surrounded the two remaining villains and took them down easily. They didn’t kill anyone except for Derek. The Elf Slayer didn’t like that he’d called her chicken earlier so she killed him.

When the fight ended one of the goons awoke and explained that he was not acting of his own free will. He apologized for his behaviour and gave the party a Potion of Clarity as a token of his repentance.

On a crate in the back room the PCs found a journal filled with names of the townsfolk. Some names were circled, some were crossed out, and some had neither. They took a short rest and decided that next week they’d see where the secret passage leads.

Thoughts

The role-playing and exploration part of our night took almost two hours. I was really worried we wouldn’t have time to complete the combat. However, two controllers and good tactics from the party saw them mow through the combat with ease. After about 20 minutes of real time it was over. When I played this session a couple weeks ago at another FLGS we suffered a TPK. It goes to show how important it is to have all roles represented.

Although I had fun this week, it was tough to follow last week’s really great session. I was glad that all the players wanted to do some exploration in town. That was something we hadn’t really had a lot of opportunity to do yet. The seeds for what’s to come have been planted so from here the players should have a pretty good idea of what’s next.

What encounter did your table do this week? For those who have already played through the Golden Grain Inn path, how did your group do? Did you win at the games? Did you get crushed during the combat?

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.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe March 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Really impressed that you’ve managed to fit so much roleplaying into this session, and that you could also squeeze in a combat. Our FLGS usually has a high number of newish players and/or players who’re unfamiliar with their characters’ tactics, so we usually try to minimize the extraneous roleplaying so that there’ll be time for combat (which always lasts more than an hour). We’ve been running “The Straightest Path” order for the adventure, so we ran the Moat House Dungeon last night (which I’ll post about once you put up that thread on whatever week you run it). But still, wow. You have my admiration for managing to cram in all that into one session.

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) March 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

@Joe
I was really concerned we were going to run out of time before getting to the combat. The RP took about 2 hours. The fight only took about 20 minutes, which was about all the time we had left before the store closed so that was fortunate. I tried to keep the RP moving along but everyone was getting into it and wanted their own opportunity to do something cool. In the end it all worked out nicely.

3 Justin March 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

I agree with you Ameron. In all the weeks we have played (except the first) we have done a lot of Roll Playing. All the players have been enjoying the role playing opportunities and it seems like we really don’t need to get into a fight to have fun (not like other encounters). I think of the 4 encounters I have played in this has been the best in both flexibility and ability to get players to role play their characters to do something more than just hack and slash. I don’t think I have ever used my skills as much as I have in these sessions, and those have been skills that I hardly ever use (Streetwise, History, Bluff, Nature).

4 Auiva March 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

It’s great to be seeing how completely differently this campaign can be done. Our party is a seeker, knight, fighter, barbarian, witch, and a ranger. Our group spent the last two weeks investigating the Moat House- first the bandits, then tracking down the leads to Raynen and Gremag. With them, we kept them distracted while our seeker and ranger snuck to the warehouse and discovered Wendel’s goods, and thus getting the constable, making Raynen and Gremag to give up their information. From there, we ventured into the basement using cultist robes we found at the trading post and were able to bluff our way through rather than fighting, meeting ‘The Beautiful’, and getting a surprise attack through bluffing that let us take him down in two rounds with the other cultists barely noticing due to ‘The Beautiful’s ‘ own silencing ritual. We then proceeded to bluff our way completely out of the place, return with the constable, and let him and his lackeys deal with the cultists. We found key information about what was in the Caves of Chaos, a cool scroll and a scepter, and were downright pleased with ourselves for pulling off an entire session of sneaking in a party that only has one person with stealth, and zero people with a bluff score. It was just so silly, it was awesome.

With the moat house under control (and us considering setting up base, perhaps with a bit of…redecorating), we returned to town. When we’d first arrived in Hommel Lane, we’d done a good amount of talking with various people, learning tidbits from the various people and discovered trouble in the elections, as well as multiple disappearances- primarily from the Golden Grain Inn. With the Inn being the primary lead we had to follow on all the mysteries we kept bumping into, we decided to go there. Like the opening post, we had a heck of a party with arm wrestling and drinking. The barbarian losing his drinking match, and being drunk until he made his save during battle may have been one of the roleplaying highlights of the evening.

Our witch decided to go talk to Ernesto, the man with the amazing back tattoo, our seeker decided to play darts, and meanwhile our ranger decided her best course was to look for suspicious behavior and scout around the bar with her keen perception. This choice proved very useful, as Ernesto asked the Witch into the back into somewhere ‘private’, and the ranger was able to notice that armed men were following them and give the witch silent warning. The witch busily flirted with Ernesto, winning his heart, and then asked him if he wanted a drink, getting herself out of potential danger. The seeker was not so lucky. Although she was the only one to win a competition against the locals (51 to 78!), as she went back to take out the darts, the ranger saw her opponent aiming a dart at her! The ranger rushed to intervene, but to no real avail, as the dart hit a specific part of the dart board and opened a trap door underneath the two, who dropped down out of sight.

The other characters only barely caught this happening to their companions and tried to question those who’d been around it, but to no avail. Bertrand waved them over, whispering to meet him by the back door of the basement in a few minutes, when he could get away, and he would explain all. With pretty much the whole table yelling ‘trap!’ we went down and decided to bust in to his cellar, found the secret door, and some bullywugs, and a couple of the armed fellows the ranger had spotted earlier, along with the ranged parts of our party.
With a hard-hitting team, these elements went down relatively quickly (though thank heavens no enemies had blasts or bursts in those tight corridors. We would have been screwed.) A round or two in, Betrand and a friend joined the fight, and proved to be equally hard-hitting, but the party triumphed with many bloodied, but no KOs during the fight. The group manacled Bertrand and tried to get information out of him, but without much luck. However, they did learn he served something…reptilian, and discovered the book of names. The group also found another area where cart tracks led. Following them, the group were able to use their knowledge of town to realize the were passing beneath the Golden Grain Inn, the now defunct Inn of the Winsome Wench, and finally came to an incredibly sturdy door. Underneath, we realized with dawning dread, the temple of the lawbringer. This does not bode well for next week.

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