We had a great turn out at my FLGS with 19 players and three DMs. I ran a table of six that consisted of a Deva Wizard (Necromancer), Tiefling Warlock (Hexblade), Wilden Cleric, Drow Sorcerer, Halfling Rogue, and Shade Wizard (pre-gen).
Before we got into this week’s adventure I reminded the players that they wouldn’t get an extended rest until after week 4. That meant that they had to complete three more encounters with whatever resources they had left.
The session began with the party looking for clues and trying to figure out what happened to Zan (Lady Nidris’s missing son). They spent a lot of time focusing on the muddy foot prints and determined that the reddish colour indicated it most likely came from the Blacklake district.
The party found the serving staff holed up in the master’s study. They were scared but a phenomenal Diplomacy check calmed them down and got them to explain what had happened. A group of Ashmadai burst into the house searching for Zan. Some of the men had flaming chains, while others channeled power through fiery brands. They all took orders from a man in a dark cloak who spoke with a deep voice.
Believing that they had all the info they required, half the party took off for the docks while the other half remained behind to continue looking for clues.
The butler asked what happened to the house guards and the PCs told him they’d been killed. The butler ran to the fallen guards and realized the PCs were wrong; the guards were wounded but alive. The PCs decided that they should probably help the fallen guards. Two Heal checks later (one amazing and one mediocre), the Cleric managed to revive Talzu (much to the butler’s relief) and he repeated the same story the PCs just heard. The other guard, a firesoul Genasi, was stabilized but they couldn’t revive him. He’d had a large scorch mark on his chest, unusual for a creature with fire resistance, but the PCs paid this detail no mind.
After reviving the guard, the remaining PCs left for the docks and eventually met up with the rest of the party.
Fortune smiled upon the party as they noticed signs of flickering light beneath the docks. Given the raging storm and seedy location this was unusual and likely the spot they were looking for. They tried to approach quietly but failed their Stealth checks horribly. The PCs had trouble making out details in the rain and darkness, but did notice at least two figures, likely guards, move through a curtain of water falling from the dock above.
They cautiously approached but couldn’t really make out details through the waterfall. The Cleric moved through the water, found himself surrounded, and then moved back out taking a couple of opportunity attacks for his trouble. The two Wizards fired blindly through the water and hit three of the Zealots.
The Sorcerer and Hexblade charged through the water to engage the enemies. Unfortunately the Zealots were tougher than they expected and scored some good hits. The Necromancer used a burst which hit two Zealots, but created a zone that also hurt his allies. The next round the Zealots moved out of the zone, used their Hellfire Chains to grab the Cleric and Sorcerer, and pulled them both into the danger zone. To add insult to injury, both Zealots then used their branding irons on the PCs. The Sorcerer fell unconscious; the Cleric was badly bloodied.
The two Wizards remained outside and fired Magic Missiles at any villain they could see. The Zealots realized what was happening and moved away from the entrance as soon as they could.
With all the PCs nicely bunched together one of the Warlocks, who until then had not acted, ran into the middle of the party taking a nasty opportunity attack from the Hexblade for his trouble. Once in position he used his Concussive Inferno close burst 2 to target everyone. This pushed the Cleric, Hexblade and Sorcerer further into the sewer hideout and the Two Wizards and Rogue further away, effectively splitting the party.
The Rogue and Wizards focused fire on the Warlock and easily took him down before he got another turn. Meanwhile one of the Zealots used his Hellfire chain to grab the Cleric, pull him closer and then brand him. Unfortunately the Cleric was killed dead-dead on a crit.
With the Sorcerer unconscious and the Cleric dead things went downhill fast. The PCs had a lot of trouble dropping the bad guys and took a lot of punishment as the fight played out. The Rogue only managed to get combat advantage once during the 12 rounds of combat, essentially reducing his effectiveness. The Sorcerer was eventually revived with a healing potion but was again dropped a round or two later.
During a round when none of PCs were engaging two of the wounded and slowed Zealots, I had the two villains make Heal checks on each other to trigger their second wind and allow them each to regain some hit points. The players didn’t like that tactic, but all’s fair in D&D.
By the time the PCs managed to defeat all the Zealots they were really hurt. They’d all used their action points, a couple PCs used daily powers, and all of them had used their second wind. There was still one Warlock remaining and he was holding Zan captive. The PCs were reluctant to attack the Warlock for fear of hitting the child, but eventually the Necromancer entered the hideout and took a shot. He missed the man but hit the boy.
The Warlock fought back but the heroes did not. They waited for the Wizards to use Magic Missile to ensure accuracy. This gave the Warlock time and an opportunity to run around them and get outside. The PCs were even kind enough to move away from the entrance so he didn’t take a single opportunity attack. The next round they gave chase and all took shots. They figured a wounded boy was better than a missing boy. The Rogue managed to score a very close hit that dropped the Warlock.
The heroes tended to the boy and their wounded allies. Zan babbled on that he must “obey the man in the devil face” and said “blood and burn, bone and black.” After a Heal check and a Diplomacy check Zan seemed to snap out of it and regained his senses. He had no memory of what happened, but now bore the mark of Asmodeus on his arm.
When the Warlock was interrogated he actually knew very little useful information. He spoke of his leader as a man in a dark robe knows as “The Tormentor,” his face hidden behind a devil mask.
In the hideout the PCs found jewels and coins (100gp each) as well as two Healing Potions, Delver’s Armor +2, Gloves of Agility, and an Amulet of Health +2.
The heroes brought Zan home to his mother. Lady Nidris was so relieved and thankful that she rewarded each member of the party with another 250 gp. She told the PCs that in their absence she contacted Lord Neverember and he has posted a 10,000 gp reward for the capture of the one responsible for Zan’s kidnapping.
This week’s adventure seemed a bit like a filler encounter. It did move the story forward, but as you’ll see in the weeks to come it wasn’t absolutely necessary. It was almost as if it was only there to force the PCs to expend resources – which they certainly did.
After this week’s mess some PCs have one or no healing surges left. Most of the party’s best daily powers were already used which will make weeks 3 and 4 that much tougher. What this week’s debacle really demonstrated to my group was the importance of strong tactics and communication. The party was lacking a defender, yet they still sent one guy in alone as if he were a defender. They needed to find a way to play to their strengths. This should make the upcoming encounters challenging to say the least.
The monsters seemed balanced this week. Their defenses were decent but not crazy high. Their output was also balanced for a level 3 party. One thing my party did really well this week was make saving throws. They never failed a single save against the ongoing fire. The only saves they did fail were death saves.
How did your party fare this week? Did anyone else suffer any PCs deaths? Did other DMs fell this was a filler encounter? How many groups fought inside the tunnel and how many managed to draw the monsters outside to fight in the rain?
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