D&D Encounters: Storm Over Neverwinter (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 2, 2013

storm-over-neverwinter-coverLast week the PCs rescued the kidnapped son of Lady Nadris. This week they continue their search for “The Tormentor,” the man in the devil mask who is apparently behind the rash of kidnappings in Neverwinter, including the one the PCs foiled last week. To sweeten the pot, Lord Neverember has offered a 10,000 gp reward for anyone who captures the person or persons responsible for the kidnappings.

This week’s recap follows the group at Harry T North in Toronto. We’ve had just enough people to run two solid tables for months, but the addition of two brand new players pushed us to 13 this week. With only two DMs ready to run the session we ended up with a table of six and another with seven. I played with the larger group and helped the two newbies.

The party consisted of a Tiefling Ardent, Human Assassin, Tiefling Warlock, Wilden Wizard, Goliath Monk (my character), and the two new players used the pre-gens Eboncross the Shade Wizard and Gardain the Dwarf Fighter.

At the beginning of the session the players were a bit confused about where to go and what to do. The DM reminded us that the kidnappers had obviously been spending time around the docks and that there might be clues beyond what was discovered at their hideout last week. With the storm still raging on the PCs decided to go where people might be gathering to escape the inclement weather – a tavern. The Beached Leviathan was near the bandit’s hideout and seemed like the perfect place to start.

One by one the PCs entered the tavern and engaged some of the patrons in conversation. The Warlock spoke with the tavern owner Captain Harrag, the Shade Wizard spoke with the first mate Andrella, the Wilden Wizard embarrassed himself by asking absurdly direct and inappropriate questions of a couple of off-duty dock workers, the Ardent wandered all the way to the bow of the tavern and tried to talk to a man sitting alone but got nowhere, the Fighter and Monk went upstairs where they spoke with a very shy potter with a low tolerance for alcohol and a few more off-duty dock workers. The Assassin spoke with Mintarn Captain Horan who arrived at the tavern just behind the PCs.

All in all they learned four key facts about people who were kidnapped. Each a different sign that their minds were broken during their ordeal.

  1. Victims seemed to have a nervous twitch or stare blankly at people.
  2. Victims act tough but are easily bullied.
  3. Victims have been overheard babbling about devils.
  4. Victims seem mentally week upon their return.

After a couple rounds of chit-chat (which took a long time with the party of seven), Horan gathered a few of the nearby PCs and expressed his gratitude for their part in rescuing Lady Nidris’s son. He then asked (more like demanded) that the PCs stop their investigation and leave it to Neverember’s soldiers. His rationale was that it was too dangerous for regular people to be involved in something so dangerous and unpredictable.

Before the PCs could react to Horan’s request a burly man pushed his way past the Captain and the adjacent PCs. He moved towards the front doors where he calmly locked and barred them. Horan began to object to this man’s actions but the stranger shot him with a ray of magical cold. Horan fell to the floor, skin icy blue and lifeless. The man pulled back his hood to reveal his true nature as a blue-skinned Devil. At the far end of the Beached Leviathan another Devil, this one with red skin seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The PCs on the lower level sprang into action. The Warlock, Assassin and Shade Wizard immediately engaged the Blue Devil. The Ardent and Wilden Wizard engaged the Red Devil. The Blue Devil had a tough time hitting his foes, but the Red Devil easily hit the Ardent. As the wounded PC tried to move into a better position, one of the patrons took an opportunity attack shouting “Kill them all!” as he swung and hit him.

Upstairs the Dwarf and Monk heard the sound of panic and fighting coming from the lower level. The Dwarf took a double move to charge down the stairs and put himself in the middle of the fighting where his Defender’s Aura would be most helpful. Unfortunately he too suffered an opportunity attack from a patron who shouted “For the Tormentor” as she swung but missed him. The Monk used his superior Acrobatics to swing off the upper deck and smash through a window on the lower level. When he entered the fray he smacked one of the dominated patrons hard enough to bloody him.

The fight continued downstairs with the heroes giving it to the Devils and dominated patrons pretty good. One more patron on the lower level revealed himself and attacked the already wounded Ardent while his friends continued attacking the nearest PC.

Upstairs the PCs heard screams and fighting. The Wilden Wizard rushed up to help. When he arrived he saw a dominated patron attacking the other customers. One was already on the ground unconscious. The Monk, using a power that granted him limited flight, went out the window and flew back up to the top deck where he immediately engaged the dominated patron in melee.

The Shade Wizard saw that the Assassin and Warlock had the Blue Devil clearly under control so he helped the Ardent and Fighter by using powers that targeted all three enemies. The Fighter risked an opportunity attack (which missed) in order to engage the Red Devil one on one. He stepped in and scored a natural 20. He added Power Strike and rolled max on his extra magic weapon dice. One hit 35 damage. Seeing the Red Devil was badly wounded he used his action point which resulted in another hit. He easily destroyed the monster. Certainly an exciting introduction to D&D for the new player.

At the top of the round the PCs could hear someone on the outside of the door banging to be let in. The Assassin opened the door with a little effort and three soldiers joined the fray. At first they mistook the two Tiefling PCs as Devils but the other PCs used Diplomacy to convince the soldiers that the PCs were friendly.

Upstairs the Wilden Wizard and Monk only needed one more round to dispatch the dominated patron. Downstairs the Shade Wizard targeted two of the dominated patrons, scoring a crit on one. The DM suggested the Wizard use his action point so he fired a Magic Missile on the bloodied enemy. It did exactly enough damage to drop him. The new players were the only ones to score crits this week.

The Tiefling, having used his second wind, managed to get back into the fight and take down one of the remaining dominated patrons. The Warlock easily took out the badly wounded Blue Devil who didn’t really seem all that menacing the way the DM was rolling.

The soldiers managed to establish order in the Beached Leviathan and calmed the remaining patrons. The owner, Captain Harrag, expressed his gratitude to the PCs but asked that they leave before they caused any more damage. Some of the PCs tried to revive the fallen Captain Horan but the icy ray from the Blue Devil killed him instantly.

As the PCs stepped outside they heard the sharp sounds of Watch horns. They saw a small group of Mintarn soldiers gather around a winded courier nearby. Next week they’ll find out what message he delivered to the soldiers.

Thoughts

This encounter was challenging because there was limited space and lots of NPCs/monsters on the map. I was glad that our DM encouraged some PCs to go to the second deck, otherwise it would have been a much more difficult and slow combat. I tried to encourage the other players to take advantage of the terrain and try something unexpected, like jumping through a window, but no one was interested.

The starting positions of the PCs made a huge difference this week. The poor Ardent happened to be surrounded by three enemies when the fighting began, whereas the Blue Devil was surrounded by three PCs. The PCs upstairs had to spend a full round getting into the fight. The presence of so many innocent bystanders made it difficult for the controllers to use their best powers for fear of hitting an innocent NPC. The defenders rocked because they could really lock down the hostile creatures and allow the other NPCs and PCs move around without suffering an opportunity attack.

The role-playing at the beginning of the session didn’t really work all that well for our group. The players felt that the information learned wasn’t anything more than they already knew. No one drew any of the conclusions the adventure assumes in the text. Just because kidnapping victims happened to talk about Devils doesn’t mean the PCs should expect two to show up on the next round. None of the players realized that “left mentally weakened” meant they have really low Will defenses so attack that if you can.

This was another week where a lot of the players just felt it was a resource drain and didn’t really move the plot forward. It was fun to play but I have to agree that as a player the situation seemed really forced. The two things that stuck out for me was that the PCs had to go to this tavern (I didn’t understand why) and that the Mintarn Captain was killed by the Blue Devil without any chance to save him.

One of the players felt cheated that both Devils had resist 10 fire since all of his powers had the fire key word. We suggested he attack the dominated patrons but he didn’t think his character would do that when a bigger threat was present. He instead tried to Intimidate the Devils knowing that from a mechanics perspective he wouldn’t be able to since they were hostile and not bloodied. Good life lesson, always carry a dagger, crossbow or some other backup weapon just in case creatures have high resistances.

Fortunately half of the party managed to get through this week’s adventure without taking any damage so that really helped since so many of us were down to our last few healing surges.

How did this week’s encounter go at your FLGS? Did you have problems with overcrowding? How did you resolve them? Did you use both levels of the tavern during the combat? Did anyone try zany or nontraditional actions because of the unusual locale? Did any parties suffer any losses?

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Recounting Encounters is a weekly podcast I record with fellow Toronto DM, Craig Sutherland, and 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. 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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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ramanan May 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

After last season, this season does feel like a pretty serious railroad. I understand that within the limits of format of encounters there is only so much you can do, but this session seemed more than a little forced. I had jokingly suggested our group should just run. Clearly the tormentor wasn’t around and the nights watch was outside. I guess that wouldn’t be that HEROIC though. The fact you’re at this inn and people attack you seems completely arbitrary.

It was a pretty tough fight at our table, though that was in part due to many a low rolls and many crits from the DM.
ramanan´s last blog post ..Once More into Pahvelorn

2 Wendy McLaren May 2, 2013 at 11:07 am

I was annoyed that Encounters didn’t use the map already made by Wizards for the Beached Leviathan and felt the given map was far too small. So, I decided to use some of my dungeon tiles to add a patio deck area to the side of the ship. This spread out the 23 minis involved, added some interesting terrain and limited the amount of time the PCs spent hemmed in by bar patrons.

We had some great ideas — one player wanted to do a jump over a table to get into position. With a 28 on his Acrobatics check, he even did it with style! The Scorch Demon was very ineffectual with his rolls, so did little damage. The Ruffians ended up doing the most damage to PCs (and bar patrons). Interestingly, the PCs didn’t much care about the patrons. Sure, they were putting down the foes, but not helping hurt civilians. I think we lost about 6 of them before the Mintarn Soldiers were let in.

All in all, I felt the powers that the Demons had were far less exciting than last week’s foes. I think the best part was when the Fimbrul killed Horan (although I hated to see the drunken sot die). One of my players said “Man, he one-shot the dwarf. We’re all going to die!”

3 Ocampo May 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm

More elemental demons? I think WotC needs to check the Monster Vaults a bit more often.
Ocampo´s last blog post ..¡Más compañeros en español!

4 Joe May 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Had a big turnout at our store this week, 2 tables of 6 + my table, which had 7 (all running 4e).

With a bigger party, I added a second of each of the demons. Everyone started downstairs, mostly clumped together (despite the fact that I kept giving hints that they might want to be spread out), so the 2 fimbrul/icey demons double hit them with the ice breath blast. On the second one, I had 4 targets in his blast, and I rolled the attacks in front of the players. The dice read 20, 20, 20, 16. The players flipped out. Fortunately the crits didn’t do huge damage, but the PCs were definitely on the ropes for most of the fight.

To lure them upstairs, I had patrons screaming & making dying sounds, but nobody got upstairs (where 1 fiery demon & 2 thugs were), but the party didn’t start going upstairs till they had killed everyone downstairs. There was a log-jam on the stairs going up, so 2 PCs decided to go outside & climb the ship to get to the 2nd floor, which I set as a DC 15 Athletics check. One made it, one failed & comically just barely managed to not fall into the water. The fight went pretty quickly after that.

Yes, it was sad to lose the dwarf (who I had played by Jackie Chan), but that sadness pushed the PCs to just kill all the enemies, which (they realized afterward) removed any chance of interrogation. Oh well, it’s good that players get passionate about this stuff. Emotion always trumps common sense, especially in roleplaying games.

5 ShadowTiger May 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

We had a party of 8 people this week playing D&D Next. The DM didn’t put any non-combatants on the board, it was 8 of us vs 8 of them, plus 4 devils. Things weren’t too crowded, between reach attacks, ranged attacks, and things like that, things worked out. I landed a nice AOE spell with my character, doing a large amount of damage.

It was a pretty easy and straightforward encounter, with nobody getting injured much. We spent a while before combat trying to gather more clues as to what is going on, but I guess because of the linear story there was only a limited amount of info the DM could give us.

I am starting to miss the freedom we had for the last season. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect some of the more interesting and challenging aspects of those monsters is lost in the conversion process from 4th edition to Next. I know that Encounters is never going to be really challenging, except maybe the boss fights that have a “hard mode” option, but at least make the combat interesting.

6 Zarosei May 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

I was playing a living-shadow assassin, and I was angry and stabbed the devil through the throat when he came barrelling in, and then the paladin bashed his head in with a shield. Turns out my sociopathic shadow avatar of chaos saved the day.

Note; we have any where from eight to ten players, or more, at our table and are possibly the worse group of adventurers ever. We seem to live by the creep of “Kill first, ask questions later” and are full of thieves, cutthroats, murderers and all sorts of other criminal-like people. Why they even let us help with this adventure, I’ll never know. Its more likely we’ll just join up with the tormentor when we meet him, the way our group has been playing.

7 Vobekhan May 7, 2013 at 11:23 am

As other have said this session felt more of a resource drainer that any plot progression one, but the tactical challenges it presented were an interesting change. My players didnt show interest in going door to door so I had the dwarf and his troops arrive, luckily the offer of a free drink convinced them to go to the Leviathan with him.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters Season 13 – Storm over Neverwinter – Session 3

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