D&D Encounters: Storm Over Neverwinter (Week 5)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 16, 2013

storm-over-neverwinter-coverChapter 2 began after the party took an extended rest. The storm continued raging over Neverwinter, but the rain and wind slowed considerably. The heroes took advantage of the break in the storm to take care of some personal business before heading to Helm’s Hold where they were going to meet Elden Vargas.

The party decided to split up. The Cleric and Deva Wizard went to visit Lady Sala Nidris and her son Zan, the Rogue went to the Beached Leviathan, the Shade Wizard stayed at Midnight’s Mask, and the Hexblade ventured off on his own to take care of a personal matter tied into his back story.

For the second week in a row we had more players than we could handle at the Silver Snail in Toronto. Due to limited space we can only run a maximum of three tables each week. All three were full this week – two tables of six and one of seven. A couple of our regulars decided not to expand the tables of six to tables of seven and instead took a week off. My table had six including a Human Warlock Hexblade, Wilden Cleric, Deva Wizard, Shade Wizard, Halfling Rogue and a Pixie Bard (Skald). So five of six from last week.

Lady Sala Nidris

When the Cleric and Wizard arrived at Lady Nidris’s home they were welcomed inside. The PCs explained they were there to check up on her and Zan. Lady Nidris was clearly upset and at the mention of Zan began crying. She told them how Zan became enraged and acted wildly when the whole town was beseeched by the madness. Her Guards had to subdue Zan before he hurt himself or someone else. Mintarn soldiers were called and took Zan to Helm’s Hold for treatment. Lady Nidris misses her son greatly and will be heading to Helm’s Hold as soon as the storm passes. She asks the PCs if they will accompany her on the journey and they agreed.

Beached Leviathan

When the Rogue arrived at the Breached Leviathan it was busier than he’d ever seen it before. There was a line outside and bouncers keeping the patron’s in check. When people spotted the Rogue they cheered him. The bouncers let him cut the line and enter. Inside the people again cheered him. Captain Harrag explained to the Rogue that people flocked to the Beached Leviathan last night after the PC left seeking a safe place to escape the madness. As new people arrived they were told of the PCs’ heroics in defeating the Devils. From there the story grew and the PCs became instant celebrities. The Rogue reluctantly accepted his mantle of hero, partaking in a few free drinks. He asked Harrag about Helm’s Hold but didn’t learn anything new.

The Hexblade’s Tale

As part of his back story the Hexblade sought his missing companion. He spent the day following up on new leads and was successful. He found her and extracted revenge. The party noticed that his mood had changed greatly when he rejoined the party.

Midnight’s Mask

The Shade Wizard decided to celebrate by having a few drinks and waiting for the rest of the party to finish their business and meet him at Midnight’s Mask later in the day. Once everyone had returned, the PCs learned that the wake for Muln Horan was being held here today. They were welcomed to the ceremony where they met many of the fallen Dwarf’s friends. General Sabine herself was in attendance. The Shade Wizard explained to Sabine that they needed to get into Helm’s Hold but the doors were barred. Sabine dismissed the claims as outrageous until he told her that Elden Vargas had told them as much. That got her attention. She agreed to provide letters of authority in the name of Lord Neverember that would guarantee them admission.

Journey to Helm’s Hold

helms-hold-1The following day the PCs got ready to journey to Helm’s Hold. General Sabine provided them with letters as promised as well as six horses, saddled and ready for the journey. Once the PCs left Neverwinter’s boarders they were met by Vargas. He explained that after the attempt on his life he took the last day to stay out of sight. He gathered the magic he needed to help his wife and was glad the PCs were accompanying him to Helm’s Hold.

When they arrived at the sanctuary about 4 hours later, there was a group of people mulling about outside. When they saw the PCs they cheered. “Now we’ll get them to open the doors,” someone called out. The heroes dismounted and approached the front gate. When they knocked the Guards spoke through the doors. “No one enters; no one leaves.”

The PCs explained who they were and that they were her on explicit orders from Lord Neverember himself. They slid their letter under the door but the Guards would not open up. “There’s a riot in progress,” the Guard explained. “Some of the more violent patients are running wild and cathedral is on full lock down until order is restored. It’s for the safety of the people inside and outside.” The crowd gathered outside, who desperately wanted in, told the PCs to smash the door down and force their way inside, but calmer heads prevailed.

The PCs decided to see if there was a back entrance. The climbed a wall and proceeded to check the grounds. The crowd saw the PCs climbed the wall and decided to follow. The PCs didn’t want the company so they hurried around back. When they found the back gate the Rogue quickly tried to open the lock but failed. The Hexblade, assisted by the frustrated Rogue, tried the lock and got it open. The mob was about to round the corner so the PCs burst inside as fast as possible and closed the doors behind them.

Inside they spotted three Guards. The Hexblade tried commanding the Guards to stand down, but they did not comply. With that, the party decided to attack and subdue them. With the fight underway, Vargas said “You keep them busy, I’m going to find my wife and make sure she’s safe.” He took off past the Guard taking an opportunity attack for his trouble as he bolted past them.

During the second round a door opened and from within the barracks a Mage appeared and engaged the party. The PCs could also her more Guards coming from the far hall. They did a great job of focusing fire and dropping one Guard at a time. The pesky Mage fell back into the barracks, closing the door and hunkering down. After a couple of rounds, once the PCs moved away from the door, the Mage reappeared and fired at them again. This time they made sure to knock him out before he could take refuge again.

After three Guards were down, the remaining Guards decided to fall back and retreat to the front gate. The party split up, three searched the barracks for any treasure or useful items while the other three proceeded. The Guards had readied actions and got free shots at the PCs brave enough to go ahead alone.

As the rest of the party finally joined the leaders, the front door burst open and a mob of people rushed inside the chapel. The PCs didn’t now who was hostile and who wasn’t so they had to wait for the villains to take shots at them and reveal themselves. Once that happened, it was a race to zero hit points.

The Adept managed to get five of the six PCs in his Insane Shriek (blast 3) twice, but in the end the party managed to take him down quickly. We ended with the party catching their breath near the front gate and will continue the exploration of the cathedral next week.

Thoughts

The party spent about an hour role-playing the events in Neverwinter before leaving for Helm’s Hold. There was almost no dice rolling, but everyone had a good time and it allowed them to really get into character.

During combat three PCs took the brunt of the damage while three remained unscathed. My dice were HOT and I rolled five crits, three on the Hexblade. He ended up 1 hit point away from his negative bloodied value before being revived. When he healed up after this week’s encounter he had 1 healing surge left for the next three encounters. The Rogue was in a similar boat with only 2 healing surges left.

In order to encourage exploration I photocopied the map and cut out each room. I only placed one room at a time as the PCs moved throughout the cathedral. In order to keep them out of the main hall I told them there were doors on either side. I couldn’t see another way to keep them out until next week and I certainly didn’t want to merge the two combat encounters.

Based on a suggestion from Erik Scott de Bie himself on the Wizards’ forums, I decided to have Vargas accompany the party to Helm’s Hold rather than just say he was already there. This seemed to make more sense to me.

I noticed that this week’s combat encounter, although fun, wasn’t challenging. Most of the monster had defenses between 12 and 16. The strikers in my party have attack scores between +11 and +16. They hit on everything but a 1. It was silly. I could have just made the bad guys two hit minions since they seemed to fall after two hits. I don’t know if giving them higher defenses would have done anything more than drag out a combat that already lasted over an hour. I think fewer foes with considerably higher defense is what’s called for, and guess what, that’s what we have in the coming weeks. Good luck!

How did you find this week’s session? Was the fight nothing more than a resource sink for your group? Did anyone kill a PC? Any TPKs? Did any DMs have issues with players who couldn’t separate what they knew (about the map) from what their character knew? How did other DMs keep their players from exploring the Main Hall this week, especially those who came in the back gate?

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.

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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 Wendy McLaren May 16, 2013 at 10:33 am

We had a new player join the group this week, choosing a bard of appropriate level from character sheets I had on hand. The bard mini I have happened to have been used during the Beached Leviathan encounter, and so the group decided that this was one and the same bard. This gave the new guy a reason to go along with the group and added some fun role-play, especially since the bard as NPC bar patron had jumped into the water to escape!

Our paladin lost his temper (PC, not player) with the Mage and struck a violent killing-blow, nearly cleaving her head off. He then wanted to ransack the “treasure chests” in the barracks. The description of the Mage had been that she was fairly young, dressed like the acolytes. When he searched the chests, he found a diary, filled with descriptions of a young girl’s life at Helm’s Hold, how she was finding her magic useful to help others, and how much she was looking forward to seeing her mother the next week. Her cat had kittens, and the mother was going to bring one to live with her! The paladin felt awful and turned his thoughts to vengeance against The Tormentor.

After the game, several of my players commented how “linear” the season was, and how little opportunity for in-depth role-play there was. They understand that this is how Encounters is, but noted they were looking for more from a game.

2 Michael May 16, 2013 at 11:15 am

Encounters is getting very popular at the store I go to. Last season, we sometimes had only five people. This season, we had to expand to two and then, three tables and recruit a DM from among our players. I was at the table with the new DM, who did an excellent job. It’s great to have new players. On the other hand it did slow the game significantly as they were learning D&D on the go. Well worth it to have them anyway.
We started off in the Moonstone Mask with Vargas asking us to rescue his wife from Helm’s Hold and a pries from Helm’s Hold, begging us to come there and stop the madness. No one else had pressing business so we headed to Helm’s Hold. I placed a poster on the board offering a reward for information on a “Rune of Oghma” which could stop arcane and demonic rituals throughout Neverwinter. It doesn’t exist of course, but I was hoping if we could convince the Asmodei that it does exist we could use it to manipulate them later.
We had several disagreements about strategy during the game. First, should we pretend to be prisoners and sneak in or just do a frontal assault. We eventually decided to do a frontal assault. When we got there the new players decided to scout around and use their animal companions/familiars to peek in windows. We didn’t find much, (Basically, that there are guards inside) but one one of the rooms had low, glass windows that could be broken into. Again, we had to decide should we sneak in there or go with the original plan. We decided to have the ranger shoot a few arrows through the window as a distraction, and then run around and join us and we would all go in the front. He rolled a natural 20! and hit someone inside. He then peeked in the broken window and saw what looked like prisoners held by a magical circle, so he sent his hawk to try to tell us to come this way. None of the rest of us spoke hawk, so we went with the original plan and pretended to be a guard escorting prisoners. Our bard had work that day and no one else had high bluff, so it was decided that our warforged runepriest would be the guard. It was an unusual role for him since he usually likes to smash things with his maul, but he did a great job. The rest of us assisted his bluff by gibbering about devils and Asmodeus. He convinced the guards and they took us to a room to wait. Meanwhile, on the other side, some guards investigated the noise and then went away. The ranger and assassin freed the prisoners and told them to leave. The dwarven cleric was reluctant to leave since he felt he was responsible for the other inmates and clerics, but the pc’s managed to convince them to leave. Back with the warforged, he said that these prisoners had to be taken to the Tormenter immediately, which the guard laughed at saying the Tormentor was busy. So the warforged said he had a vision from Asmodeus and needed to escort the prisoners to the Tormentor immediately and rolled a 19! The guard was impressed and asked what Amodeus’s message was and that bluff failed so battle was joined. Meanwhile, the assassin and ranger on the other side were discovered by guards. Since both combats played out at the same time, there wasn’t too much difficulty with the party being split. Both combats finished at about the same time and we heard some noises from the main chapel. We all burst in from opposite sides and came face to face with the Tormentor in the middle of some arcane ritual. He removed his mask and revealed himself to be ___________. (No spoilers for those who haven’t found out yet.)
Overall, it was fun to have some new players. They slowed us down a little, but we still managed to get through the whole encounter so that was good. It was cool to see the warforged in a different role than usual. The one frustrating part was the difficulty of using bluff/diplomacy. Our group has been trying to bluff/manipulate our way around obstacles all season. Every time the same thing happens. We make a couple of good bluff/diplomacy/intimidate checks and things are going well. Then somebody fails one, and the battle starts just as if we had done a frontal assault in the first place. It’s fun to roleplay the bluff even if they never actually accomplish anything, but it would be nice if we could actually get some advantage out of them.

Rune of Oghma
Item slot: Ki Focus

Properties:
Enchancement: +1 to all defenses, +1 to all attack rolls. This increases to +2 at level 11 and +3 at level 21.
When the wielder is attuned he can sense any incursions of demons/fey/shadowpact/primordial higher than level 21 into the city and any rituals that REQUIRE more than one caster or are higher than level 21. If the ritual does not require more than one caster, but other casters are assisting it is not detected.

Power * Encounter (Immediate Interrupt)
Wielders of the stone may try to prevent a ritual or incursion of a supernatural creature (the target). Each wielder rolls an opposed skill check using religion,arcana or endurance. All results are added together and are opposed by the target’s arcana. If any of the wielder’s wishes, they can assist the target and add their score to the target’s.
Hit: The target cannot enter Neverwinter, or the ritual fails. The target or ritual casters take 3d10+7 radiant damage.
Miss: The target can enter Neverwinter, and the ritual is unimpeded. Each wielder of a stone takes 3d10+7 damage, whether they were opposing or supporting the power.(This does not work. It is a fake.)

Divine Favor
Power* Daily (Minor Action)
Close: Burst Five Target: Each ally in the Burst
You say a prayer for divine protection. For the rest of the fight you feel as if your g-d is in the room protecting you.
Keywords: Divine, Implement
Effect: The target gets +3 to all defense until the end of the turn.

Glimmer Drop
Power*At will (Minor Action)
Target: All creatures with line of sight.
Opposed Bluff+1 v. Insight
Keywords: Bluff, Psychic, Deception
Effect: On a successful skill check, convince target that this small painted river stone is in fact a powerful divine artifact that is key to protecting Neverwinter. Target will become obsessed with stone and go to great lengths to obtain it, details as per DM.

3 The Other Mike/guest DM May 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Hey Mike, good recap of last nite’s session and glad you had fun. Having played the first 3 sessions and DMed the last 2 I can see your issue re: bluff/diplomacy. This season of Encounters is very linear storyline-wise, not a lot of wiggle room. Add in many NPC/enemies that are under extreme mental domination-control and Bluff/Diplo is not as effective. There is also the time crunch: only 2 hours (7-9pm) to play thru each session limits how far the DM can stray from the encounter as given and still bring it to a successful close. That said we had a good table and hope I get to run next weeks session for you guys.

4 Michael May 16, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I completely understand why you can’t bluff your way through an encounters session. It makes sense for all of the reasons you stated and more. It’s fun to ty anyway, and I will certainly continue trying next week. Probably what we should do is just try to use bluff to get positioning and a surprise round instead of trying for story related goals. The hard part will be conving the bard. He loves being dramatic. Mostly, I was really happy how you managed to coordinate the fighting between both groups so they started and ended at about the same time. That took most of the pain out of splitting the party. And though I said the new players slowed us down, I was impressed with them too. They did not slow us down much and we still finished on time. The MVP has to go to the warforged for playing against type and making an excellent effort on sneaking in.

5 JonBen May 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Thanks for posting all of this wonderful content. I jumped into this season last week and these write-ups have helped catch me up on the story line in detail.

We’ve been running D&D Next. Our group had a peculiar outing it seems. We didn’t really do any of the role-playing elements mentioned before Helm’s Hold. The Barbarian wanted to buy a +1 Maul, and disaster struck when she intimidated the shop keep too well. The shop keep was yelling for guards, convinced we were cultists. Our Druid laid down some fog and the Barbarian accidentally kidnapped the shop keep when she tried to steal the +1 Maul in the fog and rolled very poorly. Apparently a Maul and a ridged halfling feel the same to a confused and angry Barbarian.

We spent some time dealing with this situation and when things were finally under control we wanted to leave town ASAP. So we headed straight to Helm’s Hold. It was a very memorable session thanks to the improvised role-playing.

As a side note I’ve been struggling with something that perhaps someone here can help me with. I can’t figure out the math on the HP values for the pre-gen characters for D&D Next. For example the lvl 1 Human Cleric has 11 HP, but has a hit-die of d8 and a +2 con bonus. So shouldn’t their HP be 10? At lvl 3 their HP is 27 instead of 24 (8+2+5+2+5+2). It seems I’m missing 1HP/lvl in my accounting.

6 Joe May 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

We had a reasonable crowd at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA… 3 tables of 6 or 7 each, all running 4e.

Roleplaying setup was a little difficult, since they’d easily rescued & befriended Vargas, agreeing to help him get into Helm’s Hold, so I had to concoct a story about how they’d tried & run into beaurocratic stonewalls, which had upset him and made him storm off. That did make the tormentor reveal at the end of this session a bit more dramatic, and given the low challenge level of the encounter already, I didn’t want to add another NPC to help the party, because that would have just been silly.

Even without Vargas’ help, my table also found this encounter very not-challenging. I suppose, given that it’s the first of a 4-encounter run that includes fights with some pretty big baddies (no spoilers), it makes sense that they’d throw in a lesser fight at the start. But this one was just not at all challenging in any way. None of the players at my table spent a single healing surge. The only damage of note they took was from the magic missiles of the mage.

My table snuck in through the sun room, where they ended up killing the helpless & praying Seldra (some players had bad memories of the last neverwinter season, even though they were playing new characters). That’s PCs for you. Then they all rolled really well on initiative (with extra bonuses from a warlord & an avenger with that “use your Perception as initiative while giving bonuses to others” thing). They took out the adept before he got a turn. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the grunts to get over to them (doing ranged damage to them the whole way) and eventually taking out the mage. None of the enemies could hit, so it was basically just an exercise in waiting & trying to entice the PCs into wasting resources like daily powers & action points.

I’m very eager to see how next week goes with a much more challenging threat.

7 ShadowTiger May 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

This session was pretty bland for our group… pretty much collecting the few available scraps of information and then doing the battle. I think if we had 4 players instead of 9 players it would be more interesting, as each player could do something important.

There were some interesting moments… like our party split into 2 groups. Five people decided to break down the front door and charge in. One player was rallying the crowd to charge in and act as fodder, while another player was pleading for them to retreat to safety.

Meanwhile, I lead a group to the back door and just waltzed in. After three rounds of combat and taking out most of the guards, we stumbled across the tormentor and thats where it ended.

I have to say that the story is fairly confusing, especially since I missed last week. I still have no idea who the cultists are, what they want, why they are targeting certain people… it would be nice if it was more of a detective plot line instead of a trail of breadcrumbs.

In any case… I think next week most of the story will become clear… so I am looking forward to it!

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