Last week the PCs travelled to Helm’s Hold, a cathedral turned hospital dedicated to helping those inflicted by the Spellplague. A safe haven for those in need, the doors of Helm’s Hold are always open. However, when the PCs arrived they found the cathedral locked down. After finally forcing their way inside, the PCs battled dominated acolytes as they explored the cathedral.
When the PCs entered the Main Hall they saw a black-cloaked figure wearing a bright red devil mask – the Tormentor! He was standing over a kneeling woman the PCs recognize as the Prophet Rohini. Rohini was clearly in pain, while the Tormentor poured fiery magic into her from his outstretched hand. Around the room are numerous Acolytes as well as a green-skinned Elf. The Elf held a woman in his arms.
The Tormentor looked up when the PCs opened the doors. His concentration momentarily broken, Rohini reached up and pulled away his mask before she collapsed. The Tormentor was Elden Vargis. “I see the time for deception is at an end,” he said. “Chartilifax, give me Karis and deal with this rabble.”
The Elf handed over the woman to Vargas and then turned to address the party. “Little heroes have come to play, little heroes die today.” His body shifted, his bones cracked as his limbs and torso distorted. His shoulder blades burst through his back and became wings. A Green Dragon reared up, rolling mad eyes and expelling poison fumes.
This week at Harry T North in Toronto we ran back-to-back sessions as we’d fallen a week behind. As we’ve done all season we continued to shuffle the PCs between the two tables each week. The group I played this week’s encounter with consisted of a Human Ranger (Hunter), Eladrin Ardent, Human Wizard, Human Assassin and Goliath Monk (my character).
Wasting no time in the face of danger, the PCs attacked. The Assassin and Ranger decided that they needed to focus on the Dragon. They both got quick shots off before the Dragon could act. The Ranger dazed the Dragon but it still managed to get all five PCs in his breath weapon, hitting three (scoring a natural 20 on the Assassin).
The Monk and Wizard both used powers that targeted the Dragon and some minions, hitting the Dragon and knocking out two minions. The Ardent contemplated teleporting next to the Prophet and reviving her, but the party talked him out of it. Instead he healed the Assassin and attacked the Dragon.
The Assassin and Ranger continued to stay focused on the Dragon shooting it from range and getting farther away in opposite directions. This became their standard plan of attack for the rest of the fight. Shoot and move, shoot and move.
The Dragon focused on the Ardent since he was granting it combat advantage and scored a big hit. The minions then surrounded the Ardent and continued to pound on him. The Wizard dropped a burst on the Ardent the next round taking out three more minions but subjecting the PC to a few points of damage too. The Ardent and Monk then coordinated their attacks. The Ardent used a teleportation power to switch squares with the Monk. The Ardent attacked the Dragon while the Monk used a close burst 1 to target the two remaining minions, knocking out both.
With the field clear of minions it was just five PCs vs. one big Green Dragon… until the Dragon went. It recharged its breath and got the Monk, Wizard and Ardent in the blast. This knocked the Ardent unconscious and badly bloodied the Monk and Wizard. Before the Monk could administer his unconscious ally a Healing Potion the Dragon took his flyby action (something the DM forgot to use the first few rounds). This attack ended up killing the Ardent dead-dead.
With only four heroes left, two of them really hurt, things were about to get worse. On the Dragon’s next turn he dropped the Wizard. If not for some temporary hit points, the Monk would also have been down. The Assassin revived the Wizard while the Monk used two Healing Potions.
Fortunately the Dragon finally missed giving the heroes a chance to get back in the fight. When they finally bloodied the Dragon it backed away and flew into the huge glass window, shattering it. The sound of the breaking glass, and the sudden cool winds and rain penetrating the main room awakened the Prophet. She locked eyes with Chartilifax and seemed to take control of the Dragon. The PCs all took another round of attacks before the Dragon broke free of the Prophet’s control and flew out the open window.
The Prophet Rohini thanked the PCs for their help and asks them to peruse Vargas – something they needed little prompting to do. She explained that Vargas had likely teleported upstairs. She also asked that the PCs refrain form harming Chartilifax if they encounter him again. He is a gentle soul who is enthralled by the madness plaguing so many of the acolytes and inmates at Helm’s Hold. The PCs agreed not to kill the Green Dragon but said they’d attack it if necessary.
The party took a quick 5-minute rest before they headed towards the spiral staircases heading to the cathedral’s upper levels.
For a long time I complained that there wasn’t enough opportunity for role-playing in D&D Encounters. And then Wizards and the fantastic authors they hired to write the last few seasons of Encounters addressed this deficiency and added lots and lots of chances for the character to role-play. This week the party was thrust into combat from the outset. No role-playing, no chit-chat, no investigation; the DM set the scene and then the Dominated Inmates and the Dragon, Chartilifax, attacked the party. And it was wonderful.
This was one of the more difficult combat encounters I’d played at D&D Encounters in a very long time. The minions did a good job of getting in the way and landing a few minor blows to the party, but it as the Dragon who took us to school. We had three strikers which is usually a good thing when you’re fighting a solo monster, unfortunately since strikers are usually soft; it only took a few good blows to cause some real problems for us. Our lack of a defender meant the Dragon could attack with impunity. His defenses were high enough that he happily moved wherever he wanted risking opportunity attacks (most of which missed).
The only thing we were actually good at was taking out the minions. With a good controller and a striker that had a close burst 1 at-will power, the minions were dispatched pretty quickly. However, in order for the blasts and burst to be most effective the Ardent took a lot of friendly fire which lead (in part) to his eventual death.
By the time we managed to wound Chartilifax badly enough that he fled, we had expended a tremendous amount of resources. Everyone who had daily powers used at least one. Two of the three strikers were down to their last healing surge following the short rest. All Healing Potions were gone. This party will be in for two very challenging encounters if we don’t shuffle the roster between tables.
How did your party fend against Chartilifax? Did anyone manage to kill him before he could escape? If so how do DMs plan to adapt the final encounter? Did any other parties lose a PC or two? Any TPKs?
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.
Also be sure to check out our special episode of Recounting Encounters in which we interview Erik Scott de Bie, author of this season’s adventure Storm Over Neverwinter.
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.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.