D&D Encounters: Storm Over Neverwinter (Week 6)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 23, 2013

storm-over-neverwinter-coverLast 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.

Thoughts

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.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cent May 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

*Our group played using the D&D Next play-test rules*

Last night was a good turn out. There were 3 tables running. Two tables of 6, and our table of 5.

Out of our party of 5 only one player, a paladin, seemed interested in engaging directly with the dragon and charged him at the start of combat. Fortunately he can deal significant damage, and by the end of his fourth round of combat, after being dropped and then healed once, the dragon had been chased off. Leaving some minion clean-up duty.

Our table finished the session within an hour, and seemed well ahead of the other tables for the night. The decision to aggressively pursue the dragon was risky, considering only 1 party member did so, but paid off.
The dragon was only able to get off one breath attack, spent another round physically attacking paladin, and then recharged but was not able to use his breath attack again.

Have to mention that last nights map was great! Lots of nooks, and movement impediments. Plenty of opportunities to use the landscape as part of your strategy.

Side note: Last nights combat made great use of “minions”. In I fact I’m finding that I really like the way “minions” play in Next. They have just enough HP and powers to be more than simple distractions. You can add a few to a board and they compliment “main” antagonists very nicely without getting overwhelming to deal with.

2 Joe May 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

Lots of players at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA… 3 tables of 6 or 7. My table had a wide enough variety of character types, but no controllers focused on status effects. As a result, the only debuff on the dragon was a -8 damage effect that the cleric threw on him (and kept sustaining each round with a minor action). That one power probably saved the party.

Last week, the party had decided to unlock all 3 doors (I’d inserted 2 more door tiles over the entry points to the room to keep them in the outer hall), so they began split up, with 2 at each door (avenger & cleric at one side, rogue & warlord in center, druid & ranger at other side). This made Charlifax’s mobility a big factor, while conveniently splitting much of the party from the healers.

For whatever reason, my players had difficulty rolling saves this week, so there were several folks who, at one point or another during the fight, were suffering ongoing 5 poison, ongoing 5 psychic, and slowed. I was able to use Rohini to keep the dragon from totally slaughtering the party, giving them enough time to get to the cleric or the warlord.

In the end, Charlifax was a really FUN dragon to run as a DM. Lots of cool powers & flavor. I definitely had to hold back a bit with this group of players, since Encounters doesn’t always attract the most tactically-minded players, but folks had fun at my table regardless, and they’re pretty sure that they haven’t seen the last of that crazy green elf (who was played by Nicolas Cage in my game).
Joe´s last blog post ..MythSpoken RPG Special #5: The 13th Age Playtest, Part One

3 Dave May 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I liked how our DM introduced my character after I missed the last session. It was the same group as last session and he had taken a picture of where everyone was so he could put them back there so it wouldn’t have made sense to just plunk me down in the middle. Instead he said that I had missed meeting up with the party previously and instead followed the mob to Helm’s Hold where they broke down the doors – just in time to see a green dragon appear. The mob suddenly had less interest in breaking in and seeing their loved ones and more interest in running away quickly.

It was a fairly straight forward combat after that, my character was a bard and I actually managed some effect when I tried to bluff the dragon, but while I was trying to get the dragon into better tactical position (since I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to defeat it with a bluff) it just sat paused looking confused. At that point I figured well the next person to have a turn is just going to attack him anyway so I might as well try my attack (which snapped him out of it), but in hindsight maybe we could have used that to our advantage somehow.

Our DM also did a good job with the minions. They weren’t really tough individually, but every time you killed one it set off a psychic scream of some kind from all the still living minions which did 2 points of damage to anyone standing nearby, which really took a toll on them.

Also, I have to give my vote for MVP to our warforged runepriest. He healed Rohini and assisted her in dominating the dragon, which prevented him from doing any flyby attacks, which would have really hurt us. Unfortunately, an insight check showed that we probably couldn’t heal the dragons madness, but it was a good idea.

I’m just sorry we weren’t able to finish the fight with dragon, since when it got to the two hour mark the dragon broke through a window and fled into the night. It would probably have taken up a lot of resources, but it would also have been fun. I’m just hoping that I see a bunch of other commenters saying that happened to them too, and it wasn’t that we were just really slow at defeating it.

4 Mike May 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm

“No opportunity for roleplaying?” That is a matter of perspective. This week we still had a full three tables, and nearly the same group as last time with an assassin, warforged runepriest, ranger, swordmage, monk and our bard who had been missing last week. The session started off with Vargas escaping and Chartilifax resuming his green dragon form with a crazed look in his eye. Our bard returned triumphantly with a mob of townspeople breaking down the door to the chapel. They took one look at the dragon and decided that they had important business on the other side of the town, or country, or possibly the continent, leaving us to handle the dragon and the minions. The minions filled a good role of blocking movement, but didn’t seem to do too much damage or distract from the fight with the dragon. The dragon struck first with his breath weapon, which was the deadliest part of the whole encounter. By the time it was over, most of our party had been poisoned and the poison had done the most damage of anything by far. The continuing damage was also much scarier than a regular attack because you couldn’t just retreat and heal yourself. You had to make a save.
My first move was to offer myself in exchange for the Prophet Rohini. I figured that would at least allow me to get close enough to do my monk attacks. Chartilifax just laughed at that . The bard tried to convince the dragon that we were also working for Asmodeus, but apparrently the dragon was not an Asmodei, just insane so that didn’t go anwhere. Our warpriest started Prophet Rohini on his first move which was the best move because she woke up and explained that Chartilifax was just a patient, not evil and tried to calm him down. Her calming him down only stopped him from doing his free flyby, but that was a big help. The ranger and assassin did some ranged attacks while trying to benefit from cover, which worked well for them. The swordmage cleaned up a few minions, at which point we discovered that killing them created a psychic wave giving two damage to everyone standing next to a minion. Then we tried knocking them unconscious and found out that that also caused the damage. Then we pursued a mixed strategy of trying to cure the dragon’s madness, and when that failed fighting him. The runepriest healed and talked to Rohini for help. The bard tried tricking him again. I tried using my healing skill, but none of that really worked. The bard and runepriest then, tried healing the dragon with their powers, but unfortunately all of of their powers only worked on “allies” and our DM ruled that Chartilifax could not be counted as an ally, poor demented soul that he was. So we had to try subduing him physically. In retrospect, we could have tried to use Insight and try to talk to him about his delusions, which might have enabled us to finish the encounter without fighting. Maybe next time. It was a challenging battle. By the time the session ended, our bard had already died (with 2 ongoing poisons!) and we hadn’t even bloodied the dragon. At that point, he just flew off. It was a fun encounter with some opportunity for fighting and role playing. Chartilifax was an interesting and sympathetic character and I think half the table was rooting for curing him, rather than killing him. The biggest problem was lack of time. Since the dragon left when the store closed instead of when we bloodied him it didn’t feel like we actually drove him off. In retrospect, given the time limits we should have concentrated on just healing Chartilifax or just attacking him. Then we would have finished on time.

5 Peter B May 26, 2013 at 3:11 am

Normally a DM, but got to play this week because of a small number of players. We had a LazyLord, a Bladesinger, a Enchantment Mage, a Berzerker with a Displacer Beast, and me playing a E-Pally who multiclassed into O-Bard. While it was a tough fight, we also used our resources very carefully. Only the Bladesinger, who was already a bit wrecked, took serious damage, and my Pally used all his dailies (mostly because I knew I could since I’m not likely to play on a table again)

Our DM didn’t hold back, and rolled fairly well on the hits, but not so well on the damage, so we were taking hits fairly often from Chartilfax, even scoring a few crits on us. Otherwise, combat was fairly normal, with one defender taking on the minions and the other one trying to lock down the dragon, even as the dragon was doing as his tactics said and prioritizing the squishies.

——

After combat was when things got funny. Our DM took things he knew about the characters and made Rohinit prophesizing about them, except for the Zerker, whom he never had before. She got her cat (the displacer beast) thrown out of Helm’s Hold after the dragon instead. We all laughed at his on the spot tales, which were mostly humorous, which was well needed after such a tense fight.

I was happy with this encounter. It’s a BOSS fight, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while (except for the fight against the Drow Avatar, which was Nintendo Hard, imo). We used a lot of resources, we had to fight hard, and we LOVED it.

6 Vobekhan May 26, 2013 at 7:59 am

A great session albeit with low player numbers again. Their faces at facing an actual dragon were a treat, though I had it flee at 100 damage due to their reduced members.

Unfortunately it looks like we may be down to single sessions if at all next season as many of our players are beginning to suffer burnout with the repetative 8 week season-change pcs-8 week season.

I think that with the upcoming Games Day event being a DnDNext ruleset I may run the following season using Next and see if that makes a difference.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters Season 13 – Storm over Neverwinter – Session 6

7 Tanakil May 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

We ended up killing the dragon because when he tried to escape he got hit by three opportunity attacks which all did extreme damage, and he died. The DM who was a first time DM was like well… damn he was supposed to get away. I’ve been loving D&D Encounters. They are releasing the Elder Elemental Eye in the next issue of Dungeon, so I think that is awesome for people who didn’t get a chance to play it!

8 Jacqueline Combs June 2, 2013 at 9:06 am

Two words. Automatic damage. If the party has some, this encounter gets a lot easier. no automatic damage and it’s a very very hard encounter. A dragon born and a wizard can blast a lot of minions on round one even without the autokills but that auto dmg also piles up on worm priests and dragon shields. even without the 2d6 4(or 5 with astral fire) the constant d4 4(or 5) will add up to 70-100 damage in the course of the battle and remove many minions. Beacon of hope is another very strong power for pc’s to win this encounter.
Jacqueline Combs´s last blog post ..No last blog posts to return.

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