D&D Encounters: Storm Over Neverwinter (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 30, 2013

storm-over-neverwinter-coverLast week the party faced off against the Dragon Chartilifax, only to see the Dragon flee when it got bloodied. The PCs tended to the Prophet Rohini, took a short rest, and then ventured upward to confront Elden Vargas.

This week at Harry T North in Toronto we ran two tables of five. Even though we determined seating randomly, my table had four of the same five as last week. We lost our leader but gained a defender. Here’s what the party looked like: Human Wizard, Human Ranger, Human Assassin, Dwarf Fighter, and Goliath Monk (my character).

The party split up: the Ranger and Wizard climbed one staircase, the Fighter, Assassin, and Monk took the other. When the party reached the next level the storm raging outside seemed to intensify. Lightning struck the building repeatedly and the booming thunder caused the entire cathedral to shake and sway. The windows exploded inward and broke under the pressure. Lightning seemed to dance into the room through the open window creating crackling creatures made of electricity.

When we saw seven lightening creatures between the party and the main staircase we knew that initiative would be important. The only PC to act before the monsters was the Assassin. He cautiously moved a few squares and fired at the nearest Storm Hurler. That got their attention as all the monsters turned towards the party and attacked.

With the party pinned at the top of the staircases the only way to get into the room would require the PCs to provoke multiple opportunity attacks as they went. The Fighter activated his defender aura which would hopefully reduce opportunity attacks for those monsters trapped within it. Unfortunately he missed on his first attack.

My Monk used his Spellscar power to go invisible. This allowed him to move without provoking opportunity attacks. He then used a daily power that was close burst 2, however, this increased to 3 because of magic item so he was able to attack all seven opponents. Three hits for 24 damage, four misses for 12 (plus 12 more for furry of blows to one monster). Since only one monster was bloodied I used an action point to use my close burst 1 at-will. However, the daily power effect and item made it burst 3 so I again targeted all seven monsters, hitting four. Good turn. However it got the monster’s attention and I faced a lot of attacks next round.

The Ranger moved through the fray provoking four opportunity attacks as he went. Three monsters were in the defender aura so the Fighter did his thing and hit all three. Only two of the opportunity attacks connected and the Ranger ended up taking about 15 damage for hit troubles. On the up side, he managed to stay away from the monsters for pretty much the rest of the combat so it was certainly a good decision to move early despite the risk.

The Wizard was pinned. All he could do was step back down the stairs and fire Magic Missile at the Storm Hurler in front of him. Since that was the creature who had taken the bulk of the attacks so far it fell, clearing a path for next round.

The Fighter and the Monk became the targets of the monsters for the next couple of rounds. Fortunately the attacks against the Monk either missed or were minimized thanks to some defensive powers that provided him with resistances or temporary hit points (or both). The Fighter managed to lock down two Storm Vertices and two Storm Hurlers with his aura, but all of those attacks quickly ate away at his immense pool of hit points. The fact that they all targeted Reflex, his lowest defense, didn’t help. Fortunately as a Dwarf he could use his Second Wind as a minor action, but even with the resurgence he still fell below 0 hit pints by about the fourth round.

Meanwhile the Wizard got into the room and used Freezing Burst to target at least two, but usually three, enemies in his burst each round. His attack dice weren’t cooperating and he only seemed to hit one each time. The Ranger and Assassin targeted the bloodied enemies leaving them for the Monk to drop with his massive close burst 3 at-will each round.

When the Fighter finally fell, the monsters locked in his aura all dispersed and each took on a different PC. The Ranger risked another opportunity attack to move past the Storm Vortex and Heal his fall ally. The gamble paid off as the opportunity attack missed and the Heal check was a natural 20.

Regrettably the monster acted before the Fighter and they managed to hit him and knock him unconscious again before he could act. But that’s not enough to keep a Dwarven Fighter down. He rolled a natural 20 on his death save and got right back into the fight on the next round.

With all of the Storm Hurlers down the party faced three bloodied Storm Vortices. Two attacked the Monk while the other was again stuck in the Fighter’s aura. Focused fire, team work, and a lot of luck saw the party victorious. When they finally dropped the last monster the Monk and Fighter both had less than 10 hit points remaining. One hit on either would have dropped them.

With the monsters defeated the party had to find a way upstairs. The main spiral staircase was destroyed so they had to clear rubble and climb up. The Monk, Fighter and Ranger had no trouble; the Assassin and Wizard fell during the climb and each took a bit of damage. When the party reached the next level they had to dodge through falling debris. The Assassin who took minimal damage during the fight used his body as a shield to safeguard the now bloodied Wizard. The Fighter took a solid blow to the head but kept on his feet with 1 hit point remaining. The Ranger and Monk easily dodged and weaved their way through.

Once everyone reached the safety of the intact staircase the party took a shot rest before climbing the final story to face Vargas on the rooftop.

Thoughts

For the second week in a row we had very combat-heavy session with almost no role-playing, and it was great! Poor initiative rolls nearly killed the party. The monsters managed to block us at the top of the stairs. This gimped the party’s ranged attackers and forced them to be creative.

For the second week in a row the party took a lot of damage from some very powerful monsters. The Assassin and Monk were both forced to take Durability as their level 6 feats after last week’s shellacking. My Monk is going into next week’s finale at less than full hit points and 1 healing surge. The Assassin is at full hit points but has 0 healing surges remaining. Even the Fighter, who had 15 healing surges at the start of the chapter, is down to 6.

I really liked this week’s fight. The terrain was nothing special, but the shaking building causes creatures moving 3 squares or more to make an Acrobatics check or fall prone. This gave the Monk and Ranger no issue, but forced the Fighter and Wizard to really think about where they wanted to go and move there 2 squares at a time.

The pushing gusts of wind coming through the open windows didn’t really have much effect on us since we spent most of the fight near the stairs, but it did put the Ranger back into harm’s way one round when he thought he was taking cover.

The party couldn’t make high enough knowledge checks to determine if the monster’s had resistances but we assumed thunder and lightning powers shouldn’t be used against them. Turns out we were right as they had resist 10, but the ongoing storm magic should have provided +5 extra damage from powers with those keywords, something our DM forgot to apply when we did actually use a couple of thunder powers.

The Storm Vortices’ aura was particularly effective against the Fighter, but fortunately the Monk never attacked them while in an adjacent square. This week’s combat was ideal for controllers or anyone who could target multiple monsters (like a Monk). It was the exact opposite of last week’s fight against the solo Dragon where the heavy-hitting, one attack strikers were the stars of the show.

Next week is the thrilling climax. I don’t expect our entire party to live through it simply because we’re so hurt. The lack of healing surges will likely be our undoing, so those of us with few remaining need to do our best to contribute before we fall unconscious or die outright. I can’t wait.

How did your party do this week against the lightning monsters? Did anyone’s PC get killed? Did any parties suffer a TPK? How many of you are going into the last fight with no healing surges or less than maximum hit points?

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.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am

We ran 3 tables of 6 (using 4e) at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA.

This fight was rough, with the monsters doing lots of damage. After round 1, I took away the +X damage the monsters did, and just used the die rolls for their damage totals (to avoid a tpk). Our players also got mostly stuck on the stairs, with the hurlers using that awesome lightning hit/teleport power to lock them down pretty quickly.

It was good to have a cluster of PCs & enemies, though, because the 2 new players at my table (one a rogue, the other a pushy wizard) really got to understand the tactical benefits of things like combat advantage and powers that slide. Our warlord was the one who suffered most from the vortici’s auras, but the combination of having a warlord, a healing-centered cleric, and a couple others who’d taken healer multi-class feats allowed the party to stay up. The pushing winds also had no real effect at our table, since everyone mostly stayed near the stairs.

Just for flavor, I had the dragon land on the outside of the building to breathe in a poison scream through the window before flying off into the storm in a fit of insane laughter… it didn’t do much damage to anyone (only one character, a dwarf who had poison resistance, was in the blast), but it reminded folks that Chartlifax was still out there, and still INSANE.

In the end, the party was pretty badly hurt, and down to very few healing surges… but alive. They’re very psyched for next week’s big finale.

2 Wendy McLaren May 30, 2013 at 9:48 am

Our FLGS usually has 3 tables and last night was no exception. Two of the tables have regular players — some have been playing as a group for several seasons. My table was down 2 of our regulars, but we had a walk-in to make up the numbers.

This week’s combat looked entirely uninteresting to me, so I ran the session as a Skill Challenge instead. I worked it up as a level 5 Complexity, so they needed 12 successes before 3 failures. For Advantages, I told them that successes of 5+ over the target number could either count as 2 successes or could negate a failure; and that they could draw upon a “flashback” scene to get a bonus to the roll. They loved that part! My players have consistently lamented the lack of RP opportunities and this gave them a chance to finally re-enact some of the things they’d wanted to do.

Failing the skill challenge would have lost them each 2 surges. Success meant they lost none. Our party made it up the stairs, hale and hearty, and ready for a fight.

3 Cent May 30, 2013 at 10:20 am

*We played using the Next plat-test rule set*

Another solid turn out last night. We had 3 tables with 5 or 6 players at each table.

Our party consisted of 2 paladins, a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard (who dabbles in healing). Initiative worked out in our favor with most of the party getting the chance to engage combat before the monsters. This turned out to be a huge advantage given the movement and attack abilities of the creatures. Allowing the party to split apart somewhat and avoid having everyone clustered together, and subjected to the potentially lethal area of effect spells cast by the creatures.

Most of the PC’s were melee related and only the wizard had any abilities that would grant hits to multiple targets. Fortunately, the paladins and fighter all have access to Deadly Strike and the Weapon Expert feat.

This combination is a bit overpowered as Deadly Strike allows the player to roll double weapon damage with every hit (even opportunity attacks) and Weapon Expert allows for a re-roll of one hit die, keeping the highest roll. The creatures proved somewhat challenging, but couldn’t endure more than 2 successful attacks by our melee characters.

Having said that, most of the party is out of healing surges and down on daily abilities. Next week will take a healthy dose of skill and luck if we hope to survive.

4 Mike May 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm

We had two tables at Big Robot Games, in Greer SC. We run the Next playtest rules. We ran two very full tables as usual.

Our table had two halfling rouges, two dwarf clerics, one dwarf fighter and my dwarf barbarian. Normally with the rage my character just runs straight into the fight no matter what we’re facing. However this week I was talked into just moving around the storm monsters in hope that we could get up the center staircase taking minimal damage from opportunity attacks.

This plan worked fairly well for a majority of the group. Passing dex checks to get past the storms and then strength checks to get up the stairs without incident. I hung back just in case things went south. However when my turn finally came up I not only failed the dex checks and took massive damage from several untimely crits by the storms, I also failed the strength check to climb the stairs, not once but twice. Finally the rest of the party just lowered a rope for me to get up with 5 hit points left.

A very embarrassing week for me, but definitely a different approach to this encounter.

5 Vobekhan May 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Another brutal combat heavy encounter, if my players on the night hadnt have missed the previous 2 sessions I would probably have had to fudge a little to avoid a TPK, as it was, I had a battered and bruised party of 5 pc’s ascending the central stairway. I even let them bypass the 2nd floor of storm wracked flying objects.

We have been running under the 4e rules since we began taking part in Encounters (back with season 8 – the Elemental Eye) and have now decided to give Next a chance with the upcoming season 14 and Games Day event.

6 ShadowTiger June 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

My group that did D&D next had little trouble killing the elementals. My character took damage for the first time and got knocked down pretty low, but in general the damage was spread around between our 7 party members. Our DM decided that the prophet can give us some magical healing so we haven’t really used our healing resources (hit dice) at all.

D&D next is pretty hard to calibrate difficulty for, especially since the monsters given in the conversion notes lack any powerful or interesting abilities. It really is up to the DM to modify the rules if the players want a challenge.

The nice thing about D&D next though is the lack of complexity allows more room for interaction between players, and we have lots of fun just making jokes or out of character commentary.

Lets hope that next week things get kicked up a notch, and also that the story starts to make sense.

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