This week we began season 14 of D&D Encounters: Search of the Diamond Staff. The adventure takes place in the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. The adventure begins shortly after the events that occurred during the D&D Game Day: Vault of the Dracolich. There was no requirement to play the Game Day adventure first, but anyone who did came into this season of Encounters with a bit more knowledge of the back story, a little bit more XP and possibly even a magical item.
During the Game Day adventure multiple adventuring parties made a coordinated attack on the lair of an undead Dragon in an attempt to recover the Diamond Staff of Chomylla. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the adventurers on Game Day, the Wizard Imani now has the Diamond Staff in his possession and that’s where things pick up in week 1.
We decided at the end of the previous season to try using the D&D Next rules this time around. This decision was made in part to allow people to continue on with the PCs they planned to play at Game Day. Most of the players who normally participate in D&D Encounters at Harry T North in Toronto were at the Game Day so that made for a very smooth transition into week 1.
This week we had 12 players and two DMs. The party at my table consisted of the following characters: Half-Orc Ranger, Half-Orc Paladin, Human Cleric, Human Wizard, Elf Wizard, Dwarf Cleric.
The adventure began with the PCs answering a summons from Imani. Once all the heroes introduced themselves and exchanged pleasantries, Imani addressed them and provided details on what they were being hired to do.
“I intend to mount an expedition to the ruins of Uvaeren, on the boarders of Mistledale. The ancient libraries and vaults of that long-lost Elvin realm are still hidden within the forest, protected by spells of warding and have prevented entry to this day. But I have recently come into possession of a secret key.”
“Your task is to escort me to the ruins, protect me from bandits and monsters, help me defeat or bypass any old traps that may still remain, and guard me while I open the Vault of Song and study its secrets.”
The job seemed pretty straight forward and paid well so the heroes accepted his terms. He suggested the equip themselves and get ready for a long journey that would likely take a month or more. Imani agreed to let the PCs charge any mundane equipment they needed (within reason) to his account.
The Paladin and two Clerics decided to visit Lathander’s Open Hand, a barn converted to a small shrine. The lone priestess, Sister Tressa, welcomed them with open arms. They explained their quest and asked if she could help them or provide any tools that might make their task easier.
Since two of the PCs (the Dwarf Cleric and the Paladin) worshipped Amaunator (Lathander by another name) Tressa was glad to help. She felt confident that the party would succeed and triumph in the face of danger since two of Amaunator’s brave soldiers were part of the expedition. She showed them her stash of five healing potions and offered to sell them to the PCs. The Dwarf Cleric, rich with Game Day money, purchased them all with the intent of distributing one to each of the other PCs.
Sister Tressa suggested that if the PCs wanted to spend the night in the shrine they could but they’d have to sleep on the floor since the structure was so small. It was clear that she was just be polite so the two Clerics declined and said they’d stay at the inn. The Paladin felt strongly that he should sleep on sacred ground and decided to stay.
The Ranger decided to visit Delmuth’s Barrel, the town’s general store. The Dwarven proprietor Delmuth and two Human teenagers he adopted were happy to help the adventurer resupply for his journey. Despite the fact that the boys lost their parents to an Orc raid a few years earlier, they treated the Half-Orc with kindness and respect, especially when he let slip that he was part of the force that stormed the Dracolich’s lair.
The two Wizards went straight to the Millery Inn. Berndon, a tall, big-bellied Human welcomed them and waited on them personally. The inn was a very simple structure but it was clear Berndon did his best to keep it clean and functional. Berndon asked if either of the PCs took part in the recent attack on the Dragon’s lair. The Human Wizard grimly explained that he was and that his brother had given his life for the mission to succeed. A nearby patron lowered his head in respect. After that the Wizards kept to themselves while they waited for their companions to arrive.
Eventually the entre party regrouped at the inn, with the exception of the Paladin who was still at the shrine. The Cleric passed out the healing potions and the group got to know each other better over a meal.
As dinner finished up and more of the locals arrived at the inn to enjoy a few pints, the sound of a bell was heard running nearby. The locals recognized it as a warning bell. A young Human in a leather apron burst into the room. “Orcs!” he shouted. “Orc and wolves are attacking!”
A few minutes earlier, while performing the evening prayer at the shrine, Sister Tressa and Paladin were interrupted when a local farmer burst in and made a similar declaration that Orcs were attacking. Tressa told the Paladin to pull on a nearby rope to sound the bell and warn the town. After a few good tugs he headed towards the sounds of smashing and barking.
Back at the inn the PCs took a moment to try and calm everyone down. They took charge and headed out to face the Orcs. As the party approached from the south they could see the Paladin approach from the west.
Orc warriors wearing leather gauntlets studded with broken teeth were moving from house to house, destroying property, looting, and trying to burn down every structure. Accompanying the Orcs were wolves in iron collars. Several villagers were dead in the streets as the Orcs advanced.
The Paladin engaged the closest group of Orcs by himself rather than wait for his companions to catch up and help him. With his first strike he destroyed the closest wolf. This in turn drew the attention of two Orcs and another wolf who moved closer, surrounded the Paladin and attacked him.
The rest of the party attacked using ranged weapons and spells while staying grouped together. Two Orcs and a wolf took the long way around a building in an attempt to flank the PCs. The closest Orc ran towards the party but was shot down before he could get close enough to engage in melee. Three other Orcs stayed back and shot at the Clerics and Wizards with their bows.
The Paladin took a lot of damage over three rounds of melee and had a difficult time hitting after his spectacular beginning. One of the Wizards and one of the Clerics helped the Paladin by attacking the Orcs surrounding him with their spells. This softened them up enough that when the Paladin finally did hit he was able to drop the wolf and then the other two Orcs. However, he came dangerously close to falling unconscious and wouldn’t have survived if the nearby Cleric hadn’t healed him during the fight.
The Orcs with bows shot at the party and moved a bit closer every round. The party fired back hitting but not dropping any. Fortunately the PCs managed to kill two of the three before the Orcs sneaking around the cottage flanked the party. The flanking Orcs and their wolf engaged the Ranger and Cleric in melee. Fortunately the Ranger hit hard and often, dropping the Orcs he faced quickly.
With the Orcs falling quickly the remaining archer took off. The wolf that accompanied the sneaky Orcs was surrounded and was unable to flee. It continued to fight the PCs and they continued to fight it. The Paladin tried to command the wolf, since it was obviously somewhat trained, but even though he shouted commands at it in Orcish the wolf fought to the death.
As the combat came to an end the PCs head the sounds of ring steel and faint shouting coming from the direction of Imani’s tower. It seemed that the Orcs they faced were not the only ones attacking the village of Hap. The PCs quickly consumed healing potions and cast a few healing spells before heading towards the sounds of combat.
I must admit that for an opening session this one was kind of weak. There were a few places in town the PCs could visit but there seemed like very limited role-playing opportunities since the NPCs weren’t really detailed and the PCs really didn’t have much to ask of them. After all, the heroes were planning to leave in the morning so who cares about these locals and their problems.
The players who participated in the Game Day had no complaints but the other players agreed that it was a pretty short and lack-luster encounter. The combat was necessary so that the party could get a feel for who could do what, but it was very straight forward for an advanced level 4 party. We were using the D&D Next rules which made the combat seem that much faster.
One thing I did like was the fact that this is just part of a fight that still happening. The PCs didn’t have time to stop and rest, they had to just push on if they had any hope of stopping the Orcs.
Had I been running this as 4e I likely would have allowed a short rest, but since a short rest in Next takes 1 hour it was absolutely out of the question. Some of the players who had not yet played D&D Next and didn’t take the time to read the play test materials were not happy to lean this after the fight, which is why they needed to use healing potions and magic.
The party quickly learned the value of ranged combat in D&D Next and missed the charge mechanic from 4e that they were used to. The absence of powers that do stuff other than damage made the fighting run smoothly and quickly. Our combat lasted six or seven rounds and probably only took about 20 minutes.
After one week of D&D Next the overwhelming feeling was that it was a good start and showed considerable promise. It will take us a while to unlearn some of our 4e habits but that’s what happens whenever you jump into a new edition of D&D. Of the 12 players present only two seemed to really want to abandon D&D Next and return to 4e for the rest of the season.
How did week 1 play out at your FLGS? Did you find the opening session a bit light? How many groups are using D&D Next this season? How many decided to try D&D Next because they got a taste of it during D&D Game Day?
Wizard has provided two great Dalelands maps for this season.
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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