Last week’s encounter ended when the party defeated a band of Orcs who were attacking the village of Hap in the Dalelands. As the party took a quick breather to patch their wounds and assess the situation they heard the faint sounds of combat coming from Imani’s tower. Clearly there were still Orcs about and the party’s job wasn’t completed.
We had a decent turn out at Harry T North in Toronto this week. We had 13 players and three DMs so we ran three tables, all using the D&D Next rules. My table had five players all together: three from last week, one regular who happened to be absent last week ,and one brand new player who hadn’t played since 3e. The party consisted of a Dwarf Cleric, Human Rogue, Human Cleric, Elf Ranger, and Human Wizard.
Just as the party was about to head for Imani’s tower, two new adventurers arrived on the scene – a Rogue Bounty Hunter and a Ranger. They’d been tracking these Orcs and were looking for their chief. He had a sizable bounty on his head and they were here to collect it. They quickly checked the bodies in the immediate area and didn’t find the chief.
They agreed to work with the party to drive the Orcs from Hap but were not willing to share the bounty if the chief was captured or killed. The party had other interests and didn’t protest. So the group of five took off towards the sounds of battle.
The tower and adjacent cottage were located in a small clearing. Near the tower door the PCs spotted five badly burned Orc bodies. The Wizard speculated that they’d set off a trap when they tried to rush the main entrance. The party decided to head around back and see if they could find an entrance through the cottage. Their hope was to gain the element of surprise on whatever was fighting in the tower.
The Rogue took point and upon reaching the cottage door searched for traps (and found none). He then picked the lock and quietly looked inside. A young Human was cowering in the bedroom but didn’t notice the PCs. The Rogue got his attention and signaled for him to come outside, which he did. The PCs recognized Drindol, Imani’s scribe.
The scribe explained that the Orcs burst into the laboratory and attacked Imani. Drindol wasn’t sure if Imani was dead or alive but feared for his safety. Before he could say any more the PCs charged inside to Imani’s aid.
When the PCs opened the door from the cottage to the tower they spotted six Orcs fighting a huge humanoid creature with mottled skin (later discovered to be a Flesh Golem). The room was in disarray. Bookshelves were knocked over, tables smashed and lab equipment was destroyed and strewn across the floor.
Imani’s lifeless body lay crumpled at the foot of a bookshelf, blood seeping from a wound in his chest. A dead Orc with Dragon’s teeth mounted on his helmet lay dead beside Imani.
Without hesitation the PCs jumped into action. The Dwarven Cleric fired his cross bow at the closest Orc and the Ranger moved in and fired his bow at the same target. Three of the Orcs kept fighting the Golem while the other three engaged the party, two with axes and one with a bow.
The PCs were stuck in the doorway, trapped by the Orcs. The Human Cleric healed Imani and then moved out of the way. The Wizard used a levitate spell to rise above the melee and get a better vantage on the situation.
The Golem continued to focus its rage on the nearby Orcs punching them and pushing them away. When the rest of the Orcs realized the PCs were in the tower they carefully disengaged from the Golem and ran towards the PCs.
The Rogue and Dwarf Cleric both risked opportunity attacks (both hitting) in order to get deeper into the tower. The Cleric attacked and hit an Orc while the Rogue tried and failed to connect.
The Wizard shot Magic Missiles at the unsuspecting Orcs which only made them mad. Two focused fire and shot their bows at the flying target, hitting him twice. The Golem charged forward and swung wildly at the line of creatures (two Orcs and two PCs). Using a d4 to determine targets one of the Orc and one of the PCs were attacked, but both swings missed.
Now that the PCs realized the Golem would attack the nearest creature indiscriminately, they immediately changed tactics. The Ranger and Human Cleric both risked opportunity attacks to get father away from it. The Rogue stood his ground and kept attacking wounded Orcs, but missed.
The Dwarf Cleric managed to finally drop an Orc, and so did the Wizard. However, when the Orcs reached 0 hit points they entered a blood frenzy and stayed on their feet for one last swing. Fortunately they both missed on their turn.
By this time Imani regained consciousness (he would have earlier, but I forgot to add him to the initiative). He was groggy at first, looking around and trying to take in the situation. He then snapped to full alert, “Wait a moment… where’s the Crystal Staff?” Not seeing it in the tower he bolted for the door, leaving the Orcs and PCs to face the Golem alone.
Over the next few rounds the heroes managed to take down the Orcs one by one. The Wizard continued to shoot enemies from the air, hitting almost every round. The Orc archers eventually gave up shooting the Wizard, focusing instead on the melee combatants. When the final Orc fell the players breathed a sign of relief… until the Golem attacked them.
The Rogue, who was really hurt, disengaged from the Golem and ran outside to find Imani. The Wizard was trying to use his magic to sense the staff’s location. He seemed oblivious to the ongoing combat inside the tower, focusing intently on the staff. The Rogue managed to get his attention and explained that the Orcs inside were dead and that the Golem was still attacking. With a sharp whistle from Imani the Golem stopped in his tracks.
Imani and the Rogue went back inside where Drindol was relived to see his master alive and well. Upon hearing Drindol and Imani talking, a Halfling female crawled out from under the bed in the cottage. This was another one of Imani’s servants.
“Those Orcs stole the Diamond Staff!” cried Drindol. “They grabbed whatever they could from the shelves and tables, but as soon as the leader saw the staff, he seemed to recognize it. Another Orc tapped the staff with some kind of wand, and its protective wards fell, He grabbed the staff and the Orcs bolted.”
“The Diamond Staff is priceless,” said Imani. “Anyone interested in elven knowledge or secrets or arcane magic would want to gain entry to the vaults of Uvaeren. I don’t understand how the Orcs could have seized it in this way. Many sinister forces are at work here. The Orcs must be found, and the staff reclaimed.”
The PCs agreed to track the Orcs and try to recover the staff. The Dwarven Cleric and the Wizard, both of whom were part of the assault on the Vault of the Dracolich, felt obligated to retrieve the staff given what they endured to get it in the first place.
The Rogue and Ranger realized the Orc they sought was the one with the Dragon’s tooth on his helmet. Their quest completed they jumped at the chance to earn more gold by sticking with this party.
When the PCs searched the fallen Orcs they recovered a modest amount of gold coins. The Human Cleric was the first to realize that the coins were recently minted. On one side was a castle and a lightning bolt, and on the other a skull. These were the signs of the Zhentarim. The castle was Darkhold, a fortress west of Cormyr. They also found a healing potion on the Orc chief’s body.
With night upon them the party took off into the woods to track the Orcs and recover the staff. They easily found foot prints in the mud. At the forest’s edge they found discarded books and a smashed jug of wine. A few steps further they found a dead Orc, his chest crushed. Beyond that the trail disappeared.
The Wizard created magical light to show the way. He was able to control the light’s focus and intensity which allowed the PCs to see where they were going without announcing their presence to everything for miles around.
The keen-eyed Rogue managed to find signs of the Orcs passage, such as broken branches. He also noted the presence and absence of key forest sounds the let the party know they were on the right track. When the PCs reached an open, rocky area it was time for the Ranger to take over. He didn’t waste time explaining his process he just kept the PCs on the right path.
A few miles from Hap the PCs located a dark cave mouth near a ravine. The area was marked by many tracks and there were discarded bones and refuse nearby. A trace of smoke escaped from the cave vanishing into the misty sky above. This was clearly where the Orcs brought the staff.
This was another very straight forward encounter. Using the D&D Next rules made for a very quick fight. After only two weeks I ready miss the extra conditions that were a staple of 4e. Simply hitting and doing damage and that’s it really seems boring. On the plus side the fast combat doesn’t seem to be eating away at the party members’ hit points as badly so they can certainly do more without resting that 4e PCs can.
The players seemed to enjoy the brief role-paying encounter with Imani and his staff after the fight. However, the skill challenge didn’t convert from 4e to D&D Next very smoothly. The players felt that the need to make checks and describe all the little details was unnecessary.
I was hoping that the Golem would be an interesting boss monster, but he was kind of lame. He punched twice for marginal damage (less than he Orcs’ axes) and had lots of hit points. He didn’t have any special abilities or cool one-off attacks. Maybe I’m still too engrained in the 4e mindset.
Had my group not been pressed for time last week, I would have combined weeks 1 and 2 into a single session. I know that I can always add more stuff to the encounters to extend them, but that seems like it will only serve to drain the PCs’ resources in encounters that don’t really matter.
After two week’s I’m enjoying the adventure but not thrilled with the D&D Next conversion. I think using the new rules in an adventure designed for a previous edition is not giving us a true look at its strengths. We’ve got six week’s to go, hopefully some of the upcoming encounters will wow me a bit more than the two we’ve played so far.
How did your group do against the Golem? Did the PCs even fight the Golem or did they realize that they could avoid it and focus on the Orcs? Has anyone lost a PC yet? How are people’s resources holding up? Does anyone think their character or their party will have serious problems with next week’s encounter?
Wizard has provided two great Dalelands maps for this season.
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