This week the PCs faced the eye of the storm, both figuratively and literally. They continued to advance onward and upward through Helm’s Hold to the roof where Elden Vargas was doing something to manipulate the storm over Neverwinter.
Considering this was the last week of the season I was expecting a better turn out. At Harry T North in Toronto we only had eight people (including the two DMs), that awkward zone where it’s too many for one table and not enough to break off and form two tables. We decided to delay starting our session for almost half an hour in hopes that a few more players might arrive. Two finally did giving us two DMs and eight players, perfect for two groups. Unfortunately by the end of the session both groups suffered because of their minimal numbers. In retrospect a table of seven might have been a better idea.
The party I played with had a Human Vampire, Human Assassin, Tiefling Battlemind and Goliath Monk (my PC). The Assassin and I both started the encounter with fewer than maximum hit points and only 1 healing surge each.
The encounter began when the PCs reached the roof of Helm’s Hold. The roof was the eye of the storm and was eerily calm, however, it was surrounded by hurricane-force winds and lightning. Columns of whirling clouds and lightning flared inward from the sphere to strike a woman floating in the centre of the eye twenty feet above the floor. Her eyes crackled with energy as she cried out in pain and ecstasy and the power of the storm flowed into her.
Vargas appeared and warned the party “I have no desire to hurt you, but if you try to stop this, I will destroy you all.”
The observant Assassin noticed a hatch in the floor and quickly opened it. Inside he found a rope and grappling hook which he promptly took. The Monk had no idea what was happening so he asked Vargas what was going on and how the party could help. The Diplomacy check was my first 20 of the night.
Vargas explained that the woman in the air was his wife Karis. She sacrificed herself to save Vargas when they fled Cormyr. A forceful spell from one of Vargas’s enemies caused her current state. She is a storm Sorcerer and the storm gathered in response to her will. She called it to feed upon. Vargas believed it would restore her sanity.
Before the party could react to this information the Dragon Chartilifax swooped in. Still wounded from the previous encounter he used his Poisonous Scream breath weapon to attack the whole party. This bloodied the Battlemind and Monk.
Next Vargas attacked the party, starting with the two wounded PCs, hitting both and bringing them both to the brink of unconsciousness. The Vampire attacked the Dragon in a futile attempt to stop it. The Dragon turned and attacked the Monk and Battlemind again, but fortunately missed both.
Karris, whom the party didn’t even realize was a threat, used her Storm Blast to get everyone. All four PCs were hit, slowed and stuck in a zone. The Battlemind managed to escape the zone, mark Vargas and use his Second Wind.
By the top of round 2 it was clear that this was going to be a TPK. The party lacked ranged attacks so they couldn’t even attack Karis or Chartilifax. Everyone tried to escape the zone and heal themselves in round 2. The Battlemind’s mark drew attacks from Vargas but Karis attacked the Vampire and hit. Chartilifax recharged his breath weapon and attacked the Assassin and Monk. Fortunately it missed both PCs.
In round 3 we all realized that it was time to try anything and everything. No point in holding back. The Assassin used a big daily power and scored a hit on Chartilifax. The Monk used his Spellscar to go invisible, then flew up and landed on Chartilifax’s back before attacking. A 19 on the die made for a solid hit. An Acrobatics check in the high 20s meant he had no trouble staying on the Dragon’s back.
The Dragon flipped over and smashed the Monk onto the rooftop knocking him prone. It then attacked the Monk and the Battlemind, hitting both. The Battlemind drank a potion and then attacked the Dragon. Vargas (still marked) kept attacking the Battlemind and Monk, hitting both and dropping the Monk unconscious.
Karis focused her attacks on the Vampire but missed. The Vampire first made an Arcana check because she sensed that there was something more to this storm (thanks to the DM’s prompting). She determined that an Arcana check would allow a creature to harness the lightning and make it strike a target of their choice. She shared this information with the party. We’d already determined that Vargas had resistance to lightning. We therefore assumed that if his wife was a storm Sorcerer she would also have similar resistance. Following this logic we realized that only creature susceptible to the lighting was Chartilifax. The three strikers in the party all had abysmal Arcana checks and we figured we had a better chance of hitting the Dragon with our own attacks so we opted not to use the lightning.
After all of that the Vampire deiced to use a daily blast power and although she missed it still did half damage to Karis.
Chartilifax moved away from the Battlemind drawing an opportunity attack (which missed) and destroyed the bloodied Assassin, knocking him unconscious. The Battlemind managed to revive the wounded Assassin with a Heal check so that the striker wouldn’t miss his turn.
Although the Battlemind’s plan was to heal the Monk next, I rolled a natural 20 on my first death save reviving my PC and brining him back into combat.
Vargas attacked only the Battlemind with Mind Burn limiting the defender’s sight to 2 squares. Karis tried attacking the Vampire again but missed. The Assassin managed to score another hit on Chartilifax. The Dragon roared out in pain and he took off into the storm. Vargas attacked the Assassin with Misdirection and scored a crit, knocking him unconscious again.
The Monk managed to get an attack in on Vargas but it had little effect. On Vargas’s turn he attacked the Monk and once again he too fell unconscious.
The Vampire and Battlemind needed to work together to revive the fallen Assassin. Fortunately the Vampire had two potions of Cure Light Wounds so even though the Assassin was out of healing surges he was able to regain hit points.
Before the party could administer the other Cure Light Wounds potion to the Monk, I rolled another natural 20 on my next death save, this time gaining consciousness with only 1 hit point.
Vargas focused his attacks on the Battlemind (defender mark for the win) and managed to slide him off the roof. What was thought to be certain death ended up taking an interesting turn. The winds blew him up and back onto the roof. Unfortunately he took a lot of damage from the resulting fall.
The PCs ganged up on Vargis and managed to finally bloody him. The Assassin and Monk both took a hit from Karis and fell unconscious again. She pushed both off the roof and their limp bodies were buffeted upward and landed hard back on the roof.
The Assassin rolled 19, 19, 18 on his next three death saves, but kept missing the magic 20. The Vampire used he last potion to revive the Monk before she dropped Vargas. This enraged Karis who madly attacked anything that moved.
The Monk crawled to Vargas’s unconscious body and threatened to snap his neck if Karis didn’t relent. She attacked the Monk and missed. The Monk retaliated with a coup-de-grace on Vargas but missed. Karis didn’t miss a second time.
By this time the remaining two PCs knew they had no way to defeat Karis, so the DM said that the power keeping her in the air expired and she landed on the roof. They kept attacking but they were too wounded. The DM, not wanting to kill the party fudged a lot of numbers allowing the surviving PCs to take her down, but it was clear this was a TPK.
As it played out the PCs revived Karis and she managed to return to her senses. She seemed remorseful for her actins and those of her husband. The storm dissipated and Karis swore to do what she could to right the wrongs done in her name.
The PCs helped the residents of Helm’s Hold before returning to Neverwinter. The reunited Zan with Lady Nidris (again) and collected the 10,000 gp reward offered by Lord Neverember. With the immediate threat to Neverwinter passed, the PCs took a much needed rest before going out on their next adventure.
We’re going to focus on just this week’s encounter today. Next week we’ll have our season 13 report card in which we look at the adventure as a whole.
Despite the challenges and inevitable TPK my group suffered (or should have suffered), I thought this week’s encounter was amazing. It was a perfect ending to the season. Although my group didn’t really take advantage of all the scenario had to offer, there was a lot of great stuff happening.
PCs trained in Arcana could harness the lightning to make ranged attacks if they were not otherwise able to do so. The powerful updrafts allowed PCs with high Acrobatics or Athletics to fly and reach aerial opponents with their melee attacks. Vargas and Karis were both tough opponents in their own right, but having the wounded Dragon Chartilifax reappear certainly made placement and tactics vitally important.
With so much happening DMs could tweak and adjust the setting as they deemed appropriate for their group. When I ran this encounter a second time the party used Diplomacy to avoid combat with Vargas and Karis initially. Later they used Diplomacy to enlist the aid of Chartilifax. The ever-present storm was a great tool for creating mood and really enhancing the descriptions of what was happening.
Afterwards when I looked over the encounter I realized the DM had misinterpreted Vargas’s stat block. His at-will power could be used as a melee or a ranged attack, but the DM thought it meant he could do a melee and ranged attack as an at-will. This might have changed the early stages of our combat, but I still think the party would have suffered a TPK, it just would have taken a bit longer.
This was the most exciting and best encounter of the season, in my opinion. All the groups that played at the two FLGS where I play agreed.
How did the final encounter go for your group? Did you suffer a TPK? How did the story end for your party? What would they do next if this was a home campaing?
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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