D&D Encounters: Storm Over Neverwinter (Week 8.)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 6, 2013

storm-over-neverwinter-cover

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.

Thoughts

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.

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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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe June 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

Wow, that sounds really intense. We had 3 tables of 6, all running 4th ed, at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA.

My table had a sorcerer (dragon), warlord, avenger, ranger (2swords), rogue(crossbow spec), and a druid (controller). Seeing how brutal this combat was numbers-wise, I made the decision as a DM to remove the “extra” damage on all the enemies’ attacks and just use the dice listed. This worked out well, because the couple times the dragon critted on a bite, he did 20 damage (max of 2d10), which was scary & threatening without being immediately deadly.

The dragon was the biggest threat for the beginning of the fight for most of the party, thought the Avenger put his oath on Elden Vargas and followed him to the other corner of the map. The dragon got worn down by the consistently high rolls on opportunity attacks when he would do his flyby, and he couldn’t recharge his breath weapon at all.

One or two folks utilized the storm’s power to smack Karis around with lightning, which disrupted her ritual (I never told the PCs what the ritual was, but I have a size Huge Storm Elemental mini that I casually had sitting on the side of the map, to help meta-motivate folks to not ignore the floating woman).

Some well-placed resistance spells & item/class abilities helped the party avoid a lot of the thunder & lightning damage, and Vargas was pretty locked-down by the Avenger until the dragon fled and the party could help him out. The druid & sorcerer had both taken multi-class feats into healing classes, so between them & the warlord, the party stayed up mostly. This group had also been saving a lot of their daily powers, which they unleashed on the dragon & Vargas with wild abandon.

When they finally knocked Karis down to 0 HP, I had her body pulled up into the storm… where they heard a noise similar to the noise they’d heard when the dragon was biting them. As the clouds suddenly cleared, they could see the heavily-injured dragon Chartlifax flying out distantly across the sea.

I really liked that this fight had, effectively, 3 bosses in it. The “one boss & many minions” fights can get dull fast, but players really had to focus on the choice of which enemy to focus on, and they realized quickly that hitting them all at once was not the best tactic. It’s great to see when players realize the tactics of focusing on the heaviest hitter first, then moving down the line.

Good season, and everyone was happy to get their custom die at the end. Folks’re excited for next season, too.
Joe´s last blog post ..13th Age: The game system that actually shows how much fun D&D (the good bits edition) could be

2 M. A. June 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm

This one was pretty brutal for my group too — we had three healers and some lucky rolls, which really helped us squeeze through. Our party consisted of a shaman, bard, and a druid — the plentiful heals. I played a Sorcerer, and we also had an Invoker and a Fighter.

The creatures got ahead of us in the initiative rolls, so the first round was pretty brutal. But luckily, the bard sent Vargas to the Feymarch for a few turns (he failed his first saving throw!!), and I managed to hit both the dragon and Karis with my attacks combined with Encounter powers.

Luckily, my second hit managed to get the dragon down EXACTLY to what he needed to leave — and thanks to some creative movement from the Fighter, we managed to get a few good blows on Karis. By the time Vargas had returned, we had manged to recover from the brutal first round and stay in there long enough to do him in.

After he was down, we managed to convince Karis to surrender and sorted things out from there. The first round was especially brutal, but once we adapted strategy accordingly, it went well. Although, having plenty of healers, strikers — and a couple who could use the storm to their advantage definitely helped.

3 Joel June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

We played a table of four for this last encounter. In the end, my three fellow players were dead, and Vargas and I were dying. Then, for reasons that I will probably never comprehend, Karis chose to forgo killing me, and instead collected the dying Vargas’ body and disappeared with him into the sky. Afterward, my character was found by the townsfolk. I attempted to bluff, telling them that I killed both Karis and Vargas. I rolled a 20, collected my 10k reward, and then resurrected my dead fellow adventurers. A great ending to a great D&D Encounters!

4 Wendy McLaren June 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

My table had 7 for the last night, as did one of the other tables. To make things more interesting/challenging, I added in Storm Vortexes and Hurlers. They spawned after Karis’s turn and if they were pushed over the parapet, they would dissipate into the storm. I made them 2-hit minions to keep things lively, but I still never had more than 2 out at a time. One of the other DMs loaned me his water and air elemental minis to use. They were Huge, so quite a bit more intimidating than the pipe cleaner ones I’d fashioned the week before! ;)

Everyone was bloodied at least once, with the cleric and warlock both dropping to 0 a couple of times. The warlock almost perma-died, but the valiant paladin stepped in with a heal just in time. The tiefling fighter discovered Riding the Winds was really cool, and consistently rolled high enough to control the stunt. The player had a great time with that, and at one point, landed on Vargas, then “rode” him when he was pushed off the parapet.

There was a lot of laughter and jokes at our table. The back room of our FLGS was pretty loud with 2 very full tables, but that just added to the fun. We had a great time wrapping up the season.

5 Michael June 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

I was unable to go to the last session due to work. It sounds like it was a fun fight. Were there any answers to any of the plot mysteries? Why were the Asmodei involved? Why were they branding/tattooing people? Why did they want Zan and Lady Nidris? Why did the asmodei attack Vargas if he was their boss? Why did he asked us to rescue his wife if he was just going to do it himself and then fight us? Was there any reason why the Prophetess couldn’t have just let him do the ritual and saved all this trouble?

6 Alphastream June 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The adventure does provide the answers, though it isn’t necessarily answered for the PCs (they could likely learn them from Vargas at the end).

I’ll leave it for someone else to provide the answers as my copy of the adventure isn’t with me. But, I did want to point out that a lot of what is here thematically carries forward in the Neverwinter game (Helms Hold has been destroyed after various events, the Ashmadai are loose, etc.). It isn’t a direct next chapter, but moves forward using the same themes. I thought that was pretty cool.

7 Ameron (Derek Myers) June 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm

To echo Alphastream’s point, the Neverwinter Campaign Guide provides a lot of additional information about the NPCs you encounters and the locations the PCs visited this season. As far as what comes next, that’s up to each group.

Next week we’ll be sharing another special episode of our Recounting Encounters podcast in which we again interview this season’s author Erik Scott de Bie. He shares a lot of Easter Eggs he threw into the adventure as well as numerous possibilities for what could happen next. Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master on Wednesday for that. And of course on Thursday we’ll have the Storm Over Neverwinter report card.

8 Vobekhan June 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

We got to play our finale a week late due to store closure (staff holidays) and had two sessions.
They were very different outcomes (as you’ll see in our blog-writeup) but what I liked most was that the players actually felt sympathy for Vargas (up to the point of him trying to fry them at least), and even started to improvise some actions not strictly covered by the rulebooks (the assisted leap of the halfling) which I’m hoping bodes well for our upcoming Next playtest sessions.
If I had to have one criticism of the season it would be that their was only the one rest and that one of the four sessions in each half felt that it was simply there to drain party resources rather than add to the ongoing story directly (this bore itself out as these ended up being the sessions some of our players missed through work/holidays/etc).
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters Season 13 – Storm over Neverwinter – Session 8 finale

9 JYANTA June 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm

We also had a very different experience. We had a party of 6 people with almost no daily powers left, but with my 2 daughters we need no stinking daily powers.

Starts off with my youngest daughter (playing a Gensai Storm Swordmage) wanting to take control of the storm since she is made out of electricity. The GM allowed her to make an Arcana Check to see if she could take it over and she rolls a Natural 20. He then said that she could use a new Arcana check to break the wife’s connection to the storm. Well she is the only one with Arcana so she rolls again and gets a 19 + 12 so 31. That puts the wife and 1/2 hit points and starts the battle.

So by the end of the 2nd round everyone in the party (except for the Swordmage) is bloodied and we are looking bad as the Green Dragon swoops in. Now everyone except for our Druid and the Scout (my other daughter) attacked and did massive damage against the wife. Our Rogue did 60pts of damage to her on her attack and action point attack.

Well my older daughter playing the Minatour Scout decided to activate her Dancing Serpent stance and attack Vargas. She rolls a Crit for 28 points of damage. She gets a free 2nd attack (scout power) and rolls another Crit, this time for 27 damage (so now 55 damage). She spends her action point and makes a 3rd attack… Crit for 30 damage. 85 Damage on Vargas. Everyone at the table were laughing so hard.

Well all the enemies concentrated their attacks on her and got her down to 2 hit points when it is her turn again. She rolls her first attack and hits for 21 damage. She then gets her free 2nd attack and roll, yes another Crit for 30 damage) and takes down Vargas. So by the end of the 4th turn we had both Vargas and his Wife knocked out and the Dragon down to single digit HP which he intimidated to surrender.

I have heard of people talking out 3 Crits in a row but this is the first time I have seen it in person (and I have been gaming for at least 20 years). Still a great way to end the session. She has retold her tale to me so many times that I think she will never forget it.

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