Our heroes managed to talk their way past combat during the past two weeks; this week they were not as lucky and nearly suffered a TPK. The session began when the party arrived at the edge of the Elvin runes where the spotted the Zhentarim’s campsite. There were no signs of the soldiers, Phoedele, or the Diamond Staff. Whether the PCs wanted to or not, they were going to have to venture deeper into the woods in search of their prize.
This week at the Silver Snail in Toronto we ran two tables. The 4e table was packed with seven players and the D&D Next table (which I ran) was down to five players. The party consisted of an Elf Wizard, Human Fighter, Human Wizard, Halfling Rogue (re-skinned as a Bard), and Half-Elf Cleric.
In a clearing at the edge of the woods the PCs found the Zhent’s horses. The horses were skittish, but not because of the PCs. Unfortunately with the Ranger absent none of the other PCs were able to get a read on why the horses were acting strangely. Ignoring the campsite and the mundane equipment left behind, the PCs proceeded cautiously into the woods. The path before them was shrouded by sheets of thick spider webs.
The first point of interest along the trail was ruins of an old plaza. In the centre stood a statue around which stood eight, 12-foot tall columns carved from black marble. The statue depicted an Elvin female looking up at the sky with her arm thrown over her face to shield her eyes. When the PCs investigated they noticed fait traces of Elven magic. The Human Wizard cast Read Magic and Detect Magic to discover that an illusionary message would be triggered when the columns were touched. So he touched them.
The figure seemed to come to life as the woman told her story of sorrow. She explained that she was one of the only survivors of Uvaren after a meteor struck the earth causing a terrible fire that all but destroyed the Elven province. She asked the party to remember her and grieve for her people before the image faded away.
Before the party moved on the Paladin noticed that the plaza was devoid of spider webs or any other trace of intrusion. Were the creatures that lived nearby afraid to enter or were they somehow compelled to avoid it? Something to consider as the PCs moved onward.
The Fighter, Paladin and Human Wizard all ventured towards a building made of white marble that they identified as an ancient church of Selûne the moon goddess. As they crossed the threshold beneath a decorative arch they broke a nearly invisible tripwire setting off a trap that fired poisoned darts at them. The Fighter managed to shrug off most of the damage but the other two took the brunt of the deadly darts.
Realizing that there could be more traps the party decided to be direct and move straight towards the Ruined Council Hall, clearly the largest structure and the most likely place the Zhents were hiding. The Bard went around to the left, the Human Wizard to the right and the rest in through the main doorway.
The Fighter went first, proceedin
g with caution. The two Wizards moved in past the Fighter and each noticed spider-like creatures hiding in the webs along the ceiling (or what was left of it). The PCs learned from Iandra last session that the creatures were called Chitines and that they were very dangerous. They pointed out the creatures to the Fighter who threw a spear at the nearest one.
The Chitines were armed with daggers and hand crossbows. Seeing the Fighter armed with a glowing trident they decided to attack from a safe distances and not let him engage them in melee. They shot and hit the Fighter (I rolled a 19) and Elf Wizard (I rolled a 20). That dropped the Wizard. He remained unconscious for four rounds before anyone came to his aid.
The Paladin who went in through the gap on the right spotted two Chitines above him. He threw his magical dagger at one and scored a crit. The creatures saw his big sword and stayed on the ceiling. He kept throwing his measly little dagger at them and kept hitting. His first five attack rolls with the thrown dagger were 20, 19, 20, 19, 17. Impressive considering he usually misses badly with his sword. We encouraged him to give such an accurate and deadly weapon a name.
The Bard was busy sneaking around to the other side of the map. He managed to avoid detection but was himself unable to notice any of the nearby Chitines hiding. For two rounds he moved around the map undetected as did two Chitines who inched closer to the main fight near the entrance. He finally saw the monsters when they gave away their positions by firing at the Fighter and Human Wizard.
Seeing his Elf Wizard ally unconscious, the Bard lit a torch and set the nearby webs ablaze burning a Chitine. He then hustled towards his ally and revived him. The other Wizard wasn’t much of an offensive threat, instead using his magic to draw fire and avoid taking damage (he’s an illusionist). When two of the Chitines finally got close enough together he used Color Spray followed by Sleep. Neither spell did any damage but it took some of the heat off of the badly wounded Fighter and allowed him to kill one sleeping Chitine.
The Paladin finally managed to engage a couple of Chitines in melee. But in order to do so he got stuck in some spider webs. Although he was unable to get out, his trusty dagger continued to do its job scoring another 20.
The Fighter and Human Wizard continued to drop and get revived by their allies, but eventually the party managed to kill the Chitine Warrior and a couple of the regular Chitines thanks to the Elf Wizard’s Magic Missiles and Flaming Sphere. From there the race to zero hit points was on and eventually the PCs worked together to drop all but the final Chitine Warrior. It tried to flee but the Paladin made a leaping attack, springing off a statue to get the height he needed and impaled the creature on his long sword, killing it instantly.
The PCs searched the area and found no signs of any other Chitines. They found a stash of treasure including a 500 gp gem, over 100 gp (50 of which were the newly stamped Zhentarim coins), a Healing Potion, a Ring of Protection, and a suit of Glamoured Studded Leather armor. They also found a doorway that opened up to stairs leading down. Heaps of recently cleared debris was piled before the doorway, with discarded picks and shovels standing along the stairs. This must be where the Zhents went.
The party decided that they would return to the protected plaza and rest for the night to recover their spells and patch their wounds before heading into the darkness below in pursuit of Phoedele and her troops.
I ran this encounter twice and I really blew it the first time. I didn’t read the part about the Chitines being hidden on the ceiling so I had all the monsters in plan sight. It made the combat a lot faster and easier for the first party. This group was my second group and as described above it was a lot better.
They were having a lot of trouble initially against the Chitines. I had the monsters attack in waves so as not to overwhelm the PCs. By about round three it was pretty clear that the PCs were in over their head (the unconscious Wizard didn’t help). There were supposed to be 3 Chitine Warriors and 7 regular Chitines (10 all together). I only placed 2 Chitine Warriors and 4 regular ones (6 all together) and it was still a close call. Had I used all the monsters the encounter set out they PCs would have died for sure.
One detail that really helped the second game was the inclusion of a map. I borrowed it from the D&D Encounters forums and made a few small alterations to suit my own needs. I hope other DMs created maps as I think they really helped this session.
The Chitines used poison which made no difference to this group but my other party had two Dwarves in it and they’re completely resistance to poison. That allowed them to mitigate a lot of damage during the combat.
Again this week I found that the Wizards were the only thing that really made combat interesting. The melee combatants (Fighter and Paladin) were boring to watch. Swing and hit or swing and miss. That’s it. Ho-hum. Zzzzz. I expect that with the PCs advancing to level 6 for next week we’re going to see some interesting changes that will distinguish the classes a lot more.
With the PCs taking a long rest before the next session it seems like Phoedele and her agents will have a huge head start on the party. In our Recounting Encounters podcast we discus some ways to explain what they’ve been doing during the party’s down time.
In this week’s podcast we also talk a little bit more about next season of D&D Encounters, specifically around the release date of the materials and how that will create new challenges for DMs.
How did your group handle this week’s session? Did anyone talk to the Chitines and avoid combat (an option I was amazed this group didn’t even think of after having so much success with it over the last two sessions)? Did anyone suffer a TPK or a character death?
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.
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.