D&D Encounters: Search for the Diamond Staff (Week 6)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 25, 2013

search-for-the-diamond-staff-coverOur 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.

chitine

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.

Thoughts

encounters-14-6-mapI 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?

Additional Resources

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.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe July 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

We ran 3 tables of 4e at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA… two of 4 and one of 6. My table had 4, so I did the suggested difficulty adjusting, removing one scout & 1 minion.

The poisoned dart trap did more damage to the party than anything else, because my players couldn’t roll saves for crap. 2 players (one hit, one missed) saved out of it after 2 rounds of damage, but the other two (also one hit, one missed) took 4+ rounds to save, even with bonuses from other players making Heal checks on them. To help them mitigate this (the barbarian was down to 0 surges after healing from the poison), I had one of the treasures in the cocoon room be a scroll of that ritual that lets a party swap surges around (I forget what it’s called).

The fight itself was decent. The couple folks who made Perception checks rolled very low (I think the highest perception bonus in the party was +5), and I very specifically said “You look to the left, then you look to the right, and you’re pretty sure that no threats will come from either of those two directions”. When the chitines finally dropped, the party was pretty spread-out, so nobody really got to focus fire on any one chitine. Fortunately, the party had 2 strikers (barbarian & fire sorcerer) and two boosty leaders (rune priest & warlord), so everyone had enough buffs to their already substantial damage that the enemies didn’t stand for long. The minions were the last ones standing, mainly because nobody paid them much mind while killing the bigger foes.

I found myself feeling limited with these monsters. There were 3 different types of monsters, but they all pretty much did the same thing, except that the scouts could add poison to their crossbows. After 6 rounds of dagger-dagger-dagger-dagger, I was pretty bored with the monsters, and the players were looking at them as simple tactical obstacles. I was also a little stymied (as were the other DMs) about what to use as miniatures. I had several of the actual Chitine minis, but needing 3 different types of Chitines proved trouble. I used spell-weavers for the scouts & deathjump spiders for the minions, though another DM used some 4-armed demon minis, while another found the tomb guardian 4-armed skeletons. Not that WotC is really in the miniatures business anymore (other than the limited releases for their board games), but a little variety in both monster type & ability would have been nice.

Because it didn’t make a lot of sense for the party to camp in the spider-web infested ruins above the stairway, nor did they feel safe camping anywhere knowing that there were Dragon Cultists wandering about or wasting 8 hrs while Phoedele was down there potentially activating the staff, I decided that Phoedele must have used the staff to breach some barrier down below, which caused an upsurge of Feywild energy that gave the party the effects of an extended rest without them having to camp or waste 8 hours.

2 Spykes July 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Week 6 recap
(Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, Ranger, Wizard)
This week’s session was huge fun. I used Vobeshkhan’s posted map of the ruins. I did make a mistake and overlooked the trap when they went through that area, so I relocated to the entrance to the council building entrance. Not the best, but it worked out fine.
When they came into the council building, they moved to the center right away. When the Chitines saw them, they of coarse moved down to start attacking. The PC’s were quick on their feet however, and immediately called out that they had no quarrel with them and wanted to leave them in peace. Now this was totally unlike this group. Barcero all but pleaded with them to negotiate, but they saw fit to behead him for his efforts. Admittedly, they caught me off guard with their attempt. However, they rolled well on their checks and so we went with it. I began scrambling in my mind to think about something interesting to give them if they avoided this fight, because we were just only about 20 minutes into the session.
Because this party was hauling around a huge amount of gold and gems, some of it they still carried from the Draco Lich’s vault, I decided that these Chitines were a little greedy. They asked for an unreasonable amount of gold, but an amount that the PC’s did indeed posses. They huddled amongst themselves and then emerged agreeing to pay the outrageous sum of 1500 in gems and gold. What they did, however, was to take a small amount of gold and then cast an illusion spell to make it appear that the correct amount was there. I thought this was creative, but the Chitine leader rolled a 19 on his Wisdom check and was able to see through the illusion. This set him off and combat began. In hind-sight, I probably should have given the Chitine leader disadvantage on his check because of the very creative plan they dreamed up, but I think I was leaning towards combat because I really had nothing else prepared. Lesson learned on that one.
The combat however, proved to be very challenging and lots of fun. The players didn’t much like the amazing movement ability they had, and they successfully recharged it several times. I tried to encourage the PC’s to use the terrain of the walls of the building by placing a few of the Chitines up there to shoot from range. Instead they chose to take advantage of the statues at the center of the room to gain cover. They took out two of them pretty quickly, but the three leaders proved to be brutal with their ranged attacks. The Wizard was having trouble getting in range of them to use his trusty Thunderwave spell because they were all bouncing around and up onto the walls. He identified a group that he wanted to focus and devised a plan with the fighter to get himself up to them, having already failed a Dex. check to climb up to them. He had the fighter actually throw him up there. The fighter took this quite literally and threw the gnome at one them, making an amazing Strength check. The chitin failed his Dex check and was billed over by the gnome. The gnomes plan was to cast his spell in the air and knock the chines off the wall. I thought this was a crazy plan, but sounded fun, so I allowed him to make an Int check to concentrate enough in the air to actually pull it off. He failed badly so he ended up just serving as a missile. This did knock the creature off and down on top of another knocking all three of them prone and inflicting falling damage. The creatures were still standing, but the gnome was now critically injured. Nothing the Cleric couldn’t fix though. The Ranger went down, a victim of the brutal crossbow attacks, followed shortly by the Cleric. The Rogue and Fighter were able to hold them off long enough for them to get back up though. At this point there were only 2 Chitines left and they were perched on the wall. The Fighter and Wizard decide to try their stunt again. I’m not sure why though, they had the ranged attacks to the reach the creatures. I think they were just having fun were determined to make it happen. This time everything went as planned. Great Strength check to throw, passed Int check to concentrate while being thrown. He cast Thunderwave just as he reached the top, knocking the creature for additional falling damage, killing him in dramatic fashion.
There was lots of cheers and it proved to be a very exciting fight. The addition of the terrain feature of the walls made all the difference. If I had to do it again though, I would have encouraged the PC’s to use ithe walls more themselves. A successful Dex check to climb up, plus advantage to targets below seems fair, but there’s always the possibility of getting knocked off since these creatures can move around easily.
Great encounter IMO.

3 Vobekhan July 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm

We had 7 players this week and continue running the Next rules.

Our group must have arachnaphobic tendancies as they had no intention of talking to the spider-like Chitines and were intent on squishing as many as possible.

I enjoyed the session, my only gripes would be the lack of map (glad you guys found it useful, happy to have returned the favour from the earlier session), the Chitines weapon choices, and the over-complicated place names in the statues speech.

Another fun thing with the statue though was when I described with its arm over/shielding its face, one of my players had a mild panic (as we’re both Doctor Who fan’s I knew what she was thinking straight away) but her fears proved unfounded.

With hindsight I might have held off allowing the extended rest and ruled that the waters in the first part of the next encounter hold a magical property that gives the benefits of an extended rest without the time taken once per pc per 24 hours. Oh well, they decided to retreat to the statue anyway.

I’ve also noted on the forums that we have 2 sessions left but 3 sanctioned sessions, and Spykes has noted that perhaps this is meant either as a spare week due to GenCon or as a character creation week for the following season.

I think I’m going to flesh out the final session to cover the extra week as there feels a natural point (without revealing spoilers) where the DM could do a “Da da Dahhhh!” cliffhanger to be continued on the following session. Especially as Phoedele and her cohorts will have had another 8 hours to prepare for their pursuers.

4 Vobekhan July 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Just a side note, Dwarven Resistance to poison isnt immunity, as per the How to Play document page 18, Resistance grants half damage, and vice versa Vulnerability grants double damage (a la undead and radiant damage).

5 JYANTA July 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Well at our FLGS we had 10 people show up so one of the players is a DM at a different store on Thursday and said he would run a table so we had 2 tables both Next. The tables broke down to:
Table 1 (DM Me, all the Females were together so they wanted to stay together):
– Female Stout Halfling Barbarian
– Female Wood Elf Ranged Fighter
– Female Mountain Dwarf Cleric
– Female High Elf Cleric
– Male Half-Orc Barbarian (New Person)

Table 2:
– Male Mountain Dwarf Fighter
– Male High Elf Wizard (New Person)
– Male Lightfoot Halfling Rogue (Ranged)
– Male Wood Elf Druid
– (Later on the Half Orc from Table 1 joined in)

So at Table 1 the party was on fire. The first 10 rolls were all 18+ on checks (spots, search, track) so they really found the right tracks and followed them. They did stop by and found the Zhent in spiderwebs and got some black chainmail +1 from him. So when they searched to find the creatures they of course rolled a 20+6 on the search. They were smart and moved so that they creatures had to come to them or get picked off. The Fighter with Volly and Clerics with Sacerd Flame were just widdling them down and they finally came out of the building to get the pesky adventures. Well both barbarians with crit on their first attack and both killed the stronger ones and cleave through and killed the smaller ones (both were in a rage). The battle was over so quick that it took us 1 hour and 15 min to complete. All thanks to the hot dice and cold ones that I had.

Table 2 was moving a lot slower and by they time we were done they were getting eaten alive by the critters (or stabbed a lot). The wizard was playing the pregen and had no spell that attacked except MM and Flaming Hands (but they would not get close). The GM after round 4 decided to allow the Mage to randomly roll and get some new spells. He got fireball and web (ha web). The Dwarf fighter was almost dead and the druid was barely keeping him alive. The Half-Orc asked to join in to help them and the DM said sure. Well you know that we were fighting Orcs earlier and the whole group stayed in character when they saw a Half-Orc join the fight. The Mage hit him with the fireball and killed off a lot of the enemies too. On the HO turn he yelled out that he was helping them. The Wizard not trusting this trick fireballed him again taking him and most of the rest down. The Rogue then robbed the HO of everything and tied him up. By the time the battle was over they woke up the HO and demanded why he was following them. After some great talking and agreements (mostly they get all the gold) they allowed the HO to live and join them on the quest. Now that is a way to make an impression on the New Guy. Still everyone had fun.

6 Michael July 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

We were extra busy at Modern Myths Mammoraneck with four tables. So we had to draft an emergency DM. He did a great job considering that he was reading the adventure about five mintues ahead of the rest of us. The spider webs made us all think of giant spiders so we had our druid try to talk to them and encourage them to let us pass. He got some great rolls and they agreed to talk to us, but wouldn’t let us pass without a bribe. They wanted 500 gp. We offerred 200 gp and compromised on 350 gp. We asked them about the people who went before us, but they didn’t care or notice. That left over an hour left even with a late start, so the DM offerred to rerun the encounter as a fight, just for fun. At this point the druid had to leave so we had only four players, a pixie fire elementalist, a changeling bard, a water genasi swordmage and my gnomish psion. Even though, we had less people than usual it was still a fair fight since it wasn’t going to count and therefore everyone was using their daily powers and action points like there was no tomorrow. The sword mage charged into the center as per his usual idiom and with the bard’s help marked almost every chitin in the room. This took a lot of pressure off the rest of us as there was only one nearby unmarked chitin, and the marked ones concentrated almost all of their atttacks on the swordmage. The rest of the party, hardly got scratched and concentrated on taking the chitins out at long range. Meanwhile the swordmage started teleporting around and putting ice and flame auras on the chitines so they couldn’t all gang up on him at once. Nevertheless, he went below ten points and had to be healed back up twice in the encounter, thanks to the bard and his helm of seven deaths. Overall, it was a fun adventure. Really saw the power of a good Defender in the right circumstance here. He took over 90% of the hp damage while leaving the rest of us to act as long range artillery for the most part. Of course, without the extra healing he would have been dead twice over.
As a side note, I am happy to see that Tinker Gnomes are now an official race option. I will be converting my gnome over immediately. The poweres are actually slightly worse, but they make up for it with sheer awesome.

7 Spykes July 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Re: Comments on Poison Damage.
Edit:… nm.. just saw comment above.

8 bisonic July 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

Our single 4E table was down to five players and me from the normal 8. The session, even with me getting descriptive and the group searching every room, they got to the chitine and the Elven druid’s passive perception was 27 so there was no hiding the monsters. The younger player who normally charges in rolled highest initiative and…. started talking to them in Elven. After they were haggled down from, “That magic sword, 1000g, and the pixie” to 100G and the sword, the party walked away unharmed. The session took a half hour so we rolled into week seven. It’s amazing how much faster a group of the right size can run. After week 8, I may add an encounter in which Bracero returns to ambush the party to make up for pressing ahead.

-K

9 dcdnd July 31, 2013 at 8:54 pm

This encounter was my first ever d&d face to face group, quite enjoyable. I played the pre-made evocation mage, he seemed woefully underpowered. Our party of 6 almost wiped but hung on. Looking forward to your writeup of this weeks encounter, what were those things?

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