We begin another season of D&D Encounters. Season 15 is called Murder in Baldur’s Gate and it’s part of Wizard of the Coast’s next big cross-over event, The Sundering. The Sundering will bring about changes that will transition the Forgotten Realms from 4e to D&D Next.
This past weekend Wizards encouraged FLGS that normally participate in D&D Encounters to run the Murder in Baldur’s Gate launch weekend adventure. This adventure is a prequel to this season of D&D Encounters. Fortunately I got a chance to play the launch weekend adventure at GenCon, as did a few others from my FLGS. However, my FLGS did not order the kits so players who were not at GenCon (which was most of them) didn’t play it. As it turned out, that was a good thing.
This season the weeks are divided into stages rather than sessions. The first stage is the Introductory Stage which we played this week. It begin by repeating the events of the lunch weekend, albeit it an abridged version, and then gave the PCs opportunities to meet with up to three significant NPCs. Anyone who played in the launch weekend and then showed up for D&D Encounters this week would have likely been bored having to do pretty much the same encounter twice.
This season the PCs will have a tremendous amount of freedom. The choices they make will have a direct impact on the story as it unfolds. There are no right or wrong choices, but the final outcome will be different depending on what choices each group makes along the way. For this reason we are going to try and have fixed tables this season keeping the same parties together whenever possible.
At Harry T North in Toronto we had a lot more people show up for the first week that we normally do. Last season we averaged about 12-15 people (including the DMs) most weeks. This week we had 18 people with only 2 DMs, and at least four of our regulars were absent. Some people said they were interested in playing now that we’re using D&D Next and others said they read a bit about the Baldur’s Gate adventure and thought it sounded interesting. Whatever the reasons, it looks like we’ll need to recruit some new DMs moving forward.
At my table of eight I had the following breakdown: Human Cleric, two Half-Orc Barbarians, Human Barbarian, Elf Ranger, Human Monk, Dwarf Druid, Elf Druid. Four players made their own characters and four used pre-gens.
The story begins in Baldur’s Gate on Founder’s Day (a holiday). The heroes have recently arrived in Baldur’s Gate to accompany a shipment of good heading south overland. The goods will arrive by ship from Waterdeep in a few days so the PCs have time to check out the festivities happening throughout the city. They find themselves in the Wide, the city’s only open market. It’s located in the Upper City where the most wealth and prosperous citizens live and work.
The heroes spend the day visiting the market stalls asking questions and purchasing goods. Eventually the crowd begins to move towards a stage where someone is making an official announcement. The crowd quiets down when Duke Abdel Adrian takes the stage. It’s clear that the people love him and are genuinely interested in what he has to say.
Without warning snipers perched in nearby windows begin firing at the crowd. As people are hit the crowd begins to panic and rush in all directions. A few seconds later a gang of thugs begin toppling over carts and lighting stalls on fire creating even more panic. With the Wide in utter chaos a dark cloaked figure bounds on stage. Two menacing guards flank the stage stopping anyone from interfering. One of the nearby heroes hears the cloaked man say “Now we finish this.”
The Duke and the cloaked man spar on the stage while the people of Baldur’s Gate try to flee in panic. The heroes deem the snipers as the greatest threat so they work together to take them out quickly. The Barbarians threw their javelins, the Monk threw darts, the Ranger used his long bow, and the Cleric used Sacred Flame. With a combined effort and some amazing showmanship they easily took down the snipers.
The Druids both moved closer to the stage; one was engaged by the cloaked man’s guard while the other made it on stage. The Druid on stage tried to reason with the two men to stop fighting but they wouldn’t listen. The Druid on the ground went toe-to-toe with the guard and eventually dropped him.
The Cleric and Human Barbarian were attacked by the thugs who were vandalizing the carts but they had no trouble taking them down. The rest of the party tried to get closer to the stage where they worked together to drop the other bodyguard.
The battle on the stage continued. The assassin and the Duke looked very evenly matched. In fact the PCs realized that the two men looked remarkably similar physically. They had the same height, build, and facial features – they could be brothers. When the Druid on stage realized this he tried to use this information to get through to the combatants. The Duke suggested the Druid, brave as he was for trying to help the people of Baldur’s Gate, should not get involved. Then the assassin’s blade stabbed the Duke, striking a lethal blow.
When the Duke fell the assassin’s body began to transform. The bones cracked, flesh tore, as his body transformed into a grotesquely muscled mockery of a human being. It had the look of madness as it entered a blood rage, lashing out at anyone nearby.
Without hesitation the heroes put themselves between the monster and the innocent people still screaming in panic. The beast managed to drop the Ranger but the Cleric got him back on his feet. The fight only lasted a few rounds with the creature hitting four different PCs in the process. When the Barbarian finally landed a killing blow on the beast it exploded leaving a crimson mist of blood on everything within 200 feet.
With the threat neutralized the guards managed to restore order to the Wide. The locals were devastated that the Duke was dead, but they all praised the PCs for their heroics and thanked them for their help.
A man dressed in fine robes approached the Elf Druid and introduced himself as Imbralym Skoond. The Druid knew this was Duke Torlin Silvershield’s right hand man. Skoond explained that his master wished to meet the party at the Three Old Kegs and wished to enlist their aid during the coming troubles facing Baldur’s Gate. The Druid accepted the invitation and Skoond disappeared. The Druid decided not to share this information with the party.
A man dressed in the garb of the Flaming Fist company approached the Barbarian. He introduced himself as Ulder Ravengard, commander of Wyrm’s Rock and marshal of the Flaming Fist now that the Duke was dead. He too wished to enlist the PCs to aid him during Baldur’s Gate’s time of trouble. He asked that they meet him at Wyrm’s Rock and then left. The Barbarian told everyone of this exchange. The Druid said he had a similar invitation but refused to say from whom or where the meeting was to take place.
As the party began to leave the Wide a man in a tattered cloak quietly approached the Ranger and whispered in his ear that the party should not trust either of the two who already approached them. If they really wanted to know what was going on they should meet him in Little Calimshan tonight. He then slipped into the crowd. The Ranger told the party of this exchange as well.
Now the party had to decide which, if any, of the three invitations they wished to accept. One of the Barbarians had friends from the smith guild nearby and wanted to talk to them before deciding. After all, none of the PCs knew much about Baldur’s Gate or its politics.
The Barbarian’s friends, a wealthy man who lived in the Upper City, had mixed feelings about the Flaming Fist. He understood their role, but didn’t trust anyone who could change loyalty if paid enough. When in doubt, stick with the city’s guards. At least they’re loyal and are the right kind of people. As far as the cloaked figure he dismissed him as the wrong kind of person. Anyone who won’t show you their face or give you their name cannot be trusted.
After this interlude the party decided to split up. The Druid approached by Skoond refused to provide details so no one wanted to go with him. Reluctantly the other Druid accompanied him to the mystery meeting with Silvershield. The rest of the PCs met with Ravengard.
The two Druids went to the Three Old Kegs and had an exquisite meal before Silvershield finally arrive. He explained that a group called the Guild was making a power play in Baldur’s Gate and killing Duke Abdel Adrian was just the first step. The leaders of the Guild must be identified and stopped before they can take any other actions.
The Elf Druid was very abrupt but was receptive to Silvershield’s offer. He liked what he heard but wanted to get the entire party on board before making a firm commitment. Silvershield gave him until morning to decide and with that he left.
The rest of the party went to the Wyrm’s Rock to meet with Ravengard. However they needed to travel from Upper City to Lower City. As they did they faced a massive line as toll collector, a Dwarf named Nant Thangol, held up the line, searched everybody and demanded outrageous tolls.
The people in line begged the heroes to resolve the issue and get the line moving. The heroes tried to convince Nant to lighten up but he wouldn’t budge. Eventually they decided that this wasn’t their problem so they paid Nant and passed through leaving the citizens to face the Dwarf’s wrath alone.
When they finally met with Ravengard he echoed what Silvershield told the other group. The Guild was a nefarious group striving to upset order in Baldur’s Gate. He wanted them found and stopped. He offered all the PCs membership in the Flaming Fist if they accepted his offer and agreed to help. They discussed it and decided to accept. They didn’t bother waiting for the two Druids to tell them how the other meeting went.
Next week at my FLGS we’ll be splitting these two massive parties into smaller groups. Those groups will have to decide whose offer they’re going to accept and from there things will branch off into different directions.
A lot has already been written on the fact that DMs need to purchase the books this season, so I don’t think there’s a need to keep brining it up in the weekly write ups. However, because the materials were not provided for free I didn’t get my copy as early as I had in previous season. This meant that I had less time to prepare before the first session. Since I’d already played the launch weekend adventure it did make things a little bit easier, but I know it could have been better if I’d had more time to read through all the materials.
Speaking of the launch weekend adventure it seemed strange to me that it was essentially repeated as a big chunk of the first week’s materials. When Wizards ran prequel adventures in the past (Gates of Neverdeath for Lost Crown of Neverwinter and Vault of the Dracolich for Search for the Diamond Staff) it served as a lead in for the adventure but did not tread on the adventure itself. This time around there was significant overlap. Once I realized this I was relieved that my FLGS didn’t run launch weekend as it would have stolen the thunder from week 1 and eliminated any chance of combat for the players.
Fortunately one of the players at my FLGS was a DM at GenCon and had a copy of the launch day materials. I combined some of the elements of that adventure with the text in the Murder in Baldur’s Gate materials to turn week 1 into a hybrid of both. It gave the PCs a chance to engage in some combat while still letting them meet the various power players.
After the Duke’s death the PCs were approached by three mysterious strangers and asked to come and meet with each of them. The adventure makes it pretty clear that the only way to meet with multiple factions is to split up, something my massive party was happy to do. I hadn’t anticipated that one of the players would withhold the details of the meeting like he did, but what are you going to do.
I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to form solid and permanent parties at my FLGS for next week and from there they groups will move on to the various stages of this season’s adventure.
How did week 1 go at your FLGS? How many players played in the launch weekend adventure? What did they think of the repetition? Which of the three potential allies did your tables visit with? Which did they decide to align with?
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.
Due to scheduling conflict and real-life commitments we did not have an opportunity to record our Recounting Encounter podcast this week. Time permitting we’ll try to record it this weekend.
- Recounting Encounters – Season 15, Episode 1
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.