D&D Encounters: Murder in Baldur’s Gate (Week 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 22, 2013

murder-in-baldurs-gate-coverWe 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.

Thoughts

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

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JYANTA August 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

So I DMed the Game Day Adventure for Murder in Baldur’s Gate and also Scene 1 (We ran on Tuesday because I had a work issue on Wed.). First off I am very surprised how well the game went and the flexibility of the DnDNext system. So I will break it down into Game Day and Scene 1.

Game Day
So we start of making characters for anyone that was not at the store last Wed. for character creation day (which was a huge success. I printed up 10 character sheets and had 16 people show up interested in the game). Luckily that meant we only needed to create 2 characters and help anyone else understand there character or write down weights of items (I would recommend, especially if you use DnDNext and your players like to pick up everything, that you track how much they can carry and what that does to them). So after that I went though everyone’s Background and got to hear a brief history of their character and why they came to Baldur’s Gate. Here is what we had:
Human Monk, Soldier (Lawful Good) – She came to Baldur’s Gate to join the Flaming Fists.
Stout Halfling Barbarian (Ranged), Soldier (Neutral Good) – He came as part of a caravan. He was just in town enjoying the festivities.
Half-Orc Cleric, Performer (Lawful Neutral) – He came into town to perform his music solos and to get some money.
Half-Orc Cleric, Brewer (Neutral Good) – She came into town to sell her wares. I let her use 20 GPs to create 2 barrels of wine and 2 barrels of beer that she could sell at the market (she would have to make charisma rolls to get her money).
Wood Elf Paladin, Carpenter (Chaotic Good) – She also came into town to sell her skills. She was selling wooden toys and fixing equipment. She would only get money for fixing things since she did not have any money to make some wares to sell.
Tinker Gnome Rogue, Charlatan (Chaotic Good) – She was already in town having made herself a name and pretending to be a noble. She spent some money to make fake ids.

So I had them roll init, got my index cards in order and let them go. This worked great for everyone. The Artisans sold their goods and the Brewer was able to make a little profit with a natural 20 on her charisma roll. The Barbarian went to look at the statue and then went a got a nice spot to watch the speeches. The Cleric Performer went to talk to the Watch to find out if he could use the stage afterwards to perform. The monk went shopping (found the noodle shop and the fancy spice shop. The best was the Gnome. She decided to pickpocket the crowd. She was successful 3 times before someone caught her (I was going to have the event kick off anyway after the 3rd turn so it worked perfect).

This started the event and the Barbarian got into a tussle with someone who claimed he ruined his cloak. The monk went after the gnome rogue and the others caught sight of other rogues in the crowd steeling. So the Watch, some Flaming Fists, the Party and the Guild all got into a little tussle. The Gnome Rogue produced papers showing she belonged in the area and with a super dex save was able to hide that she had anything on her. This confusion led the others to capture the other rogues and 2 out of the 5 were caught and lost fingers.

So the group heard the fanfare and headed to watch the speeches. They were then interrupted by crossbowmen shooting into the crowd and at the Duke. I had 9 crossbow men and after the first round Duke Adrian, Duke Silvershield, 3 citizens, and the Monk were struck with bolts. Duke Silvershield ran and hid but had his Advisor Skoond stay and watch. Ravenguard just moved back in the crowd and watched what was going on with his men. The watch captain and her men stormed the buildings to get to the crossbowmen. The party split up and went to the 3 different buildings to stop the archers. They killed them all and left noone alive to talk. While they were cleaning up the murderers in the crowd started attacking. The barbarian ran on to the stage and guarded Duke Adrian, while the Cleric Performer took up position near the front of the stage acting like the Watch (since they were gone searching buildings). Quickly Viekang and his bodyguards showed up. Viekang dropped his smoke cloud and crit the barbarian. This bloodied him and left him with 2 hit points. Duke Adrian and Viekang fought while the bodyguards dealt with the cleric performer and the barbarian. The battle took a few turns but Viekang managed to get a great hit on Adrian (even with the cleric healing him once) and kill him. This released the Bhaalspawn and was quickly dispatched by the group.

The group was then approached by the 3 parties and the rogue got a special invitation to join the Guild since they could use her skills. In the end the party was very torn with what to do. They were happy that the Watch was trying to protect but felt they were not very good at their job. They were VERY upset with the Flaming Fist because they believed they let their Marshal die. This really upset the monk that was wanting to join them. The Guild they saw steal and cause issues but they seemed organized and might have more information on what was going on in the city. So we left to start up Scene 1 on Tuesday.

Scene 1
I was amazed how many people showed up. I have now run 3 Encounter seasons (the last two and the Drow Encounter) and played in 5. Most of the time I would see us have 3 to 6 people at a table and only 1 table. The Neverwinter campaign I played in we had 6 people most weeks and sometimes up to 8. Last season we seem to have about 7 to 9 people a week with 2 weeks getting 12 people. I usually run 1 large table since we like the interaction and with 9 or less people I can run a quick and fun game most of the time. If the first session is any indication then I think we will have a very full game. We had 16 people show up to play. We ran 2 8 people tables which was staggering (filled all the space available at the store). My table consisted of:
Human Monk, Soldier (Lawful Good)
Stout Halfling Barbarian (Ranged), Soldier (Neutral Good)
Half-Orc Cleric, Performer (Lawful Neutral)
Half-Orc Cleric, Brewer (Neutral Good)
Wood Elf Paladin, Carpenter (Chaotic Good)
Tinker Gnome Rogue, Charlatan (Chaotic Good)
Wood Elf Wizard, Sage (True Neutral)
Human Cleric, Shepard (Lawful Neutral)

So talked to the new people at the table with what happened on Game Day and started at the Invitations. The group all agreed to talk to the Guild. I said they could talk to two people and after a long talk they decided to talk to the Flaming Fists. They went to talk to Ravenguard first and exited though Basilisk Gate. They were in a long line and continued to hear lots of grumbling and complaints. They make there way to Nant Thangol and even though they were waved through they put up a fight to let the others though and finally the monk and barbarian payed 25 gp to let the other people in line though. The citizens of the lower city are very happy with the group and helped them though the lower city.

Meeting with Ravenguard went very strange. They really was not going to join him at all after what they saw at the gates, so they assaulted him with questions. I played him being nice and trying to say that is why he needed them. He needed them to stop this type of action, that this was done because of all the things that the Guild does. The Guild is the problem, if we destroy the Guild then all this will stop. He offered them ranks and ability to stop troops from doing things but they would not bite. He tried to get them to stay the night but they said they needed to go and finally got off the Rock. They headed to Little Calimshan to meet with the Guild.

Talking with the Guild they liked the idea of getting back at Thangol. The Guild offered them a way but they wanted to get him where it hurts and rob his house and lay a trap to him. So they guild helped them out with cloaks, disguises, and bags to load up stuff. The party headed off to Thangol’s house and got ready to rob Thangol blind. The Rogue picked the locks and the Monk ran into the room and koed one of the human bystander in the room. The group went room to room cleaning out everything they could and I had to use the equipment table to make sure they did not hold too much. They worked efficiently though the house and were almost done when they got greedy and stumbled into a room with some more people. They did not take them all out in the surprise round and one called for help. This lead Thangol (who was almost home) and a contingent of Flaming Fist to storm into the house (Thangol, 2 FF Lieutenants, 10 FF Privates), well try to but the rogue had locked the door and jammed it shut so it was not easy. The Halfling barbarian jump though a window and shot down one of the Flaming Fists. They swarmed him and koed him easily (even with his 18 AC I was able to hit him 5 times). The FF moved though the house clearing rooms as the Paladin moved around the outside of the house to get to the barbarian that was being tied up now that he was knocked out. The Group slowly worked their way though all the FFs and finally took down Thangol. They heard more coming and decided that Thangol, since he was stealing too, needed his punishment. They proceeded to cut off his finger and exit the house with a lot of stolen property and money. They made it back to the Guild and got paid for their crime and a pat on the back for not killing anyone and teaching Thangol a lesson.

So that ended Scene 1 for us. The people were so happy with how it went and wanted to keep going (even though we were pushing 10:30PM). I think this will be a very successful season and I cant wait to see what the party does next.

Conclusion
So based off of the first week and game day everyone is on board for DnDNext. They like the simplified skills, and Advantage/Disadvantage (for the 2 new players). Here is some of what they liked and did not like.
LIKED
1. Able to do anything they wanted. They told me what they wanted to do and I told them if they needed to roll or if they could do it. (Selling goods was a big hit for the whole table as the Brewer is now trying to sell off the rest of her inventory so she can make some more).
2. Combat was simple, and they could add their own flavor.
3. Spells were easy to understand (first time playing D&D and playing a wizard but he was not overwhelmed)
4. Able to use miniatures and still be effective (I drew my own map and we used miniatures for the house raid. That made it a lot of fun).

DISLIKED
1. Feel very much the same as everyone. The two Clerics were almost the exact same in what they did and stats. They did not feel special. We hope more level 3 paths will be available in the future but levels 1 and 2 feel very blah to everyone.
2. No statuses. I used bloodied for 1/2 hit points still just to help them know who looks bad and who needs healing but still no poison, fire, cold, ongoing. Felt like something was missing
3. Specialized Skills. Some wanted to specialize in something but really now you just had your knowledge skills. They again felt that you had to follow your class to the skills you want. You could not have a very effective Dex Stealth Cleric since the Rogue would always be better then you (Advantage on Roll). Maybe the Feats will take care of that but again you cant get that till level 4.
4. More Subclasses/Paths (Level 3 Paths) and make them at level 2. People want to get to the paths sooner and right now at level 3 it feels like 1 and 2 are just throw away levels. It seems like it would be better just to start at level 3. Make Paths at level 2. Also add some more so we have more options.

2 Mike August 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

Interesting Encounters Session. We played at Modern Myths and they modified the adventure significantly to work better for 4E Encounters. (Thanks!) We had three tables of 4E in Mammaroneck. My table was very magic heavy. Two human wizards, a pixie witch, a dwarf paladin of the Raven Queen, my changeling druid/warlock hybrid with a bear and blink dog companion and finally a Hengeyokai rabbit rogue with multiple personalities. Apparrently as a rabbit/man he is Giacamo “King of Jester’s and Jester of Kings”, but when there is fighting to be done he turns into “The Black Fox” (even though he’s a rabbit”) a master with the blade. It’s not clear whether the two personalities are aware of each other or not.
So we started off going to meet our contact Corann, at the Elfsong Inn. Since we were mostly spellcasters we decided to look for any wizards around. We found a charm store run by a Halfling named Bella. The wizards inquired about magic wands, but they were way too expensive. I bought a charm from her to get her to talk and we found out about the recently murdered duke and she agreed to tell people where we were staying and pass on jobs and information. Also, I got a charm against vermin. Sweet.
We returned to the Inn to meet with our contact Corann. The rabbit rogue decided to play a song to introduce us, which made us about as popular as a vampire at a blood drive. Apparently they really don’t like singing at the Elfsong inn. They have their own singing ghost at night and I guess he/she’s a little jealous. Corann smoothed things over and gave us a basic lay of the land. At that point we noticed a cloaked figure sneaking off. The rabbit rogue sneaked off and turned into a rabbit and followed him back to the Temple of Gond.
Meanwhile the rest of the party investigated the inn and their drinks. Ravensguard of the Flaming Fist guards approached the Paladin and offered vague promises of a job if we met him at Four Bells. A priest, Imbrilum, approached our wizards and made a similar offer. After the rabbit-guy returned a cloaked figure (presumably from the thieves guild) made a similar offer and let slip that they knew he was changing into a rabbit and that some of the cats in town answered to them.
Our pixie decided to try talking to the cats, but they were aloof. She then tried talking to the rats, but then the cats thought she was betraying THEM. Evenutally, she convinced them that she was on their side by bribing them with cheese and they spilled what they knew, which was basically that there were a lot of swords and tension around.
So we had to decide which offer to take. Of course we wanted to take all and play them against each other like in “A fistful of Dollars”, but all the groups insisted that they wanted to meet all of us and at the same time. We considered splitting up anyway. Since they already knew we could change into rabbits, we could split into three groups of two with four rabbits each and just pretend that the rabbits were our other members, or possibly use some illusions. In the end we decided that was too complex and we would just pick one. Vote was 4-1-1 in favor of Flaming Fists. The rabbit guy held out and said he would switch to the Flaming Fists if the others would let him investigate the ghost by playing music in his room. We all agreed and tried the experiment. All that happened was that people banged on our door and told us to be quiet or else. So Elfsong Inn and ghost are still a mystery.
We set off to meet with Ravensguard and ran into a tense scene of tax collectors and rioting members of the public with professional thieves. On the first round a guard threw a javelin and hit an old man. Rabbit guy transformed into a rabbit and rushed over to help him. Unfortunately, he rolled a one and so he yanked out the javelin and caused more bleeding. My druid shouted out that if everyone didn’t drop their weapons and let her through to help she would paddle all of them. They let her through, but didn’t stop fighting. She tried to heal the old man, but I rolled a one also so I not only killed him, but stabbed his grandson. Aaaargghh. , The pixie witch finally healed the kid, and turned the javelin thrower into a frog. The other two wizards started zapping both sides. The paladin was apparently the disciple of an EVIL goddess so he started attacking the civillans.
Next turn I had my bear grab one of the thieves and I announced that I would start ripping off heads if everyone didn’t put up their weapons. Surprisingly this worked and all of the (presumed) thieves fled. The tax collector was begrudgingly grateful and gave us a pass to continue on. The pixie was really pissed at him for attacking civilians. At this point we had to decide where we were going next. Some wanted the flaming fists since that was our original position. Some wanted the priests since we hadn’t attacked any of them yet, and the rabbit guy wanted to help the poor. In the end we used a d6 to decide, and ended up with the thieves. (If you don’t want to decide the course of the story on a die roll you shouldn’t be here ?).
Overall, it was fun. I liked the flexibility of being able to go anywhere and do anything we wanted. On the other hand, the flexibility caused some problems. We have a strict 2 hour time limit at our FLGS and it wasn’t clear how much time we should spend talking and investigating and when we had to move on to the next task. We managed OK, but we will definitely need to manage time and keep an eye on the clock in the later sessions. Also of course, now that we have choices, we have party members disagreeing on the choices. Fortunately we were all able to agree congenially this time. Overall, it was a good time. Extra thanks to our DM and the staff at Modern Myths for doing a good job on what must be a very difficult season to run.

3 Spykes August 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

Game HQ in OKC –
I’m not really sure what you mean about repetition. I was at GenCon for the launch weekend and DM’d it there several times. Back at our store, we had two large tables that ran it as well. When I got to the store last night, almost everyone had run the launch event already and were ready to make a decision on which way to go. Those that didn’t were simply caught up in the story and assigned a table.

We had 3 full tables of Six players, all playing D&D Next.
At my table, we had 2 Monks, Ranger, Fighter, Druid & Mage. This group could not decide on at first on which meeting to attend. They finally left it up to the roll of the dice. Rilsa Rael won out. Heading to their meeting with her, they were delayed at the Basilisk Gate by long lines. They attempted to make their way to the front using their influence, which seemed to be working. Nant Thangol finally recognized the heroes after a few shouts of support from the crowd. This won them some passage, but a keen mage could tell that it wouldn’t cost them too much to just pay for everyone. However, the PCs didn’t seem to want to part with any real gold. As a result, they created an illusionary bag of gold. Nant rolled a 1 on his Wisdom check of said roos, and the PCs were able to pay for everyone’s passage and not actually pay a cp. They did move very quickly after that though, as the illusion only lasts 1 minute. This made them instant heroes with everyone heading to Outer City.

Meeting with Rael, they accepted the job of robbing Nant Thangol later that night. I used the Gloomwroght city street map for the ambush and it was great for that. The ambush strike was precision and the guards didn’t have much of a chance. The heroes were able to subdue all threats with 1 surprise round, a well placed sleep spell and one round of combat. They were careful not to kill anyone and escaped with the chest. I didn’t see anywhere that indicated how much gold is in there, but that would be great if anyone knows. The other question mark I have is, now they are running through the lower city streets with a huge chest of toll money. To get back to Outer City, they still have to get past the Basilisk Gate. I’m not sure what happens at the gates after midnight.

As for experience, I think this is going to be fairly hard to track. The other two DMs and I have deciided that rough rate of 125 XP per session should be a good advancement rate. If they attended the Launch weekend event, then they should reach 2nd level at the end of week 2. They will stay at second level for 4 weeks and then advance to third level for weeks 7-11 (5 weeks). I may give out bonuses, but this is a good estimate.

4 Joe August 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm

We played using the same 4e rewrite that Mike (above) used at the Mammaroneck, NY store, though we were at the flagship Modern Myths store in Northampton, MA (where we had 4 tables, all running 4e). The rewrite is my own doing, which I shared with DMs from both stores. It tries to follow a more linear storyline, so that we can have folks switch tables without being totally lost. The 3 factions and most of the main events are the same, but I threw in a bunch of other events that either varied the monsters, or let the players be heroes, or more clearly hinted about the meta-plot of the season… but at least for the first session it stayed relatively parallel to the intro in the for-sale version. For the future, if the recounted adventures from folks at either of our stores vary widely from what the folks running it straight out of the book experience, that’s why.

I think the inclusion of the duke fight in the product is for people who buy the product after the fact, so that they can get the “full effect” when they run this in their home games. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just an oversight. With this season/product, who can say?

Anyhow, we started at the inn. I chose a single inn with cool character (the elvish ghost is just neat), where the info-dump PC Coran could always be, as the party’s home base for the rewrite… just makes things easier and more consistent for DMs across tables. No one at my table was at the launch weekend, but we decided that they were a heroic team from out-of-town, and everyone was freaked out after the Duke died in some awful thing yesterday, so folks were eager to get heroes in to fix things, and “OH LOOK! There’s some famous heroes now!” As each main NPC came up to the party, Coran would give his thoughts on that NPC’s group afterward, so the party had a choice with additional info from Coran, who gave plusses & minuses to each option.

Eventually the party decided to go with the “overworked-good-cops-faced-with-bad-choices-in-a-bad-city” Flaming Fists, but they had to get through the Basilisk Gate to get to them. As the ruckus between the soldiers & street thugs erupted, the party initially wanted to help no one, but a civilian pulled a knife & shanked a soldier, so the party ended up fighting the thugs at my table. There was a bit of disagreement on whether they should kill these rogues (Coran had mentioned how murder was illegal), but the fighter/slayer in the group was played by a younger kid who absolutely wanted to kill his target (plus his character wields a scythe, and he wanted to “slice him in half like in Interview With a Vampire”). Eh, what can you do. As he killed the guy, I had the image of the skull surrounded by blood droplets (from the cover of the product) flash in front of his eyes… trying to set up plot for later. He didn’t recognize it as anything, so he just thought it was a weird magic effect or something… but as we move on, things will become more clear that stuff is going badly in certain corners of the metaphysical world. But no spoilers here!

Anyway, the discussion with Flame Ravengard went fine (other than his disappointment that they’d killed one of the criminals), and the party went home to rest… though we had to make sure to tell folks that it wasn’t a “restful” sleep, since their dreams were plagued by visions of that man they’d killed. This was an in-story way to get around not having the mechanical effects of an extended rest every time the adventure says a new day is dawning. That’s another difficulty of running the same text for 4e & Next, since Next is based on per-day allotments, while in 4e the Daily powers are significantly powerful and shouldn’t be recharged every single encounter.

One note on the opening weekend. The few folks who showed played it in 4e, and were down to almost nothing when the transformation happened. So we hand-waved some magical energy of the transformation giving folks a short rest to at least recharge encounter powers, lest everyone be left with no healing and only At-Wills.

5 dcdnd August 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Our FLGS owner got a huge cheer when she announced that, thanks to Wizards trying to kill DnD the store would now feature GURPS and pathfinder tables. I ended up at a gurps table, all new to the system except dm. We amazed ourself how quickly we immersed into the RP, and the small amount of combat didn’t feel forced.

6 Pete August 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

we had a smaller than usual turn out for the first encounter but even though our party was small (human cleric, human fighter, dwarf cleric, elf rogue) we still split up all three ways and met all 3 main npc’s. and we all told each other what happened so now the tricky part – what to do with this knowledge knowing all 3 factions are at odds with each other?

7 Vobekhan August 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Following a great response to the Launch Event on Saturday this season sees us expanding to 2 tables and 2 DM’s running Next, and with an influx of new blood 5 players on each table – we took over half the store :-)

Rather than start up a seperate blog my fellow DM sent me his write up to add to my existing blog. After reading them I was surprised at how similar both groups had chosen to progress. We are planning on keeping people t the same groups throughout the season, and hopefully shall come up with some inter-party shenanigans at some point.

I must say that the level of creativity on the WotC forums continues to impress me, with suggested map lists and extra adventure content being posted up – this is definitely going to be an excellent season of adventuring.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Enc Murder in Baldur’s Gate – Session 1

8 Greyson August 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

In our game, Duke Adrian was not confronted on stage by anyone. During the random crowd stabbings and sniper attack, he just stood on stage with a “dazed look on his face.”

As we wrapped-up dealing with the snipers, Duke Adrian then changed into some horrific creature and we killed that. He was the monster after a hideous, on-stage transformation. So, we thought he’d become possessed at some point shortly before or during his speech or ensuing chaos in The Wide.

The above suggests Duke Adrian was fighting another person on the stage and was killed, then the attacker turned into the monster. Is that how it’s written?

9 Dan August 23, 2013 at 1:21 am

for the weekend intro event, our flgs had a major turnout, and too few DMs. One person decided to try his hand being DM, and he seemed to enjoy it, as did the rest of his players. there were 2 tables of Next and a table of 4e. On week 1 of the season, there were only 2 tables, one of 4e, one of Next. Everyone at my table (playing Next) had been at the intro weekend event except for the DM, and all 3 of the DMs from the intro were now playing characters themselves (one was at the 4e table).
Our table had a halfling rogue (pregen), a half-orc barbarian, a human monk (pregen), a human rogue (baulder’s gate native), a dwarf fighter, a druid (whose race i can’t remember), and a forest gnome barbarian (me).
We played the intro based on the events of the intro weekend, and started from the transformation. I’ll just recap the two together.
We entered the city, and began browsing the wares of the merchants. My gnome is completely against animals being in captivity, so when he saw the caged exotic birds, he started trying to find ways to free them. during the combat, after the crossbowmen and one of the thugs were killed, he saw the cage unattended, and decided to take the opportunity to free them. Their wings were clipped, so they could not fly away (much to my character’s dismay). He gathered them up, but at that moment the duke killed his foe and transformed (note: on wednesday, the duke was slain). when he made his screech, the birds took off, and got trampled by the crowd, causing the gnome to fly into a rage. The bhaalspawn charged at the human rogue, and took her down to exactly 0 HP (note: on saturday, she had been just out of reach). The enraged gnome charged the bhaalspawn, and did massive damage with a castlevania-esque dagger/whip combo (with extra rage damage for each), bringing him to just above half health. the half-orc tried to intimidate it to scare it away, but only drew its attention to herself. The gnome did manage an opportunity attack, the druid revived the rogue (healing her to full health), and the fighter finished it off.
Then the 3 patrons approached the party, the flaming fist approached the half-orc barbarian, Skoond approached the monk, and the Guild representative beckoned over the human rogue, whose family had moved to baulder’s gate, and was being supported by the Guild through her (though she was not a member, she had connections).
The half-orc left right away, and was followed by the halfling rogue. After talking with the remaining party members, the monk and dwarf fighter went to meet with Silvershield. The gnome and druid joined the human rogue to meet with the Guild rep.
The last group had time to spare, so the druid made a health potion for the rogue, and the gnome haggled a merchant for some bolas, getting 3 for 4.5 gp (as opposed to 6). He also plotted justice against the bird merchant who had held the birds captive, by speaking with local birds and enlisting them to steal his food and otherwise torment him.
The monk and fighter listened to silvershield, who recruited them to determine whether three individuals were connected to the Guild, which he claimed was the source of the city’s problems. They agreed to help him, and he gave them a writ of search and seizure, to let them search the homes of the three for contraband. Then, the half-orc and rogue met with the flaming fist, but they had designs of their own to eliminate the flaming fist’s leadership. They had an elaborate plan to push him out of a window to his death, and escape out the same window. however, the rogue jumped the gun, and got them both thrown out before they could act.
The Guild meeting went similarly to the others. They pointed at the other two groups as the corrupt ones, and claimed to steal from them to give to the poor of baulder’s gate. The native rogue confirmed this, and the group agreed that it was a noble cause. They then recruited us to rob the tax collector, Thangol. Knowing how taxes were collected in baulder’s gate, they agreed to take him down a notch, and were promised 20% of whatever they could steal from him. We arranged a way to contact them to arrange another meeting, and left to rejoin the rest of the party in the market square.
When we exchanged information, we realized that the writ of search and seizure would be very useful for the tax collection job as well, as our human rogue has the charlatan background, and can forge official documents. We took a few days to forge the document, and gathered our own intel on the 3 targets of silvershield’s writ, and when the forgery was done, we took it to the Guild, just to tell them our plan, and they caught a slight mistake, which they fixed for us, and they provided us with a pouch of a powdery controlled substance to plant in his home to warrant seizing the collected taxes.
We woke him in the dead of the night, and passed off the forgery as real. The barbarian and halfling rogue waited by the back door in case he tried to flee, but also so as not to arouse the suspicion of the flaming fist guards. The human rogue pulled some excellent slight of hand, and planted the contraband in the common area, where she “found” it, which caused them to call the city guards to arrest the tax collector, and confiscate the collected taxes and ledger, which somehow got misplaced along the way, ending up in the hands of the guild.

So far, I absolutely LOVE the way this season is shaping up. between the freedom of the setting, the political intrigue, and the many opportunities to roleplay, I have a good feeling about it. My biggest hope is that this season does not cross groups like last season, as different choices could cause problems with mixing goups.
Also, I’d like to give props to our human rogue, as she seems like she will prove to be a HUGE asset, between her guild connections, her ability to forge documents, and her cultural lore (baulder’s gate). She made a great character.

Sorry about the wall of text. We had a busy pair of sessions.

10 evermore August 23, 2013 at 10:19 am

didn’t want leave a wall of text its been fun reading them though ( my adventure is written in my blog link) , my week one was slightly different worried the game would not arrive I prepared and adventure on the road to balduer’s gate, but it did culminate with the weekend festival bhallspawn fight, my parties not sure who they want to go with they as other groups want to split and speak with everyone 1st

11 JYANTA August 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

I agree with you Dan. DnDNext has been a lot of fun for our groups and they are role playing a lot more then they have in the past (except for Against the Cult of Chaos. They RPed a lot in that adventure).

I will say that having a Rogue with Charlatan is VERY powerful. My groups rogue is playing a Gnome Tinkerer and has an already established presence in Baldur’s Gate. She was instrumental in unlocking the doors and robbing the Tax Collector and her Duel Short Swords have taken down quite a few people. I think she is going to create some fake documents for the group so they can pass though the gates without tolls in the future but we will see if that works.

12 Bionic August 23, 2013 at 11:31 am

I had six players for Next this week, and all but one had come to the Launch. U started by recapping the Duke fight and the three offers. My players decided on seeing the guild and then the flaming fist. They were angered by Thangol and blamed the Fist, who were acting as his goons. They knew it would be worse to start a fight and paid everyone’s way through. Two of the later tried to shake down a friendly Dwarf after mistakenly accusing him of having stolen the shield.
They were receptive to Rael’s offer, especially for the chance to get back at Thangol. They changed their plans so that the monk would not say anything to Ravengard about their plans for the night. They met with Silvershield but were put off by his attitude while being attracted to his pay. They we re confused about the political situation so they sought out Coran for guidance who told them to trust no one but themselves.
That night they ambushed Thangol and were afraid their Guild supplied healer would take off with the cash box but he asked for only the Guild’s cut. My players surprised me by trying to figure out how to best return the money to the people. The DM screen was helpful in finding temples and they got a brief primer in the local gods. They decided to give most of the gold to Ilmater in order to pay for proper burials of the poor. They plan on doing as Slvershield asks in the morning but our time was up.

Next works well for us but people have yet to use their lore. I am dealing fine so far with using old maps and people like the faster combat but are not yet used to turns where they swing once, miss, and are done. The politics of the city are making it difficult for the lawful players which leads to more interesting RP based decisions.
I have one player who was deep into the Realms and is excited to learn about The Sundering and how the city and Calimshan have changed since 3.5. They are all exploring their characters and the city more than they did in 4E. My group is going to fluctuate between five and ten players which will be less of a problem using Next. Ideally I’ll bring some one else in on the plot to DM a second table if the PC’s move the party in two competing directions. This will mean more prep but could make for a real unique experience, so ling as we can keep them from killing one another.

13 Bionic August 23, 2013 at 11:56 am

JYANTA,
I have noticed that two weapon users are really good and the monk’s Flurry wowed some of the single weapon users who did not realize the difference in damage. Big hits reduced HP so that quick hits were enough to take out multiple people. Sneak attack is powerful but it’s once a turn limit makes it somewhat controlled. Though a raging barbarian or two weapon paladin who casts Divine Favor will be a devastating combatant as well.

On the other aspects, the players who were more engaged in the setting and action found ways to seem extremely useful. A player who maximized their lore and background is going to stand out if they are a proactive player. A player with trade skills and merchant contacts will be useful if they apply them well.
If they get out of hand I am a big fan of the surprisingly perceptive security guard, being one in real life. Remember, the Watch recruits people from noble families. The person they are trying to con may be a member of the house being used as cover.

14 Sunyaku August 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Played instead of ran the Game Day event because we only had a few folks show up… who happened to all be children… and who made some questionable tactical decisions after the monster appeared… and so, my new level one (defender) LFR character that I haven’t played yet was murdered by an Aspect of Bhaal. Claw, claw, action point, claw claw negative bloodied.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Come to Geekkon this Weekend!

15 Auiva August 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I DM’d a session for launch weekend this last weekend. As it happened, most of those people who had come to the launch decided to play with us to DMs who had run the launch, which made it easier to simply pick up where we had left off on Saturday and continue from there. A third DM took those who had, for the most part, not attended launch and ran the story from the beginning.

Our party started where they left- they’d run out of time when Duke Adrian had transformed into the hideous Bhaalspawn, so we rewound the clock a bit to his transformation point in order to fill in our one new player, then let the fight begin, with people at their current hitpoints and power uses from Saturday. However, it also meant that the daily the Cleric had gotten off on the Bhaalspawn on Saturday was also still in play, making him vulnerable 5 to all damage until the end of the encounter. This proved incredibly powerful- the party took him down in about two rounds, even with mildly upped hp. The Bhaalspawn did almost drop the ranger though, and scared the crap out of the bard by using its jump move power to escape a flank and land in front of him for some murder. After the Bhaalspawn was defeated, the two lackeys fled, and the crowd in the Wide began to finally disperse. Skoond approached the Paladin of Tempus, Ravengard approached the cleric, and a mysterious man (a rogue) talked with the rogue of the party while both ‘liberated’ some fruit while ‘helping’ to clean up a stall.

The rest of the evening was spent talking. The party decided they wanted to talk to all three possible patrons, and so that took up at least a good hour and a half to do. It was worth it though, to create the realization that all three potential allies mean ‘well’, though in very different ways, and meant the party had some real thinking to do when they regathered at the end of the day. Inbetween we had rogues riding on half-orcs, half-orcs convinced that they should use turn undead on the toll collector at Basilisk Gate, and ton of other funny things that kept the players interacting with each other and roleplaying without getting too bored when it wasn’t their turn. They were real troopers with all the talking to NPCs, and I think it means that when we set off into the real beginnings of the plot next week, they’re going to feel more involved and more ready for action. Should be great.

16 Berling's Beard August 30, 2013 at 11:57 am

Our store in Brooklyn has about 30 players that show up every Weds. This season is a HUGE challenge for those of us on Team DM.

We also have been running Game Day, Session 0, and now Session 1 as one continuous adventure, so players who have been to all three are really well prepared for the rest of the season and the over all narrative is already starting to take shape.

We randomize our seating, so Team DM has to be really on their toes in terms of catering to each player’s journey through the session and be ready to run all three ‘quest missions’ for players aligned with different factions.

We’re already noticing how much this season is a ‘living / breathing city’. One player murdered a Patriar’s wife in broad daylight and so now has a bounty on their head. The Watch and Flaming Fist are looking out for them as are other players who want to get the reward.

I had one player at my table who made a deal with the Guild and then said he wanted to be a mole in the Flaming Fist and so went to meet them! Double Agents!

This season will be rife with political intrigue and high stakes adventure!
Berling’s Beard´s last blog post ..Start of Summer RECAP!

17 David Argall September 12, 2013 at 2:11 am

The first problem was the lack of anyone willing to shell out for the adventure. Fortunately, the store owner was willing to loan us a copy. That may prove a problem for us if sales are good, but so far anyway…
We play 4e and have a slightly overfull table.
The assassination went well in general. The situation seemed a bit dubious, but our DM is not the most skilled, and skimped on his preparation as well, so I can’t say this was the module’s fault. Since I am a healic cleric, keeping the duke on his feet was easy, until he went monster. [Now whether we followed the adventure on this or not I can't say.]
We had some problem with our offers as the thief, a relatively new player, wanted to go off on his own and didn’t relay the offer he got. The rest of us met with the city watch and got some warrants before we headed to the Flaming Fists. At the gate line, we were not thinking and missed our chance to reunite the party. Instead, we used our connection to the city guard to get thru and left the thief in line.
Accepting position with the Fists too, we set out to do some of the assigned work. One den of iniquity was said by the watch to have some connection to the killing and we went there, finding out nothing. But the Fists also wanted the place raided and closed down. So we tried to be paid twice. The resulting fuss was not too difficult, but our DM finally noticed we were only supposed to be working for one faction and more or less forced that on us. We chose the Fists, so for story purposes, we will likely be fired by the watch for the raid.
Our thief met with the guild and got the assignment to take care of the toll collector. Since it was supposed to be designed for a full party, the DM reduced it to a skill check, which the thief came close to failing.
Next time, our DM promises to do more advance reading, and we will have to find a way to get the rogue back in the party.

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