D&D Encounters: Search for the Diamond Staff (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 1, 2013

search-for-the-diamond-staff-coverDuring the last session the PCs fought Chitines (spider-creatures) in the Elvin ruins of Uvaeren. After defeating the monsters the heroes discovered a doorway. Heaps of fresh earth and discarded picks and shovels indicated it was cleared recently. This must be where Phoedele and the Zhentarim soldier went; underground into the lost Vault of Song.

The heroes were in no shape to continue so they returned to the old plaza with the statues and the pillars. They felt that they’d be safe resting there since the Chitines clearly didn’t come near the ancient residual Elvin magic. After a long rest the party leveled up (to level 6) and proceeded down the stairs.

This week at Silver Snail in Toronto we ran one table of 4e and one table of D&D Next. The 4e table was once again packed (eight players) while I had six players at my D&D Next table. The party consisted of Elf Ranger, Elf Wizard #1, Elf Wizard #2, Human Wizard, Halfling Rogue (re-skinned as a Bard), and Half-Elf Paladin.

The Zhents had a huge head start on the party. It didn’t really make sense for the party to stop and rest when they did, but mechanically speaking it was necessary. To account for this I tweaked the encounter a bit.

When the PCs reached the bottom of the long marble stairway they stood in front of a huge set of intricate double doors. Although the doors were open, the area in front of the door showed signs of recent wear. With a few decent Search checks the party realized that the Zhents spent the night in front of the door. A Knowledge (Arcane Lore) check indicated that until recently the doors were magically sealed. It seemed that merely possessing the Diamond Staff wasn’t sufficient to open the doors. Phoedele still needed to perform a ritual of opening; the “key” must have served as the focus.

As the party proceeded into the vault the Ranger determined that the Zhents likely passed this way less than an hour ago. Beyond the door was a large hall. Seven silver plaques covered in ancient Elvin script adorned the walls. In the centre of the chamber a magical pool was set upside down in the ceiling with a small fountain that shot water downward. As the water neared the floor it “fell up” into the pool. Instead of splashing sounds the falling water made a soft chiming sound. Two passages led out of the hall.

The first room the party explored contained six alcoves along the walls. Each was framed with an archway covered with intricate images of foliage. In the centre of the room was a pedestal set with six hand-sized crystals. Five were blackened, as if burned from the inside. The sixth flickered with a dull grey glow.

Curiosity got the better of the Paladin and he touched the glowing crystal. One of the empty alcoves filled with the image of a shadowed forest. Broken Elvin ruins of yellow stone littered the ground. The image lasted only for a few seconds and then faded.

A Knowledge (Arcane Lore) revealed that this was once a teleportation chamber that allowed the ancient Elves to travel vast distances by stepping through the gates. Elf Wizard #1 tied infusing the crystal with arcane energy to recharge it and make the portal functional for more than a few seconds. He realized it would take at least an hour to get a strong enough charge to allow the whole party to pass through so he decided to leave it and the party moved on.

Going back through the hall they went in the other direction. A golden disk at the apex of the chamber’s ceiling filled this room with light. The disk was carved with a stylized image of the sun with a benevolent face at its centre. Around the room were a dozen ancient wooden desks. Small bins of smooth white metal lined the walls. These object all looked really old and fragile. The PCs spent some time looking around but realized that the desks were ready to crumble and that any contents contained within the bins was rotted or destroyed.

The next room was an octagonal shaped chamber. The tall 35-fot ceiling was set with glimmering points of light like a starry night sky. On the opposite side of the room was another doorway sealed by a slab of white marble. Near the door where the PCs entered was a small fountain in the form of a beautiful female Elf pouring water from a silver pitcher. The water glowed softly. A silver chalice rested on the lip of the fountain.

In the centre of the room was a sculpture depicting five life-sized female Elves. The statues stood in a ring, each facing outward and holding a basin in her outstretched hands. Each was different and distinct.

  • A young girl dressed in a garment of leaves.
  • A stern woman with a tiara and staff.
  • A young dancer wearing a cloak of swan feathers.
  • An older matron dressed in veils of mourning.
  • An armored warrior with a sorrowful expression.

The arms of each Elf and the basins they held seemed to be connected by a flexible joint and looked as if they might be capable of movement.

The party quickly assumed (correctly) that the way to get through the door was to put the water in the basins. They decided that the order must have something to do with the age of the women depicted in the statues so they tried youngest to oldest.

As they filled the first basin the weight of the water caused the statue’s arms to sink slightly. A subtle click came from the stone doorway. The continued filling the other basins, each Elf’s arms lowering and the door clicking each time. When all five basins were filled one more click echoed from the door. Then all the basins slowly tipped over, spilling the water onto the floor. The arms rose back into their original positions.

Clearly youngest to oldest was wrong so they tried oldest to youngest. That didn’t work either. Frustrated they started trying all possible combinations. The Human Wizard finally decided to look around the room again and noticed that five of the stars on the ceiling were brighter than the others. He made an Intelligence check and realized the five starts were actually the planets Chandros, Garden, Glyth, H’Catha, and Karpri.

Another Intelligence check helped the PCs draw a correlation between the planets’ names and the representations of the five Elf maidens. They filled the basins in order from the planet highest in the sky. As they filled the basin of the dancer in swan feathers (Karpri) the planet/star on the ceiling began to glow slightly brighter. They continued adding water in order of the planets. Each planet/star on the ceiling glowed brighter as they added water until all five basins were filled and all five planet/star were glowing.

The great marble slab slid open revealing another passageway. The party quickly proceeded before the statues dumped their water and the door closed behind them.

The chamber was skirted by a raised ledge and held several large pillars carved in the shape of dragons. The ceiling showed another depiction of the glowing starry sky. In the floor ahead was a pit 20 feet across. Above the pit a huge grey crystal hung suspended by a massive chain affixed to the ceiling. At the other end of the room was a door at the top of a steep flight of steps.

As written, this encounter is supposed to have three of the pillars come to life and attack the PCs. Following some excellent advice I got on the D&D Encounters forums I decided to instead have the party face one gargantuan dragon (because, how often do you get to whip out that baby and use it in public play?).

encounters-14-week-7-htn1 encounters-14-week-7-ss1

 

Mechanically I ran the single Dragon just like three separate monsters. It had the combined hit points of all three dragons (51 x 3 = 153). It had all the same stats including attack scores, damage output, defenses, and ability scores as the small dragons. I gave it three full turns in the initiative (just like three monsters would normally have). For simplicity I designated each of the three turns as Claw, Bite, and Tail. When the party managed to inflict 51 points of damage, the Dragon would lose one of its three attacks (mimicking one of the three monsters dying).

With a little change to the initial descriptive text I had the Dragon statue present when they arrived in the room. It took a couple of rounds before the party advanced far enough into the room to activate the guardian. The PCs did manage to make an Intelligence check and realize this was a construct and not a real Dragon so it was unlikely to have a breath weapon.

encounters-14-week-7-htn3 encounters-14-week-7-ss3

The ensuing fight was awesome. The Dragon mini (if you can call such a large figure “mini”) provided a sense of awe and danger. The heroes tried to spread out to force the Dragon to keep moving. The Paladin managed to get on the Dragon’s back and spent most of the encounter locked in place stabbing it between the shoulder blades and talking a lot of tail slaps for his troubles.

At the top of round four the doors at the far end of the room opened and four Zhentarim soldiers armed with crossbows joined the fight. With three Wizards in the party they made great use of larger spells like Fireball. When the PCs realized that the Dragon would lose attacks as it got more injured they continued to focus all their efforts on it and practically ignored the soldiers.

encounters-14-week-7-htn2 encounters-14-week-7-ss4

When the Dragon finally fell, the soldiers (who were all at around half hit points) fled at top speed. Three got away; the PCs managed to kill one.

Defeating the Dragon was certainly a triumphant feat for the party but it came with heavy cost. The Human Wizard was knocked unconscious by the Dragon’s attacks in its last round of life. The Paladin fell in the pit twice and took some mean slaps from the Dragon’s tail brining him down to single digit hit points. With no healer in the party and only a couple of healing points the party will be going into next week’s finale with much less than full hit pints. However, the three Wizards did a great job conserving their magic so they’ll have plenty of spells to throw at Phoedele.

Thoughts

When I ran this encounter with my first group I felt the puzzle was a disaster. The players weren’t getting it. They were so use to 4e they expected to use skills to make broad checks that would reveal the answers. Despite my encouragement to be creative and ask specific questions about specific details they were not catching on.

dnd-encounters-14-week-7-elvesThe example I gave them was that a general search check would be harder than a search check to go through the drawers of the desk. If they were specific I’d make the DC considerably easier. They failed to ask about anything specific about the statues, the fountain, or the ceiling. To fix this problem I created cards for my second group.

By printing the cards and arranging them on the table the players really felt immersed in the encounter. They asked very specific questions and got a lot of the clues. They eventually made the connection and solved the puzzle. It’s amazing how helpful visual aids can be.

encounters-14-week-7-ss2Using just one Dragon was a stroke of genius (credit to Spykes on the Wizards forums). The original set-up called for three medium dragons. Since I don’t have three medium Dragon minis I would have had to substitute some other mini that I have three of. The players wouldn’t have even remembered they were really fighting Dragons. By using the gargantuan Dragon the players knew this was a big fight and it would be tough.

The gargantuan mini really brought a great energy level to the session. Afterwards I explained to the group how it was supposed to play out and they all agreed that the one Dragon was way better.

What was your experience like this week? Did your group get the puzzle or did they struggle? Did players enjoy it or find it too difficult? How did the fight go? Did anyone else follow Spykes’ advice and use one dragon instead of three?

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.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vobekhan August 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

Although I didnt have an impressive gargantuan dragon (that thing looks so cool) I used a Blackroot Treant and reskinned it using Spykes idea.

The players got the idea of the puzzle but really poor skill rolls meat they werent as quick on the uptake so I let them have a couple of false starts before getting through.

The module says the party get a short rest at the end of the session, however the Next conersion notes dont mention it. As my players had suffered through low numbers and the rogue had convinced the remaining soldier to run on ahead I let them take a short rest and spend some Hit Dice.

I’m planning on splitting the final encounter over week 8 and 9 as none of my group are attending GenCon (unfortunately) and there definately seems a natural cliffhanger moment that I can make use of :-)
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 7

2 JYANTA August 1, 2013 at 10:48 am

The session I ran was a lot of fun. I decided to join both tables together into a single LARGE party (9 people) and a DM I knew remade the final map making it longer and also in 3d (so it had a raised area and a real pit). I used my Dungeon tiles and made each of the rooms so when they would explore they could see more. The party consisted of 1 Half-Orc Barbarian, 1 Halfling Barbarian, 1 Dwarf Cleric, 2 Halfling Rogues, 1 Elf Ranger, 1 Elf Fighter (ranged), 1 Elf Druid, 1 Elf Wizard.

So the game started with them heading downstairs and into the fountain room. They spent 15 min. trying to figure out the fountain and thinking it was going to attack them. They shot it with arrows and finally touched the water to make sure it was OK. At this point almost everyone went through the door on the right while Mr. R (Halfling Rogue2) and Elf Ranger went ahead.

The Archway chamber had the Wizard cast detect magic and feel magic in the room while it was Kelon (Halfling Rogue1) that touched the crystal. I had the archway stay up and continue to flicker but no one took the bait to try they archway (they decided this was their escape path).

The Ranger and Mr. R searched the other room for anything they could salvage and both rolled high on the search. They found the locked box and deciding what was in there was going to be only for them tried to open the lock. Now Mr. R is more of a backstabber and not a Treasure Hunter like Kelon. He botched the roll (nat 1) and got to roll again. His second roll was a 4 and the metal box shook for a second and collapsed into magical dust.

At this point the other group caught up and saw the Ranger and Mr. R staring at a place on the wall with a horrified look. The Mage came up to them and stared at the dust saying, “Hey that dust is magical.” The party continued to the next room and saw the statues. Kelon, the Cleric, and the Mage all aced their rolls and noticed the stars and the statues had movable arms. Mr. R tried to pull on the arms and noticed they moved a lot but if they put water in it that would work. So they tried Youngest to Oldest and nothing happened. Oldest to Youngest and still nothing. This caused the Halfling Barbarian say that she was going to climb the wall and take a closer look at the larger stars. She rolled a nat 20 and easily climbed the wall. Mr. R followed her and they were both staring at the stars when Kelon tried filling up the mourning woman’s basin and saw the third star glow brighter. They quickly filled the rest and noted which star glowed bright and the next attempt they got the right sequence and headed on (with the Halfling and Half-Orc Barbarian they could of easily forced the door but they did not try).

Since it was a large party I had 6 Dragons and 6 Soldiers. It started off with them seeing two soldiers guarding the stairs and one by the door looking the other way. Kelon, both Barbarians and the fighter rolled stealth while the others just kept moving. We rolled Init and the Ranger started first. He walked up to the pit and yelled at the Soldiers, “Hey How are you today” and they yelled back to the doorway “Intruders”. The Ranger then shot one with his long bow and stayed in the open. The Soldiers all shot back at the Ranger in the open and 2 hit him for 10 damage. Everyone else moved forward and used the pillars as cover. Each time they stopped next to a pillar they would roll a spot. No one saw a Dragon move till the third turn right before they attacked. Mr. R jumped for the crystal and missed falling into the crystal shard pit getting hurt. The mage tied a rope for Mr. R and moved up more.

Turn 3 when half the party was forward and the rest in the back the Dragon’s attacked. They tore into Mr. R and the Mage dropping Mr. R and almost dropping the Mage (4 hp left). The mage moved back (avoiding the attacks) and dropped a fireball in the room for 28 damage. This hit one soldier and 4 of the statues. It killed the soldier and bloodied 3 of 4 statues. The Barbarians quickly took out 2 more statues leaving 3 while the Ranger, Ranged Fighter and Druid all attacked the soldiers entangling them and taking down all but 1 soldiers.

The battle lasted a few more rounds with the Rangers healing Mr. R (who went down 3 times) and the Cleric healing herself (she was down to 8) and the mage. Overall everyone had great fun and liked the puzzle. They also were impressed with the encounter because it looked bad for a while and they were worried but still able to pull it out. This battle was good to make them use some of their magic and potions so the next battle will be epic. We cant wait for next week where we will again have 1 table for the finality.

P.S. I love the idea of a large dragon. I think I will use that next time for the battle so that they will be scared. Very scared.

3 Joe August 1, 2013 at 11:38 am

Wow, awesome using the gargantuan dragon. We did not do that at any of our tables at Modern Myths, but still had a good time with this encounter. I’m not sure the gargantifying of the dragon(s) would have worked as smoothly in 4e, because D&D Next’s flat math probably made it much more hittable. Oh well, still a neat idea.

We ran 3 tables of 5-7 at our store, all 4e. My table had 5 players: 2 brand new, never-played-any-kind-of-RPG players (eladrin wiz & Halfling rogue, using pregens we’d printed at the store), 2 veterans (goliath warlord & kalashtar psion), and an overactive 11-yr-old who’s played before, but still doesn’t grasp all the rules, and really just likes to destroy things (tiefling fire sorcerer).

The exploration was fun. I was a little upset at the room where the text talked about the 7 quotes from the famous Elven scholars, then didn’t bother to actually give us the quotes. Of course my players asked about them… but fortunately I’d looked up a lot of quotes from real-world thinkers about knowledge & history, and names like Khalihl Gibran translate into elvey-sounding names pretty well.

Players had fun with the upside-down fountain. I had to decide that the reverse gravity only worked on liquids, so they could jump up into the water & land back on the ground, but if they spit into the fountain, it would fly to the ceiling. And then their hair did weird things as the water pulled it up to drip to the ceiling while gravity still pulled it down. You forget sometimes how much fun fantasy environments can be for exploring.

The portal room was more of a “let’s come back later to try and fix this” situation, as nobody wanted to even try messing with a flickering teleport that might end with them halfway between two places. I did manage to let someone use a Nature check, though, as he realized that the trees viewed through the portal were native to a far-off location.

In the scribing room, our store decided that there out to be a knowledge-related reward, instead of a random magic item in the locked box. So I turned it into a library card which gave the alternate reward “Ioun’s Revelation”, which just felt like the right reward for a scriptorium.

I went with the 3 smaller dragons, mainly because I had some cool Heroscape lizardy things that I’d rebased & painted silver, and they looked a lot like serpentine dragons. At 80 HP, 3 of them kept the party so busy that I only had one archer come in towards the end, and once the dragons were dead, I let the party roleplay the capture & questioning. He played off the “I thought you guys were thieves, because the facility’s defenses were attacking you.” card, though they didn’t buy it. Eventually they found he was just a paid mercenary, so they left him tied up to deal with later (though the… ahem… other folks in next week’s finale may have other plans for him. Mwa ha ha).
Joe´s last blog post ..What The Average Joe Thinks: D&D Next & You

4 Spykes August 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Awesome pics Derek. They look exactly like our session. We had two tables, both with the gargantuan dragons and we did our best to coordinate their reveal. Everyone had a blast. Lots of gasps when you place that guy down on the map and even more when you explain that it’s to scale. Also credit my other DM Jason Hamilton for the gargantuan idea. It was a collaborative plot. ;)

5 dcdnd August 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Played this last night , our DM was unimpressed by the construction of the puzzle and told us. Amazingly one of our players figured it out naturally without a roll. The encounter was pretty easy, the zhenti adds were dropped by one fireballl from an invised mage who rp,d sitting out the battle and exploring. Highlight of the night was our dwarf paladin exploring the pit under the crystal by relieving himself in it to see if anything was down there!

6 Mike August 2, 2013 at 12:04 am

We had three tables of 4E this time. Our group had a new elf rogue, a changeling vampire, a draconian wizard, a genasi swordmage and my psion gnome. When we came to the fork in the hallway we decided to split up. The rogue scouted to the right and the wizard turned invisible and scouted to the left. Fortunately, there were no enemies in either room. The wizard found the broken portal, and the rogue found some fragments of crystals. As a gnome and a magical engineer I was dying for a chance to try and fix the portal or send a psychic fragment through to explore, but the rest of the team voted to just move on. (Even my hamster voted against me.) In retrospect it seems like they were right and there was nothing worth finding there. When we reached the statue chamber the genasi ran ahead and dunked his head in the pool to explore explaining that it wasn’t risky because “[he] can breathe underwater”! That did not find anything. We didn’t have too much trouble with the puzzle. Our wizard figured it out without too much trouble.
Then on to the next room, with it’s lovingly described stone dragons. Somehow, despite none of the players being even slightly surprised when the dragons animated, all of the PC’s were. However, the surprise round really just let them get in range so that wasn’t too bad. My psion had just gotten the Faulty Memory power, so he tried to implant a memory in the dragon that an elvish priestess had just come by and told the dragons that they could stand down. This confused the dragon for a few moments but had no effect. Meanwhile the rest of the group was flanking and assaulting the dragons. The wizard managed to knock one of them into the pit for significant falling damage (yay magic missile) and the rouge knocked a second one in, killing it.
At this point the Zhent’s showed up. I tried to bluff them again, conjuring an image of a Zhentish badge. At this point we were in a little trouble as our main melee fighters were at the far end of the room, and even our ranged attacks couldn’t reach them. Their crossbows reached us just fine. So we all started running to the other end of the room. Except the swordmage. He jumped into the pit trying to spear the dragon with his sword. The DM let him use a charge attack. (Hey, he’s moving in a straight line.) which was successful and then he slid off the back onto the ramp blocking its path.
Meanwhile the wizard and psion got in range of the zhents. I used living missile to knock down two of them and group them together and the wizard used fire shroud on all of them. Unfortunately it only managed to hit one! Then our melee fighters arrived and things were looking bad for the Zhents. They started to edge toward the door and I offered them their freedom if they would help us kill the last dragon, which they agreed to do. So they lined up on the outside of the pit and filled it with crossbow bolts. Unfortunately for them, the swordmage had been in the bottom of the pit when the agreement was made and he didn’t know about it. Also he really hates Zhents. So while they were shooting the dragon, he snuck around behind them and started stabbing them in the back. By the time the rest of us realized what was going on it was too late to stop him, so we decided, since the Zhents were going to attack us now anyway, we might as well join him in the surprise attack. The ambush was successful and we dumped their bodies into the pit.
Overall, a fun session. My only regret is not saving Faulty Memory for the Zhents on whom it would probably have been much more useful. I’m glad we didn’t have the gargantuan dragon. As cool as that would have been it was more fun maneuvering around the pit, which would have been irrelevant with a gargantuan dragon.

7 dan August 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

This week, we had a party of 6: human monk, human druid, half-orc wizard, elf ranged fighter, half-elf ranger, and a half-orc barbarian. All but 2 of us have never played before this season, but we all have enough of a grasp of the rules to do fairly well.
We entered the vault without realizing that we had actually entered it. I’m not sure if that was due to the DM not giving us details we needed to realize this, or just that nobody in the party picked up on it. When we entered the room with the fountain, we decided to investigate it. The ranger stood under it to see what would happen, and found that only the water would rise, causing some to go up his nose. From there, we decided to investigate the teleportation room. The ranger was in a very “let’s touch everything and see if we die” mood, so he decided to touch the crystals to see what they would do. We decided to investigate the produced image, and found that, if one tried to pass through it, they would be launched back from it (it was my monk’s idea, so I got launched into a wall for 10 damage). We tried a lot of things with the crystals, such as switching them around to see if the problem was the base, the crystals, or both, and found that the only way that worked was the crystal that worked in the hole we found it in. With nothing else of interest in the room, the monk took the crystals and the party left.
In the other room, We found hundreds of the chests, most open or broken, and the books and whatnot destroyed. With a decent search check, the monk found an unopened chest. After three failed attempts at opening it, we noticed a “whumph” and smoke trickled out. We searched for more, and kept finding them, it we could only open them on a Nat 20. I think the DM was winging it a lot in this room, because there seemed to be an endless supply of still-sealed chests. If we didn’t have the time issue of the shop closing, we could have sat there for hours until we got the randomly generated loot we wanted. I think a limited number of chests with slightly lower DC would have been much better. Most of the party got new magical equipment, but most wouldn’t really benefit from it. The wizard had the good idea to put the +1 chainmail on a zombie he had created from one of the chitines from last week.
We finally went into the puzzle room. Because the ranger’s “touch everything” mood had infected us all, I decided to try and drink some of the water, but nothing happened. While it was pretty obvious that we had to put water in the basins, the order was a pain. With too many possible combinations to brute force it, and little emphasis on the ceiling lights until specifically asked about them, we got quickly frustrated. We thought “age” first, but it was hard to tell the order. We tried clockwise and counter clockwise. We decided to search the room for clues, and found none, until the ranger got very lucky and just barely made his nature check to realize that the lights were a layout of the night sky, and that there were 5 bright ones that were planets. Then we finally worked out that a statue correlated to each planet. When we asked about any lore about the planets, though, we got nothing, so we had to figure out which was which by filling the basins. We still didn’t know what the order was, though. We tried the order in which they rise (west to east), east to West, and finally got it on north to south. By the end, we were extremely frustrated, and kind of angry at the puzzle, but at least we got to take it out on the dragons in the next room.
We went in, and were very interested in the statues and the crystal. We nailed our spot checks, and saw one dragon move. Unfortunately, another noticed us notice, and combat started. The wizard cast haste on the monk, and moved to one side, and most of the party went to cover him. We had 4 dragons, and two went to the side with the wizard, and 2 ganged up on the hasted monk and the druid (in dire cat form) on the other side. Just before the 1st dragon was defeated, the zhents came in. The party brought down 3 dragons in one turn and started after the zhents, leaving The hasted monk to finish the last dragon off. The wizard used his armored zombie as a walking meat shield by taking cover behind it on the approach. At the ledge, he commanded the zombie to give him a boost, and he climbed up preparing to attack the agent on the next turn. The barbarian landed a crit with a maul, killing one agent, and cleaving into another crit on the agent next to the first. The second one barely survived. The monk finished off the last dragon, and moved double speed (from haste) to join the others in melee. The wizard bit the zhent and intimidated him, while the rest of the party brought down the other two still standing. The monk then jumped onto the wizard’s shoulders and somersaulted over the last zhent, and attacked, killing him.

All-in-all, my favorite part of this week was the combat. There were some great strategies and rolls, which really made up for the crap rolls from the exploration portion, and the frustration of the puzzle.
Another thing to note is that the one elf in the party kept trying to get different outcomes from thins just because we were in an elven ruin. While I can see some cases where that could be the case, it would be very rare, and I kind of feel like it slowed the exploration too much and seemed like trying to take the spotlight. Also seemed too much like metagaming for my liking.

8 dan August 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

This week, we had a party of 6: human monk, human druid, half-orc wizard, elf ranged fighter, half-elf ranger, and a half-orc barbarian. All but 2 of us have never played before this season, but we all have enough of a grasp of the rules to do fairly well.
We entered the vault without realizing that we had actually entered it. I’m not sure if that was due to the DM not giving us details we needed to realize this, or just that nobody in the party picked up on it. When we entered the room with the fountain, we decided to investigate it. The ranger stood under it to see what would happen, and found that only the water would rise, causing some to go up his nose. From there, we decided to investigate the teleportation room. The ranger was in a very “let’s touch everything and see if we die” mood, so he decided to touch the crystals to see what they would do. We decided to investigate the produced image, and found that, if one tried to pass through it, they would be launched back from it (it was my monk’s idea, so I got launched into a wall for 10 damage). We tried a lot of things with the crystals, such as switching them around to see if the problem was the base, the crystals, or both, and found that the only way that worked was the crystal that worked in the hole we found it in. With nothing else of interest in the room, the monk took the crystals and the party left.
In the other room, We found hundreds of the chests, most open or broken, and the books and whatnot destroyed. With a decent search check, the monk found an unopened chest. After three failed attempts at opening it, we noticed a “whumph” and smoke trickled out. We searched for more, and kept finding them, it we could only open them on a Nat 20. I think the DM was winging it a lot in this room, because there seemed to be an endless supply of still-sealed chests. If we didn’t have the time issue of the shop closing, we could have sat there for hours until we got the randomly generated loot we wanted. I think a limited number of chests with slightly lower DC would have been much better. Most of the party got new magical equipment, but most wouldn’t really benefit from it. The wizard had the good idea to put the +1 chainmail on a zombie he had created from one of the chitines from last week.
We finally went into the puzzle room. Because the ranger’s “touch everything” mood had infected us all, I decided to try and drink some of the water, but nothing happened. While it was pretty obvious that we had to put water in the basins, the order was a pain. With too many possible combinations to brute force it, and little emphasis on the ceiling lights until specifically asked about them, we got quickly frustrated. We thought “age” first, but it was hard to tell the order. We tried clockwise and counter clockwise. We decided to search the room for clues, and found none, until the ranger got very lucky and just barely made his nature check to realize that the lights were a layout of the night sky, and that there were 5 bright ones that were planets. Then we finally worked out that a statue correlated to each planet. When we asked about any lore about the planets, though, we got nothing, so we had to figure out which was which by filling the basins. We still didn’t know what the order was, though. We tried the order in which they rise (west to east), east to West, and finally got it on north to south. By the end, we were extremely frustrated, and kind of angry at the puzzle, but at least we got to take it out on the dragons in the next room.
We went in, and were very interested in the statues and the crystal. We nailed our spot checks, and saw one dragon move. Unfortunately, another noticed us notice, and combat started. The wizard cast haste on the monk, and moved to one side, and most of the party went to cover him. We had 4 dragons, and two went to the side with the wizard, and 2 ganged up on the hasted monk and the druid (in dire cat form) on the other side. Just before the 1st dragon was defeated, the zhents came in. The party brought down 3 dragons in one turn and started after the zhents, leaving The hasted monk to finish the last dragon off. The wizard used his armored zombie as a walking meat shield by taking cover behind it on the approach. At the ledge, he commanded the zombie to give him a boost, and he climbed up preparing to attack the agent on the next turn. The barbarian landed a crit with a maul, killing one agent, and cleaving into another crit on the agent next to the first. The second one barely survived. The monk finished off the last dragon, and moved double speed (from haste) to join the others in melee. The wizard bit the zhent and intimidated him, while the rest of the party brought down the other two still standing. The monk then jumped onto the wizard’s shoulders and somersaulted over the last zhent, and attacked, killing him.

All-in-all, my favorite part of this week was the combat. There were some great strategies and rolls, which really made up for the crap rolls from the exploration portion, and the frustration of the puzzle.
Another thing to note is that the one elf in the party kept trying to get different outcomes from thins just because we were in an elven ruin. While I can see some cases where that could be the case, it would be very rare, and I kind of feel like it slowed the exploration too much and seemed like trying to take the spotlight. Also seemed too much like metagaming for my liking.

9 Dave August 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I was the genasi swordmage who jumped on the dragon in the session that Mike described, so I won’t go back into all the details, but I agree the session was a lot of fun. The puzzle was cool, I guess our DM did a good job with the flavor text, because even though we didn’t notice any stars glowing, the fact that there was a whole starry field above us was a clue that it was the order of the stars. I could just imagine a wizard planning out the puzzle. “let’s see I could just do a random number code, but then if it’s lost nobody will be able to get in…so I should do puzzle that’s so difficult and obscure only a great elven wizard could figure it out…But wait how will the cleaning crew and other minions deal with it, I don’t want to be constantly letting them in and out…I know this puzzle is simple enough for them to remember and it will DEFINITELY keep us safe from roving adventurers.

The varied terrain with the pillars, pit, and terrace was also fun. We made a lot of use of the pit my character actually wound up in it twice. The first time I made an athletics check to climb directly out of it. At that point I was figuring out how best to dodge around the pillars and get to the crossbowmen or the remaining dragon at the top of the pit. However that dragon got pushed in and my team mates pointed out that I could jump down to attack it. At that point it was either make the tactically better decision to let the dragon wast time climbing out of the pit while I rushed the crossbowmen OR leap off a precipice, screaming a battlecry and waving my magic sword onto the back of a vicious dragon, hoping that I wouldn’t miss, break my legs, impale myself on my sword, and be clawed to death. Put that way the choice was obvious.

I’d also like to compliment the rest of my team they worked really well together and really made good use of their abilities, both in exploring and puzzle solving and in the fighting.

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