D&D Encounters: Murder in Baldur’s Gate (Week 4)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 12, 2013

murder-in-baldurs-gate-coverDuring the last session the PCs witnessed tensions grow in Baldur’s gate as sumptuary laws were implemented and the Watch and Flaming Fist officers began enforcing it. The PCs got caught up in a street brawl between Flaming Fist officers and a mob of angry Lower City residents. The Fist prevailed and the PCs escorted most of the troublemakers to Wyrm’s Rock for processing.

A few PCs split from the group and met with Rilsa Rael, a member of the Guild working out of Little Calimshan. She provided a different perspective of the recent events happening in Baldur’s Gate and suggested the PCs stop working for the Flaming Fist. She went on to ask them (again) to help her and the Guild do what was best for Baldur’s Gate.

This week at Harry T North in Toronto we had another large turnout. In addition to our many regulars we had 2 brand new players join in the fun. For the first time this season we actually had four DMs ready to run tables.

Since this season began I’ve run massive groups each week (9 players twice and 8 players once). In order to try and fix this problem and speed up our sessions we recruited a fourth DM. Players at the first two tables (6 each) were all punctual so they started on time. That left two DMs and 6 players. Normally I’d just group these folks together and run a table of 7, but we were still expecting as many as 6 more players so we waited.

After about 10 minutes we decided to begin with both DMs running tables of 3. After all, none of the players had called, texted, emailed or Tweeted that they’d be absent, and I didn’t want to start with a table of 7 and have it balloon up to 9 or more. Of course no more players showed up so I ended up running a small group of 3: Half-Elf Paladin, Dwarf Fighter and Human Cleric. You know if we’d started with 7 everyone else would have shown up. Oh well.

D&D Encounter Forum

This week Wizard of the Coast released a completely new website for their forums and online community. It’s been a rough release and many of us are having difficulty find our favourite sub-forums. Here are a few of the new links D&D Encounters players and DMs may be having trouble finding.

10 Missing Hands

The party was still stationed at Wyrm’s Rock as members of the Flaming Fist. During the morning briefing the sergeant was handed an urgent notice. Five statues around Baldur’s Gate were vandalized over night – the hands removed from each of them. The Fist soldiers on duty were each assigned different tasks in the investigation. The PCs volunteered to check out the closest statue: Balduran Looks Out to Sea overlooking the river from East of the city.

In order to get there they had to enter the city through Basilisk Gate and then exit through Cliffgate. While passing through the Lower District they saw a lot more vandalism and graffiti. Apparently the hoodlums were busy over night.

Once the PCs arrived on the scene they looked for clues. Upon examining the statue and the surrounding area they realized the hands were carefully cut off with some kind of hacksaw. The cuts were relatively clean and precise. The hands were definitely not smashed off and the absence of rubble nearby meant that broken hands didn’t just fall to the ground. Someone, likely a team of vandals, acted quickly, quietly, and then took the hands with them.

A quick canvas of the area was a waste of time. The locals refused to help the Flaming Fist as most of them had been accosted yesterday because of the sumptuary laws or knew someone who had. The really, really bad Charisma checks didn’t help (they rolled 1, 1, and 2).

Next they wanted to check out the other statues. The closest was the Faithful Shopkeeper Meets the Honest Trader near the Counting House pier. Just like the other statue, the hands were sawed off cleanly. There was no sign of smashed appendages anywhere. The locals were more willing to answer questions but they didn’t know anything. No one saw or heard a thing.

We didn’t play it out, but we assumed the PCs visited the other damaged statues and turned up the same information. There were absolutely no witnesses to the vandalism.

The PCs concluded that whoever did this was well organized. They knew when to cut off the hands and not be seen or heard. They had the right tools and were quick. At the end of the day they reported these details to their superiors.

The Beloved Ranger… Handless!

The next morning at the briefing the sergeant was again handed a notice. This time he was a lot more angry and excited (in a bad way) about what it said. Over night the hands were removed from the Beloved Ranger statue. Minsc’s hands were removed including the one holding the hamster Boo. Although the PCs didn’t know what the big deal was, the locals were outraged. These vandals had taken things one step too far!

The PCs were asked to go to the Upper City and investigate. The sergeant reminded them that they had no authority up there but perhaps their fame as heroes would be useful. As they were leaving Wyrm’s Rock a messenger arrived stating that Esgurl Nuthammas, the master of cobblers responsible for the city’s roads, bridges and public stonework (including the statues) demanded a representative from the Flaming Fist come to his villa immediately. The PCs agreed to go.

Nuthammas was fuming over the vandalism. He clearly felt a personal connection to the works and wanted to see the people responsible for these acts pay dearly. He even went so far as to request the PCs “make these devils pay with their souls and save the city the expense of a trial.” It was pretty clear he would be happier if the vandals met with an accident than be brought in alive. He gave the party 150 gp with a wink. “I know you’ll do what’s best when the time comes.”

Next stop was the Wide and the scene of the latest crime. The Watch on site treated the PCs with distain until they mentioned that they’d just met with Nuthammas. That got them access to the statue. The Ranger’s hands were not sawed off like the others. It looked more like they were chiseled off, and poorly at that. The heroes looked around and with some stellar checks found two significant clues: 1) a golden broach with the Ravenshade family crest, and 2) a dagger with the Oberon family crest. In order to identify the crests they had to ask some of the merchants in the Wide which ended up costing them a few gp.

Questioning the Noble Families

The PCs went to the Oberon villa first to speak to the family. The family patriarch was willing to answer their questions. When they showed him the dagger he identified it as his son’s. However, it was lost a few months ago so anyone could have left it in the Wide. They were unable to speak with the son because he was still out. He was at a party with his friends the night before. The parents had no idea where the party was held.

A few blocks away was the Ravenshade villa. The matriarch was not happy to see the PCs and was uncooperative and snooty. They decided to try and trick her into answering their questions. She confirmed (inadvertently) that everyone in her family had their own fine cloaks and that each of them had a personalized golden clasp. When they showed her the one they found she let slip that it belonged to her son. She quickly recovered and demanded her family’s property be returned. The PCs said they’d return it to the son if he answered their questions. She said he had not yet returned from a party held the night before. They refused to give it to her saying it was evidence in an ongoing investigation. She took offense and had a servant call for the Watch. The PCs fled the villa.

After running a few blocks the PCs managed to elude the Watch. They did notice a couple of very drunk girls dressed in very fine party clothes staggering home. They offered to help them home and asked where they’d been. They talked at length about this great party they were at last night. When asked if Ravenshade and Oberon were there the girls said yes. However, after the two boys got really drunk they left unexpectedly on an adventure. They did not return to the party.

The PCs escorted the girls safely home and then headed for the nearest gate to Lower City. They asked the guards if anyone passed through during the night, specifically two rich teenagers. The guards did indeed remember opening the gate for the two boys and watched them head to the docks. It didn’t take long for the PCs to learn the boys hopped a ferry to Twin Songs.

Back to Outer City

Later, while asking questions in Twin Songs, the PCs were approached by Rael’s companion whom they’d met during the last session. He told them that Rael wanted to help them catch and punish those responsible for damaging the statues. She wanted to impress upon the PCs that the guilty parties and their family bear the full burden of repairing the statues and that the costs not be passed on to the common folk in the form of a tax hike. In exchange for their support he told them the boys were last seen entering Horgold Hadru’s pottery shop on Wyrm’s Crossing.

The PCs returned to Wyrm’s Rock to get reinforcements and then stormed the pottery shop. The proprietor was shocked at the raid and screamed and squealed. When the PCs tried to head upstairs to his meager apartment he very loudly shouted that they should not go upstairs and that there was no one up there. The PCs ran upstairs anyway and caught the two boys trying to escape through a window.

Among the boys’ possessions were the Ranger statue’s hands. The boys sobbed hysterically and were unable to answer questions. The PCs marched them back to Wyrm’s Rock. As the passed over the bridge the Cleric remembered the words of the stonecutter. He seriously considered pushing the boys over the edge. He could easily claim they’d tried to make a run for it. However, the moment passed and he allowed them to live.

The Verdict

The boys were unwilling to cooperate and at the advice of their solicitor they didn’t say anything. They were offered leniency if they returned the other hands but they refused. They were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment – one for each missing hand. Their families tried to weasel out of paying damages explaining that the boys were drunk. None of the other Upper City families came to their support and the Ravenshade and Oberon families had to pay all costs.

Thoughts

I did not have a good time this week. This session was the one I had the least fun with in about the last 6 months. It felt extremely forced and unnecessary. No matter what the PCs did the events of the story would continue onward. In fact the PCs could have done nothing but watch and little would have changed.

This was the fourth week without a significant combat showpiece. I enjoy political intrigue and I like opportunities for role-playing but combat is a big part of D&D and we’re just not seeing it this season. I had a small side quest/combat ready to go this week but by the time we did all the scripted parts there wasn’t any time for it.

Despite my small group it still took well over 2 hours to get through everything this week. The two full tables were both close to 3 hours. I may have to read ahead and find things to potentially cut. I don’t mind going 2 hours once or twice a season but not every single week. D&D Encounters is supposed to be quick, like 1-1.5 hours.

On the plus side my group is clearly starting to question the power players and is wavering between their loyalty for Ravengard and Rael. Assuming we have better attendance next week I think things will really get interesting.

How did this week’s session play out for your group? Where does the party’s loyalty lay? Did your party have a different outcome to this week’s events than mine did? Did anyone kill the culprits? Did anyone help them escape punishment? Did anyone recover all 12 hands?

Regarding combat, are other groups doing more combat this season than I am? Are other players and DMs as frustrated as I am at the lack of meaningful fighting? Any suggestions for giving the combat loving players more of what they want/expect from the adventure?

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Recounting Encounters is a weekly podcast I record with fellow Toronto DM, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (Alton) from 20ft Radius in which we recount that week’s experiences with D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective FLGS and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.

Actual Play Podcasts

We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 froth September 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

Sounds like the railroad tradition Greenwood started back w the Avatar trilogy is alive and well in 5e.

2 bisonic September 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

This week we had seven people for next. After last week, which was all talking, I threw in a combat where they fought some vandals and Yssra, who was working with them. The combat was fun as I planned out a street with alleys and trash heaps that were flammable but it occupied the whole night. Most of the group was late and there was a person who was new to DnD which is great but takes a little extra time. I set myself back a week but the players really enjoyed getting to hit things and use powers.
The group had a rough fight. For a party with three barbarians, none of them remembered they had Rage while I was rolling high and I crit three times in a row. The thief did learn it was dangerous to corner a mage as three magic missles acted like a shotgun blast to the face. Good thing the person who joined was a cleric as she healed the thief after two failed saves. Yssra then threw out a flaming sphere, lighting the trash on fire and turned invisible the next turn and fled. I didn’t have time to introduce the missing hands and I’ll have to rush through the first part of that next time. My group was debating letting the vandals go but decided the Guild would already know they joined the fist, since Yssra got away. I think they will be firmly with the Fist for the next few weeks.

I think my players are just starting to notice how little they are impacting the downward spiral of events. Their actions have been subtle so far but as they strive to do good they may not be able to see the positive impact. It will be hard to explain how thing would have been worse if they weren’t there, especially if they cannot stop the events in stage eight and ten. They want to be heroes and hopefully they will figure out how.

3 Vobekhan September 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

We once again had 2 tables of Next at Tabletop Tyrants.

My table havent played the Stage 3 as yet (they ran 2 tasks from stage 1) though I know our 2nd table dealt with this last night. My guys, being free of the watchful gaze of their cleric, decided to rile up the Fist and seek out Rael for further tasks. I introduced Coran and on the fly came up with the “pest control” task.

I agree that the combats seem rather lacking and those that are there are very bland, watch or fist patrols mainly (but hey, at least its not more cultists!) so I thought some non-sentient bug bashing would make a “pleasant” change.

With my pc’s needing to R&R I’m thinking of using the 2nd tables escapades as “off stage” events thereby not needing to run the “hands off” event for them.

Hopefully with the assistance of the other DM we’re going to try to get a multi-table interaction going at some point in the coming weeks.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Enc Murder in Baldur’s Gate – Session 4

4 Alethia September 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Ameron,

Would you add those links to the Wizards D&D Encounters forums to your
Encounters archive page? It would be easier to find the links there than to remember they are in this thread in the future.

http://dungeonsmaster.com/dd-encounters/

5 Joe Lastowski September 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

At Modern Myths in Northampton, MA (and at the Mamaroneck, NY store), we ran 4e, using a modified version of this season I had written up to better match the 4e organized play model of previous seasons.

This week, the optional plot seeds looked forced and confusing, so I put in a completely new adventure… the PCs were told by their faction leader that there was information that Duke Adrien’s funeral might be disrupted, so they had to go to the graveyard ahead of the funeral parade to make sure that there were no unwanted “surprises”.

After searching the Duke’s tomb area and running a bunch of checks on everything they could find there, the party fanned out to the larger cemetery… where they found a mage wight that had just turned a bunch of grave-diggers into grasping zombies. The fight was rough, mainly because the mage wight could steal healing surges when he hit immobilized characters, and the grabbing powers of the zombies had most everyone immobilized much of the time. When they were done, the spirit of the mage wight asked them who had employed such wonderful killers (with the party’s answer affecting who would get a point in that other secret thing we’re tracking this season).

After the fight, the party reported their experiences to their faction leader (at my table, that was Flame Ravengard, who blamed it on “those thieves or the fatcat priests”, and the party returned to the Elfsong tavern to (finally) get a good night’s rest (giving them an extended rest and the ability to move up to level 2).

This week we added undead to the mix of enemies, to vary the printed adventure’s constant fights against human thugs & soldiers.

As I was reading through the for-sale version of this season beforehand, this was the week where I felt like things would really get out-of-hand for organized play. We’ll eventually reach the same endpoint, but we had to do a lot of work to create a more parallel and linear adventure to fit the 4e resource usage mechanics.
Joe Lastowski´s last blog post ..What The Average Joe Thinks…Of Dice & Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It

6 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

@Alethia
Good call. Done and done.

7 Hutchimus September 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

“Sounds like the railroad tradition Greenwood started back w the Avatar trilogy is alive and well in 5e.”

Huh?

8 Justin Yanta September 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

This week we had only one table and we had already decided it would be side quest week since they wanted to do some interesting quests. The table this week was:
- Half-Elf Wizard (Twil)
- Human Ranger (Owl)
- Half-Orc Cleric (Lucy)
- Wood Elf Paladin (Woodarrow)
- Tinker Gnome Rogue (Nezzle)
- Half-Orc Rogue (Jackal)
- Half-Orc Barbarian (Torrak Karrot)
- Stout Halfling Barbarian (Kah-Kaww)

So we started off where we finished. I gave a recap of the events from last week and we started with the group witnessing the youth being torn to shreds by the crowd. The group was very disturbed by this and felt better giving 3 to the Flaming Fist and 2 to Silvershield. Silvershield asked the group to stay at the Three Old Kegs Inn and stay on his retainer but they declined and decided to head back to the Guild and Little Calimshan.

Upon entering Little Calimshan the party quickly noticed that the place was wrecked and a lot of things were out of place. They learned that the Flaming Fist raided Little Calimshan and caused all this damage. They decided to head to Rael shop so they could talk to her about what is going on and to see about the Flaming Fist Uniforms.

When they got there they got into a small fight with Rael about why they did not give all the kids to them and allow the people of Baldur’s Gate to make the decision. The Party had some great arguments and made some good rolls so she was OK with their answer, that is why Owl decided to tell Rael “Oh and we did it because we got a Writ signed by Silvershield to help us investigate.” This started a CHA test between Rael and Owl to see if Owl would be forced to give her the Writ (which she would use to cause a lot of issues in the city). With some assistance of the others in the Party and a bad roll on my part they made Rael believe that the Writ was destroyed by Silvershield after the task was done. Rael was able to get them enough Flaming Fist Uniforms and she found a Town Guard building they could assault and complete their goal from Session 2. The party asked to stay there until later tonight but Rael denied them. She said her place is not available right now because the Flaming Fist might be back any time and cause problems (her real reason was that she is not trusting the group anymore and wants them to stay away from her contacts so they would not be able to betray her later).

The Party moved around town and around 10 PM they heading back to Rael’s place and were lead to someone to help them. Rael introduced the party to Osgur Hallorn who was a jolly overweight man. He was nice and allowed the group to blindfold themselves (which he checked afterwards to make sure they were secure). He lead them though the Undercellar to a small room near the Town Guard’s building. He told them that they would have to find their own way back and wished them luck. The trip though Undercellar took about 1 1/2 hours so it was getting close to midnight.

The group took a little time to check their equipment. They noticed that the Town Guard’s building (Not the main one but a smaller on near the Heap Gate) was attached to the wall to allow the Guard to watch the wall and get troops to the Gates as needed. The Party saw the walls were 30 feet tall and 5 of them had 50 feet of rope so they could go over the wall to escape. The Party then dressed in the Flaming Fist Uniforms and headed to the Town Guard’s building and rolled Initiative.

The Party some of the Watch relaxing with a servant assisting them, getting them food and drink. The Party snuck into the room and in one quick turn silenced all of them (just knocked them out not kill them). One person used his rope to tie up all three together and search them for some money (found 5 GP total). Jackal tried to move silently to the other door way but was seen. This started the Watch into an active search mode (still not attacking but now in the initiative since they saw something). The rest of the group moved up and Nezzel attacked a guard who was not paying attention and took him down to 1 hit point (Sneak Attack with her Dual Short Sword). This started combat and the group split up (3 heading up stairs while the other 4 headed to where Nezzel was). The fight was impressive. The Watch took a turn getting out weapons and everyone noticed someone that should not be there was there (he looked like one of the people from outside the city that does not belong in the upper city at night). Total enemies were (3 Watch Sergeants, 9 Watch Soldiers, 2 Human Bystanders, and 1 Unknown)

The fight continued and one of the Watch’s men ran out on the wall yelling “The Flaming Fist are attacking us” which started my 1d4 roll to see when the reinforcement would show up. I rolled a 4 so it would be a while. The Watch fought back and took Lucy, Love and Twil down to 3 HP each. Also the strange person dropped to the ground and started to yell, which Nezzel though was odd so she approached him and attacked. Even though she did 9 damage it seemed the wounds were healing in front of her eyes. Nezzel yelled for help while the others continued to battle. The 3 upstairs got into major trouble with Kah-Kaww taking 15 damage (down to 7 thanks to his rage) and Owl taking 10 damage. All the party was bloody upstairs and Lucy used her Divine Light power to explode over the area. She rolled max damage (22) on the dice and took out 4 Soldiers (they only had 11 hp) and 2 Sergeants (19 hp) leaving 1 Sargent left. She then cast healing word on herself and rolled a 1 so one more hp for her (now 4).

The unknown person stood up and was now a Werewolf. He slashed at Nezzel and did 14 damage (she only had 15 hp) leaving her with 1 hp. On Nezzel’s turn she disengaged and ran to Love that used her Paladin Spell of Cure Wounds to heal 16 hit points back. Torrak moved forward and attacked the Werewolf slashing deeply into it but not doing much as it kept healing (Werewolves resist all but magical and silver damage). Twil move down stairs and back to where he could see the Werewolf. He cast an acid arrow that did only 7 points of damage initially but another 12 at the end of the Werewolf’s next turn (Werewolf was at 17 HP at that time). So the Werewolf tried to bite Torrak but rolled a 1 (lucky). The Werewolf succumbed to the acid and fell leaving just the one Watch Sargent left. He ran out after the other soldier yelling that they were being attacked and Kah-Kaww ran after him so he could keep attacking (keeping up his rage). Twil ran up and searched the Werewolf and found:
- 12 GP
- Letter from the Werewood’s Werewolves (asking for a bribe or they would attack the caravans trying to enter the city and cause more problems for the Watch since they could not handle the Flaming Fist or Guild).
- Sword of Mirabar (Rolled on the Magic Item DM Table and then rolled up the weapon/item details from the Magic Items Document). This created a polymorph one handed sword (so could be any 1 handed sword) +1, that was dwarven made and made it’s user feel no temperature from 0-100 degrees.
The party loved this and they were going to search it for more but Torrak set the Werewolf on fire to keep it dead. The rest of the group searched the soldiers and sergeants but only finding minimal gold 1d4 gp a person). Lucy rolled a crit on the search and I let her roll a 2nd time and crit again. I decided that the sergeant had a magic item and rolled up a Pearl of Power (which she needed since she used 2 of 3 of her heals on herself getting her only up to 10 hp).

At that moment the other Watch appeared. I (as the DM) loved this since I put another 70 soldiers on the board heading to the Watch Building. This scared the crap out of the party and they ran for the walls. Kah-Kaww (who finally took out the last watch sergeant and still raging) decided to just jump over the wall to the ground. I told him it would be 1d10 per 10 feet so 3d10 but he took it. Well I did 20 damage to him (knocked down to 10) as he face planted into the ground. 3 others set up ropes and started to climb down. Everyone got down but Lucy wanted her rope back so spent a turn recovering her rope. By that time the soldiers made it to the wall and I had 15 attack her with arrows. I was able to hit her 3 times and take her back down to 1 hp. She ran and escaped before the Watch could climb down and chase them. The group spent the rest of the time making it back to the lower city and got rid of the Flaming Fist uniforms (into some of the trash heaps that were now forming). They all decided to stay at the Blushing Mermaid in the Lower City and wait for the morning.

Conclusion:
This was fun and the players loved that I was able to use my Dungeon Tiles (City) to create a great map. They also loved the tension and that a lot of their resources were spent already (Twil used 2 first level spells, Lucy used 2 first level spells and Divinity, Owl used 1 first level spell and Love used 1 first level spell). They also loved the unique magical items and felt it was a great reward for what they did. I will have the Watch now keeping the Flaming Fist out of the Upper City and think the Flaming Fist is trying to take over Baldur’s Gate. Next week we should be starting Stage 4 so we will see what they want to do then… Only a short rest this week (Lucy used 1 of her Hit Die and Kah-Kaww used both of his)

9 Greg Schulze September 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

We’re a week behind, so I have been taking a “sneak peak” on dungeonsmaster to see if anything interesting will be happening in the next week; it doesn’t. I drove home last night shaking my head as this adventure is dreadful. It has been a long time since I have been this bored playing D&D, maybe since 2nd edition in the late 90s. I’ve been playing this game since 1981, and have DMed and played over 100 adventures, and this is not an adventure, but rather Research & Development for WotC; I think we should be getting paid to play this adventure, not the other way around. I think it would be easier if WotC just posted a note on what happened in the adventure so I don’t have to drive to Encounters. Thank the gods that I am starting a 4e Dark Sun campaign on Saturday to give me my fix.

10 Galahad September 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I am trying topresent my players with difficult choices. For stage 3 they went after the kids who chopped off the hands from the ranger/hamster. They recovered the kids and returned them to the families. This gave them information on the sumptary laws and a ‘chip’ in the political intrigues game from the 5 families of the rescued young delinquints.

They did not pursue the perps behind the other statues vandalism. They were more concerned w the sumptuary laws. I had member of the watch accost the party – who forgotto show them the warrant as a sign of theiraffiliation with silversheild. I had each player roll for display of wealth. The cleric failed and lost his cloak. He was pretty upset about that. Very enjoyable!

I have kept pushing the events as fast as i could togive the players very little time to react.

Last night we did event 4 with 7 players, 2 of whom left after 2 hrs(the mouthy teenager and his quiet sidekick). The adults who were left were investigating a series of clues when i had a group of theives attack. This was the first set of fallout from their routing of the low lantern and arresting the owner/manager. The party is trying to work with all the factions in thecity. This means they have some allies in each faction but are not trusted by any of them and are being watched very closely by each faction.

I shall continue to have the low lantern person (whom I have designated as a capo in the theives guild) send out hit squads at the party. Aif they fail their assignments from the fist and patriars I shall send hit squads from those factions after them as well.

In the confusion of the attack the party did not complete the assignment for stage 4. This will adversely impact their relationship with the fist.

I am using my own ideas to add combat to the sessions. If i did not do so we would be moving through 2 stages each night.

11 Galahad September 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm

The adults seem to be enjoying the detective aspects. The younger players are bored. Had to tell the mouthy teen to be quiet during other players roleplaying efforts or he would be booted fom the table. He claimed he had a disability and could not help himself. I may have been less than sympathetic. He appeared to be surprised that i was not going to give him carte blanche to mouth off.

12 Joe September 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm

@Galahad, shoot me an email if you’d like a copy of the version we’re using at Modern Myths. It’s rewritten to be more linear and closer to the older Encounters format. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it may give you some ideas as you lead your group on different adventures headed (hopefully) towards the same endpoint as the rest of us. JoeLastowski at gmail dot com

13 Stumpy September 12, 2013 at 11:14 pm

@Joe, would you mind if I could get a copy of that as well. My wife and I run the encounters at our local store and are finding it difficult to run as the players are expecting the format they have had for the past seasons, and that is what they prefer.

14 Feetz September 13, 2013 at 1:38 am

I’m taking a break from DMing duties this season. I was relishing the opportunity to play but my trigger hand is getting twitchy. Outside of the launch event we’ve had 1 combat encounter in 4 weeks of 2 hour play (We’re playing 4e). It was against a group of bar patron/thugs. It lasted 3 rounds before members of the Flaming Fist came in and the thugs gave up. It was wholly unsatisfying.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the roleplaying. Everyone is having fun playing their characters but we also would like some more combat to spice things up.

From what my DM has said we started Stage 2. We’re working for Silvershield and I’m finding it frustrating because it feels like we haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile. We go and investigate people and their connections to the Guild and don’t find any evidence. We’ve done this a few times now and it’s getting frustrating. I’m not sure if that’s the point and maybe part of the issue is we’ve dragged Stage 1 out so long.

At this point we know Silvershield suspects he might have a leak, the owner of a tavern we were sent to search escaped via row boat but no evidence was found after we tore the place apart, and a merchant we grilled has done business with the Guild.

15 Justin Yanta September 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

@Greg and Feetz

I understand what you are saying about it being unsatisfied. If you take exactly what the book says then really almost all the weeks will be only RPing and no fighting. That is what is happening to one of the GMs at a different FLGS. He is using the 4e rules but is just playing it directly from the book. His players are not happy and he is not happy with the results. This is not a very good adventure for GMs that just want to show up with minimal prep and play a session. I have taken about 6-14 hours of prep a week to get ready for the different situations and create some maps to use (using my Dungeon Tiles/Old Encounter Maps). Also it is one of those games that if you come in on a different week you could be lost completely (since each week builds on the last) so not a good Campaign to have people changing out week after week. I think that is why our FLGS other GM and I got together and made sure everyone was on the same page so we could switch off tables as needed. The one last thing I have to say about this is that I cannot run this Campaign in only 2 hours. We go around 3 hours right now (7-10) just to get in all the information we want.

Now how do you get around these issues to make it a fun adventure for everyone?
1. Make or Draw Maps: Just having a Map seems to draw my players to the table and make them pay attention. The ages of players I have at my table are (7, 9, 19, 20, 26, 37) and the young ones love the maps and it helps some of the older (who have never played before until now).
2. Try to pull people’s backstory into the adventure: I know on week 0 I had everyone give me a back story for their character. I took all those and have included them into the adventure. This has helped them feel the adventure is more meaningful.
3. Break up the sessions to add more combat: This one is more have Stage 1 and Stage 2 then toss in your homemade adventure. Then Stage 3 and another homemade adventure. The time frame in the Campaign is days between stages so it can give you time to add something more (like having the group attack the Watch and now I bet going to fight werewolves to protect caravans).
4. Write up your adventure so you can reference it later: This helps you to know what has been happening and how you can tie everything together. Also when you do a recap it helps to get everyone back on the same page.

One last thing. Since you don’t really get magical items and money in this Campaign really does not matter much I think every GM should read the DM guide to treasure and the Magical Items sections. Make some items but not just Sword +1 but Sword or Mirabar with this cool history and makes the users not feel temperature changes. Or something like Cloak of Stone (Cloak of Elvenkind but only useful around stone (building, cobblestone roads, caves). Also the Cloak will open a cave in the Troll Claws (set of hills near Baldur’s Gate) and it keeps telling the user to go to the cave). This will make the players get excited and allow you to do a one-off during those weeks that you need just a good hack and slash. This Campaign was made to go 15 weeks with only 11 Stages I believe so you have time to add things.

16 dan September 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm

This is the session we ran last week. We had 2 tables of next and a table of 4e. My table (playing next) had a gnome barbarian, a human rogue, an elf druid, and a half-orc barbarian. We were approached by The master of cobbles, who wanted us to track down the vandals, and have them meet with an accident. We refused to kill them, but promised to return the hands and bring the culprits to justice. We went to investigate the statues, and saw a man being roughed up by flaming fist members, so we stepped in to find out what was happening. We escorted him back to the flaming fist HQ, where we met with their leader. The half-orc stayed with the prisoner to interrogate him on his own, and to avoid the recognition of the flaming fist leader, who threw him out during the first session. The gnome did most of the talking, and managed to get next to nothing out of the commander information wise, but the commander did offer to give the party members the rank of ‘flame’ and gave us badges to reflect this.
We followed up on a few dead-end leads, before approaching the guild, who we’d worked with up to this point. We determined that the guild was responsible for removing the hands (the first day), and they refused to give them to us. The next day, the guild leader informed us that minsc’s hands had been removed. They wanted whoever had done this, because they would punish them, whereas the noble families in question would cover it up. They gave us the dagger and brooch, which we followed up. The two families we investigated were worried, as their children had not returned the night before. We collected some clothes for scent-tracking, which was done by the druid in dog form. We found them at a pottery shop at wyrm’s rock crossing, along with a few others, and they were in possession of minsc’s hands. The haf-orc packed the hands into a crate with clay to slip by the guards, and the party took the teens with them to the guild. The guild leader wanted to use them as connections in the upper city, and frame another person with the thefts. We demanded that we receive the hands, as things were growing beyond what the guild had intended, and they agreed. We met a contact, received the hands, and returned them to the master of cobbles. He gave us half of the bounty’, as we had only retrieved the hands, and not the thieves. We then returned to the guild to discuss the target of the framing, but were interrupted by a man running in covered in blood, who said the teens had been taken by a mob. We told the guild leader that this was on her head, and she had been petty. We ran after the mob, and found them at the statue of minsc and moo, where they left the teens, hands cut off. We stabilized them, at the cost of 4 uses of healer’s kits, and a healing potion.
I think we are probably a week ahead of where we are supposed to be, so I will probably recount my group’s sessions a week after the fact until it seems like most other groups are caught up.

17 bisonic September 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Justin seems to be running a really fun game. The way that Justin is adding things is what I have started to do, though to a much smaller extent. I think that what stage we are in and how far along each faction gets matters less than if players are having fun. I know some players will read our recaps but what one Dm does may have no relation to the planned plot. Even the seemingly important ‘missing hands’ plot can be skipped with little difference in outcome.

The campaign is decent and the book is an awesome setting but it does not feel like Encounters. This is throwing many people off, players and Dm’s alike. Much of the group spent six months or more killing things, gaining loot, and marching to the next fight. We’ve been using real life names for everyone for so long that I did not consider the effect this might have on people’s RP. Next does not define you by your attacks like 4E did. Some of my players don’t have a strong grasp on their characters’ personalities and that could be keeping them from making strong decisions. I think I’ll give my players the option of using character names and see what they want to do for the remainder of this season.

18 Justin Yanta September 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I agree with you bisonic about Next. The whole free-form that Next gives you to describe your attacks and to just do anything off the wall helps. Like in 4e there would never of been the action of the Half-Orc lifting up the Halfling and using him as an improvised weapon. Also it has helped the group really merge together more then some 4e Encounters where it was just by what powers you had. Still I think Next does make it a lot harder for new DMs since you have to think on the fly what to do and if you have not had experience to do that before then you might be bogged down with (well can this be done. What roll would this be?)

I do think that this campaign does make it harder for others to join in if they will be there only for a week because everything builds on your decisions before. This week I will see if they are going to go after the Werewolves or if they will be taking care of what is happening in the city.

One thing I will suggest to any DM running this adventure is Index Cards. I have made Index Cards for all the NPCs and for the Player Characters to help me speed up the game and even allow me to get actions done (keeps people from talking over others sometimes in Social Situations). Here is the Information I have on the cards.
PC
Name: Init:
AC: Special: (Darkvision, Thieves Expertise, etc.)

NPC
Name: HP: (Big Section like 5 lines so I can have multiple enemy HPs)
AC:
Speed:
Special: (Immunities, Darkvision)
STR: DEX: CON:
INT: WIS: CHA:
Actions and Traits

Example:
Halfling Rogue
AC: 15 (Studded) HP: 9
Speed: 25ft (5sq) 9
STR:+1 DEX:+3 CON:0
INT:0 WIS:0 CHA:+2
Traits:
Brave – ADV on ST for frightened
Lucky – Reroll Nat 1, Must take 2nd Roll
Opportunist: If ADV, Give up ADV to gain 2 attacks
Sneak: ADV on Dex for Sneak
Actions:
Melee/Ranged – Dagger: +3 (5 Pierce and no Opp attacks) 30/120ft

Those cards have helped me a lot with not having to look up the enemies and being able to use them week after week I can quickly add more people as needed. Thanks for all the help you guys have given me and how that has helped this campaign be a success for our group.

19 Joe September 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Yes, it’s true that the focus of Next-based adventures does seem to be more on non-system things right now, but I think a lot of that is because they’re still balancing and playtesting the NEXT system. For the folks who used Encounters as a way to get in some quick roleplaying or monster bashing once a week without requiring more than a 2-hour commitment, this season is proving to be quite a challenge.

That’s the issue with trying to run 1 adventure across 3 editions, each of which has different focuses (and resource managements). I don’t think you could have an adventure that would provide equal challenge to folks playing all 3 editions in a 2 hour block each week without complicated plot variance that would make table-swapping or drop-in play impossible. It’s a great idea, and I love that Wizards tried to do it… but it’s just not going to happen. If the purpose of Encounters is to introduce new players to D&D, then the focus should be accessibility… and that does not seem to be the focus of this adventure.

I’m still enjoying it, and our 4e players are certainly having fun both roleplaying and fighting every week (just like in previous seasons), but it’s required a LOT of work to change what we were sold into something that can give our players what they wanted (and also be accessible to newbies & drop-in players). But I don’t think the 4e adventure we’re running would be appropriate for NEXT (or 3.5), because each system is different enough that they need things written specifically for their strengths.

20 Feetz September 16, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Does anyone know of any tables/stores running it in 3.5?

21 Svafa September 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm

@Justin: I don’t know about the free-form assertion and Next. Previously in our playing 4E, we’ve had a Minotaur Barbarian pick up and throw a Human Paladin at a dragon, a Dragonborn rip a door off its hinges to use as an improvised shield, and a Deva use his Tenser’s Floating Disc as a Discus (or shield, chair, escalator, podium, trap, and door stop). I’d argue it’s more up to the players as to how free-form they can get, though the DM also has to be willing to support their antics (at least to a point).

22 David Argall September 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Our group continues to fall behind schedule. We are only part way thru finding the hands. Still, we have a good description of a prime suspect, and may succeed, and our diversion was a gelatenous cube we disposed of in a sewer. [We are thinking the thieves guild might be reasonable to a deal of not arresting their man if they give the hands back. So we borrowed a prisoner from jail [with permission actually] and are having her lead us to the guild, which didn’t work so well for her since she walked right into the cube.]

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