This week we began D&D Encounters season 16. The Legacy of the Crystal Shard is the second of five adventures that ties in to The Sundering, an ongoing tale that will reshape the Forgotten Realms and whose conclusion will coincide with the official launch of D&D Next (or whatever Wizards will be calling it by this time next year).
Much like Murder in Baldur’s Gate, this season’s adventure began with a launch weekend adventure. And much like last season’s introduction the launch weekend was really just an expanded and more detailed version of the events printed in the actual adventure. Knowing this, we decided not to run launch weekend on the weekend, but instead used it as our opening night adventure during week 0.
It seems a bit silly to me that Wizards scheduled the launch weekend adventure to run before the character creation session for the second season in a row. Fortunately we finished season 15 a week early and held a character creations session last week.
Look at all the Players!
We had an excellent turn out this week at Harry T North in Toronto. Since we started running D&D Next we’ve seen our numbers continue to climb each season and even each week. Expecting a swelling for this season we had four DMs ready to go this week – and it was a good thing as we had 25 players.
Based on feedback from our regulars we decided to run both 4e and D&D Next tables this season. The 4e table (which I’m running) and one of the D&D Next tables decided to let the players start with characters at level 3 or 4 (which we’re calling the advanced tables). Some of the players at the D&D Next advanced table continued running the same PCs they’d used for Murder in Baldur’s Gate. All of my 4e players created new PCs.
Of the 25 players, five were brand new to our FLGS. Two decided to just use pre-gens while the other three, all of who had played D&D Next before, made characters on the fly.
The party at my 4e table ended up with the following composition: Tiefling Paladin (PHB1 build), Dragonborn Cavalier (Essentials build), Halfling Rogue, Gnoll Barbarian, and Eladrin Assassin. The party didn’t feel that the absence of a leader would be a problem since there were two Paladins who both had some healing powers.
The adventure takes place in the Icewind Dale, but the PCs don’t start there. They are part of a caravan heading to Bryn Shander before the first major snow storms hit the Spine of the World. Unfortunately the weather is not cooperative and the caravan experiences unseasonably fierce snow and wind on their final week of their journey.
I encouraged the players to give their new heroes back-stories and to share them with the other players; after all these PCs were in travelling shoulder to shoulder and camping in very close quarters for almost a month before we started the game. I explained that even though the players didn’t know each other’s characters yet, the PCs themselves would know something about each other by now.
For those players struggling with a motivation or reason for their PC to be on this trip I offered the six suggested hooks listed in the adventure. Three players had already come up with a history, while the other two hadn’t given it much thought yet. We’ll flesh out those details as the season progresses. After the brief round table we got back to the adventure at hand.
Arrival in Icewind Dale
After a month on the road, Bryn Shander was finally within reach. The caravan master announced that if everyone pushed themselves to the limit they should be in Bryn Shander by nightfall. As the party progressed through the frozen tundra the wind picked up and it began snowing.
The Barbarian and Assassin had both been to Ten Towns before so they knew of the possibility of predators about in the snow. With a warning to the party the scouts were on the lookout for trouble but couldn’t see anything through the snow.
As the caravan rounded the base of a hill the caravan was ambushed by two Crag Cats. The saber tooth tigers attacked the first and last horse in the caravan, scaring the beasts and causing them to flail wildly and knock over their respective wagons. The party leaped into action.
The Assassin, Rogue and Paladin were all near the front of the train so they worked together to attack the Cat. Two solid hits from the strikers badly wounded the beast bloodying it. Unfortunately the Cat managed to dig its teeth into the Assassin, holding him firmly in place. Not to be outdone, the Assassin teleported free and left the Cat to the Rogue and Paladin who had no trouble killing it before it could do more harm.
At the rear of the caravan the other Cat managed to grab hold of an unsuspecting guard and pull him away from the group. The Barbarian charged the Cat in an attempt to rescue the guard but missed. The Cavalier was briefly pinned beneath the overturned cart but managed to get to his feat and follow the Barbarian. Three caravan guards drew crossbows and chased after their friend.
The Barbarian bloodied the Cat with one massive hit forcing it to drop mortally wounded guard. The Cavalier managed to get into melee, locking down the Cat. The Barbarian hit again and all three crossbowmen hit as well. One more solid pounding from the Barbarian eventually brought down the second Crag Cat.
The caravan leader didn’t want to get caught in the worsening weather and told the group to leave the overturned carts. The merchants with goods on those carts objected but the caravan master was adamant and wouldn’t change his mind.
The Assassin and Caviler carried the wounded guard to one of the upright wagons and along with the rest of the guards left for Bryn Shander. The Barbarian, Rogue and Paladin stayed behind to help the merchants. They managed to get the damaged wagons upright and assisted with minor repairs. After collecting the goods scattered about in the snow they were on their way. The stragglers managed to catch the main wagons after about 10-15 minutes.
Yetis at the Gate
1. Holding them Back
When the wagons arrived at the gates of Bryn Shander the weather had become a blizzard. Visibility was greatly reduced and the wind made it difficult for the PCs to hear one another beyond a few feet. As the first wagon passed through the open gate, cries from the wagons at the back carried on the wind: Yetis were attacking. Before anyone could respond, four young Yetis managed to rush past the wagons and get inside the town’s walls.
With the wagons blocking the gates it was impossible to close them. The Assassin and Caviler, both on the lead wagon, jumped off and engaged the nearest Yetis. The other PCs riding on the last of the four wagons jumped off and ran towards the gates to help.
The Cavalier, Barbarian, and a town Guard teamed up on one Yeti. The Assassin and a town Guard teamed up on another. The Yetis the party didn’t engage toppled over the first wagon, blocking the entrance to ensure the gate remained open. From the back wagons the PCs could see more Yetis approaching and cried out in alarm.
The Barbarian disengaged from his adversary, turned the wagon upright, and then pushed it out of the way. With the first wagon clear the PCs engaged the monsters again. When the Paladin got into melee the next round he attacked an unengaged Yeti and gave everyone nearby temporary hit points.
The first two Yetis fell from multiple, concentrated blows. Another was down to only a few hit points but managed to break free and cause havoc on the town. The remaining town guards pursued leaving the PCs along to defend the gate.
2. To the Walls
Good tactics by the defenders kept the Yetis locked down, but poor attack rolls from everyone after the first round saw the combat drag on much to the party’s detriment. Four more yetis reached the gate; two rushing though to engage in melee combat while two others climbed the walls to get at the guards atop the towers.
The Caviler ran up the stairs to the top of the tower to help the lone Guard face the attacking Yeti. When the Yeti reached the top of the other tower the Guard fled, leaving it all alone. The monster threw rocks down on the PCs below as they fought his brothers.
The drivers of the second and third wagons managed to get them through the gates while the party was fighting, but the driver on the final wagon couldn’t get his cart moving forward. The Paladin locked down a Yeti who was about to engage the lone wagon while the Rogue ran to the wagon and managed to get it moving.
3. Closing the Gates
As the last wagon got safely inside, the PCs saw two more young Yetis and a very large adult Yeti approaching. They had to close the gates or things were going to get much worse. The adult Yeti got to the gate and stood firmly in place preventing the gates from closing. The Barbarian and Paladin engaged him but were unable to land a blow. The Yeti released a Fearsome Howling, pushing the PCs back and allowing the young Yetis to run inside and engage the Barbarian and Paladin.
On the tower the Caviler was holing his own against the young Yeti, but the one on the other tower saw what was happening and ran across the bridge to aid his brother. The Caviler called out for help and the Rogue ran up the stairs to help him.
It took a few rounds, but some well placed hits from the Rogue’s dagger killed the first Yeti. Together the two PCs were no match for the remaining young Yeti and they easily defeated it taking only superficial wounds for their troubles.
Near the gates the Assassin dispatched another young Yeti. In a desperate attempt to get the gates closed he tried to bull rush the adult Yeti but failed. He called out to a nearby Guard to make the same attempt. The Guard, bolstered by the words and heroic actions he was witnessing tried and succeeded. He managed to push the big Yeti back. The Barbarian closed one gate while the Paladin rushed out to lock down the adult Yeti.
The Assassin and Guard managed to pull back while the Paladin took a devastating hit from the adult Yeti. The defender then pulled back, taking another hit in the process, but managed to get inside the gates. The rest of the party had readied their action to close the gates once he was past. The Barbarian managed to hold the gates firmly in place while the rest of the PCs gathered the braces for the door.
The adult Yeti continued pounding at the gates for a few more minutes before giving up and retreating into the snow. The few young Yetis still inside the walls were rounded up and killed by the town Guards. The town of Bryn Shander was safe for now thanks to the heroic efforts of these PCs.
I really enjoyed this first session. I liked it a lot more than the launch weekend for Murder in Baldur’s Gate. My players felt that way too and said as much. One of the players who had played this launch weekend at another FLGS on the weekend using D&D Next said that doing it with 4e was a lot more fun. The way the scenario played out the tactical aspects worked a lot better for 4e, in his opinion.
Even though we were using 4e we finished as the same time as the other tables, so in this case D&D Next didn’t necessarily mean combat was that much faster. We’ll see if that holds true moving forward.
In order to better challenge my group I had to adjust the monsters a little bit. Since the PCs were level 3 and the encounters were designed for a level 1 party I made the following changes:
- +2 to all of the monsters’ defenses
- +10-15 more hit points to each monsters
- increase the damage by one dice size (2d6 became 2d8, 1d8 became 1d10, etc).
This worked really well, especially for a group with three strikers. The monsters didn’t live for very long even with the increased hit points, but during the few rounds they were on the board they hit hard. Fortunately the two defenders really did their jobs well and protected the softer strikers.
It was a welcome change to have the PCs fight actual monsters and not just NPCs. Again, the people who played last season (three of my five) said the same thing. Looking ahead to this season I’m glad that there will be opportunities for the PCs to take on more monsters. Of course there will be plenty of changes for role-playing and intrigue if that’s what the groups decides they want.
One last thing I touched on in my preview article that I want to bring up again is the schedule. Legacy of the Crystal Shard runs from Wednesday, November 20 – Wednesday, February 12. That includes this week’s session 0 (which we used for the launch weekend). It also includes December 25 (Christmas Day) and January 1 (New Year’s Day), two days I’m guessing most FLGS will be closed. Make sure your group is aware of this and that DMs plan accordingly.
Did you participate in the launch weekend adventure? What were your thoughts as an introduction to this season of D&D Encounters? How did your party fare? What edition did you play D&D Next, 4e, or 3.5e? What edition will you be using this season for D&D Encounters? Is anyone else playing an advanced group that’s starting above level 1? Is anyone using their Murder in Baldur’s Gate character?
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.
- D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Launch Weekend) – Preview
- D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard – Preview
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.