D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 28, 2013

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverThis was the official start to D&D Encounters season 16. Last week we played the launch weekend adventure which set the stage for this season, but this week we got into the guts of it. We picked things up seconds after the battle at the gates of Bryn Shander ended. The PCs patched their wounds and took in their surroundings, surveying the damage and trying to get a sense of what would happen next.

This week at Harry T North in Toronto we had another big turnout. We’re running four tables this season and I think that may not be enough. Three tables are running D&D Next, while I’m running a 4e table. A handful of our regular players were absent due to illness, but we filled their seats with two brand new players. The D&D Next groups had six, six, and five players while at my 4e table we ran with four.

My party consisted of the following level 3 PCs: Revenant (Eladrin) Assassin, Dragonborn Cavalier, Tiefling Paladin, and Gnoll Barbarian. Our Halfling Rogue was ill.

Baiting the Hooks

The adventure began with three possible avenues presetting themselves to the PCs; much the same with it worked last season in Baulder’s Gate.

The loudest NPC was the local apothecary. His shop was badly damaged when the Yetis attacked. The delicate wares were destroyed and the shop took significant structural damage. He was ranting and raving, carrying on about how he’d paid good money to someone named Slim to protect his store, but when he needed protection the most Slim was nowhere to be found.

The most direct NPC was Hilda Silverstream. The Dwarven merchant was part of the caravan the PCs travelled with to Bryn Shander. She again thanked the PCs for their help getting her cart safely through the city gates. This recent display of combat prowess, added to the deeds she witness during the long voyage, convinced her to offer the PCs a job. She was in need of additional guards for her caravan. She explained that she was spending the night in Bryn Shander but in the morning she would continue on to the Dwarven community near Kelvin’s Cairn.

The subtlest NPCs were two town guards who were disposing of the Yetis’ remains that were strewn around the main gate. A few of the PCs overheard the guards complaining that this attack was “that Barbarian’s” fault and that he deserved the punishment he was receiving.

Go Your Own Way

The hysterical apothecary did not interest my party in the least so they ignored him. Traveling beyond Bryn Shander to the Dwarven community seemed like an easy way to earn some gold, so the party tentatively accepted Hilda’s offer. She told the PCs to think it over and confirm in the morning. If they had business to attend to in town she could delay her departure but had to be on her way within five days.

The party decided to split up for a while and reconvene at an agreed upon inn where they’d all be staying later that evening.

The Barbarian

As the party departed the Barbarian spoke with the guards disposing of the Yetis’ remains. The guards, who were initially taken back by a civilized Gnoll, clarified their statements assuring him they weren’t talking about him. They told him about a Barbarian from one of the nomadic tribes nearby who came to Bryn Shander a few days earlier. He’d robbed a local merchant and was later caught. As punishment he was stripped naked and tied to a post in the town square.

The Gnoll Barbarian commented to the guards that a Barbarian who resorts to theft is a coward and has no honor. His subsequent capture and punishment seem just. A criminal should pay the price for his unlawful acts.

From there the Barbarian followed up on a personal errand. He’d completed a special task for a merchant from the south and as payment was sent to a blacksmith in Bryn Shander who had the talents to provide the Barbarian with gold plated teeth. The blacksmith was easily found, agreed to the procedure, and told the Barbarian to return in the morning. He suggested the Gnoll bring liquor to ease the pain.

The Paladin

Before coming to Bryn Shander the Paladin’s previous adventuring party was betrayed by their Cleric. After tracking the duplicitous Cleric for many months, he believed he’d find him here. The Paladin spent the night asking about his quarry and found a few hopeful leads. Unfortunately he did not find the man he sought, but had it on good authority that he was around and definitely in Bryn Shander. Apparently he’d made some new friends and was trying to convert the locals.

The Cavalier

It had been years since the Cavalier visited him mother in Bryn Shander. As one of the only Dragonborn in Ten Towns she’d found a niche as an ambassador of sorts who liaised with the nomadic Barbarian tribes who roamed the Icewind Dale.

When the Cavalier arrived at her meager home she was not there. The neighbours said she’d recently left to visit with the Tribe of the Bear. They expected her home over a week ago. They were concerned for her safety since the winter storms came on so suddenly and unexpectedly.

The Cavalier felt he should try to find his mother but he had no idea where to find the Tribe of the Bear. One of the locals suggested he ask the Barbarian currently tied in the town square. Even though the Barbarian was convicted of theft, he might still be willing to share information. The Cavalier agreed and headed to the town square.

The Assassin

After leaving the party the Assassin meditated and prayed to the Raven Queen for guidance. He wanted to know if going with Hilda would be the right course of action towards completing his greater goals. He had a vision that going with the Dwarf would indeed bring him closer to the source of the evil he was brought back to life to battle. His path was clear.

While wandering through the familiar street of his adolescence, the Assassin saw the Barbarian thief tied to the pole in the town square. He immediately rushed to his aid, covering him with a cloak and blankets.

The Assassin met his death alone in the frozen wastes of the Icewind Dale. If not for the blessing of the Raven Queen his body would still be out there, buried beneath the snow and ice. He understood how painful death from exposure was and could not stand by and watch anyone suffer a similar fate.

The Barbarian named Hengar Aesnvaard was of the Tribe of the Elk. He thanked the stranger and begged for help. He said he was innocent of the crimes he was accused of. He said he came to Bryn Shander seeking warriors to come with him and help his tribe defeat a great evil. After spending one night in town he was arrested.

The Assassin vowed to help and promised Hengar would not freeze to death on the pole. He left to find the Sherriff and see if he could have the verdict overturned.

After an aggressively vocal confrontation with an uncooperative sheriff, the Assassin learned that Hengar was accused of stealing a lock box containing 100 gp from a local shop that sold wools, linens, and sewing supplies. The Assassin found the merchant’s home address and knocked on her front door.

When Brinna opened the door she was cautious and a bit startled that this stranger (who was an undead Revenant) was asking questions and almost outright accusing her of giving false testimony. Fortunately her husband, Davrick Fain, arrived after a few minutes and convinced the Assassin to return at a more proper hour tomorrow.

Come Together, Right Now

The Cleric and Barbarian met each other in the tavern and had a few drinks before the rest of the PCs arrived. The Cavalier arrived in town square after the Assassin and immediately recognized the Assassin’s cloak. He made a great Heal check on Hengar (natural 20) and applied a salve that would fend off frostbit to the man’s fingers and toes. He then went to the sheriff but the sheriff was not about to have the same conversation twice and gave him the brush off. He eventually decided to return to the tavern where he met his allies. Finally the Assassin arrived and filled the party in on Hengar’s story.

The party agreed that they should help Hengar, guilty or not. The Assassin and Cavalier decided to spend the night with Hengar to ensure the locals didn’t remove the clothing they’d provided. In the morning they’d confront Brinna the merchant and discover the truth.

Before leaving the inn the next day the PCs found Hilda and agreed to accompany her to the Dwarven community. However, they said they’d need at least two more days before they could leave. She agreed.

The Gnoll Barbarian bid the party good day and said he’d return at nightfall. He went to the blacksmith’s shop with a few bottle of ale and an expectation of pain. Throughout the day strange howls and cried could be heard emanating from the blacksmith’s shop. It was unclear if they were cried of ecstasy or anguish so most people gave the shop a wide berth.

The Paladin and Cavalier stayed with Hengar during the morning. The Cavalier asked about the location of the Tribe of the Bear. Hengar said he knew where they were camped and could take the Cavalier there if he ever found freedom.

When the Assassin returned to Brinna’s home in the morning she was not there. The Assassin broke in and searched for any illicit goods – he found nothing suspicious. He then decided to confront Brinna at her shop, but it was closed too. It seemed like it was never opened this morning.

The Assassin assumed that the merchant and her husband had falsely accused Hengar of the theft, and now that the PCs were sniffing around the two fled with the money. He returned to town square and shared his insight with the Paladin and Cavalier. Without any new evidence it was unlikely the sheriff would overturn the verdict and free Hengar.

The Paladin suggested that the PCs repay the merchant the 100 gp she claimed was stolen and see if she’d drop the charges. The Assassin concocted a complicated scheme that involved finding the merchant and claiming to have found the money thereby forcing her to confess, the rest of the party convinced him it was faster and easier to just bring the money to the sheriff.

Once presented with the money the sheriff agreed to cut Hengar lose but said the Barbarian must leave Bryn Shander by the following morning. The PCs agreed. They provided Hengar with a warm bath, a hot meal, and a comfortable bed at their expense.

The Tribe of the Elk was wintering about 20 miles north of Kelvin’s Cairn. The PCs could still escort Hilda and then accompany Hengar back to his tribe and help however they could. It would also give the Cavalier a chance to try and find his mother.

They flagged down Hilda and told her they needed to leave the next day, which she had no problem with. In the morning the PCs helped the Dwarf load her carts and they were off to Kelvin’s Cairn at first light.

Thoughts

This was a pretty good start to the adventure. It gave the PCs flexibility but didn’t force them down any one path. The three hooks presented did seem a bit obvious, but I accept that as necessary to put the train on the tracks and get things moving forward.

After talking to the other DMs at my FLGS it seems that the reasons for staying in Bryn Shander aren’t as compelling as leaving for the Dwarven community or the Barbarian tribes. We’ll see which paths other groups follow as the adventure plays out this season but it looks like all four of our groups plan to leave Bryn Shander.

I want to again emphasize for DMs the importance of using a calendar to track events. Things are happening with each storyline whether the PCs are present or not. DMs need to know and understand what those things are and how they will affect what’s going on around them.

I’ve looked ahead to some of the upcoming events that take place outside of the city and the timing seems a bit off. Without some tweaks and adjustments it will be nearly impossible for the PCs to get there in time to do more than mourn the dead. Be ready to make adjustments as needed. Of course if the party is indecisive and keeps changing their plan, then the clock ticks on without them.

How did week 1 of Legacy of the Crystal Shard go at your FLGS? How far did your group get? Which hooks did they bite and where does it look like the party will go next?

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.

Note: New episodes of Recounting Encounters will be available in our D&D Encounters Archive and on iTunes on Wednesdays moving forward. Now DMs can listen before they play.

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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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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LordOcampo November 28, 2013 at 11:07 am

A bit of a nerdy question… Isn’t Kelemvor the god of the dead in the Realms?

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) November 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

@LordOcampo You’re correct. But in the description of Revenants it references the Raven Queen so the player wanted to keep that flavour. Not a big deal in my eyes.

3 Vobekhan November 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

We only had one table this week as our other DM is still having to work late, but he’s hoping to be back next week. As usual we’re running using Next rules and with 4th level pc’s. We picked up from where our party left off at the launch event.

Not knowing which way the party would go I pretty much had to run this “on the fly” but I feel it worked well. I was particularly impressed with the players plan and use of the Disguise Self spells to try and discover Slim’s hideout, and the random enounter info on the DM Screen was a great addition.

As per your suggestion in the podcast, I would definitely suggest DM’s create a calender of events (or use the one on the WotC forums) to keep track of the “off screen” goings on.

I’m looking forward to next week, and in the meantime will be reading up on the “getting lost” rules, just in case

4 Joe November 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

We’re using a slightly more railroading approach at the Modern Myths stores in New York & Massachusetts. In the Northampton MA store, we had 2 tables of 6, each running 4e. Not bad for the day before Thanksgiving.

At my table, the party had left off last week stranded in the middle of a snowstorm west of Bryn Shander (since we ran opening weekend on the weekend prior to the first Wednesday game session, this was technically week 2 for us). They spent several hours huddled inside a too-tight covered wagon, waiting for the blizzard to subside. When it ended, they went outside to find themselves faced with 8-foot-high of snow in every direction.

After several (occasionally hilarious) attempts to tunnel through or climb on top of the snow, the water elementalist ended up blasting her way through with her at-will blast 3 (which in 3 dimenstions would be 15 ft high, too) “Deluge” from the elemental plane of water… though while it got snow out of the way, it also quickly froze and necessitated Acrobatics checks. Meanwhile, the Goliath put the ranger on his shoulders, so they could see over the top of the snow to get a vague sense of which way they were going.

Unfortunately, “vague sense” in a snow-covered unfamiliar land lead the party not back to Bryn Shander, but down to the much smaller Dougan’s Hole, where they played around with the standing stones for a while, coming up with lots of theories and no hard evidence. The Speaker of the town suggested they not try to cross the “haunted snow plain” again (esp with “her” being so upset lately… referring to Auril in a Voldemortish kind of way), and instead showed them on a map that if they took a boat to Good Meade, they’d be able to hike north to the Eastway, which’d bring them back via a relatively safer route.

The party made friends with a dwarven boatmaster who was headed to Good Meade, and were off at first light the next morning (though they didn’t get a “good” night’s sleep in the cold & cramped space the Speaker was able to give them… can’t have them getting an Extended Rest yet). While on the water, they learned of the dwarf’s thoughts on what was going on in the area, though unfortunately they saw a white figure walking across the water (freezing the water as she stepped on it) with a sort of snow-tornado floating above her: Hedrun, the crazy witch the dwarf had told them about. She wasn’t concerned with attacking the party herself, but gestured at them, sending some blizzard elementals after them as she went on her way. As she’s one of the “big bads” this season, I played up her epicness by making her laughter echo across the lake, sounding like ice breaking free from a glacier.

The fight was interesting, with the party mostly trapped on the boat and the blizzard elementals (a modified air elemental) having forced movement powers. Only one person ended up in the freezing lake, though: the ranger. And that was because she realized after she threw her axe to hit an elemental that she wouldn’t be able to retrieve it afterward, so she dove in to grab it before it sank.

The session ended with the party a bit wet, and rather cold, but alive, and pulling into port at Good Meade. Will they ever make it back to Bryn Shander, or will another plot pull them elsewhere first? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. And did I mention that the wind is controlled by the evil goddess of winter storms?

5 bisonic December 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I would say that the calender is tight so that they cannot save everyone. There is supposed to be a big thing off screen that can’t be stopped in Act 1 that feeds into the interlude. I may just push the events so that the dwarven caravan does not leave until the act 1 events take place.

We had seven players for Next. It seems to be going better so far. People are more into their character this time and I think the new people were a good addition.

The group started by accepting the Dwarf Merchant’s offer of work. When she told them that it would be a few days, they wandered towards the market where they heard the Apothocary yelling about ‘Slim’. They walked past but planned on going to the seediest bar in town to find out more about Slim. They were stopped by the barbarian chained to a post. The guards were gruff about it and one let slip something about appeasing the Winter Queen. They demanded to talk to the Sheriff and made a big show of how strange the charges against the barbarian are. The sheriff offered to let him go free if they took him directly out of town the next morning. They bargained for more time so they could take him with the Dwarven caravan.

They then proceeded to the Northlook Tavern and started making connections with the local hoods. One hood told one of them that Slim was always hiring and that she should go up stairs. The whole group went upstairs. They heard six different voices coming from the room. Three of them went and knocked on the door while the others stayed fartger down the hallway. When a gruff human opened the door they glanced a halfling, a few humans, and fresh bloodstains on the floor. They asked about a job and Slim told then to wait down stairs while he finished up here. The group started to head downstairs when they heard a window open and a nody being thrown out the window with one of the humans following it. (They were killing it with perception checks) The group’s ranger ran out to see where the body was being taken. The rest of them waited for Slim.

The ranger followed the thug to the outskirts of town and hid. One the thug dropped the body and left, the ranger invesigated the dead body to find a Harper’s pin and a letter telling the man to come to the bar, signed by someone they had not heard of.

Back in the bar Slim headed downstairs. He spotted the group and told them he would have a job for them tomorrrow night. The group wanted something more immediate and the bard hit him with a Charm Person. He then offered his friends tonights mission, to raid a warehouse and steal any crate marked for Aarun. He gave them a large Alchemist’s potion to burn the place down and cover their tracks. He told them that ‘the Shank’ would be checking up on them to make sure it got done correctly.

The group headed to the warehouse where some of the lawful members questioned the group’s actions. The bard told them she wanted to see what the thugs were after and to make sure they did not get it. She and one of the others picke dthe lock and found the crates. They were full of silvered weapons and had come for Aarun. (I had forgotten that the first night’s warehouse was not supposed to have them but I moved the confontation with the Shank to this night). The group, knowing Aarun was dead debated over what to do withthe weapons. They came up with several schemes, including delivering them to the thugs, before they decided that as a Harper, Aarun was one of the good guys and so would need other good guys to have them since he was dead.

The group packed up some old crates to deliver to the thugs. They went to the drop off point where they met the Shank. They demanded to see Slim and were told no. A few of them had circled around the building, ready to bust through the rear door if things went south. The Bard used minor illusion on the crates and it seemed to work until the Shank asked that they throw him one of the weapons. The bard attempted to slight of hand one out if the crate but she rolled a 2 and it dropped out of her sleeve. The Shank yelled that they were skimming and the combat began. The highlight of the combat was a Dwarven Warrior breakin a door open into a guy before taking out another. The group cleaned up the badguys and the Shank did not escape. They thought about what to do next and decided to bring the real weapons to the temple in town.

The group did well and we covered more ground than I originally intended. They surprised me with their actions a few times, too. I meant for them to follow Slim’s thugs as they broke into a warehouse but the Charm Person was perfectly timed to get them the job. I also introduced the black ice jewelry with more emphasis than I intended. The group did not like the villager’s heartlessness towards the barbarian and the uselessness of the sheriff. The new players of the group played well, including a ten year old playing the Dwarven Fighter.

I think we are on a better path than last season and the encounters listings in the playtest packet were very useful for setting up combats that I had not planned for. They should continue doing those. Things are going well and people are having fun.

6 Justin Yanta December 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Yea I have been traveling a lot and not able to put down our group. We had 2 tables at Wonko’s in Austin, TX both running 5e. This was our first week so we ran them coming into town and making their first decision (I only got the book that night for the rest of the adventure so I was using the launch day part). My table had:
1 Tiefling Rogue
1 Warforged Paladin
2 Dragonborn Paladin
1 Dwarf Cleric (Life)
1 Drow Bard
1 Warforged Druid

The other table had (They were a spill over as they came later):
1 Warforged Paladin
1 Dragonborn Cleric (War)
1 Dragonborn Paladin
1 Half-Elf Druid

As you can see we had healing galore and they needed it. My table had both Warforges, both Dragonborn and the Cleric go down (but healed back up). The other table lost both Paladins and the Warforged was killed completely by Slim (he was GMing at a different store and got his book last week).

My table the group took out the Crag Cat with not much of an issue (some cuts but nothing major) and stayed around to fix the wagon and get it moving. They made it to town when the yeti’s attacked. The first group of 5 yetis (young) took out most of the town guard before they were finished off. One thing that happened at the beginning was that the Cleric cast Bless (1d4 on saves and toHit) while the Bard started a warrior song (allies within 25 feet gain 1d4 dmg). Thanks to those spells they really finished off the first set easily. The second was 5 young yetis on the wall with 5 more in town. This split up the party some and they had a harder time. The young yetis in the town koed the dragonborn paladins and took out the cleric before they were healed up by the druid and cleric(when he got back up). The large yeti then came in and koed the warforged druid with a mighty 2 handed slap. The party had to deal with the Yeti and more young yetis till they killed the Yeti and closed the gates. At the end we had only the Druid with 1 spell left and everyone with 4 or less hp. No rest for the group as they head into this week (well a 1 hour rest so they can spend hit die and the cleric can get back a spell).

7 Dominic Lopez December 7, 2013 at 1:42 am

Well, week one didn’t go like it should have because we didn’t get the adventure in my store until that day, so the other DM and I had to wing it. We ran a short encounter that involved the characters going back to find something the merchant from the game day event had lost in the snow. This is yet another problem with the new approach to encounters. Even if we had got the game on the release date we still would have had only one day to prepare and these Sundering adventures take much more prep work than previous encounters seasons.

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