This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Actual Play Podcasts
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