D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 5, 2013

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverAfter spending two days in Bryn Shander during the last session, the PCs decided it was time to leave the largest of the Ten Towns. They’d saved the Barbarian Hengar Aesnvaard from a painful death by exposure to the elements and saw that he was set free. Hengar requested the PCs accompany him back to where the Tribe of the Elk was camped and help his people face the great evil that has best upon them. They agreed.

The party and Hengar left Bryn Shander with Hilda Silverstream, the Dwarven merchant bound for the Dwarven Valley. The PCs agreed to act as guards for Hilda’s caravan and accompany her home before continuing northward with Hengar. Surely nothing bad would happen along the way.

We continue to have enough people to run four tables at Harry T North in Toronto. Unfortunately we were down a DM this week due to illness. However, we did manage to notify her players so they didn’t show up for nothing this week. The two other DMs running the level 1 D&D Next tables were present; one ran a table of six and the other a table of five. At my table I continue running 4e D&D with a level 3 party.

The party consisted of a Revenant (Eladrin) Assassin, Tiefling Paladin, Dragonborn Cavalier, and Halfling Rogue. The party’s Gnoll Barbarian was absent as the ill DM was his ride. One of the players from the table that wasn’t running decided to join our group for the night and even had a level-appropriate PC. So for one week only a Githzerai Swordmage/Artificer accompanied the PCs across the Icewind Dale.

Crossing the Tundra

Eleint 27, 1485 DR – Year of the Iron Dwarf’s Vengeance

The route from Bryn Shander to the Dwarven Valley was about 9 miles, and in good weather takes only 6 hours. Today the snow was blowing and the party expected it to take twice as long. Fortunately Hilda and Hengar both knew the route well and there was little chance of getting lost. The Rogue also had an acute direction sense and was able to provide his expertise when needed.

The cold wind bit to the bone and the party felt the effects of the cold (Endurance checks all around!). The Cavalier, Rogue and Swordmage all felt the harsh climate’s effects and suffered -1 to all defenses, attacks and damage rolls. With magical healing or a night’s rest in a warm environment they’d easily shrug away the penalties. Alternatively they could expend a healing surge as a free action to feel better. They all decided to ride it out.

About 8 hours into their journey to the Dwarven Valley the caravan was ambushed by Goblins. These weren’t the normal, run of the mill Goblins either. They were dressed in white furs and seemed especially capable for combat in snowy terrain. When the party approached the Goblins jumped out of the snow and attacked. Two ran into melee while two stayed buried in the snow and threw daggers.

The Goblins won initiative so they got their surprise round and then went first the next round. The Assassin and Swordmage were both bloodied before they got to act. The Goblins weren’t especially difficult to hit (after all they were Goblins) but they had enough hit points to take a few blows before falling. When the Goblins hit the PCs they hit especially hard. The Rogue and Cavalier were hit by flying ice daggers and were slowed; a condition the Rogue couldn’t shake the entire fight.

By the third round the party’s defenders had locked down the melee combatants and seemed to have things well in hand. And then a new combatant entered the fray. From beneath the snow a woman arose. She was covered in ice and snow and wielded a long staff made of ice. She approached the PCs and targeted them with an Icy Blast.

After the Assassin dropped the first Goblin he immediately engaged the Ice Witch. Much to the party’s surprise the dead Goblin arose as a frozen zombie the next round and kept fighting, spurred on by the Ice Witch’s soothing commands. The Goblins in the snow banks kept pelting the PCs with icy daggers, their aim impeccable. (My dice were on fire and I was hitting with almost every roll.)

After dispatching the Zombie Goblin and dropping his companion twice the entire group surrounded the Ice Witch and tried to lock her down. Two of the heroes finally made high enough Perception checks to realize that the Ice Witch they faced was not alive. She was some kind of summoned creature made of icy. The foe before them was not a living creature as they’d first believed.

The Goblins in the snow stopped firing at the party for a few rounds as they burrowed through the snow and got better positioning. When they finally popped back up the Ice Witch commanded them to attack Hengar. The ice daggers hit him, wounding him badly. With this task completed the Goblins ducked back into the snow and fled. The next hit on the Ice Witch destroyed her as the ice and snow formed a pile on the ground before the PCs.

The Elk Tribe Camp

A few hours later the caravan neared the Dwarven Valley. Hengar told the PCs that they needed to leave the Dwarves and head north from here. Continuing all the way into the valley would add at least an hour in each direction, something Hengar was not willing to do. The PCs discussed completing the trip to the Dwarven Valley and spending the night in a warm bed before following Hengar. Hilda told them she could make it the rest of the way unguarded. They eventually decided it was more important to go with Hengar now.

The Tribe of the Elk’s camp was another 20 miles north. Fortunately the weather let up and the snow wasn’t as deep so the PC managed to get there after another full day. Hengar knew some safe places to rest along the way and the party avoided any additional surprises or encounters.

When the heroes arrived at the Elk Tribe camp about a dozen Warriors were gathering their equipment and it looked like they were about to head off to battle. Spotting Hengar, the tribe welcomed his return and he vouched for the PCs. The tribe explained that while he was gone the Ice Witch had attacked them numerous times. As if that wasn’t enough, the Tribe of the Bear had raided the Elk Tribe camp yesterday and captured numerous women and children. The Warriors were about to go recue them.

The PCs were asked to join the rescue. The Bear Tribe would not know their powers and abilities which could give the Elk Tribe a big advantage. The PCs were glad to help.

Before they left Hengar visited the tribe’s Shaman and procured special fire potions. These would warm the insides of those who drank it and would eliminate the effects the cold PCs were feeling. They all imbibed but it literally burned their insides and they each took 5 damage.

The Sacred Pool at Evermelt

Folnor Hagbarthe, the tribe’s best tracker, had no trouble finding the Bear Tribe’s tracks. Along the way he told Hengar and the PCs about the tribe’s encounters with the Ice Witch. He’d shot her through the heart and but it didn’t kill her. The PCs shared stories of their encounter and tried to explain that the Ice Witch they’d all faced was not actually her, but likely a summoned construct of ice. Folnor was not convinced.

It was soon evident that the captives were taken to Evermelt, an oasis of warmth. The natural hot spring is neutral grounds for the Barbarians of the Icewind Dale. If the Tribe of the Bear had claimed ownership it would be sacrilegious and an act of war between the tribes. Their very presence this far south was extremely unusual.

Evermelt is located atop an icy glacier. Beneath the pool are a series of underground caverns that were once home to the White Dragon Icingdeath. The Bear Tribe likely had sentries posted and would see the party approaching. The Tribe of the Elk expected combat before diplomacy so the plan was to rush the Barbarians guarding the camp, keeping as many alive as possible for questioning afterwards.

The Elk Tribe Warriors rushed over the crest and took the brunt of the attacks from the readied Bear Tribe Warriors. When the PCs joined the fray there saw only four enemy Barbarians not engaged in combat.

The enemies again had the best initiative, and each Bear Tribe Warrior opened by firing arrows at the PCs. Those hit were immobilized; those missed took half damage and were slowed. The party tried to attack with ranged weapons but missed horribly. The Cavalier did managed to score a crit with his Dragonbreath on the nearest Bear Tribe Warrior at the outset.

The Bear Tribe Warriors switched to longspears and charged the PCs. Each Warrior marked his opponent forcing the PCs to go toe-to-toe with one Warrior each. The defenders weren’t hit very often, but likewise couldn’t land a decent blow with their own attacks. The soft strikers took a lot of damage in a big hurry.

The Assassin managed to teleport into tactically advantageous positioning and helped take down the Warrior facing the Paladin. This allowed the Paladin to engage the Warrior causing the Rogue problems. In short order the party took down a second Warrior, but by then all five PCs were bloodied.

At this point the Bear Tribe War Chief arrived on the scene and challenged the Cavalier to single combat. The Cavalier was down to his last few hit points but realized that he had to accept the challenge. The other Warriors continued to defend themselves but did not attack, preferring to watch their leader fight.

The Cavalier accepted a Lay on Hands from the adjacent Paladin and then used his Second Wind as he slowly approached the War Chief. The War Chief opened with his Daring Strike, a massive attack that scored a solid hit for 3d12+5. Fortunately my damage dice rolled poorly and the Cavalier did not fall unconscious. When he stood up on his turn the tone of the combat changed. It seemed that few had previously withstood this incredible attack and lived. The Cavalier attacked and the two exchanged blows.

The Bear Tribe’s morale was wavering at the scene playing out before them. The remaining Warriors disengaged from combat. The PCs took full advantage of this and mobbed the War Chief. Before the Bear Tribe Warriors could come to his aid, the War Chief surrendered. The Elk Tribe’s Barbarians captured the remaining Bear Tribe Warriors and secured the camp. The PCs bound the War Chief and got ready to interrogate him.

Thoughts

The players have plenty of options this season. They can choose which path to follow and how involved they want to be in each storyline. The path that leads to the Barbarian tribes is by far the most difficult. The monsters are really tough and there is a lot of combat. My party expended a lot of their resources, including daily powers, many healing surges, and all of their action points in just the two fights they’ve had so far. There is more combat ahead of them which will prove difficult.

That being said this session was a lot of fun. It was nice to have two really good combat encounters, something that we really lacked last season. I forgot how long 4e combat can take, but I think that it’s necessary to push the PCs to see what they can do with the resources at their disposal. If the fight only takes a few rounds they’re really not pushing themselves and don’t get a true sense of where they’re strong and where they’re weak.

When preparing for this week’s adventure I rolled a random encounter and got Goblins. I decided to add my own flavour to the encounter to make it more interesting. This is something I always appreciate when I’m the player. Little details like their ice weapons and white furs make it seem more believable given the circumstances. DMs need to feel free to massage monsters to have the right feel during a fight.

The advent of the freezing condition was something I added. I gave them the option of shrugging it off as a free action by expending a healing surge but they all decided not to. I hit the poor Rogue’s lower AC three times and he missed the monsters’ AC by 1 at least three or four times. In the end that condition cost him way more than one healing surge.

The other groups at my FLGS are all still in Bryn Shander but I think at least one of them will be heading to the Dwarven Valley next week. Depending on how long my group takes helping the Tribe of the Elk they may still have time to make a meaningful contribution at the Dwarven Valley or in Bryn Shander. We’ll see what they decided to do next.

Where is your party after the first couple of sessions? Have any other groups reached the Tribe of the Elk yet? DMs who have thrown in random encounters, what kind of flavour have you added in to make it more interesting?

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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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe December 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm

We ran 2 tables of 4e at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA.

My table was trying to get back to Bryn Shander after taking a detour (caused by getting lost in a blizzard) through Dougan’s Hole & Good Mead. They started off in Good Mead, having a breakfast (of Good Mead), doing some shopping & talking with the town’s speaker (whom I had played by Andre the Giant), and then a lunch (also of Good Mead) before heading out. Much like cold pizza, the party discovered that Good Mead is good for any meal or beverage need… “It’ll keep you warm in the cold & make yer wife pretty!”

On the road northish to the Eastway (which would lead them back to Bryn Shander), they were also ambushed by goblins & wolves, though neither were had any special plot-related powers. Since it was a small party of 3 strikers and a leader, though, the party was hit pretty hard by the surprise round, and spent much of the fight trying to get in quick hits while also focusing on their own healing needs.

We ended the session with the party just approaching the walls of Bryn Shander as evening fell. They’ll finally get their first extended rest (and level up to level 2) after next week’s session, when they are back in Bryn Shander and have access to a proper inn.

I’ve noticed that PCs have ended up this season with a lot of MMORPG like random items… 2 wolf pelts, 3 yeti fangs, etc. Yet the players have dutifully picked up each random item I come up with as if it’ll mean something later. I almost want to have a random NPC show up saying “Gee, I could really use 15 wolf pelts” to see if they’ll go farming for them. I did find, though, that my random +1 magic items that have ended up in treasure were more “treasured” by the party when I gave them cool scrimshaw designs and other distinguishing characteristics. A little history or flavor can make a dull +1 item more interesting.
Joe´s last blog post ..MythSpoken Gaming Special: Monsterhearts Character Generation

2 Vobekhan December 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Not a lot of “ground” covered this week but we hit all 3 pillars and the players dictated their direction, so fun was had.

For anyone wondering how we dealt with the drinking competition we had Vipin and the dwarf make Constition (Poison) saves, starting with a DC of 15 and increasing by 1 each round. Failing 3 rounds would result in passing out drunk.

Tanis was using Guidance to give Vipin a bonus on his save and I had him make DC15 Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide his casting (which he annoyingly passed each time).

Next session while still under the effects of the alcohol Vipin will have a sense of being “invulnerable” while having disadvantage on any dextrous tasks until he can sleep it off.

Next week I’m going to have Stokely approach the “pub champion” with a request to investigate missing miners which will hopefully lead to a zombie infested dungeon crawl through dangerous dwarven mines.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&DEnc 16 – Legacy of the Crystal Shard – Session 2

3 bisonic December 6, 2013 at 10:40 am

This week w ehad six fon Next. The group had obtained some silvered weapons and taken them to see Mithann at the Temple. She was upset when they told her abou Aarun and told them about the thugs. She also told them where to find a local hunter who had been having trouble with busted and empty traps. They met with him and he told them that there were some caves where some thugs had been. Before they left town they freed Hengar, who told them where they could later find his tribe. They promised to help him after they had sorted things in town.

The group went into the caves with little trouble and fought all the thugs there, including a few wererats. They noticed more sleeping pallets than thugs but have severly reduced the number of Slim’s forces. They returned to town and started asking about finding a Wizard to help them fnd out more about the Arcane Mark they found on a letter that the Shank was carrying. Mithann sent them to the new wizard in town, a mane named Valesh Gant. They went to his office and saw the same Arcane Mark on his door. We ended there for the night.

There was some good RP but it was a heavy combat night. They are going to talk to Gant at the start of the next session. After that they will probably want to deal with Slim. I may throw in a brief encounter with Fain, who will be the guy from Skyrim that loudly preaches about Talos near the Companion Hall. I have not been great on the exploration aspects and I will be thinking about how to improve it.

They will eventually have to choose between going to the Dwarves or the Elk Tribe, but I think the they will go towards the barbarians. I want to use the big fight at the end to finish off the year and I think they will get a kick out of it.

The dates do not mean much to the players and I think I may either move Duvessa’s press conference up or let it happen off screen, depending on if Slim is dead or on the run out of town. I think they have disrupted the thugs enough to alter some people’s plans.

4 Justin Yanta December 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm

So I was traveling for work this week and did not DM. I did get from the other DM that the party went with the Dwarves and made it to the valley. They got past the first checkpoint with no issue but then were ambushed by Black Ice Dwarves and beaten to a pulp. It sounded like a complete TPK (except the GM had some of the other dwarves come and rescue them). Like stated above the group is all out of resources and really getting pounded. They lost a few of the caravan wagons in the ambush but at least have their lives. I do have some questions for the rest of you GMs:
1. How are you handling time. How long will you let them complete tasks till Act 2? The Group defeated Slim then headed to the Dwarven City so do they now miss the Slim stuff and elk stuff or can they come back to it?
2. How are you handling Short and Long rests. The group is going to need a rest soon (0 healing surges and no spells left in Next) so should I let them get one or just keep pushing them though the meat grinder till Act 2?
3. How are you handling xp? When will they get to Level 2? Act 2?

Thanks

5 Vobekhan December 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

@Justin

I’ve been using the calendar from http://community.wizards.com/comment/49871951#comment-49871951 to track the days (my group are currently on their 2nd day) and are using long and short rests as needed.

As for levelling up, rather than give set xp out each session our group have agreed to level at the end of each act (so as we’ve started as 4th level, they’ll be 5th for act 2, and 6th for act 3).
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..Ghosts of Dragonspear – revisited

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