After 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.
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.
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.