During the last session the PCs battled the Bear Tribe warriors at the Evermelt oasis atop a glacier, but they didn’t find the captives they’d come to rescue. When we began this week’s session they interrogated the prisoners who told them to jump in the pool. The Assassin took the advice literally, dove into the hot spring head first, and disappeared!
At Harry T North in Toronto our numbers are holding steady around 20 players. We had three new players this week, but had a few regulars out with illness and work commitments. The other DMs ran D&D Next tables with four, five and eight players. At my 4e table we ran with four again as we seem to keep rotating who’s in and who’s out.
Present this week was the Revenant (Eladrin) Assassin, Gnoll Barbarian, Tiefling Paladin, and Dragonborn Cavalier. The Halfling Rogue stayed with the Elk Tribe warriors and guarded the captive Bear Tribe warriors. Fortunately Hengar joined the PCs just in case they needed additional help.
When the Assassin didn’t resurface the PCs ran to the water’s edge. The Barbarian was distracted by the sight of shiny, reflective gold flecks at the bottom of the pool. He dove in to claim his treasure, forgetting about the party momentarily. He easily fought the currents and started swinging his massive mordenkrad at the rocks, freeing a few stones containing shiny bits.
The two defenders jumped in a few second later. The Paladin was taken by the same currents that propelled the Assassin into an underwater tunnel. The Cavalier swam to the Barbarian to get his attention and then the two of them made a relatively controlled descent into the tunnel where the other PCs disappeared.
The Assassin was first to get sucked into the underwater tunnel. He was bounced around pretty hard before emerging at a small pool atop a waterfall. He managed to propel himself out of the water and onto a nearby ledge before going over.
The Paladin didn’t have as rough a trip through the tunnel, but he was powerless to stop himself from going over the edge of the waterfall and plummeted another 30 feet into a semi-frozen reservoir below.
The Barbarian and Cavalier easily climbed onto the ledge where the Assassin was waiting. When they realized their friend had tumbled over the falls they decided they’d better go after him so they jumped off.
Going over the 30 foot waterfall meant 3d10 damage each (since none of the PCs who fell off were trained in Acrobatics). I decided to be kind and reduce the damage by 5 since they fell into water. I rolled 15, 16, and 16 which became 10, 11, and 11. They did ok considering.
The Assassin had discovered a small tunnel with smooth walls made by some kind of thermal exhaust. He decided to go feet first and see where the chute took him. He eventually came rocketing out into the chamber at the bottom of the waterfall and plowed into a snow bank. A member of the Bear Tribe waiting next to the snow bank greeted him with a swift sword to his torso before he could stand up.
The PCs at the bottom of the waterfall climbed out of the pool and saw the Elk Tribe prisoners lashed to icy stalagmites, half dead from exposure. The Bear Tribe Shaman immediately shouted a warning down a nearby passage before engaging the party. Along side the Shaman were two more members of the Bear Tribe. These Furies were women dressed as animal spirits and as the Assassin had already learned they were deadly with their long, curved blades.
The Barbarian rushed out of the pool and charged the Shaman. The one hit nearly bloodied the spellcaster. The two defenders tag-teamed the closest Fury while the Assassin went one-on-one with the Fury who attacked him after his ride down the chute. The third, unengaged Fury charged the Cavalier. The PCs learned first hand that the Furies hit a lot harder when they got a running start. So the Paladin and Cavalier each locked down the one they were next to.
The Shaman used his Concussive Roar to push the three PCs back into the pool beneath the waterfall. He then used his Phantom Fangs to attack the Barbarian’s Will, inflict some psychic damage, and then immobilize him safely away from melee reach.
The Cavalier managed to get out of the water and reengage his Fury before she could attack again, but the Paladin took a charging attack from his foe and was bloodied by the attack.
The Assassin attacked his Fury and then threw up his Black Flame Form. The Fury hit again, but took some damage for her trouble while the Assassin resisted the brunt of the attack. She decided he was too much trouble and on the next round charged the Cavalier.
The Barbarian was trapped in the water without any enemies nearby. Unfortunately he had no ranged weapons and could only use his season wind. For three more rounds the Shaman continued to target the Barbarian and with each hit kept him immobilized and out of the fight.
Things were not going well for team heroes. They’d been unable to focus fire so all four combatants were still going strong. The Barbarian was completely neutralized by the Shaman. With three of four PCs bloodied they could only hope for a miracle. It came in the form of Hengar.
Knowing that the PCs might need a helping hand during the season I’d created a Warlord NPC that I knew I could throw into the mix if needed. He was needed today. In order to make things marginally plausible I said that this was Hengar, the Elk Tribe Barbarian re-skinned as a Warlord. By making him a Warlord he could heal the wounded and grant the PCs attacks. This let me avoid having to do more than choose which square to move him into.
Hengar arrived at the bottom of the sixth round and made an immediate impact. He healed the now unconscious Cavalier and then granted him a free attack. The Shaman decided to try and neutralize the new combatant this round but missed. This left the Barbarian free to charge on his turn. Unfortunately he missed. But when Hengar’s turn came around he gave him another attack and that connected.
It only took two more rounds for the PCs to turn the tide. The Assassin managed to get four shrouds on his Fury and then scored a big hit and dropped her. The two defenders worked tougher to drop the more wounded Fury leaving just one. She ran to help the Shaman but the PCs followed.
With the Shaman and Fury now in the Cavalier’s aura they weren’t going anywhere. The Cavalier used his Dragonbreath to great effect and then dropped the final Fury. The Barbarian, enraged from spending three rounds in the cold water, crushed the Shaman’s skull, killing him.
The PCs freed the prisoners and took a short rest. They knew that the Shaman had called down the passage alerting someone of their presence so they couldn’t doddle. Once the prisoners were untied and covered up, the party advanced.
When the PCs reached the next chamber they spotted the Ice Witch standing beside the frozen remains of the White Dragon Icingdeath. A member of the Elk Tribe was pleading with her, unsuccessfully. When the Ice Witch saw the heroes a cold wind began to blow about the chamber. “Witness the power Auril has granted her Chosen, and taste winter’s fury!” she cried as the ice-encrusted bones of the long-dead Dragon shuddered to life.
The Barbarian (who won initiative again) charged the Ice Witch using his daily power and scored a huge crit. The defenders rushed the Dragon hoping to pin him down. The Ice Witch pulled back from the Barbarian hoping that the Dragon would take care of the powerful striker. Seeing this retreat, the Assassin moved stealthily around the chamber’s perimeter and engaged the Ice Witch from the shadows.
The Dragon was a powerful adversary even in his undead form. He couldn’t fly nor could he use his breath weapon, but his bite and claws were capable of inflicting massive damage. He used his bite during his main turn and then got to claw at the party as his Instinctive Rampage allowed him to stomp on nearby PCs later in the round.
Fortunately Hengar was still with the party and allowed anyone who missed to take an additional attack on his turn. The Dragon’s attacks didn’t hit very often which allowed the party to have a fighting change, literally. When the Dragon rampaged all adjacent PCs took opportunity attacks and those really added up quickly.
Once the Dragon was bloodied the Barbarian took one more solid whack at it and then left the Paladin ad Cavalier to finish up while he joined the Assassin in battling the Ice Witch. The Assassin was doing a pretty good job of battling the Ice Witch on his own but welcomed the help and another target.
The Paladin took a devastating hit from the Dragon and fell unconscious. With no healing surges remaining he was down for the count. The poor Cavalier was left to battle the undead Dragon alone. He managed to avoid taking a hit for a couple of rounds but was likewise unable to hit the monster.
The Assassin and Barbarian mowed through the Ice Witch’s remaining hit points and easily dropped her. Her icy form collapsed into a pile of ice and snow and the animated Dragon’s bones also fell, much to the Cavalier’s relief.
On the wind the PCs heard laughter from afar. “The form you have defeated is a mere vessel for my power – as hollow as your victory this day. Soon I will send forth another, and if you destroy that, another, until all of Icewind Dale knows the terrible wrath of my mistress!”
The Elk Tribe decided to move its camp to Evermelt now that the Ice Witch was gone. The tribe’s King, Jarund, proclaimed the PCs honourary members of the Elk Tribe and presented them with a magic sword. Hengar asked the PCs if he could continue to adventure with them while they were in Icewind Dale.
Although the Dragon’s treasure was long ago plundered, the Bear Tribe had brought the Ice Witch offerings during their short time here. As a reward for rescuing the captives, the PCs were allowed to keep these treasures.
This week the party had two really tough and challenging combat encounters. There was little role-playing but plenty of fun hack and slash. The PCs took on two tough encounters last week so these two really pushed them to the limits. By the end the two defenders had used up a combined 25 healing surges.
I generally don’t run PCs as NPCs in the party, but I knew that I might have to do so this season and I was glad I was ready. I originally created the Warlord as a Dwarf, but it’s easy enough to tweak him to be a Human. The Warlord is the perfect class for a DM to play since this class lets the other players make more attacks off turn. I’ve done this before in my home game and it’s always worked really well. The fact that this party doesn’t have a leader makes the addition of a healer even more suitable.
The monsters the PCs faced in this leg of the adventure are really, really tough. My party was level 3 and this week I didn’t adjust the numbers for the monsters at all, I ran them as printed. And my party got their butts kicked. If they’d only been level 1 it would have been a TPK. I hope that the stats for D&D Next make these encounters a bit more manageable for lower level parties.
We’ll see where this party goes next. I’ll have to consult me timeline/calendar to see what else is happening with the other storylines. I think the PCs completed this part quickly enough that they can still make a meaningful contribution to at least one of the other stories in Act 1.
Where is your party at this point? I’m deliberately pushing my PCs to do more in these first few sessions since we’ll be losing two weeks over the holidays. Have any other groups completed any of the three paths in Act 1 yet? For groups doing the same path as my party how far along are you?
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