D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 12, 2013

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverDuring 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.

Waterfall Cavern

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.

Dragon’s Lair

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!”

Resolution

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.

Thoughts

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?

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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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe December 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

This was effectively week 4 for us at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. Our numbers have been really down this season, and we’re holding steady at 2 tables of 4E.

This week our party returned to Bryn Shander (after a forced detour resulting from getting lost in a blizzard) and had to bring the news to the young Eladrin girl (the plot push from the first session) that they had not, in fact, been able to save her parents.

On the way into the city, though, they ran into some black-clad folks suspiciously sneaking out with a large cart that appeared to be full of grain sacks, though it chinked every time it moved. Slim, the thieves’ leader, tried to bribe the PCs, but they weren’t up for that. After a fight (that contained disease scares when they realized Slim was a were rat), they had captured Slim & turned him over to the authorities, also interrogating him to learn about the criminal activities of Ship Rethnor in a port town to the north. Turns out the cart was full of stolen scrimshaw, and the scrimshaw dealers in Bryn Shander rewarded the party handily for saving their merchandise.

Then it was back to the tavern, where the Eladrin girl had taken up a “job” as a storyteller to patrons, reciting the tales of the Heroes of Myth Drannor her parents had told her, using some innate magic to make the flames of the hearthfire illustrate the stories to an extent. The party delivered the bad news, but talked about how hard her parents had fought against the yetis, trying to soften the blow of their deaths. The diplomacy checks (I didn’t force them to do much actual grief counseling) were good enough that, while sad, she was okay. The bartender offered her a place to sleep & food if she’d keep telling stories, so the party did not have to take her on as a ward.

Finally back in a place with beds, the party was able to get a good night’s sleep & extended rest. Next week they’ll level up to level 2 and head off to stop piracy in the north.

It’s interesting to see Derek’s party dealing with the Ice Witch & dragon this early in the game. At my table I’m holding off till they are 3rd level before unleashing that at them (Hedrun is actually the last of the “big bads” they’ll face at my table).

2 bisonic December 13, 2013 at 10:32 am

I had five players show up, but two had to leave early due to an emergency. That left three for Next. We are running at fourth level. The party was down to one paladin, one ranger, and one fighter. A tough combination but not overly versitile. The group had just cleared out the thugs in the cave and came back into town to speak with a local wizard about an arcane mark they had foubd. They went to a wizard, Vaelish Gant, who said the mark was his, but thay it must be a forgery. He had heard about some thugs in town passing fake papers. The Ranger saw through the lie but Gant told them they should report it to the sheriff and that if they could not get an appointment with him, he could get them one as he was very close with the Speaker. They understood the implication and talked to the sheriff who said he would question Gant but there was nothing he could do. The group turned in for the night after making sure the Sheriff kept his word.

In the morning, the group woke and went into town to see the people milling about the market place. They were all waiting for the Speaker to show up and a few citizens were talking about how they were going to elect a new Speaker if she was unable to control the town. The group went to the Speaker’s Palace and the Sheriff let them in. They searched the place and the ranger and paladin botched their rolls. The Half Orc Fighter rolled a 18 so I had the others looking in every crevice and hiding spot before the Fighter picked up the note sitting in the middle of the Speaker’s desk. ‘Maybe this is important,’ he said, ‘can someone read it for me?’

The note lured the mayor to Gant’s office and was labeled with the arcane mark. The group went there and a thug answered the door and told them that Gant was addressing everyone in town and they should go there. They insisted on going inside and pushed past the thug. I used the Lairs tile pack from Paizo and it was perfect for style, if a little tight. Combat started and one bad guy tried to open a door into the Half Orc and ended up locked out of the combat by sheer force of strength. Slim was holding the Speaker hostage so the Paladin of vengance used his Abjure Enemy to freeze Slim with fear. There was a quazit demon there who responded with a Cause Fear that affected only the ranger. The group fought through and won the day but the demonic Quazit got away.

Duvessa thanked them and they rushed to the town square where Gant was addressing the crowd. The players accused Gant of leading the thugs and he denied it, saying he was being framed by Duvessa. The paladin sensed the Quazit near Gant and the Ranger saw through the lie. Duvessa orderd the town guard to seize the Wizard. The ranger fired an arrow at him as well but Gant laughed sayin, ‘You may have thwarted me in this town. But you cannot be in all ten towns at once, like I can.’ Gant teleported away and the town thanked the players for ending the threat of the thugs.

We still had plenty of time so I gave the players the choice of either leaving with the caravan or seeking out the Elk Tribe. The players opted to go help the Elk, as that situation seemed dire. The group found the tribe healin and recovering after a raid by the bear tribe. They were goin gto track the tribe and attack in the morning. That night one of the elders of the tribe, Soren, came i to town saying that the Ice Witch demanded their worship for Auril. He told the group where to find the other tribe.

The barbarians sent to group to attack an outpost while the main force occupied the other tribe elsewhere. (I wish i had thought to make Hengar a warlord type figure as they desperately needed a healer, I will do that for the next time.) The bear tribe had two berserkers as well as one shaman and one fury. The players snuck up and focused fire on the shaman taking him down very fast. The only spell he used was to heal himself and died before his next turn. The berzerkers were extremely dangerous with their great axes and advantage to attack. Fortunately, I was rolling terribly most of the time but the Paladin still went down. I had the Druid, who had left earlier, use a healing spell on him. The player enjoyed advantage against the berzerkers but the bear tribe warriors were sure to take each player on in one on one fights. It was vicious and a tough fight. The players won and we ended for the night.

The group I had moved quickly as they were not interested in RP with npc’s but did have some good banter. I think they were starting to get more comfortable together. They like what they know of the story and I think next week’s big battle will be a good payoff for them. There is nothing quite like fighting a dragon inside of a dungeon.

I have been having a thought about how the combat in next is very cut and dry, especially with the part consisting of a greatax fighter, a longsword paladin, and a longbow archer. But I realized that the paladin and the ranger are not really using their powers. The Paladin has never cast a spell and the ranger was built quickly. I should make sure he understands his class as I just leveled him up from the pregen in a rush. At first level the combat is so cut and dry that I would never start another game of Next there. I think level two might be a better place to start. For example, the level one bard has a huge ability with his song of battle and that can be exciting when damage is rolled but nothing else the player does in combat is any different from a ranger. The ranger has tracking and that is it. The paladin has lay on hands and that is it. At level two the players have a better chance to differentiate themselves from each other. This week’s Legends & Lore articulated a thing that I had been thinking. 4th defines your character very strongly while Next actively avoids defining you. There may be bigger differences in skill use but my encounters group is not good at using their skills proactively. Its a play style issue. My home game has moved away from a combat oriented game and might benefit from changing to Next but Encounters might benefit from the focus on combat in 4th. If they come out with a Hexblade subclass for paladin then i would switch to Next in a heartbeat.

3 Vobekhan December 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

My group continue with the playtest rules and carried on in the dwarven valley. The fight with the zombies had some truly hilarious moments not the least of which was the one that simply refused to stay dead.

I was delayed getting my write up done due to work and other commitments, but, its done now.

We’ll have next weeks session then two weeks off for the holidays so planning on it bringing us to the end of Act 1 and beginning in the new year with the interlude and Act 2 as the players will be levelling up to 5th over the break (assuming they survive Kessel’s Trap).

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