D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 4)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 19, 2013

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverDuring the last session the heroes defeated the Ice Witch and a reanimated skeletal White Dragon once known as Icingdeath. Unfortunately the Ice Witch they defeated was just her Simulacrum so the real threat still looms ominously.

The Tribe of the Elk moved their camp to Evermelt. With the immanent threat of rival tribes gone, members of the Elk Tribe tended to their wounded. Everyone involved in the spectacular rescue mission needed a good night’s rest and finally got one. The next morning the PCs decided that their next stop should be the Dwarven Valley so they could collect the money Hilda Silverstream owed them.

NOTICE: We’re taking a break from D&D Encounters over the Christmas holidays since our FLGS is closed. There will be no D&D Encounters update on Dungeon’s Master on December 26 or January 2. Our next updated (which I’ll call week 7) will be on January 9.

This week we ran four tables at Harry T North in Toronto. The two level 1 D&D Next tables were full with six players at each table. The level 3 D&D Next table had five players. My level 4 4e table had four players plus I had Hengar ready as an NPC if needed. The party consisted of a Tiefling Paladin, Dragonborn Cavalier, Gnoll Barbarian, and Shadar-Kai Seeker (played by special guest star Alton/Marc Talbot from 20 Foot Radius).

The Dwarven Valley

The journey took the better part of a day. Fortunately the weather cleared and the party didn’t have to face any new snow, just the deep powder on the ground. With Hengar in the lead, the party avoided any random encounters and reached the Southern end of the Dwarven Valley as the sun was setting.

The PCs heard arguing as they headed deeper into the valley. They couldn’t see the source of the noise, but it was clear that numerous Dwarves were bickering and arguing, and whatever the reason it was quite heated. They eventually spotted five Dwarves guarding a stone door into the Dwarven mines.

The PCs advanced with caution and got within about 100 feet of the Dwarves before one of them finally noticed the adventurers. The arguing ended abruptly and the guards called for the PCs to halt and state their business.

First the PCs said they were here to collect a debt from Hilda. The guards said they had no idea who that was and that the PCs would have to turn back. The PCs then added her last name, Silverstream, which got the guards riled up. They said that Stokely Silverstream was a traitor and that he “refuses to protect our treasure.” They clearly dislike Silverstream and went on badmouthing him for a few minutes.

The Barbarian then stepped forward and showed the guards the fine Dwarven hammer he’d found in the Dragon’s lair. He asked them if they knew a Dwarven craftsman who would be able to match the artistry and have the hammer inlayed with gold. The guards discussed it and eventually named two different artisans. This caused another round of arguing among the Dwarves. The PCs used the distraction to move closer.

When the PCs got closer they noticed that some of these Dwarves were armed with weapons made from a reflective black material. One even had armor made of the stuff which looked like black ice.

One of the PCs commented on the black material and the Dwarves immediately gave them their full attention. One of the Dwarves held up his axe and told the PCs that it was made from black ice and it was the best weapon he’d ever owned.

The Barbarian brought the conversation about weaponry back to his hammer and the Dwarves said they’d escort the party into the Dwarven settlement for the outrageous price of 25 gp. The PCs tried to negotiate the Dwarves down. Eventually one of the Dwarves said he’d do it for 10 gp, but he had to get paid personally. It was clear he didn’t want to split the commission which led to more arguing. The Dwarves decided it wasn’t worth helping the PCs and told them to go away if they wouldn’t pay 25 gp.

Thinking quick on his feet, the newest party member (the Seeker) said that the party found a rich deposit of the black ice not too far away and he was here to divulge the location for a finder’s fee. Rolling on his +2 Bluff score an 18 came up. The greedy Dwarves agreed to bring the party to their leader, Baerick Hammerstone, free of charge.

Black Ice Sentries

The party followed one guard into the tunnels. He led them round and round for about 30 minutes until he was sure the party was lost (they all rolled single digit Dungeoneering and Perception checks). He then led them to checkpoint where four no-nonsense Dwarven guards stood at attention. The guide ran ahead, past the guards and into another tunnel leaving the PCs at the mercy of the guards.

The guards told the PCs they were not welcome and had to turn back. The party realized they had no chance of finding their way out unassisted and pleaded for entry. They explained they had a lucrative offer for Baerick that had to do with black ice. The guards told the PCs they had to pay a toll to enter which they reluctantly agreed to do.

Tricked into a situation where they really didn’t have any choice but to comply they accompanied the guards. As the passed deeper into the tunnels more guards appeared. By the time they reached the large chamber where they were to meet Baerick they were surrounded by eight guards, most with weapons and armor made from the black ice.

Halls of Black Ice

encounters-16-npc-baerickWhen the heroes entered the Hall of Black Ice, Baerick was not happy to see them. He yelled at the guards and it was pretty clear that guests, especially non-Dwarven guests, were not welcomed. He then demanded an explanation from the PCs.

The Seeker told Baerick that the party had found a rich deposit of the black ice and that they were willing to supply him with it. Baerick wasn’t interested claiming he had all that he needed. In fact, he had so much that they’d just send a large shipment of items crafted from black ice to Bryn Shander.

He then accused the party of trickery and suspected they’d sneaked in to the Hall to steal his supply of black ice. Despite the party’s denial, Baerick was sure he was right and ordered his guards to subdue the PCs.

The PCs realized that there was no reasoning with the Baerick so they charged him. The Barbarian managed to knock Baerick prone before any guards could interfere. The whole party did their best to surround Baerick and attack him into submission. They told him to call off his guards and they’d stop attacking, but their violent eruption convinced Baerick that they were indeed thieves here to rob him. He yelled to his guards to keep fighting and not to surrender under any circumstances.

It only took a few rounds for the PCs to badly wound Baerick and bring him well below his bloodied value. They pretty much ignored the rest of the guards allowing them to charge, flank, attack, and do whatever else they wanted. In the mean time four more guards armed with crossbows entered the room and shot at the PCs from a safe distance.

Before the PCs could bring down Baerick three terrified looking Dwarves ran into the large chamber from a side passage yelling for everyone to run because death was coming. The Dwarven guards began to withdraw from the combat, gladly allowing the PCs to take opportunity attacks on them. The PC asked Baerick what was going on and he repeated that death was coming. He told the PCs to run or be killed. They kept fighting.

Interlude: The Black Ice Spreads

Emerging from the passage where the terrified Dwarves just came from, three Dwarven Zombies emerged. Their skin was ash-black and their clothing and gear glinted with hints of the black ice. The Seeker tried to help the terrified Dwarves bar the passage with a makeshift door, but by the second round the Dwarves decided to run and the Zombies got through.

From another passage three more Dwarven Zombies entered the large hall near where the PCs were engaged with Baerick. By this point they’d managed to knock the Dwarven leader unconscious so they moved to fight the Zombies. The defenders did a good job of locking down the new three, but the Seeker was unable to keep the other three occupied and things started to get crazy.

Good teamwork and solid tactics (like focusing fire) led to a couple of Zombies going down quickly, however, the PCs heard more coming. The Dwarves had all withdrawn and blocked the escape passages. One Dwarven guard was left in the room with the PCs because he’d been grabbed by a Zombie. Once freed, he ran for the only other open passage and called for the PCs to follow.

The heroes realized that things could only get worse so the grabbed the unconscious Baerick and fled with the guard. After a few minutes the guard needed a rest, as did the party. The guard was not familiar with their current location but knew that the other way out was impassable now. He suggested they all work together to find a way to the Battlehammer Hall where Stokely Silverstream and his people would hopefully help them.

The PCs realized that the black ice was somehow connected to the Zombies and suspected that those wearing it or wielding weapons made from it were somehow corrupted. That explained the erratic behaviour they’d witnessed this session and Baerick’s thoughts of treachery when the party arrived. Remembering that he’d said a shipment of good was sent to Bryn Shander meant that the townsfolk could be in for trouble really soon.

Thoughts

This week my group transitioned from the Elk Tribe Barbarian storyline to the Black Ice/Dwarven Valley storyline. So far they’ve been in Ten Towns about seven days. I incorporated elements of the Dwarven Valley story with ideas from the Interlude. When we pick things up next time we’ll complete the Interlude and move into Act 2.

It was nice to have some role-playing before the party resorted to combat to solve their problems this week. On the other hand this party is good at combat so I suppose it was a matter of playing to their strengths.

I beefed up the Zombies a bit to make them more powerful and more menacing. I added an aura 1 that caused any creature ending in the aura to take 3 necrotic damage. I also gave the Zombies resist 5 to damage from black ice weapons and vulnerable 5 radiant. The Paladin has magic armor that gives him resist 5 necrotic and the Cavalier has a Sunblade so despite these changes the party was well equipped to handle it.

I’m still not sure why the party felt the best course of action was to fight Baerick, but I was glad that they a) didn’t kill him, and b) took his unconscious body with them when they fled. We’ll see if this ends up being a good idea or not during the next session.

We learned a little bit of information about changes coming to D&D Encounters next season. I shared what I know in a post I ran earlier this week. We also discus it for 10-15 minutes at the end of this week’s Recounting Encounters podcast.

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.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe December 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

This week we had 2 tables of 4e at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. This week we were focused on tracking down some pirates. After stopping a scrimshaw heist in Bryn Shander last week, the party got a much-needed extended rest (& level-up) and awoke to be greeted by the politician Vaelish Gant (played by Steve Buscemi), who sent them to Targos, dressed as the thieves they’d defeated, to try and infiltrate this “Ship Rethnor” group they’d interrogated out of the thieves.

The party headed north to Targos with the “stolen” scrimshaw, where they met Gant’s police contact there and also did some poking around town. They met up with the dwarven crafter/blacksmith/plot-giver Graendel, and realized that in a town where most folks were a bit “flexible” on morals, he was a shining beacon of moral stability. They’ll come back to him in later weeks to learn more about the awful black ice & what it means, but for now it was just introductions (and a promise that if they found any rare metals, he’d be happy to forge them into items for the party… since I’ve specifically put bars of mithral into treasures in later weeks).

Eventually the party headed, on the cop’s suggestion, to the Three Flags Sailing tavern, where they were eventually able to bribe their way into the back room, where some Ship Rethnor folks were gathered. They overheard someone talking about “the boss” coming back that night, and also something about “the wizard of the black ice” returning… but then the party set about on some comical attempts at convincing the thieves that they were also criminals. Eventually things broke down, but the cop showed up and demanded that everyone disarm. This was a ruse, of course, because the real cop had been killed and replaced by a thief, so the cop and a whole bunch of thieves attacked the party.

When they survived the battle (keeping one or two thieves alive for questioning), Vaelish Gant mysteriously showed up. He seemed almost surprised that the party had survived such a battle, but quickly covered by killing the two surviving thieves before they could say too much more. He covered by playing the political card: “people like that don’t deserve to live in civilized society”… which was IN NO WAY COVERING FOR THE FACT THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE SAID SOMETHING THEY SHOULDN’T. He said that the party should head to the docks to meet “the boss’s” ship when it came in after dark, and that’s where we ended the session.

Despite some heavy hints, the party doesn’t seem 100% ready to eventually be double-crossed by Gant, but that’ll just add to the fun when it happens.

Play-wise, I was using Thugs & Tough Thugs from the downloaded stat document, though I beefed them up a bit. My party make-up has been mostly martial & primal this season, which has also added some interesting dynamics, since we don’t have a ton of Arcana checks all the time, and there’s not a lot of effects thrown on enemies. Every so often we get a sorcerer who shows up, but she’s not really doing more than straight striking, which overall lets me run a lot more beefy, hit-point-filled enemies, and to make small magical effects that any of them do more of a big deal, since there are fewer things to counter that stuff. Of course, that could change any week, but so far, that’s been an interesting trend. I think people heard “icy tundra” and all decided to make barbarians, rangers, shamen, and fighters.

We’re off on Christmas day as well, but the store will be open and we will play on Jan 1, when the party will fight some pirates on a ship (using the map from the first Neverwinter opening weekend “Gates of Neverdeath”, which had a great docked ship battlemap layout).

2 Vobekhan December 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm

My players tackled “Kessel’s Trap” this week, and we ended up with a table of 9 running 4th level Next pcs.

We also used a battlemat and minis’/tokens, and in combination with the larger group this led to a slowing down of the combat – 6 rounds taking up the majority of our 2 hours.

We’re missing the next 2 weeks due to the holiday season so shall resume on the 8th January with the Interlude and Act 2.

Have a great Christmas everyone and look forward to reading your exploits into the New Year.

3 Diceelemental January 8, 2014 at 5:04 am

cool transition,
so far my group has delt with the small thieves in the main town with out revealing the true culprit they know a reelection is due but left for the dwarves vallery
they previously tryed to meet the barbarien tribes but as the split the party that didnt go well so they fled back the the town,
as a group they arrvied at the dwarven valley, btu my group met with the good dwarves, as the party had bought black ice they where captured and i had a similar run and gun battle chase with zombies,
Stokely sent them to the nexus where they fought Kessel,
my kick of tonight 8th jan i will try and steer them to Berris camp, other wise they might be meeting icing death on the way back to town, or try and shoe horn a clue to the pirate in there now. currently they are technical chasing kessel though a dwarven temple,

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