After missing all the action at the Easthaven docks, the PCs decided to follow the tracks of two large Crag Cats who had brazenly attacked and killed some of the local townsfolk who wandered off the city’s beaten paths. Although the PCs didn’t actually run into the Crag Cats last session they were ambushed by some crafty Goblins guarding a cavernous lair in the mountains. The heroes battled two small groups of Goblins before deciding to take a short rest as they prepared to explore more rooms within the Verbeeg Lair.
We were down to only three tables this week at Harry T North in Toronto. One group who all travel to the store in one vehicle was unable to come this week. But the other three tables were all full – six players at each of the two D&D Next tables and I had my five regulars at the 4e table. The party now consists of the following PCs: Gnoll Barbarian, Tiefling Paladin, Dragonborn Cavalier, Halfling Rogue, and Tiefling Warlock.
We took a quick poll of our players over the previous few sessions regarding preferences for next season and it looks like we’ll have four new DMs next season running two tables of D&D Next and two running 4e. Both Craig and I have DMed many season in a row so it will be a nice change if we get to hand over the reigns to fresh DMs next season.
The Verbeeg Lair
We picked things back up in the Barracks. There was a closed door on the south side of the room and a winding passage to the west. During the fight last week one of the Goblins fled down the passage. The party decided to rest before moving onward.
They discussed opening the door to see what was inside, but in the end they figured it was more important to track down the Goblin who fled, so the door remained closed. The party decided to try and proceed cautiously but with the Cavalier’s summoned steed, Clipity-Clop leading the way stealth was all but impossible.
The Main Hall and Storage Rooms
As the party made their way down the main passage they noticed a door on the north side, and then a little farther down a door on the south side. The doors continued down the hallway, on opposite sides.
The Rogue decided to examine the first door. He searched for traps and finding none checked if the door was locked – which it wasn’t. The PCs readied actions as the Paladin stepped up beside the Rogue and opened the door. The old door opened noisily and revealed a small, dark room. Inside were the remains of damaged furniture and other rubble. There was nothing valuable inside, nor were their any living occupants so the party moved on.
The Cultist’s Room
The Barbarian was not impressed with all the careful planning and set up the party did for a room that presented no treasure and no danger so he impatiently charged the next door and smashed it down before the party could suggest any other course of action. This room was occupied.
Startled by the door smashing off its hinges, but not completely unaware that something was approaching, five Humans inside the room were ready for combat. All were wearing apparel that denoted them as followers of Auril, the Frost Maiden. Four men were brandishing swords and crossbows while the fifth was an arcane spell caster wielding a rod.
The Barbarian leaped in between the Thugs in order to reach the Adept. Despite taking a lot of damage from an opportunity attack, he gave as good as he got and bloodied him in one shot. Unfortunately the Thugs acted next and managed to drop the Barbarian with a coordinated attack.
The rest of the PCs moved in to help. The Paladin locked down the Adept and drew his wrath. The Warlock shot the Thugs from the hallway trying to avoided taking any damage. The Rogue managed to get in the room and took a nasty crossbow bolt in the first round. The Cavalier dismissed Clipity-Clop and rushed into the room where he managed to heal the Barbarian just before his turn in the initiative came up again.
The Barbarian managed to inflict massive damage to one of the Thugs, but not enough to drop him. Meanwhile the Thugs easily dropped the Barbarian a second time. Unbeknownst to the party, the Thugs got serious bonuses to their damage rolls when other Thugs were nearby. So until the first one fell all the Thugs were incredibly dangerous. By the third round two of the Thugs were down and the party realized the fight was getting significantly easier.
The Barbarian was again healed so he could act on his turn but was again knocked out by the closest Thug. Focused fire by the heroes and some decent rolls allowed them to drop all the bad guys without suffering any other serious hardships. They took a short rest as they searched the room and listened for any approaching guards.
The Goblin’s Room
Once rested up the party decided that taking the time to go slow and check each door like they did the first one was worth the wait. The next room was empty except for debris where one of the walls had started eroding and crumbling down.
At the door to the fourth room the Rogue found no traps but heard sounds of movement within. The Cavalier and Barbarian rushed in to find four Goblins all waiting with crossbows aimed at the door. As chaos erupted one of the Goblins fired his crossbow and then ran to the corner where a gong was set up. He banged the gong and screamed that the PCs were here until the Rogue moved into the room and made him stop.
This room was clearly some kind of storage room. There were crates, boxes, barrels and other miscellaneous goods stacked in one corner. As the PCs entered the room one of the players said “I’ll bet there are Goblins hiding in the barrels.” However, on his turn he didn’t take any sort of action to prove or disprove this thought. The party merely focused on the four Goblins in front of them. No one commented that the previous two Goblin units were made up of six while this group only had four.
The fight continued for a few rounds with the PCs and Goblins exchanging blows. The Goblins inflicted additional damage if they had combat advantage and maneuvered around the room to get flanking bonuses almost every round. The PCs wisely grouped themselves together with their backs to the barrels limiting flanking positions. Of course, this was when the two Goblins hiding in the barrels jumped out and gave their opponents opposite the heroes the flanking bonuses they wanted.
By the fourth round two of the original Goblins were down and the other two who were in plain sight all along were both bloodied. However, this was when seven more Goblins arrived in the hallway and now pinned the heroes between two forces. (The seventh Goblin was the one who fled from last week’s fight.)
The party had to pull out the big guns and use action points and daily powers to get out of this one. None of them fell unconscious as the mowed through all the Goblins, but they did expend a lot of resources. In the end the PCs were victorious but that one quick Goblin who fled last week managed to flee again.
The Crag Cats
The party desperately needed another short rest. They wanted to rest in the room where they’d just faced all those Goblins, but the door was demolished during the combat. They decided to go back one room and rest in there with the door securely shut.
After five minutes they exited cautiously, not knowing if another contingent of Goblins were waiting for them out in the main hall. The coast was clear so they move fast and quietly down the passage towards unfamiliar territory. They didn’t get far before they spotted a huge Crag Cat blocking the passage ahead. When they looked back another one blocked the passage behind them. They were trapped.
The Barbarian and Paladin turned and charged the Crag Cat behind them. The Cavalier and Rogue faced the one directly ahead. The Warlock skulked down a side passage and into the room where the party faced the Goblins.
In order to make the Crag Cats more challenging I gave them reach 1, cold resistance, and a cold breath weapon like dragon breath. These changes were unexpected when they became known to the party and made the combat a lot more interesting. They faced regular Crag Cats before so they thought they knew what was in store; they were wrong.
When the Crag Cat ahead was bloodied, a Human made his presence known from farther down the passage. He rushed up to the Crag Cat, whispered soothing words into his ear, and did a Heal check to trigger the monster’s Second Wind. The PCs were not impressed. (I love having intelligent monsters heal one another this way.)
The heroes were taking a pounding from the Cats and things looked grim. When the Warrior (Rycher) squeezed past the Crag Cat and joined the melee it looked like some of the PC might not make it through.
It should be noted that my DM dice were red hot. I rolled at least eight natural 20s on my main black die and at least five 19s on my secondary pink die. All night I was hitting and hitting hard. Meanwhile the players were rolling terribly. The Paladin only rolled a few hits all night. The Halfling Rogue used his Second Chance when I rolled a 16 only to have the next roll come up 20. Later he had me reroll a 20 which came up 19 and then I rolled maximum damage.
But as the night neared its end my dice cooled down a bit and the players’ dice warmed up when they needed it most. They dropped both Cats while the creatures had PCs held in their grasp. In both cases if the monster had lived one more round the grabbed PC would have fallen unconscious. Fortunately this did not happen.
The Cavalier managed to keep the Warrior occupied, but he gladly took the automatic damage and the -2 to attack to target the softer PCs after missing the defender a few times in a row. With only one opponent remaining the Rogue easily maneuvered to get a flanking bonus and finally got to show how awesome he is when he gets his sneak dice. The heroes defeated the Warrior and then took a short rest.
We didn’t really advance the story forward much this week but we had a thrilling 3-hour, non-stop combat session that everyone loved. It was a lot of fun and a really let the players showcase the combat side of their PCs. Sometimes people forget how big a part of D&D the combat is.
As the DM I had to adjust the monsters enough to make it challenging without overwhelming the PCs. They did a good job of holding their own and not expending too many resources unnecessarily. By my count they’ve now completed 6 combat encounters with only four short rests. They’re running on empty now and have at least one more challenging encounter ahead of them before they’ll get an extended rest. It will be tough but I think they’ll have a lot of fun.
Next week I’m going to level the party after they finish in the Verbeeg Lair. This will mark the end of Act 2 and the transition into Act 3. I have no doubt that the party will complete Act 3 and the adventure in the two remaining weeks.
How is the adventure going with your group? Have you completed Act 2? If not do you think you’ll be able to finish the adventure in the time remaining? What level is everyone at this point? Any suggestions for beefing up the confrontation in Act 3 if it looks like my players might get through it faster than I expect?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
Recounting Encounters is a weekly podcast I record with fellow Toronto DM, Crag 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.