D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 8.)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 16, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverAfter a three week break we finally returned to Icewind Dale to pick up where we left off before Christmas. When we last played the party overwhelmed Hammerstone, knocking him unconscious despite his guards’ best effort to overtake the heroes. But before the PCs could revel in their victory Zombies entered the Halls of Black Ice and attacked indiscriminately. The PCs grabbed the unconscious Hammerstone and fled down an unknown passage, deeper into the Dwarven mines.

This week at Harry T North in Toronto we were back in business. My table had all five players for the first time since the launch weekend. The other three DMs all had full or near-full attendance at their tables too. My party, which is running 4e and is currently level 4, consisted of a Dragonborn Cavalier, Tiefling Paladin, Revenant (Eladrin) Assassin, Halfling Rogue and Gnoll Barbarian. I’ve been using Hengar as an NPC to round out the party during the past few weeks, so technically he was still around but I didn’t use him this week.

The Mines

After running blindly through the Dwarven mines and leaving any pursuing Zombies far behind, the party finally stopped and took a short rest. During their rest they decided to remove Hammerstone’s Black Ice armor. Dressed only in his small clothes, Hammerstone was tied up to prevent his escape once he awoke.

The armor was not easily transported once removed but the party felt it was too valuable to leave behind. The Assassin decided to claim the helmet, gauntlets and boots, and left the remaining pieces on the ground. The Cavalier took Hammerstone’s Black Ice maul, but decided not to use it for now. Instead he stowed it safely in his backpack.

Accompanying the party was one of Hammerstone’s followers, a Dwarf named Tobin. Tobin was a craftsman, not a warrior. Although he was unfamiliar with this area of the mines, he felt that his innate Dwarven affinity for being underground and sensing directions would help the party find their way out. They party agreed to let Tobin stay with them for now and he agreed to act as guide.

The party wandered through the mines for a couple of hours with no sign that they were getting closer to an exit. For a brief second the Assassin thought he heard the faint sound of metal tapping on metal. However, none of the other PCs heard anything. Convinced that he heard something, the Assassin insisted the party head towards the source of the sounds.

The Nexus

Eventually the party reached a tunnel lined with cart tracks. Following them led to a central chamber that Tobin called the Nexus. Scattered around the Nexus was a wealth of mining gear including picks, shovels, hammers and chisels, carts, and rations.

It was evident that a battle recently took place here. Dropped weapons and spatters of dried blood were on the floor. However, there were no bodies anywhere.

The Barbarian dropped Hammerstone on the floor, gripped his weapon in both hands and cautiously moved into the chamber. The glow from the Cavalier’s Sunsword lit the room and the light shone down the numerous mineshafts branching out from the Nexus. The PCs spotted Dwarven Zombies shambling towards them from two.

As the combat began the party heard the sounds of eerie laughter echoing from all the surrounding mineshafts. The Barbarian, Assassin, and Rogue all teamed up on the closest Zombie and dropped him in one round. However, when the Zombie’s turn rolled around in the initiative it stood back up and attacked the PCs again.

The Paladin and Cavalier moved to engage the Zombies coming from another mineshaft. These Zombies fell with one hit, but they too arose when their turn in the initiative came around. These Zombie minions seemed easy to knock down but they wouldn’t stay dead.

Fortunately for the PCs the Zombies were not having much luck. (I roll 8 or less a dozen times with my attack rolls including four 1s). When the Zombies finally did manage to score a hit they did a lot of damage and grabbed their enemies. Rather than try to escape, the PCs instead just attacked and killed the Zombies.

After the two non-minion Zombies were destroyed the first time, the Barbarian decided to see what other threats may be lurking about. He left the Assassin and Rogue to take out the reanimated Zombies knowing that they’d become minions. Moving away from the congestion to get a better view down the other mineshafts the Barbarian rolled a Perception check. He didn’t spot any other combatants, but he did notice Hammerstone trying to sneak away.

Unbeknownst to the party, Hammerstone had awoken before they’d reached the Nexus but pretended to still be unconscious. When the fighting started he rolled a Strength check to break the rope bonds. I rolled a 19, which combined with his great Dwarven strength easily broke the ropes. He’d spent a few rounds slowly crawling away as to not draw attention to himself. However, now that a PC was actively looking in his direction his ruse was discovered.

Hammerstone stood up and ran down the nearest mineshaft. The Barbarian wasted no time charging Hammerstone and hitting him hard. The Assassin moved to attack Hammerstone and allowed a nearby Zombie to take an opportunity attack as he did (which missed, of course). Tobin couldn’t stand to see Hammerstone fight the PCs without armor or weapon so he handed friend and leader his only weapon, a meager pick.

encounters-16-npc-akarThe Assassin was so outraged at this betrayal he attacked Tobin and knocked him out. The Barbarian had no trouble hitting Hammerstone and knocking him unconscious before he could retaliate or flee. From down the mineshaft where Hammerstone was heading the Barbarian noticed an undead creature in spellcaster’s robes.

Without waiting, the Barbarian used his action point to charge the new opponent but missed. The Necromancer used his Horrific Visage to send waves of psychic energy at the Barbarian forcing him to flee at top speed on his next turn. Before any other PCs could get deep enough into the mineshaft to engage him, the Necromancer disappeared, but his laughter continued to reverberate throughout the Nexus.

Aftermath in the Nexus

It only took a few more rounds for the party to dispatch the remaining Zombie minions. Once they were sure the undead would not rise again they started searching the area. The Barbarian started by righting the overturned carts and putting them back on the tracks.

Hiding beneath one of the carts was a terrified Dwarven miner. He screamed and shouted when the PCs discovered him. After all, the three closest PCs were a Gnoll, Tiefling, and Dragonborn – all scary looking races. The Cavalier used soothing words and a great Diplomacy check to calm the Dwarf down and get him talking.

His name was Paldrinor (Pal) Granitehelm and he was part of a mining expedition from Battlehammer Hold. A few days earlier his crew was attacked by Zombies and an undead spellcaster. As each Dwarf was killed the Necromancer used his magic to animate them and have them join his army. Pal managed to hide and waited for them to leave. He’s been here since then too terrified to leave. Fortunately there were some rations and water among the mining supplies but they’re almost gone now.

Meanwhile the Assassin was doing his beast to scare the now conscious Tobin. The PC accused the NPC of betraying them. He demanded Tobin’s obedience and assistance leading them out of here.

Pal spoke up and told the Assassin from across the room that he could lead them back to Battlehammer Hold. He suggested they leave immediately. The Assassin, now holding a knife to Tobin’s throat, gave him one last chance to admit his betrayal and swear loyalty to the party. Tobin refused and the Assassin slit his throat.

The Cavalier was the only PC close enough to sense the Assassin’s pending action but couldn’t beat his initiative and watched is horror and disbelief as their companion murdered an unarmed man for no good reason.

The good aligned Assassin had been teetering on the edge of his alignment since the adventure began, often acting in ways that were questionable if not out right evil. This act was a step too far. The magic contained in the pieces of Hammerstone’s Black Ice armor in the Assassin’s backpack activated with the murder of an innocent man. The Assassin was transformed into a Black Ice Zombie, much like the Dwarven miners they’d encounter over the past two sessions.

Because the Assassin was already a Revenant his transformation into a Zombie was not immediately evident. I allowed each PC to make a Perception check to notice the change, but none made it (the best roll was a 9).

I told the player running the Assassin that he immediately felt the party members were his enemies. They were out to get him and wanted the armor in his backpack. He also felt a bringing desire to acquire the Black Ice maul in the Cavalier’s possession and was convinced that the Cavalier didn’t want him to have it. I gave the Assassin a surprise round and then had everyone roll initiative.

During the surprise round the Assassin used a ranged power to badly wound the Cavalier, leaving him with only 3 hit points. The party had yet to receive the benefits of a short rest and most were still bloodied. The Cavalier almost won initiative for he first time ever, but the Assassin beat him. The Assassin teleported next to the Cavalier and attacked him. In an amazing stroke of luck for team heroes, the Assassin rolled a 1. The Cavalier managed to use a healing power and then unloaded on the Zombie PC with a powerful radiant attack. The Barbarian and Paladin both missed on their attacks. If the Rogue missed too, the Assassin might escape, or kill a PC. But the Rogue did hit and scored enough damage to drop the Assassin.

The player running the Assassin asked if he got a “get back up” roll like the other Zombies. This seemed fair. He needed a 15 or better. He rolled an 8 so he stayed dead.

It was a hollow victory since the PCs was dead, but it did eliminate the pending threat. The PCs took their short rest to heal. During that time the Necromancer’s laughter still echoed through the Nexus from time to time. Pal told the PCs that most of the Zombies and the Necromancer had headed towards the Temple and he pointed down a mineshaft indicating the direction.

The heroes spent a long time debating whether or not they should go to the Temple to confront the Necromancer right now. In the end they realized that if they did so Pal would not accompany them. Without him they feared they’d never escape the mines. In the end they decided to let Pal show them the way to Battlehammer Hold.

As they moved away from the Nexus the Necromancer taunted them. He called them cowards. He embellished his victory over them, clamming ultimate power over the mines. Among his boasts was mention that he held power over the towns on Lac Dinneshire. This concerned the PCs since they knew Hammerstone sent crates of Back Ice goods to nearby Easthaven.

Battlehammer Hold

When the PCs arrived at the guard station they were not greeted warmly. After all this rag-tag group carried three limp bodies over their shoulders: the Assassin, Tobin, and the unconscious Hammerstone. Pal tried to vouch for them but was unsuccessful. The guards escorted the PCs to a holding cell while they sent for an interrogator and more guards.

Eventually a Cleric arrived. She explained that she was going to perform a ritual that would allow her to detect lies told in this room. The party did not object. Once the ritual was completed she asked them a series of questions and they explained what had happened so far.

She was very concerned about how the party was treating Hammerstone, including why he was unconscious, naked and bound. They explained as best hey could and the interrogator said she’d confirm their story with Hammerstone once he awoke.

Eventually the PCs brought up their relationship with Hilda Silverstream. Upon mentioned her name the guards sent for her. When she arrived she vouched for the PCs. She explained that they would have to leave their gear and weapons here if they wanted to get into the Dwarven community. She explicitly told them that if they had any items of Black Ice they must remove them and leave them here.

encounters-16-npc-stokelySoon after the party met Stokely Silverstream, the clan leader. Again they explained what had happened so far during their adventures. Stokely thanked them for their efforts to stop the Necromancer. He’d lost a lot of his people recently to the spellcaster and was planning to abandon the mines and head to Easthaven where he hoped to find temporary refuge for his clan. He indented to gather additional forces and return with greater numbers to purge any undead creatures from his mines.

The PCs didn’t want to wait. They wanted to return to the Temple where they hoped to face and defeat the villain immediately. Stokely gave them permission but strongly urged them to wait. If they fell he’d have to fight them when he returned as they’d surely be transformed into Zombies just as their friend had been. That convinced them to wait.

The party rested overnight in the Dwarven Hold and in the morning left with them for Easthaven.


With only five weeks remaining my biggest concern is how to get the PCs from where they are (the beginning of Act 2) to the conclusion (the end of Act 3). The only way I can think to do this is to a) cut out entire sections of the adventure, or b) railroading them into certain actions that will lead them where they need to be. I’m not wild about either option, but we’ll see how things play out.

This week I decided to kill a PC. It wasn’t something I planned or intended to do, but as the adventure played out it seemed like the right choice based on circumstance. In the past when we’ve had a TPK or a hero had died valiantly in the throws of combat I’d allowed the player to bring that PC back the next week (look, he had a twin brother who was the same class!). I will not be doing that this time. I told the player that he needed to create a new PC from the ground up. This PC didn’t fit in with the party and the way the player chose to play him was erratic and disruptive. I’m all for interesting or quirky PCs but in this case the PC wasn’t working.

How is your campaign progressing? I spoke with some DMs from another FLGS where I used to play and they’ve decided to forego next season and just keep running this one until the party finishes. Has anyone else considered working outside of the timelines Wizards provided for this season in order to get it done? Regarding my PC kill, has anyone had a similar experience where they’ve had to kill a PC?

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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1 Joe January 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

Wow, what a crazy game last night. We had enough players for 3 tables at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. Unfortunately, one of our 3 DMs was sick, so I ended up agreeing to run a table of 9 (!) players. I’m still recovering from the 3 hour game the morning after. We ran 4e, by the way.

The party had just stopped the politician/back-of-pirates Vaelish Gant and had just reached level 3 after a long rest in the home of dwarven blacksmith Graendel. Following up on rumors of “the wizard of the black ice returning” and an increase in black ice items coming from the northeast, the party took a note of introduction from Graendel and headed in the direction of Kelvin’s Cairn, towards the valley of the dwarves.

Before they left, I let each player describe one thing they were doing in town. Activities ranged from finding scrimshaw nick-nacks to getting a (nonmagical) tattoo to purchasing gift-ale for the dwarves to starting a bar fight. I had a lot of success just forgetting dice rolls and letting descriptions serve the drama. For the barfight itself, I jumped ahead to have the party on the boat, beaten and battered but possibly victorious, with nobody really sure who “won” the bar fight, but everyone feeling like they’d done their fair share of scrapping.

On the boat I stuck a dragonborn bard (actually a PC from my home game) who regaled the party with tales of Drizz’t & Wulfgar fighting Icingdeath (for any players who hadn’t read the book themselves), which set the stage for one of the places they’ll eventually end up.

On the road to Kelvin’s Cairn after docking in the closest town, the party ran into a bunch of not-too-happy bear-clan barbarians (nobody asked why they were unhappy, though… just killed them) who started a decent combat. I had to be pretty strict as a DM to keep this fight from lasting forever. There were 8 PCs and 7 enemies (4 skirmishers, 2 soldiers, & a controller). The group split up fairly evenly across the map, and eventually worked into a 2-on-1 vs whatever enemy that section focused on to whiddle down the foes until only the barbarian shaman remained.

I implemented a strict no-cross-chatter rule at the table (which mostly stuck) to keep things moving. I also ran initiative with a “you’re up, and you’re on deck” method so that the next player could be ready with her action when her turn arrived. I also played kind of fast and loose with the enemy hit points, letting 2 solid hits bloody a foe. Even with that, low die rolls on the part of the PCs kept the enemies up and fighting longer than I might have expected. I had all but 2 of the players bloodied at one point or another in the fight, and 1 player dropped to dying twice (not that I measure my DMing by how close I get to killing PCs… it’s just worth noting). Fortunately, the proliferation of players (though only 1 leader and 1 paladin with some healing) let folks heal one another (or make Heal checks to enable 2nd winds) and everyone ended the fight feeling like they’d been through a tough ordeal, but still ended up being useful (and ultimately victorious) in the fight.

Next week they’ll deal with the dwarves.

2 Joe January 16, 2014 at 11:07 am

Regarding next season, our FLGS is of the mindset that WotC has pretty much abandoned stores with the Encounters program (if there are no physical products to sell related to the season, what incentive is there to keep promoting this brand that continues to cut-out the FLGS middlemen and offer things online only?). As such, we’ll be doing a generic “Fantasy Roleplaying” night on Wednesdays, where each table will do its own thing. We might have a Pathfinder table, or a 13th Age table, or something else entirely. None of us plan on using a still-unfinished version of the NEXT rules that we’ll have to pay to download.

As for me, I intend on purchasing the Scourge of the Sword Coast PDF, then converting & running the basic idea of that adventure (or whatever pithy offerings they put into it) as a 4e game that continues from the last 2 seasons. So folks will start at level 4, and they can use their character from either Baldur’s Gate or Crystal Shard (or make a new lvl 4 character) to try and make folks feel like they’re still somehow a part of this Sundering hullaballoo.

3 Brian Criswell January 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

After saving Bryn Shander from the Ice Witch’s army of yetis, Bear Tribe warriors and Icingdeath, the party had to find Duvessa, the speaker of Bryn Shander, before the elections that evening. After doing some searching around the city, they decided to head to the Speaker’s Palace to inquire about a package that Slim had delivered there that morning. Lurch the butler answered the door (“You raaang.”). After not getting very far with talking, they decided to have the druid shapeshift into a cute housecat with a bow in its hair and sit on the door step while the party rang the doorbell. Lurch found the kitty, “Not again. I guess I will put it upstairs with the other presents.” He placed the druid/kitty on Duvessa’s desk next to the letter from Vaelish Gant. The druid player then had to fold the letter up into eigths with closed fists to simulate paws and place the note in his mouth and get out of the palace. The party puzzled on who the arcane mark on the sodden letter belonged to, when one player crit his insight check and remembered seeing that mark on a door.

While half of the party dithered about what to do at the front door, the other half went to the back door and let themselves in. They saw a long hall with a large set of doors on the other end. As the neared the doors, they hear a knock, and they let their party in the front door. After some failed door break checks that injured the two half orcs, plus being fried on the warded door, there was no chance the kidnappers inside were being surprised. Finally the dwarven mage (with heavy armor feat) opened the door and waded in. The elven ranger followed right behind. Then the kidnappers got to go.

The 8 thugs (reskinned human warchiefs) surrounded the two intruders. 21 AC protected the mage, but the ranger was dropped. Slim escaped out the window. The other mage stood in the doorway and cast a fireball centered on the other mage and shaped it around him and the fallen ranger. Unfortunately, he did not shape it around himself or an ally right behind him. They were caught in the blast. Within a round the party had filled the room, killed all but one of the thugs and healed the ranger. The last thug called out, “Ship Rethnor, you better get in here!” and dropped a smoke bomb. He almost made it to the window before he was cut down. The party thought they had won. Then the fun began.

They heard a skittering sound in the smoke before each character felt rats run up their legs and into their armor. I had been trying to figure out how to spice up this encounter, and this worked. As the smoke cleared the party had to fight 6 wererats (reskinned werewolves) and 6 rats in their pants (one for each character). I gave the rats advantage for being inside the armor, and those rats did as well or better than the wererats outside. One half orc fighter was crit by a rat twice for a combined 21 damage, and he fell to 0 hp. For a while, I was concerned that I was looking at a TPK. The party was already weary from stopping the army at the gates, but they pulled it together and nobody died.

The best humor of the night came from the characters trying to deal with the rats. Two characters managed to pull the rats out and squeeze them to death. The druid had one time been partially turned into a horse for standing in a magical pasture. He had one long ear, a slightly elongated face and an enhancement. He now wore a kilt. He just shook around and the rat fell down dead. One mage used shocking grasp on himself and heard a “POP” in his armor. The half orcs ignored their rats until the rest of the fighting was over. I kept the initiative order and gave everyone the option of helping the last two with their rat problem. I screwed up and let the mage use shocking grasp on one of the players without their permission, but the half orc settled it. And the other mage cast sleep on the final half orc’s pants. The half orc barbarian now has a spread eagle rat imprinted on the face of his maul.

I had just taken over as DM of our group last week. This was my fourth DM session as I had subbed two other times, and I have only started playing D&D since week five of Murder in Baldur’s Gate, but the evening went fantastically well and everyone had a good time.

We have 4 weeks left to February 12. There will be some railroading to get everything finished up. The party will spend two sessions dealing with the pirates, one at the Verbeeg’s Lair and one dealing with the ice witch. I have been trying to figure out how to make the puny spellcasters in the bestiary work against my level 4/5 group. They are up around 2400 experience for a tough encounter. I think Auril is going to pull a Rita Repulsa and cause her Chosen to grow into a Frost Giant.

4 Brian Criswell January 16, 2014 at 11:41 am

As for what is next for our group. We have been playing Next and enjoying the faster combat a lot. This is good because the large number of lower level enemies needs the faster combat. But my group wants a break from the rushed stories with too much to do.

So I think we will have a change of pace and play the Mines of Madness. After that, one of our players is going on deployment, and I think we might have a movie night of “Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising” and give him a sendoff. Then one of the players, a grizzled veteran of every edition of D&D, has suggested a long running campaign called Age of Worms. We figure with the bounded accuracy rules of Next, it should be fairly simple to modify it to Next rules.

5 Hammerbeard January 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Absolutely agree on the running out of time thing. My group missed 1 week over holidays & 1 week because I couldn’t make it out. So at “Week 8” we are playing our 6th session and have only made it through the first 3 days on the calendar timeline. I have decided to ignore the Encounters restraints and carry on this adventure past the deadline. That will mean we will have to go play somewhere else but I think it will be fine. Plus with the next Encounters being PDF only I don’t think my current store is going to have anyone running it, I know I’m not going to. Which is quite upsetting because I had planned to collect all the Sundering Adventure sets.

6 Hammerbeard January 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Oh another point I wanted to add. Yes on the killing a PC who doesn’t fit in. I have a PC in my group who I simply can’t stand. I know that’s all bad & wrong but I just can’t. I want to kill his character off but I feel bad just doing it too obviously. I’d kick him out of the group, but with this being a public encounters thing I figure I’d get slack from the store owner on that.

7 Spykes January 16, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I think you may be off on the number of session remaining. From what I can see, we only have 3 weeks remaining; Jan. 22nd, 29th, & Feb 5th. On the 12th we have character creation for the next season, which begins with Game day on Sat. Feb 15th.

8 Brian Criswell January 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I was going off of Wizards’ site. It mentions that this season goes through 2/12. Maybe I missed something.

As it is, we have not used a character generation day in a while now, preferring to get one more gaming session in. People who need help creating a character get plenty of help when they arrived.

I had been having trouble posting to threads during the holidays. I am glad that is fixed now!

9 Greyson January 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm

According to the Scourge of the Sword Coast solicitation from Wizards of the Coast, the next season’s launch is Saturday and Sunday, 15-16 February. They recommend character creation then. The regular season for SotSC begins Wednesday, 19 February. So, Legacy of the Crystal Shard ends, officially, Wednesday, 12 February. We have four session left for LofCS.

Anyway, looking forward to finishing LotCS and moving on to SotSC with D&D 4E. It’s worked well for us, despite some characters that are more villainous then the adventure’s actual bad guys.

10 Joe January 17, 2014 at 9:19 am

Regarding killing a difficult PC, sometimes that’s the only option. I have a sometimes disruptive 12-year-old at my table who is often fine, but sometimes does overly violent things like decapitating the body of the enemy the party has just killed. Since they were human barbarians they fought this week, I let him know that in the swirling snows he kept seeing her form for a second (he’s effectively haunted), and when they get to an area with more barbarians, I’m going to have him run into her family… so that hopefully he’ll realize that this isn’t a video game, and that taking joy in killing has consequences for the character you’re acting out.

11 Vobekhan January 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

We ran this session a little rail-roady as mentioned in my blog write up as we want to finish in time for the next season.
That being said, once I had explained this to the players they were more than happy to “get on with it”.
With regards character creation for next season, the launch events usually take it that you do that at the table on launch date – though once our group has the relevent information I usually let my players create their pc’s beforehand and bring them on the day to save time.
As to killing the pc, as it fit the story line I dont see a problem, indeed with the way my players are going they’re going to do that job for me with our tiefling mage/paladin situation – while I always say no evil characters if they choose to play chaotic and take the risk of antagonising others then so be it.
As always, it’s great to read the different approaches to how these games are being run, has anyone heard of them using 3.5 as yet as I’ve only noticed 4e and Next myself?

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