D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 9)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 23, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverWhile wandering aimlessly through the Dwarven mines, the PCs were ambushed by Black Ice Zombies last week. They fought the good fight and defeated the undead creatures but in the aftermath of the battle the party’s Revenant Assassin was overcome by the Black Ice’s evil influences. He attacked the party and they were forced to kill him.

Eventually the PCs found their way to Battlehammer Hold where they learned that Stokely Silverstream was preparing his people for a mass exodus of the mines. They would head to Easthaven to take temporary refuge from the undead threat while they mounted ample forces to return and wipe out the Necromancer, the source of the undead problem.

Our attendance has been very consistent after a missing a couple of weeks over the holiday and then a rocky first week back. We ran four full tables at Harry T North in Toronto. My table is using the 4e rules and is currently level 4. One of our regular players was absent, but another player brought a friend so we had a full table of five. The party consisted of: a Dragonborn Cavalier, Tiefling Paladin, Gnoll Barbarian, Tiefling Warlock and Drow Ranger (Hunter). One of the tables running D&D Next had a new player as well this week so we are still getting walk ins, even into the ninth week of the season.

With only four weeks left in the season we still have a lot of ground to cover. Realistically there’s no way we can get everything done (which is unfortunate). So at the beginning of this week’s session I explained the situation to my players and suggested they let me narrate a bunch of stuff to move the story forward. They agreed.

Act 2: Deepwinter

Act two is divided into two parts. I decided to try and summarize the high points of the first part in order to get the PCs into the second part as quickly as possible. Here’s the short, short version of what happened. Picture it as a montage of sorts.

Part 1: Pirates of Lac Dinneshere

The PCs accompanied the Dwarves from the valley to the nearby town of Easthaven. As they approached the town a small advanced patrol came out to meet them to determine their intentions. After all, when 100+ Dwarves come a calling, you’d better make sure they’re friendly.

Stokely Silverstream explained the situation and the patrol returned to Easthaven to advise the townsfolk. Two of the members of the patrol took particular interest in the PCs, especially when they added details about the dangers of Black Ice when speaking to the patrol. A Tiefling and Drow identified themselves as citizens of Easthaven with adventuring experience who happened to be helping the patrol today. They wanted to know more about the experience the PCs had with the Black Ice so the Warlock invited the party to dine with them that evening. The party cautiously agreed.

I gave the players a chance to role-play the PC intros over dinner and then I hand waved the next few days and just explained what happened in Easthaven.

Raid on the Docks

The presence of Black Ice trinkets in Easthaven was making a lot of the townsfolk suspicious, aggressive, and violent. With the streets becoming more volatile a band of pirates took advantage of the chaos and attacked the harbor. They made it all the way to the town’s armory where they stole arms and armor. Unfortunately the PCs weren’t in the right vicinity of this event to intercede.

Part 2: Fangs of the Frostmaiden

Meanwhile the Dwarves from Battlehammer Hold found refuge in a few barns on the outskirts of Easthaven. They’d witnessed the violence in the town and knew the Black Ice was bad news so they kept to themselves for the most part. They even posted guards to keep an eye on the perimeter of the barns where the Dwarves were staying.

One night while on guard duty, two different Dwarf patrols spotted a pair of very large Craig Cats prowling near the town. In the morning numerous people were found torn to pieces. The PCs were brought in to investigate.

The Dwarves described the cats as unusually large and using tactics that seemed beyond mere instinct. It was as if they’d been trained or were being controlled. This got the PCs’ attention. They decided to track the Craig Cats back to their lair, hoping to ambush them before they could kill again.

The Verbeeg Lair

The party’s newest member, the Ranger, had no trouble tracking the Craig Cats across the frozen tundra and up the side of the mountain. However, as the terrain became more rocky and less snowy he lost the trail. He guessed that the Cats were likely nearby so the party was on full alert.

When the PCs left Easthave and began tracking the Craig Cats, the Cavalier decided to summon his Celestial Mount. This was the first time he’d felt he had suitable opportunity to do so since he got the power a few sessions ago. When I pressed the player to name the horse he drew a blank, so I dubbed the horse Clipity-Clop. The whimsical name drew laughs and immediately stuck.

Front Entrance

As the party continued following the curves and contours of the cliffside they happened to catch a whiff of smoke. Before they could determine the exact source they were attacked by Goblins hiding in the nearby rocks and snow. Only the Ranger’s keen senses (and amazing Perception) allowed him to avoid the ambush.

The Goblins fired crossbows at the PCs and then three of the six slid down from their elevated position to engage in melee. As they descended, they slid down the frozen slow fully upright. The PCs had to give them style points for looking so cool doing it.

During the first two rounds the PCs and Goblins exchanged blows. The Barbarian easily climbed up to where the archers were nestled but had trouble hitting any of them with his hammer. The Goblins had there way with the Warlock and Ranger but couldn’t get through the defenders’ high ACs. After the first Goblin fell and two others were locked down by the defenders, one of the remaining Goblins who had thus far avoided taking any damage decided to flee through an open door to get reinforcements. The Ranger shot and killed a nearby Goblin, then ran to get a better vantage on the one running away. Using his action point he shot the fleeing Goblin with a power that slowed. The natural 20 nearly killed the fresh monster, but it did slow him. Unfortunately on his next turn the Goblin merely closed and barred the doors.

The Warlock ran to the doors hoping he could pick the lock or smash the doors down. He quickly realized that neither of those options would work without help so he called for the Barbarian’s aid.

The Barbarian managed to kill his nearest Goblin opponent and then decided to slide down like they did earlier. He needed to make a successful Acrobatics check. He was rolling on a 3. But he got an 18 so he did it and looked awesome the whole way down. When he reached the level where the doors were he was still too far away to get there this round.

The Cavalier decided to have Clipity-Clop ram the doors. The Warlock managed to get out of the way just in time and the mount crashed through the doors. Once inside the PCs spotted six more Goblins (plus the one the Ranger critted). Clipity-Clop charged ahead and trampled three, wounding all of them badly.

The Paladin was having the worst luck with his attacks. He rolled a natural 20 for initiative and then rolled nothing above 5 for the next 45 minutes. He even borrowed another player’s hot dice only to cool them off in a hurry. With his pride on the line the Paladin insisted he could take down the one Goblin he’d locked down in the first round so the rest of the party followed Clipity-Clop inside. It took the Paladin another three rounds to kill the Goblin.

Barracks

Inside, the Goblins were startled by the unexpected Celestial Horse that came crashing through the front door. The party managed to get good positioning on the monsters and wasted no time killing them. One observant Goblin realized his brethren were doomed after six of six attacks missed Clipity-Clop in one round. This Goblin crawled down the far passage and then finally got to his feet and ran away.

The Paladin managed to join the party just as the mopping up was happening. The remaining Goblins were all down to 5 hit points or less and dropped with any hit. By the time all the Goblins were killed three of the five PCs were well below their bloodied value and two had already used their Second Wind.

The Goblin who fled was only one round ahead of the PCs. The party could give chase or take a short rest and regroup before going deeper into the Verbeeg Lair. They decided to rest so we called it there for this week. Next week they’ll continue exploring and likely face a lot more combat.

Thoughts

I really didn’t want to gloss over such a big part of the story but in the interest of time there really wasn’t any other option. I think the party would have enjoyed the pirate section and going out on the lake to pursue the bad guys but it would have taken way too long. My feeling was that it’s more important to move things along and give the PCs a chance to get to the end of the adventure by the last session.

When the PCs finally got to the Verbeeg Lair they certainly had a lot of fun. The Celestial Mount was a great addition and proved to be a powerful ally. Well see how good he is inside the confined quarters next week.

My hope is that the party will clear out the Lair by the end of next week. That will give them two sessions to complete Act 3. It will be tight, but I think they’ll have a good chance of finishing without being too rushed.

With three weeks to go where is your party? Do you think you’ll finish in the time remaining? What are DMs planning to do to get to the end on time? What level are your PCs now? Has anyone suffered PC deaths this season? Any TPKs?

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe January 23, 2014 at 9:54 am

We had decent crowds at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. We had 3 tables of 4-6, all running 4e.

At my table, the party has dealt with the politician Vaelish Gant, and were on a quest to discover the source of the Black Ice in the Dwarven Valley. After a lot of parley back-&-forth with Stokely Silverstream, the party eventually decided to take their symbol of the (famous & old) blacksmith Graendel to “the dark side” of the valley to try and convince Baerick Hammerstone to turn back from his dangerous ways.

Of course, Hammerstone would have none of that, and (wearing plate mail made entirely of black ice) decided to attack them. The party had a pretty epic fight, mainly due to low party rolls and high enemy rolls, and I had my first actual character death in my 11 seasons of Encounters. Not that I take any joy in it, but it was an interesting moment for the rest of the party, seeing their dragonborn paladin friend completely lifeless on the ground.

When they finished, I talked it over with the player of the dead character, and we agreed that the dwarves from the other side of the valley could come by to resurrect him, though he’d suffer the “death penalty” of -1 to his d20 rolls till he’d taken 3 extended rests. He thought this was preferable to rolling up a new character, and liked the idea of the energy of death slowing him down a little, much like Buffy in those episodes after Willow had resurrected her in BTVS.

The party found a secret door beneath Baerick’s throne, which lead to a tunnel completely coated in black ice. Next week they’ll head down to face off against the source of the black ice (Akar Kessel), and will then take an extended rest (though they’ll stay at level 3). After that I plan on 2 big finale episodes, one vs. the dragon & Ice Witch simulacrum, and then a final battle against the actual Ice Witch herself on Feb 12.

I was pleased to see that next season will, at the very least, be offered free to stores that are registered for Encounters (one free download, that is), so my plan for my table is to take the basics of that adventure and bump it up for 4th level PCs (still 4e), so that folks can take players from Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate and use this as a sort of continuation season. The level conversion shouldn’t be too hard, and the overall plot line so far seems pretty simple (monsters are attacking a town, you need to defend the town). While we’re still not “happy” with the direction Encounters has been taking, we’re doing what we can to keep players coming in the door and to keep introducing new folks to the game.

2 Arcanist Supreme January 23, 2014 at 11:10 am

I ran this adventure in my home campaign, start to finish. If the PCs take the “shortcut” in Act 2 to get to Act 3 (which they seem to be near), Act 3 can be done in one session.

3 Hammerbeard January 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Yeah I kind of wish I had just bought this and used it for a home campaign. Where I play we get a very irregular turnout. This store is the only one in Tallahassee that runs Encounters and we usually get just enough people for 1 table. My table has varied from 9-4 players each week. I think this would be a great adventure if I could keep a solid group together for all of it and not have had the time restraints of Encounters. Also this is my first attempt at DMing ever.
As it is now, my store will no longer be doing the Encounters program so we are free to take as long as we want to complete LotCS. Which is good and bad because I may be stuck with that player I don’t want haha. My plan had been to move the game after Encounters ended to a new night & location.

4 Brian Criswell January 23, 2014 at 5:08 pm

From a high of 8 players to weeks ago, my party has shrunk to 4 consisting of Cale the human druid, Rygar the elf mage, Glod the dwarf mage and Crash the half-orc barbarian. After rescuing Duvessa and kicking Vaelish Gant out of town, the party was tasked by Duvessa to hunt down Vaelish and stop him. They had found his journal last week and went toward Lac Dinneshire to investigate what the journal mentioned about pirates. As they prepared to leave, they ran into a peddler selling Black Ice. They were very interested in talking to him, as they had found a ring as well as a breastplate and helmet in Gant’s office. The peddler fed them some rumors about it helping curb Auril’s wrath. The druid decided to buy a necklace to go with his ring. The barbarian was wearing both the helmet and breastplate.

When they made it to the fork in the road between Easthaven and Caer-Dinaeval, they dithered a bit about which way to go. While they were discussing, I told them they saw dozens of people coming toward them in the distance. When the dwarves reached the party, they explained that they were fleeing their home in the dwarven valley because it had been overrun by zombies. The party asked about the black ice they had acquired, but Stokely said they had stayed away from it. The party directed them to go to Bryn Shander and use the party’s name so they would be well received.

As the last of the dwarves passed by, the party heard a young female dwarf say, “Mommy, we need to wait for uncle Thodred to catch up.” Her mother responded, “Honey, uncle Thodred has been missing for a month. He is gone.” The little girl pointed back and said, “No, Mommy, he’s right there.” At which point her mother bundled her up and started running. The mages dropped the zombie with a couple of magic missiles. One of the mages noticed some black ice on him and wanted it for himself. So he went out to get it.

At this point the zombies came out of every bush, over every little hill and surrounded the party. I had planned on running this encounter without a tactical map, but the mage who had gone after the black ice said he was a visual person and wanted to see it. So I had the players place their minis in the middle of the battle mat and dropped 5 sets of dice around them. “There are your zombies.”

This party has 3 lvl 5 PCs and 1 level 4 pc. So crafting encounters using bounded accuracy with the available bestiary has been a bit difficult at times. I could always add more monsters, but that leads to _a_lot_ of monsters to make a decent encounter. most of the time, I have reskinned more challenging monsters to fit what is described in the adventure. Wererats have werewolves stats; the bear tribe war chief has an orc chieftain’s stats; you get the picture. This time I decided to do the encounter with actual zombies. It took 60 to make the experience threshold for an easy encounter.

Not wanting to actually have a full encounter with 60 zombies, I let the players describe what their character was going to do to deal with the zombies. Each character chose an attack, I determined what was the max number of squares that could effect, and they rolled an appropriate die to figure out how many zombies their attack hit. For example, the druid used call lightning which can affect 9 squares (hit character plus 5 ft. radius). So I had him roll a d10 to figure how many he hit plus his damage. I then rolled to see how many got back up. Most of the time, the zombies had to roll a nat 20 to get back up. The wizards used fireball, the barbarian swung his maul like a baseball bat, and eventually, they dropped the last zombie. The players enjoyed this sort of epic cracking skulls, but I would not want to run encounters this way all of the time, so I think I am stuck reskinning characters for the most part.

Eventually the decided to go to Caer-Dinaeval. They found out information about the pirates, and then continued on to Caer-Konig. There they learned more about the black ice and the ferryman who could get them to Easthaven the next day. That evening, they were visited by a very inexperienced lich that was a recurring villain I had inserted earlier for fun. The party had inadvertantly taken his phylactery with them, and he had gotten the drop on them. However I played the lich very badly. First, I rolled horribly on the cloudkill spell, then I forgot that the party could not see out of the cloud. Then I forgot to have them affected by his frightening gaze. So the party unloaded on him and dropped him before he got a second turn. Eventually, they figured out that the phylactery was in a ring of protection they had pulled off the lich last time, but another problem was brewing.

I had been informing the two black ice wearers that they had not been reacting well to various NPCs’ comments throughout the day. One of the characters said something that I told the barbarian infuriated him. At that, the players decided that the black ice was affecting his judgement, and they needed to get it off. The players agreed that a PvP brawl should ensue to try to get the items off of the characters. Eventually, after a successful hold and sleep spell, the characters were relieved of their black ice items.

The next day the party tried to get the ferryman to take them to Easthaven. Upon hearing their destination, Creedon made excuses about other clients with reservations. Once character convinced him with 50gp, and they watched as he made some mental calculations. As they neared Easthaven, they saw smoke rise from the town, and two of the PCs overheard Creedon say, “Already?” under his breath. And that is where we left it.

We covered a decent amount of ground, and I tried very hard to stay out of the party’s way in their decision about where to go. In the end, they got a good amount of RP in and almost got to where I wanted them to be even though they did not go directly to Easthaven. We have 3 sessions left. Next session, I hope they will deal with the pirates and find Vaelish Gant at the pirate cove. After that, I am going to see if I can get Glod’s permission to have his retainer (a half elf girl he calls “Granddaughter) kidnapped by the cult of Auril. That will get the party through the Verbeeg lair. Finally, a shortcut to the end and the party will fight the bear tribe king and shaman, some orcs and Akar Kessell all at the same time. Then, when Hedrun calls for Auril’s aid, Auril will turn her into a frost giant for the final battle.

Our store has outgrown the Encounters format. Specifically, we have 3 tables of people who don’t like having their adventures squeezed into 13 weeks and their characters reset to LVL 1 each time. Additionally, most of us only have enough time in our schedule to game once a week. Two of our tables abandoned LotCS already and have started a 5e conversion of Age of Worms. My table is going to finish LotCS. Then we are going to run the Mines of Madness, which I think we can finish before one of our number deploys to Qatar at the end of April. At that point we will probably start Age of Worms as well. All of us are currently keeping our Wednesday time slot and will still welcome new players.

5 Brian Criswell January 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I should add, the people in our store have enjoyed MiBG and LotCS to varying degrees, but the 13 week format has been too compressed for how much detail and possibility have been in these two adventures.

6 Vobekhan January 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

My players had been feeling unthreatened this season, not just by the poor damage output of the monsters but the over-riding threat of the Frostmaiden just didnt feel like a threat. This session has gone some way to shifting that back into the right direction.

I think the biggest problem (and partly my own fault too) was that there was no clear threat presented in the storyline, the 3 way plot worked well in Baldurs Gate but I think fell a little flat this season.

One of my players (Sunyi) said at the start of the season when he heard the name Auril “that sounds pretty, I’m going to like her” and so his tielfing bard has been a “quiet” follower of Auril, with him donning one of the cultists robes this week I’m thinking of having it awaken a latent power as a Chosen.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&DEnc 16 – Legacy of the Crystal Shard – Session 9

7 John H January 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

This is my first time writing here as I just took over my group’s table last week at Wild West Comics and Games in Arlington, Texas. Two weeks ago our table’s DM told us that he would no longer be able to be there on Wednesdays because of a school course he had just found out he had to enroll in. He kindly gave us the adventure he had paid for though and told us we could give it back to
him in a couple of months. Since no one else felt comfortable being the DM I stepped up. As I had not read one word of the adventure before that night, we had to have a dead week and wait until I had time to figure things out.

Once I read the adventure I realized we were very behind! We lost two weeks for the holidays, and now another one for our DM suddenly leaving. That means I now had four sessions to accomplish probably around six sessions’ worth of plot and encounters. Our group had just saved Duvessa Shane from Gant’s evil plot, but sadly that is all we had done the entire season. We had not even left Bryn Shander except to track the bandits to the cave. Because of this I have changed the timing around a bit on the plot involving the barbarians and Icingdeath, as the group seemed interested in that but seemed railroaded away from it by the former DM. He would also often start late and finish early, never giving us a chance to do more than one plot at a time. Because the heroes only stopped Gant, I decided to run the Interlude my first week, with the Ice Witch (sans dragon though) leading a force of barbarians and creatures to attack Bryn Shander.

I should mention that we are playing with the Next rules, and usually there is a party of six, with an extra person coming once or twice (Half Elf Druid). The six heroes are:

Human Fighter/hobo (and now part wererat)
Dwarven Cleric (War domain)
Elven Ranger
Halfling Bard
Human Barbarian (Wolf tribe)
Human Cleric (Chosen of Amaunator and Light domain, my character that I did not want to give up because I have been playing him since launch weekend; he will make his own actions in battle but not contribute to party decisions now that I am DM)

I started the session by telling the heroes they got to celebrate some. Since it was the festival of Highharvesttide and they had just rescued Duvessa the townspeople were celebrating and were buying many drinks for the Heroes of Bryn Shander. I had each player roll 2d4 to see how many drinks they had, then add this to 10. Whatever number they got was the DC against which they had to make a Constitution check to see if they were drunk. The Bard, Barbarian, and Chosen were all pretty sloshed. I had a few rumors floating around while the heroes drank too, of the Elk Tribe losing a great battle, of miners disappearing in the Dwarven Valley, and of a spooky pirate ship attacking towns on Lac Dinneshere. I had an NPC approach the heroes too about Gant’s staff (as per the hooks section in the adventure) and offer them a reward for it.

The PCs then went off to bed to sleep off their drinking and feasting. In the middle of the night though they were attacked by a small group from the Cult of the Frostmaiden, four tough thugs and an adept. I had the players roll for Perception with a DC of 15 with a – 2 for being asleep, and another – 3 for those who were drunk. Only the Ranger woke up, and he roused the player next to him, the Cleric, while shooting an arrow to break the glass window to wake up the hobo who slept outside. The thugs attempted to attack the Ranger but all missed, while the adept cast Inflict Pain on the Chosen, giving him 16 points of damage (she recognized the symbol of Amaunator around his neck). He was awake now for sure. The Ranger shot an arrow at the adept and hit her for almost half her damage. The Barbarian was now awake too, and the Hobo had come inside the room to attack a thug. The Bard though could not wake up still. The Barbarian squashed the adept to a pulp, and after another round the thugs were dead too. I told the characters that the group had a little bit of gold and were all wearing the holy symbol of Auril, which the Cleric recognized with a Religion check. The players then slept for real this time.

When they woke up there was a pounding on the door, and a messenger told them Duvessa would like them to visit her. When they arrived they saw two men in her office, one young and tall and wearing furs, the other older and balding in heavy robes. This was Folnor and Mjenir from the Elk Tribe. Folnor was angry, telling the players that it was a slaughter when the Elk Tribe tried to take on the members of the Bear tribe. This may have been my favorite moment of the night, as he made the players feel guilty and got in their faces and told them “you promised Hengar you would come help” (which they did). One player’s mouth actually opened and his eyes widened. He also told them that the remnants of the Bear Tribe, all but the very old and stubborn, had come to live in Bryn Shander for the time being and that according to scouts, a large force led by the Ice Witch was less than a day away and heading this way. I let Mjenir fill in some information on Hedrun, how she killed his son and had been exiled a year earlier from the Elk Tribe. Folnor chimed in by saying once he shot her straight through the heart, but she lived.

After this the players and Duvessa prepared for battle. Word had spread that the town would soon be under attack, and people were panicked. One group got in the player’s faces and blamed them for befriending the barbarians and for saving Duvessa, as maybe Gant would have been a better leader. One shoved the barbarian, and he almost cleaved the guy in half. However I let the players do a Perception check, a higher than normal one, and the Bard could tell these people were under some sort of spell. She also noticed they were all wearing black ice amulets. The players made them give them the amulets, compensating them with gold, but one did not want to, until a successful Intimidate check from the Barbarian changed his mind that is. The players were told they bought the amulets from a merchant in town, so the players went to visit him. A jolly dwarf named Dunric, he offered the characters cheap prices for the amulets and rings he was selling. The PCs questioned how he came to have them. He told them he was just a merchant, but on a successful Perception check several players could tell he was hiding something. After a successful Diplomacy check he admitted he was afraid and just wanted to get out of the Dwarven Valley. He told the players about the rift between the dwarves and the zombies in the mines. The players offered to buy his entire supply of black ice to get it off the streets, but he warned them that it was already being distributed throughout all ten towns.

Finally the great battle: an hour before sunset, the Ice Witch’s simulacrum appeared with a winter wolf, a polar bear, two young yetis, a war chief, and six human warriors. I used the map from the launch weekend, except this time it represented the North Gate, which only the Bard’s player (and I) had actually done, so it did not feel like a repeat to most people. The Ranger decided to hide in the snow outside the gates, while the Barbarian foolishly decided to stay outside the gates. The other characters were either on the wall or inside the gates. The Ice Witch started off by casting Sleet Storm to make it difficult to move, while the yetis jumped on the walls and attempted to throw the archers off into the ground. They succeeded with one. The Bear Tribe members surrounded the Barbarian and attempted to hack him to pieces, but they all missed. I rolled terribly here! The Ranger hit the Wolf for a few points, but he had a lot more. The Wolf used its breath weapon on the Barbarian, and it took him down below half his HP total. The bear went up to the gate and began to wail on it, trying to break it open. The Chosen attacked one yeti, while the Hobo and Bard attacked the other. The Cleric cast Healing Word on the Barbarian, which healed him of a few points. But it did not matter, because the Ice Witch got a natural 20 when throwing an Ice Spear at him, which put him below 0. The Ranger decided to attack the Ice Witch now, and actually was able to crit her for some major damage. The Hobo and Bard killed the one yeti, while the chosen used his Radiance of the Dawn power to do massive damage on the other yeti, killing him, and killing a few of the warriors, although the wolf and polar bear were still okay, and the Ice Witch was too far away to be affected by the power. The Cleric jumped down into the snow to get close to the Barbarian to heal him, taking only a few points of damage, and cast Cure Wounds on the Barbarian, bringing him above 0. The Barbarian’s turn was luckily next, and he finished off the simulacrum. They could all hear her laughter in the air as she told them that their victory today was hollow and that she would send another vessel of her power that would make them see the power of her mistress. The war chief ran away at this point, seeing the battle was going poorly. The polar bear broke through the gate at this point, but was easily hacked up by the town’s soldiers and the players. The wolf was brought down by the Ranger, and the Barbarian made quick work of the other warriors. The battle was won, and just a couple minutes over the Encounters time.

Now there are only three weeks left, and there is a TON to do. I really want them to be able to fight Icingdeath on his own (he would have been overkill in that last battle), so I am making it that the Elk Tribe prisoners (Hengar will be one) are searching for the dragon’s remains in the ice caverns beneath Evermelt, and the players have to kill it after they are found. I am including this because I really think we should have gotten the chance to do this, and our old DM was not as ambitious as he should have been about getting things done.

Then the next week I am going to have the players go to Easthaven and take on the pirates in an epic battle on the Lac, but just one, after which they will dispatch of Gant, this hopefully taking around an hour. It is at this point I am going to pull a deus ex machina and have Akar Kessell go to the players with a proposal: he wants the players to dispatch of the Ice Witch for him, and the quickest way for them to get to her is through the portal in the Verbeeg Lair. Hopefully with the session and a half left they can get through it and destroy her, and Akar Kessell if they want. I hate to railroad things this way, but my players have said they are happy to do this as long as we cross the finish line. I meet with them some Saturdays too, so if we don’t finish on time we can then. I have decided to skip the Dwarven Valley completely and have decided that Kessell’s victory here will be a complete one. I am even thinking of having the black ice becoming widespread throughout the region and might have it be a minor plot point in Scourge of the Sword Coast if it fits.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts, and sorry this was so long.

8 Joe January 30, 2014 at 12:13 am

John, congratulations on being so successful. This season is a huge mess to swallow, and the fact that you were able to do so in such a quick time is no easy feat.

It sounds like you’ve got a solid group, and a decent handle of the rules for the edition you’re using. I’d just look through for the last 2 weeks and decide which encounters feel like the most epic scenarios to throw at your players. The Icingdeath one is a big one… something with Akar Kessel could also be massive, esp with a giant black ice shard tower growing as the fight continues. The Ice Witch is definitely an iconic villain (on the cover of the adventure, even). In the end, do whatever will feel most fun for you and your players. Don’t worry about a bit of railroading… esp picking it up as late as you did, you’ll need to do a good deal of that to get the players to where they need to be. They’ll trust you as long as you can make the railroading make enough sense.

The only thing I’d be wary about, though, is your cleric/chosen character… remember that a big part of DMing is about setting up the players to be heroes, so just be careful not to let that character steal the spotlight from anyone. Not saying that you necessarily will, but many of us who’ve DMed for a while have run into a situation where we brought in a favored former PC and had to tone back their awesomeness to suit the new story, centered around our players. So just be aware of that possibility. OOH! Idea: Maybe the cleric/chosen goes head-to-head with Kessel, holding back his power while the party goes to stop the ice witch, which will weaken the power of winter and make Kessel vulnerable enough to face in some final battle… or something like that. That way your character still gets to be epic/cool, but the players will feel like the heroes making it all happen. Just a thought.

Whatever you choose to do, though, it sounds like you’ve got a good sense of the game, so have fun with your players and it’ll be awesome.

9 John H February 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Joe, I am sorry I have taken so long to get back to you. Thank you so much for your kind words and your encouragement. I think I have mostly done a good job of getting our group back on track, but I am also not sure they would tell me if they were unsatisfied in some way. Regardless I think things will be much less chaotic for the next Encounters season, but we will see.

About the Chosen character he was arguably more of a spotlight stealer when I was just a player. He/I singlehandedly saved the party during one encounter when my use of two Burning Hands spells got rid of over half the villains in one encounter. That being said our former DM and I have not made him as powerful as a typical Chosen, mainly because he is so low level and with the “in world” reason that Lathander/Amaunator is probably struggling more than most deities during the Sundering with an identity crisis, as most people, even some of his own clergy, don’t know these two gods are actually one and the same. The only powers he has exhibited so far are an immunity to most cold and heat effects, and his light spells seem to be more effective than the average cleric. During the grand finale I might have something epic happen, but never at the expense of the other players. He will be retired after this season as well, although I am glad that I kept him around as his healing has come in handy these last couple of weeks.

10 evermore February 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm

i’ve quite an update not posted for a few weeks,
Finale tonight they are at the foot of the ice witches tower…

last we left of, as they fought Icing death and Kessel,
they return the Dwarfs as heros, the celebration is short lived and a barbarian and Orc army attack the slopes,

the dwarfs need help getting scout patrols the heros help out and the dwarfs shut there gates, the army is stoped the ice queen creates a snow storms literally burring the dwarfs valley ..

during the barbarian Orc battle i kinda fluffed the plots and just had the dwarf reconcile there differences, with kessels influence out of the way

due to being buried, they dig there way out and find humans intruding on the mines,

the hero’s want to catch up with slim so set off for east haven, in the town they arrived and while asking for Slim pirates attack the town, they see these off, but there some cool roof top and barrel throwing dodging moments and of course burning buildings, during in the night in town they are set upon by cult assassins, i tryed have them fight out of amour but they complain and gave the excuse they fell asleep drunk, so with a few penalties the took the fight

the town thank full for help and full of refugees from fallen Sacked Bryn Shadar , inform them of another Barbarian attack due soon,

the heros are encouraged to take out the barbarian new leader the ice Witch,

the following week i have them travel the tunrda on the way to the sea of
ice , they fall in the a ravine and are battered in fast flowing rapids, they manage to stay together and must escape the new underground locations,

during the escape they encounter a “Rehmoraz” in the tunnels a good battle with some nice environmental effects falling stalactites, and the Rem’ pit traps, burrowed holes,

finally they arrive at the sea of fallen ice, and makes some checks to traverse the ice, quite successfully, they find a small Barb/orc patrol and take it out and steal the boats

tonight they will face the ice witch
evermore´s last blog post ..Catch up post new Year Crystal shard D&D encounters session run in 4th ed.

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