D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 6, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverDuring last week’s combat filled session the heroes proceeded deeper into the Verbeeg Lair where they fought Cultists of Auril, more Goblins, and two very large Crag Cats and their handler. They defeated all comers but it was taking a toll. The party needed an extended rest, but knew they could not do so while still in the cavernous lair.

With only two weeks left in this season everyone’s making an effort to be present. We had excellent attendance this week at Harry T North in Toronto as we continue running four tables each week, three using D&D Next and one (mine) using 4e. My group was the only one missing players so we were back down to four. Those present included the Dragonborn Cavalier, Halfling Rogue, Tiefling Warlock, and Gnoll Barbarian. I also had the NPC Hengar (Human Warlord) in the wings ready to assist the party if needed.

The Verbeeg Lair

After taking a short rest the party continued down the winding passage. The rest of the rooms they passed were empty of anything living or valuable. The passage ended at a set of wooden doors, barred closed from the opposite side. The Barbarian stepped up and knocked with his magic hammer. The bar broke as the doors swung open.

Dining Room

The room contained numerous tables and chairs. Around the room were five Cultists of Auril and a Dark Adept. The Rogue ran into the room and immediately attacked the closest Cultist blooding him. The entire party remembered that the Cultists inflicted extra damage if they had living allies nearby so they were determined to focus fire and drop them as fast as possible.

The Cultists acted next. Two of them shot crossbows at the Rogue and Cavalier but both missed. The bloodied Cultists the Rogue just attacked struck back and landed a devastating blow. Fortunately Second Chance allowed the Halfling to dodge the reroll.

The Cavalier summoned Clipity-Clop, his Celestial Steed and then trampled over two Cultists who were standing with their backs to a door on the far side of the room. Clipity-Clop mowed them down and knocked them prone.

Unfortunately for the party, they didn’t realize the two Cultists were actually holding the door closed. Once they were knocked prone the door flew open. A baby Remorhaz came charging into the dining room and attacked the closest target, Clipity-Clop.

I have a fantastic looking Remorhaz mini but it’s huge (3×3) so it was just too big to use in this circumstance. I did leave it on the table as a visual reference for the players. Instead I used a Carrion Crawler mini (2×2) on the actual battle map.

The Barbarian charged the Remorhaz and hit, but once adjacent to it learned that the creature had an aura 1 that was going to cause fire damage. The Rogue backed away from the new monster and attacked safely from the other side of the room.

The Warlock decided to use Diplomacy and called out to the Cultists. Since they were clearly just as afraid of the monster as the PCs were, why not have everyone work together against a common foe? The Diplomacy check was high enough given the circumstances to sway the Dark Adept. He commanded his men to form a line and they would engage simultaneously.

The PCs continued fighting the monster while the Cultists formed a battle stance. Unfortunately none of the PCs thought to assess the Dark Adept’s true motives. Once the men were all grouped together they turned tail and ran. The PCs were left to fight the Remorhaz alone while the remaining Cultists fled down the tunnel the PCs emerged from at the start of the encounter.

Despite the Remorhaz’s formidable hit points, the party made short work of it. They managed to daze it for two rounds and keep it prone. This limited the creature’s options and made for a relatively easy kill in the end.

Kitchen

Completely exhausted and expended, all the PCs needed an extended rest. They quickly searched the rest of the nearby rooms. The Kitchen was ransacked by the rampaging Remorhaz but the PCs found the handlers personal affects in a corner (nothing noteworthy).

Scrying Room

Before resting the party decided to check the last unopened door leading out of the dining room. It revealed a narrow passage that ended at a door. On the door were magic sigils, but the Warlock determined they’d long ago faded of any magical or harmful effects. They opened the door and went into the room.

When the PCs entered the room, magical lights activated. Across from the door was a large statue of a Verbeeg with cisterns on either side. Along the west wall was an alcove where a large mirror was held by a fearsome looking gargoyle statue. In the south-east corner of the room was a large rusty lever.

The Cavalier decided he wanted to pull the lever. The rest of the party backed far away, stopping near the mirror. When the lever was pulled they heard the sounds of metal links clanking and stone rubbing against stone. While looking around the room for a noticeable effect a ghostly figure appeared in the mirror – it was the Necromancer they’d encountered in the Dwarven mines.

The Necromancer blasted waves of psychic energy at the Rogue, Warlock and Barbarian casing them to flee the room as their best speed. After running away, the Barbarian managed to turn and throw his hammer at the figure in the mirror much to the protesting party members.

Rather than shattering the mirror, the hammer went through it and barely missed the Necromancer. The startled caster gripped his mirror and placed it face down on the floor of black ice. The PCs gathered themselves and tried to come up with a plan. They were too wounded to fight, but they didn’t want to flee either.

After a few rounds they realized that the Necromancer was moving his mirror by sliding it across the floor face down. After a minute they saw him lift it and then fling the mirror out of a window. The mirror flipped end over end before landing safely in snow. Through the portal the PCs saw a massive Black Ice tower jutting up from the snowy tundra.

They couldn’t see any discernable landmarks and had no way to determine where this tower was located. If they didn’t step through the mirror they may never be able to find this place again. They decided to take an extended rest before proceeding. As a precautionary measure they placed their mirror face down on the stone floor and placed heavy object on top of it while they rested.

When everything finally calmed down the party remembered the lever. The sounds stopped and the lever had returned to its original orientation. They couldn’t see any indication of what happened, but they were reluctant to pull it again. (Nothing happened; I just added this to give the room flavour. When they pulled it I was just messing with them.)

Act 3: The Claw of Winter

Tower of the Ice Witch

When the extended rest was over the PCs had advanced to level 5. Realizing that the Necromancer would be expecting them eventually they decided speed was more important than stealth once they stepped through the portal. So they flipped over the mirror and charged through, advancing towards the Black Ice tower.

Audience Hall (level 1)

encounters-16-act-3-audience-hallAt the base of the Black Ice tower was a massive arch leading into the main room. The entire first floor made up the audience hall. Two rows of black columns stretched the length of the room. At the far of the hall was a throne on a raised dais. To one side of the throne stairs ascended along the wall to the level above.

Once inside the PCs spotted King Günvald leader of the Tribe of the Bear. Three of his Warriors were nearby. As well, two Orc warriors who seemed to also be loyal to the King were skulking about behind the pillars.

Upon seeing the PCs, King Günvald labeled them as intruders and interlopers and all sorts of other insulting names. He then issued the order for his men to attack.

The King and his Warriors won initiative. King Günvald threw a javelin at the Cavalier, hit him, and then moved behind a pillar to avoid being trampled by Clipty-Clop. The closets Warrior stepped up and sliced into the Rogue with his sword. The other two moved into advantageous positions and also threw javelins, hitting the Barbarian and Cavalier.

The Cavalier and Rogue tag-teamed the only Warrior engaged in melee. The Warlock used his new daily power to transform the Barbarian into a fire-raging fiend. Now all of his attacks would deal extra fire damage. Empowered, the Barbarian moved away from the entrance and charged the King. He landed a solid blow with his daily power blooding him in one swing.

The Orcs moved cautiously closer and threw javelins at Clipity-Clop and the Warlock, missing the horse but hitting the PC.

King Günvald, furious he’d been bloodied so quickly, used his big Daring Strike attack power. I warned the party that if he crit he might be able to drop the recipient in one blow. They scoffed at my warning – and then I rolled a natural 20, inflicting 41 damage plus 5 ongoing damage. Needless to say the Barbarian was down for the count, his new form and stance power snuffed out as he fell unconscious.

At this point one player asked if Hengar was around. I’d completely forgotten about him so he magically appeared as if he’d been present the whole time. He threw an Inspiring Word at the Barbarian and brought him back to consciousness.

The Rogue and Cavalier worked together to drop the nearest Warrior quickly, which helped. The Orcs tried to keep their distance, but after taking a few hits from the Warlock decided to move into melee. The Cavalier’s defender aura managed to draw most of the attacks, but it didn’t take long before he approach zero hit points.

The Barbarian continued going toe to toe with King Günvald, but had a really hard time hitting. Although King Günvald hit a lot, he was doing nearly the minimum damage. Hengar and the Cavalier managed to keep the Barbarian on his feet for most of the fight.

Eventually the PCs managed to wear down the monsters and finally dropped all the Warriors who eventually engaged the Cavalier in melee. Poor Clipity-Clop took enough damage to send him back to the ethereal plane from which he came, but that was damage the party didn’t have to take themselves.

With all remaining combatants on the board bloodied it was a race to zero hit points. The Cavalier and Warlock worked together to finally defeat the two Orcs, while the Rogue moved to help the badly wounded Barbarian take on King Günvald.

In his last round of life King Günvald recharged his big attack but couldn’t do enough damage to drop the Barbarian (I rolled 1, 1, 2 on 3d12). The next round the Rogue hit the King doing crazy sneak damage but left him standing with 1 single hit point. The Barbarian used his daily power to ensure a kill and destroyed King Günvald.

The PCs took a short rest to heal their wounds. When we pick things up next week they’ll head up the staircase to see what awaits them on the second level of the Black Ice tower.

Thoughts

We again had a lot of combat this week. It was only two encounters but they were tough. The first one was tough because the party was badly wounded; the second because the difficulty was ramped up for the final act. The players had a lot of fun, but they are worried that they’ll have an up-hill climb next week. They used a lot of their daily powers and action points this week leaving little in the tank for the remaining encounters. Hopefully our absent player will return next week. If he does that should help.

Despite my disappointment a few weeks ago with glossing over some of the details in Act 2, I realize now that it was the absolute right call. We’re going to have another long session next week and that should get us right to the end. I think the players have enjoyed the ride thus far and should find the ending satisfying.

For the previous few sessions I’ve used dungeon tiles to map out the area. I forgot how helpful and useful these things are. They allow me to create great looking battle maps very quickly. I’ve found the little details particularly useful when it comes to making a regular room more interesting. The gong and lever were add-ons during the previous two sessions but they really added something to the encounter. I’m going to miss using them as frequently when we change over to D&D Next for good.

With one more week to go how are things looking at your table? Do you have enough time to finish the adventure or will you need to cut stuff out? Have any PCs died in the final few weeks? Does anyone expect a TPK in the last encounter?

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.


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe February 6, 2014 at 10:39 am

Alas, we were mostly snowed out this week. I couldn’t get to the store (which was still open), but word is only 3 players showed up, so they ran a little side thing to pass the time.

This means that we’ll need to double-up for the finale next week. The rewritten 4e version we’re using had everyone with an extended rest at level 3 for the last 2 sessions, one of which was the dragon and the last of which was the Ice Witch. I’m just going to ram those two together for one hugely epic fight, and hopefully it’ll all go to plan. Hopefully…

2 Vobekhan February 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

As we had a tale of 9 level 6 pc’s I upped the encounter to 2 elementals with 120 hp each (not a major problem as all the pc’s had magical attacks or weapons) and increased their attacks to 2 per round if they hadnt moved, and to +7 to hit with 2d8+4 damage. The DC’s for avoiding and escaping their vortices increased to 15 as well. Kessel also got a boost, to 110 hp and a couple of items, one of which was the item Adam’s tielfing had been sent by the arcane brotherhood to retrieve (or so he thought, they were actually looking for the Crystal Shard which as we all know is destroyed – unless Mr Salvatore has a surprise for us)

Brooch of Shielding – this piece of jewelry appears as a stylized insect (usually a scarab beetle) inlaid with dark green gemstones. When the wearer is attacked by Magic Missile spells the brooch glows and the Missiles are absorbed without harming the wearer. The brooch can absorb 50 hit points of damage from magic missiles before “burning out” and becoming non-magical.

Scepter of Kessel – this oversized rod can be used by a mage to boost his spellcasting abilities. It counts as a Rod +3, adding to the weilders magical ability (increasing spell DC’s). It can also once per day be used to cast an Animate Dead spell without using one of the casters available spell slots.

I really like Spykes idea on the WotC forum for the encounter with Hedrun, and while not a fan of Skill Challenges in 4e I’ve felt they merge a lot better with play in Next, so I will be stealing this for next week, possibly giving the two Auril worshippers bonuses on the saves.

These forums remain one of the best sources of creative ideas to improve our games, so thanks guys and keep them coming.

3 ellisd February 11, 2014 at 8:22 am

I’ve really enjoyed your roll-by-roll of this series of Enc’s. Any idea when the Week 11 audio will be up?

4 Ameron (Derek Myers) February 11, 2014 at 8:46 pm

@ellisd
I’ve been having trouble with my FTP. Hope to have the issue resolved soon.

5 MatthewAC February 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Just a heads up – your itune subscription isn’t working. Every podcast has a download error. (Recounting Encounters)

6 Ameron (Derek Myers) February 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm

@MatthewAC
Thanks for the heads up. We’ll look into it.

7 John H February 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I know I am leaving this summary super late, and I will try to stay caught up on this new season. As I mentioned on my last blog, I was sick, so we had to play catch up for my group. Last Wednesday, which was our group’s 11th session, had a terrible turnout. It was only the players of the Bard, Barbarian, and Hobo that showed up, with my Cleric/Chosen of Amaunator lending a hand. Our group plays Next, while the other two tables play 4th edition. The players were still 2nd, but will level after this session. It should be noted that the other two tables have seven to eight players each who show up every week and are much quieter than my table. We are the boisterous table, which I actually enjoy more honestly. I just wish the attendance were more consistent. The Elven Ranger may never be able to come back again due to a new job.

Regardless, for the sake of time I started my characters off a day and a half after the last session coming up on the outskirts of Easthaven. They had left Hengar, who they had found along with the other prisoners meant to be sacrificed near Icingdeath’s Lair, in charge of the remaining barbarian warriors at Evermelt, which henceforth would be the Elk Tribe’s main camp. As they approached the town on their horses given to them by Duvessa, they saw a thick cloud of smoke, and they rode hard to investigate. They saw pirates carrying heavy loads of weapons and armor out of Rurdan’s armory, and at first they thought maybe they were soldiers helping to protect the merchandise. After the “soldiers'”unconvincing answers though they attacked them. The players had a terrible time with this battle for some reason, not able to hit anything and at the same time taking some terrible hits. While this was going on I was rolling death rolls for Rurdan, who was unconscious but still breathing thankfully by the time the players got to him. The Chosen used Spare the Dying to bring him to consciousness. He related the information about the ferryman, which one player amusingly thought meant “fairy man” and that they were going to look for some type of fey creature.

They did not follow up on this immediately though, and Rurdan took them to City Hall to speak to Speaker Waylen, who they found speaking to Duvessa, who had come here as she told the adventurers she would. She said she had a couple of standing rooms at the White Lady Inn for them. Speaker Waylen promised them a bundle of gold to put an end to the pirate problem. None of the players said anything about the ferryman to the Speaker and instead wanted to go rest for the night.

Just outside the White Lady Inn an acolyte of Auril handed them a pamphlet which described Davrick Fain’s teachings and urged them to join the worship of the Frostmaiden. He told them that “the great worm would swallow those who were found unworthy,” an allusion and seed for the remorhaz they would later fight. Inside the inn a warm, portly woman gave them their room keys and food and drink. While they ate a bard sang of the adventures of Drizzt and Wulfgar, specifically of their fight through the Verbeeg Lair, another seed for what they would do in the next session. I let them gather information with Charisma checks, but only the Hobo and Bard succeeded. A young woman told the Hobo about the namesake of the white lady, how she wandered the lake to be reunited with her husband, but lately there had actually been sightings of her walking on the lake, which turned to ice around her (this is actually the Simulacrum of the Ice Witch, but I did not tell the players that). The Bard specifically asked about the ferryman, so a merchant told her about Creedon, where his shack on the water was, etc.

They decided to go visit him that night. At first he feigned innocence, but after the Barbarian rolled a natural 20 on an Intimidation roll, he spilled the beans. He claimed that the pirates had caught him on the lake and threatened his life, as well as that of his family. The characters actually sympathized with him, but still turned him into the Speaker. The Speaker was outraged and hysterical (I played him as a bit of a drama queen with a high pitched voice), and he sentenced Creedon to death by the next morning. The players wanted him jailed but not killed. The Speaker said his family could keep any money he had earned by helping the pirates. At this point the players changed their opinion, seeing Creedon as more complicit than he had let on, and they said they were fine with letting him die. He begged them though, saying that if they spared him he would tell them where the pirates’ cove was and where The Howling Fiend would be next. The Speaker was not convinced, but the Bard got a 20 on Persuasion, and the Speaker not only agreed but found her captivating and attractive and hit on her. For the sake of time he would send a group of soldiers to round up the pirates at the cove, while the adventurers had to take on the pirates on their ship. Creedon told them they would be in Caer-Dineval the very next night and about the system of marking ships. He also said he knew one of the pirates was an agent of Gant, and that he had a curlicue mustache (Pyrse, I added that detail to make him more recognizable).

The next night the players waited in ambush of the pirates. The Speaker had arranged for them to borrow a merchant ship. The pirates approached the players with an offer of protection if they paid, but the Bard told them to shove off and stuck one with her sword. The Hobo attacked another, doing some damage. The Barbarian killed one, while the Chosen cast Bless. The Thugs attacked, doing damage to the Barbarian and Bard. The Bard sang her Call to Battle, while the Hobo and Barbarian took out two more pirates. The Chosen used his Radiance of the Dawn power, but I rolled VERY poorly, and I did a little bit of damage to everyone, killing off one already badly wounded pirate. The Bard got a natural 20, so I said she lopped off one pirate’s head, and his head kept on rolling back and forth with the lolling of the ship. Pyrse got into the fray, hurting the Bard some. After another round almost everyone was dead except for Derrick and Pyrse. Pyrse final went down. Derrick did some major damage to the Hobo, but not enough to knock him to 0. The Hobo and Barbarian ganged up on him, however, and he was soon dead too. The players tied up Pyrse’s body before the Chosen used Spare the Dying. The Barbarian used Intimidate, and Pyrse told them everything, including how Gant was staying at the same inn they were, under a pseudonym.

They decided to rest while sailing back to Easthaven. As the Hobo and Barbarian sailed on the ship with the black ice ram, I told them they felt full of rage for the next 24 hours. Their attacks would be + 2, but their AC would be – 4 for being so reckless. They decided to confront Gant right away. They burst through his door and informed him his schemes were finished. He told the heroes they ruined everything and hurled a fireball at them. All of them were able to dodge out of the way with half damage, but the hotel was on fire. The Barbarian got a natural 20, so what with his attack and the other players’ Gant was dead by the end of the first round. They tied him up as they had done Pyrse, and then the Chosen brought him back. They put the fire out as best they could, then interrogated him. He admitted to trying to secure a foothold in Ten Towns for the Arcane Brotherhood. He begged them to let him be jailed, secretly hoping his fellows would break him loose. That was not to be though, as a magic missile spell out of nowhere suddenly killed him. The players turned to see the rotting and putrid form of Akar Kessell shamble their way. He said: “you have done very well adventurers. But you and I share a common enemy: the Ice Witch.” They asked who he was, and he introduced himself. I let the Bard do a History check, and she knew about the crystal shard and some of his history. He said he was glad to see that many still knew of him a hundred years later. The Bard said, “so! We don’t need your help to kill the Ice Witch.” He said, “but do you even know where she is?” They all got quiet. “Precisely,” he said. He told them of the magic portal in the Verbeeg Lair. “What do you get out of this though?” they asked. He said the crystal ice used to only answer to him, but with Auril helping Hedrun he was shut out. But with her out of the way…. He said it was not a negotiation, that he had said what he had come to say, and then teleported away.

That was the time for our store to close. We decided to meet that Saturday at 11 on Launch Day to finish everything up. I told everyone they were now level 3. The Bard decided to keep Gant’s staff, perhaps intending to give it to a character in the next Encounters season. That will have implications, with both the Arcane Brotherhood and Blackstaff’s servants wanting it back.

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