During 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.
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.
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).
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)
At 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.
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.