The heroes finished last week’s session inside the Audience Chamber of the Black Ice tower. The fought and killed the Bear Tribe King and his loyal followers and were ready to take the winding staircase up to the next level.
This was the final session for season 16 of D&D Encounters. At my table we’re using 4e and the PCs are level 5. We only had three players at first, but knew a fourth would be along after the first hour. One of the players decided to run him as an NPC until he arrived. The party ended up with the following members: Tiefling Warlock, Tiefling Paladin, Dragonborn Cavalier, and a Gnoll Barbarian (run as an NPC until the player arrived). We also had Hengar the Human Warlord tagging along, but he mainly threw around some Inspiring Words to revive fallen PCs and offered free attacks when needed.
Tower of the Ice Witch
Temple of the Storm (Level 2)
The temple was an 80-foot-tall chamber. In the centre of the room was a dais with a snowflake shape carved into it (the symbol of Auril). Set around the dais were six large statues. In the ceiling the PCs noticed a hole the same shape and size as the snowflake symbol on the dais. There were no other visible means of ascending to the next level and there was no other furniture or adornments in the room.
The PCs preceded cautiously, their lights casting strange shadows around the room as it reflected off of the Black Ice walls, floor, ceiling, and dais. They examined the closest statue to ensure that it wasn’t going to animate and possibly attack them. With a few good checks they were convinced that the sculptures were harmless. (I used six large minis to represent the statues which made the players extra nervous despite their checks to see if they were actually monsters.)
Once the PCs started poking around the Temple, the Ice Witch floated down through the opening in the ceiling. She stopped her descent about 40 feet from the ground. She took no hostile actions, and instead asked the PCs if they were here to convert to Auril’s faith. The Warlock seized the opportunity to try a diplomatic solution and agreed to convert. The Paladin and Cavalier were not interested.
The Ice Witch made it clear that she expected the entire party to convert or leave. At this point the PCs noticed the Necromancer, Akar Kessell, hiding behind one of the statues. He stepped out to make his presence known but did not take any hostile actions.
The Cavalier decided to play the Necromancer against the Ice Witch and made a convincing argument for why she should not trust Kessell. His words swayed the Ice Witch, who was already considering breaking any alliance she had with the Necromancer, and she told the PCs they could dispose of Kessell however they saw fit. With that statement they attacked him.
The Ice Witch summoned the cold winds of the North and they swirled throughout the Temple. The winds formed four Air Elementals which she unleashed at the Necromancer and then floated back up through the opening in the ceiling.
Unfortunately for the heroes they were bunched together and Kessell managed to blast them all in the first round, forcing the Barbarian, Warlock and Clipity-clop the Cavalier’s Celestial Steed, to flee on their turn.
The Air Elementals swirled around the room and didn’t attack anyone the first round. The PCs fled as required and then turned and charged Kessell. As they touched the snowflake symbol on the dais they were granted the power of flight. This gave them upward mobility, but reduced their speed to half its normal distance.
The party surrounded the Necromancer, dazing him, slowing him, and knocking him prone. Two of the Air Elementals moved in and attacked Kessell as well. However, on Kessell’s turn he managed to wrestle control of the adjacent Elementals from the Ice Witch and dispel the other two.
The combat took on a 3D element as the PCs took to the air to battle the pesky Air Elementals. Kessell kept on recharging his blast. It did half damage on a miss so he continued to pound the party, hit or miss.
As Kessell neared 0 hit points he realized he should flee. He provoked opportunity attacks and almost got away, but the Barbarian flew through the air, hammer first, at the Necromancer. In a move that would make Thor proud the hammer went through Kessell’s chest and killed him. The Air Elementals immediately dissipated.
The PCs took a short rest to catch their breath. They realized the only way to get to the upper level of the tower was to fly up. The Necromancer tried to convince the party to let him visit the Ice Witch alone so he could profess his unconditional loyalty to her and Auril. The party was having none of it. They all proceeded upward together.
The Witch’s Sanctum (Level 3)
The third level of the Black Ice tower was the Ice Witch’s private chambers. The bed, table and shelves were all made of Black Ice. On one side of the room was a small shrine to Auril. On either side were two statues, smaller versions of the ones in the Temple below.
The Ice Witch was angered that the heroes would disturb her in her sanctum. She gave them one last chance to accept Auril as their patron. If they did not they had to leave or face the consequences. The Warlock again said he’d convert. He then managed to convince the Paladin and Cavalier to leave the room for a few rounds, while he talked to the Ice Witch.
The Barbarian wouldn’t leave but agreed not to attack yet. He decided to wander around the room and check things out. The Warlock kept the Ice Witch busy by talking to her. He went on and on about how he could convince his allies to convert in Auril’s name but he’d need time. The Ice Witch said that the Barbarian must kneel and accept Auril’s blessing. He said he would, but he was unwilling to come closer to the Ice Witch. He wanted his ally to be at his side when the blessing came. The Ice Witch allowed the Warlock to join him.
Near where the PCs were standing was a cold fire cauldron. The Ice Witch told both PCs to put their hand into the flame to accept Auril’s blessing. The Warlock did. He then had to make a saving throw, which he made. I gave him the option to fail the save and accept the blessing. He opted to keep his success for now. The Barbarian did not comply. Instead he climbed on his kneeling ally and used him as a spring board to leap across the room and attack the Ice Witch.
The Cavalier and Paladin heard the Barbarian’s war cry and floated back up to the room to join the combat. The defenders flanked the Ice Witch while the Barbarian kept trying to pummel her. She fought back using two Ice Spears.
The Warlock ignored the combat and chose instead to examine the shrine to Auril. As he approached it the two statues animated. They didn’t attack but instead tried to get in the way of any PC moving about the room.
The Warlock believed that he had received Auril’s blessing and the Ice Witch saw him as her ally so he attacked the PC “to keep up appearances.” The players were not happy with this turn of events; however, they ignored the Warlock and chose to continue attacking the Ice Witch.
The Ice Witch used her Icy Blast to keep targeting multiple PCs. Because the Warlock was continually outside of the blast range he kept seeing this as evidence he was considered the Ice Witch’s ally and kept attacking the PCs. Finally the Warlock moved close enough to get in the blast range and was shocked when he was targeted along with the PCs. He tried to convince the Ice Witch that he was her ally but she was unresponsive to his pleas. That convinced him to change sides again and join the fight.
When the Ice Witch was bloodied a powerful aura 3 activated. It inflicted 10 damage cold/necrotic against all of the PCs each round. They didn’t have the hit points to last long. They raced to defeat her before the aura, and her continued attacks, killed them.
It wasn’t looking good for team heroes especially when the Ice Witch managed to score an untimely crit on the Paladin and drop him, freeing her from his mark and allowing her to also drop the Warlock with a ranged attack.
Great teamwork from the heroes had them use heal checks to trigger unconscious character’s Second Winds and revive them. Temporary hit point granted by the Paladin kept them going for one more round.
In what would be the final round either way, the PCs threw everything they had at the very badly wounded Ice Witch. With only 5 hit points remaining the Paladin charged her and missed. He then used his action point and scored the hit he needed to kill her. The Ice Witch was down, and more importantly her aura was down. The PCs were victorious.
When the Ice Witch died the tower began to shake violently. It seemed that her life force was keeping the tower intact. When the PCs tried to fly down they realized the flying power was also activated by the Ice Witch so they couldn’t float down to the Temple level.
The Warlock, who had studied the shrine to Auril, believed he could mimic the Ice Witch’s blessing to get the floating magic to operate. It required him to make a successful Arcana check and expend a healing surge for each round it was on. His check was successful and the PCs floated down as fast as they could. Once they were down the Warlock jumped through the hole. The PCs cushioned his fall but the Warlock and the guys trying to catch him all took damage.
None of the PCs took enough damage to fall unconscious so they ran from the tower under their own steam as it fell down around them. Once outside they witnessed it crumble and sink into the snow and freezing water beneath its foundation.
The PCs won the day but got no loot or treasure for their actions. They realized that the magic mirror portal was actually worth a considerable sum if they collected both mirrors. That meant at least one PC would have to carry the mirror back to Ten Towns. The NPC Hengar said he knew the way but needed another PC to accompany him. The Warlock agreed.
Before the rest of the party stepped through the mirror to return to safety the Barbarian punched the Warlock in the face to settle the score of his betrayal during the combat. The Warlock activated his Infernal Wrath to strike back. Both PCs remained conscious with 1 hit point each.
Postlude: The Melting
It took the Warlock and Hengar a week to travel with the mirror back to Easthaven. Reunited, the party made arrangements to sell the mirrors for a tidy sum. They were stuck in Easthaven for the winter but they were dubbed heroes for their actions and didn’t pay for room or drinks all winter long.
The Dwarves managed to reclaim their tunnels and destroy any remaining Black Ice Zombies. With all remaining Black Ice removed from the tunnels the two factions of the Dwarven clan reformed back into one happy family. Some Black Ice trinkets were still being sold and warn by residents of Ten Towns, but the corrupting influence was greatly subdued.
Vaelish Gant rose to power in Bryn Shander since the PCs left and never returned after the first session. The Arcane Brotherhood cult managed to secure a strong foothold in the Icewind Dale, a problem the PCs may have to deal with in future adventures.
So ends D&D Encounters, season 16, Legacy of the Crystal Shard.
Today I’m just going to comment on this week’s adventure. Watch for the full season Report Card article next week in which I share my thoughts on the season as a whole.
I found the ending of this season a bit lack-luster. There was so much going on that it was nearly impossible for the PCs to resolve all the problems. Instead the adventure ended with a direct confrontation of the Ice Witch. It was possible for the PCs to talk to her and possibly “defeat” her without combat, but that is such an anticlimactic way to cap off the season. Players want to fight the big villain!
Because the Ice Witch wasn’t frothing at the mouth when they confronted her it didn’t seem as clear cut a confrontation as you might expect. She was really a reluctant villain who wasn’t the kind of monster the players are used to facing.
I did like the Ice Tower as a location for the final act. Each room had different details that made it stand out. The flying 3D element of the Temple was fun, although a bit difficult to run. In the sanctum I had the whole room freezing and all PCs took 1 damage at the beginning of each turn they were in the room. As a minor action I had the Ice Witch notch it up another 1 point. Since she was dazed for the first few rounds this never became a big deal, but did add some flavour to the final encounter.
I was disappointed when one of the PCs felt that he should attack the rest of the party. I actively discourage PC vs. PC fighting in D&D Encounters, but since it was the last week I allowed it. I was glad that the players didn’t get too upset with the guy playing the Warlock out of character. Although they didn’t like his approach, they realized that it was all just part of the game.
How did the final session go for your PCs? Did anyone have a TPK? How many PCs died? Did anyone spare the Ice Witch or defeat her without resorting to combat?
This was the final session for season 16 of D&D Encounters.
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.
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