This week we started season 17 of D&D Encounters. The adventure is called Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast. It’s the third of five adventures that crossover with The Sundering storyline. Scourge of the Sword Coast is also billed as part 1 of 2 adventures that concludes next season with Dead in Thay.
The PCs began play this season at level 2. Wizards of the Coast has only provided support for D&D Next despite rumours that they would keep supporting 3.5e and 4e through this season.
At Harry T North in Toronto we’re running four tables this season; three using D&D Next and one using 4e. This season I’m running a D&D Next table. My party had the following characters this week: Half-Orc Mage, Drow Paladin, Elf Rogue/Cleric, Elf Ranger, and Half-Orc Paladin. We’re also saving a seat for another regular who couldn’t make it this week so we’ll top out as a party of six.
Two Tables, One Adventure!
This season we decided to do a few things a little bit differently than we’ve done in the past. Fellow DM and Recounting Encounters podcaster, Craig Sutherland and I decided that our two tables would be adventuring in the same world. The two groups could interact with each other throughout the season. Essentially this makes for one giant party of twelve heroes if both tables fill to capacity.
We’ve been kicking around this idea ever since we played the Vault of the Dracolich Game Day adventure last summer. We liked the idea of each group having individual tasks and goals, but knowing they could call for help or offer help as needed. Given the sheer volume of material in this season’s adventure we felt it would be extremely difficult to get everything done in the time allotted if we ran it the conventional way. By combining forces the two parties can adventure and explore larger areas in half the time which should let us cover everything.
The Scavenger Hunt
As a DM I’m always trying to come up with new and creative adventuring hooks for my games. D&D Encounters seems to find the least imaginative adventure hooks and keeps using them over and over again. This season the PCs are heeding a call for adventurers (again) and we pick things up as they ride the caravan to the location of the month (again) which happens to be the town of Daggerford. This works but it’s boring!
Craig and I put our heads together and came up with something we felt was a lot better. The PCs are part of a D&D-style reality show. An eccentric Wizard with too much money and too much free time puts forth a challenge every year. Adventurers are invited to complete his scavenger hunt with the promise of rewards and riches for those who gather the most items on the list. The Wizard uses various scrying devices to monitor the participants and invites gamblers to wager on who will get which item next.
Item #14 on this year’s list is a Bottle of Daggerthrust Ale. Each year a limited number of bottles are produced so anyone hoping to cross this item off their list will need to head to Daggerford. It just so happens that the Duke of Daggerford has put out a call for adventurers to help combat a recent uprising of Goblins, Orcs, and Gnolls in the area. Now the PCs have two good reasons to hit Daggerford.
The scavenger hunt works as a suitable hook, but our expectation is that it will also encourage creativity and role-playing throughout the season, something that happened numerous times during the first session. At the start of the session I told all participants to roll a d100 twenty times. Each roll represented an item they’d already found so they could cross it off their list. Next each player rolled 1d6. They could review the list and cross off anything that their character would reasonably have found already. For example, the Drow character crossed off item #5 Article of Drow clothing.
The other stipulation the Wizard put in place was that none of the items could be purchased. For an item to count it had to be found, stolen, received as a gift, or gotten by some other creative means of acquisition. Once an item was possessed it would magically disappear from the PC’s hand and the item would be magically crossed off the list. This way PCs can’t just seal the items from one another nor do they have to worry about tracking and inventory.
On the Road to Daggerford
For the past few days the caravan has grown as the people who live in the area surrounding Daggerford fled their homes and sought shelter behind the town’s protective walls. The refuges are simple labourers and farmers who fear for their safety and fled at the first account of monsters sacking homes. The caravan master is a good and sympathetic man who gladly helped those in need.
As the party got closer to Daggerford they noticed most of the homes they passed along the way were empty, many showing signs of vandalism and destruction. Clearly someone or something destructive had already passed through this area.
The group stopped for the night, set up camp, and shared a good meal together. Not far from the campsite the PCs easily spotted a farmhouse bereft of life. Initially they paid it no mind.
The Ranger did a few cursory circuits around the campsite looking for any signs of danger. The only noteworthy discovery was tracks made by wolves and Goblins leading towards the farmhouse. When he shared his finding with the PCs the Rogue quietly slipped away and headed towards the farmhouse. The rest of the party discussed their options for a few minutes and then when they noticed the Rogue was gone they too headed to the farmhouse.
The farmhouse was dark and quiet when the Rogue reached it. The front door and windows were smashed open. He cautiously entered the house and looked around. There were no creatures within, nor was there anything of significant value. Whatever caused the damage likely took anything valuable before they fled. The Rogue did take the opportunity to search the house for anything he needed on his scavenger hunt list. In the few minutes he had before his allies arrived he found nothing.
The rest of the PCs stormed the farmhouse ready to attack anything dangerous but lowered their guard when all they saw their friend. They did a thorough investigation and found a pantry with food and casks of ale that was overlooked by the looters. The PCs took what they could carry. They also noticed a small pool of blood and a couple of teeth which they identified as belonging to a Gnoll. It was unusual to see this evidence so close to Daggerford.
The party returned to camp and rested, each PC taking a turn at watch. Before going to sleep the Mage used his slight of hand to steal a child’s doll from one of the refuges (item #20 on the scavenger hunt list). None of his allies noticed.
Sounds in the Night
During the middle of the night while the Ranger was on watch he heard noises coming from the nearby farmhouse. The Rogue immediately snapped out of his reprieve, grabbed his gear and started towards the house to investigate. The Ranger quietly woke the party and then sprinted after the Rogue.
As the Rogue and Ranger got closer to the farmhouse they heard sounds of Goblins speaking in hushed tones and wolves growling and yipping. The heroes decided to quietly go to opposite sides of the house, draw their bows, and shoot at the monsters ransacking the house.
The Ranger noticed a lone Goblin outside the house near a scarecrow. The creature was trying to light something on fire as it hit a flint and steel together. Without hesitating the Ranger shot and killed the Goblin before he could ignite anything.
The Rogue shot into the house, aiming at the largest target which was a wolf. The arrow hit, but it didn’t quite kill the beast. The wolf let out a painful howl which caused the Goblins to scatter chaotically in the house.
The rest of the heroes took a few minutes to gather their gear, armor up, and follow the swift PCs. When they heard the wolf’s howl they ran as fast as they could towards the farmhouse. As they reached it they saw the Goblins streaming outside.
Two Goblins tried to exit through rear windows, but the Rogue shot and killed both before they completely exited the house. The Ranger shot and killed the wounded wolf, dropping it in the doorway.
The two Half-Orc Paladins ran to the door to face the oncoming Goblins. One Goblin managed to score a crit on the Drow Paladin but the Half-Orc Paladin easily killed it. The Mage decided to save his magic and engaged in melee, clubbing a Goblin to death with his quarterstaff.
The final Goblin to emerge was the boss. He had short swords in both hands and rode on the back of another wolf. He slashed at the heroes in the doorway as he tried desperately to flee this massacre, but he couldn’t get away nor could he hit the well armored Paladins.
The Ranger managed to drop the wolf. The Rogue, who had entered the farmhouse through one of the rear windows, got the killing shot in on the Boss Goblin. The creatures were all dead and the excitement was over. The PCs returned to camp.
Difficult Admittance to Daggerford
The next morning the caravan packed up and left for Daggerford. The child who’s doll was stolen was quite vocal about losing her most cherished possession. The Mage (who stole it) used his magic to keep the child entertained and quiet for the day’s journey.
When the PCs reached Daggerford there was a large crowd gathered outside the main Caravan Gate. Many of the refuges were shouting at six guards and their commander who blocked the gate. The guards all held crossbows but kept them lowered for now. The commander, a human female, leaned on her spear while holding her helmet under her other arm.
A refuge near the front begged for admission to Daggerford for his pregnant wife. The commander, who seemed sympathetic, held her ground. “The duke has decreed that no more refugees can enter the town. The militia enforces the duke’s will in this. No exceptions. I’m sorry.”
A Halfling in the crowd addressed the commander as Sherlen and tried to help those seeking admission. “No exceptions, Curran,” Sherlen replied.
Another group of adventurers who arrived just before my party made their way to the front to speak with Sherlen. However, they didn’t seem to have much success in swaying her decision.
The refugees near the PCs begged them to help. Meanwhile others were getting angry when they heard people say that the adventurers at the gate were being admitted ahead of those who’d been waiting longer. The PCs realized the crowd was getting restless and could get violent so the Mage and two Paladins made their way forward to see if they could help.
When the PCs got to the front they realized there was little more they could do that the other adventurers had not already tried. Suddenly one of the other adventurers, a Gnome, rushed one of the guards and tried to swat his crossbow from his hands. The guard barely managed to keep the weapon in his hand and in the struggle the weapon discharged into the crowd hitting a refuge.
People in the crowd began to run in every direction. Sherlen called for two of the guards to detain the Gnome. The Gnome’s companions tended to the wounded refuge.
The Mage decided to try and take advantage of the chaos and cast Charm Person on Sherlen. She resisted the influence with a natural 20 on her save, but knew someone was casting spells. She called for the guards to pull back and close the gates.
The Gnome clearly did not want to be detained and transformed into a huge bear. The scene became even more chaotic if that was possible. The Halfling Curran who addressed Sherlen earlier called for the two Paladins to help him get the pregnant woman and her husband inside the city and to safety. The Mage and a few other adventurers slipped past the guards who were totally occupied with the bear and rushed into Daggerford.
Once inside the town Curran directed everyone inside the nearby Lady Luck Tavern where they could rest and wait out the crazy scene playing out beyond the tavern’s walls. It took about 10 minute before the guards took control of the gate again and order was restored. By this time the PCs and their new adventurer friends all regrouped at the tavern.
I had a lot of fun this week. Running the two tables together certainly made for a much more interesting scene at the gate. I anticipate it will make exploring the various ruins and dungeons this season a lot easier and faster too.
Despite my initial reluctance to go back to running a D&D Next table, I easily fell back into the grove of the new system. Combat is a lot faster which means we can do more of it in the coming weeks. The easy flowing nature of the system also encourages role-playing over mechanics which I really like.
The players really seemed to love the scavenger hunt idea. They were motivated to look for very specific details and try things they might not normally think to do. It’s certainly working as a catalyst for creativity. I see this season being full of possibility and can’t wait to really get into the meat of the adventure during the next session.
How did your first session go? What details did other DMs add to the adventure to make it their own? Tell us about your cool character concepts for this season.
- Pre-generated characters: Visit our D&D Next Pre-Generated Character Library where you can download the level 2 pre-gens that came with this season’s adventure.
- Maps: A two-part poster map came with the Launch Weekend kits. If you want your own copy you can now download the poster map. Half is the map of the Sword Coast, half is the detailed map of Daggerford.
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.
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.