D&D Encounters: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 6, 2014

scourge-of-the-sword-coast-coverSo far this season the PCs have spent all their time in Daggerford exploring the town, getting to know the locals, and discovering rumours. By the end of the last session they’d met with Duke Daggerford himself and agreed to head to the nearby village of Julkoun to investigate the missing shipment of good and absence of travelers or messages from Julkoun. When we picked things up this week, a few days in game had passed and the party could see Julkoun in the distance as the approached by boat.

At Harry T North in Toronto we ran four tables this week, one using 4e and the other three using D&D Next. All told we had 21 players. Many of our regulars were absent this week but we did have two brand new players join in the fun: one with zero D&D experience, and one who hadn’t played since 3e.

The combined two-table group that Craig and I are running cooperatively had nine players this week. Even though the players were technically sitting at two different tables the story required that the parties be together at the outset. The group consisted of the following PCs: Halfling Rogue, Gnome Druid, Tiefling Rogue, Drow Paladin, Half-Orc Mage, Half-Orc Paladin, Elf Ranger, Human Monk, and Elf Cleric/Rogue.

julkoun-1The Village of Julkoun

The party decided to beach their boat, tie it off and hide it about a mile up river from Julkoun. They felt approaching from foot using the road to north of the village was a better idea than just pulling up to the docks unannounced.

On their way to the village they passed by numerous farm houses. They were all ransacked, vandalized and devoid of any valuables. On the road the Ranger noticed Goblin and wolf tracks which he believed were made within the last few days.

When they got closer to the village the absence of people and absence of sounds expected from a thriving village put the party on guard. Some, but not all of the cottages near the village walls were burned. Clearly something bad had happened here recently.

What the group needed now was intelligence. The Druid transformed into a hawk and flew over the village. The rest of the party agreed to wait until she returned, only moving forward if she disappeared from view. They saw the hawk dodge something and change direction. A few seconds later something hit the hawk knocking the Druid unconscious. As she could no longer maintain concentration she transformed back into a Gnome and fell hard to the ground just outside the village walls. The sound of three loud bursts from a horn echoed over the eerily quiet village.

The two Paladins, the Mage and the Halfling Rogue ran at a full sprint directly towards their fallen comrade. The other PCs moved quickly to take cover behind the burnt cottages, ranged weapons drawn, and moving forward as quietly as possible.

The dirt near the village walls was recently upturned. As the PCs approached they spotted spikes protruding from the ground. They were able to avoid stepping on any as they continued moving towards the Gnome. The Drow Paladin healed the Gnome and the Rogue stuffed her into his backpack like Yoda.

Sling bullets began raining down on the PCs from the nearby guard tower. The first shot missed but second hit the Drow Paladin. The Ranger and Monk fired arrows at the Goblin in the tower. Two shots later he was dead.

The Guard Towers (#6)

The Drow Paladin used his rope and grappling hook to scale the palisade and get into the tower before any other monsters could reoccupy it. The PC first responders all followed. Once in the tower they looked about and saw six Hobgoblins emerge from a nearby building and run towards the tower. From another nearby tower another Goblin guard fired sling bullets at the PCs.

Outside the village the Rogue, Monk, and Ranger all ran towards the dangling rope, avoiding the spikes, and then climbed up to the tower to join their allies. The Rogue/Cleric decided to split off from the party. He headed towards a guard tower closer to the water’s edge. He used his rope and grappling hook to scale the palisade and quickly found himself face to face with a surprised Goblin guard. The Guard managed to fire one sling bullet at the PC but missed. The Rogue/Cleric easily handled the lone enemy and secured the tower.

Back at the other tower the Halfling Rogue dropped a Molotov cocktail on the approaching Hobgoblins while those with ranged attacks shot the approaching monsters. The Mage managed to catch two Hobgoblins in his Sleep spell.

The melee combatant pulled the rope up over the palisade and lowered it down one side of the tower. In succession they slid down the rope and then circled around the Hobgoblins flanking them.

Two Hobgoblins entered the base of the tower and started running up the stairs while one stayed outside to face the PCs on the ground. The Rogue threw another Molotov cocktail down the stairs engulfing the approaching Hobgoblins. The Rogue and Monk blocked the stair attacking any creature trying to flee the flames and smoke by head up. The Paladins on the ground easily took care of the slowest enemy and then the one on fire who ran from the tower.

The Rogue/Ranger played sniper from the safety of the other tower and picked off Goblin guards in two nearby towers. He saw Goblins in the other towers but they were too far to hit. He then climbed down from the tower and onto the roof of the Shining River Mill (#8) where he could get a bird’s eye view of the whole village and likely hit anything moving on the ground with his bow and arrows.

Exploring Julkoun

Once the Hobgoblins were killed the party split up and searched the nearby buildings. In the Shrine to Chauntea (#9) they discovered all the holy symbols and carvings had been defaced and desecrated. No one was about and nothing of value was left inside. The other nearby building were also emptied of anything valuable and vandalized by the looters.

Half the party faced the Goblin guards in the remaining two towers. One of the Goblins was of stronger ilk then his brethren but the PCs managed to take him down with minimal difficulty. This group then moved on to the Ramp (#10) leading towards the higher section of the village.

The gates at the top of the ramp were barred shut. They were bloodstained and looked like they’d been destroyed and repaired. As soon as the PCs attempted to open the gates the Goblin in the nearby Guard Tower began firing sling bullets down upon them.

The ranged attackers went to work while the melee combatants worked on getting the gates open. The Cleric/Rogue climbed over the gate in the confusion. He ran across the higher section of Julkoun and climbed the far Guard Tower. The lone Goblin put up little effort and was easily overpowered.

When the Goblins in the towers were all handled and the gates finally opened the party divided up and explored. Half entered the Warehouse (#12) while the other half took a short rest before entering the Jester’s Pride (#11).

Inside the Warehouse the PCs found assorted trade good like wood and lumber, clay jars of grain and pallets of building materials. During the search they found a hatch in the floor that led to a basement storage area. The hatch door was smashed and they saw a light coming from the lower room.

Next session the parties will venture forth in to the underground Inn and the lower section of the Warehouse.

Thoughts

This got off to a slow start, but by the end of the session things were moving right along. When everyone was working together it made for great efficiency in game, but it slowed things down at the actual gaming tables. Once the groups split up and we shuffled the players into one group or the other we got a lot done in a very short amount of time. Based on where we stopped and knowing how little of Julkoun is left to explore I anticipate we’ll only need 30-40 minutes to finish up before heading back to Daggerford.

We’re a little bit behind where I’d like to be because of the time spent in Daggerford the first two sessions, but I think we’ll gain grounds as the party explores the locations of interest in the next couple of weeks.

The combat was a welcome addition to the session this week. I could tell that some of the players were itching to roll dice and kill monsters. We decided not to make any adjustments for the larger party in Julkoun. We left the same number of creatures and used the numbers printed in the adventure. Once we get a better sense of what they can handle we’ll ramp up the difficulty in the subsequent side quests.

A Look Ahead

We already know that next season’s adventure is a continuation of this one and that it’s called Dead in Thay. In the past week we learned a bit more from Greg Bilsland a member of the D&D design team at Wizards of the Coast through his Twitter feed (?@gregbilsland).

“If you liked Vault of the Dracolich, you’re going to enjoy the next season of D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay. It’s VotD on a bigger scale. Scott F Gray [one of the Vault of the Dracolich authors] worked on it. The dungeon has to sustain up to four groups across 13 weeks, so it’s big.”

When asked “How does that play with a store that only has 1 group?” Greg responded with “It should still be great. It’s a giant Undermountain-like dungeon that you can explore at your leisure.”

This got me really excited. Now I can’t wait for next season.

Additional Resources

  • 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.

Actual play podcast won’t be available until Friday, March 7.

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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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe March 6, 2014 at 9:37 am

We had 2 tables playing a 4e version of this adventure this week at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. My table (just like last week) had 5 strikers and 1 defender, so combat was pretty intense… but we’ll get to that.

After a night of fending off bugbear assassins in Daggerford, this week my party headed off to Julkoun, an abandoned village where they suspected a goblin tribe was basing their operations (and possibly holding Jekkra, the female dwarven scholar who may or may not have stolen the “Delimbiyr Bloke”, a dwarven artifact of some value to the Duke).

The party hired a cart & driver to take them to Julkoun, and it happened to be driven by a teenaged halfling who ended up being a BIG fan of the heroes, having followed all their adventures in Icewind Dale & Baldur’s Gate (we’re playing levels 4-6, with folks carrying-over their characters from one of the last 2 seasons). Of course, he’d only heard the overblown bard stories of their adventures, so some of the players chose to correct him (others were okay with the legendary versions of themselves).

The knew that there were two paths to Julkoun, the sneaky one through the dead woods that had been mysteriously inhospitable for about a decade, or the straightforward one up the main road. Stopping by the woods, they noticed a bunch of scary noises and creepy feelings, with the occasional visions of a hag in the woods. They chose to avoid that entirely (despite a pretty cool fight I’d designed to un-sully the woods… oh well). Coming up towards the village, they saw patrols of larger, armored folks.

Unfortunately, their fanboy cart driver yelled out at the nearest patrol, confidant that awesome heroes he was with could easily dispatch these brigands. This began a combat with a bunch of regimented hobgoblins. The fight went on for a while (lots of low rolls & misses on both sides, plus the hobgoblins got better AC from adjacent allies), but eventually the PC’s damage output ended the battle. They captured the commander to interrogate him, and learned about the hobgoblin War Chief who was in charge of things at Julkoun.

The party planned on wearing the patrol’s uniforms as disguises to sneak into the town, but we won’t get to that part until next week.

This week presented some interesting realities for me as a 4e DM. With the party at level 4, they’re facing much tougher foes with tougher powers/tactics (like the stranglers last week), which surprised players a bit when the soldiers had ACs higher than 20 (and tactics that pushed them even higher). We’re also going at least 4 sessions in-between extended rests, which is making folks more conscious of dwindling resources like healing surges and daily powers. They’ve got more magic items at their disposal, and the income to choose specific items that might suit their styles or needs better. But the players liked all those options & challenges… in breaking away from the simpler 4e lvl 1-3 model, they feel like they’re advancing as D&D players. And sure, we’ve still got new players coming in, but folks are happy to help one another out, so that everyone has more options at their disposal. That’s more than a little cool, and I really hope that the final version of NEXT manages to provide enough options that it’ll be similarly accommodating. Maybe once summer comes around, we’ll feel comfortable switching over to NEXT, but for now, 4e is suiting us just fine.

2 Brian March 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I wanted to speak toward your comments on the printed monster compendium. I too, had issues with missing spell and statistical information on the printed version, but fortunately was aware during my preparation processs so I had brought my laptop with me. I gathered from what your consensus was on the podcast, that this was a security concern. (Which can easily be skirted) And I agree handcuffs the DM into extra work. Hopefully this is something that can be corrected in the future as prep time is lengthy as it is and flipping around on a tablet or laptop between monsters in the middle of combat is slowing things down to a less than desired pace.

3 Rob March 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I too had the same problem when printing out the monster stats. However, I was only using the Next stats for reference as I am running Encounters in 4e. My copy was a legitimate one from the store so this seems to be some hypervigilance on Wotc’s part that is hurting actual customers while anyone pirating it most likely has a way to avoid this.

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