D&D Encounters: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Week 10)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 24, 2014

scourge-of-the-sword-coast-coverThe party managed to get inside Firehammer Hold during last week’s session. They encountered a few Duergar along the way but remained pretty much unscathed. Unable to figure out how to gain access to any more rooms on the level 1 they decided to follow the mine cart tracks downward into the level 2 of the fortress.

At Harry T North in Toronto we ran four tables this week. The 4e table had its usual six players as did the other D&D Next table. Craig and I started off with only four players but by the night’s end we had eight. Our group ended up with the following members this week: Drow Paladin, Drow Rogue, Half-Orc Paladin, Gnome Druid, Elf Ranger, Elf Cleric/Rogue, Human Monk/Barbarian, and Dwarf Fighter.

Firehammer Hold – Level 2

We began this week’s session with the party arriving in the Mine Cart Exchange (#29). They went north and opened the first door they came across leading them into the Shrine to Dumathoin (#30). Faced with a door or stairs down they took the stairs – except for the two Rogues and the Ranger who decided to hang back just in case things went badly.

At the bottom of the stairs on the Deep Landing (#33) the PCs noticed a statue in the corner had the phrase “Friendship is more than a word. Weigh it carefully.” carved in Dwarvish in its base. This is the exact same phrase carved on the Delimbiyr Bloke which the Half-Orc Paladin had in her possession. The PCs opened the doors and continued onward.

Cenotaph (#34)

firehammer-hold-titles-of-cenotaphThe square room had a stylized grid of stone slabs on the floor, each 5×5 feet. They formed a pattern that was eight slabs wide (from wall to wall) and six slabs across. Each slab was engraved with a round shield with a sword above it and javelins flanking it. On a rectangular cartouche on each slab contained a single word which the Fighter identified as Dwarven names. On the other side of the room was set of stone doors.

The players immediately guessed that this was some kind of trap or puzzle. They assumed (correctly) that if they wanted to open the far doors they needed to figure out the correct sequence of stones to step on. Each PC tried to figure out how to solve the puzzle by examining everything in the room, everything carved on the walls, and everything on and around each slab.

They couldn’t figure out what to do so they decided to go with trial and error. They cautiously stepped on a few different slabs. Each time the slab made a clicking noise but no other noticeable effect. They tried jumping from stone to stone, thereby getting to the other side without stepping on any more slabs than necessary. The Fighter was the first to reach the other side and when he did the depressed slabs reset.

He moved to examine the door but couldn’t see any way to open it. While the Fighter was examining the door and listening for sounds on the other side, the Drow Paladin tried a different slab. This time there were two clicks; one coming from the slab as before but this time the Fighter heard a faint sound coming from inside the door.

Working together they finally realized that if they got the correct sequence of steps the door would react. When they made a mistake everything reset. While they tried to get the door to open the three stragglers made it down the stairs, chased by Duergar Warriors. The Monk joined the combat and left the others to figure out the slabs and door puzzle.

The heroes finally managed to get the right sequences of slabs and the door opened slightly. They realized that the first letter of each name they stepped on spelled out the word binatta which is the Dwarvish word for friendship, as it appears on the Delimbiyr Bloke’s inscription.

Chapel of the Watcher (#35)

The two Paladins, the Druid, and the Fighter all stood at the door and pushed it open. Inside they discovered a chapel. At the far end was a statue of a stylized Dwarf warrior with a rectangular recess where its face should be. They pulled out the Bloke and realized it would fit in the opening perfectly. The Half-Orc Paladin, Bloke in hand, stepped into the room and headed towards the statue.

Before any of the other PCs could follow the Ranger broke off from the combat on the landing and ran into the Cenotaph, stepping on an incorrect slab. This reset the slabs and the door slammed shut, trapping the Paladin inside.

The PCs quickly worked to rested the slabs and trigger them in the right order. When they did nothing happened. They had no idea what might be happening inside the chapel so they tried to get the door opened by force. They failed many checks before it finally opened.

Inside the Paladin approached the statue. She noticed the phrase “Greetings, Friends and Allies of the Watchers.” carved in Dwarvish on the statue. When the Bloke was inserted into the recess, the statue and Bloke glowed slightly. She heard the roared battle cry of an army as if from a great distance as the Bloke was magically charged.

She knew that to activate the magic she only had to speak the command phrase, “Aid us, Fire Eyes,” in Dwarvish. When activated the Bloke would emit bright light (like a daylight spell). Within the light, 2d4 + 2 Gulthyn astral constructs would materialize, appearing to be the spirits of dwarf warriors. They would follow her orders for 10 minutes, doing anything they are capable of, and then disappear.

She reclaimed the Bloke and turned to leave. At this point the PC outside tried forcing their way in. What they didn’t know was that with each failed attempt fire engulfed the room. The Paladin had lots of hit points and could take the damage, but the room was air tights and as the flames burned the oxygen quickly depleted. She failed her Con save and fell unconscious right at the doors.

When the Drow Paladin finally forced the door opened he saw her smoldering body laying there unconscious. He grabbed her and pulled her out. As he released the door it slammed shut again. The party gave up and turned around to go back upstairs.

From the shrine they went through the door into the Ossuary (#31). They trigged a trap that caused bones to explode and then triggered another trap that summoned minor demons. They easily beat the monsters and continued north out of the fortress to the Worm Pit (#32). Now outside Firehammer Hold the party realized they were heading in the wrong direction and tuned back.

Shrine to Dumathoin (#30)

When the party regrouped back in the Shrine they noticed that the gemstones eyes of the bas relief carved on the wall were missing. The PCs started accusing one and other. The arguing went on for about five minutes of real time so the Duergar come to investigate. Fortunately the PCs head the Duergar approaching so they took a defensive position. Four PCs stood on either side of the hallway leading into the shrine and waited.

The Duergar knew the PCs were in there so they didn’t rush in. Instead two threw Molotov cocktails at the PCs setting them on fire and laughing at them. Four of the PCs ran out and came face to face with four Duergar Warriors.

The Duergars used the layout to their advantage gaining cover ducking behind walls where possible and continuing to throw fire grenades at the PCs when they all bunched up together. The heroes were already somewhat damaged from their previous encounters so this fight really took a lot out of them.

During the fight, one of the Duergars remained back of his buddies and attacked with ranged weapons. When he saw the third Duergar fall he turned and ran away. The PCs were too hurt to pursue and let him go. They decided to barricade themselves in the shrine and take a short rest. When we pick things up next week they’ll be rested and ready to face whatever the Duergar have waiting for them on the other side of the door.

Thoughts

This was another great week. Although this season seemed to get off to a slow start it’s really kicking it into high gear for the final sessions. I think it has a lot to do with the increased combat, the thrill of exploring the dungeon, and the chance for the players to solve puzzles. Role playing social encounters is all well and good but it never seems to get all the players excited. When it comes time to battle monsters we know everyone is on the same page.

One thing the party did not do well this week was keep quiet. They were quite loud and had many conversations (arguments) without any concern for how far the noise travelled through the corridors. Since a Duergar already raised an alarm in the last session the enemies were ready for the PCs.

This week I had the brainstorm to use the party’s tactics against them by having the Duergar Warriors use Molotov cocktails just like the PCs did during the battle in Julkoun. The players we not amused, but the DMs felt it was fair play.

How many other groups solved the floor puzzle in Firehammer Hold? Did they get it by using the clues or just rely on trial and error? With only two weeks to go how do things look at your table? Will you be able to finish in the final two weeks?

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.

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 April 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

Fun time at my FLGS this week, where we ran one table of 6, doing a 4e version of the encounter.

We were also in Firehammer Hold, though the challenges were a bit different. The players came across a statue of the architect of the citadel, which magically informed them to choose one of two doors – The Way of Fire or The Way of the Hammer – to undergo trials to prove themselves as worthy of access to the forges. Realizing they had little fire resistance, the party chose the way of hammers.

In the tradition of Galaxy Quest, this brought them to a room of unnecessarily crushing hammers. There were four large statues of hammer-wielding dwarven heroes, each with a platform in front of them. The party had to go platform to platform, engaging in a challenge related to each of the heroes. If the succeeded, they’d gain the support of that hero’s statue (and a success in the overall challenge). If they failed, they’d get hammered.

The challenges were fun, and required some ingenuity on the party of the players at some points, while requiring some power usage at others. #1 was a test of history, where they had to use History or Dungeoneering to tell a tale from Dwarven history. I then asked the player to make up whatever story they actually told (the eladrin was hilarious at this, as he succeeded on his check, but told a tale that effectively ended with elves being superior to the dwarven hero). #2 was a proof of craftsmanship, where the party had to create things using whatever skill they could justify it with. We had Arcana used for making magical dwarven imagery, Religion used for poems, Athletics used for an artistic axe kata form, etc. #3 was a test of battle prowess, where there were stones that had to be attacked (5 for each defense), and each character had to do 15+ damage (this was tough, as we had several non-striker characters). #4 was a test of bravery, where the hammer came smashing down on them almost immediately, and as long as at least one of them did not flee, they succeeded. Turned out most of them decided to stay, though one player noted that it was a “Gygaxian choice”… if it was a test of bravery, they’d succeed, but if it was a test of wisdom, they’d fail.

The final fight was preceded by overhearing a conversation between the Duergar cleric of Asmodeus and Natyssa/Pencheska, who was speaking through a fiery portal. This allowed for a final plot dump that revealed the Red Wizards’ final portal testing ground: the Floshin Estate, where Pencheska would later use the Red Wizards’ portal energy to finally free their lord Baazka, so that he could scourge the sword coast and make a throne of bodies for their lord Asmodeus to rule from… you know: typical supervillain stuff.

The fight was pretty well-balanced. The party rushed in and clustered around a large fire elemental, which then shifted out of the way so that the cleric could come in and blast the crap out of them. I had also given the cleric some cool flavor powers, my favorite being “Your God is Weak Before Asmodeus”, which targeted a healer and, until the duergar cleric was killed, caused all healing done by or to the character to be halved. The players were slightly thrown by an effect that a save couldn’t end, but with the -2 to saves they were all suffering from the cleric’s “Wave of Despair”, it was almost a moot point anyway.

After the fight was done, the Blackstaff’s apprentice, a young gnomish girl who excelled in teleporting, showed up to offer her assistance to the party, who immediately told her they needed to get to the Floshin estate, where we’ll pick things up next week.
Joe´s last blog post ..MythSpoken Gaming Special: Monsterhearts

2 Dave April 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I’ve been running this at Game Universe North, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. My players are a couple of dads and their middle-school-age sons, plus a few other adult players here and there. We are moving very slowly because there were several weeks near the beginning when I had no players at all show up, and no one has been able to attend every session. We only have 2 hours a week to play, which means 4 to 5 rooms of exploration, 1 combat, and 1 role-playing encounter (a pretty typical pace). There’s no way we’re going to finish by May 7th.

Our heroes started out by ignoring the Julkoun lead, and instead chased the sculptor to Harpshield Castle. They dealt with the orcs, got the Bloke back, returned to Daggerford and gave it to the Duke via Kelson Darktreader, who is technically their immediate boss. They missed all the secret doors and clues such as the map, etc. (“You find what looks like a map of the area.” “Uh huh. Is there any gold?”) So that was February and March.

The dwarven weapons they found at Harpshield led them to Firehammer Hold next (without the Bloke). They spent three weeks of gaming getting into Firehammer and past all the duergar. This group is not subtle, it was a full-on assault through the side door! Three weeks of just plain combat, punctuated by one tactical retreat on the part of the players, and all inside the first 3 or 5 rooms of the place, as more and more dwerg’s responded and reinforced the battle, until the bad guys were all dead. The players then freed the prisoners and Jek, found their way to the Cenotaph room, solved the puzzle and got as far as the Chapel. Then they turned around and went back, deciding that they were just desecrating a holy shrine and tomb at that point (young players, “lawful good”, etc. etc.). They left good old Jek in charge of Firehammer and went on their way.

Many of the freed prisoners were from Julkoun, so the PCs finally are going there to see what’s up. Since they are all now going to be 4th level I am replacing Julkoun with the Phylund Lodge stuff — “Julkoon Keep.” Julkoun is now going to be the main Red Wizards base. And probably I’ll end the Scourge campaign with that.

The pace has been very slow and none of the players has any idea what the plotline is supposed to be other than “kill the orcs.” They haven’t picked up on Baazka, haven’t interrogated any orc or goblin or duergar to learn about the Evil Plan, ignored all the physical clues, and have actively avoided the Duke and the Floshins, since they decided the Duke is an a-hole and Shalendra doesn’t like them!

I feel there is a lot of wasted space in this module, given our limited time. All of the storage rooms, kitchens, and guard rooms. There is a lot of verbose description of fulling mills and bath houses and bedrooms, but basically nothing interesting in them to interact with. Long descriptions of NPCs who don’t do anything. Of course, I can cut out dull places and add my own interesting details, but then, why am I using this module?

For Encounters, I think the designers really need to think in “Five-Room Dungeon” mode for each area. Leave out all the dusty empty rooms and balconies overlooking the waterfall and blah blah blah and just give us the good parts. With players coming in and dropping out and relatively short sessions, there is little continuity and not much use for a standard plotline.

I’m hoping Dead In Thay will go better for us since it seems it will be a more traditional dungeon crawl.

3 Brian Criswell April 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm

@Dave

I have really enjoyed the Encounters adventures since Murder in Baldur’s Gate. I just have not really liked them as encounters adventures. We were always pushing the players to get done with the bare minimum to get them to the end.

You have to remember that since Murder in Baldur’s Gate, the adventures are specifically designed so that there is much that does not get accomplished. Even knowing that, we had trouble finishing within 13 weeks. I think these are great adventures. I just don’t think they fit in the encounters format. (Essentially saying the same thing as you regarding 5 room dungeons).

We eventually dropped playing Encounters and have several public play groups playing long term adventures so that new players still have a place to gather.

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