D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 15, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverThis week we kicked off the start of D&D Encounters season 18 at Hairy T North in Toronto. Dead in Thay is the sequel to Scourge of the Sword coast and picks things up a few weeks after the events from last season finish. The PCs are at the Floshin Estate. Sir Isteval, Sir Darfin Floshin, and Jekk are all there too and they’re ready to strike back at the Red Wizards of Thay.

A renegade Red Wizard named Mennek who opposes the Thayan lich lord Szass Tam has agreed to help the PCs strike a powerful blow against him. Szass Tam plans to use the portal beneath Bloodgate Keep to move his army of undead troops across the realms and ravage the Sword Coast. The heroes were gathered together so that they could make a preemptive strike and close the Bloodgate permanently.

The first encounter of this adventure is designed to be run as the Launch Weekend event. Unfortunately we were unable to run it on the weekend so we ran it as the first session of the season for our regular group. Despite a lot of regular players being away for this first session, we still had 17 players divided between three tables, all of which are using D&D Next rules this season. I acted at the coordinator and DM. At my table we had the following PCs: Half-Orc Paladin, Half-Orc Cleric, Dwarf Fighter, Elf Ranger, Elf Mage, Human Bard.

The Mission Briefing

Sir Isteval addressed the group. In order to close the Bloodgate the heroes need to acquire four elemental keys that help power it. By dividing into separate teams the PCs must simultaneously venture into these elemental nodes, recover the key, and get out as quickly as possible.

When the PCs have the keys in their possession they can then be transported to the Bloodgate Nexus where the Bloodgate itself is located. Once there they must save the human sacrifices whose blood is being siphoned from their bodies to power the Bloodgate. This should weaken the energy of the Bloodgate enough so that the PCs can destroy it.

The heroes divided into three parties while the notable NPCs formed a fourth group. Each party in turn entered the teleportation circle and Mennek whisked them off to one of the elementals nodes. My party found themselves headed to the Earth Node.

The Earth Node

The Earth Node was nothing more than a series of tunnels filled with shifting soil and dust. Dust in the air lightly obscured the node. The party had no sense of direction so they proceeded cautiously down one of the many winding passages.

The Paladin’s keen eyes noticed at the last second that the ground was shifting beneath the party’s feet as they moved ahead. She alerted the party allowing most PCs to back off, but the Paladin and Fighter in the front were too slow. As the sand shifted beneath their feet the soft earth that made up the walls began to shift and loose, rocks from above fell on them. They managed to shrug off the damage and continue forward. Now that they knew to look for these hazards they were able to avoid them or set them off from a safe distance.

After triggering another rockslide five strange creatures that looked like rocky hedgehogs burrowed up from the floor and surrounded the party. It was clear that these creatures had hostile intent so the party attacked first.

The Fighter, Paladin and Ranger each targeted a different Earth Grue and all three heroes realized that their non-magical weapons were not doing as much damage as they’d hoped. The Bard and Cleric buffed the party adding to their attack and damage rolls while the Mage fired Magic Missiles.

The Earth Grues managed to score two back-to-back crits on the Mage but the rest couldn’t penetrate the heroes’ defenses. It didn’t take long for the party to defeat the pesky Earth Grues and move onward.

The passage expanded into a large open area. In the centre of the open chamber was a huge boulder that glowed with golden light. The violet crystal key could be seen on top of it.

Before the PCs could proceed two lumbering Earth Elementals began slowly moving between them and the boulder. The Bard suggested using stealth to get the key and flee. The party agreed. First the Ranger cast Hunter’s Veil which added +10 to Stealth checks. Then the Bard cast Invisibility on himself and went left. The Mage cast Invisibility on the Fighter and he went right.

The four visible PCs attacked the Elementals to draw their attention. For four rounds they valiantly attacked the powerful Earth Elementals chipping away at their abundant hit points.

The invisible PCs made great Stealth checks and got to the boulder undetected. It took the Bard two tries to climb to the top but he eventually got there. The Fighter made the climb check on the fist try. Once on top of the boulder the PCs had to make Con checks to avoid being propelled off the boulder as it pulsed with magical energy. They both made it.

The crystal key was embedded in the boulder so they had to pry it loose. The Bard managed to do it on the first try. But when he did it triggered a reaction in the Earth Node. The pocket dimension began to shake and crumble. The whole party ran as fast as they could back to their starting pint where they were teleported away before sustaining any damage from the collapsing Node.

The Bloodgate Nexus

blood-gateThe PCs appeared in a huge oblong room. Around the room were eight red stone altars atop broad staircases. Next to each altar was a Red Wizard Apprentice. On top of each altar was an unconscious human ready to be sacrificed. On the floor thin channels filled with blood flowed from the altar to an enormous archway of black stone in the center – the Bloodgate. The arc was 50 feet tall and glowed blood-red.

Standing within the arch was a Red Wizard lich, one of Szass Tam’s allies, with a glowing staff. He addressed the Red Wizard Apprentices and called out, “Slay them all!”

The heroes remembered that their objective included stopping anyone from being sacrificed so they split up and attacked the Red Wizard Apprentices. As the first round began a fourth party made up of the notable NPCs (Jekk, Hadarr, Shalendra, Kelson, and Mennek) teleported in with the final key. Each group took responsibility for two altars.

My party made short work of the Red Wizard Apprentices. The Mage cast Hold Person on one in the first round and stopped him cold. The other was attacked by the Ranger and Paladin. The Fighter decided to shoot at the Lich but quickly learned that his non-magical crossbow bolts were pretty much useless.

Two Wraiths hiding in the darkness dropped from the ceiling and attacked the party. The badly wounded Mage was hit with the Energy Drain attack but luckily didn’t die from it. The Fighter, Bard, and Mage worked together to take out the two Wraiths pretty easily. Two crits from team heroes helped a lot.

The Ranger from my party and another archer from one of the other parties worked together to shoot down a Red Wizard Apprentice that had not yet been engaged. The other archer rolled a crit and my Ranger rolled max damage.

The other parties faced a pair of Drakenbeasts but they took care of them rather quickly. Two full fledged Red Wizards joined the battle fringing Magic Missiles from across the room. Just as my party was about to go toe-to-toe with these spellcasters Mennek the NPC Red Wizard who was helping the heroes broke away from the battle and rushed toward the Bloodgate. “Baazka, the way is open! Now help me escape,” he called out.

Flame ripples in the Bloodgate, and the ghostly form of a huge winged fiend appeared. The fiend’s form solidified slowly and the PCs spotted a broken blade jutting from his chest. Mennek ran forward into the gate and disappeared.

Shalendra Floshin shouted out at the fiend “Baazka!” and charged toward the gate. Baazka looked at Shalendra and then flames from the gate engulfed her. Kelson, her brother, tried to protect her and was also engulfed before they both disappeared.

The fiend spoke “Now, for those who care to listen, I have a bargain for you. Pull the blade from my chest, and I will shatter the Bloodgate for you.”

Three characters stepped forward without hesitation: a Mage, a Monk, and the Fighter from my party. The Mage rolled the highest initiative so he got to try first. He grasped the sword and pulled. His Strength check might normally have failed but a Bless spell still active on him gave him the boost he needed. The blade was removed with the first pull.

With the blade removed the wound began to close as Baazka stood and roared triumphantly. The Bloodgate shuddered and cracked as Baazka stepped forth. “You shall be legendary. The gate falters and I am free, our bargain sealed. I give you one more opportunity at a pact. As I set to slaying these Thayans, stay out of my way. Do so, and you die last.”

Baazka attacked Tarul Var, the Red Wizard Lich, pushing him away from the Bloodgate. A pulse of energy exploded outward from the Bloodgate, knocking down everyone in the room. The chamber shuddered.

A minute later the Bloodgate pulsed again and every PC heard and felt horrible shrieks in their mind. Everyone present felt themselves losing consciousness. “The nexus is collapsing in a cascade, but we can control it! Hold on!” An unseen force teleported the PCs out of the Bloodgate Nexus and then everything went black.

Thoughts

This session felt epic. It was a great introduction to what I’m hoping will be an awesome adventure. The cooperative mechanics of this season and this session in particular really added to the sense that this was too big for any one party to handle.

Where I felt this broke down a bit was when all the groups came back together in the Bloodgate. We had three groups crowd around one large battle map and everyone was doing their part in their area of the map. The challenge was getting everyone close enough to the map that the players could understand what was going on and feel like they were part of it.

Each DM ran things at a pace they felt comfortable with. I managed to get five or six rounds done in the same amount of time that another DM got through one or two rounds. So while my group really got a sense of urgency the other groups were a bit bogged down by mechanics. But everyone still seemed to really be having a good time with the whole thing so that’s what’s most important.

I was a bit surprised that we had three PCs agree to remove the sword from Baazka’s chest. These were experienced players so you’d think they’d know better than to do what a Devil asks. What amazed me even more was that none of the other players made any attempt to stop them or talk them down. We’ll see how this decision affects things for the party in the weeks to come.

Overall I felt this was a good session and everyone who played said they enjoyed themselves. A few players were expecting to jump right into the Doomvault dungeon this week and were actually a bit disappointed that they didn’t get there in week 1. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to come back next week.

How did the first session (the Launch Weekend) go at your FLGS? How many tables did you run? How did you groups handle Baazka’s request for aid?

Additional Resources

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Listen to Derek Myers, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (from 20ft Radius) recount our weekly experience at D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective tables 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.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe May 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Our first week at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA saw us running what will likely be the last of my 4E conversions of the Encounters seasons (since an official version of Next will be out for the start of the next season… supposedly). As this season is based on many of the meat-grinder, killer dungeons of ages past, we’re playing at a higher level, and going lvls 7-9 this season (for extra HP, better defenses, more power options, etc).

At my table this week I had a cavalier paladin, a fire elementalist sorcerer, an executioner assassin, a warlord, a rogue, and a warpriest cleric. Pretty well-rounded party, even if there were no controllers.

We began with the party meeting the army that Isteval had assembled to assault Bloodgate Keep. The plan was that the army would draw the attention of the Keep’s defenses, while the party snuck inside (using rebel Red Wizard Mennek’s help) to disable an elemental node, then ride the node’s energy pathways to the Nexus, where they’d defeat the Lich and save the day.

My party chose the Fire Node, where they had a skill check scenario of moving closer to a small sun (with plenty of Endurance checks & fire damage) while fighting off fire elementals and making checks to disable the altar that was sending the node’s energy to the Nexus. While it took a bit of time, the party finally succeeded, and sent word back to Khelben the Blackstaff (who was with Isteval, and who had given the party a communication orb thing for this purpose), who sent a bit of magical help, letting the party do +5 Fire damage on hits in the following combat.

Let me just say that I really enjoy building solo monsters. The Lich, Tarul Var, was a perfect foe. Complicating issues were his necrotic aura, his portal’s separate damage aura, and the 3 remaining active node pillars, each of which gave Tarul additional bonuses (dmg reduction, extra damage, higher defenses, etc), which gave some of the non-striker characters things they could do to feel more useful.

In the end, as the warlord & cleric were trying to disable the main portal (having gotten several successes), the paladin charged the lich and knocked him INTO the failing portal, disrupting it all and causing a teleportation backlash that drew the party in and sent them… somewhere else. Just before they lost consciousness, they heard a female voice saying “Don’t worry, I think I’ve got you. Hold on…”

2 Zeroun The Quick May 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I had 2 groups(11 players) 1 DM(me): we did the Fire and Water nodes before the Nexus and by the time we reached the Nexus, 5 of my players left(errands, life, kids, etc.) so I had to kinda breeze through that battle a little, but then Baazka did come out and well one of our guys twisted the sword and banished him…their thoughts, fighting a lich is okay, fighting a lich and pit fiend, not okay.

3 Hutchimus May 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm

How’s the adventure set up for home play? Any suggestions/mods laid out in it?

4 Crossems May 15, 2014 at 11:53 pm

The Assault on Bloodgate Keep

1st night of Dead in Thay – D&D Encounters
Houston Texas (League City), at Empire Central.

We continued the assault on the Bloodgate from launch weekend in which our parties had already shut down the nodes. It worked out well, as the other groups playing at the store, could also get into the action by proxy, as we finished the first encounters night of the new season.

Players:
Ramon – High Elf / Mage Enchanter
Chris – Drow / Protection Fighter
Tanya – Hill Dwarf / Mage Evoker
Eric – Half-Orc / Barbarian Berserker
Kelsey – Wood Elf / Ranger Horde Breaker
Rosie – Tiefling / Paladin of Vengeance
Alex – Forest Gnome / Druid of the Moon Circle

After the collapse of the Earth Node, our heroes were expelled into the Bloodgate!

Standing before them, was Tarul var, the Lich, Mennek had warned of. He was using arcane powers to repair the damage done to the Bloodgate by the nodes collapsing.

However he wasn’t alone. The temple of the Bloodgate was filled with Red Wizards and their minions.

The heroes faced off with 2 Red Wizards, 8 Wights, 2 Darken Beasts flying overhead, and 16 apprentices, in the process of sacrificing helpless victims to feed the Bloodgate with their essence.

And of course Tarul Var.

As they prepared for the coming fight, the Air Node Gate opened, and the other assault group consisting of Jekk, Hadarr, Kelstron, Mennek and Shalendra emerged.

The fight was now fair.

Not wasting a moment, the HIgh Elf, and Drow immediately went into action. The Drow cast Faerie Fire on the Lich, however, the spell seemed to fizzle out, as it reached its target. Undaunted, the Drow took up a position preparing to defend his comrades from any attacks from the wights. The High Elf, seeing the Drows spell fail, took his time to ascertain the nature of the Bloodgate with his knowledge of all things Arcane, in particular focusing on how the sacrifices could be helping the gate.

The Half-Orc Barbarian didn’t need to consider his arcane knowledge. Trusting that all things magic are bad, he immediately attacked a nearby alter, killing the two apprentices there, who were about to sacrifice their victim.

The rest of the heroes setup a defensive perimeter around the Drow, testing out their spells and attacks on both the streams of blood leading from the alters to the gate, and on the wights. Unfortunately nothing was revealed about eithers nature.

The Druid then surprised everyone when she suddenly transformed into a Triceratops!

(note: this was a DM error, as she can’t do this until level 10…but it sure played out well, so I’m cool with it)

The Drow seeing an opportunity, leapt upon the Triceratops back, readying the two of them to charge into battle! A glorious plan, that sadly wasn’t meant to be.

The Thayans made a quick counter attack, with the wights focusing their attacks on the fighters and the triceratops. One of the Red Wizards cast Hold Person on the Drow Fighter. The Drow held his Spellguard Shield up taunting the wizard with his save (+4 Save with Advantage) and rolled double 1’s! The Drow slowly, and sadly slid off the side of the Triceratops, landing limply on the ground.

One wight bent over the Drow, laid his hand on his chest, and slowly drained some of the Drows life out of him.

That’s all it took for the rest of the players to now be on hyper alert for wight touch!

The Darken Beast made a swooping attack on the Dwarfen Mage, and damaged her slightly, while Tarul Var, continued re-enforcing the Bloodgate.

As they readied themselves for another round of action, they heard an inhuman wail, from one of the alters, as the apprentices sacrificed the helpless victim upon it, and her life’s energy and blood began flowing to the Bloodgate, helping to repair it.

The heroes refocused their attacks on the sacrificial alters, and quickly had two of them disabled by killing the apprentices that were performing the vile sacrifices.

The Drow fighter, recovered quickly from being held, while the Paladin, Ranger and Triceratops, dealt with the wights.

The Dwarfen mage cast a Lightning Bolt spell at the Lich, but once again, was disgusted when she saw it fizzle just before it hit him.

The Thayans didn’t go down easily. The wights continued their melee with the Paladin, Ranger and Triceratops, as the Red Wizard cast blight on the Drow. This time his Spellguard shield’s advantage against spells worked and he was able to avoid most of the damage. Still, the Drow was feeling very abused.

The Darken Beast, seeing that the Barbarian was attacking the alters, swooped and landed on the Barbarian with full force, striking him hard.

The Elf Ranger (having ‘tactically chosen to go last’ by rolling a 1 for initiative), took aim, and felled the beast with a CRIT!

The other assault group (of NPC’s) continued to attack and reduce the Thayan foes on the opposite side of the gate.

Seeing the Red Wizard cast Blight, the Elf Mage decided that this particular enemy needed to be dealt with, and quickly! He charged the Wizard doing moderate damage with his swords, relying on his Aura of Antipathy to protect him in combat.

The Half-Orc Barbarian charged the wight who had attacked the Drow, and killed it with one blow. The dwarf mage cast Fireball combined with her evoking skill to shape the fire around the sacrificial victims so that only the apprentices were reduced to cinders.

In a last effort the Red Wizard cast blight yet again on the Elf Mage, who used his enchanters Instinctive Charm ability to redirect the spell towards the Half-Orc Barbarian, who was the next closest target in range. The Half-Orc Barbarian was nearly killed by the redirected spell, and a few surprised words of shock and anger were exchanged.

The Drow, recovered, and yet again climbed onto the back of the Triceratops, dug his heals into her flanks, and readied his Warhammer to charge the Lich repairing the gate!

The triceratops though was having nothing of it. She had suffered greatly from attacks by the wights, and wouldn’t budge. The Drow, begrudgingly dealt a death blow to a nearby wight, rather than enjoying the charge he so dearly wanted.

The Tiefling Paladin, and Elf Ranger, finished off the remainder of the wights.

The Barbarian, gleefully slew two more apprentices, and with the aid of the NPC assault group, soon all the Thayans were dead, except for Tarul Var!

Tarul Var continued to focus his arcane powers on the Bloodgate, ignoring the attacks around him.

Gathering their forces, they began their assault on the Lich.

The Drow, getting off of the Triceratops, advanced upon him, and swung his MIGHT MAGIC WARHAMMER ( +1 ), only to discover his attacks seemed as ineffective as his spells.

Jekk, from the NPC party, yelled at the Drow to stand aside, and let a dwarf do the job! The Drow, of course took pleasure when Jekk’s blow, proved to be utterly useless as well.

Frustrated, the Drow contacted Sir Isteval through the telepathic circlet, to see if he could provide any guidance. Sir Isteval replied, after briefly contacting Mennek (the Red Wizard that was aiding them), that Mennek suggested attacking the Bloodgate itself with Spells.

The Drow relayed the message quickly to the other spell casters, and soon, a Magic Missile party was started, with each volley cast causing large pieces of the gate to break away and crimson arcane energy the leak out.

This however, drew the attention of the Lich. He turned, looked at the Drow, and cast Cause Fear on him, followed immediately by a Cloud Kill.

Seeing the Lich summon forth the foul green smoke, the Elf Mage immediately took cover behind an alter and prepared for the worse, with his jaw slacked!

The Drow suffered massive damage as the poison cloud did its worst to him, but not enough to kill him. Moments later, the Drow burst forth from the green cloud of death, to take refuge near the Paladin, and the +3 Save Bonus of her Aura of Protection.

With all of his defense forces defeated, the Lich emerged from the Bloodgate, and decided to deal with these interlopers himself.

As the heroes, did their best to heal their wounds, with what spells they had left, they knew they were in trouble, when a red glow could be seen within the green cloud. It came shooting out and engulfed them in a Fireball! The Lich then emerged from the green cloud, and used his disrupt life ability to finish the job. The Druid and Drow both collapsed from the damage, unconscious and dying, while the Ranger hung near deaths door, barely alive.

Seeing an opportunity the Elf Mage cast his next Magic Missile on the Lich, causing enough damage that the lich, returned to the cloud and the protection of the Bloodgate.

At that moment, Mennek, burst forth from his group shouting “Baazka, the way is open! Now help me escape!”

The shadow of the huge fiend the heroes had briefly encountered in the Duke of Daggerfords dining room, emerged under the Gate, and began taking form. The Elfs immediately recognized the blade of Illydrael protruding from its chest.

Mennek reached the dark shadow of the fiend, Baazka, and disappeared in a flash of energy. Shalendra shouted her fury at Baazka, from having been pocessed by him during the Scourge of the Sword Coast, and charged. Kelson tried to grab and stop her, but they were both engulfed in tendrils of energy emitted by the Gate and also disappeared.

The Demon Baazka glared menacingly at Tarul Var, who held his ground defensively against him. Baazka then spoke, “Now, for those who care to listen, I have a bargain for you. Pull the blade from my chest, and I will shatter the Bloodgate for you.”

The Ranger, being the closest, took the Fiend at his word, and though uncertain, moved tepidly towards the Demon. The Shadow of the fiend knelled and stared directly into her soul, as she carefully placed her hands upon the blade. There was a moment’s hesitation (I loved this part as a DM, since Kelsey is a new player, and I could tell was really getting into the moment), as the Ranger pulled the blade free and held her breath.

Baazka howled in triumph and stood as the wound on his chest closed. His shadow began glowing red, as he materialized fully. Flexing his frame magnificently he shattered the remains of the Bloodgate, and reached down and grabbed the Lich by the throat. Laughing, Baazka chuckled deeply, “You shall be legendary. The gate falters and I am free, our bargain sealed. I give you one more opportunity at a pact. As I set to slaying these Thayans, stay out of my way. Do so, and you die last.” With that Baazka went all ‘HULK’ on the lich!

The Bloodgate crumbled completely and a wave of eldritch energy blast forth knocking everyone to their feet, as Baazka stood his ground where the gate had been.

The heroes heard a woman’s voice in their head, as they felt the energy building from the gates remains for another blast, saying “The nexus is collapsing in a cascade, but we can control it! Hold on!”

The blast came, and the world went black.


Thoughts: This was truly and Epic battle, and a great start to the new season. To keep the action moving and to avoid over crowding a small map, I chose to run this combat with no figures or maps. D&D Next lends itself wonderfully to the ‘Theater of the Mind’ and I take every opportunity I can to promote that, since players react much faster when they’re more focused on their actions, and the DM, rather than a grid.

I did actually continue Syranna’s introduction, explained to them what was happening, and talked about the Doomvault, so that next week, parties have been chosen, with what zone they will be attacking, and we can jump once more into the meat of the adventure!

I do know the Druid will be saddened she can’t be a Triceratops, but I may very well say, to heck with it and let her continue using that shape…who knows…maybe the power of the Doomvault has enhanced her magic in a very special way :)

5 D.B. May 16, 2014 at 12:37 am

Hutchimus: The Bloodgate portion of the adventure specifies to use the NPC party of Jekk, etc instead of another PC party. I ran the event with a solo group doing multiple nodes and the Bloodgate event without any problems. There isn’t any specific rule for how to do the rest of the adventure in a solo party, but you should be able to adapt it.

6 Lauren Bilanko May 16, 2014 at 6:19 am

I own the Twenty Sided Store in Brooklyn, NY. Our schedule is a bit off as well because of Mother’s Day weekend as well and we have broken up the Launch Session over three weeks.

Typically, at the end of every season we have the Finale, then an Awards Ceremony, followed by character creation for the new Season. Since many of our regular players planned on carrying over their characters from Scourge of the Sword Coast, We decided to go right into the Intro for Dead in Thay. We had at least 36 players, 4 returning DMs and 2 new DMs. Each DM took on the role of one of the NPCs – Istaval, Darfin and Selandra Floshin, Jekk, Hadarr and Mennek. Our group has been super skeptical of the Red Wizards so the fact that we had one here and Istaval and Darfin trusted him made the party very uneasy. We spent about an hour or so roleplaying as one large group as player interacted with the NPCs, asking questions and receiving information about what they needed to do next. They were told that this was an extremely deadly mission and that they needed to recover the keys, destroy the nodes and shut down the Bloodgate Nexus.

We ended the session with all of the players stepping into portal at the Floshin Estate headed to the Elemental Nodes.

Every week I randomize the tables so players have a chance to play with different DMs and players throughout the season. Since we are running 6 tables this season but the adventure has been written for 4, some of My DMs will be doubling up on locations.
This week I had 5 DMs and at least 36 players – 2 DMs running the Air Node, one on Fire, one on Water, and myself on Earth.
Each player rolls a die to determine which table they will be playing at. None of our players new ahead of time which node they were going to be transported to.

I had several beginners at my table this week. 2 had never played D&D before (Monk 1 & Dwarf Fighter), it was the second session for two others (Drow Assassin Rogue & Elf Ranger), one had played all of Scourge of the Sword Coast (Elf Paladin), and the 6th player has been a regular but is returning for the first time since Baulder’s Gate ( Monk 2).

I started off having all the players describe what it felt like traveling through the portal. The Paladin loved the way the colors looked on her skin, The Dwarf Fighter found it extremely foreign but enjoyed it. Monk 1 was concerned about landing on his feet and was sure the landing was going to be bumpy.

When they got to the EARTH node, I described the portal ring as kind of a safe zone, but they couldn’t see anything, except for large rock formations that seemed to go from floor to ceiling creating what looked like narrow passages or tunnels . The particles in the air were getting into their eyes and on their skin and fogged their vision. The Paladin eventually ventured forward and gracefully caught her balance as the ground moved under her feet.

Monk 2 and the Drow were able to identify the moving ground as a sentient being just as the Paladin looked straight into the eyes of the hedgehog-skeletal looking face of the grue in front of her and immediately stepped back into the portal ring.

After watching the ground move some more, they all started to try to figure out what these things were and after some checks learned that they were grues and that they spoke primortal. Well of course, the Paladin is fluent in primortal so she started to ask them a bunch of questions, also translating questions the rest of her party had, but they only replied in smirks and sarcasm.

However, through great conversation and negotiation, they learned that the grues knew where the key was and that they disliked the guards there, so the Paladin convinced the grues to bring them to the nexus and assured them that the rest of her party would take care of the guards for them. The rest of the party agreed to this and followed the Paladin’s lead. [I was so hoping someone would provoke them, but nobody did].

The Paladin casted Invisibility and so they walked and walked and walked in what seemed like a pretty direct route, with no major turns or twists through the tunnels… I had some of the grues get a bit tricky and go for shinny things the players had dangling from their belts. One tryed to grab Monk 2’s manacles. Monk 2 shoed the grue away and the grue clawed at him but Monk 2 took the damage and didn’t provoke a fight. I told the players they could talk to each other through the circlets since they were in close proximity to one one another so they all chatted and stayed near each other while the grues took them on the most direct, least dangerous path.

Suddenly there was a large quiver and the Drow spotted the rocks falling just before one of the quakes hit hard and was able to warn the rest of the party of a giant bolder headed straight for the Dwarf. Just at that moment Monk 1 jumped in the way and and punched the bolder with a furry of blows, cracking it in half, saving the Dwarf from getting hit, but half of it broke off and did half damage to the paladin who was right in the middle of the group.

When the grues got sight of Monk 1’s fighting ability, they lead the players into a dead end and tried to bargain for more goods. The Paladin again convinced them that they needed their tools and weapons to fight the guards and that they could have their stuff after, so the grues took to this reasoning and continued on… but the players were starting to suspect something.. [ this literally went on for an hour.]

At this point they walked and talked and it was all pretty uneventful, [I was really trying to build up the suspense]. I told the players that they could tell the grues were getting really excited. The grues are attracted to evil like a moth is to light and they dived in and out of the ground as if they were dolphins swimming in the ocean. This alerted the party that they were getting closer to something evil. Then I had the table break for drinks and snacks… [This set up convinced them that they were going into a big fight so everyone was ready to drop all of their spells and go full into action.]

…When we resumed I described the particles in the air forming into the elementals as rock joined with rock to form these gigantic massive monsters guarding what they could see as a large bolder with cracks spewing elemental force behind them. The geode looking key was all the way at the top of it.

The players focused all of their attacks at one of the elementals until it was dead, The Paladin flew up and eventually got the key, the grues wanted the key so they stayed under her. They felt the Node collapsing and all decided to make a run for it back to the teleportation circle. The Monks got their first. the Paladin fooled the grues by throwing an illusion of a fake key in the opposite direction, and the rest doubled moved for 4 rounds until they got back to the portal ring.

When the Monks arrived they were surprised attacked by the Thayan Warriors that emerged from the portal one at a time. As two more arrived they were just waiting on the last two the Drow and the Ranger who were being tailed closely by the other elemental and the one grue who wasn’t tricked by the illusion. When finally they all made it to the portal – disenguaging and running rather than sticking around to die. The Monks kept fending off the Thayans, with the help of the fighter they killed 1, pushed 1 into the collapsing node, just as teh Ranger and Drow caught up and The Paladin used the key to activate the portal. Two Thayans were moving with them. In the weightlessness of the portal, they continued to fight and take out the other two Thayan Warriors… to be continued…

Overall we had 3 players die in the water node and one player traveling through the portal unconscious from the Air Node.

Next week the players will emerge at the Bloodgate Nexus. We will run this mission/ encounter at individual tables until Mennek speaks out to Baazka, [we plan to beef up the first half of this with all the tasks and combat, so at the end we can have each DM take on an NPC and roleplay the conclusion to find out what decision our players will make.]

They think the fight is over, but I can’t wait until they appear to a much worse situation…

7 DMDavid May 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

Dead in Thay presents players with a daunting amount of background information that they must understand once they reach the Doomvault. I created a player’s handout to help cope. You can find it here: http://dmdavid.com/tag/dead-in-thay-players-handout/

8 Vobekhan May 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm

We had our usual 2 tables of our regular players for the launch and following session, though aside from tackling their first nodes seperately they ended up joining up for the third node and Nexus.

I know at least one of our regular players may decide to bow out this season as it seems to focus on combat encounters even though we’ve assured her that not all of it has to be combat (and indeed many will be beyond the capability of a combat oriented party) but we’ll see.

9 Merric Blackman May 20, 2014 at 7:05 am

We managed to have 17 players, 3 DMs and 1 Co-ordinator as well! It’s an impressive number. :)

My full report should be in the link below. It’s very difficult keeping track of everything as the co-ordinator, I must say, especially when you’re concerned with how the final encounter will play out! (I still made mistakes with how I ran it…)

Oh well. I think the players still had fun, and we had the same numbers for the second session as well. I guess I better write that up, huh?

10 Dan May 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

We were only able to get 1 dm for launch weekend, and a few players were missing as well. We ended up with several warforged (they were from the other party, so I couldn’t keep their classes straight; there was an enchanter mage, a barbarian/fighter/mage/monk, and I think a straight fighter), a tiefling bard, an elf archer (fighter), a half-elf ranger, another warforged (war cleric/fighter, but flavored as soul-possessed armor), and myself, The halfling barbarian/monk/cleric/rogue.
We did the intro meeting with the NPCs, and basically interrogated the red wizard, as we didn’t trust him. We decided to keep the massive party together, and do 2 nodes while the NPCs did the other 2. Since the 2 groups had coincidentally done exactly the opposite quests, we decided that we had just not encountered one another (and that their drastically off-book shenanigans had happened since our last visit to daggerford, now Goblinford).
Anyway, we got transported to our first node, the air node. My first question was what gravity felt like, which was described as moon-like. We were set upon by several creatures, which we quickly dispatched thanks to our magic users, monk fists, and few magic weapons among us. Before the last one fell, the warforged mage decided to try to find the way toward the key, but guessed wrong. He accidentally pushed through the membrane of the air node and began floating through the elemental plane of air. Fortunately, we noticed his absence, and I tied myself off before making my way out to him. I succeeded at bringing him back, and we moved on. We soon found the air key, which the warforged fighter(?) grabbed in a sack before running back through our combat with the guardians. One lashed out at him, knocking him sprawling. Seeing that he had the key, and being familiar with Indiana Jones, the rest of us made for the portal. One actually helped the fighter(?) up, and we were teleported out.
We then arrived in the water node. Somehow, we were able to breathe, though the warforged group laughed that they didn’t need to. After helping the ranger figure out it was safe, we met some minor water creatures. The bard tried to communicate with them, and succeeded, enlisting their help in distracting the larger guardians later on. They feared the guardians, but knew they would be released from the node into the plane of water if we took the key, so they agreed. We decided stealth and a quick swim would be best, so I went in alone while the guardians were distracted. I managed to escape with the water key in another sack as water began to crystallize around the room from the pillar’s defenses. I managed to escape, and we went through the portal.
We took a dinner break, and returned to see the nexus map, crawling with foes. It was kinda scary. I jumped at the chance to attack the big boss right away, and punched the lich 6 times for 85 damage (the warforged with several classes and I have a habit of trying to exploit broken rules, and multilingual is very broken right now). Unfortunately, he had resistance to all damage, and a ton of hp, so he always still able to hang on. The warforged cleric/fighter used turn undead, causing most of the undead (minus the lich) run away from him. Several living servants attacked us, but died from the lich’s aura and returned attacks. Then, the remaining enemies finally got to go. The lich cast cloud kill on our party, dealing severe damage, but nobody dropped. Then, another foe cast gust of wind, moving the cloud to the opposite side of the room, where our allied NPCs had arrived. Another foe cast fireball on the NPCs. Then, we decided to ask what kind of poison gas cloudkill summoned. The DM said Chlorine gas…which is flammable. So, all of the undead in the cloud got hit with the chain reaction, as did the lich and the portal, which pushed it over the breaking point. Simultaneously, baazka areived, and the cleric/fighter appeared to accept the offer, but thrust the blade deeper into the fiend’s chest, with a howl, he declared us his enemies. Of course, we didn’t need him to destroy the portal, as it was breaking apart already, but it was fun to turn around and make more enemies.
The room began to collapse, and we decided that the only way out was through the portal. We were guided to safety by a voice we would meet on week 1.

11 Dan May 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Since nobody else seems to have begun the doom vault, I will post my group’s 1st and 2nd weeks together on the week 2 page.

12 Luke Osborne July 16, 2014 at 2:53 am

Hi guys, I’ve been following this site for a year, but this is my first post. Our group plays a month and a half late, but the good news is that it gives me a
a month of weekends to set up a nice set piece using Hirst art supplies and other materials to make a creative Bloodgate Nexus. We ran 3 tables tonight, with everyone then playing simultaneously at the same table at my “interpretation” of the bloodgate nexus. This was totally inspired by Ameron’s own session. Each table is running with about 6/7 pcs (desperate for another DM).

While the game store was playing the store managers managed to capture a 30 second video. As you can see it was total pandemonium :

https://www.facebook.com/CritCastleGames

13 Ameron (Derek Myers) July 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

@Luke Osborne
Better late than never! Please continue to share your exploits. Listen to our Recounting Encounters podcast and learn from our mistakes.

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