Last week’s session finished with a bang – literally. One of the PCs removed the broken blade from Baazka’s heart and the Pit Fiend rewarded the adventurers by destroying the Bloodgate. The PCs heard shrieking filling their minds as the Bloodgate was about to explode. The mental assault caused the PCs to lose consciousness, but those wearing the telepathic circlets heard a woman’s voice. “The nexus is collapsing in a cascade, but we can control it! Hold on!” The heroes were teleported to safety and blacked out.
This week we had a great turnout at Hairy T North in Toronto. We ran three tables: table 1 (DM: Craig) had five players, table 2 (DM: Hillel) had seven players including one player new to our store but not new to D&D, and table 3 (DM: Tim) had seven players including me. I also acted as the coordinator.
The table I joined played all of last season together under this DM. They have a shared history and their characters really know each other well. Although one of the other tables only had five players, I really wanted a chance to play with this group. The party consisted of the following PCs: Tiefling Wizard, Elf Ranger, Human Cleric, Human Wizard, Warforged Monk, and Halfling (Kender) Rogue. I played a Dwarf Barbarian, a character I’d brought from level 1-6 during the first three parts of Ghost of Dragonspear Castle.
When the characters awoke they found themselves in a shadowy room with a teleportation circle etched on the floor around them. The illusionary image of a female Red Wizard appeared in the room. She introduced herself as Syranna and explained it was she who teleported the PCs away from the Bloodgate as it was about to explode.
She is part of a resistance movement against the lich-lord Szass Tam. She brought the PCs to Thay to help her strike a powerful blow against him. The heroes are in a magical gatehouse from which they can enter the Doomvault, a secret dungeon laboratory. Hidden within the Doomvault are the phylacteries of Szass Tam’s elite liches. If they are found and destroyed it will be a devastating blow against Szass Tam.
She asks the PCs to help in exchange for saving their lives. With Thaymount now on high alert teleportation in and out is impossible so the PCs have little choice. The adventurers were happy to agree.
Before sending the PCs into danger, Syranna conveyed some important information about their task and the Doomvault itself. The dungeon is divided into sectors dedicated to the creation and control of specific types of monsters. Each sector is subdivided into protected zones. Magical white gates block corridors, preventing physical access between zones. Magical black gates are teleportation circles that connect different parts of the dungeon.
Syranna gave each party with a glyph key, a magic crystal pendant on a bronze chain. When attuned to a zone, it allows access to that zone’s gates. By touching two glyph keys together, they can be attuned to the other key’s zone making them more versatile.
The PCs should try to 1) destroy any monsters or experiments already in progress, 2) gain access to the Phylactery Vault, 3) destroy any phylacteries they find.
Although the Phylactery Vault is part of the Doomvault it can only be reached by using a black teleportation circle. The PCs need to find a glyph key attuned to the Phylactery Vault in order to gain access.
With that, Syranna stresses the need to act quickly, wished the parties good luck, and disappeared. In turn each of the three parties gathered in the gatehouse stepped into the teleportation circle, actived it using their glyph key, and entered different points in the Doomvault.
Forests of Slaughter
Forest of Recovery
Note: Our DM decided to switch up a few of the rooms in this zone so although we actually began in area #46 we encountered the creatures from area #49. Since none of the players have a copy of the adventure (except me) they’ll never realize the switch.
Hook Horror Nest (#46) – located in area #49
When the PCs arrived they were surprised to find themselves in a forest. There was grass and earth beneath their feet, trees and plants all around, and sunny skies above. It wasn’t until the Mage’s familiar tried to fly into the sky and hit the ceiling that the party realized they were actually still in the dungeon.
On the ground ahead of the party they noticed tracks and gouge marks in the dirt. The Ranger believed they were made by large bipedal creatures that had large claws on their arms. As the party began to look around for any signs of what might have made the marks they spotted four Hook Horrors hanging from the nearby cliffside. Fortunately the monsters seemed to be sleeping or just not paying attention.
The party realized that there wasn’t likely to be a glyph key in this area of the dungeon so they opted to move quickly and quietly out of this area and into another area to the North West. What the party didn’t know was that they actually had to pass through the Hook Horror’s nesting area to leave.
Everyone in the party made a Stealth check except for the clumsy Tiefling Mage. His fumble happened when he was in the nest. One of the Hook Horrors immediately looked over. When it saw seven adventurers near its nest and possibly threatening its young, the Hook Horror charged into combat.
The Cleric ran back to stand beside the Tiefling Mage and protected him. The Ranger fired covering shots from a safe distance past the nest. The Hook Horror focused his rage on the Tiefling Mage and hit him hard. The Barbarian ran towards the Mage, picked him up, threw him over his shoulder, and ran off. The Hook Horror took an opportunity attack on the Barbarian but did minimal damage. The rest of the party fled to the North West.
The Ranger continued to provide cover fire while the Human Mage stopped running for a second to blast the Hook Horror with an Icy Ray, damaging and slowing the monster. This allowed the Cleric to move away safely and catch up to the Barbarian and Tiefling Mage. The monster did not pursue.
Barghest Range (#50)
The Rogue was leading the party’s retreat and as he was running he spotted two adult Barghests and a few of their young in the tall grass near a pool to the West. He wisely avoided them and continued running North. He signaled the party to follow him and avoid the area where he spotted the monsters. The rest of the fleeing PCs took his advice and avoided that particular danger.
Pool of Recovery (#51)
The Rogue stopped running when he reached a pool of water that glowed with a pale blue light. He stopped, looked around for monsters both in and out of the water, and seeing none took a deep drink of the water. A wave of magical restoration flowed through him granting him the benefits of a short rest. He pulled out two empty flasks and filled them with the magical liquid.
As the rest of the party caught up he told them what he’d discovered. The injured Tiefling Mage drank the water. The Human Mage decided he’s swim in the water and dove right in.
Between areas #50 and #51 the party passed a white rune circle. The Barbarian, who was wearing the glyph key, stepped into it without resistance or incident. When he told the rest of the party the Kender Rogue decided to see if he could step into it without a glyph key. He could not. As he tried to cross over the threshold he was flung back by magical force and took minimal damage for his trouble. When the party linked hands they could pass through together. Good to know, but they decided to continue north rather than pass through at this time.
Looking North into area #52 the PCs spotted a very large pile of bones. They were not eager to meet wherever had picked the bones clean so they opted to go back to the white gate and pass through.
During the fighting and the running the party received messages from the other two parties elsewhere in the dungeon. Party #1 (Craig’s group) was in the Abyssal Prisons where they were facing a lot of undead monsters. Party # 2 (Hillel’s group) was in the Master’s Domain where they were facing Orcs and Gnolls.
Forest of Illusion
Gorgon Lair (#48)
The area on the other side of the gate was still forest-like as the previous areas had been. Ahead the party spotted a statue near a pool. The Rogue ran ahead to investigate while the rest of the party stayed together. The statue looked like a Hook Horror, one of the creatures the PCs saw earlier. The Rogue was convinced that this statue was not carved, rather it was a Hook Horror was the magically petrified. However, this warning came too late.
Two large Gorgons approached the party from either side. The Monk ran up to the closest one and tried to punch and kick it. The Ranger fired a couple of arrows into the other but did superficial damage.
The Gorgons moved forward and used its petrifying breath on the five PCs grouped together. The Barbarian made his Con save, the rest of the PCs failed. The other Gorgon gored the Human Mage and scored a crit, badly wounding the PC.
The heroes spread out and divided their attacks against both Gorgons. Those affected by the breath weapon had to make follow-up saves at the end of their turns. The Tiefling mage made his save, the rest of the PCs did not. Those who failed felt their lower half turning to stone and were unable to move. The Gorgons gored the nearest PCs missing the Barbarian and again hitting the Human Mage dropping him below 0 hit points. Fortunately the Cleric managed to Spare the Dying before the Mage’s next turn.
During the fight party #2 informed us that they’d found a Master glyph key that was attuned to all portals in the dungeon except the Phylactery Vault. We told them to come and help us as we could see a black teleportation circle just off in the distance.
The Ranger managed to score another couple of hits on the Gorgon before she failed her save and completely turned to stone. The Human Wizard used his most powerful spell, a Lightning Bolt, to blast the Gorgon on top of him just as he failed his next save and also turned to stone. The Cleric managed to save and shrug of the adverse affects of the petrifaction.
The Monk, Barbarian and Tiefling Wizard managed to finally drop the other Gorgon just as party #2 arrived on the scene. They managed to attune our Glyph key to theirs giving us a Master glyph key too. They decided that the other party should have a Master glyph key and left us to meet up with them.
We took our two stoned allies back to the Gatehouse for safekeeping and easy access if we ever find magic powerful enough to reverse their petrifaction.
This week’s adventure was a lot of fun. We could have split into four groups, but we’re concerned that we’ll have regular absentees during the coming summer months so we decided bigger parties were better.
The Doomvault is deadly as we discovered this week. Although the two petrified PCs aren’t technically dead, there isn’t much chance they’ll come back this season so those players will need to bring in new PCs next week. I think the DMs should tell the players next session that this dungeon is unforgiving. Many PCs will die this season. It will give the players a heads up that they can’t expect to cake walk through everything and live. It should also encourage smarter tactics and the wisdom of fleeing where possible.
One thing that I foresee being a really big problem this season is resource management, especially with the spellcasters. There will be no opportunities for the PCs to take time off and rest (short rest or long rest). However, there are areas in the dungeon that will provide the benefits of a rest as we discovered this week. But I imagine these will be rare so players shouldn’t expect to find these everywhere.
Our group was fortunate that one of the parties found a Master glyph key so early. This will make exploration a lot easier and present options that wouldn’t normally be available. Let’s see if we can put this boon to good use in the upcoming weeks.
Despite this very real possibility of character death, how was your first week in the Doomvault? Where did you start off this week? How many PCs have die in your party? How about at your FLGS?
- Pre-generated characters: Visit our D&D Next Pre-Generated Character Library where you can download the level 6 pre-gens that came with this season’s adventure.
- Players Map: Download a map of the Doomvault, this season’s super dungeon, from the Wizards of the Coast website.
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.