D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 26, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverDuring the last session my PC travelled through four different sectors along side two different parties. My original party had a relatively easy time going from the Far Realm Cysts to the Golem Laboratories – one of the other parties at my FLGS did not have such an easy go of things. The party in the Temples of Extraction called for help via the telepathic circlet so I answered their call and joined them. This week we continued onward through the Temples of Extraction.

At Hairy T North we actually had to turn away players for the very first time. It seems that with summer upon us and the new edition of D&D coming out in just a few weeks more and more people are coming out to see what D&D Next is all about.

Table 1 (DM: Craig) had seven players, one new to our FLGS, table 2 (DM: Hillel) had seven players, and table 3 (DM: Tim) had eight players. I was playing at table 2 this week. My party consisted of the following members: Warforged Paladin, Human Monk/Bard, Elf Cleric/Wizard, Elf Cleric/Rogue, Drow Druid/Monk, Elf Ranger, and my Dwarf Barbarian/Rogue.

Temples of Extraction

As the party finished in the Temple of Ooze (#101) we needed to figure out what we wanted to do with our prisoner, the Red Wizard Myrra. After taking precautions to ensure she couldn’t cast spells we began to interrogate her. Unfortunately she would not crack. Most of the party wanted to torture and kill the Red Wizard. I had objections both in and out of game. As none of the PCs were evil alignment I had a hard time rationalizing why they felt this course of action was acceptable. In the end the group decided to bring the now unconscious Red Wizard with us into the next room.

Temples of Anguish

Temple of Suffering (#99)

temples-of-extractionThe next room contained another shrine, the same as the shrines in the previous Temples. It was a three-step stone dais set with four pillars. The top edge of this shrine glowed with arcane runes. Between the pillars was an unconscious humanoid suspended. The air was filled with red mist.

In the corner was a Dread Warrior and at the far side of the room were four Wights. Before us were two Thayan Apprentices and a familiar Red Wizard – Mennek Ariz. The last time we saw Mennek he betrayed the PCs at the Bloodgate Nexus by calling for the Pit Fiend, Baazka.

The Barbarian, Monk, and Paladin rushed in to engage the monsters in melee, starting with Mennek. The Wizard, Cleric, Druid, and Ranger stayed in the hallway using ranged weapons and spells. Mennek and the Apprentices fell quickly but the melee combatants took a few hits in the process. When the Wights reached the PCs they ganged up on the Monk. Bewightfore he could be healed by his allies he was struck down by the Wights. Their energy drain killed him, dead-dead.

The Wights turned their attention to the Barbarian which left the Paladin free to engage the Dread Warrior. Fortunately the Dread Warrior only attacked with his sword and didn’t resort to spell casting. The ranged attackers focused fire on one Wight at a time dropping them systematically. The Barbarian managed to avoid taking too many hits before all the Wights were defeated. With only the Dread Warrior left standing it didn’t take long for the rest of the PCs to drop him.

When we took damage during combat we had to make Con saves or suffer disadvantage when we made attack rolls, Str & Dex saves or ability checks. We also granted advantage to anyone who attacked us until the end of its next turn. This is why so many of the PCs stayed in the hallway during the fight, knowing that each room had environmental traps.

In order to stop these effects we had to free the Chosen bound by the shrine. We easily took the steps needed to disable the magic and free the prisoner. The Chosen was a Human male who awoke once freed. It turned out he was rational and not intent on killing us without provocation. We explained that we were fighting the Red Wizards who had imprisoned him and he seemed content with that explanation.

Now we had two Red Wizard prisoners and still no information. Once again the party wanted to maim, torture and kill them if they were uncooperative. I suggested we let the Chosen, a follower of Ilmater the god of suffering, try his hand at interrogating the Red Wizard Myrra while we questioned Mennek.

We expected Mennek to cough up whatever information he could to save himself. After all, he’d already proven that his loyalty was non-existent and easily coerced. It seemed that he was not acting of his own volition. Those trained in Arcana determined he was charmed so the Druid cast Dispel Magic to free Mennek’s mind. It worked and he was exceptionally grateful and cooperative.

Although his memory was fuzzy he did share some particularity useful information. Beneath the Doomvault is the Phylactery Vault. This is where the power of the Chosen is being funneled. Only Szass Tam has the appropriate Glyph Key to reach the Vault. However, Mennek believes that if the Black Gates are manipulated they could alter the way the teleportation magic works and allow the PCs to reach the Phylactery Vault with their Glyph Keys.

While the PCs questioned the Red Wizards the party’s dead Monk was revived to unlife as he became on of the Walking Dead. Realizing he was not at full power he returned to the Black Gate and entered the Seclusion Vault to take a long rest. He returned just as Mennek finished spilling his guts.

Our Wizard, the PC wearing the telepathic circlet, shared the details Mennek revealed with the other parties. He got a plea for help in return. He grabbed the newly revived Monk and the two of them ran to the Black Gate so they could assist table 3. The decision happened so quickly we didn’t think to ask him to leave his telepathic circlet. Once he was gone we realized we had no way to contact the other groups.

The rest of the party was ready to move on to the next room, so we left the Red Wizards under the watchful eye of the freed Chosen as we moved onward.

Temple of Poison (#98)

helmed-horrorThe next room was almost identical to the one the PCs just left. At the far end was another shrine which contained another Chosen prisoner. This time the prisoner was a Yuan-Ti. The room was filled with a dark hazy mist. Inside the room we saw another Red Wizard and two more Thayan Apprentices. In the centre of the room, close to the door was a guard in heavy plate armor.

The tactics we used so successfully in the last room were repeated here. The melee heavy hitters ran in to engage the Red Wizard and his Apprentices while the ranged attackers focused on the armored opponent.

Once in the room we learned that the mist forced living creatures to make a Con save or be stunned for a full round. On the plus side, once a PC made the save they were immune to the effect for 24 hours and gained the Venomous Touch power which 2d4 poison damage to melee weapon attacks.

The combat took a few more rounds than usual but in the end the PCs defeated all opponents. Disabling the shrine took a few tries but we finally got that done too. When the Chosen awoke he realized we did not share his religious beliefs. He transformed into a giant viper and attacked. He only got one attack because he was dead by the end of the first round.

During this fight we only had five PCs so we took more damage than we had in previous battles. Most of the PCs were below half their maximum hit points. No one wanted to use the Seclusion vault but we could use a short rest. I reminded the party of the Pool of Recovery in the Forest of Slaughter. Drinking the water would grant us the benefits of a short rest. We decided that we’d head there next week.

Thoughts

After seeing how powerful Wizard are in combat during the past few weeks, we realized how dependent we’d become on them. The party’s Wizard only used cantrips during the first fight and it made the rest of us carry more of the load (for once). It certainly reinforced the need for smart tactics and focused fire. It also reminded everyone that sometimes running or taking are better options that hack and slash.

Although we liked that some PCs felt comfortable teleporting away to help another party we didn’t remember to get the telepathic circlet back until after they’d left. It will certainly create some interesting scenarios as we try not to apply what the players know to the decisions their PCs make.

The Monk was the first PC to die at table 2. He was not interested in creating a new character so taking the Walking Dead option was his only logical choice. He was also willing to lose 5 hit points off his max by taking his second long rest in the Seclusion Vault. His decision was surely motivated by a desire not to die again.

Our DM decided not to have the Dread Warrior use spells when he fought the PCs. I’m not sure why he held back. In my opinion the Dread Warriors are among the toughest monsters in the dungeon. But if they don’t use spells they aren’t worth the XP you earn from killing them. DMs please read pages 22 & 92 of the adventure before you use a Dread Warrior against the party.

What’s happening at your FLGS? Have you faced a Dread Warrior? Has it used spells? Did you survive? Has anyone at your FLGS found their way into the Temples of Extraction Yet?

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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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Merric Blackman June 26, 2014 at 10:11 am

Sounds good. Are you short of DMs at the moment?

The Dread Warriors have been fascinating; I think only one has survived long enough at Goodgames Ballarat to actually cast spells (and that one managed to cast three rounds worth of spells due to some dreadful rolling from the players), but the lich is now almost out of spells – I’ve been keeping track with both spells from the first encounter and in the dungeon, so the Dread Warriors are becoming less fearsome.

A couple more DWs have survived a full round so, although they didn’t get to act, the dungeon is getting quite alerted…

Our numbers have also been increasing. One co-ordinating DM, three DMs and 18 players meant we had 22 for Encounters – our biggest ever session (and that with a handful of regulars away). I may need to DM a fourth table if this continues. A quick poll of seven of the players found that all seven were going to buy a 5E Player’s Handbook when it became available.

Best of luck on your next sessions, Derek!

2 Joe June 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

We had so much fun last night at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. We had 2 tables of 4, both running my 4E conversion of this season. Last night we were in the Forests of Slaughter, and there was lots of madcap insanity.

Fresh off an extended rest and leveled-up to 8, the party teleported into a vast forest… but with a creepy vibe. Luminescent moss on the cavern roof several hundred feet above gave the effects of sunlight, without any of the joy that sunlight on your face might provide (which really weirded out our wilden warpriest of Pelor). The hamadryad wizard at my table tried to commune with the trees, only to realize that there had been so many awful experiments in this zone over the years that the trees had warped and adapted to be more hostile towards any outside force. The party shuddered when they thought about what similar things may have happened to the animals. Not having any particular path to follow, the party wandered off (“Blair Witch style” is the way I described it).

The first challenge involved walking under some huge trees, where the party’s two Rangers (with their 28 & 29 passive perceptions) noticed a little too late that there were large forms hanging from the trees about 30 feet up. These horse-sized monsters covered in chitinous shells were determined to be hook horrors, and there were at least 30 of them hanging and sleeping in the trees above them. The party tried to be stealthy… and failed. I hand-waved this combat as “you fought, they overwhelmed you, and you retreated… but due to their territorial nature, they didn’t chase for long.” The party members each lost a healing surge’s worth of HP in the ordeal, but everyone agreed that this was a reasonable approximation of what would have happened.

Next the party found a weird partial statue… just the foot. Looked like a monstrous foot, but the rest of the statue was nowhere to be seen. Then, a little farther off, there was another. Then another. At the end of this “trail of feet” they found a rocky area where two trolls were arguing about something called “Stoney”. A malevolent wind (almost created by the forest itself) blew the party’s scent towards the trolls, and one of them grabbed a sack and threw it towards the party, yelling “Get em, Stoney!” As the trolls’ pet cockatrice furiously climbed out of the bag, the fight began.

This fight was fun for many reasons. The presence of the cockatrice made everyone wary of being turned to stone, though the clearly mistreated animal had a feature where it would attack the nearest creature, so there was some dancing around to try to make the trolls the nearest creatures (it didn’t actually happen at my table, but I’d built a really cool feature into the trolls where they could, if subjected to a paralyzing power, rip their legs from their turning-to-stone feet to end the effect, slowing them until their regeneration could regrow their feet). Also, the trolls were great brutes… tons of HP, lower defenses, and they hit HARD. Plus they had a cool power where if they bloodied a foe with a strike, they could attack that foe again. Also there was the regeneration issue, and the fact that the party had little to no fire or acid magic. Fortunately, they had some ranged immobilizing effects, which kept the trolls (and, more importantly, the cockatrice) at bay. They took out “Stoney” first, then eventually killed the trolls, burning the bodies. They found some treasure among the trolls rancid meat and other belongings, but still had no key. So they journeyed onward.

The final scenario of the night was a bunch of pools amid trees that were radiating serious magic (enough to give a splitting headache to anyone who tried to make an Arcana check near them). One of the trees was a treant who’d been driven crazy, and there were 3 pools in front of him, each with a ladle next to it. The treant’s roots had clearly drawn from all pools, but he demanded that the party drink with him. Since nobody could make Arcana checks on the pools, this became more of an old school investigate-and-guess challenge. Pool 1 had the smell & consistency of green tea, and gave HP back to a living creature who drank, while doing radiant damage to undead creatures who drank. Pool 2 was the opposite of pool 1, with a rancid smell and water that healed undead (revenants, vampires, or soul-bound undead) and did necrotic damage to living drinkers. Pool 3 was a pool of transformation, which did a lot of permanent status changing. Initially I put this in there as a way to de-stone anyone petrified in the troll fight, but it would also swap living/undead status. Our revenant ranger, who’d been fighting for years to find out why Melora had called him back from the grave to this half-life, suddenly found he was a living human again! Meanwhile the hamadryad found herself a dark reflection of who she used to be, suddenly being a soulbound undead. I made sure my players were all cool with these changes, and they all thought it was fun story stuff, so we went with it. The treant actually had the key, so the party took a short rest and prepared for next week, when they’ll journey to the Ooze Grottos.

Normally I’m not a fan of instant-dramatic-change effects. However, we had a lot of fun with them this game. Somebody got turned to stone at the other table, though the fact that he was cured before the night ended made the player okay with it. Our revenant is now going to revamp his character to embrace this newfound life, while the hamadryad is considering the ramifications of being a dead tree.

The more I incorporate these old-school ideas into the 4E version of this season, the more I feel like I might be okay with 5E, when it’s released. Once there’s an official product to sell, we’ll switch over to 5E at my store, but it’s been a lot of fun translating ideas like the Pools and the Hook Horror challenge into 4E mechanics. I mean, ideally I’d just like a version 4.5… but that ship has long sailed, and between the conceptual articles about the post-public-playtest version of 5E and the posts here about tables having fun using the playtest rules, I’m hopeful that 5E will have its own flavor of awesome to bring to the D&D Edition table.

3 Dan June 26, 2014 at 9:00 pm

My table this week had 8 (I think) players: a dwarf fighter, a wood-elf ranger, a dragonborn cleric of light, a warforged bard, a human wizard (turned wizard of that), a tiefling fighter/cleric (war)/barbarian, an elf fighter (archer), and my halfling barbarian/monk/rogue/cleric of war.

This week we started our foray into the ooze grottoes. Having just reached level 7, we were ready to kill some oozes. It was dark, so our dwarf fighter decided to go ahead and scout. When he saw a figure inside a red pillar beckoning to him, he decided to avoid it and to go around to another exit. When about a minute passed without him returning, the halfling followed, and briefly spoke to the figure, being invited to join them in their creation of a powerful weapon. I felt several instances of spells failing to affect my mind, and chose to retreat to my allies, inviting them in to kill the creature.
It was a decent fight, but 1 immobile caster doesn’t really stand a chance against a party of 8 heavy hitters. It turned out that the creature was some sort of lich, and we decided to move on. The dwarf decided to go off on his own to investigate a light he saw in another room, while the party wanted to continue north. When we heard his screams, we decided to rescue him.
In this room, there was another pillar, glowing with a silvery light standing in the middle of a pool of water. On the shore stood our companion, embattled with a massive black pudding. A few moments later it was dead, again unable to stand against our party of 8.
Upon investigating the pillar, we discovered it had restorative properties (1d6 HP per turn). However, upon reaching full health, the 3 standing near it were blinded.
The cleric of light used lesser restoration on us, and we moved on.
Back the way we wanted to go in the first place, we found ourselves in a white room with a cracked black pillar. The dwarf (having forgotten his lesson that pillars are not friendly here) decided to hit it with his pickaxe, and was knocked back on his rear by a psychic force. When the last party member entered, the exits were covered by a white mass, and strange blobs attacked us from the walls and floor before disappearing. The dwarf trird digging to the exit, but the blockage continued to reform each time he struck.
I called out to the for to show itself, and it spoke telepathically that it was omnipresent. When asked what it wanted, it said it wanted to destroy us. I responded by punching it several times, dealing as yet unresolved damage because we ended the session mid-battle.

All-in-all, I prefer smaller groups, because combat remains challenging and players don’t feel like going off their own way is a good idea. We were tempted to leave the dwarf to his fate, but decided not to. Next time, though, we might. Also, even with the shorter battles resultant from the simplified system of next, 8 players make one round really long…
Anyway, we are still not very far along shutting the vault down. The other party is in the temples, but has yet to inform us. Also, we don’t know about corrupting the portals yet because we don’t have that Intel either (I don’t know if the other group has it either, but they likely would at least have told us that). So we are about as clueless as ever. I am beginning to tire of this adventure because it is becoming kind of repetitive. The far realms cysts had some interesting areas, but the forests were all bland. The grottoes so far seem to be pillars and stationary foes who we kill quickly without being able to talk our way through the ones with intelligence.

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