D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 11)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 24, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverDuring the last session the PCs learned that a group of Red Wizards were trying to reset all the black gates and undo everything the heroes had accomplished so far. With consequences so dire, three tables (16 PCs) came together to face off against these foes. It was a bit of a grind but in the end two parties of 8 stormed the Masters’ Domain and stopped these Red Wizards from succeeding. The PCs levelled up and most used the Seclusion Crypt to gain the benefits of a long rest before heading into the final fight.

This week we began part 1 of our 2-part grand finale at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto. We had 22 players split among four tables, including two brand new players. The party I ended up running had all the newbies (including Alton from the Recounting Encounters podcast). The roster included a Human Fighter, Elf Ranger, Human Cleric, Elf Mage, and Halfling Rogue.

Tyranny of Dragons. We just received the kits for the next season of D&D Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons. Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master later this afternoon for our preview article.  — Ameron

Regrouping at the Gatehouse

The Red Wizard traitor Syranna called the PCs back to the Gatehouse for one final debrief. She told the PCs that enough black gates were disrupted to allow them access into the Phylactery Vault, a secret level of the Doomvault dungeon. They had to act as quickly as possible and disrupt the magic they discover there. This was where Szass Tam kept the phylacteries of his most trusted and powerful Lich allies. Destroying these items would strike a devastating blow to the evil Lich-lord.

The Phylactery Vault had four levels so the PCs needed to split into four groups and each take a level. Each of the four black gates in the Temples of Extraction corresponded to a different level. Since the PCs had only disrupted two of the four black gates in the Temples of Extraction they’d need to take care of the other two black gates before they could proceed.

For the newer players not as familiar with D&D lore, we explained that a phylactery is an object that a Lich empowers with his soul and then hides somewhere safe. This allows the Lich to animate a new body if his current one is ever destroyed. If the phylactery is destroyed the Lich is killed forever. A phylactery is similar to a Horcrux from the Harry Potter stories.

Temples of Extraction

The groups divided into two large parties. Table 1 (DM Craig) and table 2 (DM Hillel) took a group of 11 PCs, and table 3 (DM Tim) and table 4 (DM Derek) took the other 11.

The PCs had to teleport to a disrupted black gate and then walk to the rooms with unaffected black gates. When my group got to their room they spotted six hulking Zombies surrounding the black gate at the far end of the room. Everyone moved into the room and headed towards the gate. The Druid cast Entangle and created a zone of roots binding the Zombies in place and hampering movement near the gate. About half the other PCs used ranged attacks to shoot at the Zombies. None of the Zombies fell by the end of the first round.

With the PCs grouped together they were ripe for an enemy spellcaster, and fortunately there was an invisible Dread Warrior waiting for them in the room. He cast Cloudkill getting nine of the PCs in the area of effect. Only two made their save. The party split into two groups; half headed towards the black gate, while the other half headed towards the Dread Warrior on the far side of the room.

Those nearest the black gate continued to focus fire on the Zombies. However, the Druid’s Entangle zone made movement difficult. Those who could attack from range did so since the Zombies were immobilized next to the black gate.

On the other side of the room the Fighter, Rogue, Cleric and two Mages pounded the Dread Warrior with swords and spells. Unfortunately he was not alone. A second Dread Warrior became visible at the mid-point of the room and cast a fireball at the PC nearest to the black gate. To make things worse, the Cloudkill moved towards the black gate engulfing more of the heroes (most of who were now on fire).

The first Dread Warrior finally fell and the Rogue and Fighter took on the other one alone. The Cleric used Dispel Magic to eliminate the Cloudkill allowing the PC on the far side of the room to cross over and get closer to the black gate. The remaining Zombies were easily overwhelmed by the nine PCs focusing fire upon them.

The PCs finally realized that they didn’t have to defeat all of the monsters, they only had to disrupt the black gate so the Mages and Clerics got to it. The first attempt didn’t work so five PCs felt the magical force backlash. The second try worked and the gate was disrupted. In the same round the Fighter and Rogue dropped the second Dread Warrior with the help of a few ranged attacks from the Ranger and Druid.

By this time the party had received word from the other group that the black gate was disrupted but they were still battling the Lich, Tarul Var. My table split back into their original two parties. One group stayed in this room, while the other headed towards another black gate. Once the remaining black gate was disrupted the heroes were free to enter the Phylactery Vault and face whatever evil forces were waiting within. Each party headed to a different gate and coordinating their efforts through the telepathic circlets they stepped through simultaneously.

The Phylactery Vault

phylactery-vault-1-2The Phylactery Vault was a tetrahedral shape (think d4) and the PCs found themselves on the inside. Each party was on a different surface and to each group they were on the bottom. Magical gravity held each group “down” on their respective side. Each level was very similar. At the three corners of each level were pyramidal sepulchres and engraved on each of the sepulchre’s double doors was a four-armed Gargoyle. In the middle of each level was a pool of dark liquid. Six white marble pedestals that stood about 3 feet high were located randomly around the level.

The party spotted no signs of monsters. The Rogue examined one of the pedestals but could not discern anything special or dangerous. The Cleric threw a copper piece into the pool anticipating a hidden monster or corrosive liquid; neither was true. The coin sank. The Fighter and Rogue then moved towards one of the sepulchres and examined the door. The Fighter tried kicking it in but was unsuccessful. The Rogue searched for a hidden latch and found one. The doors swung inward effortlessly. On stone shelves the PCs saw leather cases, amulets, daggers, scroll tubes, unholy symbols, and other objects. These were the phylacteries they were here to destroy.

phylactery-vault-3-4Before they could enter the room the Gargoyles carved into the stone doors emerged from the doors and attacked the party. The four-armed monsters got four attacks but still had trouble hitting the heavily armoured Fighter and Cleric. The Fighter realized that the PCs needed to get past the Gargoyles and into the sepulchre so he grabbed the first Gargoyle and threw into the pool of green liquid. The Gargoyle opened his wings and landed on his feet in the pool with no noticeable effect.

With a path into the sepulchre open, the Fighter went inside and flanked the remaining Gargoyle. The Cleric and Rogue continued fighting the Gargoyle and exchanging blows with it. The Mage stayed well back of the melee and fired Magic Missiles at the Gargoyle. Unfortunately the Gargoyle in the pool saw the lone spellcaster and focused his full attacks on her hitting all four times. The Cleric and Rogue broke away from the fight at the sepulchre and ran to help the now badly wounded Mage. The Cleric healed the wounded Mage and the Rogue stabbed the Gargoyle repeatedly.

The Ranger hit the Gargoyle at the door once and the Fighter hit it twice destroying it. The two heavy hitters moved towards the other Gargoyle letting their allies back off. The Mage and Cleric ran into the sepulchre and started examining the phylacteries inside. They realized that if they channelled positive divine or arcane energy into the evil items it may destroy them. The Cleric tried first, but his unsuccessful attempt resulted in a backlash of magical force. The Mage tried and realized it would take a few rounds to complete. On the third round she flubbed her check and also took a magic backlash of force.

demilichThe two PCs decided to try together using both divine and arcane energy. This time they were able to destroy the phylactery. However, when they did something happened outside. Fountains of shadowy energy erupted from the pool to form a vortex in the open air. A black humanoid skull emerged from the vortex. Its eyes were giant rubies and each of its eight teeth were glowing oversized diamonds. the Demi-Lich, Kazit Gul, had appeared to protect the phylacteries and destroy the PCs.

Thoughts

This ended up being a very fun and interesting session for me. We knew that we wanted to split the final encounter over two sessions to ensure that we didn’t run up against the clock and have to cut things short. As written, once the PCs get the message from Syranna they only have to step through a black gate in the Temples of Extraction and they appear in the Phylactery Vault. We decided to add the intermediary step of disrupting the other black gates first and to have the Lich Tarul Var and his Dread Warriors guarding the portals. We wanted to give the PCs to get a chance to use their PCs at level 8 before they jumped right into the final encounter. We also wanted them to have to expend some resources and possibly take a few points of damage as well. We did give the PCs the option of going back into the Seclusion Crypt to recover before proceeding to the Phylactery Vault but no one wanted to do it.

Again this week we ran tables that combined multiple parties. The table I was co-DMing had 11 players. I thought things ran a lot more smoothly this week than the last few times this happened. Most players had a pretty good idea of what their characters could do and what actions they wanted to take on their turn. Even the new players were on the ball this week. After facing the large encounter together I think the two parties were glad to split back into their normal size as they entered the Phylactery Vault to face the final conflict.

Three of the four tables at my FLGS ended when the party destroyed their first phylactery which is what summoned the Demi-Lich. Next week they’ll have to do whatever they can to defeat it. The Cleric and Mage made appropriate monster knowledge checks on the Demi-Lich before the session ended so they know that it’s only power is to suck the soul from a living target. If that happens the PC’s body will crumble to dust and be forever dead if the soul isn’t freed quickly. Hopefully the next session doesn’t end in the fifth round after the last PC loses his soul to the Demi-Lich.

How are things wrapping up at your FLGS? How many tables and players do you have going into the finale? Have other DMs made any adjustments to the encounter that they can share at his point without spoiling things? For those who already completed the adventure how many PCs lost their soul?

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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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe July 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

We’re doing an extra week (for 13 total), in my 4E version of the season at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. Last night we had 1 table of 6 and 1 table of 7. Since it’s a more 4E-centric, Encounters-optimized version that we’re running, last night was the last big fight before an extended rest. The party was at level 8, though they’ll be at level 9 for the final 2 encounters.

Last night the party went into the Temples of Extraction. After some random encounters (rolled on a table with results & treasure, just to save time with 4E combat), they found the “Husk Room”, wherein were lain the bodies of many of the “Chosen” from previous seasons, and a few other god’s Chosen that have not appeared on-screen anywhere. While nobody was playing a character who had been through all of the previous Sundering seasons, the players had, so they got most of the references (I even threw in Danifae, the end boss from “War of Eternal Darkness” as Lolth’s Chosen).

In the next room, the “Extraction Room”, the party found several still-living Chosen attached to complicated magical devices, attended by red wizard researchers. We hand-waved the killing of the red wizards, but as the party rushed over to the screaming Chosen who was worst-off, they got their just as his body turned to jelly as the machine drained his power (fitting, since he was the Chosen of Ghaunadaur). The devices were still draining power from the other 5 Chosen in the room, and the party didn’t know how to disable them.

A male half-elf Chosen on a nearby table (his tag said “Thulsa, Chosen of Sehanine”… played by a young James Earl Jones) told the party that he’d been using his goddess’ illusion powers to confuse the machines, so he was a bit stronger than the others, and could pay attention to how the wizards had put the devices on. With his guidance, the party learned the complicated process of removing them, and they freed Thulsa. The party then went to free the others, while Thulsa walked around the room looking for ways to counter-spell the ritual, and/or disrupt any power batteries that were there (or so he told folks).

The other Chosen included one of Gruumsh (orcs, war), Tymora (luck), Umberlee (oceans), and Lurue (a lesser-known FR goddess of magical forest creatures & healing). Each had a minor benefit they could provide to adjacent PCs in the coming combat, though none could attack on their own.

Speaking of that combat, it turned out that Thulsa’s “counter-spell” was actually some parsel-speech he was using to call every snake in the region to come to him through the cracks in the walls. In his dramatic villain speech as the party realized something was wrong, he revealed that he had eaten the actual Chosen of Sehanine months ago, but that his god, Zehir (snakes & assassins), was also a fan of using illusions to trick people as you positioned yourself for a killing strike. He then transformed into a massive solo monster (a powered-down version of the Yuan-Ti Anathema) and attacked.

To be fair, when I saw that a Chosen of Zehir was among the NPCs in the original version, I wrote this combat specifically so that I could use the awesome Huge Yuan-Ti Anathema mini I’ve had ever since the Against the Giants mini set came out. It was appropriately epic, though, esp with a neat power I added in where every time Thulsa scored a crit, the target received a failure on their 3 death save limit… so that if they did drop to 0 HP, they’d be that much closer to getting assassinated. It provided the necessary added tension.

When the battle was over, one of the other Chosen (Tymora’s) had been killed, but the rest of the party was able to take the 3 remaining Chosen and teleport back to Syranna at the Hub, where she showed them evidence of uprisings all over Thay, spawned by the party’s successes against Szass Tam in the Doom Vault. Through scrying screens she’d set up around the Hub, the party could see chaos in the various zones they’d been through this season, as well as all over Thay itself. In one screen, they saw a wall get blown open, with a hidden room behind it. In the room floated a triangular object… THE POLYHEDRAL GATE! Coalescing in front of the gate was Kazit Gul, the lich in charge of the Doom Vault, though he seemed willing to wait. The party decided to get some rest (and level-up) before going after him and then assaulting the Phylactery Vault. As an added bonus, the surviving Chosen will each be able to give the party a minor boon before they go off for the last 2 fights. And having written those two fights, I really cannot wait to run them.

2 Vobekhan July 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm

We ran our season finale last night. Down to a single table of five players, this season has seen a fair bit of attrition in attendence – not totally down to the adventure though as players have started new jobs, got married and honeymooned and illness etc, but I think the non stop grind of battle has had an influence.

I shall be happy to return to the “normal” style of adventuring when we start Hordes of the Dragon Queen in August. Till then we are taking a break on Wednesdays, not planned anything but there’s a possibility of some some board games been mentioned.

This weekend coming I’m going to run some of my fellow 40k wargamers through the Starter Set adventure, so that should prove interesting.

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