The PCs returned to the Dragon Cultists camp and began exploring the cave in which they believe they’d find treasure and dragon eggs. During the last session they faced Dragonclaw Guards, Violet Fungi, Kobolds, and Striges. This week they continue deeper into the caverns in search of stronger opposition and valuable treasure.
We continue to run five tables at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto. We had one new player this week, keeping our streak of new players every week alive. One of the groups completed Episode 3 last week so they’ve decided to run some D&D Expeditions until the rest of the tables catch up.
I had six players at my table this week, all familiar faces – Halfling Rogue, Halfling Ranger, Elf Rogue, Tiefling Bard, Tiefling Warlock, and Dragonborn Fighter. All were level 3 except for the Halfling Rogue who is still level 2.
Exploring the Caves
We picked things up right after the PCs defeated the Stirges in area #4. The carven branched off in three different directions. The passage to the right led to a staircase leading downward, the passage ahead lead to a drop off, and the passage to the left led to another large open area.
Meat Locker (#6)
They decided to explore the staircase first. The Fighter and the Elf Rogue went down the stairs together. The Rogue used her quarterstaff to tap the steps before stepping on them. They were learning after last week’s incident on the stairs. As they descended the temperature dropped sharply and by the time they reached the bottom of the stairs they could see their breath when they spoke.
Before them was a curtain made from hundreds of heavy leather strips. The curtain extended from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. It was several layers thick with no gaps. The rogue plunged her quarterstaff through the leather straps and shifted them to one side. The light from the Fighter’s torch illuminated a small area inside the cold room. The foul smell of dead flesh wafted out from the room.
Inside they could see pools of blood on the floor and meat hung from chains around the room. While they stood there looking in they talked about whether or not to go in for a few minutes. As nothing emerged to attack them they felt the room was empty of combatants so they left without entering and went back up the stairs to rejoin the party.
Trash Dump (#5)
Once the party was back together they all moved ahead to the drop off. As they approached they could smell garbage and rot. Looking over the ledge they saw a shelf about 10 feet below and then beyond that was another 10 foot drop that opened into a large, foul smelling room. The party’s torches provided enough light that they could tell this was a garbage dump. The Cultists and Kobolds who attacked Greenest obviously threw anything they didn’t find valuable into this large room along with their old food scraps, human waste, and even a few dead bodies. Although the PCs saw their light reflect off the glint of some metal bits, they didn’t feel like searching through garbage for something the Cultists might have missed.
Drake Nursery (#7)
With nowhere else to go but left, the party advanced. As they rounded the bend they saw the large room lit by oil lamps hanging on the walls. Half of the room was lower than where the PCs stood, separated by a 10-foot drop off. The lower area was dark. Deeper into the room, and around a bend, the PCs could hear Kobolds and caught a glimpse of them occasionally.
The Bard was the first PC to proceed onward. He noticed that areas of the cave floor had been covered with parchment coloured to look like dirt and rocks. He alerted the party and then advanced safely. The covered holes were difficult for most of the PCs to spot so the Ranger decided to drag his torch on the floor and ignite the parchment covering the holes. That worked, now there was a clear path through.
By this time one of the Kobolds noticed something was amiss and when he peeked around the bend and spotted the PCs he shouted an alarm. Two Winged Kobolds flew down into the dark pit area. The other Kobolds armed themselves and got ready to engage.
The PCs were too far away to move and then engage in melee this round so they all moved and then readied an action to shoot at the first Kobold they saw approach. The first Kobold managed to avoid two missiles, but the third one dropped him. This leaf the path clear for his buddy to dash right up to the Bard. The Kobold Slingers then got their pack tactic advantage and easily dropped the Bard.
The Fighter advanced and tried to keep the Kobolds contained. The rest of the party attacked the Kobolds but the PCs had cold dice and were not hitting anything in the first couple of rounds. Meanwhile my attack dice were red hot as usual and I was hitting everything, often followed with a max damage roll.
The Ranger managed to force feed a Potion of Healing to the Bard and got him back into the fray quickly. The Rogue and Warlock managed to drop a couple of the Kobolds from a safe distance.
By the fourth round of combat the Winged Kobolds in the pit made a ramp-ladder which let two Guard Drakes ascend out of the pit. The Drakes attacked the closest PCs, the Fighter and the Halfling Rogue. The Rogue managed to survived for one round before the Drake dropped him and moved on to fresh meat. The other Drake faced off against the Fighter for at least six rounds. Fortunately the Fighter had a high AC, lots of hit points and a second wind which managed to keep him on his feet.
One of the Flying Kobolds tried to drop rocks on the PCs but after missing with the first stone he was picked out of the air by the Elf Rogue. The Drake looking for new targets pounced upon the Warlock. The Warlock decided to run away and the Drake perused him. After a few rounds of running, the Warlock turned back and hoped that some of the PCs would shoot at the Drake before it caught him.
In the meantime, the other PCs revived the unconscious Halfling Rogue and ganged up on the remaining Kobolds and the Drake attacking the Fighter. When only one Kobold remained he disengaged and ran down the nearby staircase to another room, shouting for help all the way down. The Warlock spotted the felling Kobold and just kept on running down the stairs after him.
The second Winged Kobold whom the PCs had completely lost track of remained in the darkened pit. He managed to unlock the gate and let the third Drake up the wooden stairs so it could join the fight.
The Drake battling the Fighter managed to drop the Ranger before it was killed. It took a couple of rounds before the Bard could disengage from the final Drake and revived his fallen comrade. The Ranger than managed to get the Halfling Rogue back into the fight.
Suddenly more Kobolds came bounding up the stairs and engaged in the melee. Their pack tactics were deadly and they ate through the PCs hit points. Solid teamwork and focused fire killed all the Kobolds soon enough. During the melee, the Elf Rogue slipped past everyone and went looking for the Warlock.
Kobold Barracks (#8)
When the Warlock ran after the fleeing Kobold he found himself alone and facing many Kobold reinforcement at the bottom of the stairs. With one hit (my 8th crit of the night) the Warlock dropped unconscious. Two Kobolds started looting the 250 gp from the unconscious PC while the others ran up the stairs to join the fighting.
Four Kobolds greedily divided the loot, unaware of the Elf Rogue who was creeping down the stairs towards them. She cast Sleep and got all four. Four rounds later she’d slit their throats and stabilized her unconscious ally.
When the fighting upstairs ended the PCs came looking for the Warlock and Rogue. They found them in the Kobold Barracks, now devoid of living Kobolds. They party decided to take a short rest before proceeding. They managed to revived the Warlock before the rest began allowing him to spend hit dice. A search of the barracks turned up some money (about 10 gp each in various coins) and five hand carved Dragon talismans and amulets.
This week’s battle in the Drake Nursery was the longest 5e combat encounter I’ve run to date. I really thought it was going to end in a TPK with the way my dice were rolling at the beginning. Fortunately the party worked really well together and made smart decisions to do things other than just attack the monsters every round.
One thing I really miss from 4e is the idea that every combat encounter should take place in some kind of interesting location with terrain features. In 4e the PCs seemed more willing to look for these oddities and use them during the combat. This week the PCs fought on a ledge, but no one tried to push anyone off of it. There were flying monsters and no one tried to jump onto them. Maybe I’m just more a free spirited player, but I kept thinking that these were things I would do if I was in this same situation.
The only terrain that PCs seem to want to interact with now are objects large enough to hide behind. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I encourage players to get creative!
Once again this week we learned the value of taking the Dodge action. When you Dodge, any attacks made against you are at disadvantage until the beginning of your next turn. This turned out to be more useful than Disengaging. Sure you avoid the one or two opportunity attacks when you Disengage, but then the monsters get their normal attacks against you on their turn, assuming they can catch you. By Dodging you have a greater chance of surviving longer, especially when monsters make multiple attacks each round.
Now that the PCs have taken a short rest they’re in better shape to continue onward through the cavern during the next session. I suspect they’ll need two more sessions to complete this Episode. After that we’ll decide if we want to move on to Episode 4, play some D&D Expeditions, or take some time off before the next session of D&D Encounters begins.
Note: We’ll be taking next week off for Canadian Thanksgiving. The following week I’m unable to play because I’ll be on vacation. So we’ll resume with this adventure summary in three weeks (October 30). Until then we’ll have some new articles about our experiences playing and running D&D Expeditions, and the D&D Epic we played at GenCon and FanExpo.
Has anyone completed Episode 3 yet? For those in the caverns now, how is it going? Any PC deaths? DMs how many more sessions do you think you’ll need to finish Episodes 1-3?
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