We’re back! After a two week absence our weekly D&D Encounters adventure is back on track. During the last session the PCs faced off against a lot of Kobolds, a few Flying Kobolds, and some really nasty Guard Drakes. The combat was so loud and took so long that more Kobolds from the next room heard the sounds of combat and joined the fight.
Eventually the PCs defeated the all the monsters, but it was a close call. The heroes took refuge in the Kobolds Barracks, now empty since all the monsters left the room to join the fighting. After completing a short rest they were ready to descend the rocky, staircase into the darkness in pursuit of Dragon Eggs and treasure.
Over the past two weeks at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto we’ve deviated from our typical D&D night path. Two tables finished Episode 3 and decided to play some D&D Expeditions for a couple of weeks. The other tables took a break from D&D Encounters for Canadian Thanksgiving, but many players still showed up at the FLGS and joined in their own D&D Expeditions. This week three tables began the night in the Kobold Barracks (area #8) while the other two tables began Episode 4. But we’ll talk more about that later.
My table had our usual seven players. Everyone had played one or more D&D Expeditions adventure since I last ran the group, so there had been some levelling and character swapping. The party now consisted of the following PCs: Elf Rogue / Arcane Trickster (4), Dragonborn Fighter (4), Halfling Rogue / Assassin (3), Tiefling Bard (3), Tiefling Warlock (3), Elf Ranger (3), Elf Cleric (2). The player running the new Cleric has a level 4 PC but didn’t want to level out of tier 1 yet so she switched to a new PC she’d already run at D&D Expeditions.
Dragon Shrine #9
The party went down the stairs as quietly as seven PCs could (so not very quietly). The Cleric and Elf Rogue stopped the party after about 30ft and proceeded onward alone. After another 30ft they noticed light and heard voices. They got as close as they dared and saw three burly looking men wearing hide armor and baring huge greataxes. The room itself looked like a shrine of some kind. The PCs backed off and regrouped.
On the staircase the party discussed what to do next. The first idea was to rush the room. The seven PC could surely overtake whomever or whatever was in the room. That plan got argued down. The next idea was to again send in the sneakiest PCs first, but as these were the softest PCs that plan was also nixed. Finally they decided to advance together, but as slowly and quietly as possible.
Unfortunately all the whispering in the stairway was detected by the Barbarians in the shrine so they were ready when the PCs finally came downstairs. As the first PCs stepped into the room we rolled initiative.
The Barbarians were at the top of the order, followed by all the PC softies. The Barbarians wanted to let the PCs get right into the room so they could surround them, so they readied actions for round 1, swinging their greataxes only if someone ended up next to them. Luck was with the PCs as none of them moved into melee during round 1. They all decided to Dodge or attack with ranged weapons or spells.
The walls of the room had Dragon reliefs carved onto them. In one corner a carving showed a five-headed dragon, rising from an erupting volcano. A small chest rested on the floor in front of the monstrous dragon carving. Other than the five Barbarians another large figure was kneeling in front of the five-headed Dragon carving. When he finally rose and faced the party in round 2 they realized he was a half-Dragon with black scales. He watched the fight unfold and decided to finally engage the toughest looking PC in round 3, the Dragonborn Fighter.
The heroes learned quickly that the Barbarians attacked recklessly giving them advantage on every swing. However, this left the Barbarians open and attacks made against them also had advantage. This had everyone rolling 2d20 when they attacked and resulted in a lot of hits. The Barbarians struck for 1d12+3 which proved devastating to the PCs.
The Rogues liked that they had advantage and therefore sneak dice on every attack. It really displayed the offensive prowess of the Rogues.
The combat was a lot tougher for the PCs than they expected. Until now they’d faced mostly Kobolds with 5 hit points. One hit would drop those suckers! The Barbarians had over 60 hit points each. It took a few rounds before the party truly realized it would take a lot of concentrated attacks to drop one guy. Until then they’d spread the damage around nicely, wounding many and killing none. By about round 4 they finally started focusing their fire.
If not for a lot of crits from the two Rogues (2 each) and the Fighter (at least 3) things might have ended badly. Although the Barbarians seemed to hit a lot, the half-Dragon missed with almost every attack including double 1s on his first turn and a 2 and 3 on his next turn. His breath weapon managed to target only two PCs, but they both made their Dex save for half damage which still ended up being 16 points.
Team heroes had PCs fall unconscious around the same time they started killing the Barbarians. The Fighter was targeted by multiple enemies and knocked out three times, but the Cleric kept reviving him. The Warlock fled the fight to hide in the stairwell. A good idea but a costly move that resulted in a painful greataxe to the back along the way. Aside from that one opportunity attack he managed to avoid taking any further damage and attacked safely from behind the party for the rest of the fight.
The party finally dropped the last Barbarian and were left with just the half-Dragon (still at full hit points). Two PCs were down, and those on their feet were badly wounded. The Ranger and Fighter stayed adjacent to the half-Dragon to limit his movement around the room. The two Rogues skirted in, stabbed the enemy, and then Disengaged as a bonus action to back off safely. Unfortunately this opponent had a high AC and did not grant advantage so there were fewer hits.
After three rounds round the party only managed to score three hits. The half-Dragon then dropped the Fighter and Bard in the same round which looked like it might be the beginning of the end for team heroes. That was until the Elf Rogue cast Sleep. The half-Dragon was down to 30 hit points and the only allies in the spell’s area of effect were already unconscious. If the dice were favourable it could work. The Rogue rolled 5d8 and came up with 34 – just enough to drop the half-Dragon.
With no other combatants present the party quickly stabilized their unconscious allies and then used potions and spells to revive them. They tied up the half-Dragon, including wrapping his snout like a crocodile’s so he couldn’t use his acid breath if he woke up.
The Elf Rogue checked out the chest while the healing was happening. She recklessly worked at the lock without examining it for traps. Fortunately she exceeded the DC to pick the lock by so much she inadvertently bypassed the trap anyway. Inside were some gems and jewels. Many of the pieces were unique and would likely be easily identified by the rightful owners back in Greenest.
The party debated what to do with the half-Dragon. If they brought him back to Greenest to stand trial he’d likely be found guilty and then executed. That was assuming he didn’t escape before then. If they kept him in tow he’d prove to be nothing but problematic and difficult. So in the end the party decided to execute him.
Since he technically had 30 hit points left, we tried to determine how to administer a coup de grâce. We couldn’t find any official rule, so in the interests of time I just said they slit his throat and he died. But it did raise an interesting question about what the actual correct ruling should have been.
The party decided to try and take another short rest back in the Goblin Barracks. I rolled for a random encounter every 10 minutes (1 in 6 chance) but nothing happened. They returned to the Dragon Shrine and we’ll pick things up there next session.
Although we only completed one encounter this week (talk about old school D&D Encounters!) it was a lot of fun. This was the first time I’d run an encounter where the players really felt they were outmatched or at least evenly challenged. The Barbarians had 67 hit points each and the half-dragon had 60, so it took a lot of hits to mow through them all.
The Barbarians’ reckless attack that gave everyone advantage made the fight go a lot faster – even though it still took an hour – and led to a lot of crits for the PCs. Luck played a big role in the overall outcome this week. My DM dice finally rolled all the numbers and not just 20s, as they have so often in the past.
Looking at things objectively this was actually a really straightforward and conceptually boring combat. There was nothing exciting to interact with and no interesting terrain features. It was a giant rectangular room with monsters. It was nice for a change, but I wouldn’t want to do this kind of encounter every week.
We anticipate that we’ll finish the adventure next week. The consensus in our FLGS is that everyone wants to keep playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen and moving on to Episode 4. As this is considered a step up to the next tier of play PC are required to be level 5. Anyone who’s level 4 can expend 20 downtime days to Catch up and just become level 5. But where does that leave PCs currently levels 1-3?
We’ll also be faced with a store where five tables are all playing an advanced game with no introductory level adventurers available. If new players show up we can give them a level 5 pre-gen but that character won’t be technically legal for public play, nor will it give the newbie a good representation of how the introductory level of D&D really works, which is the point of D&D Encounters. Personally I think leaving so much time between this season and the next is a big mistake and will result in the public play program taking a big step back in some stores.
How far into the adventure is your group? If you’ve completed Episode 3, what are you doing until the next D&D Encounters season begins? For groups playing onward, does your FLGS still have a level 1-4 table?
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