We’re back! After a long absence D&D Encounters begins anew as do our weekly recaps. The new adventure path is called Elemental Evil and in the Princes of the Apocalypse the adventurers find themselves in the town of Red Larch where strange things are afoot.
I’d like to give a huge shout out to our FLGS, Face to Face Games in Toronto. They’re a relatively new game shop and this is the first season they’ve hosted D&D Encounters. For our first official session we ran two full tables with six players in each party. My group consisted of the following PCs: Goliath Bard, Elf Bard, Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic), Human Fighter, Human Monk, and Half-Elf Sorcerer (Dragon Magic).
Last week some of the players got together at our FLGS to make characters together. Afterwards we ran a session of The Lost Mines of Phandelver so they could get a feel for their new PCs. They earned just enough XP from that one session to reach level 2. So our two Bards began this week at level 2.
A strange thing happened on the way to Red Larch…
The adventure gives the DM a lot of latitude regarding how they want to start things off. Ultimately the PCs need to reach Red Larch where they’ll meet the townsfolk and get a sense of the strange occurrences and evil dealings happening in and around town. Depending on why the PCs are heading to Red Larch the DM is encouraged to perhaps throw a quick random encounter at the party before they get there.
I like this idea a lot. In my home games I like to begin with combat whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be an epic fight, just something to get everyone rolling dice and into the session. With new characters it lets the players test out powers, spells, and tactics in what is usually a relatively safe combat situation.
I decided that since my group was made up of experienced players, two of which had PCs who were already level 2, I could give them a tougher fight at the outset. Something to get let them know that there was truly danger about. This is what happened.
The PCs were travelling the High Road from Waterdeep. They knew Red Larch was a sizable town on the way, but that wasn’t necessarily their final destination. They sought adventure and for the Bards an audience to entertain. The group figured a few more hours of marching would get them to town before nightfall. So far the trip was uneventful.
To the west, the Monk and Half-Elf Sorcerer spotted three humanoids running towards the party. The runners all had swords branded. The PCs couldn’t make out details as they were staring towards the sunset. The Goliath Bard (built as a loud-mouth, self aggrandizing wrestler) immediately charged towards the sword-baring runners.
As the runners closed the distance the party realized they were Orcs; Orcs who were now smiling at the sight of the PCs before them. The ranged spellcasters fired as soon as the Orcs got into range. The Monk and Goliath Bard faced them head on.
Just as the party was about to engage the Orcs in melee they noticed another figure running towards them. This time it was a Human in heavy armor. It’s no wonder the Orcs outdistanced him in his heavy armor.
The Orcs ran up to and then past the PCs. As they moved past they slashed at the Goliath Bard and the Monk. The Orcs didn’t seem concerned that they’d provoke opportunity attacks as they ran past the PCs. The Bard managed to clothesline the Orc who ran past him, stopping him cold.
The party cast spells at the Orcs and attacked them with sword and fist. The Orcs fought back only as they moved past the PCs. Clearly they didn’t want to fight; they wanted to keep moving. As the man in heavy armor got closer he called out to the party to run. Not far behind him an Earth Elemental appeared from beneath the ground. It swam through the earth like a swimmer doing the breast stroke.
The PCs quickly finished off the fleeing Orcs and then turned their attention towards the Earth Elemental. The Human running towards them (a Paladin they’d later learn), kept yelling for them to flee and not to stay bunched up. The PCs didn’t listen.
The Paladin ran past the party, but when he saw the Goliath Bard, the Monk, and the Fighter all running headlong towards the Elemental he to stooped and turned to fight.
The Spellcasters tried to keep a safe distance from the Elemental as the hurled spells at it. The Fighter slashed with her axe and pounded with her hammer. The Elemental ignored her and moved on. It then hurned the boulders making up its arms at the Goliath Bard and the Monk. The Bard managed to dodge the boulder, but the Monk took a crit. Fortunately the boulder smashed apart as it connected and the Monk remained on his feet.
The three melee combatants surrounded the Elemental and kept hacking at it while the spellcasters hurled fire. The Paladin NPC called out in Torm’s name and smote the Elemental. The effect of his divine strike lingered long enough for the PCs to score true hits that penetrated the creatures resistances. The Goliath Bard managed to grapple the Elemental (after many failed attempts), then jumped vertically and came down hard on the rocky creature. The combination of falling damage and the power in the Goliath’s arms destroyed the Elemental. Its body smashed into hundreds of tiny pieces.
Welcome to Red Larch
Once the Elemental was destroyed the party made their way on to Red Larch. During the remaining hours of their journey they got to know the Tormite Paladin, Liam Conscore. He had a gift of gab and spent the entire journey teaching the word of Torm to his newly found friends. The Monk, also a Tormite, welcomed the stories. The remainder of the party was less enthusiastic.
Once in Red Larch, Sir Conscore headed directly to The Helm at Highsun (#3), a seeding tavern known for cheap drinks and loose tongues. He offered the PCs a round on him once they settled in. Most of the PCs headed to The Swinging Sword (#2) where they sought lodgings. The proprietor, a Human woman named Kaylessa Irkell, welcomed the PC and urged them to share stories of their trip from Waterdeep. It was clear that this was a woman who’d known an adventuring life before she’d settled down in Red Larch. She was eager to live vicariously through the tales of this party.
When they told her of their run-in and victory over an Earth Elemental she was initially skeptical, but eventually realized that the Bards were not in fact telling her a tall tale. She confided in the PCs that there was strange things happening in and around Red Larch and perhaps the brave heroes capable of battling such a powerful adversary would be willing to stick around and investigate. She suggested they check out a place called Lance Rock where she believes a evil presence lurks. The cryptic lure of unknown evil intrigued the PCs and they agreed to give it their attention the following day. For now they wanted ale and they headed across the street to claim their complimentary beverages from Sir Conscore.
The Human Fighter asked where she’d find the local law enforcement and was directed to The Butcher’s Shop (#11). The butcher’s husband, Harburk Tuthmarillar, is the constable of Red Larch. The Fighter, a noble by birth and one of high station, visited Harburk and told him she could offer her assistance in keeping the peace while she was in Red Larch. Harburk and his four deputies, all seasoned adventurers by the look of them, recognized the Fighter’s authority and gave her the curtsey someone of her station demanded. This indicated to her that these men had a military background or at least had spent time around nobility.
Harburk informed the Fighter that there had been reports of bandits operating near Red Larch, but they were smart enough to keep far enough away to make finding them difficult. With only five lawmen in town it was a near impossible task to keep order in town and hunt down the bandits. The Fighter volunteered the services of her party to find and capture the ruffians and stop this threat to Red Larch.
To be continued…
We had a great turnout for the initial session at our new FLGS, Face to Face Games in Toronto, and the players all seemed to have a great time. We’d been running Lost Mines of Phandelver for the past two months so most of the players had enough experience with 5e that things ran smoothly. We had more spellcasters than I expected, but it still worked out just fine.
As for the adventure, I thought it was a good start. The encounter I threw in at the beginning was a “random encounter” that clearly exceeded the normal balance for a low level party. I knew they’d get a long rest afterwards so I wanted to put them in a situation where they could use all of their best resources and see how they party worked together as a team.
What’s printed in the adventure has the PCs beginning in Red Larch with an optional random encounter on the way. In my case the combat took so long that we didn’t really get a chance to explore the town too much during the first session. Pacing’s going to be important this season so I wasn’t worried if we didn’t get to meet everyone in town on the first night.
I’m not thrilled that there is again XP maximums. Since my party is mostly above level 1 I need to throw tougher encounters against them to keep them challenged. There’s a good chance they’ll exceed episode 1’s XP limit by next session. I don’t want them to have to play and earn nothing so I’ll either have to fast track things (which I don’t want to do – remember what I just said about pacing) or merge episodes 1 and 2 so they can earn the combine max for the first few sessions. Of course I could just throw the max XP out the window, but I like to try and keep everything within the AL rules.
Although I haven’t seen the actual book yet, only the free PDF provided to DMs, I will say that I like what I’ve seen. The adventure seems more interesting that the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, which I wasn’t a big fan of. I also love the art in the new book, something I’ve come to expect from the best D&D books. One detail that I found lacking was a better topographical map. The map of the Dessarin Valley that’s provided doesn’t zoom out enough to give you a good sense of where this is in the Forgotten Realms. It took me a good 5-10 minutes of looking to find a decent map online that I could show the players. I realize this is a small criticism but it bugged me.
Overall it as a great first session and a great introduction back into D&D Encounters. I’m looking forward to getting back to these weekly recaps and getting back to discussing the adventure in the Recounting Encounters podcasts. Leave us a comment below and tell us how your D&D Encounters adventures are going. How was your first week? What kind of characters are you seeing at your gaming tables?
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.
Actual Play Podcasts
Each week we record our D&D Encounters session and make it 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.