You may expect this write-up to begin in the Manticores’ lair where a group of adventurers were keeping the Manticore eggs warm while planning what to do next. That adventuring party played under a new DM this week. The group I ran began the session back at the Feathergale Spire where they were given a hot lead on the missing delegation from Miramar.
We had another great turnout at Face to Face Games in Toronto this week. We’re now running four tables. We had 18 players this week, which we could have squished into three groups but we’re laying foundation for the weeks to come when we expect our numbers to be up over 20 again. I took on the table with the newest players. This has made it quite challenging to get any sort of consistency or ongoing story established, but I continue to do my best to ensure everyone is having fun.
My table had four players; one was new this week, the other three had each participated in two previous sessions. The party consisted of a Human Fighter, Half-Orc Ranger, Dragonborn Rogue, and Elf Wizard. The adventure assumes that by episode 4 the average party level is 4. My average party level was 2 which meant I had to curb back some numbers to ensure the PCs weren’t killed as soon as they encountered their first hostile opponent or trap.
The Miramar Delegation
For simplicity we decided that the new party was a contingent of the group I’d run in the last session. I filled them in on the ongoing story and we moved on. Fortunately one of the players had been at my table two weeks before so that helped a lot.
The leader of the Feathergale Knights, Commander Thurl, gathered the PCs together and told them he had new news about the missing delegation. While the PCs were out fighting the Manticore some long-range scouts returned to the Spire. They’d seen the Monks of the Sacred Stone order escorting prisoners to Sacred Stone Monastery. The scouts also reported an earlier encounter with the Monks.
The Monks ambushed the delegation as it sped towards Red Larch. During the battle one Feathergale Knight and one Sacred Stone Monk were killed along with two from the delegation. The Ranger remembered finding the four shallow graves on the roadside during the previous session and confirmed that was indeed who was in the graves. Thurl urged the PCs to investigate.
The Knights and Monks are at odds, but Thurl wouldn’t go into the details of why. He said the Monks are extreme isolationists and rarely allow anyone near their Monastery, let alone enter the premises. He had no idea why they’d attack the delegation and take prisoners. Perhaps the PCs could find out more? When asked if the Knights could fly the PCs to the Monastery, Thurl explained that guards at the Monastery would shoot at the large birds as soon as they were within range. He did agree to bring the PCs as close as possible and drop them off. The heroes packed their belongings and left.
Sacred Stone Monastery
Passage of Stone (M1)
The PCs were given a map so they knew exactly where to go when they were dropped off. They traversed the rocky terrain for an hour before they came to a narrow passage between to bluffs that led to a hidden canyon in the heart of the hills. Before them was the Monastery. It had dark, narrow window slits and a red roof. Rather than approach directly, the heroes decided to do a stealthy perimeter search.
At the front were two giant doors, but no visible guards. Around the back there was a small door, likely a servants’ entrance. Also around back was a walled garden area. One of the curious PCs climbed the wall just enough to look over.
Garden of Stone (M14)
The garden was poorly kept, but a well worn path through the overgrowth was visible. Amidst the free-growing plant life were numerous statues, all of which looked incredible life-like. On the other side of the garden were three doors that all led into the Monastery. The PCs were concerned that a trap or some creature might have turned living beings to stone, hence the statues, so they passed the garden and decided to find another way inside the Monastery.
After regrouping and comparing notes, the party decided to wait until nightfall and then try to gain entrance to the Monastery through the servants’ entrance. When they got there the Wizard stood on the Ranger’s back to peek into a window. If he could see the door he’d unlock and open it from the inside using his Mage Hand. The Rogue and Fighter had bows ready in case anyone unexpected came out the door first.
The Wizard’s plan was a good one. He could indeed see the locked door. His Mage Hand easily unlocked it. However, in the room (which was a large kitchen) four Monks were cleaning the dinner dishes and one saw the Mage Hand. He alerted the others and they all began moving towards the window and door.
The PCs outside the door decided to wait for attackers rather than go inside the unlocked door. The Monks were smart enough to lock the door and not go outside. The Fighter got sick of waiting and, realizing the door was now locked again, jumped up to the nearest window and fired blindly into the room. His arrow flew true and wounded an unsuspecting Monk. The Rogue used his picks to open the door and the party rushed inside.
The combat was short and the party had the good sense not to kill the Monks if possible, although one did get killed by magic. When the fight ended the PCs dressed in the Monks’ robes. However, the dead Monk took a lot of damage and his robe was damaged and blood soaked so one PC was left without a disguise. The Dragonborn wasn’t going to pass as Human so he didn’t bother with the robes. The Ranger thought cutting the dead Monk’s face off and wearing it as a mask would improve his disguise, and despite objections from the other good aligned PCs he carried through with his master plan.
Before leaving, the PCs searched the kitchen and the adjoining room which turned out to be a laundry room. They found nothing valuable. They did have the foresight to bind and gag the surviving Monks and put them in the laundry room out of sight.
The next room served double duty as the dining room and refectory. Fortunately it was late at night and no one was in the room when the PCs arrived. They ignored the door to the north and continued south towards the Monastery’s front door.
West Dormitory (M5)
From the Refectory a long hall headed south then turned left towards where the PCs assumed they’d find the main entrance. There were numerous doors on both sides of the hallway. They opened the first one on their right and found a dormitory. Inside were five Monks. Only one was awake, but the horrific site of the Ranger wearing a flesh mask was enough to cause him to scream in alarm.
Before the other Monks could register the scream the Fighter ran into the room and plunged his greatsword through one of the sleeping Monks. The rest of the Monks woke quickly and the PCs had a real fight on their hands. Fortunately the Monks rolled poorly and the PCs didn’t. The heroes were victorious but killed all the Monks this time. The party was worried if they left them alive, even bound, the may have to fight them again if things went south. They found nothing of value in this room, but did find signs that the unoccupied beds belonged to Dwarves. So far they’d not seen any Dwarves in the Monastery, only Humans and Elves.
Guest Quarters (M4)
Back in the hallway the group rounded the corner. At the end of the hallway was a door that the party was convinced would bring them to the front hall. They quietly discussed where to go next and three of four decided the front hall and then backtrack to check the doors. The Fighter, the lone opposition in this vote, tried opening the nearest door anyway. It was locked. This got the party’s attention. None of the doors they’d found so far were locked. Whatever was in there must be important or valuable. Maybe it was where the delegation was being held prisoner.
The Rogue suggested he could pick the lock but the Fighter was impatient and tried forcing it open before the Rogue could even get his lock picks out. After two very aggressive and loud tries to force it open with a strong shoulder shove, the Rogue finally managed to get close enough to try finesse. He easily opened it on the first try.
The interior of this room was nearly identical to the on they’d just come from, except some of the bed had been pushed aside and a desk was brought in. It looked as if one person had claimed the whole room for himself. The room’s occupants, who were sleeping before the Fighter tried bashing the door down, were awake now. Inside the PCs spotted one Human Cleric in fine robes and two burly Human guards.
The Cleric in the fine robes told the party to surrender. He could tell by their appearance, their actions, and their dumbfounded looks, that they were not supposed to be in the Monastery despite their robes. The Fighter drew his bow and fired at the Cleric who he felt was being rude. The Ranger did the same. Cleric took the shots and then retaliated with a Shatter spell. This badly hurt the level 2 party.
The Wizard cast sleep but only managed to get the two guards who were both softened up by the Shatter spell. The Cleric again gave the heroes a chance to surrender but they did not. This time their missile attacks were unsuccessful and the Cleric again cast Shatter. That dropped the Fighter and Rogue. The Wizard had the good sense to surrender after that since he was down to 1 hit point.
The Rogue fled as soon as the second Shatter spell was cast. He was in the hallway and avoided the second blast but knew he was outmatched. He gave the Wizard a look that let his ally know he’d return for him eventually. He ran back the way the party had come and escaped without encountering any resistance.
Back inside more guards showed up. They bound and gagged the Wizard. They also tended to the unconscious PCs to ensure they wouldn’t die. The Cleric then had all three prisoners brought to another area of the Monastery.
To be continued.
Having to constantly recap the whole campaign each week for new players is tough, but it’s a good problem to have. Our recruitment for new players and DMs is finally paying off, but that does bring its own set of challenges. As the most experienced DM and the contact for new players at my FLGS it makes sense for me to take the new players each week.
My biggest issue this week was that two of the players wanted to play their characters in ways that were very evil. They needed to be talked into sparing the lives of the NPC when clearly the PCs were the aggressors in these encounters. One player tried to lean on his chaotic side to justify a lot of evil actions. I tried to make some compromises, but a lot of it was outside of the public play comfort zone. I think I’ll have to talk to the whole group at my FLGS and remind them about the AL’s public play code of conduct.
As for the adventure it went better then I thought until the end. I knew the low level party was in for a challenge, but I scaled the NPC Monks down a bit and things were fine. The real problem came about when the party didn’t take the big boss’s offer to surrender I knew it would end badly. I’m expecting some additional players next week so that will give the Rogue a few allies to help spring the other captured PCs.
Where did your party go after the Feathergale Spire? Did you head for the Riverguard Keep, the Sacred Stone Monastery, or one of the other points of interest? Have other DMs had challenges keeping the ongoing campaign on track s players come and go throughout the season?
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.