Field Report Week 6: Agents of the ArchFey

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We again had a full table at the Game Matrix. Two Skalds, three Controllers (two witches and a Hunter), and two strikers (my Thief and a Scout).

We managed to discourse pleasantly enough with Uma and she charged us with returning Prospero/Orlando to her from the Dryad who has obsconded with him prior to Rathgar's agent, Basil, murdering him. During our trek to recover the boy, we spotted some ill-aspected trees and managed to avoid being ambushed by some homicidal plants which we quickly dispatched with some harm to our strikers and one witch but we managed to overcome.
We had a full table with a skald (me), swordmage, psion, pixie hybrid, and two new people using the warpriest and slayer pre-gens.

Half of us were bloodied. None of us were trained in Nature, and could do very little about the trees. The slayer (played by an 8-year old girl) kicked some serious ass by doing what slayers do best: dishing out damage. The warpriest and I used all of our healing, and we managed to survive. The dice were mostly against us last night. 
RS: 60/60 CS: 60/60 RotS: 60/60 U:60/60 CotF: 60/60 BH: 60/60 A&E: 51/60 TFU: 53/60 LotF: 37/60 KotOR: 37/60 CW: 26/40 IE: 31/40 JA: 17/40 G@W: 7/40 DT: 7/40 Good trades with: Lily_Wan, creme_brule, suki_jedi_apprentice, Ephant_Mon
Field report for D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 6) now available at Dungeon's Check out our D&D Encoutners Archive for weekly write-ups, actual play podcasts and new pre-generated characters.

We ran the encounter twice. It was a cake walk for the first group (a Ranger with +12 Nature made things considerably easier). It was almost a TPK for the second group after the only leader in a party of 7 was petrified in the third round.

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Hey cave2626,

Thanks as always for the detailed field report. It was fun to read as usual. I wanted to post in response to your afterthoughts, to clarify the design intent a bit.

As it was originally written, the characters meet the Green Lord or the Summer Queen in this session, and come to learn more about the nature of the problem. Meeting an archfey was kind of a "Holy crap, are we dealing with GODS?!?" sort of moment, and lent a certain amount of gravitas to the session. Each of the archfey sends the characters in a different direction to accomplish their aims: Tiandra sends them to deal with a treant, and en route they encounter the barkburrs, and Oran sends them to deal with the summer nymph, and en route they encounter some frolicksome spring nymphs. Hamadryad characters working for Tiandra got a little treat here: when they encountered their sister spring nymphs, they learned of the barkburr encounter that lay along the other path. The hamadryad character could then choose whether to deal with her troublesome sisters or play out the other encounter with the barkburrs. 

One issue that came up in playtesting was that the spring nymphs' control powers proved too difficult for low level parties. Another issue was that the adventure ran long, so those divergent paths were cut in development. As you've observed, the plot for this session had more to do with the role-play; the combat was merely an obstacle on the road, even in the initial draft--it's just that there were two paths, so as to provide more choice and variation in the season. 

Anyhow, there's a peek behind the curtain. Not sure how much it would have changed the feeling of "tacked-on-ness," but now you have the logic behind the intent. Smile
I TPK'd a group of 5 at this :S

The first round I pretty much hit everyone with the trees, and then it just got worse from there. It got really bad when I noticed that the Vine Horror's recharge power was a burst 3 instead of a blast 3; the combination of the two plus the hits that a few people had already taken from the Bloodthorn Vines meant that the auto damage literally sent people unconscious in one round, and dead in two. Lots of unlucky saves to blame for that, sure, but the power of that auto damage combined with in-turn damage from the trees and vines just proved to be too much. They managed to take out the three creatures, but the trees won in the end.

I don't normally aim for a TPK, and in case it's likely to occur am willing to fiat out of it if I can find good narrative support for the sudden turn of events...but I just couldn't find any here

I "saved" the party by saying that the three troublemaker pixies from last week were following them; when the party fell, the pixies ran back to Uma, who hurriedly sent some of her own nymphs to recover the corpses; it stood to reason that if she truly believed the PCs were destined to stop Soryth, that they would be worth the risk of running into Ragnar.  They all woke up with a splitting headache (-1 until the next milestone), but otherwise fully rested and healed.

Nobody seemed to take it too hard but I'm never sure and always feel bad after something like that happening!/Nullzone42
the group i ran through did not make perception checks even after some prompting. thus, i placed them in the surpise starting area. it really made their encounter far more difficult than i think it would have been had they taken time to observe the area. several PCs have favorable stats for the perception DCs as written, but the players seemed too interested in the description of the sparkling treasure to spend time on perception checks.
The main DM couldn't make it this week, but apparently neither could any players... So I zoomed over to another game store to take the final spot at a table to play.

We were 6 strong, mostly full HP, but we could not hit for anything.  It didn't help that the DM put excess 'Demon Shrubs' on the board which wiped us out. Also, the tree traps seemed to be activating anytime someone ended their turn around them, not after interacting with them, which seemed odd. In the end, we had two petrified characters and the rest dead from bleeding out (or downright killed from HP, in my case).
Speaking with Ragnar, the group learned about Basal and his mission to kill Orlando, and they headed out to find Orlando first.

When they encountered the plant monsters, the human thief quickly used her move action to move up to the sword, pulled the sword from the ground (minor) and traded in her standard for a move to move back to where the rest of the group was. The bloodthorn vines moved up to attack the group, pulling PCs back towards the Barkburrs.

The cleric in the group used Nature and discovered the nature of the Barkburrs and spent the rest of his turns delaying and disabling the Barkburr in the middle of the map, letting the rest of the group take out the bloodthorn vines.

I actually didn't bother to add the Vine Horror to the encounter, because we were already running a little bit late. Maybe I'll throw him in to a future encounter.  
After talking to Ragnar the group headed to the forest where Orlando was seen with a Nymph.

The party being experienced trackers noticed the hostile plants and the glittering treasure avoiding an ambush.  They engaged the bloodthorn vines and some of their plant minions.  The party was able to identify the Barkburr trees and instead of trying to pacify the trees decided to chop/smash them.  Several party members were hit by barbs from the trees and felt their blood begin to turn to sap whcih slowed them down.  The Dwarven Knight and Slayer became frozen in place as it seemed they were rooted to the ground.  The Knight was able to resist further complications with his superior fortitude and hatred of trees.  The Slayer on the other hand sucumbed to the Barkburr transformation and became lignified.

The Vine Horror tripped the rest of the party up with his vine attacks strangling several members and holding them in place.  With concentrated firepower the group was able to overcome all of the creatures.  A couple of the party members recalled that applying sap from a fallen Barkburr tree on a recently turned creature will turn them back.  Before doing so a few contemplated hacking off equipment and or money pouches.    Fairer heads prevailed and Fargrim(2) was happy to be back to normal, for the most part.  He seems to be finding leaves in strange places...

The party recovered a Luckblade Shortsword which the new Thief was happy to pick up.  After a short rest they marched on.

DM spoilers
There were 9 people at my table this week.  I added an additional bloodthorn vine, some lvl 1 plant minions, and gave all non minion creatures additional HP.  It seemed to work out OK.  The party wasn't overly taxed by it and everyone had something to beat on or help.  The bloothorns were finally able to impale someone when the squisher Thief got in melee.  The Fighter and Knight laughed off the attacks.  The biggest threat for the party was the Trees.  They were regularly hitting the party and causing good damage.

I think next week I'm not going to upscale the encounter as much.  I think they'll have enough to worry about if they get knocked around in the water.  Should be interesting if we have another big group.  We'll see if they try using the otters or just take turns with the raft.

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We have consistently had 3 tables this season, though we lost a regular DM last season, so we have a player who 'volunteered' to fill in who has been stuck running the whole season. 

At my table, good nature and perception checks revealed the dangerous barkburrs and we were allowed to start at one corner of the map.  Our pixie skald (who also made the awesome nature check that identified them) won initiative, flew up to the one barkburr tree we were in range of, and used a minor and standard every round to keep it quiescent until he disarmed it, effectively sitting out the fight, but making it very easy on the rest of us.  He had no actions available to heal, but when the berserker needed healing, he could, of course, use his own action (skalds are awesome that way).  The various nasty vines weren't too hard to handle. 

The other two tables were just about destroyed by the barkburrs.  One carried the day, badly mauled, the other was down to two one PC and a fey beastamer companion, with two PC 'lignified' when they ran out of time.  When we saw how hard the fight was with the barkburrs included, we voted our skald a moment of greatness.



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