Session 7 Field Report

12 posts / 0 new
Last post

Field report for D&D Encounters: Beyond the Crystal Cave (Week 7) now available at Dungeon's Master.com. Check out our D&D Encoutners Archive for weekly write-ups, actual play podcasts and new pre-generated characters.



This was another very difficult encounter. Had I not taken pity on the party it would easily have resulted in a TPK. As it is most PCs are down to 0 healing surges with two more encounters to go.

Visit Dungeon's Master.com – The D&D Resource Blog For DMs and Players.
http://dungeonsmaster.com
Follow me on Twitter @ameron_dm

We only had a table of four this week: my gnome skald, an elf avenger, and the cavalier and mage pre-gens.

I started with less than full hit points because I'm trying to conserve surges by not overhealing, but I ended up being the first PC to go unconscious. We all started on the raft in perfect blast formation. Without the benefit of the skald's healing aura, the party dropped one by one, until the avenger was the last one standing (actually, swimming). But, the avenger managed to trigger the second winds of both the cavalier and the mage (mine was already spent before I went down), and the party was slowly able to make a 4th quarter comeback.

I hope the rest of the chapter goes better than these last two encounters. 
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
Guardian Games ran 3 full tables (We almost had enough to split into 4 tables, but a couple of players didn't show up).

My table report.

Full disclosure: I am the DDE Coordinator for my venue, and I am the Drop Dead Backup DM so I have to play dumb when I am at the table as a player.

Sayter of Night Skald (Unseelie Agent) <---- me
Pixie Berserker (w/ interdimensional hammer) (Unseelie Agent) <----- wife
? Enchanter Mage (Theme unknown)
Eladrin Mage (no theme)
Human Cavalier (no theme)
Drow Scout (no theme)

My table was plagued by a couple of things that made this enounter a bear to play through:


  1. Brand new encounters DM with very little prep time.

  2. 4 out of 6 players were very young and very hard to keep on task.


On the upside, I had printed statblocks for all 3 tables for the large otters, and for the unique magic items that are given out by the NPCs.


DM struggled to keep info of the two role playing encounters separate, I had to prompt him a few times that he was mixing info from two separate encounters.


Players didn't help matters by talking over the DM and each other (one wanted to cut off a branch off Oakstaff to make a weapon). Role-playing encounters are wasted on these guys, they are chaotic-combat monsters and they can barely keep focus when there is something to kill, let alone when something is trying to talk with them.


My Sayter of the Night Skald in service to Baga Yaga kept the party on track and made sure we got the information we needed to move on from the RP. My wife gave up trying to heard the "good" members of our party through the RP encounters and focused on her knitting (I think this was to prevent her from stabbing me through my eye sockets for seating us at this table).


We finally get to the water's edge and spot the otters. Wife's pixie flies to the otters, speaks witht them (because pixies can speak to all beasts and fey beasts) and convinces them we have food and are fun to be with (she lies). Everyone uses the Rider's Water on the otters and we are now all mounted.


We start out across the water on our newly made mounts and Ariel shows up with a visibly pissed off horned king yelling at him. Ariel flies out on to the water and summons 5 water spouts (added one for 6 players).


I see that Ariel is enchanted with a massive insight check and tell the party not to kill him (not to save him because I am good, I am not, I needed my own slave and since Ariel has proven his weak will I figure he will make a good minion). The Drow scout proceeds to try and kill him, sigh.


The combat was a mess. Flying, mounts, water, Aquatic vs. non-aquatic, and the inexperience at the table meant that we barely got thorugh 2 rounds of combat this night. Cavalier player has been playing his character all season could not figure out attack and damage tonight. Knocking prone flyers has changed, it's nearly impossible to do now.


I managed to capture Ariel (the Drow got smacked off his mount by a waterspout and was no longer trying to kill the pixie).


The long and short of it, this was completely the wrong encounter for my table. This is not the fault of the author, its just the nature of the players and the DMs


I am sure that if I was at a table of full on adults with one (maybe two of these young players) we could have handled this better but 4 on 2 was just too much.


Well we all have otter mounts until our next full rest, this should make the next 2 encounters interesting.


Bryan Blumklotz
DDE WPN Coordinator at Guardian Games



last week’s encounter did not feel as though it fit the course of action for the players. This week, they at least felt as though the opposition came after they knew which direction they were headed and seemed directly connected to the end goal of finding Orlando.


two recognized the otters as potential mounts using the gifts from Oakstaff.


The interaction with the summer nymph and with the treant Oakstaff were difficult for players to grasp quickly as tools for gaining information. They are pretty dead set on facing the hag and less aware of the importance of Orlando; they are following the guidance, but seem confused.


One PC offered a moonstone from an earlier reward to Rosaline as a gift. She asked if he was offering it freely without expectation of a gift in return. He said, ‘I’m just giving this to you; because, you are very pretty and deserve pretty things.’ So, I decided she believed he was giving his heart to her as her champion and pawn. I’ll use it again later in the story.


Another PC requested Oakstaff enchant his bow or his arrows. Oakstaff inquired if he would swear fealty to Oakstaff to which he responded, ‘yes, I swear my fealty to you, Oakstaff.’ I told him that before next week he should make (from his current ranger) a Seeker, hybrid Seeker/Ranger, or multiclass Seeker, as well as tack on the title, “Warlock of Oakstaff,” to his name.


Later when facing the wind mage pixie Ariel, I had Ariel call the first PC as Rosaline’s chattel and the second as Warlock of Oakstaff. I explained that he could see in their very aura that they had recently made eldritch pacts with powerful fey creatures.

I'm sorry to hear what happened at Perithoth's table. I had a similar experience trying to teach my family Barbarossa over Christmas. Good game, wrong audience. 

Later when facing the wind mage pixie Ariel, I had Ariel call the first PC as Rosaline’s chattel and the second as Warlock of Oakstaff. I explained that he could see in their very aura that they had recently made eldritch pacts with powerful fey creatures.



This, however, sounds awesome!
it worked out fairly well as they started to realize you don't just give gifts to fey without telling them the meaning.

Ariel gave them each the amber stating, "I give this to you as my gift of gratitude for sparing my life in your mercy." He knew he wasn't just handing over trinkets for fun.

The PC who gave the moonstone to Rosaline is a druid, so I told him he should consider retraining powers to befit his status as one who serves a summer fey. I told him to look at more plant growth, fire or heat, and thunderstorm -ish powers to signify he now calls upon primal spirits connected to the summer court.

The second PC was an archer ranger, so it was a bit harder. I suggested he consider Seeker since it would make strong use of primal themes like Oakstaff might endow him with while retaining his bow as a primary weapon.

The others in the party were more wary about giving gifts to fey or asking powers of fey. Some were hesitant to take gifts from both NPCs.        
Steve,

It was just a bad night, it happens. Normally the four boys in question would have been spread out around 4 tables but with the recent contractions of play over the Winter Holidays it just didn't happen. Live and learn.

I love Beyond the Crystal Cave as an adventure but I think it is showing some of the limits of complex plots that you can weave in the encounters format. While my normal complement of players would dive right in and have a ball with all the NPC interactions, any table with Attention Deficit Disorder will implode. The story is very important to the pay off in this adventure and I think the table I was at is gonna say, "meh" at the end of this adventure.

As it is, I have to keep a score card of all the NPCs and what side they are on and if i didn't, I don't think I could keep the plot straight in my head from week to week. I think of this as a TV show that has one of those long-assed "Previously on Beyond the Crystal Cave" teasers leading into the current episode each week (I am looking at you Supernatural and Lost).

Also, this adventure requires some deep reading that most DMs are just not going to get if the store doesn't allow them to take it home (many don't).

A table of 4 at my store.  I ended up dropping one of the waterspouts.

They journed into the forest and encountered Rosaline.  The players were surprised Rosaline expected their arrival and even knew their names.  They PCs asked her where Orlando was.  She told them he was being safeguarded by a treant, Sir Oakstaff.  When they asked about Juliana, Rosaline revealed that Soryth needed both souls to complete her ritual.  So as long as Orlando was safe so to would Juliana.

At this point the PCs were willing to let the treant protect Orlando so they could make an assault on Soryth.  They had 3 of the 4 keys and only needed a rose.  Rosaline told them the best place to find a rose was the Water Palace.  She gave them gifts of Horse's Breath and asked them to check on Oakstaff to make sure Orlando was safe.  It was on the way to the Water Palace so the PCs agreed.

After travelling down the hill a ways they came across a treant who introduced himself as Sir Oakstaff.  After introductions he led them to a grotto where they could talk freely without the chance of Soryth's spies listening in.  The slow talking treant waxed on about old war stories sharing his lack of enthusiasm about Ragnar.  The PCs learned Oakstaff took Orlando to the Water Palace which is warded against evil.  The PCs, still believing Orlando was in the safest place...were asked by Oakstaff to retrieve Orlando and bring him back to Ragnar's camp.  After learning about their mission and the threat Basal posed he fealt it would best to keep Orlando close by.  Oakstaff decided to meet with Ragnar and Uma to try and mend their feud and muster their forces.  Before leaving he brewed potions of Rider's Water for everyone.

Th PCs arrived at the shore of a lake.  In an island in the middle of the lake stood the Water palace.  Dragonflies, minnows, and otters played in the water and a raft was docked to the shore.  The PCs jumped at the mention of dragonflies and quickly decided to make some flying mounts.  The insects were in the middle of the lake so they hopped on the raft and went into the water.

After making it a little ways out they heard a booming voice behind them and saw a Pixie being spoken to by a shadowy head.  They were surprised to learn about Kalbon.  The Pixie had a glazed look to his eyes as he listened to Kalbon's commands.  Three water spouts sprung out of the water and began to attack the PCs on the raft.  The Pixie created localized tempest knocking all but the Cleric off the raft.  The party began a mad scramble to get back on the raft and escape the foes. 

The waterspouts moved in and started spinning around.  Luckly the PCs were able to hold their ground and stay on the raft (I could not for the life of me connect with the spinning spout power.)  The PCs used their gifts from Rosaline to make the raft move faster as they were bombarded by waves and gusts of wind slamming into them.  They made it to the other side and bloodied the Pixie.  The Warlock noticed he seemed confused and intimidated  him (nat 20 with a +6) into backing down.  The Pixie was shocked out of his confusion and began asking for mercy.  When the party struggled to finish off the last spout the Pixie moved in and finished him.

After talking to Ariel the Pixie they learned more about Soryth's companion Kalbon.  Ariel bestowed gifts on the party as they take a short rest before entering the Water Palace.  I suspect they'll be trying to make some Dragonfly mounts before they head in though.  Wink

@feetz_grande on Twitter

My players met the two NPCs. To be honest they could note care less about the Nymph a few 2nd ed jokes floated around the table as they wondered why they were not blinded looking at her beauty. They then went on to speak with Treebeard, Falstaff, er...whatever his name was. Our Hexblade made some great rolls and was able to bluff the tree into thinking he had heard all of his exploits. He was bestowed the vials of Horse breath as a reward.

The players made their way to the docks and got on the raft. The Hexblade saw the otters and tried to feed one of them, I took this as a clue that he was trying to influence the animal. He rolled a nat 19 (so 18). This might be a great time to explain. MY ENTIRE PARTY DUMPED WIS! With otter escourt they made their way to the center of the water before the pixie came out under the influence of Kalabon. The combat comenced. The Chaos Sorcerrer blew the spouts back but they still had the movement to flyback and block the path of the raft. As there was no room to engage the Minotaur Grapple Fighter named Daisy (get it) jumped into the water and put a water spout into a Chokehold (I cannot make this stuff up people).

The Halfling slayer on stick duty asked if he could ram the spouts w/ the raft. I made it a Str. attack vs. Reflex and let him know that if he missed they would get an AOO against him. He pushed into ramming speed and took out one of the spouts with the raft bloodieing it.

The Pixie flew up and dropped her encounter missing the party but still doing damage. She was then alpha struck by the Sorcerrer's daily and hit pretty solidly by the Hexblade who then proned her with his otter and tried holding him under water. The party did not care about him being magiked. They killed off the other spouts and the halfling rowed them to shore before he passed out from his wounds (a Fortune card kept him alive long enough to complete the task).
I love Beyond the Crystal Cave as an adventure but I think it is showing some of the limits of complex plots that you can weave in the encounters format. While my normal complement of players would dive right in and have a ball with all the NPC interactions, any table with Attention Deficit Disorder will implode. The story is very important to the pay off in this adventure and I think the table I was at is gonna say, "meh" at the end of this adventure.

As it is, I have to keep a score card of all the NPCs and what side they are on and if i didn't, I don't think I could keep the plot straight in my head from week to week. I think of this as a TV show that has one of those long-assed "Previously on Beyond the Crystal Cave" teasers leading into the current episode each week (I am looking at you Supernatural and Lost).

Also, this adventure requires some deep reading that most DMs are just not going to get if the store doesn't allow them to take it home (many don't).



I think you may be right on the money.
Even the original plot from my draft, which I think was more organic to the story, still aspired to a campaign style of play where the information you're putting together becomes more and more important, leading up to the ultimate culmination of the story; and even in that one there was a goodly amount to keep track of. Normally in a D&D campaign that kind of gradual build and story layering is hugely rewarding, as the characters' understanding focuses and deepens while all becomes clear... But as you say, Bryan, in Crystal Cave it may be pressing the limits of what Encounters is capable of. I'll totally take the credit and the blame for the BSG-esque, or LOST-esque, TV show structure, which was indeed by design.

Ah, but does it work? I don't know if I'll have a good perspective on how it all worked until Crystal Cave has played all the way through and we're into the next Encounters season. On the one hand, I think variety is good, and each season may not be everyone's cup of tea. On the other, if a season ends up being unpleasant for an especially large number of people, and nobody is having fun, well, then there's a real problem. It'll be interesting to look back upon once we all have that perspective.
My players weren't terribly sure *why* they should stick around and talk to Rosaline or Oakstaff, once they found out "We're sorry, Mario, but Orlando is in another castle".

However, the lake battle was a blast (for me, at least).  Ariel /tempest/ed everyone off the raft.  Most of the combat was done treading water.  I used the DC 9 Athletics from the book to tread water, and also gave them a DC 19 to be able to swim full speed instead of half speed.

When the wizard started out with a cold attack against the waterspouts, I told the players how he was freezing up and "looking extra vulnerable", so they all made snow cones and ice cream out of the poor waterspouts.  They were delicious.
Oops. Forgot to post in here.

The session was a pretty good one, but we only had 3 players show up. I changed Ariel from male to female, by the way, due to the miniature I was using for him/her.

Ariel started off by summoning three waterspouts and conjuring her zone. The PCs managed to get their raft out of the zone, but then abandoned it in favor of using otters as mounts.

This resulted in some fairly cool maneuvers, including going UNDER obstacles and opponents, and using the otters' large size to keep combat advantage against their targets.

When Ariel was bloodied, she snapped out of the trance Kalbon put her in, and since the PCs were having some trouble with the waterspouts, she joined the PCs in defeating them. 
Sign In to post comments