My party started their Twisting Halls proper adventure last night.
After reaching the cavernous entrance to the temple, the party searched for signs of activity and chose to enter the less-active looking entrance to the north. Upon opening the door and entering, they were greeted by Kobalds performing maintenance on the various shrines and doing what minions do. The nearest such Kobald led the players to Farralax, a fledgling white dragon, after the players questioned him about his master.
The mage Sharrn was the first to speak with Farralax, and was not very reverent with the dragon and angered Farralax. This almost escalated to the point of attack, but fortunately Benecia and Gwindelyn managed to take control of the situation. Eventually after some conversation, a bargin was struck between the players and Farralax. Each player "contributed" 10 gp to the dragon's horde, and the party as a whole commited themselves to killing Maraleth, with the promise of set of magic armor when the task was complete, and safe passage further into the temple.
From Farralax's lair, the party chose to move through the doors to the south.
Oh, the skill challange. I'm still having a tough time navigating NPC encounters. This was by far my worst encounter of the night. I had a rough time with the dialog, and wasn't very effective at leading the players into trying different things. It seemed like diplomacy checks were all the players could come up with, and were more focused on making the same case over and over again, but more reasonable. Needless to say, I abandoned the skill check encounter architecture. I need to figure out better ways to play NPC's and lead characters where I want them to go. I need to spend more time during preperation scripting dialog and thinking about how to lead players to the conclusions I need them to reach.
Entering the room, the players immediately noticed the rug in the room, which stood out by not being covered in filth. It was obviously a trap, and was identified as such, but no one in the party possesed the skills to disarm it. Keeping that in mind, the party focused on the foes in the room. Two Dire Rats and four Goblin Snipers occupied the room. Benicia's wolf companion, Cullen, immediately engaged the first Dire Rat while the Slayer Ari engaged the other on the opposite side of the trapped floor.
The rats used this position to block movement of the other players, forcing them to use only ranged attacks, or in the case of the Fighter Xaviar, attempt to jump over the trap. Xaviar's attempt failed, but he managed to save himself from being damaged by the trap. The Goblins safely returned fire from the corners of the room.
At one point, Sharrn attempted to use Mage Hand to move the carpet covering the trap and drop it on a Sniper to obstruct his view, but the Sniper proved too dexterous for this tactic and nimbly avoided it.
Fortunately for those attacking, the rats were unable to land a hit and spread their debilitating Filth Fever. And were dispatched in due time. With the rats out of the way, and freedom of movement restored, the partymade short work of the remaining Snipers.
The party then took a short rest and searched the room. Xaviar took the rug to try and recover some of the gold given to Farralax. Gwindelyn took notice of the statue that was in the southern part of the room and found the script scrawled into the back of the statue. Fortunately, he speaks Dwarven and was able to decrypt the ominous passage.
This combat went very well I thought. The rats were a solid, but not overwhelming challenge for the fighters to tank, and the Snipers made great fodder for the party's Mage. I thought it went well, and I was able to handle the few curve balls the players threw at me, including the Mage Hand trick.
After some deliberation, the party went through a set of double doors to the west. Inside, they discovered a room with of tiles of alternating colors of dark and light. Against the west wall of the room stood four statues. Gwindelyn took the lead into the room, and after attempting to walk straight forward, reeled from an attack directed at his mind.
At this point, the statues animated and began to move. The party quickly learned the rules of the enchanted room, which restricted movement based on the rules of the chess piece position the player entered the room on. Sharrn quickly dispatched three of the pawn statues while Xaviar held the attention of the Queen and Knight pieces to prevent the Queen from unleashing her devastating attack against the rest of the group. The Rook was attacked and tanked by the wolf Cullen.
After a few rounds, Cullen and Benicia dispatched the Rook with a combined assault, Ari dispatched the final remaining pawn. Gwindelyn and Sharnn dispatched the Queen and Knight from a distance while Xaviar routed their attention towards him.
As the statues crumbled, the players took a short rest. They must now decide where to go next.
We ended the night at the conclusion of the Chess room. The players really enjoyed this room. It wasn't particularly challenging for them, but I believe that was mostly due to their tactics working in their favor. Xaviar was able to route the Queen, preventing her from attacking three adjacent players, which is would have turned the tide rapidly.
Overall, I think the skill challenge room was the only encounter I didn't run well. I need to improve my NPC interaction with the players. I feel pretty comfortable in combat encounters now, so at least there is that.
The only other note I have about this session is that Ari seems to not be engaged. She sat on the floor and looked at real estate listings on her phone the whole game, only coming up to make a quick combat strike on her turns to whatever was close to her. This is her first exposure to D&D, and isn't a fan of fantasy or have a gaming background, so this may not be something I can overcome. I'll attempt to adjust the campaign to try and get her engaged in the story, but I'm not terribly hopeful for success. It may just not be her cup of tea.