Field report for D&D Encounters: War of Everlasting Darkness (Week 1) now available at Dungeon's Master.com.
I ran this encounter twice. Both sessions went very, very well. It was long. One session was 2 hours 30 minutes the other 2 hours 15 minutes. I went totally map-less for all combat and it worked great. The dungeon exploration took forever but it was still a lot of fun.
We discuss the ups and downs, what worked and what didn’t in this week’s Recounting Encounters Podcast.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as actual play podcasts and pre-generated characters.
The "Recounting Encoutners" podcast is now available in iTunes. I believe the author/artist is listed as 20ft Radius.
We had a party consisting of a Tiefling Warlock, Halfling Warlord, Satyr Scout, and Elf Hunter.
The players entered the city looking for adventures. The guards gave them the whole spiel "Welcome to the city, don't wreck our stuff." The players went to the inn and listened to the story of the ghost. I had each patron describe the ghost as something different to further confuse my players. A few checks later and the players decided that they were dealing with a Wraith Dragon Succubus Chipmunk. The group decided to run out and try to catch the ghost imediatly. The satyr dug a trap hoping to catch the ghost, but it walked right over it. They followed the ghost into the forest. Hearing the sounds of an argument (complete with voices) they slpit up with the Hunter and Tiefling ambushing the orcs and killing them. The halfling and satyr walked up to the adventures at the tomb and decided to help them in their quest and negotiated a 45/55 split. It helped the Tiefling used her looks to get the two brothers to agree.
Our heroes entered the tomb and started searching. The halfling was confronted with his past head parties and a failed souffle when he looked into the pool.
To be continued...
I ran our opening sessions of the new season of 4e Encounters last night and was pleasantly surprised to see how much it felt like one of our DnDNext sessions. I Dm back to back 2-hour slots for the two groups and as usual they both chose to tackle the scenario in different ways. However, both did interact with villagers to get background information then chose how to proceed, had a minor encounter en route, then came across the “other” adventurers at the ruins, 1st group joined forces with them, 2nd group scared them off, before descending into the catacomb beneath the ruined temple. A little more exploring, with trap detection (by accidental triggering more often than not) before problem solving and even a pair of riddles (both groups solved the first and failed the second, triggering the combat) It was only at this point that I actually put the map out with the battlegrid, though the fight was fairly short both times (indeed the second groups hexblade defeated the imp in the first round, winning initiative and using his action point to seal the deal before the imp could act!).
The whole thing felt more like one of the “old school” adventures, albeit shorter, but I think a great way to showcase what DnD (in any edition) is about. Even within the 2 hours, we had lots of roleplaying even between the players themselves as well as with the npc’s, exploration with choices rather than a railroad “you travel to the dungeon” and some good old dungeon crawling. Perfect to show any drop in players what DnD has to offer, maybe not the best for an ongoing campaign (I would have probably made more of the journey and possibly had the dungeon part as a second session given more time) but to fit in the time requirements of the Encounters program it worked really well.
If the rest of the season runs as smoothly (especially the later higher level sessions) it certainly bodes well, I’d be interested to see this session ran using the DnDNext rules for comparison.
We finished in just under an hour, because the players had the freedom to do what they wanted to, and were decidedly single-minded (in a noble way) about that.
The group entered the village and were given the rundown for the ghost. Seemed interesting enough, so they camped out on the bar's porch and waited for it to come through town, following it out into the slowly darkening forest, where the party's wizard dropped Light on the fighter's sword. That alerted the trio in the woods, along with some horrible stealth rolls, to the party's approach. They did get to hear the last excerpt about the post-Darkening attack.
The wizard, being the only stealthy one, snuck up on the orc who wasn't using someone's intestines for garters, as the others attempted to tackle the Rip Gut orc to the ground. Well, he got away, but the Wizard was very convincing (with a little arcane help) in getting a surrender ("...are you Rip Gut?" "No." "Okay. I surrender.") and information out of the Red Fang orc, that they'd been hired to attack the next town by "some elf lady."
Due diligence as good heroes brought the players back to town to present the orc to the mayor and local constabulary who informed them of the impending attack on Winter Edge. But that means they lost the phantom's trail for the night. However, to their credit, they did ask for directions to Winter's Edge ("Just past the ruins of Methegrist." "Ancient ruins? Ya don't say...") in order to make their way to help ward off the coming orc invasion.
A good night's sleep later, and they were off, with a stop by the Methegrist ruins, to investigate and found a crossbow being leveled at them, as the players are told to mosey because this claim is already staked. Instead of negotiating with the other adventuring party, they helped the competition get the trap door open and let them go down, claiming that they were just going to be waiting for someone up at the ruins. Once the competition had backed down the ladder, the players dropped the trap door in place, and left them "fairly sure" that the competition would survive.
(I kept hearing things along the lines of, "It's a test for them being adventurers. If they're good enough, they'll make it out on their own. Or we'll eventually be back to let them out." The goodly wizard of the party is wondering how he got mixed up with these sociopathic darwinist adventurers by this point.)
With the ancient ruins sealed and no longer able to hear the angry mutterings of their competition, the party sallied forth to the town of Winter's Edge, but not before tendrils of darkness began erupting through the ground. Rushing up to Winter's Edge, they can hear the hunting horns of at least one arc tribe hot on their heels...
. . .
So... yea... That happened.
. . .
I did ask several times if they wanted to talk to anyone in town, making note of the smith and temple still being open, as well as asking if they wanted to wait around another night to see the phantom and track him to or from anywhere. They declined in favor of a warm bed, hot continental breakfast, and warning Winter's Edge. I think I did MY due diligence, but I have to wonder what I could have done differently.
My table's encounter lasted 2 hours 30 mins. I thought it was a great start to a season of Encounters.
My table's session lasted just shy of 3 hours. It's going to take me a couple weeks to find a good pacing. But I run a large table, and I like to make sure everyones involved that is trying to. This ends up really long review, but so many good moments.
The Party Show
-- Elven Shapeshifter Druid (This is my 7 year old daughters first season joining us)
-- Halforc Executioner
-- Pixie Skald
-- Pixie Hexblade
-- Dragonborn Paladin
-- Human Wizard
-- Deva Pacifist Cleric
-- (Another Wizard not present this week)
So party gets to the Whistling Stag, the wizard is quite pleased with the wonderful meals and hot baths (I believe he took 2). They hear the tales of the ghost and at first think that the Highharvestidereallylongrunonword festival resulted in many drunken citizens. But after more talking start to see it as a harmless occurrence that is nothing to worry about. The older patron agrees with them, having been to Hammerfall himself, but these people aren't quite used to ghosts in their daily lives. And asks the adventurers if they could do some investigating just to help put people at ease.
So the Pixie Skald goes to speak with the druid who might have information about outside the village, and gets the general idea of the ghosts path. Meanwhile the Cleric and other Pixie go to seek out the blacksmith who was said to be quite moody of late. The pacifist cleric goes Dr Phil on the blacksmith and is soon given the story of how she's worrying about her kin. So the cleric helps to ease her worries, and calm her down, but otherwise nothing more there.
So with that the majority of the group heads off to investigate the origin of where the ghost is coming from. The wizard staying back to enjoy another hot bath. (NOTE: Once it became apparent that more was going to be happening I allowed the wizard to catch back up to the party) The group meets up with the crone, and gets her take on the spirit, before directing her to the safer path, while they will take the darker of the two paths. (There was nothing in the packet for this instance...) So as night approaches and when its near darkness the party realizes they are being followed rather closely. Stopping the crone walks into their light. Quite puzzling she tells them she is leaving them now, and gives them her staff for luck. And off she goes. While they puzzle over this, the sun finally sets completely and the spirit rises. The druid (usually in fox form) sniffs around the tree the spirit came from and uncovers the helm. Nobody in the group was quite keen on it, so the skald shrunk it down and is wearing it until they can do something else with it. Then it's after the spirit...
Following the Spirit
Back at the village part of the group circles around the town, while the others attempt to follow the spirit through the town. The pixies are able to stay fairly close going through windows when the spirit passes through houses (all are vacant as people would rather stay away from home while the ghost is making his journey). The rest have to work a bit harder to navigate, but since they know his general direction it's not too difficult. Back outside they continue onwards to the secret meeting. Part of the group sneaks off to try and hear more, while the rest stay with the spirit. They hear the conversation, and wait until after the drow has left before making a move, sending one pixie back to the others. They ambush the orcs and quickly take them out, getting a modest purse in exchange. Then they catch up to the rest and continue on...
The Other Party
Finding the other adventuring group, the wizard decides he doesn't wish to negotiate and drops the human thugs into an illusionary pit. The dwarf is quick to surrender, but the druid (fox) goes after him anyway. Meanwhile the assassin sneaks up behind the elf and takes her hostage. Eventually our pacifist cleric bribes the fox to leave the dwarf alone (yeah, that's my daughter already fleecing the party). The wizard convinces the dwarf that he is desecrating the resting place of the wizard's brother. To which the dwarf is very sorry, he was just hoping to find something with all the tales of this ghost and these ruins. So the party agrees to allow the other adventures to assist them in securing a better resting place for the wizard's brother, and they will pay them a wage for it...
(I mapped this using tiles from the 3 D&D board games)
In the ruins the group decides to split up. The dwarf, elf, wizard, and fox (druid) go the route of the trapped hallway, while the brothers lead the rest of the party towards the statue room. The dwarf walks into a spear trap and is promptly removed, the elf girl then refuses to go further... Until the wizard hypnotizes her and walks her into another trap. The brothers hearing the death cries of their allies, then attack the party thinking they have been lured to their deaths... The assassin quickly takes them out. The wizard then goes to catch up with the rest of the party, leaving the fox sniffing at the corridor. The fox is easily able to see where the traps are and goes skipping off to investigate the door in the middle. She opens the door peeking into the next room, before shifting back into a fox and going to find the rest of the party who is still trying to figure out how to handle this trapped hallway. She helps point out the places to step and leads the party through.
Guilt Free Party
I had 4 people look into the fountain... Dragonborn sees himself stubbornly arguing with his father who is forcing him to read his scriptures, his reaction is "my father was a jerk". Pixie Hexblade sees mischievous pranks she has pulled on many people, her reaction the giggles. The assassin looks in and is reminded that he had tested his newest poison (ungol dust) on the food back at the inn, he reaction need to get back and see how well it worked. And then the pixie skald, was reminded of when he had met another adventuring party and agreed to let them come with him down into some ruins, where they were all killed by his fellow party members, he did feel a little bit bad about that. For some reason our Pacifist cleric was refusing to go near the pool, the party decided it was because she'd start fasting for a week for that bug she stepped on one time.
So vial, water, braziers, and to the room with the imp. I allowed a knowledge religion to help identify the type of creature (they were already trying to puzzle something more complex). The name took a while as they had puzzled out each individual piece but were having trouble getting it put together. So my daughter wanted to try and roll to help, so Int checks allowed them to nail down each section of the riddle. And the pacifist finally put it all together, and the Imp disappears. A few minutes of checking on the ghost, searching for anything else, and the Darkening happens! The cleric thinks she caused it all by saying the Imp's name, and breaks down sobbing. Hence the pixies have now dubbed her "Snot Bubbles" and the cause of the apocolypse.
Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to not only run games for people, but also who are taking the time to share the results. It does a designer's cynical heart good to actually hear that people are out there having a good time. Without you great DMs, the gaming world would be a sadder place.
We had a bit of a low turnout with Halloween, just 3 of the regulars. Party makeup:
Dwarf Sun Warpriest
Dwarf Blackguard/Elf Scout (brought two characters, decided to play both since we were low in party members)
I should have at least 3 other regulars, one already built a kobold skald, don't know what the others will bring.
Starting out I described the town and the situation. They weren't too hooked initially, so I sweetened the deal by saying the mayor was offering a bit of gold to figure out what was going on (meant to take from the imps hoard, though messed up while looking over and gave the full amount). After hearing about who knew about the phantom, they decided the druid seemed the most level headed so headed out of town to meet with her and try to get some more details. Then they decided to hang out along the path the phantom seemed to always take and wait for another appearance.
Following the phantom, they heard the orcs, but decided their priority should be the ghost and they could come back later to investigate. When they reached the ruins and the other party spotted them, they initially tried to back off and pretend to leave the ruins to them, though the two dwarves were a bit noisy in the woods and tipped off the other party. This led to some more talking, and the decision to work together and negotiate loot splitting based on what they find.
I used the map for exploration, just asking them what order people would move into each room.
First they went into the room with the statue of Helm. The warpriest recognized remaining divine energy, and his response was "I don't know what to do with that, since I know Helm isn't around anymore" They also found the secret compartment, but managed to convince the other party it was empty and probably already looted by somebody else.
They weren't being cautious leaving that room, and nobody had passive perception enough to spot the traps. After the blackguard took the lead and set off one, I had him roll to look for the others, with a low roll so he took a second hit and was bloodied. After this I decided they could spot the rest and let them move on without setting off anymore.
In the next room, one of the twin humans was the first to get close to the pool, I rolled that he saw a past crime, so he backed up quickly while muttering about how nobody was supposed to know about that. The elf scout decided to take a closer look and let me roll to see what kind of past. Turns out he tried to be a fighter, but didn't quite have what it took so headed into the woods, but didn't really feel much about that decision. While this was going on, the Warpriest investigated the braziers and blessed them to remove the hellfire.
They then asked Kerrik if he knew anything about the temple and had thoughts about where to go. I played him as not knowing details so picked a random direction, which ended up being the room with the Font of Light. They tried to get more info out of the ghost about how they could help him, without any luck. They took the vial and then went to look at the next room.
The assasin took a peek first, and signaled for the twins when he saw the symbol. They entered first and the imp tried to convice them the other group (the PCs) would betray them. A high insight roll led them to realize the imp was probably trying to get in their head, while also realizing it was still probably the truth. The rest of the party came in, though never mentioned the phantom (in hindsight I wish I would have had him gloating about that a bit). Instead there was some back and forth insults, with eventually the imp getting annoyed about not having any success in goading them, so he charged the scout. The NPC party had the highest inititive, followed by the player playing the blackguard and scout. He went all out on his turns and dropped the imp before it or the other players could act.
That seemed a bit anti-climatic, especially for these players who are tactical and optimizing players, and I still wanted to get some info about the impending invasion of Winter's Edge to the party, so I held off the darkening. Instead had the drow completing part of a mass ritual at the campsite, with the orcs observing. This drew their attention back to that site for another fight. I gave the orcs 40 hp and the drow Lisstra's stats plus cloud of darkness and 30hp. This was still a kind of quick fight but was a little more interesting than they would have otherwise. Overall the session ended up being around 2 hours.
These players weren't too crazy about the changes being made for this season, though we'll see how things go later on, especially once the missing players show up, who are more interested in the rp side of things. The biggest objections seemed to be in not regaining encounter powers even though it had been a significant time since fighting the imp, and in the use of inherent bonus in place of magic items (as one player put it "D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff"). There also was a bit of surprise that renown points seem to have gone away. It's still on the website, though doesn't seem to be in the book and I know there aren't fortune cards, but figured there'd be something for when to give out rewards.
We did session 1 last night. My crew adapted to the new structure very well. I think the lack of short rests was a little off-putting, but after seeing how the session worked, they rolled with it. The lack of renown points is something I'm not too happy about, becuase we usually gave whoever got the most at the end of the season a reward.
They went to town, introduced themselves, and chatted up the townsfolk a little. They quickly learned the basics of the situation with the ghost and started searching for more details. A failed streetwise check led one person to the dwarf blacksmith, where they learned a rumor about orcs threatening the dwarves. I used the failure to plant a seed of information that was unrelated to the information they actually wanted. Another person attempted a nature check to see if their character knew any major points in the forest that would be likely destinations. A crit success led him to recall that he knew a druid in the area, and she would likely know everything about the forest. I asked the character to describe how he knew the druid, and he said his character "doesn't kiss and tell", which I thought was a great response, and decided to use later. They made contact with the druid, and learned about the ruins. The character asked the druid if she would like to accompany the party to the ruins. I asked for a charisma check. Critical failure. Another great failure that I would use to expand on their prior relationship. She responded with "I know you are trying to help the area, so I've given you what information I have. But given how things ended with us last time, I'd rather you never speak to me again."
With that, the party headed to the ruins. They were about to run into the stirge, when I said "You remember the critical failure you hada few minutes ago? It's not done failing yet... You hear a voice coming from the forest. It was the druid saying 'I've waited a long time for this. Say hello to my little friend.'" And thats when the stirge came down and attacked the character who had spurned the druid. Obviously, it wasn't a major threat. Just a good way for a spurned lover to have a small bit of revenge. By the time the battle was done, she was gone, back into the forest. It was a great way to turn a random encounter into something with a little more meaning. I was very fortunate with how everyting lined up.
At the ruins, my party scared off the other group with a few good intimidation rolls and good role playing. Top it off with a perfectly timed appearance of the ghost, and the other party fled without much trouble. The exploration of the dungeon went fairly well. They found the statue of Helm, got the blessing, and the hiddent loot. They very quickly dealt with the spear traps by throwing heavy objects onto to tiles to determine which ones were trapped and which ones were not. The reflecting pool was almost completely ignored, after one character interacted with it. This dissapointed me greately. The hellfire was easy to overcome, once they made a history check to remember what happened to this place. A few prayers from the cleric in Helm's name put them out.
When it came to the imp, they actually had more trouble with the first riddle than the second. I was very impressed by their ability to figure out the name and banish the imp. I added a little flourish that as the final brazier was extinquished, the phantom appeared in the fading smoke, smiled, and bowed to them, thanking them for releasing him.
After they found Helm's Tears, and left, the darkening happened, and that's where we ended the session.
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