This past Wednesday, the D&D Encounters group at Total Escape Games finished our Keep on the Borderlands adventure with a bang. Within embattled Restwell Keep, our band of heroes entered the Great Hall and finally caught up the dastardly Benwick!
For Week 20, our adventuring party consisted of a slayer (Eldeth), two knights, a wizard, and a cleric. A new player also showed up for this last session with a warlock character. Jumping right into the final encounter of this adventure must’ve seemed a bit bewildering, I’m sure, but we were glad to have the guy’s warlock join us in the fight against Benwick.
Outside the sundered doors to the Great Hall, we came across Kendon, the Keep’s bailiff. He told us that Benwick and Lord Drysdale had been engaged in a fierce battle inside the building. As we cautiously made our way through the front entrance, we saw Benwick across the hall, standing over the bloodied, prostrate form of Lord Drysdale. Grrrr. Our one thought was to close rapidly with the villian and cut him down, but as we started to move forward, we were attacked by two vipers. Benwick then threw some pellets across our path. The pellets magically morphed into spitting cobras and, suddenly, a sea of serpents stood between us and Benwick. Sigh. Well, at least they weren’t spiders.
We had a difficult time fighting our way through the snakes. The vipers were tough opponents, able to make two attacks against a target (the second hit left the target with ongoing poison damage). The cobras were minions, but they had this annoying attack called Blinding Spittle that left quite a few of us stumbling around, blinded (save ends). As the snakes kept us occupied, Benwick would blast us with his Biting Coils attack.
By the second round of combat, our wizard was already unconscious and dying. On his next turn, though, he rolled a natural 20 on his first death save, so he was able to get back in the fight... for one round, then he was cut down again by one of the cobras. While he was down, he was caught in one of Benwick’s Biting Coils attacks and died. During that same round, Benwick convinced Kendon to switch sides, one of our knights was very bloodied and blinded, the other knight went down, and the warlock was very bloodied, blinded, slowed, and had ongoing poison damage. The next round, the cleric was cut down.
Things weren’t looking so good for our band of heroes. But then Eldeth decided enough was enough. The dwarf had worked his way around the snakes and finally managed to reach a point from which he could use a move and a charge to close with Benwick. Once he came to grips with Benwick, Eldeth never let up, landing four consecutive hits for 19, 16, 16, and 19 points of damage. The valiant dwarf went down after that, but by that time the other PCs had sorted themselves out and were back in the fight. While Eldeth had went mano a mano with Benwick, the warlock and knight had stabilized the cleric. The cleric was then able to bring the downed knight back up. After Eldeth’s sacrifice gave them the time they needed to regroup, all four remaining party members converged on Benwick and took his sorry a$$ down.
I found this fight an extremely satisfying way to end the adventure. The climactic battle with Benwick was a close-run affair that pushed our group to its limits, so our success felt like quite an accomplishment. Eldeth’s heroics in this last session were a fun way to wrap-up my run with the valiant dwarf slayer dude.
All in all, playing Keep on the Borderlands was an enjoyable experience. Playing through a season of D&D Encounters is different than playing in a regular campaign, however, so you need to approach Encounters with some flexibility and patience. At Total Escape, we had a core group of five or six players that consistently showed up each week, but there were also five or six others that drifted in and out. There was also a wide range of ages represented in our group, from a seven-year-old to a forty-three-year-old. Some players showed up knowing almost nothing about Dungeons and Dragons, while others brought years of gaming experience to the table. All of these factors sometimes combined to make for an “interesting” session, but we managed to adapt and overcome. Most of the time. There was that unfortunate TPK in Week 17, but let’s not talk about that.
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Starting next Wednesday evening, I’ll be DMing the new season of Encounters (March of the Phantom Brigade) at Total Escape. Phantom Brigade will be my very first experience as a DM, so I look forward to sharing my insights and impressions from the other side of the screen with you.