The new season of D&D Encounters, March of the Phantom Brigade, started this past Wednesday night at Total Escape Games. The adventurers at the first session were Atreyu (half-elf rogue), Darvon (human warpriest), Gemel (human knight), Melek (tiefling mage), Norward Reithar (half-elf druid), Theo (halfling wizard), and Twig (halfling rogue).
Day 1: Setting Out From Hammerfast
The adventure began with a caravan setting out from the town of Hammerfast. The caravan was made up of settlers going to found a new town to the southwest, in an area where a great castle once stood. The new town, built upon the ruins of Castle Inverness, will serve as a waypoint for traders traveling between Harkenwold and Hammerfast. A dwarf cleric of Moradin, Aldus Splintershield, had been entrusted with the task of creating a better trade route to the south by forging a new road through the foothills of the Dawnforge Mountains. Inverness was to be the first advance station for the road-building workers and supplies. The adventurers had signed on to protect the caravan during its journey to Castle Inverness, and then to provide security as the settlers work to establish the new town.
The first day’s travel went well, as the caravan rolled easily down the Trade Road. About ten miles outside Hammerfast, the road left the majestic peaks of the Dawnforge Mountains and began rolling through the foothills. Everyone seemed to be in fine spirits. The enthusiastic Splintershield’s optimism was contagious and the settlers were excited by the thought that they were participants in a historic event.
Day 2: Argument on the Road
The easy camaraderie of the first day began to fray a bit as the caravan turned south and abandoned the smooth Trade Road. It proceeded to follow a rough trail not meant for wagons and carts. After several hours of difficult travel, shouting was heard near the head of the caravan. When the characters investigated, they found Splintershield and a half-orc ranger named Malgram yelling at one another. The adventurers had found the half-orc to be brusque and ill-mannered, so up to that point they had avoided him as much as possible.
Malgram, who had volunteered to be the captain of the guard in the new town of Inverness, had just received word from one of his scouts that strong fall storms and rushing streams had wiped out the trail ahead. The caravan would have to ford one of those streams some time the next morning, and it had two options. One stream was closer to the northeastern edge of the Harken Forest, the other closer to the foothills of the mountains. Malgram argued that the foothills were dangerous, while Brother Splintershield asserted the blessings of Moradin would make the mountains the better choice. When he saw the adventurers approach, Splintershield asked for their opinion. Darvon was suspicious of Malgram, but the majority of the party decided to trust the ranger and follow his advice. Splintershield acquiesced (grudgingly) and the caravan set off in the direction Malgram recommended.
Day 3: Fording the Stream
Near the middle of the third day, the caravan reached the rushing stream that had been swollen by fall storms. Although far from a coursing river, the stream was deep enough that the crossing would be no trivial matter. Malgram and Aldus Splintershield had prepared a plan to ford the stream. The two of them would lead half the caravan across the stream first, while the heroes stayed behind to guard the second half. Once the first half of the caravan was safely across and on higher ground, the heroes would escort the remaining wagons across.
As the second group of wagons started to cross the stream, the sound of rushing water and the creaking wagons masked a buzzing noise approaching from the sky. What the adventurers thought was a small flock of birds at first glance proved to be a pack of four-winged monsters. Norward recognized that the flying menaces were stirges. He quickly warned the others that a stirge will fly up close to its prey and grab the creature with four clawed limbs. The stirge, he said, then plunges its pointed snout into the victim’s body, draining even a large creature of blood in minutes.
As the stirges closed swiftly, the horses whinnied with fear and the settlers cried out in alarm. The heroes sprang into action, some moving to shield the wagons and settlers while others attacked the rapidly approaching stirges with ranged attacks. During the ensuing fight, the adventurers managed to move all of the horses and wagons across the stream and off the battlefield, but unfortunately three of the settlers perished in the stirge attack. With the monsters dead and the wagons safely across the stream, the adventurers reunited the caravan. After burying the fallen settlers, the road-weary caravan got under way once again. Some time had been lost, however, and if the settlers were to reach the ruins of Castle Inverness by nightfall, they would have to push hard for the rest of the day.