For the second session of March of the Phantom Brigade at Total Escape Games, we had quite a… um… large and diversified adventuring party. Okay, who am I kidding? It was a whacking big group. Throwing down the gauntlet last night were Darvon (human warpriest), Hallitan (dragonborn paladin), Iados (tiefling mage), Jarren (human wizard), Keira (elven rogue), Sebastian (human mage), Theo (halfling mage), Twig (halfling rogue), and last but not least, Valkrite (? slayer). For those of you counting, that’s NINE players. And two more guys arrived a bit late, but decided to pass when they saw the mob already gathered around the table. (The dad of one of the youngest players stayed to help him, which actually was great, so— including me— we had eleven people gathered around the table. Wow!) Having so many players show up is a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Having another DM on standby would be the ideal solution… unfortunately we didn’t plan ahead for that, so last night we just had to roll with a very large group and make the best of it.
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After the encounter with the stirges while fording the stream, Brother Splintershield wished to press on as quickly as possible so that the caravan might reach the ruins of Castle Inverness before nightfall. The fight at the stream and burying the fallen settlers had unnerved Splintershield’s charges, however, and the caravan’s progress over the next few hours was negligible. The dwarf was forced to call a halt so that the shaken settlers might rally and ready themselves for the final push to the former site of Castle Inverness.
As the dwarf stumped up and down the line of wagons, encouraging the settlers, the heroes saw Malgram striding toward them. Following behind him was a female elf dressed in elegant robes. The half-orc ranger stopped before the heroes and introduced them to the elf.
“This is Faldyra. She has it in her head to go digging in the dirt, and she’s far too valuable to the settlement to let her wander off on her own. I need you to watch after her for a while.”
When Malgram had finished speaking, a few of the party members cast surprised glances at each other. After they had lost several of the settlers under their protection during the battle with the stirges, they were astonished the gruff half-orc would trust them to watch over Faldyra. Before the heroes could respond, though, the winsome elf took Theo’s hand and set off for a nearby stand of trees. As the rest of the party hurried to catch up to the pair, they could hear Faldyra chatting about the founding of the new settlement.
While she wandered about, searching for her rare herbs, Faldyra told the group that Castle Inverness used to be a thriving town that was home to hundreds of people. The castle crumbled into ruin long ago and the site and its strange tower were the focus of frightful stories. Decades ago, however, a brave band of adventurers plundered the tower and sealed it. The location was recently rediscovered by some rangers traveling off the beaten path between Hammerfast and Harkenwold. Faldyra told the heroes that, given the unknown dangers in the area, Aldus Splintershield plans to perform a consecration ritual to imbue the land surrounding the tower with the blessing of Moradin.
As Faldyra dug for herbs and chatted with the heroes, she found a few wildflowers that were still blooming. Picking them carefully, she shyly handed them to Theo. The grinning halfling took the small bouquet and gave the attractive elf a rakish wink and a flashy bow.
At that moment, Keira— rolling her eyes at the halfling’s shameless theatrics— spotted a goblin hiding in some nearby shrubbery. As she yelled a warning to her comrades, more goblins popped into sight. Some of the creatures were armed with short bows, while others had light shields and short swords. One of the savages, wearing leather robes and a headdress made of bones and a small animal’s skull, waved a staff and yelled, “Okay, kill ‘em all, see… Kill ‘em all, see, and den we’ll get all da treasure in dem wagons!” The adventurers heard one of the other goblins call the hex hurler “Mugsy.”
As Mugsy and the rest of his goblin gang burst out of the foliage, the heroes sprang into action.
Iados started off the encounter on a positive note, hitting Mugsy and two snipers with Sleep, one of his dailies.
As the goblin snipers targeted Faldyra, Theo courageously defended the fear-stricken elf. He managed to draw her away from the goblins and then used his body as a shield to protect Faldyra from the wicked creatures’ ranged attacks.
Jarren (whose father stuck around to help him play) used Arc Lightning to good effect early in the encounter. A bolt of lightning slammed into a sniper, exploding the goblin, thereby letting the group know that some of their enemies were minions. A bit later in the battle, he used Burning Hands to throw out a fierce blast of flame that scorched four nearby foes (and also Hallitan!).
Our slayer, Valkrite (whose father probably should’ve stuck around to help him), perhaps a bit unhinged by the two Mountain Dews, two giant beef jerky sticks, and Snickers candy bar that he’d consumed at the beginning of the session, dropped his greataxe, rushed toward the enemy, threw his dagger at them (miss), and then (to the surprise of us all) pulled out a crossbow and proceeded to take potshots at the goblins. Okie dokie.
Twig, hit by Mugsy’s annoying Stinging Hex attack (the target takes 3d6+1 damage if it moves during its turn), also found himself flanked by two goblin cutthroats. With a little help from his friends, though, he managed to escape his predicament with just a few flesh wounds.
I’m not sure what the dragonborn, Hallitan, was a paladin of, but he started off his first turn of the encounter by asking the goblins what the purpose of their violence was and tried to dissuade them from attacking the party. As you might expect, the wicked creatures ignored him. After that, he did get down to the business at hand, especially when he blasted several goblins with his handy Dragon Breath encounter power.
Sebastian made good use of his Freezing Burst and Beguiling Strands at-will powers. Well, except for that one memorable round when he missed four goblins with Beguiling Strands by rolling a 1, another 1, a 2, and then something a bit higher that was still a miss.
Keira dashed around the battlefield, dealing out damage to the goblins by doing rogue-ish stuff like Tactical Trick.
Darvon found that he was the focus of several cutthroats’ attention and he was bloodied on two different occasions. Luckily, being a warpriest, he could use Healing Word on himself.
Despite having nine characters in the party, the group did surprisingly little damage to the goblins. For several rounds, all they managed to take out was one sniper. I kept waiting for the wizards to use Magic Missile on the minions, but I don’t think it was used once the entire encounter. And— except for maybe one instance when Beguiling Strands was used to position goblins for an ally’s blast attack— the party’s tactics were uncoordinated. Given the nature of an Encounters group, though, that’s not surprising. No one has played together before and you have widely disparate levels of gameplaying skills.
A little before 8pm, I started to have the remaining goblins retreat off the map. With the heroes having driven off Mugsy’s raiding party, they easily convinced Faldyra it was time to return to the caravan. When Malgram and Splintershield heard about the encounter, they hurriedly got the wagons moving again. If nothing else untoward should occur, the caravan still ought to reach the ruins of Castle Inverness before nightfall.