In Session 11 of March of the Phantom Brigade, the heroes moved deeper into the monastery. As they explored the Long Corridor and the Sleeping Quarters, they unexpectedly had front row seats to two visions involving the members of the Silver Company and events in the monastery some sixty years ago.
In the first vision, they saw Salazar Vladistone, Alorel Sirothien (eladrin knight), Milligan Three-Toes (gnome illusionist), and Tomas Alderson (human wizard) stumbling up the hallway as if they were pursued by some fearsome monster. One of our heroes, Thoradin (dwarf cleric), made an Arcana check and deduced that the entrance of living creatures into the abandoned monastery seemed to have triggered the residual magic of the arrow of time, which was competing with some kind of ritual that created a temporal stasis. Thoradin said that as our heroes explored more of the complex, they’d disrupt the stasis by making events of the past play out.
Our heroes saw the second vision when they entered the Sleeping Quarters. The four adventurers from the Silver Company were binding their wounds and resting in the chamber. Milligan Three-Toes said, “Actherimos is not too dangerous on his own. This deep into the mountains, however, his death throes could collapse every passage from here to the town. We cannot win this battle, not without dying ourselves and killing who knows how many others in Hammerfast.” After the vision faded, Jarren (human wizard) made a History check and recalled that Actherimos was the name of an earthquake dragon that plagued the Nentir Vale for a long time before it vanished without a trace about sixty years ago. Over the years, a few scholars suspected that the Silver Company had something to do with the dragon’s sudden disappearance, but that supposition had remained unconfirmed— until now.
Following the end of the second vision, our heroes found themselves in a tough fight against 2 Ravenous Ghouls, 2 Ghouls, and a Carrion Crawler. Six rounds into the battle, every one of the adventurers except Jarren was unconscious and dying. And I had to decide whether to go for the TPK or throw the party a lifeline.
Having been on the receiving end of an Encounters TPK during the latter stages of Keep on the Shadowfell, I know they’re not a whole lot of fun for the players. At least, it wasn’t much fun for me. It left a really sour taste in my mouth. I should also say that another factor in my thinking was the age of several of the players at the table. Three of them were young ’uns (pre-teen or early teens). If I threw them a lifeline and they managed to pull themselves out of the mess they were in, I knew it’d be a very positive experience in their burgeoning adventuring career. btw: Jarren, the only PC left standing, was being played by one of the pre-teens.
Well, I’m sure you’ve guessed by this point what I did. I threw them a lifeline. First, since the Carrion Crawler was next to Jarren and was going to chomp on him, I removed the monster from play, saying that it’d had enough and was scurrying back down into its burrow. Then, the ghouls amazingly missed on a few attacks. Next, since Jarren was standing near Thoradin (the party’s downed cleric) and was going to try and stabilize the dwarf, I told the wizard that if he passed the Heal check he’d suddenly remember a combat medic course he’d attended once upon a time and would heal Thoradin rather than just stabilizing him. And Jarren passed the Heal check! So that put the cleric back in action. And then… you simply aren’t going to believe this… two of the other downed party members rolled nat 20s on their next death saving throws. I mean, seriously, what are the odds?
Once everyone was back on their feet, they quickly defeated the remaining ghouls. As our heroes contemplated their narrow escape, Jarren confirmed that the duergar ghouls were created by the decaying temporal stasis field and that the party’s entrance into the monastery was causing the stasis ritual to fail more quickly. Okie dokie. Hey, I don’t write this stuff, I just nod my head sagely as I tell it to the players and act like it all makes perfect sense.