Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 1: We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto

We had a great turnout at Total Escape Games for the first session of Dark Legacy of Evard. We were once again able to run two full tables. Thanks to Erik W for DMing the second table. The players at my table ran Dannad (halfling rogue), Enzio III (human assassin), Eldan (elf mage), Nadarr (dragonborn paladin), Reed (halfling sentinel), and Silas (drow vampire).

The PCs began the adventure in the common room of the Old Owl Inn in Duponde. Duponde is a town of about 1,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Nentir Vale’s White River. Roads lead north, south, and west from the town. A pair of ancient bridges lead east, continuing the King’s Road, but they were heavily damaged in recent flooding. The Old Owl Inn stands near Duponde’s North Gate. The inn is operated by Tilda Grenfield.

The Old Owl

At the start of Session #1 of Dark Legacy of Evard, the characters— tired after a long day of marching in cold rain— were warming themselves by the inn’s hearth. They had been traveling the King’s Road for a week, heading south to the city of Sarthel with correspondence from Lord Markelhay, the Lord Warden of Fallcrest. When our heroes arrived in Duponde, they discovered that they’d have to wait a few days while stonemasons repair the bridges over the swollen White River.

Shortly after dark, the rain finally let up even as the wind rose outside. It rattled the windowpanes and moaned eerily in the chimney. The Old Owl’s common room began to empty as the locals finished their ale and made their way back to their homes. Soon, the only people remaining were a trio of dwarf stonemasons, a dark-haired young man in scholar’s robes and his halfling servant, a burly town guard in a brown cloak, the barkeep, and Tilda ( …and our erstwhile adventurers, of course).

When the guard had finished his mug of hot cider, he turned to Tilda and said, “Think I’d best be on my way.”

“Take care of yourself, Grimbold,” Tilda replied. “We’ll shut the tap early, I think. It’s no night for good folk to be out and about.”

“Aye?” one of the dwarves asked. “And why is that?”

“Because ghosts walk abroad on nights such as this friend,” the guard answered.

The young scholar looked up. “Could the ghost of Evard be among them?” he asked.

“Some say,” Grimbold replied. “But you might know more about that than I do.”

“Hush now, both of you!” scolded Tilda. “That’s a name better left unspoken.”

As Grimbold gathered up his cudgel and crossbow and prepared to head out on his rounds, Eldan got up from his place near hearth and approached Nathaire, the young scholar. Eldan chatted up Nathaire and Remy (the halfling servant), finding out that the scholar was in Duponde finishing years of research on a powerful wizard named Evard, whose specialty was shadow magic. Nathaire believes that Evard’s tomb is located in Duponde. About fifty years ago, a wizard named Vontarin lived in Duponde. Evard was a bitter rival of Vontarin’s and came to town to destroy him. The two wizards fought with black magic one night and left the old monastery in ruins with their spells. Vontarin was never seen again after that night, but the frairs found Evard dead in the wreckage and buried him in the town graveyard.

Shadows Gather

After the PCs and the other people lodging at the inn go to bed, they sleep soundly for several hours but then in the middle of the night, a powerful sensation roused them. It felt like they were being wrenched in multiple directions. For several disorienting moments, the world around them seemed stretched and distorted, but then the feeling passed. Looking around their rooms, nothing seemed to be missing, but the furnishings were subtly out of place, the walls seemed slightly askew, and the air was cold. Candles and lamps were strangely dim, and shadows pressed in from all sides.

Our heroes quickly dressed and armed themselves, then gathered in the upstairs hallway. After a successful Arcana check allowed them to realize that the inn and its surroundings had passed into the Shadowfell (a phenomenon known as shadowfall), everyone jumped as a scream of terror erupted from the inn’s common room downstairs, followed by cackles and the breaking of crockery. The Old Owl was under attack!

Rushing down the stairs, the adventurers found Harald, the barkeep, lying motionless on the floor at the bottom of the stairway. No one else was there, but small winged creatures fluttered around the room. Startled, the characters realized that the creatures were the carved gargoyles that adorned the inn’s doorway.

While the fight with the Animated Gargoyles and the Shadow Stalkers was engaging and gave the players a taste of what they can expect in the weeks to come, I realized— right in the middle of the battle— that for the first time in my experience with D&D Encounters (both as a player and now as a DM), I’m more excited about the unfolding story than I am about the weekly combats. I think the Shadowfell-infused story arc for Dark Legacy of Evard will keep the players on the edges of their seats for all thirteen weeks.

So after handily defeating the monsters, the party managed to rouse Harald, who fortunately was none the worse for wear. A quick check of the inn revealed that Tilda and the dwarves were fine, but Nathaire and Remy were nowhere to be found. Eldan decided to do a bit of snooping in the missing scholar’s room and he found pages and pages of the research Nathaire had done on Evard over the years. He also discovered a torn piece of scroll with part of a ritual that looked as if it had something to do with capturing another person’s shadow-magic. Hmm…

And thus ended our first session of Dark Legacy of Evard.

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