Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 9: Here's Your Minion, Take Good Care of Him

At the end of Session 8, the PCs were still rarin’ to go, ready to head out to the ruins of Saint Avarthil Monastery and kick Vontarin’s butt. At the start of Session 9: Vontarin’s Wrath, however, they found out that before they could check out the monastery, they’d have to defend Duponde against a force of skeletons unleashed by Vontarin.

Dark Legacy of Evard continues to be a popular season of D&D Encounters at Total Escape Games. We once again had enough players to run two tables. The players at my table ran Arturo (human warpriest), Kyle (human assassin), Nadarr (human knight), and Torinn (dragonborn weapon master).

Picking up right where Session 8 left off, the creeping dread of the Shadowfell held sway over the town of Duponde for a second night. Once again, the shadows were full of unsettling phantoms, sinister presences, and roaming monsters. Our heroes had already dealt with one threat after darkness fell, but dawn was still hours away. Most of the townsfolk were gathered in a few defensible spots like the chapel or the old armory. Since Grimbold’s men were stretched thin, the PCs found themselves helping patrol the town.

Shadow’s Influence

At the beginning of this session, the characters quickly discovered that the townspeople had reached the end of their endurance. Monsters that roam the Shadowfell are trouble enough, but the plane of shadows holds a more insidious peril— pervasive, soul-crushing despair and hopelessness that slowly saps the will of those who are exposed to it. As the hours passed and Duponde sank deeper into the Shadowfell, the malaise slowly deprived every living soul caught in the town of the will to fight on. Over the course of their watch, our heroes came to realize that they had to do something to fight off the creeping despair, both for themselves and for the townspeople around them.

Skill Challenge: Creeping Despair

This was a Level 2 skill challenge with a complexity of 2 (6 successes before 3 failures). The primary skills were Arcana or Thievery (DC 13), Diplomacy (DC 13), Endurance (DC 13; group check), Heal (DC 13), Insight (DC 20), Intimidate (DC 13), and religion (DC 9). As we went around the table and the players performed various actions to rally and inspire the townspeople, they eventually racked up 5 successes and 2 failures. It was Torinn’s turn, so it all came down to what the dragonborn fighter would do… cue the drum roll, please… He used Religion and succeeded! The party claimed victory in the skill challenge, so I gave each player a Duponde Guard (Level 1 Minion) to control during the upcoming fight against the skeletons animated by Vontarin.

Vontarin’s Horde

As our heroes and their guard minions came to the town square after completing another round of their patrol, a cry went up from the direction of the armory. In the distance, the PCs could see bone-white forms surrounding the building.

As the characters and guards hastened to intercept the skeletons before the monsters could attack the townspeople sheltering on the armory’s upper floor, they found themselves battling a Shadow Stalker (Level 3 Lurker), 2 Blazing Skeletons (Level 5 Artillery), and 8 Decrepit Skeletons (Level 1 Skirmisher).

Several decrepit skeletons used their longswords to engage the PCs in melee combat, while a couple of them hung back and attacked from a distance with their shortbows. The blazing skeletons had a good time popping PCs and guards from a distance with their Flame Orb ranged attack. The shadow stalker didn’t enter the fight until the third round, but on his very first attack (Shadow Stalk) he cut down the already bloodied Kyle. By that time, Arturo was inside the armory fighting two decrepit skeletons, so the unconscious and dying assassin was left outside to his own devices. No problem, since on his second death saving throw he rolled a 20!

I’m glad the party succeeded at the skill challenge since I think the players enjoyed having some minions to boss around, although the guards all went down rather quickly (except for Nadarr’s, who hung in there for a good four or five rounds). After our heroes had defeated the skeleton force, they noticed that each decrepit skeleton was dressed in the tattered brown robes of a monk. This discovery simply ramped up the PCs’ desire to head out to Saint Avarthil’s Monastery and hunt down Nathaire/Vontarin.

As our heroes bandaged their wounds and checked on the townspeople sheltering in the armory, daybreak was at hand. Duponde shifted from the Shadowfell back into the world. However, the characters noticed that the town’s return to the world seemed sluggish, as though the Shadowfell was clinging to Duponde. Uh oh.

* * Note: At the conclusion of this encounter, everyone gets to take an extended rest. And if the character was present for all 9 sessions, they can advance to level 3.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 8: Attack of the Twigs

During the previous two sessions, the characters explored Vontarin’s old mansion, but they failed to find Nathaire/Vontarin. Here in Session 8 of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard, the town of Duponde again slips into the Shadowfell at sundown, and the party faces another Decision point in the adventure. Do they guard the people of Duponde sheltering at the armory, or do they seek out the mysterious black-hooded creature that Marshal Grimbold’s guards failed to catch?

For Session 8: Darkness Returns, the players at my table at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, CO ran Arturo (human warpriest), Brandis (human paladin), Enzio (human assassin), Kyle (changeling mage), and Silas (drow vampire). After returning to Duponde, the characters could see that the locals had spent the day fortifying the town. Duponde was full of unsettling rumors of dark apparations, half-glimpsed monsters, and more. Most of the townspeople were gathering in the chapel or the armory for protection as dusk approaches.

At sunset, the PCs felt the same strange sensation they experienced the previous night. The air grew chill and an atmosphere of dread descended over the town as Duponde once more slipped into the Shadowfell.

Shortly after darkness fell, Grimbold came to speak with the party. “I heard that you went to see Mother Grivelda,” he said. “What did she tell you? Did you have any luck tracking down our missing mage?” Grimbold listened closely to all that the characters told him about their time at Mother Grivelda’s house and about their fight with the tiefling bandits at Vontarin’s old mansion.

When the PCs finished their story, Grimbold said, “I won’t lie— I think we’ll need your help again tonight. If you could guard the armory, Duponde would be further in your debt. But it also seems that catching this Nathaire fool is vital, too.” After thinking for a moment, he added, “Just before sunset, my guards saw a small humanoid in a black hood skulking near the south gate. They lost him in the alleys nearby. I don’t know if it was Nathaire, but it could be worth checking.”

The party voted and (almost) unanimously chose to check out the mysterious skulker in the black hood (Kyle wanted to have the rest of the party check out the skulker while he went to the armory to boss around the townspeople gathered there), so Grimbold provided directions to the part of town where the guards saw the dark figure. After that, the harried marshal took his leave and headed to see to the town’s defenses.

Following Grimbold’s directions, our heroes searched the quarter of the town by the south gate. Much of that area was derelict even in the natural world. In the Shadowfell, it took on an aura of desolation and brooding malevolence. Empty houses seemed to watch the party through broken black windows. Thick, thorny vines choked the walls of rundown buildings and rustled with stealthy movements. As the PCs advanced, Silas saw a dark figure watching them from a nearby window. It quickly ducked back out of sight.

<>Note: This encounter was supposed to take place on the same map that was used in Session 5 for Mother Grivelda’s house, but instead of just reusing that map, I dug out one of the maps from the D&D Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit.

As the PCs advanced toward the house where Silas saw the dark figure, they realized that their opponent was a Shadow Bolter (Level 5 Artillery), like the one they had faced in Session 3: Streets of Shadow. The shadow bolter remained in the house, peppering the PCs outside with its black bolt attack. When Silas rushed the house and confronted the shadow bolter, it switched to its dagger for melee combat.

Meanwhile, outside the house, the rest of the party had been ambushed by 3 Twig Blights (Level 3 Soldier) and 4 Twig Blight Seedlings (Level 1 Minion Skirmisher). With Silas cut off in the house and the rest of the party strung out across the map, each character soon found himself engaged in his own separate battle. The swampvines used their vine snare power to good effect, grabbing both Arturo and Brandis and dragging them off toward the edge of the map. Enzio went down in Round 2 after being hit hard by the shadow bolter’s black bolt attacks and then by a couple of swampvines’ claw attacks. (After being down for a couple of rounds, the unconscious and dying assassin was healed by Arturo and was able to get back into the fight. It’s always nice to have a cleric in the party.) Seeing the carnage unfolding around him, Kyle attempted to sidestep the danger by changing into an attractive female twig blight swampvine. His ruse worked only too well, though, since he attracted a bit too much attention from a couple of seedlings who followed him around behind a cottage and then suddenly saw through his disguise and attacked him.

With all of the separate, individual skirmishes going on across the map, it was difficult for our heroes to come together and focus their attacks. As a result of spreading out their attacks on multiple monsters rather than focusing their fire, this fight lasted a wicked loooong time. Eventually, though, the PCs triumphed. They captured the shadow bolter and Silas was able to interrogate it and find out that the dark one was a spy for Vontarin. It told the PCs that Nathaire/Vontarin was searching the ruins of Saint Avarthil Monastery outside of town, and that the mage planned to send an army of skeletons against Duponde soon that very night. Uh oh.