So we regain conciousness in some strange, unfamiliar location; a shadowy hall (which we discover to be a gatehouse), with a teleportation circle on the ground. Suddenly, a ghostly image of a female red wizard appears and starts speaking to us. She introduces herself as Serana, and claims to be the one who saved us, welcoming us to Thay. She then proceeds to whine, and moan about how Thay was once a land of learning and power, but now it was merely a Lich Lord’s domain. In fact, we were in the heart of Thay, deep beneath the Thaymount.
Serana would like us to break the Lich Lord’s power. Hadar, who is alive and well, and Jek are with us, and think we should help Serana.
So to accomplish this task, we need to infiltrate the Doomvault, a huge dungeon. Apparently, Szass Tam repurposed and rebuilt the Doomvault with laboratories, menageries, etc., creating monsters, experimenting on creatures, etc. The actual Doomvault is divided into specific areas; in other words, each section is separated into zones, for security reasons. There are magic black gates that essentially serve as teleportation circles into the various zones. There are also magic white gates that are essentially ‘force fields,’ sealing off the zones from one another. Crystal glyph keys allow one to teleport to different zones via the black gates.
We’re given two glyph keys and two circlets of limited telepathy. As our party is typically so huge, we’re to divide into two groups to explore the various zones of the Doomvault. The circlets will allow us to communicate with one another, and each party would get a crystal glyph key. (In D&D Next terms, we got a second GM, so if a lot of people show up for encounters, we’ll split into two groups.) Obviously, I can only blog about the events that Gavan experiences, though we will re-convene at the end of the evening to discuss events.
So we’re charged with three tasks:
- Destroy various monsters, threats, creations, etc. (this may be tougher than we thought.)
- Gain access to the phylactery vault, deep beneath the Doomvault.
- Destroy the phylacteries.
Oh, and the Lich Lord survived what happened at the Bloodgate, returned to the Thaymount, and is generally po’d at us. Wonderful! To top that all off, throughout the Doomvault, there are dread warriors (think undead) that, if not killed immediately (in the first round of combat), will “link” with the Lich Lord. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I don’t think I want to find out.
Serana, will keep in occasional contact with us. Naturally, she’s far away from the Doomvault. She does mention that she can give us access to an extradimensional space called the Seclusion Crypt, where time passes differently. Here, we can rest up and not lose precious time in the real world. So it’s almost like Dragonball Z’s Hyperbolic Time Chamber, except there’s a catch. Of course, there’s a catch. While time passes differently in the Seclusion Crypt, being there actually magically ages you, and one will suffer permanent hit point loss…typical, just typical.
When asked, Serana is apparently part of the rebel faction Menic was a part of. When probed about Menic’s betrayal, she claims that Menic betrayed everybody. Assuming for a moment that everything Serana’s said has been truthful, what is Menic’s endgame? His betrayal didn’t make that much sense. I’m sure there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Serana also mentions that two of our friends, Shelandra and her half-brother Kelsin, are somewhere in the Doomvault. It’s unclear if they’re captured or not, but to save them we need to find them sooner rather than later. Of course, there’s zero leads as to where to begin. It feels like a crapshoot, as there’s so many zones to explore. There is a prison area, but that’d assume that Shelandra and Kelsin are captured. That may not be the case. For the most part, we’re rather ambivalent as to where to start, so Dovahkiin’s player makes a case for the ‘Forest of Slaughter,’ simply because it sounds cool. What can go wrong, right? Forest of Slaughter! Sounds cozy, warm and inviting. Who’s bringing the donuts?
So at this point, we divide into two groups: One group consists of:
- Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
- Selwyn, an Elven Ranger
- Szenden, a Half-Elf Fighter specializing in defense
- Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter specializing in offense
- Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety
The other group consists of:
- Anya, an Elven Mage; unsure if she’s a Wood Elf or High Elf
- Bernard Valyrian, a Human Fighter and newcomer to the group
- Coronna Tumblebelly, A Gnome Bard, and the other female in the party. And yes, her name is pronounced like the beer of the same name.
- Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn Ranger
- Valantis, an Elven Monk, of the Wood Elf variety
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ll chronicle the experiences from Gavan’s group. Hadar and Jek will stay where they are. Hadar says he’ll do some investigation of his own to try to confirm is Serana is telling the truth and just keep an eye on her. Jek will assist. On one hand, considering Hadar did the same with Menic, and considering how well that turned out, that doesn’t instill me with much confidence. On the other hand, if Jek vouches for Hadar, that’s good enough for me, at least for the moment. Also, for whatever reason, Gavan has been carrying the community bag filled with community items (like potions of healing). Since there’s only one cleric, Gavan gives the bag to Dovahkiin, as his group as no healer. Hopefully, he won’t need to use them. What are the chances of that happening?
So both groups teleport into different areas of the Forest of Slaughter zone to explore the area for various clues and what not. Gavan’s group finds themselves in an area with a couple of trees, and two large, blue reptilian creatures with lots of legs. We later learn that these creatures are behir. They look hostile, and combat ensues rather quickly. This fight very quickly humbled us; both creatures unleashed lightning breath attacks (thing Godzilla’ atomic breath), each doing well over 50 hit points of damage. Thankfully, Gavan is not hit by these attacks, ending up in a tree ten feet off the ground casting his spells from there. For the next three rounds, Gavan casts three fireballs, and we discover very quickly that these two monsters can not only do great damage, but also absorb tons of damage as well (they each have a ton of hit points.) Things are looking bad for awhile, and Waxon’s healing is required time and time again to revive downed party members. Tassidar is almost swallowed by one of the behir; I’m not sure how that would have worked mechanically. Automatic death? In the end, we win the battle, but a large chunk of Waxon’s healing capabilities are used up, as well as all of Gavan’s highest level spells. At roughly less than two thirds of our full strength (most of our party is down to less than half their full hit points, and magical spells have been used up), we move onward. As an aside, while the battle was ongoing, I walked over to the other table where party two was, and expressed my concern that we might be slaughtered. Meanwhile, they apparently were in a cakewalk of a battle. The irony of this will become apparent at the end of the night.
The next area of the forest we end up in contains a pool that’s glowing grey, I guess like a radioactive sludge. Tasty! Anyways, it smells like decomposing flesh and Gavan recognizes that this pool is infused with necrotic energies. We toy with the idea of filling our waterskins with this water and throwing it at enemies, but not wanting to use up our supplies so wastefully, we move on.
The next area is a forested cavern…actually, looking at the map, every area of this zone is essentially a forested cavern. I guess the best visual reference I can think of is the Genesis cave from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.
Anyways, we notice gnawed-on bones while we walk, and end up near a clearing. We hide behind trees and bushes, because in the clearing beyond are two trolls wrestling one another. I guess sumo wrestling? Pro wrestling? I’m surprised no one in the Forgotten Realms is promoting this: The Troll Wrestling Federation! But I digress; there is one, larger female troll nearby watching this spectacle. Next to the female troll is a crystal glyph key and a black teleportation circle. Selwyn climbs the tree closest to the glyph key, remaining out of sight while the rest of us debate how to proceed. From a surprise ambush to attempts at subterfuge, we finally settle on the following, with a contingency to start a battle if it fails. Gavan casts his final mid-level spell (it’s all low-level spells from here on out), Phantasmal Force on the female troll, essentially a super-illusion spell. She believes she sees in front of her Selwyn, hurling insults and racial slurs at the female troll, dancing, mooning, and twerking, etc.
Did I mention that I made the illusionary Selwyn naked?
Anyways, this ridiculous illusion turned out to have the effect we wanted. She charged, with the other two trolls following, and illusionary, naked Selwyn sprints away, leading the three trolls away. The real Selwyn drops down from his hiding place and quickly gets the crystal glyph key. The five of us get onto the black teleportation circle, and teleport to another area of the Forest of Slaughter.
The next area has a ledge, from which eight strange creatures are looking down at us, four of them larger than the others. They resemble large birds with heads of stags. Some of us know these to be perytons, and also know them to be chaotic evil. They also look hungry. So we teleport back (thankfully, the trolls haven’t returned yet,) and backtrack all the way to the dead behirs. Gavan, Selwyn, and Szenden cut up the behir and carry the pieces with them. Tassidar drags the other behir behind him. On the way back to the teleportation circle, the trolls are nearby, so Tassidar needs to make a strength check, which he fails. He’s given a choice; drop the behir and run or engage the three trolls in combat. He wisely chooses the former. So we return to the area with the perytons and offer up the behir pieces that we have. They keep an eye on us, but greedily consume the behir meat and leave us alone as we proceed to the next area.
Waxon does mention that we’re not doing the best job with task number one (destroy as many threats as possible,) but survival is of the essence, and if anything that first fight against the two behir’s humbled us greatly. Anyways, the next area has a pool. Nothing appears out of the ordinary with the pool itself, but by the pool are skeletons on the ground, essentially rotting corpses. As most of our party are elves with keen senses (in D&D Next terms, we have ‘advantage’ on perception checks; we can roll twice and take the higher of the two, as opposed to rolling once,) we notice not only that the necks of the skeletons have vertebrae that have been crushed, but the nearby trees have vines that are moving.
We debate for a bit if we want to risk trying to search the bodies, but in the end, decide not to risk it and proceed north from this area. We enter a tranquil meadow, with fewer trees, where we hear what sounds like a woman cry out. Gavan yells out “Shalendra?” wondering if it’s her. But we continue to hear female cries as opposed to an actual reply. Selwyn scouts forward, making sure to hide behind bushes and trees. He eventually sees four deer, with fangs. One of these deer cries out, sounding like a woman in pain. Coming back to warn us, we decide not to risk fighting four carnivorous deer, and proceed southeast from this area.
As we travel, we come upon two owlbears crouched by a body of water. Up in one of the trees is a baby owlbear. Awww, it’s so cute! Seriously though, one of the owlbears spots us, so we pull rations out of our backpack and offer it to them. They consume the food and leave us alone, so we proceed further along, where we find a pool that glows yellow. Near it is another teleportation circle and another black crystal glyph key. Waxon rather easily determines that water from this pool heals, and the party is restored to full health. We grab the key and teleport to the next area of the Forest of Slaughter.
Materializing into existence in another area, we see a creature in plate mail armor, carrying a sword and shield. It’s helmet visor is down, and we are unable to discern any visible eyes behind the helmet. A magically animated creature, perhaps? Standing next to it is a wight, which says: “You have no pigs. Why are you here?” Selwyn successfully bluffs past the wight, saying that we need to inspect the inhabitants to determine how many pigs we need to round up. So far, we’re setting a record for battles avoided this play session!
Not that I’m complaining.
The penultimate area we explore has grass that is waist high. Thanks to our keen senses, we notice a dog-like creature. Except it’s not a dog. It’s actually a barghest, and it’s not alone. Two adult barghests, and four young ones emerge. We actually engage in conversation with the barghests (they are smart monsters,) each of us trying to make bargains with one another. They want us to give them one of our precious crystal glyph keys. We offer to let them come with us and they can teleport out of this area with us. Neither of us are willing to budge on our offers, so finally, a fight breaks out. Thankfully, this fight goes much, much, much better than the behir battle, and we move onward to discover a pool that glows blue. I don’t remember who drank first, but whoever did discovered that he gained the benefit of a short rest (in D&D Next terms, it’s essentially an hour long rest that allows us to recharge, bandage our wounds, recover some health as well as some spells.) We all partake in the magical pool water, and our play session essentially ends here.
As for the second party, to our horror, we discover that two of them (I think it was Bernard and Dovahkiin) have been turned to stone, while another has died (I think it was Valantis.) Apparently, the first two battles they engaged in were cakewalks, but the third one was rather difficult. To be honest, I may have confused who was killed / turned to stone, but still, not the best start to the adventure for them. As this is D&D Encounters (aka Wizards of the Coast casual play program, the key word being ‘casual’), I’m not sure any of the characters will remain dead or turned to stone, but we’ll find the answer to that question next week.