D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 5

So back in the gatehouse we discuss for a bit, and agree to make the Golem Laboratories our next destination. Team one includes:

The other team is comprised of:

  • Crystal Evergreen, a Human Cleric, and newcomer to the party
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Szenden Avere, a Half-Elf Fighter specializing in defense. On a side note, I just learned that Szenden has a surname! There goes the neighborhood
  • Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter specializing in offense
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety

Team one teleports into the ‘Iron Golem Foundries,’ while Gavan’s team elects to go to the ‘Flesh Golem Mortuaries’ of the Golem Laboratories.

The room we teleport into is filled with eight zombies, three wights, and a creature we’ve never seen before. Two of the wights and the unknown creatures are at the end of the room in cages, suspended over the floor by metal chains. It’s a rather bizarre sight, and to our left our double doors slightly ajar, propped open by large stones. Since we haven’t been able to rest (i.e. we’re not at 100%,) we try talking to anyone. The unknown creature in the cage asks: “Who?” I jokingly say “The Doctor?” but seriously say the name of the Lich Lord (aka big bad), Szass Tam. That was apparently the wrong answer, because the unknown creature orders the creatures in the room to attack us. D’OH! Despite being outnumbered a little over two-to-one, we actually make short work of these creatures, and in searching the bodies we find a crystal key. Score one for the (mostly) good guys!

The walls of the adjoining room show nobles at a great feast. There is the smell of formaldehyde (eeewww) and there are various tables littered throughout the room. On some of the tables are flesh golems in the midst of being put together, I guess in the vein of Frankenstein’s monster Two red wizards are in the room, as well as two other wizards in dark robes, presumably low-level apprentices of some sort. There are also skeletons in each corner of the room, and an undead zombie mopping up the floor. We make conversation, them suspecting that we don’t belong here. Like an idiot, Gavan asks what they think about the Lich ruling over Thay. I was trying to get a sense if they were possibly aligned with Serana’s rebel faction, but in hindsight, that was not the smartest play, because they immediately hurled insults our way, saying how the rebel faction was reduced to hiring sellswords to do their bidding. A short time later, fisticuffs ensue, and when I say fisticuffs, I mean wizards casting necromantic spells like ‘blight.’ I quote from the D&D Next playtest rules: “Choose a creature within range that you can see. Necromantic energy washes over that creature, draining moisture and vitality from its body…” OUCH! All you need to really know is that it does a lot of damage, to the tune of 8d8 (roll an eight-sided dice eight times and add it all up) necrotic damage. If memory serves me correctly, Tassidar went down with one shot of this spell, though our clerics got him back up rather quickly. Also, Gavan confirms that none of the flesh golems being  put together resemble Kelsin, so he’s hopefully alive and well somewhere in the Doomvault.

Speaking of clerics, our new friend Crystal was probably the MVP of this encounter, casting a silence spell that made it impossible for the wizards to use magic within a certain radius. It bought us time, and allowed us to mount a comeback and claim victory. We acquired two more crystal keys, and thanks to a successful arcana check, found the magical junk in this room, over ten pounds worth, to be worth 1500 gold pieces! Naturally, we make Tassidar carry it all. He has a strength score of 20 (the highest possible for a PC under D&D Next rules), and as he’s fond of reminding us, he’s 7’0″ tall and over 300 pounds. We also find a healing potion, which Waxon drinks immediately out of necessity. Overall, we’re doing well, but we’re running out of healing, and may need to access our emergency stash of healing potions.

The third and final adjoining room we enter has walls adorned with carvings of human monarchs, and twenty huge, white pillars. Standing against some of the pillars are three suits of armor, as well as two flesh golems. There are blue sparks comings from the pillars to the creatures. We surmise that they’re getting recharged. Thanks to a successful arcana check, we determine that the armored suits are helmed horrors, which have tons of innate resistances against physical and magical attacks. In other words, getting into combat with them would probably be a bad idea. There are doors leading to the right of this room, which we slowly try to make our way towards, but unfortunately, Gavan moves adjacent to a pillar, which not only teleports him to a random different pillar, but damages him with blue lightning. The blue sparks stop charging the golems, who are now aware of our presence, and see us as hostile.

While not the most heroic option available to us, we pull our best Monty Python and the Holy Grail impression and…

We retreat and teleport back to the gatehouse where we meet up with the other group, also battered and bruised from their venture into the Golem Laboratories, having fought off iron golems and stone gargoyles before retreating. We also gain some clarification on the ‘Seclusion Crypt,’ an extra-dimensional space where we can take a full rest. Every hour we rest there, when we return to the gatehouse, we age one month. After the first time one uses the Seclusion Crypt, when one rests there, one’s maximum hit point value drops by five. This effect lasts until one is able to take a long rest elsewhere, or one is able to cast ‘remove curse.’ Gavan actually has that spell in his spellbook, but it’s a trade-off; if he casts that, he loses one of his high level spells (i.e. fireball, lightning bolt.) But I digress; we end our play session with most of us electing to use the Seclusion Crypt. The spellcasters and healers are low on magic, so it’s a no brainer, really. The only one who elects not to use it is Szenden, who is actually doing rather well.


Follow Up on Batman’s 75th Anniversary

In a follow up to this post I wrote a couple of weeks back, I am ridiculously happy to say that Paley Center posted the entire ‘Batman at  75’ webcast on their website here. If you’re a Batman fan, or even if you’re not, but at anytime in your life you were at all inspired by Batman, it’s worth your time to watch.

On a side note, I tried to embed it into my blog, but discovered some rather fascinating discrepancies. The embed code simply wasn’t working, and according to wordpress’s policies: “Flash and all other embeds are not allowed in WordPress.com posts, pages, or text widgets…” This doesn’t explain to me why youtube’s embed codes work…I guess they aren’t flash based? I always thought they were, but I guess I was wrong. C’est la vie.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 4

So to follow up from last week, my hunch was incorrect and Valantis, Dovahkiin, and Bernard Valyrian have all permanently perished. The players were looking forward to making new characters, so it turned out fine. I’ll talk about our new party members when we split up into teams. In any event, we all meet up at the gatehouse to share our findings, though there’s no time for even a short rest. D’OH! Some newcomers “captured” by our benefactor Serana join us to replace our fallen comrades. The next zone we decide to explore is the Abyssal Prison. Obviously, we have no idea if Shelandra or Kelsin have been captured, but on the off chance that they were, the prison would be the most logical place to look.

So Serana gives us some keys to teleport into the Abyssal Prison zone. We split into the following teams:

  • Anya, an Elven Mage; unsure if she’s a Wood Elf or High Elf
  • Sam, a Human multiclasser (Level 1 Fighter, Level 5 Cleric), and newcomer to the party, replacing Valantis…rest in peace, my monk friend.
  • Scoiatel, a Half-Elf Paladin, and newcomer to the party, replacing Dovahkiin
  • Selwyn, an Elven Ranger

The other team is comprised of:

  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Crassus Gaius – A Human Fighter, eternally sarcastic and quick-witted, and a newcomer to the party, replacing the other former newcomer Bernard Valyrian
  • 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

Gavan’s team elects to go to the ‘Fiendish Arena’ area of the Prison, so we teleport into a room adjacent to a fighting pit, where we can hear the faint sounds of fighting and occasional screams. Standing in the room with us are six undead people, who are capable of speech! One of them asks us what we’re doing here. We mention that we’re here to watch the fights, to see if anyone we know is in there. They do confirm that there is a female combatant in the fighting pit. They get a bit suspicious of us, thinking we may not belong there at all, so we quickly make our way to the pit with the intent to join the fight and save whoever is down there.

The area with the fighting pit had a figure sitting on a throne overseeing what was going on, a pale figure wearing expensive clothing. Everyone in the party was guessing this guy was likely a vampire. As he seemed to be the guy in charge, we ask to join the fight below. The vampire, whose name we never actually learn, asks for a drink, confirming his vampire status. We decline, but he lets us join the fight anyways. I guess our politeness was paying off?

So into the pit we went. In the pit were ten other prisoners, and one of them we recognized to be Shalendra! But there was no Kelsin in sight. The prisoners were fighting a vrock. We join in the fight, and while the vrock eventually was defeated, it rather easily killed six of the prisoners. We notice that the vrock appeared to have been tortured, which confirms the strange experimentation’s we’ve heard goes on in the Doomgate. The vampire watching the event thought we’d kill it sooner…jerk! However, he also states that he needed the vrock to die anyways, so he was letting us all go. How very considerate of him.

We take Shalendra and the three extra prisoners back to the gatehouse, when Gavan receives a strange telepathic communication from Selwyn via the circlets we got from Serana. Their group found Shalendra…wait, what? Clones? A changeling? Split into multiple beings / personalities? Who knows, but suddenly thing just got a lot more complicated. Shalendra refuses to talk to Szenden or Tassidar on account of them being half-breeds, and she’s a bigot, which is consistent behavior from the Shelandra we met in the Scourge of the Sword Coast adventure. Gavan asks her what happened after she was sucked into the bloodgate. She says that she was captured by the red wizards and held in a cell, before being forced to fight in the pits. When asked about Kelsin, who ran after her, she states that she doesn’t know. Gavan tries to communicate telepathically with the other group, to try and get them to return to the gatehouse and hopefully get to the bottom of this mess, but he learns that they’re indisposed at the moment battling a fire elemental. Gavan whispers to Jek and Hadar about what the other group shared with him, and to keep an eye on Shalendra, while we decide to continue exploring.

We return to the arena area and eventually find ourselves in a room with three mystic circles on the floor. Naturally Gavan blows his arcana check, and the best he could figure out is that the runes are abjuration runes. There happens to be a globe hovering above us, and lightning suddenly rains down on us every minute or so. There happens to be locked steel double doors in front of us, but no amount of strength can budge the doors open, and of course, we have no rogues in the group. It doesn’t help that lighting rains down on us every few moments or so. We eventually turn our heads in shame and return back to the gatehouse, where the other group is waiting for us. There are indeed two Shalendra’s…well, there goes the neighborhood. Also, Selwyn is acting rather strange, overly chummy with the Shalendra they found. Not only that, she gave jewelry to Anya, originally gifted from the Duke of Daggerford, as payment to protect her…which is odd. A number of us could not recall Shalendra having any type of relationship with the Duke during Scourge of the Sword Coast. What could be going on here?

At some point, Gavan suggests to our newcomer paladin, Scoiatel, to use his divine senses to see if they can reveal anything about the current situation. This prompts Selwyn to try and stop him, and naturally, chaos ensues. Some people attack Selwyn, Selwyn attempts to stop Scoiatel and fails, it was all rather chaotic. Not just figuratively, but literally as well; for whatever reason, nearly every player was talking over one another.

So while in initiative order, Gavan was planning to ask both Shalendra’s what item was taken from the estate by us and returned to her. Actually, I was planning to have Gavan whisper the question to each Shalendra. The correct answer should have been ‘diary.’ But it never came to that, because our new paladin rolled a higher initiative and went first, and was able to use his divine senses to sense the presence of a fiend from the fake Shelandra. Her cover blown, she transformed into the succubus, and it becomes apparent that Selwyn is under her thrall. The battle continues for a bit in really cramped quarters, before Szenden finally put her down with his magic sword and as the last time we fought a succubus, she was literally reduced to a pile of ash. Selwyn snapped out of his charmed state, rather confused over the past several moments.

In hindsight, I should have thought that the succubus in question could have been Natasha from the previous adventure. After all, she was betrothed to the Duke of Daggerford, which explains why she had so much jewelry from the Duke himself. It made no sense that the real Shalendra would have that stuff.

On a side note, I am incredibly excited that Wizards of the Coast finally revealed their release dates for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, including a Starter Set, Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master’s Guide,  and two adventures: Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat. They’ll start trickling in this coming July, with products released throughout the remainder of the year. To top that all off, it looks like wholesale changes are coming to D&D Encounters

A Confession about Game of Thrones

So I confess, I have not watched Game of Thrones. Considering how much of a nerd I am, this surprises even myself. I mean, I primarily blog about my experience playing Dungeons & Dragons of all things!

Why is this so? Well, it’s actually rather simple: I want to read the books first. Much like I have a backlog of videogames and board games, I have a backlog of books I haven’t gotten to yet. The good news is that I finally started the first book. The bad news is that I’m a slow reader, and the book looks to be Tolkien-esque in size. But, thanks to Peter Dinklage’s words of wisdom, where he sums up the plot in a record-breaking 45 seconds, I am now entirely caught up on the plot. Which means, I could probably watch tomorrow and understand everything that’s going on.

At least I’ve seen South Park’s take on Game of Thrones. Oh my!


D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 3

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:

  1. Destroy various monsters, threats, creations, etc. (this may be tougher than we thought.)
  2. Gain access to the phylactery vault, deep beneath the Doomvault.
  3. 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.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 2 aka the Launch Weekend Extravaganza Continued

…into a giant chamber, presumably at Bloodgate Keep, because the sight before our eyes is rather…disturbing. The portal we entered through goes lifeless. Across from us is another blue-green portal that goes lifeless, but standing in front of it is the dwarf Jek, the elf Shalendra, the half-elf Kelsin Darktredder (I think he’s Shalendra’s half-brother), the Calishite Hadar, and Menic the rebel red wizard that we don’t really trust but are following his lead anyways because…good is dumb?

There is a blue portal and red portal, both humming with life, which means either the party of adventurer’s failed to get the key they were supposed to, or are still in the midst of trying to do so and are extremely late to the party.

Surrounding the room in eight altars are stone slabs with sacrificial victims at each one. Standing next to each slab is an acolyte of some sort. Presumably, this is the hazing ritual to join the red wizards of Thay? At the center of the chamber is a giant stone arch, the magical Bloodgate. Eight channels connect from the sacrificial stone slabs to the Bloodgate itself. If we don’t act fast, sacrificial blood will flow from the slabs it. Standing nearby is a Lich, presumably the current leader of the red wizards of Thay. Oh crap! To top that all off, littered throughout the room are two red wizards, eight undead wraiths, and two darkened beasts (whatever they are, they take up a 20×20 foot area, so they’re huge…and mean.)

The battle that naturally ensues does not exactly go too well. We make it a priority to try and take out the acolytes, rescuing the sacrifices in the process. But the area is difficult to move around, and it almost seems like we’re sitting ducks. This is where having no melee types to tank for us really hurt. We try to take out as many acolytes as possible before they’re able to make any sacrifices, but there’s so much ground to cover in this chamber, and while we save one, another at the far end of the chamber is killed, his / her blood seeping towards the Bloodgate.

As for Gavan, heroes aren’t made playing it safe, but in this case, he takes one risk too many. One of the darkened beasts engages with Gavan, and instead of moving away at the first opportunity, I take the risk to cast a lightning bolt at it (that also hits a red wizard), with the hope of taking down two birds with one stone. Alas, I rolled far less damage than I would have liked, and they both continued to stand. The darkened beast took bites out of Gavan, and in the end, a necromantic spell from one of the red wizards drives Gavan to unconsciousness. (In D&D Next terms, with a mere 11 hit points, Gavan suffers 25 points of damage…OUCH!)

While Gavan lies unconscious, slowly dying from his wounds, things get interesting. Typical, just typical.

So on the other side of the room, Jek and his party are doing their part to fight, but don’t get very far. In fact, Hadar drops like a stone. Is he dead? NOOO!!!

At some point in the battle, the red wizard Menic shows his true colors when he suddenly scrambles to the archway in the center of the room, to the Bloodgate, and screams: “Baazkaa, the way is open! Help me escape!” So Baazkaa appears, a devilish looking creature about the size of the Hulk. The Avengers movie version. And Menic disappears.

Wow, nobody saw that coming! I mean, Menic seems so trustworthy!

Shalendra, when she sees Baazkaa, charges at it with furious rage, apparently upset from being possessed, and disappears into the Bloodgate. Kelsin follows after her, also disappearing into the Bloodgate. Jek is left alone, and though he is standing, he is bleeding profusely.

Baazkaa then speaks, proposing a deal: pull the broken blade from his chest, and he’ll shatter the Bloodgate, destroying it once and for all.

This introduced quite a moral quandary, as well as some interesting role-play. The DM generously let us discuss the issue as a group for a few minutes. He also let us know that devils like Baazkaa are lawful; that is, they honor their deals. That’s not to say that they’re not evil; they are, but they’re not monstrously evil. Interestingly enough, there was no group consensus, so we just decided to continue in initiative order and let everyone do what they wished. For Gavan’s part, he was unconscious and dying during this entire affair when Baazkaa made his offer, so the way I decided to play it was, when he was healed, courtesy of Bloodrose and Waxon, and regained consciousness, he continued to try and fight the acolytes and save the sacrificial victims.

So what did the remainder of the party decide to do?

Well, I’d say most of the party (Coronna, Dovahkiin, Gavan, Selwyn, and Waxon) continued to fight as best they could. Rook actually successfully retreated through the Bloodgate, though it’s unclear where he disappeared to. Despite this apparent betrayal, it actually is very much in character for the halfling rogue. In earlier adventures, if the odds seemed stacked against the party, he’d hide and stay out of the action.

Following his lead, Bloodrose also retreats through the gate.

Anya made the most interesting move; she made her way to Baazkaa; Selwyn tried to trip her up, but to no avail. She grasped the blade and cast the ‘Burning Hands’ spell, sticking her tongue out at Selwyn, but it proved to be ineffective. On her very next turn, she actually did attempt to pull the blade out, but failed her wisdom check. Yes, I said wisdom; she was given the option of making a strength or wisdom check. I’m not sure about the latter, but I’m sure there’s an explanation for it. On her very next turn after that, she decided to try and twist the blade.

That had a rather profound effect; Baazkaa screamed bloody vengeance against us (and Anya in particular), and disappeared…The Lich, whose name we learn is Szass Tam, laughs at us, and suddenly, the place seems to be falling down around us, and the Bloodgate was collapsing! Telepathically, Isteval tells Gavan to and co. to retreat through the Bloodgate, and so we do; Delfin the mage attempts to use his magic to power to bring us back to the estate, but the magical travel is collapsing. As we’re falling through magic gone wild,we all hear a female voice say: “Don’t worry. We can hold it! We have you!” We end on this cliffhanger.

The way I imagine it, we’re hurtling through time and space right now. Like Doctor Who’s Tardis (whistles.)

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 1 aka the Launch Weekend Extravaganza

This weekend is the launch event for the next season of D&D Encounters. In fact, yesterday the adventure launched at my friendly, local, game store. It was a very interesting, fun-filled beginning to the new season, with twists and turns, both literal and figurative. I suppose the only constructive criticism I could give is that Wizards of the Coast should attempt to plan these around holiday weekends. There were regulars that couldn’t make it due to Mother’s Day plans. Still, we had a good turnout overall. The big damn heroes to start things off include:

  • Anya,an Elven Mage and newcomer to the party. I’m wondering if the name is a Buffy reference
  • Bloodrose, a Human Cleric
  • Coronna Tumblebelly, a Gnome Bard, and newcomer to the party. The player used to run with Mave, but wanted to try the bard class out. So Mave is retired somewhere in the Forgotten Realms, methinks.
  • Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn Ranger
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Rook Trillcook, a Halfling Rogue
  • Selwyn, an Elven Ranger
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety

Despite the numbers advantage, we’re not the most balanced party. No beefy, melee types to tank for us. D’OH! C’est la vie. Another cool thing I forgot to mention is that story-wise, this is a continuation of the previous season, so we’re still in Daggerford, having saved the Duke from being possessed by the devil Baazkaa, and we’ve just been knighted. So along with a bunch of brave adventurer’s whom we’ve never met before, we receive a message to come to the Floshin Estate. There are some figures whom we recognize from our previous adventures: Sir Isteval, the dwarf Jek, Kelsin Darktreader, Shalendra Floshin, Darfin Floshin, Delfin the mage, and a few others. There are also some new faces, a male Calishite, and a humanoid figure in a dark cloak. Mysterious figures…never a good sign.

Sir Isteval gives a speech, telling us that though we need to end the threat of the red wizards of Thay by going to their base of operations, Bloodgate Keep, and finding a way to close the appropriately named Blood Gate, a portal to…somewhere bad (presumably a hell plane of some sort.) Jek mentions to us that a frontal assault would be suicide, so we’ll need to go another way. At this point, the cloaked figure pulls his hood back, revealing himself to be a red wizard of Thay.

Well, there goes the neighborhood…

So Menic, the unveiled red wizard, explains that he belongs to a rebel faction. The Blood Gate is a portal that requires power from human sacrifices to allow devils through. Elemental nodes power the Blood Gate. To destroy it, we need to:

  1. Seize the elemental key from the node
  2. Escape with the key from the magical gate we came through
  3. Disrupt those performing sacrifices

The Calishite steps forward and introduces himself as Hadar, an old friend of Isteval’s. He is apparently a scout of some sort, as he went to Bloodgate Keep for reconnaissance, and confirms Menic’s story. Even though time is of the essence, we’re allowed some time for questions. We question why Menic has turned on his brothers, asking about the purpose of his rebel faction, the ‘Thayan Resurrection.’ Apparently, the red wizards are currently led by a Lich, and they wish to see it overthrown, as the rebels feel that Thay should be ruled by the most powerful living mage, as opposed to the most powerful undead mage.

So Menic is prejudiced against the undead? Considering the red wizards are practicing necromancers, I’m not entirely sure I buy it.

But I digress; we decide to split into multiple groups, as there are four keys to obtain, interestingly enough divided by four elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. Our group elects to go after the earth key node. Isteval leads us to a room and hands us a circlet that allows us to telepathically communicate with Isteval. As no one was volunteering to put it on, Gavan ends up wearing the circlet, even though it doesn’t match his golden hair.

So Menic magically transports us to a earthy, cavernous chamber. We’re standing in a raised area, not unlike a naturally-made stone dais. Surrounding the dais are five large skull-faced badgers that don’t appear to be hostile. Surprisingly, Gavan is able to speak their language, primordial (whatever that is), and after exchanging pleasantries, we ask if they can lead us to any strange, nearby structures. They agree, but will only take one of us. Rook volunteers, and follows them for a bit, before the five turn on him and attack.

I felt horrible about having Rook go on his own, so when it was finally Gavan’s turn to attack, I drop a fireball on the five enemies clustered around Rook, spell sculpting the fireball so that the magical flames do no damage to Rook, while burning the enemies up and ending the battle in an instant (In D&D Next, a mage can specialize in certain schools. Gavan chose to specialize in the ‘School of Evocation.’ One of the perks of this specialization is the ability to ‘sculpt spells,’ which allows one to cast offensive spells without hurting ones allies.)

So there are six paths leading out of this area. As we have two rangers who are skilled in tracking, we are able to navigate these maze of tunnels without getting lost, though not without incident. Every few moments, rocks would fall from the ceiling, and only successful dexterity checks would allows us to escape without injury. Surprisingly, in a complete reversal of luck, Gavan makes a majority of his dexterity checks (others are less lucky), and eventually finding the correct path to another cavernous area, with a large boulder before us. Embedded within the boulder is violet crystal orb, surrounded by golden light. We guess that this is the key we’ve been sent to retrieve, though in hindsight, at least one of us should have thought to ask what this key looked like. It’s medieval fantasy; when someone says key, it could look like a mango, or a peach, just because.

As we approach the boulder, two large earth elementals come out of the floor and engage us in battle. The good news is that they’re easy to hit. The bad news is that they both have a large number of hits points, soaking up damage like a sponge. They eventually fall though, and we spend the next several moments fumbling to get the violet crystal orb. It powers a protective magic that, whenever someone comes near it, inflicts force damage unless a successful constitution check if made. I don’t remember who managed to get the orb, but when we do finally retrieve it, in Indiana Jones style, the place starts falling down around us. We sprint towards the area we came from, Gavan telepathically letting Isteval know we retrieved the key and are making our way towards the exit. We get back to the dais we initially appeared on and disappear…