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…

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