D&D Encounters Quest, Scourge of the Sword Coast, part 17 aka the Finale

This past Wednesday, we reached the epic conclusion of the “Scourge of the Sword Coast” storyline. It was so epic in fact that our DM running the game decided to use 3D model terrain. I think it was Dwarven Forge tiles, but I could be wrong. More or less everyone that was a regular or semi-regular showed up. In other words, our party was massive. Not quite Legion of Super-Heroes massive, but close enough. The big damn heroes of the week include, in alphabetical order:

  • Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn Ranger
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Javert, a Paladin, formerly a Drow but is now a Human for some inexplicable reason
  • Malice, a Tiefling Paladin
  • Mave, a Human Rogue, and the only female in the party (yes, it’s a huge sausage-fest in the Forgotten Realms)
  • Rook Trillcook, a Halfling Rogue
  • Santahl, a Halfling Cleric (I think…)
  • Szenden , a Half-Elf Fighter
  • Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter
  • Valantis, an Elven Monk, of the Wood Elf variety
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety

Having rescued Shalendra and returned to Daggerford, we were handsomely rewarded by her brother Darfin for our services, as we related everything we discovered, including her diary to the high elf noble. I was entertaining the notion of interrogating Shalendra, but decided against it. She’s been through enough, even though she’s not entirely blameless in this. Anyways, while we were enjoying our key to the city privileges (free room & board, including meals!) at a local inn (probably the Lady Luck Tavern), we received a scroll from a page. Gavan generously gives the page a gold coin and proceeds to open the scroll and read its contents to the party.

It’s an invitation to have dinner with the Duke and his betrothed, Natasha at his home. It’s so nice of him to invite us to dinner! Surely, nothing can go wrong at such an event, right?

So some of us go buy noble clothes; Gavan, for his part, decides to wing it, thinking his usual Wizard’s robes are good enough for this affair. It’s not like he cares if the Duke is insulted or not; he’s not fond of the Duke as is. We inform Sir Isteval of this event and even though the invitation does not state we could bring guests, we try to convince him to come, but he politely declines.

So the day passes uneventfully until the appointed hour, and we go to the Duke’s keep, where we are led to the dining room. Interestingly enough, we are allowed to keep our weapons with us, which never bodes well at an event like this. To top that all of, some of us successfully perceive a clicking sound by the door we entered through. We’re locked in…fantastic! We meet not only the Duke and Natasha, but his aide, Gilleon and proceed to dine on gourmet food and fine wine. Well, as gourmet as medieval fantasy fare can be. David Chang, this food is probably not (though I could be wrong; my foodie knowledge is rather limited.)

Describing the scene, it’s essentially a very large room with a two long tables in a T-shape. At the top of the T-shape sit the Duke, Natasha, and Gilleon. The rest of us sit on both sides of the bottom of the T-shape. There are doors to the south, east, and west of us, with two guards stationed at each door. There are also four guards standing behind the Duke near a fireplace.

So while we eat and make small talk, I suddenly remember that Paladins have these weird sensing abilities. Specifically, they can sense celestial, fiend, or undead creatures, as well as any place or object that’s been consecrated or desecrated. So I suggest to our two Paladins, Javert and Malice, to use their super senses to see if anything’s amiss.

In hindsight, this was the catalyst for the battle ahead, so perhaps this wasn’t the wisest course of action. In other words, it’s all Gavan’s fault, though in his defense, a battle would have likely broken out at some point.

Natasha merely smiles at this and waves her arms, suggesting that there’s no need for such hostile action. Both Paladins fail their wisdom checks, and find themselves thinking that Natasha is a friend. They’re ordered to move towards her. The rest of the party try to trip them up, grab them, but while the dice were unfriendly when it came to resisting charm spells, they were very friendly towards opposing their own party. So Malice and Javert are now at the head of the table near Natasha, who wraps herself around Javert and kisses him, doing an ungodly amount of damage to him (in D&D terms, 21 hit points off, and his maximum hit points are reduced by one.) Interestingly enough, he’s not killed, but he’s not looking all that good, and he still think’s Natasha is a friend. At this point, all hell breaks loose. The Duke draws his flaming sword (not joking here; at least it’s not a blazing sword. That would have been truly problematic,) and Gilleon stays nearby to help his master. Natasha’s form changes to that of a succubus, and six demonic creatures are summoned, surrounding Valantis and Waxon. To their credit, over the next several rounds of combat, they make short work of the six demons. I thought they’d last longer.

Actually, our DM more or less said exactly that when the succubus went down, courtesy of Gavan’s magic (the spell: ‘Melf’s Acid Arrow,’ was especially effective!) and Szenden’s melee expertise. Surprisingly, when the succubus falls, while the guards are no longer charmed, just confused, the Duke continues hacking away at us. I guess he wasn’t enthralled by the succubus, but is possessed by something more sinister. Not as surprising is that there’s no body; Natasha dissolves into a pile of ash. Also, to the guards credit, they don’t do too much to get in our way as we take on the Duke.

In one of the more hilarious combat moments, our half-orc fighter, Tassidar, crushes a guard to death with his maul, despite several of us advising him to use ‘non-lethal’ damage (i.e. subdue, do not kill.) Waxon did manage to save the guard from the brink of death with a healing spell. Tassidar feigned ignorance…or did he? Actually, this brought up an interesting dynamic in the play group as a whole. The Paladins especially wanted blood (As an aside, there’s nothing in the D&D Next playtest rules about Paladins being restricted to a specific alignment. This might be brought up when 5th Edition officially releases.), but the rest of us finally convinced them to go non-lethal.

So as the Duke takes damage, we see the same thing that happened to Shalendra; an image of a huge demon appears above his head, as his facial expression changes and he shouts: “Help me! Use this!” and he tosses his flaming sword to Javert, who gladly accepts it. Then the demonic image disappears, and the Duke looks ready to kill us all. In due time, the Duke and Gilleon are both subdued.Suddenly, a door bursts open and in comes the Duke’s sister…wait, the Duke has a sister? Where has she been all this time?

We immediately surrender, and share our story of what happened. Sir Isteval is summoned to confirm that the ashes were indeed a succubus (she doesn’t trust Javert or Malice to do this), and when the Duke regains consciousness, he confirms our story. he also wants his sword back. Naturally Javert is bummed that he doesn’t get to keep the Duke’s flaming sword.

All’s well that ends well: we’re all hailed as heroes, and are knighted. Sir Gavan…doesn’t have the ring I’d like it to have. I’m going to have to think about this, but it needs to be something like Sir Robin the-not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

We also receive 250 gold pieces each. On a final note, the devil Baazkaa (I have no clue how it’s properly spelled), who I guess was able to possess both Shalendra and the Duke simultaneously, needs to be dealt with. Several quests ago, we had found a map (I think at Firehammer Hold) with an unmarked location. That unmarked location refers to a structure known as Bloodgate Keep. Of course, it’s Bloodgate Keep. It’s never Delicious Bakery Keep, or Tea and Scones Keep. Never. But I digress; we surmise that this location is the base of operations (or at least a key location) for the Red Wizards of Thay, who…wait, are they the big bad? Or is Baazkaa the big bad? Who’s Megatron in this scenario? Well, in any event, Scourge of the Sword Coast has come to an end.

There were a few unanswered questions, such as what would have happened had we inserted the real dwarven bloke into the statue we found at Firehammer Hold? Would great treasure have been revealed? Forbidden knowledge? Or would we have unleashed a great evil? Who knows, but I wish I knew! I’m thinking of buying Scourge of the Sword Coast on drivethrurpg just to find out.

So this weekend is the launch event for the next D&D Encounters season, Dead in Thay. We can keep the same characters or create new ones, but in any event they’re to be bumped up to level 6, from level 4. Yay! This means Gavan (whom I’ll keep using) can now cast lighting bolt and fireball spells! I’m both excited and a tiny bit concerned. Reading Wizards of the Coast’s description of this adventure, “Dead in Thay is a tribute to Tomb of Horrors, The Ruins of Undermountain, and other killer dungeons. The monsters, traps, and hazards in the adventure create a deadly challenge.”

Now, I never played Tomb of Horrors, but from what I’ve heard of that particular adventure, if Dead in Thay is anything like that adventure, then the cause for concern is definitely justified.

In any event, let’s go out with Gavan’s unofficial dance theme sung by Akira Kushida. It’s just so catchy! And 80’s!

 

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The Third Mask and the Dark Knight

While 90% of the time I’ll simply blog about my D&D Encounters experience, on occasion, I’ll write about whatever strikes my fancy.

So for those unaware, 2014 is Batman’s 75th Anniversary. There has been quite a few ways DC has celebrated this event. Two of my favorites have been some animated shorts on DC Entertainment’s YouTube channel, and embedded below:

Batman: Strange Days

Batman Beyond

Tons of fun, if you’re at all a fan of the DC Animated Universe, and at any time in your life watched Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited.

The reason I bring up Batman is that last night, I watched a livestream Paley Center event regarding Batman’s 75th that included: Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman), Chip Kidd (writer Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan), Marc Tyler Nobleman (writer of The Secret Co-Creator of Batman), Kevin Smith (probably most famous for Clerks), and Michael Uslan (Executive Producer of the Dark Knight film trilogy…man, I wish I had his job!). It was a super cool event to watch, and I wish I had gone. I’m not sure it’ll be archived or appear on their YouTube channel, but here’s hoping. It’s definitely worth multiple viewings for the Batman fan. Supposedly it was sold out, but I swear that I saw an empty seat or two throughout the audience.

But I digress…

Near the end of the talk, one of the things that Kevin mentioned as being a contributing factor to the Dark Knight’s popularity is the dichotomy of Batman and Bruce Wayne, and how we all live with this type of mask. Batman is the person; Bruce Wayne is the mask he puts on when needed. For us, there’s our public persona, the face we put on throughout the day. Then there’s our private persona, the person we are behind closed doors, the person we have the most difficulty sharing with people, even our friends and loved ones. For some people, they may be one and the same, or at the very least, they believe their personas to be one and the same, but I believe that for most people this is an accurate remark. It’s part of our humanity, and helps us relate to Batman at a very human level, beyond the lack of superpowers and what not.

So what is the third mask?

Well, I’m a Wil Wheaton fan, and both him and his wife Anne maintain blogs. In Anne’s latest blog post (as of this date), she writes about her PTSD, past abuse, therapy, etc. It’s very well written, honest, and open. I was going to post a reply saying something along the lines of:

Wow! That was very well written, honest, and pretty damn gutsy to put yourself out there like that. Especially in this day and age, with so many keyboard warriors and trolls permeating the internet. I must admit that I probably would have refrained from writing something so personal.

This relates to experiences on online gaming (which can feel like treading a minefield at times) as well as past “discussions” I’ve had in forums in the past, where the most innocent comment can set people off, and they feel a need to bully you into submission. That’s probably the first time I ever heard the phrase mentioned: Don’t feed the troll.

So in the age of social media with twitter, facebook, instragram, linkedin, etc., is the internet persona we promote and maintain our third mask? I’m fairly confident that with at least some people, how they act online is vastly different from how they’d act if they were standing next to the person they’re “yelling” at with their keyboards and internet slang. And perhaps, we judge others far too often and too harshly based on the third mask alone.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but at least a part of me thinks this is a topic worthy of discussion.

D&D Encounters Quest, Scourge of the Sword Coast, part 16

Our big damn heroes of the week include:

  • Szenden , a Half-Elf Fighter
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Valantis, an Elven Monk, of the Wood Elf variety
  • Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter
  • Mave, a Human Rogue, and the only female in the party
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety
  • Dovahkiin, a Dragonborn Ranger
  • Selwyn, an Elven Ranger

So we continue our delve into enemy territory aka the Floshin Estate. We’re actually on the 2nd floor of the estate, working our way around. We eventually work our way to the first floor, and eventually the basement level. As it’s a dungeon crawl, here are the things of interest:

  • We find  a diary on the second floor. The author of the diary, presumably the person we’ve been sent to rescue, Shalendra, sister of Darfin Floshin, writes the following:
    • The last entry of the diary reads (I’m paraphrasing here): “Baazkaa has possessed me…” (I may have misspelled that name…D’OH!) Apparently, this being is a major devil.
    • The diary details a story in Dragonspear Castle, which contained a portal to a dark hell of sorts. A large demon emerged, but a Paladin (is it Sir Isteval?) plunges his greatsword into its chest, and the hilt break off. The broken blade is a religious artifact that seals, but not destroys, the demon
    • The writer of this diary struck a bargain with the Red Wizards of Thay.
    • The writer is also plagued by nightmares
    • There was an attack on the manor; as requested, the magical wards protecting the estate have been altered to hurt other Floshins, except for the writer
    • The writer grows increasingly unhappy with what’s going on
    • Shrines are desecrated
    • The writer appears to have a strong dislike of half-breeds…
    • As an aside, it was so nice for her to write that she’s possessed! If only all possessed beings would remember to write an entry in their diaries / journals / livejournals / facebook pages that they’re possessed. The world would be a lot better place!
  • We find a statue on a balcony, which our monk Valantis bravely goes and knocks on; it becomes a fiery creature of sorts, with a body, arms, and head of a humanoid, but the rest of its body on fire. Oh, and naturally, it’s hostile. This creature is eventually joined by creature made of air, and just as hostile. We put them down rather swiftly.
  • We find a gray-green cloak, that camouflages the wearer. Since Gavan is the easiest person to hit (in D&D Next terms, he has an Armor Class of 12, which translates into real life as “Easy to hit!”), the party pretty much agrees that he should get this cloak, though I’m thinking of returning it next session. It’s not like we’ve been sent here to plunder the place.
  • We find ourselves in an area with interconnected rooms and not a lot of space to maneuver. In fact, battle begins against three human undead, only for two more to emerge from a different room. It doesn’t end there, as three more human undead emerge from a room close to where Gavan is. In fact, he actually manages to not only injure one of these undead with a swing of his silver shortsword, but miraculously emerges unscathed. Trust me when I say this streak of good luck won’t last very long.
  • We descend the stairs to the first level, where there are four decorative suits of plate mail armor at the bottom level. From one of those plates of armor, three scorching rays emerge. We have been ambushed! This ends up being the battle where some of Gavan’s luck runs out. When he’s able, he tries to maneuver to the suit of armor where the attacks came from and take the helmet off. He is successful, and underneath the helmet is an imp, that decides to attack with its tail. Not only does the tail hit for damage, but Gavan suffers poison damage as well. (In D&D Next terms, he goes from a full 24 to 11.) The remainder of this battle is rather comical. Two other suits of armor appear to be enchanted, while one is not, but we end up attacking everything in sight. It was a rather comedic, to be honest. It’s not entirely sure if the imp was defeated, or merely retreated. He disappeared after getting hit for a bit, and never returned.
  • We find some scrolls with various magical spells. Gavan borrows them, as he’s running out of magic to use. As we we were on a rescue mission, we never really rested at all, not even a short rest. Hence, no recovery of magic spells. If they remain unused, Gavan intends to return them.
  • A trapdoor leading to the basement level? Well, I don’t mind if we do. Normally, we try to clear every level before changing elevations, but time was running out during the play session, and we felt that if there was any level we’d find Shalendra, it’d be in the basement level, so into the depths we climbed.
  • In the basement level, we find what is essentially the laundry room. Searching the room, we find two water elementals hiding in the water basin. Typical. Just typical. We dispatch of them in due time, and find four healing potions and another potion of lesser restoration (like a healing potion, but rather than restore health, it removes blindness, deafness, disease, or paralysis)
  • A cell in the basement with a dead half-orc with a critical wound on the back of his neck. On his back is a tattoo of a flaming sword and horses on the shoulders. These tattoos are symbols of Tempus.
  • A circular room with white marble and ornate designs, and a statue of elf. As our party is mostly elves, we recognize this statue to be Corellon, patron god of all elves. And like many of the statues we have encountered on this adventure, it’s desecrated, covered with blood. Four undead emerge to engage us in battle. One of them is in armor, and as usual, they’re all human. Assuming these undead are employees of Lord Floshin, did he not have any elf or half-elf servants? Regardless, we defeat these undead, and our cleric Waxon consecrates the statue.
  • We enter the final encounter, a strange room filled with various portals to other areas of Faerun. It’s unclear if these portals would magically transport us to where they’re showing, or they’re just magical surveillance of some sort. But in any event, we smell fire and smoke as a fire elemental emerges from out of the wall, along with an imp. I’m not sure if this is the same imp we fought earlier, but yes, a fight breaks out. When does it not? As the battle progresses, a female mage appears and drops a fireball on us. In D&D Next terms, we all roll dexterity checks, and amazingly, Gavan barely succeeds in this endeavor, and suffers 10 points of damage as opposed to 20. This reduces his hit points from 11 to 1, so he’s looks just about ready to keel over, while various party members have actually keeled over. Waxon uses up the last of his healing spells, and Gavan actually plays medic, using one of the community healing potions on another downed party member. Waxon also uses his final spell on the female mage, who looks like the person we’ve been sent to rescue, Shalendra! A sleep spell, which…fails. Well, there goes the neighborhood. Shalendra probably laughed at that magic spell attempt. What was that, a butterfly? Still, we manage to take down the fire elemental and imp, and as we have so many frontline people, they run up to her and begin hitting her. As they do damage, we witness a momentary change in her facial expression, and above her head a ghostly demonic image appears, and she speaks two words: “Save me!” before her expression changes back to evil and the ghostly image disappears. A few more blows, and Shalendra is successfully subdued (In D&D Next terms, while in melee combat, one can elect to do non-lethal damage, which subdues, not kills. Unfortunately, one cannot do so with ranged combat, which arguably makes sense to some degree.) Gavan shoots an arrow at the ghostly image to no avail. The session ends with this battle, and it appears as if we are successful in saving Darfin’s sister. Next time: the finale to Scourge of the Sword Coast!