D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 13: The End

I feel like a comic book writer, a genre filled with a number of retcons. DC did this in the mid-80’s, and again recently around 2011 with their ‘New 52’ revamp. We all discovered tonight that the next D&D Encounters story, Tyranny of Dragons, was starting sooner than originally thought, so Dead in Thay had to end tonight. So a little bit of fast-fowarding, rectonning, and improvisation were required. It was also decided that instead of splitting into two tables, I’d run one, giant super-table. Thankfully, I few weeks ago, I drew out the map of the Phylactery Vault (thank you Gaming Paper!) ahead of time, so I was ready to go. I also had pre-gens I took the time to level up to level eight, and since a new player showed up, that ended up being a good move on my part. To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, “Prior preparation, prevents piss poor performance.”

So, previously on Dead in Thay…

Our heroes stormed the Temples of Extraction, destroying Shrines and saving / killing the Chosen of various deities of the Forgotten Realms. With the shrines destroyed, they could no longer steal power from the Chosen, allowing the good guy NPC’s (aka the ‘B’ team) to disrupt the black gates in other parts of the Doomvault so that the black gates at this location would allow entrance to the party’s final destination: the Phylactery Vault.

Speaking of which, our big damn heroes of the week include:

So we start out in the gatehouse once more. Almost everyone elects to use the Seclusion Crypt (an extra-dimensional space that can be used to heal wounds, recover spells, etc.) to recover, knowing that the final battle is at hand. Hadarr, Jek, Shalendra, and Kelson all agree to stay behind as the ‘B’ team, coming in if things go sour. In real-life game terms, after awhile, I allowed players whose characters have been killed to play with one of these players. At least, that was the plan.

The party’s benefactor, Syranna gives a speech (which I improvised a bit for fun and flavor, basically insulting the party’s friends back in Daggerford) about their final task and how they must accomplish this to be teleported back home. As far as I can tell, no one suspected a thing, so score one for me and my thespian skills. In any event, the party teleports to the Phylactery Vault, which is strange to describe. They’re basically on the inside of a house-sized tetrahedron. Yes, the inside, not the outside. And no, it’s not bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. On the floor of the tetrahedron where the players stand are three sepulchers, also shaped like tetrahedrons, each with double doors with gargoyle carvings on the doors. At the center of the floor is a dark, murky pool of water that looks rather ominous.

Our heroes figure out that the only way to open the doors to any of the sepulchers is through brute strength or picking the lock. Keeping in mind that people were walking in and joining the game whenever they could (par for the course, really), at this moment, no one had any lockpicking skill, so brute strength it was. And it was successful, because the doors smashed open, and transformed into two four-armed gargoyles. Unsurprisingly, the party makes short work of the gargoyles and enter the sepulcher, where they find shelves of vials, scrolls, and other objects. These items are protected by magic, but our heroes quickly ascertain that using arcana or calling upon a deity (aka a religion check) may be able to disrupt the magic protecting the phylacteries. It works, and with the magic disrupted, the phylacteries in this first sepulcher explode into nothingness. When I say explode, I don’t mean a Michael Bay explosion. I mean tiny explosions; no one gets hurt here.

But something does happen. With the first sepulcher deactivated, a skull with glowing jewels for eyes and gem teeth emerges from the pool and telepathically screams bloody vengeance against the party. What follows is a giant battle of attrition. The demilich proves to be formidable, sucking the soul out of various party members over time. I did alter one of the demilich’s abilities to make it more fair, in my opinion. More on that later.

Realizing the predicament they’re in, the party actually does split their forces, some concentrating on the flying demilich, while others concentrate on opening the other sepulchers, defeating the gargoyles, and disrupting the magic contained therein. It takes a very long time (my brain shut down after awhile,) but the party is successful in disabling the sepulchers. With several party members downed (in some cases, permanently), I allowed the first four players whose characters died to take control of the ‘B’ team NPC’s (Hadarr, Jek, Kelson, and Shalendra) and teleport in to participate in the battle. In the end, they do take down the demilich. I believe Waxon’s ‘Sacred Flame’ ability was the killing stroke, and some of the people whose souls were sucked out were restored. Others were not so lucky. In the end, the party permanently lost Szenden Avere and Tassidar, whose bodies continually decayed in front of everyone before exploding into a pile of dust. In Tassidar’s case, since he’s seven-feet tall (or ten-feet depending on who you talk to) and three-hundred pounds (or half-a-ton depending on who you talk to), his body exploded into what looked like a small sand dune. Other people who had their soul sucked out, but managed to retain their bodies (all of this explained later) include: Crassus, Sam, Selwyn, and Moonbow.

So with the phylacteries and the demilich destroyed, our surviving heroes hightail it out of there, teleporting back to the gatehouse. True to her word, Syranna transports the party back home to Daggerford, where they are greeted warmly by their friends and for the moment, everyone could rest easy.

The end. Yay.

FYI, the demilich has a huge number of powerful abilities. The soul-sucking ability, as originally written, when successful, has the original physical body decay into dust after a turn. So if the party succeeded in defeating the demilich (which they did), the souls trapped in its jeweled teeth and eyes would be released when destroyed. However, if there is no physical body to return to, and if the body is not within 10 feet of the destroyed gem, the soul is “released into the afterlife.” I changed this, where if a character got his / her soul sucked out, that character would start making “death” saves, exactly like the dying rules. Three successes before three failures, and their body stabilizes and does not turn into dust. Three failures before three successes, and their body does decay and burst into dust. I felt this added some dramatic, narrative tension. The players knew their characters souls were sucked out, but why were they making death saves? I also axed the ’10 foot’ rule, feeling it was minutia that added nothing to the story.

As an aside, I feel sorry for the newest player that showed up last night (he played Anubis); a giant slog-fest is not necessarily the best introduction to tabletop role-playing games. I worked hard to make it fun for him, but I honestly don’t know if I succeeded.

Since it made absolutely no difference, I conceded to Szenden Avere’s player that yes, he can come back as an animated suit of armor, like Al from Fullmetal Alchemist.

I sometimes wonder if I’m far too nice a DM, but my personal opinion is that a good DM shouldn’t be actively out to kill the PC’s. A good DM presents a challenge and does his best to call things down the middle, making changes, and improvising as necessary in the name of crafting a good narrative. To me personally, that’s what a good tabletop role-playing experience is all about. Everyone at the table is playing to create story.

Up next, Tyranny of Dragons, but first a break. I’ll be attending Gen Con next week, so there will be no D&D Encounters. I might try to write a blog about Gen Con, key word being might. Also, I must admit that I may not be blogging Tyranny of Dragons, but more on that when the time comes.

And since we’ve come to the end of Dead in Thay, I feel this is an appropriate song to go out on, because I always feel this song is a good ‘ending’ type song, thanks to sfdebris.


D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 12

Previously, on Dead in Thay: Our heroes complete explore the Hall of Obedience, where they naturally go through much battle and hardship. They do manage to convince a Red Wizard named Lahnis to join the Thayan Resurrection, and most importantly acquire a large number of magical weapons, including a very peculiar scarred plate mail armor…Also, they discover that the magic of the black gates must be disrupted to reach the Phylactery Vault, as well as the fact that the biggest bad Szass Tam is using the Temples of Extraction to experiment on the Chosen, people who represent various deities of the Forgotten Realms. Moderately important is that they also acquire knowledge of how to turn soul-bound undead back into living creatures, requiring use of the  Undying Laboratory in the Hall of Necromancy. I only mention moderately important because of the PC’s that have died, the player’s seem to want to keep the new characters they created, so it’s not as important as it would have been at an earlier time.

Our big, damned heroes for this week include:

Our heroes are at the Gatehouse; some elect to use the Seclusion Crypt to recover lost hit points, spells, etc. Suddenly, our damned NPC heroes: Hadar, Jek, Kelson, and Shalendra (I’ll post pictures of them at the end of this post.) emerge from the black gate, looking beaten and battered, but happy. They show the party the fourth key they’ve acquired to the Temples of Extraction.

(NOTE: Regarding obtaining the fourth glyph key, I was going to do some narrative, role-playing, and battle improvising quite a bit in an effort to speed things up, but I realized even if I halved the strength of the being who possessed the fourth key, the battle would have taken far too long, and I didn’t want progress to be stymied tonight by these encounters, so having talked it over with the event coordinator, I just had the main, good-guy NPC’s get it. Yes, the party didn’t earn it, but, but c’est la vie.)

Now that the party has all four glyph keys to the most secure area of the Doomvault, they proceed to…

…the Temples of Anguish zone of the Temples of Extraction. Here they immediately get into battle with the people who dwell here, the most fiercely loyal to Thay. They also encounter a strange magical mist that either stuns, or temporarily imbues with strange venomous powers. Most importantly, they encounter a “three-step stone dais” set with four pillars, a shrine of sorts, where a yuan-ti currently stands in the middle of, floating in the air and surrounded by golden light. After they win the battle, they make out the holy symbol worn by this yuan-ti, and those trained in religion realize he worships Zehir, a deity whose domains are darkness and poison. They proceed to kill the yuan-ti and then study the shrine, which is protected by magical forces that damage those who don’t complete a saving throw. I kept doing little bits of damage this way throughout the night. The party are able to figure out that the shrines are drawing power from the Chosen, channeling it through the black gate to another location, though where exactly they aren’t sure, though educated guesses (*cough *cough Phylactery Vault *cough) are welcome. They are also able to figure out how to disable the shrine, either through strength (smash pillars), dexterity (disable arcane runes), or intelligence (disrupt flow of magic). While it is comedic seeing them enter the shrine, and then being forced back and damaged through magical forces (and failed checks), they do succeed in smashing the pillars and disabling this first shrine. Oh, and when Sam suffered damage, the magical plate mail he discovered last week appeared to be suddenly less effective then it should have been. Strange…

On a side note, every room in this place has a shrine and a chosen contained therein. Got it? Good; let’s move on.

The next room contains an NPC most of the party haven’t met except for Selwyn: Mennek Ariz, the Red Wizard that betrayed our heroes back at the Bloodgate. Mennek remembers Selwyn and screams bloody murder and great vengeance. Even though Selwyn can discern that Mennek is not acting of his own volition, the party proceed to slay him and the other enemies in this area, because capturing and interrogating people is so 90’s! The funky affect in this room is this strange, radiant aura that either injures or heals depending on the saving throw. The Chosen that they actually save this time is a human male named Kieren, Chosen of Ilmater, whose domains are: endurance, suffering, martyrdom, and perseverance. The party is rather disappointed Kieren can’t help them, but they let him go to the gatehouse and destroy the shrine.

The third and final room of then night has another interesting affect, but it only kicks in when a living creature takes damage. Interestingly enough, I did very little damage with the creatures inhabiting this room, so the affect never really kicked in, but basically, if a PC failed their Constitution saving throw, they would have had disadvantage with attacks, and Strength and Dexterity saving throws / checks. Sadly, it never happened. The Chosen in this room is a female half-elf, who the part figures out worships Loviatar, goddess of hurt and agony. Our heroes naturally kill her while she’s helpless because…it’s heroic? Anyways, some destroyed pillars later, and the third shrine is disabled.

So with three shrines disabled, what will our heroes stumble into next week? It’s a fairly safe bet that it’ll be more of the same. Combat, disable shrine, combat, disable shrine, repeat ad nauseum. D’OH!

So as a bonus, here are some pictures of what some of the NPC’s I’ve been mentioning look like, courtesy of Wizards of the Coast (they’re found in the adventure Dead in Thay, which you could technically purchase at dndclassics / drivethrurpg.)

Hadarr Karakaya

Hadarr Karakaya

Jekk Ironfist

Jekk Ironfist

Kelson Darktreader

Kelson Darktreader

Shalendra Floshin

Shalendra Floshin

And as a bonus, here's the NPC the party heroically killed, the traitor Mennek Ariz

And as a bonus, here’s the NPC the party heroically killed this session, the traitorous Red Wizard of Thay, Mennek Ariz

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 11

Previously on ‘Dead in Thay’: The party had found and saved the life of their friend, Kelson Darktreader, and managed to clear out the Hall of Necromancy zone in the Masters’ Domain. Having returned to the gatehouse for a momentary reprieve, they begin preparations to return to the Masters’ Domain and conquer the Hall of Obedience. But before they begin, Kelson Darktreader emerges from the Seclusion Crypt, fully recovered from his wounds.

Kelson speaks with Hadar, Jek, and his sister Shalendra momentarily, thankful to see his closest friends and eager to get back up to speed. He proceeds to thank the party for saving his life, and provides some key information he learned while surviving in the Doomvault. He shares that Mennek Ariz, the red wizard who betrayed them at the Bloodgate is in the Temples of Extraction, and that the Temples themselves can only be accessed via black gates, with the glyph keys for that area trusted to Szass Tam’s most loyal servants, as it is the most secure, guarded area of the Doomvault.

Our damned heroes for the week include:

  • Granath, a Dwarven Paladin
  • Livulcan, a multiclasser; at least one level of Mage, and mostly levels of Rogue, I believe. I also know for a fact I’m mispelling his name, but have no clue how it’s properly spelled. C’est la vie.
  • Moonbow, a Monk Rogue, previously known as Goodnight
  • Sam, a Human multiclasser (Level 1 Fighter, Level 7 Cleric)
  • Waxon, an Elven Cleric of the Wood Elf variety

So our heroes proceed to the Hall of Obedience, where they come to a room with strange silver pillars, undead Thayan Warriors chained to them and while their eyes are wide open, they appear unmoving. There are several doors in this room, each leading to small rooms, some unoccupied while others are not. Naturally, battle eventually ensues, and I’m disappointed to say not a single party member was rendered unconscious by me. Clearly, I’m getting soft as a DM. 😉

They proceed to a room to the south, apparently a training room, where six Thayan Warriors are engaged in combat with a Dread Warrior and seven Skeletons. Overseeing this combat exercise is a Red Wizard named Lahnis, who thinks the party is here to test his loyalty to Szass Tam. After a few rounds of combat, he orders everyone to stop and questions the party’s true motives. After seeing that they have managed to acquire three of the four possible glyph keys required to enter the Temples of Extraction, he’s convinced to join the Thayan Resurrection in truth, his loyalty has in fact been flagging. He joins the players in defeating the rest of the enemies and gives them quite a number of goodies. Magical weapons can be found in this room, as well as a very peculiar suit of “heavily scarred” of plate mail armor, immediately donned by Sam, the level 1 fighter / level 7 cleric. This is actually a detail I’m going to have to remember for future encounter sessions.

Lahnis also gives them a number of scrolls, and shares the following information with the party: Szass Tam’s latest plan is to acquire godlike power; he believes this can be accomplished by feeding the souls of the Chosen into his phylactery. He currently uses the Temples of Extraction to do just this. By the way, the Chosen refer to mortals chosen by deities to represent their best interests in the mortal realm. A handy list of deities found in the Forgotten Realms can be found here. Other information shared is that the phylacteries of Szass Tam’s highest-ranking liches reside in the Phylactery Vault, protected by powerful magic. Szass Tam, in fact, keeps everyone’s phylacteries there to keep them in check. Perhaps the most important information Lahnis shares is that if enough black gates across the Doomvault are disrupted, the black gates in the Temples of Extraction can be forced to connect to the Phylactery Vault. Almost as important is that he shares a ritual, written on a scroll, that can be used to turn soul-bound undead back into living creatures. Anyone that has been killed can be turned into a soul-bound undead by Syranna, but with this ritual they can be brought back to life, though it requires the use of the undying laboratory room where they find Kelson. Even though the party cleared out that room, there is the potential for finding random patrols if they were to return.

And so the journey in D&D Encounters ends this week having found several key pieces of information and gaining an ally. For the moment, the party has three glyph keys that will allow them to access three areas of the Temples of Extraction. Technically speaking, they don’t necessarily have to find the fourth, though from a real-life DM-ing perspective, since we have two DM’s, it’s easier to keep things divisible by two. In other words, the other DM will run two sections of the Temples of Extraction while I run the remaining two. Since there’s only three total at the moment, I’m currently thinking of ways to have the party acquire the fourth quickly. Though from what I’ve read about that encounter, it’d be anything but quick. I need to think about how I want to handle this for next week. I have a few ideas that I think would make for good narrative, and accomplish everything I want.

As an aside, there was some confusion for the initial room. The text description to read to the players clearly states undead are manacled to the silver pillars, but there’s no undead version stat block for Thayan Warriors; they’re described as medium-sized humans…oh well, c’est la vie. There are other strange discrepancies with this area, strange behaviors that I won’t get into because they could potentially constitute spoilers for players. Needless to say though, I could be wrong, but at least this area could have used stronger editing, and I’m not talking in terms of grammar.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 10 Multi-Session Extravaganza

Well, it’s been awhile, but there are reasons for that. Over three weeks ago, I wasn’t able to attend D&D Encounters due to quite a bit of work on my plate. Two weeks ago, I was able to attend, but it was as a DM (that’s Dungeon Master for you new kids,) not as a player, for reasons I’ll get into in the following paragraph. Anyways, after that play session, the next day, I went to Connecticon for the first time ever, judging / DM-ing tables of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set adventure, the Lost Mine of Phandelver. I’m going to write a separate blog post on my Connecticon experience, so I’ll leave that alone for a bit. This past Wednesday, it was more DM-ing Dead in Thay for Encounters, so let’s catch up on that.

First, why the change from player to judge? Well, we have more than enough players to run two tables for Encounters. Our second DM had to drop due to school engagements, so I took over the second table, and with that came the end of the adventuring career of my Elven Mage. It was sad, and I blame sfdebris for sticking this song in my head when it comes to things coming to an end.

FYI, sfdebris does science fiction reviews, mostly Star Trek stuff, but he’s branched out to other stuff like anime and non-Star Trek related science fiction. Very amusing videos, and for the record, I’m a fan of his and nothing more.

Hence, the sad, yet fond retirement of the Elven Mage Gavan. I mentioned that the player characters have access to the Seclusion Crypt, more or less an extradimensional space where time passes differently. The only pop culture reference I can think of that even resembles what the Seclusion Crypt is, is the Hyperbolic Time Chamber from Dragonball Z.

Anyways, the way I like to imagine it, Gavan discovers a peaceful community living in the Seclusion Crypt, discovers the woman of his dreams, has kids, and decides to leave the Doomvault business to everyone else and enjoy retirement raising his family.

Hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

So two weeks ago, in Dead in Thay, we were still, inexplicably, in the Ooze Grottos. Third session there…I’m not sure what happened the week I wasn’t there, but apparently not much in the way of progress was to be had. The PC’s I had at my table included:

So in this extremely battle-heavy adventure, our heroes…immediately get into battle with a red wizard, two dread warriors, and a classic D&D monster, a gelatinous cube. They end up saving the lives of some Thayan warriors, forced into battle by their masters, with the gelatinous cube. In one of the more hilarious moments of the night, Raven successfully pickpockets the left-out-to-dry Thayan warriors. It’s not like they had any wealth on them to steal. The only other thing of note is that they end up in another battle with a red wizard named Sarkalla. The adventure describes this red wizard as “quite mad,” and thanks to some strong deception by Raven, they manage to convince the red mage that they will become servants of the Ooze Master. Naturally, the PC’s are lying like crazy and take her down in a surprise round. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

Fast forward to last week, and having finally completed the Ooze Grottos, our heroes move on to a section of the Doomvault known as the Masters’ Domain. The PC’s at my table this week include:

  • Crassus Gaius, a Human Fighter
  • Livulcan, a…a…actually, I’m not sure. This person used to be known as Joefornow, and that player was a rogue. However, I seem to recall Livulcan casting Burning Hands at least once. Maybe he’s a rogue that multiclassed into mage? Or changed characters? I need to remember to ask him when I get a chance. Also, I probably got his name wrong. To be fair to me, oftentimes running a game at my FLGS is like being at a bar at peak hours. It’s loud, and difficult to have a conversation.
  • Maven, a Mage of an unknown race (I totally didn’t write this down), and newcomer to the party
  • Moonbow, a Monk Rogue, previously known as Goodnight
  • Sam, a Human multiclasser (Level 1 Fighter, Level 6 Cleric)
  • Selwyn, an Elven Ranger; unsure if he’s a Wood elf or High elf

So I ran my group through one of the zones of the Masters’ Domain, the Halls of Necromancy, which consist of two rooms. In the first room, they managed to save the life and soul (quite literally) of the long lost, but now found, Kelson Darktreader, an NPC friend from the Scourge of the Sword Coast adventure, which ran previous to this dungeon delve. Instead of “wasting” healing magic on him, the PC’s dragged his unconscious body back to the gatehouse and threw him into the Seclusion Crypt. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen! Also, in this room were ivory urns “set with gold, silver, and precious gems,” which the party gleefully took. It’s interesting, because no one has been able to discern anything special about them…

The second room they invaded was more or less a battle of attrition with Red Wizards and Thayan apprentices. Yep, battle-heavy adventure. But at least they did save Kelson’s life, and I’m curious to see how they’ll do in the Halls of Obedience this coming Wednesday. They should be able to finish up the Masters’ Domain and move closer to the endgame by the end of the month. In theory, at least.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 9

So last night’s D&D Encounters session was madness! Okay, I’m exaggerating. It was, in fact, interesting, though incredibly slow paced. Unfortunately, our second DM had to bow out due to work issues, and the person who wanted to take his place had never DM’d before. Never. Not once. Ever.

Unfortunately, Dead in Thay is probably not the best adventure for a rookie DM to start off on, unless he / she happens to be particularly gifted in multiple areas, such as improvisation, terrific memory, organization, etc.

Anyways, we had people show up late again, so it was interesting to see our party start from three and balloon to ten over the course of a couple of hours. We had one GM throughout the night, where our regular started things off, then he tagged in the newbie GM to give him a shot. I’ll just list everyone at once. The big damn heroes of the week include:

So we start off in the Ooze Grottos. Interestingly enough, the area we teleport into is literally called ‘Entry Point.’ I guess the Red Wizards got tired of trying to think of creative names for their ‘Doomvault.’ Anyways, the first room we teleport into has a single wight and three ooze-like monsters that we later discover to be Ochre Jellies. We basically went in guns blazing, deciding that our previous attempts at subterfuge weren’t worth the effort. Then again, we only had two clerics and a mage at the time, so we may as well go for it.

We made short work of these monsters, discovering very early that these jelly monsters split into smaller monsters when damaged by slashing weapons like swords. These smaller monsters, while possessing less health, had the same attack strength, so we stuck to blunt and piercing weaponry, along with magic.

The second room we explored was basically a temple, with pews, an altar, the whole nine yards.. Arranged across the pews were skeletons, and three wights were pouring a slimy substance on these benches, creating ochre jellies! Taking out the wights became our top priority in the ensuing battle, before we took out the created ochre jellies.

Both rooms we conquered yielded nothing in terms of clues or treasure. Our gaming session basically ended here. We discussed re-organizing encounters; when it began we had agreed to meet at 6:00, but tardiness due to real-life issues had crept into all our lives.

For next week, we’ve agreed to have two groups: one will begin at 6:30, and the other will begin at 7:00. I’ve also agreed to step in and GM, and will thus be helming the 7:00 time slot, so that should be interesting. I guess Gavan is retired for the moment…

As for our rookie GM, I didn’t think of it last night, but he’s still interested in DM-ing, so I’m thinking the best way for him to get his feet wet is to buy the D&D Starter Set that comes out next week, try to organize a group of people to get together, and DM the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure in the box. Alternatively, this guy is also a rather hardcore player of Warhammer 40k. His ginormous chest of Warhammer figures is impressive. Maybe he’d be more at home running RPG’s based on that intellectual property. Fantasy Flight Games puts out quite a number of products in that regard: Black Crusade, Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, Rogue Trader. There’s even a Fantasy RPG version of Warhammer: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. There are options; he just needs to put in the time to prepare and figure out how he’d like to proceed as a GM.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 8

So last weeks adventure in the Doomvault was interesting, as always. We started out with one group, but eventually split into two groups as people started piling into the game store. I suppose that’s one of the cons of a casual play program; it’s okay to show up late. So the initial group of Crassus (Fighter), Gavan (Mage), Raven Evergreen (Rogue), Sam (Cleric / Fighter), Tassidar (Fighter), and Waxon (Cleric) elect to explore the ‘Far Realm Cysts’ of the Doomvault.

We we teleport into an area called the ‘Lake of Madness.’ Yes, there’s a lake before us, as well as orbs of water floating around the it. We notice that there are ripples in the middle of the lake, slowly disappearing, so we know something recently submerged as we teleported in. Crystal, having fishing gear, courageously elects to toss her line in there. That does not turn out well, as an Aboleth emerges and mentally takes control of Tassidar to attack us. I honestly don’t recall how the battle went, but I believe either Crassus or Sam was poisoned by the creature. We parley, and for a glyph key (which we give him), he lets us know that to keep Crassus (I’ll just assume it was him) alive, we need to keep him hydrated, and a remove curse or lesser restoration spell can cure him. I think Waxon cures him.

At this point, we divide into two groups. Group one consists of:

Group two consists of:

So Gavan’s group teleports into the same area and we go south in a cavernous area filled with six wights and one dread warrior. However, all these creatures appear to not be paying attention to us. In fact, they’re completely out of it. That doesn’t meant things go well for us. As soon as we enter the cave, we’re asked to make wisdom saving throws. Everyone fails except for Szenden and Waxon. Everyone else succumbs to some strange force and enters the cave acting…out of it. It doesn’t take a degree in quantum physics to realize that this cave is magically trapped.

In initiative order, every turn we attempt wisdom saves, and slowly but surely retreat from the cave. Sadly, Gavan cannot cast dispel magic (he’s out of high level spell slots) to remove the trap, so a tactical retreat seemed to be are best course of action, for the moment.

Thankfully, there’s another cavernous area to explore east of the lake. In that area, there are holes, a glyph on the wall that allows us to communicate with our red wizard sponsor Serana, two zombie ogres and eight regular zombies. With no traps to keep us down, we make rather short work of these enemies and contact Serana for guidance. Naturally, she gives very little if any, but our Calishite friend Hadar (whom I mistakenly always call ‘Hodor’) emerges from the shadows, saying that it looks like we can use a hand, and gives us a scroll of thunderwave. We ask if he’s seen Kelsin, but he has not. Then he disappears in Batman fashion.

We then head south down a flight of stairs to an area called the “Warren of Eyes.’ There are hundreds of unblinking eyes staring from the greenish slime-covered walls and stones. Rather quickly, a beholder named Thaxileeya emerges, and he has a broken glyph key. We also notice that some of its eye stalks are damaged, probably from red wizard experiments. We test his key out, and confirms its ineffectiveness. Somehow, since the beholder hates the red wizards, we manage to use that ‘common enemy’ mindset to our advantage and it gives us free passage through his area, in exchange for…for…crap, I didn’t write it down. I must have been distracted at that moment, as I usually write all this stuff down. If memory serves me correctly, either we freed it or promised to eventually free it when we’re able.

In any event the play session ended there. As for the other group, while I don’t have all the details, apparently, our bard Coronna died…

Then somehow came back to life!

In the meantime, I have a theory going on; when we got trapped in Thay, we found Shalendra rather quickly, but have been rather unlucky in finding Kelsin. My theory is that we have X number of sessions to find him, and if we don’t something bad will happen to him. In other words, I am very worried we’ll discover his animated corpse, or his living, experimented-on body.

Finally, I don’t remember if I ever posted a map of the Doomvault. Here we go:

Doomvault_Map-Dead_in_ThayEDIT: Ooops! Forgot to mention an interesting and amusing development that slipped my mind earlier. So our group returned to the Forests of Slaughter to find that pool that restored health. Tassidar immediately drank its waters…and found his total hit points cut in half! Gavan’s diagnosis was that his body was basically overloaded with the strange magic found in these waters. Despite the multiple sessions we’ve played, it’s probably been at most a week (and probably far less) of time that has passed for our characters, so the waters magic was still strong in his body. I can’t confirm this, but I have a theory that remove curse might remove this condition…

I also forgot to mention that Gavan elected to use the Seclusion Crypt again. I really had to, since Gavan was completely out of magic, and since there’s no opportunity to rest…it’s either this, or run around with no magic to contribute to the group. Since it’s the second time he’s used it, his total hit points are now reduced by 5 (42 to 37.) Our Dungeon Master confirmed that a remove curse spell will get rid of this condition, which is why I think that same spell might be able to help Tassidar. The only issue is that it’ll take up one of my 3rd level spell slots, and I only have three of those to begin with.

D&D Encounters, Dead in Thay, part 7

So this past Wednesday’s D&D Encounters session was insane, in that we had four new players and zero pre-generated characters. And while character creation is not terribly complicated, that is not entirely true the higher the level of your character. Create a first-level character? Probably can do so between 10-20 minutes, depending on if you’re a newbie, how fast you write, how fast you make your decisions, etc. Create a seventh-level character, with many more options to choose from, and the amount of time it takes to create a character multiplies exponentially. Add to that the fact that there was only one hard copy of the rules available, and creating the four new characters was taking quite awhile. I hope the seemingly in-depth character creation didn’t turn people off to the game itself.

Speaking of the game itself, since one of the dungeon masters was away at Origins, we ended up having one huge group with one guy to run the game. So predictably, combat was as slow as a turtle (not the teenage mutant ninja variety), and with people talking over one another like at most bars and taverns in the world during peak hours, I hope the new players weren’t turned off by the experience. I did make an effort at the end to explain that we normally split into two groups, so it normally isn’t this much of a slog.

I also found it interesting that some people did have the playtest rules on their tablets, but it was honestly easier to look up the rules on a hard copy, and to find what you wanted much more quickly. Despite the dominance of digital over the printed word, there are still moments when a hard copy is superior. This was one of those times.

But I digress…

Our big damn heroes for this week, together once again, include:

  • Anya, an Elven Mage; unsure if she’s a Wood Elf or High Elf
  • Coronna Tumblebelly, a Gnome Bard
  • Crystal Evergreen, a Human Cleric
  • Crassus Gaius – A Human Fighter
  • Emrose, a Half-Elf Cleric, and newcomer to the party
  • Gavan, an Elven Mage of the High Elf variety
  • Genju, a Human Monk and newcomer to the party
  • Jarvan, a Human Barbarian and newcomer to the party
  • Rob, a Human Ranger and newcomer to the party. Also, apparently his name isn’t really Rob, but for this week, it is indeed Rob
  • Tassidar, a Half-Orc Fighter, specializing in being seven-feet tall, and three-hundred pounds

So we had some unfinished business in the Blood Pens to take care of. One of the groups last week peeked through a door that led into, according to our map, the ‘Dark Gardens’ with a young black dragon, as well as one wight, two dread warriors, and eight zombies wearing robes, all commanded by a red wizard. This week, we returned to cause some ruckus.

And ruckus, we caused, as after strategizing, we basically charged in. We allowed our bard to sing us a song that buffed our stats, which tipped them off that there was noise coming from the door. Perhaps our strategy wasn’t as sound as we had thought?

In any event, we were told way back when we first came to Thay that the Dread Warriors, if they weren’t defeated in the first round of combat, would be able to communicate telepathically with the Lich leader whose name evades me at the moment…wait, Szass Tam? So we made them the priority, relying on long range attacks and spells to wipe them out. The red wizard instantly surrendered, and after some parley, we agreed to let him live for loot and information. Among our newest acquisitions are: 2 glyph keys, a gold circlet set with rubies, a gold cup, a potion of healing, a scroll of fly (this spell will probably go into Gavan’s spellbook), oil of etherealness (basically rub it against yourself and become incorporeal & invisible for 1 hour; could be very useful), a potion of poison, a diamond, and 100 platinum pieces (worth 500 gold in D&D terms.)

So the red mage (whose name is Thuria) tells us that a demilich slumbers beneath the Doomvault, and that in the Far Realm Cysts (an area of the Doomvault we haven’t explored yet), the creatures there guard a powerful shrine…perhaps the phylactery vault we seek is there?

In any event, our short venture ends here. Gavan did suffer quite a bit of damage in the battle (in D&D terms he went from 42 to 17 hit points,) but He only cast one spell, so I’m not sure it’s worth it for him to rest in the Seclusion Crypt. Perhaps one of the Clerics can heal him before we begin exploring next time? Or he could probably down a healing potion.