D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 1

The Dalelands have long been known as a birthplace for heroes, and Imani the Sage hoped it still held true. Having recently funded several groups of hardy adventurers in a combined raid of the lair of the dracolich, Dretchroyaster, in an attempt to recover the Staff of Chomylla. Ultimately a succesful venture, as he now possessed the staff.

With several of the heroes staying on in Hap being joined by newly arrived ones, Imani summoned them to a meeting. He told them that the Staff as the key to opening the Vault of Song in ancient Uvaeren. He proposed the heroes to accompany him as guardians on the journey. After a little haggling over treasure shares an agreement was reached and Imani told them that they would leave an hour after sunrise.

The heroes headed straight for the pub. and as evening descended their revelries were interrupted by an alarm bell and the blacksmith bursting in announcing that the village was under attack by orcs and wolves. Rushing out, the heroes intercepted a group of invaders. The halfling barbarian charged forward and engaged the nearest orc, and was quickly surrounded by orcs and wolves. The dwarf paladin moved to assist his over-eager companion as the pair of elven rangers and halfling rogues used their bows to good effect. The paladin also recognised these orcs as members of the Fangfist Marauders, an orc tribe known to operate as mercenaries for those willing to hire such creatures.

The fight was brutal but short as once the majority of their foes were downed the others fled back into the deepening night. A quick search of the bodies revealed that they had several coins with a strange emblem. Further examination revealed it to be Darkhold, the Zhentarim stronghold bordering Cormyr.

Before the heroes could celebrate their “victory” they could hear the sounds of ringing steel and shouts of anger coming from Imani’s tower, obviously there are more orcs in need of being dealt with.

Following on from the last few seasons we decided to drop down to a single table/group for this season as numbers had been dropping, and typically we ended up with 7 players (with the possibility of 4 more from next week). Having ran the Vault of the Dracolich games day event we had decided to continue this season using the DnDNext playtest rules, and 4 of the players brought their games day characters with them. Despite having retrieved the staff they hadn’t really found any other treasure and so I had Imani gift them a common item each (+1 weapon or armour of their choice), of the other 3 players 2 were from our existing encounters group but hadn’t attended game day and the final player was totally new to D&D, they each chose one of the pregens I had brought with me.

From my previous playtest games with my online test group I knew that combat was quicker than 4e but with them having no interest in exploring the village of Hap (they knew they were leaving next morning) and the fight being briefer than they expected, the session took only an hour. I think from next week onwards I shall definitely use some of the suggested “fleshing out” notes from the conversion document, as well as possible a few bits of my own as appropriate.

Despite DMing for 30 years this was only my second session at the helm using DnDNext, but I’m happy to say apart from a few teething problems it certainly seems to be going well and the players are beginning to adapt too. The use of the Encounters maps helped those used to 4e to relate to positioning in combat, though the small differences caused a few moments of “What the hell?” (charge only being a Fighters feat, and short rests taking an hour being the main ones) I expect we shall see some form of tactical combat options at a later date as the players currently have no advantage for flanking while this week the wolves in particular had bonuses from having allies adjacent.

While on the subject of enemies, I missed the orcs Savage Demise ability from 4e. The relentless trait just reads wrong to me, they are unconscious at  0 hp rather than dead? Fine for the players or major npc’s (good and bad) but for the brutal savagery of the orcs, I don’t think so. Monster hp is also a concern, as most of my orcs and wolves lasted 2 hits at most (a couple were even 1-shotted by  sneak attacking halfling snipers with their pesky crossbows), I think I may raise their hp within their hit dice listed but certainly higher than the hp given.

One other thing I have noticed, reading ahead, is that several future enemies have Expeditious Retreat listed in their spell lists but this spell no longer exists in the spell list documents, so a little tweaking will be required.

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