D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 8

Diamond-Staff001This week had several people scratching their heads on the forums, according to the adventure packs it was the season finale, however according to the WPN and sanctioning/reporting software there was still a week to go. Having read through the planned encounter I decided that rather than rush through it there looked to be a natural cliffhanger point where I could split it over the two weeks (none of my players are jetting off to GenCon so no-one would be missing out).  As per the rest of the season, we continue with the DnDNext playtest rules released in July (we’ll change to the latest packet for the Launch Weekend and upcoming Baldur’s Gate season). This week saw a full table and our party was:-

  • Tilly – Elf Ranger
  • Jodie – Halfling Rogue
  • Shane – Elf Wizard
  • Vipin – Half-orc Rogue
  • Liam – Dwarf Paladin
  • David – Human Wizard

With Vipin’s rogue having sent the last Zhent soldier ahead to “inform Phoedele of our arrival” while wearing his glamoured Zhent Officer outfit. The heroes had taken the opportunity to heal up (short rest) and as they finally moved to the final chamber they could hear a female voice chanting.

The party attempted to sneak into the room unnoticed but only the ranger and halfling manage to do so (The dwarf paladin and human wizard described their failed attempts akin to Scooby and Shaggy being “stealthy”). The half-orc attempted to continue his ruse as a Zhent officer but Phoedele quickly saw through it and told them to go loot another tomb, this one was claimed.

The paladin charged at the edge of the top-tier in an attempt to dive shield first at the nearest Zhent soldier, but caught his foot on the edge of the parapet (rolling a 1) and so over-rotated, landing head first beside the now laughing Zhent (the human wizard held up a card saying 2.5).  The remaining heroes unloaded missile fire into the Zhents, or tried to, having low rolls. The human wizard had better luck with his Iceball blasting Phoedele and 3 soldiers (only Phoedele passed her save) and luckily realising that his blast hadn’t damaged the suspended crystals.

The parties joy was short-lived however as the previously invisible Zhent Mage cast Stinking Cloud, catching the human wizard, half-orc and prone dwarf in its effect, along with one of the soldiers. The half-orc failed his save taking a huge lungful of the noxious fumes.

The elf wizard sent darts of magical energy at Phoedele, the half-orc quaffed his potion of spider-climbing and scuttled out of the cloud and around the wall of the upper tier. The halfling shot at the nearest soldier and missed again while the ranger had better luck aiming for and hitting Phoedele. The paladin crawled free of the gas (describing it as Fred Flintstone-esque), hustling to get clear, while the human wizard unleashed another Iceball that bloodied Phoedele and the trio of soldiers near her.

The soldiers fired their crossbows at the heroes with mixed success, and the Mage sent his own jet-black magic missiles striking into the upstart elf wizard staggering him back against the wall. The halfling continued to misfire at the soldier and the ranger looked to the paladin as she said “This is how you do it” and gracefully leapt down to the bottom level (her ring of feather-falling slowing her descent), the moment her feet touched down she fired her bow once again at Phoedele. Wanting revenge on the Zhent Mage the elf wizard hurled his sleep spell at him only to watch it have no effect (the player had misread it affecting Hit Dice rather than Hit Points – oops).

Rather than shoot the nearer Mage, the wallclimbing half-orc fired his bow at Phoedele once again, but the bolt pinged off her armour. In response Phoedele strode across the lower floor and slammed the staff into the ranger as it glowed fiercely, knocking the elf into the central pool (Phoedele used 4 charges of the staff to raise the DC to 21 – but the ranger rolled a natural 20 and had +2 from her stat bonus – foiled again!). As the energy in the pool both hurt and energised her the ranger swam to the far side before climbing out and using her elven cloak to hide in the corner.

The Zhent Mage sent another stinking cloud to envelop the paladin, half-orc and human wizard. Only the paladin saved and the other two fell unconscious to the floor. Buoyed by this the soldiers fired their crossbows at the elf and halfling, luckily missing. Trusting to his stoicism the dwarf clambered up to his fallen comrades and grabbed the human mage’s feet, throwing/sliding him along the marble floor and out of the gas to relative safety (I let the player move the miniature and he slid it feet first, so we all agreed that this caused the unconscious mages robes to ride up – it’s the kind of group that finds such things highly amusing), ending his turn in the cloud the dwarves luck ran short and he failed his save against the fumes and became bloodied. His half-orc companion didn’t fare so well, and the poisonous fumes filled his lungs killing him (after 8 sessions of the playtest rules this was our first pc death – I must be losing my touch).

Both the remaining heroes and soldiers missile fire proved equally ineffective and as the round ended both groups turned as a third party entered. A large group of grey robed humans led by a purple robed leader.  “”Dretchroyaster’s minions, of course! What else could go wrong?” She looks to the party, her anger suddenly softened. “The dracolich wants his staff back, but I suspect you would like to avoid that as much as I do. These cultists will leave none of us alive. What do you say? Do we set aside our quarrel and cooperate to slay these dogs? Decide swiftly!”

“Our fight is only with those who hold the Diamond Staff,” the purple-robed human retorts. “Aid us against the Zhents, strangers, and you will earn our allegiance!”

The session closed with the remaining heroes weighing their options……

Photo’s from the session

As discussed on the DM forums I had decided to spread this encounter over the two weeks, seeing the cultists arrival as a natural cliffhanger point. I didn’t expect to have my first kill with Vipin’s rogue and offered the suggestion that if he wanted to have another character for the last week he could be disguised as one of the cultists, maybe help for the stricken heroes isnt too far away after all.

I was surprised by Phoedele’s lack of ranged offense to be honest but given her obsession with the staff and the strength of her attacks with it  its a reasonable trade-off.

I wont say what my plan of action is for next week, but I’m expecting some very shocked faces and possibly some more deaths – on all sides. The party havent told me which side, if any they’re allying with, so my plan is to have each player make that choice as we continue in initiative order next time.

As always, I’ll post up a write-up afterwards :)

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