D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 4
This week saw us joined by a pair of new players that had approached the store looking for a game, turns out they went to school with one of our players (my daughter Tilly) – small world. We continue with the D&DNext playtest rules, this weeks party consisting of:-
- Tilly – Elf Ranger
- Jodie – Elf Rogue
- Shane – Human Rogue
- Vipin – Half-orc Rogue
- Glenn – Half-orc Fighter
- Chris – Human Cleric
All but Vipin and Glenn are using levelled up pregens.
Following Imani (Morgan Freeman’s) instructions the heroes made a diversion on their way to Peldan’s Helm, in an attempt to intercept Phoedele and retrieve the staff. They arrive at the ruins of Sandersal Manor as night begins to fall and choose to investigate the building.
The cleric and fighter took a dislike to the door to library and repeatedly tried to charge it open, their failed attempts causing the cleric to become battered and bloodied. While this went on the elves turned west and investigated the once luxorious dining room. Its long blackwood table still intact even if most of the chairs were not. They were more than a little concerned though when the curtain against the west wall began moving and they heard a low moaning coming from behind it. Neither wanted to approach it, when the half-orc rogue came to look he shot it with his crossbow. The curtain stopped moving but the moaning continued. Thinking it was a ghost or something they called the cleric over. As he barrelled across the hallway he failed to notice a concealed pit into which he abruptly fell, managing to twist slightly and avoid the worst of the sharp spikes waiting below. The half-orc rogue lowered his rope and helped the cleric out (for the price of a gold piece), and with a quick prayer of healing to mend his mounting wounds he moved to investigate the source of their concern. He punched the curtain, and the sound of breaking glass was heard. Annoyed at this the cleric swung his mace, pulling the curtain down and revealing the broken window behind with the wind moaning through the many broken pieces.
Moving as a group they entered what looked to be a kitchen, complete with large open-faced cooking pit/oven. More wary now, they also discovered a concealed trap door set with a large iron pull-ring. The cleric pulled it up and open without any precautions, revealing a deep, dark storage hole that seemed to have some sort of moist surface part way down. Before the others could stop him he jumped in….becoming engulfed by the gelatinous cube that become stuck there some time ago. He began to call for help, until he realised that opening his mouth let the jelly mass ooze into his open mouth. His companions tied a rope to a bolt and fired it into the mass, allowing him to grab it and be pulled free with a disgusting sucking plop. They quickly closed the pit once more as the cleric cleaned himself up.
The elf rogue in the meantime had stepped outside to investigate the courtyard, but after noticing shadowy movement in the carriage house across the way she quickly returned to her companions and told them. The cleric and the two half-orcs quickly crossed the courtyard and opened the doors.
Both the cleric and half-orc rogue were still wearing their Zhentarim disguises from last session, so they talked to Barcero, bluffing that Phoedele had sent them ahead to say she’d be a couple of days late to meet him. They tried to enlist his help with the library door but he said the ruins were not his concern and they left him to it. Meanwhile the elves had discovered a half buried iron coffer in the ruined tower section. The ranger tried to pick the lock with an improvised tool, breaking it off in the lock, so the rogue used her tools to knock the hinge-pins out allowing the lid to be pried off. Inside they found a silver necklace and a silver-agate ring. The ranger took the necklace and put it on, the rogue did the same with the ring (which turned out to be a ring of protection), when the cleric returned he looked at the rangers necklace and said it was a cursed item that would eventually strangle its wearer. The ranger was understandably worried and tried to remove the necklace, which came off with ease and she put it in her pack. The half-orc rogue promptly stole it as he walked calmly past her, unnoticed.
That was when they heard approaching hoofbeats. Looking out of what was left of a window they saw a rider leading another pair of horses approaching the courtyard, as it neared the cleric and rogue recognised it as the Zhentarim mage that had escaped them (previous session) and the cleric ran out to intercept him, the rest of the party close behind. The cleric attempted to command the mage to grovel but the magical compulsion failed. The half-orc fighter took a more direct approach and swung his glaive into the horses legs, causing the animal to tip forward as it came to abrupt halt. Unfortunately the mage did not, and was thrown ahead and to the ground. As the party moved to surround him he managed to regain his feet and loose a barrage of magical bolts into the fighter. The cleric called forth a zone of silence in an effort to hinder the mage’s spells as the ranger and rogue unleashed missiles at him.
Moving out of the silence and towards the carriage house the mage called out to Barcero and his men but they simply stood watching the unfolding drama impassively. The mage conjured a cloud of roiling noxious fumes but the fighter and his wicked glaive simply maneuvoured around it and continued to pummel the Zhent.
As the party moved in for the finish, the mage ran to Barcero, dropping to his knees before the merchant and spilling the beans about Phoedele having already left with the staff and his prior meeting with the heroes. Barcero’s only answer was to look to his Dread Protectors who stepped forward in unison and swept their greataxes down on either side of his neck. As the mage’s head, neck, and most of his spine fell seperate from his still kneeling body the heroes thought Barcero might turn his attention to them but he simply straightened his robe and addressed them.
As Phoedele had chosen to renege on their deal he asked the party if they would be willing to retrieve the staff from her for him, offering 500 gold pieces for the task. The heroes accepted, still unsure of their fate. Barcero offered the information that Phoedele would most likely be making for Peldan’s Helm near Mistledale having overheard him say that may be the site of the Vault of Song. He would meet the heroes there shortly, having other matters to attend to (at which he stared at the corpse of the Zhentarim mage).
The heroes took their leave, as well as the two undamaged Zhentarim horses and prepared to travel onwards.
Following advice from one of the DM forums and knowing my players ould want to explore the ruins more fully than just the tactical map I expanded the information (see notes on the linked map). The incident with the dining room curtain kept them involved for a good 15 minutes and their faces once the truth was revealed were brilliant.
I decided to bring the escaped mage into play as I thought it would make sense that he would have tried to return to his employer, and their reaction to him was pure gold.
Continuing with the Next playtest rules continues to be a liberating factor as a DM though the players still miss the ability for anyone to perform a move and a charge along with any advantage for flanking opponents but maybe these will appear in a future “tactical” module of the ruleset.
The minimal combat combined with roleplaying interaction and exploration made for a nice change from the “fight-a-week” format and the players really got into it. More like this please.