D&D Encounters Season 14 – Search for the Diamond Staff – Session 8 part 2
So our heroes were to pick up where we left off last week, with the arrival of the Cultists and the offers of allegiance. Arriving at the store and setting up I told the players we’d have the initiative continue and each pc would make their choice on their action. Unfortunately Tilly had taken ill just before setting out but as he’d died last week Vipin was happy to run her Ranger in her absence. As for the rest of the season we were playing using the D&DNext playtest rules (the July packet).
- Liam – Dwarf Paladin
- David – Human Wizard
- Vipin – Elf Ranger
- Shane – Elf Wizard
- Jodie – Halfling Ranger
As the Cult Veterans began to move to the middle tier, Phoedele withdrew to the far side of the pool and the paladin advanced to heal his wizard friend and defend him from the all too near cultists calling out in Dwarven “We side with the Zhent’s, no-one wants undead dragons around” to his comrades.
The halfling sprinted to the far side of the room as the Zhent soldiers moved to intercept the Veterans. The elf wizard decided to launch himself from the top tier onto a cultist below, knocking them both to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. The newly healed wizard recovered enough to use Thunderwave at the cultists, forcing them away, they seemed content enough to stay there as their leader continued chanting – the human and elf wizard tried to work out what he was doing, the elf believing he was ordering a takeaway meal, but the human mage thought he was performing some form of summoning.
The trio of veterans made short work of the already heavily injured Zhentarim soldiers as well as smashing the elf wizard into unconsciousness at the cost of one of their number. The remaining pair headed to the stairs to the bottom floor to be intercepted by Phoedele wielding the Diamond Staff as her own mage continued to pelt them with magic missiles.
The ranger strode across the floor before hurling a silence spell at the Cult leader, putting a dampener on his summoning attempt as the wizard released another thunderwave, taking a fair few of the grey-robed cultists down before lowering himself gingerly to the middle tier. The paladin stalked forward swinging his warhammer into the cultists slightly disappointed to not hear the crunch and squelch of his mighty blows.
The Cult leader moved out of the silenced area hoping to complete his summoning, unfortunately for him the halfling chose this moment to strike with her devastating hand crossbow and with a cry of “Dretchroyaster!” on his lips he fell lifeless to the floor. The remaining cultist attacked the paladin in a frenzy but only managed a minor blow before the sturdy dwarf put him down permanently. The elf wizard felt healing energy wash over him from the suspended crystals, just enough to bring him to consciousness and he got to his feet as the human wizard lowered himself once again to the bottom floor and moved to exam the crystals. As the last cultist fell, Phoedele gave a slight nod to her remaining troops and they turned on the heroes.
The nearest soldier struck the human wizard and he shouted at Phoedele “I thought we had a deal?” to which she smiled sweetly and replied “I lied”.
The remaining pair of Zhentarim soldiers, Mage and Phoedele unfortunately didn’t manage to put up much more of a fight and within minutes only the heroes remained standing. The paladin retrieved the Diamond Staff and after binding their wounds and going through their fallen foes pockets, led the party back above ground and back to Imani who after listening to their recount gave them their reward and declared that he believed the staff to powerful to be left free so would arrange to have it securely hidden away.
Continuing with suggestions from the DM forums I had planned on the Cult Leader summoning a simulacrum of Dretchroyaster (the Dracolich from the games day adventure that started the season off) but what I had planned was that after completing 2 full un-interrupted rounds he would sacrifice his lesser followers to do so. As his summoning completed they would explode in a bloody mess as their bones fused together to form the simulacrum – starting with 8 cultists I had also worked on reducing its total hp and downgrading its available damage depending on how many cultists had survived to be sacrificed. As it turned out I didn’t get to do so – oh well.
Due to the extended nature of the encounter as well I had declared that spellcaster could spend an action adjacent to a crystal to recover 1 spent spell and that the elves in the party would know this on a moderate Intelligence check, after they passed they told their companions this and the human wizard made use.
A great session which could definitely have gone either way (especially if the simulacrum had arrived), I think splitting it across the 2 weeks was the right move as both sessions took our 2 hour slots.
The players all agreed they had enjoyed the season and the playtest rules, out of the group only Vipin had no previous experience of D&D at all, with Liam and David having played 3 and 4e, and Shane and Jodie a little 3e some time ago. They all liked the very open and adaptable system and the ability to try ridiculously heroic maneouvers.
If I had one criticism from the DM’s perspective it would be the slight errors in monster information (Zhent Mages given spells that no longer appeared in the playtest packets) and lack of overview maps in the areas of multiple locations – however, the great community of fellow DM/players on the forums were able to come up with solutions to these minor quibbles.
Everyone has been busy this week coming up with their characters for the upcoming “Murder in Baldur’s Gate” launch adventure – as normal my players prefer to create their pc’s in advance, saving table time for actual play – and once again we shall be playing the event and following season with the latest playtest packet for D&DNext.
My thanks to my players, whether they played the whole season of just one or two sessions, as I’ve said before, without them I’d simply be the saddo in the corner reading the adventure booklet. I would also like to thank all the community members on the forum for their insights and great ideas, special mention to @ameron_dm and @TwentyFoot for their brilliant “Recounting Encounters” podcasts which have also been a source of great ideas – looking forward to what they come up with for next season.
And of course a big thank you to Richard Baker for writing a great adventure for us to enjoy.