Special Note to my Encounters Players: As I mentioned after the game, If you want to continue playing DnD with me after this season of encounters ends, email or let me know. I have seats available in my house game on Friday nights. I would make room for all of you! teambarnes yada yada@ gmail yada yada.com
We are 3 weeks away from the end of our journey through Dark Sun. Week 12 was also the final week of Encounters Season 1, so after tonights encounter we are in virgin territory. It is amazing to think how far weve come. From the sole survivors of a ruined caravan, chased across the desert by a malevolent storm, into the jaws of a mountain tomb. and crawling through muddy tunnels, the party finds themselves on the wrong side of the mountains captured by Halfling cannibals of all things. Their escape from these tribal head hunters is where we begin tonights encounter.
For some reason I was very leery of how tonights battle would play out, to the extent that I seriously considered dumping the encounter for something more appropriate. In the end, I trusted to the adventure as written (with one minor change) and I am glad I did. The encounter was balanced and fun. In a later article I may discuss my reservations, and the changes I ended up making, but for now, let us get on with the continuing story of our band of heroes surprising successes.
The characters had escaped the cooking pot last week, and after retrieving their gear, they were on the run from the organizing posse of jungle hobbits. The evenings encounter began with the party hunkered down and taking a five minute rest. It was during this rest that they realized all their survival rations and healing fruits had been separated out and were no longer with the rest of their gear. (It was in fact, set up on the Halflings dining table as a pot luck salad of fruit, kank honey, and even some hejkin jerkey.)
During this rest the minotaur was able to repair the weapon he recklessly broke last battle. With the aid of the sorceress Midget, a non cannibalistic Halfling (or so weve been told) Moo Pie repaired his weapon to functionality, though the spear head was a little loose and jiggedy, making the weapon -1 to hit and damage. The minotaur also noticed that the beautiful bronze bell he risked his life over last week had magical properties. It was hard for the minotaur to resist listening to the dulcimer tones of the bell, and even went so far as to deafen his fellow party members with the incessant gonging.
At some point in the future, Moo Pie the percussionist and Deathmetal Kissinger the rockin bard will have to jam together. This would, in fact have been the secret trick to defeating the Halfling village. By combining their talent, the party could form a Dark Sun Rock Band and playing such memorable tunes as When the Levee Breaks, Smoke on the Water, and finally a little bit of Stairway to Heavan, the Halflings who were not instantly slain by the discordance would become mindless slaves to the band. Such are the paths not taken by our adventurers, who instead chose the traditional route of chopping them into bits. Besides, Deathmetal is a soloist. His guitar (or Cittern or something) gets a lot of use, and In the coming battle he used a magical chord, an inspiring solo, and other musical tricks to bolster his companions and bring his foes low, or to at least make them cover their ears and run away.
The party realized after a few minutes of catching their breaths, that the Halflings would not give up the chase so easily. The heroes are not accustomed to the jungle – the air is thick and humid making it hard to breathe. Unusual sounds, sights, and smells accost their senses and make it difficult to maintain their equilibrium. Finally the land itself, with the soft soil, clumps of vegetation and stinging slapping branches all work together to cause them to lose ground over the furry footed forest dwellers.
The run from the Halflings was a skill challenge, where each person went around the table and chose a skill, and then described how that skill was used. We started with Phye (do) who used Intuition to try to determine what the Halfling would do and counter it. Phyes success led to the discovery that the Halflings were attempting to encircle them. Yuka was successful in his skill attempt, then Deathmetals attempt to bluff went south. Midget however, also used bluff to create a false trail and this led to a success. Navarra used her ghost sounds to steer the Halflings off course, and the panther growls seemed to work – until they were joined by large roars not from the wizard! Kindrock used his athletics to climb a tree and look around. His great athletics roll allowed him to climb to the very top branches of a tree, and granted him a +2 to his perception skill challenge check. The 2 he rolled on that check was described as the tree he chose to climb was only a few feet tall.
The minotaur used his athletics to plow ahead, breaking branches and forging a path for the rest to follow. Finally, we came back around to Phye. The challenge hinges on one more success and failure, and the ardent had the idea to carve intimidating signs on the trees to frighten their pursuers away. Sadly, his failing roll was described as how Phye got caught up in carving such a frightening skull on a tree trunk, that everyone gathered around to watch, offering tips like make the fangs dripping blood etc. Time passed and the Halflings were able to sneak up on them and loose a barrage of arrows and darts. This led to a loss of a healing surge for each of them and they were on the run again, this time with the cannibals hot on their heels.
They were running for their lives along the forested ridge when they noticed that the Halflings had stopped following. They also noticed that the forest, already weird to a group of desert dwellers, was taking on an even stranger aspect. Fingers of mist flowed through the foliage, and the strange calls of the forest creatures became echoing and distant. It felt as though they were treading over two grounds. They had stepped into the twilight zone.
They had also stumbled into a clearing full of dozens of tiny sharp toothed lizards. There was a big papa lizard at one end of the clearing, a mama lizard with a mesmerizing gaze at the other end. In the center of the clearing were hundreds of their offspring. The mama lizard kicked off the encounter with her gaze, and most of the party was dazed by those luminescent emerald eyes.
Kindrock especially spent the vast amount of time dazed. These are the results of choosing a character with an 8 intelligence. Even glowing lizard eyes are distracting. (ooh shiny) Well that and climbing short trees I guess. Kindrock was next to go after the mama, and dazing has little impact on a character with one exploit for any occasion: charge! And so he did. This did not sit well for 80 of the 120 lizard babies scampering about the clearing. They were grouped into 3 litters or clutches, and 2 of the 3 surrounded Kindrock, eager to tear the flesh from his bones in payment for charging their mum. But Kindrock is mighty, and though he was a tower of reptilian teeth and claws, he remained a standing tower throughout. A dazed, befuddled giant, sheathed in ferocious baby lizards who could whack his enemies for well over 20 points of damage with each attack. It was frightening to behold.
The third clutch of baby lizards moved into the midst of the party, and their gnashing fangs were able to hit just about everyone. These lizards even managed to get through the main lines to slash away at the soft underbelly of the party, the ladies of course. These wizardly women were sorely hurt by the lizards this battle, and had to sling their spells carefully without provoking attacks by the lizards. Eventually, Navarra was able to silence that litter with her magic missile, but not before they had caused major damage to the heroes, and especially to Yukas feet, where they were based.
Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Yuka and the Minotaur were contending with the papa lizard, who had little strategy but charging and raking his foes with his massive claws. He bit and tore at Yuka, who pushed him back to the tree line with his furious assault. The fighter continued his string of victory this battle as he dealt with the papa lizard. The minotaur stayed back helping the wizard women with their lizard hazard. Phye decided she would help Yuka with the papa. In a fantastic bit of strategy, he boldly charged right past the lizard hatchlings and the papa lizard to end his mad dash flanking the papa. Now, as any reasonable person knows, these lizards would get an opportunity attack on him as he went past. However, this also let Yuka make an attack against each of them as a free action, so that one run caused a cascading of back and forth attacks. Yuka was swinging his mordenkrad (or whatever it is) many times per second this battle to keep up with all the attacks he got due to his fighteriness.
Both Yuka and kindrock are great examples of how effective fighters can be. I am not sure how different the builds are, but I can see a difference in the the way they play out. Yuka is about positioning, while Kindrock can bring major hurt. I often confuse Kindrock with a barbarian which I think comes from the damage rolls I am constantly hearing from him. Below 20 points is a rarity for Kindrock, while Yuka will may do in the teens or even single digits, over and over and over.
The whole battle was punctuated by the chords, riffs, and long drawn out wailing of the bards electric guitar (it really needs to do lightning damage) as he bolstered his allies by playing their favorite tunes, or staggered his enemies with insightful melodies into their very souls.
The last surprise of the encounter caught Phye after her crazy battle march. With her back to the forest, she was ripe for the fey panther (remember that roar?) lurking around the clearing, waiting for a chance to pick off a weakened or cut off party member. The panther got Phye in its jaws but before it could drag Phye into the woods, Phye was able to switch places with Yuka, Suddenly Yuka was in the things jaws, and when the panther tried to drag him away, it was like unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Only the ringing clanging gonging of the Minotaurs prized shiny bell was able to shake that mess loose (deafening everyone) and so the battle ended, not with a whimper, but with a clang.