Circumstances beyond my control (also known as ‘life’) have conspired to knock me off my pedestal of stability, and hence my Wednesday Encounters sessions were beginning to suffer. Having missed 2 weeks out of the last 3, and with worries that I would be forced to cancel further games as the relentless summer melted us all into pools of ourselves, I made a hard decision yesterday. This was to be the final week of Encounters for me. After 5 seasons of Encounters played at 2 different stores, the Evil DM was hanging up his Cat O Nine tails and unbuckling his belt of shackles.
Before I go into a brief recounting of the epic finale, I want to give thanks to everyone who showed enough interest to come to the local game store on a weekday night and throw dice for a couple hours. It is my great honor to have DM’ed for every one of the players who showed up at my table, numbering in the hundreds of unique players over 70+ weeks of gaming. I met a lot of great players during my run, and had the distinct pleasure of teaching dozens of people the basics of the game, and husbanding them through their initial foray into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. At some point I may write more eloquently on the subject of spreading D and D to the masses, but for right now I will just say that this is my own personal prime directive, and the Encounter program allowed me the chance to do that on a scale heretofore unimagined.
Special thanks go to that handful of players who showed up week after week, season after season, to submit themselves to my maniacal meanderings. It is to these hardcore few that I owe my run, long and fun as it was. At this point I should begin a list of names of those whose presence kept me coming back for so long, but I am notoriously bad with names, and have to choose between remembering their character names or their people names.
Finally, the biggest thanks of all need to go to the two game stores for which I DM’ed, Game Café in Independence, and The Basement Games in Zona Rosa. Without the time energy, and well, table space, of these fine establishments and the people who work in them, this project would never have even started. Everyone who plays and loves D and D owes a debt of gratitude to the small business owners who struggle to keep a point of gaming light open in a struggling market. I hope my efforts helped bring revenue to the stores who participated. I know I tried to make purchases at the stores I played at, when possible. (That permanent 34% off at Amazon is a hard discount to pass up.)There remains one entity worth thanking, and that is the company piloting the flagship Dungeons and Dragons game, Wizards of the Coast. The Encounters program was ingenious. The adventures were awesome. The rewards were inspiring, and the chance to be a part of something bigger, a world community of like minded gamers was like being in a real world guild of friends and fans of the game. Wizards of the Coast created something new and valuable with the Encounters program and my fondest wish is that it continues to expand and draw in crowds while delivering epic fun for all involved.
That is my wish. My goal of bringing Dungeons and Dragons to every living soul (and thus creating a world of peace, plenty, and hacking and slashing) is not dead, only sleeping while I deal with the slings and arrows of a world disinterested in the good things in life. I will be back.
Part 2 – The Splendid End in which the party is victorious against the darkness and shadow
(There may be spoilers about the rest of the season, so be prepared if that sort of thing matters to you, o gentle reader.)
After the sadness of breaking my players hearts by telling them this was the last week for us, I gave a quick run-down of events that lead them to the manor house of Vontarin on the outskirts of town. The weird sky of the Shadowfell hung overhead as they approached the house, and they knew their quarry was inside. They merely had to get to him.
The house was large, stone and imposing. There were no windows on the first floor, and only a few narrow windows above. The only entrance was a heavy oaken door with iron fittings. Now, anyone following along for any length of time will know that the heroes of this and the last adventure have a hrd time with walls, and climbing in general, and have learned from the bruises and blood loss to climb only as a last result. This meant Merrick the halfling thief had to curb his natural desire to climb intot he upper story window and instead content himself with picking the lock. He rolled a natural one, resulting in a puff of orange dust in the thief’s face. No it wasn’t poison, the rusting tumblers collapsing into a fused mess, the lock was unpickable.
Next up the minotaur, who has opened countless doors before, tried his standard method of charging the door, but dare I say, he toorolled a natural one. This was no ordinary door! The minotaur lost his footing and hit the door wrong, bruising his shoulder and causing him to sit down for a moment to recover. The mighty door remained locked.
Kaleth mentioned that this might spell the end, and they should perhaps give up and go home. Merrick eyed the windows above, but Thorn held him back. He found a long piece of masonry to use as a battering ram and I know it is unbelieavable, but he too rolled a natural 1 on his athletics check (three in a row!) and the masonry became lodged in the door. Now they truly were thwarted by this legendary door.
As the invoker started backing away towards home, and the thief started eyeing the window ledge above, Torrin the dragonborne calmed everyone down and said he had a plan. With a huff and a puff and a prodigious blast of dragon fire, he blew the door down. Thank Bahamut he didn’t roll a 1 on that attack door! He was attacking the broad side of a barn, that is true, but I was not pulling any punches with the critical failures. He blew a dragonborne sized hole in the door, the edges still smoldering, and heard the spectral yelp of another two headed dusk beast, whose fur was singed by the fiery blast.
A battle began in the little 10 ft square foyer of the mansion as the party squeezed into the chamber to get a hit on the devil dog, who quickly expired under the attentions. And then as it burst into quickly dissipating smoke, they discovered it.
Another locked door.
The paladin could hear the soft growling of more dusk beasts on the other side, but the run of bad rolling ws (mostly) over and some one, I forget who, but probably the minotaur Jack, burst the doors asunder without further ado. So began phase two of the battle, beating on a trio of double-headed dusk beasts, while getting shot at from behind a curtain, and ensorcelled from a balcony above.
In this battle, I loosened the reins and let pretty much anything awesome or crazy happen. There was much jumping on backs, throwing of enemies, and all kinds of hijinks. It created an atmosphere of anything goes, but it was also a very difficult fight, so the balance of fun and crazy was maintained.
Some highlights were when Merrick threw his grappling hook up to the balcony, then rolled a natural 1 on his climb check (of course!) Causing him to fall flat on his back. When he made it up the next turn, Vontarin grabbed him by the neck and hurled him off the balcony. This time the little halfling caused a domino affect of falling bookshelves that completely covered the invoker in Encyclopedias – for 17 damage!
This was only topped by the minotaur, who also rolled a one on that slippery rope, and when he made it up to the top, , he too was thrown back down! For awhile there it seemed like no one would make it up to the second floor, especially because the mess of books created an area of difficult territory all around the stairwell, making the run up the stairs a slow, slow process.
Vontarin was cackling the whole time, daring them to continue. Suddenly the rune priest cast a spell that gave everyone in the party a big boon, but it had one slight cost – the healing surge from an ally, and of course the rune priest picked the biggest burliest fighter with the most healing surges for his target – willing or not. It was Jack the minotaur.
The boy who plays the minotaur decided that was the last straw, and voiced his determination to join the forces of darkness surrounding them. Vontarin welcomed him to his side, and spoke of the wealth he would heap upon the minotaur for his aid. Now, having players turn on one another is always a risky business, and as the player of the minotaur was the sone of the player of the rune priest, I wasn’t too worried about hard feelings (though sore bottoms are another matter!) but I didn’t want the game to get out of hand. The game so far had been an improvised, inspired mess, and with this turn of events, your humble DM had a masterstroke of genius. He calmly told the minotaur that the best thing he could do would be to grab his erstwhile allies and begin hurling them up onto the balcony (thereby avoiding the whole problem of getting upstairs.
Ever creative, the minotaur took it one step further and actually through his fellow PCs at the few PCs who were already upstairs – namely his sister who was playing the vampire Connie. It was beautiful, and I thought the nirvana of gaming had been achieved. This night could not get any better. There was just one small cloud hanging over this beautiful day in the annals of adventuring.
The poor paladin, had been missing all night. Sure he broke the impasse of the legendary door –nothing to shake a stick at (though they tried that, along with bribing, bluffing, and intimidating the door) but as for combat, the only thing the paladin hit all night was that first dusk dog. He was slowed, slipping and stumbling amidst the books as he tried to make it upstairs. He even missed on his epic daily power that had only the weakest of effects on a miss. In short, he was pissed.
By this time Vontarin was reduced to minion status. He had one HP left and had retreated to the far end of the chamber. Miss after miss extended his life by a few seconds until it was the paladins turn to go. With great dismay he looked down at the map to realize there was no way he could make it to the wizard, even with a running charge, and he had no ranged attacks or weapons.
There was only one thing to do, double move, and watch as his glory slips out of his fingers. But oh no, Torrin would not go out with a whimper. He Heaved his great axe spinning through the air as an improvised thrown weapon. Everyone looked at him, and pointed out that the wizard had a realy high armour class, and that the paladin was only +1 with a ranged basic. He practically needed a critical hit to get him.
What do you know, natural 20.