Why is it that I always dread that no one will show up to play? It has always been that way, as far as I can remember. Some fears never go away, like the fear of cops, ingrained from a reckless youth all the way to my current esteemed patriarchal self, scanning the horizon as I drive 11 mph over the speed limit. I can’t help it, I was born bad, and bad I be. But enough of that, the game is what matters.
As usual I arrived at the store half hour early, talked with fellow dm’s a bit (2 dm’s had to cancel, leaving us short, and fearing either huge 10+ parties, or having to urn people away, which was an impossibility.) If only I could divide myself into 2 dm’s. In the end I think a brand new player stepped up to dm, and a veteran player of 4e offered to assist, and the table had a good time.
I walked downstairs into the dungeon, to find 4 or 5 of my 7 players sitting around our table already, which was another awesome moment. In the next few minutes the rest of the players showed up and my table of 7 was full. We ended up pushing 3 cafeteria tables to fit all 8 of us. Jenna was eating a taco salad (ooh it looked good) and Dana brought out a bag of animal crackers. Almost all of them had their own mini’s, and I had a few for the others to choose from, which was this hilarious demon thing for the genasi swordmage, and a bag-carrying minion as the brutal rogue. Both minis were chosen by the players, I will post a picture of these soon, as they are hilarious. Roy and his wife had each painted their own minis, a priestess and a dragonborn, which looked very nice. We chatted a bit and I slowly started mentioning some game bits, pointing out the map, joking about last week (the breath weapon attack was a hoot) and soon the game began in earnest.
I read the opening scene provided in the adventure, then reminded the party of the captured prisoner from the last encounter. They questioned him a bit, and learned the name of the lord, and his 2 siblings who each vied for the hidden chambers. They deduced much of this through skill checks. One player was particularly interested in the scorpions and how they got down here. He learned that the thugs came through the tunnel but the scorpions were kept below. It became somewhat relevant later on. The thug offered to lead them to Downshadow.
When they arrived, the thug escaped into the crowd of the main cavern (the rogue was offered the chance to chase him – he declined) while the party was mobbed by children (and halflings) with their hands out, ready to accept or take. Each player made acrobatics checks or lost a gold coin. OK, it was silly but I thought it was funny. Next they learned that the Downshadow was divided into two factions, the Lord of the Dungeon, who was of exiled or poor nobility, landless but trying to carve out some territory. he posts guards and patrols. The other figure was the Prince of thieves, Lucan Blacknife, who was reported to rule the thieves, cut-throats and assasins of the city above. He was also known to have his own entrance to the dungeon.
I was mostly ad-libbing this section. I wish I had made a list of names ahead of time, as I named one of the npc’s (a guardsman of the Dungeon Lord) Marcus. Sheesh. After Marcus I quickly jotted a few names down, Lucan among them. The party spoke to the Lord, who said they should leave, because he has seen too many inexperienced adventurers turned into piles of goo. He also says he protects his people, and offers them employment as guards or patrollers. They briefly consider, but the haste of their mission prohibits them and they decline. They finally make a skill challenge check – diplomacy, and the lord gives them direction to the hall of kings, the first landmark on the map.
The party then debates for a few minutes on whether they should confer with the prince of thieves, finally decide against it, and head off to the hall of kings. They find 14 dwarves sitting in thrones and a voice in the air repeats “the doom is upon us all” every few minutes. They use some more skills here, and dungeoneering finds a safe path through. Before they go through, they notice that the dwarves had been looted and disfigured. With a religion check, the deva recommends spending a few moments to straighten them up a bit. since there are 7 pc’s, they decide they can each take 2, and spend 30 minutes in hopes of better fortunes.
– Idea for next week: before the battle begins, each character is going to hear the voice from that hall, and it will say “The doom can be delayed” and each of them will gain a healing surge. Reward for the good deed, it is dwarvish in nature, and the party could really use some surges about now. End idea –
Moving on, In the adventure is described this statue one hand pointing at one door, the other hand pointing at the other door opposite. They had to cross the room. Ozone smell in the air. Perception check revealed thin trails of smoke coming from the wrists where the hands of the statue had been knocked off. Finally the dragonborn stepped into the room. Lightning lanced out, Acrobatics DC 15 to avoid, he fails and takes 2 damage (low I know, but this is part of a lengthy dungeon crawl as skill challenge) Finally everyone jumps through, about half taking damage.
The hairs raise on their arms as they approach the statue, is is sheathed in electricity. Arcana check reveals that thievery will work, he can take -4 penalty to skill check and do it without touching the damaging electricity, or take the damage and get take a check without the negatives. he takes 4 points, and diverts the energy into the ceiling, the trap is disabled for 24 hours, while it recharges. The party can safely exit the far end. This success was the 3rd or 4th, maybe even the 5th.
Next they came to the ice prison. The chamber was too cold to enter, and there was a row of cells, closed off by bars of hissing ice. All except the one on the end, where the bars were gone, only a puddle where they were. (A frozen puddle, duh). They decided to use stealth – a group stealth check – to sneak through this area to the next. I averaged their rolls, (looking back, I should have just went with number of successes vs fails, but I improvised, not remembering the correct way.) Either way, they failed at this challenge, so I showed them the picture of the hook horror, and said it was coming down the hall after them.
They decided to run, good choice. They made their final group skill challenge – Endurance, and got a success. They outran the hook horror and skidded to a halt right outside the hidden chamber. It was amazing, and I threw down the encounter map onto the table. This was the first time of the night we used a map or minis. Right as they caught their breath before going in to examine the secret chamber, the goal of their mission, they were surprised by a completely random legion of skeleton warriors marching past. There were 12 skeleton minions in all. I had to borrow 4 from the DM at the next table who showed me his tacklebox-full before we started and had offered… and I also got to use the 2 Reaper plastic minis I just bought upstairs. The girl was like “I just put those out an hour ago.”
Reaper’s Legendary Encounters
I was returning the borrowed minis moments later, the battle lasted fewer than 15 minutes, and we never got through the whole count. I am sure glad the skeletons rolled a 22 initiative, or they never would have gone at all. The best part of it was that everyone really got into this 15 minute battle. I believe the poor deva was the only one who didnt get a chance to whale on some skeleton, while 3 pc’s won the “3 minions in an encounter” award. After the battle, they got to loot some dead adventurers outside the hidden chamber (the unfortunate party who discovered the chamber) and received 2 healing potions and a cloak of resistance. I will bring them cards next week, I wish I had time this week. The party discussed the items and made very reasonable choices about how to divide the loot. I was surprised at how naturally it occured: the cleric got the cloak of resistance, while the two main tanks, the swordmage and the battlemind, got the healing potions. Incidentally those two pc’s are the only ones to drop to zero hp in an encounter so far.
They stepped into the chamber and owned the trap like there was no tomorrow. These veterans of Undermountain knew just how to skill it up, and got 6 successes without a single fail. The portal opened to reveal stairs leading downward (Oh goody, heh heh) and then they were attacked! But that can wait until next week.