In what looked like the busiest night so far, I DM’ed for 1 of 5 massive tables playing session 4 of Encounters on Wednesday night. I always like to shout out to the great people of Game Cafe who make this all possible. It is their enthusiasm and hard work that makes these events possible. That and the brilliance of Wizards for coming up with the idea. I just can’t gush enough, but enough of that, it is blood the public calls for.
The place was packed. I estimate at least 40 people were there playing in our cellar beneath the store. There is something unique about playing games in such a small packed environment. In some ways, it is like indoor playground at Kindergarten. Im sorry, was the table next to us just completing a skill challenge through a game of 4-square? Maybe not, but I know I saw some
jacks being tossed pokemon cards. With 40 people and 5 tables, I was able to add one more player to our party, Richard who played a female drow assasin. On the other hand, our divine striker was absent so it was a wash numerically.
One more thing I noticed was a huge influx of teens and pre-teens, which I’m sure must be good news for Wizards. My intuition tells me that this program is set up to bring in new and lapsed players. Well, my table of 7+ is made up almost entirely of new or returning players. In fact, the blend of old-school knowledge like Ron and Steve possess, coupled with the varying past experiences of those like Roy, Dave,Eddie and Richard, and with the enthusiasm of Dana and Jenna, a perfect blend of players is achieved. It is a party of adventurers destined for greatness…
Previously, in Undermountain, our part had just discovered the door to Halaster’s Lost Apprentice’s private chambers. They had easily defeated the magical wards which had protected the door from discovery and disturbance, when a dark shadow emerged from the depths of the stairwell revealed. The encouter opened with the shadow materializing into a strange and tiny little creature of obscure origin. An Arcana check by the sorceress revealed it was a demon, which the religious check by the ardent (if i remember) correctly identified the creepy litle creature to be an imp, a minor devil. The imp surveyed the party with arms crossed, doubting that they served the master. He requesed that they explain what they are doing disturbing this set of chambers. The Halfling sorceress was ready to bluff, and convinced the imp they worked for He-who-shall-not-be-named, the apprentice of Halaster. The fact that neither the party, nor the imp (who referred to the apprentice as That Thing) referred to the apprentice by name, and thus, the bluff worked.
Next, the ardent again stepped up to use diplomacy, and successfully calmed the imp down, who was gettinng restless, and the sword-mage stepped up to discuss things of an arcane nature. Finally, the skill challenge ended with the halfling, with lightning in her eyes, cowed the imp into relenting. It was aroud this time that I allowed a perception check – anyone over 20 felt a distant or small rumbling, almost a seismic event. Too small tfor most to even notice. As this skill challenge was happening Richard the drow assassin joined us. I was laying out the map, the same one we used from last week. As I placed the various mini’s, I was explaining that, other then the imp (see image) the rest of the mini’s I placed represented statues, and not to worry, I was just placing them around the edges to keep the map down. (I wonder if anyone actually fell for that ridiculuous excuse? ha ha)
Next followed a sequence of questions by the PCs about what might lie beyond the door, but they didn’t get very far before he imp grew tired of their line of questioning. When asked what powers he possessed, he mildly replied “Here allow me to demonstrate” and the winked out of existence. Initiative was rolled.
We are continuing to use Steve’s method o initiative, which is to have everyone write their name and initiative roll on a note card, and then Steve orders them and we flip through the lineup. I write cards for the monsters too, it works great, and I am even considering having my other group try it out, which is both happy and sad, havig just made this excellent magnetic white-board initiative tracker. It is the mysterious power of note cards I guess. I also like how he lays them out so that we can all see who’s up and who’s next on deck, but what I love most is that he takes care of it so I don’t have to!
And so, a he rumbling intensified so that all could feel it, the statues sprung to animated life: one iron hound, and 4 small stone warriors, with spiked fists. They did sort of a double pow-pow move when they attacked. But it was the iron defender who went first, ad he leapt to the nearest enemy, who this time, and always is that earth-shockin’ genasi sword-mage. He is ever leading the fray, and is a constant target of their enemies ire. His 19 AC does him well, but he has fallen in combat and used up all but 1 o his healing surges. It will be a tough fight for our valiant sword-mage, but he never shirked his duty, and even though he was reduced to 2 or fewer HP’s more than once in this battle, he never fell. He did however have to threaten the dragonborne with violence to keep him from spraying his dragonbreath (1d6+2) all over Hax and his 2 HP. He deserves a medal of honor, and a retro-active moment of greatness at the least. MVP of session 4 goes to Hax the Genasi Swordmage. For withstanding the front line rigours, the sword mage and the half-elf battlemind forever contended side by side. The battlemind found himself surrounded by his enemies and unable to move for much of the battle. he hacked and fought and finally slew one allowing him to shift into a more advantageous position.
There were many contenders for the MVP title though, including our Ardent, who was forced into mortal combat again. But this time he would not miss, and finally hitting for the first time this season, he would in fact go on to destroy one of his enemies, the imp itself I believe, correct me if I’m wrong. He earned his moment of greatness. Another moment was earned (though not given, due to his having already received it.) The assassin, first wounded by the defenders, was knocked to zero by the rock slide. Amazingly, he rolled a natural 20 and was able to miss only a single turn of combat before regaining his feet. The area of combat was very confined, and many people had to suffer more than one round of falling rocks (in a 3 burst) simply because there was nowhere to go.
The imp was quickly killed. Though I had him begin the encounter invisible (his turning invisible is what initiated the roll for combat) he was never able to turn invisible again. He died on the second round of combat, the victim of focus fire by a party working together. The rogue had a tough time of it, being attacked nearly every round, and unable to position without giving up a flanking maneuver or acceping an oportunity attack. It was tough ad he suffered some damage, but survived while still inflicting great amounts of damage. The sorceress stood back and electrocuted her enemies while laughin in the face of the falling rocks. having rolled a natural 1 on her to-hit, I ruled that she escaped even the half-damage. Maybe its too old-school, I think not. next round she took damage from the rocks, and quickly found a new place from which to launch her lighnting bolts. It was also interesting to watch the assasin played by Richard who knew the class well, who used shrouds to good affect as well as his amazing melee reach of 3. The shadow-step is an excellent move, which he described well, by saying that he darted from shadow to shadow until finally stepping out of the enemy’s shadow to attack.
Many, or possibly all action points were spent, as well as any remaining dailies and at least on PC’s healing surges were ALL used up. In fact a funny moment ensued when the sword-mage, having suffered a brutal round of combat ended his turn with 2 hit point and no healing surges left. He still had his minor action, and so tried to hand off his healing potion to the assassin, who had 16 HP at the time. The dragonborn ranger was deadly with his arrows. He did not get to spray his enemies with his acidic spittle as he’d hoped, but he dropped at least one of the enemy with those arrows. Oh how twin strike must be the bane of all DMs, I know it is a constant thorn in my side, but the rangers sure love it. Some with swords, or even axes, other with the bow, twin strike: the strike by which all striker powers are measured.
When the imp was down, the iron defender and 2 stone defenders quickly followed. This left 2 stone defender left, who were each practically unharmed. At this point I had an evil glint in my eye, and a cruel smile crossed my face. Each of those defenders attacked the genasi who had managed to scrape a few temporary HP together thanks to the healing efforts of the ardent, who had swept away the cobwebs of missed attacks, and went on to score hit after hit. But the sword mage was hit once and missed and came a second time too close to zero HP.
But a string of great hits followed, averaging nearly 20 damage a hit, and the party stood victorious over the defeated foe. At this time I casually mentioned that the ceiling was collapsing, and everyone was going to take damage. They bolted for the stairwell, looting corpses along the way. As the chamber collapsed above them, so they collapsed on the stairs into an extended rest. They needed it. They earned it.