Back in the saddle again. With great thanks to Rich who agreed to dm for me while was away for week 6, I returned to the DM throne. In fact, I even offered Rich the insight that he had earned the right to challenge me as DM for the Encounters program, but he thankfully demurred. Thus, here I am, back in the saddle for another week of sun-baked slaughter in the wind-blown deserts of Athas. Actually, this week finds our band of doughty survivors stumbling through a dark cavern in the mountains.
Last week, to briefly recap, the party had entered the cavern and found an ancient wooden bridge that crossed a ravine in the natural cavern floor. Needless to say, they were attacked by undead. Isnt this always the case when crossing a cavernous ravine, or maybe a ravenous cavern. The party was able to dispatch the undead and continue through the dark tunnels. But that was then, this is now. Our party of hard core death dealers made it past the corruption corpses, crossed the ravine, descended the natural staircase leading deeper into a room that was filled with crystals. Many of the patches of softly purple glowing crystals resonated psychic energy, but one area of crystal turned out to be a large web spun of crystalline fibers. It covered a section of room from floor to ceiling.
The battlemind Shikirr wasted no time before moving into the midst of the chamber, after spying a half dozen skeletons standing against the far wall. They held longbows in their skeletal claws, there eyes were glowing in a fierce red glare, and they were standing perfectly still. The lighting conditions were a concern, and each thri kreen held a torch in one of its multitude of claws.
Not only skeletons, but creepy animated gauntlets scuttled about the cavern floor. Dozens of them, well nine at least. The party waded into this crowd of pathetic minions with wild gusto and abandon. Skeletons crumbled to dust, gauntlets smashed like bugs. The two thri kreen each used their flurry of claws attacks, then Jarvix sent a blast that eliminated even more. Surprise came when two slashing long legs whipped out from above, where a pair of crystal spiders stood on the ceiling in ambush. Phy and Jarvix was hit. The sorceress twin (the sorceress was absent this week, but her twin was here to take up the blasting) sent out a beautiful burst of Flaming Hands, which damaged no enemies, but did hit the tiefling (Im not afraid of fire!) for maximum damage. They both got a moment of awesome for the attack, and she additionally got a renown point for doing over 15 points.
That crazy fighter Yuka was at it again, he climbed a wall and launched himself at the spider, and wound up hanging from it and trying to knock it down. Great rolling got him up there, but he was unable to pull the spider free until it was hit again later in the turn, knocking it to the ground and damaging both it and Yuka in the process.
The other spider achieved a similar fate. The half orc Kindrock leapt up and struck the spider a mighty blow which tore it from the ceiling to land at his feet. It was summarily executed before being able to act again. When the second round of battle came around there were 3 minions left. They managed to last approximately 6 seconds. The battle was short and the only person who took any substantial amount of damage was Jarvix, whose fire resistance reduced his damage to 10 points. It was still more than anyone else took in the battle.
The battle was a literal cake-walk. Granted, my table had 7 players, one more than the encounter was designed for, but to make up for it, I added a second spider, 3 more skeletons, and 3 more crawling gauntlets. Very underwhelming, and later I may share my thoughts on the adventure as a whole, but for now let me say that these encounters have been wildly varying in difficulty level. The first 5 encounters had a brutality level that was breath-taking in places, while the first two encounters in chapter 2 are basically laughably easy. I will be spending more time from here on out to adjust the individual encounters to a proper challenge level in order to maximize fun. I do not know if this is a weakness in the encounters program – that the individual groups that play have such wildly disparate skill levels. For instance, the players as a group have expanded their cooperative tactics with every encounter we play together, and even survived season 1 Undermountain together. Other groups around the country may have new players every week, or other factors that limit the team building.
One thing that came up was that the slashing claws of the thri kreen. The players believe that it should be a minor action attack, and I tend to agree, since it is similar to other racial powers, i.e. the dragonborn, who also have a multi-target minor encounter power. I made them use it as a standard action this encounter (Im surprised it hasn’t come up before now) but I will research this for next session. As a minor, it is extremely useful, while as a standard it is less so.
The battle ended with the party barely winded, ready to climb down a hole. Find out next week what is at the bottom of that hole, same time same place.