The fifth season of Encounters began tonight. It has been over a year now, and five adventures have played out each Wednesday night between 6-8 pm. I would estimate I have played D&D with at least 100 new people since the program started, and I have probably helped teach at least 25-30 complete strangers to the game in that time. Some of them I never saw more than once, but many of them are still coming back each and every Wednesday. It is heartening to be able to partake in something that can bring so many people of disparate backgrounds to all sit around a table in uncomfortable chairs for two hours on a weeknight, and laugh and joke like old friends. That is why I do it.
(There might also be a mix of masochism, tyranny, exhibitionism, just a hint of sadism, and a few less savory traits at work here also, to keep me coming back week after week, season after season.)
At the Basement Games in Zona Rosa we hosted two tables with a total of fifteen people rolling dice. The dms were myself DM JB, and my 14 yr old son DM JB JR who hosted the youth table. We are considering adding a 3rd table. Many of the people playing tonight were returning from the past season. There was at least one new kid, but my table was made up of 7 hardened veterans of past campaigns. Grognards if you will. There was (this is a memory test) Kaleth the invoker, Ash the Ranger, Torron the dragonborn paladin, Torment the tiefling warlock (and dont we all make at least one Torment to torment ourselves with?) It was when she cast Phallic Flame that things really went over the edge, but I digress.
Opposite Torron was Klaxu the dragonborn Anti-Paladin (I know wow, right – wait till you read what happens!) Followed by a pair of human brother and sister vampires Connie and Stan. It was quite an eclectic mix of characters, brought together as an elite team of postal workers. Thats right, I won’t go into too much detail, but they were a group of messengers sent to deliver some mail pertaining to a noble wedding. Anyhoo, they come to the town of Duponde, a gloomy town of steep leaning buildings and narrow alleyways; of crooked streets and arched doorways and windows. The bridge was out, meaning they were stuck in town for the night, and had to put up at the Old Owl Inn. The inn was a tall old wooden structure, with a stone façade and leering gargoyles leaning from the eaves, but the inside of the inn is warm and welcoming, just the place for paladins, vampires, rogues and rangers to hang out.
On this night, the adventurers kept to themselves and observed the other patrons of the inn. There was the mysterios scholar in one corner, the boisterous party of 3 dwarves from Hammerfast, beside the tavern wench and bartender. A town guard hadjust finished a drink, and as he was leaving, the wench warned him to keep a look out for ghosts. It was a night for haunting, she said, shivering. The dwarves scorned such tall tales of ghosts, but the stranger perked up his ears and asked if Evard the Dark Wizard might be one of the ghosts. This led to a discussion of Evard, and the duel that left him dead and buried in the towns grave yard. After some further discussion, everyone retired for the night.
Only to be woken during the night by a massive, jarring, shifting feeling, that left their chambers and the hotel itself looking slighty… askew. They eventually realized that the Old Owl Inn, and possibly the whole town, had been somehow shifted into the Shadowfell, a land that mirrors our natural world, only it is infused with darkness, dread, and death. Think the twilight zone, with more zombies. It is also the domain of the Ravwen Queen, who uses the shadow lands to winnow souls into the great beyond. In short, it is not a good place to be for mortals. From the common room below, they heard a blood curdling scream, and hastily drew on their arms and armor to descend the stairs and defend the inn.
The battle map showed the “start area” around the map, so I took the liberty of allowing each of them to begin their turn at the foot of the narrow stairs with half their movement (3 squares) left. This allowed the battle to have a more natural feel, as each of the characters shot out of the stairwell on their turn – well, each of them except for the anti-paladin Kalaxu, who busted right through the wall at the top of the stairs, and leaping free, grabbed the chandelier and swung out across the room to attempt a flying leap at the enemy.
The warlock Torment camer dowen the stairs and found the bartender slumped, and three gargoyles – the very same which adorned the inn – were tearing the place up. She could see no sign of the rest of the inn-goers, and so she did what every good warlock is trained to do, she cast her eldritch blast, lighting up the stony flier. The next round, Torment considered her flame of fallus (or whatever) but after a few minutes of laughter from the table, was forced to resort to eldritch blast for the rest of the battle. Warlocks can ve difficult characters to play for someone inexperienced with their quirks, and the player asked me to make a dragonborn vampire for next week.
After the warlock, the vampire twins went, first Stan, who charged a second gargoyle, and then Connie who charged the first one. After them came Klaxu whe went through the wall, rather than down the stairs. The big black-iron sheathed dragon man went sailing through the air, grabbed the chandelier to swing him out over the room and came to a teeth-shattering landing right next to gargoyle number two. He struck the gargoyle a mighty blow with his axe.
After him came the other paladin, this one devoted to Bahamut, who came to the bottom of the stairs and charged the 3rd gargoyle. After him went the gargoyles, who each backlashed with a harrying strike. The first swiped at Stan the vampire, then flew up into the corner of the room. (Oh how players hate it when the flying enemies head for the corners) The second vampire swiped at Toronn, knocking him down and dazing him before hovering in the air near the ceiling. Last to go was the invoker, and she sent a ray of light into poor gargoyle number one, slaughtering it and raining chunks of gravel onto the ground as it blew asunder.
The last to go in combat were strange shadows that were lurking in the corners of the inn, until then unnoticed. One of them swept forward over the floor to merge with Stan the vampires. Stan actually cast no shadow, but as he felt the damaging cold work its way up his legs, he suddenly began casting one. The other shadow lurched forward to attack that black guard Klaxu.
The gargoyles were soon dispatched, but it left the two shadows, each difficult to hit. (Aside: I mentioned that you had to attack very close to a person with a shadow melded, and that there was a chance – a 5% chance to be exact, that you could strike an ally if you missed.) Of course the ranger immediately attacked the shadow that swarmed over Klaxu, and of course he rolled a natural 1, so what do you think happened? Why, Klaxu was knocked out by the ranger! The evil paladin was felled by the good ranger, and in most stories, this would be a good thing, but in this tale, it was a friendly fire casualty.
The shadow grew in statue and left the falling body of Klaxu to hover above the fallen blackguard, so the ranger used his second shot, damaging it lightly since it was insubstantial. The paladin was next to go and he slew the shadow hovering above Klaxu in a shower of radiant light and rushed forward and laid his hands upon the fallen blackguard. The honorable dragonborn attempted to save the dishonorable dragonborn, and I had each of them roll a D20. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but they each rolled good high numbers, so I let him heal with no adverse affects. The angry blackguard stood up and unleashed his flightning breath weapon in a huge globe of destruction that enveloped the last shade, destroying it. However, the ranger was also in the way of the blast, as were the vampire twins. Klaxu did not care, he slew the fiendish shadow, and that was all that was important. (He even rolled 2 natural 20s on his allies in that attack!)
The group had survived their descent into the Shadowfell, and an uneasy truce held between them, unsure who was ally, and who was not. I hope to play up on this dark conflict in future sessions, without going over the edge too far. Many of us seen where evil campaigns can lead, but a little conflict and strife can add a nice spice to the game. We are off to a great start.