Picking up right where we left off a week ago, DM Martin got my Wednesday night D&D Encounters group going for Session 2 with a quick recap. Our party had been escorting a caravan into a small town that was being attacked by a blue dragon and a mix of cultists and kobolds. The town’s residents were making their way to the protective keep, and our party was able to escort a group of them in. We earned the trust of the Governor who was requesting a cultist leader for questioning, and he provided us with a key to a hidden tunnel beneath the keep that would allow us to return and bring in a leader we had successfully knocked out, tied up, and left for later questioning. Session 1 ended with us breaking open the rusty gate (with a broken key inside) and preparing to exit the tunnel…
Before I provide a recap of the Session 2 adventure, I’d like to share some additional thoughts about the Encounters experience. The first one is related to the mix of players showing up for the Adventurers League event.
With the Encounters group, I’m sure most players probably wish to play with the same group and same DM, but that may not always be the case. Here in Atlanta, my Encounters group is hosted by Titan Games & Comics (big shout out to Mike for offering to purchase more chairs so we can go from three tables to four next week!) and coordinated by Topher Kohan. What’s so great about the new D&D rules is that it appears to be bringing in a mix of new players, returning players, and especially players (like myself) who haven’t played in quite some time. There’s definitely a lot of excitement over the update to the game, and this means more players wanting to play. A good problem to have, right?
Last night I counted about 21 players (7 per table) and 3 DMs. Next week, we’ll have four tables and 4DMs. Hopefully this will mean that Session 1 and Session 2 players will be able to return to the tables they’ve been playing at, and for good reason — last night, I was fortunate to be able to play at Martin’s table again, but some players had to change tables due to no seats being available. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation. But it does mean that there’s always the chance a returning player might have to skip a portion of a campaign if they join a table that’s a bit further ahead. (I guess it’s also possible that the only free seat available to a player might be at a table that’s running a part of the campaign that the player has already run through.)
One other item related to Adventurers League that I haven’t quite figured out yet relates to continuity. This weekend, Atlanta is hosting Dragon*Con and there will be a bunch of mini-adventures running. As I understand the rules, players can take their characters and play at these events and then return to the campaign on Wednesday nights. This means it’s entirely possible for a character to level up on an external adventure and then return to the campaign on Wednesday night. Not sure how this will be explained away (or if it even needs to be explained), but I am a little concerned about party balance… a level 1 character returning after a few mini-adventures bumped up to Level 2 or 3 could easily have skills that would alter the balance of the Wednesday night campaign. I’ll just stick a pin in that one and return to it next week with any observations.
All in all, Session 2 went smoothly. Some cancellations allowed a few folks on the Waiting List (including me) to grab a seat and have some fun. I’m on the Waiting List for next Wednesday (Session 3), but with the extra table opening up, I’m hopeful that I’ll once again get to play with Martin and pick up where we left off last night.
Speaking of last night… I had two returning fellow adventurers (Rolan D’Crits and Riley Escobar) from the Session 1 event, but we had four new players joining our table. This was explained away perfectly by Martin — they were adventurers who made their way to the keep during the attack and have chosen to join us. Meanwhile, the three other adventurers chose to assist elsewhere in the keep, leaving our party. Fortunately D&D players find it easy to suspend disbelief and jump to alternate realities easily, so it was all good. Our adventure picked up with our party filing through the busted gate and into the remaining 100 feet or so of the tunnel…
*** NOTE SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS BELOW ***
*** Do not read further if you wish to play in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen Adventure ***
*** NOTE SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS BELOW ***
My team this time around was seven strong, and we were once again reminded that the keep was surrounded by a large group of kobolds and cultists. Some of the attackers had headed east into the forest with their stolen loot, and the dragon circled high overhead in the distance. Was it leaving? Was it only providing cover for the fleeing looters and preparing to return? And what was the intention of the remaining looters outside the keep gates? Those questions were important, but the Governor had asked us to retrieve a prisoner or two and we were going to deliver.
In my party were:
Essie (Human, Fighter) – new player
Bor (Human, Monk) – new
Pelaios (Tiefling, Sorcer) – new
Giffon (Hill Dwarf, Cleric) – new, one of the Pre-Gen characters from the Basic Set
Rolin D’Crits (Elf, Ranger) – returning from Session 1
Riley Escobar (Halfing, Rogue) – returning from Session 1
Neloshis Quietwalker (Half-Elf, Sorcerer) – my character from Session 1
Yeah, three sorcerers. (Riley is a sorcerer attempting to hide his arcane powers by developing a reputation as a rogue.) We lost our Paladin (played by the youngest player of the night, but he was a little late in arriving and had to play at another table) but we gained a Cleric who was really flinging the healings and blessings throughout the Session 2 adventure.
We couldn’t see much between the damaged gate and the exit of the tunnel. A full moon provided some light, but the tunnel was a bit too quiet. We marched forward, thinking the tunnel empty, but we were wrong. Halfway to the exit, we were surprised by the sound of three swarms of hungry rats fleeing from the walls, hungry for some fresh meat.
COMBAT! Between the three spell casters and the ranger, we had few choices of attack that didn’t involve ranged attacks (spells and the bow) and disadvantage on rolls. This meant close quarters combat. Riley tried a simple Illusion spell of a pack of dogs or wolves behind us, hoping to scare the rats away. That failed. Pel chased a single swarm away with a torch — that was helpful. We were ultimately forced to attack by stomping or bludgeoning with staffs and other weapons until the rats were defeated. Hopefully the noise of our attack wasn’t so loud as to draw the attention of anyone outside the tunnel…
First out of the tunnel were Riley and Bor. Some noise was detected to the right of the tunnel’s exit, so the party chose to file out and take a defensive posture. I was the only party member to face to our rear (to the left of the tunnel exit), thinking the DM might have a trick up his sleeve. Martin (DM) counted all the exposed players’ figurines on the table and rolled a d6. “Okay, a heavy rock comes flying through the air and hits… rolls a 6… Quietwalker.” Great. Four points of damage (my Max HP is 10) to the back of the head. and COMBAT!
Bor counted a group of kobolds and two cultists approaching our position near the tunnel exit. D’Crits took a kobold out immediately with an accurate bow shot as Griffon was asking a blessing on Essie, Bor and D’Crits, and asking for true aim and power in the coming combat. It must have worked, because Essie tossed a spear and immediately killed another kobold. I pointed my hands and released a frost bolt, killing another kobold and amazing myself at the accuracy given the head wound I’d just suffered. D’Crits was targeting one of the cultist but missed; fortunately, Pel hit the same cultist with a fire bolt that appeared to do substantial damage and knocked him unconscious. Essie ran at the other cultist and delivered a non-lethal blow that knocked him to the ground as well. I fired off a fire bolt, taking out the remaining kobold.
Our ranger, fighter and monk had taken some serious damage in addition to the loss of 4 HP to my own sorcerer. The group chose to take our two prisoners to the Governor, but only after Giffon and Riley put him through some intense questions, revealing the details about the attempt to bring the Dragon Queen back into the world — the looters were tasked with gathering a large treasure hoard as a welcoming gift. After delivering the prisoners, we chose a Short Rest. This allowed most of our party to fully heal (not the Monk) by burning a hit die each. (The rules won’t let us use another hit die during a Short Rest until we have a Long Rest.) After completing the rest, the DM informed us that screaming was being heard outside the room assigned to us. We rushed out, armed and ready…
The red-haired dwarf was once again coordinating guards. It appeared that the first wave of attacks on the keep was beginning, and our well-armed party was pointed in the direction of the Sally Port — the outer door was breached and needed to be sealed. We dashed to our assigned post, but we were too late. While the Sally Port prevented us from reaching and closing the damaged entry gate, that was not our biggest concern. The inner protection of the keep was being threatened by the approach of some kobolds backed up by a single Acolyte and… an Ambush Drake!
This one went down like clockwork — the DM was quite unhappy with the Initiative rolls of his creatures, but good for us! The Drake was a tough one — while Essie and the Monk squared with it, the kobolds rushed Griffon and Quietwalker (me). I thought I had this one in the bag — a Poison Spray with auto hit and save against Constitution. The Kobold rolled a Natural 20! Apparently instead of killing the kobold it enraged the creature. Oops. (At this point, on my next turn, I cast the spell False Life which gives me 1d4+4 extra HP, raising my HP to 15!
Thankfully Bor had next attack and took it out instantly. Essie finished off the Drake after it took about five hits from various players. Essie’s final roll was a Crit 20 for 14 damage. But not enough… a few more rounds were needed for Riley the Halfling to take it down with a full frontal attack with a dagger. Here’s a drawing (by Riley’s player) of how the Halfing saw the fight go down:
After the drake dropped, I joined D’Crits and Griffon as we raced through the Sally Port, checking corners for ambush. We made it to the damaged gate and began our repairs. I tossed out a bag of caltrops outside the gate, and it was wise decision. Halfway through the gate’s repair, another band of marauders rushed in to attack…
Four kobolds, three cultists, and a guard decided to make our last few minutes of the night not so fun. For the first time that night, one of my firebolt spells actually made contact. Each party member was able to defeat one of the final attackers, with Riley taking out the more powerful guard with 9 points of damage from a fireboat cantrip. We successfully ran off the last kobold and made the repairs… this side of the keep would hold for tonight. We hope.
And that ended Session 2.
Things are beginning to develop. We know that the looters are gathering just outside of town in the forest, and the dragon appears to be guarding their position or retreat… we don’t know if they’re still moving or not. The keep was being attacked from various sides, so Session 3 may find us doing some more defense. But all of us agreed we are ready to get out of this keep (probably using the secret tunnel) and go on the hunt for the looters to see what they’re up to… the rumors of the Dragon Queen are definitely disturbing, but until we secure the keep we’re not going anywhere.
Great fun! Tonight’s adventure seemed to be enjoyed by all tables, and I know the players at my table seemed to have a good time as well. I don’t know if I’ll be playing with any or all of them next week, but I’m certain the DM will find a way to smooth out the transitions and help any new players get caught up with the story. Again, I’ll file a report for Session 3 — I’m on the Waiting List for a seat, but the news of a 4th table sounds like that won’t be a problem.
* Live and learn — with Encounters, you’re allowed to modify your character (within limits) at will up to Level 5 (I believe). This means tweaking your Ability Scores, spells selected, etc… this is great for beginning players and those still reading through the Player’s Handbook and sorting through the details. As an example, I had originally selected Mage Armor as one of my spells… it offer a beginning AC of 13 + your Dexterity Modifier. Mine is +2, so instead of my basic 12 (AC 10+ Dex bonus is standard for Sorcerers that can’t wear armor) I get 15. Woo Hoo. But here’s the problem — with Sorcerer, I chose the Draconic Bloodline as my Sorcerous Origins, and guess what? At Level 1, I automatically get a AC13 + Dex mod because of the dragon-like scaly skin I inherit. So, I tossed out the Mage Armor and in came Shield. (Which is much better actually, because it’s a Reaction spell that I can toss up immediately upon being attacked and gives me +5 to AC.) It only lasts until the start of my next turn, but still… could be life-saving at the right moment.
* Like a Library — It was so funny to see so many copies of the new Player’s Handbook on all the tables. Out of my table’s seven players, four copies were being consulted occasionally as we adjusted to the new rules of death, spell casting, and two-handed melee weapons.
* Monster Manual — the back of the Player’s Handbook gives a hint of the format and style that monsters will have in the upcoming Monster Manual. Last night, our DM tossed us an Ambush Drake in our final combat for the night, and he was able to show us a picture of the beast from the Hoard of the Dragon Queen book. It just made me really antsy to get this book in my hands… I can tell from the few tweeted photos and glimpses from GenCon that the book should deliver. (And it’s also making the wait for the DM Guide even more painful.)
* Speaking of DM Guide — I’m really looking forward to the DM Guide and getting back into the role of DM. Playing these last two sessions has made me that much more anxious to narrate. I want to finish out playing the Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign (and maybe the follow-up) so I can go back and read the books and run them myself.
* The Nitty Gritty — I always enjoy the nitty gritty details on any game summary, so I figured I’d share with you some scans of my in-game notes. Beware the horrible handwriting — it’s bad to begin with, but add in trying to write fast and keep up with the DM and my turn and it’s a real mess… complete with spelling errors. Still, you can maybe piece together the play-by-play of both Session 1 and Session 2. (And yes, I use whatever paper is on hand. Session 1, I wrote on the back of my Faction welcoming letter and Session 2 was on old-school graph paper!) These are PDFs.
* Magical Rerolls — Not sure about your Encounters location, but Titan gives out these little yellow coupons for every $5 purchase or more (two limit). Each coupon is good for one week (basically two Sessions) and allows a reroll. Riley put his to good use tonight after attacking the Drake with a 3 (NOOO!) and then rerolling for the kill (YEEEES!!!). Nicely done, Riley.
* XP and Gold — Finally, the DM awarded each of us 8gp and 85XP. Just over two hours of gameplay, and a few of our party almost killed, and each gold piece and each XP was totally worth it. As I wrote last time, I think a lot of players might be thinking that they’d be earning much more XP and gold, but I return to my original statement that my favorite games don’t involve gold and magic items and XP flowing like the Endless Chocolate Wonderfall at a Golden Corral. We entered combat four times in two hours, and while I’m anxious for my level 1 Sorcerer to move to level 2, I’m only 2/3 there (300XP for level 2 and I’ve only got 190XP — 105 from Session 1 and 85 from Session 2). I can tell you this — level 2 will be greeted with trumpets based on how hard a fight it has been to get there. And levels only get more difficult to obtain… this is my kind of D&D. No Monty Haul for me, thank you.
* Podcast! — My Encounters group is organized by Topher Kohan, and he’s done a great job of making sure everyone who wants to play has found a table. If you’re not familiar with TheTomeShow.com and its podcasts, give it a listen. Topher recently had a chance to sit down and talk with WotC D&D employees Chris Tulach and Chris Lindsay in Episode 30. Be sure to follow that one up with a listen to Episode 31 that features D&D Lead Designer, Mike Mearls.
Finally, here’s a summary of a few of my other D&D-related articles for GeekDad.com:
And for more information on Adventurers League, click here.