Things are starting to get a bit crazy on Wednesday night!
Session 2 (last week) ended with my party delivering a prisoner to the keep’s Governor who then tasked us with repairing the Sally Port’s oak doors; along with some cultists and kobolds, we enjoyed meeting an Ambush Drake for the first time. For level 1 characters, that’s one tough creature. But we succeeded in defeating it along with some latecomers who were determined to break their way into the keep… happy with our success, we returned to the keep only to find the townsfolk upset about something they’d just glimpsed in the distance. And just like that… Session 2 ended.
Once again this week I was fortunate to grab a chair at the same DM’s table (Martin) so I could pick up where my party left off. It was suggested to me that a good idea might be to change tables and experience another DM as well as see how a transition to an earlier or later part of the adventure is handled. Fortunately, I was able to see one way it could be handled when a player from another table joined our group this week — that player had already finished a small piece of our upcoming night’s adventure. The DM had a private (and quick) chat with that player to determine what he knew (and didn’t know) and was able to tweak a bit of the adventure to keep it new for all involved.
Another interesting item involved a character that had leveled between sessions during an event at Dragon*Con here in Atlanta. The coordinator of our group explained that the leveling of characters in and out of the adventure is okay and actually expected. There do appear to be some rules on maximum leveling for this kind of thing (I think I heard level 4 mentioned). My guess is that Wizards of the Coast has already given this much thought and realized that allowing characters to advance too quickly will “break” upcoming events that occur after the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure is concluded.
Our host for the night, Titan Games & Comics, added a fourth table this week, too! This allowed up to seven more players to join in, and I counted a solid 25 players plus 4 DMs (although I may have missed one or two late arrivals — we had bad weather that night that really messed with traffic). I’m really hoping that Wednesday nights can continue to bring out 20+ gamers, and I was also delighted to see for the third straight week our youngest player (age 13) showed up again.
This week there seemed to be fewer questions during gameplay regarding game mechanics. This was good, because tonight’s activity was combat heavy.
*** 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 ***
No time for rest, apparently. After securing the east side’s Sally Port, we were hoping to return to a few answers from the prisoner we’d delivered to the governor. But that would have to wait. Before we could rest and tend to our wounds, a large gathering of the town’s residents began shouting and pointing to the southwest. We didn’t understand the commotion until the governor explained that the building in the distance was the sawmill, the towns main source of trade and the key to its livelihood. Someone had seen cultists with torches heading in that direction. With so much of the town’s structures on fire and the mass of enemies outside the keep’s gates, the governor approached our group and asked for assistance. Would we be willing to investigate and, if necessary, defend the town’s mill?
Once again, our party was shuffled tonight. Last week, three sorcerers, a cleric, and a mix of non-spellcasters. Tonight, however, we were down to a single sorcerer (me), four fighters, and a ranger. Fortunately, we only had six players and each table could have a max of 7. One of our group volunteered to run a cleric as a second character and the DM allowed it — thank you, Martin AND Paula (Essie)! So, we ended up with the following:
Essie — Human Fighter (from Session 2)
Rolan D’Crits — Wood Elf Ranger (from Sessions 1 and 2)
Lem Sabler — Halfling Fighter (new)
Chi Tan — Human Fighter (from Session 1)
Karaam — Half-Elf Fighter (transfer from another table)
Griffon — Hill Dwarf Cleric (pre-gen from Session 2)
Niloshis Quietwalker — Half-Elf Sorcerer (me)
I had cast a False Life spell during the last bit of combat in Session 2, and the hour-long spell continued to provide me with 15HP (versus 10). Some of our party weren’t so lucky, and had taken some solid damage at the end of Session 2. Thankfully, our cleric was able to do some quick healings as our party took to the secret tunnel once again… this was our way to get to the sawmill, but between the tunnel’s exit and the mill was about 350 feet of trees and brush. And it was nighttime. None of us were secure in the belief that the walk to the sawmill would be uneventful.
Why we thought a dwarf in full plate would be able to keep up with the party as well as remain silent is a mystery. Halfway to the mill, Griffon collided with a party member. I was unable to see the other party member but any creatures within a hundred feet had to have heard it… so the four kobolds were no surprise. Most of the fighters in the group were able to quickly and easily defeat the small band. My spells were useless in the dark — the Firebolt didn’t seem to be a good idea in the dark, and my Ray of Frost just disappeared in the dark. I felt my False Life spell fade away and once again pulled back behind the more heavily armored party members. The kobolds were defeated, and as we approached the mill we spotted five cultists with torches lighting small fires around the mill. Their backs were to us, so we took advantage of the situation and attacked…
As a player, sometimes you hear the DM describe something and it still manages to go completely over your head. Our DM was very specific in describing some small but ineffective fires started around the mill. That should have been our first clue… but we obviously weren’t on top of our game tonight as you’ll soon understand.
Our surprise attack took down one of the guards and severely wounded one more, but the wounded guard turned with his companions to face us instead of running away. As the fighters rushed in, I let loose with a Ray of Frost, attempting to shatter a window and possibly provide a glimpse inside. The spell missed, but fortune must have been on my side because the attempt extinguished one of the fires. Another cultist dropped, and the remaining three dashed to the mill’s doors. Two entered, but one remained as a lookout…
Chi Tan took out the lookout and Karaam, D’Crits, Lem, and Essie rushed inside. The cleric and I approached the open doorway — thankfully we two spell casters decided on caution…
Upon approaching the mill’s entrance, I could see the two remaining guards on the floor. Essie rushed to stomp out the two torches. We were feeling good about saving the sawmill. Suddenly, we caught movement above us in the two lofts. Hiding behind stacks of cut wood were seven figures, all of them looking much more dangerous and experienced than the cultists we’d been fighting all night. An arrow pierced the floorboard between Essie’s feet… and then things got interesting.
Yeah. Seven. A mix of spell casters and one serious looking Dragon-kin staring down at my team. The unsuccessful burning of the mill should have been our clue that we were walking into an ambush. This wasn’t looking good. But I had some excellent players at my table, and we weren’t about to retreat and give up the mill without a solid fight.
It was amazing. Our ranger continued to put arrow after arrow into any exposed enemies, and you should have seen Chi Tan reach up from underneath one of the lofts and pull one of the cultists down! My Ray of Frost missed a Firemage, but Lem ran up one of the stairs and took on two enemies all by himself. Griffon ran in and healed some of Essie’s wounds, which was a good thing… Essie was weak and had failed on her two previous attacks, but after the healing? Essie would end up taking one of the cultists out up close and personal. After the healing, Griffon attacked the Dragon-kin and did an unbelievable amount of damage, and then Karaam moved in and finished him off…
The combat was crazy! Chi rolled a Nat20 and literally pulled and dragged an enemy off the loft and down onto he hard floor for some good damage. There were so many misses going on (see scans of my adventure log below), but there were also some great hits. I also rolled two separate Natural 20s during this combat stage — the first took out one of the enemies still up in the loft and later towards the end of the fight another 20 allowed me to hit the second-to-last enemy for 19 damage. Karaam took too much damage and went down… he also failed his first (of three) Death Saving Throw. If the DM tossed up any additional enemies after this batch, we were going to be in trouble after exhausting all our spells and the damage here and there to our remaining fighters.
Essie brought her axe down and finished the last of the attackers. Karaam was gravely wounded and it was apparent we would not have time to get him back to the keep for proper care. The sound of armor rushing our position from outside the mill had us worried, but the governor had managed to scrape together a small group, armed them, and sent them to provide support. With their help, we were able to secure the mill, attend to Karaam with a healer’s kit, and catch our breath… but what next?
And Session 3 ended with grins all around.
Some closing thoughts:
* Rewards — For the last two sessions, I was quite happy with the XP and gold awarded for the combat, but not this time. With three different combat opportunities, I thought for sure I’d level up this time… I only needed 110XP, and for certain we were dealing with some seriously powerful foes, right? Nope! It turns out that some extra XP would have been awarded to us if we’d been aware of the impending ambush by noticing the torchbearers weren’t doing all that great a job of setting fire to the mill. ARGH. I’m not really mad… smiling, actually. It just makes me realize that WotC has put some real thought into how players can achieve XP if they’re observant and quick thinking. Hopefully we won’t miss future opportunities for bonus XP.
* Keeping Secrets — The player for Karaam, if he knew any parts of this particular night’s adventure, sure didn’t let on. I didn’t get a chance to ask him how much of the night’s action he’d already played through, but if he knew any of it he sure played the scenes without any hint of advanced info.
* Game Logs — I tried to be a bit better with my handwriting this week, but it took two sheets, front and back, to document all the combat. If you want to try and decipher my version of the play-by-play, you can click here to download and view the single PDF log for Session 3.
* Waiting Lists are over — for the remaining two sessions of this first adventure, I’ve got a guaranteed seat. I don’t know when the 2nd half will begin, but hopefully my sorcerer will survive long enough to see how this goes… UPDATE: The next batch of 5 sessions were posted on Meetup.com just recently and I was able to RSVP to all of them… Woo Hoo!
* Re-roll! — I had made a purchase earlier that allowed me to get a yellow Re-roll voucher. I pulled it out just before my final spell was cast, thinking I was going to have to use it… that Nat20 came up and I knew the fight was just about over as was the evening. The DM was gracious enough to allow me to gift it to a fellow player. Don’t forget, folks — help your fellow adventurers whenever possible!
* Recordkeeping — I recorded my XP and gold on the Adventure Logsheet (which reminds me I need to print a new one for next week — three entries per page max). Last night this was explained a bit more — at the beginning of each session, our coordinator, Topher, takes down our names and our unique DCI Number so WotC will have record of our attendance at events as well as be able to verify rewards earned such as gold and XP and magic items. I’m hoping to learn a bit more about this and how it will help me get a seat at a table at GenCon next year.
* Are You Playing? — I’m enjoying sharing with you the action from my game, but I’d sure to love hear from any readers who are also playing, whether it’s Adventurers League or their own campaigns. Are you enjoying 5e? If you like, email me a paragraph or two about your current game and I’ll try to collect any submissions and include in the Session 4 Report. Try to avoid spoilers, but feel free to share any special actions or fun encounters that come to mind. Provide me details on your character (race, class, level) or if you’re a DM, tell me a bit about your players and how you’re holding up minus the Dungeon Master’s Guide (I feel like a prisoner counting down the days until release… time goes so slooooowwww…)
That’s all for now… next week: Session 4!
Note: Click here for more information about Adventurers League.