My apologies to those of you following along with my session reports for the D&D Encounters event. Last week got a bit crazy with some work-related items and I was unable to get the Session 8 report submitted. So… this week I’ll be catching you up on the events for Sessions 8 and 9 — these two gaming nights added to Session 7 make up Chapter 2 of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Next week, Session 10 (and the next eight sessions) will begin Chapter 3 and the conclusion of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.
Last night my fellow players were reminded that Encounters is considered the entry-level event for D&D, and we were encouraged to invite new players to attend. I know of at least two new players last night (none at my table, unfortunately) so new faces are still coming in the door to take a spin with the 5th edition rules. I’d love to bring a new player or two in the upcoming weeks, so if you’re in the Atlanta area and want to join us, let me know!
It’s also just a little over a month until the 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide will be released (official date is Dec 9, but certain stores will be selling it early on November 28th) — at that point in time, I’m hoping to start DMing again and will reach out to my local game store to see about hosting my own campaign. This would involve new level 1 characters not associated with the Encounters event, and I imagine there are a LOT of DMs out there who are anxious to get their hands on the new book and start developing their own campaigns. I saw a tweet the other day that said the DMG is off to the printers, so game on! Previews are already starting to be released as Wizards of the Coast releases new pages when certain financial goals are met for the upcoming Extra Life 24-hour D&D event. You can read more about the event here as well as get a comical look at one of the more memorable magic items from D&D‘s history, the Deck of Many Things. As the fundraising continues, they will continue to release more pages, up to and including the Table of Contents if $50,000 is raised. (They’re currently at $26k.)
Meanwhile, unusual things continue to happen in and around the town of Greenest. Chapter 2 started two weeks ago (Oct 1) and concluded with last night’s session, so let’s get to the action…
*** 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 ***
There wasn’t a lot of time for us to wonder if our reverse ambush would work. We used a few of the dead cultists as lures, placing them close together against a few small boulders, their backs to anyone coming from the direction of the cultist camp or the ambush site that we’d been warned about a mile ahead. Sure enough, the cultist we’d let go showed up with two others, hoping to surprise us. We were disappointed that a larger group hadn’t left their own ambush site, but before we could figure out an alternative, one of the cultist got suspicious and snuck forward and discovered the ruse. Rolan, Anton, and I each targeted the suspicious cultist and managed to drop him, but not before one of the other cultists was able to sound the alarm on a horn. We finished off the two cultists, but the damage was done. Our presence was known.
This was going to be an interesting night. First, we were down one player. Around my table were:
Essie: Human Fighter
Griffon: Human Cleric
Anton: Human Rogue
Rolan: Wood Elf Ranger
Niloshis: Half-Elf Sorcerer
Chi Tan, our other human fighter? Missing. Where was he? Well, the PLAYER was absent that night, but how to explain Chi’s disappearance from Session 7 (and his ultimate return for Session 9)? Suggestions for DM Martin were flying around the table from the players — beer run, cowardice, slipped in a hole, eaten by a bear, and raptured. But I’ll come back to that…
Not ten minutes into the night’s session and a slew of cultists were already warned of our coming arrival. A second horn sounded from what we believed was the cultists’ ambush site, but we just didn’t know. We had our mission from Greenest’s governor, including the most important goal of finding the cultists’ camp. So forward we went…
We couldn’t keep up with our ranger, so we just let him scout ahead. Rolan managed to get close to the cultists’ ambush point, and reported back that there was definite movement heard. He also saw a small group of cultists leaving the ambush site and heading in the direction we believed to lead to the larger camp. A trail was also spotted! We had learned earlier that there was a path that circumvented the ambush site, but it would slow us by many hours. After much debate, we examined our injuries and noted Chi’s disappearance and elected to take the trail around the ambush site. Rather than fight, we were hoping to avoid any confrontations and get the governor the information he needed…
Along the trail, our ranger spotted a set of footprints. Best guess? A bear. A big bear. We kept going. Next, more footprints were spotted. Not smaller, like cubs. Same size. Multiple bears? Oh, boy. Sure enough, we rounded a curve and one hungry bear stood in our way. We missed on attacks way more than we hit, but we did managed to do enough damage that the bear decided to retreat to a cave. We let it go. I think we made the right decision. (This would also be about the time we realized our rogue did NOT like to sneaking into caves… more on this in a bit.) We continued on the trail until we returned to the original road leading to where we believed would be the cultists’ larger camp. As we debated what to do, DM Martin instead forced a fast decision when he informed us a small band of kobolds was coming our direction (from the ambush site). What to do?
I really hated this idea. I cannot tell you how nervous I was when Anton suggested we put on some of the captured red cultist robes and try to intimidate the kobolds. We’d already seen that the kobolds didn’t like the human cultists, so who knew how they’d respond or even if they’d recognize us as impostors. But it worked! Not only did they follow Anton’s orders to hurry back to the camp, but two additional cultists were encountered just as we neared the camp. We could see the smoke from multiple fires ahead, and because we were as tired as the two cultists, no one was much for talking. Instead, we slowly made our way over a hill and then the cultists’ camp was visible. It was a nightmare! Surrounded on all sides by cliffs, there appeared to be only one way into the camp. Our two companions broke away and moved towards a small cave in the side of the cliffs, but before we could decide whether to join them a loud voice yelled to us. A guard near the entrance was calling us over. We really had no choice but to try and continue to charade. As we approached, we could see a number of kobolds in a nearby guard tower staring at us…
Very little combat, and a LOT of Deception and Persuasion rolls for the night. Role-playing, folks! I don’t know how we managed to do it, but we ended up not only manning the guard tower, but Anton, our rogue, was able to mingle with other cultists and start gathering some information on the camp and its leadership. I was able to convince the guard (near the camp entrance) to let me take the four kobolds we were relieving in the tower and “show them how guard duty is done.” It allowed me to not only get another lookout at the layout of the camp, but also disperse the four kobolds in different areas by leaving one here, another there. It really is fun to boss kobolds around!
Anton and I returned to the guard tower and shared what little information we had about the camp’s layout with the rest of the group. As we tried to get an estimate on the number gathered in the camp, Griffon spotted two guards coming in the entrance with a prisoner between them. They got a bit closer… it was Chi! Apparently he’d gotten separated from us somehow during our failed ambush and had managed to get himself captured. Anton and Essie jumped down from the tower, and the rest of us were surprised. Anton tried to convince the guards that Chi had robbed Essie earlier in the day and that Essie would want some revenge. Essie and Anton offered to “escort” Chi to the prisoner area, but the guards would not relinquish their prisoner. Instead, they followed the two guards and Chi into the night… I could only imagine they were looking for the right opportunity to free our friend. Meanwhile, Griffon, Anton, Rolan and I circulated around the camp, listening to the discussions around the campfires and hoping for more information.
Unknown to my small group, Chi had actually been able to convince his captors that he was just a mercenary from Greenest looking for what was taken from him. He allowed the captors to talk him into joining up and, because Essie and Anton had been following him through the camp and were pretending to want to do him harm, the lead interrogator actually put Essie in charge of watching over him! Well played Chi and Essie and DM Martin! While this was happening, I cast a False Life on Rolan (the ranger) and an Invisibility spell. He got +6HP and went scouting out a big tent that was obviously important…
Rolan returned to us after the Invisibility spell had worn off and told us some excellent news. He had found the missing monk, Leosen, tied up behind the tent. Rolan tried to cut his ties, but Leosen actually wanted to remain a prisoner because he said he was gathering information on the cult. Leosen was also able to provide Rolan with more details about the leadership of this particular camp and pointed out that the cave we’d seen in the cliffs was called the nursery! A dragon nursery? Eggs? More details to deliver to the Governor. As Rolan was leaving the tent area, he overheard a woman inside stating that tomorrow morning the monk was to be killed. Rolan was unable to warn Leosen, but came back to us so we could possibly figure out a rescue plan. On his way back, he also discovered a dozen prisoners, weak from forced labor. There was little Rolan could do for them other than to promise we’d try to free them if the opportunity came…
While I’d burned both of my level 2 spell slots (one on a mega sleep spell from Session 7 and the Invisibility I’d cast on Rolan), I was able to burn all 3 Sorcery Points to “buy” another level 2 spell slot. I did this, cast another Invisibility on Griffin who returned to both heal Leosen AND cut him loose after informing him of the cult’s plan to kill him at dawn. He would have been spotted easily leaving the vicinity of the tent, so Griffin just told him to stay put and wait for us to return. With all my level 2 spell slots gone, there was no chance of casting another Invisibility spell, and we had no idea how to sneak up on the tent and get Leosen away.
Three cultists had spotted Chi and must have had some serious suspicions about him. I spotted them following us around the camp, but it was Anton who decided to hide and let them pass. Meanwhile, I prepared a Sleep spell. As soon as we were out of view of the other cultists, I managed to put two of them to sleep and Anton and Rolan eliminated the still-standing cultist. Now we had three dead cultists to try and hide and a monk up on the hill to rescue. Leave it to Anton to come up with another crazy stunt! Essie and Chi picked up one of the bodies and pretended to escort their “drunken” friend up to the tent for punishment. Somehow they managed to convince a few guards to let them by! They swapped the body for Leosen, put Leosen in a robe, and then returned. None of us could believe the luck.
Dawn was nearing, and we knew we had to escape the camp before Leosen was discovered missing. We took a chance and tried to convince four guards near the camp’s entrance that we’d been sent to relieve them… two hours early. They weren’t buying it, but we told them all the various guards and duties were being mixed up and changed and that we’d return to our captain and let him know the entrance guards weren’t leaving their post. That did the job. They vacated their position near the entrance… and now all we needed was a distraction.
I couldn’t believe how close we were to freedom from the cultists’ camp! Here we were, standing at the entrance but under the watchful eye of a handful of kobolds in the guard tower. The nearby cave that Leosen had called the nursery was within reach, but Anton wasn’t willing to try and sneak in. I can’t really blame him — too many perimeter guards and I can’t imagine if there were dragon eggs inside that they wouldn’t be heavily guarded inside as well. Luck was on our side, however, as a loud horn sounded from the rear of the camp. It had to be the guards discovering that Leosen had escaped. As the horn sounded, much of the camp turned its attention to the big tent and the yelling that could be heard. That was all we needed! We ran. Ran fast! Right out of the gate! We were a bit over-confident, however, because an arrow lodged itself in Essie’s shoulder. He didn’t stop running, though. Tough warrior! We raced away from the camp, while Rolan and Anton alerted us to a small group running out of the gate to follow us. We didn’t stop until they were close enough for us to identify — four kobolds and a single human guard. We were out of sight of the camp entrance, so this seemed as good a place as any to stand and fight.
The fight was fast. I took out a single kobold and Nolan and Anton took care of the guard. Once the guard was down, Griffon yelled out “Run!” at the kobolds. They didn’t need any more convincing and took to the hills. We wasted no time either… returning to Greenest as fast as possible and getting there late in the morning. The Governor was quite pleased with the information on the camp’s location, its leaders, and other details. As promised, he delivered the gold reward… and a much needed rest.
And that was the end of Chapter 2. Next week, Chapter 3 begins, with nine sessions for its story. I have no idea where we go next, as DM Martin gave us no clues or hints of what was to come.
Some closing comments for this week:
* XP and Gold — 435XP (no gold) puts me about halfway to the 2700 needed to make level 4. This was the highest amount of XP we’ve been awarded so far, and DM Martin gave us a breakdown of how we’d earned it — apparently we didn’t do too shabby a job in collecting info, remaining undetected (to a point), and rescuing that monk!
* Recordkeeping — You can download my 3-page adventure log PDF for Session 8 here and the 4-page log for Session 9 here. The handwriting is terrible… consider yourself warned. (Normally it’s not THAT bad, but trying to write fast to keep up with all the details takes its toll.)
* Titan Games & Comics — Once again a HUGE thank you goes to the team at Titan for hosting this weekly event . They give a discount to any RPG purchases made during the Encounters event (that explains all the boxes of miniatures being bought each week!) and give you a Re-Roll Ticket for every $5 purchase (up to a max of 2). These came in REALLY handy during Session 9 – I think we turned it a total of 7 Re-Roll tickets. Please come join the D&D game or any of their other planned gaming events — check out Titan’s Meetup.com signup page here.
* Level 3 — Yeah, I cannot tell you how great it is to have spell slots beyond level 1. At level 1 and 2, you burn through your spells so fast. Still do at level 3, but with the Long Rest at the end of Chapter 2, I’ll have all slots free again. I did NOT hold back on spell casting for Session 9!
* Tarrasque Takedown Part 2 — A few weeks back, our Encounters host, Topher, took part in a level 20 D&D 5th edition battle royale — the first of many monsters they would fight turned out to be probably the toughest of all… the Tarrasque. The team didn’t finish up their fight with the other surprise monsters, so they’re going to once again stream the event live on Sunday, October 19th. If you’d like to watch, click here for more details. If you miss it, they’ll be making the event available on YouTube for later viewing.
* Happy Birthday — Speaking of Topher… last night was his birthday. Happy Birthday, Topher! And a big thank you also to Topher’s wife for sending a cake! The cake was NOT a lie!
See you next week for the Session 10 Report!