Last night’s session was a little bittersweet for me, I must admit. For the last eighteen weeks, I’ve sat side-by-side with a number of new friends as we took on the evil cultists in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure. I’ll go in to a bit more detail about this shortly, but as I begin preparing for my role as DM (starting on Jan 7, 2015), I have to bid farewell to Niloshis, my (now) level 4 sorcerer. I’ll be facing the players from the other side of the DM screen, and while I’m absolutely looking forward to DMing, I must admit that I really, REALLY enjoyed my time as a player. For most of my earlier AD&D playing days, I was the DM. I rarely got to play. That’s not a complaint — I was happy to do it. But I can honestly say that I’ve NEVER played as a character for this many sessions. NEVER. Come to think of it, I’ve never played D&D eighteen weeks in a row…
I’ve got a few odds-and-ends to share with you in this post, in addition to the Session 18 summary comments. A while back, I welcomed players (and DMs) to write to me and share with me some of their favorite moments in Season 1 of Adventurers League… and I’m going to extend that invitation again. If you’ve got something really cool, funny, dark, or all three that you’d like to share about your AL experience these past few months, just email me a paragraph or two, along with details on your character or role, and I’ll collect them and share them in a future post sometime between today and Jan 7, 2015. Feel free to call out your DM or other players for special recognition!
Titan Games & Comics had four tables going, with 27 players and 4 DMs. Just about every table had seven players and space was tight, but every table seemed to be cheering and clapping and laughing. Just a great night!
I’ve got plenty more to share before wrapping up this post series, but let’s get to last night’s action first…
*** 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 ***
Last week, the following characters joined me in our final rush to rid the cave of the evil cultist scourge:
Essie – Human Fighter
Borax – Dwarf Cleric
Edna – Gnome Bard
Anton – Human Rogue
Umbra – Drow Ranger
Niloshis – Half-Elf Sorcerer
Rolan — Wood Elf Ranger
This week, we somehow lost Anton in the dark and twisty passages of the cave. Here’s hoping he finds his way out… we’ll wait for you in Greenest for a few days, old friend, but then we must ride fast to meet up with Leosen and deliver the maps and information we obtained from our adventure in the cave…
As we battled the evil cleric last week, she screamed “Protect the treasure!” right before she died. Unfortunately, of the two surviving guards in the room, one was asleep and the other was taken down immediately by our cleric, Borax. The sleeping cultist guard would also not be defending any so-called treasure in the future. We took a good long rest in that room before leaving, with Umbra standing guard duty and Rolan in deep meditation. (Because, let’s face it… you don’t leave a Drow alone to guard your party. Enough said.) Spell slots refreshed, and hey… I leveled up! Woo Hoo!
The party exited the guard barracks into a passageway that split left and right. To the left was a large wooden door. Essie checked it… locked. Even worse, it appeared to be magically locked. A slight glow could be detected. I was able to discern that a sufficient amount of magical damage might disrupt whatever spell had been cast, and Edna and I proceeded to launch away — obviously giving away any chance of surprising what might be beyond the door. I hit it twice with an Eldritch Blast. (Wait… What? You’re a sorcerer! Yep… but I took a Feat at level 4 that let me select another cantrip from a few other classes.) Edna hit it with a Thunderwave… BOOM! The door creaked open.
Next, Umbra elected to check out the other side of the door — I hit him with Invisibility and then pulled out an ancient looking artifact I’d been carrying in my bag for some time… the Scale of Bahamut! It allowed me to cast the Bless spell at level 2 on four players (three plus one extra due to a level 2 spell slot being used). Those four players would enjoy rolling a d4 and adding its value to all attack and saving throw rolls for the next 60 seconds. I had a sneaky feeling we were heading into combat, so it was a calculated risk. Other players were thinking we’d be facing a dragon on the other side of that door. Umbra snuck in (but failed his Stealth roll) and observed two Kobolds banging their swords against a figure tied up and hanging down from the ceiling… it was my old halfling friend, Lem! I hadn’t seen him since way back when the attack on Greenest began!
The kobolds spotted Umbra’s entrance into the room, but before they could attack Umbra leaped up and tried to cut down Lem. Fail. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the us ran into the room…
The kobolds definitely spotted us in the small room. As we positioned ourselves for combat, one of the kobolds ran to the wall and pulled a lever. Uh oh. Borax, Essie, and Niloshis were standing within a certain area of the map and we all had to make Dexterity saves. I made mine, jumping back as the floor opened beneath us. Essie and Borax weren’t so lucky… they tumbled down into a room we’d previously discovered. Oh, and the two HUNGRY drakes were still there. The trap door closed, leaving these two to face the drakes while the rest of us dealt with the kobolds.
The kobolds were easy to dispatch. I cast my newest spell, Shatter. The kobold failed its Constitution save and took 3d8 worth of damage… dead dead dead. Rolan took out the other kobold, and Umbra cut down the halfling prisoner as Edna ran forward and pulled and held the lever to keep the trap open. We stared down into the room beneath us…
Down below, Essie had managed to toss some rations to a far wall and distracted one of the drakes. The other one wasn’t going for it. Instead, they managed to trade some damage with it until the group above opened the trap door and began to deal damage from above. We targeted one drake (not the one eating the rations) repeatedly until it fell… and then the other chose to attack. Lem had grabbed two daggers from the dead kobolds above and leapt down to join the fray. I chose to stay up, tossing down a few spells here and there to add some damage. Umbra tied a rope to a “heavy” chest that was left in the room and dropped the rope down to Essie and Borax. Someone tried to climb the rope — instead, the chest went tumbling down to the lower level. So… down went Umbra after his chest after using some additional rope and tying it to a hook in the ceiling.
Both drakes were down, and I left the room to return to the split hallway to see what I could see. Rolan stayed on guard as two poisoned drakes (from the previous session’s acid gas attack) found their way into the lower chamber. I think they would have left the group alone, but someone tossed a dagger at one and it proceeded to jump down into the fray. The other one limped away. The group managed to kill this last drake and then took turns climbing the rope back up. Oh, and the chest was just a diversion — the evil cleric yelled out “Protect the treasure” to try and trick us into running into the next room and triggering the trap and falling into the drake pit. Didn’t work so well for her, although a few of us did fall down… so maybe she did get a little revenge from beyond the grave.
Niloshis’s investigations had discovered the other hallway branch would return us to the original cavern just inside the cave’s entrance. No sounds were heard, but he could see sunlight. We raced down the hallway and into the cavern… it was empty. The decision was made to get OUT and return to Greenest right away. Lem wanted to have some conversations with a few hunters that were still lingering around the abandoned cultist camp, but that didn’t last long… we huffed it back to Greenest and learned that Leosen had already left Greenest with instructions for the party to take some horses and supplies (already paid for) and meet him in a nearby town. Leosen had also left behind some amazing artifacts for the party to divide up… Niloshis was given a Staff of Fire. Yayuh!
And that ended Session 18… and Chapter 3 of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The players were given a choice a few sessions back of what to do between now and early March when Season 2 of Adventurers League would begin. It was decided that the adventure would continue with Chapter 4 (and possibly Chapter 5) for the next eight sessions that will start on Jan 7. I’ve already begun my preparations, and I will give my players a choice — keep their current character and continue to play it up to about level 5 OR start a new character (level 4) to take into the Chapter 4 sessions.
Some additional thoughts and notes:
* I’m going to miss Niloshis. I’d like to think that after this adventure in the cave, he’s been approached by a senior Harper agent and given a very special task to complete that will take him away from his new friends. Will I have a chance to play him again? I hope so… maybe at GenCon next year. DMs are awarded experience for their time, so it’s quite possible I may keep Niloshis adventuring in the shadows and bring him back in the future.
* I just got a great email from a GeekDad reader, Gabe S., who told me that he’s been enjoying reading my reports. He has young children and no access (currently) to a gaming group. I’ve been there. Here’s hoping Gabe and anyone else who is wanting to play 5e D&D will find a chance in the near future, either as DM or player. Gabe, be watching for your name to show up in an upcoming DM report early next year as an NPC in my game. You may not be able to play, but I can put you in my game.
* Here’s a link to a 4-page PDF containing my Session 18 handwritten notes.
* When Adventurers League started, players would choose to side with a particular faction. I chose the Harpers. Each player received a special folder that contained a welcome letter from their faction leader, a special one-time use item (like the Scale of Bahamut I used earlier), a name plate for the table, and a sticker displaying the faction logo. To encourage more players to join Adventurers League in Season 2, I thought I’d share with you some scans of a few items I used during Season 1. First up, below is a photo of my Harpers folder… it took a beating this season with a rip on the flap and some scratches. All good stories come with battle damage.
* Here’s my nameplate. Towards the middle of the season, most of the players I saw weren’t using them anymore as we knew each other by both real name and character name. The name plate folded up into a triangle-shaped base with the black portion below making up the bottom of the stand.
* During this last session of 2014, DM Martin awarded each player with a special magic item. Below is a scan of the one I received — the Staff of Fire. Unfortunately, it has some spells (such as Fireball) that I don’t yet have at level 4. Still… pretty cool to have an official document (I need to remember to have the DM sign it) of the acquisition. On the flip side is a unique number that I believe I will need to register with AL for Niloshis to use in future adventures.
* Throughout Season 1 and my eighteen adventures, I used a number of character sheets as Niloshis leveled. Below you’ll find my level 3 sheet, complete with tons of scratch throughs for HP loss, spell slots used, etc. I know some players who keep their sheets immaculate. I’m not one of those. If you look close, you’ll see that I scratched through the 3, changed it to 4 (level) and then updated my spell slots at the bottom of the sheet (4 level 1 slots, 3 level 2 slots).
* After leveling to 4, I then remembered I’d already printed out my level 4 sheet complete with new spells and such. I began using it right away — you can see that I burned a few level 2 spells and a level 1 slot, too. I also used up some of my 6 Sorcery Points to create an extra level 2 spell slot… that also got used up. You can see I chose the Spell Sniper feat (in lieu of bumping up two Ability Scores).
* Years ago, I used to keep my characters written down in small field notebooks. At the beginning of Season 1, I thought it would be fun to do that again. I purchased another small Field Notes notebook (lined) with the cardboard cover, printed out an AL logo and stuck it and the Harper sticker on the front as shown below.
* Inside I kept the details of Niloshis as he leveled up. I scanned in the entire thing (not the blank pages) and if you’d like to take a look, feel free — this link will take you to a short 11-page PDF scan of the major pages that include XP earned, spells, and much more.
* I did manage to snag an additional 450XP for Niloshis on Dec 3 when I attended the Expeditions event, Dues for the Dead. Unfortunately, I had to leave right at the finale when I got a call from my wife that she was feeling very ill. I left Niloshis in the very capable hands of my friend, Stephen. I did take notes of the event, so if you’re interested, here’s a link to the 2-page PDF summary of that gathering. They’re not as detailed… sorry.
* Niloshis finished up at level 4 with 4482XP. Not even close to what he needs to hit level 5, but for now I’m quite happy with his skills, spells, and other stats.
* If you didn’t catch my Part I and Part II posts for creating random adventures using the new 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide, click the links and take a look. The reason I’m referencing these articles is that I’ll most likely be using the DMG to help me fine-tune a few mini-adventures for the players who sit at my table starting in January. Chapters 4 and 5 appear to offer DMs a lot of flexibility in how things resolve, and because Season 2 will NOT finish up Hoard of the Dragon Queen, it’s up to DMs and players if they wish to see how it all turns out. For this reason, I’ll be developing a few mini-adventures to scatter throughout the Chapter 4 events that begin Jan 7 and run through March. I’ll do my best to write these up from the DMs chair, but I’m still trying to figure out how exactly I’ll do the writeup — I need to avoid spoilers or mentioning things that could give players a hint of what’s to come. I may build in a two or three week head start on the actual gameplay before I start doing the write-ups. Just bear with me in January as I figure out how best to document the sessions.
* Finally, another big thank you to Wizards of the Coast, Titan Games & Comics staff, and the Titan event coordinator, Topher, for pulling together such a great event. WotC really put the time into making this experience a good one for both players and DMs, and they deserve a big pat on the back for introducing 5e to the world (and all those new players!) with a bang! And Topher — outstanding job, my friend. I’m looking forward to DMing in the new year, and if you land at my table (Topher will be playing, not DMing this time around) I promise to give you a free re-roll at the moment when you need it the most.
Thanks to everyone who has emailed or messaged me about the Session 1-18 reports. I’m glad you enjoyed them — I did enjoy writing them up! Meet me back here in early 2015, and let’s see what happens next.