As with last week, I ran both a 5:00 and a 7:00 table for D&D Encounters this week.
The 5:00 table had seven players. Two of them were third level, one was second level, and four were first level. The first level players included the father and son pair who first showed up two weeks ago and who’ve been coming ever since (yay!) and the other two were brand new players (one of whom had played 1st Edition long ago and nothing since). Ah, I love teaching new players about the game!
The 7:00 table had five players – my quartet of third-level folks from last week, and a first-level binder played by my lovely wife!
The party had emptied the crypts beneath Saint Avarthil Abbey last week, destroying some skeletons and some shadowy hoofed humanoids. Now they came out into the late afternoon sun and headed up the hill to the monastery grounds.
A skill challenge ensued, with the adventurers trying to find traces of Nathaire and his foul denizens. The 5:00 table didn’t have much luck and stumbled into an ambush; the 7:00 table aced the challenge with no difficulty and got the jump on the bad guys.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the presentation of this encounter. The monsters were fine – a pair of nasty tar devils, a pair of shadow bolters (dark ones) and a pair of leeching shadow minions. For both groups (seven lower-level PCs at 5:00 and five upper-level PCs at 7:00) I used a total of four minions but otherwise left the monsters as written.
The problem was the terrain. There’s a 20-foot wall that can be walked on, and there are windows in the wall, but it was unclear how that was supposed to work. The wall is 10 feet thick; can characters on the inside see all the way through? It sounded like characters were supposed to be IN the wall, but that didn’t make sense. Ultimately I think they meant for the windows to be arrow slits in the battlements along the top of the wall, but none of the bad guys were stationed up there. It was all quite confusing.
The 5:00 table got in trouble quickly as the tar devils started burning people up in the surprise round and the bolters added to the pain. The lone healer in the group kept folks patched up, though, and they ultimately prevailed.
The 7:00 group had no trouble. They got the surprise round instead of the bad guys, and three of the five PCs had necrotic resistance, which made the bolters’ combat advantage power almost irrelevant.
Only one PC had any trouble at 7:00, and I felt really bad about it… because it was my wife! She had played once all the way back in week 1 and hadn’t been back since. I was so happy that she came to play, and then felt like a jerk when a tar devil immobilized her with flaming pitch in the first full round and she never got to move again. She was still effective, intentionally provoking some opportunity attacks from monsters in the paladin’s aura (and getting them zapped by divine vengeance), but it was a little frustrating for her. Her saving throw dice just hated her.
My favorite part of the encounter was the aftermath. As the party is resting after the battle, the land shifts into the Shadowfell. A nearby building, in ruins during the daytime, is now fully intact in the Shadowfell… and a light is burning in an upper window.
Ooh! Can’t wait for next week. I think I’ll just be running the 7:00 table, but it’s going to be a fun one.