I loved DMing D&D Encounters over the summer, but once the fall came and my Wednesday night bowling league started up again, I had to bow out. However, I still agreed to be the backup DM when needed. I ran a table in week 8 with several weeks’ notice, and tonight I ran another table with about 24 hours’ notice.
Being out of the loop and then jumping in to run a session of Encounters in a hurry is a little bit tricky. I had read the synopsis of the whole adventure when it first came out, but I certainly hadn’t read every session. I did my best to glance over what had happened in weeks 11 and 12, and then dug into prep for week 13.
Since I run my games using MapTool on my laptop and a projector to put the map on the table, my first order of business was to create the map for this session. It would be lovely if WotC would make the D&D Encounters maps available to DMs in high-resolution JPG format rather than just as physical posters in the Encounter packet, but I’m up for the challenge of creating the maps on my own as needed. Here is my version of the Week 13 map:
The session begins with the party having chased the Lost Heir of Neverwinter through the streets of town, following the blue flames the Heir has left behind. They discovered last session that the Heir is evidently female, and in this session came the big reveal:
The Lost Heir is actually Seldra.
And moreover, Seldra was causing trouble. She had put up a magical dome of blue fire in the middle of the town square, surrounding herself and the dragon-turned-statue. She seemed to be doing something to mess with that dragon, and the PCs couldn’t do anything about it until they got the dome of flames out of the way.
I had one brand-new D&D player at the table tonight, along with one person in his second-ever session, plus four regulars. The new guy was playing a Binder Warlock, and he jumped right in by using his arcane knowledge to start disrupting the dome of fire. The rest of the party joined the effort as well, some of them physically hacking at the dome, one warpriest praying to his god for assistance, and so on.
Ultimately, the dome was brought down, and the party attacked right away. Seldra summoned some fire elementals and the fight began.
The fire elementals were a little bit strange in that their attacks simply gave the PCs ongoing damage. Being hit by three elementals was no different than being hit by one (since multiple instances of the same ongoing damage don’t stack). The one exception I made was for a critical hit, which I ruled would deal 5 damage right away and ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
Pretty soon, most of the party was on fire. The new guy playing the Binder asked if jumping into the fountain in the square would put out the flames – you betcha! Great idea; I love it when players think creatively.
The Bladesinger in the party was surrounded by elementals and Seldra, and soon found himself in deep trouble. Fortunately, the party has two healers, who kept the Bladesinger up. Unfortunately, the Bladesinger ended the battle without any healing surges left.
Seldra made for a fun foe. I waited until round 3, when she was bloodied, for her to both use her action point and to start sucking the life force out of the elementals – a truly fun mechanic. The dwarf warpriest in the party prevented a ton of damage in one round by using a power that gave everyone Resist 5 All, nicely negating both the ongoing damage from the elementals and Seldra’s fiery aura.
After six rounds of fighting the Bladesinger dropped Seldra with a Magic Missile, and the PCs decided to spare her, since it was clear she wasn’t in her right mind.
Best of all, the session wrapped up in about an hour and a half, which let me get to my bowling league on time. I had no time to warm up, but I guess that’s good for me since I bowled a 227, a 218 and a 200. For a guy whose average was 182 coming into this week, that’s a heck of a series!
So, victory for the party and victory (at bowling) for the DM. Huzzah for everyone!
-Michael, the OnlineDM (OnlineDM1 on Twitter)