Week Two of the story picks up where Week One left off, in the Old Skull Inn in Shadowdale just after the heroes have fended off a drow invasion. We had five of the same players at the table as last week, and one player who has played D&D 3.5 but who was brand new to 4th Edition:
- A goblin hunter named Ferrin
- A goblin scout named Squintch
- A goblin slayer named Snarl (who doesn’t speak but just, well, snarls)
- A svirfneblin warpriest named Ziti
- A drow mage named Zin
- An eladrin wizard named Lloyd (the new player)
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love introducing new players to the game. Sure, he already knew how to play D&D, but he’s new to 4th Edition, so I’ll take it! I’ll also mention that there was another person in the store who was going to be playing at the later table, and he mentioned that he had seen my Week One post and recognized me. Hi there, dude whose name I failed to catch!
Anyway, after fending off the drow invasion, the svirfneblin cleric in the party received a Sending message in her head from the great wizard Elminster. He explained that he was busy fighting off drow, and that he wanted the adventurers to go get the Pendant of Ashaba from the Twisted Tower.
They soon learned from the innkeeper that the Twister Tower is where the lady of the city, Addee Ulphor, lives. However, the goblins in the group were more interested in checking out the inn’s cellar, where these drow invaders had come from.
Sidebar: Svirfneblin became Smurf Zepplin at our table. I’m picturing one of those giant balloons from a parade now. Awesome!
Let’s go off the rails!
All right, sure. So, the cellar was a pretty typical storage cellar, except for the clear drow tracks coming from a broken, heavy-looking wooden door in one corner. On the other side of the door was a long ladder heading down into darkness (note that I was making all of this up on the fly, but I faked it well).
Elminster jumped in to the svirfneblin’s head again, complaining about how Lady Ulphor wouldn’t listen to him when he told her not to keep the Pendant in the tower. Ziti used the reply function of the Sending ritual to tell Elminster that the party was ignoring him and instead going into the Underdark beneath the Old Skull Inn.
Well, that got the old wizard’s attention! With the goblins at the bottom of the ladder and starting to explore the long tunnel down there and Ziti halfway down the ladder, Elminster whipped up a Mass Sending to yell at everybody and tell them how important it was that they help at the tower.
Heavy-handed of me? Maybe. I was actually expecting them to still ignore Elminster, in which case I would be making up D&D Encounters as I went along! Hey, I like improv. Fortunately, the party did decide to go check out the tower after all.
Note that they didn’t ask any questions about the tower – let’s roll!
The direct approach
Now, the adventure gives the party lots of options for approaching the tower carefully. A few PCs can scout ahead and enter the front door. The whole group can be stealthy. They can try a water approach, coming to the dock on the back of the tower.
Not my group! “Hey look – there’s the front door. I go knock on it.”
Okay then. The door was damaged and off its hinges, so the party walked right in.
In the middle of this large area, they saw Lady Addee Ulphor. She was backed against a sepulcher and looking nervous. She told the party to leave, “… or else they’ll kill me.” With this, she glanced nervously to the left and right.
A little back and forth with Lady Ulphor followed, until eventually Zin the drow decided to make an Insight check. Ferrin and Ziti did likewise. Ferrin got the feeling that something wasn’t quite right here, but it was Ziti who rolled a critical success on her Insight check and saw that Lady Addee was in fact not Lady Addee at all, but some kind of shapeshifter disguised to look like the Lady.
This combat was against the shapeshifter, three drow templars (soldiers) and two drow informants (sneaky guys who can become invisible). Since we had six PCs instead of the five that the adventure assumes, I was planning to throw in an extra informant.
The sneaky, invisible informants won initiative, and I just had them hang back and hide in round 1, maintaining their invisibility. Poor Snarl went next; as a slayer, he was the closest thing the party had to a defender tonight. He charged in and attacked the lady/shapeshifter.
Then came the templars. Snarl was soon in deep doo-doo.
The ranged characters hung back while the cleric and scout started mixing it up, but they soon discovered that the spear-wielding templars had defender auras and could beat the crap out of them if they shifted.
In round three, the shapeshifter was bloodied, so she started retreating. Meanwhile, the informants finally got close enough to start attacking. Squintch was soon unconscious, and Ziti had a moment of awesome by letting Squintch make a saving throw that ended up getting him a 20 and back in the action.
I had decided by the end of round two not to bring in the extra informant; the party already had their hands full. Lots of bloody PCs were limping around the battlefield by the time the drow were wiped out, and the shapeshifter had gotten away, swimming across the river.
I fear that if I had used the extra informant, I might have some dead PCs on my hands. As it stands, Snarl and Squintch are down to two or three healing surges each already. Eek!
So, it was a much tougher fight for the party this week. They explored the tower and saw that the real Lady Ulphor had apparently escaped, but that the Pendant of Ashaba was nowhere to be found. Furthermore, they found drow tracks not only coming UP from the cellar, but also going back DOWN. It seems that the party’s path lies below…
-Michael the OnlineDM