No new players turned up to this session of Scourge of the Sword Coast, but we had a number of returning players who had missed a session or two, and a few regular players who couldn’t make it. All of which conspired to allow us three tables, one with three players, one with four players, and one with five players – with a DM at each table as well. I had the table with five players, with most of them (save Tait) relatively inexperienced players or new to Encounters. This meant that I had on my table Danielle, Josh, Lily, Sondra and Tait.
As I described in my last report, the group have reached an elven estate that has been overrun by gnolls and a few undead. The group entered the manor this session, and I took the opportunity to play it a lot more like a horror game than most of my D&D games. It helped greatly that the players were relatively new, and with the undead often being a real challenge for them, their sense of unease grew as the session continued.
The group had retreated to rest, so more gnolls had replaced those in guard in the gateway; however, the dread warriors had not been replaced. Tait and Danielle are playing Rogues, and so were able to sneak up to the gnolls and kill them… well, at least Danielle was able to. Sondra, playing a ranger, gave herself away and retreated, whilst Tait’s attack went wild. Lily and Josh, both playing Mages, stood back and cast spells – mostly ineffectively. Lily also created the illusion of a cat to distract the gnoll, but because the other players weren’t listening when she did it, they spent quite some time wondering where the cat had come from, Josh and Tait even chasing it after the gnolls were slain. Lily was greatly amused by this, as was I. Danielle was the one to finally distract the last gnoll by surprising it from behind; this allowed Tait to finish it off.
Now that they’d entered the manor again – and in relatively good shape – exploration was in order. In theory, this adventure is designed so you can finish each section of the adventure in two Encounters session, each of around 90-120 minutes. At least, I think this is the plan. It worked for Julkoun, but we seem to be taking a lot longer with this section, partly because it’s so rich in detail. There are 14 areas on the first level alone, and they are taking us quite a bit of time to explore!
Entering the main part of the house brought them to a great staircase spiralling down to the lower levels of the manor. Above them, a great dome of crystal and copper let the sunlight through, illuminating several great decorative vines that draped the walls up to the base of the dome. Two passages led off this section, both ending at doors. Tait and Danielle listened intently at the doors, and realised that monsters lay behind one. Tait let himself in sneakily, and discovered two sleeping (and snoring) gnolls. Tait moved to kill them in their sleep, but woke one as he put his hand over its muzzle. The other gnoll woke as the first was killed, but could only strike Tait once before it was dealt with. Tait bandaged the wound clumsily; without Tim’s paladin (who was helping the numbers at another table), the group had no healing ability at all. In fact, apart from a couple of paladins, there isn’t much healing in any group at our store!
A door from the gnolls’ chamber led to a corridor lined with many portraits of the elves who once lived in the manor; the group noted that some were missing, and another askew and broken. Tait, curious as to what was behind one of the doors in the corridor, opened it, to reveal a dead human woman in good clothing, who had been reanimated as a zombie! The group fell back as more zombies burst from other chambers, these ones dressed in the garb of servants. It was now terribly obvious that more than gnolls had invaded the manor, and the combat – without the group having a good defensive fighter – was tough. Afterwards, Lily examined the corpses, looking for clues to how the servants had died. She found small puncture marks on their necks which were discoloured, suggesting poison.
Things got then worse as they discovered three shadows lurking around a turn in the corridor. Now the shadows flowed towards the group, and all of the party ran back towards safety… except for Josh, who rolled exceptionally badly for initiative. He was felled by the shadows and lay there bleeding to death as the others split up – Tait and Lily hiding in one of the servant’s quarters and Danielle and Sondra fighting a desperate action in the study. Danielle set a chair on fire, and used it to form a barricade; the shadows proved wary of the light and heat and stayed back… a bit. Sondra shot arrows at the shadows, but the damage they were doing was poor. Lily bravely emerged from her hiding place and started casting spells on the shadows, slaying one. Danielle started pushing the burning chair towards the shadows, burning herself in the process, but she was able to force them back a bit, enough for Tait, Sondra and Lily to finally finish them off, though Lily was gravely wounded.
Just as Tait ran up to Josh, he drew his last breath and died – three failed death saving throws. The group continued on, saddened. Josh began to make plans for a new character – the brother of his first – but we were reaching the end of the session, so I chose not to break here to create and then introduce a new PC.
Sondra and Danielle found diversion when they found a closet filled with fine elven clothing, and began trying it on. Tait, meanwhile, went out onto a balcony where he found a strange bronze statue, looking vaguely human, but just a bit wrong. Moving up to it, he placed his hand on it, and was badly burnt – it was hot! Before his eyes, it changed shape into a bonfire and attacked. Sondra and Danielle were not pleased to be pulled away from their explorations, but they came to save Tait from being burned to death. Once again, it was a hard combat, with Tait only just surviving.
At this point, with Lily and Tait badly wounded and the group low on spells, they barricaded one of the rooms and settled down for the night… hoping the next day would prove less stressful than the last!