A couple of weeks ago I noted that our numbers had been dropping. They surged back this week with a vengeance; two new players and a lot of returning players meant we had three tables each with a DM and six players. That’s 21 people playing D&D! Logistically this was a challenge, because the store also had (unusually) people playing Attack Wing and Magic, taking up valuable table space. We managed, but it was a little too noisy for my liking.
On my table, we had a ranger (Sondra), three rogues (Harry, Danielle and Tait), one mage (Lily) and a bard (Josh). Josh’s bard was the replacement for his mage who died last week. One particular lack of the group was that of a front-line fighter. Sondra and Josh sort of fulfilled that role, although neither was particularly happy about it. They needed a lot of cure wounds spells to stay standing. Otherwise, the rest of the group were in sniping or spring attack mode, as I explained how the rogues could best do additional damage (discussed here).
The exploration of the Floshin estate had already taken two sessions, and consumed a third session as well. The unease of the characters was high, once more, especially with the lack of front-line fighters or clerics, although both Sondra and Josh were able to cast three cure wounds spells apiece. I removed a few encounters with elemental grue to speed up play, and even then they weren’t able to reach the final encounter! I’ve a feeling that we won’t be getting through everything in the adventure; I’ll have to cut things out to finish it in time for Dead in Thay.
The group began by exploring the remaining rooms on the second floor. This brought them to a sitting room that contained four dread warriors. I was beginning to add further details to the description of the undead so that there were further clues to what was behind everything; in this case they were wearing antique, ornate armour of a particular style. Unfortunately, none of the group rolled high enough on their History or Arcana checks to identify them, so they players were aware that something was up, but not what it was. The fight mostly saw Sondra standing in the doorway being attacked by a couple of dread warriors, with the rogues using attack and retreat harassing attacks. Lily used a magic missile spell before settling back into cantrips (mostly ray of frost) as she realised that there might well be a really big encounter she needed to use her spells on. Once the battle was over, the group took a short rest to allow Sondra to recuperate somewhat.
With the entirety of the second floor explored, the group descended to the first floor using the spiral staircase. Four sets of armour were set in the room they descended to – and I completely forgot to mention that the stairs kept going down to the cellars! Instead, most of the group focused on the door to the garden while Josh examined the armour. Only to have it attack him – two sets of animated plate jerked into action, and a small imp sat within one of the helmets, trying to stab him with its poisoned tail. (Yes, it’s the imp that killed the servants; the tail is the source of the wounds that Lily discovered last session).
Josh fell back and the rest of the group ran for it! Danielle darted into the garden, followed by Josh, Sondra and Lily. There they were struck by the beauty of a blue-leaved tree, and could see into a couple of the other rooms of the mansion – where no dangers lurked. They just stayed out of the way as Tait and Harry rushed up the stairs, shooting at the armour and keeping out of its way. With the ability of the rogues to hustle as their extra action, I saw no problem in them easily outpacing the armour. When the animated armour couldn’t detect them, it headed back down the stairs – and they moved forward and attacked again. The armour was hard to hit, but relatively fragile, and so it didn’t really take that long for the rogues to take them down. Instead of alerting the rest of the group to this, they instead started to investigate on their own, opening another door and finding a well-stocked cupboard with some valuable dining settings. They were definitely thieves, and so they started to loot.
After a while, the other four joined them. The group did not remark upon the fact the imp had vanished, but just kept exploring the manor house. A dumb-waiter caught Danielle’s eye, and so she jumped in, her gnome the only character who could fit inside, and the group lowered her into the kitchen below. It was a large, well-stocked kitchen with some joints of meat evident, so she took them back up with her to feed her dire-wolf, Fluffy.
More exploration of the first floor allowed them to find the dining hall and more servant’s quarters. A well-stocked library was of great interest to Josh and Lily, and they browsed through the books, discovering that the armour worn by the undead was that of Thay – the great land of evil necromancers, far to the east of the Sword Coast.
A secret trapdoor led down to the cellars, so the group decided to take that. Well, most of the group: Sondra, Danielle and her dire-wolf stayed above. A few storage rooms were found, but of more threat was the laundry, in which two water grue – horrible, oozy spheres of unclean water – were resting in a basin. Upon being disturbed by Tait trying to climb onto the basin to see out the high windows above, they attacked. The group ran back, especially after discovering that while the grue were moderately easy to hit, they had a lot of hit points and wouldn’t go down easily. Sondra descended into the cellars to help them upon hearing their screams, but was unable to persuade Danielle to help. Tait and Harry discovered that whilst they were able to hide from the grue in side passages, that didn’t really help when the grue turned into the passages! Josh was able to intimidate one of the grue into retreating after it was badly wounded, which made the work of the heroes a lot easier. Eventually both were slain, and the party continued to explore the cellars.
A workshop contained a statue of a devil impaled by a sword, but – again – neither Lily nor Josh could identify its import. It wasn’t a good day for their knowledge rolls! They then discovered the stairs up to the main chamber… oops! We laughed at that, and Danielle and Fluffy rejoined the party.
More elemental grue – another water grue – attacked as they investigated a fountain at the intersection of some corridors. Alone, it wasn’t much of a threat. Proceeding down one of the corridors, they discovered the kitchen that Danielle had seen before. The other corridor led to the pantry, which, they found, also had a secret door that led to the barracks. Some of the group were very interested in the fine arms and armour they could find in the barracks; they were more than delighted to find two potions of healing; but they were puzzled by a suit of crudely made armour in the chamber.
The owner of that armour they found in the cells adjoining the barracks. A half-orc, now dead. The group were extremely surprised to discover that the corpse wasn’t undead. It’s funny – I didn’t even think about it that way, but considering what had happened to all the servants and guests here, the fact that this half-orc hadn’t been turned into an undead servant of some kind was quite unusual. Lily, examining the corpse, discovered that it had been drained of all its blood, but there were no clues that they could see showing what killed it.
The next room held danger: four dread warriors and a Thayan wight! This was a tough battle, and Josh and Sondra spent as much time healing themselves as attacking. Josh finally brought out his bardic song, and the group badly needed the bonus to damage that it gave. At least the cramped quarters meant that the group couldn’t get overwhelmed. The battle was long, and it was tough, but eventually the group prevailed.
At this point we’d been going for two hours or a little more, and the other groups were packing up. One more encounter was needed to finish the Estate, but, given it might involve a lot of role-playing, I didn’t want to rush it and so we closed the session there. The group had done a lot, and I was very happy with how it had gone. I know a couple of players won’t be making the next session, though I think everyone at my table will be there – I guess we’ll see if I need a fourth copy of the adventure if new players keep turning up! I’m finding the adventure absolutely excellent to run, and I hope the players are enjoying it as much as I am.