We’re moving towards the end of this D&D Encounters season, and this session began with Josh getting drunk.
Well, Josh’s character at least. Returning to Daggerford, our half-orc bard felt that his best course of action was to find the owner of the Floshin estate (Darfin Floshin) and persuade him to hand over the manor to the party. Lily, Danielle and Josh had very much enjoyed the manor when they’d explored it several weeks ago, and had been greatly devastated when they discovered it was still occupied. This was Josh’s plan for getting it back. Josh very much plays up the comedy element of his half-orc bard, and the idea of getting the owner drunk, but becoming too drunk in the process to actually take advantage of that, really appealed to him, and, indeed, to many of the other players at the table.
Not everyone, however. There is limited time in each Encounters session, and I could see some of the players getting concerned by how much time this was taking, rather than actually getting on with the adventure. It’s a difficult thing to negotiate. D&D is a social experience, and I feel there must be a balance between roleplaying (including these comedy moments) and the action-oriented storyline. I was willing to let this one play out, but I was conscious of the timing involved. Josh wound it up himself, and we progressed to a meeting with Sir Isteval, and things got back on track without too much time spent in the diversion.
Sir Isteval brought good news. Well, mostly good news: his trackers had discovered where the villagers from Julkoun had been taken: Firehammer Hold, a dwarven stronghold in the mountains. After some discussion, and some shopping in town, the group travelled there along the Iron Road, taking in Secomber and Uluvin on the way. They inquired in those towns about the hold, only to learn that the trading shipments from there had stopped, and the merchants that had travelled there to find out what was occurring had not returned. I also emphasised that the local lords did not have the soldiers to deal with the threat themselves; all their men were needed to protect the towns from attacks from the gnolls and hobgoblins.
As the group neared Firehammer Hold, they reached a great statue of Vergadain, the dwarven god of luck and mercantilism. It was defaced with an iron shield displaying the hold symbol of Laduguer, the deity of the dark dwarves, the duergar, ancient enemy of the surface dwarves. The group removed the shield, restoring the statue, and they felt Vergadain’s approval, the offering bowl filling with enchanted water: enough for five vials of healing. Troy filled his flasks, while Josh threw a gold coin into the bowl as an offering. He gained Vergadain’s approval and was blessed for the remainder of the session; the others tried this, but I explained that Vergadain rewarded ingenuity and initiative, so no-one else could gain the benefit. They were only copying Josh’s actions!
Two paths converged on the statue. One led to the Hold, the other into the valley below. The group noted carrion birds circling a site down in the valley, but they did not investigate, instead pressing on towards the Hold.
The main gates of the Hold were barred, and no secret entrances could be found. Knocking on the door also brought no response; however, a guest hold nearby was unlocked; indeed, the bolt had been removed from the front door. The group found it abandoned – a message carved into one of the bedframes read only, “We’re doomed!” with no further indication of what had happened. The keen-eyed members of the party discovered a peephole and a secret door, which led into the hold proper, and so they proceeded onwards.
Tait heard low voices conversing to the north, and so proceeded down a staircase into a guard room, where a pair of dark dwarves were on watch. He ambushed them, and with support from his friends was able to kill them both, but not before they raised the alarm. The group prepared for an attack, but it didn’t come.
Tait continued to scout forward, discovering a grand chamber that held a shrine to one of the dwarven gods. Suspiciously looking around, he found a number of arrowslits overlooking the chamber from the east, beyond which he could see a few duergar. There were other exits from the hall, but he returned to the group to discuss what he’d found. The group were uneasy about directly assaulting the duergar, especially in such a poor chamber to do so, but instead they resolved to find another way around. There was a carved set of double doors leading east in the hallway leading to the shrine, would they give them a back way in?
The doors led to a great feasting hall. Tait, again scouting ahead, noticed a couple of suspicious pipes, slightly corroded, leading into the room. Some sort of trap! His investigations also found a secret door which would likely lead to the duergar. Before they alerted the duergar to their presence in this room, disabling the traps would seem prudent: the group stuffed the pipes with body parts taken from the pair of duergar they killed earlier. Waste not, want not!
At this point, the group opened the secret doors and sent Tait ahead. Tait, in an unusual show of clumsiness, alerted the duergar to his presence, and after suffering a couple of bow attacks, fled back down to the group. As the secret passage was only five feet wide, Troy was quite able to defend it, and he did so as the duergar rushed forward to attack.
The group could hear the shouts of the duergar, and their loud swearing when their plan to release alchemical fire into the room using the pipes failed due to the heroes’ earlier actions in disabling the traps. The initial rush of duergar were stopped, and the remainder of the duergar pulled back for the time being.
Tait decided that he’d try to outflank the duergar, moving back to the shrine to ambush them. Unfortunately, the duergar had the same idea, and as they could see in the dark and Tait couldn’t, they ambushed him! He was gravely wounded, but thanks to his rogue ability to move at three times his speed, was able to outrace them back to the rest of the party. Unfortunately, his friends were not prepared and so Josh and Lily came under attack from the duergar, even as a new wave came down the secret passageway. Troy moved into a defensive stance, parrying their attacks, and Lily used her thunderwave spell to protect herself from the dark dwarves.
The two duergar attacking Josh were slain by Danielle and Tait, and the other two, almost dead from Lily’s spell, fled back down the corridor. Spell-casting and accurate missile fire dealt with the dwarves in the passageway, and soon all was quiet again. Josh healed Tait, and the group paused to catch their breath.
Unfortunately, that was all the play we had time for. We lost some due to having to level up characters (to level 4), and also there were a couple of new players who took some time to get settled. We had three tables this week. Shane (running for Paul) had five players, Ben had three and I had five.
The next session should see us deal with the bulk of the remainder of Firehammer Hold. Until then, may your spellbook stay dry!