Due to our scheduling, this was the final session of Scourge of the Sword Coast before the Dead in Thay launch weekend on the 10th of May. It also turned out to be the second-most well-attended session, with three brand new players turning up; I handed them some of the pregenerated characters I’ve created for this season. They’ll make new characters for next week’s event. There were a total of 3 DMs handling 17 players, so tables of 6, 6 and 5. My own table was full of the regular crew: Josh, Danielle, Sondra, Tait, Lily and Troy. They were mostly running 4th level characters.
The bulk of the session concerned exploring the rest of Firehammer Hold. The main bulk of the duergar had been dealt with, but there were still a few lurking around.
We began with the group freeing the prisoners from Julkoun they’d discovered last session. Some of the prisoners told the group of a dwarf who had been captured a couple of weeks ago, and dragged off to be tortured – they’d occasionally hear his cries echoing through the mines. Exactly where he was being held, they didn’t know – most of their time had been spent mining. Only a couple of dozen villagers had survived; the vast majority of Julkoun’s residents were now dead, along with all the dwarves of Firehammer Hold. The schemes of the Red Wizards have had a devastating effect on the region! The party escorted the prisoners to the upper level, and promised to return for them after they’d dealt with the rest of the duergar.
I was amused by the group’s reaction to one of the statues of the dwarven gods, this one with gems for eyes. Troy’s first reaction was “take the gems”, but after most of the group made their Religion (Intelligence) checks and realised the statue was of Dumathoin, who hates defilers and thieves, they became a lot more respectful and refused to take the gems. Lily was curious as to what would have happened if the gems were taken, but no-one was willing to take them just to satisfy her curiosity!
Continuing to explore the depths of the mine, the group discovered another shrine, this one to “the Watchers”, whatever they were (no-one in the party knew). It contained a great statue with its face missing, which was entirely a mystery to the group. It was also guarded by a great locked door (which they disabled fairly easily) and a timed trap that began to activate as they stood inside the shrine. They all retreated quickly, returning to the upper levels of the mine, realising that here was a mystery they’d be unable to solve.
Another tunnel led down to the great pit from which the duergar had emerged, riding their spider-mounts (steeders) from the depths of the earth. It was guarded by a necromantic trap, but Lily’s mage, thinking quickly, used holy water and her skill with the arcane to disable it. The group thought about descending, but it went straight down thousands of feet – far too difficult for them to use. Josh, on his now-tamed steeder, might have managed it, but the rest of the group – never.
Eventually, they discovered the room the Duergar leader and his bodyguards were hiding in. Jekk, the dwarf they’d met in Daggerford, was the prisoner. Did I say “they met?” I mean, “Tait met”, as no other player was there for that session (and Tait didn’t remember, anyway – it was almost three months ago!) It should be noted that when they actually encountered the duergar, they were without Tait and Troy. Troy had decided he’d go off on his own and scout out different passages to the rest of the group, and Tait was hanging back waiting for the first sounds of fighting to start, which would be the signal for him to join in.
The party were actually somewhat surprised to find the duergar leader (a half-fiend) was not possessed by a fire elemental! He did have bodyguards, however, who took the brunt of the early attacks. Josh sent his steeder in, and then recalled it just as quickly as it was almost slain in a single round by the combined attacks of the duergar. The duergar leader was casting spells to frustrate the party, but with Troy and Tait finally entering the combat, he moved out of cover to cast scorching ray on the group. It was mostly ineffective, but Lily’s response, “This is how you cast scorching ray!” was far more effective, slaying him where he stood. The remaining duergar didn’t stand long after that.
Some of the group now went looting (the duergar had a number of nice items), whilst others actually attended to the prisoner. Jekk told them of his travails: how his party had been ambushed and all slain except him; he’d been kept alive to provide the duergar with a fun “toy” to play with. He told them about a Red Wizard who had been working with gnolls – the group recognised the description, as they’d killed him a couple of weeks ago – and Jekk had one very good bit of news: they’d been indiscreet around him and had revealed where the stronghold of the Red Wizards, Bloodgate Keep, was. He’d be able to lead the group to it!
With that good news, and after a bit of rest, the group returned to Daggerford, escorting the villagers to safety.
Sir Isteval was extremely pleased with their work and immediately began to plan a raid on Bloodgate Keep. Meanwhile, the Duke of Daggerford invited the group to a celebratory dinner… which, of course, turned out to be an ambush, the Duke having been possessed by a devil and his mistress turning out to be a succubus.
The Duke wasn’t that difficult a combatant to take down, especially after they hurt him enough so that he temporarily regained control of his senses and hurled his flaming sword to the group, but the devil’s use of cause fear was quite effective, and knocked out a couple of party members from the combat. The succubus, who could only be hurt by magic weapons, was more challenging. We had a wonderful moment when Danielle, playing a gnome, picked up the Duke’s sword and ran at the succubus. As Danielle wasn’t proficient with the sword and then rolled a 1, we watched in awe as her gnome raised the sword above her head… and staggered backwards, tottering away from the succubus!
In the end, the group had enough magic to take care of the succubus, with Tait using magical longsword and dagger to make sure of the fiend. I was impressed – the group even saved the Duke, using holy water once he was restrained to force the possessing devil from him.
For now, the plans of the Red Wizards around Daggerford had been foiled, but their stronghold in the region still stood. Next session, all the players who play D&D Encounters with us will be teaming up together to take on the stronghold… in the first session of Dead in Thay. I’ve lined up three Dungeon Masters and I’ll be taking the role of the co-ordinating DM, making sure that all the groups work with each other.
I’ve rather enjoyed Scourge of the Sword Coast, although we didn’t get to do nearly as much role-playing in it (especially around Daggerford) as we might have done if the group I’d had in the first session had stayed together. On the other hand, I had the chance to DM five players I hadn’t met before this season and it looks like they’ll all be continuing on into the next season. We’ll spend a little bit of time at the beginning of the Launch Weekend creating and levelling-up characters, and it will be fascinating to see what Dead in Thay brings. I hope you’ve found these reports entertaining; I intend to continue them throughout the next season.