Our numbers were slightly down this week from our all-time high of last week, but – at 36 players – it was still the second highest turnout in our store! It wasn’t as simple as six people couldn’t make it, though, as a couple of players who missed last week were here for this session. The fluctuating player base is one of the reasons that turning up on-time is so important for Encounters: it makes organising the tables much easier!
My own table had seven players: Josh, Jesse, Danielle, Floyd, Lewis, Tim and Michael. The other tables were mostly at 4 or 5 players, but all of my players could make this session. (Liliana and Ricky were able to make the session as well, but I no longer had room at my table, so they moved to other tables). I think that, from now on, my table will be pretty set in its make-up.
My original plan going into this session was to complete Episode 1 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen by first running the church encounter and then closing things out. It didn’t quite work that way, as my players indicated they wanted to take a rest. I decided to pre-empt them by running the challenge encounter, forgetting that it was meant to close things off. Once I realised what I’d done, I thought “Why not end episode 1 here? They’ve got the XP, they’ve fought the good fight, and they’re exhausted!” So, instead of running a couple more of the Episode 1 missions, we ended Episode 1 at the beginning of this session.
The end of the episode ran like this: A blue half-dragon challenged the townsfolk to send a champion to fight him, or he’d slay a family the cultists had captured. One of the guards was all ready to challenge the half-dragon, but Michael’s Barbarian stepped in himself. The party considered treachery, but the cultists had foreseen that and kept the guard’s wife behind so that she’d be killed if the townsfolk tried anything. Lewis’s ranger, whose favoured enemy is dragonkind, asked me for information on half-dragons, so I told him that Blue dragons are traditionally Lawful Evil and honourable (if cruel). I was thinking of Kitiara’s dragon Skie as my exemplar of blue dragonhood! So, the group knew that this half-dragon, Cyanwrath, would probably keep his word.
The fight was very short indeed. Michael won the initiative, but missed (by a point). Cyanwrath attacked once and hit, dropping the barbarian. He then attacked again, inflicting another wound on Michael, which counted as a failed death saving throw. With that, the order for the raiders to leave was given, and the humans and kobolds left the town, leaving Michael’s body behind. Lewis rappelled down the walls and ran to his companion and used a goodberries spell to heal him. The townsfolk were left counting the cost of the raid, and the party settled down to finally rest.
The next day, Episode 2 began with the party finding the Protector of the town walking around the ruins of the town. He was very worried about where the raiders had come from. Who were they? Would they return? He offered them a substantial fee to discover that information. The group accepted, and prepared to leave, taking advantage of an offer by the Protector to resupply them. (I did make sure that no really great items, like platemail, were given away for free, though – the Protector’s offer as written is a bit of a blank slate!) While they were preparing, they were contacted by an injured young man who told them that his master, a monk from Berdusk, had been captured by the raiders… and that his master knew a lot about them, having been investigating them for months. Would the party please rescue him?
The group agreed to keep an eye out, and set out on the trail of the watchers. Jesse and Lewis scouted on ahead, discovering a group of raiders (kobolds and humans) who had paused to have a meal. The kobolds and humans weren’t getting along, and Jesse helped that along by using the message cantrip to make one group think the other was poisoning the food! Soon enough, the kobolds – disgusted by the bullying they were receiving from the humans (and Jesse) left the campsite. Soon after, they spotted Jesse and Lewis, and began to pursue them. Those worthy adventurers fled as quickly as they could back to the rest of the party. Lewis was able to hide on the way back and start sniping the kobolds, but Jesse kept running until he could hide behind everyone else!
With the party able to shoot at the kobolds from long range – and Tim’s character has a very, very long range on his Eldritch Blasts – the kobolds were soon defeated. The group then went to confront the human raiders, who were, by now, wondering where the kobolds had gone and wondering if it were safe to eat their meal. The group rolled incredibly well on their stealth checks and completely surprised the raiders, and soon forced them to surrender – Josh just walked into the middle of camp and demanded their surrender. Once they realised they were surrounded, they did so. Interrogating them, they discovered where the main camp was. They then discussed what to do with the raiders: Kill them? Let them go? Take them with the party? Eventually they decided just to tie them up and return for them, after I pointed out a few flaws with the other plans.
So, they closed in on the raider’s camp. By now, Lewis was scouting ahead about 80-100 feet in front of everyone else. However, his Perception, while good, wasn’t enough to spot the ambush the raiders had made on the way, and the Perception of the ambushers wasn’t good enough to see his stealthy ranger! The net result was that he walked right through the ambush and only realised something was wrong when the rest of the group reached the ambush site and were ambushed by the raiders! At that point, Lewis turned around and hurried back to the group.
He found them crawling out from under boulders that the raiders had pushed down on them. At least, most of the party were: Jesse was quite still, having been knocked unconscious. The warriors in the group charged up the slope towards the raiders, engaging them in melee before they could cause more trouble, whilst the rest of the party got out their ranged attacks and spells. The fact that the raiders had a lot of cover didn’t really bother Tim that much, because he had the spell sniper feat and could ignore cover. Meanwhile, Floyd tried to stabilise Jesse. He was completely unsuccessful, but after a couple of rounds, Jesse managed to roll a natural 20 on his death saving throw and recover by himself!
Eventually the raiders were defeated. Noting that they had formal uniforms, the party took the uniforms with a view to disguising themselves once they reached the camp. Interrogating the survivor, during his declaration of allegiance to the Dragon Queen and his description of her magnificence, the group hit on a novel strategy: they pretended to be persuaded by his words, releasing him and asking him to take them to his leader as new initiates of the Dragon Cult. Given how well their Deception checks were, I saw no problem with this plan…
And that’s where we left it for this session. Next session, they infiltrate the camp. Surely nothing can go wrong with their plan?