This report is a little late – apologies for that. Illness and general business have kept me from writing it before now.
Running launch events can be a stressful experience. Running them at the same time as a stupidly popular Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament with about 16 people in it is tricky. Running a Launch Event with 17 players, 3 DM and one Co-ordinator where everyone is in the same dungeon at once? Yeah, this was going to be tricky.
We began the event with character creation and advancement. Most of the players were keeping the characters they had from Scourge of the Sword Coast, but there were a significant number of players that needed new characters (about five), and almost everyone needed to advance their characters to level 6. It would have been nice to have enough books for everyone, but I’d only printed four or five of the character creation PDFs. We did have a few computers around that people could use, however. I settled down with Josh to create his new 6th level Elven Bard (who looks like David Bowie in Labyrinth), only to be somewhat disrupted by other requests for dice, rules and other matters. It took us about an hour, all up, to create or advance all the characters, something that wasn’t entirely bad as it allowed most of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Players to finish up and leave.
So, with everyone with their 6th level characters in hand, I gathered them all together and launched into the introduction, with my three DMs assisting me in playing the NPCs. As recounted in Scourge of the Sword Coast, the town of Daggerford was under threat from the Red Wizards of Thay, who planned to launch an invasion through a magic portal at Bloodgate Keep. The gathered adventurers (17 player characters, 4 NPCs) were going to stop this by assaulting the Keep and destroying the gate.
They were aided by a traitor to the Red Wizard cause, Merkel, who explained how they could destroy the four elemental nodes that powered the gate before destroying the gate itself. I assigned the players into three groups of five or six each – I was able to keep friends together, while also ensuring a good mix of classes. I was very happy with that. And so, we were off!
I didn’t pay all that much attention to the first part of the adventure, as I was trying frantically to work out how the final part would run, but each of the groups were dealing well with the threats they were facing – primarily elementals and grues of the appropriate persuasion. Each node also had some sort of trick that made life harder for our heroes, and some of those tricks were causing some trouble, but eventually all would win through. Just not all at the same time.
Paul’s group was the first to get through, having collapsed their node. They emerged into a great chamber – the chamber of the Bloodgate. Red Wizards were everywhere, along with undead monsters commanded by the Wizards, and there – standing in the Gate itself – was the lich, Tarul Var. At about the same time, the NPC party (Shalendra, Jekk, Mennek, Hadarr and Darfin) entered the gate room having just destroyed their own node. The Red Wizards split up to handle both groups.
At this point, I was running Tarul Var as well as handling which threats were faced by each table. Basically, I divided up the monsters and sent half at each group, and abstractly ran the fight between the NPCs and the monsters. When the DMs reached Tarul Var’s turn in the initiative, I made my way over to their table and told them what his action was (which might have been an attack at another table).
Despite having read this section of the adventure a few times, we didn’t run it exactly as written. I somehow failed to see that Tarul Var had damage resistance and immunity to spells – one of those problems when you’re looking at his stats in the back of the book whilst special modifiers for the encounter are in the front! However, as most of the players were kept busy with the Thayan wizards, apprentices and their undead, it didn’t come into effect that much.
Shane’s group was the second one to arrive, with Josh’s group the last. Soon, each was facing opponents, with me splitting off monsters from the other parties to face the new arrivals.
Each group had a paladin, and some of them began to Turn Undead. That was fine – any undead turned ran and attacked another group. Soon there were shouts of annoyance ringing over the tables as people realised what was happening. (Unfortunately, no-one actually managed to play Turn Tennis – turning the undead again and again as they were passed around the groups – they just killed them).
Once Tarul Var got into the actions, things got really nasty. A Cloudkill spell on Paul’s group sent most of them into the negatives of hit points – I sent some of the NPCs their way with mass cure wounds spells to make sure they could continue. Shane started casting fireballs at Tarul Var, so the lich sent them right back. All the time, the Blood Gate was getting more and more damaged.
Then Merkel betrayed them all, summoning Baazka, the Pit Fiend who had caused such trouble for them in Scourge of the Sword Coast. (In the process, Shalendra and Floshin were dragged into the Bloodgate and lost). He had a magic sword stuck in him – the sword of the Duke of Daggerford, which – at least in the overall continuity – some people had used to banish him. Baazka offered to destroy the Bloodgate in exchange for his freedom: all they needed was to remove the sword. For this scene, I’d got all the DMs up beside me and we addressed the gathered players. Would anyone be foolish enough to free the Pit Fiend?
It turned out that Jack, playing for the first time and playing a paladin, was more than happy to take the sword and free the Pit Fiend!
Oh boy! Baazka pushed Tarul Var out of the gate, and began destroying the remaining Red Wizards, while the players resumed their own combats. It wasn’t all that long before the Red Wizard defenders were broken. The gate was destroyed!
Unfortunately, the destruction of the gate triggered a backlash, dragging the heroes into the gate. There was a loud explosion and everything went black.
And thus ended the session!