D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay – Half-Time update

The D&D Encounters seasons Dead in Thay has now been running for six sessions at Goodgames Ballarat. It’s been a wildly successful season for us, with numbers consistently around 20. The last session saw one of our DMs ill and unable to make it, so I had to step in and run the game instead of co-ordinating, but we still had 21 people participating: three DMs each running a table of 6 players. And there were people missing! It may well be that in the next few weeks we actually have to split into four separate tables, although I know there are some planned absences coming up, so we might go with three tables throughout the season.

This is good. This is excellent. I couldn’t be happier.

Being the co-ordinator has given me an excellent overview of what’s happening in the groups, but it’s been very hard to actually write good session reports as they’re a lot more dependent on the little things that happen in the session rather than the big picture stuff. I know that Harry’s monk got eaten by an ooze, but as for the specifics of that fight? That I don’t know. “We fought an ooze. It ate Harry”. Not exactly the stuff of thrilling reports.

However, it would be remiss of me not to provide some overview of what has been happening. The groups have been exploring the Doomvault, the stronghold of Szass Tam’s power. (Szass Tam is the undead lich who rules Thay, a land of evil wizards in the Forgotten Realms). They’re attempting to find a way to the Phylactery Vault, where they should be able to do enough damage to break the grip of the lich on his kingdom.

Tim’s Table (DM: Callan) began by exploring the Abyssal Prisons. In their first session, they cleared two zones (as recounted earlier). The second session found them entering the Vermin Halls (part of the Blood Pens), where they discovered a room where platforms like stepping stones were raised above a lot of dead insects and led to a door on the far side. Josh took a lot of damage attempting to reach the door from insects summoned by traps, only to discover it was fake!

They were then happy to enter the Abyssal Gate, where they dealt with some undead led by a Dread Wight – the Dread Wight was slain on the first round – and avoided releasing some demons. Scouting ahead, they discovered that one door led to the lich Tarul Var, who they’d faced back at the Bloodgate, and they wisely avoided him.

Moving to a torture chamber, they discovered a demon, a glabrezu, shackled there and tormented by more undead. After slaying the undead, the group freed it, after it promised to lay waste to the Red Wizards and their allies.

The third session in the Doomvault saw them enter the Halls of Conditioning. More Red Wizards and Undead confining Demons greeted the group, although they didn’t free any demons this time, instead just killing their captors and leaving the demons in their cells. More traps and tricks proved a hazard to their progress, but they were able to calm an insane ghost, giving him enough sanity for him to impart some important lore about the dungeon to them.

The fourth session saw them entering the Predator Pools area, beginning with the Pools of Devotion, where they ran into a kraken – at least, the simulation of one. As I understand it, it was quite a good simulation and rather shook them up before they escaped. The overseer of the zone, a spirit naga named Ihanvas, was not happy to see them. They were happy to put Ihanvas out of her misery, although she didn’t know she was miserable until she met them! Continuing south, they reached the first room of the Warrior Pools, where they defeated some scrags, before breaking for the session.

At this point, I decided to change things up by swapping the DMs around the tables, seeing as the other two groups were only now entering another zone. In addition, due to a large amount of treasure having been found – as well as some places where the groups could heal – everyone gathered together at the gatehouse, and there were some exchanges of players in addition. Lee was scheduled to DM the next session, but he was ill this week, so I stepped in to DM instead!

They took advantage of this to slaughter everything in sight – Lacedons, Merrows, Dread Warriors and Kuo-Toa all fell to their attacks, although they weren’t quite quick enough to slay the Dread Warrior, so Tarul Var became aware of their position, and the alert level of the dungeon moved higher. Eventually, they came to a Sea Hag, who actually engaged them in conversation. She wanted them to slay Ihanvas, and was overjoyed to find that the Spirit Naga was already dead! She permitted them to move through her room unharmed, and gave them some valuable information. They’d finished clearing out the Warrior Pools and the Spawn Pools – another group had already deal with the Blood Pools.

And that is the current state of Tim’s table. Next session, they’ll be returning to the Blood Pens.

Shane’s Table (DM: Ben) were happily making their way through the Ooze Grottos in their early sessions. Well, I say happily, but in truth this was the table that was running into the greatest threats. Two of their characters have now died. Harry’s Monk was the first, killed by an Ooze as the group fought a demented Red Wizard, and Lachie’s Barbarian was the second, after he’d already had his weapon and armour degraded by their opponents. As a result, they were the first of the groups to use the Chamber of Seclusion (in session #3, not #2 as I thought).

The group continued on from the last report by entering the Immortal Caverns, where they fought the White Maw, a sentient gray ooze. A black pillar in the chamber shocked Tait when he touched it, and then did so again as he tested if it was a once-only effect. (This isn’t quite as stupid as it seems, there are a few traps and tricks that reward persistence). Lachie was hardly impressed by the corrosive effect of the ooze.

The next room contained the Red Master, an amalgamation of a Red Wizard and a Red Ooze. The Master assumed the characters were here to join him in becoming oozes, and this was where Harry fell, in a particularly dangerous encounter. Things really didn’t get better for the group as they then fought the Black Elder, a gigantic black pudding. At least they found a white pillar that could heal them – although it would blind those who reached full hit points (as Tait discovered). The comments from this table were that the session was three Boss fights, so it was an extremely tough session.

Next session they dealt with the monsters in the Spawning Pools, where they encounter a lot of Red Wizards and their apprentices. This was something of a welcome relief for the players, although a random encounter with a Dread Wight and his minions went very badly once Tarul Var realised where they were and started casting spells through the Dread Warrior… and they just couldn’t kill it! Cloudkill, Fireball and Thunderwave, and the group needed healing badly.

The Arch of Blades also caused them some problems, as some of the heroes were magically compelled to walk through the rotating knives. Multiple times. Ow, ow, ow!

The fourth session they entered the Culling Pens, where more Red Wizards and Oozes caused trouble. From there, they moved into the Predator Pools, and, in particular, into the Blood Pools where a group of Sahuagin were honouring both their Baron and goddess. This is where Lachie’s character died, as he fell into one of the pools and was eaten by sharks, despite the efforts of the others to save him.

The fifth session saw the tables realign (per above) and Callan took over as DM as they moved into the Golem Laboratories (as Tim’s group were dealing with the rest of the Predator Pools). From what I gather, they moved into the Stone Golem Quarries where they freed Lumalia, an astral deva. They persuaded her to act on their side, as she was half-crazed from her captivity, and she went on a hunt through the Doomvault to find Thayans to kill.

Paul’s Table (DM: Lee) had a lovely time in the Forests of Slaughter, using the bodies of their earlier kills to bribe later foes. In the Forest of Death, they slew some trolls, then dumped their bodies in a poison pool before giving them to some annoyed perytons. When the perytons were dazed from consuming the poisonous bodies, they were able to slay them with much greater ease. A sleeping behir? That, they avoided!

The next session brought them into the Forest of Illusion. In this session, they were missing a couple of players, so were down to 4 heroes. And, shortly after starting a fight with gorgons, they found two of their companions unconscious. Luckily for them, it was at that time that I wandered past, checking (as the NPCs left back in the gatehouse) how things were doing. They called for aid, and they received it – Shalendra Kelson erupted out of the black gate leading to the area, and rushed to their aid. Her magic allowed them to rally and defeat the gorgons, and then she escorted them back to the gate (blasting a wight on the way) so they were able to reach the Chamber of Seclusion and rest. She left them then, but they were fine for the rest of the encounters.

The Forest of Weakness proved to have many lurking foes, luring them into the trees and their unnatural spells. Chokers were particularly dangerous, and Jesse almost perished in their arms. However, Josh’s bard began a tactic of fascinating the monsters with his bard song while the other character quietly moved around behind them to take them out one by one. It wasn’t foolproof, but it was effective enough so that the group were much more able to destroy their opponents.

With the Forests of Slaughter dealt with, and with Ben taking over DMing duties, the group progressed into the Far Realm Cysts. As I was DMing Tim’s group, I wasn’t that aware of what they were doing, but I do know that both the Caverns of Chaos and the Prison of Filth were cleared by the group this session – one of the characters’ souls was sucked into a magic weapon, however. I’ve no idea how that will turn out. Gricks, Otyughs and Skeletons were their foes this session.

Co-ordinator Notes:

At the present time, the groups have cleared a total of 19 zones of the total 36 available. On occasion, a group will clear out one zone really quickly, and will do a second zone. Given we’re running the adventure with three groups rather than four, this works pretty well.

The current alert level stands at 7, so they’re likely to find more dangerous random encounters as they move around the dungeon.

I’ve enjoyed being able to step in with NPCs as required, and being able to run Lee’s table when he was away was also very useful. It’s a massive undertaking, but it’s proved extremely popular with our players; it isn’t always the same players turning up, but with the most recent session having 18 players and 3 DMs for 21 participants, that’s a great result. (If Lee had been well, that would have been 22… a new record. Pity!) I know some of our players won’t be able to make coming weeks, but I’m hoping the numbers will stay healthy.

I’ve relaxed a few rules about the glyph keys – they are still needed, but I’m allowing them to attune to other keys fairly easily. I’m assuming Shalendra can handle it, and thus when they reach black gates, someone travels to the gatehouse, attunes a master key Shalendra holds with everything, and then goes back. It allows the NPCs to intervene if necessary, and also easily allows new players to enter or groups to change around.

I think the groups are a bit behind on information about the dungeon. I didn’t pay enough attention to that section, so some of the DMs have given out duplicate information. In the next couple of sessions I’ll be correcting that so they have a better idea of some of the secrets about the dungeon.

However, it’s been a really enjoyable adventure for us. I’ll try to keep everyone updated as to how it progresses!

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