This season of D&D Encounters is now hurrying towards its conclusion: the next session we run will be the last! Session 9 saw us somewhat down on numbers, with only(!) 20 people turning up, but Session 10, which coincided with the release of the D&D Starter Set saw us reach a high of 27 people. As this session also had one of our DMs absent due to a cold, I had to quickly promote one of our players to DM status, whilst taking a table for myself.
Most of the action in the ninth session was focused around the Master’s Chambers, where the groups discovered a number of Red Wizards of Thay who knew what was going on. The Red Wizards, once captured, divulged that information to the players, including the methods of getting into the Vaults of Extraction.
It was quite amusing to see how much information the groups got – they’ve been struggling through without actually knowing the way through to the Vaults for most of the season, but this session was the time that they all found out! Two glyph keys to the Vaults were obtained – the third key required had been actually possessed since the second or third session by one of the groups, but they’d not realised its significance!
Thus, when we came to the tenth session, all the groups moved onto the Vaults. There are a few areas of the main Deadvault not explored, but very few, and it made more sense for everyone to move into the Vaults together.
Two of the other tables had little trouble with what they found in the Vaults, another table had moderate difficulty, but all emerged victorious.
The final table… well, that was mine.
When you have four players who are brand new to D&D, what do you do? Introducing them to the game at this point in Dead in Thay – which is really the culmination of about 22 weeks of adventure – is not entirely ideal, but I handed out pregenerated characters – Ranger, Rogue, Cleric and Wizard – and let them experience what the game can be about, giving advice about their abilities and the best spells to use as appropriate.
I generally ignored the environmental effects of the temples, as being a bit complicated to run for this group, and instead concentrated on the role-playing and combat aspects of the game. They found themselves first entering the Temples of Plague, where a rather dedicated Red Wizard with his Deathlock Wight assistant were working on a strange contraption…
The group began by engaging him in conversation, and assuring him that they were meant to be there and that he wasn’t! The rather confused wizard was all prepared to accept their word for this before his assistant, rolling his eyes, set him straight and caused their bodyguards – zombies and a dread warrior – to attack them. A fireball spell from the party’s mage slew most of the zombies and badly damaged the Red Wizard and his assistant. The party’s cleric was kept busy with the dread warrior, whilst the ranger and rogue sniped away at the wizard, eventually felling him and his associate.
With the rest of the undead slain, the group needed some healing, and their cleric was happy to oblige, though he was concerned at how quickly he might be using up his spell slots.
The contraption proved to have a half-orc in it; the Halfling ranger misheard this as “Halfling” and immediately demanded the prisoner’s release, causing a few odd glances from his friends, but the group released the half-orc. He proved to be one of the Chosen, and indeed the Chosen of Yurtrus, orc god of plague and disease. He was most hostile to the party, though enfeebled, as the contraption had been syphoning off his god-given powers and sending them to the Phylactery Vault below, where they were aiding the plans of the ruler of Thay to become a god.
Another strange contraption was found in the next chamber, which was all overgrown with vines and creepers. As the group investigated the contraption, which had an elf woman in it, they were surprised by a wraith and several will-o-wisps. Their cleric took an energy-draining hit from the wraith, which reduced his maximum hit points by 15! They treated the wraith with a lot more respect after that, especially as their non-magical weapons were proving mostly ineffective against the incorporeal spirit.
However, magic and swordplay proved too much for the defenders, and – though the group needed healing once again – they were able to release Eira, the Chosen of Rillafane Rallathil. In gratitude, she gave the ranger her magical bow, so at least the party had one magical weapon. (It must be said that the ranger badgered her quite a bit until the bow was handed over, as he quite admired the description of its graceful curves).
Eira accompanied the group into the final room, where the group found a Red Wizard, his apprentice, and a number of Yetis in a room that was decidedly wintry in aspect. The group had approached stealthily, and so were able to completely surprise the wizard and his minions – it wasn’t all that long before he and his apprentice were down. The Yetis proved more of a problem, but soon they were dead (and the party required more healing).
If this had been any other group, they would have recognised the withered husk in this room’s contraption as Hedrun Amsfirth, the Winter Witch of Legacy of the Crystal Shard; however, the Chosen of Auril’s true identity was of little importance to them. She had been brought back as a wight, and they took little time to dispatch her as well.
Eira gratefully thanked the group, and prepared to return to the gatehouse and to freedom, whilst everyone else was now ready to take on the Phylactery Vault. In just a few short days, the players will discover what awaits them there…