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The Brotherhood Session 2: Find Douven Stahl June 3, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, Narrative, The Brotherhood.
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Tonight I had the pleasure of running Group 1 through the Douven Stahl side quest of Keep on the Shadowfell. We introduced some new blood to the group with our players Michael and Ben (it was Michael’s first time playing 4e and Ben’s second), and everyone seemed to get along well and enjoy the play session, so I’d say it was a success.

My idea for this session was to introduce the guys to one another and set the stage for the campaign to develop. I had taken the back story for Ben’s character and come up with some ideas for where it could lead, but I didn’t want to plan too far ahead before I could get a feel for what the guys would want out of the campaign.

Robot Rollcall

Carlsberg Torres – Human Ranger/Rogue (multiclass) played by Jed

Perrywinkle – Eladrin Swordmage played by Matt

Ocieleoz (Ocie for short) – Human Paladin of Ioun played by Ben

Dak – Githzerai Monk played by Michael

What Happened

We jumped right into the action, having the heroes arrive at the dragon burial site to find Ensil the Gnome Skulk (lvl 2 Lurker), his 4 Human Rabble (lvl 2 Minions), and 2 Guard Drakes (lvl 2 Brutes) gathered around a massive pit lined with bones. The party begins talking to Ensil, asking him if he knows Douven Stahl or has seen a dwarf. He says no but invites them to come on down to the bottom of the excavation site to see what he has found. As they near they notice a blanket covering a small bundle in the corner. Carlsberg and Ocie hear some soft mumbling coming from underneath the blanket and, as soon as they ask Ensil about it, he yells out “Attack” and disappears behind a rock along the edge of the pit. The fight is on!

Dak finds himself between the two Guard Drakes and immediately unleashes a flurry of blows on both of them. He and Perrywinkle spent most of the remainder of the fight focusing on those two nasty foes, dishing out and taking blows each turn. Carlsberg runs down toward the Human Rabble, flipping off of the side of the dirt slope and twin-strike launching daggers at two of the foes mid flip. Both of his daggers embed deeply into the throats of the Human Rabble minions, killing them both instantly.

Ocieleoz spends much of the fight doing his job of drawing fire from the enemy–the Human Rabble focus their attacks on him while Carlsberg cartwheels and flips around killing them–but is unable to land much of any blows on the minions. Dak is both dishing out and taking heavy amounts of damage, with the Guard Drakes flanking him at times and landing many bite attacks to his legs. The tough brutes were there to guard Ensil and to take lots of damage and they certainly do their job.

During all of this fighting, Ensil is trying to sneak around the pit to a more advantageous position where he can step out of the shadows and sneak attack someone into oblivion. Unfortunately his initial attacks prove utterly ineffectual as he (I) keeps rolling 1s.

Carlsberg kills off the next Human Rabble minion with a knee-slide maneuver that allows him a great angle to throw a dagger into his foe’s crotch. He successfully hits for some severe severing damage (if I haven’t mentioned already… Carlsberg fancies himself a bit of a potions master/experimentalist. He is constantly collecting bits and pieces for his alchemical hobby).

Perrywinkle and Dak team up well against their scaled foes, with one of Perrywinkle’s magic-imbued sword attacks sending off a chain of lightning from one Drake to the other. While they are thus engaged–and Carlsberg’s attention is on the only Human Rabble left, who was battling Ocieleoz–Ensil creeps out of the shadows and swings his war pick at Carlsberg’s back. Somehow he misses. Carlsberg immediately runs forward away from the devious gnome, jumps off of the body of a fallen human minion, and attempts to flip off of Ocieleoz’s shoulder so he can throw daggers at both the gnome and human while spinning through the air. Unfortunately, he slips on Ocie’s shoulder during takeoff, falling to the ground. He is able to get off his daggers though, one cutting into the gnome’s thigh and the other sinking deeply between the human’s ribs. He ends his turn prone, with no Human Rabble minions left alive and Ensil disappearing once again, using his Fade Away racial power.

With the Drakes being the only foes left to see, Ocie moves towards them to try and lend a hand–but continues his poor rolling instead. Frustrated, he moves away from the battle a few steps to try and clear his head. At that moment Perrywinkle’s blade erupts in green flames, and he slices his sword deep into the flank of the Drake and then swings his blade around to come stabbing down into the skull and brain of the now bloodied Drake; it collapses in a lifeless heap.

Dak continues his rain of blows on the remaining four-legged reptilian creature, who lands a return bite on the Monk. Right after this, Ensil reappears suddenly, standing over Carlsberg’s prone body, and swings his nasty pick down into Carlsberg’s shoulder, scoring a wicked hit. Enraged, Carlsberg grabs his two daggers and slices upward between the small thighs, dismembering the poor gnome’s “satchel.” Immediately afterward, Carlsberg flips up from his prone position, crosses his arms, and taunts his now manhoodless foe.

Back around the other side of the dragon pit, Perrywinkle’s blade erupts into green flames once again, this time coming down to kill the remaining Guard Drake. The PCs begin to move toward Carlsberg and Ensil who–recognizing that the battle was lost–decides to flee. He takes one last swing at Carlsberg (scoring a critical hit and dealing a tremendous amount of damage), digging his war pick deep into Carlsberg’s side; Carlsberg drops unconscious and dying on the floor. Ensil makes a break for it.

Ocie runs over to Carlsberg, lays his hands on his head and heals his wounds, returning Carlsberg to good health and conscious life. Ocie then, already on his knees, raises his voice in prayer to his god. Ioun answers and Ensil feels the terrible wrath of the god’s noble paladin servant; Ensil falls dead to the ground.

The Blackguard

The heroes search the bodies and find an amulet (which they soon find out belongs to Douven Stahl and which they return to him) and a tiny black shield tattoo on Ensil’s right ring finger. Under the blankets they find Douven Stahl, bound and gagged. He thanks them and points out the small wooden box hidden under some exposed roots that contains some gold and a tarnished, ancient looking silver mirror. Douven also points out another cache of bottles of ale wrapped in damp cloths, hiding behind some other exposed roots.

They get back to Winterhaven and split up. Carslberg and Douven end up in the tavern, laughing and drinking the night away. After a time Douven decides to give his amulet to his new friend Carlsberg. The other heroes visit Valthrun the Prescient’s tower, where they find Vellan the Mulletted visiting with his old friend Valthrun. They report on the events and learn that the mirror is one of three mirrors that Vellan is searching for. The men that attacked Douven Stahl were Blackguard and they are searching for the mirrors for some vile purpose. Vellan keeps things pretty close to the chest–he won’t tell them what the mirror is for or how it is used–but he does explain that the Blackguard is a secretive and very dangerous cult that has recently sprung up. They worship a mortal man named Davron Black who is convinced (from the telling of a prophecy) that he is destined to replace/become a god. His Blackguard are his mighty warriors who carry out his destructive purposes and his right-hand man is a heavily scarred (at least in his face) man named Akron. His followers all have the tiny black shield of Davron Black tattooed on their right ring finger. Vellan confesses that he now has two of the three mirrors and that some of his agents in the Brotherhood are currently searching for the whereabouts of the third mirror.

What I Liked

All four of these players bring something fun and exciting to the table. I am very encouraged by the interest that many are showing toward developing their back stories and playing out that story’s development in the game. I intentionally left the design of this campaign at a minimum for now, because I wanted to have the room to grow into the story organically, based off of what the players wanted to do or thought would be fun. Thus far, they are very interested in the mirror and heading to Fallcrest, where the two Blackguard said that Ensil should meet them.

I am also pleased to see that Carlsberg Torres’ character seems balanced with the rest of the party. Jed had a very specific character design at the beginning and I made some compromises that would allow him to build that character but not be overpowered. My fear has been that in doing so I may have made him underpowered, but he actually carried on well against the minions and Ensil, dealing out enough damage to fulfill his role as a striker without being too difficult to hit or dealing too much damage.

What I Can Improve

It is early still so perhaps this is premature, but I need to make sure that the players know their options better. I forgot to tell Michael about Action Points until after a round when it might have been very useful to use one (he needed to use his Second Wind to heal himself, but he wasn’t able to then make an attack). Michael didn’t seem bugged so I’m not worried about it, but I should review the options better beforehand so that players don’t feel cheated learning about something they could have done differently that might have been cool or fun for them (or worse, something that would have made a BIG difference for them in terms of success or failure in an encounter).

Enders

I have wanted to be careful that, for the two groups for which I am running campaigns, the plots and storyline are not the same. I now feel more confident that even if there are common elements, the development of these two campaigns will be unique and exciting for both the players and me as the DM. Exciting times my friends.

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