I freely admit I dropped the ball posting about Session 2 of the D&D 4E Eberron game. So, I am going to combine it with Session 3’s post. The good news is there was a session 3! The bad news is that November and December are the busiest parts of my year because my main client at my day job is a farm equipment & agricultural distributor, so they used the winter to get their spring publications ready and my job is to do that. Of course, that’s neither here nor there and it may not affect my posting at all. But it could. As bad news goes, that’s not so bad. Particularly since my bad news could be far worse. I live about 2.5 miles away from what is known on Twitter as the #IndyBoom.
TL;DR summary: a couple of houses on Indianapolis’s southside exploded on Saturday (Nov. 10th) and rendered 25+ houses around the epicenter uninhabitable. We felt the shockwave from the explosion. Also, the next day (Nov. 11) was the fourth anniversary of the death of my first wife. But, that’s not news, it’s history.
On with the show!
When we last left our heroes, they were preparing to descend into Khyber to following the trail of clues left by the cultists who’d been terrorizing Blackroot. During their preparations, two people from the village caught up with them in the caves, a tiefling wizard named Seraphina and a half-elf sorcerer named Mercutio. They asked to be allowed to accompany the group into the depths. Since Wizar the Wizarian and The Hand of Wisdom seemed to have disappeared altogether, the group readily agreed. Fortunately, the pack in which Wizar was keeping the weird tentacle things they pried off the dead cultists was left behind.
Descending into Khyber, the first cavern they discovered contained four dolgrims along with a strange pool of a viscous purple liquid. They defeated the horrid-looking fused goblin things and upon discovered the restorative power of the purple liquid, dumped some of their water for the liquid. They proceeded into the depths and discovered another cavern with a large area of impenetrable darkness. When they approached, the darkness lashed out at them*. Beyond the cavern containing the Living Darkness, they were forced to cross a cavern floor consisting of hundreds of chomping mouths, though they were small enough to cause no damage; they just looked creepy. Finally (after the DM skipped a few encounters due to time constraints), they encountered a purpose-built room containing many large crystal shells inside which they could see various villagers including Doria Veledaar. A machine of some sort appeared to be draining and devouring the soul energy from the prisoners within the crystal shells.
Putting their heads together, the PCs deduced a variety of ways to break open the shells and defeat the machine to free the villagers. They recovered the Coat of Eyes and the grateful villagers gave them a pair of magical boots; heirlooms of one of the families who were not lucky enough to survive the cultists. Mercutio and Seraphina elected to remain with the group and they all resumed their trek toward Sharn to return the Coat of Eyes to Master Yorel.
On the way back to Sharn, the group passed through the village of Cedar Ridge. Everyone they encountered there seemed to be ill. The villagers were coughing and many were disfigured by lumps and growths under their skin. Seraphina wanted to leave immediately and leave them to their fate, while others were slightly more interested in finding out what the cause was. They stopped at the inn and questioned the barkeep, the bard and a warforged there. The warforged, Wycliffe, indicated other travelers had come and gone with no ill effects, but Seraphina was adamant that they leave. The barkeep indicated that most of the villagers, including the mayor had barricaded themselves in their homes and the town’s protector, a warforged named Bulwark had not been seen in a couple of weeks, about the time the afflictions began. When two villagers and the village healer brought in a screaming man, Seraphina left the tavern. The screaming man transformed before their eyes into a hulking brute who proceeded to beat the hell out of anyone near him, knocking Vistra across the room. They were eventually able to defeat the hulk-out villager and decided to confront the mayor.
The mayor’s house was locked up, as the barkeep indicated. They broke into the house and proceeded to browbeat and intimidate the mayor into doing something. The man was just as misshapen and ill as the rest of the village, barely able to walk. He screamed back at them, angry, frustrated, and frightened of this group of adventurers who broke into his home and demanded that he leave his home and lead by example. Eventually, they gave up on threatening the mayor and decided to check out the ruined castle where the barkeep said Bulwark made his home, at least, until they stopped hearing from the warforged.
Flickering lights appeared in one room of the abandon castle from the vantage point of the road leading up to it. In the dining room, the PCs found a large warforged lying on the ground near the table. An overturned jug on the table oozed a purple liquid (unrelated to the purple liquid they’d found last session…I guess I just like purple) and near the warforged’s head was a shadow that was NOT being cast by anything in the room. After a brief investigation, they discovered something that should not be: the warforged was passed out. They were able to converse with the shadow and it indicated that it had challenged the warforged to a drinking contest. When they investigated the upturned jug, the shadow demanded they hand it over. It wouldn’t say why, but just repeated its demand for the jug. Combat ensued and the shadow proved to be a superior opponent**. They fled with the jug, hoping to lure the shadow away and after some more beatings, the heroes decided to give the shadow what it wanted and handed over the jug. It headed for the river. They then returned to the castle and attempted to wake the warforged. Once awakened, the warforged (who turned out to be a Warforged Juggernaut Wizard) pursued the shadow and delivered an epic beatdown the DM was too tired to describe in all its epicness.
For their help, Bulwark gave the PCs a chest it found in the castle when he moved in. Bulwark said he would take care of the villagers and was confident he could reverse their affliction. They proceeded onward towards Sharn.
Now, it might be stating the obvious, but combat in D&D 4E is really dynamic compared to Basic D&D. There’s a lot for players to do. That also means, if they’re unfamiliar with the system, it really slows things down. I could have several combat encounters in a Basic D&D game, but with 4E, I have to limit it to 1-2 combat encounters, otherwise, the game goes too long, or we don’t really get anyway. The last combat with the Dream Shadow started about an hour before the scheduled end of the game, but of course, it was far from over when midnight rolled around. I have a whole list of ways to speed combat in 4E, but they mostly apply when the PCs are fighting more than 1 creature. I really should print out that list and keep it handy. We wouldn’t have finished the adventure if I hadn’t skipped encounters with mutated animals (and I was really looking forward to the mutated pigs). Still, it seems like every one is enjoying the game more than they enjoyed Basic D&D. I still put Pathfinder & AD&D 2nd edition higher on my “preferred systems” list, though. My problem with D&D 4E is that my players say they’re using Swift Striking Power of Awesomeness, but I don’t know what kind of action that’s actually doing. When someone says “I swing my sword at him.” or “I whack him with my axe!”, I know what kind of action they’re describing. A lot of the power names in 4E might be evocative, but they don’t evoke what I need as a GM to describe how the monster reacts. I probably need to ask them to be a little more descriptive for me, so when they say “I’m using MegaAwesome Power of Being Powerful.” they should also say exactly what that means their character is doing.
It was a difficult session for me (I refrained from outright calling the PCs “murder-hobos” in paragraph 2 of the Session 3 notes), exacerbated by the fact that my DM shelf on my Geek Chic table broke off while I was jotting down a note. I’ll have to call them about that.
*And for the first time in my 30+ years of playing D&D, someone could attack the darkness and I didn’t have to smack them for being an idiot.
**In retrospect, I should have telegraphed the shadow’s weakness to the liquid by explicitly stating that it was avoiding touching any of the spilled liquid, but by this point I was already frustrated and a little angry that my table broke. Throwing the liquid on the shadow would’ve defeated it, but since they didn’t know that, they tried to beat it in combat, for which the creature was FAR overpowered for their level. I only pulled one punch during the combat though, so I’m at least pleased there wasn’t a TPK since the shadow’s opening salvo took EVERYONE in the area of effect to bloodied.