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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Scourge of the Sword Coast: Lawflame

As I write this, I have just returned from the game store. I ran another session of D&D Encounters, which thus far has been very hit and miss. Get ready for spoilers..

The heroes had left off last week in the dungeon under the Phylund hunting lodge. I didn't really realize until a few hours before game time that they would finish the dungeon pretty quick. I'd need more material to fill out the session. I certainly didn't have enough time to prepare the next location, which is a ridiculously large building/dungeon/vale probably half full of privies and rooms with crates in them.

So I flipped through the pdf and found some notes on the Duke. He's been possessed by the spirit of a pit fiend. And he's dating a succubus. The module says that at some point he will invite the PCs to his home for dinner. His guards will block the exits. And then he and his succubus girlfriend will try to kill them!

The module says that there comes a point in this battle where the Duke shakes off the pit fiend's influence for a moment and tosses the heroes his magic flaming sword - Lawflame. The succubus' plan is actually to kill everyone - including the Duke, and then impersonate the Duke's sister to take over the town of Daggerford.
Purple bow ties are all the rage in Daggerford

This scenario is so much better than the any of the dungeons. It is outlined in a single column. There is no map of the Duke's dining room. Nothing. This is really the penultimate encounter of the entire adventure and it's buried on page 22 of an 85 page book!

So I sat down and wrote out the scenario, wrote down the stats, and looked up the spells (not a fan of doing that). I was actually kind of excited! One thing that's always tricky is when the monster has a power that requires an action that doesn't do damage. I am referring to the Duke's sword, Lawflame. As an action, he can cause it to burst into flame. So that means that the Duke can't attack that round. Just like with the duergar, where they use an action to enlarge.

So I concocted a scheme. During the dinner, I was going to have the Duke get up and show off his sword. I wondered if the heroes would start to become alarmed and attack him before he said the command word and dramatically stabbed someone. Let's find out...

We had six players this week. Unfortunately, our table was placed incredibly close to two warhammer games. We barely fit. I was worried that the warhammer guys would be too loud and it would affect the game. Well... that's not exactly how it went down.

We had a new guy - a friend of the 13 year old girl. He had never played before. He was smart and picked it up with great ease. He did a very good job as a spare cleric (which the party desperately needed).

Our brony was back, and he was getting angry every time he got hit. It is so astonishing to me how often I meet players like this. If low die rolls and taking damage make you mad, why even play? Go do something else. He got mad when a mane hit him for 2 damage. TWO DAMAGE.

The dungeon just had a few skeletons in it, and a cool trap room where a black skull launched fire beams out of its' eyes. That worked out really well, very fun. A good intro encounter for the new guy.

Our heroes cleared the place. Gnolls that had been missed in a building ambushed our heroes on the way out. It was a brutal fight, but I knew they'd make it because the party had two, count them, two clerics.

They returned to town, rested, and were invited to the Duke's.

The Duke chatted with our heroes. He asked them if they had found any magic items on their latest adventure. The heroes were paranoid and lied. They said no.

This module makes even a succubus boring
I started to describe the Duke pulling out Lawflame, his sword. The group got really loud. And then the warhammer guys turned and politely asked us to be quiet.

Welp. Here I was worried that they were going to be too loud. What a twist! I made sure to talk to the warhammer guys after the game to smooth things over. There is so much space in the store, I don't know why they want us crammed so close together. Next week I'm going to make sure we're in a better spot.

So the Duke gets up at the dinner table. He says the command word, setting Lawflame ablaze. And then he plunged it into the party fighter! As the heroes reeled in shock, the succubus assumed her true form and summoned five manes (little demon men) to attack!

Some of our heroes were confused, and looked into the Duke's eyes. I told them they saw a magic flame in his pupils, and they could also see a fiery spectral form overlapping his body - the duke was being controlled by a pit fiend.

Two cool things happened:

1. Hack-and-slash fighter guy wanted Lawflame, bad. He wanted to grab the blade, pull it out of him, and snatch it away. So, we did an opposed strength roll. He won!

2. There comes a point in the fight where the Duke comes to his senses after taking some damage. At this time, the party paladin cast protection from evil on him. At first I was skeptical. But here's the deal:

The target has to be willing. But because the Duke was having a moment of clarity, he was willing.

Here's a quote from the spell entry: "The protection grants several benefits: Evil creatures of those types have disadvantage on attack rolls against the target. The target also can't be charmed, frightened or possessed by them. If the target is already charmed, frightened, or possessed by such a creature, the target has advantage on any new saving throw against the relevant effect."

The Duke rolled a save (I rolled a one but disregarded it)... goodbye pit fiend! This was a case where the idea was so good that in my head, it had to happen. The paladin deserved to be rewarded for this kind of thinking. Sometimes when somebody has an exciting idea it trumps the dice. They are making the game fun for me.

Our heroes saved the Duke and killed the demons. They were declared Knights of Daggerford. After some discussion and begging, the Duke decided to give Lawflame to the fighter as a reward. The PCs did, after all, save him from demonic possession as well as a murder plot.

Then he reminded them.. there's rumors of more gnolls in the Floshin Estate.

Cue disappointed groans. I know I ran this Duke encounter too soon, but this module is all backwards. But this was a pretty good session.

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