I came in a little early and most of my players were already there. The store gave each of us a "Freebie" from a 4e underdark encounters season - a box with the rise of the underdark logo on it. Free stuff!
The players told me that last week, there'd been a lot of "arguing". I was a little taken aback. They explained further that by "arguing", they meant that the game got bogged down by a seemingly endless debate.
Last time I ran the game, the heroes had come to the entrance of Neronvain's lair (Neronvain is one of the five big bad guys in the adventure). They drove off the green dragon at the entrance in an epic battle.
Then, last week with the new DM, the heroes went into the caves behind the waterfall. They found a secret passage that led to three ettins arguing amongst themselves in a room filled with garbage.
Apparently, for one hour of real life time, the group debated over what to do. When they explained it to me this week, none of them seemed pleased about it.
The replacement DM was happy to let them debate. I crack the whip in situations like this, as I want to get through a certain amount of the adventure each session. This DM was content to let them do whatever (he might have seen it as a way to fill time, as I don't think he had time to read the adventure). So they argued for an hour, and ultimately didn't engage the ettins at all. Some of the party found elves who had been forced to work for the dragon. The heroes freed them.
Then they came upon a shrine which they prayed at and received a magical blessing.
The players didn't like how there was no combat at all the previous week and were happy I was back. It's good to hear... I was a little worried the other DM would sweep them off their feet and make me look like a 2-bit amateur.
They came upon some cultists and made quick work of them. One of the cultists ran and warned Neronvain. The adventurers didn't try to chase him. One cultist, a "dragonsoul", had an orb that he fired spells from. The heroes keep these things and want them to be magic items. They're not. I'm trying to think of some cool use for them. Maybe in the final chapter I can use them as "keys" to doors in the tunnels leading to the Well of Dragons,
The adventurers looted a bit and came upon Neronvain's room. They were hit with a glyph of warding trap which has no saving throw or anything. You just take 22 damage. At least, that's according to the module. I probably should have looked it up.
In Neronvain's room, there's a trapped trunk. The poor rogue got hit with a needle trap and failed his save. 54 points of damage! He dropped instantly. The paladin revived him.
They found Neronvain's journal, which explained that the green dragon mask was already at the Well of Dragons, and that it could be combined with the other dragon masks into a uber-mask.
They came upon the dragon's cave, full of his loot. I'd decided that once warned, Neronvain had swam through the underwater tunnel and got the ettins. He'd be back with them soon. But for the moment, our heroes got to divide up the green dragon's hoard... which is pathetic as written. It totals about 1,000 gold and no magic items! Though it does say that I am free to toss in some potions or scrolls. They are 10th level heroes and all they get are potions and scrolls.
I ended up placing magic items in the hoard that they'd missed in other sessions. They found a cloak of elvenkind, white dragon scale armor and +1 chain mail. Dragon scale armor is no joke. Advantage on saves vs. breath weapons and frightening presence!
I had been wondering if the ettins would be too tough, but the heroes had no problem with them. Neronvain got trounced. The fighter and the paladin have very high ACs and the party smartly hides behind them whenever possible.
They cut off Neronvain's ear to bring back to the council (King Melendrach, Neronvain's father, was mortified), and they noticed one of the ettins was wearing a belt... a belt of hill giant strength. It gives the wearer a 21 strength! The players rolled off for it. The paladin won.
The heroes made the trek back to Daggerford and on to Waterdeep. There, I planned to run the second assassin encounter. The adventure suggests having this one in Waterdeep. One possible idea in the book is for the heroes to be in a building. A dragon rips the roof off and attacks along with some cultists.
The list of monsters possible to use for this encounter included some yugoloths bound by red wizard and recruited by the cult. They have no loyalty. I decided to go with this.
A beggar in tattered robes approached the heroes and asked for coins. Dark immediately gave him 7 gold. But it turns out this fellow is a cultist! He threw off his robes and held up a consumable charm. It glowed and summoned forth 4 mezzoloths (insect demons) and a Nycaloth (a powerful winged yugoloth).
Dark (dragon sorcerer played by a 4th grader) knew what these creatures were. She immediately decided that the mezzoloths were "cute" and tried to hug one. The mezzoloth was utterly taken aback. She knew they were mercenaries and opened negotiations. This is actually noted in the adventure. The suggested price is 2,000 gp per mezzoloth.
She paid off the mezzoloth, who she wants to "keep". She also paid off the Nycoloth, who she said was too ugly to "keep". The nycoloth had cast mirror image on himself. The cultist was furious at the yugoloths. The other mezzoloths attacked the heroes.
The paladin used his oath of the ancients turn ability - he can turn fiends! He turned all of them except Dark's new friend. The cultist saw that his ambush had failed utterly and tried to flee, but a rogue fired an arrow into his knee (rolling a natural 20).
Elia transformed into a silver dragon and helped the heroes mop up.
I had planned on this being a fun battle with NPCs helping them out, doing cool maneuvers, but Dark figured out the alternate solution. Not bad for a 4th grader!
She wants to somehow keep this mezzoloth. I'm going to read up on them and see what would work without breaking the game. Maybe I'll have her make some kind of infernal pact, or a financial arrangement.
This is smart on her part for another reason - in these games, there is nothing to spend gold on! So why not use it to pay off a fiend to help you?