The Points of Light Campaign (D&D 4e)
Adventure #2 WOTC H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth (Level 4)
A good, and long, opening session- I wasn’t quite sure how to make the game more ‘epic’, or else ‘momentous’, all I did was throw the kitchen sink at them. I think previously I used to worry about encounters either being too easy or else too hard. I decided for this session to try and plot out a few encounters ahead of time- and for some of them put the guys on the back foot from the get go, likewise I chose to reward the guys for good play- if they get the drop on the bad guys then so be it, I don’t mind the odd massacre here and there.
And so for the encounters in this session-
The initial encounter with the Bloodreaver Hobgoblins, and Randal Halfmoon, was supposed to be an easy victory for the guys- they got the drop on the bad guys, it was only a level 3 encounter, and… It mostly went to plan except for the Hobgoblin Warcaster who took a moment to knock almost all of the PCs down- like nine pins. Still the guys came out of the fracas with their ally du jour, and an increased respect (again) for Warcasters.
The time spent in the Seven Pillared Hall was great, I got to play a wide range of personalities, from the churlish Duergar in the trading post, to the slightly creepy Drow Gendar, to the mad (and drunk) Dwarf- Ulthar, who’s lost his Boar- Mr. Grumpy. The guys quickly came round to the idea that this was a living, breathing environment- Dirty was told more than once to ‘shut up’ by the other PCs/Players, and Dave (who plays Dirty) didn’t protest too much- the other players policed the Dwarf- made sure he didn’t get up to anything too bad. It was clear to the guys that they could fall out of favour quickly in the Hall, and perhaps end up fighting a very one-sided battle- I made sure they knew that there were plenty of Bloodreavers present, and that Brugg and the Guards were keeping an eye on them.
The secret meeting at the Inn afforded me a further opportunity to add in some more exposition and provide a back story for the present situation in the Hall, clearly the Bloodreavers (and perhaps the Duergar) are the PCs and the NPCs problem- their mutual hatred for the Bloodreavers, particularly, sealed the deal; the guys have found some more folk that need their help- they love that kind of thing.
Also a bit of a mystery to resolve, in the long term, where are the Mages of Saruun in all of this?
And so into the Labyrinth and to the Chamber of Eyes, and with a Kobold guide no less- the guys were incredibly suspicious, and later suitably impressed that the little guy didn’t cut and run, and also offered them some good advice along the way.
I decided that I’d play a lot of the wandering monsters in the Labyrinth, and also employ a very loose style of Skill Challenge for traversing the caverns- the PCs could pretty much pick any skill that fitted the bill. I drew random Skeleton Key Games tiles and just plonked them down, if they needed to cross a stream then so be it, if they needed to climb a chimney section, or else descend into a depression- the guys came up with the skill checks needed and just got on with it.
For the two encounters en route to the Chamber of Eyes I decided more or less ahead of time I would try to let the bad guys get the drop on the PCs every time, after all they were on home turf.
Winstanley put paid to this idea with the Zombie Rotwings and the Deathlock Wight- I thought why not at the time, and allowed the guys to take control of the ambush- as reward for good rolls (‘20’ x2), and clever play by Winstanley- the Halfling is really coming into his own, and trying to do a lot more sneaking about, and seemingly with more success than previously.
For the Hyena pack I wanted to interrupt the guys extended rest- I didn’t want them thinking for a second that the Labyrinth was a place to dally. This encounter turned very quickly into a massacre for my bad guys, the entire encounter took perhaps two rounds to play out- again this wasn’t an issue, the PCs did all the right things- sorted a watch rota, set an Alarm, found a good place to rest and also positioned the defenders astutely in case of attack. I reward good play- it makes it easier to punish them a little (or a lot) when they do daft things.
Again the initial encounter in the Chamber of Eyes with the Bloodreavers was a massacre, hey-ho, the PCs did all the right things- with Winstanley doing the business once again. There’s nothing like a player/PC beaming with pride when they serve up the villains on a plate for their colleagues, or else work as a team to increase their chances of success.
The final encounter of the session with Chief Krand and his followers was suitably titanic, on reflection I should have perhaps thrown the remaining encounter in this area into the mix- in fact I should have definitely done this, that’s a regret- right there. All in all however the guys were as happy as larry with Thunderspire Labyrinth so far.
That said the guys are already of the opinion that this module ends with the Duergar, they think the Bloodreavers are the antipasto, the grey Dwarves the main course. I worry slightly that they have vastly underestimated the size of this scenario, although they must surely think that Grimmerzhul is a huge fortress, or else an extended dungeon.
We’ll see how they get on when they come to realise that this is not the case, and that they have much more to do.