Curse of the Black Pearls
You’ll notice in this play report that I have been using models for things instead of my usual eccentric collection of tokens. This is because I forgot them and needed to use something else! Whoops!
Today we began by finishing off the fight in the entrance to the temple, the Hezrou demon beginning its rampage into the PCs by downing the cleric Narvarie again and causing misery for the bard, Rowan shortly after. With both of the parties healers down, things looked a bit grim until Kasswok braved through several risky opportunity attacks to get around and bring up the Cleric with healing hands – who then healed the bard restoring the situation somewhat. Kasswok then turned around to engage the demon, casting a spell that would cause it to suffer from a fear effect until damaged and majorly cramp its style.
Meanwhile the players figured out the d10 next to the demon indicated how long it would be able to stay around and they began to interfere with this. The blood in the channel was the key to the demons ability to hang around, which when the characters began interfering with it started to loosen its grip on their plane of reality. Freezing the blood, scooping it out, blocking it or anything like that reduced the demons ability to hang around by 1 round. Each round the demon ended its turn also reduced the counter, giving it a finite life span.
The Yuan-ti Malison was of course aware of this and identified the magic upon the Hezrou as being rather detrimental. So it pulled back on its bow and shot the demon right in the back – which naturally did not impress the demon in the least. It did however immediately break Kasswok’s spell and ensure the demon was free to act of its own volition, so it tore into the Paladin and a couple of the other PCs. Inevitably the fight turned towards the characters as the blackscale lizardfolk were downed and the Malison eventually ran out of arrorws, causing him to slither down to the floor level to engage the PCs.
When the demon, remembering how the Yuan-ti had shot it in the back from earlier turned on its former master! This was a good moment and helped to show that demonic “allies” were not to be trusted or relied upon – which could be an extremely important lesson for a later adventure. This meant that the characters had a fairly easy time finally dispatching the Hezrou with physical damage, sending the beast reeling back to the abyss in Khyber and getting the chance to finally take a breather.
After collecting themselves from the battle, the characters marched down into the depths of the tomb, feeling the eyes of the enraged dragonborn spirits all around them. Remember however, that the characters have the blessing of their leader and so were not attacked, unlike the mangled Yuan-ti and Blackscale Lizardfolk lining the corridors. Finally they came to the chamber where three large sarcophagi with impressions of dragonborn heroes upon them were found. The spirits of the dragonborn marched forth but did not attack upon sensing the blessing upon the characters, which avoided a particularly difficult and nasty encounter. Choices paying off!
Here the characters got some more detail on Yigkari, found a very good sword (a dancing longsword of fire, imbued with a bit of the personality of one of the Dragonborn Champions), some splint mail +1 and a mysterious horn. This horn allowed the characters to do one of two things, which were 1/long rest blow it for a +1 to hit and damage for an entire encounter for every character that could hear it; or sacrifice the horn and bring forth the three Dragonborn champions from the tomb to help fight on the characters behalf for 1d4+charisma or wisdom (taking highest) number of rounds. Then the spirits would be destroyed once and for all, having expended whatever final power they had left in being summoned.
Now this is obviously a really powerful feature, as Dragonborn Champions are no chumps in my game as evident from the previous arena fight. The purpose of this of course is two fold: As this game increasingly moves to being open this item gives the PCs a once off “Get out of jail free” card, as the Dragonborn either hold up the enemies so they can escape or tip an impossible to win encounter towards the party (making it winnable). This does have a big cost though, because it will destroy the item forever and it cannot be repaired – making it a difficult choice to just use it straight up.
After this the characters decided who got what of the items here and then moved on. Interestingly while we were setting up to play I was listening to my players, where I overheard them discussing that they hadn’t yet fought a dragon despite the game having gone on for a while. At the time I had to hide my immediate amusement at hearing this, because I had in fact before the session started planned an encounter with a dragon! It just happened to be a pure coincidence that I had done this and it must have came as an amusing shock to the players when I pulled out the dragon!
Before I continue though let me give a really big piece of advice for anyone who wants to DM: While you are setting up and getting yourself ready to run, always listen to what your players are talking about before you start. Very often your players will be talking about the game (or at least you can hope they will be) and if they are just listen in. You’ll learn very fast what they are thinking or wanting to see, like wanting to have some more roleplaying opportunities, see something specific (in this case the discussion about the dragon came from Reebu’s player) and so forth. This gives you big clues what your players might enjoy in future, so you can replan your adventures accordingly.
In any event, this encounter started with the PCs luckily avoiding a surprise round as the bard noticed the shadow of the dragon flash by overhead and then saw it swooping down from the direction of the sun! An excellent initiative roll on the young black dragon’s part meant that it still went first in the initiative order, but at least it didn’t get a dreaded surprise round – which could have been very awkward indeed – on the characters.
The terrain here also had some narrow holes in the side of the canyon, which meant that the gnome could hide away in these without much of an issue (or other characters if they moved 1/2 speed and took disadvantage on attack rolls). These holes were designed as a retreat from the dragon if things got too hectic, but for the most part the fight went pretty positively for the characters. The Dragon managed to spray several players with acid and then tore into the elves in particular (having a long standing grudge against them).
Overall they handled this fight pretty easily, in part because they also decided to use the horn this encounter to get the +1 attack/damage for the encounter (which does mean it might not be available on a later encounter). I did originally plan for the wounded dragon to retreat, but he took a couple of hits too many and finally a bolt from Narvarie caused him to become unstable and then collapse down the cliff – splatting some 300′ directly below into the raging river that cuts through this area.
Overall a decent but not overwhelming fight, but the characters still had more to do and of course where there was a dragon, there would be a hoard. Given that this one was working with the Yuan-ti in some capacity, maybe it would be near the city they were going towards? My players will just have to find out next session…