I've been too focused on "real life" things to blog about D&D very much lately, but I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things a little more regularly, now that work has slowed back down to a regular 40 hour week again.
I went back to the Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, MO, for Weeks 2 and 3 of this season of D&D Encounters. Our party for the last two weeks has consisted of the same 6 players and characters, and we have a fairly well-rounded group: Hunter, Thief, Warpriest, Bladesinger, Nethermancer, and my Blackguard.
Week 1 ended with the cliffhanger of the mysterious masked warrior wearing the Lost Crown of Neverwinter joining us in town-square battle against plaguechanged drakes and humans. At the end of the battle, a young plaguechanged white dragon landed in the middle of the square.
During Week 2, we fought the dragon. He was a big solo brute, and knocked us all around pretty well, but we managed to take him down. He did have some interesting effects that were brought to bear against us, such as the spellgplague explosion that occurred when we bloodied him, and his trample-rampage attack that ran us over a few times. The session ended with the Lost Heir of Neverwinter (mystery dude wearing the Crown) casting some kind of petrifaction spell upon the dying dragon, leaving a lovely monument in the middle of the town square, and throngs of onlookers cheering him on as he rode off. He also gave us each an amulet which we could wear to signify our allegiance to him.
Week 3 picks ten days later. It's been generally assumed that the PCs spent the tenday mucking about town, picking up rumors and trying to learn more about just what's going down in Neverwinter these days. The town is thick with political strife, and different factions are all vying for control. One one hand is Lord Neverember, the current regent, and on the other is this mysterious Lost Heir. We also learn that shop owners and townsfolk are being bullied by the Lost Heir's thugs into pledging allegiance to him. There has also been an increase in attacks by plaguechanged creatures inside the supposedly "warded" safe area of Neverwinter, and every time the Lost Heir shows up to kick ass and take names.
So the PCs meet up at the Beached Leviathan, an inn built out of the hull of a grounded old pirate ship and run by the ship's old captain. He's a Neverember loyalist, but has been bullied lately. While we're in the pub, a group of soldiers shows up with a General in tow, who informs us that she'll be personally delivering us to Lord Neverember for a meeting. Whether we like it or not.
At which point we get attacked by some Lost Heir loyalists.
Frankly, this Encounter could have really been so much more. The setting, a pirate ship repurposed to an Inn, and the event, a bar brawl, has so much potential to be a completely raucous, over-the-top event. Instead, it was a boring trade of dice rolls. The brawlers attacked our group at our table, which meant we were basically stuck in a corner and surrounded. Because no one wanted to risk getting hit with any opportunity attacks, we all pretty much stayed put (except the nethermancer, who shadow-walked his way to a much further corner) and traded blows with the thugs until they were bloodied and we either Intimidated or Diplomatically convinced them to stop fighting. Of course, that took a while because they each had almost 60 hit points!
Now, I understand that the evening was more about learning everything going on in Neverwinter and to give us some insight into the political machinations going on. Which it did a fine job of. But, what could have been a memorable bar brawl wound up being a monotonous event at best.
I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't offer some suggestions on how to make it better.
First, there could have been a mini Skill Challenge involved right before combat commenced. An exchange of words, a rallying of either side's supporters, to see just how big this bar brawl was going to become. That could have offered some great role-playing opportunities.
Second, make the fight more dramatic and completely chaotic (like a real bar brawl). Duh! Once the brawl commences, have a randomized chart to see who could randomly get hit over the head with a chair, or slip on spilled ale, or have another combatant pushed into them, or being grabbed by someone, or someone gets tossed through a window or over the bar or across a table or into the big pile of barrels or hell, even into the fireplace!
Anyways, I'll be back for the rest of the season; I'm not a quitter! But I really think Wizards dropped the ball with this particular encounter.