[D&D4] The depths of Emerald Cavern

Hooray, my D&D4 campaign finally started! Today we had our first real session, considering the character creation + a little session after it not as real sessions. However, the troupe was not complete, as we lacked our friendly neighbourhood wizard, Eva a.k.a. Alyssa. Still, the party decided to start their serious excavations without her, and there it went.

Emerald Cavern is the current point of interest to our heroes, as they are hired by the Wave Alliance (the guild of seafarers and merchants in Sturmhafen) to investigate the plague of dire rats coming from that forsaken dungeon. They’ve already put a stop to the dire rat plague, but now merchants leaving the town on the main trading route towards Ainador, the capital of the country, are ambushed by unnaturally good organized Goblins. It seems that their base of operations is the Emerald Cavern, and so our heroes Sema, Zarkesh and Ngara set out once again.

After putting a hold to the dire rats and killing a few Goblins, the characters sealed off a shaft leading further down, to prevent rats and Goblins to crawl up. Now, they opened it again, and used it to get to the heart of the problem. Sema offered to tie her self to a rope, and go down first to scout out the situation. She discovered an underground river, but also a very well hewn wall and walkway at the end of the shaft. The rest decided to come down, and as the slendered over the walkway, the Eladrin Ngara noticed something moving in the river (DM’s Note: Passive Perception 19 gives characters an edge). The party ignored it, as Sema got busy unlocking a door locked with three heavy iron locks. Zarkesh couldn’t wait, and wanted to see where the underground river ended. As soon as he landed in the river, a green glowing, ghostly being appeared behind him, and shouted in a deep voice: “Who dares to disturb the grave of Lord Khigan!” Zarkesh turned around, drawing his magical greataxe, and Ngara prepared for combat as well. But the ghost of a dead Dragonborn did not want to find when he found out the party was out to hunt some Goblins. He told them that he was killed by his own half-brother, Razilim, and that his corpse was taken away by Goblins, to be used in some dark rite. Ngara recalled a letter sent by the Prius of his monastery, telling him of a fall-from-grace former Dragonborn paladin, who plundered the monastery and now ran to the Emerald Caverns. Ngara vowed to rescue Lord Khigan’s corspe, and so did Zarkesh (I mean, it’s for a fellow Dragonborn. And as we all know, Dragonborn are like people from the “hood”: they keep each others scaly back!). Sema opened the door in the mean time, and the heroes advanced to the next room, which was just a storage room with crates and barrels full of salted meat and old, smelly Goblin clothes. However, behind the door to the next room, Ngara heard Goblins talking to each other. It seemed like the greenskins hadn’t already noticed the intruders, and so the characters took their chance.

The combat was far too easy for our heroes. The three Goblins went down faster than you can say ” burst damage”, but the combination of a fighter well-trained with a two-handed axe and a rogue utilizing his shady ways to the maximum dealt with the little buggers in no time. One of the Goblins could flee, and warned his companions in the next room. Filled with a feeling of superiority after this little brawl, the heroes decided to rest for a while (DM’s Note: 5 minutes of rest to regain encounter powers is not long), and charged into the climax of the adventure…

After sprinting through a hallway filled with symbols and statues dedicated to the dark dragon goddess Tiamat, our brave adventurers arrived in something that was definitly a church to that evil deity. Lying on an altar, the characters saw what must be the corpse of Lord Khigan. However, the room was filled with brutish, bigger Goblins: Hobgoblins. Behind the altar, a Hobgoblin clad in a robe with dark runes and brandishing a magical staff whispered words of power, certainly initiating a ritual to turn the corpse on the altar into an undead minion. Our heroes rushed head first into battle, which turned to be a decision which almost cost their lives.

To sum it up: both Sema and Zarkesh were almost dead during the encounter, and could only be helped by the superior healing of Ngara. In the end, the party had burned through all their encounter and daily powers, and both Zarkesh and Ngara used their action point to cause some damage. In the end, the party was showered in some nice rewards: 200 gold coins were hidden in the altar, along with a +1 flaming dagger. You can imagine that we had one happy rogue…

Before leaving the place, Ngara found a letter from Razilim, stating that Sturmhafen is the target of a big Goblin and Kobold offensive. The characters granted Lord Khigan a suitable funeral, and then headed for the Regent’s house, to tell him of the news of an imminent attack on his city. However, the Regent was unavailable, and the characters could only deliver the letter to the Vice-Regent, who seemed to be pretty uninterested. He promised to keep an eye on it, but then sent the characters away. It seems like the local authorities do not care much about the safety of their city.

The party called it a day here, and went to rest in their temporary HQ, a terrible tavern somewhere in the slums of Sturmhafen.

So, what did the party earn in this session? 450 XP per character, about 250 gold coins, a magical dagger, and clues to what is actually going on in, and under the Emerald Cavern. My players seemed to be rather excited to find out how this all works out.

So, how do I actually feel after this? Well, my players are starting to get used to how D&D4 works, and are surprisingly enjoying it more than I expected. I mean, they’re used to more rules-free systems, but apparently they like the tactical approach. Especially Hannah is starting to love her rogue, and tries to get combat advantage at every turn.

However, I still have to find the perfect balance in combat encounters. The first encounter was definitly to easy, but the last one would have been a Total Party Kill if I didn’t turn down the Hobgoblin Warcaster’s powers a bit. But I gotta admit: I threw terrible much at them their, for a 1st-level party.

Oh, nominated for this sessions “Über-Action” is the two consecutive natural 20s rolled by Daniel in combat. He was kinda happy. Also nominated is Hannah’s / Sema’s Sly Flourish crit. That Hobgoblin stays away from Halflings the next time he meets one!

Still, I’m pleased with D&D4, and curious to see what my players and their characters cook up next time. Hopefully, something I can run a decent story with.

Enough geekery for today!

Signed,

Aki

P.S.: Yes, the Halfling abused the Dragonborn again as a mount. Counting the days until the +1 Dragonborn saddle of unknown comfort…

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