By popular demand I’m now running a Wednesday campaign in addition to Marrakesh on Saturdays. I still had the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure lying around from when I bought the Essentials DM Kit, and given the fairly positive reviews I’d seen online, I wanted to give it a try. So I had the players, the campaign, and the time, but one thing was lacking: a place to play.
My house was out since it was a school night, and nobody else had the required room or vacancy that six loud nerds require (not as loud as my other group, but that’s not saying much). We settled for the only place that wasn’t expressly forbidden, with the caveat that we couldn’t wake up his father, when we realized we had thirty pages of character sheets to print and would need to go out to Office Depot anyway. What’s next to Office Depot? Chili’s, Friday’s, and Applebee’s. Why not grab a bite to eat while we’re at it, since many of us had eaten late lunches and still needed dinner.
Wait a second. Why not play D&D at the restaurant? The beauty of the pre-made adventure was that I only needed five things: the adventure, the maps, the tokens and my minis box, a pad of paper, and the paperback DM guide in case I needed to reference anything. So we piled them up into a neat little stack and set out on our quest for half-apps at Applebees, since it was already 9 by the time we’d gotten everyone’s characters created.
One thing I definitely noticed about the composition was the power creep. In Marrakesh I essentially restricted my players to the PHB 1 & 2, while for Reavers I’d opened up the entire online Character Builder as free game as they made their level two characters. The bugs seem to have been all worked out, and my only real complaint was that the Character Sheets use an unnecessary amount of whitespace, resulting in a packet rather than a sheet.
And so for defenders we had Jorge, a Minotaur Ardent, who looks to do a fair bit of damage while simultaneously dishing out saving throws all over the place. M played a Warforged Fighter named Rodriguez who is a temporary hit points machine (no pun intended), requiring minimal attention from our two leaders while tanking a crazy bit of a damage.
Llewcu, the Firesoul Genasi Hybrid Swordmage/Artificer, left me scratching my head–I’d built her for my friend, who is still new enough that she’d rather let someone else strategize for her, but I ended up with a healer/buffer who had the highest AC in the party (20) while wearing merely leather armor. What. The. Fuck. The other leader, Darok the Mul shaman, has an encounter that does as much damage as one of his dailies, and a minor action heal that recovers half a party member’s health depending on the d6′s results.
We’re left with a Human Monk named Brandis whose capacity to move makes him a controller and a striker, and Ryukuma (Dragonbear!) the Half-Orc Thief who out-Strengths everyone else around and does 2d8+4 sneak attack damage. At level two.
And I didn’t even let them have any magic items and gave them only 100g to spend.
The Wold of Harken
I’d left one of the two map mats behind without realizing that I’d be using it in this part of the campaign, so I had to improvise using one of the other encounters’ maps. Otherwise, we started out the adventure as the booklet described: at Ilyana’s farm in the midst of a robbery by the Iron Circle sellswords. The thief, shaman, and monk managed to sneak up to them while the swordmage and ardent hung back to watch.
The shaman caught one of the wolves’ attention and bid it to turn against its master, thereby starting the fight by dropping one of the brigands down a third of her hit points. The swordmage and ardent charged headlong into the fray while the thief and monk snuck into position to deal whopping amounts of damage, dropping a brigand apiece. The shaman kept everyone healed up before wading into the battle himself alongside his spirit bear to finish off what remained of the Iron Circle’s forces.
They’d surrounded the last remaining sellsword before the end of the second round and the half-orc thief held him in a full nelson while the others pressed him for information. He hissed that they were no match for Nazin Redthorn, and was summarily knocked out by a punch to the face.
Ilyana explained to the adventurers what else had been going on and bade them search out Dar Gremath in Albridge if they wanted to help. Being the unaligned party that they are (save for the monk who is essentially a lawful good Jedi), they asked what might be in it for them and the poor old woman suggested the Baron might be able to reward them at the end.
By now the bartender had announced last call. The adventurers investigated some abandoned steadings along the way before finding their contact at the stables. Dar Gremath was wary of them when they said they were looking for medical attention for their “friend,” the Iron Circle mercenary slung over the thief’s back, but the party came clean when they realized who they were talking to. In a surprising show of charity the adventurers donated the weapons and armor they’d looted from the sellsword’s corpses and Dar promised they’d be well-used in the upcoming rebellion.
Wanting to take advantage of the remaining daylight (and excited at the idea of a cumulative +1 Atk/+1 Dmg for each encounter they have before taking an extended rest), and having a whole day yet to plan their assault on an Iron Circle supply wagon, the adventurers headed out to find the druid Reithann and see how else they could help. By then we were only one of two tables filled and it was closing on midnight, closing time. We packed up and finished our various margaritas and mojitos and piled back into the car for the ride home.
I’m definitely going to have to keep an eye on the party and how they stack up against the threats laid before them. I’m not going to do any manual adjustments just yet, since the abilities of the mobs might just keep them on their toes. And I did manage to get the well-warded swordmage down to 9 health.
I’m also pleased with how they reacted to the prospect of a momentum that builds after each victory. I won’t have them sleeping after every second encounter this way, they’ll actually have to save their dailies for when they’re really needed, and the “5-minute workday” problem is solved.
One of my players also suggested that scoring criticals on skill checks award a small amount of experience. The justification being that when you do something that awesomely, it’s because you figured out some new way of overcoming the obstacle. I agreed that it made sense, and so that’ll be a houserule of mine from now on, not least of all because I like to dole out lots of little rewards, be they experience, items, or gold to keep up morale.
So next week we’ll hopefully be introducing the Warforged fighter who didn’t make it to the session, which fits pretty perfectly with one of the encounters already included in the adventure. Ancient technology mysteriously re-awakened, and a foreboding taste of what may yet come in a campaign that might just have some hints of Eberron…