Another excellent night of fun at The Gaming Goat. We were missing Jorie and Dave (uh-oh, our mage!) tonight but two new players, Daniel and Devon, joined us for session six of the fourth season of DnD Encounters. The other issue of note was that this was our first session after having changed the clock for daylights savings time - it was kind of odd to start playing when it was still light outside.
We had ended last week after having defeated a group of eight zombie-like former townspeople that had all been infected with those odd red crystal bumps. Brother Splintershield stated he knew where the blight was coming from and he wanted to keep moving so he could consecrate the ground and put an end to this mysterious disease. The party managed to talk him into taking a five minute rest before we moved on, giving all the party members a few minutes to do some healing and to gather their thrown weapons before pressing on.
After their rest the party then moved past the area where last week's fight had occurred, keeping their eyes open for whatever may lay ahead. Those to the left came across a crater, where at first glance it appeared something had fallen from the sky, displacing and twisting trees in the bottom of the pit. Further investigation showed that the edges of the pit seemed to fade in and out of reality, thus giving a hint that this was something not natural. Mangled brush outside the area of the crater showed that whatever had fallen into the crater had been drug out of it.
In the center of the area several party members came across a small pond. There was an expectation that any small body of water would have been covered with ice at this time of year, but that was not the case here. Small sections of ice bobbed around the edges of the pool and red crystal dots were scattered across those pieces of ice. The water itself appeared to be quite warm and little rivulets of steam could be seen to be rising from the pool. Was this the water we had been warned about by the dead workers found outside the castle grounds (two weeks ago)?
On the right side of the area a small cave was discovered. Despite the smell of something dead emanating from the cave our ranger crept in to investigate. There he discovered the body of a dead bear. Vicious claw marks could be seen on the body of the bear and the ever present red crystal bumps were present as well. The ranger was of the opinion that the bear had been dead for about a week but in that time the body had not become part of the food chain.
The skirmish line of adventurers then continued on and moved into a batch of trees that were all infected with red crystal bumps and were also twisted and bent into unnatural shapes. Around one set of trees sat a small stream in which lay a odd looking body of some sort. It was not something of this world, but whatever it was was covered with ready crystal bumps and despite having been dead for several days and sitting in cold water was still emanating a palpable amount of heat. After some discussion it was determined that this was a demon that had somehow been plucked out of - or pushed out of - another dimension and had fallen here, causing the crater and it's blinking edges, and was now the center of all the blight in the forest.
That was enough for Brother Splintershield. He immediately began to prepare his ritual of cleansing that would consecrate the ground in this area and would purge the forest of the blight. The other party members set up a protective circle around the chanting Dwarf priest to ensure Splintershield's cleaning ritual was not interrupted. After about ten minutes of preparation and another ten minutes of casting a wave of righteous energy flowed from Brother Splintershield and rolled out into the surrounding forest.
Just as quickly as the cleaning spell appeared it was immediately overrun by a wave of evil that seemed to push back against and then evaporate the initial wave. As the wave of evil pushed back several bodies exploded from the ground immediately around the party. Five ghostly looking Phantom Squires were armed with swords and cross bows and five slightly larger ghostly looking Phantom Armigers were armed with spears, with one of the Armigers immediately plunging a spear into Splintershield's chest.
And so the battle was on. The Squires proved to be tough to hit but easy to kill (i.e., minions), while the Armigers were easier to hit, but much tougher to kill. The party responded with a vengeance and was quickly able to bloody several of the Armigers, but then the battle drew more or less to a standstill as the party's dice grew cold. The Armigers odd ghostly bodies also seemed to be able to diminish some of the damage done to them as well, and the longer they managed to stayed alive the more damage they were able to do. That, plus the squires had the annoying habit of jumping in front of a swinging sword to take the damage and spare the adjacent armigers.
Brother Splintershield was the clear focus of the undead's ire. The party did their best to rally to his defense, but the combined and furious attacks managed to knock Splintershield into a state of unconsciousness three separate times. My paladin stayed close with his Defenders Aura to help with its bonus, plus the cleric and the druid used their spells to keep the old cleric from reaching a state of death. The Druid took 50+ points of damage for the evening (and his little dog too) and found himself in a state of unconsciousness for several rounds as well.
With the Squires eventually cleared the party finally began to do some damage again to the Armigers until finally they were all defeated as well. Despite the repeated attacks Splintershield was able to make it through the encounter alive. It was not clear if his original cleansing spell was now in force or if it had been overridden by the wave of evil that followed it - we'll find out next week.
This encounter really tested the entire party, with several key misses causing the encounter to go much longer than expected. Many of the party members were bloodied, some severely so, and while everyone in the party struggled with poor dice rolls at times we wouldn't have made it through the encounter without everyone in the party contributing as well. It would have been nice if we had our mage for this encounter though.
With the combat over the party stopped to take a five minute rest. A set of +1 Magic Armor was uncovered and was claimed by our rogue (Dustin), and we'll pick it up from there next week.
Note: We are expecting several missing players to return next week, so we may split into two tables.