Guest playtest report! The Trail of the Bronze Phoenix, part one
My sincere thanks go out to @Arbanax (player of Kalavan the Hill Dwarf Fighter) who kindly wrote the following playtest reports for the last two sessions of our ongoing adventures playing D&D Next. It’s great to see a players’ perspective of the game!
The words below are his; I’ve added my comments in italics.
After freeing the real High Librarian from Wyneth Tower, the party are returned back to the Inn, where their party first formed. Though it was late and people were keen to turn in, they weren’t alone. A wizard called El-Shadari introduced himself to the party.
El-Shadari is a Warlock in disguise as a wizard and with a cordial introduction and guards being lowered, El-Shadari manages to ‘lift’ with his light fingers Kalavan the Dwarf Fighter’s gift from the High Librarian – a Wyneth Tower Library card.
The card allowed its possessor the right to teleport to and from Wyneth Tower and use its many resources. Kalavan hadn’t noticed at the time but was grateful, when the next day the same El-Shadari revealed to Kalavan and the party that he’d found it.
Before leaving, Randalph the Blue, an elderly and somewhat baffled wizard, who the party had helped by first going to Wyneth Tower, had a parting gift for them. He handing each one of them, perfect miniature horses or ponies. Seeing the party’s lack of comprehension he explained that the horses, with a magical command, would become real horses or return to miniature form when no longer needed. The steeds would help the party make the journey to the Keep on the Borderlands, in the time remaining before the Wedding, to which they and the many other wedding guests were travelling.
After setting off and making good progress, the afternoon quickly gave way to dusk, the party heard the sound of wolves and sought a place to camp for the night. This was when they spotted torchlight, not far from the road they were on. Carefully moved up to explore the area.
Tuor and Reninblast scouted through the wood surrounding the clearer from where the torchlight came whilst the rest of the party rode up to the came along the small single track that lead to it. There the party saw a clearing which had three main tents and horses tied to tree’s at one end and 8 knights in armour and their leader, a Sir Gregor, who it turned out was a real arrogant piece of work sat around a camp fire. As the party approached they overheard him, joking with his cronies about having a hunt and hoping to have some real sport. It didn’t sound good. But it got worse.
As the party moved up to the clearing they asked as fellow travellers and as guests of Baron Blackeagle, to whom Sir Gregor and his Knights were clearly working, requested their help and hospitality. Unfortunately it turned out Sir Gregor hadn’t read that part in the knights code and told the party, in no uncertain terms, to keep on moving on there was nothing here for them. Both his sneering demeanour and the manner of his refusal at offering to help, got both of the Elves hidden away, Tuor and Reninblast, cross enough to give their answer by letting loose with their arrows.
Whilst they continued to try to shoot Gregor, Janella pressed forward on her horse, only to fall foul of the reins and land badly. The knights, Gregor’s men, meanwhile made for their horses, grabbing lances as they sought to charge us. El-Shadari let loose with a spell, but it was clear that we were in trouble unless we could turn this fight around…
[We end that session there, right in the middle of combat. The Black Eagle Knights were about to charge, and things didn’t look good for the party. Talk about a cliff-hanger ending! Then something unexpected happened; Wizards of the Coast released a new playtest packet, which reduced the hit points, Armour Class and capabilities of the Knights quite dramatically. Maybe the prospects wouldn’t be so bleak after all…….. – G.]
Sir Gregor wasn’t all talk, as his Knights ran to get their horses and lances, to charge down the party, he moved on Janella knocking her out, before she could rise to defend herself. [Translation: Janella’s player couldn’t make the session, so she was knocked out to explain her absence. Sorry, Jay – G.]
Meanwhile El-Shadari, having earlier changed into peasants garb, strode into the camp shooing our riderless horses into the knights to slow them down.
Fortunately the Kalavan managed to score an impressive hit on Sir Gregor, weakened as he had been by the relentless display of keen bowmanship from Tuor and Reninblast.
Close to death [He was at 1 hit point! 1! – G.], Sir Gregor, yielded, knowing his life was forfeit, calling his charging Knights to a sudden halt , as the bore down on the group.
Knocking his beautiful Elven sword to one side, then securing the prisoners, to one side of the camp, the party proceeded to attend to the camp site. The Sword, a masterwork weapon and clearly an heirloom to a noble Elven house, didn’t seem right that it had found its way into the hands of someone like Gregor. So for the time being it was handed to Reninblast, until its true family could reclaim it. [All magic items should be plot devices, or have the potential to be used as such later – G.]
Having secured and shackled the prisoners, some of the party searched the Knights Tents, and Kalavan made his way back to the main road to show the slower wedding party guests, the way to the clearing.
After searching through the first two tents the party found nothing of real value, until they came to Sir Gregor’s tent. Within they found a large chest set on wheels. Since the Rogue wasn’t with the party at this point (they were in the wedding party) a simple smash and bash by one of the fighters relieved the wooden box of its lock. And within they found a bound and gagged Elf maiden of stunning pale beauty and peculiar lavender eyes. She, once unbound, revealed herself to be the ‘sport’, the knights intended on hunting later. Her name was Sanguine, and Tuor was very struck by her.
Meanwhile back on the road, the sound of wolves, that had prompted the search for a suitable resting sight, had now receded. But Kalavan saw in the trees strange bat like creatures with luminous green eyes. In the growing gloom all he could make out was that there were more gathering in the trees that lined the road. Ordering the party to light torches, the Wedding Party Guests bunched up but moved on steadily, determined not to panic. Kalavan, using his ‘Twin ring’ contacted the rest of the party via Sir Davos and told them they had encountered a problem.
After leaving someone to guard the prisoners, the party, took Sanguine with Tuor, who’d taken quiet a shine to her, with the party to meet and help the wedding guests.
But unbeknownst to the party, Sanguine was more than she seemed, Tuor was not only struck by her unnatural beauty, but enchanted by it! Although in the gloom no one noticed, it was clear that something sinister had befallen him. [Tuor seemed entirely incapable of makig CHA saves for the entire session, with hilarious consequences, brilliantly played – G].
Back on the road, Kalavan and the Wedding guests were coming under increasing attack, as these winged creatures flew over occasionally dropping stones. As they stoically went on, it became clear that a much larger mass of the creatures awaited them in the trees ahead. So the group halted awaiting the support of the rest of the party, to join them.
As they did, the creatures sensing that their opportunity for easy pickings was about to become complicated they flew into attack were we realised our assailants were in fact winged Kobolds. A brutal, but short fight ensued, which didn’t favour the kobolds who were no match for the fierce onslaught of the group and who were eventually driven off to find more compliant prey.
The party made it safely back to the clearing, but Tuor got steadily worse. Sanguine had somehow enchanted and bound Tuor to herself but with terrible effects on Tuor, who was acting more protective of her. His very appearance was changing and even as he offered to keep Sanguine warm by the fire her hold on him became clear. With a bit of cunning, on the part of Sir Davos, Reninblast and Bisto the mage, they managed to get Tuor away from Sanguine and off to one of the tents to talk to him, but it wasn’t easy. And even whilst there, the full extent of what Sanguine had done became clear, Tuor was delusional, like an elf drugged, he resisted and then fought back against his friends and a fight broke out as Tuor desperately tried to return to Sanguine’s side.
Meanwhile Kalavan suggested Sir Davos use the Wyneth Tower Library card to teleport to the Library immediately and see if they could find anything more about what was going on here. The distinct effects her touch had, had on Tuor and her unusual appearance.
Sir Davos agreed and was met by Desmond the High Keeper of the tower. True to his word, Desmond, helped Davos given the grave circumstances the party faced.
A book was quickly found that gave a clue to what was going on and it was at this point that Sir Davos found out that Sanguine was a type of vampire [She was an Elf Vampire, as found in the AD&D Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium – G.]. An unusual one, one that fed off a persons essence, not their blood. Those so possessed became mere shadows of themselves and thralls of such a vampire.
Desmond also had news as to the party’s earlier question, where they’d overheard talk regarding something about the ‘Lady of the Bronze Phoenix’. The lady was in fact a captain, the Bronze Phoenix her ship, a flying ship, no less.
With Sir Davos telepathically relaying information to Kalavan, and Tuor restrained, the rest of the party made a move toward Sanguine. El-Shadari used his patron’s blessing to terrify the vampire, causing her to fall to the ground whilst other members sought to use the opportunity to tackle her. Meanwhile Tuor had broken free of Reninblast’s hold and managed to get away, only for Reninblast to capture him again where the two continued to fight.
Sir Gregor and his men, unlike the rest of the wedding party, looked on and laughed. Mocking the party as they fought something they’d never faced before. But armed with the information Sir Davos had obtained, Kalavan took one of the knights Lances, and having modified it he first burned it in the fire and to use like a spear. For unlike a normal vampire, this vampire was hurt by those things that gave Elves, life, joy or hope. A normal stake wouldn’t kill her, but a charcoaled spear made from a makeshift lance would.
Meanwhile Sir Davos teleported back and also prepared his Holy weapon by coating it in tree sap – another weakness that would hurt this Elven Vampire. So equipped the party continued to attack Sanguine [who was already weakened by Bisto the Wizard’s Burning Hands – G.] and overwhelm her, giving Kalavan the chance to use the makeshift spear as a stake to spear Sanguine and pitch her into the flames to cleanse the camp and break the curse on Tuor. With a blood curdling scream, she burst into flames and fell apart, gone forever.
With the vampire dead, Tuor finally broke free from her control and her life draining touch and began to realise how deeply she’d effected him. Finally with the camp secure, the party were able to restore some semblance of order. Get a watch set up and discuss their plans for moving on toward the keep. One thing was for sure, the woods around about were not safe, perhaps a smaller scouting party should press forward, whilst the main body of the party remained back to protect the Wedding Guests…
[All in all these were two terrific sessions which showed to me just how much of an impact teamwork can have on the game. Twice the party voluntarily split (once when Sir Davos teleported back to Wyneth Tower for information, and again to head back to see how the wedding retinue was progressing), but it was all done with the party’s well-being in mind. Every single player contributed to the game in important and meaningful ways. I salute them all -G.]
The adventure continues last Sunday when….. but I’ll save that for next time.
(and thanks again, Dave.)