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[Fun] - Patrick
I began my Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game Sunday with character creation & a mini-adventure. I had a lot of fun - the rules are very smooth & fast-playing. The game is set in the default Fallcrest setting from the Dungeon Master's Guide, just to keep things hassle-free & enable other folks to run games in the same world for different sets of PCs if they wish. I made a couple of additions, adding a mysterious black tower overlooking the falls, which belonged to a wizard who vanished 130 years ago and which no one has ever been able to enter since. And the Necromancer, whose undead armies laid waste to the Nerath Empire to the south before his fall.

The five heroes met as children when a red dragon attacked Fallcrest, then split up as most of their families left town following the devastation. Now, 10 years later, the young adventurers return.

Beladona Windslip, tiefling warlock (toryadore)
Theren, half-elf paladin of the Raven Queen (goldrushg)
Culhaire Bonree, eladrin wizard (reapersaurus)
Adin McGregor, human fighter (doccross)
Ari, eladrin warlord (Kurt)

Adin, who never left Fallcrest, and the four travelers hear a strange story - the ravens have returned to the impenetrable Black Tower overlooking the falls. Each makes their way to the tower, where they are reunited with the others. Theren prays to the Raven Queen and has a sense the ravens are watching the tower rather than protecting it. Culhaire and Beladona both sense immense magical power within the tower. Adin discovers the tower seems to absorb energy when he taps it with a rock seeking a hidden door. Ari notes the ravens appear to be ordinary birds, and are not rooted to the tower - some fly off to feed & return.

Puzzling over the mystery, Culhaire suddenly realizes this day marks the 100th anniversary of the fall of the Necromancer, slain by a band of heroes who fought their way through his undead hordes into his great tower far to the south.

Disturbed by the coincidence, the five decide to investigate further. Culhaire will try to peruse the old guild records kept by Nimorazan, the septarch, but ruefully notes the dotty old wizard will no doubt demand a hefty fee for the privilege, which the party cannot yet afford.

This was all roleplaying & a few skill checks, but if I'd been thinking I could have run it as a skill challenge, which I'm itching to try out. On the other hand, since this is a VERY long-term plot thread & mystery, defining 'victory' would have been difficult.

Departing the Black Tower, the heroes notice a disturbance on the Market Green in Lowtown.

Alston, a half-elf who lives in Fallcrest, recovers from a fainting spell as the heroes approach. He says his sister, Morwen, plunged into a forgotten crypt in the catacombs while visiting the tomb of their parents. The heroes volunteer to help, and a trader donates a coil of rope from his stall - 'best in the Nentir Vale!'

Followed by a mob of curious townsfolk, Alston guides the heroes to the catacombs in the bluffs. When they reach the collapsed floor, they see Morwen has been dragged away by something. A giant rat hisses at the heroes. Alston faints again.

Beladona keeps the rat at bay with bolts of eldritch energy while the others use the rope to climb down into the crypt. The wily rat dodges several eldritch bolts & sword and axe blows before finally succumbing.

This was a basic giant rat minion, just for us to figure out how to roll an attack or two, but everyone kept missing. It was hilarious.

Following the drag marks in the dust, the heroes enter an ossuary with ancient bones spilling from the niches in the walls. The drag marks lead to a pair of double doors at the other end, beyond a T-intersection. As the heroes move forward, they spot two orange glows approaching down the side corridors at the T. They quickly rearrange their battle formation, just in time to see two enormous fire beetles rounding the corners!

Adin and Theren form the front line, with Beladona and Culhaire hurling magic missiles and eldritch bolts from behind. Ari uses his warlord powers to enhance the attacks & tactics of the others, while darting in to deliver blows with his spear.

One of the beetles falls, but the other looses a fire blast catching several heroes but fortunately doing very little damage. Then three giant black centipedes wriggle from the piles of bones to attack the flanks & rear. Beladona faces off with the centipedes while Culhaire dodges to the other side of the front line and continues firing magic missiles. Adin takes several beetle and centipede bites, and Theren is bitten & briefly paralyzed by a centipede, but soon all the monstrous insects are slain.

Our first full-fledged combat. It actually went very well despite my barely knowing what I was doing at the start. Lots of movement and tactics within the party. I didn't use the monsters very effectively; delayng the appearance of the centipedes was dramatic but allowed the party to wallop the beetles hard for a round. And the centipedes should have ganged up on 1-2 PCs, using flanking attacks and scuttling in & out to strike. But it was a lot of fun and I can see how cool running encounters is going to be.

This took us up to our 7 p.m. end time, so we paused the adventure at the closed double doors. Next session, the exciting conclusion, some down time, and then on to the first real dungeon.

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