Session 26: Rise of Tiamat: Episode 3 - Varram the White (***)
Our 11th-level heroes include dwarven cleric of life Tobias Ironaxe (my character), halfling ranger beastmaster/druid Lektra Alderleaf (my five-year-old daughter's character), and gnome arcane trickster Elec Alderleaf (my eight-year-old son's character). Having captured Talis in the previous adventure, she divulges that Varram the White has the white dragon mask -- which is why she was trying to retrieve the black dragon mask from Rezmir's corpse. Since the party has control of Skyreach Castle, Brunvild simply drops them off right over Varram's last known location and the PCs literally drop right into the adventure!

After heeding the words of the guardian statues at the entrance (nudged in no small part by the wise Tobias) the heroes dispatch the tile-chimera and are ambushed by three trolls. They make short work of them and journey on to meet five bearded devils who appear to be having tea; the PCs leave them behind to enter a room that's clearly marked as dangerous. To nobody's surprise, it is!

Tobias turns the wraiths and disintegrates the spectres. The party loots the room and discovers an ancient tome as well as goblets that grant poison resistance. This will be important later.

The heroes return to find the bearded devils much less friendly this time around -- particularly since they had instructions to attack "whatever came out of that room." After dispatching the devils, the PCs encounter a clay golem demanding tribute and give him a few coppers, then a ghost longing for a book. It just so happens that Tobias found the book she pines for, laying the ghost to rest without combat.

The PCs encounter the mummy lord Diderius himself, who has a somewhat hilarious conversation with them through his sarcophagus. Diderius then opens a secret door to yuan-ti and lizardfolk lurking on the other side of the room. The lizardfolk are surprised and, as a result, are decimated quickly.

The battle over the bridge is where everything goes south. Lektra and Elec easily cross the slippery bridge even as they are peppered with poison arrows, thanks to their high Dex saves. Tobias is not nearly as graceful and slips over the side. Elec manages to grab the dwarf, but he's heavy -- it's Lektra who has the belt of giant strength. She's too busy returning fire at the yuan-ti malisons on the other side of the bridge, who of course focus their attacks on Elec.

"Don't drop the dwarf!" shouts Tobias.

Elec rolls a natural "1" on his Strength check. Elec drops the dwarf.

The dwarf drops over 80 feet down into a pit of snakes.

Tobias is unconscious. Lektra makes short work of the remaining yuan-ti while Elec flies down with his skyhelm and retrieves Tobias. They revive the dwarf, but this was probably the nearest TPK to date, all because of a series of bad rolls on a bridge.

The battle heats up from there as the yuan-ti throw everything they have at the heroes. Tobias burns through the majority of his spells, particularly when the yuan-ti bring out their heavy hitter: an abomination! The abomination attempts to constrict Tobias, who has had enough at that point and hits it with a harm spell. Elec then sneak attacks the thing, felling it.

The heroes press on to the main temple where a yuan-ti priestess (who for some reason is never given a name) holds Varram ransom. Our heroes didn't bother explaining why they want Varram or even why they're there, so our nameless priestess is at a distinct disadvantage. She barters the lives of her yuan-ti in exchange for Varram, which stumps the PCs: surely there's a catch?

There isn't. So the heroes happily leave (I mean, the snake people have to contend with a mummy for crying out loud) with their treasure.

Retrieving Varram did spark an interesting discussion with my kids about why even bad bad guys deserve to live (at least when they're not trying to kill you). Our heroes have captured two different cultists to date and quite a bit of info on the opposition!

They decide to take a well-deserved rest back at home, in Phandalin. Their journey home will not go unnoticed...

This is a pretty straightforward adventure that seems to exist primarily to teach players respect; listening to Diderius' bloviating avoids a lot of combat. There's also a curse where the PCs can go temporarily mad, but given that there are no other complicating factors in the dungeon like wandering monsters, the PCs just sit and wait until their insane friend calms down. The yuan-ti don't really have a defense plan either, they just charge the PCs in waves -- I really, really, really would like game designers to write out the grand total number of foes in a dungeon so I can keep track of who is where and who is left.

The yuan-ti priestess is a missed opportunity to have some really interesting role-playing. She doesn't seem to have any bargaining chips, or really any plan whatsoever other than to survive. I would have liked some role-playing tips, a defense plan for the yuan-ti, and you know...a name for the head villain in the adventure.


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