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D&D General Vecna, Eve of Ruin - play reports.

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
On Monday, 13th May, 2024, my group of four players stepped into the 50th Anniversary adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, Vecna: Eve of Ruin. With a combination of two brand new and two existing 10th level characters, they came to the city of Neverwinter, where as recognised heroes they were contacted by Lord Neverember, who had a problem.

The problem? Missing citizens. And worse than that, prominent citizens!

Lord Neverember needed them found. He had paid for the services of the priests of Gond, Wonderworker in the city, and they had divined that the kidnapped citizens had been taken to the local cemetery – the Neverdeath Graveyard. The priests had divined they’d entered the Hallix Mausoleum, but there the trail had vanished – and that required strong magic to block the god’s eyes!

So, experienced adventurers were in order.

The four heroes?
  • Billsay, Human Fighter (Battle Master Archer)
  • Cevan, Tiefling Warlock/Fighter
  • Killin, Earth Genasi Paladin (Oath of the Ancients)
  • Zed Jehro, Human Wizard (War Magic)
Billsay and Cevan are created new for this campaign; Killin and Zed are from previous campaigns.

The four made their way to the graveyard, and soon discovered the Mausoleum. The initial chamber contained six stone coffins, which Cevan immediately moved to open using his trusty crowbar. It was strenuous and loud, and as he opened one after another, revealing naught but a few scraps of cloth, something noticed his actions. From a set of stairs to the south climbed a group of five wights, surprising all the party save for Zed!

Zed immediately caught all five wights in a fireball spell, but it did not inflict enough damage to slay them all. So, Cevan and Killin moved to engage the wights, taking a few hits before they were able to defeat the undead horrors.

“Neverdeath”, huh? Who calls their graveyard that and expects things to go well?

Descending into the chamber the wights had emerged from, they discovered a few woollen cloaks and a couple of wide-brimmed hats. (These would likely engage the players more than most other treasures later!) They also discovered a newly formed tunnel to a neighbouring crypt.

They made their way into that tunnel and discovered a larger room with many doors leading off it, one up a set of stairs and marked with a painted eye. Curious and curiouser!

South led to a large chamber with a lot of pipes and a large pool of water, inside which the party could see movement! Zed called out in Aquan to the inhabitants and discovered a friendly Water Elemental who was more than happy to chat with sociable humans. Because, as it turned out, there were some very unsociable humans nearby – cultists, with an unhealthy fascination with hands and eyes.

These cultists had deposited a struggling gnome in a cell to the south. The party lack anyone with skill with thieves’ tools, and as they considered whether they wanted to use a knock spell, the helpful elemental offered to burst it open. He did so – much to the gnome’s surprise!

This indeed was one of the four missing citizens, a historian named Umberto Noblin. They engaged him in conversation, attempting to find a reason for his capture. During the conversation, aided by leading questions from Zed, he revealed he’d recently been making a study of the personage/god known as Vecna and his origins, which involved a long friendship and later betrayal and rivalry from a warlord named Kas. As Zed was now convinced that Vecna was involved somehow, this was confirming his suspicions.

The party escorted Umberto outside and returned to their investigations.

Another locked door from the main chamber led to a crypt where the second of the prisoners was held: a wild magic sorceress who had lost her magic due to some unfortunate mishap. Zed questioned the sorceress whether she knew anything about Vecna, and she revealed that she’d had visions – visions of a possible future! – where a desiccated form had enacted some terrible magic, but more than that she was uncertain. Was that Vecna she saw?

Once more, they escorted the prisoner out of the dungeon.

Returning, they found a room to the south with lot of pipes with wheels and levers, but restrained themselves from tampering with them, as they might have the unfortunate effect of disturbing the water elementals’ habitat, something the party was loath to do.

Instead, they proceeded to another room that held a long-time resident of the crypt, a marid (water genie) who had once been bound by the now-extinct Waterclock Guild and was whiling away the years by putting together a broken clock. He was a content soul, but happy to converse with the party, especially once he realised they’d befriended the water elementals outside.

Apart from his history, he could tell them of the coming of the cultists, and how unimpressed he was with their treatment of the elementals. As the party concurred with his dismissal of the cultists’ characters, he suggested a way to cause a lot of discomfit for them: by tampering with the pipes in the room they’re already explored, they could flood the cultists’ chambers.

So, they did that – and knowing the cultists would likely come to investigate, the party set an ambush. It worked, somewhat, although a mage with the cultists was able to fireball the party, the ghouls and cultists that attacked were no match for the skills of the heroes.

With the cultists defeated, they continued onwards into a fairly damp chamber and surprised two more mages. They didn’t get much of a chance to fight back, although a cone of cold spell did engulf Cevan and Killan, for a minor amount of damage – Killan’s protection against spells proving very effective.

While searching for treasure, the group then found their first secret door, which lead to a short passageway. It opened onto another room – and this one, a necromancer was studying a set of notes, accompanied by a nothic.

No negotiations followed, save those of fire and steel. But it was a hard-fought battle. The necromancer summoned zombies to distract the archer and mage, and used arcane blasts to take down Cevan and severely wound Killan. It was a battle that could have ended very badly for the party, but they were eventually victorious. They needed healing, but they were alive.

And, at that moment, we’d been playing for three hours. It was 10 pm on a Monday evening, and it was time to end. We had work tomorrow!

We will continue this adventure next week, where I expect we’ll finish Chapter 1 of the action. The party may reconfigure a bit – it’s now painfully aware that they have extremely limited healing capabilities; only a paladin who would prefer to use her spell slots for smiting! (At present, the thought is that Cevan will change to be a cleric, but we’ll discuss that through the week).

As for the adventure so far: I’m very positive on its start. The dungeon has a good variety of encounters, and I particularly like that role-playing from the heroes can give them advantages against the cultists. The elementals and the marid are very well realised – although some of the text about the elementals is contradictory. (I feel an important phrase got removed during the editing process).

Flawless? Certainly not – and there are a few too many five-foot-wide corridors (and there’s shortly going to be two large creatures in a space that barely contains them). But the underlying structure of this dungeon is sound, and it makes me hopeful for the rest of the adventure!
 

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Rabbitbait

Grog-nerd
I'm looking forward to starting this when I finish the Shattered Obelisk. I'd like to (if it is possible) to allow the players to choose any previous (still living) character from any previous campaign. I can do some backstory of them discovering secrets that then leads through to the main adventure. I'll get the Obelisk characters to do this part when they get to level 10.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
We played our second session of Vecna: Eve of Ruin on Monday, 20th May, 2024. Upon consideration of our party composition at the end of the first session, we chose to replace the Fighter/Warlock with a Life Cleric, as the party was missing a primary healer – something of a problem when events don’t always permit short rests.

The party were investigating the disappearance of several important personages from Neverwinter and had come to a burial complex under the Neverwinter graveyard, where they’d discovered cultists of Vecna were responsible.

After our new party member healed the badly damaged party, they examined the room of the cultist they’d killed. He was obviously high ranking (the damage he’d inflicted upon them might have been a clue). Zed, their wizard, found the necromancer’s notes and discovered the cultists were kidnapping people with secrets and performing rituals to channel the secrets to Vecna. They’d previously learnt that the cultists were performing a ritual right now, so they had to hurry to stop them.

It wasn’t far to the ritual room at all – just a little way to the south. A lone cultist shuffling down the corridor met a quick – but probably not untimely – end, and with barely another thought, the party burst into a large room in which cultists and nothics were performing their profane ritual, with an elven cleric the poor unfortunate.

Zed cast fireball, badly wounding the nothics and the head cultist, and from there Billsay the archer took down the head cultist. Killin, the paladin, shrugged off nothic attacks, and another fireball made its way to the other side of the chamber to get the rest of the cultists, utterly disrupting the ritual.

However, the magical energy didn’t just dissipate. Instead, it rose up and engulfed the party and the elf, depositing them in yet another graveyard, but an unfamiliar one. Ghouls swiftly moved in to investigate (and feed), but Dahka Leric, our new cleric, turned them to ash.

A knocking from within a coffin alerted them to the presence of the elven cleric, Eldon Keyward. He was very grateful for his rescue, though a little surprised by where they had ended up. Investigations proved they’d been transported to the Shadowfell and the dark mirror of Neverwinter, Evernight.

Obviously, being in a city of the undead was not without its risks, so the party made their way to a nearby marketplace to look for information on a way home. A vampire information dealer immediately approached them and offered to sell them the information they needed. Zed was happy to pay – and pay with coins from Barovia, marked with the visage of Count Strahd. The merchant was suitably impressed, and she let them know that a nearby tomb had a stable gate back to Neverwinter.

They quickly made their way to the tomb. In the adventure, they’re meant to be ambushed at this point by servants of the merchant, but she’d been so impressed by the Barovian coins and things Zed had hinted at that she didn’t send them. (Don’t mess with potential servants of Strahd!)

Inside the tomb, they discovered a ghostly servant who had been contracted to serve the family for several lifetimes – and so had continued serving them even after death. She was a cheerful sort, all things considered, and was happy to chat about the Dolindar family, whose tomb this was. Upon asking about the gate home, she was unaware of its presence, but she had spotted a puzzle gate deeper in. Perhaps it led to the gate?

With no-one opposing them, the party took a door that led to the Dolindar vault – several untrapped treasures that the Dolindars no longer valued, but the party were more than happy to liberate. The next door led to the puzzle door, but its riddle was not one they could answer immediately.

They continued exploring the tomb, coming upon a brother and sister of the family who were now sorrowsworn. Incredibly, not undead, but instead monstrosities with arms that were sharp blades. No match for the party though, who dispatched them very quickly. But no more clues were forthcoming.

The party returned to the ghostly servant and questioned her further about the Dolindars. And through doing so, Zed realised what the answer to the riddle must be. Quickly returning to the door, they opened it and made their way through… to a chamber where the matriarch of the Dolindar family resided. She was a Sorrowsworn as well, though with a harpoon for an arm and protected by many a spike on the floor.

But, once again, the party far outclassed her. With her dead, the party could return to Neverwinter, where they discovered the remaining members of the cult of Vecna had fled – and slain the one captive the party hadn’t rescued.

However, Lord Neverember was happy for their successes, and how the cult was dealt with, and gave them their promised rewards. The families of the rescued captives also pitched in with some extra gold.

And so, Chapter 1 of Vecna: Eve of Ruin concluded. Next week, the quest for the Rod of Seven Parts would begin!

DM Notes: It’s very notable how easy all the encounters in this chapter were, with the sole exception of the necromancer wizard – the leader of the cult – whose Arcane Blasts are incredibly punishing. I’m not against this – it is required from a story-telling perspective. You need the characters to succeed in this scenario so that it sets up the rest of the story. I’m just hoping it was deliberate, and the subsequent adventure isn’t as easy.

My players very much appreciated how easy it was to escape Evernight. It’s almost like they were led to do so! When it comes to linear, get all obstacles out of the way writing, this was a good example of this. It’s not something I mind overmuch, but wow, isn’t it amazing that they got the information so quickly?

Don’t think about it too hard though, because somehow the vampire knows about the portal to Neverwinter despite it being guarded and behind a puzzle door. And somehow the ghostly servant doesn’t know where the matriarch of the family is, nor what lies beyond the door.

The disrupted ritual had another effect: it had linked the party to Vecna. Which, in terms of the later adventure, meant they were the only ones who could get to him. This is fine in a novel. In a game, it is causing a lot of potential problems. What happens if a character dies permanently? There’s no way of introducing a new character since they won’t have the link!

We’ve had fun so far, but the adventure hasn’t really started yet. Next week, they get to meet the Wizards Three!
 


Shiroiken

Legend
The disrupted ritual had another effect: it had linked the party to Vecna. Which, in terms of the later adventure, meant they were the only ones who could get to him. This is fine in a novel. In a game, it is causing a lot of potential problems. What happens if a character dies permanently? There’s no way of introducing a new character since they won’t have the link!
Having read the beginning and end of the adventure, this was my immediate concern as well. This shouldn't be too much of a concern, however, since the Wizards Three have access to some powerful magic, including divine allies. It's not unreasonable for them to be able to get a True Resurrection or Wish cast to bring back any fallen PC.

Additionally, the Wizards Three shouldn't be idle while the PCs are adventuring. They could be looking for others who have also become linked to Vecna from across the multi-verse, with a new PC found when needed. Ideally I'd have the new PC be from the location the party is going next, making it less of a coincidence.
 


Certainly not – and there are a few too many five-foot-wide corridors (and there’s shortly going to be two large creatures in a space that barely contains them).
Honest question - why does this happen so much?

I don't consider myself a good dungeon designer, or even a mediocre one, but I am well aware of the perils of 5' corridors and avoid them unless they're strictly necessary to make a structure make sense (and in that case, I may reconsider setting something there), and likewise, in any fight I place, I consider the size of the combatants and the size of the space.

It seems to me this is trivial basic 101-level dungeon/adventure design.

Is there a reason WotC's top designers are messing it up? Am I missing something that leads people into this frankly schoolboy type of error? I feel like I see it significantly less in third-party adventures but maybe that's selection bias.
 

Honest question - why does this happen so much?

I don't consider myself a good dungeon designer, or even a mediocre one, but I am well aware of the perils of 5' corridors and avoid them unless they're strictly necessary to make a structure make sense (and in that case, I may reconsider setting something there), and likewise, in any fight I place, I consider the size of the combatants and the size of the space.

It seems to me this is trivial basic 101-level dungeon/adventure design.

Is there a reason WotC's top designers are messing it up? Am I missing something that leads people into this frankly schoolboy type of error? I feel like I see it significantly less in third-party adventures but maybe that's selection bias.
I prefer realistic dimensions, and sometimes use real world buildings as a basis. I consider a typical human is only about two feet wide - the 5 ft. radius counter represents the being with it's arms outstretched. Therefore they can easily squeeze into half a gridsquare. Or don't use a grid at all, it's even easier to fit everything in.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Honest question - why does this happen so much?

I don't consider myself a good dungeon designer, or even a mediocre one, but I am well aware of the perils of 5' corridors and avoid them unless they're strictly necessary to make a structure make sense (and in that case, I may reconsider setting something there), and likewise, in any fight I place, I consider the size of the combatants and the size of the space.

It seems to me this is trivial basic 101-level dungeon/adventure design.

Is there a reason WotC's top designers are messing it up? Am I missing something that leads people into this frankly schoolboy type of error? I feel like I see it significantly less in third-party adventures but maybe that's selection bias.
Real buildings often have 5 foot hallways?
 

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