Quest IV - The Shadow Vault (Part 1)
Barons Greigory and Zachareth were convinced that the Overlord sought the Shadow Rune, rumored to bind the great shadow dragon Gryvorn. After exhaustive research, Baron Greigory's librarian was convinced that she had found the location of the Shadow Vault, where the rune had been locked away. Wasting no time, the heroes - now reunited with Jain Fairwood - made haste to the relic's resting place. [Since the heroes had won two of the three Act I quests, the Interlude quest would be the Shadow Vault.]
As they journeyed to the vault, the heroes encountered a wondering sage, which enabled Leoric of the Book to study up on the region and lore surrounding their objective. Leoric was always eager for more knowledge, but also hoped that it may help give them clues to the vault's exact whereabouts. The heroes later came upon a ring of standing stones, which they investigated at Leoric's insistence. Fatigued by the search, they gave up and continued on with their quest. The heroes became lost as they entered the northern forests, as the roads dwindled to trails, and then to underbrush. Between Leoric's studies and Jain's pathfinding, they eventually found the entrance to the Shadow Vault. [Leoric passed the Knowledge check for the Travel Event, and so discarded one of the Overlord's cards. However, the heroes were fatigued from the standing stones, as well as from getting lost in the plains. This was a good start for the Overlord!]
The heroes made their way into the depths of the Shadow Vault, and in a cavern at the end found a small casket which no doubt contained the relic they sought. As they turned to leave, they saw none other than Baron Zachareth, accompanied by two massive shadow dragons! His intentions were clear - to leave with the rune in his possession. The heroes decided to have the fastest member of their party (Jain) carry the casket as they began searching the vault for anything useful, as Zachareth magically passed through a rune-sealed door and began to ascend the staircase leading to the heroes. Meanwhile, the two shadow dragons advanced down the wide hall, pinning the heroes in. [The heroes were cautious, and pretty much stayed put where they began. I decided to split up Zachareth (who could move through the sealed door per the quest rules) and the two shadow dragons (who could not).]
I nearly had Jain defeated (which would have left the casket available for pickup from Zachareth), but the heroes were eventually able to dispatch the two shadow dragons (though they had no small difficulty with the dragons' Shadow ability, which requires an adjacent hero to spend a Surge to hit or miss completely). Once the dragons were gone, Zachareth did not last long; however, the heroes were disappointed to see him return at the entrance!
I made another push against the heroes, who had rallied and advanced down the first leg of the corridors. Unfortunately, I had some bad rolls and the monsters were again dispatched with little damage done, aside from slowing the heroes' progress to a crawl. It was getting late, so we decided to record everyone's status and location, and pick back up next session. [Sadly, I couldn't bring enough firepower to bear on the heroes with my second wave of attacks, and coupled with some lackluster rolls it was a wash for the Overlord.]
My choice of monsters seems sound so far (shadow dragons, barghests, and hybrid sentinels). The barghests have not yet activated, so the fights so far have only been with the shadow dragons and whatever hybrid sentinels have managed to reinforce (as well as Baron Zachareth himself). As I mentioned above, the shadow dragons' Shadow ability has come in very handy. There was some debate on how the Fire Breath was allowed to work, and after checking the official FAQ, I discovered that we were not using it correctly (the four spaces affected do not have to be along one vector). As the Overlord, I hope this will help tip things in my favor during our next session, as both the shadow dragon and hybrid sentinel masters have Fire Breath!
The hybrid sentinels seem to be a little hardier than most of the base Descent monsters, with respectable health and a black defense die (even as a lowly Act I monster). In addition, their Fly ability allows them to ignore the effect of terrain, and there are several water tiles that the reinforcements have to move through. This helps the hybrid sentinels get back to the fight that much quicker.
The heroes' initial decision to have Jain Fairwood carry the casket may seem odd, especially when Grisban the Thirsty is built like a tank. However, if the heroes wanted to try a running game, Jain would be their best choice. If they could knock a hole in my line and let her get a head start, I would be hard pressed to catch her Move of 5. In addition, her high Awareness means she has a good chance of using the shortcut between the river's edge and the stream tile, which is something that Grisban stands practically no chance at doing.
It will be interesting to see what impact (if any) the barghests have in the coming fight. So far I've only managed to slow the heroes to a crawl, which is a sign of how closely balanced the fight is! I hope I can rally enough reinforcements and Overlord cards to get my hands on the casket!