I'd gotten along really well with the group from my first week of running Encounters, so it kind of sucked that this week all of them (including Liz) ended up at another table, meaning that I had to start from scratch with a new group and figure out what they did last week in order to maintain continuity. Apparently, they did a lot worse, taking a few causalities during the stirge attack--including some of their own. Regardless, Malgram determined that they were capable of handling themselves, and left the soon-to-be-scholar Faldyra in their charge so that she could go rummage in the woods for non-descript "rare herbs".
Remember, splitting up the party is never a bad idea.
The encounter this week was variable, with a modifier depending on if you went into the mountains or stuck to the forest. Since this group ventured into the mountains, they got to take on a pack of hungry drakes. These classic 4E baddies came in two flavors, guard and spitting. Guard drakes are a soldier-type that deals a lot more damage when they're close to an ally. I described it as the drake becoming notably more frenzied when its kin were nearby, hinting that the party should try to divvy them up asap. Spitters on the other hand are an artillery with a particularly nasty ranged acid attack, which deals out 11 damage on average (compared to a somewhat tamer 7-point bite).
The thief went first, rushing into melee. She hit with a basic melee coupled with a backstab, and managed to retroactively lump on Sneak Attack the following round when we realized that she has combat advantage for that initial attack. Fortunately, I rolled initiative for each type of drake separately, otherwise she would have been tagged with five attack rolls. On the same note, I also missed with both guard drakes. Bleh.
The cavalier trundled up and managed to capture both drakes in his aura. That was fine, since they were both
close enough to benefit from the damage boost. The tiefling caster (wizard, I think) kept double-tapping them with lightning, the enchanter tried to get the spitters to bite each other, and the hunter AoE-ed everything with arrows (usually missing, even with aspect of the wolf). The highlight of the night was when the enchanter managed to hit every single monster with burning hands. Though he missed the cavalier, I pointed out that burning hands has a Miss effect, so he ended up taking a couple points of damage.
Oh well, that's what hit point sponges are for.
On the following rounds, the warpriest got into melee with the three spitting drakes, and might have died had he not healed himself, using his at-will to give himself damage resistance, and used second wind with an Action Point. The hunter and tiefling caster tried to help him out with long-range attacks, but weren't able to kill them before they got off another acid volley. The cavalier--who would have excelled at taking them on in melee thanks to his auto-punishing aura--was busy with two very pissed off guard drakes (1d10 + 9 damage per bite).
Eventually, after several well-placed crits, the thief and tiefling caster managed to take out the guard drakes, allowing everyone to focus on the spitters. They tried to flee, but when half the party has a range of 10 or more...good luck! All in all, this was a very brutal encounter, and I'm due to the damage output of the monsters I'm surprised no one died. Fortune Cards were available, but again weren't used much (which might have helped even the odds). Despite the close calls and semi-frequent missing, they were an awesome table to game with.
Next week, they finally get to the ruins of Castle Inverness.