Oh, and tentacles. Mustn't forget the tentacles.
Our group changes all the time (people join, people leave, schedules conflict, etc), so right now I am allowing more than one character per person. This allows us to play with as few as two players and one DM, but is not recommended for inexperienced players. But guests are always welcome, because I believe in recruiting people to my twisted lifestyle.
The last time we met, Kevin brought along his friend Andrew - he had played before, and just needed a refresher on a few things and the nuances of 4E. I created a character for Andrew in character builder - I decided to go the Essentials route, to save myself some time. Approximately five decisions later, I had a fully-functional 10th-level Dwarf Cleric, with only one easily-correctable error (they gave him expertise in a weapon he didn't have). Kevin is playing a Dragonborn Paladin, and Reuven dual-wielded his Dwarf Fighter and his brand-new Shifter Monk.
So far in the plot, our adventurers are seeking to protect the people of Wellspring from an uncertain threat - the story began when grells descended upon the town. They have been lead to the Forlorn Tower - formerly a temple to Ioun (D&D goddess of knowledge) and home of the Tear of Ioun, one of many sacred relics. In this session, the party was supposed to speak to a woman who had been sent after the Tear of Ioun and who knows more about it's whereabouts. However, when they came upon her party they immediately attacked - which, to my mind, was a valid decision. You're a grimlock hanging out in an evil tower, and the group just fought a whole bunch of you two sessions ago. Of course Han is going to shoot first!
On the left, a grell. On the right, a grimlock.
Seriously, what the hell.
This left me in something of a quandary - I needed to let them get their hits in without sacrificing exposition. Also, we were down one PC, and this was a high-level encounter. If I had let them fight it out, the heroes may not have survived. I know that's OK with some DMs, but I think TPKs are boring and pointless. The story advances when the heroes advance - why would I want to stop that?
I compromised by giving hints that the grimlock's leader, who announces herself as Denva of the Stormcrows, was not quite right in the head (which was true). Our Paladin was the only one who was close enough to interact with her, which was probably not ideal - even though every player was involved in the battle in some way or another, only one got to do any Skill stuff. The small exception was that our Fighter got to use his Athletics to smash through a wall - and eventually made it!
When they had subdued most of the grimlocks and successfully navigated Denva's warped mind, they find out quite a bit.
[Denva] reveals that a human named Cylus hired her and her companions to search for the Tear of Ioun. The relic transformed the Stormcrows (a group of merry mercenaries), but then mysterious shadow creatures stole it. Elomir, the Stormcrow leader, sent the grells to Wellspring. He won’t stop searching until the stone is recovered.In other words, "Sorry - your relic is in another castle." Denva tells the adventurers where to find Elomir (at the top of the tower, duh!) and begs them to take her to Wellspring for treatment. They came up with the clever idea to enlist the help of the Half-orc natives of the nearby forest, the Harrowfolk, to help Denva reach the town. After a short rest, they plan to forge ahead - up the stairs!