Thanks to @cerigg for this art piece!
The midnight encounter on the Restless Wharf is a great example how players (and their dice) can determine both the type of encounter they are going to have, as well as how they can set their own difficulty for it. What could have been either a simple spy mission, attempted diplomatic conversation, or even silent assassination quickly turned into... well, what it turned into.
Encounter Appearance: 2-35 Dockside Diplomacy
Armor Class 17
91 damage taken, 34 killing blow by Yasha
The captain, while intimidating and commanding in presence, had no opportunity to show off how badass he was. After a couple of well placed hits from Beau and Nott, Jester successfully cast Hold Person on him, giving Caleb and Yasha the opportunity to go to town with Catapult and Magician’s Judge.
Enforcers and Archers
The crew of The Mist did what they could to defend their ship and its contents in the face of an apparent trap (the meeting with Marius) and commandeering of their ship. They aimed for who they could see, which ended up being Beau and Fjord most of the time, with a hit on Jester and Yasha as well. One enforcer set to work following his captain’s final orders, to burn what they were carrying. By the time he realized that he was surrounded, it was too late for him to do much about it before taking a handaxe to the skull.
Yo Ho, Yo Ho
“It Wasn’t My Intention: The name of this episode.” - Travis
Let's just start by unwrapping the chain of events that resulted in the conclusion we received:
The Nein, attempting to have a conversation with Marius LePual, stalk him out after dark on the Restless Wharf where they see him engaging in a deal of sorts with a group of shady individuals.
In their attempt to get closer to overhear the conversation, several of them are heard approaching by the already suspicious crew members.
Beau and Caleb try to distract the crew by pretending to be a troubled couple. The crew tries to shoo them off, but Beau keeps off the charade.
The captain orders his men to open fire on Beau, who instinctively turns the arrows back on her attackers.
The deal is called off, combat is engaged, orders are given to destroy documents.
Fjord accidentally calls nearby Zolezzo to the scene by setting off a thunderous clap in a failed attempt to pull Marius away from his contacts.
The party kills the captain, and the rest of the crew retreat to the ship, with Marius close behind them. The Nein chase after Marius and take out the rest of the crew.
Zolezzo arrive on the scene. With nowhere else to hide, the party boards the boat and proceed to steal it as a getaway vehicle.
More zolezzo arrive as the party struggles to get the ship out to sea. Marius tries to turn himself in, but the Nein refuse to let this happen.
Jester charms the lead zolezzo into convincing the rest to wait until more information is available and save her apparently suicidal clone, rather than attacking the apparent pirates.
The party successfully (if awkwardly) gets the boat out into the harbor as the guards go in search of Yussa Errenis (potentially), the mage who owns the Open Quay.
In summary, one thing led to another, and now they’re sea pirates.
To break that down a little bit more, obviously a DM could not expect that full chain of events to unfold. (Though as Matt showed us, having a battle map prepared for most major set pieces is a great idea.) What could have been a simple encounter against a crew of shady couriers suddenly turned into a race against the entire city’s guard. From Matt’s perspective, there was very little to do regarding strategy, as everything became a reaction to the Nein’s actions.
On the players’ side, combat skills were very much not a problem. The Nein took out the captain before the first round was over, followed swiftly by the demise of one of his enforcers and most of his archers. To their credit, the Nein did not attack the guards. Jester’s Charm Person was the only aggressive action taken against them, and it most certainly gave the Nein their only hope of escape. The Nein were fortunate that, despite only one of them having experience on a seafaring vessel, that they were able to escape into the night with plenty of room from pursuers who likely do not know the name of their ship.