It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Talon of Umberlee

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 11, 2011

If you thought the first Lair Assault was good wait until you have a chance to play the latest offering from Wizards of the Coast. I thought that they’d set the bar incredibly high with Forge of the Dawn Titan but it looks like Talon of Umberlee is every bit as good, if not better.

For those of you not familiar with Lair Assault let me enlighten you. Wizards of the Coast is touting this public-play series as a way to challenge the most hard-core D&D players. Lair Assault pits the DM against the players like never before. The adventure is designed to be more challenging than any D&D game you’ve ever played. Over 80% of parties are expected to fail the first time though.

The new season of Lair Assault begins on December 1 and runs until the end of February.

There are a few general and very obvious differences between Talon of Umberlee and Forge of the Dawn Titan. Read on to find out more.


The objective of this Lair Assault is to find and retrieve the Talon of Umberlee, which is hidden inside one of four treasure chests locked inside the pirate haven of Murdershoal, just off the coast of Port Llast. Much like Forge of the Dawn Titan you are not required nor expected to kill all the monsters to achieve victory. No matter how many times I reminded players of that during play there were always a few that insisted on trying to kill everything. None of those players managed to achieve victory.

Characters Creation Tips

The new adventure is for level 8 characters. The rules for equipping the PCs follow the same guidelines from the DMG as the previous Lair Assault. You get one item level 9 or lower, one item level 8 or lower, one item level 7 or lower and 2,600 gp to spend as you see fit. You can still only have a maximum of two consumables (level 8 or lower) and only one item you possess can be rare.

This time around rituals are allowed. Before play begins you can perform rituals of level 8 or lower at no cost. You still need to have the appropriate feats and make successful checks but the cost for components is covered by your patron.

In Forge of the Dawn Titan fire resistance was practically mandatory as all the monsters dealt fire damage. The pirates in Talon of Umberlee are all armed with weapons so energy resistances will not play as big a role in this adventure as they did in the last one.

Think about what you know of the adventure before training any skills. You’ll be battling pirates and their lair is just off the coast of Port Llast. You also know that there are four locked treasure chests. This should provide some really big hints to train Athletics so you can swim, Thievery to open the locks and Perception to detect the traps. Arcana could also be useful if there are magical barriers and Stealth will make moving around the pirate hideout undetected easier. These are just my very obvious suggestions, but I leave it to you to train whatever skills you think will be helpful.

Two Encounters

This time the adventure is two encounters instead of just one. However, the PCs will not get the benefits of a short rest between encounters. This is a creative way to make players choose if they want to turn on powers that last until the end of the encounter during encounter one or two. I suspect most will give it everything they’ve got during the first encounter in order to ensure they get to the second encounter, but that may change as players run through the adventure multiple times.

Unlike the last Lair Assault the PCs are not under a strict time limit. However, if the PCs let the pirates call for reinforcements they have to complete the objective before reinforcements arrive or they fail the adventure.

The Monsters

In Talon of Umberlee there are set opponents, most of which are pirates. Unlike the last Lair Assault where the DM had the option to swap monsters in and out each time through, this time you’ll face the same bad guys each time you attempt it. If you’re bold enough to give Nightmare mode a try you don’t get any extra monsters, instead all the combatants do additional damage.


A new adventure brings new glory. There are 20 awards worth up to 200 glory. A player earn each award only once regardless of the number of times he plays or the different characters used.

Each of the two encounters has its own specific glory awards in addition to the awards you can earn for more generalized actions. Again there are secret glory awards which the DM will explain if and when you accomplish any of them. I encourage you to be imaginative as some glory is awarded for creative and unlikely actions. Remember you’re supposed to be having fun and a few of the glory awards reward that kind of behaviour.

Be warned that some of the glory descriptions contain mild spoilers and give away some details. You’ll know these soon enough as they’re all listed on the Glory Awards handout, but if you’re trying to come into this as clueless as possible then skip over the chart.

General Awards Description Glory
Epic Win Defeat both encounters on nightmare mode. 20
Scurvy Dogs Complete both encounters without using magical items or consumables. 20
Tough as Nails Complete both encounters without spending a healing surge. 20
Delicate Flower Take no damage in one or both encounters. 10
That’ll Leave a Mark Score a critical hit. 10
Sea Legs Get 20 or higher on a death saving throw. 10
Player Bait Do something that makes the DM consult the Rules Compendium or the Player’s Handbook. 5
TPK Every character in the party dies. 5
Encounter 1
Challenge Awards
Description Glory
Eye on the Prize Retrieve the Talon of Umberlee. 10
Big Booty Retrieve 4,000 gp in treasure. 10
Savvy Scalawag Kill a sleeping pirate. 10
You’re Off the Map, Jack! Escape before pirate reinforcements arrive after Captain Bloodbath’s horn is blown. 5
Encounter 2
Challenge Awards
Description Glory
Shiver Me Timbers! Deliver the Talon of Umberlee to Neverwinter. 10
Take a Dive Die from falling or jumping in the water. 10
Kraken Smackin’ Kill all four kraken tentacles. 10
Baron Sparin’ Bloody the baron and let him go. 5
Secret Awards Description Glory
Secret #1
from Encounter 1.
Secret #2
from Encounter 1.
Secret #3
from Encounter 2.
Secret #4
from Encounter 2.

Glory Tracking Poster

Here’s a shot of the poster. Encourage the organizer at your FLGS to hang it somewhere visible. You may not earn actual prizes for accumulating the most glory, but bragging rights are as good as gp to gamers.

Here’s a close-up which includes the individual glory awards and the amount each is worth.

This is the other side of the Glory Tracking poster. It’s too bad most people will never see it once the tracker is affixed to the wall.

Glory Tracker Handout

The Map

The two encounters take place in different locations. The first map was actually released on the Wizards website on August 4 in the article The Dungeon Master Experience: Maptism by Chris Perkins. I don’t know if studying it will provide you with any advantages, especially since it doesn’t specify where the monsters or treasure chests are located.

As far as the second encounter’s map, well, that’s something you’ll have to discover on your own. You’ll have to play and survive the first encounter to find out more.

Official Instructions

Now that I’ve covered just about everything here’s the official sheet that accompanied the DMs kit.

For more details on the first Lair Assault and the program in general see It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan and the D&D Lair Assault home page on the Wizards of the Coast website.

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1 Thorynn November 11, 2011 at 10:13 am

Looking forward to it! I still haven’t tried the original, but oddly we just kicked off a pirates campaign. Sounds fun!

2 Kurt November 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I am only disappointed that the get 4000 gp treasure achievement is not titled “It’s Pronounced ‘Big Boo-TAY’,” but other than that it looks pretty sharp.

3 Sunyaku November 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Heal is always a good idea too… someone will need to activate the Leader’s second wind. ;-D

4 Astrolounge November 13, 2011 at 12:56 am

I laughed aloud at the “Player Bait” glory award.

5 Mark November 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Can someone answer a question I have. I am new to this, though have played D&D before many times and we are participating in the Encounters sessions also.

In this post it says “The new season of Lair Assault begins on December 1 and runs until the end of February.”
How and where is this to be played? Is this like an advanced version of D&D Encounters? Thanks..

6 Ameron (Derek Myers) November 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Lair Assault is a public-play program. Unlike D&D Encounters which always takes place on Wednesday, it’s up to each individual store to schedule sessions of Lair Assault as thy see fit. It’s similar to Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) in that regard.

Lair Assault is arguably one of the most difficult adventures ever published for D&D. It’s NOT intended for new players. Anyone can play but only the most experienced players will win.

For more info on Lair Assault I encourage you to visit the Wizards of the Coast website.

7 VyvB December 5, 2011 at 11:53 am

We played this last Friday. The first encounter was fun, but the second was ridiculous. Any DM can “make things tough” when they create a creature that wholly abandons the tenets of creature design. Plus, save or die is back and worse than ever before due to arbitrary rules written into the adventure.

Forge of the Dawn Titan scored an 8/10 for me, but Talon rates a mere 4/10 – all earned from the first half of the assault.

8 striatic January 13, 2012 at 1:29 am

say, how is the “Two Encounter, No Short Rest” structure written up?

are “once per encounter” abilities – not powers – able to be used twice, once per encounter? like, Multiclass Sneak Attack? or end of encounter recharging powers like single target Swordmage Decree?

or is it really one encounter with an “until the end of encounter” ending break point in the middle?

9 Ameron (Derek Myers) January 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

After the first encounter the PCs have to engage in physically exerting tasks for the next 5-10 minutes thereby denying them the benefits that normally come at the end of the short rest. I don’t have the adventure in front of me but I’m pretty sure is explicitly states that any powers that last until “the end of the encounter” ends during this time. Given the circumstances in the story, powers that require a minor action to sustain them will fade as the PCs will need to focus all their energy on the task at hand. It’s basically Wizard’s way of denying PCs the ability to use a daily that lasts until the end of the encounter throughout the entre adventure like they could in Forge of the Dawn Titan.

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