It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Spiderkiller

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 22, 2012

You’ve braved the Forge, retrieved the Talon and slain the Tyrantclaw, now it’s time to stick it to the Drow! On June 1 Rise of the Underdark continues with Lair Assault: Spiderkiller. Season 4 has the PCs facing off against a small but powerful band of Drow that are up to no good in the Undermountain.

Lair Assault is the Top Gun of D&D. It’s for the best of the best. Normally you don’t win at D&D, but Lair Assault changes that. You create the most optimized character possible (within the confines of the challenge parameters) and try your best to accomplish the goal. It’s not easy and Wizard expects 80% of parties to suffer a TPK during their first attempt to complete the challenge. So if you think you’re a D&D Top Gun than Lair Assault is the adventure series for you.

The Challenge

This time the PCs have been asked to venture into a long-forgotten section within the bowels of Undermountain to stop a Drow priestess from opening a permanent portal to the Demonweb. If she succeeds Lloth can send forth her minions to reclaim Undermountain and from there launch an assault upon Waterdeep and the rest of the surface. The stakes are high so it’s important that the party sent forth to complete this objective be exceptionally capable.

The structure of this Lair Assault combines elements from Forge of the Dawn Titan and Talon of Umberlee. The PCs have 20 rounds to find and stop the Drow priestess; however there are three distinct encounters. So time will likely be the PCs greatest enemy. It’s important to remember that killing all the monsters is not the only way (or the best way) to accomplish the goal. In fact I don’t think a party is capable of the output necessary to inflict enough damage to kill all the monsters in the 20 rounds allotted.

Since the PCs only have 20 rounds to complete all three encounters there is obviously no time to take a short rest between encounters. This presents some really interesting tactical challenges. PCs will have to decide when to use powers that last until the end of the encounter as they’ll only be able to gain the benefits of such powers for one of the three encounters.

Character Creation Tips

This is a challenge for level 9 characters. All published D&D sources are legal when it comes to choosing feats, powers, themes and equipment. When equipping your PC you can have one item level 10 or lower, one item level 9 or lower, one item level 8 and 3,400 gp to spend on pretty much anything else. However, you can only have two consumables (level 9 or lower) and only one rare magic item. This is the standard used for character creation for every Lair Assault so far so this shouldn’t come as any surprise to returning players.

Here are some tips that you should consider when creating characters. I’ll try not to spoil anything, as these will mostly be common sense tips using the available information. Before creating a character look at the Glory Tracker (see below). Once you see what actions will earn your PC Glory you should be able to make some pretty accurate assumptions about the challenge.

When it comes to skills training in Athletics is mandatory. There will be plenty of opportunity to swim, jump and climb. Alternatively you can take magic items that will make these actions easier. Arcana and Religion are always useful with the big baddie is a) a priestess and b) creating a magical portal.

Training in Endurance may not be a bad choice either since you know that there will be Drows with poison and spiders with poison. Items that reduce or negate poison damage will be helpful as well anything that will make saves against poison easier. In fact anything that makes saves in general easier is almost always a good idea (feats or items).

Given the time limitations there is something to be said for stealth. If the party can be sneaky they may be able to bypass some or all monsters in one or more encounter. A party that’s all trained in Stealth or that can go invisible, fly or otherwise reduce the likelihood of being seen or heard could provide an unexpected advantage.

You know you’ll be fighting Drow, Driders, spiders and spider swarms. Knowing there will be swarms a few members of the party should have blast or burst attacks. Fighting swarms without these is going to eat away at your time and your resources.

Although the adventure does take place in the bowels of the Undermountain there are light sources (not always good ones, but they are there). However, if the entire party has darkvision they could certainly try to use the darkness to their advantage. Just remember that your Drow opponents have darkvision too so it’s not that they won’t be able to see you, it’s more that they aren’t expecting anyone to pass without a lantern or torch. One round of surprise might be all you need to really change the tide of the adventure.

Glory

There are 20 awards, each worth 10 glory for a total of 200 possible glory points to be earned. A player can earn each award only once regardless of the number of times he plays or the different characters used.

I strongly encourage anyone planning to participate in Spiderkiller to review the Glory tracker before you create your character. You can gain a lot of information from the tracker about what’s in store and this can (and should) influence your decisions when you make your character.

There are five secret glory awards this time through. So be imaginative and creative in your play. Good luck!

General Awards Description Glory
Epic Win Defeat challenge on Nightmare mode. 10
Is That All You Got? You get 20 or higher on a death saving throw. 10
See You Next Fall You force an enemy over a waterfall or into a chasm. 10
Splatterfest You score a critical hit. 10
Tough as Nails You complete the challenge without spending a healing surge. 10
TPK Every character in the party dies. 10
Triathlon You swim, jump, and climb with no failures. 10
Challenge Awards Description Glory
Matron’s Bane Your group defeats the challenge. 10
Iron Guts You save against poison effects three times. 10
Speed Demon Complete the challenge in 8 rounds or fewer. 10
Spiderkiller You score the killing blow against at least 2 non-minion drow and 2 non-minion spiders or spider swarms (a drider counts as either a drow or a spider, but not both). 10
Take the Plunge You fall over a waterfall or into a chasm and die. 10
Upon Reflection You obtain a mirror wand by walking through a mirror. 10
Venom mi Casa You die from a poison effect. 10
Web Hugger You are immobilized or restrained by webbing three times. 10
Secret Awards Description Glory
Secret 1 SPOILER 10
Secret 2 SPOILER 10
Secret 3 SPOILER 10
Secret 4 SPOILER 10
Secret 5 SPOILER 10

Glory Tracker Handout

Official Instructions

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

Lair Assault: Spiderkiller runs from June 1 – August 31. Good luck!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nickname1000 May 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

did they mention rituals at all, whether allowed or not? ‘cuz my players are gonna ask

the 20 rounds makes me think not (ala Dawn Titans) but hope springs eternal

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) May 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm

@Nickname1000
It clearly states no rituals (just like in Forge of the Dawn Titan).

3 David May 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I don’t understand how the 3 separate encounters in only 20 rounds can be justified. The rules for effects that last “until the end of the encounter” are that they end either at a rest or after 5 minutes, whichever comes first. As you said, there will be no rest, but with only 20 rounds total, it doesn’t sound like it would hit the 5 minute limit either. The way they did it for Talon of Umberlee makes sense, because it seems reasonable that it would have taken at least 5 non-restful minutes to get back to the ship, load the loot, and get underway. However, this additional 20 round limit seems at odds with that kind of logic for this one. Is there any non-spoilery justification for that?

4 Sunyaku May 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm

@David My guess is that similar to Umberlee, traversing from encounter to encounter through various parts of Undermountain will take more than 5 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I walk at a speed of about 3-4 city blocks in 5 minutes… and Undermountain is theoretically huge, and infested with various hazards… not terrain you’d want to sprint through.

5 Ameron (Derek Myers) May 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm

@David
Without giving too much away the PCs need to travel through magical portals to get from one encounter to the next. I guess this was the author’s way of justifying breaks between acts and stopping ongoing effects. However, a generous DM may agree with your view on this and allow PCs to keep effects going throughout all three encounters (assuming they remain conscious).

6 The Unlucky Paladin May 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

… We are so doing this Derek! I demand it!

7 seti May 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm

What’s the appeal of ‘hardcore’ D&D competitiveness? Sounds like a bad time to me. I guess I’m too old or something. There are SO many competitive sports and games out there, for me, the appeal of D&D is the cooperative essence of it. Everybody has fun, everybody wins, the DM is not ‘against’ the players…

8 Ameron (Derek Myers) May 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

@seti
Believe it or not there are a lot of players who go giddy for this kind of competition. It’s a chance for power-gamers to demonstrate that they can build super characters that (they believe) can stand up to anything. The D&D Championship, a similar competition run at GenCon every year, sells out quickly and is certainly one of the events people look forward to playing. I agree that this will certainly not appeal to all players, but for those of us who have an arguably unhealthy love of the game it’s a chance to put all that D&D knowledge to good use. For better or worse this kind of event does strip away the role-playing part of D&D and turns the session into a purely tactical combat game (which some argue is actually a problem with 4e). I would like to add that it’s the kind of event that is difficult to judge until you actually play it. Although you don’t think it would appeal to you, I encourage you to give it a try.

9 Tabitha K. June 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

This will be my first season DMing a game of Lair Assault, and I admit I’m stoked. I was quite shocked to see the goal was to get through all the encounters in one night, but the more I read the more excited I get. Same with my players, they keep texting me!

10 Jesus June 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

DMed it yesterday and might clarify some things here. This is a single encounter, nothing in the quest says that encounter long power stop working halfway through it. You even keep the same initiative the entire time.
Also if you did the previous one, this one is actually longer than the others. While I was wrapping all 3 previous lair assault between 1h and 2h30, this one took 4h and they wiped halfway through the challenge, on round 14.
This one also has no difference written for smaller parties, and doesn’t accomodate parties bigger than 5 at all.
There are some little bugs that have to be adjudicated by the DM to work, but the players nonetheless had fun gaining achievement left and right without even trying. They will be trying again in 2 weeks.

11 Joe Lastowski June 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I played in this today, and it was run as a nice sort of middle ground. It was 20 rounds total, so we had one initiative throughout, but the three separate locations counted as three separate encounters with no rest in-between. That meant we couldn’t heal-up, but our encounter powers recharged. Sure, we lost the effectiveness of “till the end of the encounter” powers, but getting back all our Healing Words, Second Winds, and other other encounter powers seemed to balance that out nicely. I felt like it was a good way to split the difference.

12 Mike June 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hmmmm, just played it yesterday. Success on first run through, no deaths. So far my experience with Assaults is with good teamwork, almost any decent team has a good chance of success.

13 Ryan June 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Played this last weekend but ran out of IRL time.

Unless there is an exception written into the rules (for both this and the last one) I suspect that our DM is playing some of the monsters incorrectly. Forced movement isn’t supposed to be able to move creatures into squares they couldn’t enter by walking. That means no pterodactyls carrying PCs off and no spiders swooping PCs off the floor onto the cavern ceiling.

14 Mik Calow August 5, 2012 at 8:38 am

Played this once as a player – we reached the final encounter but the 20 round limit defeated us.

Ran it 3 times as Dm, first time saw one pc over the waterfall, while all but one of the remaining pc’s believed the cave-in and “died” leaving the mage to face 2 rounds of dridery goodness. Second time saw a 3 man party attempt it and only one made it into the mirror room.

Our third run (yesterday) saw a 4 man party do a little better, we lost the drow hunter on the shoreline of the second encounter, while the warlock and templar fell to the cave-in, leaving a refreshed barbarian to face the final encounter, though she did have the vampires assistance. The opening salvo from the pc (with use of action point) took Shinayne down to almost bloodied in one round! With the vamp dominating the drider to attack also it became a close thing, but on round 15 the barbarian landed the final blow (albeit on single figure hp’s herself) and the day was won!.

15 Mike August 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Played it again. No deaths, success again. I find flying and darkvision (with stealth) to be a good help. Sometimes you don’t have to fight your way through every encounter.

I was actually outside the last room by round 4 (playing a pixie hunter). Unfortunately the rest of the party just had to fight everything. And they split up targets so it was about 8 more rounds. I did fly back and help out. Two of us went back to the boss after the rest of the party stuck around to fight the minions. We 2-manned the boss in 4.

Third go around I did not play and they went Justice League so they wiped.

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