D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 5, 2012

Chapter 2 began with some role-playing and a comprehensive skill challenge, but no combat. This week made up for the absence of fighting with a pure hack and slash encounter as the PCs faced a party of Elite Drow. Was this to be another TPK?

I ran one of the two tables of seven this week at my FLGS. Here’s how my table broke down.

  • Drow Fighter
  • Drow Rogue #1
  • Drow Wizard (Bladesinger)
  • Drow Cleric
  • Drow Druid
  • Drow Rogue #2
  • Kobold Druid (Sentinel)

The players are really showcasing the best way to embrace the chaotic nature of playing Drow. Of course this is completely unintentional, they just suck at teamwork. However, some of them are finally starting to show some sense of party cohesion as they gain more familiarity with their characters. They still have plenty of room for improvement but now that everyone has a pretty good idea of what everyone else can do things are running a lot more smoothly. Now they just need better teamwork.

The heroes began on the edge of a 10ft precious. There was no discernible exit from the cavern before them; however they didn’t have a clear vantage of the entire area from their starting position. The realized they’d have to go down to investigate. There was a lot of discussion about who would go first and how they would get down.

The Druid wanted to use his 10ft pole to slide down. Where did he get a 10ft pole you ask? From his backpack, of course. Apparently he had three in his inventory. Let this be a lesson to the rookie DMs, if you don’t scrutinize the PCs’ character sheets the players will load themselves up with all sorts of crap that would be totally impractical to carry while adventuring.

In the end everyone climbed, slid or jumped down. With no signs of danger, but a clear sense that danger was all around, Rogue #2 scouted ahead into the area of the cavern they couldn’t see from the ledge. As he rounded the corner he spotted three Drow on a ledge 10ft above him.

The Drow had weapons out and were clearly awaiting the heroes. The female Drow’s voice echoed through the chamber. “Lay down your weapons and surrender. Make this easy on yourselves. You will find that facing real Jaelre is a much different task than dealing with lesser Drow.”

Some of the PCs complied, most notably the lone Rogue. But a few did not. The heroes assumed that the Priestess could not see them so they refused to lay down their arms. A few even taunted her.

The Drow Priestess quickly lost patience and shouted, “We have no time for games! Your guards at the tower could not stop us. Your Human and her Elf pet put up little fight before they became our slaves. You’ll be no different. Surrender, or you will pay in pain!”

With that the heroes decided it was time to fight. Rogue #2 managed to grab his weapons before getting attacked or being forcefully moved away from them. The rest of the party moved as quickly as they could towards his position to help him and actually get line of sight on the Drow enemies.

On the ledge with the priestess were two other male Drow. One was extremely muscular and hefted a maul engraved with spider symbols. The other was armed with two longswords and wore armor made of some strange hide. His mouth appeared to be stitched shut. All three of the Drow wore Valan’s house symbol – a sunburst design that transitioned into two fang-like protrusions at the bottom.

Rogue #2, The Druid and Bladesinger managed to get close enough to the ledge to make things difficult for the Drow Ranger and Bonebreaker. The Ranger jumped down taking some falling damage while the Bonebreaker climbed down and drew two opportunity attacks for his trouble. Once they were down they went to town on the nearby PCs. The Priestess stayed on the ledge, dropped prone and then used her Venom Ray to attack the Druid.

From the ceiling near the ledge where the PCs entered the cavern a large Deathjump Spider pounced on a few unsuspecting PCs. However it ended its turn in the Fighter’s defender aura and was essentially locked in place for the rest of its short life. Rogue #1 and the Sentinel Druid worked together to quickly destroy the Spider before it could move or inflict any other real damage.

When the Spider was killed the Bonebreaker (who was exactly 6 squares away) used his Seek Revenge power to charge Rogue #1 inflicting the maximum 19 points of damage. The party took note and immediately decided that the Bonebreaker was the most dangerous opponent on the map. They worked together to kill him next fearing his Seek Revenge power if they killed anyone else first.

The dual weapon wielding Drow Ranger unloaded on the Bladesinger scoring a crit (19 damage) and rolling only a few points off the max with his second attack. The Bladesinger went from full hit points to near dead-dead with one attack.

The Assassin took full advantage of the confusion and focused her attacks on the Druid. She managed to entangle him in her Silken Strand, pull him and then stick him with her dagger. The Druid took over 20 points of damage and fell unconscious.

The Cleric and the Sentinel had ample healing magic to revive their fallen comrades but the Drow kept targeting the wounded PCs in an attempt to keep them down for good.

The Bonebreaker kept focusing on the Fighter but could not score a hit. Meanwhile the Fighter, Rogue #1, Sentinel Druid and his animal companion kept chipping away at the Bonebreaker’s hit points, finally dropping him. The Drow Ranger was splitting his attacks between the animal companion (killing it after a couple of good hits) and Rogue #2. When the Bonebreaker fell the Ranger tried to get at Rogue #1 but the Fighter did his job and took the hits. A couple of rounds later and the Ranger was the next to fall.

The Priestess kept blasting the nearest and most wounded PC with her Venom Ray. The Druid managed to score a couple of hits on her before he was otherwise occupied by the Assassin. Rogue #2 finally decided he’d had enough of ongoing poison so he used his levitation power to float up to the Priestess, and as she was still prone he took her out. He made a point of not killing her but just incapacitating her.

With the Priestess finally down for the count, but not killed, the heroes that were still conscious all worked together to take out the Assassin. Realizing that she could not survive against these odds she eventually surrendered.

With two prisoners the PCs now had an opportunity to interrogate them and learn more about what was going on. They decided to separate the two Drow prisoners. Half the party stayed with the Priestess while the other half took the Assassin to the other end of the chamber.

Some of the players felt that they needed to torture their prisoners in order to get the full effect of their Intimidate skill. I reminded them that a) they were good PCs or at least had good tendencies so it’s unlikely they’d condone torture, b) there are other ways to use Intimidate that do not involve torture or bodily harm. After a few threats and a few marginal Intimidate checks it was clear that the Priestess was not going to talk, especially to male Drow.

The heroes with the Assassin were not having much luck either. Until one of the PCs who started with the Priestess came over and said that the Priestess confessed to being in charge and that the whole plan to steal the pendant was her idea. Unbeknownst to the players (or the PCs) was that the Assassin was spying on the Priestess for Valan. The Assassin is a true believer in Valan’s vision and suspected the Priestess of being too ambitious. When the PCs said the Priestess took credit for Valan’s planning the Assassin blurted out the truth. She told them everything giving Valan all the credit he was due. She also told them about the secret passage to proceed deeper into the area of the underdark Valan controls.

Once the PCs had this information they had to decide what to do with the prisoners. They didn’t want to kill them in cold blood but couldn’t risk them getting lose. The Assassin begged for the opportunity to kill the lying Priestess in Valan’s name. The heroes agreed to allow her this revenge. Once she’s completed the task they let her go. She promptly fled back through the passage towards the tests of Lloth. I will have her return to the adventure during a later encounter I’m just not sure if she’ll be on the side of the heroes or the Drow.

The PCs completed their short rest, looted all the bodies and then proceeded through the secret passageway deeper into the underdark.

Afterthoughts

I thought this encounter had a lot of potential and could very well have been the worst slaughter of the entire adventure. However, the positioning and tactics specified for the villains in the encounter were terrible. Following the author’s suggestions led to a very lack-luster session.

It seemed silly to me that the Drow would deliberately give up their advantage of surprise. Why not ambush the PCs? And having them start on the ledge was stupid. None of them had an easy way down. They had to jump (and take 1d10 falling damage and end up prone) or climb down. The PCs realized this and positioned themselves to get free opportunity attacks as the melee combatants came to them.

Since my table had 7 PCs and one animal companion I had to pump up the monsters a bit. Normally I’d add another monster or two but since these were all unique creatures that didn’t seem to make the most sense. Instead I added 25 hit points to the two melee Drow and the Priestess. I also allowed the rather soft Assassin to use her Silken Strand pull and stab power every round rather than every other round. But even with these enhancements the heroes had no real difficulty.

The only reason any of the PCs were near death was because I focused all the Drow attacks on a few unfortunate PCs. In the end a couple of PCs spent a lot of healing surges but conversely a few took no damage at all.

What were your thoughts on the monsters’ starting position and tactics? Did you change them or run them as written? Were other parties able to pin the melee Drow combatants on the ledge? How many PCs died this week? Any TPKs?

Happy Independence Day

I think it’s safe to say that few stores (if any) in the U.S.A. were opened yesterday. That meant that people either missed a week of D&D Encounters or there were some shenanigans going on. We all know that D&D Encounters is supposed to be played only on Wednesday and only one session at a time but how many people broke the rules to work around the holiday? Without asking for any personal information, store locations, or other specifics details, tell us how you handled week 7.

How was the week 7 encounter handled at your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS)?

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Summary Sheet

The summary sheets detail the XP, gp and magic items found during each encounter. Chapter 2 Reward Summary has been updated to include treasure through week 8. I encourage DMs to print copies of the summary sheets ahead of time so that they can hand them out to their players the following week.

Podcasts

Alton from 20ft Radius and I have recorded another D&D Encounters week-in-review podcast for your listening pleasure. Check out the Week 7 Podcast at 20ft Radius and let us know what you think.

We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. This season I’m going to try to record the games at both FLGS where I play so that you can hear how two very different groups handled the same encounter. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone.

D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen (Week 7) – Podcasts

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alphastream July 5, 2012 at 10:37 am

I’ve heard of stores also planning on being a week behind in the future and skipping the next session 0. Another option is to just skip this week.
Alphastream´s last blog post ..Classic Adventures – Next and Organizing the Caves of Chaos

2 Joe Lastowski July 5, 2012 at 11:13 am

We had a smaller crowd at our FLGS this week due to the holiday, but still managed 3 tables of 4 or 5. I think it worked out well for the store, because Modern Myths was one of the only places open in Northampton last night, so they may have gotten more foot traffic from folks downtown simply due to lack of other options. There were certainly some combat fireworks on the gaming tables…

My table had 4, but they were all very competent players who’d played with each other before, so I didn’t alter the encounter at all. Also, 2 of the players had that special Amulet of Lathander item, which evened things out a little against the Drow. We had: Dragonborn Warlord, Drow Haxblade (white well), Drow Rogue, & HalfElf Cleric (Pelor). With no defender in the party, the enemies were very mobile (esp the spider with the Prodigious Leap & Death From Above powers), though we were certainly glad to have 2 healers. There were some neat roleplaying bits with our Drow players… the rogue had escaped from an overbearing priestess in her backstory, so she did a sort of Spider-Man-esque mockery of the priestess as she fought. And both Drow recognized the mouth-stitching on the Ranger as a punishment enacted by vicious Drow against those who might speak against the Queen, but still have use as slaves.

This was a rough fight, with 3 different players dropping below 0 HP at one point or another (I actually got to use my “Dying” token, which up till now had been a useless token in my set). They had a lot of die rolls in their favor, though (one rolled a 20 on her death save, another took minimal damage from a hit that could have dropped him to negative bloodied). The ongoing poison damage was a real pain, but at the end of chapter 1 the players had found a couple Amulets of Health, so the players who didn’t have the Lathander Amulets were at least taking less poison damage. Also, the Drow rogue used her Lathander Amulet’s daily power to eliminate all clouds of darkness at once… and she kept mocking the priestess as she did so (also when her Darkfire power auto-failed against the cleric, who also had that amulet). In fact, a pair of critical hits by our rogue took out the priestess in 2 rounds (the priestess only got 1 action), so while the rest of the fight was brutal, it was clear that the enemies had lost their leader, and I used that chaos to keep the enemies from focusing on (and slaughtering) any one player outright.

When all was over, the assassin had fled (due to being heavily bloodied and the fact that it was after 9 PM) to report back to Valan, and they had left the ranger alive. The ranger didn’t take much intimidating, because once they cut open his mouth, the first thing he did was to finish the insult he’d uttered originally: “-cking Spider Queen!” The party realized he was a dissenter, and he happily gave them info about the captured Elf & Human, and some tips about the upcoming DemonSpur encounter next week. When it was all said and done, our rogue had claimed a magic sword from the ranger as a prize, but gave him her old one as they set him free to go to the surface. The party decided that since they had released a dual-blade wielding drow ranger to the surface, fleeing the spider queen’s influence… that they had created an alternate reality version of Drizz’t (which everyone was tickled pink about).

It was a rough combat, with TPK potential, but everyone was very pleased with the combat afterward. Even the other tables at my store (where folks had less party cohesion) thought it was a great fight, and were happy to have (mostly) survived. It also hammered-home the deadly nature of things in the Underdark.
Joe Lastowski´s last blog post ..Session 16: Where There’s Smoke…

3 funkaoshi July 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

This did feel like an odd encounter. Some of the monsters were clearly quite strong, but as you point out they all begin the fight in poor locations, and it’s not that difficult to avoid the priestess entirely if you’re so inclined. Our party had one or two characters who took a few big hits, but for the most part the rest of us were unharmed. I think the fight would have been more challenging with a few other monsters thrown into the mix, even if they were just minions.
funkaoshi´s last blog post ..<em>Carcosa’s</em> vile black magic

4 Mik Calow July 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

We ran as normal this week (being in the UK) but still had reduced numbers in both sessions.

The way I read it the npc’s were on a ledge above the pc’s ledge and as they were elite I gave them a single use levitation to come down, but any pc’s they passed could take an opportunity attack.

Thanks to low party size and some excellent die rolls on my behalf I managaed two TPK’s this week (our dwarf fighter took over 100hp in total, finally getting the take 50hp renown reward).

But all the players said that they had really enjoyed the high risk battle.

5 Bigtowel July 6, 2012 at 7:52 am

I agree that the enemy placement was less than ideal. However, what really saved the PCs at my table was a sleep spell that left most of the Drow elite open to auto crits for two rounds, and a zone dropped by our Ranger that gave his allies some quality cover. The PCs had a tough time with level one, but they are using their powers (and dice) to a much greater effect at level 2.

6 Yagokoro July 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm

This fight probably would have slaughtered my party a bit … except that only two of them showed up. One was my buddy and the other was one of the newer players. So they split between the other two tables, and I brought out a level 2 version of my Warpriest from last season and joined the fun myself. My buddy went to our mutual friend’s table, and newbie and I went to the veteran DM’s table. It ruined a bit of the surprise potential the drow could have had thanks to 20+ passive Insight and Perception, but the opposition was still pretty powerful.

The newer player told me afterward that she now understood why I had a “contempt for poor tactics” as I explained it to her. She likes to joke that I’m the “mean DM” because I’ve been consistently pinning the party’s ears back even when they win, and occasionally relish punishing them when they fail to pick up on hints and walk into a telegraphed ambush. This fight, she got to witness smart players make good tactical decisions, which made the fight go easy thanks to a little help from the DM having cold damage dice all night. She was also surprised (as was I) to learn that they had been doing it all that time without a healer, which made her realize that everything I had been saying about tactics making up for missing roles wasn’t just me being “mean”. The end result is that she got a firsthand look at how easy the encounters could be if people worked together, and that the party tends to struggle because half of them go off half-cocked and tend to make it painfully easy for me to cut them down.

I’m looking forward to seeing if this has any repercussions on next week’s encounter, which I should have my full lineup present for.

7 Marcus10kill July 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Our player groups at our store managed to survive the encounter as it was written although we had a few players fall below 0 hit points their companions managed to revive them. Personally I liked the placement of the spider in this encounter.

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