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.
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.
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.
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