On August 22 the players become the villains. That’s right, this season the PCs get a chance to become members of Drow society along with all the plotting and scheming that accompanies it. The PCs don’t necessarily have to play evil characters but they will want to watch their backs as everyone could be out to get them, even the other PCs.
Season 10 of D&D Encoutners: Council of Spiders continues the world-shaping Rise of the Underdark story arc and is closely tied to the latest product offering from Wizards of the Coast, Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue. Below is a high-level overview of what you can expect during the coming season of D&D Encounters. It relatively spoiler-free.
This season runs only 9 weeks. Week 0 is for character creation, chapter 1 covers weeks 1-3, chapter 2 covers weeks 4-6, and chapter 3 covers weeks 7-8. I really, really like that the chapters are short. Completing each chapter will provide PCs with enough XP to level, so that should give players an indication of how difficult each week’s session will be.
This adventure is only peripherally connected to last season’s Web of the Spider Queen. The players are expected to create new heroes based on very specific and tight guidelines (more on that below in Character Creation). There was a lot of speculation that this adventure might present options for more advanced levels of play than 1-3. I regret to inform you that this season is exactly like every one that came before it and is intended for new players starting from scratch. However, I don’t see experienced DMs having much trouble pumping up the encounters to make it suitable for a tougher party (I know that’s what I’m planning to do).
At the outset the PCs know the following details. Lolth is trying to create the Demon Weave (similar to Mystra’s Weave that was destroyed in the Spellplague) and grab dominance over arcane power. The arcane casters, predominantly male, are all for this as they see it as a way to give males more power and prominence in Drow society. The Priestesses fear it for exactly the same reason. A third group, a secret society of Drow, want Lolth to fail and be destroyed, freeing Drow from the Spider Goddess once and for all. Everyone else is waiting in the wings to see how things play out and then decide who to support (as is the Drow way).
Before the first session the PCs need to decide which of three Drow Houses they want to be aligned with or working for. Although there will be a common goal that defines the overall adventure, each House has their own agenda and the PCs will have to decide how to react to certain situations depending one which House they belong to. Acting in your House’s best interest will earn the PCs Worth points (more on that below in Fortune Cards & Worth).
Session 6 will really be the deciding encounter of this adventure. This encounter is all role-playing and skill checks, there is no structured combat. During this session the PCs will have to decide where their loyalties lay before proceeding to the final chapter. The decisions the PCs make during week 6 and the results of their actions during the role-playing will have a direct impact on how things play out for the final chapter.
Although this is a short adventure I think it will prove to be a lot of fun. With the players given the opportunity to play evil PCs and allowed (even encouraged) to actively waylay others in the party with different goals than their own, this is going to be one fun season.
I would caution rookie DMs looking to take the reins for this season. Just because the adventure is short doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to run. There is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes and it’s important that the DM keep track of it all. Although a lot of DMs only read the adventure one week at a time (I know I’m guilty of this) I strongly encourage you to read the entire thing all the way through before beginning the first session. The actions the PCs take each week will have repercussions on subsequent sessions so be prepared to adjust on the fly.
This season everyone is strongly encouraged to play Drow characters. The adventure assumes that the PCs are aligned/affiliated with one of three Drow factions in the city of Menzoberranzan. Anyone not playing a Drow is assumed to be a Drow slave and is limited to one of these six other races – Dwarf, Goblin, Half-Orc, Human, Kobold and Svirfneblin.
Once again Wizards provided sharp-looking character sheets for anyone who wants to make a character old school using pencil and paper. These are great if you have people showing up for slot 0 to make characters. However, since most of the regulars use character builder to create their characters this is basically just flare that goes unused at my FLGS.
For the first time in six season we finally have new pre-gens. Given the nature of this season’s adventure it only made sense that Wizards would provide Drow pre-gens. So over the next eight weeks we’ll get to know six new Drow: Belgos (Ranger Hunter), Chali (Rogue Thief), Drisdhaun (Wizard Evocation Mage), Ryltar (Fighter Slayer), Syndrina (Paladin Cavalier), Zarra (Cleric War Priest). We’ve scanned and posted copies of all six D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders – Pre-Generated Characters. They are also available in the Dungeon’s Master Pre-Generated Character Library along with all of the other pre-gens that Wizard has provided to date.
I was surprised at how little fanfare these cards generated last season. The idea was that anyone who played the first Drow adventure during PAX East would receive a code that they could give to their FLGS to redeem a free item card. I suppose so few people actually did this to make any real impact.
This season the prerequisite adventure is called “The Dawn of Night.” I’m not sure where one would play this adventure (GenCon maybe?) but if you do your PC gets this treasure to being the season. It offers resist 5 poison which will certainly be useful when facing Drow opponents.
Every season we showcase the fantastic maps Wizards provides with the new adventure. I find that the maps more than anything else are the real treasures for the DMs. I use and reuse the D&D Encoutners maps almost every week in my home games. This season we get maps made using the recently released Urban Underdark terrain tiles. It’s a healthy mix of dungeon and caverns.
There’s not really much more I can say about the Initiative Tracker cards that I haven’t said before. They look great and they’re convenient to use. If you’ve got Initiative Trackers from multiple seasons mixing and matching them will certainly make it easier to distinguish the heroes from the monsters.
Fortune Cards & Worth
The new Treachery Fortune Cards will really spice things up this season. They’re designed to basically wreak havoc on your allies. Using them will certainly cause a stir at your gaming table as it really goes against the whole teamwork thing. I see the cards as a way to play your character as a self-centered jerk and shrug off any responsibility you might have for acting that way. “It wasn’t me, it was the card.” For advanced players who really want to get into playing Drow PCs these cards will add a new and unexpected element to the game you think you know. However, I don’t think that newer players will like these cards at all.
A new mechanic that is tied into the Treachery Fortune Cards is Worth. This is a way to assign a score to your characters station and importance in Drow society. Each PC will begin with a Worth score based on modifiers provided in the adventure. As you complete goals and play Treachery cards your Worth will change. The idea is that you will do what’s best for your PC to increase his Worth, even when those actions don’t necessarily align with the party’s greater goals. I see tremendous potential, but I fear that for newer players this will not give them a true reflection of what D&D is all about. I can already see new players getting screwed over by someone else hungering for Worth, and when that happens the new players will decided that they don’t like D&D and won’t come back.
This season players can earn up to three special promo Treachery Fortune Cards exclusive to D&D Encounters.
When a player earns 20 Renown Points, they earn the Hands Off! (promo 2) Fortune Card.
When a player earns 40 Renown Points, they earn the Overextended (promo 3) Fortune Card.
When a player earns 60 Renown Points, they earn the I See What You Did (promo 1) Fortune Card.
Every season Wizards provides the FLGS with a poster to advertise the current season of D&D Encounters.
Download the Renown Tracker (PDF) for Council of Spiders.
The Adventure Begins
Council of Spiders is the second of three adventures featuring the Drow of the Forgotten Realms. This season clearly seems to focus on the Drow way of life, the self-centered, egocentric and deceitful elements of their society. It’s a short adventure (the shortest yet for D&D Encounters) so if this experiment doesn’t work as well as expected we won’t have to tough it out for very long. Season 10 begins on Wednesday, August 22.
Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master every Thursday for our ongoing weekly coverage of D&D Encounters. Also be sure to listen to the weekly podcast in which Alton (from 20ft Radius) and I provide our post-game report.
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.