This week marked the beginning of season 10 of the D&D Encounters program. This is the second of three Drow-themed adventures. This adventure is set in and around the Drow city of Menzoberranzan. Players are strongly encouraged to platy Drow PCs this season. They can play a handful of other races, but anyone playing non-Drow is assumed to be a Drow slave. At my FLGS everyone played Drow to make things easier.
One of the biggest complaints from the D&D Encounters regulars is that every season they have to create new characters and start from level 1 again. To address this we decided to run this season as level 4-6 and let the players kept the same characters they used last season. As all the PCs were Drow and all had the Bregan D’aerthe Spy theme this worked out nicely. The other DM at my FLGS realized that we might still get new players so he decided to run things business as usual from level 1. As most of the PCs at his table last season were not playing Drow PCs, this made a lot of sense.
Many of our usual players were finishing their summer vacations before going back to school in September. This meant that we only had six players and two DMs for week 1. Four players were part of the leveled up group, two were not. The other DM agreed to run both the week 1 and 2 encounters the following week when hopefully more of our regulars would be present. I gave the players running the level 1 PCs the choice of pumping up their PCs to level 4 and playing with us or waiting to play next week. They decided to play with us. The first four PCs listed are part of my regular group; the other two are from the other table (which is why they are “unacceptable” classes – the other DM lets any class go at his table).
- Drow Rogue #1 [female], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Rogue #2 [female], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Wizard (Bladsinger) [female], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Druid [male], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Monk [male], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Artificer [male], aligned with House Xorlarrin
Before the Spellplague the goddess Mystra controlled all arcane magic through Mystra’s Weave. When Mystra died the Weave unraveled. Lolth, the Queen of Spiders, is now trying to take control of arcane magic by creating the Demon Weave. This threatens to change the core beliefs of Drow society because it will elevate the Wizards (predominantly male) to positions of power, possibly equal to the Priestesses.
There are three likely outcomes if Lolth succeeds in creating the Demon Weave: 1) The Priestesses remain at the top of the power structure, 2) The Priestesses have to share the top spots with the Wizards, 3) Everything falls into chaos and Lolth could lose her hold over Drow society. As is the Drow way, everyone schemes and plots while they wait to see how things play out. Some Drow are getting more involved than others, pushing their own agenda in hopes of driving the outcome that will benefit them most.
At the beginning of play all PCs must choose one of three factions to align themselves with.
- House Xorlarrin (Third House)
This house wields considerable arcane power. Members of this Wizard house wear masks and conceal their identity and gender and are seen by other Drow as paranoid. House Xorlarrin has dedicated their full support to creating the Demon Weave.
- House Melarn (Seventh House)
This house is militant and has appointed themselves as Lolth’s inquisitors. They seek to root out any betrayal of the Way of Lolth. They are loyal to whatever Lolth decrees. Other houses see them as overzealous and self-righteous.
- Bregan D’aerthe
This is a mercenary company that works outside the law. They are a federation of assassins and spies. They are only loyal is to themselves and the gold in their pockets.
Throughout the adventure each of these three factions will assign special and secret tasks to their members. The PCs can and should try to accomplish these goals without letting other PCs from other factions know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.
This is a new mechanic introduced with this season of D&D Encounters. It’s a way to try and assign a numerical value to a Drow’s importance and political influence. Each PC begins with a Worth score. Depending on their actions they will earn or lose Worth throughout the course of the adventure.
When interacting with NPCs I let the PCs roll a Streetwise check or Insight check to try and determine the NPC’s approximate Worth score. Streetwise represented what the PC knew of this NPC and Insight was more a reading of the NPC’s confidence and arrogance that would come from have a high Worth. This gave the player some guideline on how the interaction might play out if they took or did not take certain actions. I still encouraged the players to play their PC how they saw fit, but throwing in Worth made things a lot more interesting (as we’ll discuss below).
The Adventure Begins
The PCs began in a cave just outside of Menzoberranzan. Representatives from each of the three factions are present to instruct the PCs. A defunct Drow House called House Shobalar used to have an outpost called Sezz’ia where they performed arcane research. House Tlabbar recently found the tunnel believed to lead to Sezz’ia and already sent a party to find it. Unfortunately the party has not returned. The PCs are charged with finding Sezz’ia and enacting a ritual to siphon off its arcane energy. If successful the power will instantly go to Lolth, helping her spin the Demon Weave. House Tlabbar’s intent for the arcane energy may not be what Lolth desires which is why the PCs are being sent to complete this quest. The benefits to the goddess outweigh any potential dangers to the PCs.
At this point each PC was given their secret objective. I encourage DMs to print these ahead of time moving forward to speed things up. At my table we had the one member of House Xorlarrin leave while I read the objective to the members of Bregan D’aerthe. I then let the Artificer read his objective while I covered the rest. These objectives are not likely to be resolved until the end of week 3 so I’m not going to spoil anything by revealing them here.
The heroes were initially guided through the maze of tunnels by their Bregan D’aerthe contact before he eventually sent them on their way. They heroes found the House Tlabbar campsite and rested overnight. The following day they came to a large cavern where an Ochre Jelly blocks their passage. Beyond the ooze the PCs could see Cave Fishers on the walls of the cavern.
Any PC trained in Dungeoneering or Nature realized that these creatures posed a significant threat. Killing these creatures wasn’t part of the party’s objective and if the PCs got in over their head they should consider withdrawing. Some of the PCs at my table had the requisite training so the party weighed this option as the battle progressed.
The combat part of this week’s encounter was actually really boring. The party, playing to their strengths, stayed in the cave mouth and attacked the Ochre Jelly with their ranged attacks. Only the Monk and Rogue#1 made any effort to engage in melee.
The Cave Fishers feared the ooze so they stayed back waiting for the PCs to enter the cave before engaging them. After three rounds of delaying they finally started to get bolder and move towards the PCs still grouped together at the cave entrance. However, by then the PCs had easily bloodied the Ochre Jelly causing it to split into two. The Druid and Artificer used burst powers to target multiple Cave Fishers, easily hitting and killing the minions in one round. The Artificer actually hit the female Bladesinger in his burst which did not go over well and affected the Artificer’s Worth.
The larger Cave Fisher Angler began the encounter hidden near the far end. It continued waiting for the PCs to enter the cavern before engaging. A few of the heroes finally moved in as they spotted unconscious Drow around the cave. The Cave Fisher Angler managed to get a couple of attacks off but was unable to score a hit.
Once the two smaller Ochre Jellies were destroyed everyone started targeting the only remaining monster. Realizing it was outmatched it fled just as it was about to become bloodied.
The heroes needed to decide quickly if they would pursue or not. The Druid seemed quite adamant about killing it but the rest of the party was reluctant. I went through the initiative and asked every player to answer with only yes or no, did they want to pursue? Everyone said no so the Druid relented. And it was a good thing. Had they pursued I would have stopped the encounter there and had next week’s encounter begin without a short rest.
The PCs instead tended to their wounds and examined the rest of the Drow bodies. Near the cave entrance the PCs found two dead male Drow warriors with House Tlabbar insignias. Another male Drow further into the cavern was clearly speared through the belly by a Cave Fisher and was likely suspended in the air for some time. He was still (barely) alive and on the brink of death. It was clear he wouldn’t survive.
On the far side of the cavern was a House Tlabbar Priestess. She was very badly burned by the Ochre Jelly’s acid. Her face was disfigured and eyes were obviously useless. She lived but was unconscious. As the PCs laid hands on her to try and revive her, a House Tlabbar male sprung forth from his nearby hiding spot demanding the PCs unhand his mistress.
After a tense debate, the PCs managed to calm him down. He identified himself as the warrior Thezz Tlabbar. Even the PC with the lowest Perception score realized that he showed no signs of battle. He was obviously a coward who fled rather than fought when his party was in danger. Thezz identified the Priestess as Myaral Tlabbar. Streetwise checks gave the party a good idea of her Worth so they immediately revived her.
Despite being in obvious pain, Myaral demanded respect and called for Thezz to help her stand. The Male PCs were unable to get a word out of Myaral, but the females managed to get her talking (after humbling themselves before her authority). She explained that Iyelle Tlabbar, a Priestess of her house, betrayed them. She took the components needed to complete the ritual and abandoned the party while they were engaged in combat. Myaral demanded the PCs stop Iyelle. With Thezz’s help, the two surviving members of House Tlabbar left for Menzoberranzan.
The PCs completed their short rest and then proceeded down the old abandoned mine shaft. After a short while rocks fell from the ceiling as the tunnel behind the PCs collapsed. Svirfneblin rushed the party. It was an ambush!
How many other groups are playing this season as levels 4-6? Is your group using the new Treachery Fortune Cards? We will as soon as my FLGS gets some in stock. Are your PCs embracing the Drow lifestyle in their role-playing? Is this working or causing problems (it might be hard to tell this early)? Did anyone have extreme difficulty with this encounter?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
Each week I record a podcast with Marc Talbot (Alton) from 20ft Radius in which we recount that week’s experiences with D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective FLGS and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently.
Actual Play Podcasts
We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.
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.