Last week’s session ended after the PCs successfully navigated the maze of caverns inside the gates of Zadzifeirryn and found the Torture Theater. After a short rest the PCs moved quietly in the directions of the screams and cheers.
The passage ahead opened into a huge chamber, its lower level a cavernous pit heaped with corpses. Erie red light filled the area cast from glowing fonts full of blood. Two Drow Torturers stood on a platform above the PCs, the walls of the chamber around them lined with stone steps filled with Drow spectators.
A Torturer swung a heavy blade beheading a human captive; the crowd roared with delight. The Drow kicked the lifeless body into the pit and pointed towards a group of chained human captives, “Time for a new victim!”
The two Rogues in the party tried to sneak up to the edge where two Humans were chained. Rogue #2 made an amazing Stealth check, Rogue #1 rolled a 1. One of the Torturers spotted the party and challenged their presence, “Who are you and what are you doing with those bodies?” she demanded. The four Drow PCs, still dressed in House Jaelre uniforms, tried to Bluff their way out of the escalating mess.
“We wanted to have the best seats in the house,” said the Druid. “We didn’t want to pay to get in,” said one of the Rogues. The Torturer paused briefly to consider the plausibility of this explanation but quickly realized that something was amiss. She placed her hand in the adjacent blood font and began chanting as she started a summoning ritual.
This week we (eventually) had enough people to run two tables of five at my FLGS this week. However, because a few players were late we lost one of our regular Drow PCs to another table. For the first couple rounds of combat we had only four Drow PCs, but as things moved from bad to worse another player arrived and a Dragonborn joined team heroes. The party ended up as follows.
- Drow Rogue #1
- Drow Rogue #2
- Drow Druid
- Drow Cleric
- Dragonborn Fighter
When combat began one Torturers spent her full turn summoning a Maw Demon (which acted next in the initiative coincidentally enough). The other Torturer moved adjacent to a blood font and watched to see how things unfolded. The Maw Demon engaged the party, attacking and killing the nearest opponent, the last remaining Goblin companion that the party picked up in the Demonspur during week 8. The Drow spectators, here for a show, simply watched with amusement waiting to see how things would unfold.
Rogue #2 moved up to the Torturer nearest the party and attacked her. He then used Thievery to unlock one of the Human captives. However, the Human was in bad shape and as the PC looked like all the other Drow this prisoner had seen in the previous couple of days he didn’t immediately realize he was being rescued, even though the Rogue told him to run. The rest of the party attacked the Demon landing a few solid blows.
The Torturer attacked and hit Rogue #2 with Ensnaring Lash. The other Torturer decided it was time to summon her Demon so she began casting. The Maw Demon engaged Rogue #1 but missed. The Drows in the stands cheered on the Torturers but did not interfere.
At this point the Dragonborn Fighter arrived and joined the party (much to their relief). He attacked the Demon, hitting and marking him. Rogue #2 managed to escape from the Ensnaring Lash but the damage he took at the beginning of his turn bloodied him. Realizing that none of his allies were coming to his aid, he dropped his Globe of Darkness and then moved back towards the rest of the party. The Cleric healed the wounded Rogue while the Druid and Rogue #1 continued attacking the Demon.
The closest Torturer lashed and ensnared the Fighter while the second Torturer completed her summoning and moved towards the other Human captives where she began conducting another ritual. The near Maw Demon attacked the Fighter (but missed) while the fresh Maw Demon charged the Druid (and missed).
The heroes decided for some reason to leave the initial Demon for the Fighter while they all shifted to the new Demon. They managed to hit regularly but they kept rolling almost minimum damage, especially the Rogues who were rolling multiple damage dice.
The first Torturer realized that the heroes were likely to defeat the Demons soon enough so she called out to the audience, “Rewards to anyone who kills one of the intruders.” This got them motivated. Meanwhile the second Torturer completed her ritual which transformed two of the Human captive into mini Maw Demons. Basically the Humans were possessed, and now transformed they moved slowly towards the party.
Both Demons were bloodied in the same round, but neither was close to defeat. Three of the spectators moved adjacent to the nearest blood font and fired their crossbows at the Fighter. All three hit. The Druid went to work targeting the archers, bloodying all three with one attack.
Each round a few more of the spectators reluctantly entered the fight, shooting their crossbows from a safe distance. They initially all targeted the Fighter but realized after a few rounds that once a PC was poisoned they should target someone new. By the third round of crossbow fire all five PCs had ongoing poison damage. Meanwhile the Druid got into a groove hitting and killing at least one or two archers each round.
The PCs never let the Humans that were transformed into Demons get close enough to attack. They attacked them from range, knocking them unconscious rather than killing them in the hope that the possession wasn’t permanent.
Although the Demons looked menacing, they had really low defenses (the Rogues were hitting on anything but a 1 or 2) and their attacks couldn’t hit anything for many consecutive rounds. The heroes finally killed both Demons in the same round, only the Fighter taking a hit from either of them.
The Tortures stayed next to the blood fonts and used their Ensnaring Lash (melee 2) to grasp the closest PC. The Druid, the Fighter and Rogue #2 were all unconscious at some point later in the fight. Rogue #1 was down to 1 hit point but spent a round using Second Wind, a healing potion and his Globe of Darkness to keep himself alive.
Towards the end of the fight one of the archers adjacent to the blood font rolled a 19 and scored a crit. When this happened the font extracted a toll causing him 5 necrotic damage for the boon of critting on 19-20.
By this point the party was completely locked down and had no chance of getting near the blood fonts to reap this benefit (which was too bad). With most of the arches down, both Maw Demons destroyed and both transformed Humans unconscious it was a race to zero hit points. The party was badly wounded and the Torturers were takeing damage in equal increments.
Rogue #2 dropped unconscious late in the fight but rolled a much-needed 20 on his first death save, bringing him back into the fight and turning the tide. After the first Torturer fell it was all over but the clean up. Everyone took pot shots at the last Torturer and she fell quickly.
With combat over the party tended to the captured Humans. The prisoners were weak from the beating and torture they suffered during the past two days. However, seeing the heroes battle the Drow and defeat them gave the Humans hope. They felt that if armed they cold find their way out of Zadzifeirryn and back to Shadowdale. They told the PCs that the main slave pens were through the passage to the north and that Khara Sulwood was imprisoned there. The party took a short rest before venturing on to the slave pens.
The party expended a lot of resources during this combat. They did find 120 gp each among the dead Drow, two magic items and half of the Pendant of Ashaba so the cost seemed worth it in the end.
Anyone who played this encounter likely realized after reading this account I made some changes to the monsters. During the past few combat encounters the monsters fell fast thanks to the combined forces of two Rogues. It made combat fast and boring. In order to present a greater threat I decided to double the Maw Demon’s hit points from 42 to 84. However, because the Demons were beefed up I decided that they could only be summoned once. As written, the Torturers could continue summoning new fresh Maw Demons each time one fell. I also made the Drow spectators into two-hit minions. I knew this wouldn’t really change things too drastically since there was a controller with multiple burst powers in the party. Making them two-hit minions allowed them to benefit from the blood font and illustrate that anyone who did score a crit while next to it would take some damage (another detail I added).
Finally I had the Torturers transform some of the captives into Demons (minions). I gave the PCs a few rounds to try to free the Humans but after Rogue #2 realized the rest of the party was more focused on fighting first they all but forgot about the Human prisoners. I was trying to impress the important of freeing the slaves and emphasize their vulnerability to the party but they didn’t really seem to care. Had they ventured towards the captives they might have realized the blood fonts allowed them to crit more often and those minimum damage rolls could have been maxed.
I had the monsters attack in waves so as not to overwhelm the PCs. I didn’t want to keep them pinned near the entrance but they chose to take that stance anyway. The Cleric, who isn’t designed to be an offensive PC, hid out of range and healed the wounded PCs from safety for most of the battle. In retrospect I should have had one of the Torturers order a handful of spectators to go around the long way and flank them. This would have given the PCs strong motivation to move up.
Overall this was a good encounter and a fun fight. After a couple of less-than-stellar sessions we needed a good one and this certainly lived up to expectations. How did your party fare? Did anyone managed to get close enough to a blood font to benefit from the increased crit range? Did you find the Torturers’ ability to re-summon the Demons too powerful? Did anyone suffer a TPK this week? Did any other DMs modify the encounter or the monsters?
Reward Summary Sheets
The summary sheets detail the XP, gp and magic items found during each encounter. The Chapter 3 summary sheet includes the XP and loot up to week 12. 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.
Each week I join Alton from 20ft Radius as we discuss the week’s encounter. We summarize our experiences and provide our thoughts on what worked, what didn’t, and what we’d do differently.
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.
- Week in Review Podcast (Week 11) at 20ft Radius
- Actual Play Podcast at Harry T North (Week 11)
- Actual Play Podcast at Dueling Grounds (Week 11)
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