D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen (Week 12)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 9, 2012

Following a brutal encounter in the Drow Torture Theatre last week the heroes took a short rest and then moved onward in search of the Slave Pits. After some exploration the passage seemed to open into a larger cavern. The shouting from a Drow guard and the screams from victimized slaves left no doubt that the PCs had found the Salve Pits.

While hiding in the passageway the heroes spotted a Drow leading a Svirfneblin slave back to the pens. Before them stood a large creature made entirely of webs. It seemed to have some recognition of the Drow guard as it stepped aside to allow the slave to pass. The guard left the slave in the creatures charge and retreated the way he came, oblivious to the PCs’ presence.

Huge Spiders scuttled along the floor and walls, threatening the Svirfneblin. Suddenly a Human woman stepped out to confront the Spider, shouting at them and kicking them. It was Khara Sulwood.

The number of players toughing it out to the very end of this season continues to dwindle at my FLGS. We continue struggling to fill two tables. This week we eventually had 10 players and ran two tables of five. My group was unchanged from week 11 with four Drow and one Dragonborn.

  • Drow Druid
  • Drow Cleric
  • Drow Rogue #1
  • Drow Rogue #2
  • Dragonborn Fighter

This was one of those encounters where the party make-up ended up having a huge impact on success or failure. In this case all four roles were represented with an extra striker in the wings. The PCs were also fortunate (lucky) that the powers they still had in their arsenal were particularly effective against the monsters in this combat. Hot dice also helped, as they often do.

Before any combat began the Druid, for the first time this season, asked to make a monster knowledge check on the Web Golem. He rolled a natural 20 so I read him the stat block. The thing he really wanted to know was whether or not the monster had vulnerabilities, which it did: vulnerable 5 fire.

The Web Golem and the Spiders all noticed the approaching party before any of them got a chance to act. One of the Spiders attacked the Fighter and landed a solid blow while another attacked Rogue #2. Next the Web Golem took two steps forward, effectively blocking the entrance to the Slave Pits, and swung at Rogue #1 and the Fighter. Both hits connected, Rogue #1 getting caught in the webs as part of the initial hit.

Rogue #2 decided to seek reinforcements so he risked an opportunity attack and moved past the Golem, or at least he moved as best he could as the aura of webs slowed him. He did manage to get close enough to Khara that he could toss her weapons from his backpack and her shield which they’d recovered from the Demonspur.

The Cleric used her daily power Cascade of Light and hit the Web Golem. The power gave the monster vulnerable 5 to all attacks (save ends). This effectively gave all of the heroes +5 damage with their attacks until the monster saved.

Note: I thought this seemed like a really powerful effect for a level 1 daily but at the time I didn’t question it. I’ve since looked up the power and realized that the monster should only have been vulnerable 5 to the Cleric’s attacks and not everyone else’s.

With the Web Golem vulnerable everyone unloaded on it, completely ignoring the Spiders. Those with action points used them to get multiple attacks and almost all the attacks connected. So 25-35 extra damage from the vulnerability. Rogue #1 couldn’t escape but did mange to get a good blow in on his turn. Rogue #2 meanwhile got free of the slow zone, unlocked the Svirfneblin and gave them all daggers before he found himself face-to-face with a giant Spider.

The Web Golem, now marked by the Fighter, included him in the barrage of attacks, scoring a crit and knocking him unconscious. With Khara now armed and in the combat the player just traded one defender for another.

One of the Spiders managed to get around to the softer PCs, attacking the Druid and Cleric now that their defender meat shield was down. The Cleric revived the Fighter and he went to work on the Spider, marking it and locking it down.

The Web Golem failed to shrug off the vulnerability 5 and for another round everyone pounded him as best they could. It took another 20 additional points from the vulnerability. It attacked Rogue #1 and managed to bring him down to exactly 1 hit point. The Web Golem then failed to save for the third time so it ended up taking another 25 extra points of damage this round before it finally saved. All told it ended up taking around 75 extra points of damage (more than half of its total hit points) thanks to the vulnerability.

Khara kept the Web Golem in her defender’s aura so it eventually shifted its fury onto her. She took a couple of good hits but managed to stay conscious. In the end it was Khara who landed the killing blow which seemed fitting. Rogue #2 and the Fighter each took out the Spiders attacking them, while the Druid and Rogue #1 tag-teamed the final Spider and easily killed it.

As the combat progressed I needed to figure out a good was to determine if the Svirfneblin would join the combat or not. I decided that each round they’d all get morale saves. Success meant that they’d mustered the courage to join the fight; failure meant they were still too scarred or weak to be helpful. The first round after they were freed they all failed. The second round a couple made their saves, armed themselves, and moved towards the combat. By the third round those in the fight were close enough to be helpful but by then the PCs had things well in hand.

When the combat ended Khara and the Svirfneblin were extremely grateful for the party’s help to defeat their jailers. However the Deep Gnomes told the heroes that more Drow would be along soon and that they needed to move quickly. Returning the way the PCs came would not work with a party this size. However, the Svirfneblin had an escape plan. While working the mines they found cracks and crevasses that they believed would lead them out of Zadzifeirryn. The only reason they hadn’t tried escaping this way already was that they didn’t want to leave anyone behind. Now that the Web Golem was destroyed they could all leave together.

With the help of the former slaves the heroes managed to escape Zadzifeirryn undetected. However, the party ended up in an area of the Underdark they were not familiar with and had no idea how to get back to Shadowdale or the surface. The heroes asked the Svirfneblin for assistance but they were extremely reluctant to be guides. The heroes tried Diplomacy with no success. One of the Rogues decided to offer the Deep Gnomes money which they were a lot more receptive to. With a sizable enough payment one of the Svirfneblin produced a map he’d stolen from a Drow guard that showed the route the PCs needed to follow to return to Shadowdale.

Khara and the PCs bid the Svirfneblin farewell and began the trip home. The natural hazards and inconsequential combat encounters they faced along the journey resulted in each PC loosing a healing surge, but eventually they returned to the Tower of Ashaba where they first entered the catacombs and Underdark. As they began ascending the stairs from the cellar to the main floor Valan Jaelre stepped into view.

“As I feared, my worthless cohorts below have failed to protect that which I entrusted to them. As it always does, it falls to me to finish the task. You will return the pendant, then you will surrender to me. If you make any attempt to stand against House Jaelre, I swear that your deaths will be painful and slow.”

This has been an unusual chapter and I had to make some significant judgment calls along the way. In the first session (week 10) I opted to eliminate combat in favour of more role-playing and skill checks. The encounter turned out ok, but the party expended almost no resources. For the next session (week 11) I decided to ramp up the difficulty to make up for the easy encounter the week before. This time the party got hit hard and expended a lot of resources – way more than I expected. This week (week 12) I didn’t want to unnecessarily overburden the party in what I thought was going to be a tough encounter so I ran it exactly as printed. As it turned out the encounter was pretty much a cake-walk and only a coupe of PCs took any real damage (thanks in large part to our misinterpretation of how the Cleric’s daily power worked).

So with one more encounter to go the party is still in really good shape. They all have healing surges left and everyone has one action point. I know that the final encounter is going to be tough, after all it is the thrilling conclusion, but I think that this party will find the task fairly easy. My instinct is to pump up the difficulty to make it more challenging, yet at the same time I don’t want to rob this party of a victory that is rightly theirs. I guess I’ll just have to make a decision in the moment and see where the dice fall.

How did this week’s encounter go for your party? Did your PCs have fire in their arsenal, thereby gaining an advantage when fighting the Web Golem? Did the heroes manage to free and arm Khara or the slaves? Did anyone suffer a TPK? How are everyone’s resources (specifically healing surges) heading into the final fight?

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.

Note: There is no mention of treasure, XP or other rewards for week 13 so it seemed unnecessary to add it to the reward summary only to leave the cells blank.

Podcasts

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.

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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rogue #1 August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am

We aint in that good shape. I had to use my last surge to heal up after combat, and im not even close to full.

2 B.J. August 9, 2012 at 11:59 am

The encounter started out roughly for us, but smoothed out after some big hits. I love my Bladesinger!

3 Joe Lastowski August 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

It was a rough combat at my table, too. Our FLGS had decreased numbers this week, so we ran 3 tables of 4. My table had two clerics, a wizard, & a rogue. Unfortunately, the golem was able to grab & drag the wizard away early in the combat (since he was the only character who demonstrated the ability to use fire), and he actually ended up taking 50+ damage by the end of the fight (fortunately he was a dwarf, and we had 2 healers, but still…). The deathjump spiders, as always, dominated the field with their ridiculous mobility. Also, the party was so focused on the enemies that nobody bothered to try interacting with Khara or the Svirfneblin. Around round 4 or 5, the dwarf wizard realized Khara could help, and tossed her his warhammer. That turned the tide of the fight, actually, because she went into Hammerhands Stance, which allowed her to push the golem away from the wizard, who could then use all his ranged powers without suffering Opp Attacks. The rest of the party was pretty tied-up with the spiders for much of the fight, though as it got later and survival was still uncertain, I allowed the cleric of Ioun to get an insight on how to change her Sacred Flame’s damage type to fire (instead of radiant) for the rest of the fight, which allowed them to finish it off.

Brutal fight, but everyone enjoyed it. Things would have gone very differently if folks had realized they could have used Khara & the Smurfs as allies. Oh well, they survived (though barely), and are now jazzed for the big final fight next week.

4 terry August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

lur fight was rough also. first the goblin thief tried to move up to engage the golem but got stuck in the web aura, now everyone knows about the aura. the thief then drops his short sword and draws his crossbow (dosn’t have master at arms feat) and shoots and misses. the druid(?) uses heat weapon on my dragonborn paladin’s halbard, then fires a crossbow and also misses. the paladin moves up to engage, has a reach weapon and hits and throws in dazing power, and actions points to hit again bloodying the golem. the spiders then jump in knocking the druid, goblin thief, kobold thief, and dwarf cleric prone (failed to save). the kobold thief stood up and switched weapons (does have master at arms) and attacked the spider. dwarf stood up and took on the spider. the wizard arc lightninged two spiders, missing one. the web golem grabbed the goblin thief and tossed him into the back of the cave.knocking him below 0 hp and out of range of the healers. Khara was able to move up and get the goblins short sword but used all her actions to do so. second tround, me the paladin and khara gaind flanking on the golem, used my second uses to daze the golem again and with khara help almost had him dead. while the rest of the party was tied up with the spiders. third round we (paladin and khara) was able to take out the golem. it took two more rounds before we were able to take out the spiders.

5 Yagokoro August 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm

On the one hand, on paper this was going to be a straight-forward fight that the party could reasonably hope to win. On the other hand, I had a good feeling that everything that couldn’t be accounted for on paper would make this much more difficult. I was right about the second.

To start off with, the party was without their best player and their most promising (paladin and warpriest respectively), and one of the regulars who had been using a Valenae pre-gen brought in a new character. We did get surprise assistance from the mage’s wife. The ending makeup was something like this:

– Kobold Hunter
– Drow Mage
– Drow Hexblade
– Eladrin Thief
– Cleric (race unknown because I forgot to look and he didn’t mention it)

I accounted for that by taking one of the spiders out of the enemy formation and weakening both them and the golem slightly. Also, since I’d burnt a fair amount of resources from the party in the two fights they failed to reach a decision in, I decided to have Khara effectively break herself out of jail and rearm herself, able to assist the party normally without needing to be armed and armored by them. This is the most I’ve weakened the opposition to try and give the party a fighting chance this season.

Thanks to me having hot dice and the party mostly staying near lukewarm, it only half-worked.

The mage actually started things off well, throwing out a Burning Hands to hit the nearest spider and the golem, then filling the chokepoint with a Cloud of Darkness. It made it impossible for the hunter to see his target (and even if he could, he didn’t roll high enough to hit), but I ruled that since the enemies couldn’t see their targets (except for the far spider being next to Khara) they were just going to hold position. The mage pointed out the Khara thing, but I just let it go.

From there, disaster pretty much struck. The hexblade wandered into the golem’s aura to strike at the spider, which allowed the golem to crit him and drag him off towards the south end of the field. The hunter and cleric both stayed at the back, which allowed to spiders to get to them with Death from Above, one of -those- attempts critting and knocking them prone.

At that point, the intangibles started coming into play. The golem’s powers pretty much had people fearful of it, and the spiders trapped the ranged people. The hunter, who had never been in that situation and up to now had taken great pains to avoid it, was literally stuck in silence for five minutes when his turn came up, because he didn’t know what to do. He then lost his composure when he realized that all of his vaunted powers carried with them the risk of an opportunity attack, and because he was in a corner, he couldn’t shift in a way to get him out of there in a single turn even if I hadn’t knocked him prone. He responded to suggestions of using melee with an angry retort of “I’m a hunter, I have no melee,”. He resorted to point-blank ranged attacks, which didn’t go that well, and he kept eating opportunity attacks on top of getting hit. Finally he gave up and wanted to whack the spider with a crowbar, which necessitated me pointing out that he had a shortsword equipped this whole time.

The mage went down to engage the golem, who eventually knocked out the hexblade and dropped him with the svirfneblin, and got attacked and grabbed himself. The thief went to go try and help him rather than ranged people, which at this point was really just the worse of two bad decisions (and one she wasn’t making on her own anyway, because she isn’t experienced enough to come up with them and is extremely dependent on her husband’s help). At this point, though I didn’t really comprehend it at the time, the fight was fast becoming a formality. The spiders trapping the ranged people meant that they weren’t using their powers on the golem, and the hexblade was out. That meant that the mage and the thief were stuck with the golem, and eventually a stroke of bad luck had me roll a near-max damage Slam on the mage, killing him outright. The thief was knocked out in the next round, and as the golem was shambling towards the hunter and cleric, both were in single digits and taking ongoing damage, with a still-unbloodied spider keeping them from doing anything else.

The hexblade rolled to trigger his second wind and get back up just in time for the golem to drop the hunter and the cleric. The cleric triggered -his- just in time for the golem to drop the hexblade again … but got dropped exactly by the still alive spider before the golem could show up to do it.

End result: the second TPK at our FLGS, the first one being recorded by me back in Week 4.

My party will be back at full strength for the final fight, which should be suitably climactic … unless fear strikes them down again.

6 Guest August 18, 2012 at 2:12 am

The encounter went easy, pummeled the web golem, and it eventually collapsed. From there, it was an easy mop up operation.

The party leader did a major mistake – simply state that they would return back to the surface without assistance. A bad decision, since the route back was through the poisonous area, and was patrolled by drow.

The bugbear companion hired in an earlier mission left the party. Basically snuck off during the return to the surface, leaving only the party itself to deal with Valen.

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