After rescuing Khara Sulwood from the Drow Slave pits the heroes managed to find their way back to the catacombs beneath Shadowdale, both halves of the Pendant of Ashaba in their possession. As they passed through the cellar and began climbing the stairs to the Tower of Ashaba, Valan Jaelre blocked their path. Flanked by two massive Driders, Valan demanded the PCs return the Pendent and surrender. Needless to say they were having none of that.
This was the final week for season 9 of D&D Encounters. We finished with eight players and two DMs so we managed to run two tables for the finale. The party at my table was made up of four regulars who were all with the party from the very beginning (none of these players missed a single session). Accompanied by Khara Sulwood, the party that faced the final encounter consisted of the following PCs:
- Drow Rogue #1
- Drow Rogue #2
- Drow Druid
- Drow Cleric
Before the PCs or Valan and his cronies could act, the Druid received a magical sending from Elminster. “Where have you been? Is the pendant reclaimed and its magic still intact? Shadowdale’s wards must be restored, and we are running out of time!” The Druid responded mentally that the party had the pendent but it was broken and that they had problems of their own right now.
Upon learning the fate of the PCs and the pendent Elminster sent aid. In the middle of the room a likeness of Elminster made of silvery smoke appeared on top of the tomb. “In time of need come I, Elminster. For the defense of Shadowdale, I bestow gifts for our brave defenders. Step inside the mists and take my spells as your own.” The apparition disappeared and then a booming thunderclap shook the tower and a veil of silver mist surrounded the tomb while a rolling ball of fire appeared above it.
Before any combat actually happened the DM was required to do a little information dump on the players. I actually provided this info before we started the session because doing it midstream seemed silly and would certainly break the excitement. During the journey at the end of last week’s encounter Khara told the PCs how to repair and reactivate the Pendant of Ashaba. First the pieces must be heated as Shadowdale was a place of fire and fury in days of old. Second it must be cooled in water as Ashaba was a water Wizard. Third it must be imbued with the power of the lords of Shadowdale, Khara believed her blood would satisfy this requirement as she is a descendent of a previous lord. The kicker to all of this is that the three steps must happen inside the Tower of Ashaba.
The Druid decided to enter the Tower with the pieces of the pendant in one hand and his canteen in the other. He planned to heat the pendent using his Firehawk power, and then dousing it with water from his canteen. Once these steps were completed he’d pass the Pendent off to Khara and she could add her blood. Good in theory. Unfortunately he went last in the initiative which complicated things.
The Driders acted first, but as the heroes were still at the bottom of the steps they moved back one square and used Darkfire on the first two PCs. Rogue #1 used a ranged attack on Valan and scored a solid hit. Valan then used his Webbed Miasma to target all the PCs, trapping them on the stairs and making the whole area difficult terrain. Three of the heroes were hit so they were slowed as well. Rogue #2 was slowed so he could only move one square closer to Valan before throwing dagger and hitting him for big damage.
Khara was not slowed so she ran up the stairs ending her movement adjacent to Valan and one of the Driders. Unfortunately she didn’t realize the Driders had threatening reach 2 so one got an opportunity attack on her and scored a crit (my first of five on the night). The good news was that she hit Valan and now had him and the Drider in her defender’s aura.
Although there were supposed to be four Drow Spellspinner (level 3 Artillery) I instead had only one. I added two Drow Scouts (level 2 Skirmishers). I felt this was suitable adjustment for a party with only four PCs and it actually gave the heroes a fighting chance since the Scouts were pretty much out of combat until the PCs made it up the stairs.
I had the Spellspinner begin close to the front door. He wanted to move up to get all of the PCs in his blast. However, in order to get to the best square he needed to pass through the mist. Rather than pass through the mist it blocked his movement as if it was a solid wall. He fell prone, unsure of what happened. Instead of attacking he just stood and considered what to do next round. (Despite this clear and obvious indication that the enemies couldn’t enter or attack through the mist, none of the PCs sought shelter within it).
The Druid managed to complete his actions and get the pendent two-thirds fixed. As his final action he threw the pendent to Khara who was exactly five squares away. The Cleric healed Khara and then hit Valan with Sacred Flame.
Now that Rogue #2 and Khara were closer to the top of the stairs the two Driders moved in and attacked. Khara took another big hit as did Rogue #2. But wait, the second Drider was actually in Khara’s aura so with the -2 the Drider actually missed. On top of that Khara got to make a free attack and she scored a crit (we had a lot of crits for this final fight). She threw on her Power Strike to really make it hurt.
Rogue #1 who was also not slowed had a power that let him shift his speed, so he managed to get out of the difficult terrain and not get attacked by the Driders. He attacked Valan but rolled a 1. Action point – another 1. Ouch! Gotta balance out all the 20s somehow.
This ended up being a really long fight so I’ll just hit the high points. The party managed to get Valan to within a few points of bloodied but then stopped attacking him and switch to the Driders (who were hitting consistently and doing a lot of damage). Valan moved back from the stairs and one of the Scouts used Heal to trigger Valan’s second wind and heal him.
By this point Khara had activated the Pendent of Ashaba, greatly weakening the Drow attackers. As Khara was the only one capable of getting close enough to battle Valan she moved up to engage him. The two went toe-to-toe but Khara had only a few hit points remaining and fell fast. Valan grabbed the Pendent and deactivate it with a successful Arcana check.
It took the PCs a while to finally kill the Driders and then both monsters fell in the same round. Rather than focus fire they spread the damage pretty equally between the two. During the battle with the Driders, Rogue #1 fell. He had no healing surges remaining by that point so he remained unconscious for four rounds (about a half hour of real-time).
Back in week 3 I gave each PC a healing potion that did not require a healing surge to activate (they’d been devastated and needed the gift badly). The Druid never used his so during this encounter he passed it to the Cleric who managed to revive Rogue #1 near the end of the fight. The Cleric also managed to revive Khara and then bolstered her with temporary hit points.
Khara and the Rogues managed to pass through Elminster’s mist, gaining the boons. They all took the slayer option which imbued their weapons with fire and dealt ongoing 5 fire on a hit. However, by the time they got past the Driders and into the mist there were only two Scouts and Valan left standing so these boons weren’t all that helpful, especially since they were all dealing the same ongoing effect to the same opponent.
After Valan deactivated the effects of the Pendent he decided to leave. After all, why stick around and fight the party if he had the treasure he sought. The PCs were badly wounded but managed to give chase. The Druid had an at-will attack that dropped a zone around Valan each round. Every time he attempted to leave the zone the Druid got to attack and if successful he knocked Valan prone. The Druid hit with every attack all night. Rogue #2 managed to keep up with Valan and finally brought him down while Khara and Rogue #1 kept the Scouts at bay.
When the party defeated Valan his face became warped and distorted. The illusion that concealed his true identity vanished, revealing a simulacrum made of crawling spiders. The creature might have possessed Valan’s magic, but the real Wizard was obviously elsewhere, safely out the party’s reach.
The remaining Drow Scouts withdrew from the combat and fled. The PCs were extremely wounded and weak so they let the Drow flee. Khara retrieved the Pendent of Ashaba from Valan’s remains.
Over the course of the day the PCs helped Khara, Elminster and the rest of the locals drive off any remaining Drow attackers. By nightfall Shadowdale was safe. A group gathered at the Old Skull Inn to celebrate the victory. Lady Ulphor thanked everyone who helped defend Shadowdale, giving Khara the majority of the credit (something the PCs didn’t like at all).
Khara moved to the centre of the room to present the Pendent of Ashaba to Lady Ulphor. However as Lady Ulphor saw the Pendent for the first time she gasped in astonishment. “That is not the Pendent of Ashaba.” The crowd fell silent. Khara didn’t know how to react; the heroes took great pleasure in her embarrassment. “Where is the Pendent of Asahba?” demanded Lady Ulphor.
Rogue #2 realized that he still possessed “Jewelry” from Lady Ulphor’s chamber that was taken off of a Drow raider way back in the encounter from week 2. “Could this be it?” he asked, holding up a pendent. “The Pendent of Ashaba” she cried with immense relief as the crowd cheered.
As the celebration went on into the night Khara spotted Tharinel, bandaged and bruised, sitting at the bar sipping an ale. She ran to his side and embraced him. The party was flabbergasted since they killed Tharinel by decapitation. The Elf gave them a sly wink and with a free hand used Drow sign language to indicate that they should talk. Since Tharinel wasn’t a Drow he should not have known the hand signs. Something was amiss.
Tharinel eventually meet with the party alone and revealed himself as one of Jarlaxle’s best undercover men. He was in Shadowdale impersonating Tharinel on an unrelated matter and had an important message from the Bregan D’aerthe leader himself. The PCs were needed urgently in Menzonberranzan and must return there immediately.
So ends chapter 3 and so ends the season 9 of D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen. The adventure will be continued next season in Council of Spiders.
Obviously I made a few changes at the end. However, these changes seemed appropriate and the players really enjoyed the twists. We’d already decided that since the party was already all Drow that they would continue using these characters into next season. They all have the Bregan D’aerthe Spy theme so having Jarlaxle call them back to Menzonberranzan seemed fitting.
As for this week’s encounter I think it was really tough, even with my modifications, and I won’t be surprised to hear that many groups lost some PCs or possibly all of them to a TPK. The tactical placement of the Driders was exceptionally deadly and I’m sure a lot of parties found themselves spending most of the encounter on the stairs.
The effects of the completed pendent were not spelled out in the adventure so I guess the DM could make the benefits and hindrances as powerful as necessary to keep things interesting and balanced. I chose to give the Drow -2 to all attacks.
Next week we’ll be running our season 9 report card where we look at the overall adventure and highlight what worked well and what failed miserably. Until then what did you think of this final encounter? Was it too tough or just right for a final climatic battle? What did you think of the final chapter as a whole? Better or worse than the earlier chapters?
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.
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