Last week the PCs were ambushed by Svirfneblin. After barely surviving that encounter they took a short rest before heading onward to the former House Shobalar outpost of Sezz’ia. During the rest they searched area and looted the Svirfneblin’s bodies. On the corpses they found three potions: two healing potions and one elixir of invisibility. In one of the nearby passages they found a cowering Goblin.
At my FLGS we’ve been running two tables, one started at level 1 and the other at level 4. This week we only had six players, three from each group. Because we were four levels apart we couldn’t easily merge into one full party. So both tables ran with three players. At my table I decided to run an NPC to bring the party to four and to throw something unexpected at the players.
In attendance were the following three PCs:
- Drow Rogue [female], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Rogue/Blackguard [female], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
- Drow Druid [male], aligned with Bregan D’aerthe
The Rogue/Blackguard (whom I’ll just call Blackguard for simplicity) found the Goblin, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, and demanded information from the sniveling, cowering creature. The Goblin, who quickly identified himself as Snüt, begged for his life. The Blackguard said she’d consider taking Snüt as her slave if he provide worthy.
Snüt started by handing over a pouch of gems (worth 80gp per PC). He explained that a female Drow paid him all those shinys to deliver a message to the Svirfneblin. “Drow attack imminent. Guard the passage of old mines or see your people enslaved.” He kept repeating it over and over again before breaking into tears and wetting himself.
The Blackguard agreed that this payment and information was enough to spare Snüt’s life, for now. She allowed him to take armor and a dagger from the dead Gnomes. After all what good is a slave who gets killed by the first hit.
Snüt told the Blackguard that the other Drow went in that direction and just as the PCs were about to head off they heard the sounds of someone crawling through the rubble behind them. Emerging was the Priestess they’d met in the encounter with the Ochre Jelly in week 1, Myaral Tlabbar. She was still burned but she had regained sight in one eye. She dusted herself off and addressed the PCs. I used the pre-gen Zarra’s stats, with appropriate modifiers to make her level 4 like the rest of the party.
She’d heard the passage collapse and came to investigate. She didn’t care if the PCs had been killed but she did care that the Traitor might complete her mission unmolested. That was unacceptable. Since the PCs were down to three, this Priestess declared that she’d join them in their mission to kill the Traitor and complete the ritual in Lolth’s name. However, since the Priestess was still wounded she deferred tactical command to the only other divine female character in the group, the Blackguard.
The party walked through the tunnels for a few hours, following the Traitor’s path in the undisturbed dirt. Eventually they noticed that the Traitor was joined by at least three other humanoids with large feet. None of them made any effort to hide their passage so following them was child’s play.
They eventually came to an area where the rocks became worked stone. They’d reached Sezz’ia. The area they were in seemed to have once been a small plaza. They could see light pouring around the next corner and heard the sounds of creatures in metal armor fidgeting. The party made excellent Stealth checks so their presence was not yet detected.
The Rogue and Blackguard got a closer look. They saw a female Drow Priestesses (the Traitor) before a smooth obsidian wall. She was running her hands on the wall as if searching for cracks in the smooth rock. Three burly Hobgoblins stood by her side, obviously guarding her from untold dangers.
The Blackguard quickly scouted the perimeter looking for a back way in. She found none, but did find arrow slits. She decided to attack through them initially and then rejoin the party in a frontal melee assault. With coordinated effort the Rogue charged in and engaged the first Hobgoblin. The Druid attacked two Hobgoblins and the Traitor, missing only the furthest Hobgoblin. The Blackguard attacked through the arrow slits and then moved away.
The Hobgoblins put themselves between the PCs and the Traitor. They all attacked the Rogue, but as the first one hit, the Druid used a reaction to slide his ally out of harm’s way. The NPC Priestess, upon seeing and recognizing Iyelle, spat out a stream of curses and tried to get closer. This round the best she could do was fire her crossbow but missed.
The Rogue continued to work on the Hobgoblins and dropped one. The Blackguard took a full round to get around and into melee. The Druid softened up the remaining two Hobgoblins while the Priestess NPC tried to get into melee. The Traitor managed to hit the Druid with Pain Strand and then hit again with Strengthen poison. It took the Druid two rounds to save and the ongoing 10 added up quickly. The Traitor then moved back to a safer vantage point, leaving her bodyguards to take the brunt of the attacks.
The Blackguard and Rogue easily killed the remaining two Hobgoblins, one this round, one the next. The NPC Priestess finally managed to get into melee with the Traitor and the two battled it out.
All three of the PCs were affiliated with Bregan D’aerthe so their secret objective was to capture the Traitor alive. The Blackguard realized that the Priestess was out for blood and wouldn’t hold back, despite pleas from the PCs to spare Iyelle for questioning.
The PCs continued to fight with the Traitor but it only took one more round for them to drop her. The Rogue landed the killing blow and decided not to kill, but instead to knock her unconscious. However, the NPC Priestess was in the adjacent square and would see this mercy. The Rogue rolled Bluff and it worked. However, the Priestess wanted to decimate the body.
The Blackguard was having none of it. If the Traitor was killed the secret objective would fail. She pushed the Priestess back and threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop. This did not go over well. A Bregan D’aerthe threatening a Priestess of Lolth? I gave the player a chance to roll Diplomacy to try and smooth things over but he refused to back down. His character would not let this Priestess stop her from completing the mission. The two came to blows.
The Priestess ordered the male Druid to help her. He was reluctant, but when she agreed to heal him if he helped he jumped in. The Rogue stood on the sidelines waiting to see how things played out. The Priestess (who was still wounded) realized that if the other PCs sided with the Blackguard she’d be in trouble. So she tried to give the Blackguard a chance to back down. She reminded her that they were all here to see Lolth’s will fulfilled. But the Blackguard wouldn’t stop.
Trying to bring some sense of order to the escalating mess, the Rogue quietly moved to the unconscious Traitor and slit her throat. Now that she was dead the problem was solved and the fighting should stop. Nope. This infuriated the Blackguard even more. She now considered everyone a Traitor and fought to the death, which came the next round. The Priestess NPC left the Blackguard unconscious because she saw no value in killing her (yet).
With the combat over the PCs focused on the wall where the Traitor was at the beginning for the encounter. They could her sounds that they distinguished as two voices singing. One voice was singing a prayer to Lolth, the other was reciting arcane verses. When the PCs focused they could memorize the brief phrases and when repeated the wall before them became insubstantial.
The cavern beyond the wall radiated with arcane power. Numerous crystals around the room, jutting from the floor, walls and ceiling sparkled with power. In the centre of the room, was a large crystal that could easily serve as an altar. On top of it was a spear with a serrated blade, perfect for making blood sacrifices to Lolth.
The PCs used the scroll to perform the ritual. The crystals shimmered and formed a spider web-like pattern. As they reached the end of the ritual the web-like gems flashed with a blinding light. The ritual was successful and the room was completely dark and silent.
The journey back to Menzoberranzan would take days. The Rogue used this time to convince the Priestess NPC to let the Blackguard live. In exchange she offered her the magic Spear and the Goblin slave as compensation. The Priestess reluctantly accepted.
When the PCs got back to the Drow city they reported back to Ro’kolor, explaining what happened and why their secondary objective failed. Despite failing the secret objective, all three faction leaders were pleased that the greater goal was accomplished.
I was surprised with how easily this party took out the monsters this week. I pumped up their defenses, hit points and damage but with two strikers in the party they mowed right through their opponents. The Druid might have failed his saves but his attack dice were red hot which also helped.
The in-fighting was uncomfortable to play. One of the players felt that this was in character, while the others didn’t think such actions were necessary. In retrospect I think as the DM I needed to be clearer about the secondary objectives. They were just something to give the players something else to do; they were not mandatory. It was presented as something to do if the right circumstances presented themselves. Clearly one player felt more strongly about them that the others.
The player running the Blackguard felt that I shouldn’t have made the NPC from a rival house. Doing so made it practically impossible for the other three PCS, all Brigand D’aerthe, to complete their mission. I asked the player how he’d have handled the situation if the fourth character was an actual player running a PC from one of the other two factions? He said he’d have enlisted the aid of the other PCs to all gang up on the odd man out and kill him. Wow. That was not what I was expecting at all.
After the game the player approached me and said his character was going to take every gp she’d earned and hire assassins to kill the other two PCs from this week’s game. The Blackguard felt that they should have stood by her and that by siding with the Priestess they betrayed her trust. I said no. The PCs, now level 5, have proven valuable assets to Brigand D’aerthe so an assassination would not be sanctioned. I also said no because I think the players need to work this out at the game table in character. We’ll see how it comes together next week.
How did this week’s encounter go at your FLGS? Did your party have any trouble with the combat? Did you complete the ritual? Did you accomplish your secret objectives? Did anyone else have the PCs fight each other by the end? Any TPKs?
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.