D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders (Week 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 13, 2012

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?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Lastowski September 13, 2012 at 9:34 am

It was an interesting week for us at Modern Myths this week. We had lots of folks show up early, so we ended up running 4 tables of 5, but several of my usual players were at other tables. As a result, we had 4 Breggan D’Arthe folks (1 slayer, 1 Hunter, & 2 Hexblades) and 1 Xorlarrin controller (a wizard). That’s right, no healers, and only one character with decent HP.

The party wasted no time with diplomacy, with one of our hexblades firing off an eldritch bolt at Iyelle before she could finish her first sentence (which is a shame, because I decided she’d be “played” by Fran Drescher, just to make them want to kill her more). The hobgoblins had folks bottlenecked at the doorway, and Iyelle repayed the hexblade with her pain strand, which she then strengthened (so that the OG 10 poison would overcome the resist 5 poison he got from that Medallion of Lolth special item). The party rolled horribly, and it wasn’t looking good… until the end of the round came up, and our wizard (initiative roll of 2) came around the corner to save the day. She’s an orb-specialized pushy wizard, so her Beguiling Strands was able to push enemies 6 squares, bottlenecking them back by the obsidian wall. That turned the tide, and the battle went fairly well after that. We had a couple of times where folks had to stop attacking to take second winds, but the party definitely had the upper hand.

When it was over, our wizard player (my wife, who just started playing D&D this season) felt very accomplished, and the various mercenaries had to admit that House Xorlarrin had saved their butts. Everyone agreed not to mention that any of them had struck the Drow Priestess Iyelle (which would have resulted in a loss of Worth), and after performing the ritual they returned home for some much-needed rest. There weren’t any members of House Melarn at my table, so that house goal at the altar didn’t matter. In the flavor text for the ritual, it was mentioned that the image of the glowing web was burned into the party’s eyes… so I told the players that if they wanted, their characters’ pupils could now have spiderweb patterns on them (which everyone thought was really cool). The session ended with everyone levelling up to Lvl 2, gaining some much-needed HP and all the bonuses one gets at even levels.

2 Vobeskhan September 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Due to a drop in numbers we had to meld our two 4th level groups into one this week. So rather than two tables of three players I ran a single table of 6 players (drow avenger, dwarf fighter, dragonborn paladin, human sentinal, vyrolka blackguard, and dragonborn hexblade), so I had levelled up the encounter accordingly (using the old off-line monster builder, and including Snut as neither group had encountered him last week. The bad guys consisted of Iryele (now lvl 7), 5 hobgoblin soldiers (now lvl 6, one on guard in the side room), snut (a lolthbound gobbo lvl 3) and a spider minion also in the side room (lvl 3).

(photos and captions here http://www.meetup.com/EMRPGG/photos/10686172/)

The hexblade went alone to explore the side room, while the rest of the party surged forward. but the hobgob soldiers used their phalanx abilities perfectly keeping the party away from their mistress.

Only one hobgob falls to the heroes, the paladin goes unconscious but is raised, and after two and a half hours playing the avenger, blackguard and hexblade are heavily bloodied and all healing has been used.

The party decide as a group to abandon the quest and withdraw to Menzoberranzan empty handed.

My players really havent embraced the drowishness of this season, as mentioned in my own blog, and most refuse to play drow. But rather than let the encounters program fold (after it taking two years to get off the ground in my hometown) we made our concessions, unfortunately though I think this season is begining to definately raise a few of their hackles, which is a shame as I personally love drow and their conniving society.

3 Michael Clarke September 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Looks like your group suffered from one of the possible pitfalls of an all-evil party – nothing prevents them from carrying out revenge schemes if someone gets cranky. Sounds like the Blackguard needs to take a chill pill, and remember that D&D is a group game. Without the group, he doesn’t play.

When we played this encounter (which was actually last week – we tend to do two a week when we can), we managed to beat these opponents fairly quickly, largely due to us having an extended rest before it. We had been fairly badly beaten up by the previous encounter, and the DM thought we had plenty of time between the two encounters. We also had a druid positioned behind the arrow slits for the whole combat, using blasts and bursts without any attacks back at him.

4 Rogue #1 September 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Druid used HIS! staff to kill the unconscious priestess… The Rogue was the one that killed the Blackguard.

5 anarkeith September 14, 2012 at 2:34 am

Full table of five regulars plus two new players at my table. Based on the out-of-character infighting from the previous week I was nervous about this session. While most of the players have been fine with drow politics and characterization, a few have struggled and/or outright refused to go along with the season’s conceit. One PC essentially formed an alliance with the traitor, while another player attempted some half-hearted revenge for a perceived slight from last week.The hobgoblins stood around dumbfounded while the PCs hacked at one another, or fled.

Eventually the traitor and a few PCs were able to access the altar room and compete the ritual, whereupon the PC who had originally allied with the traitor turned on her and very nearly wiped her out with an attack + action point combo.

I’ve carefully explained to all involved that I believe this season was written to let players explore drow culture via having secrets from one another.Hidden agendas. Unfortunately not all the players have the experience and/or maturity to make that work.

We’ll see how the season plays out.

6 Paik the Kenku Monk September 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

This week we were down number as well with only 5 players at the table.

The be a drow thing this season has been fun and some people take it over the top. I think that happens everywhere. I think people think “Drow are evil so I can be fully evil and do whatever I want, because I am evil”. Even serial killers have some kind of code and method.

I am personally playing an evil drow ranger. While I have very much enjoyed this season, I think cow-towing to a female can get tiring. My background is based on an anti-female story but I follow the female-centric rules etc..

I am playing a drow in character but not in the over-the-top way you are mentioning. It has been great fun. The treachery cards just add to that fun.

Love the blog!

7 David Argall September 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Whispers of the Silent One – 3. Victory, of sorts

As I had hopped, there was another backup party behind us, and so I had barely recovered from my wounds before they arrived. I can’t say they impressed me with their skill. Usually a backup party like this is stronger than those they replace. This time, the new team seems to have been merely what they could scrape together, which included no priest. However, they did have the virtue of being here quickly. They also had the virtue of moving quickly thereafter, and so I had hopes we would still be in time.
Such proved to be the case. We found the traitor, a priestess, as she was busy trying to overcome the last barrier, and were able to attack with surprise. Not that we did a good job of it. Delisa the female witch planted a burst where it endangered us, and then Balsar charged too far and fast.leaving him alone with the enemy. He was out of the fight almost before it got started. Nor did I do all that much better. I did manage to land some serious blows, but I was very close to dying by the end of the fight and not on my feet [I do hope this does not become a habit.]
It was up to the ladies of the party to win the fight [which of course we heard plenty of later] I am not sure they deserved such credit as they gave themselves. Shrvra the sorceress was showing that she was but a novice and while Delsia gave the enemy notable damage overall, I assume she could have given more. Only Triglla the female vampire was really successful. Possibly there was some curse on the area as our foes were also unable to hurt us as much as they should have. [ooc – cold dice on both sides.]
But the hobgoblin guards were cut down and then a spell from Shrvra took out the traitor. [Shrvra forgot my advice to capture that woman so we could find her boss and killed her. Given I am a mere male, I could not give her much guff for such folly, not nearly as much as my master gave me for failing to bring the traitor in.]
Now came the actual purpose of our mission, gathering the ancient power to take to our masters. This proved reasonably easy. It was not without difficulty, but compared to the difficulty in getting here, it was a trivial task. We were soon bearing the magical energy back to our masters, which was also merely drudgery. But our masters were pleased [at least in public. That I was nearly killed twice, and failed to bring in the traitor for questioning left me with little credit. Still success forgives many sins {which with drow means a payment of not being killed}.

8 Billy C September 23, 2012 at 5:39 am

Ya I (the Druid) killed the traitor, not the rogue. I had actually completely forgotten about the secret objective. Oops.

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