D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders (Week 4)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 20, 2012

In chapter 1 the PCs were sent on a secret mission to find an old Drow outpost that was once used for magical research. Despite some in-fighting, the party completed their objective. They found the outpost and completed the ritual that allowed Lolth to siphon the arcane energies and put it towards the creation of her Demon Weave.

About a week has passed when chapter 2 begins. The PCs have recuperated from their adventure, leveled up and spent any gold they might have accumulated along the way. Again the PCs are summoned to a clandestine meeting and given a secret assignment by their superiors.

This week at my FLGS we had a full house. The level 2 table had three regulars and two brand new players. My level 5 table saw the return of the full party. They’re all Drow and they’re playing a Rogue (f), Rogue/Blackguard (f), Druid (m), Cleric Priestess (f), and Wizard Bladesinger (f). All of them have the Bregan D’aerthe Spy theme and are (obviously) affiliated with Bregan D’aerthe.

Last week things got pretty heated in and out of game, but with a week to cool down, the players all came to the table as friends. The PCs agreed that there is unfinished business but for now they have more important things to worry about and personal vendettas must wait.

The Council of Spiders are a group of renegade male Wizards who believe that once Lolth creates the Demon Weave male Drow will be elevated in status and become equal to Drow females. The Council has captured Hoshtar Xorlarrin and the PCs are tasked with his rescue. During this rescue the PCs are to ensure their identities remain secret. If any of them are tied to House Xorlarrin, House Melarn or Bregan D’aerthe it could start a Drow civil war in Menzoberranzan.

The PCs were given the location of the Council’s current hideout; an abandoned building in the ruins of the old House Srune’Lett compound in the heart of Menzoberranzan. Before leaving, the party’s Bregan D’aerthe contact gave them a secret task. (Even though my entire table was Bregan D’aerthe I’m not going to reveal their secret objective here and tip off players running PCs from the other factions.)

When the PCs reached the building where the Council was meeting they noticed two Drow Sentries shifting nervously at their approach. “You have no business here, move along.” One of the Sentries declared.

The Bladesinger pressed the Sentry with questions, challenging his position. After some banter the Bladesinger finally said that she was there for the Council meeting. The Sentries were skeptical since the party was predominantly female and because there was a Priestess among them. The PCs made suitable Bluff and Diplomacy checks to win the Sentries over and gain admission.

The room they entered had a magical circular inscribed on the floor. The Bladesinger made a terrible Arcana check and was only able to determine that it was either a summoning circle or a teleportation circle; some kind of gateway, but she was unsure of more than that. She was positive it was not currently active.

In the room was a Senior Drow Wizard. His face was covered and his garb reminiscent of House Xorlarrin’s spell casters. He asked the PCs to identify themselves. He pointed to a floating eye in the upper corner indicating that some other Wizard was observing them and would likely hear their response. Again the PCs tried to Bluff their way in. Unfortunately their deceit was unsuccessful.

A gong sounded throughout the upper rooms, signaling the Drow within that these were uninvited guests. “Attackers! Attackers! Bring Aid!” shouted the Senior Wizard. The PCs heard the sounds of footsteps approaching from the adjacent rooms and nearby hallway.

The Sentries were quick to act. The closest PCs (the Cleric and Blackguard) were still within their threat range and both were hit and knocked prone with longspears. The Rogue entered the room, careful to avoid the magic circle, and charged the Senior Wizard, bloodying him with one hit (despite the fact that I gave the Wizards an additional 10 hit points).

Two Junior Wizards came rushing from the far hallway and once they had the PCs in their sight unleashed Magic Missiles on the Druid and Rogue. The Bladesinger engaged the nearest in melee, easily killing him (since he was only a minion). The Druid likewise attacked the other from range and killed him too. The Blackguard stood and tried stabbing the nearest Sentry but missed.

“You must be mad,” said the Wizard. “You attack a peaceful gathering? Your houses will pay for this when you are dead.” Seeing three of the PCs still grouped together, he used his Lightning Web to blast them hitting the Cleric and Blackguard, but missing the Druid. Fearing another deadly strike from the Rogue, the Senior Wizard levitated up. The Rogue’s opportunity attack hit but didn’t do very much damage. Once aloft, the Wizard used Globe of Darkness to provide him with some cover.

At the top of the next round the doors to the adjacent room were opened and the PCs could see another Senior Wizard. Deeper in the room they could hear two Junior Wizards. The Rogue charged into the room hitting the Senior Wizard. The Senior Wizard used his Spellshock Rod (which I referred to as a cattle prod) to zap the Rogue and push her away.

The Sentries meanwhile continued attacking the same targets, but only hit the Cleric this time. They then moved to the doors on either side of the plaza and entered the barracks and the library. The Bladesinger focused on the levitating Wizard, first negating his Globe of Darkness with Darkfire and then shooting him. The Druid got the kill shot before the Wizard managed to get another attack in.

The party then broke the cardinal rule: never split the party. The Rogue and Bladesinger went into the library while the Cleric, Rogue and Druid went into the barracks.

The Junior Wizards in the barracks both targeted the Rogue and nearly dropped her. Fortunately the Cleric managed to heal the Rogue and keep her up. The Sentry who entered through the far door charged the rogue and knocked her prone.
The Druid summoned a celestial wolf in a square next to the Sentry, but the beast missed.

The Senior Wizard used his Lightning Web to blast the Rogue, Druid, Wolf, Cleric and Sentry (since it targets all creatures) hitting all the PCs and missing the Sentry. The Rogue was bloodied, prone, immobilized, and one square away from the Sentry – time for Second Wind and a Healing Potion. And just for good measure she activated her Globe of Darkness. Good thing, since the Junior Wizards were about to shoot her with Magic Missiles. Instead they delayed.

In the library the Blackguard went to toe-to-toe with the Sentry but missed him twice. The Sentry hit the Blackguard twice bloodying her. The Bladesinger took out the Junior Wizard hiding in the Library with a Magic Missile and then took stock of the situation. The strikers were getting hurt pretty badly and only a few Junior Wizards and one Senior Wizard were out of the fight. Perhaps the Bladesinger could activate the magic circle to activate a portal and get the party out of here fast? She spent two rounds focusing on the circle before scoring a high enough Arcana check to realize that a port key was required, otherwise this circular was not going to work. During this time she did manage to dispel the magic eye that was used earlier to identify the PCs as infiltrators.

The battle in the barracks only lasted a couple more rounds. The Druid used his Wind Wall to destroy the minions. The wolf and Rogue worked together to kill the Sentry and the Druid managed to take out the Senior Wizard, but not before he scored another hit on the Druid.

The Cleric and Bladesinger moved into the Library to help the Blackguard. They managed to drop the Sentry clearing the way for the final Senior Wizard to target them all with his Lightning Web (you’d think they’d learn not to all get bunched up, but apparently not). With his biggest gun expended, I called the fight. The PC would have had little trouble taking the Wizard down in one or two more rounds.

When they searched the bodies they found 50 gp each. When the PCs revealed the faces of their attackers only the Blackguard recognized them as lesser members of House Xorlarrin. She decided not to share this for now. After all, knowledge is power. During their short rest the PCs easily fulfilled their secret objective, and since they were all Bregan D’aerthe they didn’t need to be at all sneaky about it.

This week’s encounter was a lot of fun and finally seemed balanced. Having a full party of five PCs certainly helped. I obviously had to adjust the stats for the higher level PCs, but it worked.

I decided to give the minions Magic Missiles rather than have them use the Poison Bolt described in the adventure. It made things faster and seemed more deadly since they’d always hit and score some damage on their turn. Had they needed to make attack rolls they’d have likely missed and the PCs would have ignored them. But when they started using Magic Missiles the PCs took them out of the fight quickly.

I also added a few more Junior Wizards to the encounter. I had two appear from the hallway in round 1 and then towards the end of the fight I had two more come in the same way, shoot a Magic Missile each, and then take off down the stairs.

The party took a fair amount of damage this week, but with only three encounters in this chapter they should still have ample healing surges to make it all the way through.

How did your party fare this week? Did you manage to get inside before the combat began or did you start fighting in the plaza? Did the Wizards manage to get multiple PCs in their Lightening Web more than once like I did or were you able to stay spread out? Did anyone get killed this week? 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.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Lastowski September 20, 2012 at 10:57 am

This was a fairly dynamic fight this week. We had 4 tables at my FLGS, and I had 5 at mine: 2 bow hunters, 1 orb wizard, 1 infernal hexblade, & 1 tempest fighter (no healers!).

Our wizard was from house Xorlarrin, so she tried lying her way in to see Hoshtar. She didn’t roll great, though, and the Breggan D’Aerthe hexblade had to step in with a juiced intimidation of the sentries. While the hexblade & wizard went inside, the others stayed outside, pretending not to be ready for battle. Negotiations with a senior wizard inside did not go well, and eventually the battle began.

The wizard freezing bursted a senior & junior wizard, blasting the minion & moving the senior wizard next to another senior. Then the hexblade critted on a daily, wiping out the two clustered seniors. Outside, a combination of fighter marking and hunter status arrows made short work of the sentries. Inside, the final senior wizard used his lightning web to great effect, though he wasn’t long against the two arcane PCs. Outside, the hunters & the fighter took down the last junior wizards.

Since most everyone in our store has the Ruby Medallion of Lolth item that was distributed with this season, they all had resist 5 poison. As a result, I changed the poison bolt attack for the junior wizards to a fire bolt, making their ongoing 4 damage actually matter.

The only real criticism I have of this week’s adventure is one that applies to the whole season (and the Menzoberranzan book): awful names. Players can’t remember, let alone pronounce, most any of the names in this season. Even in the adventure setup with the different faction leaders, there were apparent mistakes between Hoshtar & Hafnein, and between house names. To make things clearer, I changed names. I always pick actors to “play” major NPCs, to give players a better visual reference. So instead of asking after “Hoshtar”, the players wanted to find Mr. Giles (Anthony Stewart Head from Buffy). Instead of Ro’Kolor it was Mal Reynolds. Etc etc.

Other than that, decent fight this week. Looking forward to next week.

2 Roland September 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I have to say, the sheer number of drow names and factions thrown out a the players is in my opinion, excessive. I appreciate well-crafted and theme fitting names more than most players but in an Encounters setting where the game shop noise level is a dull roar I get lost.
WoTC crafted a series here that is better suited for at-home play with the depth of story.
K.I.S.S. works best for the story aspect in Encounters in my opinion.

3 Winston September 21, 2012 at 12:43 am

Hey Derek, let me know if this worth-math is accurate:

Human male and born outside house: -25 worth
Part of Bregan D’aerthe (Become House Patron): +2
Slayed enemies of the house, (enc 1, enc 2, enc 3): +2, +2, +3? (assuming Bregan D’aerthe traitor was significant enemy. Also, for enc1, monsters were eating some Bregan D’aerthe members).
Survived Ambush: +2
Randy gave me +3 worth for evil acts in enc 1.
Gain level: +1
Completed major quest for house: +3
Hit a female drow: -4
Last weeks encounter: +2 (for slaying significant enemies)
Planted cloth as side-quest: +3

So I’d be at -5 worth? This would put me at Tier 0: Member.

4 David Argall September 24, 2012 at 12:33 am

WHISPERS OF THE SILENT ONE – 4. To rescue the wizard

The news one of our patrons had been kidnapped and we were to rescue him, with just enough secrecy that our patrons could deny their involvement, was good news to us. My companions thought they would soon be rich and famous. Instead, we cam close to disaster again.
We had little trouble finding the hideout they had our wizard captive in. But we had less luck in making our way in. I can’t say our bluff of being part of the enemy forces was all that well done. We did get part way in before the alarm went off, but I doubt that was due to our efforts.
The result was a mess. Shriva our sorcerer ran in one direction, which worked out rather well when one of the enemy wizards chased him down and forced him to fight, with Shriva winning easily. But when he returned to us, he let loose a spell that dropped Thelcia our witch instead of the enemy.
In the meantime, finding myself outmatched by the two guards, I used my darkness to defend, but when they withdrew I rashly charged after them. I did kill one of them, but there were several additional drow and I was soon down.
I woke to find that Zorace the wizardess, who had earlier been holding a door shut, had managed to revive Thelcia and the three of them managed to do enough damage to put down the other sentry. However the last enemy wizard dropped her only to be dropped in turn by Shriva.
After a good deal of patching up, we resumed our hunt for our mage.
[OOC-A party without a leader has definite problems staying on their feet.]

5 Michael Clarke September 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm

We had a bit of an interesting time with that encounter (bearing in mind, we actually played it a couple of weeks ago, as we play two a week normally).

Initially I, playing a Female Drow Avenger, and one of the two Drow in the party, tried to approach the sentries, with the intent of killing them quickly. One of the slaves, a Revenant Assassin, walked up beside me and announced that he was the assassin they had sent for. The sentries looked a little confused, but let us in, while they conferred with the Senior Wizard. On seeing us, the Senior Wizard set off the alarm.

Following a hint from the DM, we proceded in the first round to close and bar every door into the main chamber, meaning we only ended up having to deal with the main force, and not the reinforcements. The Senior Wizard spent most of the encounter levitated, and so was left alone while we dealt with the others. Eventually, the Senior Wizard also went down.

The funniest part of the night was accidental. After the main fight was over, everyone was about to head downstairs, when I said that being Drow, we should not leave enemies active behind us, so we ambushed and slaughtered the reinforcement rooms one at a time (didn’t make any rolls, DM was happy we had a far superior position). Afterwards, I discovered that that had ruined someone’s secret mission (better not say which or what – spoilers!).

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