It’s Here! – Lair Assault: Kill the Wizard

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 12, 2012

In this Lair Assault you’re are part of a special Drow “murder squad.” Your team must travel to the surface and kill a Wizard. It sounds straight-forward enough but failure will have devastating consequences. The Wizard has created a construct that he plans to mass produce and then set loose throughout the Underdark. These constructs have one purpose: kill all Drow. Your job is to Kill the Wizard, destroy the prototype, and ensure that no one can recreate it. Simple, right?

Lair Assault is part of Wizard of the Coast’s public play program. It’s intended to provide a whole new kind of D&D experience. There is very little role-playing in these adventures (by design). They are extremely combat heavy and reward smart play and clever tactics. It’s a power-gamers dream.

Knowing the kind of players these adventures attract, Wizards has made them exceptionally difficult. They fully expect that some or all of the PCs will die the first time they try any new Lair Assault. In fact they said at the outset that they estimate 80% of all groups will suffer a TPK in their first run-through. With the gauntlet thrown down you have to decide if you’re brave enough (or dumb enough) to accept the challenge and try to Kill the Wizard.

This is the fifth season of Lair Assault and the second that is part of the Rise of the Underdark theme running through all Wizards of the Coast product lines right now. One thing that makes this installment unique is that the players get to play the bad guys in this adventure. Not only that, but as Drow every player at the table should watch his back because you never know if another member of the squad is going to stab you in the back.

The new season of Lair Assault runs from September 1 – November 30. (I realize it already started, but I didn’t get the materials until last week and I’ve needed time to get this report put together.) Below I share some of the high-level details. I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free. Some of my suggestions and observations may seem a bit spoiler-y but most of my points are pretty obvious or fairly common sense things so I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I’m certainly not going to give away anything that will give players an unfair advantage.

I’d like to give a shout out to Mike Shea, one of the authors of this Lair Assault. Mike runs the fantastic gaming blog, Sly Flourish. It’s great to see one of my fellow bloggers get an opportunity to work on something as exciting as Lair Assault. Good job, Mike.

The Challenge

The Wizard lives and works in a three-storey manor. Gaining entrance shouldn’t pose any real challenge, but the defenses throughout the manor and the creatures within sure will. Unlike some of the previous Lair Assaults, this one doesn’t put the PCs on the clock. They can take as many rounds to complete the adventure as they need, although they do not get the benefits of a short rest if the manage to survive undetected for 5 minutes once they encounter resistance. The creators state in the adventure that it will take 3-4 hours to complete so get ready for a marathon.

In addition to your primary objective each player draws one of eight special house goals. If you complete yours you get the House Agent Glory Award (see below). Some of these objectives can have consequences that will impact other PCs (after all, you are all Drow) so beware of your fellow adventurers and watch your back.

Character Creation Tips

The most significant change to the character creation process this season is that all players must play Drow or Drow Revenants. Other than this, there are no restrictions. Use any legal sources to choose class, feats, powers and equipment.

Kill the Wizard is an adventure for level 8 characters. The rules for equipping the PCs follow the same guidelines from the DMG as the previous Lair Assaults. You get one item level 9 or lower, one item level 8 or lower, one item level 7 or lower and 2,600 gp to spend as you see fit. You can still only have a maximum of two consumables (level 8 or lower) and only one item you possess can be rare. You can cast rituals before the adventure begins but once you start you won’t have time to cast any others.

You can use Fortune Cards (and I assume Treachery Cards) if you want to. I find that the minimal benefits they provide are not usually enough to warrant the delay drawing, reading, and playing these cards has on the game. But they are legal so use them if you want. I’d suggest you build a deck of 20, rather than the usual 10 if you’re going to use Fortune Cards. I guarantee you’ll go longer than 10 rounds if you manage to win.

During this adventure you’re going to face a Wizard and possibly his apprentices. I think it’s safe to assume that some or all of them will use Magic Missiles against you, so force resist could be beneficial. The Drowkiller construct is on the cover of the adventure and you can see that it’s got fire in its belly, so fire resistance could be useful too. One of the Glory Awards (see below) mentions a Black Pudding, so acid resistance could be helpful. Likewise, Black Puddings are resistant to acid so don’t bother with items or powers that use acid (or at least don’t expect them to be helpful against the Black Pudding).

I think it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Stealth will be of paramount importance and can provide you with significant advantage in some circumstances. So train Stealth. Someone should be able to find and disable traps, mundane or magical, so train Perception, Thievery and Arcana. Obviously everyone doesn’t need to be good at these skills, but more than one guy should be.

Feats that add to your defenses or hit points are always good choices, as are feats that provide bonuses to saving throws. As Drow there are a lot of good feats that, when used together, can make your racial abilities considerably better. Not something that will appeal to everyone, but don’t dismiss it until you’ve looked them over. (See Exploiting Racial and Class Powers: Cloud of Darkness.)

With no opportunity for short rests your only healing will come from your Second Wind or a friendly leader. Consider taking a feat that lets you multi-class into a leader class so that you can at least trigger another surge for yourself or an ally. Any item, feat, or power that grants temporary hit points will also be extremely beneficial.

The Map

As mentioned above the adventure takes place in the Wizard’s manor house. Getting to the dungeon will prove challenging but once everyone makes it the DM will need to flip over the map. DON’T!

Without giving too much away, there is a chance that some of the PCs will not immediately know where all of their allies are when they reach the dungeon. DMs may want to consider photocopying or recreating the dungeon using tiles until all PCs have their allies in sight. It is a little bit of additional work for the DM but I think it will really add to the excitement for the players. It also has the added benefit of forcing the PCs to actually explore the dungeon and not just take the most direct route to the Wizard (something they would have no knowledge of anyway).

I used this tactics with Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan and the players loved it. It really encouraged replay when the party suffered a TPK. They wanted to go again and again just so they could see more of the map.

Glory Awards

Since the PCs you use in Lair Assault are basically throwaway characters there needs to be some way other than XP to track your progress and separate the men from the boys. The solution is Glory. Every time you play a Lair Assault adventure you have a chance to earn Glory. These points are tracked by player, not by character. So no matter how many times you play, you can never earn the same Glory Award more than once. This is particularly important to note because you may have different House Goals each time.

General Awards Description Glory
Kill the Wizard Slay Etherik. 10
Ballbuster Destroy Etherik’s Drowslayer construct. 10
Brute Squad Bashers Slay every monster in the dungeon. 10
Elf’s Worst Nightmare Defeat both Etherik and his Drowslayer construct on nightmare mode. 10
School’s Out Slay all eight of Etherik’s arcane students. 10
Challenge Awards Description Glory
Can’t Touch This Complete the challenge without using a healing surge. 10
Give a Hoot Get stunned by an Owlbear’s screech. 10
House Agent Complete your secret house goal. 10
Just Dessert Create a Black Pudding spawn. 10
Lolth’s Gift Use Cloud of Darkness or Darkfire Drow racial utility power. 10
Monkey Punch Land the killing blow on a Barlgura. 10
Skull Challenge Use the Drow skull to force the Flesh Golem to deal damage to one of your enemies. 10
Spider Queen’s Sacrifice Slay a Drow prisoner. 10
Traptastic Disable or set off a trap. 10
Secret Awards Description Glory
Secret 1 SPOILER 10
Secret 2 SPOILER 10
Secret 3 SPOILER 10
Secret 4 SPOILER 10
Secret 5 SPOILER 10
Secret 6 SPOILER 10

Glory Tracker

Although you’re supposed to hand these out before you start the adventure, I think that there’s a lot of information in here that will tip off the players and provide details that their character would have no way of knowing. My instinct as a DM is to let them run through the adventure once and then hand out the Glory Tracker afterwards.

There are six secret awards this season which are not listed. Players that fulfill any of the requirements for completing a secret award will be informed that they’ve done so by the DM at the end of the adventure. So encourage players to be imaginative and creative.

Glory Tracking Poster

Here’s a shot of the poster. Encourage the organizer at your FLGS to hang it somewhere visible. You may not earn actual prizes for accumulating the most glory, but bragging rights are as good as gp to gamers.



Official Instructions

Below are the official instructions provided by Wizards of the Coast with the Lair Assault DMs kit (just in case you’re worried that I didn’t cover everything).

Lair Assault: Kill the Wizard runs from September 1 – November 30. Good luck!

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1 Taed September 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

We played the latest Lair Assault last week, and it’s the second-best yet (after the first one).

We had a 4-person party (Assassin, Bard, Rogue, and Fighter) and only made it about 2 rounds into the second encounter, though we made some stupid mistakes and can customize our characters a bit so we’ll certainly make it to the final battle next time.

Two of us used the new version (Treachery) of Fortune Cards, but didn’t find them useful at all. We also didn’t understand the “Worth” mechanic, though someone said that was only relevant for Encounters. Can anyone say for sure?

There’s some nice random features to the encounters that make it stand up to multiple plays.

How did others do?

2 Francois B. September 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Hi Derek, we will be playing this one in 2 weeks… i read somewhere that there is 2 different initiatives in this Lair Assault, can you confirm? I assume that would make Encounter long effects refresh, right?

3 Taed September 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Just like in the previous one or two Lair Assaults, it is broken into two separate encounters with no opportunity for a short rest in between and encounter powers do NOT refresh. We only rolled initiative once, though that may or may not be the right way.

4 Sunyaku September 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

It makes me a little sad that my lair was undefeated in the Spiderkiller season. I’m beginning to build a reputation at my game shop as the most bloodthirsty and tactically-ruthless Lair Assault DM.

5 Vobeskhan September 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Played through this as a player a few weeks ago and I am due to run it myself this coming weekend.

I like the adventure itself but I had a few concerns, in particular over the apprentices ‘porting around. If used to maximum effect by the DM then the players should never get a chance to even get to the basement. Any suggestions on how to handle this more fairly.

On the positives, I like the random house goal cards and the very drowish element this introduces.

This will be the third Lair Assault I have ran as Dm at our store but the first that restricts player choices (race), and as I’ve said regarding Encounters many of my players are not loving the drow, so I can’t see it being ran more than once this time through.

Also on the Instruction sheet for the organisers it says only Drow Treachery cards are allowed in play, not normal fortune cards, seeing as our store doesnt actually sell them, most of our players only have the ones earnt via Encounters so far (ie one each).

6 Sunyaku September 14, 2012 at 12:41 am

An optional rule for races that we’re toying around with for this layer assault is that if you’re not drow, you are servant/slave/property of other drow in the party. And if there are no drow alive at any point in the adventure, the party automatically fails.

7 Taed October 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

We’ve now made three attempts and have failed each time. At least we made it to the boss the last two times. The start of the second encounter is providing us with significant trouble.

8 Joe Lastowski October 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Sunyaku, this season of Encounters has a “slave” option as well, though they limit the slave races to human, dwarf, goblin, kobold, & svirfneblin, so there is some precedent for that.

I really wish they had just done what they did in the Feywild/Tyrantclaw one: give a +1 bonus to attacks (or some other benefit) if you play the preferred race, but don’t force everyone’s hand.

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