With Menzoberranzan potentially looking at a civil war, the PCs found themselves in a unique position to possibly influence key members of House Melarn, House Xorlarrin and Brigand D’aerthe before they decide how to react to the coming conflict.
Over the past two sessions the PCs infiltrated the Council of Spiders’ hideout in order to rescue Hoshtar Xorlarrin who had been kidnapped. The PCs killed everyone they faced, rescued Hoshtar and successfully planted false evidence to implicate House Melarn’s involvement with the Council of Spiders – a detail they made sure to point out to Hoshtar before they left.
Accompanied by the still badly wounded Hoshtar, the party headed to their predetermined meeting place to deliver Hoshtar and share what they learned over the previous two sessions with Ash’ala Melarn and Ro’kolor of Brigand D’aerthe.
This week I had four players at my table: Drow Rogue (f), Drow Rogue/Blackguard (f), Drow Druid (m), Drow Cleric Priestess (f). All four are affiliated with Bregan D’aerthe.
When the party arrived at Ro’kolor’s house, the Priestess Ash’ala asked for a full report. The PCs gave an accurate account, not mentioning that they found evidence of anything from house Melarn (which they, of course planted themselves). When asked directly which houses were involved, the Cleric simply stated that those in the hideout were lowly wizards of no notable houses.
The three leaders discuss what they’ve heard and after taking a few minutes to digest the information it was clear that each of the three faction leaders had their own agenda.
- Ash’ala seemed to agree with the defiant priestesses – the Way of Lolth cannot be overturned. She agrees with the social order that places females on top. The Council of Spiders must be stopped.
- Hoshtar believes that the Council of Spiders has a valid point. If Lolth becomes the goddess of arcane magic, then Wizards who represent Lolth’s Demon Weave should have representation on the city’s ruling council.
- Ro’kolor is initially on the fence stating only that war is good for mercenaries, although not so good for noble houses, specifically House Baenre.
Ash’ala asks the PCs for their opinions. “How do you think our houses should respond to these events?”
The Blackguard took a moment to converse secretly with Ro’kolor. She asked Ro’kolor how he wanted the PCs to handle the fabricated evidence implicating House Melarn as key players in the Council of Spiders. Ro’kolor simply advised that there is much to be gained by knowing this information and using it at a later time.
He cautioned the PCs that making any declaration of House Melarn’s involvement in front of Ash’ala could be dangerous. Even if they convince her here and now of Melarn’s participation, if it’s later discovered that the evidence was planted House Melarn will hold the PCs responsible and seek vengeance. Despite this warning, Ro’kolor said that he’d back whatever play the PCs decide on.
Since Ash’ala asked for their opinion and ideas and not his, Ro’kolor will remain silent for now. He doesn’t want to be seen as coaching the PCs.
The Blackguard decided to speak first. She produced one of the pieces that Ro’kolor gave them to plant, a bracelet that was clearly crafted for a Wizard of House Melarn. “Allow me to present you with some of the treasure we found during our rescue,” she said as she handed Ash’ala the bracelet. “These were found on numerous Wizards.”
Passive Insights were high enough to catch the flash of recognition from Ash’ala; she clearly knew what this was. However, her astonishment was quickly replaced with anger. “I asked you which houses were involved. You said none of consequence? This clearly belongs to a noble house!”
The Cleric made a Bluff check (aided by the female Blackguard) and implied that she answered truthfully and that it was the Druid, her male associate (her lesser), that looted the bodies. Until now she’d not seen any of the treasure and until now could not have made the connection.
Ash’ala took the item and examined it for authenticity before returning it to the party. “I suggest that you sell this item as soon as this meeting is concluded.” She even recommends a fence that would pay handsomely for this kind of item. “If that item is found on you, you could be executed. It’s only to be worn by a Wizard from a noble house.”
Although Ash’ala did not speak the words, the PCs realized that Ash’ala recognized the piece and understood the implication of her House being connected to the Council of Spiders. If the PCs sell the items this evidence will be gone and her house spared some potential embarrassment.
Sensing a moment of weakness from Ash’ala, the Druid suggested an idea to Hoshtar which he gladly vocalized. “Perhaps the Council of Spiders could be used as a tool for Lolth? I could steer them in the right direction if they had better leadership. If I was to join them I could ensure that their efforts coincide with the Way of Lolth.” The Druid and Rogue thought this was a great idea; the Cleric and Blackguard did not.
The PCs realized that in order for Hoshtar’s plan to be accepted by Ash’ala it could not be seen to contradict the Way of Lolth. The Blackguard reminded everyone that Lolth wants the Demons Weave to be created. If the Council of Spiders is working towards that end then why not work with them. If Hoshtar were on the Council of Spiders he could keep them on this path while keeping House Melarn informed of any deviation from the Way of Lolth.
Ash’ala agreed that the creation of the Demon Weave was a priority, but she did not agree with any talk of males being added to the city council or elevation in their status once the Demon Weave was created. Any talk of such change was against the Way of Lolth. “The Demon Weave will be created, but the Council of Spiders is not needed for that to happen.”
The Blackguard suggested placating the men by letting them have their dream of equality, knowing full-well that the women won’t ever see them or treat them as equals.
Hoshtar was enraged by this suggestion. Fearing reprisal from Ash’ala he quickly acknowledged that males are lesser, however, if the will of Lolth is to give males elevated status once the Demon Weave is completed he fully expects that her loyal priestesses (including those of House Melarn) will follow the goddess’s edict. The Blackguard tried to calm Hoshtar down explaining change takes time, and that he must to be patient.
The PCs decided to try approach his problem the Drow way and lie to Hoshtar and Ash’ala. However, the PCs quickly realized that the two would talk about whatever decision was reached and the duplicity would instantly be discovered. They needed to convince Ash’ala of a good reason to keep the Council of Spiders going.
The Druid and Rogue distract Hoshtar while the Cleric and Blackguard talked to Ash’ala. The Cleric explained that pretending to support Hoshtar and his involvement in the Council of Spider was good for Ash’ala. She can use him (since he’s just a male) and when the time’s right assess the situation and either support the males for real (if that is Lolth’s will) or pull the rug out from under them and use the information Hoshtar provides her to destroy the Council of Spiders and crush the upstart males. This is was win-win scenario. Strong Diplomacy and Bluff checks from the Cleric and Blackguard, combined with Bluff and Stealth checks on Hoshtar brought everyone together.
Now that they seemed to be on the same page Ash’ala, Hoshtar and Ro’kolor all return to their respective houses to inform them of what’s transpired and what they plan to do next.
This week’s encounter was different and difficult. I really like the attempt at a session driven by the role-playing; however, I felt that the mechanics were a little bit too loose for my liking. I read and reread the encounter and was still really confused. It didn’t make sense to me that the PCs, as lowly as they were with their relatively pathetic Worth scores, would have any success in swaying the minds of their NPC handlers. I also had a hard time seeing a way for all three groups to agree on a single course of action, or a way that all three groups could successfully break away from this meeting when some might be clearly opposed to each other.
I was fortunate that my group had a couple of talkers, but it was still a very fast encounter. The players that are outgoing and alpha-personalities dominated the role-playing despite playing characters that were not necessarily good at Bluff or Diplomacy. Meanwhile the PC with the highest Charisma-based skills was a relatively reserved player who barley said a word and preferred to roll skill checks.
Although I tried to include everyone in the role-playing it was clear that some were very into it while others were not. I suspect that this was typical with most groups and one or two dominant players likely controlled the encounter. I hope that DMs did their best to ensure everyone felt included and felt like they got to have their say. Regrettably, I’m sure this was not the case across the board.
Since the success/fail mechanic was so arbitrary I opted to just let the dialogue drive the overall success or failure of the interaction. Since all the PCs were Brigand D’aerthe I didn’t think they needed to convince Ro’kolor of anything. He was going to back them regardless of their position. Afterwards I wondered how much more difficult and complicated the encounter would have been for groups with all three factions represented. Did the PCs need to convince the other PCs or just their leader?
The entire encounter was complete in about 30 minutes for my group. There was no combat and minimal dice rolling. I really thought that they were going to kill either Ash’ala or Hoshtar once they realized how opposed these two were, and despite my attempt to push them into action they held their ground and decided to talk their way through the conflict.
How did this encounter work at your table? Did the PCs stick to words or did they resort to blades? Which decision did the party end up supporting in the end? Did all players participate or did a few alphas dominate the encounter? How did your DM try to get everyone involved? How long did the encounter take your group to complete?
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