During last week’s kick off session the PCs awoke in a Drow prison cell with no equipment, no armor, no weapons, and no spellbooks. Also in the cell with the PCs were 10 other NPC prisoners. Some were friendly and willing to talk and share info, while others were either unable to communicate because of language barriers or unwilling to speak because of their general disposition towards the PCs. What the heroes learned was that they were to be sold as slaves in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan.
While they waited for the caravan that would transport them to their doom, they realized they should try to escape. Finishing their lives as Drow slaves was not a palatable option for any of the PCs. So while on work detail in session 1 they plotted, schemed and gathered information to make their escape more successful. When we finished last week two prisoners (a PC and an NPC) had thrown caution to the wind and started a bloody rampage, attacking and killing Drow guards indiscriminately. Read on to see how that worked out for them.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto we ran five tables. Two were starting from the beginning as they spent last week finishing off Princes of the Apocalypse, while the other three tables continued right where they left off last week. There were 27 players all together, I had five at my table. Four of my players were with us last week, the fifth player started with another group but decided to join us after some real-life conflict at his table last week. My party consisted of the following members: Half-Orc Barbarian, Half-Orc Fighter, Elf Wizard, and two Human Rogues (one from the other table, the other a change of PCs from the person playing the Ranger last week).
Chaos at Velkynvelve
We pick things up in the Elite Barracks (#4). The Half-Orc Fighter and the NPC Orc named Ront managed to kill two Drow Guards and an Elite Drow Warrior last week. Still wounded and winded from their ordeal they quickly looted the room. Fortunately no one else was present so they had a few minutes. They quickly donned armor, grabbed weapons, and then decided it was a good time to continue with their rampage.
The Fighter decided that this was his final hurrah. He fully expected that the Drow or the Quaggoths would kill him. He had no disillusions; he knew that his life was now being measured in minutes. He figured if it was his time, he’d go out fighting. This would grant him some personal satisfaction and perhaps make it easier for the other prisoners if they managed to escape. The NPC Ront took little convincing to continue with the rampage.
Onward they went – out of the Barracks, yelling battle cries and rushing towards the Shrine to Lloth. The noise got the result they wanted and Drow guards were suddenly alerted to what was happening. Before any reasonable resistance could be mounted to stop them, the two escapees smashed through the door to the Shrine (#6) and stormed inside.
Outside of the Shrine the Drow immediately snapped into action. They may have shown outward signs of boredom and laziness, but they are highly trained warriors. It only took a few rounds for the Drow to form battle ranks. They made a coordinated effort to tackle this problem. This included having some sharp-shooters ready with hand crossbows loaded with sleep-poison coated blots. Another two Drow were calling out commands to the Quaggoths, including to keep watch over the other prisoners.
An Impromptu Escape Plan
While the battle-raging, blood-lusting Orcs were slaughtering Drow, the two Deep Gnomes Topsy & Turvy who were also on work detail when all the killing started, managed to sneak back to the cell doors. They quietly got the prisoners’ attention and told them what was happening. If they were going to escape, now might be a good time to try.
Fortunately the party now had two Rogues, a class not represented during last week’s session. Using materials the party acquired during their work detail last session, the Rogues managed to use a bolt from a Drow hand crossbow as a crude lock pick. Even with disadvantage, the two Rogues working together managed to get the cell door unlocked. This was about the time they heard the battle cry echo throughout the cavern. Before the Drow guards or any Quaggoths could foil the escape attempt, the Deep Gnome twins quickly stepped into the cell and closed the door as much as they could without locking it.
The prisoners all watched the events unfurl outside of the cell. They hoped all the Drow guards would focus on the rampaging escapees, which they did, but their hope of being left unobserved were dashed. Two Quaggoths were ordered to keep watching on the prisoners. The dumb beasts didn’t realize the door was ever-so-slightly ajar and unlocked. Something the PCs planned to take advantage of shortly.
The Quaggoths watched the prisoners intently for a few minutes but as they heard more action happening where the Orcs were fighting, their attention began to wander. The prisoners timed it perfectly and when both Quaggoths turned their heads to see if they could spot the happenings near the Shrine, the PCs rushed out of the cell and attacked.
The first two attackers tried desperately to push the unsuspecting Quaggoths off the ledge and on to the spider webs below. One was pushed off, the other was not. But as six unarmed PCs punched and kicked the beast it didn’t take long for the Quaggoth to drop. His unconscious body was tipped over the side. Of course the brief combat did result in a few PCs and NPCs taking some damage, but not enough to drop any one.
The PCs managed to rush into the Guard Tower (#10). The only Drow left inside was busy shooting his crossbow at the scene playing out near the Shrine. He didn’t realize the PCs were free until they were right on top of him. They managed to wrestle him to the ground and take his weapons before knocking him out and closing the doors to hopefully avoid detection.
Inside the Guard Tower the PCs found a lot of weapons and other supplies. They armed themselves with short swords, daggers and hand crossbows. They donned chain shirts and studded leather and grabbed shields. They loaded backpacks with rope and other climbing gear before slinging them on their backs. Armed and dangerous the PCs decided they’d try and rescue their ally. And if they could find some of their grear in the process so much the better.
Desecrating the Shrine of Lloth
The door to the shrine posed no resistance to the Fighter as he crashed through it. Inside the room a Giant Spider starred down from the ceiling at the intruders. The walls were covered in drapery that mimicked webs. On the floor mats continued the pattern. In the centre of the room was an altar. Behind that pillow were strewn around the floor encircling a hole in the floor that lead down to the lower levels.
A remarkable Perception check revealed to the intruders that the Giant Spider was purely ornamental. But the Drow Junior Priestess (Asha) resting on the pillows was not. Before she could react the Orc and Half-Orc attacked her.
Asha took two solid hits before she disengaged and descended through the floor to the lower level. The PCs were about to follow when an actual Giant Spider emerged from beneath the pillows. Gront went toe-to-toe with the Spider while the Fighter chased the Junior Priestess.
The lower level was clearly the Senior Priestesses personal chambers (#7). Asha was shouting a warning to Ilvara (the Senior Priestess) that intruders were inside the shrine. When the Fighter appeared on the lower level he immediately bull rushed Ilvara, pushing her into the hole that led down to another room below.
Asha and Fighter fought for a couple of rounds before Gront showed up to turn the tide. The Asha fell fast. Before Ilvara returned, the heroes looked around. They saw a chest and smashed it open. When they saw two potions inside they immediately drank them. Luckily they were healing potions and not Drow sleep poison. They also spotted the PCs’ gear. But before they could take anything the Priestess returned.
The heroes took scathing hits from her scourge weapon but neither dropped. They managed to both score quick crits on the Priestess reducing her hit points considerably. It was at about his time that the Fighter and Ront heard Drow reinforcements entering the Shrine above. This was likely their final battle. There would be no mercy.
Battle on the Bridge
Back in the Guard Post the PCs decided to take the offensive. Few NPCs liked this idea. They instead recommended using the ropes to climb down and escape now. The heroes wanted to help their friend and recover their gear if possible. Only three NPCs joined the fight: Buppido, Eldeth, and Derendil. The rest fled.
The PCs used ranged attacks to launch an initial volley at the Quaggoths before charging over the bridge and engaging in melee. After a quick round and a few good hits the Wizard used Sleep to get two Quaggoths. Their sleeping bodies were rolled of the ledge and onto the webs below.
The disciplined Drow formed ranks and attacked. Four Drow guards advanced to engage in melee while four others held back and fired crossbows. The PCs managed to stay on their feet long enough to get to the Shrine doors. However two Drow Guards had already slipped away from the melee and gone inside. The Wizard and Rogue #2 were the only PCs to get into the Shrine. The others stayed out and fought the Drow and the remaining Quaggoths.
The Wizard immediately used Magic Missile to ensure hits on the closest Drow and managed to drop him fast. The Rogue took a good hit but managed to drop the other Guard with help from the sword-wielding Wizard. They managed to avoid attacks from the Giant Spider as they both dropped down to the lower level where they could hear the Orcs fighting.
Outside two NPC and one PC had fallen unconscious from Drow sleep poison. It wasn’t looking good for the heroes or their escape. But a round later two sleepers (Rogue#1 and Eldeth) were both awakened and got back in the fight. They managed to hold their ground and deny any Drow or Quaggoth reinforcements from entering the Shrine.
In Ilvara’s Quarters there were now four heroes battling the lone Priestess. She managed to drop the Half-Orc and Gront in a single round. But the Half-Orc’s racial ability kept him at 1 hit point. The Wizard, Rogue and Fighter all attacked her. With yet another timely crit from the Fighter he managed to gravely wound her. She disengaged, dropped to the lower level, and began healing herself. The PCs quickly grabbed what gear they could and got out of the Shrine.
Good Timing/Bad Timing
As the PCs were about to regroup and make their final stand a droning buzzing sound began to echo throughout the cavern. From one of the passages came four flying bug-like Demons battling two flying vulture-like Demons. The Drow immediately shifted their focus to defending themselves from a potential attack by these six Demons flying about. The PCs took advantage of the distraction and fled. The three PCs ran out of the Shrine, gear in hand and ran.
Fortunately the NPCs who’d already fled had left ropes attached to the ledges. The party used those ropes to make an accelerated descent. The Giant Spiders who normally make their home on the webs were equally distracted by the Demons. The heroes managed to avoid fighting the Spiders and got all the way to the ground level. They had three tunnels all heading in different directions. Which route should the y choose? We’ll find out next week.
Before I go into my editorial commentary I’d like to point out that these weekly posts are not always a literal, blow-by-blow of what happened. Sometimes a forget details or mix up the exact order in which things happened. I play at two stores and sometimes I even mix up some of the specifics between my two groups. I try to give a high level overview to paint a picture of what happened. Some of the role-playing and talking parts are often summarized into just a few lines despite taking 30-60 minutes of real time. The intent is that people who can’t play can still get a sense of how things are going. It also serves as a good primer for people who missed a week at their FLGS. If you really want to know the exact way things played out, I encourage you to listen to the actual play recordings we post below.
This week’s session was rife with impossibilities. I fully expected there would be two dead prisoners in the first few minutes of the session but they both managed to hang in there for almost the whole night. It was a combination of great rolls by the players, poor rolls by the DM, using inspiration to make the impossible possible, and in a few cases using good tactics. I’m also a big believer that the PCs are the stars of the TV show that is D&D Encounters so they should be able to do extraordinary things sometimes. No one wants to watch a show where the heroes are killed in the first few episodes. That’s not to say I pull punches or fudge rolls often just to ensure the PCs survive. I let the dice fall where they may which is why I like to roll in the open. And if a player does something stupid despite reasonable warning then their fate is their own.
Some DMs may feel that it’s their job to make the PCs work for every inch of ground and struggle for every victory. For some groups that may be what the players indeed want from their sessions. In my case we have a lot of younger players who want to have fun. For them this is a casual game. They take it seriously, but they’re not super-hardcore. They like challenges, and tough opponents, but they want to be heroes and experience the thrill of victory. So even though the Drow are deadly, I’m not going to make things overly and unnecessarily difficult if it’s not absolutely required.
I’ll admit that I didn’t expect the PCs to escape quite so quickly. I hoped they’d spend a bit more time trying to learn more about the other prisoners, the Underdark, and the coming Drow caravan. As it is now they’re about to run in a random direction without information, allies, or supplies. They’ll learn very quickly that there are more dangerous things than Drow in the Underdark. Suddenly being a prisoner may seem like a better option. We’ll see what the PCs decide to do next week. We’ll see which NPCs they turn to for help and which NPCs bugger off, never to be seen from again. And we’ll see if they can find food in this subterranean environment. The real adventure is just beginning for these PCs.
How have things progressed with your group? Are you still prisoners or have you escaped yet? Which NPCs have the players befriended? Who do they trust? Who have their alienated?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
- Listen to Derek Myers, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (from 20ft Radius) recount our weekly experience at D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective tables and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.
Actual Play Podcasts
- Each week we record our D&D Encounters session and make it 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.