We had to run this session a day late due to 4th of July festivities. My table is still one session ahead due to my planning to account for the week we will miss due to me being out of the state at the time. Next week we'll wrap up Chapter 2 and then properly rejoin every other Encounters table for the start of Chapter 3. I'm particularly excited for Chapter 3 because for my table it's definitely going to be the big pay-off for all the changes that have been made. I suppose at that point I will see just how well everything pans out.
I made a major goof with the combat encounter for this week. Drake's player was back having missed the week before due to a cold. Trying to incorporate his character's return in an interesting way I had him begin the battle at the very lowest level of the Demonspur as if he had entered the chamber from another path and was infiltrating it from below. The key problem became that Drake charged right into battle and found himself having to fight five or so enemies at once; a problem for a squishy Thief. Sure, with tactics it could have been managed like forcing them into a choke point at the room entrance but it was still a poor thought on my part.
Thus, it was no surprise that Drake got overwhelmed and went down. Luckily, it did make things a lot more dramatic and the party managed to get their Cleric down to him asap and get him back in the fight. I am consistently impressed each session at just as good the guy running their Cleric is at the leader role. He ends every fight with virtually every healing power expended, but has always made the most out of every use. Halvar's player missed this week, likely due to the scheduling shenanigans, so his character was left to the background for lack of any obviously creative way to write him out for a session. I didn't expect them to have to fight the cave spider, but things just sort of went that way. Luckily, true to the nature of elite solos without some sort of auto or extra actions, it was easily overwhelmed and defeated without wearing the party thin or depleting too many resources.
The feuding between Drake and Daveak is always enjoyable and it was nice to have that aspect back again. Damaia's player is usually pretty passive so it was also entertaining to have her take center stage for a change and ignite a goblin revolution. It was a rare moment where the party came out as true heroes and surprisingly there was no torture session post-battle this week. However, there was interest in capturing the Bugbear once the party realized no more drow were joining the fight. The usual routine was likely spared by Drake's player being so determined to bull rush the Bugbear and toss him into the web beneath the Demonspur. In any case, without further ado:
-As the party advanced stealthily towards the stalactite they noticed that from some of the various other bridges in the chamber there appeared to be small squads of drow guiding goblin slaves bound by chains into the structure.
-Sneaking ahead, Meecht managed to better inspect the stalactite noting it seemed to primarily have four levels. He also managed to overhear a drow taunting some of the goblins referring to the location as being called the Demonspur. His words seemed to suggest the Demonspur was a sort of outpost for Zadzifeirryn where slaves were processed before being moved elsewhere.
-Elsewhere, at the lowest level of the Demonspur, Drake had emerged from the tunnel he had been following. After losing track of the group and becoming lost in the maze-like cave passages of the Underdark, Drake's exploration had guided him here. Intent of searching for signs of his companions, Drake planned to infiltrate the large drow-infested structure from the lowest level.
-Being led by Meecht and Daveak, the party launched a surprise attack on the Demonspur. The drow seemed to be in the process of arming the goblins. Taking advantage of this situation, the party was able to get some quick strikes in sending the goblins into confusion.
-Meanwhile, Drake snuck in from the lowest level of the Demonspur encountering a lone drow instructing a Bugbear and several goblins. Hoping to drop the largest threat first, Drake wrecklessly charged the Bugbear critically wounding the hulking thug and sending it into a battle frenzy.
-Hearing the battle cries of the pirate from below, the party realized that amid the chaos of battle they had been reunited with Drake. As the goblins joined the fight half-heartedly, Harbek began trying to talk down the band reasoning that if they supported them in the fight then they could become free from slavery to the drow. However, the goblins seemed to take little stock into the Cleric's words reasoning that the drow would win the battle and then they would be killed for turning against them.
-While Halvar, Meecht and Daveak made short work of the drow on the main level alongside Harbek and Damaia, Drake found the tide of battle quickly turning against him as a lone drow and the Bugbear began to overwhelm him. Hearing his cries for help, Harbek knew they had to advance below somehow and rescue their ally.
-In another rare moment of concern for the party as a whole, Damaia took center stage summoning a show of arcane power as she began a grandoise speech bluffing up the party's true ability as near legendary. She described their group as saviors sweeping through the Underdark to free all the races of the Underdark being enslaved by House Jaelre and that now was the time to fight. Inspired by her words, the majority of goblins turned on their masters and joined the party's side. As the final drow fell on their floor, the party began to rush below to assist Drake.
-However, the goblins on the floor below were not yet convinced despite seeing their bretheren; reasoning that they must be foolish. As the Bugbear joined the drow in ganging up on Drake, the drow ordered the goblins to gather at the floor's entrance creating a choke point at the stairs which circled around the outside of the Demonspur forcing the party to fight one by one to try and get access.
-Just as Drake fell unconscious and began bleeding out, the party managed to orient themselves just right so Harbek could call upon Moradin and get the pirate back on his feet and fighting. Using the goblins around her to once again fluff up her words, Damaia again bluffed about the party and their legacy. With her near-perfect acting supported by the heroic fervor many of the goblins held, the rest of the goblins joined their bretheren. Alongside the party, the goblins swarmed the remaining drow while Drake continued to duel one on one with the Bugbear.
-As the final drow fell, one of the goblins stepped forth taking charge of the situation. Rallying the rest in his efforts, he proposed that they use the momentum started by the party and march to the higher levels of the Demonspur and liberate all the slaves held within. As they cheered and shouted, the goblins began marching above.
-Meanwhile, Drake remained frustrated with the Bugbear as they traded blows back and forth. In a desperate attempt to outwit his opponent, the pirate managed to shift around his foe and shove him off one of the rope bridges connected to the Demonspur forcing him to plummet twenty five feet below and into the large spider web that awaited beneath the stalactite.
-The second the Bugbear landed, the vibrations of the web drew forth a giant cave spider. It quickly devoured its prey and then turned its gaze on the party. Harbek led the group in retreating within the Demonspur hoping to draw the spider in and surround it to their advantage. However, in a puzzling moment Daveak used the spidersilk rope stolen from Kietti's body to snag the spider and begin trying to pull it up.
-As the party watched on in horror, they questioned the Tiefling's logic as the cave spider began using the spidersilk rope as a means to climb faster. Daveak merely suggested that they would have to face it anyways, so they might as well get on with it. Paying the price for his decision, the cave spider lashed out quickly biting Daveak twice rendering the Rogue unconscious.
-It was a hard fight, particularly after already exhausting themselves against the drow, but the party persisted. Harbek managed to get Daveak back into the fight and working together our heroes managed to slay the cave spider as well.
-After the battle, the party met up with the goblin who had taken over leading the revolt. Recalling what they had learned from the Jaelre Elite, the party inquired about Khara and Tharinel prompting the goblin to reveal that the duo had, in fact, be within the Demonspur for a short while. However, they were swiftly transported, along with the Pendant of Ashaba, away and on towards Zadzifeirryn itself. The goblin then offered Harbek the enchanted shield that Khara had been using which was kept behind as loot for the forces at the Demonspur.
-As they chatted with the goblins, the party gathered some lore about the Demonspur itself. Ages ago, the Demonspur was rumored to be a site that was used to summon demons; though there were no signs of such activity in recent years. When the drow ruled Shadowdale, the Demonspur was a bustling trading post for goods from the surface and gems mined from the Underdark with a special rope bridge leading to a short path directly to Shadowdale. When Shadowdale fell from drow control, this path was sealed and the rope bridge destroyed.
-In recent time, the Demonspur was mostly abandoned or made home to just a small band of renegade drow. When Valan moved through to seize Zadzifeirryn, he put the Demonspur back to proper use intending to utilize the location as an advanced outpost as well as a processing area for slaves.
-The goblins thanked the party for their support and swore never to forget their kindness nor their help in liberating the Demonspur and all the slaves held within. For a rare moment, the party truly felt as if they had accomplished a heroic deed. Harbek inquired about any dangers the goblins might know of that would await them as their quest continued. One managed to inform the group that aside from avoiding any patrols their next major issue would be sneaking past the gates of Zadzifeirryn itself.
-Having established mutual friendship, the party bid the goblins farewell while they continued celebrating their victory. As they exited the chamber housing the Demonspur their adventure continued. However, they did not travel far before Daveak drew his crossbow turning it on Drake. Immediately, he posed a single question to the party: how do we know this man is truly Drake and not a Doppleganger or other trickster working for Valan?
-Instinctively, Drake drew his rapier and flew into a frenzy arguing with Daveak. As the duo let their words fly back and forth, Harbek spoke in assurance that it was Drake. He had used the same reckless fighting style in battle they had come to know the pirate for and only the real Drake could argue so easily with Daveak.
-As the two continued to comically argue, the party marched on. After a few miles of travel, the party came to a larger cavern with a vast wall that stretched from floor to ceiling. Two porticullises blocked a walkway passing between the wall that exposed space fronted by a ledge with arrow slots visible above the ground. They had reached the gates of Zadzifeirryn. However, to their surprise, nearby chained to the wall itself like a gatekeeper of sorts rested an Ogre...