Thursday, July 26, 2012

D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen Session 10

It has been quite some time since my last post although I got back at the start of this week from a vacation to the beach. Sad to say, overall it was not that pleasant. I suppose I am just not the tourist-y sort of person and that was certainly the area of Myrtle Beach, SC we were staying in. Luckily, it wasn't all bad. I had some great experiences going to Murrels Inlet, particularly visiting Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park, as well as a rather amazing arcade at Garden City; where I happened to set the high score for Xevious Arrange. It is beyond the scope of this blog, but I happen to quite enjoy arcade shooters like Xevious and more well known titles such as Galaga. I have to admit, since getting back into tabletop RPG's last year I have played or ran something almost once a week (if not more) so I did feel a bit of withdraw. While down there I managed to finally pick up a DM screen for 4e which is probably long overdue.

I feel like it is one of the more well made DM screens I have come across. I actually own very few preferring not to use them, but of the ones I have used through someone else or own I think it has an excellent layout with a lot of immediately useful tables and information. By comparison, my ST screen for White Wolf's Hunter: The Vigil is awesome looking and I love the quality of the materials used for the screen. However, almost half of one panel is wasted on detailing the Professional Training merit. This, in my opinion, is just terrible because that is really only going to come up during character creation or advancement; both times when books should be on the table and open anyways. 

Another small square on a different panel is devoted to listing the XP and Practical XP that more advanced characters beyond starting ones should begin with. Again, that is not readily useful information and would only come up during character creation. I have to imagine there's still more useful material in the core book not already featured that could have been put in these places. For example, the highly important and Hunter unique mechanic of risking Willpower could have been detailed. Likewise, the extra space could have been used to feature the more expanded and detailed equipment tables that go into more detail and depth beyond what the World of Darkness core book features (and was used in the H:TV screen).

However, perhaps that is rambling off topic. This post is about this week's season of D&D Encounters. I just happen to have WoD on the brain since I recently ran a rather fun demo of the game at my FLGS and it has snowballed out into a proper Hunter: The Vigil campaign which you can likely expect me to discuss here. I also still happen to have some more backlog of materials I've been hoping to post including some more content for Weird West, summaries and info on the LFR modeled "store campaign" I am using to promote DCC, and some player-based summaries of the Call of Cthulhu campaign I am playing in (currently my only time outside the DM seat besides the now and again sessions of LFR the store holds over the weekend).

So this week began the final chapter of Season 9 and I am very excited for it. This has been a very enjoyable season and I've liked both the plot present in the module and how things have evolved among the party members at my table. There a lot of loose ends from chapter 1 and 2 as a result of where the roleplaying took us and I am excited to play it all out. It has worked out such that each session in chapter 3 is also going to have a unique element just for our table due to choices made by the players or their back-stories. This week's dealt with Seleth Jaelre and wrapping up Meecht's sub-plot regarding his status as an escaped slave. I think it was a nice surprise, but I was a bit let down that things didn't play such that the kobold got to make the final blow. So the dice roll, I suppose.

One final bit of rambling before the session write-up, the first bits of info are leaking out about next season of Encounters. It seems the title is Council of Spiders and it appears to be sanctioned to run for a much shorter time than most season have been. There are also rumors that there might be material made available to run the adventure starting at 4th level so players can carry over their characters. I have really enjoyed these characters and with the motif of this being the first part of a trilogy, I can only hope WOTC goes through with such an idea. 

I don't know if every player would carry over their characters and it would be nice for the table to be a bit more balanced/diverse, but even a few of the "original" cast carrying on would be great. Yes, I could work out the stats for everything in the book and just run it at the higher level myself, but as a grad student going into what is likely to be my final semester I really can't afford the time for such an endeavor. I am sure the Encounters program doesn't have much time left; at least with its 4e incarnation. It would be pretty awesome, in my opinion, to go out with an epic series of adventures that have the option to carry the players across the entire Heroic Tier. 

In any case:

Chapter 3
Session 10: Flycatcher Tangle

-As the morning came, the party finished trading with Meecht's companion. Re-supplied and ready to march on in pursuit of Valan Jaelre, the party followed the tunnel leading away from the main gate of Zadzifeirryn. Quickly, the path lead into a snarled mass of crossroads, dead ends and switchbacks.

-To make matters worse, spiders were creeping along the ceilings of these twisted passageways; waiting to drop. As the party searched for a means of the proper way forward they came across a trail made of drops of blood flecked across the ground.

-Investigating the sight, Harbek identified the blood as being of elven origin. Suspecting it might be Khara's guardian, Tharinel, the party followed the path left by the blood. On the way, Halvar and Meecht examined the tracks identifying that a small band of drow had been dragging whoever happened to be bleeding.

-As they followed the twisting paths the party bumped into a squad of guards led by a young cleric that jumped from the shadows. The cleric chanted prayers to Lolth, but her faith proved weak against the party's resolve as they subdued the threat.

-Travelling on, enduring the harsh conditions of these tunnels, the party came across Tharinel badly tortured and bleeding out clung to the wall in webbing. Working together the party released him from his bindings while Drake administered a potion of healing and Harbek worked to treat his more severe injuries. Meecht seemed particularly concerned for the elf's safety. Though once warry that he might have been a drow himself, knowing of no other creatures beyond the Underdark, he easily recognized the familiar signs of torture across Tharinel's weak body.

-The party questioned what had happened and Tharinel explained that after he and Khara were swept away by Eliminster's magic, they were ambushed by Valan's Elite Guard and quickly captured. This prompted Harbek to jokingly question the wisdom and effectiveness of Elminster's teleporation shenanigans.

-Khara had remained resilient to their torture, but her pride took the better of her as she told the Elite Guard that she was the descendant of a lord of Shadowdale. After this, they separated Khara planning to send her either to the torture theater or the slave pits.

-Tharinel knew he would be of little help to the party in his injured state and asked for their help so he might escape and make his return to Shadowdale. Working together, Tharinel laid out a plan. He knew the patrol routes in the area and hiding in wait the party might create a diversion drawing the patrol's attention. This would grant Tharinel a chance to slip away unnoticed and beyond the gates of Zadzifeirryn. Meecht granted Tharinel one of the cloaks the group had pilfered from drow during their descent from Shadowdale so he might use it as a disguise.

-As the group took up hiding places, planning for an ambush, they found their plan blow apart before it ever had a chance to come to fruition. True to his brash nature, at the first sight of the patrol, Drake flew into action charging down the closest drow scout. In one swift thrust, Drake ran his rapier cleanly through his target and fell his foe in a single strike. This threw the patrol into all out chaos as they were stunned with awe and fear of such a powerful opponent.

-With the plan ruined, the party rushed into combat while Harbek direct Tharinel to sneak by around the far edge of the area. Then, as Halvar joined Drake in his frenzy, the rest of the party found themselves ambushed.

-Just as the rest of the party began to round the corner a section of a nearby wall slid back revealing a secret passageway. From within stepped forth Seleth Jaelre, the leader of Valan's Elite Guard and Meecht's former master. Cackling, her eyes fell on the kobold as she remarked that it was time to put her pet down for rest; permanently. Following this, the spellcaster let forth a powerful blast of poisonous mist that engulfed Meecht, Daveak and Harbek hurting them badly.

-Flying into a rage at the sight of his former tormentor, Meecht charged Seleth hoping to finish what began at the party's encounter with the Elite Guard. As the rest of the party joined Halvar in wiping out the patrol, Drake shifted focus to Seleth herself; ever fearing the danger those that wielded arcane power represented.

-Working alongside Meecht, the duo managed to defeat Seleth and with her dying breath the sorceress unleashed a powerful burst of arcane energy as her body quite literally tore apart in a explosion of poisonous mist. The mist gravely injured both Meecht and Drake. However, it was nothing that Harbek could not handle as he called upon the power of Moradin.

-When a single drow remained, the party knocked him unconscious and tied him up hoping to gain clear directions through the Flycatcher Tangle. As they roused their captive, Daveak leveled his crossbow threatening to fire at a moment's notice; like usual. However, it was Halvar who led the interrogation.

-The drow eagerly revealed that, after her boasting, Valan had decided to send Khara to the torture theater for a "bit of fun." However, when Daveak began to demand for directions there lest the drow face death, the tiefling recieved only laughter. Though a low ranking patrolman, even this drow held the honor to his duty in service to Valan. He knew he had failed. He was dead whether the party killed him or he returned to his superiors.

-Frustrated with their usual routine, Halvar tried a different approach intimidating the drow with talks of how he would not just face death but also find his soul tormented across the Nine Hells. Fearing the dwarf's tall tales, the drow gave the group directions that would lead them to the torture theater.

-Pleased with the result brought about by not torturing their captive for a change, Halvar suggested they let the drow go free. Harbek spoke up in agreement and addressed the drow making it clear that his only option at this point, for survival, was to flee far away. Daveak, naturally, was against letting him go but the rest of the party seemed to be in full agreement. Daveak argued that the drow could never be trusted, but Halvar was quick to remind their companion that from their point of view it seemed that he could not be trusted as well. Harbek also pointed out that letting Dorvon go free seemed to work out in their favor; minus one arrow to Harbek's shoulder.

-Accepting his situation, the drow agreed that he would immediately return to Shadowdale and flee the area amid the chaos of battle that was likely still going on there. As Damaia untied the drow and Harbek began to lead him towards the path Tharinel escaped through, Daveak took aim with his crossbow. Halvar, however, swiftly leveled his hand directly before the bolt asking Daveak if he wished to attack a companion a second time. Realizing it would again mean facing down the entire party, Daveak lowered his crossbow while the drow vanished down the path.

-As the party took some time to rest and patch up, the group was stumbled upon by a drow merchant and his bodyguards. The fighting that broke out was short and during the chaos the merchant actually managed to slip away. However, in the end the party succeeded without much trouble. Still, they realized that lingering for too long would be dangerous.

-Following the directions gained from their captive, the party began to navigate the complicated passageways of the Flycatcher Tangle. Eventually, they began to hear the shouts of a raucous crowd growing louder in the distance. The passage then opened into a huge chamber, its lower level a cavernous pit heaped with corpses.

-Sanguine light filled the area, cast from glowing fonts full of blood. The party noticed two torturers standing on a platform above; the walls of the chamber was lined with stone steps filled with excited drow watching on. These spectators cheered in cruel satisfaction as the torturer swung a heavy blade, striking down a human victim whose body tumbled off the ledge and into the pit.

-Beckoning toward a group of chained captives, all humans by their look, the torturer shouted, "Time for a new victim!"

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