Thursday, September 27, 2012

D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders Session 04+05

Last week was devoid of my usual Encounters update. A lot happened so perhaps I'll explain that first before we get all caught up. In a stroke of fortune, our little RPG group has been expanding rapidly. Returning player here or there. Then they brought a friend. Two new people here. Two more new people there and then one of them brings a friend. All of this was really not a problem at first because some had joined in via our Saturday sessions (more DCC play reports on the way).

However, it all kind of exploded last week when pretty much all the new players converged in for Encounters. I have been our store's sole DM for the past two seasons because we just did not have the numbers to support a second table. Cue my surprise when I get to run a session for eleven players. There was really no other way around it. If you're familiar with 4e then I know you're probably thinking impossible. Well, it moved a bit slower but we did it. Several were still using pregens that I hadn't made the time to bump up past level 1, so that with some liberal tweaking allowed the combat encounter to still present a challenge.

However, with my drive for continuity in the summaries I decided not to write up the giant drow strike force that descended on the Council of Spiders. All the players seemed intent on coming back, which is great, but there was no way to keep running the season for a table of eleven. So I made a call for new DM's. Worked out one of the vets who is pretty new to DMing, but experienced with the rules, to take over a second table starting this week. I decided to wait and see what players would make up my table and retcon Session 4 to only include them and go from there.

This week went well enough. We ended up with enough for two tables of five players and there were two people that missed who could be back again in the future so an even six/six perhaps down the line. I really love that we're back up to two tables. It was like that when I joined the group over a year ago and quickly diminished down to one. It wasn't without some issues. The DM for table two is still pretty new to DMing 4e, but he's eager to work at it and that's what counts in my book. We all have to start at some point. A lot of the vets playing at the time had to walk me through my first sessions of 4e which happened to be LFR modules. Looking back over season 08 of Encounters, my first season to run, I realize a lot of mistakes and problems I had. Certainly a learning process, but this was a great start for the rest of the season in my book.

Next week is primarily a roleplaying session and I'll be interested in seeing how that plays out. This is the first Encounters season I have seen where there has been such a huge level of divergence that can occur. Speaking of divergence, I really wish I could clone myself to watch over Table 2's sessions as well. The key NPC to rescue died in their run this week so already each Table has grown off into a different direction. Good times, but in any case here's a double-shot of summaries:

Session 04: Wizard Clash
-Once more, the party gathered in the same small cavern in the Eastways where their adventure had first started. However, this time there were some new faces and one of their three leaders were missing. Ash'ala Melarn was quick to explain the situation. She explained that a certain faction, the Council of Spiders, having taken Lolth's demand for the Demon Weave to its extreme feel that wizards now deserve a seat on the Ruling Council of Menzoberranzan. Dangerous and foolish ideals, in Ash'ala's own words.

-Smirking, Ro'kolor questioned if the group was curious about the new faces and the absence of Hoshtar. From the last mission, only Zarra Melarn and Solvayas were present. Stating that he needed further training, Hoshtar had relieved Phaeqel of his duties and assigned a more experienced mage, Drisdhaun Xorlarrin in his stead. Zaketrin had matters of her own to deal with among House Melarn. Furthermore, with a slew of new jobs coming in Ro'kolor was forced to rearrange the duties of his men. To make up for the differences, he brought forth Charon and Belgos to bolster the party's strength.

-As for Hosthar, Ash'ala took over explaining as she told the party that he had been kidnapped by the Council of Spiders. They had learned that the Council was using a building in the ruins of the old compound of House Srune'Lett as a meeting place and suspected that Hoshtar was held there.

-Ro'kolor noted that moving against them openly would be unwise as it might force the issue to a head and stir up open warfare. He added that House Baenre wouldn't want that. This confirmed, for the first time, exactly what House had employed the Bregan D'aerthe to act on their behalf in these matters. Smiling, Ash'ala granted the party their mission: find the Council members by any means, rescue Hoshtar and don't get discovered.

-After a short break to confer with their respective members in private, the faction representatives bid the party farewell as they set off for their destination. House Srune'Lett fell during the War of the Spider Queen, and its impressive compound in the neighborhood of Narbondellyn, a fashionable district of elegant manors, eclectic artisans and rising socialites, fell with them. In the midst of such sophistication, the ruins of the Srune'Lett compound made for a terrible blemish. The walls surrounding the compound were crumbled and breached in several locations. The tall spires that was once its most prominent feature held a gaping hole near its top.

-According to the intelligence given to them, the party knew the wizards were hiding in one of the smaller buildings; which were still mostly intact. As they approached, they could see black curtains hanging over windows, suggesting that the place was indeed inhabited and perhaps being used for secret purposes.

-Following a wide set of stone steps, the party entered an open plaza with a large basin of water set in the floor. Ahead, they saw doors leading in the building to the left, to the right and straight ahead. Standing near the doors were two sentries with long spears in defensive stances. Upon sighting the party, they shifted nervously in place.

-Approaching the guards, Solvayas and Charon managed to convince them that they were there for Hoshtar; a veiled truth. The guards automatically assumed Hoshtar had sent for allies to come join in the talks as well. This reference brought suspicion among the party. However, the way inside was cleared and thus they advanced. Within the party passed several spellcasters. Some resided in a large area designed as personal sleeping quarters and another long hallway held a library. Curiously, some of these members of the Council of Spiders bore the masks of House Xorlarrin members.

-In the central chamber, the group meet with an elderly member of the Council of Spiders. He seemed friendly and eager to have more recruits for their cause. However, little seemed outwardly aggressive about his feelings on the matter. The wizard confirmed that Hoshtar was present for a peaceful meeting with his leaders. However, just then a deep gong resounded through the complex. At this warning sign, all those present labeled the party as intruders and attacked.

-The ensuing battle was quite fierce. Surrounded on all sides, the party fought a tough battle despite many of the wizards present being only apprentices. Belgos, in particular, had a rough time as he found himself isolated and cornered in the library by one of the guards. However, with some quick footwork he was able to climb atop a bookshelf just in time to avoid a swing of the guard's spear. Running from the top of bookshelf to bookshelf, he used this vantage point to pepper his foes with arrows.

-At Zarra's command, the party made sure to incapacitate the wizards present; planning to take them in for harsh interrogation. As Solvayas used his spider form to encase the captives in webbing, they questioned the group learning that the masked members were in fact low ranking members of House Xorlarrin interested in the ideals of the Council of Spiders. Drisdhaun noted their names and meanwhile, Charon worked in the shadows out of sight carrying out the task Ro'kolor had appointed to the Bregan D'aerthe members among the party.

-With the main floor secured and knowing Hoshtar was down below, the party advanced following a spiral staircase to the lower level. There, they found a drow resting at a large desk, chair kicked back, holding a rapier and glaring towards them. "And so it begins," he said with a sneer, "Thank you, dear friends, for starting what I'm sure will be a perfectly lovely war."

Session 05: Secrets & Lies
-Faced with this mysterious drow, but noting his unwillingness to fight immediately, the party tried to question him as much as possible for what information could be gained. Introducing himself as Merinid Dalael, he refused to speak of his benefactors but merely said that they were no friends to the Spider Queen. Worried for Hoshtar, Drisdhaun asked of his fate. Merinid reassured them that he was alive as "his guest" and that he wouldn't be leaving soon.

-Curious about his connection in all of this, Solvayas questioned why the wizards upstairs thought Hoshtar was present as a guest. Merinid confirmed that this was the case. He had come for a meeting with elders of the Council of Spiders. However, that meeting was cut short and the elders would never speak again; after Merinid's intervention. Continuing this line of thought, Solvayas asked what Merinid wanted with a high ranking member of House Xorlarrin. However, laughing, Merinid informed the party that Hoshtar had already served his purpose: provoking the priestesses to strike against the Council of Spiders via the party who were little more than helpless pawns of the Spider Queen.

-Charon stated that it had been their task from the Bregan D'aerthe to recover contract. Solvayas added that their pride for completing contracts meant they couldn't back down. Merinid stated that he felt the same way and thus proposed they would simply have to clash and see whose resolve was superior. Kicking off from the desk, Merinid rolled back and escaped down the adjoined hallway as he left behind a cloud of darkness obscuring the path ahead.

-As the party rushed to try and catch up to the assassin, they were beset by mysterious creatures made from shadows. Some hunched over like small inhuman lurking beasts and yet others that seemed purely humanoid and clad in heavy armor. Another harsh battle awaited the party as these shadow creatures blocked their hopes of pursing Merinid who had all but vanished.

-Solvayas, taking the lead, felt the brunt of these creatures' wrath and it was only by Zarra's will to invoke Lolth's power that he remained in the fight. Meanwhile, Beglos and Charon acted at range firing arrows as support. As the opposition thinned, thanks in part due to Drisdhaun's use of arcane light to weaken the shadow-creatures' power, Charon rushed ahead hoping to find Hoshtar or track down Merinid. Opening the first door he came to and peering through, the rogue was surprised by the assassin taking a painful strike from his rapier.

-Cackling, Merinid rushed down the steps that were adjoined by this doorway happy to continue this game of cat and mouse with the party. However, his escape was cut short as Solvayas, tired of the games, summoned forth a swarm of spiders that tripped the agile assassin.

-As he fell, Merinid couldn't help but further taunt the party as he cried out, "Do you think the houses of these poor fools will suffer such an attack upon their members without retaliation? Do you think the wizards of the city will allow the slaughter of so many of their own to go unpunished? Tension is already at a boiling point, thanks to the Avatar of Lolth. You have simply provided the spark to ignite these flames!"

-Even as the party ganged up on him, Merinid managed to slip away and reach an alchemical lab at the end of the hallway. There, the party found the corpses of two Council wizards and Merinid who had Hoshtar held with a dagger at his throat. The Xorlarrin representative looked badly beaten, but still alive. Laughing, Merinid pointed out that Hoshtar was worth more alive to the party at this point than to him. If any approached him too close or continued their attacks then Hoshtar would die.

-Ever ready to accept such a challenge, Belgos drew a single arrow and aiming carefully he let a shot fly at Merinid. The hunter's aim struck true and as the arrow pierced Merinid's wrist, the assassin lost his grip on the dagger. Acting quickly, Solvayas rushed down the hall morphing into his spider form even as he moved using the momentum to slam against Hoshtar and force him free of Merinid's grasp. Disarmed and unbalanced, Drisdhaun moved in to finish things against the crafty assassin as he called forth bolts of magic missile rendering him unconscious.

-With Hoshtar saved, the party took a moment to treat his wounds ensuring he would be able to safely make the travel back home. However, Zarra demanded to know about Hoshtar's involvement with the Council of Spiders. However, from Hoshtar's point of view this was a simple matter. He explained that his cousin, Raelaryn, invited him to speak with a wizard of House Barrison Del'Armgo about the Council's aims.

-These were also the two who laid dead on the floor. They had hoped to secure Hoshtar's support knowing that such a well respected member of House Xorlarrin would surely draw many to their cause. Yet Hoshtar stated that he had no interest in the Council of Spiders. While he supported the crafting of the Demon Weave, he remained dedicated to Lolth's command.

-Further information came forth during these discussions as well. A number of wizards from Houses in Menzoberranzan had sided with the Council, but thus far no one prominent member had emerged to act as a guiding force; perhaps the role they desired Hoshtar to fill. The backbone of the Council is compromised of members from House Xorlarrin and House Barrison Del'Armgo; the two Houses that favor spellcasters and give their wizards the most authority and leeway in their actions.

-Before his death, Raelryn had mentioned to Hoshtar that he suspected that the Archmage of Menzoberranzan, Gromph Baenre himself, was sympathetic to the Council's cause and was contemplating giving his full support; yet no proof was provided. As for the assassin, Hoshtar was not familiar with him but knew it was clear that whoever he answered to was clearly trying to fan the sparks of tension into full on flames driving a wedge between priestesses and wizards to launch a civil war. He suggested they let Ro'kolor interrogate Merinid once they were back safely within the city.

-As the party prepared to transfer back their captives, they explored the alchemy lab. Several magic items were found, leftovers from eons ago when this site still found regular use. Zarra found Solvayas' actions suspicious and questioned him suspecting foul-play. He was quick to reply that he was searching the bodies for anything of value. Zarra found something off about his excuse. However, Charon quickly came to support his fellow mercenary backing up the story with some fast-talk. Uneasy, Zarra dropped the matter pleased enough that their mission had gone smoothly.

-More importantly, as he mulled over things, Drisdhaun had a revelation. Recalling a passage from an obscure history book he had once read, Drisdhaun identified the shadowy creatures that Merinid had employed as having a tie to the Shadowfell. In all of the history of Menzoberranzan, such creatures had ties to only one group: the Jaezred Chaulssin.

-They were a secretive, patriarchal order of assassins with mysterious ties to the Shadowfell. During the War of the Spider Queen over a century ago, the Jaezred Chaulssin spurred both a horde of demonic orcs and an army of duergar to attack Menzoberranzan. Their stated goal has always been to free the drow race from Lolth's tyranny by any means necessary. If they truly were active again, then starting a civil war easily fit their past methods.

-With such ominous events in the air, the party returned to check in with Ash'ala and Ro'kolor. Once the captives were secured, they came before the three representatives of the triumvirate. With grave interest they listened to the party's account of what had transpired. After the briefing was finished, a long silence fell as the drow pondered the significance of what was happening.

-"Well," Ash'ala said at last, "It appears Menzoberranzan lies on the brink of civil war, how will our houses respond? This requires much thought and discussion. I urge you all to spend the night to gather your thoughts. Tomorrow, we shall meet and discuss all that has transpired and discover the best course for our alliance to follow." Hoshtar and Ro'kolor gave their agreement and the party was dismissed with another mission accomplished.

-Once more, each leader me with their respective members to see how well their representatives handled the secret tasks appointed to them. First, Drisdhaun checked in to see how Hoshtar was doing. Hafnein had already told him of the task he granted to the up and coming wizard. Wasting no time, already recovering well, Hoshtar asked what Drisdhaun had learned. He was pleased to discover all the House Xorlarrin wizards had been spared death and furthermore, Drisdhaun had gathered all their names. Hosthar stated that he would pass this information on to Ravel, the head of their House and that Hafnein would most certainly be pleased as well.

-Elsewhere, Ash'ala conferred with Zarra to see what she had learned about Hoshtar's role in the situation. Zarra confirmed that Ash'ala's suspicions that Hoshtar had went willingly to meet with the Council of Spiders was true. However, Zarra went on to fully give the excuse Hoshtar had given and his sincerity in declining their offer. Still, Ash'ala felt uneasy knowing that Hoshtar carried out such actions in secrecy.

-Finally, Solvayas, Beglos and Charon met with Ro'kolor at one of the Bregan D'aerthe's usual haunts. They arrived just in time to see Merinid Dalael being escorted to the chambers below; assuredly facing cruel torture to pry any information he held. Eager to learn how they had performed their mission, Ro'kolor listened to their account. The three mercenaries had easily planted evidence of House Melarn's involvement throughout the building and at the same time, Solvayas had rather stealthily removed all traces of House Xorlarrin's presence without the rest of the party's knowledge. Laughing happily, Ro'kolor commended the trio on a job well done and assured them that this would be good for business in the future.

-The priestesses who desire to uphold the old ways of Lolth and preserve the status quo and the wizards that see the Demon Weave as Lolth's calling for those with arcane might to rise in rank and status. These two opposing forces seem to be drawing further and further into the fever pitch of war. Amid this uneasy tension, the party suspects, the Jaezred Chaulssin lurks manipulating both sides to promote an all out civil war that might tear the city apart. The party was left with much to think about. Tomorrow, the course of the triumvirate and perhaps even the future of Menzoberranzan would be decided...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders Session 03

It's hard to believe that the first Chapter of "Council of Spiders" has come to a close. This season is screaming along at top speed which is a stark contrast to how "Web of the Spider Queen" went. Tonight was the big climax against the initial antagonist who I think the module actually played rather well for a small time foe. I had some fun ad-libbing some lines causing some back and forth banter between her and our table's Mage. Clashes of idealism are always one of my favorite elements in these kinds of stories, so I am enjoying the split opinions on Lolth's will and the Demon Weave.

No real complications for this session on my end. I had fun with Iyelle's powers. Eowam's player didn't feel very threatened by the ongoing five poison damage until I stacked on her minor power that managed to hit and bump that up to 10 and tack on Weakened at the same time. Pretty standard set-up with the hobgoblins holding down a defensive line on behalf of their leader. Unfortunately, Zaketrin's player missed again and both Zarra and Syndrina were unable to make it out as well. Despite expecting a smaller sized party, we actually bumped back up to the usual amount as two new players turned out interested in trying out Encounters.

Initially they just wanted to watch, but at our encouragement we got them to each select and pre-gen and storm the battlefield as reinforcements sent by Menzoberranzan. Thus our cloud of heroes grows further adding Ryltar the Slayer and Belgos the Hunter. No write-ups on them yet. Since they came in during the middle of things, I decided we'd set their faction affiliation and other matters with the start of Chapter 2. Both new players caught on pretty quick and they seemed to have a good time, so that was excellent for me. I'm lucky to have a table that is mostly now veterans both to 4e and to Encounters so everyone tends to be helpful; making it easy to teach new players. I have a great time every week with Encounters, but there's something especially nice about new players turning out and having a good time as well. 

Without further ado, the end of Chapter 1:

Session 03: Sezz'ia Outpost
-To the right of the party a narrow passage quickly turned into natural tunnel again and then bent back to the left. On their left, a worked stone wall jutted into the passage, but around it was a large stone plaza. Acting carefully, Solvayas searched for traps but noted none in the area. At Eowam's reminder, they also checked the ceiling for lurking creatures but found it devoid of threats as well.

-Sneaking ahead, Eowam moved into the small area of worked stone to the left and discovered its far wall held arrow slits. As he approached he noticed a female drow in the garb of a Priestess standing in the central cavern; her gaze locked on a smooth wall of sheer obsidian. She seemed to be running her hands over the surface as if feeling for cracks or perhaps magic within the wall. Around her three burly hobgolbins in heavy armor were spread about. Each one fidgeted slightly and grimaced each time one would make a sound.

-As the rest of the party quietly tried to advance, Phaeqel accidentally made a sound drawing the attention of the hobgoblins. Acting quickly, Eowam had his spider companion crawl forth and move around at random acting as though it was the source of that sound. Realizing the source of the noise was only natural, buying the bluff, the hobgoblins went back to standing guard as the drow studied the wall undeterred.

-With the party positioned and ready, Phaeqel decided to cast Sleep as a means of taking their enemy by surprise. However, the spell had little effect only forcing a single hobgoblin to begin feeling drowsy. "I thought you dead. Never did I expect you'd catch up to me," the female drow called out having been alerted by the spellcasting.

-However, as she turned the drow Priestess was able to peer just beyond the end of the nearby wall and noticed Phaeqel and Eowam. This caused her cruel smile to drop as her eyes widened into shock and she called out, "You are not who I thought you were. What is your business here? House Faen Tlabbar has claimed this site." Meanwhile, the hobgoblins looked to her as if awaiting the command to attack.

-As the party engaged in dialogue, the priestess confirmed that she was Iyelle; the one who betrayed the original expedition party. She went on to explain that it was folly to claim the site's power for Lolth. She then added that it was not Lolth's will that guided this decision, but the wizards who desired such power themselves.

-Solvayas pointed out that it had been Lolth's command that the site be drained for her Demon Weave. However, Iyelle countered that the world had survived and their goddess prospered for eons without the Demon Weave. So too could it continue without it. The party re-affirmed that it had been orders from Lolth's prophet Danifae that all drow seek to support in creating the Demon Weave. This forced Iyelle to state that she could not believe the will of Lolth would involve elevating the males and wizards to the same status as her faithful priestesses.

-Phaeqel called back that one could not ignore the words of Lolth when spoken through her prophet. However, Iyelle refused to agree in any part. She shouted back that the party claimed to serve the will of Lolth and yet the change in status for wizards and males would undermine her old ways. They could not both serve and undermine her at the same time.

-However, the party countered that even Lolth's mind could change and their orders were clear. Realizing they could come to no understanding, Iyelled proclaimed that their wills would thus face off and victory would shine on the one that was just. Rushing in on her own, Iyelle unleashed a blast of venomous webs that enveloped Eowam. Though his magical amulet allowed him to resist the effects of the poison, he quickly found that overwhelmed. Chanting a prayer to Lolth, Iyelle strengthened the effect of the poison weakening Eowam as a side effect.

-Eager to fight back against the Priestess, Phaeqel rushed ahead of the group and found himself overwhelmed as his spell fizzled out with little effect. Marching in, two hobgolbins ganged up on the Mage quickly beating him to within an inch of his life. It seemed these hobgoblins were expertly trained and would prove troublesome.

-However, suddenly two new drow joined the fight. Rushing from the path the party had traveled, a powerful Slayer known as Ryltar and another Hunter named Belgos emerged. The duo had been additional reinforcements sent by the Triumvirate after Thezz returned to Menzoberranzan and spoke of the treachery that had occurred. With their numbers bolstered, things turned in favor of the party.

-Ryltar wasted no time charging into battle and quickly engaged the hobgoblins with his great sword alongside Solvayas and Chali; granting the latter a chance to weave some divine magic and heal Phaeqel's wounds. Meanwhile, Belgos took up rank with Eowam unleashing a hail of arrows at their enemy. Phaeqel proved little help as he continued to stumble over the proper incantations for his spells; failing to cast more often than not.

-Working together, they brought down each hobgoblin one by one until only Iyelle remained. Even in the face of defeat, the proud Priestess defiantly fought on. As they closed in, Solvayas called out to capture her alive so that she might be questioned further back in Menzoberranzan. Heeding this suggestion, Ryltar rushed in and struck Iyelle with the hilt of his blade rendering her unconscious. In this state, Solvayas used his wild shape form to tie the rogue priestess up in webbing and cover her mouth so they might transport her easily.

-With the battle resolved, the party began to look at the wall Iyelle had been studying. Standing before them perfectly smooth and straight, the wall was the dusky translucent gray of obsidian, though it lacked the fracture pattern typical of that stone. It extended all the way to the roof of the cavern, with no apparent cracks, inscriptions or other features marring its surface. The wall gave off a faint hum, though something didn't sound right about it.

-Studying it carefully, Belgos was able to make out that it was more than just a simple hum. In fact, it was two voices chanting something. Though it was difficult to make out the exact words. Listening carefully and using his arcane knowledge, Phaeqel was able to work out the two voices. The first was a woman's chanting a litany in Elven. He recalled this litany as a prayer to Lolth thanking her for all the blessings she bestowed on their race. The second was a male voice that was reciting syllables used by apprentice drow to help them memorized arcane principles. These basic chants were ones even Phaeqel learned as he began to master the spellcasting years ago.

-Placing his hand on the obsidian wall, Phaeqel began to chant along to the male voice. Cautious of his actions, Eowam drew and arrow to his great bow keeping it ready just in case. However, there was no threat. As Phaeqel continued to chant, the female voice grew louder as if trying to break his concentration. However, the Mage's resolve held and after chanting for a few minutes the wall opened revealing a passageway beyond.

-Beyond led to a small room of worked stone, opening up quickly into a small cavern that vibrated with power. A rainbow of crystals jutted from the cavern floor, walls and ceiling, sparkling with their own inner light. Every sound was answered by a chorus of soft echoes. In the center of the cavern, a particularly large crystal rested on its side, presenting a flat surface large enough to serve as an altar to the Goddess; the perfect place to perform the ritual. Nearby rested an enchanted totem and several blades splattered with blood suggesting the location had once been used to make sacrifices to Lolth.

-As they searched the cavern, Phaeqel was able to study the crystals. He sensed that the energy within them was a sort of Primordial power; exactly what they had been sent after. Solvayas claimed the enchanted totem and exploring elsewhere, Belgos discovered an enchanted bow to take. Elsewhere, Phaeqel came across a powerful orb likely left behind by an original resident of the outpost.

-Having fully explored the area, Phaeqel passed the ritual scroll to Solvayas and he led the party in carrying out their task. As they began to recite the chant from the scroll, the light shining inside the crystals extinguished for a moment. It returned a moment later, but not as bright, and as the ritual continued it grew darker.

-Across the cavern ceiling, however, some of the crystals shined as bright as ever, forming a pattern like a spider's web. The vibrations in the air grew faster, swelling from a low rumble to a high-pitched whine.

-At last, they reached the end of the ritual, the crystals forming the spiderweb pattern flashed with blinding light and then went out again, leaving the image seared into their eyes. The sound stopped, the air grew still and the cavern felt utterly empty of all arcane enregy. The Primordial power had been sent forth for Lolth's Demon Weave.

-Mission accomplished and with Iyelle captured, the party made their return to Menzoberranzan. The passage back through the Fardrimm was uneventful. Once they were back in the city, Priestess Ash'ala, Hoshtar and Ro'kolor listened to their report about the Faen Tlabbar expedition and the incident at Sezz'ia Outpost. They seemed most pleased with the group's efforts on their first mission. Hoshtar even broke a smile underneath his veil, and informed the party they were entitled to some well deserved rest before their next task.

-As the meeting was ended and the party went their separate ways, each of the three Triumvirate leaders arranged meetings with their supporters on the team. Priestess Ash'ala Melarn felt disatisfied that neither Zarra nor Zaketrin had the initiative to cleanse the ritual site with the unholy water as she instructed. She added that she would be watching their actions carefully from now on. Such failures could not be repeated.

-Meanwhile, Ro'kolor was pleased with Eowam and Solvayas' actions. With Iyelle captive, the Bregan D'aerthe would be able to easily break her spirit and pry out every last bit of information that the rogue Priestess held. Ro'kolor reassured the duo that he, and Menzoberranzan, would not soon forget their exemplary efforts.

-Finally, Hosthar met with Chali and Phaeqel asking what became of the letter he had asked them to retrieve. Nervous, Phaeqel had explained how the party overheard his inquries about the letter. After he retrieved it, Zarra and Zaketrin had demanded the letter. Fearing for it falling into the hands of House Melarn, Phaeqel had destroyed the letter.

-Hoshtar was severely displeased. He charged Phaeqel with questions about his decision noting that those who dealt in the arcane frequently handled secrets. Thus, he questioned why the Mage had not been more secretive about obtaining the letter. Phaeqel apologized, but could offer little as an excuse. Ultimately, Hoshtar decided to forego any sort of punishment since, at the least, the letter was prevented from falling into the hands of House Melarn.

-Hoshtar warned Phaeqel, however, the subsequent failure would not be tolerated. Furthermore, Hoshtar charged Chali with keeping an eye on Phaeqel. He added that their fates were essentially linked for as long as they served among the party that answered to  the Triumvirate. She would need to start keeping him in line for future missions.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders Session 02

The Council of Spiders continued this week among heavy rain in my area. Unfortunately, Zaketrin's player was unable to make it out. However, we had two new players at the table making up for it. One that had participated in several sessions of The Elder Elemental Eye and she brought along a friend completely new to D&D.

It's always pleasant to get new players. The veteran didn't make a character for herself so we got to crack out the new drow pregens. We ran into a curious problem when we discovered the Warpriest pregen used the name Zarra which our Cleric was already using via the random names off the character builder. Ironic situation so the player opted to lift the name Chali from the other female pregen. Using the pregen Warpriest and Chevalier we added these two new characters to the roster:

-Chali Xorlarrin: A Warpriest of House Xorlarrin. Forward thinking, she wholly supports Lolth's initiative in forming the Demon Weave and the power it could bring to the arcane focus her House holds.

-Syndrina Xorlarrin: A Paladin of Lolth within House Xorlarrin. Close friend of Chali and supportive of the same goals.

Overall the session went very well. In my eyes this was the typical filler episode that WOTC pads into Encounters. With a shorter season this time, I was a little disappointed to see a session spent on what amounted to a combat with a little bit of roleplaying at the end. Ultimately, nothing about the encounter really progresses the plot besides a few clues regarding the rogue Priestess. However, her bad nature was already established last time so this session really didn't change that much.

That being said, I had a lot of fun and hopefully our new players will stick things out to the end. Next session ends Chapter 1 (so soon compared to last season) which means House Melarn and the Bregan D'aerthe will be coming up on their secret goals. Since House Xorlarrin got theirs botched last time, it will be interesting to see how the remaining two factions carry out their business.

Session 02: Miners' Ambush
-As rocks crashed around the party, svirfneblin miners rushed forth ready for combat. One of the deep gnomes cried out, "The goblin's warning was true! They'll give us no mercy, so show none to the drow!" Fortunately, the party received additional support as two new drow appeared to assist them. Chali and Syndrina of House Xorlarrin. Concerned over how important the party's task was, Hoshtar ordered these two to head out and catch up to the group.

-Syndrina charged into the fray taking the lead and meeting the Svirfneblin's own Protectors head on. Chali followed suit creating a defensive line while the rest of the party filed in for combat. However, the party found itself outnumbered and swarmed by svirfneblin.

-Amid the chaos of battle, Solvayas found himself continually pursued by enemies becoming injured time and again. Only kept in the fight by the combined efforts of Zarra and Chali. Meanwhile, Eowam remained in the rear firing arrow after arrow. With a front line locked down by Syndrina, there was no hope for the enemy to reach the Hunter and deter his fire.

-From the back of the cavern, two svirfneblin's wielding slings seemed to lead the attacking group as they too unleashed a hail of ranged attacks; slinging stones at all those in sight. To the surprise of the party after a stone smashed against Zarra, it mystically bounced and ricocheted off striking Phaeqel. Taking advantage of this trick shot, the two Slingers became quite dangerous.

-Over time, the party began to take the advantage as they fought back the svirfneblin. However, the enemy was not without surprises of their own. As the party advanced forward, having cleared the side path of the cave system, Zarra found herself surprised near the rear of the group. Hidden among the rocks had been a lone svirfneblin waiting to ambush. Rushing up behind Zarra, he attempted to use a garrote to strangle her crying out that felling the Priestess would be enough.

-Not to be easily overcome, Zarra was able to break free of the choking hold and working with the party quickly fought back the stealthy attacker. Muttering arcane words, Phaeqel dominated the assassin's mind forcing the sfvirneblin to turn his dagger against himself; ending his own life. Without their support, the two sling-users were easily overwhelmed and as the final one became backed into a corner Syndrina struck the killing blow.

-In the aftermath, the party began to move towards the far end of the cave which would continue on to Sezz'ia. However, Eowam noticed something hiding in the darkness. Inspecting closer, with Solvayas at his side, he discovered a goblin. Capturing the cowering creature, the party confronted him about his involvement.

-The goblin introduced itself as Snut and begged for forgiveness. Snut explained that he had been paid to deliver a message to the sfvirneblin's leader about drow travelling through this tunnel. The message suggested that the drow would enslave anyone in sight, thus brewing anger among the svirfneblin for fear that their kind might be captured.When pressed, he quickly revealed that he did not know the name of who had paid him; only that it was a female drow from Menzoberranzan.

-After questioning further, Snut was able to reveal that the woman resembled Zarra. This led the party to conclude it was a Priestess of Lolth; perhaps the traitor from the Faen Tlabbar expedition. Eowamn intimidated the fearful goblin regarding the svirfneblin about if they had any valuables stashed nearby. Snut led them to a small side area where the svirfneblin stored a small collection of equipment. There among the gold Eowam found a magical great bow, Syndrina an enchanted long sword and Chali a shield of deflection.

-In return for his support, the party decided not to kill Snut. However, his actions against Menzoberranzan could not be ignored. Shifting into his spider-form, Solvayas webbed the goblin to the cave wall leaving him for dead unless he discovered a way to free himself. After taking a moment to rest and recover, the party forged on.

-Leaving behind the old mines, the party traveled another day through the winding passages of the Underdark toward the Sezz'ia outpost. At last, they reached an area of worked stone that suggested they must be at or near their destination.