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.

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