Much delayed, but I've got a double shot of updates on Encounters. Things have been busy for me, especially with midterms going on right now, so I just haven't had the time to sit and write up some play reports for what has been going on. On that note, I'm ridiculously behind with some sessions of both Mecha and DCC that I'd like to write up as well. It doesn't help that the pre-release PDF's for Tenra Bansho Zero went out. Being a huge anime fan, I've long been looking forward to this game. I'll likely talk more about it on here in the future, but to state it plainly: this game is amazing.
The Encounters program has been going well for us. All the vets of last season were pleasantly surprised to see Valan Jaelre turn up again. I'm very sad about how the module handles him, however. He's not even given any direct lines which seems like a cop out. Having ran last season, I have a personality worked up from all the changes I made. But I could see him easily being ran as just another dry final boss if the module was taken as is.
Thanks to some good roleplaying, and in my book roleplaying always trumps anything else, my table will be rolling into the grand finale next week with the deck stacked in their favor. Naturally, I have to put on a good show so Valan will have to step up his game as well. He was a master manipulator and seemed to always be a few steps ahead last season, so there's no reason for that to have changed this time.
This season has flown by and it's hard to believe next week is the finale. I'm excited for the conclusion to this trilogy and everyone at our program is eager to see just how this "war" will play out. So, to get all caught up with our heroes:
Session 06: The Brink of War
-Once more the party assembled before Ash'ala, Hoshtar and Ro'kolor. This time, they met in a large audience chamber in a mansion owned by Ro'kolor as they listened with grave interest to accounts of the party's recent deeds in full detail.
-When they finished, after a long pause, Ash'ala moved to the point as she pointed out that they had an important decision to make: If Menzoberranzan lies on the brink of civil war, how would each of their houses respond? Each leader wished to hear the input of the party they had assembled, but before beginning their debate all those present reviewed the current facts.
-First, that there existed a group of defiant priestesses that seek to undermine all attempts to create the Demon Weave in order to hold onto their power in the city. Second, that the Council of Spiders seek to have male representation on Menzoberranzan's ruling council. Finally, someone is trying to provoke this tension into open civil war via the assassin that was captured. Drisdhaun suspects they may be tied to the Jaezered Chaulssin; a faction of drow that operate against Lolth.
-The debate began in kind and the initial disposition of everyone seemed obvious. Ash'ala's intent was focused on the Way of Lolth which thus far had only focused on the Demon Weave. Thus, she viewed the Council of Spiders as upstarts going against Lolth's will. Hoshtar, while more reserved than the opinions of the Council of Spiders, saw the logic behind the rise of their power in the city if arcane magic was so elevated by their Spider Queen. Ro'kolor, however, merely wanted to make the decision that was most profitable for the Bregan D'aerthe.
-Working together Solvayas, Belgos and Charon began to persuade Ro'kolor to support the Council of Spiders; noting that if they did rise in power then it would certainly mean more work. Thus, it would be good to sit in a friendly disposition towards them from the start. However, Ryltar and Zarra were quick to point out that the Bregan D'aerthe had always found work under the priestesses rule and had been well paid for it.
-In a desperate gambit, Belgos and Charon began trying to appeal to Ash'ala's faith on the matter trying to reason that it was, in fact, Lolth's will to elevate those who utilized arcane powers. However, a quick interjection by Zarra dashed any hopes of swaying the proud priestess from her stance.
-Swiftly, lines were drawn in the sand. Ash'ala seemed resolute on eliminating the Council of Spiders. Hosthar in supporting their goals. Ro'kolor remained as the undecided factor. Taking their leader aside, the trio of Bregan D'aerthe mercenaries wished to speak with Ro'kolor in confidence. Alone, Belgos brought up the fact that House Baenre had ordered them to implicate House Melarn during their previous mission and mask any presence of House Xorlarrin. It stood to reason that, if they must act and decide on their own, that backing the Council of Spiders would best reflect the interest of House Baenre; their benefactors. Noting the wisdom in these words, Ro'kolor made his stance official to all present pledging to support the Council of Spiders.
-This brought a great argument as all those present began to discuss the matter of Lolth's will. Just as hands started reaching for weapons, the dispute was interrupted. At the far end of the room, dark shadows began to swirl and take form. It was more of the creatures that had been employed by the assassin. As Ro'kolor moved to protect Ash'ala and Hoshtar, the party agreed to put aside their differences for the time being and defend their leaders.
-The battle was short and swift. Without the leadership and misdirection of the assassin, the shadow creatures could do little on their own against the coordinated drow strike force. Just as they fell the final beast, the doors to the chamber kicked in. Storming forth, another Bregan D'aerthe member emerged as he chucked forth a badly beaten (and well interrogated) Merinid Dalael; the assassin.
-"We have broken him," the mercenary stated clearly, "And we now know who he is working for: Valan Jaelre."
Session 07: Into the Shadows
-Following this revelation, the leaders returned to their houses and masters to make their arguments and prepare for whatever rested ahead; they urged the party to do the same. Whatever happened next, life in Menzoberranzan might never be the same. The next day, for a final time, the party was gathered by their leaders among the triumvirate. However, they were no longer gathered fully as allies. Hosthar and Ro'kolor met with their members, while Ash'ala met with Zarra and Ryltar alone.
-Each meeting revealed much of the same information. Merinid's status as a member of the Jaezred Chaulssin, an order of assassins committed to the overthrow of what they call the tyranny of Lolth over drow society, was confirmed. Though most of the faction's members were drow, they have strong ties to the Shadowfell and claim to have descended from shadow dragons.
-The mastermind behind their operations in the midst of this crisis was a drow from the distant Dalelands named Valan Jaelre. Rumors suggested that Valan had recently enacted some massive scheme at the city of Shadowdale, but reports were vague. Weirder still, if the accounts were to be believed then it seemed odd that Valan Jaelre could have been present in Menzoberranzan all this time manipulating events from the shadows. Spies had traced his location to a small network of caves and cellars in the Braeryn, Menzoberranzan's slum district. Though divided, each half of the party held the same mission: find and kill Valan Jaelre to put an end to the Jaezred Chaulssin's interference in the city.
-Winding past drinking pits and slave pens Solvayas, Belgos, Charon and Drisdhaun pressed deeper inside the Braeyrn as they sought the location of Valan Jaelre. Eventually, they reached a building that was supposed to hold the assassin's hideaway. It was a run down shack that looked like it was on the verge of collapse, with no front door and a single room inside littered with garbage and debris.
-Inside, a long ladder beneath a trap door brought the group down into a short natural tunnel that almost immediately opened into a large cavern. A number of other tunnels branched off from the cavern, and at one corner it turned into finished stone. A dozen drow were ranged around the cavern: three sentries standing at attention, unmoving, at the edge of the finished stone, five young priestesses grouped with an older priestess wearing the sigil of House Melarn and finally two cloaked males who seemed to be guarding the priestesses.
-They all seemed surprised and displeased at the party's approach. "I must not be seen here," the senior priestess spoke as she gestured to her bodyguards forcing them to raise their weapons. Just as this occurred, Zarra and Ryltar arrived to the cavern having followed their intelligence with brought them in through a different path. Noticing the brewing battle, Zarra recognized the lead priestess as Faeryl Melarn, a relative of Matron Mother Zhindia Melarn who is said to carry her house's favor.
-Noting those of her own house, Faeryl spoke favorably to Zarra. Zarra inquired what she was doing here and Faeryl was quick to explain that she was here to meet with Valan as he had promised to help her bring an end to the effort to help Lolth create the Demon Weave. She added that this was the only way to stop the arrogance of the Council of Spiders. Still, it was against the common feeling of Menzoberranzan and thus Faeryl could not allow any others to see her presence. As her troops readied to battle Solvayas, Beglos, Charon and Drisdhaun, Faeryl ordered Zarra and Ryltar to join here in stamping out those who opposed House Melarn.
-Zarra and Ryltar readied their weapons much to the party's disdain. Calling out to them, Belgos tried to talk them down as he asked if they could not at least fight together a final time against a common enemy: Valan Jaelre. Solvayas and Charon backed this up re-stating just how clear it was that Valan was the source behind the rumblings of civil war to begin with. However, Zarra seemed resolute; this order had come from a priestess that outranked even her. As the battle began, Solvayas was quickly overwhelmed by Faeryl and her subordinates. The two cloaked figures that had accompanied her made use of unique invisibility techniques to confuse the druid and lure him in to be surrounded.
-Feeling confident about her situation, Faeryl moved on to corner Charon, Belgos and Drisdhaun while she ordered Zarra and Ryltar to back her up and also help finish off Solvayas. However, neither could draw their weapons upon their former allies. Zarra merely moved closer and closer to the guards at the area of worked stone under the guide of observing the situation. Ryltar, meanwhile, moved to back up Faeryl claiming that he was confident that the young priestesses under here were more than a match for one foe.
-Things seemed bleak for the party as Solvayas was pushed to his limit and even Charon began to be overcome by the deadly poison summoned forth by Faeryl. However, it was then that a surprising turn of events occurred. Roaring with anger, Ryltar charged down Faeryl and with one powerful swing struck a mortal wound upon a priestess of his own house. Shouting, Ryltar claimed that he grew tired of taking orders from drow such as Faeryl; ignorant in their actions and merely clinging to the old laws as a bid to keep their own power. Even if it meant turning against House Melarn, he could no longer tolerate such actions.
-Working with his allies once more, Ryltar managed to make good on his new vow. With Belgos offering support from afar with a hail of arrows, Ryltar cut down Faeryl even as she cursed his name. This threw chaos into the battlefield allowing the party to down several more drow. Even Solvayas was able to turn the tide on the young priestesses easily dispatching several of them.
-Startled, those present seemed to look to Zarra as a means of assuming command in Faeryl's place. Noticing that this was a chance for her to improve her own status among House Melarn and within Menzoberranzan as a whole, Zarra quickly spoke up ordering the House Melarn forces to stand down. After some terse negotiations with the surviving guards, Zarra made it clear that Valan Jaelre was rumored to be involved with the Jaezred Chaulssin and it could have ruined House Melarn's reputation even just by conferring with him. She went on to add that it had been a sign of Faeryl's weakness and just how unfit she was to be a leader of any kind in Menzoberranzan that she sought to rely on Valan's power and could not even defend herself against Ryltar; a male warrior.
-Swayed by her words, the remaining members of Faeryl's force submitted to Zarra as their new leader. Her first order of business was to establish her former associates as comrades. Regardless of the Demon Weave and the Way of Lolth, Valan Jaelre posed a much larger threat to Menzoberranzan as a whole. Leaving one of Faeryl's men to keep watch, Zarra ordered the rest to follow the party and act as support. Their intelligence lined up with Faeryl's: Valan Jaelre was ahead.
-Examining it closer with the battle resolved, the finished stone area looked like a cellar. Broken crates and splintered barrels littered the floor and an odor of rancid food and bodily waste filled the air; fitting of the Braeryn. A stairway in the far corner seemed to lead further down; presumably to the lair of Valan Jaelre...