Monday, November 5, 2012

D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders Session 08

Yep, always behind on these but that's fine. I'd rather go at my own pace with this that not update at all. This season of Encounters went by in a flash. We started the season with a table of five, losing one from the start of the trilogy, and saw it explode over the eight weeks to two full tables of six. I'm proud of the direction our store's little RPG group is going.

I'm not sure there's a lot to comment about this final session. The module had it pretty straightforward. Valan dropped in as the big bad just in the nick of time at the end, and now the fight! I was a little disappointed that after Valan was built up so much last season that he just gets a whimpered ending here. They hardly include any dialogue for him and as far as roleplaying him just suggest "like the Jaezred Chaulssin assassin" was. I think that was super lazy for a villain that felt a step above the usual Encounters fare. Truth be told, I actually hoped he would survive to go on into the final season of the trilogy and be the one point that sort of more directly linked each season; beyond the arcane master plot.

Regardless, things are what they are. It was interesting to play a season where the party acted as the villains for a change. I'm not sure I'd want to go back there again, at least in the near future, but I was really appreciative that we had everybody really get into the spirit of things and shoot for those secret House Goals. They generated a lot of laughs and will be missed. Here's my table's conclusion, look forward to our foray into the end of the Rise of the Underdark trilogy over the coming weeks:

Session 08: Valan's Ambition
-Descending the stairs, the party knew the time for their final encounter was drawing near. Bolstered in support by the drow guards that had served Faeryl, the group proceeded in confidence. Zarra took up a role near the rear acting more as a commander of the group allowing the guards to fight in her place. Below, the party discovered a chamber that looked like a catacomb or shine, perhaps even both. From its appearance, it seemed to be older than even the vast Bone Locker beneath West Wall.

-To the left, the party noticed a small altar dedicated to Lolth. Ahead rested four alcoves, each holding several niches stacked with the brown bones of long-dead drow. Some of the alcoves were choked with spider webs that extended to the ceiling, teeming with living spiders. To the right, more webs hung from the ceiling and drapped over two statues of glowering gargoyles; which flanked another stairway leading even further down.

-As they party studied the room, a small figure detached itself from the shadows near the statues and slipped won the stairs. However, before they could react, a cloud of greasy brown smoke appeared over the altar accompanied by a sharp stench. It was little more than a hazy smudge in the air, but all present could feel the power and malevolence oozing from it.

-Zarra immediately identified this presence as a yochlol demon; one of the handmaidens of Lolth. Usually, these were seen only in temples when summoned by Lolth's priestesses. Thus, a yochlol appearing on its own in such a place was unheard of and surely a sign of either Lolth's favor or her severe displeasure. At once, the yochlol began to speak directly into the mind of each party member: "Prove yourselves to your Goddess, mortals! How do you, in your current actions, obey the Spider Queen's will?"

-Knowing such a question was not to be answered lightly, all those present carefully considered their answers. One by one, with their response each party member was met with favor from Lolth save one. Charon, who claimed he was serving Lolth by spreading chaos in the world forced the yochlol's words to become quite harsh cursing Charon while stating, "You stand astride the chasm, and soon you will plunge into it. Lolth is your queen--will you not serve her? Danifae has revealed her will--do you not seek to obey it? The Way of Lolth has been established for centuries--do you not wish to preserve it? Neither hot nor cold. I spit you out!"

-Through the yochlol, Lolth's will on the recent issues was made clear. The pursuit of the Demon Weave was still the primary goal. Both the extreme priestesses (who wished to stop this) and the Council of Spiders (who desired male representation when Lolth's command made no such mention) were in error. However, the more pressing matter was Valan Jaelre and the interference by the Jaezred Chaulssin. Particularly pleased with Solvayas' devotion, the yochlol offered to impart knowledge on any one question. After asking about who backed Valan Jaelre's actions, the yochlol explained that he had been supported by House Nuryndin; the inconsequential 48th House of Menzoberranzan. Through them, Valan kept in touch with a more senior member of the Jaezred Chaulssin.

-In a bright burst of flames, the yochlol vanished. At the same time, a bolt of dark energy blasted from the room below the stairs striking Ryltar and injuring him. It seemed Valan's troops had noticed the party's arrival and now their showdown would begin. At the top of the stairs approached two of the Jaezred Chaulssin's shadowy Hex Knights ready to defend their position. Further down the stairs, Solvayas and Belgos noticed two odd enemies. They were drow, but they also boasted obsidian scales on their necks, shoulders, and clawlike hands. Further back into the room below stood a male drow wearing ornate robes and carrying what looked like solidified strands of shadow twisted together into a gnarled staff. He wore a symbol that looked like a sunburst that transitions into two daggers pointing down like fangs. This was not a House insignia that anyone recognized; it had to be Valan Jaelre.

-The battle was intense as the party found their advance halted by the Hex Knights. From beyond, the drow with oddly dragon-like features added in a hail of long range fire taking advantage of their humanoid shields. Only Belgos was safe as he took up a sniping position using the altar dedicated to Lolth for cover. Not to be outclassed, Valan cast spells from the safety behind the Hex Knights as well unleashing a powerful explosion of poisonous webbing trapping much of the party and making it difficult to move about. Furthermore, this overwhelming force managed to instantly kill Faeryl's forces that had been acting under Zarra's command. The Melarn priestess struggled to keep her remaining troops up and in the fight.

-Eventually, the Hex Knight's defensive line was broken as Drisdhaun summoned a powerful fountain of flames that continued to blaze their original location. This forced the Hex Knights to break rank and proceed in closer to avoid the inferno. With this advantage, the party began to gain the upper hand forcing the dragon-like drow to proceed in as well; where Solvayas learned that these spellcasters were just as competent and deadly in melee.

-Confident in his victory, Valan Jaelre began to gloat to the party. He spoke of his actions in the Dalelands and how it was merely a deception to draw the attention of those in Menzoberranzan while he infiltrated the city and began amassing power and begging manipulation. He also added that he had found a powerful artifact along the way, one which would easily allow him to topple the city given the chance. He claimed that the party would perish and their fall would signal Menzoberranzan's destruction. Ultimately, even Lolth would meet her match as Valan's power grew.

-However, having spoken with the yochlol, the party remained determined to fight on. Zarra healed what wounds she could and the battle continued. In a moment of reckless bravery, Charon charged through the fray striking a critical blow against Valan wounding him severely. The outcome of the battle was now clear, But Valan refused to accept any outcome other than  his own schemes. Shouting about his masterful plan and the inevitable freeing of the drow from under Lolth's oppressive command, Valan Jaelre fought on even in the face of defeat.

-Ultimately, the mad mage was downed by a final shot from Belgos rendering him badly injured and unconscious. Rather than kill him, Solvayas webbed Valan up as the party concluded that he should be questioned and face punishment for his crimes against Menzoberranzan. However, Valan had other plans. Seeing there was no other alternative, Valan Jaelre activated a poison capsule hidden in his mouth killing himself rather than allow Menzoberranzan to question him about his benefactors and associates.

-Exploring the rest of Valan's hideout, the party discovered a letter confirming House Nuryndin's involvement giving proof to the yochlol's information. They also discovered a scrap of paper on Valan's body that described a meeting scheduled between some leaders of the Council of Spiders and Gromph Baenre; the Archmage of Menzoberranzan. There was no clear sign that he had thrown in lot in with the Council, but even meeting with them made a large statement.

-Most important, the party found the artifact Valan had spoken of. Studying it carefully, Drisdhaun identified it as the Spellfire Manacle. This was an important artifact created after a devout follower of Mystra was captured by drow. Mystra blessed her with the temporary gift of Spellfire--the ability to channel and control raw magical energy, which she used to gain her freedom. The manacle she wore was sacred to Mystra and was said to contain significant remnants of the power of Spellfire. Certainly, it would serve the pursuit of the Demon Weave well.

-Taking Valan's body, the party returned to speak with the Triumvirate about their mission. All three were pleased with their success. Ash'ala mentioned that she had acted in haste with her actions and Hoshtar seemed to have cooled down some as well. Hoshtar was most pleased with Drisdhaun's discover of the Spellfire Manacle and though Drisdhaun mentioned a desire to keep it, this was quickly dashed as both he and Ash'ala made it more than clear that it would have to be dedicated towards the Demon Weave.

-Ro'kolor found the information gained about Gromph as well as House Nuryndin particularly interesting; noting that it seemed the Bregan D'aerthe would remain in good business for yet some time to come. With both Ash'ala and Hoshtar acting as key players, along with the information parted by the yochlol, it seemed the rumination of civil war would die down in Menzoberranzan for the time being; until the backstabbing ways of the drow began to boil over once more. With their actions, the party would become well known among Menzoberranzan. However, more importantly, Lolth's desire for the Demon Weave pushed one step closer to its realization.

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