Session 7 Field Report

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Field report for D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen (Week 7) now available at Dungeon's Master.com. Check out our D&D Encounters Archive for weekly write-ups, actual play podcasts and new pre-generated characters.


Poor tactics and bad initial placement of the Drow opponents as printed in the adventure gave the PCs a huge upper hand in this week's encounter. Had the Drow been sneaky, deadly and stuck to the shadows they would have easily slaughtered the heroes. 


How did you work around the 4th of July holiday at your FLGS? Answer our unofficial and completely anonymous poll at the end of our field report.

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There were some really cool characters NPC's this week.

Good discussion about it at 20ft Radius : D&D Encounters Podcast: Web of the Spider Queen, Session 7 - Jaelre Elite


twentyfootradius@gmail.com Alton - @TwentyFoot 20ft Radius - 20ftradius.blogspot.ca

My wonderfull "I'm gonna TPK you before the end of season" DM didn't have any trouble at all with tactics or placement.   First he hand drew the map and made a second route for the ledge behind the party, and he just had them move off the ledge, no climbing, no athletics check, etc.  Our party of 4 darn near died if the cleric hadn't used a daily heal to revive my fallen warden.  At the end 3 bloodied, one down and the assassin ran off - "She'll just keep using her spider dance and you won't be able to hit her".  Bull, even with a +5 she can't be more than 23 or 24 AC.  I've got a +9 to hit, If I change that's +10, that's a 35% chance to hit, the slayer with the charging stance is even better.  To bad the down character was the pursuing avenger. I want darn spider silk rope for the next encounter!


And even when we don't outright kill the enemies, he never lets us get any information from them.


So from here out I'm probably bringing a different character every week and using all dailies Tongue Out, every week.  If he's playing shennanigan, I will too!


And I will outright kill ALL enemies.  No sense in wasting my time with useless roleplay.


TjD 


My wonderfull "I'm gonna TPK you before the end of season" DM didn't have any trouble at all with tactics or placement.   First he hand drew the map and made a second route for the ledge behind the party, and he just had them move off the ledge, no climbing, no athletics check, etc.  Our party of 4 darn near died if the cleric hadn't used a daily heal to revive my fallen warden.  At the end 3 bloodied, one down and the assassin ran off - "She'll just keep using her spider dance and you won't be able to hit her".  Bull, even with a +5 she can't be more than 23 or 24 AC.  I've got a +9 to hit, If I change that's +10, that's a 35% chance to hit, the slayer with the charging stance is even better.  To bad the down character was the pursuing avenger. I want darn spider silk rope for the next encounter!


And even when we don't outright kill the enemies, he never lets us get any information from them.


So from here out I'm probably bringing a different character every week and using all dailies Tongue Out, every week.  If he's playing shennanigan, I will too!


And I will outright kill ALL enemies.  No sense in wasting my time with useless roleplay.


TjD 



I'm all in favor of DMs altering the encounter as necessary (placement of monsters, tactics, etc.) in order to make it challenging for the players, but it does sound like your DM is (as you state) going out of his way to kill the party. Sometimes a TPK happens (I had one in session 5) but I don't subscribe to the idea that it's the DM's job to try to kill the PCs (especially in Encounters).

Have you tried speaking to your store coordinator about what's going on?   

- Rico
And even when we don't outright kill the enemies, he never lets us get any information from them.



To be fair, there isn't much information to be had this season, really.

I am a "I will TPK you this season" DM, but my players knew that when they signed up, and they're there for the fight. If your DM is scaling up the difficulty, it might be because your PCs are more optimized than the Encounters-legal options, and your DM wants to keep the challenge interesting.

Show
And here's a secret: I don't actually want to kill the PCs. I want every PC death to be at their own hands, not mine. I want to sow a story of betrayal and bloodshed among them, so they will be suspicious and back-stabbing at every turn. I want to turn this story inside out, so when they come to the final encounter, they realize that half of them have been working for the "bad guys" and half of them have been working for something even worse. In short: I want them to have an epic conflict and an epic story, without me having to directly hurt them in any meaningful way.
I'm approaching the DM role more like Mortaine. My goal is to present the illusion that the challenge is near- impossible, so that when the PCs overcome that challenge, they feel powerful and heroic.

That being the case, session 7 presented that illusion quite well. The villains had high damage output and could easily thwart defenders and strikers, but they fell rather quickly once the PCs got their strategy rolling. This session, the striker fell unconscious twice and the defender and controller each went unconscious during the same turn. Thankfully, the FLGS owner was the party's healer, so he got them up and back in action quickly.

More than once, the comment, "We're in trouble" was shared, but they made it through heroically in the end. Once they mafe it to the Demonspur, my final comment for the night was, "Okay, guys, no more cake-walks, now the game gets HARD," garnering laughter from around the table.

I definitely feel the brutality of this season is keeping our otherwise experienced players interested.

I wish is was feeling the weaving of a story like you're giveing, mortaine.  But their is no story.  As group, we don't care about Shadowdale or the 2 NPC's that were with us a few sessions ago.  The DM kept saying the drow captured them, but we were all like, yeah,  so what.  Who are they to use.  We all feel disagruntled about working for Elminster and feel he's a bit of a jerk.  We just trying to find the Pendent of Ashaba and get back home so we can be off the hook.  I know that's not how the motivations of the story are supposed to go, but if it wasn't on rails we would have bugged out after the 3rd session, if we even went that far. 


I would love to feel some story or motivation, but its just not there.  Whether its the writing or the DM... I might be inclined to claim a lot of both, but I don't have the privelage of reading the module so I might be misjudging one.


Makes me want to DM the next season just so he doesn't, but I'll be travelling this fall and miss at least 3 or 4 sessions, maybe more since I will have to go out of country several times, so I can't.


At least the rules allow me to keep expirience so I can bring a new character every time and go gang busters with full surges and dailies.  I know, not in the spirit of the game, but I just don't care about this season enough right now.  


TjD

I wish is was feeling the weaving of a story like you're giveing, mortaine.  But their is no story.  As group, we don't care about Shadowdale or the 2 NPC's that were with us a few sessions ago.  ...
I would love to feel some story or motivation, but its just not there.  Whether its the writing or the DM... I might be inclined to claim a lot of both, but I don't have the privelage of reading the module so I might be misjudging one.



Honestly, I couldn't stand Elminster or the NPCs, so as the DM, I changed them. Tharinel was killed in his sleep by one of the PCs during the extended rest, and Khara may have been abducted by the (now-retired) blackguard PC. Why? Because I want my players to know they can do that. They're not obligated to work for Elminster. They can work for themselves, for the drow, for evil forces beyond the module.

If you want to jump the rails, keep your character and ask the DM if you can work for the drow instead, feeding them information about the party, siding with them at a critical moment, or whatever. It'll make a more interesting story, but your DM might not be interested in altering the adventure to accommodate that.

If you are going to bring in a new PC every week, can you think of a story reason why that would happen? Can you tie your PCs together in some way that would enrich the story, both for you and your fellow players? Perhaps you're playing a band of kobolds who keep attaching scouts to this group of heroes. Or maybe you're a warforged who installs a new boot disk during every short rest.

Also remember that you're going to be under-treasured by doing that. At the final fight, you should be 3rd level, and you'll have starting-PC gear; that can be rough.

This is a very weak module, to be honest. It has a lot of bad writing choices (Elminster, a fetch-and-retrieve quest, NPC companions for 1st level adventurers, lots of overpowering encounters, and very little variation in the opponents-- when you've seen one drow, have you seen them all?-- but when there is variety, 5 named drow are introduced and killed in one session) It almost demands the DM change the basic storyline to engage the current generation of players. I can understand why the module is the way it is, but it can be frustrating for both players and DMs.

If your DM isn't doing that, can you find some way to enjoy the game despite that? Are you playing with the same players every week, or do your tables switch around a lot?  If you play with the same group, can you get some inter-party story going, in the vein of Gimli and Legolas' friendly orc-killing competition? Can you make a goal of "I'm going to get as much renown as I possibly can this chapter"? Story is conflict and resolution, which do not have to be entirely in the hands of the DM.

Oh, and you don't have to bring a new PC every session-- you could rotate between 4 characters, one for each encounter in each chapter (since in the third chapter, there will have been an extended rest).

Cast of players and their characters for early group:-




  • Bryce Palmer, playing Human Mage

  • Glenn Waters, playing Eladrin Thief

  • Matt Mawdsley, playing Dwarf Knight

  • Daniel Creed, playing Goblin Paladin


As they hear the female voice call out for their surrender the newly arrived Goblin Paladin, Splug, decided to climb up the cavern wall to see who was speaking. He could just make out the tips of mailed feet overhanging a ledge some way above the opening his companions waited on. As he began to crest the ledge he tried to make a grab for the feet, which belonged to a drow with his mouth sewn shut. Unfortunately his luck ran out and he lost his grip on the cavern wall, tumbling towards the rocky floor below. The stoic dwarven fighter threw himself out into Splug’s path to control the fall (earning a moment of greatness), though both still landed heavily.


Looking up they saw the trio of drow begin to descend towards them, their weapons gleaming wickedly. The mage and rogue joined their companions in the cavern as battle was joined, and a fourth drow and large spider reinforced their enemies.


The fight was brutal, with the dwarven fighter taking over 100 points of damage! (another long awaited renown target achieved for Matt) but the final result was that the party were all down and out.


 Cast of players and their characters for later group:-



  • Tilly Calow, playing Drow Hunter

  • Chris Norris, playing Half Orc Warlord

  • Tom Wright, playing Dwarf Sentinel

  • Daniel Creed, playing Goblin Paladin (just didnt want to go home and we were thin on the ground


Splug once again tried to scale the walls but this time luck wasnt with him and neither was his dwarven safety net. A seventy foot fall onto a rocky surface spelled a swift end to the plucky goblin.


As the drow levitated down the Sentinel’s wolf took a couple of bites as they floated by. The hunter, sentinel and wolf quickly spread across the cavern floor, while the warlord “supervised” from the ledge. This tactic didnt last for long as the spider attacked from above and after leaping away, repeated the process later on.


The sentinel and his wolf came under furious assault from the drow armed with the swords and maul, while the hunter became the focus of the drow rogues pull and stab tecnique. The drow female used her venom ray against the warlord to minimal effect.


The hunter earnt a moment of greatness, managing to hit three of the drow in one attack and bloodying them in the process, unfortunately they then hammered the hunter into the ground, quickly followed by the sentinel.


The warlord backed away from the edge of the ledge, painfully aware that the way back wasnt an option and was soon surrounded and joined his companions in oblivion.


Having read this session before hand I had already thought in my mind that it was going to be brutal and with both groups short on numbers (due to players having personal commitments – how dare they! lol) I was expecting heavy casualties, but rather than weaken the encounter I decided to build in my own contingency plan.


At the end of each of this evenings sessions I told the “dead” players that their characters weren’t necessarily dead, and that the drow pulled the final blows, taking them captive. The players could keep the characters (coming back next session but with a 4-surge penalty – due to mistreatment by captors) and begin the game as prisoners of the drow, or create new characters with the 4-surge penalty and have the option of being a prisoner or newly arrived party reinforcements (losing the surges in the trials and tribulations arriving with the party).


Although both sessions ended in TPK’s both groups said that they had enjoyed it – I think it helps for the players to feel that once in a while the odds really are stacked against them and it adds that extra little bit of excitement.


 


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"Well that encounter was easy....er, guys, why is the DM grinning?" (party members last words)

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

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