Session 8 Field Report

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Field report for D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders (Week 8.) now available at Dungeon's

I ran this encounter twice. My level 6 party had only 3 PCs but they managed to capture and then kill Valan. My level 3 party had 6 PCs and almost suffered a TPK. By the end 3 had died from failed saves or ongoing damage, 1 was unconscious with 2 strikes but stable, the other 2 were only a few hit points above 0. I had Valan flee otherwise it would have been an ugly TPK finale. Everyone felt the final encounter was great, but the ending of the adventure was a huge disappointment. More on that next week when I share my full season Report Card.

We discuss the ups and downs, what worked and what didn’t in this week’s Recounting Encounters Podcast.

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We had some inter-party betrayal at my table last night. I played a slave, but the rest were all drow.  Striker-heavy party. No defender, and my slave is a hybrid leader, so we had second winds and one surge on top.

The highlight was probably the two brothers who had some kind of rivalry going into the session. One (playing a female drow hunter) remarked out of character that he thought the other (male drow hexblade) was going to attack him. We had no faction conflicts-- the PCs were all Bregan D'aerthe at our table. 

Sure enough, Valan Jaelre's puppetry caused the hexblade to attack the hunter, resulting in lost worth, of course, but also a LOT of lost hit points for the other. She figured "oh, that sucks, but I'll focus on the NPC enemies first."

On the next round,  the hexblade attacked her again, despite not being under the influence of Jaelre. Now, it was ON. The hunter popped cloud of darkness and shot him in the face, bringing him down to negative hit points.

As the rest of the party and enemies are taking their turns, I open the Rules Compendium and hand it over to the hunter's player, open to "Coup de Grace."

So that happened, on the hunter's turn. She was 1 hit point away from being able to coup de grace auto-kill, but even without that, she dropped the hexblade to negative bloodied.

Both players said it was the best night of gaming they've had. 

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

It's not a party till the screaming starts!

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Our final encounter was a cluster****, to say the least.  I should preface the following by explaining that nobody was really on board with this season's "let's play backstabbing Drow" theme.  Some of us (like myself) really tried, but in several encounters, it felt like playing an early Bioware game (such as KotOR 2), where your decision was "do this stupid thing and be rewarded"  or "do this stupid thing and be punished".

We lost one player because he simply didn't care for the idea of female drow bossing him around, the Treachery cards screwing up his actions, and the the lethality of the encounters, all made for an uncomfortable experience for him.  As it would for most new players, I'd think.

Anyways, onto the encounter.  We entered the final chamber with the following group:

Female Drow Paladin (Lolth), Ordained Priest Theme. 
Female Drow Rogue [Thief].  
Female Drow Bard (Virtue of Valor).
Female Drow Fighter [Slayer], Unseelie Agent Theme.
Female Drow Seeker, Unseelie Agent Theme.
Male Human Druid [Sentinel] (Druid of Summer).     

Right off the bat, the Druid's player hadn't been happy about the whole "slave" thing since he sat down at our table as a replacement.  It had been explained to him that he shouldn't play a non-Drow, but he stubbornly insisted on playing the character he had made.  Up til this point, his play style had been, at best, passive-aggressive.  We'd pointed out several times that if his character didn't want to be a slave, he'd had several opportunities for escape, but he refused to do so.

When the Yochol challenged us, a lot of the players didn't realize that Lolth basically wanted to hear "serve Lolth first, foremost, and always".  This caused a lot of confusion when penalties were handed out for what seemed to be good answers.  The Slayer, for example, replied with "I serve Lolth for the good of all Drow."

Sounded like a good answer, but the player got slapped because Lolth literally wanted us to choose a side.  I'd made sure to point out previously that setting the Drow against each other was a thing for Lolth- she believes that the weaker Drow will die, leaving behind only the strongest.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite sink in.

Only two players took no penalties, and only the Paladin got a bonus, as she has stubbornly insisted since the very beginning that only the Demon Weave matters.  The squabbling about the Way of Lolth and who has power in Drow society didn't concern her in the slightest.  Lolth wants the Demon Weave, Lolth gets the Demon Weave.

The Druid, of course, decided to take this opportunity to tell the Yochol off.  This was such an extraordinarily stupid idea that you would expect the character to be slain outright, but no, they just got the Curse of Lolth.

The encounter proper then opened with the enemies all winning initiative (no real surprise, since only two characters actually got to roll- the rest just "acted last" due to the Yochol's judgement.  Valan dropped his zone of difficult terrain right on top of the parties' starting position, leaving most of the party slowed and in difficult terrain.

The Paladin spent her first turn removing Weakened with Virtuous Touch and granting saves with Divine Mettle- her Implacable Mettle Feat finally paid off here, as one player failed the same, which immediately gave her the ability to use the power again.

The Bard was the only character who could actually get to the stairs, hitting the Hex Knights with a close blast 3.  The Thief fired a crossbow, but missed.  The Seeker managed to fire off a Swarm of Bats onto the staircase, creating friendly difficult terrain and giving the party much-needed combat advantage.

The map was our biggest enemy- with the party constantly being slowed, immobilized, and/or dealing with difficult terrain, it was almost impossible for melee characters to get into position to attack.  The Paladin didn't manage to attack anyone until round 3, and didn't manage to mark an enemy until round 5.

A lot of effort was spent keeping the Bard alive, as after his first turn of both he and his bear companion taking ongoing damage, the Druid player said "hasta la vista" to the party, and refused to help us.  This angered the Slayer, who immediately charged the Druid...and missed.  The Druid fled up the tunnel and was never seen or heard from again.  The player stuck around for awhile, but steadfastly refused to come back and help. 

Characters quickly started to drop like flies, save for the Paladin, who seemed blessed by Lolth.  Slowly, the Paladin walked down the stairs, weathering attacks like they were bee stings, until she stood face-to-face with Valan.  She attempted an intimidate check against him, as he was bloodied by this point, but of course, the dice gods wouldn't allow the encounter to end with a mere 19.

Like a pair of titans, Valan and the Paladin kept trading blows, but the Paladin's Enfeebling Strike kept saving her, as Valan would miss by a point or two.  All the other characters were dead as he tried to retreat, only to have the Paladin charge right up to him with Virtuous Strike.  The +2 bonus to saves, in addition to the +2 bonus from the Yochol's judgement, meant that none of Valan's status effects would stick.

After a long and drawn-out battle, the Paladin finally won, with only 5 hit points remaining.  And by long and drawn-out, I mean it was 9:30, long after the other tables had finished.

I was glad to hear most people didn't have this much problem with the final encounter, but for us, it was a bear.  Heavy ranged control and a restrictive map comes very close to telling melee characters they can't play at all, and while the damage was mostly minor, it whittles the party down fast.  Nobody was having a really good time, as arguments kept flaring up about the mechanics of ongoing damage and the spider webs (God, the spider webs).  I've gone on long enough, so I won't get into that unless someone is actually curious.  Suffice to say, it turned into a perfect storm of suck.                                                            
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
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