Drowathon – The Sun Never Rises
Well yesterday saw me DMing at the UKTweetup event Drowathon, “The Sun Never Rises” Encounters preview adventure. Written by https://twitter.com/#!/shawnmerwin using the usual pregenerated characters from WotC’s Encounters program but with individualised backgrounds to really tie them into the story. I had previously run the adventure at Conquest in Derby in April, but at the Drowathon there would be 4 tables of us all running the same adventure.
The players at my table were a mixture of my regular Encounters group, fellow Tweetup gamers, and one newbie brought by one of my Encounters players.
- Tilly, playing the theif, Keira.
- Toby, playing the warpriest, Valnae.
- Daniel, playing the paladin, Brandis.
- Reece, playing the slayer, Fargrim (our newbie).
- Matt, playing the hunter, Belgos.
- Paul, playing the mage, Jarren.
After letting the players read their individual backgrounds and reading the opening introduction I had the players introduce themselves as characters around the table (and so began the bro-mance between Belgos and Fargrim’s beard). As they entered the temple and heard the description of disarray, they asked for signs of struggle, or dragged heels in the blood stains etc, all of which led them to the kitchen area and the tracks that mysteriously ended at an apparent trapdoor. Toby’s cleric asked if it was common for temples of the sun-god to have underground chambers, so after a successful history check I told him the story of the schism between those that remained faithful to Lathander after the spellplague and their unwarranted fear of persecution. After opening the trapdoor, the paladin dropped a sunrod down and led the way.
The Cellar/Shrine of Lathander.
The party assembled around the ladder, and the paladin and cleric recognised the images of Lathander on the pillars (but not their significance), while Belgos and Fargrim notice the blood trails heading to the double doors and avoiding the pillars. The doors burst open revealing the dwarves and drow (as we had six players I added one drow to each encounter). The party tried to parlay with the bad guys, intrigued as to why they resembled Fargrim, but the paladin cut talks short by charging ahead. The minions fell quickly and the drow followed shortly after (they didn’t get much of a chance to flee as they party were very lucky with their dice and cunning with their strategy), the paladin helped himself to one of the crossbows and ammunition.
I liked this encounter, especially the evil minions using the acolytes as human shields.
Not a lot to say about this part apart from with a few dungeoneering checks they discovered that the passage was less than a week old and had been created by water erosion from below. The party was suitably concerned at what could do this, especially “uphill”. As the bloody tracks led through the stone door no-one even looked for hidden exits and continued to the next stage, lured by the sounds of groaning ahead.
Shrine of Lolth.
The party approached carefully and with some excellent skill rolls discovered the weak ceiling and realised that there were hidden enemies whispering beyond the concealing webs and the groans were coming from atop the pyramidal shrine. Brandis and Fargrim let loose at the weakened areas, bringing the rocks crashing down with satisfying grunts and painful cries from those concealed, though there was also a pair of sickening squelches as two helpless acolytes were flattened. The dwarf and paladin then took opposite sides and charged the unseen foes as the thief leapt and tumbled over the remaining acolytes to acrobatically leap onto the bulbous spider, dislodging the beast but failing to catch hold of the railings and joining the jumble of bodies at the rear of the shrine. The party were concerned when one of the drow vanished, and even more concerned when it reappeared before the mage and warpriest with its dagger poised to strike. The mage was worried until the drow swerved its blade into the eladrin. The rest of the battle was close fought but the warpriests healing powers swung the vote.
This encounter was brilliant as it provided a tactical obstruction in the way of the pyramid and webs but offered an environmental “ally” with the weak ceiling, though this was tempered by the moral dilemma of possible acolyte casualties. I had thought of having one of the drow take a prisoner and use it as a hostage to facilitate its escape but they never got the chance.
Realising that there were no other exits the party searched the long corridor and then the smaller section, discovering the secret door. Continuing forward they saw the glowing blue glyph before the pool but before the other party members could stop him and examine the glyph, the paladin strode boldly across it, triggering the arrival of the water elemental and deep dull gong further into the dungeon. The hunter used his crack shot to force the elemental into the middle of the party, thinking to cut it off from any more water (and possible regenerative features therein) and the summoned creature managed to get off one attack before the party obliterated it (the mage only used magic missile as he didn’t think hitting a water based monster with lightning in a confined space to be a good idea).
I liked the idea of this encounter as the possibility of the party being able to summon and control the elemental was cool, my only criticism would be that to recreate this adventure using dungeon tiles (as I did) requires two sets of the Cathedral of Chaos (though it doesn’t say so) but I adapted and made this section using the longer angled corridor with a smaller triangular wedge on the connection.
The party entered the chamber and following some perception rolls noticed the spidery shapes lurking within the flaming mist. The mage succeeded an arcana check and recognised the skeletal spiders as summoned minions, proceeding to pop one with a well placed magic missile, just before the strike team leader blasted the paladin with venom ray. Her trio of scouts then bottlenecked the party and dropped their darkness globes on them. Now, we had already agreed that magical darkness could be cancelled by magical light and vice-versa – it made sense to us, so the first globe merely cancelled out the eladrin’s light upon the paladins shield but the other two still caused a minor problem. The fight was bloody and looked to be going the drows way, with the warpriest and paladin getting dropped while still surrounded by drow and the leader bringing her swarm-aura into effect also. It didn’t help that the hunter had called for a retreat and the thief and mage had readily withdrawn. However the mage then found a sudden burst of courage and with a well placed attack scoring a critical hit, followed by an action point attack dropped the offending drow and saving the day. They then recovered the High Priestess and Brother Robert, saved the remaining acolytes from the poison coursing through their systems and received their rewards.
One of the players realised that the drow hadn’t been harmed by passing through the mist but before any of them had tried it they got bottlenecked. Tilly’s flat out refusal to attack (let alone damage) drow meant the party were effectively a striker down and it was quite amusing when the paladin wanted to strike the leader while prone and thought he’d just got her, then realised he hadn’t included the penalty for fighting from prone and so missed by 1!
This was a great adventure, well written and balanced but I think the 2 hour time limit was a too short, I believe most tables over-ran which meant we only got to play the one game. It’s a great introduction to the new season of Encounters and the Rise of the Underdark as a whole. I know more of my Encounters group have asked if I could run it on Wednesday as they have already created their pc’s but as I am strictly limited to a 2 hour slot by the fact that run two sessions of Encounters on the same night (I know, I’m mad!) and that some of the players took part already, I think I’ll have to come up with an alternative mini-scenario for the occasion.
With regards to the sexism debate that had been brought up prior to the event, I found that it really didn’t make a difference on the day. Toby played the female eladrin warpriest but I don’t think it ever got mentioned throughout the game what the character’s sex was. I know in my regular Encounters groups Tilly usually prefers to play a male pc, Tom recently played a female dwarven knight, and Robert played a gender-confused sorcerer (first week it was female, following week it was male, became an in-game joke which all involved were ok with), but the idea of genderless pregens for future events is possibly a good idea (I would even suggest nameless, allowing the player to decide name and sex at the table) though most events such as Encounters and Lair Assault encourage the players to create their own pc’s anyway.
This was my second Tweetup organised event and the first I have had the pleasure to be involved in as a DM. While I prefer to be a player when visiting Mondo (being the DM in my other 4e games) I really wanted to run this adventure again following Conquest. The gamers involved are top quality, friendly people and it’s a genuine pleasure to game with all of them. I look forward to taking part in many more such events and will help to co-ordinate and promote them where I can as needed.
I would like to thank my players for making the game such fun, David at Mondo Comico for once again opening his doors to the lunatics, and to the rest of the UKTweetup team (especially Adam and Paul) for organising the event. I’m also highly jealous of the amazing scenery you guys created :)
See you in June for Lair Assault:Spider Killer I hope, looking forward to Jame’s DMing.