Spider Killer – Lair Assault (Leicester)
Having taken part in Spider Killer in Nottingham as a player, it was time to run as DM back home in Leicester. In preparation for the game I wanted to clarify a number of things first, such as whether it was four linked encounters without rests or one continuous encounter (as this affected powers use, especially the “lasts till end of encounter” ones). The DMG stated that such powers last for five minutes, but failed to say whether this was game time or real time. Real time would mean it could be anything from two players turns to all four’s, while game time would be longer than the twenty round limit the adventure ran on. I even emailed the adventure author. In the end we decided to run it the same way that we had in Nottingham (one continuous encounter, relevant powers last all game).
Six players had put themselves forward but on the day only four attended, I decided not to run in nightmare mode as it was going to be harsh enough as it was. The players introduced their characters to each other and outlined their respective abilities, I read the introduction and ran through the extra rules and rewards specific to the game, then it was all aboard the boat. (Yes Daniel, there is still only ONE boat :P)
Encounter 1 – the whirlpool portal.
The giant spiders proved more of an annoyance than the drow hunters, dragging people from the boat with their sticky lure ability. The party had prepared well, and most had a higher resistance to poison than the damage the drow could inflict. Daniels cavalier tried to tackle a pair of them with an oar (achievement seeker) and getting himself cut off from his allies. The Spiderlord activated the portal gem and fled after the second round, the drow minions lasting no longer. The spiders began to bottleneck the heroes until Matt’s dwarf fighter finally hit something (with a crit!) and blasted the arachnid into the far wall.
The encounter itself wasnt too difficult once the heroes realised that they didnt have to kill everything to proceed, once they had cleared a path by pushing the spiders back they finally entered the portal.
Encounter 2 – Strangers on the Shore.
The heroes appeared at the tunnel beside the chasm/waterfall and immediately fell prey to the attacks of drow crossbows and the earsplitting shrieks of the envelopers. Daniel’s cavalier was victim to the large spiders lure attack, being dragged across the top of the waterfall to its waiting jaws, repeatedly, everytime he managed to break free and move back to his companions the spider just did it again.
The drow guardians here were a lot more hard hitting than the minions, and the party soon felt that things werent going to be as easy as the first encounter. Rhys’s sorcerer tried to teleport, triggering the random destination factor of Undermountain, and actually reappearing in the next chamber – effectively removing him from this encounter. With the cavalier engaged with the spider, Matt’s dwarf and Robert’s druid tried to break free of the guardians. Matt made it to and through the mirror but Robert fell victim to their opportunity attack which unfortunately immobilized him, keeping him in combat for another punishing round.
By the time he broke free and escaped through the mirror, Daniel was begining to wane against the waterfall and spider. Eventually falling unconscious from ongoing poison damage (the only player without any resistance) and therefore being unable to prevent himself being washed over the edge into oblivion. (on the up side he had pushed enemies over earlier and now had the extra achievement for going over himself)
With this encounter I found that playing the enemies intelligently truly bottlenecks the party if they have the misfortune to have bad initiative rolls, and thus the potential to truly pummel them. The Spiderlord should have made it this far ahead of the players and so lends his magic to the assault. The constant use of the spiders pull attack proved very annoying to the party and thus highly amusing to me.
Encounter 3 – ooh shiny!
The sorcerer reappeared with a bang, litterally, and shattered one of the delicate crystal pillars adjacent to him. His allies that arrived through the mirror suffered various degrees of embarrasment and discomfort, before also deciding to have a smashing time whacking the pillars. Upon realising they were not alone Rhys attempted to walk past the “obviously restrained” mist which proceeded to take a chunk out of him before dominating the dwarf and forcing him to smash a fifth pillar. This triggered the collapse of the roof, as the now freed vampiric mist fled through the narrow crack beside a mirror towards the final encounter. Unfortunately the ceiling collapse called for a round of base saves, which Matt and Robert proceeded to fail, thus believing the collapse to be real and falling unconcious till the end of the encounter (now if powers lasting till end of encounter last all game we had to carry the same rule for this) and thus technically out of the running. Rhys’s sorcerer tried to follow the mist through the nearest mirror but having not yet gained a mirror wand from anywhere just kept bouncing from mirror to mirror as time ran out, changing sex, refreshing powers but not gaining a wand. Then the halls echoed with the roars of the demonic forces swarming throug h the drows now opened portal – the heroes had failed.
I think the unconscious till end of encounter for the cave in doesnt fit the scenario, it would be ok if the adventure was being ran as seperate encounters, but in the twenty round limit of a lair assault I feel perhaps that unconsious (save to end) would have been more appropriate. I also think the vampiric mist should be allowed to communicate with the party, perhaps convincing them to free her in return for her aiding them in the final battle or offering clues as to how to solve the mirror puzzle.
Encounter 4- Shi’nayne’s chamber
Although we didnt get to use this encounter I had prepared it in advance and having read through it was looking forward to the grand melee that would ensue. Ah well maybe next time.
The adventure is really well written but I feel that it wasnt originally done for a time limit event and as such suffers for the poor conversion and contradictions (as noted above). Having played it in the standard format and discussed it with my regular playing group we would like to run it the other way, as a series of linked encounters with powers (for both good guys and enemies) refreshing between each, and if the players wish to take a brief rest to bind wounds etc at the cost of three rounds off the time limit.
I have also been experimenting with the roll20 application and after some trial and error recreated the adventure for play online through a google hangout (or their own built in software) as this would allow Rhys to participate again despite not being local (hurry up and move to Leicestershire! Lol).