Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"The Black Spider" Chapter 8 of the Lost Mines of Elder Flinch

In this episode, the team interrogates a red orc chieftain, find the lost mine of Elder Flinch, and finally confront the Black Spider and his evil henchmen!

Spoiler Warning! This is a prosaic retelling of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure included with the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set.

The party:

Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan parentage (Level 4 Half-Elf Wizard) 

Braxton Hicks, a Hillfolk Explorer and Trail Guide (Level 4 Halfling Ranger)

Ser Valerius, Errant Armiger, Executor of Justicia (Level 4 Human Paladin)
Syral, Sylvan Assassin (Level 4 Wood Elf Rogue)

Kost the Red Orc
When we last left our cadre of haughty adventurers, they had defeated a small band of Red Orcs and had taken their leader prisoner. They rested for the night which passed uneventfully. The next morning, they interrogated their captive. The Red Orc was named Kost and he spoke guttural Common. He was the leader of a small scout party sent to investigate what happened to the chieftain Grunch, he who wore the armor of Osgda, god-hero of the red orcs. He brought a war-band to Flinch several months ago. The chieftain had made arrangements with someone in the village who said the gates would be open. Kost hadn't heard from the chieftain since.  He had come down the mountain but had to stop here because the way was blocked by a necromancer down living in the tower with the well. The necromancer had held them at bay.

When asked about the cave, he explained that this was Wyvern Tor. It was once inhabited by a flock of wyverns but some goody-two-shoes adventurers took care of that a few months ago. He said that the passage in the back led to a dead end with the giant carving of a dwarf face barfing on one wall.

He said that he came and went so there were plenty of times someone might have come into the cave while they were out hunting.

Having gotten the information they could, the party let Kost go free, telling him that the chieftain was dead and that he was probably the chief now. All he needed to do was go back to the lair and claim his title. He ran off, clambering back up the mountainside.

The party delved deeper into the mountain, following the passage indicated by the arrow drawn on the wall. A few hundred feet in, they found a great stone face carved in the wall of a cavern. The mouth had at one time formed the entrance into a mine, ten feet wide and twenty feet tall. The entrance was filled with debris from a collapse, filling the cavern with rubble and giving the appearance that the carving was vomiting boulders.

A Dead Dwarf
Searching around, the party found another arrow drawn on the wall. Searching near the arrow, they found  a secret door concealed as part of the cavern wall. Opening it they found a hidden cavern. Within the cavern was the decomposing body of a dwarf, dead for at least a week. They also found a shaft dug into the floor and the remains of a campsite for two dwarfs. A rope was tied to a piton and descended into the shaft. After rifling through the campsite for useful items, the party descended the rope. Balatan was left behind to guard the entrance.

Everyone descended the rope easily save Aline, who lost her grip and fell ten feet, injuring her leg.

They found themselves in the middle of a mine passage. Off in the distance, they could hear the booming sound of surf, as if at the ocean.

Dungeonmaster's Note: I played an eleven-hour Youtube video of the sound of crashing surf on my iPad. It added to the experience of exploring the mines.

They came across a series of short dead-end passages which they carefully explored and mapped. At one point Braxton, who was bringing up the rear, saw something moving behind him. The shape quickly disappeared from view. The followed the movement down a dead-end shaft but found nothing save for some yellow-brown slime on the unfinished wall. Aline applied magical fire to the slime to be safe. With no reaction, they continued.

They soon came across a cave containing a large pool of dark water. Braxton swam into the water to search for anything beneath the surface. There he found the remains of a long-dead wizard clutching a wand. He returned with the wand and some other valuables.

The Black Spider
After drying himself off, the party climbed some stairs and took a right turn. They opened some heavy double doors made of ornately carved brass on the right and entered into what was at one point the temple to Ordain Stoneshield, god of the dwarves. There they encountered a mysterious elf with dark black skin and white hair commanding two bugbears. The elf and bugbears were examining some notes at a table. When he looked up and saw the player characters, he said, "So despite all my efforts, you still managed to find this place. I guess I will have to deal with you personally. KILL THEM!". At his command, the bugbears rushed to attack.
"I guess I will have to deal with you personally. KILL THEM!"

Aline reacted quickly, casting a spell that caught caught the wizard in a magical web. The bugbears escaped somehow and charged the party. Meanwhile, a yellow-brown gelatinous mass approached from behind the party, emerging from the darkness of the mines they had recently explored. The dark elf wizard became invisible but Braxton's arrow found its mark (DM's note: Critical Hit!), killing the mysterious wizard.
What's that coming up behind us??
Suddenly, three giant spiders descended from the darkened ceiling, catching Valerius in webs. One of the spiders wrapped the fallen wizard in a cocoon of webbing.  At one point, Braxton fell to a bugbear's attack but was soon saved by Valerius and a healing potion. A fierce battle culminated in the killing of the spiders and the bugbears.

Don't Move! I'm HIDING!
The party moved into the room and closed the door to avoid the yellow-brown jelly. The jelly squeezed through the cracks in the door, forcing it open and poured in through the gap. Braxton took cover behind Valerius. When Valerius shifted position to stay away from the jelly, Braxton yelled, "Don't move! I'm HIDING!"

A few arrows and fire spells soon killed the amorphous blob, causing it to collapse into a quivering liquid mass on the floor.

After the battle, they cut open the cocoon to learn that the dark elf was alive, saved by the spider's venom. They took the groggy dark elf as their prisoner. Examining the papers, they found a partial map of the mine with several areas listed with an "X".

Within the adjoining priestly chambers they found two dwarves, one poisoned and the other injured. The injured dwarf said that they were the Rockseeker brothers and that they had discovered the location of the mine. He said the dark elf was named Nezznar, aka the Black Spider. He had followed them to the mine and had attacked them while they were waiting for their brother, Gundren, to arrive. The poisoned dwarf was groggy and incoherent, the victim of a spider's bite.  They brought the two dwarves and the Black Spider with them as they continued to explore.

The Sudden yet Inevitable Betrayal
In the next chamber, they found a large cavern separated by a deep ditch. A dark elf overseer and three bugbears were managing the work of a dozen chained and enslaved Cragmaw goblins who were digging the ditch.

A battle ensued. Valerius ran forward and clashed with the dark elf while shoving bugbears over the ledge as they tried to climb up the rope. The injured dwarf betrayed the party by attacking Braxton with surprise!  Syral killed the dwarf, revealing it to be a doppelganger as it shifted through several of its forms: goblin, peasant woman, Valerius, young guard from Flinch, old drunk miner, etc. Valerius killed the dark elf, only to reveal that it too was a doppelganger. Eventually, the two surviving bugbears tried to flee, only to be taken down by arrows and spells.

The Wave Echo Cave
The party rested for a few hours as Braxton, Aline, and Syral took turns digging where the goblins were digging. They interrogated the weakened Nezznar about what he was looking for but he was of no help. Eventually, they found the body of a dwarf clad in armor and the magical treasures buried with him.

Suitably rested, they continued. They found a large chamber that connected to a vast underground lake. The lake surged as if driven by waves. The level of the lake rose and fell by twenty feet every few minutes. A ledge ran along the inner edge of the cavern connecting to another passage to the right.

The party explored the passage and found themselves in another larger cave. The ceiling of this cave glittered with glowing gemstones, creating the illusion of a night sky. A ledge split the cave into an upper cavern and a lower cavern, separated by a twenty foot drop. The party were on the northern edge of the upper level. A small stone structure, the shape of a forty-foot cube with a small attached out-building, lay before them. The entrance was a heavy brass door carved with ornate and arcane symbols. They forced the door open and were met by a large spherical creature with one large eye and multiple eye stalks who greeted them telepathically, "Hello."


Next week: the thrilling conclusion to the Lost Mine of Elder Flinch!

After Thoughts
I was kind of disappointed that Nezznar the Black Spider went down so easily, but a web spell followed by arrows from two strikers (a ranger and an assassin rogue), one of which a critical, will do that!

Technically, they killed him, sure. But I said the spider cocoon, whose job is to store prey at a state of near death for later, stabilized him. It allows me to roleplay him interacting with the party more as his prisoner.

I've got to say, too, that the standing tactic for my players is always ALWAYS take the path to the left. If you always follow the left, you will eventually explore every room in a dungeon and find your way out of any maze. I looked at the map of the mine, and of course left, left, left, will take you past all other threats and straight to the boss room!

I thought about putting a cave-in to redirect them to one of the other rooms, but I decided to run the module as-written. It makes for a slight anti-climax but eh, that's why it's a game and not a novel.