Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Revenge of the Man-Spiders - Ghosts of Satlmarsh, Chapter 65

Cai'luin shook off his brain jellies. 

He was standing at the base of a steep rocky hill surrounded by swampy forests. Midges and gnats swarmed around him. A horse he did not recognize was tied to a nearby tree. There was a strange villager sitting on a rock whittling a stick. 

The villager acknowledged the sea elf, "Howdy, welcome back."

"Where are we?" asked Cai'luin.

"Ya'll are in the Gnatmarsh. If yer lookin' fer yer friends, they done went in yonder cave up thar lookin' for bandits."

"I see. And who are you?"

"I'm just a local what from the village of Paducah. Yer friends hired me to be a guide through the Gnatmarsh what to lead them here." He pointed his whittled stick at the cave. 

"When was this?"

The guide squinted at the sun, "That was, oh, about an hour ago, ah reckon."

Cai'luin thanked the villager for the update and began his climb up the field of scree to the mouth of the cave. 

He entered the cave and saw immediately the bodies of two dead bugbears and a large spider with a body the size of a man's torso. The spider had two human-like arms that disgusted the sea-elf. 

Cai'luin continued into the cave, noting the chamber to the left containing two dead spiders, each the size of a horse, and a strange human-spider hybrid. The walls looked as if they were covered in the remnants of spider webs that had been burned off.

Further down the passage he saw a pit filled with excrement and rotting meat. He wrinkled his nose and pushed forward. 

Cai'luin found a vertical shaft. A network of wooden platforms were built along the far side of the shaft with ropes and cranes and a rope ladder allowing movement of cargo and personnel up and down. A gangplank allowed him to cross the shaft to the platform. The platform was littered with the bodies of three dead bugbears and another large spider with human-like arms. He descended the ladder to the platform sixty feet below. A rope bridge connected the platform to another passage on the far side. He crossed the bridge and entered a chamber filled with crates and casks of stolen cargo and contraband. Several bugbears lay dead on the floor. He could hear his companions speaking casually in the next chamber.

He entered the chamber and found his companions interrogating two bugbears who were tied up.

His friends acknowledged his arrival with a slight nod.

He said, "Hey gang, sorry I'm late. What did I miss?"


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.
DM Note-
This is part two and the finale of the short adventure - Cave of the Spiders - a third-edition mini-module available from DM's Guild. 

The Interrogation
Two bugbears were tied up and sitting in the middle of the cavern. The chamber appeared to be some kind of sleeping quarters. Dead bugbears littered the room.

Corvid loomed over them, his eyes gleaming with purple vengeance, "YOU WILL TELL US WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW!"

The bugbear looked afraid for its life, "Yeah! Yeah sure, boss! Whatever you say! We'll tell you anything you want, just promise you'll let us walk out of here alive! We don't want no more trouble!"

Corvid glanced back to Captain Alot and Father Craig to confirm the terms. He turned back and glared menacingly at the Bugbear. He hissed, "Agreed!"

The bugbears answered every question put to him. The bugbears were mercenaries hired by the bandit crew. Their boss-man was some human-spider hybrid guy. All the human-spider guys lived further down the shaft. Bugbears weren't allowed to go any further down so he didn't know exactly where. 

When asked about the logistics of their banditry the bugbear explained that they didn't have any horses or wagons. Whenever they robbed a caravan, they'd steal the horses and wagons and take them back to Paducah. There they'd hire local porters to carry the loot by hand through the swamp and to the cave. He explained that all the bugbears were allowed to keep the provisions and some of the loot, but the good stuff went to the boss-man and his crew. All that stuff was farther down the cave. 

Alot said, "That explains how the guide knew how to take us straight here."

"Yeah! Yeah! So, I told you what you wanted, right? Now you'll let us go, right?"

Corvid once again looked to Alot for confirmation. Alot nodded, "Yeah, sure. Get out of here."

The two bugbears, stripped of weapons, were allowed to climb the ladder and escape the caves.

The Spider Cave
Corvid cast another Feather Fall spell on the entire entourage and they drifted to the bottom of the vertical shaft. A passage led off into the darkness. A side passage led off to the left. The side passage was choked with spider webs. Alot caught some motion at the back of the side passage that resembled the movements of a  giant spider. 

Alot lit a torch and began burning a path through the spider webs into the side passage. He reached the edge of a larger chamber filled with spider webs. 

Alot soon found himself fighting two giant spiders at the entrance to the chamber. He was forced to drop his torch onto the ground in order to fight them off and was unable to advance further into the webs. 

Cai'luin was right behind Alot but was soon overwhelmed as an ettercap, hidden from view on the ceiling, shrouded by webbing, dropped out of the darkness and attacked! 

Craig moved up to help Alot while Father Craig summoned a miraculous spiritual hammer and moved forward to defend Cai'luin. Suddenly another ettercap dropped to harry Father Craig. Corvid was forced to turn around and defend the bard and priest at the rear! 

Alot soon dispatched to two giant spiders and was able to help the others defeat the ettercaps.  

Alot picked up his torch and continued burning away the webs. In the rear of the chamber they found half a dozen humanoid figures cocooned in spider silk. 

The cocoons writhed - the victims within were still alive! 

The team cut them down and extricated the people from the cocoons. They were poisoned and near death. Corvid prayed for their restoration while Father Craig prayed for their rapid recovery. The six prisoners were soon miraculously healed! 

One the prisoners, a human woman of competent bearing, introduced herself as Genevieve de Guare. She was the leader of a merchant caravan that had been attacked by the bandits. She and her men had been taken prisoner - she knew not why. She informed the crew that if she and her cargo could be escorted safely to Nessermouth, she would pay them a reward of 5000 gold coins! 

Captain Alot agreed but asked that she and her crew wait here for their return. The crew left the prisoners with some water and rations and returned to the main passage.  

Shaft in Ceiling
As they continued down the main passage, they encountered two large spiders, each the size of a wolf. These were quickly dispatched. 

Captain Alot noticed a large shaft in the ceiling of the passage, thirty feet overhead. The shaft was at least twenty feet wide and was clogged with thick sticky spiderwebs. Alot stowed his hammer and held his torch aloft. He activated his winged boots and took flight. As he ascended into the shaft, he used his torch to burn away a path through the spider webs. There was a glow above.

He passed through the spider webs into a cavern. The cavern was lit by a lantern. A pot contained a vile looking stew. There was a small table and almost a dozen round mattresses that resembled flattened bags full of dry beans or pebbles. A knotted rope lay coiled up attached to a nearby iron spike driven into the rock. Over half-a-dozen human bandits stood ready for battle. They had been alerted to Alot's approach by his torch. 

Bandit Guards
Alot threw his torch onto the ground. He grabbed the knotted rope and tossed it down the shaft, yelling to the others a warning about the guards and calling form them to climb as quick as they could. 

DM Note-
I rope was fifty feet long. I ruled that only two people could climb it at a time. Climbing the rope required no roll but was done at half-speed. Thus a character with 30 feet of movement could climb 30 feet of rope as a "dash" action and do nothing else. It would take each character two entire rounds just to reach the top of the shaft and join the fight.

Corvid and Cai'luin began climbing immediately. Corvid made it half-way up the rope before he disappeared in a puff of silvery mist, magically reappearing in the cavern above. 

The bandits scrambled. One disappeared. Another exited through a small passage in the rear of the cave. A third transformed himself into the form a man-sized spider with human arms - an aranea! Another cast a spell and magically replicated himself into three identical copies! The rest unsuccessfully engaged Alot with short-swords and short-range electrical spells. 

Alot attacked the four duplicates. Each time he'd stab a duplicate it would disappear! He shoved one with his shield, hoping to reveal the true opponent. To his annoyed surprise, all of the remaining copies fell down. 

Corvid created a magical bonfire to block the exit at the rear. Cai'luin finally made it to the top of the rope. Worried about the one that disappeared he backed up against the wall by the edge of the shaft.  

Father Craig finally made it to the top of the rope. He uttered a prayer and created a spiritual hammer that engaged the enemy.

Cai'luin played a destructive note on his lute, creating a sonic attack that burst among the aranea bandits.

The invisible bandit suddenly appeared and attacked Cai'luin! Luckily the surprise attack missed the bard.

Alot finished off all the copies, killing the aranea, and rushed to help Cai'luin. 

Soon all of the aranea in the cavern had been defeated. 

Corvid said, "During the fight two people approached the bonfire from the passage. They couldn't get past the bonfire so they retreated. Get ready for more."

Alot said, "We're going to them."

Passage of the Spider Swarms
Corvid dispelled the magical bonfire and the team stepped cautiously into the passage beyond. The walls of the passage were a living carpet of spiders - thousands of them. As they moved through the passage, the thousands of spiders crawled over them, biting everyone. Alot began smashing spiders with his hammer while Corvid scraped them off with his magical sword. Cai'luin played another shattering chord on his lute which destroyed many of the spiders. Father Craig prayed for a miracle and a swirling vortex of spiritual hammers spun around them in a storm of destruction - killing the remaining spiders!

They advanced more cautiously. The passage ended with a drawn curtain. 

The passage suddenly exploded in a burst of flame! Father Craig broke his concentration and his spiritual hammers disappeared! 

Corvid was spared from the blast by a miracle. Surely he was favored by the gods! Corvid ran forward into the room, drawing aside the curtain.

The Arachnid Enchanter
The cavern was roughly forty feet across. A large round bed sat atop of carpet of fine embroidery. There was a table near the entrance. On the far side of the cave was a chest and a bookshelf. Near the entrance was an aranea with two wolf-sized spiders. In the rear of the room was a tall humanoid with six eyes and mandibles protruding form his jaw. He wore the flamboyant robes of a wizard! 

The aranea said, "Be wary, my lord Mettick! The intruders have survived!"

Cai'luin responded with a magical explosive blast of force he called the Depth Charge, exploding within the cavern and instantly killing the two spiders.  Alot rushed into the room and engaged the aranea, killing him. 

Mettick the bandit wizard paused to drink a potion of healing.

Cai'luin played a discordant note on his lute and whispered a dissonant song. Mettick dropped the empty vial in shock and retreated from the bard towards the back of the room. He crawled up the side of the wall, revealing that his legs, concealed beneath his long robes, split into two spider-legs each from the knees down. He hissed his displeasure at Cai'luin.

Corvid moved in and attacked the wizard. The wizard blocked Corvid's attacks by parrying them on the magical bracers that he wore on each arm. 

Alot charged forward to smash the wizard with his hammer. 

The wizard held out his hand to stop the charging automaton but to his surprise, nothing happened!

DM Note-
The MVP moment of the night came when, during a fight with the evil spider-hybrid wizard bad guy, I had a cool power that was a Reaction - if he got hit, he spent his Reaction to have the attacker instead target the next closest person.

Alot attacked, I expected a big roll and lots of damage, so I got giddy because I was going to redirect it to Corvid. I said, "I have a REACTION!"

Cai'luin the Bard's player is not very rules literate, and ALSO prone to answering questions with random bullshit so I never know when he's being sincere, said, "Nope! I got him with Dissonant Whispers this round. He already used his reaction to move away from me as far as he could."

Not believing him, I said, "Bullshit!" 

He replied, icily, "Look. It. Up."

I looked it up. Sure enough, right there in the spell description. "On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you."

Corvid' player said, "Did [CAI'LUIN'S PLAYER] just beat CHRIS at RULES LAWYERING???"

I gave him a slow-clap. I was impressed. And kept reminding him of how impressed I continued to be for the rest of the night.

Father Craig prayed for more spiritual guardians to swarm the room, engulfing the enchanter in celestial hammers!

Mettick responded with another fireball spell! The room was engulfed in a fiery blast! Once again, Father Craig lost his concentration and the guardians disappeared!

Corvid glared at Mettick with holy vengeance! Righteous fury sublimated from his glowing eyes! His entire being flared incandescent with the righteous power of the god of death and plunged his magical sword into the arachnid wizard!

Mettick screamed and died. His body disintegrating into hundreds of harmless spiders that crawled away.

The Good Stuff
Mettick's strongbox was filled with stolen contraband. Within the strongbox they found 2,000 gp, 500 pp, 10 garnets worth 100 gp each, and a golden vial with a ruby stopper worth 500 gp. A  silver-and-jade lamp worth 700 gp had sat upon the table. It was knocked onto the floor during the many explosive blasts.

In addition, Mettick left behind two magical bracers and a magical ring. Unfortunately, the ring was listed among the items that were stolen from Davus Raal's caravan and thus needed to be returned.

The party took a moment to rest, bind their wounds, and catch their collective breath. It had been a difficult and desperate battle and they were badly injured. Cai'luin played a restorative song while Father Craig tended to the wounds of all those who had been injured.

DM Note-
Which was surprisingly everyone. Nearly everyone was below half hit points. Some were pretty desperately low. It wasn't a TOUGH fight but the players said it was challenging and really enjoyed it.

The party took the strongbox back to the shaft and lowered it using the knotted rope. There they left the box and continued down the passage.

The passage ended at the bottom of a large cave that rose a hundred feet overhead. A staircase was cut into the far wall of the cave that looped around to a ledge above them. There were wooden platforms suspended from the ceiling and walls of the cave and a rope bridge connected the platforms to more platforms out of sight behind the ledge above them. 

Several ettercaps had seen the party drop the strongbox from the shaft in the ceiling. They deduced that their master had been defeated so they fled up the stairs. 

Alot quickly took flight to the ledge above. He saw at least a dozen ettercaps and aranea bandits in human form. The alarm had been sounded and they were all fleeing towards a passage to the right.  Alot flew towards the entrance of the passage and tried to block their escape.

He attacked one ettercap as they fled past but there were simply too many of them. Soon the entire throng of ettercaps and aranea were rushing past him. 

Meanwhile the others were running up the stairs as fast as they could. 

Alot considered giving chase. He turned and looked into the passage. It became a vertical shaft straight down and was clogged with spider webbing. The fleeing spider-hybrids had descended into the oerth from whence they came. 

Corvid finally caught up. Alot asked, "What do you think. Should we go after them?"

Corvid considered it, "No. We better not. We have recovered the loot and we have freed prisoners to return home."

"Alright. Fine." Alot sighed, "Let's go."

They returned to recover the strongbox and escort the prisoners out of the caves.

To Be Continued...

DM Note-
The original module was unique in that it did not include a traditional dungeon map. Instead, it came with a cutaway side view of the dungeon! This was useless for Roll20 so I have to create my own maps in Photoshop. 

Here are the maps I created.  

Top level


Lower Level

Overall this was a good choice for a short two-session side quest. The players said they felt challenged and they enjoyed the non-standard opponents. 

My only complaint is that the original adventure left everything after the shaft in the ceiling empty. It's such an interesting location - what a waste! I filled it with ettercaps and aranea in case the players decided to hold off on the shaft and come back to it. 

However, MY mistake was leaving them there after the boss fight. Alot tried to engage them but it would have been such an anti-climactic fight for no reward and no narrative purpose. Alot's player just wouldn't get the hint that they were running away. I eventually just flat out told him, "Dude, they're fleeing for their lives. This is NOT a fight!" and he said, "All right. Fine."


  1. Nice work on the maps! I might have to try this adventure out with my players sometime, because I love spiders (and they hate them). If I do end up doing that, would you mind if I used these maps for my game? They could be of great use.

    Great write-up this week, as per usual. I can't wait to see what adventure you tackle next!

    1. Thanks! Please use the maps. That's why I posted them.