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Mannix, level 6 Human Inquisitive Rogue/Wizard
Khaless, level 6 Half-Drow Assassin Rogue
Gillian, level 6 Triton Bard of Whispers
George, level 6 Tortle Battle Master Fighter/Rogue
Therin, level 6 Hill Dwarf Druid of the Moon
With the main passage blocked, the party had to take a more dangerous route down narrow, web-infested tunnels to reach Hrakhamar.
Note: I used the Save Vs. Cave: Mines 1 map pack by Gabriel Pickard to build the mine tunnel maps.
As I predicted, the party initially wanted to nuke the hell out of these tunnels before proceeding forward. The old “kill it with fire” tactic. The caves were full of natural gas, however, which would lead to a dangerous explosion.
The PCs thought they had a clever workaround with Gillian’s Gust of Wind to keep the gas away from them, but thankfully I had an NPC to tell them that was a Bad Plan, not only as the resulting cascading explosions would surely affect them, but also as Musharib was convinced his fellow dwarves were still in these tunnels.
The PCs relented by tossing Musharib into the webs first, and he promptly crawled in, then disappeared. I experimented with harsh environmental hazards for this entire area, including reducing all of their visibility to 10 feet of dim light. We also had two players not be able to make it this week, so I wrote them out of the session by having them disappear, horror-movie style, once the party started stepping foot inside.
It was left to Khaless, Mannix, and George as they very carefully made their way through the webs. Khaless used her Charm of Movement from all the way back in Orolunga to give her the Freedom of Movement spell, essentially negating the webs. I used the Dungeon Master’s Guide for webs, forcing the others to roll DEX saving throws or be restrained. Poor George failed every time.
The tunnels were a gauntlet composed of three major battles. The first was versus a pair of zombies stuck in the webs. When killed they erupted into swarms of undead spiders! Further in, the party battled larger undead spiders in a narrow chokepoint, along with a few more zombies.
Despite being barely tougher than a Giant Spider, I was nailing the attacks and draining their hit points. With only three PCs these battles were a lot more dangerous – and interesting!
Throughout the tunnels the party was finding large cocoon sacs of humanoids in various states of decomposition and undeath. The final chamber was a bit larger, and held several of these sacs, which presumably included their missing companions.
It also held a larger undead spider. There’s always a bigger spider at the end! I used the stats of a Cave Fisher, which isn’t terribly powerful, but with only three PCs I decided to not add the zombies. I did include two more undead spiders and a swarm, as Khaless is an annoyingly effective boss killer. The giant undead spider did get its weird sticky filament attack off and attempted to reel in Mannix, which resulted in an funny tug of war with George, who had previously tied everyone together with a rope before they went inside the tunnels (I guess Khaless shirked it off at some point…).
The entire spider tunnel was an interesting experiment in creating a harsh, linear environment. Having a reduced crew made things that much more challenging and added to the horror theme I was going for, though the extra parameters also slowed things down during combat. These two mine tunnel sessions also mark the single longest period I’ve been completely off book since we started the campaign.
When the undead spiders defeated and their party reunited, they finally see a way out of the web-tunnels, and can continue on their journey toward the dwarven forge next week.
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