I think it’s good practice as a DM to let players gain the magic items used against them, as opposed, as we see often in published modules, to inventing contrived reasons to keep it away from them. The PCs killed a Goblin Boss spider-rider last session who wore this weird hat, so here it is.
Hat of the Spider
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
While wearing this hat, you gain the following benefits:
You ignore movement restrictions caused by webbing.
You have the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with spiders.
You can use an action to conjure a Swarm of Spiders (Monster manual: Swarm of Insects statistics) within 90′ of you that will be under your control for 10 minutes and then disappears. Once used, this property of the hat can’t be used again until next dawn.
Chult is a special land (dinosaurs!) and so, apparently, it also deserves its own unique religion in the margin of the faerunian’s pantheon. Ubtao is the god of Chult. Or was. And, in fact, he’s not a god but a primordial, but whatever, it’s all very confusing. In Tomb of Annihilation, the module designers took the easy way out and Ubtao is simply absent. To be fair, the FR’s lore concerning him is a mess, as it often happens when the primary source is a (bad) novel (and several editions’s retconning doesn’t help either).
But what is, maybe, the most mind-boggling thing about Ubtao is that he’s both the Father of the Dinosaurs AND the one who invited humans to settle in Chult. I mean, how did that go? “Come to my land, I built a great city just for you. But, uh, don’t wander too much outside its walls ’cause my beloved children will eat your guts…”
(Also, I’m putting aside the Shadow Giant, Dendar the Night Serpent, all the Maze stuff and, most of all, Mezro the City in Heaven. Less confusion this way.)
Let’s just say that he’s a dual entity (like Janus or Hoar in Faerun), with a cycle where he’s active towards helping civilization, followed by a cycle where he’s more dissipated and all about claws and teeth and no pity for the weak.
What’s interesting with this take is: what if his devoted followers can nudge him, just a little maybe – with appropriate behavior, ritual, quest and whatnot – towards his next phase, whichever it is?
First room, we all attack the Elite Archer and ignore the guards.
The Mindthief’s psychic powers convince the Cragheart that he’s not, despite contrary evidence, a plodding rock-person, and he moves all the way to the next room. That obviously takes the garrison by surprise – its much more lightly-defended than in our previous attempt.
I kill one normal archer with a well-placed (2x) manabolt. The Elementalist kills an Elite with a ranged attack too.
One round later and we’re all re-grouped at the fountain’s room (or is that the eponymous square?). I ride the wind and freeze nova 2 archers. Next is our only hassle of the scenario as the archers pick a 2 targets deck card, severely wounding both me and the Mindthief with their ranged attacks.
As much as we were far removed from success in our previous attempt, now it was truly a walk in the park (and not because of medium difficulty)
We used and abused a perfectly legal (but strange) game mechanic whereas enemies don’t appear if there is no more available minis
I was pretty useless with my SW apart from giving elements to the Elementalist from time to time
The Cragheart led the charge and implemented efficiently our plan
The Mindthief did really good damage against the Boss
Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted
Shin, Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
Corpos, High Elf Wizard (Necromancer), Archeologist; antiquary, strange fixation on the undead
Kalohan, High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
Phileas, Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
Goro-Tso, Human NPC (Berserker template), Mercenary, devotee of Malar; bought by promises of gold and tej, have yet to see much of either
I had a cold and was dead-tired but it was still a worthwhile session, if a little of the filling sort. Guillaume had to look after his baby son (the joy of parenthood!) but he managed to join us halfway in the session.
Spider Riders (1)
The previous session the PCs had a fight against a small patrol from the Canopy Drummers (batiri goblins) and had emerged victorious. They had then tried to put some distance before nightfall, between themselves and their goblin foes, and had crossed into another tribe’s territory. This, apparently did not suffice to deter pursuit, or at least, from some fast-moving skirmishers: Spider Riders.
An Insect (spider) Swarm descended from the trees upon the poor, terrified Kalohan, while 3 Spider Riders moved to attack the PCs from a distance. Shin, quick to assert the main threat, let loose 2 magically-charged shadow arrows, killing the leader of the skirmishers, a goblin wearing a weird spider hat. The cleric of Tymora and the Elf wizard blasted to bits the Spider Swarm with magic bolts and divine fire while the bard tried in vain some mind trick on a Giant (medium) Spider.
The 2 remaining spiders failed to catch anybody with their webs. The goblins threw venom-dripping javelins and one downed Kalohan and the other wounded Philleas. However, the adventurers still clearly had the advantage after these first exchanges and they finished the skirmishers despite their annoying shoot-and-hide tactic.
A few antitoxin vials and healing spells from the cleric later and the PCs were ready to go.
The Mantis Warrior
On top of a huge fallen tree stood a Giant Mantis, eerily still (2). Already upset with her recent encounter with giant spiders, Kalohan immediately hurled a fire bolt at the thing. The Giant Mantis dashed towards the PCs but their combined attacks forced its transformation into its true form, that of a disgusted-looking goblin shaman. The latter didn’t wasted time and transformed back into his more threatening Mantis shape and attacked savagely Philleas with spiked forelegs and bite.
The Mantis Warrior proved to be a worthy adversary but he was alone against 4. His wild shape once again used up, he tried to flee but the adventurers shot him in the back
Should have killed that dude the first time
Later the same night, the PCs were alerted by some ruckus, something was approaching. In fact, it was Corpos and Goro-Tso, running away from a pack of ghouls (3). Scavo, the ghoul they’d freed earlier, told them that he wasn’t such a big fan of goblin flesh after all…
The 5 ghouls caught up with the 2 they were pursuing, but the cleric of Tymora intervened and his Turn Undead sent 3 of them sprinting wildly the way they came. The PCs had no intention to let them flee however, they used their always efficient ranged attacks to mow down the flesh-eating monsters.
Scavo attempted a pathetic plea for mercy (yet again) and Philleas the bard responded: “indeed, I know, I totally agree, it’s just a big misunderstanding”, then he lopped the ghoul’s head off…
A Giggle in the Dark
Now near exhaustion from back-to-back fights, the PCs saw goblin scribblings on the trees that Lucky deciphered as a warning to Batiri, that further ahead laid a dangerous area. That certainly posed a conundrum, it would mean a place away from the goblins but at what risk? What if whatever it was that rendered this area dangerous for the goblins proved too lethal for the depleted adventurers? They tried their luck.
But what was that they heard? A giggle? (4)
They were fortunate to have stumbled (5) in a friendly, somewhat over excited dryad’s territory. After some chatter to satisfy the social-starved fey, the PCs could finally have a decent rest. Next day, after offering them a delicious breakfast of berries and nectar, the dryad asked if they could solve a problem of hers: a burrowing monster was damaging the nearby trees’ roots to her great dismay. She had gifts for them if they would be so kind…
Acid-Spitting Giant Motherfuckin’ Centipede!
The PCs accepted gladly. Following her advice, they baited the monster with dead animals placed near its lair. The thing did showed itself and combat ensued (6). The well-rested adventurers had many tools at their disposal. The Tabaxi blinded the (Large) Centipede with a special arrow. The beast’s tremorsense couldn’t detect the levitating Kalohan, Shin perched on a branch, nor Corpos and Lucky whom were too far. It left the tough Goro-Tso and nimble Philleas as targets. It did managed to grab the bard between its fearsome mandibles, grievously wounding him, but it soon succumbed under the combined onslaught of its attackers.
The Dryad was overjoyed with this victory and gave the PCs well-crafted bows and magic mu-ngyengyue bracelets.
I’m a bit cruel with my arachnophobe sister…
The Mantis Warrior wished to make a deal with the PCs. It just didn’t happen the way I planned!
A player that is late is very often the cause of such a dissonant scene, whereas his character oddly re-appear just like that…
Okay, turns out that I’m totally inept at giggling! Ha! Ha!
Took an ankheg from the monster manual and boosted it a little.
After our failure to kill the commander of the guards, we needed to hide our criminal selves from justice some fresh air. We followed hints provided by a strange coin that we’d found earlier that led to the Temple of the Eclipse.
The Temple of the Eclipse’s main gimmick is its link to both light and dark. And it has a Boss: the Colorless, whom also follows this thematic. All other elements are weaker than usual and that is, of course, a major pain in the ass for our Elementalist…
In the temple’s parlour, we are greeted by two pairs of Night and Sun Demons. The Cragheart charges head on and in his recklessness, he gets many grievous wounds. I patch him up and he’s back in combat shape but the demons are very dangerous and are hard to outmaneuver. It’s not easy but we defeat them and get a special scenario item, something we can use against the Colorless.
We open the door and see 3 hulking Stone Golems blocking our way (no pic, wut?!). They have Shield 2, that’s a real pain. Me and the Cragheart try to set up shield/retaliate combo. That would have been very nice and efficient, if only the stone golems had fucking attacked. Total waste of a turn. At least, the Elementalist could demonstrate impressive damage-dealing with his level 3 Chain Lightning.
Jumping over the Stone Golems and simply ignore them would have been a viable plan, as they’re turtle-slow, but we feared the long-ranged Ancient Artillery‘s firepower in the back. So we finished the golems and also got a second scenario item nearby. Once we got close though, the artillery were easily dispatched. Unfortunately, by then it’s obvious that we don’t have very long before we’re all exhausted and we still have the Boss to slay…
The Cragheart has a very good plan, stop the Colorless from summoning by blocking all adjacent squares!
But time isn’t on our side and the Colorless makes it worse, he alternates between getting invisible and healing himself. We know that dumping the 2 special items, on the altar, will deal him good damage but it’s hard to do without getting eviscerated by the demons.
The Boss had 10 hp left but we failed to kill him. The Cragheart managed to take the treasure and got a nice healing ring.
Win OR Learn
The elementalist was a lot more efficient this time (not his fault if the scenario played against his character) as he got the grasp of how is new character works
His chain-ligthning was suitably impressive against the stone golems
I regret not having picked Cold Fire at level 3, too late now
My mystic ally was totally useless both time I summoned it
We tried a retaliate combo, me and the cragheart, against the stone golems, and that totally backfired in our face when those flipped a retaliate card of their own
That’s probably the last time I bring Hardened Spikes to battle despite the prior amazing success we had with it (the one time)
Our tendency to get in harm’s way (the cragheart in particular) is something that we addressed after this scenario
From now on, we’ll play at default difficulty until we have better synergy
I don’t think I’ve ever used myconids, but that’s something I want to remediate soon enough. However, if I were to stick to D&D canon lore (which I won’t), myconids are supposed to be found exclusively in the underdark, the subterranean world home to the iconic drow. This was set in stone, so to speak, by Gary Gigax’s D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1e), which of course, borrowed heavily on established hollow earth fiction. More to the point, Gigax also borrowed the myconids, which were created (as far as I know) in the earlier module A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, where there was no need to have the fungus men’s ecology so constrained.
Leaving the myconids out of most of the more typical (surface) encounters is both sad and needless, in my opinion. Put in any setting, the potential is just mind-blowing…