Sunday, May 29, 2011

Into the Lair of the Spider Cult

After my quick but promising experience with Dark Dungeon, I tried another game using the Lair of the Spider Cult module, a supplement for the basic game. This 53-page PDF includes a new scripted adventure, three additional adventurers (with their profiles and cards), two new spells, four new dungeon tiles and five new enemies.

[Disclaimer: my PDF of the "Lair of the Spider Cult" adventure module was kindly provided by Avalon Games. However, I am in no way affiliated to the company.]

Lair of the Spider Cult takes place in Mordenhelm, the base city for Dark Dungeon. The first thing I noticed is that, differently from the Goblins Lair, you have a choice of three places to start your adventure. Also, the text that sets up the adventure -- finding the missing daughter of a friend of yours -- is nice and gives a sense of purpose to it.

I used my previous party as a starting point, but since in this adventure you get 150 gold to spend, I was able to give them better equipment than before, and add one of the new characters:

Freddo Markelious (warrior): Chainmail,  Medium shield,  Longsword,  Torches x2,  Rations x5.
Trisha Mageborn (mage): Torches x2, Rations x5. Spells: Arcane Blast, Arcane Bolt, Arcane Shield, Counter Magic.
Ambros Silvertongue (rogue): Leather armor, Dagger x2, Thieve's picks,  Torches x2,  Rations x5.
Jon Witch Hunter (priest): Chainmail,  Medium shield,  Hammer,  Torches x2,  Rations x5. Spells: Guarding.

I decided to start investigating the Slave Market, which had the lowest threat level between the options. After walking across the crowded market square, Jon Witch Hunter managed to find a clue leading to a specific slaver. Unfortunately, as the group of adventurers met him, Jon couldn't help but act heroically, demanding that they return the girl [note: actually, that's a choice I made.] This started a combat encounter with the slaver guards, while the slaver tried to run away.
In the first round everybody used their actions to ready weapons, except for Trisha, who cast an Arcane Blast spell causing one point of damage to one of the slave guards. In round two, Ambros tossed his dagger at one of the guards, causing only a superficial cut. Trisha cast another Arcane Blast at the guard engaged in melee with Freddo, for another two points [my damage rolls were terrible.] Freddo hit the guard causing a wound so grievous that the burly man just stood there, stunned, for some moments. The other guard and Jon exchanged blows without causing any damage [note: I used the hammer stats for the guard's huge club.] In the third round, Ambros drew his other dagger, then Trisha cast another Arcane Bolt that defeated the stunned guard. Freddo moved closer to the other guard, who hit Jon so hard that he was knocked down. He used his action to stand up, but here's a view of the combat just before that:
In the fourth combat round, Ambros approached the guard and Trisha started moving around the table. Freddo hit the guard causing him to drop his club, so he spent his action retrieving it. Jon smashed his war hammer on the guard's face [he landed a critical hit on the guard, causing 6 points of damage.] The guard was defeated in the next round.

Unwilling to let the slaver escape, Jon and the other adventurers followed his trail to a house of ill repute. They managed to find a hidden door at the back of the building. Ambros disabled a deadly trap in the corridor inside. Following down the corridor, they reached a chamber where a number of cultists were performing some sort of ritual. This time, the other group members held Jon to avoid him rushing into the room and watched the ritual.

At this point I won't give many details in order to avoid spoiling the adventure, let's just say that all the adventurers died fighting bravely. Even though the module is written with replayability in mind, there is something in the first experience that would be lost (I remember encountering the Butcher for the first time in Diablo and even though that scene would repeat countless times over 2+ years of playing, I still remember hearing "FRESH MEAT" in a deep voice for the first time.)

The Lair of the Spider Cult has a very different feel from the Goblins Lair. Where the Goblins Lair works like a randomly-generated dungeon, this one plays more like the "choose your adventure" books, which means you get more story during the adventure, combined with fast-playing combat encounters. If all adventure modules are as varied as this, I'm sure they're worth the purchase as they will bring different experiences to the game.

Since this adventure is more dependent on the text, the typos become more relevant (or at least more easily noticed.) On the other hand, I must note that the text is nice to read and contributes to the player's imagination. Still regarding the text, some encounters state that the group may perform some action after the encounter is over. At first I was uncertain if this meant that the group also had the option to backtrack and investigate another clue instead; however, since some encounters state that explicitly, I assumed that it is not the case.

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