This encounter is intended for use with either 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons or the July iteration of the D&D Next Playtest. 4th Edition: Five players of 6th level / D&D Next: Five players of 5th level
Every environment needs water for living creatures to survive – and even the warped beasts of the Underdark are no exception. The presence of a small but significant freshwater pond not far from a surface entrance into the depths of this subterranean nightmare world causes alarm to most. For adventurers, it means opportunity.
This encounter was originally written for my now defunct Neverwinter game, and as such, references an organization related to that campaign setting. None of that flavor is necessary to run the encounter, however. The situation has the players meeting shady, possibly hostile criminal elements for a trade or deal – in a location that is even more dangerous and alien. Unbeknownst to either party, they are stepping into the home of a colony of Myconids – one of the Underdark’s bizarre inhabitants. The fungal monsters attack both sides as interlopers; but whether or not this ruins the deal is up tot he players.
Agents of the Drow spy network, The Bregan D’aerthe, have approached the players through their surface contacts in Neverwinter regarding a bit of business. Perhaps the Drow have information the players desperately need and are willing to pay for, maybe they have acquired (or seem to have acquired) knowledge or an item the mercenary Drow are after. Whatever the case, a meet is scheduled near a large pond in a cavern not too far from the surface (A site used by Bregan D’aerthe agents to pass secret messages and materials). Strictly speaking, this will require the players to go into the uppermost reaches of the Underdark – a dangerous proposition. They will need to decide whether or not the benefit outweighs the risk (And in order to prod them into the deal, there should be a clear and significant reward).
A high-res poster of this map is included in the “Vaults of the Underdark” map pack.
At the Start of Combat: Position the Myconids throughout the cavern near regular giant mushrooms. They have been lying in wait the whole time, camouflaged among the unanimated fungi.
The PCs and Drow begin (most likely) at the opposite shores of the pond.
The erie glow from the mushrooms and the shimmering of fluorescent algae off the water hasn’t stopped being unnerving to you even after waiting half an hour. In the Drow’s defense, if this were an ambush or a trick, they would have sprung it by now…unless of course the plan was to make you die of boredom. Finally you ear a singsong voice call out “Sorry we took so long, dangerous voyage, this one.”
A petite, female Drow woman rounds a corner in the caverns on the opposite side of the pond. You note how unnerving it was that you never heard her footsteps echoing in this enormous cavern. Slinking out of the shadows behind her are two male Drow, each clad in dark armor with sword at his side. “I know what you’re thinking but calm down, surface-dwellers. We’re here to deal. Think about it, if we wanted you dead would we bother with theatrics?” The Drow and her party approach the banks of the pond on their side and beckon for you to do similarly.
The specifics of the meet will depend on your campaign. Regardless, the players actions during the negotiation will determine how the drow act during the pending combat. If the players come off rude and uncooperative, or worse, if they are too cooperative int eh proceedings (not down bidding the drow, showing any sort of weakness, seeming indecisive or amateur) then the Bregan D’aerthe agents will use the battle as an excuse to slay the players and take what they were offering in trade.
However, if the players impress the drow, they will serve as an ally in the ensuing battle, hoping that the unexpected skirmish doesn’t sour their deal. Should the players successfully intimidate or wound the Drow before combat begins in earnest, they will cut their losses, and seek to flee if possible.
Regular roleplaying and your judgement of the drow’s response should be enough to adjudicate this encounter. However, if the players are eager to use their skills and social abilities, consider running this scene as a Complexity 1 or 2 Skill Challenge. Success means the drow serve as allies, failure will ensure that they turn on the PCs if able.
Primary Skills: Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Insight
Secondary Skills: Dungeoneering, Perception (If items are involved), Appropriate Knowledge skill (If secret information is being passed along)
The Bregan D’aerthe mercenaries will vary their tactics depending on their relationship With the players.
• Indifferent: A “better part of valor” approach, keeping away from the myconids and allowing the PCs to take the brunt of the beating when possible, though likely not attacking them. In this case, if an opportunity to steal what (or whom!) the PCs are bringing to the offering table presents itself, the Drow will take it, even if this means killing a single PC.
•Cooperative: If negotiations went well, the Drow will regard the PCs as comrades in arms, knowing that the conflict can be resolved quickly with teamwork. They will set up flanking maneuvers, attack targets the PCs debilitate, and offer covering fire. Combat might be another opportunity for the PCs to prove their trustworthiness, healing or aiding their “allies” in this skirmish.
All that said, the Drow are selfish by nature and as a result of their occupation. Don’t go overboard in their assistance.
•Hostile: If things went south, then the Drow might see the myconid attack as a perfect opportunity to get what they want without breaking a sweat. They will take pot shots at the PCs first, hoping the monsters will wear them down enough to be easy targets and recover whatever valuables they have, or making the pending interrogation that much easier.
The Myconid Guards move in immediately, using their Pacification Spores on the most physically imposing combatants (at least one of them will approach the Drow). The Sovereign and Rotpriest will move together, joined at the hip so that the leader can retain the benefits of the Rotpriest’s healing.
The Myconids all focus on a single target (one of the Drow, if you are feeling forgiving towards your players) attacking it together as a colony. The goal is to make bodies as soon as possible for the Sovereign to re-animate. Meanwhile, the Adults choose to hamper any combatant that deals a great deal of damage, stunning them if possible.
The battle is another opportunity to weigh the PCs competence. If they performed admirably, this might tip the scales in the PCs favor, proving to their perfidious business partners that they are not to be trifled with. Otherwise it might give the Drow an opportunity to strike or flee while the party is weakened or off balance.
4th: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)
x1 Myconid Rotpriest (Monster Mnaual II, pg. 164)
x3 Myconid Rotslammer (Underdark) -Or- Myconid Guards (Monster Manual II, pg. 164)
x2 Drow Swashbuckler (Neverwinter, pg. 122)
x1 Drow Informant (Neverwinter, pg. 122)
D&D Next: x1 Myconid Sovereign (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.58)
x2 Myconid Adult (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)
x6 Myconid Juveniles (Against the Slave Lords Bestiary pg.57)
x3 Drow pg. 40 (The Informant replaces a short sword for Dagger, and adds “Invisibility” to her spellcasting list)