Hello Dungeon Crawlers Radio!
What can I say, but I think I royally screwed up my game. Let me kind of explain what’s happened. So my group has been playing for over a year now and they are roughly about level 11. So they are well established characters that have the means or taking care of themselves in almost any situation. The party is a group of five, including a rogue, mage, cleric, and two fighters that can really dish out the damage. They work together really well.
So they have accepted a quest to retrieve the fabled item of Rovak and during the quest was able to piece together the clue to bring them to the cave of a long dead Dragon, Golfinix. The enter the cave and clear it out with ease, but when they arrived in the chamber where the item was rumored to be they found a half eaten and bloated body of a Drow upon the floor. Now the Drow have not been seen in this year for several decades so this was a great surprise to the characters and so they wanted to investigate further but the Cleric reminded them of their responsibility to warn the surrounding villages and send a warning to the King. After this was done they searched out a fellow by the name of Cor’Valtis to learn of any possible Underdark passages that could possible come close to or connect with the dead Dragon’s lair. When indeed Cor’Valtis identifies such one passage they party takes off after the foul elves.
Now this is where things basically go wrong.
The players find the small cave begin their progress down into the Underdark. Now because only one of them is a Dwarf and the rest are Humans they are basically blind unless they use their items the produce light, sun rods, torches, or magical devices. The players didn’t think anything of this…But of course down in the Underdark they are a giant beacon of come get some!
After several fights with some really nasty creatures the players barely make it near to the Dragon’s cave to find that the Drow had magically created a tunnel that connected to the passage and the cave. At that point they decided to follow the tunnel to a smallish cavern that housed a adamantine tower of some sort. Of course it was a trap because why? The Drow scouts had seen their light source and went to investigate. The group crossed the cavern with ease and no threats came at them, because the Drow were closing off any escape routes. The rogue easily picked the lock on the tower door and in went the group with weapons in hand.
They had a small skirmish with a iron golem inside the entryway which was vastly much bigger on the inside than the tower would allow one to think. The battle was tough but they dispatched the golem. Once that was done they went to open the large doors that allowed them to move forward it was here that the rogue rolled a 1 and failed on disarming the trap, thus setting off an alarm and having his hand puncture by a misfiring spring. With the alarms going off the two fighter’s broke down the doors and proceeded to barrel into whatever was on the other side of the doors. 8 Drow with nasty swords and other weapons in hands. During the battle the rogue started to feel ill and faint and failed both saving throws and succumbed to the poison that was coursing through his veils that was on the spring. So she drops down to the floor unconscious, the Drow then focus their attacks on taking out the mage and the cleric. Which of course brought up some annoyance and heated words from my players saying the NPCs would not go after them since they are in the back. I again reminded them that these were thinking NPCs and not feral beasts or dumb goblinoids.
With a few crossbow bolts coated with sleep poison and failed save throws the mage and cleric dropped to the floor out cold. The two warriors nearly dead were able to pull off a save and defeat the remaining Drow. The alarm is still ringing and they have only gone two rooms into the tower. One of the warriors when to take a peak outside and nearly got his head chopped off by a Drider before slamming the door shut and throwing down the locking bar. Now the PC’s are stuck, two asleep, and one dying of poison and the only person that could save him is asleep.
I don’t want to bail them out because they have walked into this ill prepared and are level 11 characters. One of them may die as they have to move on. So really the question here is two part first I would like you to help put the argument to rest that the Drow would have tactically gone after the spellcasters in the group and not the stronger fighters first. Then secondly when should I do in regards to my players? Should I throw them a bone and a safe way out? If I do should there be some consequence to their actions? Because honestly I don’t think the Drow would just let this pass? Let alone what should the consequence be for failing to retrieve the item as promised?
Can you help me out here!
Gamer Forge Response:
Drider? We hardly knew her! Har har! DCR says:
1. The easy one: Of course, the drow would target a cleric. The drow matriarchal society reveres clerics. Some surface-dwelling fools bringing their heretical beliefs to offend Lolth? Yeah. Provided your cleric is taking great pains to hide his cleric-ness(?), then the drow foes would know to target their efforts there, thus gaining a tactical advantage.
2. If, for some zany reason, your heroes escape this situation, don't go easy on them. The worst thing one can do for their players right now, would be to hand-wave or in any way gloss over the escape. At level 11, these characters have earned the privilege of getting the full details of their adventures. Now, the players have a few options. First, it's not out of the question to attempt to parlay. With circumstances being so dire, the two fighters may have to resort to this. Second, attempt to fall back and try again. Get some hirelings or mercenaries for some extra muscle. Lastly, you may have to surrender and negotiate the terms of your release. This may include having to do a favor for a matriarch. It will most likely be something that will kill you or compromise you. But, at least you will be out of this frying pan.
3. This part we can't stress enough: don't hammer down on them. These heroes have learned some of the valuable life lessons of adventuring, so there's no need to keep crushing their spirits by heaping on punishment after punishment. Sometimes, having failed at a quest is punishment enough. One or more of them may die trying to get out of this predicament. Telling the story of how they do it, and giving the details of the losses necessary to make it happen will be the true reward for your players. Just make sure you keep things moving. Don't let this little tragedy slow down the pacing of your game.
*Bonus XP: You think things are pretty dire? Try reading Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers. That's a pretty hopeless situation. Sure, soldiers get to ride around in robots, but a never ending mass of faceless, nameless killer spider/beetle things? The whole story is a satire, not unlike the movie Robocop. Coincidentally, both film versions were directed by the same guy, Paul Verhoeven. Weird, huh? But that says something about how players/viewers can handle the direness of the scene. No matter what the final outcome is, maybe it's best to look back with a smile and laugh at it. This scene has the makings of a great war story to tell the young ones when you become old geezers and tell them about what gaming was like when you only had a piece of paper and a pencil and a twenty-sided die, uphill...both ways!