Dungeons & Dragons Online

Phase spider encounter

Hi all,

I just wanted to share the encounter I built for my players. They are currently 3 PC level 3 and I don't help them with any NPC, however, I am quite heavy handed with potions and loot (they get tons).

Their patron, an aristocrat with a shady past, has sent them on a quest to retreive the sigil of the founder of her city to counter a political play set against her. She has a very competent clerc in her payroll who was able to produce a map with the potential position of the crypt which has long been forgotten and only a pair of very cryptic history books in old tongue would mention. Catherine de Villier, their patron, has already sent her huntsman on the trail, but all communication has been lost for a few days.

They venture through the wild to get to the location (and as a DM I did not put any encounter on the way knowing the dungeon would be a grind. I did roll for encounters at the table for drama, though). Once arrived at the marked location on the map, they indeed notice a very tall crypt in ruins. The clerc did a fantastic job. However, he failed to write about the heavy spiderwebs covering the ruins and the trees surrounding the area. They arrive during the last hour of daylight.

The crypt flanks the rocky side of a cliffy mountain on the east and north, and pine forest on the east and south, and is accessible via a small clearing on the south.

As far as the players are about to tell, the crypt is composed of two rooms joined by a stair case. The old ruin feels very humid and a foul smell of rot emanates from within the crypt.

They access a 25ftx25ft room via a wide dais (15ft wide) on the south. They can see, among the webs in the north west corner, a mass the size of a human and a bag on the ground not far from it. in the middle of the north wall, they see a staircase leading up to a second 25ftx25ft room. The staircase might be as long as you need, just know that the longer, the easier for the players as long as it is 5ft wide (the spider has to squeeze here, and therefore has half movement). I planned a secret door in the middle of the second room's east wall. Inside, the party can find a stair case dug deep down inside the mountain flank. This leads to the real crypt, which celebrates the real founders of the city (since a PC in my party is a goblin, I made this a goblin tomb to tie it to his backstory)

DM Note: the body in the first room is the huntsman and his bag of holding. He is still alive, but only magic can heal him and the paralyzing poison in his body. If he is brought back to life, he will ask for his bag of holding heirloom back.

The web gets denser the further it goes in the crypt, and I start to count difficult terrain after the middle row in the first room. The spider is not affected by the difficult terrain (see phase spider statblock). The player can spend an action burning 5ftx5ft of webs using their torch. It's damp inside, so the fire doesn't propagate unless they build enough heat (if they had a fireball spell for instance)

The crypt ruins have large holes in the ceiling and on the west walls.

Here's how to play the spider:

  • The spider is cowardish and will only strike if it knows it can poison its prey. It will retreat and leave the PCs alone if it takes more than 50% damage
  • It knows where the PC are as long as they stand on its web
  • It will attack PC standing out of the group
  • Here's how a spider turn sequence might look like:
    • Turn 1: phase out of the etheral plane (bonus action), move strategically, hide (if it fails the stealth check, it will retreat behind a wall and wait for the next turn to attempt hiding again
    • Turn 2: move closer to a PC, strike with advantage, bonus action phase in the etheral plane.
    • Rince and repeat. This should give the players some time to act smartly, or more likely, to disband and start acting on individual plans (the barbarian wanted to kill the beast, the rogue was interested in exploring and learning about gobelin history and the artificer was performing some test on the bag of holding out of the webbings.)

In the secret crypt, I reflavoured TCoE puzzle of the dwarven skulls. My players figured it out quite fast, and it opened a cache with magical items.

The way back was just as fun, however, they burnt every ressource they had to try and chase the spider when it was fleeing with the body in the first room (I thought it would be more interesting to have it care for this rather than just run for its life).

I allowed a couple of rulings:

As an action, the players can try to beat their passive perception to spot the spider (earning one more round of quiet before crazy poison damage)

If the spider isn't spotted, the party can attempt to strike it at disadvantage before it phases in when it attacks. This would be for any held action. This is a grey zone in the rules, in my opinion, and I chose to increase the difficulty of the encounter this way. Technically, once the attack is performed, the creature is out of stealth, hence any held action can trigger (attacks, spells, etc) but since it phases out immidiately after, an argument can be made to increase the difficulty of the counter-attack. It's your table, make your own ruling!

Needless to say, this put the fear of Gods in my players and created a ton of iconic moments

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