D&D 5E A playthrough of The Shattered Obelisk (spoilers)


Eternal Optimist
All the advice on role-playing the wraith is gone.

"This room contains the restless spirit of the last wizard to die here, Mormesk the wraith. Mormesk was a powerful mage until he met his end in the spell battle at the climax of the bandit attack. Centuries of anger have poisoned his soul, transforming him into a hate-filled apparition.

"Mormesk leads the Undead that haunt Wave Echo Cave. The wraith spends his time here because the treasure he had amassed in life lies in the scorched chest. No longer corporeal, he cannot touch or possess the wealth he enjoyed in life."

-- and that's all it has on the wraith.

This is the section that was deleted:

Mormesk speaks in grave whispers. When the wraith first rises up from the floor, it says, “Your presence is offensive to me, your life forfeit. My treasures are mine alone, not yours to plunder!” If the characters make no attempt to reason with the wraith, it attacks.

If the characters try to reason with the wraith, it listens to what they have to say, provided they have not harmed it in any way or seized any of its property. The wraith is irrevocably evil, so the only way the characters can stay its spectral hand is to offer it something a former wizard would consider valuable in exchange for their lives. Mormesk values magic items (particularly scrolls), spellbooks, and arcane knowledge. Whatever the gift, a character must succeed on a DC 10 Charisma (Persuasion) check to convince the wraith of its value.

Regardless of what the characters offer it, the wraith won’t relinquish the wooden pipe in the scorched chest. It will, however, part with the coins and gems if the characters agree to kill the spectator in the Forge of Spells. (The wraith doesn’t explain what a spectator is. It merely points toward area 15.) Once it receives its gift, the wraith allows characters to peruse its books and keep the secret map in one of them (see the “Treasure” section).

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Eternal Optimist
I am utterly unimpressed by this deletion. This is the sort of thing that DMs reading an adventure want. It's too easy to just end up running everything as a combat encounter.

I want prompts to give me ideas about how to transform something into a role-playing encounter, even if it might then turn into a combat.


Eternal Optimist
I've posted the longer version of the second session on my blog. Finally. I'm way behind with these.

This is the section that was deleted:
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Phandelver is no longer a starter adventure, so it doesn't need the guidance to tell inexperienced DMs how to role play monsters. The assumption is they already know this. And secondly, the concept of "irrevocably evil" doesn't have a place in modern D&D - evil is a personality trait, not a possessing power. It could have been reworded, but see the first point.


Eternal Optimist
One of the interesting things about this playthrough is looking at the rebalanced encounters - which are often much harder (it's a surprise when I get an easier one). We really needed to have a long rest after the encounter with the wraith.

Ogre Zombies + Zombies = short rest
Then Wraith = long rest.

It's not like there weren't difficult encounters before. (Flameskull!) But with more of the encounters ratcheted up, then the flow of the adventure changes. You need to retreat and rest more often.

It's interesting looking at that: is this good for the adventure flow? We're not in a standard dungeon crawl where the only goal is exploration (and loot and treasure), but instead we're trying to rescue Gundren's brother and find out what's going on. Too many hard combats, and you lose the story flow.

BTW, the flameskull encounter has not changed. Except for one thing: An explanation about how it's one of the encounters that has made the Spider pause while he works out how to get through. That's a very nice change.

Along with the cavern of fungi has also made the Spider pause... though that one seems weird.

Seriously weird.

"This cave has hindered the Spider’s explorations. Nezznar suspects that the mine’s magic workshops are nearby, but he’s reluctant to risk facing the dangerous monsters here."

The dangerous monsters = two violet fungi. Flameskull is dangerous. Violet fungi? Not so much.

Though I guess the Spider is an incredibly underwhelming final boss.

They've made him more powerful with a Poison Blast attack. +5 to hit, melee or ranged 120 feet, 2d8 poison damage.

Violet Fungi? Not immune to poison.

The fungi chamber has also changed significantly. In the original, no violet fungi. Instead, it's filled with poison gas. Which would do a much better job of delaying The Spider than the new version. :)

Also: The Spider has role-playing notes, mostly identical to the original. One wording change. It's gone from "However, he betrays the characters as soon as they outlive their usefulness." to "However, he betrays the characters as soon as he can."

Which, again, I don't think is a great change.



Eternal Optimist
Seventh Session (Monday, November 6, 2023).

Continuing through the Lost Mine after a couple of weeks with no session. Party had had a LONG rest. :)

The party returned to where they left off, and encountered the Spectator guarding the Forge of Spells. As it was describing its master, I accidentally described someone quite similar to what the fighter looked like - which Nymia, our Satyr Cleric took advantage of. She quickly befuddled it into thinking Simeon was its master, and then Simeon dismissed it back to its home plane. The party took possession of the Forge of Spells, and the magic items that lay nearby.

Continuing around the edge of the map, anticlockwise, they came to the watery cavern that provided the Wave Echo part of the name. And were surprised by the Giant Octopus that lurked below. The octopus rolled poorly, they did not. Note: The Octopus is a new addition.

The next chamber brought them to the Spider's forces - a group of bugbears and a drow excavating a cave. They surprised them, but the terrain (with a rift) meant that they couldn't overwhelm the foes. An entangle spell from Syzoth could not stop the drow from fleeing to warn the Spider, but the bugbears were dealt with. Note: One extra bugbear is on guard.

Following the trail of the drow, they came to the chamber of the Spider. Two bugbears attempted to hide behind pillars (Simeon saw them), and the Spider stood proud and defiant. Pleasantries and insults were exchanged as the foes tried to gain each others mettle. The Spider did try to gain them as allies, but the party weren't willing to compromise. Nor was the Spider willing to follow Sune! Eventually combat started... and it went very bad for the spider. Velrari (divine sorcerer) won initiative and struck the Spider with a Guiding Bolt for 20 damage. Simeon (fighter) acted next, ran into melee and scored a critical hit to kill the Spider! The other forces (the bugbears and the wounded drow) tried to flee, but the party caught and slew them. Not to anyone's surprise, the drow was a doppelganger like the one in Cragmaw castle. (The surprise was that the Spider was a drow!) Note: The original version of this room had 4 giant spiders instead of 2 bugbears - the new art for this room still depicts the giant spiders!

Taking a key and the spider staff from the Spider, they returned east to a locked room where they found the last of the Rockseeker brothers. Alive! Hooray!

The party then returned to Phandelver with the two brothers (one alive, one dead), and celebrations and a funeral ensued.

Gundren still needed the rest of the mine cleared, so we did that during the rest of the session. I adjudged the rest of the Spider's bugbears fled, so that just left various undead - including one of the most difficult encounters, the fight against the flameskull.

They knew where it was, as it was in the notes the Spider had kept, and so Syzoth the artificer was able to have his construct provide everyone with 12 temporary hit points before combat began. Just as well, as the flameskull won initiative and fireballed the group for 36 damage! A couple of characters who failed their saves would have been down.

The flameskull actually survived into a second round (hitting Simeon with a pair of fire rays), before the incredibly accurate guiding bolts of the divine sorcerer took him down. (In my experience, guiding bolts typically miss. But this sorcerer is uncannily accurate with them!) The zombies in the chamber took a couple more rounds to defeat.

One final encounter for the evening was a fight with 5 ghouls in the great hall. Note: This is against seven in the original. The ghouls surprised some of the characters, and managed to paralyse Simeon with their attacks! Nymia had lesser restoration prepared, though, and unparalysed him before a lethal attack was made. Area of effect spells from the sorcerer helped finish them off.

Looking over the notes, there were two encounter areas left - a giant snake in a pool, and an ochre jelly. I chose to omit them due to having to end the session, and it wasn't really worth running those next time.

XP-wise, the group is about 1400 away from level 5; there are a couple of Chapter 3 sidequests left, which they'll deal with next time.

Sadly, there's another missed session next week, but after that we should be back to a regular schedule.

I've no problem with the changes to the adventure this time around. The Spider is still an incredibly weak villain, but I don't think that's a bad thing - especially as he's no longer the final boss of the adventure.



Not your screen monkey (he/him)
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Phandelver is no longer a starter adventure, so it doesn't need the guidance to tell inexperienced DMs how to role play monsters. The assumption is they already know this.
That's not a very good rationale, if you ask me. D&D adventures in general could use more of these inclusions to shake things up and offer alternatives to combat-focused encounters. And that's for all levels of DMing experience.


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