Long past are the days when drow ruled over Shadowdale from the Twisted Tower—or are they? Beneath the sleepy farming community, an old evil stirs. The drow and their foul Underdark minions have set eyes on the Dalelands, but to what end is anyone’s guess. Now, it’s up to an unlikely band of adventurers to defend Shadowdale from the drow threat and learn what Lolth and her villainous followers are up to. Success means a respite from danger. Failure could doom the surface world.
"Web of the Spider Queen" is a Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game adventure designed for the spring 2012 season of the D&D ENCOUNTERS official play program. This season incorporates character options from Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook, and it comes with three full-color battle maps, thirteen ready-to-play encounters, and information on the D&D ENCOUNTERS program.
"Web of the Spider Queen" (2012), by Logan Bonner, is the adventure for Season 9 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Spring 2012.
Continuing the Encounters. Like the previous Encounters adventures, "Web of the Spider Queen" is the master plan for a season's worth of Encounters organized play. It details thirteen weekly play sessions for characters levels 1st-3rd, with each week consisting of a single encounter. The encounters in turn are organized into three chapters; characters can take a short rest after each week's encounter and an extended rest at the end of each chapter.
"Web of the Spider Queen" is a classic sort of adventure, focusing largely on a dungeon crawl through the Underdark. There's one week of character creation before the 13-week season. It ran from May 16, 2012, to August 15, 2012.
About the Encounter Format. By the spring of 2012, the Encounters format was pretty set; each week tended to contain some roleplaying, then some combat. As with Season 8's "The Elder Elemental Eye" (2012), there's also a recap at the start of each week's play to help new and returning players. Unfortunately, the recaps in this season's encounters are shorter and less formal than those found in the previous season. This shorter "last session" synopsis would continue through Season 11, which would be the end of the original Encounters run.
Week 6 featured a very unique encounter. "Tests of Lolth" offered a series of puzzles, one per character. There was no combat at all, one of the few weeks where this was the case throughout the Encounters. The net two Encounters seasons would also feature a unique challenge in week 6.
About the Product Tie-In(s). As had been the case since Season 3's “Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents” (2010), this season required Essentials characters; and as had been the case since Season 4's "March of the Phantom Brigade" (2011), the adventure supported the use of Fortune Cards (2011-12). There was no new Fortune Cards release at the time, so players were still using Spiral of Tharizdun (2012) cards, which had been coordinated with Season 8's "The Elder Elemental Eye" (2012). However, there were three new Fortune Cards available as rewards: Bloodcurdling Scream, Insane Defiance, and Cunning Misdirection.
The core tie-in for the season was to "Rise of the Underdark," Wizards of the Coast's final multimedia tie-in for D&D 4e, which ran in the main from April 2012 to August 2012. It was a Forgotten Realms story that depicted Lolth driving the drow to attack the surface in an attempt to fill Mystra's vacant seat as the Goddess of Magic.
"Rise of the Underdark" was foreshadowed with the re-release of War of the Spider Queen (2012) novels as omnibuses in April and May of that year. However, the new story began with "The Sun Never Rises," a convention adventure by Shawn Merwin run from April 6-8, 2012, at the PAX East convention. Its story of drow assaulting Dagger Falls was a direct prelude to "Web of the Spider Queen," and it even gave players a code that they could redeem for a Treasure Card depicting the “Ruby Medallion of Lathander” in "Web of the Spider Queen" itself. Interested fans can now find "The Sun Never Rises" in Dungeon #216 (July 2013).
The most important "Rise of the Underdark" supplement for this new season of play was Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook (2012), released on May 15, the day before character creation for this adventure. Players were encouraged to use themes from that supplement, which got occasional reference in the adventure, as had been the case in Season 6's "Lost Crown of Neverwinter" (2011).
All told, the "Rise of the Underdark" marketing blitz was probably Wizards' most sophisticated marketing plan since the Dark Sun marketing surrounding Season 2's "Dark Sun: Fury of the Wastewalker" (2010). Over the course of "Web of the Spider Queen," the Underdark marketing would continue with two Dungeon Tiles set, a Dungeons & Dragons Online tie-in, and a few eBooks. Wizards also kicked off their new Dungeon Command miniatures game on July 17 with a drow-oriented set called Sting of Lolth (2012). Surprisingly, there was only one print tie-in book through all of this: R.A. Salvatore's Charon's Claw (2012), the third book in his Neverwinter Saga.
A few final Rise of the Underdark releases would appear on August 21, to seed the next D&D Encounters season.
About the Homage. Unlike many of the previous seasons, "Web of the Spider Queen" doesn't have any explicit ties to older adventures. However, it's faintly reminiscent of the classic D ("Descent") series of adventures (1978), as the players chase fleeing drow under the earth.
Expanding the Forgotten Realms. "Web of the Spider Queen" is the first of a few epic adventures set in the Realms. It's located in the very well-defined village of Shadowdale, including the Old Skull Inn, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba, and what lies below. Players even get to meet Elminster. However, the setting isn't 100% canon due to the limitations of the Encounters environment. The author warns, "The maps featured in this adventure, particularly those of the Old Skull Inn and the Twisted Tower of Ashaba, don't match the standard maps of those locations. Instead, they've been adjusted to fit the D&D ENCOUNTERS format. This typically means that maps are smaller and less complex than the actual locations."
Future History. The Rise of the Underdark continues in the next two Encounters seasons: "Council of Spiders" (2012) and "War of Everlasting Darkness" (2012).
About the Creators. Bonner wrote extensive for 4e during its early years, so "Web of the Spider Queen" was a return for him. He also coauthored Into the Unknown and the next season's "Council of Spiders."
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.