I'm DMing the starting campaign for the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure from the (original) D&D 5e Starter Set.

Our group is largely money-based. Most of them go and do side quests and other jobs for money of notion. I want them to feel motivated to defeat the Black Spider, besides the wealth that they could possibly accumulate from defeating him and his minions. He is a drow and there is a drow in my group, so if there was a way that I could make him have some sort of grudge and want to hurt them (of Phandalin) that would really help. The other characters in my group are a dwarf cleric, half-orc paladin, and a high elf wizard.

What is the Black Spider's Goal? How can I get the PCs to want to fight the Black Spider, and why does he want to fight them?


2 Answers 2


The Black Spider's motivations are detailed in the campaign module

Since the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure is made freely accessible by Wizards of the Coast, I'm going to quote it here, but I'm putting it in spoiler markup to avoid spoiling players who might be in an (unmodified) LMoP campaign.

Even though he intends to kill the characters, Nezznar is curious about them. Given the chance, he quizzes the characters at length regarding their identities, allegiances, interests, and goals. He files it all away in memory in the hope that someday he might find a use for what he learns.

Nezznar admits to being the Black Spider, and to using the Cragmaw goblins and the Redbrands to ensure that Wave Echo Cave remains his secret. He will say or do anything to put the characters off their guard, including promising to surrender or proposing cooperation against the monsters impeding his progress toward reaching the Forge of Spells. However, he betrays the characters as soon as they outlive their usefulness.

Roleplaying [The Black Spider], The Lost Mines of Phandelver, Chapter 4

There's also some corroborating information found in the introduction of the module:

Unfortunately for the Rockseekers, they are not the only ones interested in Wave Echo Cave. A mysterious villain known as the Black Spider controls a network of bandit gangs and goblin tribes in the area, and his agents have followed the Rockseekers to their prize. Now the Black Spider wants Wave Echo Cave for himself, and he is taking steps to make sure no one else knows where it is.

Background, The Lost Mines of Phandelver, Introduction

Below is my interpretation of what this says about their motivations, which might be obvious from context, but again, in spoiler markup:

Essentially, Nezznar wants the Forge of Spells all to himself. It's a powerful magical landmark that facilitates the construction of magical items; it has intrinsic value in multiple ways. His motivations really aren't all that different from the Rockseekers, except that the campaign module frames his claim to the forge as being less legitimate than the Rockseekers. Regardless, he attacks the players because he views them as being a threat to his claim. As stated in the module, he doesn't attack immediately, and might even assist the party if the cave is still full of monsters, but he absolutely intends to betray them in order to keep the secret of the cave.

Being essentially the "Final Boss" of LMoP, he orchestrated Gundren's capture, and is more-or-less responsible for all the events of the campaign that occurred in reaction to the Rockseekers' expedition, including funding the Redbrands and the Cragmaw Goblins. So if the Adventurers rescued Gundren, they have good reason to view the Black Spider as an enemy, rather than as a mere annoyance or obstacle.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ how is it freely accessible? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2019 at 20:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: It isn't, as far as I know. It's only in the Starter Set, which is a paid product. That said, quoting one or two paragraphs seems fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Oct 26, 2019 at 20:11
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Note: the LMOP campaign was made freely accessible on D&D Beyond (and Roll20?) in 2022, though it was no longer claimable once the new Dragons of Stormwreck Isle Starter Set was released. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 1 at 20:59

Why he wants to fight them is not nearly as important as why they want to fight him

Players, in general, are a pretty egocentric lot. Even if they don't treat NPC's like, well, NPC's, the average player doesn't spend much time thinking about the motivations of their foes. They mostly care about their own motivations. So while it might be important to you that the Black Spider has a reason for going after the characters, they might not even notice if you don't. And your characters in particular seem to be even less empathetic than average. Thus I would not worry about why he wants to fight them. In fact, you can easily get by with running him as written, where he doesn't even have any particular animosity towards the characters, he just wants to make sure they don't frustrate his plans and would like to learn more about them for future use.

What is far more important for your use is why, besides money, your players are interested in fighting him.

Now, you haven't given us a lot of background about your PC's other than race and class, so that makes it difficult to make specific connections to their idiosyncratic backstories. In the absence of such specific information, I'm going to fall back on generalizations, in particular the racial animosities that used to be the assumed background in the game. WotC is making an effort to move away from these stereotypes, and if that is true in your campaign, then good on you - but then we need to know more about your specific characters to answer this.

One of your characters is a drow, and nevertheless another character in your party is a high elf - and somehow they are both cool with that. Perhaps your drow character is one of those renegade drow exiled from the Underdark for their good tendencies. If so, then they already should have a general motivation to oppose the Black Spider. You can make that more personal by having the PC learn more about the Black Spider. When they learn that the Spider's real name is Nezzner (perhaps from Iarno), they actually recognize who that is. Nezzner belongs to the house that exiled them. Or Nezzner is a known drow operative, whose work on the surface involves discovering and eliminating renegades like them. Maybe Nezzner was personally involved in the capture and torture of your drow's family member or companion.

One of your players is a dwarf cleric. Nezzner wants to control the Forge of Spells, but the forge sits in a mine created by dwarves centuries ago. In fact, as written, the Black Spider's current headquarters is desecrating a temple of the dwarven god Dumathoin. If that is not who your PC worships, change the temple to one of their faith or a close ally. After the party hears about Wave Echo Cave, perhaps from Gundren, have the cleric's church contact them with more information about the dwarves of the Phandelver Pact. They will learn that there are religious relics important to their faith to recover there - or even better, to work with the Rockseeker brothers to reconsecrate the temple.

One of your PC's is a half-orc paladin. Knowing the paladin's faith and oath would be very helpful here, as well as their relationship with their human and orc kin. But consider this. The Black Spider is building a network of goblinoid allies (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), all in service to Maglubiyet and opposed to the orc gods. If the PCs talk with the orcs of Wyvern Tor, maybe it turns out in your campaign that they are not raiders, but actually scouts keeping an eye on the Cragmaw Clan and King Grol. The orcs of the region are growing increasingly concerned about how Grol is expanding his power and influence with the help of the Black Spider, and will tell that to the PC. Nezzner's plans are good for neither the humans nor the orcs of the region.

One of your PC's is a high elf wizard. Did we mention that the Black Spider is a drow? And your PC did not notice that? Perhaps you need to remind him about how when Nezzner gains control of the Forge of Spells he will use his power to start capturing elves from the surrounding region and sending them to the Underdark for torture and sacrifice. Or, if this is not a 'thing' in your world, note that Nezzner is also an arcane caster. Perhaps he has stolen his staff or some scrolls from the guild to which the PC belongs, and he is infamous within that small circle.

Now, you would be overplaying your hand to dump all of these hooks on your players, all at once. But a good hook or two, planted with the right PC, should get them headed his way with more motivation than his loot. And speaking of loot for your money-oriented players, did you notice that the Rockseeker brothers are rewarding the party with a 10% share in the mine for successfully helping them clear it?


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