Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Darklake" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 3

What follows is an illustrated dramatic retelling of my group's play through of the D&D campaign setting, "Out of the Abyss". SPOILERS for anyone wishing to play in this campaign.


The escaped prisoners of Velkenvelve
fled through the caves and passages
of the Underdark on their way 
to the Kuo Toa village 
known as Slubloodop, 
led by the Kuo Toa heretic Shuushar.  

Talorean - Half-drow abandoned at birth to be raised by wolves.
Angolwen - Wizard of mixed human/elven parentage.
Kettle Bearclaw - Halfling baker living among dwarves.
Pain Grille' - Halfling street urchin from Waterdeep.
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.

Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Eldeth - Dwarven scout from Gauntlgrym, competent and proud.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Suushar - Kuo-toa ascetic who has sword an oath of non-violence.
Sarith - Drow guard sentenced to die for murdering a fellow guard.
Buppido - An uncharacteristically friendly Derro with secrets. Everyone assumes he's an assassin.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins who define word "annoying".
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.

Shuushar the Awakened

Fifteen strangers crawled through endless caverns miles beneath the surface on their quest for an exit from the subterranean realm. No one knew how many days had elapsed since they escaped, but they had stopped and rested nine times on their journey. Now the caverns began to slope slightly downward, the air became more humid, and they could smell salt water in the air. Ahead, the cavern widened and opened up onto a vast space. They could hear the sound of lapping water echoing from infinite blackness. 

As they exited the passage, eight bipedal fish-men stepped from the massive stalagmites behind which they were hiding. They were unarmored and each carried a primitive spear. Their leader carried no weapon. All of them were adorned with strange red facial tattoos. 
Shuushar stepped forward to greet his people. He met with the leader and the pair exchanged words in their strange fish-man language that sounded like bubbles popping. It soon became clear that Shuushar had become distressed. The leader of the fish-men then bit Shuushar on the face and slapped him twice, each slap deliving what appeared to be some kind of electric shock! Shuushar fell unconscious to the ground! The leader then ordered the other fish-men to attack the other escapees with a cry of "Leemogoogoo!".

The two sides charged into battle. Talorean, Kettle, Pain, and Ront took the center. The twinds Topsy and Turvy rand around a stalagmite to the right followed by Buppido and Jimjar. Virtue, Eldeth, and Sarith defended the left flank. Prince Derendil stayed in the rear to defend Stool and Angolwen. 

The battle was vicious and several escapees were knocked unconscious by the kuo toa who appeared to be trying to take prisoners. Likewise, the escapees did their best to knock their foes unconscious on the remote chance this was just a misunderstanding and the hope for a later explanation. Despite this, one of the kuo toa was burned alive by Angolwen's fire bolt spells while the leader was chopped by Ront and stabbed to death by Buppido even after the leader was knocked unconscious. Ront grinned a stupid grin but Buppido apologized for his display of unnecessary violence. 
Buppido the Derro
Having survived the ambush, the party decided against interrogating the kuo toa and indeed even left them unrestrained. They continued along the shore of the Darklake towards the direction of Sloobludop. 

Soon they came across another group of kuo toa. This group was traveling in plain view and called greeting. Shuushar approached to offer introduction. Soon the escapees were introduced to a wizened kuo toa wearing the robes and headdress of a priest or holy man. His facial tattoos were blue and of a different shape and pattern than those worn by the previous party.

The holy man passed his hand and offered a ritual incantation and were soon able to understand his language.
Plooploopeen, Archpriest of the Sea Mother

“I am Ploopploopeen, archpriest of the Sea Mother Blibdoolvpoolp. She answers my prayers by delivering you. Help us, and you will be rewarded for your service.”

“The inhabitants of Sloobludop have lived in harmonious service to the Sea Mother for hundreds of years. Oh, there were occasional ‘visionaries’ (glares at Shuushar), but nothing of any great concern.”

“I am Ploopploopeen, archpriest of the Sea Mother Blibdoolvpoolp. She answers my prayers by delivering you. Help us, and you will be rewarded for your service.”

“The inhabitants of Sloobludop have lived in harmonious service to the Sea Mother for hundreds of years. Oh, there were occasional ‘visionaries’ (glares at Shuushar), but nothing of any great concern.”

“A few weeks ago, my own daughter, Bloppblippodd, told me she experienced a powerful vision. She had been chosen as the archpriest of a new god, the so-called Deep Father Leemooggoogoon, proclaiming him the new god of her people. She backed up her claims with miraculous demonstrations of prophecy. She has used these prophecies to turn many kuo toa away from the Sea Mother and into the flippers of her dark cult.”

“Her cult has divided our town, and her followers have been making an increasing number of offerings on his altar – BLOOD sacrifices – from those that resist her powers, then casting bloody chum into the Darklake where is it consumed by… strange visitors to our shore. I know that she has been – preparing – for something, I know not what. My daughter’s behavior and actions lead me to believe that her preparations may lead to the final destruction of Sloobludop and its people, and that I cannot allow.”

“Her prophecies have foretold that something important is going to happen very soon, perhaps before my next rest. It is my belief that she is using some kind of mental power to control her followers.”

“Therefore it has fallen upon me to break her cult but her devotees are too many, and mine are too few. I need your help.”

"I saw that my daughter sent out a raiding party, likely to capture you to use as a sacrifice for tonight's ceremony. Indeed her auguries surely told her the same thing mine told me, that you would be coming. So I decided to lead a group out to stop them. I am glad that they did not succeed."

“I would like you to take part in a ruse. I want you to pretend to be my prisoners. I will present you as gifts to my daughter to be used in her abominable rituals. I will pretend to show interest in joining her cult. She will receive me and I will be able to approach her. Once I am close to her, my followers and I will be able to capture her. Your role will be to protect us from her guards.”

 “For this subterfuge to succeed, you must appear to be unarmed. You will surrender your arms to my whip, Glooglugogg, who is also my son and most trusted aid. He will conceal your weapons in chests, covering them with treasure. You will carry these chests with you as offerings to my daughter. When my trap is sprung, you will brandish your weapons. You may, of course, keep any small weapons concealed on your person.”

“If you do this, you will forever be remembered as the saviors of Sloobludop and you will have my gratitude. In addition, I will pay you a reward. I am prepared to pay you 1000 gold pieces in exchange for your service, half up front, the remaining half upon completion of our stratagem.”

“Should I fail, I would count on you to kill Bloppblippodd and my people from her blasphemy.”

Ploopploopeen led the escapees to the village of Sloobludop, a small village barely 500 feet across nestled between the cavern wall and the Darklake. The village was protected by walls made of fine mesh nets containing sharpened bone hooks. The village contained dozens of structures that looked like poorly made sand castles with pointed spires reaching ten to twenty feet tall. 

The party was stopped at the gate manned by four guards. Two of the guards were adorned with the red tattoos of the Deep Father while the other two wore the blue tattoos of the Sea Mother. The guards with the red tattoos called for the party to halt, claiming that none were allowed to enter. The guards with the blue tattoos berated the other guards for not allowing the archpriest of the Sea Mother to enter his own village. The archpriest led the party through as the four guards continued to argue and shout at each other. 

The party was led through the village. Upon closer inspection, the "sand" structures were made of fine pebbles reinforced by a kind of hardened glue. Shuushar informed them that the pebbles of their nests was bonded by a mucus secreted by all kuo toa that dried to firm hardness. 

He also explained that although the kuo toa are an aquatic species, they were forced to use boats to traverse the Darklake due to the dangerous nature of its waters. 

The party was ultimately led to a large platform shaped like a wide truncated cone, atop which stood a crudely carved statue of a humanoid form with claw hands and the head and antennae of a crayfish. The base of the statue was covered in discarded shells, fish bones, flotsam, and bits of debris, all of which was glued by layer upon layer of dried mucus. As they passed the altar, Ploopploopeen regurgitated a huge spray of mucus onto the base of the statue. Shuushar explained that providing an offering to the Sea Mother was a sign of great respect and suggested they do the same. No one followed suit.

Ploopploopeen led them down a short ramp and into the base of the statue into his personal "nest". The room was round and covered in coarse sand and pebbles. A large chest lay against one wall covered by a net. 

The party was allowed to rest. Food was brought to them in the form of dried kelp flakes in bowls of zurkhwood. Fresh water, a delicacy which had to be imported in barrels, was brought for them. 

Ploopploopeen introduced the party to his son, Glooglugogg. Glooglugogg was then informed of the plan and the party's role in it and was ordered to retrieve several chests and barrels large enough to conceal the party's hand weapons. Axes and pole-arms would be wrapped in netting and carried by loyal kuo toa. 

Glooglugogg reacted with disbelief, “I see no need for outsiders to be involved in sacred matters!”

Ploopploopeen replied, “Nonsense. One must flow with the currents. Our guests are gifts sent by the Sea Mother.” 

Glooggluegogg glared at PCs and left to retrieve the chests, barrels, and nets.

A short while later, an important looking officer wearing red facial tattoos visited Plooplopeen. He was introduced as Klibdoloogut.Ploopploopeen

“I was told you were prepared to offer yourself willingly to the Deep Father?”  

Ploopploopeen replied, “Yes, and I present a gift. These oblations were captured less than an hour ago.”

Klibdoloogut examined the party with approval, “A propitious gift on the eve of the Deep Father’s glorious ascendancy! I will take you to the Deep Father’s glorious heirophant! They will be a welcome addition to our other sacrifice.”

They were led by a group of over twenty kuo toa, some wearing red tattoos, some blue, to the altar of the Deep Father.

The altar of the Deep Father Leemogoogoo was constructed of pebbles held by dried mucus like all the other structures in Sloobludop. However, instead of the natural forms resembling sand castles, this structure consisted of four stacked platforms like a step pyramid. The top platform contained a cruel and abhorrent idol constructed by a large creature like a manta-ray stretched out between four posts. Atop the ray were two cave octopi bound together by wire and hooks. A receptacle captured their slowly draining blood. All three creatures were in great pain and appeared to be near death. 

Next to the altar stood a younger more slender kuo toa dressed in the red robes of the archpriest of the Deep Father. Around her stood nearly a dozen guards and two officers. To her right was what appeared to be a dwarf with dark grey skin, bound and blind-folded, no doubt another sacrifice.

The entire town of nearly 500 kuo toa had turned out for tonight's ceremony. They were told that tonight they would receive the ultimate gift from the Deep Father and many were giddy in anticipation. 

Ploopploopeen, flanked by two guards loyal to the Deep Father, advanced up the platform towards daughter while his "gifts" stayed below.

Ploopploopeen made a speech to his daughter about it being the time for reconciliation, that he was ready to join her new cult. As a sign of good faith, he brought for her not only a gift of the accumulated treasures of the Sea Mother, but these sacrifices that were captured not long ago.
Bloppblipodd, Archpriestess of the Deep Father
Bloppblipodd shouted, “Bring forward the offerings!”

Glooglugogg interjected, “No! It’s a trick! Father is planning to kill you! I’m sorry father, I won’t let you harm my sister!”

Bloppblipodd glared at her father, “Infidel! Perfidious worm! You will suffer for your transgressions!” She then took her ceremonial staff and struck her father. Ploopploopeen reeled from the electric shock delivered from her staff. He then took up his own staff and struck back.

A riot erupted among the populace of Sloobludop as worshipers of both factions attacked each other. The party, eager to provide assistance and protect Ploopploopeen, found it difficult to tell which side was which.

Talorean and Kettle took center. Ront and Sarith took the left flank. Pain, Eldeth, and Prince Derendil took the right flank. Buppido and Jimjar fired crossbows from the rear with Angolwen and Stool. Topsy and Turvy broke ranks and headed into the crowd on a killing spree. 

Talorean and Kettle struggled to advanced up the steps to help Ploopploopeen. They were blocked by Glooglugogg and Klibdoloogut. Ploopploopeen and his daughter exchanged powerful strikes with their electric staves but Bloppblipodd fell first. 

After defeating his daughter, Ploopploopeen tried to calm his people but his throat somehow became stuck and he was unable to speak. The Deep Father guards around him encircled him and began stabbing with their spears. Ploopploopeen fell out of view. So, too, fell Eldeth and Pain.

Meanwhile, the grey-skinned dwarf being held prisoner atop the altar managed to remove his blindfold during the melee. No one noticed as he magically turned himself invisible and escaped. 

The waters around the docks nearest the shrine to the Deep Father became turbulent as large manta-ray creatures congregated en-masse and thrashed about as if in a feeding frenzy. Many began hurling themselves through the air, landing on the shore and striking out at anyone nearby.  

At around this time, there was a great surge in the water and a massive bipedal creature emerged from the lake. The creature loomed over the small village. It had two simian heads and four tentacles instead of arms. It's skin was cracked and the blood that leaked out glowed hot like lava or molten metal.

The fighting in the crowd died down as all eyes turned towards the monstrous demon. Many suddenly went into seizures and fell to the ground, flopping and writhing. Dozens stared in fixation as they began slowly chanting "Leemogoogoo!" in unison. Dozens more fled in abject horror. 
Leemoogoogoo Rises!
The massive bicephalous demon smashed into the docks, pushing ahead of him a wave of water that swamped all the skiffs along the shore and capsized the only cargo craft at the docks. The wave also contained the thrashing manta-creatures who were washed onshore and attacked everything within reach.

The captives, momentarily stunned, returned to their senses as the grey-skinned dwarf ran past, urging flight. Only Angolwen ran forward towards the destruction, helping Talorean heal the unconscious Pain and Eldeth and ordering Ront to carry them to safety. She momentarily thought of rescuing Ploopploopeen but abandoned the thought when the massive demon grabbed the body of the archpriest in one of its four tentacles and, along with a handful of other unlucky kuo toa, were lifted to one of the simian heads, bitten, chewed, and swallowed.

Virtue made the mistake of staring directly at the faces of the mighty demonic monster. She lost herself in visions of demon lords, destruction, pestilence, and corruption. She had to be led away from the destruction by Angolwen.

DM Note- 
Virtue failed her CHA save and suffered temporary insanity - hallucinations! I took Virtue's player into another room and showed him this video, saying, "This is what you see!"

The party, with unconscious survivors in tow, fled the village. They ran along the shore of the Darklake until the shrill voices of the twins calling them from the left. They had found a passage that led away from the Darklake! It was safe! The party followed the twins into the dark twisting cavern and rested there for what they could only guess were many hours.

They waited in that cavern until hunger and thirst forced them out. They warily returned to the village, now wrecked and demolished but finally abandoned by the two-headed monstrosity. 

There were few survivors, but the party was relieved to learn that Shuushar was one of them. The heretic told the party that he would remain here to help rebuild Sloobludop and would most likely serve as the new Archpriest. 

Searching through the wreckage and debris, the party recovered the treasure they abandoned during the escape. They piled it all into the one large chest and were able to carry it between Ront and Derendil using a pole and some netting. Although all food in the village had spoiled and all fresh water turned foul by the mere presence of the demon the night before, they were able to gather two water skins each which would help them in future foraging attempts. 

The party then decided to continue to travel to return Stool to his home in Neverlight Grove. The grey-skinned dwarf, whose name they now knew was Hemeth, a deuregar trader, suggested a stop at his home city of Gracklstugh. There they could purchase equipment and resupply. Buppido seconded the suggestion.
Hemeth of Gracklstugh

Unfortunately, Hemeth's cargo skiff was crushed the night before. If they were to travel the Darklake, his preference, they would have to do so on the smaller kuo toa skiffs. Talorean and Kettle scoffed at that idea, preferring to stay away from the lake which contained that two-headed monster. They decided to take the longer route and stick to the caverns. Buppido said he knew the way and was chosen to be the guide. 

DM Notes-
After the game, a few of the players asked if there was every any chance of saving Ploopploopeen and stopping the ceremony. I told them yes and no. I set it up so that they COULD have saved Ploopploopeen but Demogorgon would have risen and destroyed the city no matter what they did. They rolled their eyes and said, "Wow, what a railroad!"

I agreed. I told them that this chapter was very railroad-y and that, as-written, it was much worse than what I ran. I actually gave the PCs things to do. I gave them a small impact on the outcome - saving Ploopploopeen or not - while the chapter as-written simply had the PCs watch as I read a script. 

In addition, the set-up for this chapter didn't make any sense. No player in their right mind would EVER submit to pretending to be a sacrifice, and no bad guy would allow their sacrifice to keep their weapons. So I re-wrote the introduction to Ploopploopeen with that in mind, adding a little more meat to the narrative, providing a more solid rationale for the PCs to pretend to be captured slaves, and giving them a way to hide their weapons within ready reach. 

In other news, I recently discovered the site called Power Score and their post "Rage of Demons - A Guide to Out of the Abyss". This is a great breakdown of each chapter and I will be consulting this a lot going forward. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Into Darkness DM Resources

I have put up a page where I'll be posting the DM resources I'm creating to help me run Out of the Abyss. I'll be updating that page as I create more resources.

So far, I have added:

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Into Darkness" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 2

What follows is an illustrated dramatic retelling of my group's play through of the D&D campaign setting, "Out of the Abyss". SPOILERS for anyone wishing to play in this campaign.


Fifteen strangers have banded together
to escape captivity at the hands of the Drow.

Thanks to the help of a duplicitous
Drow lieutenant named Jorlan
they have a means of escape.

Unfortunately, their plans are complicated 
when several flying demonic creatures
do battle at the drow outpost.

Talorean - Half-drow abandoned at birth to be raised by wolves.
Angolwen - Wizard of mixed human/elven parentage.
Kettle Bearclaw - Halfling baker living among dwarves.
Pain Grille' - Halfling street urchin from Waterdeep.
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.

Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Eldeth - Dwarven scout from Gauntlgrym, competent and proud.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Suushar - Kuo-toa ascetic who has sword an oath of non-violence.
Sarith - Drow guard sentenced to die for murdering a fellow guard.
Buppido - An uncharacteristically friendly Derro with secrets. Everyone assumes he's an assassin.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins who define word "annoying".
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.

Mistress Ilvara - High priestess of Lolth.
Asha - Her bitter assistant.
Commander Shoor - Ilvara's current lover and current commander of the outpost.
Lieutenant Jorlan - Ilvara's former lover and former commander of the outpost, he was rejected by Ilvara after receiving disfiguring acid scars. He is now the jealous rival of Shoor.

Pain woke before the next shift change to watch the guards at the guard post. He saw Jorlan return from the barracks, no doubt returning from some errand. A moment later he saw the guards leave the guard post, returning to the barracks and leaving only Jorland. A moment after that, he saw Jorlan leave the post to return to the barracks. The post was empty. The time was now!
Pain Grille', Halfing Street Urchin
Suddenly, a horrible unearthly screech filled the cavern containing the drow outpost. The horrifying sound was soon followed by terrible buzzing! Pain and Talorean watched in horror as two massive vulture-like demons flew into the cavern chasing four giant insectoid demons resembling massive flies. The vulture demons engaged the fly demons in aerial battle. An alarm was sounded from the drow outpost. Orders were shouted and warriors rushed to the defense of the outpost. One drow called for the release of the quaggoths from their pen. Pain and Talorean held their escape so that a drow warrior could run past their cell, release the quaggoths, and the entire force ran back to bolster the defense of the outpost.

Once the way was clear, Pain opened the unlocked prison bars and the group scurried across the rope bridge to the massive hollowed-out stalactite that served as the guard post. Suushar, the pacifist, decided to stay behind in case there was battle. Virtue decided to stay with him.

The post was empty. He used the keyes he stole from Jorlan to unlock the hatch that led to the armory upstairs. Pain, Ront, Talorean, and Kettle began handing down and distributing equipment among the escaped slaves. Along with various suits of drow armor, several drow swords and hand-crossbows, rope, hammers, and irons, the prisoners were able to recover their own belongings which had been confiscated days or weeks earlier during their capture. Unfortunately, Angolwen's spellbook and more valuable personal effects were being kept in Mistress Ilvara's quarters beneath the shrine to Lolth, demonic spider-goddess of the drow.

The party crossed the rope-bridge that connected the hanging stalactite, past the waterfall, to the ledge containing the rest of the outpost. The drow and quaggoths were busy defending the outpost from the demons. Although the demons were fighting each other, their melee was causing severe damage to the outpost. The party was ignored as they crossed a short bridge into another massive stalactite containing the shrine to Lolth and Mistress Ilvara's quarters.

It was in the shrine that they encountered their first resistance. Asha, Ilvara's assistant, was guarding the shrine with the help of two drow warriors and a giant spider. Talorean and Kettle rushed in, followed by Angolwen and Ront. Ront, however, got his axe stuck in the door jamb and blocked the way for the others while he freed it. Kettle engaged Asha and the spider while Talorean fought a deadly battle with one of the drow. Asha cast Spiritual Guardian, causing Kettle to fall while the other drow ran up to Angolwen and cut her down!
Ront the Orc
Talorean slew the drow blocking the entrance and Ront managed to free his axe. Ront and Eldeth rushed in to fight the spider while Pain snuck in. Asha fell to Pain's blade while the others fought a pitched battle against the remaining drow and giant spider. Ront and Eldeth made short work of the spider while Talorean traded blows with the drow. Before he died, the drow told Talorean, "You better hope you die in the Underdark, slave, for Mistress Ilvara will never let you escape! She will hunt you! She will find you! And when she does, you will know pain! Mistress Ilvara will teach you the meaning of agony! She will chase you, and she will never give up!"

The opposition was eventually eliminated but Angolwen and Kettle lay unconscious on the floor. They were soon roused and the group secured the area.

DM Note-
It's early in the campaign, so I ruled their "death" to be "unconsciousness". They were roused using a Healing check and had 1 HP each.

So secured, Suushar and Virtue rejoined the group. There was some talk about desecrating the altar to Lolth but Talorean forbade the desecration of any holy shrine, an act that won him the thanks of Sarith.
Sarith the brooding
A scouting party descended to Ilvara's chamber. Pain found Ilvara's trunk and, using his lockpicks, managed to open it without setting off the poison needle trap. Angolwen reclaimed her spellbook while the others took their personal trinkets and coinage, along with several other treasures that Ilvara had collected.

They continued down to Shoor's quarters where Pain once again opened the locked trunk. Unfortunately, he triggered the trap and was stuck with a poisoned needle. He stuck his pricked thumb in his mouth with worry, but other than a queasy feeling of nausea that soon passed, he suffered no ill effects.

The party contemplated sneaking past the ongoing battle in order to raid supplies from the common area but despite Ront's enthusiasm they decided against it.

DM Note-
You may have noticed, there's no cleric in this party, so healing is at a premium. This party is wisely choosing discretion over valor to keep casualties to a minimum.

They tied off ropes to the ledge and descended to the cavern floor. About thirty-five feet down they encountered a layer of spider webs that acted as a kind of canopy. All of the spiders were currently engaged in the battle with the vulture demons, which had destroyed the demonic flies and were now attacking the drow, so Ront and Talorean cut through the webs and continued to descend.
Talorean, Paladin of Mixed Parentage Raised by Wolves
Talorean, Ront, Kettle, and Virtue reached the cavern floor while the rest of the party still descended the long rope of spider silk. As Valorean touched ground, an injured vulture-demon spiralled from above, crashing in front of them. The demon thrashed about and righted itself. It had apparently broken a leg in the fall. Talorean warily inched sideways along the cavern wall, showing no aggression towards the creature. Ront raised his great-axe to attack but Talorean ordered him to hold. Virtue spoke to the demon in the dark language of the Abyss, telling it that the party meant it no harm. The party continued to descend and inch around the demon, keeping their distance. The demon snapped its beak menacingly, flapped its wings, and took to the air, escaping down a passage.

The party gathered round to discuss their next move. There were three passages: one to the left, one in the middle, and one to the right.

Everyone weighed in:

  • Talorean, Angolwen, Pain, Kettle, Ront, and Prince Derendil, being from the surface - or in the prince's case at least ostensibly, were hopelessly lost.
  • Eldeth was unfamiliar with this area of the Underdark but was trained to survive in this environment.
  • Stool had no idea where he was but wanted to return home to Neverlight Grove.
  • Sarith, having captured Stool in the first place, knew the location of the Grove and said he'd like to help return Stool there.
  • Suushar said that his home city of Slubloodop was only eight days away.
  • Jimjar said he'd like to return to Blingdenstone but he was in no hurry since it was kind of far away.
  • Topsy and Turvy became agitated and annoying at the suggestion of Blingdenstone but would not indicate why they were against it.
  • Buppido said that the Dueregar city of Cracklstugh was the best place to purchase equipment, but admitted that Slubloodop was sort of on the way. 

After some discussion, the party decided they would return Stool to Neverlight Grove, but first they'd go to Slubloodop, and maybe then to Cracklstugh.
Stool the Myconid Sprout
At about that moment, their discussion was interrupted by furious bellowing from the outpost above. The battle was over and Ilvara had become aware of the escaped prisoners far below as well as the death of her assistant and two of her guards. She ordered her men to give immediate pursuit! The slaves must be recaptured at all costs!
The party disappeared into the center cavern as fast as they could.

The party traveled for days through the labyrinthine tunnels of the Underdark. Suushar led the way with Sarith, who also knew the way, mapping and verifying.

They traveled fast at first, not stopping to forage or cover their tracks, choosing instead to put distance between themselves and their pursuers. When they could walk no more they stopped to rest, eating from what provisions they had in their recovered belongings. A few of them managed to find some pools with drinkable water.

After resting for a few hours, they picked up and resumed their journey. They traveled at a moderate pace in order to spend time foraging. Although they found no food, they did find more water. Wherever they went, Kettle and Pain tried to cover their tracks and erase any evidence of their passing. At one point, Suushar led them down the wrong path and Sarith failed to notice. They were forced to double back and find an alternative route and costing them several hours of travel.

On the third "day", Pain noticed something odd about the air. His head swam as he became dizzy. He told the others and they were forced to alter their course to avoid a gas leak, adding more hours to their journey. That evening they encountered an eighty-food cliff. A rope-ladder was rolled up at the top of the cliff. Not wishing to risk anyone on a free-climb, Virtue attached one of their ropes to a few spikes as a makeshift grappling hook. She hurled the spikes to the top of the cliff and found purchase. Pain easily climbed the rope and let down the ladder. They made camp at the top of the cliff. Although they were able to forage some mushrooms, their food and water reserves were running low so they decided to prioritize rations to those with strong survival and combat skills.
On the fourth "day", Buppido was beset when he was attacked with surprise by a grey oozing mass. The party doubled their pace for a while in order to flee the grey ooze.  By the end of the day they managed to forage some more food and some water but their supplies were still low so they continued to prioritize their rations.

Lack of food and water was beginning to have an effect on the party, so on the fifth day they decided a slow pace was in order so they could spend more time foraging. The decision paid off as they managed to locate a large supply of edible mushrooms and a few more gallons of water.

It was on the fifth day that they encountered a massive underground rift, miles wide and two thousand feet across. The entire rift was filled with the webbing of giant spiders. They came across two goblins rubbing grease on their bare feet. After a brief stand-off as both parties warily made themselves known to the other, the goblins introduced themselves as Yuk-Yuk and Spiderbait. They were thrill-seeking adventurers looking for excitement. They had spent what must have been months down here exploring the Silken Path, as the rift was known. They offered to act as guides, pointing the party towards the quickest path to Sloobludop, in exchange for four gold pieces. Talorean agreed on the condition that they pay two now and the other two when they arrived. The goblins agreed and showed the party how to rub the grease on their bare feet to avoid sticking to the webs. The goblins then led them across the chasm without incident.

DM Note-
The module called for a random encounter check every five hundred feet. I inferred they intended the total distance to be two thousand feet, so I made four checks. Even at 50% chance, I didn't roll less than 4 on the d6 on all four checks, so no Silken Path encounters.
Angolwen the Wizard
They resumed a normal pace on the sixth day. By now the party had established a routine and were getting better at foraging. After a few hours of travel they encountered a section of tunnel choked with spider webbing. Angolwen used her spells to burn away the webbing. Although she found no spiders, she did find six humanoid figures writhing inside cocoons. Talorean warily cut one of the figures free, revealing an orc raider. The orc was dehydrated and confused. Ront told the orc to surrender. The other cocoons were cut open to reveal the remainder of the orc warband led by an "Eye of Gruumsh". The orcs were intimidated into surrender by Ront and Talorean. The leader of the raiders carried with him four mushrooms called "waterorbs" that carried water like a sponge. Talorean offered a trade for the mushroom. The orc looked confused. Ront said there was no word in orcish for "trade". So Talorean instead offered to let the orc leader "take" some gold and that he would "take" the waterorb. The orc leader agreed and the two groups parted company.

The seventh day saw another set-back as a gas-leak forced them to add an additional day to their journey. The misfortune was off-set by the foraging of some food and a large supply of water.

The eighth day was uneventful. The party managed to find a cavern filled with edible mushrooms and water.

With a surplus of food and the end of their journey near, the party picked up their pace on the  ninth day.

DM Note - 
Good thing, too. Their pursuers were just about to catch up to them!
Shuusar the Awakened
On the tenth day, Shuusar assured them they were nearing their destination. That morning they found a cavern with an underground stream and six waterorbs. Pain went to cut one of the useful mushrooms only to have it transform into a purple mushroom with waving tentacles. The tentacles reached out and lashed Pain, leaving a painful welt as if he'd been struck by poison ivy. Pain staggered back cursing. He used a sword to prod each of the other mushrooms. Each transformed into a violet fungus. Pain retreated and the party fled the cavern.

Later that day, Shuusar told them that it wasn't far, he could already smell the waters of Darklake. Suddenly, they came across a party of threatening-looking Kuo Toa carrying spears and nets. Shuusar approached them to offer greetings, but the Kuo Toa attacked the ascetic and charged the escapees.


DM Note-
I prepared a kind of form to keep track of the travel section. I tracked the "days", splitting each into a period of activity and a period of rest. I had a column on the form to track the Pursuit Level for each day, a column to track how much food they were able to forage, a column for how much water, and a column for random encounters - which I pre-rolled before the adventure.

Each "day" I asked the party how fast they were traveling: fast, normal, or slow. I told them up front the implications of their choice. I also asked them to tell me who in the party was navigating, who was foraging for food, and who was covering their tracks.

The navigators would then make Wisdom (Survival) checks vs. a DC 10. Success meant they stayed on track. A failure meant doubling back, an extra day of travel, and +1 Pursuit level. The navigators had to know where they were going, to Suushar was assigned to navigate while Sarith was assigned to be his back-up after an initial failure.

The foragers would make a Wisdom (Survival) check  vs. a DC of 14+1d6 to find food and a separate check for water. Success meant they found 1d6+WIS modifier in pounds of food or gallons of water. A natural twenty meant 2d6+WIS modifier. Failure meant no food or water was found by that person that day.

Each member of the party had to consume a pound of food and a gallon of water a day to avoid a level of exhaustion. They could carry food over to the next day but could only carry over as much water as they had containers in which to carry. I actually didn't think of this restriction until four or five days into the trip. It was suggested by Pain's player and it was brilliant.

Anyway, it was a bit of "Spreadsheet: the RPG" as rolls were made and resources were carefully tracked. On some days, especially early on, food and water was scarce and had to be rationed. Food and water was apportioned to those with strong survival or combat skills because no one wanted them to be rolling with disadvantage the following day.

Talorean's player later told me that he really enjoyed this section because it really captured the feeling of survival in the harsh conditions of the Underdark.


Food Foraged

 Water Foraged

Monday, January 4, 2016

"Prisoners of the Drow" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 1

What follows is an illustrated dramatic retelling of my group's play through of the D&D campaign setting, "Out of the Abyss". SPOILERS for anyone wishing to play in this campaign. 


Fourteen strangers find themselves 
inside an underground prison cell.

Rendered blind and mute by sorcerous manacles, 
they have each spent the last several days 
unaware of their surroundings and unable to communicate.

Suddenly, their sight and voices returned
and the nature of their captivity became apparent.

They were the captives of the evil race 
of subterranean elves known as the Drow.

Fourteen manacled strangers found themselves in a cave-like prison cell, fifty feet wide and eighty feet deep. The opening of the cavern was barred. A yawning chasm lay beyond, the sound of a medium-sized waterfall echoed throughout the chamber with unending white noise. Small lanterns filled with glowing liquid provided faint illumination. A bridge made of white silky rope stretched across the chasm and connected to a doorway on the side of a massive hanging stalactite. Another rope bridge connected another door on the left side of the stalactite to a destination beyond view.

There were fourteen strangers  were a motley assortment of captives from many races.
  1. a male halfling - stout and well-fed
  2. another male halfling - lean, wiry, almost malnourished
  3. a male half-elf  - young, nimble, with a wild countenance
  4. a female half-elf - also young, wearing the robes of a wizard
  5. a female dwarf - haughty, proud
  6. a male derro - a type of dwarf with grey skin, with a look of wary appraisal
  7. an adult male svirfneblin - also known as deep gnomes, a type of gnome with dark grey skin, with a friendly gregarious manner
  8. a young male svirfneblin - small, impish, and mischievous
  9. a young female svirfneblin - a twin to the young male
  10. a male quaggoth - a primitive hulking fur-covered brute, sitting in a regal lotus position
  11. a male drow - a dark elf with pallid ashen-grey skin and dark eyes in sunken reddish sockets, with a sullen defeated look
  12. a fat Kuo-Toa - an albino fish-person with the serene countenance of an enlightened monk
  13. a male orc - brutish, frightened, and dangerous
  14. a young myconid - a walking humanoid toadstool huddled in a dark corner
The civilized surface dwellers immediately clustered together to introduce themselves.

The healthy male halfling introduced himself as Kettle Bearclaw, an artisan baker living near a dwarven stronghold and served in their militia. In the eight "days" since he regained consciousness here, he had managed to scrounge a piece of flint that could be used as an improvised weapon.
Kettle Bearclaw

The male half-elf was named Talorean, a foundling raised by wolves in the wilderness, he was a warrior chosen by Mielikki, the goddess of nature, to defend the wild places. He awoke two days ago and had yet to scavenge anything.

The female half-elf said her name was Angolwen, an apprentice wizard from Waterdeep. She has been here for eight days and had also scavenged a flint weapon.

The lean male halfling's name was Pain Grille' (pronounced "Pan Gree-yay"), a street urchin from Waterdeep that stole to survive. He had been here ten days and in that time had found a discarded gold coin.
Pan Grille'

Kettle cautiously approached the quivering toadstool. In reaction to being prodded with a finger, the fungus sprayed a cloud of spores into Kettle's face. Kettle's coughed and spat. The mushroom responded in an alien language which, somehow, Kettle was able to understand. "I'm sorry! Please don't hurt me!"

Kettle made assurances to the mushroom and introduced himself. The mushroom said its name was "Stool". He was a myconid sprout. It explained that anyone that inhaled its spores would be temporarily able to understand any language. When asked how he came to be here, he indicated that the drow in the corner had captured him several days ago.

Kettle called Pain over. Much to Pain's annoyance, the halfling street urchin was likewise sprayed with a cloud of spores.

Meanwhile, Talorean and Angolwen cautiously approached the dark elf. The dark elf was sullen and moody. He said his name was Sarith Kzekarit, formerly a guard in the service of this outpost. He explained that the reason he was imprisoned was that he was accused of murdering a fellow guard. He has no memory of this action. He said that his family in Menzoberranzan would soon arrange for his release, but both Talorean and Angolwen could tell that he didn't really believe that and that he had resigned himself to imminent execution.
Sarith Kzekarit

Kettle introduced Stool to Talorean and Angolwen and soon all were able to understand their fellow prisoners. They chose their potential allies wisely.

They met Eldeth Feldrun, the dwarven scout from the city she called Gauntlgrym, of which no one was familiar. Eldeth was haughty and superior and maintained her dignity despite her circumstances.
Eldeth Feldrun

They carefully approached the massive quaggoth. To their surprise, the hairy brute addressed them in fluent high elven, "State your names and places of origin." Upon doing so, the quaggoth replied, "You may approach our royal personage. You are in the presence of Prince Derendil of Nelrindenvane in the High Forest. Our royal personage was overthrown by the foul wizard Terrestor and transformed into this beastly form. You may address us as Prince Derendil or your royal highness."
His Royal Highness, Prince Derendil of Nelrindevane

Angolwen was dubious. She asked Prince Derendil several questions about the color of the trees in Nelrindenvane and for a description of the moons of Toril. Prince Derendil said that there was but one moon of Toril, Selune, and replied simply that the trees of Nelrindenvane were the same color they always were, the color of trees, and refused to answer further silly questions.

Talorean introduced himself to the bald grey-skinned dwarf. The dwarf was named Buppido, a derro from Gracklstugh. Buppido was friendly and gregarious with a sharp wit. He pledged his assistance in any escape attempt.

Buppido was interrupted from across the chamber by the bald deep gnome, "I bet you ten gold that he's the first to die!" The deep gnome introduced himself as Jimjar. Jimjar was roguish and sarcastic. He said that he could help lead the escapees back to Blingdenstone, city of the Svirfneblin. He also suggested that Blingdenstone would be the best bet for obtaining equipment or mounting an expedition to the surface.

Talorean, annoyed by the deep gnome's demeanor, wrinkled his nose at the idea of trusting Jimjar, whom he had already decided was untrustworthy.

The introductions were interrupted when they were rendered magically mute. Guards banged on the metal bars with their weapons. A voice in Undercommon shouted an order for all slaves to put their backs against the wall. The prisoners complied and a large contingent entered the cell.

The contingent consisted of six quaggoths, two lightly armored drow guards, and two heavily armored drow warriors. At the center of the group was a drow priestess carrying a cat-o-nine-tails made of writhing tentacles. She was flanked on her right by a handsome male drow commander whom she obviously favored. On her left was a male drow lieutenant, horribly disfigured and scarred by acid burns to his face and hands, who occasionally looked at the commander with jealous envy and resentment. Behind the priestess was a younger female assistant

The drow commander spoke with authority and menace, introducing himself as Commander Shoor. He informed them all that they were captives of the drow, soon to be sold as slaves in Menzoberranzan. They were only to speak when spoken to and any sign of disobedience or insubordination would be met with whippings and torture. They were to look at a drow in the eyes unless ordered to do so. He then said that his mistress, Lady Ilvara, wished to address them before withdrawing.

Lady Ilvara then stepped forward and introduced herself. "I am Mistress Ilvara. I am the commander of this..." (sigh) "...outpost known as Velkenvelve." Her voice betrayed his distaste for this place. "A caravan will arrive shortly to take you to Menzoberranzan. Until they arrive, I have decided to put you to more.. entertaining... use. You will serve the guards and staff here as they see fit. You will follow their every order and command. You will perform every service they require. You will do so without complaint or hesitation or you will be punished. Lieutenant Jorlan will provide you will your assignments for today."

At that, she turned and left, followed by Commander Shoor, the armored warriors and her assistant.

Lieutenant Jorlan then read out the assignments:
  • Derendil and the orc were assigned to man the lift crank
  • Talorean, Jimjar, and the fish-man were assigned to clean the guard room. 
  • Angolwen and Topsy were assigned to clean THE barracks 
  • Kettle and Stool were assigned to cook dinner 
  • Pain, Buppido, and Turvy were assigned to attend to Lady Ilvara
  • The others were assigned various other duties.
The young deep-gnome twins immediately panicked. They began to cry and wail, clutching each other. They had to be separated by the quaggoths and carried to their duties, each calling for the other, "Topsy, no!" and "Turvy, no!". The rest of the prisoners formed into groups and followed the quaggoths to their assigned duties.
Topsy and Turvy

The guard room was littered with the stinky shells and husks of many insects and cave crustaceans. Talorean, Jimjar, and the fish-man were ordered to clean up all the debris using small sacks, little more than pouches really. They were ordered to fill the small sack with trash, take it to the waterfall, dump it over the side, return, and repeat until the room was cleaned. During the work, Talorean was able to pocket several claws which might be used as improvised weapons or tools.

Meanwhile, Angolwen followed the quaggoth carrying the crying female twin Topsy. Topsy was distraught and unable to do work. The quaggoth asked for assistance and a drow guard carried Topsy away to the chamber of punishment. Angolwen went to work scrubbing the floor with a large piece of pumice provided her. She inspected the contents of the barracks which consisted of six pallets, on which was sleeping one off-duty drow. When the quaggoth wasn't paying attention, she surreptiously used a Mage Hand cantrip to dislodge a hook hanging on a wall. The quaggoth immediately noticed the movement of the hook. Angolwen stopped and the hook fell to the floor. The guaggoth rushed over to inspect the hook, not noticing that Angolwen had been responsible for the freak occurence. The quaggoth called for assistance from a nearby guard who inspected the hook with diminishing patience. He berated the quaggoth and returned to his duties.

Kettle and Stool were led to the common room where there were several tables and a cooking brazier and cooking supplies. Kettle was informed that he would be cooking the daily meal for his fellow slaves. Kettle's excitement turned to dismay when he saw that the only ingredients would be spoiled slimy myconid flesh. Even worse was Stool's reaction. Stool recoiled in horror at the thought of such cannibalism. Kettle went to work, using the little salt and spices and oils that were made available to him. At one point, the drow guard assigned to this room was called away by the quaggoth next door. Kettle used the distraction to... rather uncofortably.. hide a small bottle of cooking oil inside an orifice on his person. Later, as he was leaving, he was able to secret a three-tyned fork in a small pocket.

Pain, Buppido, and Turvy, meanwhile, were taken to a second, larger, hanging stalactite. Within was carved a hollow chamber containing a shrine to Lolth, the dark spider goddess of the drow. They were led down a rope ladder into the private chambers of Lady Ilvara. Lady Ilvara herself was lounging on her large round bed. The room was draped with sheer silk tapenstries and curtains. Pain noticed a large chest containing the equipment of the captured slaves sitting partially open against the wall of the chamber. Turvy could not be calmed and was ordered taken away to the chamber of punishment.

Lady Ilvara ordered the remaining two prisoners to be inanimate, to stand completely still for as long as they could while she read some scrolls and consumed small confections. After a while, she grew bored and demanded that Pain recount the tale of his life to amuse her. However, his tale must be told without the use of the word "the". Any infraction would incur a lash.

Pain then told the story of his early life surviving on the streets of Waterdeep. He did not know his parents, they...

She interrupted him with an angry lash! "The word 'they' contains the letters T, H, and E!"

Pain bared his teeth in defiance, then said, "Fair enough." He continued, later receiving another lash for using the word "the".

Pain's story was interrupted by Lieutenant Jorlan. Lady Ilvara seemed annoyed by the appearance of the disfigured drow. Shoor said that the caravan from Menzoberranzan had failed to arrive for a second day in a row. Ilvara screamed at Jorlan in a rage, "You are never to report to me again! Is that understood! You will take this information to your surperior, Commander Shoor! You will leave my presence immediately!"
Jorlan turned to exit but was stopped by Ilvara, "LIEUTENANT Jorlan! You are never to turn your back on me! You will back away while bowing!" Jorlan turned and bowed, backing towards the rope ladder. Ilvara continued, "You are a lowly worm! You are lower even than this halfling and this derro. Your bow must show them deference!" Jorlan grimaced and bowed so that his head touched the floor and crawled backwards towards the rope bridge.

"With your leave, my lady." He whispered. She dismissed him with a wave of her lash and he left the room.

He was soon replaced by a smirking Commander Shoor. Ilvara, smiling, asked, "Do you have something to report, Commander?"

"Yes my lady."

Ilvara dismissed Pain and Buppido, who were ordered to close the hatch behind them. They were escorted back to their cell by two lewdly chucking drow warriors.

That evening, after everyone was forced to eat the rancid meal, Kettle gave Pain the forks he had aquired. Likewise, Talorean gave the halfling the discarded carapaces. Pain used the fork to pick his own manacles first, keeping them on his person. He then tried to pick the lock on Kettle's mancles but broke one of the fork's three tynes.

Meanwhile, using Stool's spores, Talorean was able to speak with the fish person. The fish person calmly said that their name was Shuushar the Awakened, a kuo-toa from the city of Sloobludop. When asked if he would help during an escape, Shuushar serenely replied that he would help as best he could but would never cause harm, or help to cause harm, to another living creature. Talorean dismissed Shuushar with "No help then. Got it. Thanks."
Shuushar the Awakened
Talorean turned his attention to the orc. "Ront, is that your name?"

"That is what Ront is called."

"What did the drow have you do today?"

"Ront worked with fancy bear-man to turn crank. Crank lifts basket. Crank lowers basket. It was dull work, made harder by fancy bear-man's constant whining."

"Ront, we're going to break out of here. Will you help us?"

Ront's eyes gleamed at the thought of violence, "Ront will help if you help Ront return to surface."

Eldeth called from across the room, "He'll betray you at the first opportunity! No one can trust an orc, especially not one from the Iceshield tribe! They are the lowest form of life!"

Ront surged toward the dwarf, "Ront will eat you! Dwarf meat is good but Gauntlgrym meat is best!"

"You primitive CREATURE!"

Talorean calmed Ront down and gave Eldeth a menacing glare, "Everyone be calm. We must work together if we are to escape this place."

"I'll never work with that BEAST!"

"Ront EAT YOU!"

The shouting was interrupted when the prisoners were muted by Jorlan. Jorlan ordered everyone against the wall. He brought in a new prisoner, a female tiefling with horns and a long tail like a devil. Jorlan removed the tiefling's hood. The tiefling captive smashed her head against Jorlan. Jorlan responded by bashing her into unconsciousness with the butt of this scimitar. Talorean gave the signal and everyone rushed Jorlan. Jorlan shot Talorean with a poisoned crossbow as he ran towards the exit. Jorland managed to escape, shouting that the prisoners would pay for their insurrection. Angowen quickly secreted away the crossbow bolt and gave it to Pain.

Ront, still excited by the earlier exchange, moved forward and grabbed the tiefling's chin. "Fresh meat. Ront likes fresh meat. Ront play real nice with you. and grabbed her chin." Kettle shouted at the orc, "Leave her alone! Get back against the wall!" The orc, astonished at the display of bravery, backed down.

Kettle moved forward to introduce himself to the newcomer. She introduced herself as Virtue. As a sign of thanks towards her new friends, Virtue attempted to heal Talorean's wound by laying her hands upon him. To her and everyone else's surprise, her prayers had no effect.
A short while later, the prisoners were ordered against the wall and several quaggoths came in and took Talorean away. Talorean was returned an hour later, his wound magically healed. The drow guard leading them told the others, "We can't sell damaged goods, can we?"

Later that evening, Pain tried to pick the lock on the barred gate with the stolen crossbow bolt while Kettle used the oil to slip out of his manacles. Jorlan left the guard room in the stalactite, causing Pain to stop what he was doing. Jorlan approached Pain, whispering that he would allow the prisoners to escape as long as they killed Shoor. Pain agreed. Jorlan unlocked the gate and told Pain to wait for the next guard change. Pain nodded then retreated into the cave to tell the others, palming the ring of keys which he had lifted from Jorlan's belt.

The slaves got some sleep but there was little rest. Each of them were plagued by disturbing nightmares. Their dreams were haunted by shadowy tentacles that seemed alive, grabbing them, wrapping around their throats and constricting breating. Their ears ached with grotesque buzzing and howling. Festering wounds burst open with maggots and puss. Angolwen bolted awake with a hoarse gurgling cough, as if she had been choked. The others were likewise awakened.

The next shift had failed to appear and the guards had left Jorlan alone to summon their relief. Jorlan unlocked the gate and walked way. For a brief moment, there were no guards in the guard post.

The team made their move!


DM Notes-
This session went fairly well. There's a lot of exposition and detail chopped up and hidden in different sections of this chapter. I get the impression that most of the exposition is supposed to be built into character dialogue. This works great if the players choose to spend time talking with the NPCs, or more important, choose to listen to what they have to say. I also get the impression that the sheer amount of exposition would require spending a LOT of game time being prisoners of the drow in order to be revealed in a natural way. I wish I had the time needed to dole out bits of information and allow players to come to a fuller understanding of all the things going on in Velkenvelve, but more time spent as prisoners of the drow means less time giving the players agency and narrative control, so I'll sacrifice some of the detail in favor of  faster pace and player control.

Also, a minor note, I have never liked the idea of drow having black or dark grey skin as commonly depicted in D&D media. They're subterranean and I always envision them with pale albino skin and hair. I have painted most of my dark elf minis with pallid grey or purplish skin with red eyes like the Legions of Everblight from Iron Kingdoms, though some of my earlier dark elves were surface-dwelling Warhammer dark elves with regular caucasian skin tones.