Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"The City of Blades" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 7

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.


A motley group of diverse individuals
have so far escaped drow captivity,
witnessed the razing of a city by a demon lord,
travelled twenty-eight days through endless caverns,
where they survived untold dangers and challenges,
and have now arrived at Gracklstugh,
the City of Blades...

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.

Hemeth - Duergar trader rescued from Sloobludopp. Leading the party to Gracklestugh.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins. Missing from the group since the cave-in. Possibly were-rats.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Sarith - Drow guard sentenced to die for murdering a fellow guard.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.
"Moon Elf" - an mute female elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan with no name.

Thus it was, after their thirty-sixth rest since escaping captivity in Velkenvelve, the party arrived at the gates outside Gracklstugh. 

Hemeth had forewarned the party of what to expect, so they pretended to be his slaves. Sarith wore a cloak to conceal his identity as a drow. 

They approached the massive stone gate, the path now paved and lit by lamps. 

Several slits opened in the cavern wall revealing several crossbows aimed at the party. A loud metallic sound alerted the party to an armored presence behind them as six heavily armored dwarves with white hair and dark grey skin appeared out of thin air. 

A harsh voice hissed in Dwarvish from a nearby slit, "State your names and business!"

"I am Hemeth of Clan Ironkeel. My boat was destroyed in Sloobludop. These are what slaves I could rescue. We have traveled through the passages for many rests and seek entrance into the City of Blades."

The slit closed and the great bronze gates opened, revealing an antechamber protected by another gate within. The party advanced into the holding lock and the gates closed behind them.

Several vertical slits opened in the stone revealing a barred window, behind which stood a duergar guard. The guard examined the party but focused on the two halflings.

The guard sniffed and spoke in luiric, the language of halfings, "You two. Tell me. What are you really doing here?"

Pain answered, telling the guard in luiric, "We are slaves."

Kettle added, "Our boat sank in Sloobludop."

The guard considered them, then added, "It is clear you are lying. I ought to have you all thrown into the slave pens, but... you amuse me. What do you ahve that is worth your freedom?"

Kettle and Pain looked at each other, confused.

"Those swords there. Are those.. of drow manufacture?"

Kettle's hands went to the two blades he had named Jelly and Jam, "Yes. Do you want them? I will give them to you." He began to unfasten the blades.

The guard nervously looked around and waved the halfling down, "No, no. Not here. Go to the Darklake Docks and find a duergar named Werz Saltbaron. Give the swords to him. Tell him that they are gifts for Gorglak. I will check with Werz at the end of my shift. If the swords aren't there, I will have you all arrested."

Gorglak then spoke in dwarvish to Hemeth who had been quietly conversing with Talorean while waiting for the inner gate to open, "You have impertinent slaves, Hemeth. They speak without your permission. You should discipline them!"

Hemeth looked back at the halfings in anger. He stormed up to them and slapped them both, ordering them to remain silent! The halflings apologized to their "master" and complied.

The inner gates opened and a gust of hot wind rushed in. The air was thick with ash and smoke, causing everyone to begin coughing almost immediately. After so many weeks in the silence of the Underdark, the party was almost deafened by the cacophony of sounds. The din of thousands of beings was almost overpowered by the constant sound of thousands of industrial hammers striking anvils, the roar of furnaces, and the mechanical grinding of great gears and machinery.

Before them stretched a city of stone and iron built onto the banks of the Darklake to the right. The city rose to the left, disappearing into a forest of stone columns. Streets were wide and terraced. The cavernous ceiling rose hundreds of feet overhead, supported by natural and artificial columns that blocked the view of the other side of the cavern over half a mile away.

Two stone guards were waiting inside the inner gates. They moved aside. Hemeth said, "Welcome to Gracklstugh."

Hemeth strode forward, signalling Talorean, Virtue, and Ront to follow. They were joined by Sarith, concealed under a robe. Pain called after Hemeth, "What do we do? Where should we go?"
Hemeth the Duergar
Hemeth waved his hand dismissively, "I don't care." and walked away without ever looking over his shoulder.

Pain looked at Kettle, "I guess he's done with us." Kettle shrugged.

Pain turned to address the remainder of the party but was interrupted by Topsy and Turvy who went running off into the city like excited children at a theme park.

DM Note- 
Talorean and Virtue's players were out this week, so I separated them from the party to keep things simple. I figure Hemeth needed their help. I envisioned Hemeth going to the insurance company to explain the loss of his boat, or needing their help dealing with creditors from Clan Muzgardt. 

The remainder of the party, Pain, Kettle, Angolwen, Stool, Prince Derendil, Moon Elf, and Jimjar, decided to look around.

The wandered to the right, towards the water, hoping to find the docks. They passed between a large fortress to the left and what looked like the ruins of an ancient structure to the right. There was a stone quay below with a boat unloading boxes of mushroom. Several barrels and casks were stacked onto the quay waiting to be loaded. The boxes of mushrooms were carried into the ruins on the right, from which emanated the aroma of brewing. Kettle decided to check it out, followed by the rest. They saw several duergar working around large copper vats brewing ale out of the mushrooms. A duergar overseer noticed them and shouted, "Outlanders are not allowed here! Leave immediately! Don't make me summon the Stone Guard!"  The party quickly left.

They continued to wander into the city, walking past the imposing fortress with the sign in dwarvish "Overlake Hold". They wandered past several stone columns. One contained a tunnel entrance from which emerged several outlanders. A sign outside was adorned with a carved image of a bullette and the dwarvish words "The Gohlbrorn's Lair".

They decided to check it out. They entered the tunnel, walking past several derro, kuo toa, orogs, goblins, kobolds, and  svirfneblin. They entered into a dining hall filled with outlanders.

The entire dining hall was filled with the smell baked black sporeflour bread and rothe roast. Kettle took a deep breath, "I love the aroma of fresh baked bread and roast meat! Its the greatest smell in the world!"

Pain replied, "Oh yeah! Remember the pies and cakes on gift day mornings?"

A smile spread across Kettle's face as his thoughts turned to childhood gatherings, "Oh yeah! Every year on the winter solstice we'd all get together and open up our gifts, the smell of baking filling the entire burrow."

Pain's disposition turned sour, "Yeah? Well I grew up poor and alone on the streets of Waterdeep. I didn't have ANY of that!"
Pain Grille'

Kettle winced.

They found a table and were met by a duergar serving wench.

The serving wench did not introduce herself. She was dour and monotonous and unenthusiastic. She answered all questions put to her, explaining that the Gohlbrorn's Lair was the only inn that served non-Duergar in Gracklstugh. She also explained that outlanders were only allowed in the Darklake District, only Duergar were allowed into the forbidden areas of the city.

The party ordered fish, bread, and ale, their first hearty meal in weeks.

Afterwards, they secured rooms, paying for a full "rotation".

DM Note - 
There is no such thing as "nights" or "days" in the Underdark, such concepts are foreign. Instead, time is measured by the burning of oil in lamps. The party purchased a number of measures of oil. Time units, therefore, would be "fingers" or a finger of oil, roughly equivalent to an hour; "hands" or four "fingers" or oil or four hours; "shifts" being two hands or eight hours; and "rotations" a full turn of three shifts, equivalent to 24 hours. 

They also took the opportunity to take a hot bath and wash the weeks of underground travel from their weary bodies.

Afterwards, Kettle, Pain, and Angolwen prepared to shop the Blade Bazaar and head down to the docks to look for Werz Saltbaron. They instructed Moon Elf to stay at the inn and asked Prince Derendil to stay with her. The "Prince" felt that, as an elven noble, the duties should be reversed but agreed on the grounds that it was his noble duty to ensure the health and safety of his commoners. Jimjar, meanwhile, said he planned to work the room in the dining hall and make a few coins. As they prepared to leave, Stool asked "What about me? I want to go too!"

Kettle, Stool, Pain, and Angolwen wandered about the Blade Bazaar, surrounded by shops and stalls with Duergar selling their wares to visiting traders. Likewise, several stalls were set up for outlanders to advertise their goods. They were surrounded by crowds of visitors from across the Underdark: dark elves, deep gnomes, orogs, kobolds, shield dwarves, and others.

Suddenly a strange looking derro wearing a large floppy hat with long long pointy lobes like a jester's hat came running past saying, "Oh, I'm so late! Pardon me! Must get through! Very late!" before he disappeared into the throng.

Their first stop was to sell the pearl necklace they obtained from the kuo toa. They took it to an assay for appraisal. They were met by an unusually genial duergar who welcomed them. The duergar took the necklace and fixed his magnifying monocle upon it when he suddenly disappeared! Kettle and the others were taken aback! The shopkeeper, however, kept talking as if nothing had happened, "Pearls from the giant clams at the bottom of Darklake. Very rare! Very expensive! I will offer you 1000 Gracklstuvian gold coins for it."

Kettle incredulously asked, "Where'd you go?"

"I'm right here, sir. Why do you ask?"

Kettle asked several curious questions and poked at the invisible shopkeeper, but the shopkeeper seemed equally confused by the behavior of the little halfling. It was clear that the shopkeeper was unaware of his transparency.

Angolwen concluded the transaction and the party left, bewildered.

Now bearing currency, the party found a suitable weapon shop from the many dozens available from which they could purchase silvered weapons.

Pain approached the shopkeeper only to overhear him berating a potential customer. The confused patron left in a hurry. The shopkeeper then addressed Pain with courtesy and respect. Moments later, Kettle entered the shop. The shop keeper began immediately to berate Kettle and ordered him to leave the shop immediately. Pain assured the shopkeeper he would take care of it and Pain escorted the insulted Kettle outside the shop. Pain told Kettle he thought something odd was going on and told him to wait here.

Pain re-entered the shop to conclude the deal, only to be met with anger and outrage from the shopkeeper. Pain left quickly and sent Kettle back in. Kettle was met with polite courtesy and concluded the purchase of the desired silvered weapons. Upon leaving, Pain exclaimed, "What the HELL is going on?"

Angolwen, meanwhile, had found a shop selling spells, scrolls, and potions. The proprietor was genial, though for some reason he ended every sentence with a threat of bodily harm or mutilation.

Angolwen asked, "Do you carry spells?"

The proprietor responded, "Of course! We sells magics of most schools and levels. I will, of course, murder you while you sleep and eat your heart."

Angolwen, aghast, replied, "Excuse me???"

"As I say, magic spells from most schools and levels, and at reasonable prices. I will strangle you with your own entrails."

The conversation continued in this manner and eventually Angolwen just started to ignore it. It was about this time, however, that Kettle came into the shop looking for potions. Upon encountering the shopkeeper's strange behavior, Kettle became unnerved, made his purchase, and promptly exited.

Upon rejoining Pain, Kettle exclaimed in exasperation, "This town is NUTS! It's driving me crazy!"
Kettle Confused
The foursome reunited in a wide square near a gate to the inner city. Angolwen has purchased her necessary spells and components and the halflings had procured silvered weapons. They were about to head down to the docks to look for Werz when, suddenly, the nearby gate burst open, the great bronze doors knocked off their hinges. Stone blocks were tumbled and nearby structures were crushed as a twelve-foot-tall bald grey-skinned giant with two heads burst into the bazaar.

DM Note - 
The exchanges above were so much fun to DM and the players got a hoot out of it. We probably could have done these all night. 

I will say that their plan was originally to go straight to the docks, but I nudged them a little, saying "You probably want to do your shopping first, since the Blade Bazaar is on the way". I did this because Angolwen still hadn't purchased all her spells, and I wanted her to be full up prior to some of the events coming up.

Kettle, Stool, Pain, and Angolwen stood dumbfounded as a grey-skinned stone giant wearing a pale toga and robes burst through a nearby gate. The giant was mad, frothing at the mouth and screaming incoherently. A second malformed head had grown from its shoulder. The head was pale, pulpy, and covered in veins. Its tongue lolled out of its mouth and its eyes rolled in mad ecstasy.
A Rampaging Stone Giant
The giant ran across the square of the bazaar right at the trio of escapees. It swung its arms madly, smashing against Angolwen and knocking her down. The surrounding patrons of the bazaar scattered looking for cover. Pain drew his weapons and Kettle drew his two new swords - sugar and spice!

Angolwen got up and carried Stool towards the other end of the square as Pain and Kettle engaged the giant in melee combat. Four nearby duergar, two regular guards and two Xarrorns, elite fire lance warriors from Clan Xardelvar, ran forward and aided the two brave halflings.

While the six warriors slashed at the mad giant, Angolwen cast a "Hold Person" spell against the towering maniac. Unfortunately, the spell had no effect, so she followed up with a series of "Chromatic Orb" spells, each exploding into caustic acid.

The giant was eventually defeated, but not before it took the life of one of the guards and one of the Xarrorn.

Soon afterwards, a contingent of duergar Stone Guard arrived. The surviving Xarrorn gave a plain unembelished account of the events to the Stone Guard. Presently, another stone giant approached. This giant wore the a toga and robes similar to the recently deceased. This giant introduced itself to the Stone Guard as Dorhun, apprentice to the Stone Speaker Hgraam. He explains that the dead giant was named Rihuud.

The halflings asked Dorhun what happened. Dorhun recounted how Rihuud, another apprentice like himself, had been "communing with the stone" in Cairngorm Cavern when he began to behave erratically. Soon afterwards, he began to sprout a second head and lost all reason. He stormed out and went on a rampage through the city. He apologized to the Stone Guard for the damage.

One of the halflings asked if this had happened before. Dorhun admitted that it had happened previously, about twenty "rotations" ago. One of his brothers had been communing with the stone and had heard the call of a faraway voice. The brother ran off out of the city with no supplies. He hadn't been heard from since. He was presumed dead.

Kettle said he had encountered this stone giant during their journey from Sloobludop. He was alive, though mad. At least he was eleven "rotations" ago, or as near as he could guess. Kettle and Angolwen explained that they had encountered the giant in a region of caves filled with strange sounds that induced madness.

Dorhun was intrigued! He expressed concern over his lost brother and wished for his safe return. He wanted to know more about this mysterious location. He had been wanting to mount a rescue mission to save his brother but because they knew not where to look, he was forbidden. He asked Kettle if he would retell this tale to the Stone Speaker. Then he would have his evidence that his lost brother might be alive and could be rescued.

Dorhun reached into his toga and withdrew what was to him a small bronze engraved tablet. He handed it to the halfling, to whom the tablet was as large as a shield. Dorhun told Kettle that this tablet would instruct any Stone Guard to escort the halfling and his companions to Cairngorm Cavern. There he would tell his tale to the Stone Speaker.

In the meantime, he had to attend to the removal of Rihuud's body and the preparation of funeral arrangements. He wished the trio well and the Stone Guard released them to their own recognizance.

A strange looking derro wearing a big floppy hat with long dangling lobes suddenly ran past and over the giant's fallen body, muttering, "Very late! Very late! No time!" before disappearing beyond the demolished gate into the inner city.
A Very Late Derro
The foursome continued navigating the stairways and stone plazas to the Darklake Docks.

Angolwen, Kettle, Pain, and Stool arrived at the stone quay of Darklake Docks. There were a few large flat-bottomed galleys and dozens of small round craft hollowed out of the laquered heads of giant puffball mushrooms moored on the docks but for some reason there were not very many people about.

They spotted a lone duergar standing at the end of a pier and decided to approach and ask for Werz Saltbaron. Suddenly, two duergar clad in black cloaks appeared out of thin air, flanking the lone figure on the pier. The two cloaked duergar formed glowing immaterial blades from their clenched fists and began stabbing the lone figure!

The overworlders, plus Stool, rushed to the aid of the lone duergar. Angolwen cast a "Hold Person" spell on one of the attackers, freezing him in place. Pain arrived first, cutting down the frozen attacker just as he started to move again. The vicious strike sent the assassin flying into the water. The second assassin grew to large size before their eyes.

Pain shouted, "Hey! I thought Hemeth said they couldn't do that!"

Kettle replied, "Myth, my ass!"

Kettle ran up and the two combatants, aided by attack spells from Angolwen, slew the would-be assassin who returned to normal size.

They helped the victim of the attack to his feet. He was gravely injured. Kettle bound his wounds. The duergar paused and said, 'Thank you..."

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence as Kettle, Pain, and Angolwen expected the duergar to continue. When he did not, they broke the silence, telling the duergar that they were looking for Werz Saltbaron. The duergar said, "I am he." They tried to offer Werz the swords they promised Gorglak. Werz declined the transaction, "Not here,  meet me at the Shattered Spire in four shifts". He then looked around apprehensively and said, "I really must go!" and ran off down the docks, leaving the foursome standing next to the body of a dead assassin.
Werz Saltbaron
Pain shrugged and rifled through the effects of the assassin. All he could find was a strip of fish paper bearing the likeness of Werz Saltbaron.

Suddenly, a contingent of Stone Guard emerged from their invisible shroud, spears pointing at all four escapees. "Stop! You are under arrest for murder and for deviation from the norm! You are to be remanded to Overlake Hold! Come with us!"

The three overworlders and Stool were then manacled and transported to the imposing fortified edifice overlooking the Darklake known as Overlake Hold.

Kettle, Stool, Pain, and Angolwen were bound into a dungeon underneath Overlake Hold, a massive fortress built from a stalagmite and surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Darklake. Their legs and arms were manacled while Stool's stumpy legs were chained. Stool cheerfully exclaimed, "I'm helping!"

After what felt like many hours, they were taken from the dungeon and transported to a spartan office with a zurkhwood desk and several stools.

A door at the rear of the office opened and in walked an imposing female grey dwarf. She was fully armored and bore an insignia of an ebon skull. She was flanked by two elite guards who stood by the door.
Errde Blackskull, Commander fo the Stone Guard
"I am Captain Errde Blackskull, commander of the Stone Guard. You will each state your names and homelands."

She paused to allow each to introduce themselves. When they were done, she inquired, "Why did you kill those two unarmed duergar on the pier?"

They told their version of events, conveniently omitting any mention of the would-be victim's name.

Errde considered this, "I believe you. We found the body of the other attacker in the water. Both attackers were members of the Empty Scabbard Killers, a secret order of assassins. They were dressed to kill. Either you killed them to save another or in self-defense. In either case, it is very unlikely your murdered them."

Errde continued, "But all that means nothing. You are worth nothing here in Gracklstugh and you are still guilty of entering Gracklstugh under false pretenses if nothing else. Most of those in my command would sell you off in a heartbeat as the cheapest manual labor. However, I've learned to make much better use of deviant scum such as you."

"For many rotations, my guards have been tracking the movements of a courier, a derro named Droki. Despite many sightings, he has managed to avoid capture, as if he somehow nows in advance where my patrols will be - invisible or otherwise. We suspect that he is linked to a conspiracy involving the Derro Council of Savants, and maybe even elements among the clain lairds. I need to capture this Droki and interrogate him, or at the very least I need confirmation of his activities and evidence of conspiracy."

Kettle exclaimed, "We've seen him!"

Errde nodded, "Droki lives somewhere in the West Cleft District, a place where even duergar are forbidden for our presence there would likely start a derro uprising."

"I want you to find this Droki, follow him, chase him, capture him, and bring him back to me! If he cannot be brought back alive, then bring back the confirmation and evidence I need. Will you accept?"

Pain inquired, "What's the alternative?"

"Oh, I will put you back into the dungeon for a few rotations. Then you'll be auctioned as slaves."

Kettle replied for everyone, "I guess we'll do it."

"Excellent. By the way, before I let you go. I want to know something. I've been hearing reports of strange erratic behavior among the duergar. Have you encountered anything out of the ordinary? Anything irregular or irrational?"

Kettle and Pain recounted their experiences at the Blade Bazaar, as well as the extortion at the hands of the gatekeeper and the poor service at the inn.

"Okay," Kettle smirked, "I guess the waitress was just being a duergar. She doesn't count."

Errde thanked them for their information and promised them a reward. After they complete their mission, they will be allowed to return to the Keep where she will grant them each 350 gold pieces worth of equipment from the armory of the Stone Guards.

In the meantime, she gave them each a badge bearing the insignia of the Black Skull. She told them to keep the badges hidden and to show them discreetly to the Stone Guards to grant them access to the inner city as far as Laduguer's Furrow.

"You are free to go."


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

28 Days Later

The 28 day journey from Sloobludopp to Gracklestugh was a long arduous slog that took three sessions!

I kept track of the journey using the spreadsheet I created a few weeks ago. I printed out a copy and kept it in front of me. All of the encounters were pre-rolled and recorded on the sheet so I didn't have to roll during play. The only thing I'd have to roll was the details, and even that I did before the session if I had the time.

I had the players go through a daily ritual after each long rest, following the routine outlined here.

I'd begin each day by writing down how much food and water carried over from the previous day. The maximum water they could carry over was based on how many water skins they had.

FULL DISCLOSURE- I found out after the fact that butchered meat only lasts 1 day. I didn't know this so you'll see days in my notes with +40 pounds of meat that lasted for several days. Oops.

Then I had players assign PCs and NPCs to specific jobs:

  1. Navigator - it was the navigator's job to keep their eyes peeled for the clues and marks that led to their destination. Only NPCs who have previously made the journey to the destination could navigate. This put a premium on protecting certain NPCs over others. If you were navigating, you didn't have the time or attention to forage or hide your tracks. You also spent your downtime mapping your progress. The players wisely assigned multiple NPCs to navigate. The back-up navigator helped prevent the party from becoming lost. 
  2. Forager - it was the forager's job to look for food and water, both during the journey and after the party had stopped to camp. If you were foraging, you could not navigate or hide your tracks.
  3. Hide Tracks - You did what you could to obfuscate any evidence of your passing. This was a full time job. If you hid your tracks, you couldn't navigate or forage.  

These jobs stayed pretty much consistent day after day. Once they lost the drow pursuit, I had Hemeth say "I think we lost them." so they wouldn't have to be paranoid or waste resources on hiding their tracks every day.

Next I would ask for the pace: Slow (4 miles), Normal (6 miles), or Fast (10 miles).

If they took a slow day or a fast day, instead of calculating exact times, I'd just add or subtract a day from their journey.

If there was an encounter indicated during that day's travel, I would roll 1d6 (or 1d4 for slow days or 1d10 for fast days) to determine during which of the 6 miles (or 4 or 10) the encounter occurred. Then I would resolve the encounter.

If there was no encounter, I'd say, "You traveled 4/6/10 miles without incident. Roll for navigation."

The player controlling the navigator (Hemeth) would roll WIS (Survival) vs. 5 for slow, 10 for normal, 15 for fast. The player controlling the back-up navigator (Sarith) would also roll. If both rolls failed, I'd roll 1d6.

  • 1-3 =  no days lost. 
  • 4-5 = half a day added to their journey. 
  • 6 = a full day added to their journey.

FULL DISCLOSURE- Although I did this on the journey from Velkenvelve to Sloobludopp, I did it wrong when they traveled to Gracklestugh. I was adding a full day to their journey with each failure. This resulted in adding 8 full days to the originally 20-day journey. It should have been around 3.5 days. 

Then I'd ask the players controlling anyone hiding tracks to roll WIS (Survival) vs. 16. A success lowered the pursuit level by 1. Angolwen's player wanted to help by collapsing the tunnel behind them using Thunderwave. I liked the idea so I lowered the difficulty to hide tracks by -2 for each use of Thunderwave that day.

Finally I'd say, "Roll for food and water. The difficulty is..." I'd roll 14+1d6, "(15-20)." I'd write the difficulty in the far left margin.

Each player would roll for their PC and for any NPC they controlled. A success indicated WIS modifier + 1d6 pounds of food or gallons of water. 2d6 for a natural 20.

Then I would go around the table and ask for results.

Player 1: "Nothing."
Player 2: "2 pounds of food. No water."
Player 3: "No food. 3 gallons of water."

They would usually tell each other which NPC found the food or water and they would remember who was contributing and who was just consuming.

I would record the results on the sheet, indicating food/water found, added to previous day for total food/water, then subtract food/water consumed, and record remaining food/water which was carried over to the next day.

For camping, I'd ask for watches. The players had five watches, making sure there was always someone with darkvision on watch. If there was an encounter that night, I'd roll 1d10/2 to determine on which watch the encounter occurred.

I gave the players some narrative control for the random encounters. I had some home-made wall pieces with some Dwarven Forge stalagmites and some aquarium decorations arrayed on the table. I'd ask the players to set up the encounter how they wished. I'd simply say, "There's an encounter. Arrange the cavern." and let them be creative. Pits, columns, furrows, stalagmites, boulders, shelves, whatever they wanted. That's where the encounter took place. After they set it up, I'd reveal the opposition.

Anyway, here's a scan of the two pages of sheets showing their daily progress on their journey as well as the pre-rolled random encounters.

The printed portion on page 1 (days 1-10) represents the travel from Velkenvelve to Sloobludopp, which transpired before I made the sheets. The bracketed days on page 1 represent the sessions. So days 11-14 were run in a single session on 1/29. We only got 5 days done because I ran the Hook Horror Hunt side adventure.  Days 15-19 was the next session (2/5). Again, we only got that much done because I went back and ran Angolwen's solo time from days 11-14. Plus there was a lot of role-playing and NPC interaction that week.

The entire page 2, days 20-37, was run on 2/12. The players were set on reaching their destination, so we plowed through, gaming until 1:30am that night, until they arrived in Gracklestugh.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Thrilling Escape!" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 6

Mistress Ilvara
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.


On their way to rejoin
their companions at the
Cavern of the Crimson Column,
the escapees are confronted
by their drow pursuers...

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.

Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Sarith - Drow guard sentenced to die for murdering a fellow guard.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.

Talorean - Half-drow abandoned at birth to be raised by wolves.
Hemeth - Duergar trader rescued from Sloobludopp. Leading the party to Gracklestugh.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins. Missing from the group since the cave-in. Possibly were-rats.
Buppido - An uncharacteristically friendly Derro. Missing since he tried to murder Angolwen.

Shoor the Pretty

At the conclusion of a long rest, while gathering their gear to continue their trek, the party was taken by surprise by their drow pursuers. Their pursuers consisted of a force of four quaggoths and four drow warriors led by Shoor and Jorlan. Near them was Mistress Ilvara and a priestess of Lolth. Ilvara pointed her writhing tentacle lash at the party, "There they are! Capture them!"

The quaggoths charged into the cavern, the drow moved into position to fire their crossbows.  The escaped captives scrambled towards the exit of the cavern, grabbing what they could on the run. 

Kettle brandished his swords, Jelly and Jam, and bared his teeth in preparation for battle, "Let's end this!"

Pain rolled his eyes and ordered Prince Derendil to grab the troublesome halfling and flee through the exit. 

DM Note- I described the frantic nature of their escape. I gave everyone an option: 
1. Grab a full skin of water.
2. Grab a full bag of food.
3. Grab your backpack with your gear.
4. Leave everything and get extra movement.
5. Stand and fight. 

There was a little bit of debate and argument as players made the case that their food would be in their backpack or trying to justify grabbing two items but I reiterated the frantic nature of the flight and pointed out that running is allowable but they have to make sacrifices to do so. 

Virtue's player said they had hard tack rations in their backpack. I pointed out that it had been many weeks underground and that they would have been eaten. We compromised and I rolled 1d10 and said "that's how many days of hard tack you have left". 

Angolwen stood by the exit and prepared a spell, shouting, "Everyone get behind me, now!"

Virtue stood defiant, ready for battle. A few drow used their innate control over light to cast the area around Angolwen into darkness, effectively blinding her. Virtue noticed the darkness and looked back to check on Angolwen standing behind her. Virtue turned back towards the drow and smiled. She was unaffected by the darkness. Her infernal Devil's Sight allowed her to see through even magical darkness as if day. 

Angolwen, though blinded, reiterated her command, "Virtue! Get behind me! NOW!"

Virtue sighed in exasperation, grabbed her backpack, and fled past Angolwen through the exit.

Once everyone was out of the cavern, Angolwen moved through the exit, spoke an arcane word, and pointed her wand at the ceiling. There was a massive shockwave and thunderclap that echoed through the caves of the underdark followed by a cave-in as the ceiling over the exit collapsed, filling the passage with debris and rubble. 

Angolwen turned back towards the others and shouted, "Move!"
Drow Warrior

The party knew they were low on food and water so, rather than flee as fast as they could, they decided to trust the cave-in and continue at a normal pace. After climbing and scrambling through six miles of dry river-bed, they emerged into a massive cavern lit with an eerie red glow. The cavern was easily several hundred feet across and several hundred feet tall. The ceiling was supported by a massive glowing column of ruby crystal. The crystal leaked water through many small fissures. The water collected around the column in a shallow pool. There were several entrances and exits. 

Waiting for them was Talorean, Hemeth, and Ront. The two parties shook hands as they reunited. Talorean said "Where have you been? We've been waiting here for days!"

Hemeth warned the others, "Don't drink the water. It's tainted somehow. It's turning anyone who drinks it into crazed lunatics."

Virtue stepped towards the column and stretched out her hand. "It's cursed. It's demonic, infernal. Has it always been like this?"

Hemeth replied, "No, this is recent. The water is usually safe to drink."

Pain and Angolwen told Talorean about their recent adventures. Kettle described their encounter with the hook horrors and the gnolls hunting them, as well as his clever plan to betray the gnoll chieftain. Pain described the dwarves they found with whom Eldeth subsequently departed. Then he described the escaped dwarven slaves and how they died when gricks ambushed them. Angolwen chronicled her attempted murder by Buppido. Talorean said they hadn't seen Buppido since they left. Angolwen also recounted the two rat-things she met while separated from the group. She belately realized that they were probably Topsy and Turvy. 

Topsy and Turvy
Pain mused, "I wonder if they're were-rats."

Two child-like voices asked in unison, "You wonder if who are what?"

Everyone turned to see the deep gnome twins standing with the group as if they'd never left. 

Pain furrowed his brow. "I was just saying, are you were-rats?"

"Are we what?"

Pain repeated, "Were-rats."

Topsy and Turvy looked confused, "We're right here!"

Pain pinched his nose in frustration.

Kettle put his hand on Pain's shoulder, "Hold on. I have an idea."  He then pulled a silver mirror out of his pack, raised it high, and smashed it over Turvy's head.

Turvy grabbed his head in pain while Topsy held her brother in sympathy, "OWWW!!! What did you do that for?"

"It was a test. Did that hurt?"

"Yes it hurt! Why don't you smash it over HIS head and ask him!"

Kettle looked at Pain and shrugged.

Pain asked Turvy to come over to him. Turvy warily approached with Topsy hugging him tightly. 

Pain grabbed Turvy's hand and took out his dagger, saying, "This is a test. If you are what we think you are, this shouldn't hurt." He then drew his dagger across Turvy's palm. Turvy screamed in pain, the pathetic scream of an injured child. Blood emerged from the wound, but within seconds the wound was closed. 

Turvy, sobbing incoherently, collapsed into his sister's arms. Topsy cast a reproachful glare back at Pain, "Why did you hurt my brother? Why are you so mean? He never hurt you! He never did anything bad! YOU are bad!"

Talorean approached and asked, "Were-rat?"

Pain replied, "Were-rat. What should we do?"

Talorean thought about it and said, "She's right. Other than stealing Angolwen's bag, they haven't actually done us any harm. They probably only become were-rats when the moon is full, even though we can't see it. And they seemed smart enough to leave us while they were changed. I guess we don't do anything for now but keep an eye on them. I'm more worried about Sarith and whatever he's hiding."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he says he wants to return Stool to Neverlight Grove because he feels guilty. I don't believe him. I think he's lying but I don't know why yet or what he really has planned."

Virtue joined the conversation, "I sense the influence of demonic forces in him. It's subtle, but it's there. I'm not sure what that means either. It's possible he's under the influence of Zuggtmoy. She's some kind of mushroom demon. Maybe that has something to do with Neverlight Grove."

Talorean looked towards Sarith. Sairth was standing alone, apart from the group. Talorean pondered the implications, "Hmmm.."

The escapees continued their journy to Gracklestugh. Every so often, Angolwen would block the route behind them by using her Thunderwave spell to collapse the ceiling. 

DM Note- The normal difficulty to cover their tracks was 16. Pain and Kettle were working hard to cover the party's tracks but often failed. I allowed Angolwen to reduce the difficulty by -2 for each use of Thunderwave.

After another long rest they came across a large cavern with a patch of ten giant trillimac mushrooms! The trillimac were as tall as a man's shoulders. The rest of the cavern was filled with ten giant glowing red beetles, each the size of a medium-sized bulldog! The beetles were highly territorial and defended their ground. The party defeated the beetles after a short fight. 

After defeating the fire beetles, Talorean and Angolwen approached Sarith. 
Talorean spoke, "Sarith. Why do you want to return to Neverlight Grove?"

Sarith replied, "I already told you."

"But what's your real reason? What are you hiding?"

Sairth looked at Talorean, annoyed at the line of questioning, "I'm not hiding anything."

Angolwen interjected, "We just want to make sure you're not planning to do any harm to the group."

Sarith glared silently at Angolwen.

"Are you planning to do harm to the group?" demanded Talorean.

"Look, if you don't trust me, I'll leave. I'm leading you to Neverlight Grove because I know the way and I'm the only one who does know the way. I've already told you my reason. That is sufficient."

"That's not good enough!" shouted an increasingly frustrated Angolwen.

"It's obvious you don't trust me. I'll take Stool and leave!"

Kettle, who carried Stool in a backpack, defiantly stepped forward, "You will take Stool over my dead body!"

Sarith stared at the halfling, "I will return Stool to his homeland. If I am not welcome in this party, then I will do so alone."

Kettle narrowed his eyes, "You will not take Stool!"

The drow and the dwarf glared at each other menacingly, waiting for the other to make the first move. 

Sarith finally said, "Fine." The drow then left through the passage by which they entered the cavern.

Later, when the escapees had made camp, they were once again set upon by fire beetles. This time the fire beetles emerged through fissures in the ceiling, dropping on the sleeping escapees from above. The alarm was sounded and the beetles were soon dispatched.

They journey now relied soley on the pathfinding skills of Hemeth. Without Sarith serving as back-up to lead the way to Gracklestugh, they found themselves getting lost more often. 

During the next rest, while Kettle, Stool, and Prince Derendil were on watch, the party was attached by a large ochre jelly! The jelly went to engulf Angolwen. Kettle ran up and sliced it with his sword, splitting the jelly into two smaller independent creatures!

The rest of the party were awakened. Not knowing how to fight the creature, and worried they'd just make more if they did, they retreated near an exit while Angolwen and Virtue blasted the thing with fire spells, eventually killing it.

After resting, the escapees travelled, rested, and travelled again without incident. 

During the following rest, however, they were beset by an ambush!
The party had found a ledge overlooking the dry riverbed they were following. The ledge was inside a tall chimney, hundreds of feet high and filled with massive stalactites. They felt safe on their ledge so they decided to rest there. 

It was during her and Sarith's watch that Virtue noticed movement on a cliff forty-five feet above them on the other side of the river bed. She sprang to attention and called the alarm just as a massive javelin crashed into the ledge nearby. Ront stood in awe, whispering, "Orogs!"

"What was that?" demanded Virtue.

"They Orogs! They powerful orcs from Underdark! And smart!" Ront smiled, still facing looking up with reverence at the two massive humanoids high above, 

"Yeah, well, can you talk to them?" Virtue said as another javelin stuck into the stone nearby.

Ront pouted his lips and furrowed his brow. He glanced at Virtue then back up to the Orogs, "I don't think they want talk."

Virtue fired a few eldritch blasts at the brutes while Sarith fired his crossbow, "We need a plan."

Talorean stepped forward and spoke with divine authority, commanding the orogs to approach. 

One of the orogs, in spite of its superior position, dropped a rope and began to descend. The melee fighters of the group, including Kettle and Pain, dropped down into the river bed to prepare to attack the orog when it arrived.

Talorean repeated his command to the other orog and it, too, dropped a rope and descended. 

While the first orog dropped into battle with those below, the other orog realized what was happening and began to climb back up. Virtue and Angolwen were ready and attacked the fleeing orog with eldritch blasts and firebolts. The orog let go of the rope and fell fortyfive feet, landing on the riverbed with a wet thud. The other orog was soon defeated by Pain and the others. 

Pain then climbed the rope to search for the orog lair, only to realize he was unable to see in the total darkness. He called for help and Virtue climbed up and searched the chamber. There they found three gems that the orogs had hidden in a skull. 

About an hour into their journey after their long rest, the escapees began to notice eerie sounds. The heard cackling hooting laughter, wet tearing sounds, and sounds too awful to describe. The sounds began quietly and slowly increased, eventually becoming unbearable! Several members of the party succumbed to madness! Many started licking and trying to eat Stool! Some simply passed out from the shock. Pain became catatonic, staring madly off into space. 

Those that kept their cool tried to help the others by ushering them into the safety of an alcove when they were approached by a massive humanoid, completely hairless with grey skin and over twelve feet tall. The giant approached warily, its hands and head occasionally twitching. 

The giant cried, "The sounds! The sounds! I can't stand the sounds! I can't.. I can't... the sounds!"

All of Talorean and Angolwen's attempts to communicate rationally with the giant failed. The giant responded with paranoia and suspicion. The giant believed that Talorean and the others were judging him for his failure to find his way out, judging him for his weakness. He accused the party of calling him a coward, for calling him weak!

They managed to talk the giant into not attacking and even asked if the giant would help them escape the noises. The giant agreed, but told them they would have to leave the others. They would wake up and accuse him of weakness. Again, their attempts to reason with the giant failed.

Virtue tried a different approach. She lied to the giant, telling him that she admired his strength and courage, and that she would follow him. The giant was flattered and turned to lead her out of the caverns. Virtue followed a few dozen feet and quietly snuck back to the group

There they waited for the rest of their party to return to their senses and continued on, eventually leaving the region of horrid madness. At about this time, Hemeth, with his ears to the stone, assured the others, "I think we have lost our pursuers."

The journey continued essentially uneventfully for eight long rests. During this time the party met a group of four Duergar traders accompanied by a kavalrachni knight, all riding giant spider mounts called "steeders". Virtue contemplated purchasing one of the trader's carts and steeders but decided against it. The party was once again beset by fire beetles that managed to eat some of their food before being dispatched. They passed three shrieking fungi and worried momentarily about what enemies may have been alerted. Then they set camp in a fungus cavern that turned out to contain several violent fungi. During one rest, they awoke to find a grick eating their food. The grick had eaten ten pounds of food before being killed, at which point it was butchered for its meat as the party was becoming increasingly bored with a diet of dried fungus and fire beetle meat.  

During the eighth rest, their rest was distrubed by the arrival of two figures approaching. The two travellers were Sarith accompanied by a female elf with pale blue skin and dark hair. Sarith said he found her wandering alone in the dark. She was a moon elf from the surface, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan. She could not speak and had no name. He felt she would be safer with the party than wandering alone. 
The Moon Elf
The party welcomed the new addition and, though his welcome was less than warm, accepted Sarith's return without comment or objection.  The moon elf acted subservient to the others, especially to Sarith. She was told repeatedly that she was free and did not need to act like a slave, but she continued in her habits.

The party continued to travel towards Gracklestugh, encountering a massive chamber filled knee-deep with loose bones and skeletons. They warily passed through the chamber, encountering only fire beetles. 

A few rests later, they were camping when they were approached by a mysterious lone figure. The figure was an pale-skinned orog, dressed in fine clothes and with the bearing of a noble scholar. The orog introduced himself as Blurg. He explained that he was a member of the Society of Brilliance. He and his fellows were scholars and diplomats, unusually intelligent specimens of each of their respective species and cultures, who sought to investigate and resolve various problems befalling the Underdark. 

He spoke of Y the derro savant, Grazilaxx the mind flayer, Skriss the troglodyte, and Sloopidoop the kuo-toa. He told the party that should they ever encounter these inviduals to mention him and they would be met as allies.
Blurg the Orog
Blurg was currently on his way to investigate a region affected by a mysterious phenomenon he called faerzress. When asked about their travels, the party told Blurg of Sloobludopp and the rising of the demon lord "Leemogoogoo", or as Virtue clarified, "Demogorgon". Blurg was upset by this news and said he must divert his travels to warn his companions.

Before he left, however, he instructed Talorean how to find the signs that point towards Gracklestugh. He told them that he had just left the place two rests ago and that a strange madness had falled over the city. The normally strict and punctilious duergar were becoming mysteriously lax and corrupt. He warned the party to be careful.

When done, Blurg walked behind and large boulder and vanished. 

After completing their long rest, the party travelled at a faster pace, covering the twelve remaining miles to Gracklestugh in only eight hours.
Hemeth the Duergar Trader
Thus it was, after their thirty-sixth long rest since escaping captivity in Velkenvelve, the party arrived at the gates outside Gracklestugh. 

Hemeth had forewarned the party of what to expect, so they pretended to be his slaves. Sarith wore a cloak to conceal his identity as a drow. 

They approached the massive stone gate, the path now paved and lit by lamps. 

Several slits opened in the cavern wall revealing several crossbows aimed at the party. A loud metallic sound alerted the party to an armored presence behind them as six heavily armored dwarves with white hair and dark grey skin appeared out of thin air. 

A harsh voice hissed in Dwarvish from a nearby slit, "State your names and business!"


DM Notes-
I'm not gonna lie, this week's session was a bit of a slog!

We completed 17 "days" of travel this session! That's compared to 5 last week and 4 the week previous. 

They arrived at Gracklestugh with 61 pounds of food and 2 gallons of water. However, I re-read the food scavenging rules today and missed that butchered meat spoils after 1 day. All those gricks and fire beetles were a big source of their food supply. I'll remember the expiration day next time.

The escape from the drow was exciting and I didn't think everybody would make it. I liked the idea of blocking pursuit using Thunderwave so I allowed it. 

In retrospect, I should have had Turvy either turn into rat-form and fight back after being cut or have them both get all sullen and quiet and mysterious when the subject came up. I got too caught up in the moment of playing them as Andy and Ollie from Bob's Burgers mixed with Walter and Perry from Home Movies. I forgot to make them serious when they needed to be. 

I had a GREAT time during the role-playing scenes with Sarith. There were some great "teen drama" moments of melodrama. 

I originally wanted to stop at midnight with eight days to go before Gracklestugh, but the players didn't want to end without making it, so we pushed on until 1:30am! Part of that was also my fault. 

The navigation rules say that missing a navigation roll adds only 1d6 hours to the journey. I forgot that and was rounding up to a whole day of travel. With +0 navigation and a difficulty 10, they had a 50% chance of adding a day to their journey every day. Eight days were added to the original 20-day journey due to missed navigation rolls! It really should have been ~28 total hours or 3.5 days.  Oh well, it's what they get for allowing the SAILOR to navigate an overland journey.

I was starting to gloss over some of the less important encounters for time. 1 grick, it stole some food, let's move on. 10 beetles. You kill them and get their meat. Don't worry about it. Let's move on. Etc. 

Now they're in Gracklestugh and this is a very complex section of the adventure. I'll have to read up very closely and study Power Score's Guide to Out of the Abyss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Lost and Alone" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 5

"Warlord" Kettle with his swords: Jelly and Jam

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 escaped slaves
lost and alone in the Underdark
on their way to Gracklestugh
the city of the Grey Dwarves
are separated by a massive cave-in
they agree to reunite 
at the Cavern of the Crimson Column...

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.

Hemeth - Duergar trader rescued from Sloobludopp.
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.
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.

There was a cave-in. Talorean was injured and unconscious. Ront refused to leave his side. Topsy left the group and ran away into the darkness desperately searching for her brother.
Moments later, Angolwen noticed her bag containing her wand, spellbook, and components was missing. Topsy had evidently taken it.

Hemeth refused to risk getting lost looking for Topsy. Buppido offered to accompany Angolwen in finding Topsy and retrieving her belongings. They would return soon.

Buppido led Angolwen through some small passages, some barely large enough for Angolwen to crawl through. They came to a bend in the cavern, Buppido signaled to wait and scouted ahead. He returned and said that he had found Topsy up ahead, resting, and that Angolwen should sneak up on her. He would guard her back.

Angolwen crept forward. As she rounded the bend, she saw that the passage led to a dead end and that Topsy was nowhere to be seen. She turned around and saw Buppido raise a wavy-bladed kris dagger, growling, "You will make an excellent sacrifice!"

DM Note- I gave Buppido a poisoned dagger with only one use of 3d6 poison damage drow poison. 
He plunged the poisoned dagger into Angolwen who staggered back, wounded but alive. She fought back but was unable to cast her spell. He stabbed her again. Angolwen finally cast her spell, burning the derro with magical fire. He cursed and turned to flee. As a parting shot, she kicked him between the legs as hard as she could. The injured derro screamed as he ran off into the darkness, leaving Angolwen lost and alone.

DM Note- Buppido had 3 hit points left when he turned to flee. Angolwen made an unarmed attack of opportunity with a critical hit! Angolwen's player described it as a kick to the nards. Unarmed attacks do 1 point of damage, doubled to 2. He had 1 hit point left and fled into the darkness.

Angolwen wandered the caves alone for several hours, not knowing which turn to take or through which passage she originally came. Eventually, she saw a dark silhouette lurking ahead. As she came nearer, she saw that it was a diminutive rat-human hybrid watching her at a distance. Most remarkbly, the hybrid was holding the bag containing her belongings. Whether the creature somehow stole her belongings from her without her noticing or whether it obtained them from Topsy, she knew not.

The rat-thing noticed her approach and fled. Angolwen cast a web spell in front of the rat-thing, blocking its escape. The rat-thing turned and rat towards her. It tried to run past her but Angolwen intercepted it and grabbed her bag. The rat-thing cried, "No-no-no-no!" and escaped her grasp. The rat-thing joined another of its kind waiting nearby. The other rat-thing glared at Angolwen until its parter ran past, then both rat-things ran away together.

Angolwen was once again alone in Underdark. She wandered for many more hours, foraging a few pounds of mushrooms to eat and sleeping a few hours when she became too tired to walk any more.

As she wandered alone in the dark, Angolwen became aware of the sound of creatures shuffling towards her. She stole a look around the bend and saw the slow shambling approach of four quaggoths, bestial albino bear-men and slaves of the drow. She cast a spell to disguise herself as a drow and waited for the creatures to come into view.

To her surprise, the four creatures shuffled past her, ignoring her presence. She looked closer and saw small mushrooms and fungi growing from their heads and faces. She recoiled in disgust and let the brutes shuffle past unmolested.

A few hours later, Angolwen came across a massive cavern. The ceiling of the cavern collected a softly glowing gas that provided dim illumination over the remains of a ruined city. Angolwen searched the city but found nothing but half-demolished walls and collapsed ceilings. She continued wandering.

Stopping to rest, Angolwen foraged for food and water and was able to find a few pounds of edible mushrooms and a large pool of fresh water. She filled her two gallon water skins and laid down to rest for a few hours.

Angolwen awoke to a yellow-brown slime creature smothering her! She was able to crawl out from under it and blasted it with magical fire, but the slime creature had consumed her food and water, dissolving her water skin with its acidic secretions. She grabbed her spell bag and moved away. The jelly creature followed her slowly. Angolwen kept her distance, moving away as it moved closer, and zapping it with magical fire until the brown slime monster was dead. Unfortunately, she was not without food or water.

Angolwen wandered lost through the subterranean caverns for what must have been days. She could find no food or water and had become exhausted. She dragged her feet and staggered through the gloom.

Kettle and Pain were arguing about inconsequential matters when they spied a bedraggled figure shambling out of the darkness. It was Angolwen! She had finally found the other half of her split party. They immediately shared what food and water they could with her and laid down to rest for several hours.

The party's rest was interrupted when it was attacked by five goblin raiders and their boss. The assault scored some initial success as it swarmed over the party as it struggled to wake and get to their feet. Eventually, the goblins were repulsed and the boss was forced to flee. Kettle called out, "Know that you were defeated by Warlord Kettle!" to which the goblin boss replied, "Curse you, Warlord Kettle! I will have my revenge!" as it fled into the darkness.
The Goblin Boss will have his revenge!

After the goblin attack, the party gathered their gear and continued to travel through the caverns to the Crimson Column. They came across a strange series of passages and caverns. It was as if the they were traveling through the interior of a cyclopean stone sponge. It seemed all too easy to become lost in such a bewildering array of passages. On top of that, Pain noticed that he had become light headed and dizzy - the cavern was filled with poison gas!

They were about to turn around and find another route when they heard the sound of cries for help coming from within the sponge-like caves. The cries became weak and faded, as if they had fallen unconscious. Pain and Kettle were discussing ways to connect ropes and safely explore the caves a few hundred feet at a time when Virtue ran past them in a daring rescue attempt. Pain and Kettle exchanged a silent look of exasperation and ran after her.

Inside the gas-filled caves, they found three male shield dwarves. The dwarves were dressed in rags and looked malnourished. Virtue, Pain, and Kettle grabbed them and carried them back.

Once revived, the dwarves explained that they were slaves from Gracklestugh. They had reached the end of their usefulness and were set free in the Underdark. They had been wandering for who-knew-how-long, lost and hungry. Although they were loathe to return to the place from whence they escaped, they were more afraid of dying alone in the dark and agreed to join the party. Once back in Gracklestugh, they would be disguised.

The party retraced their steps and found another path that avoided the gas-filled chamber, adding miles to their route. They continued on their journey, stopping to rest three more times without incident.

After the third rest, they found themselves in a passage sloping down. As they descended, Pain once again became light-headed and dizzy. They were descending into a pocket of heavier-than-air gas. Unwilling to add more miles to their route, they continued ahead.  The passage eventually reached its nadir and turned sharply upward. At this point, severl members of the party, including the three dwarf slaves, could take no more of the noxious gas and collapsed. As the party paused to attend to the fallen, four tentacled monstrosities emerged from the ceiling of the passage!  Sarith called out, "Gricks!"

The gricks had bodies like snakes with heads replaced with four writing tentacles around a gnashing beak the size of a man's head. Each tentacle ended in a sharp barb. The tentacles moved through burrows in the stone and emerged to drop upon prey that fell unconscious.

The gricks dropped on the party. Two of the gricks busied themselves grabbing the bodies of the fallen dwarves in the rear of the group while the other two attacked the rest of the party at the front of the group. A brutal fight ensued! The thick hide of the grick seemed to deflect blades and arrows. At one point, Angolwen case a Thunderwave spell, killing one grick and gravely wounding the other. Unfortunately, her spell also had the effect of thoroughly dismembering the bodies of the fallen dwarves. Eventually all the gricks were slain but several members of the party had been severely wounded.

On the assumption that gricks dragged their prey back to their lairs, Pain decided to climb into the grick tunnels. He found their now abandoned lair, as well as a full suit of plate mail which was claimed by Virtue, the only member of the party who would benefit from wearing such heavy armor.

Kettle decided to butcher the gricks for meat to add to their food supply of foraged mushrooms. With 73 pounds of fungi and 56 pounds of grick meat, the party was doing well for food. Unfortunately, they had found little water and were down to 13 gallons of water when they decided to stop and rest.

The rest was uneventful. Unfortunately, no one noticed when they were spied upon by an advance party of drow scouts.

At the conclusion of their rest, while the party was gathering their gear to continue their trek, they were taken by surprise when a force of eight drow warriors led by Shoor and Jorlan. Near them was Mistress Ilvara. She pointed her writhing tentacle lash at the party, "There they are! Capture them!"

Mistress Ilvara!


DM Notes-
It may read like not a lot of substantive events happened this week. Just a bunch of random encounters. Unfortunately, what my write-up isn't able to capture is the amount of role-playing and interaction going on between the players and each other and with the NPCs. They finally got a chance to sit and talk with some of the NPCs they wanted to get to know better.

There's the beginnings of a romance starting between Virtue and Sarith. 

Stool follows Kettle around like a loyal dog, albeit one that talks like a ten-year-old. They take watches together. 

Kettle has declared himself "Warlord" and has fashioned a makeshift banner that he wears on his back. 

Pain got a chance to get to know Jimjar and Prince Derendil a little better.

Ront has become a loyal follower of Valorean and will do anything the half-drow nature paladin says.

Despite his seeming hatred of them, Pain has formed a kind of love-hate bond with the twins and was actually kind of sorry to see them disappear. 

What's also encouraging is that the players have vowed to keep all of the NPCs alive and help them all return home. Zero breakage. The three dwarves that were killed by the gas and later eaten by gricks don't count, apparently, because they were added later. Nor does Hemeth. They count sending Eldeth off with her clansmen as a "mini-ding" since she's reunited with her "people", as do they count leaving Suushar to rebuild Sloobludopp. 

They never liked Buppido and I was very happy to finally get a chance for him to try to murder someone! He may have left the party but I have a feeling he'll be back!

The crazy thing is, they're only HALFWAY to Gracklestugh! Hopefully we can speed things up a bit next week. 
Sarith, looking a little bedraggled after fifteen days wandering the Underdark.