Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Secrets and Spies" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 12

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.



CHAPTER 12
"SECRETS AND SPIES"

A rag-tag group of survivors
escaped the drow prison at Velkenvelve,
witnessed the razing of a kuo-toa village
by the demon-lord Demogorgon, 
and traveled for 28 days to 
Gracklstugh, the city of the Duergar,
where they have become involved
in the scheming machinations of
the various political factions 
vying for power in this city of madness...


THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
Angolwen - Wizard of mixed human/elven parentage.
Kettle Bearclaw - Halfling baker living among dwarves.
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.

THEIR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.

NOT PRESENT THIS EPISODE
Talorean - Half-drow abandoned at birth to be raised by wolves.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Follows Talorean's commands.
Pain Grille' - Halfling street urchin from Waterdeep.
Rumpadump - A shy and laconic myconid adult.
Stool - A myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute female moon elf, an escaped slave with no name.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins who everyone pretty much knows are were-rats.
Mister Floop - a friendly flumph.

VIRTUE'S DRAGON
When Virtue saw Buppido, she was overwhelmed by her manic paranoia. She turned and fled, carrying her seventy pound dragon egg to safety.

She blindly ran through the Whorlstone Tunnels until she came across the chamber of the Whispering Mesa. It seemed a safe defensible location so she climbed.

She sat down at the top of the mesa, surrounded by the whispered thoughts of the people of Gracklstugh, and considered the dragon egg. There she sat with her egg for what felt like days, or possibly only hours, it was difficult to tell in this alien subterranean environment.

While she sat, she caught a snippet of a thought from Themberchaud the dragon, the Wyrmsmith of Gracklstugh. She knew then that if she returned the egg to Themberchaud, the dragon would destroy the egg as a potential rival. She also sensed growing impatience in the dragon, and a growing desire to destroy the Keepers of the Flame, kill the Deepking, and take over the city.

She decided she wouldn't turn the egg over to Themberchaud. She would hatch it herself.

At first she used her own magical flame to heat the egg. Then she downed a potion of fire breathing and exhaled flame over the egg.

The egg cracked.

Out hatched a wyrmling. A sixty-pound baby dragon that burped fire and loudly squawked, "MAA!"

Virtue fed the wymrling what edible mushrooms and rations she had but the dragon was unsatisfied. It needed meat.

He left the dragon momentarily to obtain some more meat from a nearby cavern, but the dragon was still dissatisfied.

DM Note-
Me: "Where will you find any meat?"

Virtue's player: "We've left dead bodies in every room we've been to in this dungeon!"

Me: "Good point."

Virtue gathered up the egg-shells into a sack and loaded the dragon and into her backpack and ventured out of the cavern in search of more food.

THE SPIDER KING
While harvesting some more mushrooms from a nearby patch, she came upon a fissure in the wall. She remembered that this fissure probably connected to the fissure in the back of the mushroom garden of the alchemist's lab. Knowing that the door to the lab was locked and figuring that the lab was a safe place to be, she consumed a pygmywort mushroom and gave one to her dragon.  Tnhey both shrank down to the size of a halfling and ventured into the fissure.

She came upon an split in the tunnel and chose left. At the second split, she realized that she had fallen into a trap. She was surrounded by three giant spiders! The largest one with two heads said something in a language she did not understand. She drew her hex blade.

One of spiders in front of her showered her in sticky webbing. The dragon exhaled fire upon the two-headed spider behind them. The spiders approached, biting with their poisonous fangs. Virtue managed to kill one of the spiders in front of her but ultimately fell to the other's poisonous bite. The spider wrapped up Virtue's fallen body in a cocoon while the baby dragon fought and killed the two-headed spider. Upon defeating its foe, the baby dragon then turned and killed the spider dragging Virtue's body away.

The dragon pawed at the un-moving cocoon, crying, "MAA!" The dragon dragged the cocoon out of the fissure and back to the chamber of the mesa.

SECRETS SHARED
Angolwen

After leading Ylsa Henstak into the Whorlstone Tunnels and the chamber of the Obsidian Obelisk, Angolwen and Kettle decide to head back to the cavern of the Whispering Mesa to ask some more questions while Pain Grille' went back to Gracklstugh to help make preparations to leave.

To their surprise, they find a halfling-sized cocoon and a baby dragon.

"MAA!"

The baby dragon took a defensive posture over the cocoon but Kettle managed to ease its fears and convince it that they were friendly.

DM Note - 
Animal Handling!

Kettle pulled one of his blades and cut open the cocoon. He found the halfling-sized Virtue unconscious and blue. He applied a healing potion and helped her to come around. There they waited for the paralysis to wear off.

Once Virtue regained her senses, she realized that her overwhelming paranoia had finally passed, though some lingering suspicion remained.

The three caught up on the events of the previous tridon (an Underdark "day"): the death of Buppido,  the ghost and the quest to find the missing ring, the thwarting of the derro savants and the cult of Demogorgon, etc. Virtue caught everyone up on his deal with Themberchaud, the duplicity of the Keepers of the Flame, the theft of the dragon egg by the Grey Shadows on behalf of the derro savants, the subsequent hatching of the baby dragon, etc. Then they discussed what they wanted to do next.

DM Note - 
Unbeknownst to them, while they were sharing all their secrets and strategies, they were being observed by invisible agents of Ylsa and the Merchant Council.

ONE LAST MEETING WITH YLSA
They decided they needed more information so they made one more trip back to the Obsidian Obelisk to ask Ylsa some questions about the politics of Gracklstugh, specifically what would happen if various factions were eliminated or made more powerful. On the way, they realized they had a baby red dragon that was in high demand, so Angolwen cast a Minor Illusion spell to make the dragon resemble a large dog.

"MAA!"

Close enough.

Ylsa Henstak

Ylsa was still examining the obelisk when they arrived.

"Welcome back. You weren't gone long."

"We'd like to ask you some questions about Gracklstugh."

She nodded and turned around from her inspection of the obelisk.

"What.. is.. that?" she said with alarm, pointing at the disguised dog.. dragon.. thing.

"MAA!" bleated the roughly canine quadruped.

"It's a.. um.. it's a dog." declared Kettle, hesitantly.

"A what? What is that? Is that some kind of Overworlder animal?"

"Yep! That's exactly what it is!"

"Keep it away from me!"

They asked her some questions about how politics were run in Gracklstugh. Who was in charge? What was the line of succession? Who was the current heir? Who was at odds with whom? What was the relationship between the stone giants of Clan Cairngorm and the Deepking? She shared what she knew.

DM Note - 
After they left, the invisible spy informed Ylsa of everything he had observed. 

CLOSING OUT THE REMAINING QUESTS
Afterwards, they decided to hunt down the crawling hand with the ring they sought. They tracked it to the chamber filled with discarded corpses and two-headed zombies. Angolwen stood on the ledge and safely dispatched all the zombies at range using attack spells. Kettle noticed the hand with the ring crawling in the back of the room. He climbed down and grabbed the hand. The hand fought back. Kettle wrestled with the hand and managed to pull the ring off. He threw the hand across the room and Angolwen zapped it with an Eldritch Blast.
The Crawling Claw

DM Note-
I thought about having the zombies reanimate as soon as Kettle was in the back of the room, but it's kind of a pointless encounter, so I just skipped it. 

On their way out, they investigated an unexplored passage. They found their way blocked by crude bars made of scrap. Within was a mosaic spiral pattern built into the floor surrounded by glowing stones. In the distance were nine large animal cages, several of them filled with cave bears. Two derro were camped in the room, both arguing with non-existent, or invisible, companions. The party decided to leave the room alone and return to Gracklstugh.

DM Note-
Party rolled an average stealth score of 9. The players were certain they'd be spotted. However, the passive Perception of the derro is 7. Nobody saw nuthin.

THE STONESPEAKER HGRAAM
Their first task upon returning to Gracklstugh was to request an audience with Stonespeaker Hgraam. They considered the Stonespeaker to be the only being they could trust in Gracklstugh so they wanted to make sure he was informed of all that was happening in Gracklstugh.
Stonespeaker Hgraam
Stonespeaker Hgraam met them as requested, "I did not expect to see you again so soon."

They told the Stonespeaker about Themberchaud's growing impatience and plans to take over the city, as well as the Keepers' plot to replace Themberchaud. They asked what the stone giant response would be in the event of Themberchaud trying to take over. The Stonespeaker replied that they would fulfill their oath and fight the Wyrmsmith to protect the Deepking. However, if the Deepking were to die, his line would come to an end and Clan Cairngorm would be free of their oath. He also pointed out that the current consort has been unable to produce an heir, a situation that has caused some concern among members of the royal court.

Afterwards, they told Hgraam about the Whispering Mesa and the Obsidian Obelisk. Hgraam expressed alarm and said that they had to take this information directly to the Deepking. He would arrange an audience with the Deep King at once.

AUDIENCE WITH THE DEEP KING
Stonespeaker Hgraam took the trio, along with their strange looking "dog" to the Deep King's hall. Lava poured down troughs flanking the wide boulevard that led into the immensely tall arched entrance. Massive basalt pillars held aloft a soaring vaulted ceiling. At the head of the hall sat the Deep King Horgar Steelshadow V on his heavy throne. His consort stood by his side.
The Deep King Horgar Steelshadow V

Other than the Deep King and his consort, they were completely alone. No guards, no courtiers, no advisers.

Stonespeaker Hgraam introduced the party, informing the Deep King that they had vital information that affected the security and well being of the kingdom. Kettle stepped forward. As the only member of the party that spoke Dwarvish, he spoke for the party.

Kettle repeated his information for the Deep King, informing him of the power of the Whispering Mesa, the Obsidian Obelisk, the involvement of the derro savants in the cult of Demogorgon, and the cult's attempts to destabilize the influence of the stone giants.

While Kettle spoke, Angolwen cast a spell of Comprehend Languages upon herself so that she could follow and provide support if needed. Virtue, remembering a rumor she heard somewhere regarding the possible true nature of the king's consort, observed her closely trying to get a reading on her.

The Deep King thanked Kettle for the information. Then he asked where they obtained the wyrmling. He had seen right through the illusion.

"MAA!"

Kettle replied that it was their dragon and not for sale.

The Deep King offered to purchase the dragon for 1000 gold coins.

Kettle replied that it was not for sale.

The Deep King increased his offer to 2000 gold coins.

Kettle replied that it was still not for sale.

The situation became tense for a short moment. Then the Deep King informed Kettle that, as a reward for the useful information he provided, he would allow them to keep the dragon. However, he warned them to leave the city immediately lest they garner the wrath of Themberchaud the Wymrsmith.

Kettle agreed and the party ended their audience with the Deep King.

UNWELCOME INFORMATION
Hgraam escorted the party back to the gates to the Darklake District. On the way, Virtue told the others that the king's consort was a fiend, probably a succubus, confirming the rumors he had heard.
Virtue

DM Note-
This led to some debate about whether succubi were demons or devils, a detail that changed with each edition. After some research I determined that "fiends" were both demons AND devils and that succubi served both sides. This was important because Kettle's favored enemy is demon. 

Stonespeaker Hgraam was shocked. He said that this was a major allegation and could not be repeated without proof or evidence.

Virtue really wanted to go back and immediately deal with this information. She offered several strategies that allowed her to reveal the consort as an agent of demons. Angolwen and Kettle managed to talk him out of it. They really just wanted to leave the city. They promised they would deal with it later.

At gate, party bade farewell to Stonespeaker Hgraam, who suggested that they should probably not return to Gracklstugh.

PREPARATIONS TO LEAVE
The trio next went to Overlake Hold and chose equipment from the armory, their reward for serving Commander Blackskull. They briefly met with the commander. She was by now almost paralyzed with paranoia. Nevertheless, they told her, too, about Obsidian Obelisk and the Whispering Mesa. She admitted that she already knew this. She has had invisible spies following them for some time. She warned them to never believe for a moment that they were alone, for her spies were likely not alone. Before they left, Commander Blackskull collected her badges and gave them exit passports, allowing them to exit the city.
Commander Errde Blackskull
Afterwards, they went shopping in the Blade Bazaar. Angolwen purchased crates of spell components. Kettle purchased pack lizard and supplies, then picked up his new weapon: a katar made of black glass-metal, made from the missing chunk of obelisk found in the alchemist's laboratory.

DM Note-
As a non-magical bug exceptional blade, I'm going to give it the property of re-rolling damage rolls of 1. 

Virtue returned to the Gohlbrorn's Lair to gather everyone up and prepare them for leaving. She told them to meet down at the Darklake Docks.

Virtue and Kettle met early down by the docks and found Hemeth, the duergar merchant they helped return to Gracklstugh several tridons ago. Hemeth was overseeing the outfitting of his new ship. They chartered his ship to take them to Neverlight Grove. Soon, the others arrive and they began loading their equipment and supplies, as well as their young dragon, on board.

PARTING SHOTS
While the others loaded the ship, Virtue said she had to go take care of some final things and went back to the city.

On her way to the gates, she was waylaid by Gartokkar Xundorn, leader of the Keepers of the Flame. Gartokkar demanded to know where the dragon egg was.

Virtue said the dragon died and gave Gartokkar the egg shells. Gartokkar suspected treachery and demanded to see the dragon's body. Virtue admitted to Gartokkar that Themberchaud employed her as a secret agent to bring the dragon to him to kill. She added that Thermberchaud was growing restless of the Keepers of the Flame and was going to take over the city soon. This Gartokkar knew, of course. The duergar warned Virtue that Themberchaud had other agents. If Virtue had the dragon, the dragon was in danger.

"Other agents? Like whom?"

"Like Hemeth."

Virtue's eyes got large. She suddenly remembered that it was Hemeth that brought her to Themberchaud's lair, and that it was Hemeth that introduced her to the Wyrmsmith. She said, "Oh. Oh that's right. Uh oh. Gotta go!"

As she turned to run back to the ship, she heard the sound of battle. The derro were uprising!
Hemeth

Back on the boat, Hemeth gave a signal and he and his agents drew their weapons. "Capture the dragon! Kill the rest!"

"MAA!"

TO BE CONTINUED

After Action Report - 
We were missing Talorean and Pain Grille' this week. 

Virtue's player really wanted to foment rebellion and strife everywhere she went, which is totally in line with the character's backstory and goals. The other players just want to get the heck out of town. They're ready for Neverlight Grove.

In a way I'm glad that Talorean's player missed this week because it was filled with the types of machinations, plotting, speculation, investigation, and duplicity that he kind of hates. He becomes bored with political drama and "what should we tell to who?" kinds of strategies. He prefers clearly defined enemies and clearly defined goals where anything else is extraneous and to be ignored.

However, this kind of play is right up Virtue's and Kettle's players alleys. They eat this stuff up. It helps immerse them into the world and it gives them a sense of impact in the setting.

Most of this week's game was just Kettle and Virtue and Angolwen talking in character and interacting with NPCs, and they had a blast! 

I'm a little sad Pain's player missed it because he likes this kind of play also. 

Next week- I built a boat for them to fight on and/or steal to take to Neverlight Grove! 



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"The Curse of the Derro" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 11

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.


CHAPTER 11
"THE CURSE OF THE DERRO"

After delivering Droki to Commander Blackskull
The party returned to the Whorlstone Tunnels.
There they encountered a strange group of mushroom men
and chanced upon an old friend...


THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
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.

THEIR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Follows Talorean's commands.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins who everyone pretty much knows are were-rats.
Buppido - A gregarious derro. Everyone assumes he's an assassin.


NOT PRESENT THIS EPISODE
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.
Stool - A myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute female moon elf, an escaped slave with no name.

INTRODUCING
Mister Floop! - A friendly newcomer

AN OLD FRIEND
Soon after encountering the dancing myconids, Virtue received a premonition. Looking around nervously, she muttered something about danger and mysteriously fled with her dragon egg.

Everyone watched her, somewhat dumbounded, as she ran away towards the alchemist's lab. She ran right past Kettle, who was calmly approaching from that same direction.

"Where's she going?" the halfling asked, hooking his thumb towards Virtue.

Pain simply shrugged.

Continuing into the next chamber, they encountered the gruesome stench of decaying bodies. There they found a derro arranging dozens of mutilated corpses into a spiral pattern on the floor.

Buppido looked up from his task as the party entered his charnel abattoir and smiled.

Pain was at first happy to be reunited with a former member of their party, but he was apprehensive, "Uh, Buppido? Buddy?"

"Oh, there you are! I didn't expect you to find me here, with my shrine nearly finished! An power! My faithful are finaly honoring me! Are you...? Yes, I sense that you are ready to receive my truth into your hearts!"

Buppido held his arms wide and looked to the ceiling. In his right hand was the curved drow blade with which he attacked Angolwen.

"And Angolwen! I am happy to see that you have returned so that I can finish what I started!"

Buppido was bathed in a column of purple light emanating from a glowing circle that formed underneath his feet. Tiny motes of energy swirled in the air around him. 
Buppido

"Rise! Rise my faithful worshippers! Rise and do your the bidding of your all-powerful god!"

Various rotting body parts assembled into seven humanoid shapes and rose up from the floor. Each animated corpses comprised of mis-matched parts but all possessing two heads! They animated body parts moved towards the party, brandishing weapons in a threatening manner. 

Pain quipped, "Huh, maybe he really IS the avatar of the god of murder!"

Angolwen shouted, "Let me kill him! Let me kick him in the nards again!"

Kettle yelled back, "No! Don't kill him! There's a reward for his arrest!"

Angolwen looked dubiously at Kettle, "Really? Are you sure?"

Kettle assured her, "Yes! Of course there is! Don't kill him!"

Angolwen gritted her teeth, "Hrumph! Fine!"

The party spread out. Pain rushed in and engaged Buppido. Buppido stabbed Pain with his poisoned dagger, but as a halfling Pain was resistant to its effects. Pain then stabbed Buppido, but stayed his blade so that Buppido might be captured alive.

Soon afterwards, the animated corpses were defeated and Buppido was bound and in custody.

A moment later, a diminuitive ghost arose from the mass of dismembered body parts. The ghost introduced himself as Pelek. Pelek was friendly and interacted with the party, answering what questions he could. He explained that he was a travelling trader from Brlingdenstone on his way to Gracklstugh and that had met Buppido several tridons ago wanding alone in the Underdark. They journed together to the City of Blades. It was then that Buppido murdered the deep gnome and scattered his parts here. He requested the party return his family ring to his relatives in Blingdenstone. Only then would his soul be set free.

The party agreed, only to then learn that the ring is attached to a hand that, only an hour ago, became animated and scuttled out of the room into the caves beyond.

Kettle took a look around and noted the tiny glowing finger-print like tracks left in the magically infused stone of the tunnel.

As they prepared to head out and track the hand, Kettle ordered Ront, as the strongest, to carry the captive Buppido.

Ront looked at Talorean for approval. Talorean shook his head, "No."

Kettle tried again. Ront looked at Talorean again. Talorean, once more, forbade him. Ront was confused. Kettle and Talorean clashed over who should carry the body. Talorean argued that he needed Ront to be unencumbered should fighting break out. Also, Talorean wanted to kill Buppido in the first place. If Kettle wanted to carry him around, then Kettle would have to do it.

Kettle acquiesced in a huff but managed to persuade the myconid Rumpadump to carry Buppido.

THE WHISPERING MESA
Kettle lost the tiny glowing fingerprints in the mushroom forest. Taking a chance, the party went right, following the winding passage as it curved to the left. They found themselves in the cavern containing the single massive stalagmite and the ceiling concealed by a glowing whispering fog.

They climbed the stalagmite to the top where the whispers became distict voices. Angolwen closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to listen for a voice belonging to Commander Blackskull. Soon, she could hear Commander Blackskull's very thoughts. She learned that Commander Blackskull had, indeed, spoken with representatives of the Xarrorn and the Merchants' Guild and that it was safe for Angolwen to reach out to the Merchants' Guild about the miscommunication.

She tried to listen for additional thoughts, but overtaxed her mind, causing a severe headache which caused her to break the link.

Kettle and Pain likewise attempted, but both accomplished nothing more than severe headaches.

They decided to leave the chamber. Having lost the trail of the crawling hand, they returned to the mushroom forest and tried the other route.

MISTER FLOOP
Back at the mushroom forest, they decided to take the left path. Kettle was able to reacquire the trail which they followed past the chamber with the water weird pool and down the long corridor.

Up ahead, they saw a strange creature - a floating fleshy disk with two eye stalks. Dangling below the disk were many gently waving tentacles, like a floating jellyfish.
Mister Floop

The strange creature approached them, calling out, "Hello there! Oh hello! I am in need of assistance!"

The party warily engaged the strange creature in conversation.

The creature introduced itself as "Mister Floop", a "flumph". He said that he was drawn to these caves because of their unique magical nature, which he found quite nourishing, but he has encountered several creatures engaging in most distressing behavior regarding rituals involved with certain infernal extra-dimensional entities. Their activities are spoiling the magical nature of these caves, infusing them with infernal extra-dimensional energies. He enlisted the party to stop their activities before the caves were ruined forever!

The party put aside their quest for the crawling hand to help Mister Floop with his problem.

THE CULTISTS HIDEOUT
The party followed Mister Floop down the long corridor, curving around to the left until it made a sharp left turn. They had arrived at the intersection where they had previously scattered caltrops to discourage a group of shambling two-headed grimlocks. They cautiously entered the previously unexplored side passage, weapons drawn.

No one was failed to notice the concealed pit trap in front of them. They easily moved around it and continued into the dense fungal thicket ahead. As they did so, they could smell campfires ahead and hear the droning chanting of some kind of ritual. The ritual was interrupted as several blood-curdlling screams went up around the party. They had entered a patch of shrieker mushrooms!

The party rushed into the large chamber. The right half of the chamber was elevated from the left by a five foot ledge. There were three burning braziers on the ledge, casting odd flickering light and shadows against the dimly glowing magical walls of the cavern.

Five derro, one wearing fancy robes, were chanting in a circle.  As they chanted, a two-foot statue in the center of the circle began growing a second head! The chanting came to a crescendo with the shouting of a hideous name:

"Demogorgon!"

Upon hearing the shreiker, the derro moved away from the circle and took up defensive positions along the ledge.

Another derro, who had been sitting near a camp fire and several sleeping bags in the lower half of the chamber, stood up and moved to open a large nearby cage. Within the cage was a vicious two-headed dog!

Pain rushed in to re-close the cage. Ront followed to engage the derro.

Kettle ran forth to engage the derro on the ledge.

The derro in the fine robes issued orders to someone out of view in a niche to the right, "Grula-Munga! Arise! Strike down our enemies! Your master, Narrak, demands it!"
Narrak
From around the corner arose a massive hulking two-headed giant, apparently named Grula-Munga!

The Cultist Hideout
Grula-Munga strode forward into view, walked up to Kettle, hit him once with a massive uprooted tree, then smashed into the halfling with a powerful swing from a metal mace! Kettle went flying into a nearby wall with a crash!  The stunned halfling caught his breath with a groan.

DM Note-
Critical hit! 

Talorean rushed forward to support Kettle in his fight with the two-headed giant. Angolwen came around the corner and began hurling spells.


After a thrilling battle, Grula-Munga was finally defeated by a thunderous chromatic orb released high over the creature's heads.

Meanwhile, one of the other derro ran up and re-opened the cage holding the two-headed dog. Pain looked at him in disbelief, "What? REALLY??" The derro smiled with glassy eyes.

Ront and Pain continued to fight the death dog and the two derro with assistance from Jimjar. The remaining two derro withdrew to protect Narrak.

Talorean and Ront, having finished off their foes, began to approach Narrak. Narrak cast a Hold Person spell on Talorean. Ront, seeing magic at play, decided to back off.

Topsy and Turvy ran up to engage the derro protecting Narrak. Upon entering the glowing magic circle, Turvy was overcome by irrational fear and retreated to the safety of the cage that once held the two-headed dog.

Kettle and Pain attempted to fight with Narrak and his bodygards while Angolwen and Jimjar attacked at range with spells and crossbow. Angolwen called for restraint to that Narrak could be captured alive. Topsy, however, showed no restraint and killed the derro savant anyway.

INSUBORDINATION
After the battle, Kettle went to check on Buppido, whom Rumpadump had been dragging along. Kettle was annoyed to find Buppido stabbed to death!

Kettle shouted at Rumpadump, "What happened here? Who did this? And don't you dare tell me we all look alike!"

Rumpadump stoically replied, "Okay." The myconid remained silent.

Kettle, annoyed, said, "Well? Who did it?"

Rumpadump answered, "I don't know. One of the mammals."

Jimjar said, "Yeah, uh, I was trying to tell you earlier."

"Did you do this?"

"Uh, no way! It wasn't me! I'm not gonna say WHO did it. I'm no rat! But let's just say you might want to ask the twins about it." Jimjar hooked a thumb at Topsy and Turvy.


Topy was trying to get her brother Turvy out of the dog cage. Turvy was still in the throes of fear.

Kettle stormed over and began yelling at them. The rest of the party tried to calm him down. Angolwen, however, was ambivalent. On the one hand, she was happy that Buppido, who tried to murder her, was dead. She wanted to kill him anyway. On the other hand, she was annoyed at Topsy for murdering Narrak. She simply shrugged and stayed out of it.

Kettle berates the Twins for Murdering Buppido
Topsy shouted at Kettle, "Bad big-head tried to kill nice elf lady! We saw it! We saw him try to kill her! He would kill all of us! He would try to kill us! We killed him first!"

Kettle was incensed that the bounty he believed awaited him was not lost.

In response, Topsy and Turvy both turned into were-rats and ran off, squeezing through a fissure in the back of the chamber.

THE AFTERMATH
After the drama with the twins had died down, the party began to examine the room.
In the center of the circle they found the two-foot tall statue. The statue was of a stone giant, with a freshly grown second head. The statue was engraved with the profane markings of demogorgon. On its base was the name Dorhun, the stone giant they had met in the Blade Bazaar.

In the rear of the cave, they found several broken two-headed statues in a pile by Narrak's desk. One of the statues had the name Rihuud, the giant they were forced to kill in the Blade Bazaar. The other was named Chthonn, the giant they encountered in the Underdark. When they picked up the pieces of Rihuud's statue, it crumbled to dust. The shards of Chthonn's statue, however, did not crumble. They bundled them up with the statue of Dorhun to return to Stonespeaker Hgraam.

On the desk was a scroll and a book containing ancient dwarven rituals - a book that would take hours to read and comprehend.

Angolwen used the Stonespeaker Crystal to cast a Speak with Dead spell upon the corpse of Narrak. She learned that the savants were sorcerers and kept no spell books, frustrating her attempts to gain new magic.

At that point, Mister Floop came dashing in, telepathically broadcasting, "Ah Hah! Have at thee! Oh, is the battle over?"

He was told that it was. He seemed disappointed. "I'm terribly sorry. I'm having difficulty understanding this concept you call the linear passage of time. I'll try better to participate next time. Well, you certainly have performed a terrific service here! You've brought an end to the corruption these filthy creatures were causing. You certainly are an exciting bunch! Refreshing! Very satisfying! I passively feed off emotions, you see. Would you mind terribly if I were to, say, accompany you on your travels for a while?"

Angolwen rolled her eyes, "Sure. Great."

DM Note-
Angolwen's player had commented the week before that the majority of the rewards in this campaign so far seemed to be additional NPCs. She's not wrong.

Afterwards, they returned to the laboratory of the Grey Alchemist, climbed the ladder back to the Darklake Docks, and took the body of Buppido to the Overlake Hold.
Commander Errde Blackskull of the Stone Guard

They presented the body to Commander Blackskull in the hopes of receiving a reward for the death of the murderer. Commander Blackskull, in her growing paranoia, was concerned that her agents were indeed who they said they were. She informed them of her suspicion that a new breed of doppelganger had entered Gracklstugh, and that these doppelgangers were immune to biological tests! She then used what she called her newly acquired psionic abilities to verify their identities. Having done so, she accepted the body of Buppido and added an additional 50 gp each to their equipment credit when they choose to leave Gracklstugh.

After leaving the Overlake Hold, the party hired a courier to take a message to Clan Cairngorm, informing them of the statues and requesting audience with the Stonespeaker in two shifts.

A MUCH NEEDED REST
The party returned to the Gholbrorn's Lair to rest for a shift. After an uneventful rest, they woke, ate a hearty meal of rothe' stew with mushrooms and tubers, and made their plans for the tridon.

The dour serving wench of the inn brought them a message. They had received a reply from Clan Cairngorm with a pass allowing them to visit.

Stonespeaker Hgraam
They took the pass to the gates and were escorted through the forbidden city to Clan Cairngorm's praxeum. There they were met by Stonespeaker Hgraam. They showed him the statues they had found and recounted the story of the ritual.  The Stonespeaker confirmed that Dorhun had, indeed, suffered a bout of madness during the shift before last, and that he had grown a second head the same as Rihuud. He took the statues, explaining that with the statue he could undo the curse placed upon him. However, because the statue of Chthonn was broken, its effects were permanent. He worried that Chthonn now had two heads of his own.

Stonespeaker thanked the party for their intervention and rewarded them with an emerald the size of a grapefruit!

YLSA'S DEAL
After meeting with the Stonespeaker, the party returned to the Blade Bazaar. They asked several Stone Guard and merchants about meeting with the merchant council to discuss the obelisk. They were directed to the office of Ylsa Henstak, public representative of the council.
Ylsa Henstak
They apologized about the misunderstanding three or four shifts ago. Both sides thought they were engaging the forces of the Grey Ghosts in the laboratory of the Grey Alchemist.

They inquired about the merchant council's interest in the Whorlstone Tunnels. Ylsa did not know about the tunnels. She said that she was investigating possible Derro trade with the surface in violation with exclusive trade agreements and licenses belonging to members of the merchant council.

She then showed the party a collection of contraband items confiscated from the derro: various coins of Overworld pressing, a handful of gold rings, and some necklaces. She pointed out the Overworld provenance of the items, exclaiming that the derro, unfamiliar with their true value, were trading such items in exchange for simple meals!

She went on to relate that the council had learned the Derro Savants had hired the Grey Ghosts for an unknown purpose, and they had learned that Droki had been hired as a courier to deliver items to the Grey Ghosts in an underground hideout. The Xarrorn found the entrance to this hideout and went in to investigate, only to find a group of Overworlders, confirming their suspicions of a connection to the Overworld.

Pain and Angolwen then told Ylsa of the Obsidian Obelisk and its ability to produce items from the Overworld, speculating that this was the source of the items from the Overworld. They offered to take Ylsa and her Xarrorn to the obelisk if she wanted, for a price.

Ylsa was interested and offered the three gold rings as payment for the obelisk.

The following shift, the party escorted Ylsa and a force of Xarrorn and guards from Clan Xardelvar down the pipe into the Whorlstone Tunnels and to the chamber of the obsidian obelisk. There they showed her how to activate the obelisk and produced several random items.

Ylsa was impressed and paid them one of the necklaces. She offered more for Angolwen to demonstrate the teleportation capabilities of the obelisk but, not knowing to where she would teleport, Angolwen declined. Ylsa further offered Angolwen long-term employment activating the obelisk. Angolwen was tempted but declined when she learned she'd have to stay in Gracklstugh for hundreds of tridons.

Pain asked Ylsa if the merchant council had any trips to the Overworld planned. Ylsa said that the caravans are massive affairs and that the next one wouldn't happen for hundreds of tridons. Pain then asked about Blingdenstone instead. She confirmed that they send a lake galley to Blingdenstone once every few dozen tridons. She offered free passage on one should they wish to travel there. The party agreed.

Kettle, having seen the obelisk for the first time, was entranced by its capabilities. He was certain that the obelisk was responsible for the disappearance of his favorite stirring spoons. He asked about the cracks and voids in its metallic surface. Pain explained that the shard they had obtained from the Grey Alchemist would fit perfectly into the void.

Kettle looked sheepish, "Oh, uh, it does?"

Pain became suspicious, "Yes, why."

Kettle admitted, "Because I kind of, um, took it to a blacksmith and asked him to forge it into a new short sword."
Pain Grille'

"What? Really?" Pain exclaimed.

"Um. Yes. Sorry."

"When?"

"Like, three shifts ago, when I took Stool back to the surface."

"Dammit Kettle!"

TO BE CONTINUED...

DM Notes-
One of the things that I loved about this session was seeing the players buy into the paranoia of the city. They're starting to get involved in the plots and schemes and machinations between the various factions, and are beginning to withhold information with an eye towards playing factions against each other!

During the exchanges with Commander Blackskull, they were very careful not to mention the dragon egg or the entire plot happening between the Keepers of the Flame and Themberchaud, or the Grey Ghost theft of the egg for the Derro Savants. They only confirmed that the Grey Ghosts were working for the Derro Savants. Of course, that was driven by Virtue doing a quick subtle head shake to cut that story off in the session before last. Virtue has her own plans for the dragon egg.

Similarly, when they met Ylsa, they failed to mention the dragon egg or any plots involving the Keepers or the Derro Savants, or even the two-headed statues or the cult of Demogorgon. They kept the information about the obsidian obelisk compartmentalized. 

It's that kind of buy-in and interaction with the NPCs as real people and setting as real place that makes me so happy as a dungeon master!






Monday, March 14, 2016

"The Obsidian Obelisk" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 10

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 Black Obelisk


CHAPTER 10
"THE OBSIDIAN OBELISK"

The party has captured the derro courier Droki
and are trapped in the Whorlstone Tunnels.
They must find exit the tunnels and deliver Droki
to the Overlake Hold to fulfill the mission
given to them by Commander Blackskull
of the Stone Guard...

THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
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.

THEIR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
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.
"Moon Elf" - a mute female elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan with no name.

ANOTHER WAY OUT
The party was trapped inside the laboratory of the Gray Alchemist, their exit to the city above cut off by retreating duergar combatants. Since the position was closed off, defensible, and comfortable, they decided to rest there for a few hours.

Pain and Talorean used the time to interrogate their bound captive, Droki the derro courier. Droki's answers contained useless babbling and double-talk, mixed with panicked agitation at being detained from his rounds. From the babble they were able to discern several points -

  1. There was another way out of the Whorlstone Tunnels located in the chamber of the black obelisk - whatever that was.
  2. There was a dragon egg in the chamber of the black obelisk.
  3. That if they wanted a dragon egg, Droki could get them lots of dragon eggs! As many as they wanted! All they had to do was take Droki to the savants. The savants have many dragon eggs!
The party realized that they would never get any rest with Droki constantly writhing and trying to escape, so they rummaged through the Gray Alchemist's lab and found an old sleeping potion which they forced Droki to drink.

The party tried to rest but their dreams were haunted by nightmarish visions and unspeakable horrors. When they awoke, Pain found that he was repulsed by Droki. Droki's mere presence caused nausea and tremors, so Pain kept his distance. Virtue, meanwhile, had become overwhelmed by paranoia and suspicion. Angolwen discovered that she was unable to speak! Luckily, her condition wore off after a few minutes.
Pain Grille'

After getting a few hours of rest, they decided to exit the way they entered, through derro territory in the West Cleft. They bound and hobbled Droki, force fed him a pygmywort mushroom to shrink him to the size of a doll, and stuffed him into a sack for easy transport.

They retraced their steps to the fissure where they found the shield under the yellow mold. There they each consumed a pygmywort and squeezed through. On the other side of the small passage, their way was blocked by a carrion crawler feeding on some mushrooms. The carrion crawler noticed their approach and tried to grab them from within the fissure. Talorean defended the entrance to the fissure while Angolwen attacked the creature with spells. When Angolwen was paralyzed by the crawler's tentacles, her position was taken over by Virtue and her glaive. The carrion crawler was soon so injured that it gave up the attack and wandered away.
Carrion Crawler

The party continued into the pipe through which they entered the tunnels and emerged into the darkness of the West Cleft district. There they quietly sneaked to the gate where they demanded entry into Gracklstugh. The guards expressed skepticism but were swayed when they showed their blackskull badges. They were allowed into the city and escorted back to the Darklake District.


THE SLAVE AUCTION
The party was working their way through a crowded Blade Bazaar with Droki wriggling like a pig in the large sack. Their way was blocked by a herd of "steeders", giant tarantulas used as mounts and beasts of burden, being moved by several duergar drovers, so they took a different route.

They passed a slave auction and Pain happened to overhear that a moon elf was up for bid. He stopped to investigate and found that the moon elf they found in the Underdark was being sold as a slave. Behind her was Prince Derendil and Jimjar! Pain asked one of the Stone Guard why these guests of Gracklstugh were being sold as slaves. The guard informed him that they were prisoners, arrested for disturbing the civic order, and that their punishment was bound servitude.

Pain entered the bidding for Moon Elf and won her, paying twenty-five gold. Prince Derendil, as a quaggoth, fetched a higher price. Pain was sure to outbid all others and paid sixty gold! Jimjar, however, was deemed a less-than-ideal prospect and sold for only twenty gold.

When asked how they came to be incarcerated, Jimjar explained that he was arrested for illegal gambling - a charge that he protested for gambling was natural and in no way illegal! His defense was ignored and he found himself the guests of the Stone Guard for the evening. He was good for the debt, however, and would soon pay Pain back ever coin!

Prince Derendil, for his part, said that he and Moon Elf were simply out walking the grounds, inspecting the wares at the Blade Bazaar, when one of the duergar made demands of the prince as if he were a lowly commoner. The prince demanded the respect and treatment afforded his noble title and personage but was denied. The prince's entreaties brought the attention of the Stone Guard, who claimed that the prince was disturbing something called the "civic order". The prince denied all charges and was arrested! The prince, of course, explained that his noble status made him exempt from such petty laws and made him immune from prosecution. The Stone Guard escorted the prince into custody in the city dungeon. Moon Elf accompanied him, naturally.

After the story, Pain suggested that we couldn't keep calling the moon elf "Moon Elf". He suggested the name "Starshine". The rest of the party agreed. Starshine, as she was now called, simply smiled and passively nodded her assent.
Starshine
When Prince Derendil inquired about Sarith, Pain informed the others of Sarith's recent demise.


THE COURIER IS DELIVERED
Kettle took Stool, Prince Derendil, and Starshine back to the Gohlbrorn's Lair Lair to rest while the rest of the party continued to Overlake Hold to deliver Droki to Errde Blackskull.

They met Commander Blackskull in her office and delivered the shrunken Droki. Commander Blackskull handed the tiny derro off to some guards and thanked her Outlander agents for their service.

Pain then informed Commander Blackskull that they encountered more grey ghosts in the laboratory since they last spoke. Commander Blackskull laughed and informed Pain that she had received a visit from a scion of the Xundorn clan.

The Xundorns said that they had found a secret laboratory and encountered Overworlders working for the Grey Ghosts, providing descriptions that matched Pain and the rest of the party. They were investigating the source of Overworld currency recently found among the derro. The Xundorns have exclusive trade agreements with the Overworld and feared that the Grey Ghosts were somehow facilitating the derro in violating this agreement.

Commander Blackskull then pressed Pain on the subject, suspecting them of collusion with the Grey Ghosts. She demanded that Pain reveal his contacts with the derro savants and what they hoped to achieve. Pain was able to allay her fears by pointing out that they had delivered Droki as promised and had told her the truth on all counts.

Pain then asked if his friends Talorean and Virtue could be made agents. Commander Blackskull was skeptical of their intentions but Pain was ultimately able to convince her of the benefits. She obtained from them their pledges of fealty and gave them each a badge emblazoned with a black skull.

Afterwards, they left the Overlake Hold and prepared to re-enter the Whorlstone Tunnels. Jimjar asked if he could come along and Pain agreed. Suddenly, two voices popped up behind Pain asking if they could come too. Pain jumped in surprise and closed his eyes in frustration. It was Topsy and Turvy. Where THEY came from was a complete mystery!
Topsy

Turvy

"Sure. You can come too."

BACK TO THE PIPE
Although Droki had been captured and delivered, there was still the matter of Virtue's quest to retrieve a dragon egg from the Grey Ghosts, an egg whose existence Droki had confirmed. So the party made plans to return to the Whorlstone Tunnels.

They entered the concealed pipe overlooking the Darklake Docks and proceeded to the secret chamber hollowed out above the laboratory of the grey alchemist. There they found the pipe had been sealed shut.

Pain gave Ront a bigwig mushroom and a crowbar. The orc swelled to gargantuan size and strength and used the crowbar to pry open the sealed entrance to the tunnels below. Rather than use up one of the limited supply of pygmyworts, the party waited in the secret chamber for an hour for the effects of the growth to wear off. Afterwards, the party descended the  ladder inside the pipe and found themselves once more in the secret laboratory.

From there, using a key Pain had found among the Grey Alchemist's effects, they exited the laboratory and closed and locked the door behind them. They took a right and ventured into unknown territory!

SOMETHING WEIRD
The party entered a chamber filled with a pool of water with a dark swirling whirlpool at its center. The path split into two. The left path took a high path, rising around the pool before disappearing in a passage that led to the right. The right path took a low path, curving around the other side of the pool before disappearing into a passage underneath the left path and headed towards the left.

DM Note-
The players sarcastically joked, "Water Weird!" like they always do when they encounter a room with a pool.

The party took the path to the right. As they circumnavigated the pool, the whirlpool became a spinning geyser that approached them. The water curved and smashed into Talorean in a gout like that from a fire hose. They were under attack from a water weird!

DM Note-
The players looked at me aghast, "Wait, for real? It's really a water weird?? We've joked about it for so long, I don't even remember what a water weird does or how to fight it!"

"Me neither!" said another player.

"What do we do??" said a third player.

The panicked looks on their faces was HILARIOUS!

As their weapons had little effect on the weird, Angolwen began throwing spell after spell at the magical creature. The water weird turned its attacks towards the wizard but to little effect. Soon the water weird was destroyed and the dark stain in the water dissipated.

DM Note-
Rassin-frassin. I could NOT roll over a 7 the entire fight!

THE PIT OF DEATH
The passage curved left and followed a straight path for several hundred feet. Ahead of them, they could see a two-headed grimlock, one of the creatures they encountered before their rest, trying unsuccessfully to hide itself among the rock wall of the cavern. The party approached and killed the creature with a single crossbow bolt and fire bolt spell as it tried to flee.

From there they passed a passage to the left, from which emanated a musky odor from live animals. A few yards later, they found a door in a passage to the right. They opened the door and proceeded.

They found a large triangular chamber off to the right. They were standing on a ledge overlooking a fifteen-foot deep pit. The pit was filled with rotting corpses. Many of the corpses were writhing and moving, some were trying to claw their way out of the pit. All of the corpses were horribly disfigured and mutated, some with two heads.

They decided to ignore the pit and continue exploring the passage to the left.

THE MUSHROOM DOOR
The passage curved to the right and continued for several hundred feet. The passage ended at an intersection to the left and right. The left passage was only about a dozen yards and filled with mushrooms of various types. Virtue decided to investigate the mushrooms, looking to replenish their supply of pygmyworts. There he found a large door concealed by the overgrowth.

As he turned around to announce his find, he spotted an unusual distortion. An invisible lurker was among them. He took some crumbled up mushroom and hurled them. They bounced off the invisible watcher who promptly turned and fled down the passage from which they came. The party decided not to give chase.

The door was stuck but was soon forced open and the party continued. The passage beyond wound to the right in a spiral pattern and opened into a large chamber. The chamber was a natural chimney, reaching hundreds of feet up, and was brightly lit from a shaft of sunlight!

THE CHAMBER OF THE OBSIDIAN OBELISK

The chamber was large and lit by a shaft of brilliant light as bright as the sun. The party was standing at the base of a large multi-level mesa, atop which were two natural stone platforms separated by about forty feet but connected by a bridge. On one platform was a red dragon egg. On the other platform was a fifty-foot tall black metal obelisk. Several ramps led up the side of the mesa's various levels.
Pliinki
Standing at the base of the obelisk was a female derro wearing ornate robes and carrying an expensive-looking crook. She was performing a magical ritual that caused the obelisk to flash. The flash, in turn, caused the glowing cave walls to fluoresce and pulse. She reached down and picked up a small object, cackling with glee at her success! She had, as yet, not noticed the arrival of the party.


The party formed up and began stealthily moving up the ramp of the mesa, carefully avoiding the notice of the wizard at the base of the obelisk and the spectator hovering over the entrance.

DM Note-
Unbeknownst to the party, a spectator was hovering over the entrance standing guard. I made a perception check for the spectator with Advantage. A 4 and a... 4. The spectator's vaunted perception was no match for the average stealth check of all nine party members!!! I figured the spectator was watching its master at that moment. 


However, an invisible voice called out from the passage behind the party, alerting the wizard, whose name was apparently Pliinki, and the spectator to the intrusion.

Talorean and Jimjar turned and spotted a derro guard, now visible. Talorean threw his javelin while Jimjar fired his crossbow, killing the derro guard at range.


The party sprang into action, running up the ramps as fast as they could with Jimjar, Topsy, and Turvy lagging behind. The spectator, a fleshy orb with one giant central eye, a massive mouth, and four smaller eyes growing from tentacle-like stalks, flew above the mesa and firing its eye beams at the trio, severely injuring Turvy with its force blast. Turvy, gritting his teeth in pain, was uncontrollably transformed into a wererat. Topsy, sick with grief and worry, held her brother in an attempt to calm him. Jimjar did what he could by firing his crossbow at the hovering beast.

Meanwhile, Angolwen emerged onto the next level of the mesa, crossed under the bridge, and cast a chromatic orb of acid spell at the spectator. The orb burst in an explosion of acid, killing the alien creature in a single attack!
Angolwen brings the BOOM!

DM Note-
Critical hit! 6d8 = Thirty-some-odd damage! BOOM! I was annoyed because the spectator was going to be fun for me. But Angolwen got a hoot out of the massive damage and many high-fives from her fellow players. 

Meanwhile, Pain, wearing Droki's magical boots, and Ront the orc rushed Pliinki the wizard at the base of the obelisk. Pliinki cast a spell and vanished, leaving the pair dumbfounded!

The rest of the party began to catch up, running onto the bridge. Pliinki reappeared and cast a burning hands spell upon Pain and Ront. The spell hurt, a lot.

Pain retaliated with a sneak attack against the wizard, killing her instantly.

DM Note-
The players said, "Well, that was easy. Why did we kill her again?" And the answer was "(Shrug.)"

WHERE TO NOW?
Only after killing Pliinki did the party realize they might want to question her about the dragon egg. Luckily, they remembered that the magical Stonespeaker Crystal given to them by Hgraam allowed them to communicate with the dead. Angolwen produced the crystal and began questioning Pliinki.

Thus they learned that she was one of the derro savants, the leaders of the derro, and that they had employed the Gray Ghosts to steal the dragon egg from the Keepers of the Flame.

DM Note-
Virtue's player's eyes got suddenly wide as the implications dawned on him. "Ah!" he exclaimed as he realized that the egg belonged to the Keepers who wanted to replace Themberchaud with a dragon that could be more easily controlled.

They also learned that a horizontal pipe located behind the mesa led to an exit, providing the derro savants with an alternate entrance and exit. When asked where Pliinki kept her spellbook, she said in a secret place in her quarters.

When asked about the obelisk, Pliinki said that it was created by the derro god Diirinka and that it contained "unimaginable power". She was reassembling it from missing pieces obtained by the Grey Ghosts. It was nearly complete. When finished, she would harness the power to overthrow the duergar and conquer Gracklstugh for the derro! She told them that the obelisk was fueled by magical energy - one could produce effects of greater and greater power depending on the strength of the magical energy sacrificed to it.

Angolwen noted that the smooth metal finish of the obelisk was marred by several missing chunks. One of which matched the size and shape of the chunk delivered by Droki to the Grey Alchemist. She swore at the fact that the missing piece was currently in Gracklstugh with Kettle.

Angolwen cast a Tongues spell and red Pliinki's notebook. It contained many lists of everyday items from the Overworld. The most recent entry was a gold coin. This corresponded with the gold coin placed on the notebook, the very item they witnessed Pliinki produce when they entered the chamber.

Angolwen cast a minor cantrip into the obelisk. It flashed. Lying at the base of the obelisk was a receipt for a deposit at a bank on the other side of Faerun.

DM Note-
The notebook explained that expending a cantrip provided a single object from the trinket table in the PHB. Expending a spell slot teleported them.. somewhere. This gave the players the idea - finish assembling the broken monolith and it probably would teleport them to the surface!

I thought it was a brilliant quest idea and put that aside for later.

Armed with this new information, the party weighed its options.
  • Return the dragon egg to the Keepers of the Flame? 
  • Turn it over to Themberchaud, revealing the duplicity of the Keepers?
  • Keep the dragon egg for themselves and have a pet wyrmling!

Virtue decided to put the dragon egg in a backpack and keep it for now.

The party wanted to investigate the source of the shaft of sunlight, so Angolwen sent her own to fly up to the high reaches of the cave. The owl reported that the light was created by crystals made unnaturally bright by the magic of the obelisk.

Wanting to retrieve Pliinki's spellbook, she next sent her owl to scout the pipe leading to the derro enclave. The pipe led to junctions and intersections. Rather than risk getting lost, she ordered her owl to return.

DM Note-
Angolwen's player scowled at me - "I want that spellbook!"

The party then returned to the door concealed by the mushroom patch. From there they took the unexplored passage. The passage linked up with the upper path in the chamber of the water weird. They turned left and looped around to the right for several hundred feet.

A niche to the right contained a fissure that the Virtue concluded must led to the fissure at the back of the garden. They continued, coming to an intersection that led left or right. They went left, looped around another long passage, and found themselves back in the mushroom forest.

THE LADY'S GIFT
Knowing that the path ahead led to the main passage, the party decided to take the unexplored passage to the left. The passage led to a cavern, at the center of which were a group of vaguely humanoid mushroom men known as myconids.

Four myconids and two quaggoths were dancing and swaying to an inaudible tune. The quaggoths had strange mushrooms growing from their heads. A fifth myconid stood away from the dancing group, warily observing from the edge of the cavern.

Pain and Angolwen approached the lone myconid, who shared with them his communication spores, inquiring about the strange tableau. The lone myconid answered in quiet reserved sentences, explaining that he didn't quite understand and he didn't like it.

At that point, one of the swaying myconids came forward and introduced himself as Voosbur. He told the party of "the Lady's Gift", extolling its virtues and exhorting the party to join with him in receiving her gracious endowment. When asked what all it entailed, Voosbur cryptically said that it was an expansion of consciousness, a joining of shared minds through the Lady's wondrous dream.

The party politely declined the offer to receive the Lady's Gift. Voosbur accepted the answer and cheerfully, indeed giddily, danced with his cohorts into the nearby mushroom forest, where they disappeared.
Rumpadump
The party asked the remaining myconid its name. He answered "Rumpadump". They asked if he knew the way to Neverlight Grove. "Of course," he replied. This alleviated a recent concern that had developed among the party that Sarith was the only one who knew the way to Stool's home.

They asked Rumpadump if he would like to accompany them and lead them to Neverlight Grove. He agreed.

AN OLD FRIEND
Continuing into the next chamber, they encountered the gruesome stench of decaying bodies. There they found a derro arranging dozens of mutilated corpses into a spiral pattern on the floor.

Buppido looked up from his task as the party entered his charnel abattoir and smiled. 
Buppido

TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"The Grey Alchemist" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 9

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.


CHAPTER 9
"THE GREY ALCHEMIST"

The party has entered
the Whorlstone Tunnels
chasing the derro courier Droki.

They followed his trail to
a mysterious secret hideout...

THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
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.

THEIR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
Stool - a myconid sprout that follows Kettle like a pet follows its owner.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Respects authority and follows Talorean's commands.
Sarith - Drow guard sentenced to die for murdering a fellow guard.

TRAVELLING WITH THE PARTY BUT NOT APPEARING IN THIS EPISODE
Topsy and Turvy - Deep gnome twins. Missing from the group since the cave-in. Possibly were-rats.
Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
"Moon Elf" - a mute female elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan with no name.

TALOREAN'S DAY
Talorean arrived at the outer gates with the rest of the party. As they waited in the lock to enter the inner gates, he heard a duergar speaking in a strange language with the two halflings somewhere behind him. Eventually the inner gates opened revealing the metropolis of Gracklstugh.

DM's Notes-
Talorean's player had missed the last two or three weeks, so I had to catch him up on what happened to his character.

Talorean

"Fantastic," he thought in disgust, "a city."

Hemeth pulled Talorean, Virtue, Ront, and Sarith aside. "I must report to my superiors. I can only take four of you, so you will escort me to ensure I arrive safely. Be alert."

The five left the remaining companions behind in the Darklake District and crossed through the gates into the Forbidden City of Gracklstugh. They passed through the industrial quarter, crossed a stone bridge over the deep chasm of Laduguer's Furrow and into the high district with its high caste residences and temples. The group traveled up many sets of stairs and landings before arriving at a massive entrance carved into the very back of the cavern in which Gracklstugh was located. They were met at the entrance by a older duergar in red and black robes. The older duergar led the party into a vestibule inside the entrance. There Hemeth and the older duergar shared a whispered exchange.

Afterwards, the older duergar stepped forward towards the group and introduced himself, "I am Gartokkar Xundorn. I am the leader of the Keepers of the Flame, those who attend to to mighty Themberchaud. Hemeth is one of our number. He tells me you helped him return to Gracklstugh after his boat was destroyed. He believes you might be of use to our cause. We agree. You," pointing at Virtue, "My master would wish to speak with you with an offer. Please, this way."

Virtue was taken away, leaving Talorean, Ront, and Sarith to wait outside. She emerged later, refusing to share what happened within. The group was then escorted past a gate that had been recently demolished by a rampaging stone giant and into the Darklake District. There they obtained rooms in the Ghohlbrorn's Lair and were finally able to rest.

Talorean slept and slept. He hadn't slept comfortably in months. He awoke when strangers appeared in his room. They shoved a sack over his head and bound his arms.

Where his captors led him, he could not say. At one point he heard the sound of the Darklake lapping to his left. He was taken into some kind of echoing passage. There was a brief pause as one of his captors manipulated something, then they proceeded into a nearby room.

They met someone in the room. His captors exchanged greetings in dwarven. There was some brief discussion. He was then led to what felt like a ladder and told, in the common tongue, to climb down, and be quick about it.

THE GRAY ALCHEMIST
The party stood frozen as the dwarf-sized door opened. In walked a duergar wearing goggles and grey robes over a leather apron carrying a bag of supplies. Behind him were two guards escorting a human-sized prisoner. The prisoner was lean, he had a bag over his head and his hands were bound. He was wearing Talorean's clothes!
The Grey Alchemist

The duergar with the goggles looked up and saw the party standing on the elevated shelf in the upper part of the cave. He finally realized what was happening and called out in dwarven, "Intruders! Guards, they've seen the lab! Don't let them escape!"

The two guards let go of the prisoner and became invisible. So, too, did their leader.

Pain and Kettle ran down the ramp towards the lower section of the cave but collided with two invisible duergar guards running up the ramp. The duergar attacked, becoming visible, then grew to the size of giants! Kettle held the ramp while Pain tumbled between the legs of the giant duergar to help Talorean who was frantically but unsuccessfully trying to escape his bonds.

Meanwhile, in the upper section of the cave, Angolwen supported the fighters below with attack spells while Sarith and Virtue were searching the laboratory for anything important or useful in case they had to escape.

DM Note-
Virtue's player hadn't shown up yet while Pain's player, who normally controlled Sarith, kept forgetting about the dark elf.

Suddenly, two more duergar guards appeared at the rear entrance, drawn from their duties in another nearby cavern to the sound of battle. They attacked Angolwen but Virtue rushed to her aid.

DM Note- 
He showed up a few minutes later.

Down below, Pain had freed Talorean but the hybrid-elf ran back through the entrance to search the bags of supplies for his gear. He quickly found his sword and shield and turned to join the fray.

The duergar leader revealed himself by throwing vials of alchemist fire and acid at the intruders from atop a nearby table.

Soon, Kettle had killed one guard while Virtue killed another. The other two were knocked unconscious but Sarith failed to hold back and stabbed them both. Despite the protests of the others, Sarith ultimately killed all four guards.

The alchemist, fearing for his life, fled through the small door and began climbing a ladder to the exit pipe in the ceiling. Pain gave chase and grabbed the alchemist, throwing him to the ground where he was quickly subdued and captured.

INTERROGATION
Kettle and Angolwen searched the the alchemist's desk while Virtue interrogated the prisoner.

The duergar's name was Lorthio Bukbukken. He was an alchemist in the employ of the Grey Ghosts, the closest thing you can have to a thieve's guild in a city populated by invisible secret police. His job was to create poisons for assassinations.

Meanwhile, the search unvelied a strange shard of black obsidian and a letter.

Angolwen could not read the text, so she gave it to Kettle who could read Dwarven. The letter read,

I don't need your poison anymore. I'll deal with Werz Saltbaron myself. Bring me an elf blade, one with the swirlies caved on the steel, and I'll forget you failed me. And I don't want to see any of your goons near my post. The captain is poling around, and I could use a scapegoat.
-Gorglak

Virtue took the letter and held it up to Lorthio, "Who sent you this letter?!"

Lorthio looked confused, "Uh, according to that signature, I'd guess Gorglak? He's one of the Stone Guard."

DM Note-
Virtue's player immediately IMMEDIATELY realized what he'd said and closed his eyes in frustration. This produced much mockery of the player for the rest of the night.

Virtue

"Fine. Right. Whatever. Who does Drokki work for?"

"Lots of people, I'd guess. But he does carry deliveries and messages for the Grey Ghosts."

"Did the Grey Ghosts steal the dragon egg from the keepers of the flame?"

"The what? I don't know. Maybe. Not that I know of. I just make poisons."

"What else is in these tunnels?"

"I never travel the Whorlstone Tunnels. They're too dangerous. I keep the door closed and locked. I only open it to receive deliveries from Drokki."

TAKEN INTO CUSTODY
When they were done questioning the duergar, they force-fed him a Pygmywort, shrinking him down to the size of a doll. They shoved him into a backpack and climbed out through the pipe and onto the darklake docks by Darklake Brewery. From there it was a short walk to Overlake Hold.

Kettle, Pain, Stool, and Angolwen flashed their secret badges and were allowed to enter while the rest had to wait outside. There they turned over their prisoner to Commander Blackskull and told her everything they had encountered so far of the Grey Ghosts and the secret laboratory in the Whorlstone Tunnels. They neglected, however, to mention the dragon egg stolen from the Keepers of the Flame.

DM Note-
They were about to mention it, but Virtue's player looked very scared and rapidly shook his head in an effort to get them to stop.

After answering her increasingly paranoid questions, she thanked them and dismissed them, ordering to keep searching for Drokki. Drokki, she believed, was the key to the entire conspiracy!

They left the hold and met up with Virtue, Talorean, and Sarith outside. Before they left the hold, they encountered a squad of Stone Guard taking Ront into custody for disturbing the order by constantly shouting out Talorean's name in a vain search. They flashed their secret badges and took possession of the orc who was only too happy to be reunited with his new chieftain.

RETURN TO THE WHORLSTONE TUNNELS
The party returned to the alchemist's lab by way of the secret pipe entrance. They explored a connected cavern and found the alchemist's fungus guarden. Air moved through a fissure in the back wall, but they decided to ignore it for now. They prepared to explore the rest of the Whorlstone Tunnels but left Stool to play in the garden.

They considered retracing their steps but instead decided to move forward. At the first four-way intersection, they turned left, only to spot the fungus growth covernig the yellow mold up ahead. Angolwen cautiously used a Mage Hand spell to draw a rope through the handle of the shield covered by yellow mold so that it could be dragged safely away.

From there they returned to the four-way intersection and took the next left. The passage led for several hundred feet before turning slightly right. The passage took an immediate left turn but a side passage led through a tight gap in the wall to the right. From the gap emerged Droki!

DROKI CAPTURED
Droki immediately turned to flee but Pain gave chase. Talorean, in a voice that carried divine authority, demanded Droki to halt. Droki halted and was captured.
Droki

DM Note-
Rolled Wisdom saving throw with advantage, still failed.

The immediately tied Droki up and took away his bag, his hat, and his boots.

Within his satchel they found:

  • 1 gp and 10 sp
  • a scroll
  • two potions of healing
  • a collection of dead vermin
  • pages of a spell book with most of the pages torn out. The book was the mirror image of a magical book that Pain carried. Pain tested his magic book, writing in the opening page. The text disappeared from his book and appeared in Droki's book. The front page of Droki's book had been drawn on thousands of times. Other pages contained random scribbles. Many pages were torn and missing, but the remaining pages seemed to contain some kind of spell.
  • A mithral medallion - a holy symbol of Laduguer set with a carving of an arrow breaking on a sheild, the secret badge of the Keepers of the Flame. 
  • A potion with a blank label.
  • A small hourglass.

Droki was besides himself in anger with the violation of his belongings, writhing and gnashing and spitting and shouting. He was eventually ordered to be quiet by Talorean's holy voice, was force-fed a pygmywort, and shrunken down for easy transport.

Before they left, Angolwen decided to cast her detect magic ritual, a spell that requires ten minutes to cast. The rest of the party spread out to stand guard.

GRIMLOCKS
Kettle noticed the approach of a trio of grimlocks, each with a bizarre recently grown second head, wandering drunkenly up the hall from which they came. They were a hundred feet off so the party cautiously moved around behind the sharp bend in the hallway.
Two-headed Grimlocks
Kettle then laid out caltrops across the path. The grimlocks stopped before the caltrops, detecting them through their sensitive feet. One grimlock stumbled forward and tested the caltrops, trying to to sweep them away. He hurt himself and howled in pain, so he withdrew. The rest turned around and went back the way they came.

Angolwen was eventually able to cast her spell, detecting magic in the shield they found as well as Droki's boots, potions, and scrolls. Droki's displacer beast hat, however, was not magic, much to Pain's disappointment. While Angolwen cast her spell, Virtue explored the side passage to the right. Light and the sound of activity caused her to return.

The party decided to leave the tunnels and turn Droki over to the Stone Guard. They took the shrunken derro with them and began marching back to the laboratory.

THE MAD XORN
When they reached the four-way intersection, they encountered a xorn scrabbling madly at some strange stones on the ground, behaving strangely, like he had just taken cat-nip. They tried to run past, but the bizarre creature gave drunken chase. They closed the door to the laboratory behind them but the xorn simply moved through solid stone to follow them. Sarith, Virtue, and Ront ran into the fungus garden to retrieve Stool while the rest fled up the passage to the laboratory. On their way back, their way was blocked by the xorn. Kettle tried to reason with the xorn while the others ran past.
The Xorn

The xorn sounded desperate and impatient. He wanted Kettle's gold and gems. The three-armed creature then tried to grab Kettle and search him for any tasty coins. Kettle threw all his money onto the ground and the xorn dove for it,  giving Kettle a chance to run away.

UNEXPECTED GUESTS
Meanwhile, the rest of the party ran into into the lab. There they encountered a group of around ten duergar, mostly guards. One wore the golden robes of some kind of leader and two wore golden armor and carried strange alchemical weapons.

One of the armored duergar shouted, "Overworlders! Capture the little ones but kill the rest!"

DM Note- 
One of the players asked, "Are they grey ghosts?" My reply was "Who knows? How would you tell?"

A massive fight ensued! The party was penned at the entrance to the lab with two giant duergar in front of them and a xorn behind them. As the duergar became injured, they'd cycle out only to be replaced by fresh ones.
Angolwen
Angolwen was set upon from behind by the xorn. She threw her money down the passage and the xorn broke away to retrieve it. Pain and Kettle attacked the xorn as it tried to flee. The xorn, of course, stopped to fight back!

DM Note-
I said, "The xorn moves away without attacking. Pain and Kettle, you get attacks of opportunity." They said, "We attack!" 

Talorean's player and I looked at each other in disbelief and then looked at Pain and Kettle's players. I dubiously said "Okay!" and Talorean's player reprimanded them, "Really? REALLY?"

Eventually, the golden warriors moved in. One used his alchemical weapon to little effect.

DM Note- 
Five points of fire damage on 3d6? FIVE??? Come on!"

As the duergar cycled out, the party slowly moved into the room and was finally able to maneuver. Eventually, after killing three or four duergar, the remaining duergar became invisible and fled.

Talorean said, "Let them go! Here comes the xorn!"

THE MAD XORN RETURNS
The mad xorn moved into the room through one of the walls. The party surrounded it. The xorn knocked Ront down with a massive slash from its claws. Stool crawled away to safety. The xorn next slashed Sarith down, picked him up, and inserted the drow into the toothy maw on top of its head, biting him in half!

DM Note- 
6d6+3 damage coup-de-grace to Sarith's 13 original HP.

Virtue administered a holy touch to Ront and returned the orc to consciousness. Kettle was the next to fall but was soon stabilized by Angolwen.

The xorn was eventually defeated.

The exhausted party limped to the the pipe but heard the sound of metal being bent. The pipe was sealed off from the outside.

They were trapped in the whorlstone tunnels. They decided to rest.

TO BE CONTINUED...

FORGOT TO ADD!
A very important plot development! When they examined what was left of Sarith's body after the xorn dismembered him, they saw that much of his remains were riddled with odd filaments, a weird fibrous fungal growth that had invaded his brain and was reaching out to every part of his body. 

Virtue's player asked, "Does it happen to read 'infernal'?" and I replied, "Why yes, yes it does."

He said, "Hmmmm..."

The plot thickens!!