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!!