Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Stoneheart Quarry" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 20

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


A rag-tag group of fugitves
experience one adventure after another
as they travel the Underdark
searching for a way home.

After escaping the drow prison at Velkenvelve,
they witnessed the razing of a kuo-toa village
by the two-headed demon-lord Demogorgon.

They survived weeks of travel in the Underdark
and thwarted a secret demonic cult in Gracklstugh, the city of the Duergar.

They discovered that Zuggtmoy, the Demon Queen of Decay
had taken over the myconid homeland known as Neverlight Grove.

Having arrived in the Deep Gnome haven known as Blingdenstone,
they set about completing a series of tasks in
in order to gain the trust of the local inhabitants
and find an escort to lead them back to the Overworld.

After defeating the evil Medusa Neheedra,
a battle in which they lost three of their comrades,
the remaining fugitives reconsecrated the Steadfast Stone,
creating a bulwark against the extradimensional entity
known as Ogremoch's Bane.

Virtue - tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
Ficus Asëa - eladrin sword-mage who became lose while helping escort deep gnome refugees back to Blingdenstone.
Ront - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.

Jimjar - deep gnome rogue who likes to wager on everything.
Breya- human bard, sent to rescue Wulfric from duergar slavers, now seeking a way back to the surface.

Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute moon elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan.
Mister Floop - a friendly flumph.
Glabbagool - an inquisitive but friendly Gelatinous Cube.
Santaka - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
Wulfric the Tinker - a male human and expert engineer and inventor.

After a long rest, the fugitives were recounting the events of the previous tridon when they received a summons from Diggermattock Hall. Only Ficus, Ront Glabbagool, and Virtue, accompanied by her ever-present companion Santaka, were present, so the foursome followed the runner and were met by Senni and Dorbo Diggermattock, the co-regents of the provisional government of Blingdenstone.
Dorbo and Senni Diggermattock
The co-regents informed the party that a runner had just arrived from Stoneheart Quarry, a hidden cavern outside the city proper. The runner reported that the quarry had been found and taken by a party of drow. The druids and wizards responsible for creating the spell-gems of Blingdenstone had been taken prisoner. The drow demanded that the fugitives of Velkenvelve be returned else they would kill every last member of the Stoneheart Enclave.

The situation was dire, for the Stoneheart Enclave were creating more powerful spell-gems to increase the range of the warding creating by the Steadfast Stone.

Senni cautiously inquired, "You came to us seeking shelter and asylum from the drow, and we gladly gave it to you. We will never hand you over to them. However, as you know, we are very short-handed right now and, as it happens, you are the only ones best capable of resolving this situation. Would you be willing to help us rescue our captives?"

Ficus responded, "Well, It's obviously a trap, so of course!"

The trio were assigned two guides to lead them to the secret location of the Stoneheart Quarry.

The Stoneheart Quarry was several hours outside of Blingdenstone. On the way they encountered a lone traveler - a pale white troglodyte shaman. They immediately suspected a member of the Society of Brilliance but approached with caution.

Skriss the Troglodyte
The troglodyte introduced himself as Skriss and confirmed his affiliation with that learned society. He told the fugitives that he was searching for the Stoneheart Quarry in order to study the magical faerzress aura. He wished to determine the influence of demonic chaos on the magical sites within the Underdark. The fugitives took Skriss into their company. In exchange, the troglodyte shaman answered any questions they had about recent events as well as the history of the Tomb of Khaem and the city of Blingdenstone. Skriss was also highly interested in Glabagool. He was astonished for he had never seen an intelligent gelatinous cube before and wished to know more!

DM Note - Exposkrission
Meeting Skriss turned out to be an excellent and well-times random encounter. Not only were the players excited to meet another member of the Society of Brilliance, I was able to provide the players with LOADS of unknown back story for a lot of the things they've encountered. Skriss allowed me to provide an historian's perspective on the history of Blingdenstone and the history of the Tomb of Khaem, Nethril, and Dawnbringer. Really, I just read the intro sections for those chapters in-character, but the players really appreciated the context as well as a chance to ask the DM questions while in character.

The svirfneblin guides halted the party, indicating a nondescript side passage that led into the Stonehart Quarry. The fugitives thanked their guides but instructed them to stay here. The guides were also their escort back to Blingdenstone so they didn't want their only way back to get injured or killed.

The party geared up for battle and proceeded with caution.

They entered a large cavern with stepped-back walls. The walls glowed with an eerie energy, providing strange coruscating illumination like an underground aurora. Ahead of them were three quaggoths. Two giant spiders lurked on the raised areas above them. Ront, Virtue, and Ficus entered with Glabbagool staying behind with Skriss. They were immediately set upon by four additional spiders while one of the quaggoths ran down a passage in the back to get help.

One of the spiders sprayed sticky webbing all over Ront who was held fast until he subsequently broke free from his fibrous impairment.

Ront took the right flank while Ficus took the left, both climbing up to engage the giant spiders on the raised areas. Virtue fired ranged attacks at the approaching quaggoths before engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Santaka left Virtue to fight alongside Ront.

Ficus cast a spell and immediately felt the effects of the faezress that suffused the cavern - he grew to ten feet tall! With his next spell, Ficus grew a third eye! The encounter went on like this with each of Ficus' and Virtue's spells producing unexpected and chaotic results! At one point, butterflies and flower petals burst from Ficus' hands. At another point, he grew again to twenty feet tall! Then he disappeared from the combat entirely, only to reappear moments later! Madness reigned!

Soon, the quaggoths were joined for four additional quaggoth reinforcements.

Meanwhile, Ront was immobilized by spider webbing but soon broke free and he and Santaka killed the beast. Another spider climbed down to aid the quaggoths fighting Virtue. Ront leapt from the elevated area onto the spider's back, killing it.

Having killed all the spiders, the party fought the quaggoths until they, too, were dead.

They cautiously advanced into the next room.

The second chamber was larger than the first. The elevated step jutted out into the center of the room, creating a bend that curved around to the left. Here the fugitives encountered a cadre of drow short-bow archers and more quaggoths. The drow archers were located on the elevated step behind a series of low makeshift walls of loose stone. In addition, the channel before them was blocked by four barricades of rubble, creating a kill zone into which the archers could fire from above. The quaggoths were at the end of the kill zone and were led by a drow officer wielding a katana. The leader pointed at the intruders and cast a magical spell upon them, illuminating Virtue and Santaka with an aura of faerie fire.

DM Note- Kill-Zone
The drow archers had light cover (+2 AC). The barricades were five feet wide but cost fifteen feet of movement to cross. You could not attack from one side of the barricade to the other unless you had a weapon with reach - which Virtue did.

Ficus acted immediately, casting a magical spell of flight upon Glabbagool. He told the cube, "You can fly now. Go kill those archers!"

Glabbagool nervously responded, "But they have thoughts. You told me not to eat things with thoughts."

"Those drow? They are the enemy and they want to kill us and they want to kill you. It is allright to kill them first."

With that, the gelatinous cube lifted off the ground, warbling uncertainly, and dashed through the air towards the drow archers. The cube swept through their line, swallowing up three of the four archers who dissolved nearly instantly!

But Ficus' spell had an unwanted additional effect. Glabbagool was now confused! After consuming the three archers, Glabbagool hesitated in mid-air for most of the next minute.

Meanwhile, Ront charged forward, taking a poisoned arrow from the remaining archer. Virtue followed closely behind, fighting quaggoths over the barricades with her magically summoned pole-arm.

The drow officer rose up into the air, hovering over the melee below, and took several missed shots at the intruders before finally hitting Virtue with a poisoned arrow. Virtue fell to the ground, unconscious!

Ficus, who had climbed the wall to take the left flank and killed the remaining archer, ran towards the hovering officer, jumping off the elevated step and slashing the officer as he passed.

On the ground, Ficus turned and cast a spell at the officer, only to instantly turn into a potted ficus plant!

DM Note- Faezress Wild Magic is the Best!
He turned into a potted plant, so Ficus' player of course said he turned into a potted ficus. What ELSE could he be?

The drow officer, sensing imminent defeat, descended and fled. Ficus, no longer a potted plant, used his magical boots of speed to easily catch up to the fleeing officer and cut him down. In so doing, Ficus was surrounded by a swarm of frightened flumphs!

What Ficus saw ahead caused him to pause and wait to let Ront, Virtue, and Santaka catch up.

As they rounded the bend, they saw before them a group of sixteen svirfneblin, bound, gagged, and blindfolded. Standing over them was a female drow with short white hair. Virtue recognized her immediately as the drow in the Gracklstugh marketplace that was bidding against Pain!

The drow wore the robes of a minor priestess of Lolth. In her right hand she held a stoppered glass flask filled with a green gas.

"You are COVERED in flumphs!" she noted incredulously.

Ficus waved the annoying creatures away.

The drow priestess continued, "Well, I see my welcoming committee failed to capture you. That is too bad. You truly ARE formidable."

Ficus moved forward, but the drow dangled the flask in her fingers.

"Ah ah! Step no closer! We wouldn't want any of these precious deep gnomes to suffer, would we?"

The fugitives paused, sixty feet away.

"Here is what I want you to do. You will lay down your weapons and surrender yourself to me. I will return you to Mistress Ilvara as my prisoners." The priestess held up an amulet in her left hand and spoke to it, "Did you hear that my mistress? I was right. They did seek shelter in Blingdenstone. I will have them in my possession shortly and will be ready when you arrive."

The disembodied voice of Mistress Ilvara spoke through the amulet, "Excellent work, Xalith. You will rewarded. We shall arrive soon."

Virtue tried distracting Xalith with conversation, all the while creeping slowly forward, inching closer and closer. They continued to debate until Virtue was less than thirty feet away, at which point Virtue cast a spell of suggestion on the acolyte. Virtue suggested that Xalith walk forward slowly.

Xalith looked momentarily confused, then slowly began to walk forward. Once she was twenty feet from Virtue, Xalith's confusion turned into a sneer of anger as she fought off the effect of the spell, "You swine! You will pay!"

Xalith threw the flask through the air towards the ground near Virtue's feet and turned to run away. Ront ran forward to catch the flask but neither Virtue nor Ront were able to grab the glass container before it smashed at Virtue's feet. Green gas billowed out along the floor, covering Virtue, Ront, and half of the bound svirneblin. Everyone so affected began to violently cough, many collapsed to the floor dead.

DM Note- Poison Gas Bomb
I treated the flask as a Cloudkill spell with a 20 foot radius, doing 5d8 poison damage to anyone failing a CON save vs. 13 (Xalith's spell save).

Meanwhile, Ficus once more utilized his magical boots of speed to catch up with Xalith, whom he quickly cut down with two strokes of Dawnbringer.

As Ficus stood over the dead priestess' body, the amulet continued to speak, "Xalith? Xalith what has happened?"

Ront, still coughing from the poison, limped up and lifted the amulet, "Your priestess is DEAD! We never return to prison!"

"You insolent fools! I will have my revenge! You will soon be recaptured and I shall ensure that what is left of your pitiful existence will be.."

Ront crushed the amulet.

In the aftermath, five of the sixteen svirfneblin had died from the poison gas. Among the survivors was Yantha Coaxrock, the interim leader of the Stoneheart Enclave. She thanked her saviors and provided them with the enhanced spell gem needed for the Steadfast Stone.

Ficus suggested she either move their operation within Blingdenstone or better fortify the quarry. Annoyed, Yantha countered, "Look, I appreciate your help, but do I go around telling you how to do YOUR job?"

Ficus held up his hands in protest. Yantha apologized, "I'm sorry, it's been a stressful couple of shifts. We'll create new Earth Elementals and get to work."

DM Note - A Plot Hole in the Ground
The module says the Stoneheart Quarry is where they make the Earth Elementals that excavate the svirfneblin tunnels. The quarry was probably defended by Earth Elementals. Where were they when the drow attacked? I don't know. I didn't think about this until after we were done. It's possible the drow force had some way of dealing with the elementals, or perhaps they just defeated them in a fair fight. I mean, how did the drow find the hidden quarry in the first place? 

The fugitives took possession of the spell gem and rejoined the guides waiting form them outside the quarry. Skriss wished to stay behind and study the quarry. They bade their farewell and returned to Blingdenstone.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Ogremoch's Bane" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 19

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


A rag-tag group of fugitves
experience one adventure after another
as they travel the Underdark
searching for a way home.

After escaping the drow prison at Velkenvelve,
they witnessed the razing of a kuo-toa village
by the two-headed demon-lord Demogorgon.

They survived weeks of travel in the Underdark
and thwarted a secret demonic cult in Gracklstugh, the city of the Duergar.

They discovered that Zuggtmoy, the Demon Queen of Decay
had taken over the myconid homeland known as Neverlight Grove.

Having arrived in the Deep Gnome haven known as Blingdenstone,
they set about completing a series of tasks in
in order to gain the trust of the local inhabitants
and find an escort to lead them back to the Overworld.

After dispatching a pair of unruly ghosts
and losing three members of their party
defeating the evil Medusa Neheedra,
the remaining fugitives return to the Foaming Mug inn
to lick their wounds and recuperate.

Virtue - tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
Ficus Asëa - eladrin sword-mage who became lose while helping escort deep gnome refugees back to Blingdenstone.
Jimjar - deep gnome rogue who likes to wager on everything.
Ront - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.

Breya- human bard, sent to rescue Wulfric from duergar slavers, now seeking a way back to the surface.

Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute moon elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan.
Mister Floop - a friendly flumph.
Glabbagool - an inquisitive but friendly Gelatinous Cube.
Santaka - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
Wulfric the Tinker - a male human and expert engineer and inventor.

While Virtue, Santaka, and Jimjar were taking the head of the medusa Neheedra to Sark Axebarrel and seeking out Gurnik Tapfinger, Ficus and Ront were trying to figure out what to do with their petrified comrades. Ficus was able to break away the petrified backpacks and belts and remove the magic armor, boots, and other worn items, but was unable to remove the magical sword Dawnbringer from Kettle's grip without breaking his fingers.

Ficus and Ront each carried a petrified halfling while the intelligent gelatinous cube Glabagool carried Angolwen inside its oozy transparent mass. They carried their comrades back to the Foaming Mug inn, setting them just outside the entrance. There they were reunited with Virtue, her dragon, and Jimjar.

They entered the common room of the inn, tired and injured. Tappy Foamstrap welcomed them and brought them hot food and cold beer. Tappy was especially animated. This was a momentous tridon! New Overworld guests had arrived in the last shift! Never had he seen so many Overworlders in his inn at one the same time!

He asked Ficus to entertain the visitors with the story of their adventures in Rockblight. Ficus sighed and gave a brief and curt report of their activity. The result was depressing. Tappy, visibly shaken, offered his condolences for the loss of Kettle, Pain, and Angolwen.

A voice from the back called out, "Adjectives!"

Ficus, confused, replied, "What?"
Breya the Bard
The female human stood up, "Your story needs adjectives! It needs description! It needs embellishment, exaggeration, grandiloquence!"

"It needs what?"

"...bigger words."

Tappy, broken out of his reverie, introduced the human, "Many pardons! This is the other Overworlder about which I spoke. I'm sorry, I have forgotten your name. Overworld names are so difficult to pronounce, much less remember."

The human stepped forward, hand outstretched, "Breya the Bard. Pleased to meet you."

Ficus gave her an appraising look. She was thin, pale, and covered in the dirt, grime, and wounds of Underdark travel. Ficus introduced himself and his companions.

Breya, in turn, introduced herself and her travelling companion, a human male named Wulfric the Tinker. She told her new friends how she had descended into the Underdark with two other companions in order to find Wulfric. Wulfric had been kidnapped by the Duergar and taken to Gracklstugh. The party successfully rescued Wulfric but the two companions had since died or disappeared. She swore an oath to return Wulfric to the surface and had made it as far as Blingdenstone in search of an exit from the Underdark. So far, none of the svirfneblin were willing to help her find her way to the Overworld.

Ficus told her they, too, were seeking escape and that they were providing assistance to the deep gnomes in order to earn their trust and gain access to the exit. He asked Breya if she wished to join their two groups. Breya agreed and offered her help in finishing their tasks.

After a short rest, the fugitives from Velkenvelve took care of some minor business. Ficus meditated upon the sword Dawnbringer, earning her trust and becoming her new wielder. Ront and Jimjar, meanwhile, sought out the Caves of Clatter to purchase and commission new weapons while Virtue and Santaka purchased a spell gem from Kazook Pickshine in the Trader's Grotto. Afterwards, everyone rested for a shift and prepared for another foray into Rockblight.

DM Note - Removing Magic Items from Petrified Characters
Kettle, Pain, and Angolwen all carried significant magic items. magic items are not turned to stone, so the surviving players wanted to remove the magic items. The items would either be held in stone hands, worn over stone bodies, buried in stone backpacks, or carried in stone sheaths or belts.

I ruled that backpacks and clothes were turned to stone with the wearer, but were not a single solid mass. They could be broken off or easily removed from the stone person underneath. Stone backpacks could then be broken open and magic items retrieved.

Potions and scrolls could not be retrieved without spilling the potion or ripping the scroll and were therefore lost.

Worn items could be easily loosened and removed.

Hand-held items had to be removed with a DC14 Strength or Dexterity check. Failure damages the hand holding the items. Ficus was able to use his strength to remove the items from Pain and Angolwen but failed to remove Dawnbringer from Kettle without damaging Kettle's hand. 

Following their much needed recuperation, the fugitives, along with their new companion Breya, gathered outside the Foaming Mug and planned their shift. Ficus, Ront, Jimjar, Virtue and Santaka, Breya, and Glabbagool would once more delve into the quarantined section of Blingdenstone known as Rockblight. Their mission was twofold: insert a spell gem into the menhir known as the Steadfast Stone and confront the evil entity known as Ogremoch's Bane.

They once more met Sark Axebarrel to receive the secret knock for the shift and were allowed entrance through the lock and into the forbidden area.

En route to the Steadfast Stone, the fugitives noticed that they had been joined by a ghost. The svirfneblin ghost looked vacant with dark hollows where his eyes should be,  his mouth slack and slightly agape. The ghost followed them, stopping when they stopped, moving when they moved. It failed to respond to all attempts at communication. It simply followed and observed. After failing to elicit any response from the ghost, the fugitives shrugged and continued on their way.

DM Note - A Pointless Random Encounter
The ghost was the result of a random encounter:  Ghost - indifferent but aware. It was pointless but managed to distract the players for a while as they tried to communicate with it and discern its purpose, of which it had none.

They descended past the crystal garden and into the grotto of the Steadfast Stone. The tall menhir stood alone in the center of the room, the floor below was smooth but the walls were rough, showing the outlines of four large shapes, all vaguely humanoid.

Virtue placed the gemstone given to them by Gurnik Tapfinger into the niche. The stone began to glow white but quickly turned dark red. Immediately, one of the humanoid shapes burst from the wall and the fugitives were set upon by an evil earth elemental!

The earth elemental fell upon Ront. It was soon illuminated by a faerie fire spell cast by Breya. The magical aura made the elemental an easy target for the rest of the combatants. Finally, Breya cast a Shatter spell at the stony entity, causing it to burst apart. In its place was a rocky humanoid creature, like a headless boulder with arms and legs. Jimjar called the creature a "galeb duhr" and said that they were the protectors of the menhir. The galeb duhr sank into the floor and rose again near the menhir, facing away from the standing stone.

Suddenly, another earth elemental emerged from another wall and attacked. This second elemental avoided Breya's faerie fire and survived longer than the first, but was eventually defeated. The second elemental was followed by a third, then a fourth. Each from a different wall and each attacking the party in turn. As each was defeated, it revealed a galeb duhr that sank into the ground only to re-emerge near the menhir, facing outward.

When the fourth elemental was defeated, the menhir was surrounded by four galeb duhr. As the fourth joined its brothers, they looked towards the fugitives, giving them an appreciative nod as they turned into inanimate boulders. When they did so, the red light of the spell gem turned brilliant white, bathing the entire area in consecrated energy. The region around the Steadfast Stone was now free of the influence of Ogremoch's Bane.

DM Note - That's the Treasure?
The players rolled their eyes. "That's our reward? A thumbs up and a subtle nod?" 

Once the Steadfast Stone had been re-consecrated, the fugitives turned their attention towards Ogremoch's Bane. Having encountered no sign of the entity, they deduced that it must be hiding within one of the Rockblight caves yet unexplored. They chose the second passage in the floor of the Crystal Garden and descended with caution.

They entered into a large cavern. The cavern was populated with thirty statues of drow warriors, each turned toward the entrance with a look of confused horror. The effect was startling but Ficus correctly deduced that they were the warriors of Neheedra, turned to stone by their former priestess-commander. The fugitives entered into the room and split up to look for clues.

They spread throughout the cavern, examining each statue closely, looking for magic items or evidence of Ogremoch's Bane. Suddenly, eight of the statues became animated and attacked! Two attacked Breya, two fell upon Ront, and two fought against Jimjar while Ficus and Virtue were each beset by a single statue.

With the party separated, they were forced to fight as individuals. Breya announced that she had a plan so Ficus used his magical boots of speed to rush over and help Jimjar, leaving the bard to fight three statues. Breya quickly realized she had made a mistake and called for Ficus to return. Ficus ran back to help Breya while Jimjar moved to aid Ront, leaving the two statues to Glabbagool, who had squeezed through the tight passage to join the fight.

Ficus cast a spell of flight on Breya who then flew into the air. From there, she could safely cast spells without fear of counterattack.

Overcoming their initial chaos, the party was once more working at a team. They quickly learned that once one statue was destroyed, another statue animated and took its place.

Virtue warned Ront and Jimjar that she was about to cast a fireball spell into the center of the room. Instead of seeking cover, Ront yelled, "Do it!" The fireball exploded, damaging most of the statues along with Ront and Jimjar.

DM Note- Keeping Track of Statues 
I used my plastic drow minis to represent the inanimate statues. When one became animated, I took the drow off the table and replaced it with a generic blue warrior mini from Wizards and Warriors that I usually use to represent animated statues. That way, we could track which were animated and which were still inanimate. 

Likewise, I kept track of which statues had taken damage from fireballs using colored beads - red for Virtue, green for Breya, and purple for Ficus.

Breya followed up with another fireball spell, likewise catching Ront and Jimar in the blast.

Ront shouted, "HIT ME AGAIN!!!"

Jimjar, burned and smoking, weakly whined, "Ehhhhhhh!"


DM Note- Look out, Jimjar!
After the two fireballs, Jimjar had 3 hp left! He wisely disengaged, climbed the wall, and started sniping from above.

Ficus waited for Jimjar to escape the area before following up with more area effect spells. Glabbagool even got in on the action, moving into the room and sweeping up and destroying statues within its acidic interior and smacking them with its pseudopods.

DMs Note- Acidic Interior
We decided that Glabbagool can choose to apply acid damage to stone or not. That way he can carry stone items or dissolve them at will.

Thus it was that all of the statues were eventually defeated.

As the last statue was demolished, the air in the cavern began to swirl, picking up all the gravel and debris of the fallen drow. The swirling air became a vortex, a maelstrom of dust and rubble. The fugitives had finally encountered the evil entity known as Ogremoch's Bane. The fugitives shielded their eyes and mouths from the stinging wind but were otherwise unhurt. They felt an emanation of unwelcome dread from the vortex. They gathered together in the center and shouted to each other over the roaring wind.

"What do we do?"

"I don't know!"

"What can we do?"

"Does anyone know a spell of banishment?"


"Then we are helpless to stop it!"

After a few more minutes of brainstorming, the fugitives could think of no course of action that would dispose of Ogremoch's Bane. They decided to leave the cavern, frustrated by their failure.

DM Note- Great Encounter, Terrible Ending
Everyone loved the fight against the statues. It was challenging, unique, and fun. I liked it as a DM, the players really liked it. However, the manifestation of Ogremoch's Bane at the end was anticlimactic and boring. The only way listed to defeat Ogremoch's Bane is with a Banish or Dispel Evil spell. Neither of which were known by anyone in the party. 

The encounter should have provided an alternative option for parties - something else they could do to defeat Ogremoch's Bane. 

Part of me feels bad. As Dungeon master, I should have known that the party had no way of dealing with the entity and I should have planned ahead by providing an alternative. However, ultimately, this is the fault of bad writing. Whoever wrote this chapter should have provided an alternate solution. See below for an idea I had after the fact.

Advice to Other DMs - Merge the Two Encounters
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have merged the Drow Statues + Ogremoch's Bane encounter with the Steadfast Stone encounter. I would have surrounded the steadfast stone with thirty statues. When they were defeated, then ogremoch's bane would manifest. Everyone within the maelstrom should make a DC 12 Constitution save or take 1d4 damage each round. PCs would have to place the spell stone in the menhir and fend off all of the earth elementals in order to reconsecrate the stone, banishing Ogremoch's Bane upon successful reconsecration.

Upon abandoning Ogremoch's Bane, the fugitives returned to the Speaking Stones to inform Gurnik Tapfinger of the re-consecration of the Steadfast Stone. Gurnik said he could feel the presence of the holy stone and thanked them. He awarded them with the holy benediction of Calladuran Smoothhands, patron deity of the Svirfneblin.


Next Time: Oozes and Slimes! An enclave of were-rats!

DM Note- A Fair Exchange
At first, I only awarded the blessing to Jimjar and Virtue because they were the ones who took the quest from Gurnik. The other players who helped on the quest felt kind of put out and glared at me. 

Afterwards, on an unrelated matter, I looked up the notes on drow magic items and noticed that they lose their magic when exposed to sunlight for 1 hour without interruption.

I pointed out that Dawnbringer's glow produces sunlight.

Both players who have wielded Dawnbringer said "Yeah, we'ved use her WAY more than that!" and everone agreed that all the drow magic items were lost.

Because they just took a heavy blow to their arsenal of magic items, I decided to give them all blessings instead. Jimjar's player felt a little put out but most everyone agreed that it was a fair exchange.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


by Jeffery D. Low

The piercing light was like looking into a great, greenish yellow sun.  Ront held up his hand to shield his eyes as he stared in fascination at the light.  He could feel a pull deep in his chest, a calling that he could not deny drawing him to the orb…then a voice like booming thunder spoke…

“Ront!  Ront the Outcast!”  boomed the voice as the sun burst open into a great, singular eye.  Ront’s knees weakened but he found his courage and did not fall.  So this was it…his final punishment.  Gruumsh had come to destroy his spirit and his line Clan Cave Bear.  He stood tall, waiting for the spear of heaven to strike him down.

But the end never came.

“Ront.  You have lost you way…our way.” Said the great orcish voice.  Ront opened his eyes.  The great eye hung in the sky before him, burning him yet not destroying him.  “Our way is not the metal skin.” Boomed the deep orcish voice as a spear tip struck Ront’s plate armor, melting it to slag.  “And our way is not the axe of the dwarf-men” boomed Gruumsh as another spear lanced out destroying the Two handed axe held in Ront’s hands.

A darkness is rising Ront the Outcast, a darkness that will destroy my children as it will destroy all the weaker races that via for survival with my children.  Now is not the time to stand apart, but to stand with them.   It is  the will of Gruumsh that you stand before this evil.

Gruumsh grants you this one chance, Ront the Outcast.  And to guild you, I am sending the totems of the clans as spirit guides.  The Bear to show you perseverance and strength of will,” and before Ront a great, scared and battle tested Cave Bear stood and roared.  “…and the Elk for fleetness of foot and mind” continued the eye as a great stag rounded from behind Ront to stand before him, staring deep into Ront’s eyes as if in challenge,  “… and the Tiger for the savagery to tear your opponents apart and drink the blood from their still beating hearts!” boomed the voice while in the distance Ront could see a shadow of a tiger pacing back and forth, rage and energy barely contained.

“Embrace these guides!  Listen to their wisdom and feel the beat of their fierce hearts in your veins!  Take up the spear, Symbol of Gruumsh!  Strike my enemies down with the true savagery of the Orcish warrior heart!  You are no longer of just one clan, but of all Clans!  You are my champion until I claim you!” and with these words, the spear lanced out once!  Twice!  slashing across Ront’s right eye and again across Ront’s chest.  And were the spear struck Ront’s chest, the Eye of Gruumsh was branded.    “This is my will, do not fail me Spirit-walker!”  then the eye exploded in a great radiant burst!


Ront awoke, sweat drenching his great muscled body.  He quickly felt his chest, and found the still burning brand of the Eye on his chest.  He quickly pulled is knife and looked into the blade and could see his right eye was milky white ruin, with a jagged scar running from his fore head over the eye to his jaw-line, blood still oozing from the wound.  But through the eye, he could see across the campsite the spirit of the great cave bear watching him, and the great stag circling the camp.  Jimjar, currently on watch, did not seem to notice them as the stag passed him and snorted on his bald head.  Of the Tiger, nothing could be seen, but Ront could feel his presence.  He would reveal his secrets when Ront was ready.

“Gruumsh…”  was all Ront could say.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Neheedra's Lair" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 18

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


A rag-tag group of fugitves 
experience one adventure after another
as they travel the Underdark
searching for a way home.

After escaping the drow prison at Velkenvelve,
they witnessed the razing of a kuo-toa village
by the two-headed demon-lord Demogorgon.

They survived weeks of travel in the Underdark
and thwarted a secret demonic cult in Gracklstugh, the city of the Duergar.

They discovered that Zuggtmoy, the Demon Queen of Decay
had taken over the myconid homeland known as Neverlight Grove.

They have finally arrived in Blingdenstone,
the city of the Deep Gnomes known as Svirfneblin,
where they undertake a series of tasks
in order to gain the trust of the local inhabitants
so they can find an escort to lead them back to the Overworld.

Angolwen - Wizard of mixed human/elven parentage.
Kettle Bearclaw - Halfling baker living among dwarves.
Pain Grille' - Halfling street urchin from Waterdeep.
Ficus Asëa - a lost eladrin traveller, alone in the Underdark
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.

Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Follows Kettle's commands.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute female moon elf, an escaped slave.
Mister Floop - a friendly flumph.
Glabbagool - an inquisitive but friendly Gelatinous Cube.
Santaka - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.

Angolwen, Prince Derendil, Starshine, and Mister Floop approached the Foaming Mug, Blingdenstone's lone inn. The sign outside was carved from stone, a rough approximation of the kind of sign found outside any pub on the surface, though carved by someone who obviously had never seen one.

Inside, they found a lone svirfneblin, sitting at a table, bored and reading a book. One of them cleared their throat and the deep gnome turned around. His demeanor immediately turned to excitement as he noted the tall strangers from the Overworld, "Ah! Newcomers! Welcome! Welcome! Please, sit! Let me grab you a drink! On the house! We import Darklake Stout all the way from Gracklstugh! Please! Please! Be comfortable! My name is Tappy Foamstrap, I am the proprietor of the Foaming Mug."

Tappy was overjoyed to see the overworlders. He plied them with free drinks and food and delivered a continuous string of inquiries regarding their origins and destinations.

Angolwen spoke on behalf of the motley assortment, recounting the tale of their escape from Velkenvelve and journey to this place. She sniffed the Darklake Stout and politely asked for something different.

The overworlders were soon joined by a group of local miners and excavators coming off their shift. The locals seemed perturbed by the presence of the outsiders and did their best to avoid them.

Angolwen listened, noting the following conversations.
  • Blingdenstone's ghosts have gotten worse, with spirits and poltergeists haunting the residential warrens.
  • Remember that crazy svirfneblin that used to lurk around the old royal caverns? What ever happened to him? 
  • Stoneheart Enclave is closing in on a solution to Ogremoch's Bane in Rockblight.
  • The deep gnomes argued and debated about what to do with the Goldwhisker wererats. Some wanted to wipe them out, others saw them as potential allies with a legitimate claim to their part of the warren.
  • One merchant bragged about his Overworld coins he obtained recently in Gracklstugh.
  • One caravan merchant encountered a parade of dancing myconids, reportedly traveling to a wedding celebration somewhere. 
DM Note- Players playing NPCs
Kettle and Pain's players began role-playing the local deep gnomes arguing about strategies for dealing with the Goldwhisker were-rats. Since their characters weren't in the room at the time, it gave the players something to contribute to the scene and it added some extra atmosphere. They did an amazing job. 

The small group of fugitives was soon joined by Virtue who had left the others when they entered Rockblight. Virtue, also, politely declined the Darklake Stout and asked for anything else.

They were joined about a "bit" (an eighth of a shift - equivalent to an hour) later by the rest of the group, having defeated the ghost of Udhask in Rockblight.

As soon as Jimjar walked in, all conversation came to a stop. Every deep gnome was staring intently at Jimjar. A chair squeaked backwards as one deep gnome stood up.
"You've got a lot of nerve showing your face around here, Jimjar!"

Jimjar smiled and showed his palms apologetically, "I'll, ah, just wait outside. Heh!" before exiting the inn.

Kettle and Pain asked the other deep gnomes what happened. They explained that when Jimjar was last in Blingdenstone, he introduced the Overworld concept of gambling. Many deep gnomes lost a lot of money, some even lost their homes. The animosity towards him drove him out of town. He was not welcome in Blingdenstone.

Kettle asked if there was any way Jimjar could get back into their good graces.

The spokesperson said he'd have to go a long way to make up for the trouble he caused.

The renited fugitives from Velkenvelve, minus Prince Derendil, Starshine, and Mister Floop, left the Foaming Mug and made their way to the Trader's Grotto in search of Kazook Pickshine. There they planned to deliver the sack of gemstones they had obtained from Werz Saltbaron in Gracklstugh.

They arrived to find a medium-sized cavern with a dozen or so deep gnomes trading food, gems, goods, and services. Smaller burrows in the walls led to more private stalls. There were five passages leading out of this cavern. One to the left was blocked by debris. Another on the far side of the cavern was sealed with a large metal door.

Suddenly, one of the deep gnomes screamed and was lifted into the air, surrounded by a shimmering aura. One of his nearby companions shouted "Mev!" Mev was in the grips of a gelatinous cube!

Kettle quickly ran across the cavern to help the poor wretch. The other traders and miners fled in panic as three more gelatinous cubes squeezed through the collapsed rubble of the blocked passage, followed in short order by two smaller cubes. Kettle was surrounded by cubes!

Surrounded by Gelatinous Cubes!

DM Note- So Many Gelatinous Cubes!
This encounter originally called for two gelatinous cubes. I decided to increase the difficulty to four gelatinous cubes. 

I own seven gelatinous cube minis. Six are home-made, one is an acrylic cube I purchased at TAP plastics. Of the home-made ones, four are large-sized, two are medium-sized. They are all made with Castin' Craft clear resin poured into a simple cube-shaped mold made for the aforementioned acrylic cube. 

When I put out all of my large-sized minis, I said, "These are all my gelatinous cube minis!"

Then one of my players said, "No they're not! What about the babies? Put the babies out!"

So I acquiesced and put out the babies too. Babies have one-quarter the hit points of an adult. 

The spellcasters take position on the far side of the grotto

The cubes moved around slowly, forcing those in combat to retreat. Another deep gnome trader, Ronni Gemtooth, was caught up in one of the cubes. Kettle, Pain, and Ront engaged the cubes in melee combat. Kettle tried to rescue Mev while Pain and Ront tried to rescue Ronni. A series of fireball spells were cast and the cubes were destroyed! Although they were goth seriously injured by the attack, both Ronni and Mev were saved!

Kazook recognized his old apprentice Ficus across the grotto and the two exchanged pleasantries. When Kettle and Pain brought up Werz Saltbaron and the gems they were asked to delivery, Kazook shussed them and waved them into his private burrow.
Kazook Pickshine has a secret!
Kazook explained that he was bypassing the miner's guild and purchasing cheaper stones from outside sources like Werz. If this was common knowledge, he'd be banned from the trader's guild.

Pain entertained the notion of blackmailing Kazook for only the briefest of moments. Instead, Pain gave Kazook the bad news that Werz had been imprisoned by the Stoneguard and that Kazook's source for cheap gems was gone.

Kazook paid them the promised 50 gold coins for delivering the gems, honoring the promise Werz made back in Gracklstugh.

Kazook offered them more money to travel back to Gracklstugh to acquire more gems, an offer that was vehemently and unanimously rejected based on the vehement and unanimous dislike of Gracklstugh.

After resting a bit, the fugitives gathered their gear and set forth towards Rockblight to hunt a medusa. They passed through the staging area and were greeted by Sark Axebarrel who gave them the secret knock for this tridon.
Sark Axebarrel
The gates were opened and the hunters delved into the abandoned caverns of Rockblight.

They had no sooner re-entered the empty residential cavern when they were set upon by six giant spiders, emerging from the empty warrens dug into the cave wall. Five of the spiders were promptly dispatched while the sixth retreated into its cave. Pain and Kettle gave chase, cornering the arachnid and finishing it off.


The fugitives made their way to the left, passing through a short tunnel and into a large cavern lit by massive glowing crystal formations. Near one of the crystals was the statue of a crouching deep gnome clutching the shards of a broken crystal.

Ficus examined the statue for clues and determined that the gnome was trying to hold a crystal in front of its eyes when he was turned to stone. Pain then broke off a chunk of crystal large enough to hold in front of his face as a precaution.

DM Note- The Crystals
Holding the crystal over your eyes refracts the gaze of the medusa, giving you Advantage on your saving throws vs. petrification.

The far end of the cavern descended into a lower level. To the right, two pits in the floor led to stairs descending into passages. Pain explored a small cleft in the wall to the left allowed tight access to a passage that ended in a collapsed ceiling.

The explorers crossed the cavern and descended to the lower level.

At the center of the lower area with a tall menhir. The menhir was covered in sockets, each large enough for a spell gem. The walls of the lower area resembled roughly humanoid shapes formed in stone - Ficus deduced the presence of earth elementals embedded in the wall.

The explorers carefully made their way back up to the crystal garden and into the pit on the left. They descended quietly and carefully.

The passage was narrow and could only be navigated single file. Kettle went first, followed by Pain, Ront, Jimjar, Virtue, Angolwen, and Ficus, with Glabagool guarding the pit outside the cavern  in the crystal garden.

They entered a room decorated in drow fashion, with zurkhwood tables and racks of fine clothing made of delicate spider webs. A female drow priestess sat alone in a granite throne in the center of the room facing the entrance. She looked up at the intruders coldly inquiring, "Who dares distrub the accursed reverie of Neheedra?"

She stood to face them. Her white hair began to writhe, revealing it to be comprised of dozens of thin white snakes!

Kettle shouted, "We do!" and charged!
Ficus moves to flank Neheedra

Kettle closed to melee and attacked, throwing caution to the wind.

Pain entered next but was immediately turned to stone in spite of holding a crystal to refract the medusa's gaze.
Ront and Jimjar charged and joined the melee.

Virtue cast a spell of magical darkness, blocking visibility to and from the vile medusa. Only Virtue, by nature of her demonic vision, was able to see through the impenetrable blackness.

Angolwen and Ficus advanced but stayed within the darkness

Virtue cast a spell of Suggestion, ordering the medusa to close its eyes until the end of the fight.

Neheedra complied and fought blindly while the others attacked with impunity. Ficus then ran forward and joined the melee.

DM Note- Viritue's Cheating Ways
I had Virtue's player read Suggestion out loud so that we all knew what its effects were. He read it, I said, "Huh, okay, she closes her eyes."

At the end of the round, I thought to myself, "There's got to be some additional saving throw or something vs. Suggestion. It can't be that powerful." So I looked it up and read it myself.

I angrily slammed the book shut and shouted at Virtue's player, "Goddammit, Trevor! You mother fucker! Read the last goddamn sentence of Suggestion! Read it out loud!"

He read it out loud.

"If you or any of your companions damage the target, the spell ends. Oops."

"Yeah! Yeah that's right! That spell was over immediately after casting it!"

Instead of re-doing the entire round, I went with it. I told them that the last round happened as described, but Neheedra would get her revenge. Everyone would now make their saving throws vs. petrification with Disadvantage for the following round!

I don't think Virtue's player was intentionally cheating. Virtue's player has a long history with a bad habit of reading everything except for the last sentence of a spell or effect, even as a DM. So this was nothing new and we make fun of him for it. It's something I do on occasion as well. 

Finally, Virtue's player just, like just now, three days later, admitted that he also read another sentence wrong. You can only cast Suggestion on a target you can see. He couldn't cast Suggestion from within the darkness. He offered to make a saving throw or be turned to stone next Friday.

Angolwen moved out of the protection of the magical darkness. She cast a fireball spell into the corner of the room but glanced at her companions in melee combat with the medusa in order to shield them from the effects of the blast. Unfortunately, she caught a glimspe of Neheedra's eyes and was turned to stone!
Neheedra's Deadly Gaze!
Kettle was the next combatant to look into the eyes of the medusa. He froze in place and was instantly turned to stone as well.

The rest of the combatants avoided her gaze and fared poorly as a result. Only Ficus trusted his luck and attacked the accursed creature with all his prowess.

Eventually, Neheedra was defeated. Her head was cut off and thrust into a sack for transport.

DM Note- Monster Hit Points
I once again increased the challenge of the encounter by doubling Neheedra's hit points. I did this so she would last longer in the fight and have more opportunities to use her special abilities and attacks. I wanted to tax the player's resources and tactical skills. 

I've noticed that a lot of the opponents so far in 5th edition are underpowered for hit points. They go down too quickly and provide little challenge for the players. So I've reintroduced the concepts of Elite and Solo monsters from Fourth Edition, doubling or quadrupling the hit points, and giving Solo monster special area effect versions of their attacks, or attacks that push opponents away or cause temporary conditions.

DM Note - Removing Magic Items from Petrified Characters
Petrification turns any non-magic items to stone. Magic items are safe, but may be difficult to recover.

  1. Worn items like belts, armor, boots, etc. can be removed. Any stone items outside the armor such as backpacks or cloaks can be easily broken off without harming the person inside.
  2. Items carried in backpacks or pouches can likewise be removed without harming the person inside.
  3. Potions and scrolls are damaged and thus destroyed in the removal.
  4. Hand-held items CAN be removed with a successful Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check vs. 14. Failure will damage the person's fingers or hands. 

Jimjar and Virtue left the others in Neeheedra's lair. Those who remained began the process of removing what magical items they could salvage from their fallen comrades. Jimjar and Virtue returned the medusa's head to Sark Axebarrel, who gave them their promised reward - a diamond worth 1000 gp.

Knowing that Glyphic Shroomlight, the acolyte in charge of the Ruby in the Rough, was insufficiently trained to pray for the restoration of their petrified comrades, they went to the Chamber of the Speaking Stones, where they met Gurnik Tapfinger, head priest of Callarduran Smoothhands.

Unfortunately, Gurnik admitted that he, too, was unable to say the requisite prayers. However, Gurnik was shocked to learn that Virtue and Jimjar had made their way into the abandoned region of Rockblight. He asked the adventurers if they would be willing to help reconsecrate the temple known as the Steadfast Stone by installing a special spell gem into the menhir located there. They accepted this task and returned to their companions.


Next week: Jimjar is promoted to sixth level Deep Gnome Rogue player character, the party will likely make the aquaintance of a Human Bard (probably), plus a mystery guest!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Blindgenstone" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 17

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



A rag-tag group of fugitves 
experience one adventure after another
as they travel the Underdark
searching for a way home.

After escaping the drow prison at Velkenvelve,
they witnessed the razing of a kuo-toa village
by the two-headed demon-lord Demogorgon.

They survived weeks of travel in the Underdark
and thwarted a secret demonic cult in Gracklstugh, the city of the Duergar.

They discovered that Zuggtmoy, the Demon Queen of Decay
had taken over the myconid homeland known as Neverlight Grove.

On their way to Blingdenstone,
the city of the Deep Gnomes known as svirfneblin,
an earthquake trapped them in an ancient temple
overrun by oozes where they met
Glabbagool, the intelligent Gelatinous Cube. 

Now they are on the threshhold of Blingdenstone
where they hope to find the passage 
that will take them back to the Overworld...

Angolwen - Wizard of mixed human/elven parentage.
Kettle Bearclaw - Halfling baker living among dwarves.
Pain Grille' - Halfling street urchin from Waterdeep.
Ficus Asëa - a lost eladrin traveller, alone in the Underdark
Virtue - Tiefling paladin and a mysterious wild card.

Jimjar - a roguish deep gnome who likes to wager on everything.
Ront - Thuggish orc from the surface world. Follows Kettle's commands.
Prince Derendil - Elven prince in the body of a brutish quaggoth.
Starshine - A mute female moon elf, an escaped slave.
Mister Floop - a friendly flumph.
Glabbagool - an inquisitive but friendly Gelatinous Cube.
Santaka - a baby red dragon.

Jimjar led the way to Blingdenstone. He did his best to answer the questions put to him, but he admitted that he hadn't been home in several years.

At a seemingly random spot in the passage, Jimjar stopped and turned around. He put his finger to his lips to silence the party, then walked to his right, disappearing into the wall of the passage. As the others approached, they found a passage to the right, cleverly concealed in the rock. It was not technically a secret passage, just difficult to see. They followed the passage to a large chamber containing a wide set of stairs. The stairs were made for gnomish feet, short and small. A ramp to the right would have allowed for pack animals and carts. A large metal door, intricately carved and inlaid with mithral, stood unguarded at the top the steps. Two clusters of glowing crystals, flanking the doors, provided dim illumination in the chamber.

Eight gnome guards appeared from nowhere. Again, they were not invisible, just camouflaged against the stone. They challenged the party, demanding their identities and their business. Jimjar announced himself and he was known to the guard. Jimjar vouched for the others. Kettle introduce d himself as Warlord Kettleborn and spoke on behalf of the fugitives, introducing each and explaining their story. The guard had also heard the name Warlord Kettleborn and was impressed. They were skeptical of the stranger members of the party, which included a flumph, a quaggoth, a gelatinous cube, and a baby dragon, but were convinced of their good intentions and allowed entry into the city as long as they were escorted and promised to stay out of trouble.

Ront boldly replied, "Ront does not cause trouble, Ront ENDS trouble!"

"Yes, Ront." said Kettle as he patted the orc on the back.

The gates were opened and an escort was assigned. The escort's name was Buddy. Buddy led the fugitives through the outer defenses of Blingdenstone. The first defense was the massive outer wall. The second was a winding maze. The maze dipped and rose and the larger members of the party often had to turn sideways to squeeze through a narrow gap. After a second gate, they passed through a passage that Buddy called the Gauntlet. The walls of the Gauntlet were studded with glowing crystals called Spellstones. Finally, they were allowed through a third gate and into the city.

Buddy turned to the fugitives and nodded, "Welcome, guests, to Blingdenstone."

The fugitives stood in a large chamber, about two hundred feet across. The chamber was dimly lit by glowing crystals and bio-luminescent fungi. Many passages branched off in several directions. One of the passages was blocked off by heavy iron doors.

Buddy gave a brief overview. That way was Goldwhisker Warrens. It's been sealed off because of were-rats. That way is the inner city. The way beyond was Rockblight, it's sealed off, and that way has been sealed off because of all the oozes.

Buddy was peppered with questions about the city. The laconic Buddy was hesitant to answer so many questions and suggested that they may direct all inquiries to the king and queen in Diggermattock hall.

Kettle asked about protection from the drow, explaining that they were being chased by Mistress Ilvara.

Buddy confidently asserted that no drow would ever enter Blingdenstone, not ever again, and that they were safe. He also said that this was important information and that he needed to take them to the king and queen immediately. Buddy led the way to Diggermattock Hall.

The figitives were led through a network of connected caverns. Moving through Blingdenstone was like navigating the inside of swiss cheese. Diggermattock Hall was a hive of activity with various deep gnomes discussing, planning, and arguing. Two deep gnomes, a man and a woman, sat at a large table on a raised dais, facing each other. They were each attended by advisors and assistants.

Buddy requested an audience to present the fugitives and the man and woman turned their attention to the newcomers.
Dorbo and Senni Diggermattock
After the fugitives were introduced, the man and woman introduced themselves as Dorbo and Senni Diggermattock, the interim king and queen of Blingdenstone. The duo had a unique way of speaking. Whenever one would start a sentence, the other would finish it. They were like an old married couple, but worse.

They listened to the complete tale told by the fugitives and were impressed. The king and queen informed the fugitives that they were safe in Blingdenstone but that their amnesty and protection came at a price, they must be productive and serve the king and queen as necessary. The fugitives agreed.

The king and queen then entertained any questions the newcomers had about Blingdenstone, describing the enclave's history and current situation. They provided a more in-depth overview of the enclave's geography, reiterating that the Goldwhisker Warrens were where the were-rats were holed up, that the northwest section was overrun by oozes, that the northeast was called Rockblight and was sealed off due to Ogremoch's Bane, and that the southeast was called Inner Blingdenstone and was relatively safe. They urged the newcomers to visit the Caves of Clatter for gear, the Trader's Grotto for trade, and the Foaming Mug for an inn.

The fugitives inquired about the Goldwhisker were-rats. Dorbo and Senni described the situation and it soon became clear that the couple disagreed on a strategy. Dorbo wanted to eliminate them while Senni believed that they could be reasoned with. Senni lamented that recent clashes have made the were-rats distrustful, but perhaps a neutral third party could act as an envoy and deliver a message. Dorbo assessed the strategy and appeared to change his mind, agreeing with his wife on her course of action. Dorbo and Senni looked meaningfully at the fugitives.

The fugitives unanimously agreed to help.

Dorbo and Senni were delighted. Senni said she would draft a message and asked the newcomers to return after they had a chance to rest and acquaint themselves with the enclave.

Jimjar was prepared to part ways with the fugitives but was persuaded to stick around and act as a guide to the enclave. Jimjar accepted and was glad to stick around his new friends a little bit longer.

Kettle, Ficus, Pain, Virtue, Santaka, and Jimjar offered to take care of a few tasks while the others rested at the Foaming Mug. When they turned to Glabbagool, they noticed the gelatinous monster had wandered away from the group, drifting slowly towards the northwest.

Ficus called out, "Glabbagool!"

[What? Yes! I'm here! Do you all not feel that?]


[Nothing. Nothing. A kind of pull, a call. It is hard to describe. I feel a compulsion. It is nothing.]

Ficus eyed Glabbagool with a suspicious glare, "Uh huh. You better stay with us."

First on the team's agenda was to return Pelek's ring to his family crypt. Jimjar led them to the "Ruby in the Rough", the temple devoted to the Svirfneblin god Segojan Earthcaller. There they met Glyphic Shroomlight, a young acolyte who seemed harried and overworked. Glyphic was too busy with a prayer ritual to help them so he pointed them towards the catacombs.

Jimjar let the others into the cramped catacombs where they were accosted by the ghost of a middle-aged deep gnome named Jadger. Jadger demanded to know what business Overworlders had within the necropolis of the deep gnomes. Virtue spoke on behalf of the fugitives, explaining their desire to return the family ring of Pelek to the crypts of his ancestors. Jadger was satisfied with the answer and allowed them to pass.
The fugitives delivered Pelek's ring to his ancestral crypt. The spirit of Pelek momentarily manifested before the Overworlders, thanked them, and crossed over to the great Beyond.

Jadger was so impressed with the Overworlders that he offered them a job. He explained that the unpleasantness with the drow had decimated the ranks of the Burrow Wardens, and although he was training new recruits into the order, they were far too young and inexperienced to be trusted with serious tasks. He asked the Overworlders if they would be available to take on two extra missions. The party agreed.

Jadger gave the fugitives two tasks:

  1. One of the residential warrens was inhabited by an insane poltergeist named Vazuk, preventing its resettlement. Vazuk's soul would never find rest, therefore the poltergeist needed to be destroyed.
  2. The remains of a deep gnome named Udhask were never recovered. They are located in the residential warrens of the dangerous region known as Rockblight. Find his remains and return them to the catacombs for proper interment. 
As soon as Jimjar heard which warren Vazuk was haunting, his face went pale, "That's MY warren!"

The party agreed and set about their tasks.

Jimjar led Kettle, Ficus, Pain, Glabbagool, Virtue, and Santaka into the residential cavern. Jimjar stood outside the entrance to the small warren declaring, "Here we are!"

The party ducked inside the narrow opening and found a chamber filled with piles of old furniture and belongings.

A haunting ghostly voice shrieked, "Get out! It's mine!"

Jimjar replied, "No way!"

The invisible specter began hurling objects at the intruders. Kettle was able to sense presence of the invisible spirit and directed the others to direct their attention to that spot in the back of the room.

Virtue cast a fireball spell towards the area indicated. The fireball exploded, setting the rear of the warren on fire. Jimjar shouted, "Hey! Stop that!"

The poltergeist engaged the intruders in close combat but was ultimately destroyed by Kettle using his magic sword Dawnbringer.

After putting out the fire, Pain asked Jimjar, "Is all this stuff yours?"

Jimjar replied, "I think so. I don't know. I haven't been here in hun- I mean dozens of years!"

Pain was suddenly suspicious, "Why did you almost say hundreds?"

"I didn't! Who said anything about me being a god of trickery! Shut up! Lies! Anyway, of course It's all my stuff! Sure! Why not?"

After ridding the warren of the pernicious poltergeist, Jimjar led the fugitives to the residential cavern located within Rockblight. To his surprise, the passage was blocked by rubble and debris. He led the party to another nearby cavern where they found the entrance to Rockblight barred by heavy steel doors and guarded by eight deep gnomes and four cave badgers.
Sark Axebarrel

One of the deep gnomes identified himself as the commander, Sark Axebarrel, and asked their business. The fugitives relayed their mission and Axebarrel agreed to let them enter. Before he opened the armored door, he warned the party of the dangers that lurked within. He told them of Ogremoch's Bane, describing it as a formless cloud of glittering dust that turned the earth elemental of Blingdenstone against their creators. He also told them to watch out for a medusa! He admitted that he knew little of the medusa, so he offered a reward of 50 gp for useful information and promised a diamond worth 1000 gp for her head!

Sark ordered the gate lifted, revealing a chamber protected by an inner gate. The chamber acted as a lock. Sark provided the fugitives a secret knock to use when they were prepared to exit Rockblight. The fugitives entered the lock, the gate closed behind them, and the inner gate opened ahead of them.

The fugitives found themselves in a dark chamber. Kettle drew Dawnbringer but kept her glow to a dim minimum. They navigated around a large pool of water, keeping to the right wall. They entered a large cavern. The wall was pocked with dozens of entrances into residential warrens. As they ventured further into the large cavern, they could hear the sound of a waterfall ahead.

Suddenly, they were attacked by a spectral ghost of a deep gnome. The ghost emitted a haunting wail and portrayed a visage of horror! Glabbagool shuddered quivered like a giant cube of gelatin. The others steeled themselves against the ghost's psychic assault. The party attacked the ghost and the apparition disappeared!

Suddenly, Jimjar's eyes grew cloudy and the diminutive deep gnome prepared to attack. Ficus and Pain leaped into action, striking Jimjar with the butts of their weapons and knocking him unconscious. The ghost suddenly reappeared and was soon set upon by the rest of the party.
An Apparition

Eventually, the ghost cried out "The drow are coming! Everyone must hide!" and fled the battle, disappearing into a nearby warren.

The party cautiously entered the warren. There they found a stone bed. The skeleton of a deep gnome lay on the floor. The skeleton was clutching its chest with one hand and reaching for the foot of the stone bed with the other.

The fugitives examined the skeleton and found a ring identifying it as the remains of Udhask. They also closely examined the foot of the bed and found a box full of gems in a hidden niche.

The fugitives gathered up the bones in a sack to return to the catacombs and took the box. They decided to exit Rockblight and return later in greater numbers.


DM Notes-
I was talking with two of the players (Ficus and Kettle) before the game this week and they expressed their concerns about Out of the Abyss.

Frankly speaking, the campaign as written has its flaws and those flaws were affecting their enjoyment.

Their biggest complaint about Out of the Abyss was also a general complaint about all the campaign books published by WotC so far for fifth edition- namely, PCs were expected to travel on these epic LotR style quests across the world in order to fight a big-bad at the end (Tiamat, Demogorgon, evil elemental cultists, etc.).

They felt that this approach took away one of the aspects of D&D that they enjoyed the most - the sense of place.

Previous campaigns were always played in a confined geographic area, usually a single valley or region. Cities could be visited again and again, NPCs were recurring, over time you built up a familiarity with the locations and people that made it feel like a real place. My players really enjoy that aspect of D&D and felt it was missing from Out of the Abyss. The closest we've come so far was the extended stint in Gracklstugh. But that was marred by the fact that it felt like everyone was out to get them or use them.

Their second complaint was the lack of impact their characters had on the campaign so far.

And they have a point. In Sloobludopp, they witness the rise of Demogorgon who destroys the town. They are expected to flee and not intervene. In Neverlight Grove, they learn that Zuggtmoy has taken over and converted the myconids. They can't do anything to stop her and they must flee.

So far, the only impact they've had was in Gracklstugh, though they didn't even realize it at the time. They only realized that the cult they defeated was responsible for the madness in Gracklstugh when they returned there. Their response was "Oh, we fixed that? Who knew? Good for us, I guess!"

They said that the most fun they've had so far in the campaign was the side story with the Hags on the island, an aside I ad-libbed on the fly.

I gave them some spoilers to try to alleviate some of their fears, telling them that the second half of the campaign will be them leading an expedition to various parts of the Underdark on various missions. They said that addressed their concerns regarding lack of agency but I admitted it did little to add to the sense of place.

Once we finish the Blingdenstone chapter and they escape from the Underdark, we'll be taking a short break from the campaign, during which time I'm planning on running White Star.

After that, we'll decide if we want to finish Out of the Abyss. The two players in question are game to see it through, they just wanted me to be aware of their concerns.