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.



CHAPTER 19
"OGREMOCH'S BANE"

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.


THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
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.

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

THEIR FELLOW FUGITIVES
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.

BACK TO THE FOAMING MUG
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. 

THE STEADFAST STONE
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?" 

DROW STATUES
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!"

"HIT ME AGAIN!!!"


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.

OGREMOCH'S BANE
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?"

"No!"

"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.

BLESSINGS OF CALLADURAN SMOOTHANDS
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.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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.