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.




CHAPTER 20
"STONEHEART QUARRY"

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.


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.
Ront - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.

NOT APPEARING THIS WEEK
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.

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.

A RESCUE MISSION
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.

A FRIENDLY TROGLODYTE
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.

UNWELCOME GUESTS
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 KILL ZONE
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.

STANDOFF
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!
Xalith

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.

TO BE CONTINUED...