Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Out of the Abyss" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 23

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 23
"OUT OF THE ABYSS"

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

After helping to save Blingdenstone
from the Pudding King and his
army of oozes, the surviving 
escapees from Velkenvelve prepare 
for the long journey to the surface world...


THE PLAYER CHARACTERS
Virtue - tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
Ront - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.
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.

NOT APPEARING THIS WEEK
Breya- human bard, sent to rescue Wulfric from duergar slavers, now seeking a way back to the surface.

THEIR FELLOW FUGITIVES
Starshine - A mute moon elf, an escaped slave from Menzoberranzan.
Santaka - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.

A CURSE LIFTED
The were-rats of the Goldwhisker clan were cured of their affliction thanks to Virtue. The tiefling paladin now turned her attention to Prince Derendil.

Prince Derendil
Prince Derendil had maintained since their initial meeting that he was an elven aristocrat from the Overworld who had been polymorphed into the body of a vile quaggoth and sold into slavery. Virtue offered to remove his curse and return him to his true form. Prince Derendil accepted the offer and Virtue performed the ritual over the prince. Starshine the moon elf bounced and clapped at the prospect.

The prince jerked as if violently woken from slumber. He looked around confused. His eyes narrowed in comprehension. He bared his teeth as he understood where he was and who he was. He looked nervous. He acted like an animal cornered. Virtue formed her magical glaive and watched him cautiously. Starshine became nervous and backed against the wall.

Then the quaggoth took a deep breath and exhaled. He calmed himself and relaxed. He spoke and though his words were elvish he no longer did he possess the lyrical accent and affectation of an elven prince.

The quaggoth formerly known as Prince Derendil explained that he was once an ordinary quaggoth. He had been a slave to the drow. The madness that currently plagued the Underdark had affected him. He had come to believe in the fiction that he was an elven prince named Derendil. Now the curse was lifted and he could think clearly. But he was no mere quaggoth slave. His time with the fugitives had affected him deeply. He now saw the world through new eyes and with greater understanding.

He thanked Virtue for lifting the curse and he asked her to thank the others for the gift of conscience.

DM Note- Player Agency
We did the restoration of Derendil "off-camera". I told the players the outcome according to the book, with Prince Derendil becoming a quaggoth and attacking as he tried to flee. The players were unhappy with that ending so I gave them a poll of several better options. Virtue's player suggested the above so that became the new "canon".  

FAREWELLS
The tridon had finally arrived for the deep gnome guides to lead the Overworlders out of the Underdark and back to the surface. The guides included four svirfneblin guides and one pack lizard. Before they set out of Blingdenstone the Overworlders bade their farewells to their fellow fugitives and newfound friends.
Mister Floop
The flumph known as Mister Floop was a native of the Underdark and decided to continue his nomadic exploration of the lower world. The flumph would accompany Derendil through the Underdark as the quaggoth sought out the Society of Brilliance.

Glabagool

Glabagool the intelligent and friendly gelatinous cube would live and work in Blingdenstone where he would help keep the passages clean.

Breya

Breya and her companion Wulfric would be returning to the surface using a different route and would not be accompanying the other Overworlders.

Jimjar

Jimjar would accompany the expedition to the Overworld but would return to Blingdenstone with the deep gnome escorts.

The expedition then said goodbye to the dour and unemotional deep gnomes of Blingdenstone and set off in search of the secret path that led home.

AMBUSH
The deep gnome guides led the expedition to what they called "the Long Stair". They explained that this secret stairway was one of the few passages to the surface. They entered into a large chamber. The far wall of the chamber contained massive stairs carved into the stone, winding into a passage cut into the ceiling. The chamber was littered with the ancient statues and giant cyclopean blocks of quarried stone.

No sooner had they entered the chamber when the path behind them became walled off with sticky impassable webbing cast from the spinners of massive spiders. They were trapped!

Their adversaries emerged from their hiding places within the chamber. Six quaggoths led by the drow commander Shoor emerged from behind the statue and quarried stone. Four drow led by the commander Jorlan took their positions spaced evenly along the stairs. A giant spider clung to the wall to the left while another giant spider sat atop the ancient statue. At the top of the stairs just below the passage into the ceiling was Mistress Ilvara.
Ilvara

The fugitives froze.

Ilvara called out, "I have come for my property! Render unto me the orc, the tiefling, and the deep gnome. They are slaves of the drow and belong to me. Surrender them to me and the rest of you may leave."

Ront looked back at Ficus. Would the elf sell them out? Ront wondered what he would do if the situation was reversed.
Ficus

Ficus looked at Virtue. Virtue nodded in return. Ficus looked back at Ilvara and called back in response, "How about instead you surrender now and become my servant?"

Ilvara's eyes flashed with anger. She called forth the demonic powers of her goddess Lloth, summoning a swarm of insects that enveloped the travelers in a vortex of pestilence! The insects ate away at the living flesh of everyone caught within the maelstrom.
Starchild, RIP
The travelers found themselves surrounded by magical darkness that impeded their vision. Only Virtue's infernal magic could see through the inky blackness.

Starshine screamed and fell! Her body was covered by the ravenous swarm. Virtue alone saw the fate that befell the mute elf. She grit their teeth at the death of the innocent slave girl and spun to face her drow opponents.
Virtue
The travelers quickly moved out of the swarm and the darkness and faced the charge of the quaggoths while arrows rained upon them from the stairs. The spider to the left clambered down and engaged the left flank while the spider on the statue cast webbing onto those below.
Ront
Ront charged the stairs and was met by Shoor. The two clashed swords in an epic struggle.

Virtue and Santaka fought their way past quaggoths  on their way to the base of the stairs.

Jimjar and the other deep gnomes occupied themselves fighting the giant spider that climbed down from the statue. When they were done with the spider they held the center against the quaggoths.

Ficus cast a spell of haste upon himself and easily defeated the quaggoths and giant spider that blocked his path. Ficus held his magical blade Dawnbringer aloft. The shining blade of light blazed forth with the full light of day. The drow shielded their eyes. Jorlan ordered one of the archers to cast darkness upon Ficus and the light of the blade was momentarily obscured.
Jorlan
Meanwhile the drow on the stairs would illuminate groups of fighters with magical faerie fire and create additional zones of darkness to block line of sight for the spellcasters. Little did they suspect that their darkness spells had no effect on Virtue.
Santaka
Santaka took a running leap onto the base of the stairs and tore the throat out of a screaming drow archer. Jorlan rushed down the stairs to engage the baby dragon. Ilvara ordered that the dragon be captured alive. It would be useful in the future.


Virtue made her way to the dragon's side. Together they defeated Jorlan and continued their path up the stairs. Ficus defeated the quaggoths of the left flank and dashed across the room at an inhuman pace. Once he left the zone of darkness the room once more flared into brilliant daylight. Ficus paused only to cast another spell of haste upon Ront before joining Virtue and Santaka on their way up the steps.
Shoor
Ront continued his struggle with Shoor. He eventually killed the drow and moved to help the Jimjar and the other deep gnomes take out the remaining quaggoths.

The Overworlders made quick work of the drow archers and made their way towards Ilvara. Ilvara called upon the aid of Lolth and was surrounded by whirling spider spirits. Virtue advanced up the stairs and was set upon by the attacking spirits. Ilvara brandished a magical rod. The end of the rod branched into many writhing tentacles. The tentacles lashed out and grabbed Virtue. Virtue was held fast!

With magically enhanced speed Ront left the remaining quaggoths behind and charged the stairs. There he joined Virtue and the rest in confronting Ilvara.
Ilvara's Wrath

Ilvara was now alone and desperate. She once more called upon her goddess Lolth for aid. With tears in her eyes she beseeched Lolth for the aid of the demon queen's handmaiden known as Yochol. But her call for help went unanswered. Ilvara had been abandoned by her demon-goddess.

Ficus dashed past and struck Ilvara with Dawnbringer. The elf attacked in a blur. Ilvara crumpled under the flaring onslaught of the magic sword. The elf paused over the fallen Ilvara. He considered taking her prisoner or leaving her to survive in the Underdark. The drow priestess looked back and sneered. Dawnbringer cleaved through Ilvara and cut her in two. The priestess was dead.

THE LIGHT OF DAY
The travelers continued their journey without further incident. They climbed the miles and miles of stairs.

They eventually emerged in the ruins of an ancient city covered in trees and littered with fallen walls and columns. They said their goodbyes to Jimjar and the other deep gnomes and thanked them for their assistance.

The time eventually came to part ways. Ficus left for elven lands. Ront returned to the hills of his tribe. Virtue made her way back to civilization.

The surviving fugitives from Velkenvelve were no longer fugitives. They were free. They were safe. they thought about those who didn't make it. The halflings Kettle Bearclaw and Pain Grille'. The half-elves Angolwen and Talorean. They even spared a thought for the drow prisoner Sarith who was eaten by a Xorn.

The story of their escape from the Underdark was over. But the ultimate story of the Rage of Demons had just begun.

TO BE CONTINUED...?

With that, we finish the first half of Out of the Abyss. The current plan is to take a few weeks off from D&D and play Hollow Earth Expedition. After that, we will decide if we want to return to Out of the Abyss or if we want to play something else D&D. 

Several of the players were dissatisfied with Out of the Abyss. Their complaints ranged from annoyance at the survival section in the first part of the adventure to lack of agency in several chapters to lack of a sense of place. These are all valid concerns. 

Some players want to continue and finish the story. Others aren't interested in finishing. We'll see how they feel when we re-convene in a few weeks.

In the meantime, get ready for some astounding tales of exploration and adventure with the daring heroes of The Seekers of the Unknown in the Elixir of Life!