Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Fiendish Menagerie of Amarith Coppervein" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 29

Sparky the Fire Beetle hurried through the endless passages and tunnels of the Underdark looking for help. Sparky was desperate. Sparky's mistress was trapped. The mistress told Sparky to go get help, any help. Sparky wasn't smart like the mistress but Sparky understood the request. Sparky had barely made it out alive. The warren, normally a curious place of exploration and play, was now a dangerous lair for ferocious beasts.

The precocious fire beetle scurried and scuttled as fast as it could, following the ancient scent trail that led to the cavern of the other two-legs like the master. Sparky could only hope that the other two-legs would respond.

Spark unexpectedly came across an entire herd of two-legs travelling the passage. Sparkydid not know these two-legs but they were Sparky's only hope.

Spark got the attention of the two-legs. Sparky turned around, flared its vestigial wings, and shook its glowing abdomen. Sparky blinked its abdomen in the way that the mistress taught. Sparky moved in the direction they were to follow then turned around to assess their understanding. The two-legs stood in momentary confusion. Sparky repeated the intricate dance.

The two-legs spoke amongst themselves then addressed Sparky directly.

"What's the matter, girl? Is somebody in trouble?"

The dance had worked. The two-legs understood. Sparky glowed in appreciation and led the way.


Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
and are roaming free in the
subterranean land known as the Underdark.

Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
into the depths of the Earth.

They are on the way to Gravenhollow,
the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
where it is said all secrets are known.

Their travel was interrupted
by a precocious fire beetle
that looked like it was
trying to get them to follow
it because someone was in trouble...

  • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
  • Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
  • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
  • Willow - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
  • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
  • The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
  • Ront - (PC) orc barbarian of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.

Under the command of Ser Valerius
  • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior

Under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout (missing)
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout

Under the command of Pain
  • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior
  • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
  • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (missing)
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (missing)

Under the command of Virtue
  • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
  • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug (missing)
  • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)

  • Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.

The fire beetle looked like it wanted to be followed but not everyone was confinced. Virtue and Valerius were skeptical of the beetle. At best, they thought, it was a distraction. At worst it was a trap. Ront, Willow, and Pain decided to lead a small group to check it out.

The expedition followed the beetle back to a passage. At the end of the passage was a wooden sign proclaiming "AMARITH'S MENAGERIE - ADMISSION 5 SILVER COINS". An iron railing and turnstile blocked the way. A metal box with a coin slot was bolted to the railing. The scouts' riding lizards easily scrambled over the iron railing. In the distance they could hear the sounds of screaming. The rest of the group paid their admission.

The passage opened onto a ledge overlooking a cavern. A ramp led down to the floor of the cavern to the left. The cavern ceiling was forty feet from the floor. The entire cavern was eerily lit by strange glowing crystals that looked as if they had erupted from the wall. Dozens of large stalactites hung from the ceiling.

The little fire beetle led the way down the ramp and across the cavern. Ront and the scouts quickly followed.

Without warning, four long tentacles extruded from one of the stalactites. A large red eye blinked menacingly as a round toothy shincter-like mouth opened and closed. It was a roper!  The roper was unlike any they had previously encountered or read about. This one was covered in dark red spikes and its eye glowed with an evil power. It was obviously possessed by some demonic force!

A Roper attacks the party
The tentacles grabbed Ront, Willow, and Thargus Forkbeard. It quickly drew them close and tried to eat one of the dwarves. It found its prey was more dangerous than it thought when each attacked it.

Pain activated his magic boots and ran up the side of the wall with alacrity. He grabbed hold of a stalactite on the ceiling and proceeded to attack the creature in what he hoped were its weak spots.

The roper gave some slack to its opponents and focused on Willow. It drew Willow in and bit down hard, its bite draining Willow's life force! Luckily, Willow's Shield Guardian was able to magically transfer life force to its mistress. Ront managed to cut one tentacle which dropped him to the ground with a thud. The other victims followed suit. New tentacles drew forth and attacked again.

Despite its dangerous attacks, the roper was soon destroyed with a combination of Pain's attacks and Willow's spells. The roper's tentacles went limp and everyone held fell unceremoniously and painfully to the ground. The body of the roper quickly decayed into burning ash and writhing worms and maggots.

The party quickly investigated a nearby sunken grotto labelled "UMBER HULK". There was a fading demonic ward drawn into the ground but the pit was otherwise empty.

The fire beetle led the group up a steep passage that passed another ledge overlooking another section of the same cavern. An iron railing protected anyone from falling over the ledge. Ront was surprised as more tentacles reached out and grabbed him. The creature resembled long worm-like squid with writhing tentacles surrounding a beak-like mouth. It was a grick, the largest grick anyone had ever seen! The grick had clung to the rock wall just below the ledge waiting for anyone to pass overhead. Like the roper, the grick was covered in horn-like growths and the inside of its mouth glowed with malevolence.

Attacked by a Grick Alpha

Ront stuck his foot on the railing and held fast. Pain ran up onto the railing and attacked the grick. The grick turned its attention to the halfling. Meanwhile, Anzar and Feral had circled around at the bottom of the cave and were firing crossbows at the creature. Willow circled around as well and threw an acid orb at the creature and missed, causing the railing to begin to sizzle and dissolve. After a fierce battle the grick was soon dispatched and the party continued on its way.

DM Note - Goddammit!
It was a this point that I remembered that the place was suffused with faerzress. I reminded myself going forward to implement this rule - roll on the chaos magic table EVERY TIME WILLOW CAST A SPELL!

The party could go left or right. The sound of panicked screaming came from the right. The beetle seemed uncertain. Ront chose to investigate the screaming.

They passed a grotto labelled "RUST MONSTERS". The pen's bars were little more than decayed stumps. Just beyond was another grotto whose bars were still intact. Within was a cave filled with mushrooms and fungi from throughout the Underdark. A large animated zurkhwood like the kind found in Neverlight Grove, only covered in thorns and with glowing red eye spots, turned around and lunged a the party aggressively. The screaming came from the back of the grotto. Ront frantically searched before concluding, "Shriekers!"

At that moment, a demonically mutated creature emerged from the shadows ahead of the party and another one approached from behind. They were trapped! The creatures had bulbous insectile bodies with a long tail and two long feelers. Ront called out, "Rust monsters!"

The Grotto of the Fungi
One of the rust monsters maneuvered between Ront and Pain and disintegrated the bars to the zurkhood pen, freeing it. Pain and Ront switched weapons and stabbed at it with their cheapest daggers and swords. Their weapons became pocked and flaked as they pierced and slashed.

The other rust monster attacked Anzar's chain mail, turning some of it to dust. Willow backed away and cast an acid orb spell at the rust monster. However, doing so had the unintended consequence of turning everyone but Pain invisible! Pain was momentarily startled and worried that he was left alone, only to have Ront and the others quickly reappear as they attacked their foes.

Willow cast another spell, killing the rust monster but also triggering a fireball centered on herself. Luckily she was far enough away and no one was injured.

The rust monsters were quickly destroyed, soon followed by the animated zurkhwood. As the creature expired it exploded in a puff of spores. Pain and Ront quickly covered their mouths and avoided breathing in the tainted air.

The party retreated and took the passage to the left. Ahead of them they saw a large silhouette tearing meat from an unseen carcass in the dark. As they drew nearer the silhouette became a large crustacean, like a giant crayfish only covered in demonic spikes and possessing glowing red eyes. It was a chuul. The chuul was eating the flesh of a humanoid. It dropped its meal and ran at Pain.

It grabbed Pain in one of its massive pincers and shoved the halfling in its mouth. The demonic chuul proceeded to drain the life force from Pain who screamed in terror. Ront and the others attacked the chuul.
Willow Silax

Willow cast several spells at the chuul. A fireball spell proved ineffective so she switched to acid orbs. However, each time she cast a spell she activated another side effect. One spell caused everyone around her to become confused. Another spell caused her to levitate off the ground.

Willow's shield guardian was affected by the the confusion. It ran wildly down a random corridor where it became surrounded by three creatures. Each creature resembled a large flying manta ray with thin flapping wings like a cloak. Willow cast a fireball spell at the area, protecting her shield guardian from its effects, and two of the manta rays were immediately destroyed!

After defeating the chuul the party turned it attention to the new creature - a cloaker! The cloaker flew towards Pain and enveloped him.

DM Note - Not again!
Pain's player has an amusing history with cloakers. He lost a PC many years ago while enveloped in a cloaker. We kept attacking it, transferrnig damage to him. He kept yelling, "Stop killing me!" and we kept trying new attacks, thinking that maybe bludgeoning would work? How about fire? So this happening to him again was priceless!

As Pain struggled inside the cloaker, Ront grabbed the creature and tried to pull it away. The cloaker's long whip-like barbed tail flailed around trying to attack Ront. The cloaker, like all of the other creature in this menagerie, was tainted by demonic influence. It drained life from from Pain who fell to the ground unconscious!

Ront was able to pull the cloaker off and fight the beast! Pain lay unconscious on the ground and Anzar rushed in with a healing potion to save him. After a harrowing battle the cloaker was eventually defeated.

Up close and personal with a Cloaker!

Amarith Coppervein
The party followed the fire beetle to a door. The door had been attacked and clawed but it was barred from within and secure. They knocked and a female dwarven voice asked for identification. They identified themselves and the door was opened.

The female dwarf within was at first wary of Ront but immediately recognized the scouts of the Emerald Enclave and was almost bowled over by the affections of the fire beetle, its long proboscis licking her leathery face. "Sparky! You did it! Good girl!"

She introduced herself as Amarith Coppervein. She was accompanied by a winged kobold named Pok-Pok. She explained that she and her partner, the wizard Yungyan, had managed to capture several Underdark creatures that had come under the influence of demonic taint. The creatures were changed, mutated, and driven mad. Her partner was able to bind the creatures. She made a few extra coins charging admission to visitors from Mantol-Derith or Blingdenstone. However, the faerzress had invaded her complex and caused many of the bindings to fail. The creatures escaped and she had to hide in her study. She was saddened to learn of the fate of Yungyan.

Ront suggested she abandon the menagerie as there was still an umber hulk lurking somewhere about. She was advised to be careful, at which point she angrily replied, "NOBODY KILLS A COPPERVEIN!"

She asked about the expedition and Ront, Pain, and Willow explained that they were traveling to Gravenhollow but would eventually return to Gauntlgrym. She also learned of the disappearance of her cousin Brim Coppervein. She was confident that he was still alive and would be found eventually.

She asked to join and was accepted into the ranks of the expedition. She and Pok-Pok gathered some books, equipment, and supplies from their quarters and joined the caravan.

The team rejoined the main expedition and they continued on their way to Gravenhollow. After a long rest, the expedition came across an underground river teeming with albino cave fish. They replinished their supplies of food and water. When they next rested the found that some of their supplies had unnaturally spoiled - the effect of the demonic taint spreading through the Underdark.

After a few more rests, the expedition was navigating a long smooth tunnel of black rock when suddenly a dark ethereal shape flashed from the floor to the ceiling againd of them, passing through solid stone! Another shape darted amidst the expedition. Ront called for a halt. They were not alone.


The Demonic Menagerie of Amarith Coppervein
I allowed my players to build the map for this side-quest dungeon. I had some Dyson Logos maps printed up and ready to use but instead I just put my cavern wall pieces on the table and said, "Build something!" and let the players go nuts. The map below isn't accurate but its the best I could remember, plus some minor additions or changes.

Turnstile with a metal coin box. Wood sign says "AMARITH'S ZOO - ADMISSION 5 SILVER COINS"

A Demonic Roper is indistinguisable from other stalactites on the 40 foot ceiling. The Roper is hanging upside-down with the tip of it's "head" 30 feet off the ground. The binding circle on the ground has weakened due to the growing influence of the faezress within the cave.

The bars to this pen are broken open from within and the pen is empty. A sign on the wall reads, "ROPER". The Roper is currently hiding in area 2.

This bars are busted open from within. A nearby sign proclaims the occupant to be a "CLOAKER". No creature can be seen within. The cloaker is currently lurking near the ceiling in the passageway between areas 8, 9, and 10.

A railing separates the high path from the sheer 35 foot drop-off. A Demonic Grick Alpha is lurking below the ledge and will attack anyone walking past, pulling them over the rails. The sound of painful screaming can be heard emanating from area 8.

A nearby sign reads "UMBER HULK" but no creature can be seen inside the unbroken bars.

The bars of this grotto have been turned to powder and the two Rust Monsters are roaming the complex.

The sound of pained screaming originates from two Shriekers in the rear of this fungal grotto. A Demonic Awakened Zurkhwood infected with Zuggtmoy's spores is trapped within.

As soon as anyone investigates the grotto, the two Demonic Rust Monsters will emerge from their hiding places and attack. One will destroy the bars of the fungal grotto, freeing the zurkhwood. The zurkhwood will immediately attack.

The dark silohuette of a Demonic Chuul can be barely made out consuming the remains of a male human wizard in the rear of this grotto. Once spotted, the crazed chuul will attack.

A Demonic Cloaker is lurking near the ceiling. It will create two phantasms and create any creature that enters this area.

Amarith Coppervein and her assistant Pok-Pok, a Winged Kobold, are currently barricaded in her study. The study contains two desks, a chest filled with books on Underdark ecology, and a book of Amarith's notes containing her studies of the captured creatures that have been affected by the demonic incursion. Another book contains the holy writing of her partner, the dwarven cleric Jung Ironthews. The book contains incantations and rituals for the binding of demons.

This room contains three cots, several cages, a well, and crates of food and supplies.

Demonic Creatures
As per normal creatures with the following modifications:

Size and Type 
The creature gains the fiend type. Size is unchanged. 

Always chaotic evil.

Special Attacks 
A fiendish creature retains all the special attacks of the base creature and also gains the following special attack.
  • Smite Good Once per day the creature can make a normal melee attack to deal extra damage equal to its HD total (maximum of +20) against a good foe.
DM Note- Extra DAMAGE? I was rolling extra damage DICE! Oops!

Special Qualities
A fiendish creature retains all the special qualities of the base creature and also gains the following.
  • Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
  • Damage Immunities poison
  • Condition Immunities poisoned
  • Darkvision out to 60 feet.
  • Magic Resistance The creature has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

    Thursday, October 13, 2016

    "Return to Chador" - Star Wars: Riptide, Episode 5 Chapter 2

    The crew of the Riptide 
    has freed Doctor Ardap Topas,
    a kaminoan microbiologist 
    forced by the Empire
    to engineer the deadly plague
    that was used to oppress the natives of Auilai.

    After stopping at Bakki Station
    to make repairs and upgrade their ship
    the crew races back to Chador
    to recover Doctor Topas' assistant, 
    the mon calamari Kara Pacha,
    and retrieve the cure the doctor
    plans to use to undo
    the damage he has caused...

    The Crew of the Riptide
    Evo Shandor - nautolan transport captain
    Balin Lee - young human Jedi-in-training
    Emily Wonder - human mercenary
    Eggs Ledscramb - quarren bounty hunter
    Rhys March - twi'lek tech-spec

    A Plan is Formed
    After loading all the broken parts onto the Riptide, Evo and Balin meet with Doctor Topas to discuss what to do next.

    Doctor Topas explained that for several weeks, he and Kara had been working on creating an cure and inoculation to the branchiomycosis plague that he engineered. Together, they had generated sufficient quantity to act as a starter to generate enough to inoculate the entire native population of Nesia (his name for Auilai). He had to retrieve the starter and transport it to Nesia where he would grow more. The starter was stored within a liquid matrix in two dozen canisters, hidden in a secret compartment inside his residence in the Imperial Compound in the city of Markaze on Chador.

    After a few moments of programming, he called up a hologram of the Imperial Sector Tower, the largest structure within the Imperial Compound. The tower reached 2500 meters into the air. He indicated the location of his residence. The tower itself was under heavy surveillance and was guarded by dozens of turbolaser batteries and shields. A direct assault with a space ship was out of the question. However, civilian airspeeder traffic constantly buzzed around the tower. Individual vehicles were difficult to track. This gave Evo and Balin an idea.

    Doctor Topas hesitantly inquired of the fate of his assistant, Kara Pacha. They told him she was placed in a medium-quality hostel in Markaze, outsdie of both the Imperial compound and the Free District. Doctor Topas expressed concern about his assistant, pointing out that upon their return, it will have been over 90 hours since they left her, almost four days. He was very worried about her and asked that, upon their return to Chador, they place a priority on retrieving Doctor Pacha. She would need to accompany him to Nesia.

    Balin was dubious, noting that retrieving her represented a risk to the overall operation. He asked if she was necessary. Doctor Topas told him that she had been an invaluable aid in creating the starter supply, and would be of great utility in growing sufficient quantities of the cure. Evo agreed to retrieve her first thing.

    Into this Plan, A Wrench is Thrown
    The Riptide arrived in the Chador system and began broadcasting its newly acquired false transponder code. Evo and Rhys crossed their fingers as they flew past a swarm of Imperial ships. The code was accepted and they were given clearance to land at the spaceport in Markaze. It was just after dawn local time.

    Evo, Balin, Emily, Eggs, and Rhys rented an automated airspeeder and went directly to the hostel where they left Kara Pacha. She was not there. The droid at the desk said she had checked out two days ago and had left a message for them: She was forced to change location to stay hidden. The message included coordinates for her new location, a low-quality hostel in the Free District.

    The crew took another airspeeder into the seedy Free District and found the hostel, an establishment that charged by the hour located over a shop that sold disgusting novelties. The street was busy with pedestrians and landspeeders and airspeeders buzzed a few meters overhead. Droids walked about on business. Spacers and explorers stumbled from bar to brothel, a few alone and a few in small groups. It was mid-morning.

    They keyed in her room and she answered.

    Evo said, "We're here. Come down."

    Kara's voice replied, "Sure. But I need your help to carry something. Could you come up here?"

    Evo looked at Balin. Balin silently mouthed, "It's a trap!"

    Evo replied, "No. I'm afraid we can't. Whatever it is. Just leave it. We'll come back for it later."

    After a moment of silence, the mon calamari scientist eventually urgently called out, "Get out of here! It's a trap!"

    At that, six storm troopers emerged from hiding places in nearby alleys, two on the near side of the street, four on the far side. The crew was ordered to throw down their weapons and surrender.

    A firefight ensued. Balin took cover behind a nearby shipping crate and began concentrating, mentally coordinating the actions of his team-mates. Emily opened fire on the two on the near side of the street while Eggs opened up on the four across the street. Evo ran across the street and commandeered an open-top airspeeder that had recently landed, kicking the pilot out of the driver's seat. 

    Emily made short work of the two stormtroopers in the nearby alley. Eggs took out two of the four across the street but the remaining two took cover returned fire. Emily made her way across the street and jumped in the passenger seat of the airspeeder while Eggs climbed on the top of the hood.

    There were two stormtroopers remaining. One was crouching around the corner of the alley using some crates for cover. The other moved out into the street and used a random power droid as a moving shield.

    Balin ran across the street and climbed into the airspeeder. He reached out with his hand and suddenly the power droid began levitating! The box-shaped droid seemed very confused, its little legs flailing in the air wildly shouting "GONK! GONK! GONK!" Balin brought the droid towards the airspeeder, removing it as cover from the storm trooper and using it to shield himself and the other occupants.

    Evo revved up the airspeeder and took flight, rising above the street and causing a traffic jam as other aerial vehicles had to swerve to avoid them.

    Evo's plan was to fly over to the roof of the hostel in order to rescue Kara Pacha, when he saw at least six more stormtroopers emerging from the entrance to the building. Among them was a human male in a dark grey uniform. The human was wearing dark eye wear and carried a unsheathed sword. He was holding Kara Pacha by her arm.

    Evo turned the airspeeder around and was about to make a diving attack.

    The man in the dark grey uniform let go of Kara's arm and drew a blaster pistol with his left hand. He paused and looked up at Evo in the airspeeder as if to make sure Evo saw what was about to happen. The mysterious man shot Kara Pacha in the head at point-blank range.

    Kara Pacha fell down dead. The storm troopers began opening fire on the innocent bystanders in the street. It was a massacre. Balin clutched his head in pain as dozens died.

    Evo gritted his teeth, turned the airspeeder skyward, and fled. They had failed to rescue Kara Pacha, and there was nothing they could do.

    Balin shouted at Evo, "Why? Why would they kill all those people? There was no reason for it!"

    But Evo understood. It was a message. They had a chance to surrender, a chance to play their little game, and now they were being punished for not playing.

    To Be Continued...

    GM Note - I based the evil bad guy on the Genoharadan Assassin miniature. He was "the douchiest mini I own" and everyone agreed. And wow, what a great introduction for a new villain! 

    The image of the power droid floating through the air with its legs flailing made everyone laugh, especially Lucinda (Emily's player), who laughed until she could hardly breathe. I held my hands out and made little flappy motions, going "GONK! GONK!"

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    "Descent Into the Depths" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 28

    Brim Coppervein fed both of the riding lizards while his friend Griswalla Stonehammer, absently petting her own reptilian steed, stared upwards at the cavern ceiling.

    "Do you think the sun is rising?" Griswalla asked.

    Coppervein gave each of the beasts a scoop of dry grain, filling a bag worn over their snout. "What's this yer on about?" muttered the gruff dwarf.

    Griswalla sighed. "I miss the sun. We've travelled below ground for.. what.. weeks? MONTHS? It's impossible to know! We travel, we eat and rest, we sleep, we get up and travel again. These caves go on forever! The closest thing we've seen to a tree were those giant mushrooms back in Mantol-Derith. The only time we see the sun is when Ser Valerius draws his sword or Mister Ront holds aloft that globe he carries. I miss the sun. I miss the sky. I miss the sunsets and birds and trees."

    Coppervein glared at her, "I don't want ye referring to that... ERK... as 'mister' again. Don't ferget he's an erk! He may be our commandin' officer, and I'll follow 'is orders because mistress Malkin told us to, but ye'll never be seein' me payin' 'im any respect!"

    Griswalla shook her head, "MISTER Ront is not like other orcs. He's trying to better himself. He's learning the ways of nature. He's very interested in the Emerald Enclave and what we represent."

    Coppervein set about tightening the buckles and straps of the saddles. He spat on the ground. "'E's an erk!"

    "He's also our best chance at surviving down here. Despite his savage ancestry, he's very concerned about our welfare and he's been a fair commander. He's just inexperienced. He's learning. In fact, he's learning surprisingly quickly. I'm sure that if you'd only ASKED him, he'd have purchased a new riding lizard for you back at Mantol-Derith. You have to let him know!"

    "I'll never ask that green-skinned monster for anything!"

    Griswalla sighed again, "You're letting your pride get in the way of your duty. You are a mounted scout of the Emerald Enclave. Ser Valerius has finally realized the value of our advanced reconnaissance. We're being assigned to rove ahead this shift."

    Coppervein slapped the saddles with a sneer.

    "Brim, you're being wasted back here! You need a mount! I'm sorry that tentacle-monster ate yours. Just ask for new one. Miss Virtue purchased two pack lizards for the black cloaks. If you just told Mister Ront..."

    Coppervein shouldered his pack and began walking back towards the center of the train, "I'll be walkin' with the Anzar the Brazen of the Lords' Alliance. He's the only dwarf left of that group. I like 'im. 'E doesn't talk so much!"

    Griswalla called after him, "Don't get yourself killed, Coppervein!"

    The stubborn dwarf raised his pike over his head, "NOBODY KILLS A COPPERVEIN!"


    Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
    and are roaming free in the
    subterranean land known as the Underdark.

    Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
    into the depths of the Earth.

    They are on the way to Gravenhollow,
    the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
    where it is said all secrets are known.

    On the way, they decided to help 
    the Deep Gnome named Gabble Lickskillet
    deliver a box of gems to Blingdenstone
    only to discover that Gabble 
    was not all that she seemed...

    • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
    • Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
    • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
    • Willow - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
    • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
    • The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
    • Ront - (PC) orc barbarian of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
    • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.

    Under the command of Ser Valerius
    • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior

    Under the command of Ront
    • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
    • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
    • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout

    Under the command of Pain
    • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior
    • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
    • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
    • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)

    Under the command of Virtue
    • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
    • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
    • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
    • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug
    • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)

    • Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.
    During the fifth shift of travel out of Mantol-Derith, Gabble led the expedition into a large caven. The cavern was filled with a dense fog that restricted visibility to a few feet. Not even the glowing brilliance of Dawnbringer could pierce the milky white haze. Gabble instructed everyone to follow the wall to the left.

    The expedition carefully made their way around the chamber when the thunderous roar of a ceiling collapse echoed through the dark. There was a moment of concern as everyone reported in.

    Gabble began laughing, giggling at first then cackling maniacally. Her voice changed, becoming deeper and more menacing. The fog was sucked down a deep shaft in the center of the chamber as Gabble began to change her shape. No longer was she the diminutive deep gnome covered in jewels. She was now a tall voluptuous humanoid female with purple skin, horns, great leathery wings, and a long tail.

    The two box carriers likewise transformed into gruesome humanoids resembling sad-looking goblins with the bodies of orangutans. 

    The center of the room fell away into a deep pit. The ceiling was a tall shaft. Through the hole in the ceiling poured a black swarm of horse flies and two gigantic demonic insect-creatures like massive mosquitoes crossed with flies. Their infernal buzzing was deafening.

    "Ha ha ha! You fool! You fell right into my trap! Now, Virtue, for having me banished from Gracklstugh, I will have my revenge!"

    The room was filled with swarms of black flies, each as big as a beetle. The swarms immediately surrounded and began biting the expedition. Two massive fly-like demons with long mosquito proboscises hovered over the shaft. Their wings beat a maddening hum. Several members of the expedition, including Virtue and Willow and the two pack lizards, immediately fell unconscious to the ground. 

    Valerius rushed the two simian demons and slew them both in one motion.

    The winged she-demon took flight. She pointed at Ser Valerius, gave him a wink, and blew him a kiss. Ser Valerius changed demeanor from that of a man of action to a love-struck simpleton. She pointed at the expedition and shouted, "You! I want you to kill all of these other people." 
    Ser Valerius dumbly nodded and turned to attack the warriors of the Gauntlet under his command. The warriors fought valiantly, defending themselves against both Ser Valerius' attacks as well as the swarms of biting flies that beset them. 
    The she-demon faded from view, disappearing into ethereal nothingness to await the outcome of the battle.

    Pain ran past Virtue and Willow, slapping them as hard as he could and waking them from their torpor. Behind him, Feral Killmander and Anzar the Brazen opened fire at the large insect-demons with their crossbows.

    Virtue stood up and stared off into space, lost in her own world. Pain screamed at her to remove the curse placed upon her. Virtue shook her head and said, "What?"

    The insect demons moved in on Pain. Ront rushed up to aid his diminutive teammate. The insect demons ganged up on Ront, using their proboscises to drain the orc of his precious life fluids. Ront began to stagger under the demonic attack but his own blows were relentless. While Willow attacked the demons with magical spheres of acid, Ront and Pain finally defeated the two giant demons.

    Having defeated the giant insect demon, Ront ran widdershins around chasm towards Ser Valerius while Pain took the opposite direction. By the time they reached the paladin, Valerius had taken damage and freed himself of the she-demon's mind control.

    The she-demon became visible, hovering in the center of the room. She grimaced at the loss of Valerius then smiled at Pain, "Well, hello there. You look like a deadly fellow." Pain's eyes grew wide but he managed to look away in time.

    Virtue cast a spell upon herself and she and Santaka flew out over the pit and engaged the she-demon in mid-air hand-to-hand combat. Willow launched spheres of acid at the demon before turning her attention to the giant insect monsters.

    Ser Valerius stood tall and pointed Dawnbringer at the she-demon. He challenged her to a holy duel, an act that compelled the adversary to comply. The she-demon, wounded and facing a holy warrior, called out, "You have defeated me, Overworlders! But I will return and I will have my revenge!"

    She faded from view and did not return.

    Once the battle was over, the expedition took stock. There were some injuries but no fatalities. Virtue flew up the shaft hoping to find an exit to the surface. She disappeared for over an hour. When she returned she had no memory of where she had been or what she was doing. She had distracted herself, dreaming of flying through clear blue skies over a range of mountains.

    Pain finally convinced her to remove her own madness.

    Searching through the box carried by the simian demons, the group found a dress made of gold coins.

    The expedition rested and slept. The next shift, the dwarves began clearing away the rubble from the collapsed tunnel.

    After escaping the ambush the expedition realized it was effectively lost. It decided to follow the ring pointing them to Gravenhollow.

    The expedition reconfigured itself. Ser Valerius moved the mounted scouts out ahead. This new arrangement proved very useful as several dangerous situations were spotted early and avoided.

    Brim Coppervein, a scout that lost his mount during the initial descent into the Underdark, traveled next to Anzar the Brazen, the only surviving dwarf from the city guards of the Lords' Alliance.

    The expedition traveled through rough terrain, navigating tunnels and rifts and caverns and voids in the earth, resting wherever they stopped. They journeyed incessantly, stopping to rest over a dozen times.

    After one rest, Anzar woke to find Coppervein gone. His equipment and weapons lay on the ground. It was simply as if Brim Coppervein had disappeared in his sleep.

    DM Note- The loss of Brim Coppervein
    I rolled a "random NPC mysteriously disappears" result. I then rolled randomly to see which NPC, rolling a d8 to determine which general area, 1 for the front, 8 for the rear, 4-5 for the center. I rolled the area with the two dwarves.

    I had developed a soft spot for Brim Coppervein after he survived the Rocktopus ambush. One of the players shouted, "NOBODY KILLS A COPPERVEIN!"

    So I grabbed the mini for who I thought was Anzar.

    The players shouted, "Oh no! Not Coppervein!"

    I said, "Oops, wrong one."

    I was called out.

    "No way  man! You picked Coppervein. No favorites! He's gone."

    They were right. I picked him fair and square. I took him off the board. Coppervein was gone. And I was kind of bummed about it.

    Having traveled for fifteen rests, the expedition was rattled by an eerie howl. The howl became a maddening screech that tested the grit and sanity of everyone in the expedition.

    The scouts came back. They reported the approach of a large red frog-demon covered in spikes charging . The expedition moved out of their way and allowed them to move to the rear. Ront, Ser Valerius, Pain, and Virtue  stood ready at the front to receive the oncoming demonic charge.

    The huge screeching creature ran out of the darkness. It charged Valerius but was quickly and efficiently cut down by Dawnbringer.

    Later in their journey, the scouts reported coming across a small animal - a lone fire beetle. The fire beetle came up to them, wiggled its body, and turned as if trying to lead them somewhere. They brought the fire beetle to Ser Valerius and the other expedition leaders. They deduced that the fire beetle was a trained pet and that its owner was in trouble. It bore a collar with a tag that read "Amarith Coppervein". 

    Intrigued, they followed the plucky fire beetle. It led them to a passage with stairs cut into the stone.c There was a sign outside made of wood - ACTUAL WOOD. The sign read "Amarith Coppervein's Menagerie. Admission 5 Silver".

    They heard a cry for help from the passage and the sound of roaring creatures. They drew their weapons and charged.


    Here's a picture I took of our group at play. 

    Thursday, October 6, 2016

    "An Elderly Beholder is Assassinated" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 27

    Lorthuun the Beholder was getting too old for this shit.

    He was once feared. He was an Eye Tyrant, a villain, a mover and shaker. Men feared him. Monsters paid him homage and sent him tribute. His lair was a death-trap from which no one could escape.

    Now he served the Zhentarim as a negotiator. A NEGOTIATOR! He was a joke! He no longer commanded respect and dread. He now took orders from a superior, a HUMAN!

    How had this happened? He had grown old and feeble. Four of his eyestalks had become blind with cataracts. He couldn't even negate the magic cast in his presence. Then one day, the elderly beholder was forced to flee his home when it was attacked by a young dragon. He barely survived the encounter.  He fled, clinging to his life.

    An alchemist found him. The alchemist healed his wounds and helped him recuperate. Lorthuun the Fearsome was now Lorthuun the forgotten. No one trembled at his name. No one could even remember his name. The elderly beholder found work with a faction of Overworlders called the Zhentarim. He served as an adviser and helped them establish a foothold in the Underdark.

    Beholders don't have friends, they have servants and slaves. Lorthuun possessed neither servants nor slaves, but he did have a friend: the human named Ghazrim DuLoc. Although technically his superior, Ghazrim treated Lorthuun as an equal. Lorthuun appreciated that. The two got along well. They bantered like old friends and communicated with each other through an incessant stream of sarcastic insults.

    Today they would meet with the Drow. There was unrest in Mantol-Derith. The peace had been broken and the duergar were warring with the Svirfneblin. The peace would be reestablished, of that he had no doubt, but in the meantime the humans of the Zhentarim trade guild would form an alliance with the drow. The allies would then take advantage of the conflict, negotiating new trade deals with both belligerents. Then they would end the fighting and the drow and the humans were reap the profits.

    This would be easy. The negotiations should take no longer than a bit (an eighth of a tridon or about an hour). Then he could return to his tent and sleep.

    The delegation prepared to leave the warehouse. DuLoc straightened his coat and asked the beholder how he looked.

    "Terrible, as always," grumbled the old Beholder.

    Ghazrim smiled and turned to open the door.


    Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
    and are roaming free in the
    subterranean land known as the Underdark.

    Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
    into the depths of the Earth.

    They must find Gravenhollow,
    the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
    where it is said all secrets are known.

    They have travelled to Mantol-Derith
    to meet Ghazrim DuLoc
    who knows the way to Gravenhollow.

    Now they must rescue the merchant
    from assassination by the nefarious
    Dark Elves known as the Drow.


    • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
    • Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
    • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
    • Silax - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
    • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
    • The Shield Guardian (NPC) - a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
    • Ront, (PC) - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.
    • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.
    Under the command of Valerius
    • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
    • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior
    Under the command of Ront
    • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
    • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
    • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
    Under the command of Pain
    • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior
    • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
    • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior(deceased)
    • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
    • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy
    • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy
    Under the command of Virtue
    • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
    • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
    • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
    • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
    • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug
    • Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.
    There was a scream from the Zhentarim pavilion followed by a crash, a bright flash with thunder, and the sound of battle!

    Valerius called forth his celestial lion, mounted, and charged forth! Pain activated his magical boots and ran ahead. Virtue and the other members of the expedition struggled to keep pace. Ront kept his eye on the gargoyle perched on a high ledge. The gargoyle looked startled and watched the pavilion in nervous anxiety.

    Valerius and Pain burst into the pavilion. Valerius sword "Dawnbringer" blazed forth, filling the interior of the large tent with the light of day. The pavilion was long and rectangular with a smaller "room" on the far end, forming a reversed "L" shape. There was a large round table at the far end. A long table with wine and viands was placed in the adjoining "room".
    Lorthuun the Older Beholder
    In front of the table, Lorthuun the beholder lay bleeding on the ground, dying, like a half-deflated ball. Purplish-black ooze bubbled and frothed from the wound. Ghazrim DuLoc was surrounded by three of his black-clad bodyguards. They were beset by a drow elite warrior. Two other bodyguards moved towards a second elite warrior. Two more bodyguards lay dying on the floor. The drow negotiator had retreated to the table with the viands, her hand still glowing from arcane power. The air smelled of ozone from the recent discharge of a lightning bolt spell.

    Valerius moved to intercept the drow warriors and protect DuLoc. Pain sped across the room at blinding speed to engage the drow mage. The mage screamed, "Perfidious betrayers! You planned this trap all along!"

    They were soon joined by Virtue along with the other members of hte expedition. DuLoc was hastily escorted out of the pavilion his men and the black-cloaks of the expedition.

    Valerius made short work of one of the drow. Virtue fired an arcane bolt at the mage and Pain followed up with a sneak attack to a non-vital area. The drow mage fell, overwhelmed by the shock and pain. The second drow disengaged to protect her mistress, creating a zone of magical darkness to shield her from further attacks.

    Valerius checked on the Lorthuun but the beholder was dead. The svirfneblin with the leather satchel was busy cutting off one of Lorthuun's eyestalks. The deep gnome, whose name was Peebles, smiled nervously and paused.

    "Stop that!" Valerius admonished.

    Virtue noticed a large hole cut into the tent near the big round table. She looked outside.

    While the others fought inside the pavilion, Ront ordered the mounted scouts to ride around to the back of the tent to catch anyone who tried to escape.

    Suddenly, the gargoyle took flight, heading over the pavilion towards a land bridge that crossed a pond. Ront gave chase, following as best he could.

    The gargoyle was watching something on the ground, moving between the many tents of the Zhentarim quarter. It flew near the ceiling, about sixty feet off the ground, making small circles towards the pond.

    It was following someone.

    Virtue, having seen Ront following the gargoyle stepped through the tear in the tent wall and case a spell of flight upon herself. She called for her baby dragon Santaka to join her and the two leaped into the air.

    From her vantage in the sky, Virtue could see a furtive figure crossing the bridge. It was a drow fleeing the scene of the battle in the pavilion. The gargoyle was nervously following the drow. Ront was following the gargoyle but did not see the figure.

    Virtue called to Ront and tried to point out the escaping drow. Ront looked confused, cast his eyes towards the bridge, but saw nothing. He cautiously moved onto the bridge.

    Suddenly, the gargoyle was upon Virtue. The two fought in mid-air but the gargoyle was brought down by the sudden attack of the pony-sized dragon. The gargoyle and dragon fell into the lake with a loud splash and a hiss of steam.

    Ront was distracted by the spectacular gout of water when suddenly he was stabbed from behind by a poisonous blade! He shuddered but recovered quickly. Virtue swooped down and the two quickly disabled the drow assassin and tied her up.
    Kinyel Druu'Giir

    Pain attempted to parley with the drow warrior in order to find out what happened. He learned that the black cloaks attacked the drow delegation so the drow fought back. When asked about the missing drow, the warrior was surprised and admitted that she knew not the location of her companion Kinyel.

    Pain convinced her to remove the spell of darkness and allow Valerius to heal the mage-negotiator. They moved the mage onto the long table and Valerius called on the forces of nature to heal her wounds.

    When asked about a large gem, the warrior said she knew nothing about it.

    The drow assassin, whose name was Kinyel, was brought into the pavilion and laid on the floor.

    Kinyel was revived and questioned. Kinyel revealed that she tried to assassinate the beholder because she believed that her dishonor would be undone and she would be welcomed back into her house as a hero if she killed Lorthuun.

    Virtue searched through Kinyel's pockets for the stolen gem but found nothing.

    Valerius asked, "Did you find it?"

    Virtue said, "No."

    Pain interjected, "Yes you did. You put it into your pocket!"

    Virtue, surprised, replied, "No I..." She reached into her pocket and was surprised to find it there. "Huh."

    Virtue began to daydream. her mind was a million miles away.

    "...Virtue! I said put it on the ground!"

    "What? No!"

    Pain knocked it out of her hand. It fell to the floor. Pain tried to smash it with the hilt of his dagger. It did not break. Before Virtue could snatch it back up, he kicked it across the floor towards Valerius, "Yo! Use your magic sword to break it!"

    Before Valerius could catch it, the fist-sized gemstone magically bent its trajectory and flew into the hand of the drow mage, "No! It shall be mine!"

    Valerius summoned forth the fiery blade of Dawnbringer and whacked it out of her hand. It once again fell to the floor. Valerius impaled the gem with Dawnbringer's blade of pure sunlight.

    The gemstone shattered, causing the ground to tremor. A cloud of glowing gas emerged from the broken shards. The image of a hulking winged humanoid demon emerged from the swirling gas. It rose in the air and stretched its arms and wings. It hissed, "Freeeeeee...." and was gone.

    Someone said, "Well, that' can't be good."

    DM Notes - I added an additional level of complexity to the crystal's allure. 

    In the book, anyone who touches the crystal must make a Charisma save or gain an indefinite madness.

    I added an extra step. Anyone who SAW the crystal had to make a Wisdom save or try to steal the crystal for themselves. Virtue failed her Wisdom save and her Charisma save. So did the Drow Mage. Everyone else made theirs.

    DM Notes- Perfidy! Betrayal!

    Pain came to the conclusion that one of the humans saw the gem on Kinyel and tried to steal it, setting off the fight.

    That's an interesting theory. It fits and I'm not going to contradict it.

    The drow delegation returned to their enclave with Pain and Valerius' sincere apologies.

    Valerius and Pain turned to carry the dead back to the Zhentarim enclave. They caught Peebles the deep gnome cutting off more eye stalks, having already severed three. Peebles was chased out of the tent.

    The members of the expedition finally met with Ghazrim DuLoc. The Zhentarim negotiator lamented the loss of his beholder friend but grinned when me mentioned that he automatically inherited all of Lorthuun's shares in the profits.

    When told of the expedition's mission, Ghazrim removed his magical ring. He explained that very few mortals have ever been to Gravenhollow and that he was among them. He was given this token that, should he ever wish to return, would guide him to the secret place. He gladly gave the ring to Virtue and explained to her how it worked. He also said that Gravenhollow was over sixty tridons away.

    GM Note - The players groaned.
    Yes, more travel. Sixty days more travel!

    After a meal, Ghazrim explained the current situation in Mantol-Derith.

    The peace was broken. The duergar were fighting with the svirfneblin. He was attempting to establish an alliance and non-aggression pact with the drow when he was interrupted. He would try again on the following tridon.

    The members of the party urged Ghazrim not to abandon Mantol-Derith, despite the fracturing of the peace. He assured them that he would not. He felt that the situation was temporary. He would figure out some way to get the two sides to stop fighting. Until then, he and the drow were simply taking advantage of the unrest to renegotiate better trade terms and increase their short-term profits.

    When asked about their short-term plans, Valerius answered that they would need re-supply for their journey. They needed food, water, pack lizards, and crossbow bolts.

    Ghazrim offered them food and pack lizards from his supply. He also sold them a magical item from his personal collection - a fabulous decanter that always produced water in unlimited supplies.

    Alas, however, he had no weapons to trade. The party needed to get those from the duergar, and they weren't trading at the moment because of the feud.

    After dinner, the expedition was finally able to rest for a shift. They slept in comfort by temporarily displacing a Zhentarim merchant from his personal tent.

    The following shift, they were approached by Peebles. Peebles asked if he could join the expedition.

    "I have to, uh, leave Mantol-Derith."

    "Why?" asked Pain.

    "Oh, no reason. I just have to go somewhere and I'd like an escort, that's all."


    "Uh, that's a secret."

    "No." said Ront bluntly.

    Peebles looked desperate, "Well, maybe I can just follow along with you? You know, for a while?"

    "No." repeated Ront.

    "I can pay you with a magic sword!"

    Pain asked around, "Does anyone need a magic sword?"

    Virtue and Valerius shook their heads. Ront asked, "What about you?"

    Pain said, "I'm a halfling and a thief. I'm no good with a long sword. Sorry. No swords."

    Peebles looked off in the distance, trying to think of something else to say. He eventually tried again, "Please?"
    Pain Grille'

    Ront and Pain answered in unison, "No!"

    Peebles walked away dejectedly.

    The team needed more crossbow bolts but none of the merchants in Mantol-Derith were open for business. They decided they needed to patch things up.

    Leaving the rest of the force behind, Virtue, Valerius, Ront, and Pain walked up to the gates of the Duergar enclave. The wrought iron fence around the mushroom orchard had been replaced with reinforced iron walls.

    Pain called out. No one answered. Eventually, after much shouting and commotion, a duergar responded from behind the wall. Pain asked to speak with Ghuldur. The unseen duergar said he was busy. Valerius said that if the duergar didn't get Ghuldur, they'd leave and return with their entire expedition and take the Duergar enclave by force of arms. The duergar paused then said he'd go get Ghuldur.

    Ghuldur returned and negotiated with Pain over the wall. Pain asked what it would take to end the feud and reopen trade.

    "Valuable property has been taken from my close friend Krimgol Muzgardt by the deep gnomes! On top of that, YOU murdered Krimgol and killed several of my men! I demand the return of my property and 5000 gold pieces in reparations from the Deep Gnomes! Furthermore, I demand you hand over the wyrmling to me in reparation for the murder of Krimgol and my men!"

    Virtue crossed and arms and stood in front of the dragon Santaka, "No."

    Pain produced the shards of the cursed gemstone. He explained that the gemstone was cursed and that anyone who saw or touched it became insane or possessed. The gemstone was broken now and its curse was lifted. He went on to explain that 5000 gold pieces was too much and haggled with Ghuldur for a lesser price.

    Ghuldur revealed that he had heard about the breaking of the gemstone and its cursed nature. He thanked them for their efforts in that regard.

    After a moment's thought, Ghuldur agreed to end the feud with the deep gnomes and the heroes on two conditions. First, they would all be forced to lay down their weapons and publically apologize to all of the duergar for the mruder of Krimgol and the others. Secondly, the deep gnomes would have to surrender to him gemstones worth 500 gold pieces.

    Pain checked with Virtue and Valerius and they agreed. He looked at Ront. Ront's eyes grew wide and his lips curled back in a snarl, then agreed. They complied.

    Ghuldur demanded he repeat the apology louder. They repeated the apology louder.

    Ghuldur was satisfied.

    The heroes then went to the svirfneblin enclave. It was likewise barricaded and Pain alone was let inside. Pain met with Gabble Dripskillet in her burrow. Gabble was lounging on comfortable pillows, drinking fine wine, and munching on small sauteed mushrooms and tiny fried insects. She was If he noticed a change in demeanor, he did not betray it.
    Gabble Dripskillet

    Pain told Gabble that the duergar would call off the feud if she paid them gemstones worth 1000 gold pieces. She agreed and ordered an attendant to retrieve the payment. However, she gave him a condition. She and two servants needed escort to transport an important item to Blingdenstone. Pain tried to explain that they had other plans but she said it was only six tridons away and wouldn't be much of a distraction. Pain sighed and agreed.

    Pain took the sack of ten quartz gemstones outside the enclave. He was immediately met by several duergar who suddenly appeared from their invisibility. Pan held up the sack with pride. The duergar thanked him and took the entire sack of ten gemstones. Pain's eyes grew wide for a second and his smile froze as he tried to hide his disappointment. The duergar thanked him and returned with Pain to the enclave of the gray dwarves where he showed the unexpected boon to everyone.

    The heroes were able to purchase weapons and armor but were unable to buy crossbow bolts. Ghuldur mentioned that the drow sold crossbow bolts. Valerius asked if anyone had maps of the Underdark. Ghuldur suggested the drow named Zilchyn Q'leptin. He sells maps.

    Valerius groaned.

    Valerius, Virtue, Pain, and Ront crossed Mantol-Derith to the drow quarter. There, sitting on a bench in the fungal garden, they found Zilchyn Q'leptin. Zilchyn saw them approaching and got up to leave. When last they spoke, Valerius had offended the drow's honor by accusing him of theft. That the drow was guilty of the crime was irrelevant.

    They called out to Zilchyn and he stopped. He eyed their approach suspiciously. They explained that they wished to purchase maps of the Underdark. Zilchyn's demeanor changed. His anxiety had been replaced with the zeal of a salesman. He showed them his maps and explained that, using his maps, one could find the way to Menzoberranzan, Blingdenstone, or Gracklstugh.

    They asked if he had any general maps of the Underdark. They simply wished to know where things were in relation to each other. The drow thought about it and replied that he had such a map, but not on him.

    He explained that the map they wanted was hidden away in a niche a few tridons out from Mantol-Derith. He would need to travel there to retrieve the map. It was dangerous to journey anywhere in the Underdark so he was reluctant to travel there alone. If they helped him him retrieve the map, as well as a few other possessions he had hidden there, he'd happily give them the map for free.

    They thought about it but declined the offer. Afterwards, they located a drow merchant and purchased some crossbow bolts.

    DM Note- After not purchasing a map, one of the other players asked Valerius' player: "You want a map of the Underdark? Here!"

    After a long rest, the expedition gathered to begin the journey to Gravenhollow by way of Blingdenstone. They were joined by Gabble and two bearers carrying a box suspended by two poles. Several pack lizards were laden down with supplies and equipment. They set off on their journey.

    Like all journeys through the subterranean realm of the Underdark, there was no day and no night. The expedition traveled until they were tired then stopped until they were rested. The first few cycles passed uneventfully. Gabble led the way as they traveled to Blingdenstone.

    During the fourth such cycle,  two of the members of the delegation from the Lords' Alliance suddenly fell through the bottom of the passage and disappeared! There was no ambush, no cave-in. They simply fell through solid stone! Zilna Oakshadow and Hilvius Haever simply disappeared into the earth! Several hours were spent in an attempt to locate and rescue them to no avail. Their disappearance was a mystery and caused great anxiety among the other members of the expedition.

    DM Note- The Legend Grows

    I rolled a d8 to determine roughly which NPCs it would effect. They're all arranged in a line two or three abreast. The d8 tells me front, back, or where in the middle. I rolled a 5. I picked two minis from that area and said, "They're gone." They were spies from the Lords' Alliance.

    Pain's player said, "Holy shit, really?!"


    "That just leaves Feral Killmander. Feral Killmander survives again!"

    The expedition continued on and eventually stopped and laid down in the passage to rest. When they woke, Lhytris Ilgarn of the Zhentarim black cloaks had likewise disappeared. His pack and equipment still on the ground where he had laid.

    During the fifth cycle of travel, Gabble led the expedition into a large caven. The cavern was filled with a dense fog that restricted visibility to a few feet. Not even the glowing brilliance of Dawnbringer could pierce the milky white haze. Gabble instructed everyone to follow the wall to the left.

    The expedition carefully made their way around the chamber when the thunderous roar of a ceiling collapse echoed through the dark. There was a moment of concern as everyone reported in.

    Gabble began laughing, giggling at first then cackling maniacally. Her voice changed, becoming deeper and more menacing. The fog began to dissipate as Gabble began to change her shape. No longer was she the diminutive deep gnome covered in jewels. She was now a tall voluptuous humanoid female with purple skin, horns, great leathery wings, and a long tail.

    The center of the room fell away into a deep pit. The ceiling was a tall shaft. Through the hole in the ceiling poured a swarm of demonic flying insects. Their infernal buzzing was deafening.

    "Ha ha ha! You fool! You fell right into my trap! Now, Virtue, for having me banished from Gracklstugh, I will have my revenge!"


    • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
    • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
    • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)