Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"The Worm Nursery" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 35

Tamryn Tharke was developing a huge crush on Feral Killmander.

Tamryn was a warrior and a member of the Order of the Gauntlet. She was tall and possessed a thick powerful build with strong muscles. Her husky voice rasped like a  bag of gravel. Her body was a patchwork of burn scars and battle wounds. She was proud and confident and deadly.

But when she was around Feral all she could think about was his thin wiry frame, his beady eyes, his hare lip, and his stubbly head. Feral aroused feelings in the she-warrior that she had long suppressed. When she looked at Feral, her mouth watered, her palms became sweaty, and her loins, how they ached.

At first she dismissed her feelings for the spy. He was an agent of the Lord's Alliance. He did the bidding of tyrants and autocrats - the very concepts to which the Order of the Gauntlet stood in opposition. She ignored him for months. As the weeks bore on and the expedition delved deeper and deeper into the Earth, the expedition lost more and more of its members. Where once there were dozens now there were only five. It was becoming evident that she might not survive this campaign. She decided she would not die without knowing the love of the disfigured assassin.

She finally worked up the courage and, for the first time in over 120 days of traveling together, spoke directly to the object of her affection.

"Feral. Feral. Hey Feral. Feral." rasped Tamryn.

Feral glanced her way, his eyes narrowing, his cleft lip a sneer, "What?" His thin paranoid voice extruded the word, stretching it out like suspicious taffy.

"Feral. Feral. We should totally, you know, breed. Together. Hey Feral!"

His eyes narrowed to slits. His lips became a taut grimace, "Pass."

Rejection.

But Tamryn was not one to capitulate easily. She was persistent and she knew one thing: she would get her man.

OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 35
"THE WORM NURSERY"

Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients 
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

The heroes have arrived
at the location where they
were told they'd find
the Egg of a Purple Worm
only to find an empty corridor...



THE LEADERS OF THE EXPEDITION
  • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 10) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
  • Virtue - (PC, human paladin 7/warlock 3) A mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
  • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
  • Willow - (PC, human wizard 8) "the solution is always fireball!" 
  • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
  • Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 10) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 10) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.
THE SURVIVING MEMBERS OF THE EXPEDITION
  • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
  • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
  • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
  • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
  • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy of the Lord's Alliance
  • Pok-Pok - (NPC) winged kobold.
  • Sparky - (NPC) trained fire-beetle. 
  • The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
COLLAPSE
The tablet of Garmin indicated that they had arrived at the Worm Nursery. Pain looked at the glass tablet then looked around. The expedition was standing in the middle of a long smooth tunnel. There were no side passages. No entrances. Nothing to indicate the presence of the Worm Nursery.

Suddenly, a massive tremor caused the tunnel floor to give way beneath their feet! Several members of the expedition fell twenty-feet feet into the sinkhole below. The others were able to avoid the fall. After regaining their bearings, Pain noticed a passage out of the sinkhole. They secured ropes and lowered the remaining members of the expedition. Once reassembled, they set off down the new passage.

The passage branched after about thirty or forty feet. The left branch entered a grotto filled with fungi, mushrooms, and lichen. It appeared to be well maintained like a garden. The right branch rose sharply. Bones lay scattered at the bottom of the rise.

Phwee-toop was sent ahead with Pok-Pok to scout the next room. Willow, observing through her owl's eyes, reported that the room was filled with assorted bones of humanoid creatures. Pok-Pok explored a small fissure on the far end of the room. The owl joined the flying kobold and saw a deep well. Wind was slowly and regularly pulled into and blown out of the well as if it were breathing.

The expedition entered the room of bones and began to search. The bones were knee deep. Nothing could be found. Willow even tried to sense the presence of magic but found none.

Again they found themselves in a dead end. Pain scratched his head and wondered why the Tablet of Garmin would lead them here.

After ten minutes of searching, the bones in the room began to reverberate and rattle with the approach of a gargantuan purple worm. Ser Valerius quickly led everyone back to the fungus room.

There was another falling of rocks as the ten-foot-wide worm entered through the recently collapsed ceiling. The worm then followed the passage past the fungus room and into the bone room. The giant worm then dug a new passage in the wall of the bone room and disappeared.

The expedition slowly emerged from the fungus room and followed the worm's passage. The worm left a tunnel that sloped downward forty feet and opened into a large chamber.

THE CRECHE
Pain and Ser Valerius crept down the slope of the newly dug tunnel and peered into the chamber beyond. The chamber was a large round room nearly two hundred feet wide. The sixty-foot ceiling was covered in stalactites. There were exit tunnels to the right, left, and directly opposite. Seven clusters of large round spheres were suspended from a large network of hard resin strands the size of tree trunks. Each egg was a three foot diameter sphere likewise covered in the hard resin.

DM Note- I built the creche using styrofoam balls cut in half and suspended on dowels with other dowels showing connections. My original plan was to glue everything together using a glue gun and make it look all creepy and biological but I ran out of time.

The worm slowly circled the room. Pain and Ser Valerius retreated to the bone room to wait in the hopes that the worm would soon leave. Willow sent Phwee-toop to fly around and monitor the worm's movements.

Fifteen minutes later, the ground began to tremble heralding the approach of another worm. This new worm entered from a different direction, creating a new exit from the creche. The team cursed their luck but continued to wait.

After ten more minutes past, another worm joined the first two. It seemed the worms weren't leaving. The team continued to wait, committing to waiting at least an hour.

Five minutes passed and a fourth worm entered the chamber. DM Note- I rolled for random encounters every five minutes. I rolled a 19, indicating another worm's entry.

They waited for the remaining thirty minutes with no sign of additional worms and no sign of any of the worms leaving. DM Note- I figured if I rolled a 1-2 on the random encounter roll, one of the worms would leave.

Their hesitation now meant they had to deal with FOUR purple worms!

THE PLAN
Pain and Willow formulated a plan.


Willow directed Ser Valerius to join her on her magical flying broom. The pair then flew into the room and hovered within sixty feet of one of hte worms. Willow using her free hand, cast a polymorph spell on the worm, turning the gargantuan beast into a sheep. She then dropped near the sheep. Ser Valerius jumped off the broom, grabbed the confused sheep with one hand, and re-mounted the broom.

DM Note- I asked Willow's player what she turned the worm into. She said, "anything fluffy and safe." So I grabbed a handful of plastic barnyard animal toys I use for minis, held them in my closed fist, and had her pick at random. Sheep it was!

While Ser Valerius held onto the sheep with one hand and the broom with the other, Willow steered the flying broom out of the creche and back into the bone room. Ser Valerius hopped off the broom and dragged the wriggling sheep through the narrow cleft towards the windy shaft. He then dropped the bleating sheep down the shaft.

The sheep could be heard bleating for several seconds as it fell. There was a the sound of a sickening wet explosion as the sheep reverted back to the form of a purple worm on impact.

DM Note -  The plan required the worm to fail its Wisdom save (purple worms have +4 Wisdom saving throws), then Valerius had to make a successful grapple against the sheep. The first worm rolled a 2 for its Wisdom save. Valerius made his grapple easily. When a polymorphed creature is reduced to 0 HP, it reverts back to its original form and takes any carryover damage. At 1d6 per 10 feet, that's 100d6 or 350 points of damage. A sheep has maybe 4 hp. A purple worm has 250+. The purple worm exploded!

Willow and Ser Valerius reset and executed the maneuver again, with equally lethal results for the worm.

DM note - second save = 5

They flawlessly performed the maneuver a third time.

DM note - third save = 1

On the fourth attempt, the worm began to change shape but the worm fought back, willing itself to resist the spell!

DM note - fourth save = natural 20. 

Willow had used the last of her polymorph spells. The worm immediately attacked Ser Valerius, swallowing him whole! The worm's tail then whipped around and impaled Pok-Pok in mid-air! Pok-Pok screamed and fell to the ground dead.

Battle was soon joined as Ront, Pain, and Ser Valerius' celestial lion mount rushed into the room and attacked the worm.

Pain quickly joined Ser Valerius within the worm's digestive tract!

Ront and the celestial lion continued attacking at melee while Willow hurled fireballs and fiery chromatic orbs at the worm. The worm was eventually killed.

While Ront worked at cutting his companions out of the worm, he was struck by a poison crossbow bolt from a hidden location and fell unconscious.

THE DARK HUNTERS
Curtains of magicall darkness fell around the Ront and the body of the purple worm, hiding both Ront and the remains from view. Additional crossbow bolts at Ser Valerius' celestial lion as drow hunters swarmed in and surrounded the beast.

One of the drow hunters cautiously probed the writhing body of the purple worm. Ser Valerius exploded out of the body of the worm and eviscerated the drow hunter with righteous carnage!

Willow flew around to a gap in the walls of darkness, "Stop fighting! We have one of your own! Her name is Hanne Hallen!"

The imperious voice of a female drow cut through the din of battle, "STOP FIGHTING! What is this you say about my daughter?"

Willow and Ser Valerius explained the circumstances of their encounter with the young drow Hanne and her subsequent accompaniament. Hanne was brought forward and reunited with her mother. The drow commander thanked them and informed them that House Myzzen was forever in their debt.

The curtains of darkness were dispelled and the drow hunters set about their work harvesting the eggs of the purple worm from the resin matrix. The drow cut the eggs free from the resin using sinuous knives before lowering them to the ground in fine mesh  nets suspended by spider silk ropes. The team observed and took notes before they split up and cut down six eggs of their own.Their tools and techniques were much less refined than the drow experts but they managed to safely lower six eggs using Willow and her magical flying broom.

As the expedition prepared to exit the creche, the drow commander informed them of an easier exit and warned them to take the right tunnel. The guardian of the creche rested in poisoned slumber in his chamber down the left tunnel.

As they left they came to the chamber with the left and right branches. The chamber produced extraordinary echoes thanks to finely tuned resin strands. The members of the expedition did their best to make as little sound as possible so as to not wake up the sleeping guardian.

Tamryn, however, took the opportunity to whisper her crude affections towards Feral. Feral rolled his eyes and tried to ignore her. Willow was forced to hush Tamryn into silence. Tamryn was cowed by the wizard's withering glare.

The expedition made their way back to the main tunnel and loaded their six eggs onto their pack lizards. They checked the tablet of Garmin for their next destination: The Vast Oblivium, only twelve miles away.

TO BE CONTINUED...

DM Note- We ended somewhat early at 10:30pm. When I told the players that a fomorian was sleeping in the other room, they expresed their disappointment for not being able to fight it. That being said, they also worried for the outcome. Their only memory of fighting a fomorian was a very difficult encounter in Fourth Edition. Fomorians were TOUGH in 4E.