Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Rage of Demons" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 46


THE STORY OF BENJI THE BANANA SLUG
Valerius clutched the bars of the prison cell and cried out in fear, "Alas! What shall we do! We are trapped with no hope of escape!"

Pain wept openly into his trembling hands, "I am useless without my trusty lock picks! We are doomed!"

Willow the Not-Witch put her hands on her hips and stood firm, "Worry not, fellows! I'll summon my trusty familiar. HE will save us!"

Ront began to sob.

Pain gasped, "But how? Phwee-Toop is too large to fit through those bars! All hope is lost!"

"Not Phwee-Toop," declared the confident wizardess, "I shall summon my OTHER familiar! BEHOLD!"

With a sweep of her hand a shower of sparkling glitter fell to the floor. Magically, out of thin air, formed a large slug.


"Benji, The Banana Slug!"

Ront tore himself from weeping and stared at the invertebrate with renewed hope.

"Benji," said Willow, addressing the slug, "Go over to that wall and fetch those keys! Only YOU can help us now!"

Benji began to crawl. Slowly. Deliberately.

"Go, Benji, Go!" shouted Pain.

"He can do it! He can really do it!" exclaimed Valerius.

"Ront eat slug!" said Ront as he licked his tusks.

"No, Ront! He's saving us!" admonished Willow.

Benji continued to crawl. He had covered an inch at best.

"Yay! Benji!" cried Pain.

The door opened and in walked a drow guard. He walked across the room and picked up a sword belt draped over a chair.

"Look out, Benji!" warned Valerius.

"Oh no!" cried Pain.

The drow looked at the slug, shrugged, and left the room.

Benji slowly turned his head in the direction of the door, finally ackowledging that someone had entered the room.

"No Benji! Stay on task! Don't get distracted!" cautioned Willow.

Benji moved a quarter of an inch towards the door.

"Benji! The key! We need the key!"

Benji slowly turned back towards the key across the room.

Another drow entered the room holding a roasted fire beetle leg. He walked over to a table and picked up a container of salt. He accidentally dropped the container, spilling some salt onto the floor. He picked up the container, put some salt onto the beelt leg, took a big bite, and left the room.

"Benji! Be careful!" advised Pain.

"He'll never make it! We're doomed!" cried Valerius.

Benji slowly turned away from the salt scattered across the floor a dozen feet away.

"He's doing it," said Willow, "He's really going to make it!"

Benji passed through the bars of the cell.

"Eventually," added Pain.

DM Note- My players made up an entire scene around Benji that pretty much played out like I quoted above, without the drow. 

OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 46
"THE RAGE OF DEMONS"

The Demon Lords have escaped 
their prison in the Infinite Abyss
and have rampaged across the
subterranean realm known as the Underdark.
The surface realm is not safe
as their demonic armies break free
and ravage the countryside.

Five heroes forged an alliance
with the evil wizard Vizerian
and hatched a plan that will
hopefully defeat the demons
and save both worlds...
THE EXPEDITION
Ser Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

ESCAPE
The expedition escaped Menzoberranzan with the grimoire of Gromph Baenre.

They travelled several leagues through Vizerian's secret tunnel and stopped to rest at one of his several niches built for that purpose.

Valerius looked into the large diamond that contained the tiny form of Pain Grille', trapped within its faceted interior, "Yeah. That town can go to hell! I say we go with the original plan and summon the demon lords in Menzoberranzan. The drow are decadent and evil. Their very existence defies the natural order. They deserve to be punished."

"Right," agreed Ront.

Grinn Oustyll became agitated, "No! You can't! We had a deal! You said you'd find another place!"

"We'll talk about it later," warned Valerius.

After a logn rest, Grinn Oustyll said, "We must hurry. It is five more days travel to Araj. The drow may have found the secret tunnel and followed us."

"Not to worry," said Willow, "I can get us there much faster!"

She cast a spell of teleportation that instantly returned them to Vizerian's hidden home - Araj, the Tower of Vengeance.

"That new?" asked Pain.

"Yep! I've been practicing!" explained Willow.

FINAL PREPARATIONS


They walked in on Vizerian wearing a bath robe and sipping a cup of kaeth with a halfling companion, "Oh, you have returned early! Kleeve, resume your form."


The halfling transformed back into a hulking grey slaad.

"Grey slaad can change shape. Did you know that? So useful! Would you like some kaeth? I have it imported from Calimsham. If you'd like to purchase some, I know a guy."

They declined.

"Very well, did you bring the book?"

They produced the book.

Vizerian was pleased. He gently took the leather-bound tome and began flipping through the pages.

"Then we can begin immediately," he breathed, distractedly.

"Wait!" said Willow, We have a request first. One of our number became trapped within a diamond. We were told you could free him."

Valerius produced the diamond containing the miniature Pain.

"Yes, a spell of imprisonment. It appears to be the work of my former pupil, Gromph. Yes. Bring him here."

Vizerian dispelled the magic of the diamond and freed Pain.

"Right, with no further interruptions, I will recap the plan so that there is no misunderstanding."

DM Note- There seemed to be a lot of confusion among the players regarding details of the plan. Some players assumed details that were incorrect, others simply forgot.

"While you were gone, I completed the manufacture of the Dark Heart. Kleeve?" The grey brute left and returned with a large purple gemstone in the shape of a heart. It was larger than a dwarf.

"You will take the dark heart to Menzoberranzan, where this all started. You will also take these bags of salt. You will sprinkle the salt around the perimeter of the city. The salt will create a gargantuan magic circle."

There were several questions and concerns about the salt.

"The salt does not have to form a contiguous line as long as it forms a rough circle! Anyway, take the dark heart to the center of the city. Use this sending amulet to alert me when the dark heart is in place. I will begin the ritual.

"The ritual lasts nine hours, so you can't let anyone disturb the dark heart! Your job will be to defend it, so you'll have to be inside the circle.

"Once the ritual is complete, several rifts shall open within the circle. The demon lords and their retinue on the Prime Material Plane will emerge through the rifts. The Dark Heart will magically compel them to fight each other in order to be the one that possesses the Dark Heart. You'll have to do your best to stay alive during this time because its YOUR job to fight and destroy the demon that wins! Any other questions so far?"

There were no other questions.

"Excellent. You will use the sending stone to tell me when it is done. I will teleport to the amulet so that I can survey the destruction! Is everything clear?"

There were nods of assent.

"Good. And to ensure proper adherence to the letter of the plan, I have taken the liberty of placing your travelling companions under my protective custody. They are safe, for now, and will remain so as long as Menzoberranzan is destroyed per our arrangements."

Vizerian stared at each of the members of the expedition, daring them to defy him.

Grinn began to tremble. He couldn't take it. He was about to break.

Pain interrupted the apprentice, "Valerius! There's like forty bags of salt there! Where did you get all this salt?"

Vizerian cocked an eyebrow, "I have plans that will require a lot of magic circles, so I bought in bulk. I know a guy." The drow wizard rubbed his chin, "In retrospect, I purchased WAY too much. I'm not going to summont THAT many... Why do you ask?"

"We can't carry it all. We're going to need our pack lizards."

"Very well, Grinn, go fetch their pack lizards from the stables."

"Wait up, we'll help you!" said Pain, wriggling his eyebrows at his friends, "ALL- of- us!"

Ront finally perked up, "Uh? Right!" Everyone joined Pain and Grinn in the stables.

SECOND THOUGHTS
On their way to the stables, Ront said to Valerius, "I can kill dat guy, right?"

Valerius, angered by the abduction of his charges, replied, "Oh, he's going to die alright. But not yet. We need him to perform the ritual," he cast a suspicious glance towards Willow, "I guess."

Once they were alone, Grinn blurted, "You can't do it! Please don't destroy Menzoberranzan! I will stop you!"

Valerius grimly replied, "Try it."

Cordon pointed out, "There are too many innocent slaves there. If only there was some way to get them out."

Willow agreed, "No. I have a problem with summoning the demon lords in Menzoberranzan. Despite their reputation, even drow should be considered innocent until proven evil. Individual drow should be judged for their evil acts. We shouldn't punish an entire city en masse."

Valerius considered this, "Where else should we do it, then? Gracklstugh?"

Ront nodded, "Yeah! Screw that town!"

Willow suggested the large quarry where they found the Adamantine Tower.



Pain, who had been patiently listening, finally spoke, "I know the perfect place. Hag island."

Ront pursed his lips in recognition.

"Where's that?" asked Valerius.

"It's a place we found while we were escaping Velkenvelve. It's uninhabited and in the middle of the Darklake. In fact, most people are afraid of it because of the hags that used to live there."

"Used to?" inquired Willow.

Pain grinned, "Yeah. We took care of that. Anyway, I have a magic arrow that can show us how to get there. We'll just need to get a boat in Jewelshine-on-Darklake."

Ront began laughing, "You should seen him! We told him he poisoned! Jimjar and Ront faked it! He believed! Him thought he was going die! SO FUNNY!"

Pain grimaced, "Yeah, hilarious."

Valerius then asked, "But what about the Warriors of the Gauntlet? They're being held hostage."

Pain turned to Grinn, "Okay, Grinn, we're not going to Menzoberranzan, but we're going to need your help."


PASSAGE TO HAG ISLAND
Once prepared and assembled, Willow transported the expedition to Jewelshine-on-Darklake via a teleportation spell. From there they hired a duergar lake boat owned by their old contact Bareback Assbreaker to transport them to Hag Island.

DM Note- Willow could not teleport them there because she had never been there and it had been more than six months since Ront and Pain had left the location. She did not feel comfortable teleporting them to an unknown location.

Ront, for some reason, negotiated the fare.

"How much?"

Captain Assbreaker considered the request, "Oh, seven gold pieces each should be sufficient I think."

Ront paid the dwarf and turned to Valerius, "Can I at least kill HIM?"

Captain Assbreaker, taken aback by the comment, interjected"Ahem! Now it's seven HUNDRED gold pieces each!"

Valerius rubbed his forehead, "No, I'm sorry. My friend here was joking. We'll pay fourteen gold pieces each for your trouble."

They loaded the lake-boat and proceeded to the destination with Pain's magic arrow pointing the way.

As they neared the island, Captain Assbreaker voiced further concern, "We are entering dangerous waters. Hags haunt this part of the lake. My crew is worried."

Ront asked there had been any hag-related incidents lately. Captain Assbreaker admitted there had been none in many tridons but also said it wasn't unusual for the hags to become dormant for long periods. Ront assured the captain that they had dealt with the hags and that was safe.

A small island became dimly visible at the edge of the light cast from Valerius' sword Dawnbringer. The only structure was an ancient temple complex covered in moss and slime. The steps leading into the temple entrance descended into the black water.


Despite Ront's assurances of safety, the boat dropped the expedition off at the temple steps and left. Captain Assbreaker pledged to return in two tridons to pick them up.


THE SUMMONING
The party disembarked and transported the Dark Heart to the bottom of deep well inside the central building of the temple complex. The well sat directly below an open oculus in the ceiling. Ront and Valerius then spread the salt all around the perimeter of the island.

In addition, Valerius used some remaining salt to create a small magic circle on a spit of land that would protect the party from the coming demons.

Willow used the sending amulet to notify Vizerian that preparations were complete. A hundred miles away, Vizerian began the nine hour ritual.

Time passed slowly.

Hours later, five glowing vortices began to appear over the island. The vortices grew until each was a hundred feet across. Demons of all shapes and sizes poured through the disk-shaped portals. Some demons flew. Some demons leaped to the ground. Some demons resembled giant insects. Some demons looked like humans. The demons instinctively began to attack each other. The island was soon awash in hundreds of demons in a grand melee.

Then the demon-lords stepped through.

Baphomet, the Demon-Prince of Minotaurs, emerged through a gate preceded by the nalfeshnee demon known as Slaughtertusk. The nalfeshnee was leashed to a long spiked chain. Baphomet's forces consisted of dozens of Barlgua and other bestial demons.


Yeenoghu, the Demon-Prince of Gnolls, emerged accompanied by demonic gnolls.


Grazz't, the Dark Prince, appeared with a force of flying humanoid succubi and incubi.


Orcus, the Demon-Prince of the Undead, emerged with an army of demonic undead.


Demogorgon, the two-headed Prince of Demons, crawled through with an army of multicephalic demon warriors and writhing tentacled beasts of chaos.


The demon-lords looked around in momentary confusion. Their bewilderment was short-lived as each immediately focused on the central temple and the prize within - the Dark Heart!


DM Note- I played out the ensuing battle between the demon-lords. I gave each player a demon-lord to control. They rolled off and they picked demon-lords in a draft from highest result to lowest. To give them an incentive to fight, I told them that the winner of the demon battle got to level up their PC before the final face-off. I gave them about fifteen minutes to familiarize themselves with their demon-lord. Then I rolled initiative.



THE RAGE OF DEMONS
Baphomet immediately charged his hated enemy Yeenoghu. The two traded blow for blow. Baphomet summoned up magical stone in an effort to imprison Yeenoghu but the hyena-like demon was able to claw his way out.


Orcus flew through the air and landed atop a wing of the temple complex. He bellowed as his undead army poured over the building to do battle with the demon horde below. Demogorgon waded through the demons towards his rival. The two-headed demon-lord climbed atop the temple and the pair clashed in an epic struggle!


Grazz't was content to let the other demon-lords fight. Grazz't used his magical powers to teleport across the battlefield. He worked in conjunction with his succubi and incubi. They took on the forms of identical mortal humans and magically disappeared and reappeared at random in order to confuse the other demons. No one was able to accurately track his location throughout the battle.

After Grazz't had decided whom he wanted to fight, he magically appeared next Baphomet and struck a surprise blow. This turned the tide of the otherwise even fight and allowed Yeenoghu to defeat the bestial Baphomet.

Baphomet fell and Yeenoghu cackled in hideous hyena-like laughter. The demon-lord drained the life force of his fallen foe, adding it to his own!

DM Note- Surprise benefit of killing your opponent! You got half your lost hit points back and all your spent automatic saving throws restored. I wanted to keep the survivor "fresh" for the final fight but I didn't want the players to know that when they started the demon fight.

Orcus and Demogorgon traded blow after blow. Grazz't appeared and attacked Demogorgon, giving Orcus the opening he was looking for. Orcus pointed his legendary wand of power at Demorgorgon. Demogorgon collapsed, dead. Orcus then absorbed Demogorgon's power.

Yeenoghu began hunting for Grazz't. Unable to tell one shape-changed demon from another, Yeenoghu attacked every humanoid in sight, destroying them in his search for the demon-lord.

DM Note- I didn't bother with the minor demons. They couldn't hurt the demon-lords and I didn't want to keep track of them. I just threw a bunch of demon miniatures onto the table and described the swirling mass of demons doing battle. Whenever Yeenoghu attacked a succubus, I rolled a 1d6. On a result of 1-2, it was Grazz't. On any other result, the succubus fell dead. 

Yeenoghu's was eventually able to hit Grazz't but the demon-lord simply teleported away again. Yeenoghu ultimately gave up on finding Grazz't and climbed over the central temple building and spun his spiked flail at the Prince of the Undead. Orcus, through invigorated by absorbing the life force of Demogorgon, was still drained and took flight to avoid Yeenoghu's deadly attacks.

Grazz't magically appeared on Orcus' back and attacked the demon. Orcus spun his body around and Grazz't fell to the ground, creating a crater. Grazz't simply got up and teleported once more onto the back of Orcus. Orcus flew too close to Yeenoghu and was struck by his opponent's spiked flail. Orcus fell and Yeenoghu absorbed his power. Yeenoghu picked up Orcus' mighty wand, sniffed it, and threw it into the black waters of the Dark Lake.

This outcome did not bode well for Grazz't. The demonic prince of decadence was out of duplicates. Yeenoghu bore down on Grazz't and quickly killed him, absorbing his energy in the process.

THE FINAL BATTLE
Yeenoghu turned his attention to the lesser demons, eventually clearing them from the island. Now Yeenoghu stood alone. He turned and faced the band of heroes huddled within the magic circle on the small spit of land at the end of the island. He charged the circle berserk with rage.


Ront broke the circle and charged the demon lord. Valerius followed suit astride his celestial lion. Pain likewise moved in to attack.

Willow took flight on her magic broom and began flying in a wide arc around the battle. Her hope was to search for and recover the Wand of Orcus. Meanwhile the shield guardian tended the pack lizards and herded them away from the battle.

Cordon called upon some ineffectual miracles and did his best pray for the health of his comrades. He eventually drew his mace and joined his fellows in combat with the bestial demon-lord.


The fighting was fierce. Though Yeenoghu caused grievous injury to his opponents he was ultimately unable to stand against their combined onslaught. With a mighty strike from his magic greatsword, Ront sliced through the demon-lord, sending the vile beast back to the pits of the Abyss!

EPILOGUE
The battle was won. The demon-lords had been returned to their prison.

Willow cast spells that allowed her to breathe water and sense magic. Utilizing her magical robe of eyes wich granted her unearthly perception she dove beneath the waves in search of the Wand of Orcus.

While she searched, the others rested. After an hour, Willow emerged from the inky waters with the wand in her hand, her face sneered with a sense of victory and superiority. Her eyes glowed with an intense power.

Valerius heard a voice on Vizerian's amulet of sending asking how the battle went. He told Vizerian that the battle had been won.

"Excellent! I shall arrive shortly to survey the destruction of that vile city!"

Everyone gathered together to prepare for the wizard's imminent arrival. Willow began casting a new spell.

A moment passed and Vizerian and Kleeve appeared out of thin air. Vizerian looked around and became enraged.

"What treachery is this? This is not Menzoberranzan! Perfidy! Deceit! Your underlings shall suffer for your deception!"

Valerius replied, "Nope. We took care of that. Your little apprentice is working with us. Even now he is setting our people free. It turns out he didn't care much for the destruction of his home."

Vizerian screamed in rage and frustration, "Then I shall simply kill you now where you stand!"

Willow quipped, "Nope! Bye now!"

She cast a spell of teleportation and the entire group disappeared.

They reappeared on the surface. It was a sunny spring day.

Pain, who had not seen the sun in nearly two years, collapsed onto the grass and laughed.

THE END.

DM Notes - The Final Battle
The final battle between the demon-lords started off interesting but quickly became a slog. After each demon-lord's turn, I'd have to stop and ask each player, in initiative order, "Does Demogorgon take any Legendary Actions? Does Orcus take any Legendary Actions?" etc. So each turn became a complete round!

Since the demon-lords were essentially immune to any of the spells the other demon-lords might cast, it quickly bogged down into a slug fest. Each demon-lord, on their turn, would take a multi-attack. At the end of that turn each OTHER demon-lord got a Legendary Action. It quickly devolved into "Tail Lash" to "Claw" to "Tail Lash" to "Claw" to "Tail Lash" to "Claw", repeated ad nauseum.

Frankly, I was surprised Yeenoghu won but I shouldn't have been. Two factors contributed this:

1) Yeenoghu deals a lot of damage with his flail. 

2) Grazz't was a spoiler that did extra damage to Baphomet, causing him to run out of hit points before Yeenoghu did, then did the same with Orcus vs. Yeenoghu. 

The final battle lasted maybe three rounds. Yeenoghu got in some good rampage damage but ultimately couldn't hold out against Pain.

DM Notes - Vizerian
The players were done with this campaign. Frankly, they didn't really like it. They didn't enjoy adventuring in the Underdark and they didn't really enjoy any of the chapters as-written. The parts they enjoyed most were the parts I added or embellished - the Hag Island encounter and the Maze Engine. 

During the last session, I did my best to make Vizerian a jerk. The players REALLY wanted to fight him. But at the end, when Vizerian finally appeared, I asked them, "Do you want to continue next week and fight Vizerian?"

They said, "NO! No more! We're done!"


Next Week - I'll be playing for a while!
One of the players would like to run the game for a while, so I'll be taking a break from logging the events of our campaign. I'll be returning to this blog every once in a while to work on my next upcoming campaign - All That Remain, a D&D campaign set in the waning days of a dying Earth.