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."


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


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...

  • 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.
  • 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.
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.

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!

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.

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.


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. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"The Spawning Pool" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 34

Willow thought the deep gnomes were making progress. The wizard had stayed behind the Chasm Bridge to help rehabilitate the two former slaves. When she found them, they were hooded and chained to a wall. They were meek, cowed, and afraid. They were the unfortunate play-things of a human named Mistle, an evil wizard that had hired ogres to collect an exorbitant toll to cross the Chasm Bridge. Willow and her companions had defeated Mistle and sent him fleeing into the Underdark. Since then she had learned that the former slaves were traveling to Blingdenstone when they were captured by the nearby gargoyles and given to Mistle as tribute.

Willow had learned their names: Derilogit and Toroukil. The two deep gnomes were typically dour and circumspect. She had spent days working to rebuild their independence and confidence after their months of forced servitude and indoctrination.

One day, she was sipping tea and having a conversation with the deep gnomes when there was a voice at the entrance to the cavern that Mistle once called home.

"Those belong to me!"

"Excuse me?" said Willow as she carefully put down the cup and stood to face the intruder. The human intruder hobbled into the light of the room.  He wore the robes of a wizard. He was missing his left leg and used a staff as a crutch.

"I am Mistle the Mage and I've come back to reclaim what is mine. Those two there are my slaves. They are mine. This whole place is mine and I have come back to reclaim it."

Willow's eyes narrowed and she tightened her grip around her flying stick, "Over my dead body."

"That can be arranged. Accourding to the rules and traditions of the wizarding guild of Waterdeep, I challenge you to a wizard duel."

"You're on."


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.

En route to the Wormwrithings to 
procure the egg of a gigantic Purple Worm
they heroes come across
a large force of Troglodytes
arguing over a sword...

  • 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.
  • 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.
Willow and Mistle stood at opposite ends of the Chasm Bridge. Willow was flanked by her owl familiar Phwee-toop and her the ten foot tall automaton that served as her shield guardian. Mistle supported himself on his crutch behind two duergar fighters wearing brass chain mail.

Willow, Phwee-Toop, and the Shield Guardian
The two wizards stared at each other. A strong wind blew threw the cavern whipping their cloaks and hair. Minutes passed in silence. The duergar became restless.

Suddenly, as if in response to some silent signal, the wizards sprang into action!

Mistle and his Duergar Warriors
Mistle cast an ice storm spell. Willow immediately dismissed the attack with a counterspell and became invisible. She mounted her magic tree branch and took flight. The winds made it difficult to control.

The shield guardian cast a confusion spell that Willow had prepared for it earlier. One of the two duergar stood dumbfounded but the other charged forward across the bridge. Phwee-toop fled the scene and hid behind some rocks.

The first duergar became a giant and engaged the shield guardian in melee combat. The second duergar finally overcame his confusion and joined his companion in charging the other side of the bridge.

Mistle became frustrated at his inability to target Willow. He tried to become invisible himself but suffered another counterspell!

Willow cast a fireball at the charging duergar but was, in turn, foiled by Mistle's counterspell.

The two wizards traded spells in this way. Mistle was eventually wounded by a few of Willow's chromatic orb spells and was forced to order his duergar to retreat. The wizard then disappeared in a puff of silvery mist. The two duergar became invisible and disappeared.

Willow flew down to the passage at the far end of the bridge. She shouted into the darkness, "Eat shit, asshole! Never come back!"

Willow was convinced that she had lost her companions forever. She had no way of knowing where they were or how to find them.

One day her shield guardian shuddered. Its movements became suddenly fluid and natural. It looked at its mechanical hands, turning them over in front of its "face".

The shield guardian ran its hands up and down its body as if feeling its hips and chest and face.

A voice magically emanated from where its mouth would normally be, "Well, hello there! I simply MUST get me one of these!"

The voice emanating from the shield guardian was refined, elegant, and decadent. The words poured languidly over the strange accent in a way that made the listener feel dirty and uncomfortable, like you needed to take a shower afterward. Its movements were serpentine and lithe.

Willow was confused, "Um, hello?"

The shield guardian seemed to be suddenly reminded of why it was here, "Oh, right. You are Willow, correct? I am Vizerian, former Archmage of Menzoberranzan. I have a message for you."

"Go ahead, I guess?"

"Your companions have been to Gravenhollow. There they met me. We are working together to resolve this.. incursion. I have sent them on a quest to gather some necessary ritual components. If you wish to rejoin them, I will instill into this shield guardian the knowledge of how to find them. Simply follow the guardian and you will be reunited with them. Is that understood?"

Willow nodded.

"Good. Now if you will excuse me. I think I will pop off to the Infinity Market to see about acquiring a shield guardian for myself."

The shield guardian shuddered again and was once more its stolid laconic self.

Soon thereafter, Willow packed her equipment and enough supplies for a long journey through the endless caves and passages of the Underdark. She bade farewell to the deep gnomes and strode across the bridge in search of the rest of the expedition.

She followed the shield guardian for dozens of days, if travelling as far as she could before resting as long as was necessary could be called a "day". She eventually reached a region of smooth tube-like passages. A few days later she encountered Valerius Adeques and the warriors of the Gauntlet clearing the rubble of a cave-in. Valerius reported that he had been separated from the expedition by the cave-in which was caused by the passing of a gargantuan purple worm.

After clearing the passage the expedition encountered a group of seventeen dwarves coming from the opposite direction. The dwarves reported that they had escaped from troglodyte captivity and that they encountered the expedition a ways back. DM Note- At this point, I retconned the story of the dwarves they met last week to being escaped prisoners. This revised story ties in better with the upcoming troglodtye encounter. The players liked it much better.

Willow and Valerius, along with their entourage, continued on. They eventually found the remains of Thargus Forkbeard who had been slain by a drow's poisoned arrow. Thargus' bare bones had been picked clean of even the smallest bit of meat and gristle.

They finally caught up to the expedition on the following day. Virtue, Pain, Ront, and Feryl were crouched among some loose rocks and boulders observing the events in a large cavern ahead. Pain noticed the brilliant daylight of Valerius' sun-sword Dawnbringer and quickly motioned the paladin to dim the radiance of the blade. Valerius complied and rolled his eyes at Dawnbringer's subsequent protestation.

At the entrance to the Cavern
Valerius and Willow joined the others in the surreptitious reconnaissance of the events within.

The cavern beyond was as large, at least two hundred feet deep and four hundred feet wide with a two hundred foot ceiling covered in stalactites. On the right wall of the cavern was a low crater filled with warm water. Steam wafted from the water's surface. The water overflowed the banks of the crater and formed a small river, fifteen feet wide, that bisected the cavern. The stream disappeared into a passage on the left wall. The ground rose to a plateau on the far side of the creek while a small steep hill rose on the near side close to the entrance.

One had to struggle to keep from wretching at the horrible stench that emanated from the room.

Albino reptile-men, so-called troglodytes, were the source of the stench. They were arranged into two factions, each numbering around two-dozen, facing off on either side of the creek. They were shouting at each other in the strange growling hissing language of the subterranean brutes. The group on the far side held the high ground atop the plateau. Their leader was old and fat but held aloft a curved short sword of drow manufacture.

The group on the near side were led by a tall strong warrior that did all the talking. He kept pointing to a large bloated troglodyte lashed to two stone pillars atop the steep hill. He pointed back to the old troglodyte with the sword, then clutched his fist.

Brood Mother
The old troglodtye waved the sword around haphazardly and shouted back defiantly.

The disagreement seemed to stem from the sword. The tall warrior wanted the sword and was holding the female hostage until he got it. The older one refused to five up the sword and demanded the release of the hostage who was apparently a troglodyte of some importance.

Meanwhile, Pain had noticed a small tunnel to the right. The tunnel was barely large enough for a dwarf of halfling to fit through and appared to have been recently excavated. Pain told the others and Willow sent Phwee-toop the owl hopping through the winding tunnel to see where it led.

After about a hundred feet, the owl saw a room filled with crates and captured loot, as well as supplies, carrying litters, and a ten-foot wide hole in the ground. About a half-a-dozen small chains were draped over the edge of the pit and were connected to a nearby wall. A troglodyte walked up to the pit and hauled the chain up hand-over-hand. At the end of the chain was a naked dwarf with bound hands and feet. The troglodyte disconnected the dwarf from the chain and carried the dwarf into another chamber. Willow reported what she saw through the owl's eyes and recalled her familiar.

Troglodyte Cavern
Valerius asked Pain to check the tablet of Garmin. The path to the worm nursery led through the cavern. They could bypass the cavern at the expense of over a dozen more days of travel. Valerius scowled and said, "To hell with that. We're going through."

He stood, held Dawnbringer aloft, and entered the cavern. The magic sword flared and filled the area with the light of day. The two troglodytes immediately ceased shouting at each other as everyone turned to face the interloper. A few nearest the entrance used their arms to shield their eyes from the shining sword.

Valerius addressed the troglodytes in Common, "We want no trouble. There is no need for violence. We will rescue the prisoners held in the pit and leave through that exit over there. If you interfere with us you will die. Do you understand me?"

The large warrior stepped forward and replied in broken Common, "You do not belong here Overworlder. This cave belongs to trogs. You will not pass!"

Valerius pointed his sword at the warrior, "Yeah, no. That's not going to happen."

Virtue intervened, "Look, look. We don't know what's going on here with all," the tiefling indicated the bound hostage, "...this. It's none of our business. But how about we make a deal? How about you let us pass and we kill those guys for you? Would you like to become the new chieftain?"

The Champion of Laogzed
The warrior stood as erect as he could, "NO! This is trog matter! Chieftain is chieftain and we mean chieftain no harm. I am Chosen One of Laogzed! I defeat the drow and take sword! Sword belong to me by right! We have brood mother ripe with eggs. The chieftain will give me sword and we will give brood mother back. We don't want chieftain killed. But we ARE hungry, so we will kill you and EAT you!"

The warrior shouted the order to attack and two dozen troglodtyes, some nearly as big as ogres, charged. Valerius, astride his celestial lion mount, rode into their midst while Ront charged the right flank. Pain nimbly moved amongst the troglodytes, never staying in one place, stabbing and moving on. Troglodytes quickly swarmed Ront and Valerius, clawing at the celestial lion and trying to take the paladin from his mount.

DM Note - I spiced up the troglodytes with a few "troglodyte brutes" - using stats for an Orog to make a tougher troglodyte. It didn't help much since they were mowed down by the second fireball, leaving one or two to mop up.

The Troglodyte Forces
Feryl and the Gauntlet warriors formed a rear guard and fired crossbows at any troglodytes that approached Willow.

Willow remained behind the rear guard and cast a fireball spell into the mass of troglodytes. Over half of them died outright. Willow's precision shielded Valerius, Ront, and Pain from injury.

Virtue remained just forward of the rear and directed the baby dragon Santaka to kill the brood mother. Santaka leaped onto the rise and engulfed everyone in fiery breath. She then cast her own fireball over the troglodytes eliminating all but the toughest even though her relative imprecision meant injuring her companions.

The battle was over as Valerius, Ront, and Pain mopped up the remaining opponents.

The two dozen troglodytes allied with the chieftain atop the plateau tried to retreat into the safety of an escape passage behind them. Willow took flight on her magic branch and cast a fireball spell into their midst. Another subsequent fireball destroyed any survivors.

Ront said to the others, "Ront getting sword." and began wading through the shallow creek that divided the cavern.

Suddenly Ront was beset by hundreds of tiny aquatic reptilian-fish - the larval form of troglodyte young. The creatures looked like a pale white reptilian head and a long fish-like tail. Each was as big as a man's hand. Its mouth was lined with dozens of tiny razor-sharp teeth. The creatures were attracted to the blood seeping from the wounds Ront sustained in the preceding battle.

Ront expressed surprise but the bits were little more than an nuisance. After Ront's initial shock, Pain asked the orc, "Are you okay?"

To which Ront let out a long sigh and replied, "No. Little fish are cleaning Ront. Ooh! That tickled!"

Ront left the stream and climbed the plateau to retrieve the drow short sword while the others explored the side caves in search of the captives.

Valerius, Pain, Virtue, and Willow and the others explored a passage to the right and found the chamber with the pit and supplies.

A troglodyte butcher came walking into the room to investigate the commotion and was quickly cut down. DM Note - I didn't even bother.

Valerius pulled the chained captives out of the pit, finding four dwarves and two drow. All were emaciated and weak. The two drow backed away from the Overworlders and escaped to the main passage. There they encountered Ront carrying his great sword in one hand and the short sword in the other.

They froze. Ront intercepted them and backed them up against a wall, growling. They retreated into the side chamber and were interrogated.

They were members of an expedition hunting for purple worm eggs. Their expedition had been attacked and separated and they were eventually captured by the troglodytes.

The dwarves, for their part, said they were a part of a larger expedition searching for purple worm tailings. The expedition had been captured but seventeen of them managed to escape through a tunnel they dug in the wall.

They gave the captives food and water. The drow refused their help and demanded to be set free. They were allowed to leave.

Ront examined the short sword. It had words engraved on it. He gave it to Valerius. The word were in a dialect of elvish used by the drow. They said, Oloth thu malla, "Darkness be praised". Ront wrinkled his snub nose at the idea of a short sword and gave it to Pain.

The next chamber contained fissures that emmitted scalding steam. A slab of stone nearby was used to butcher the dwarven and drow captives. A vein of precious gems could be seen surrounding the vents. Ront took the pick he acquired from Thargus Forkbear and chipped away a few gems. The fissue suddenly shot him with hot steam, burning the orc. Ront recoiled and said, "Screw that!"
DM Note- Chipping away gets a die roll. There's a 1-in-10 chance of getting scalding steam in the face. Every round you chip away some stones, you get 1d10x10gp worth of gems. On the first round I rolled a steam result. I then told Ront's player the odds. The player weighed the cost benefit and decided to walk away.

A dark passage led out of the prisoner cavern. They followed the passage until it opened into another chamber. Water dripped from hundreds of stalactitles hanging from the ceiling. The floor was likewise covered in stalagmites formed by the dripping water. There appeared to be no well-used path through the chamber. They carefully wound their way through many spires. Halfway through the passage Pain spotted what appeared to be the partially eaten remains of a humanoid figure. Before he could check it out he was grabbed by a tentacle and hosted into the air. Ront and Virtue were likewise hoisted aloft by strange tentacles.

They were drawn toward a large stalactitle on the ceiling. A single red eye glared at them as the tentacles moved them towards the large slavering maw of a roper!
Ambushed by Ropers
Valerius blinked and began rummaging through his backpack for a crossbow. Willow took flight on her magic branch and cast a fireball spell on the roper while shielding her companions from the blast. The inferno incinerated the roper's tentacles and everyone fell fifty feet to the ground.

Pain got up and activated his magic boots. He quickly climbed up the side of the wall and held onto a stalactite. He moved from stalactite to stalactite like a gibbon until he was close enough to attack the roper.

DM NOTE- 6d6 sneak attack damage. All ones! It was an epic Yahtzee! 
Epic Ones!

Other stalactites dropped from the ceiling revealing themselves to be piercers! DM NOTE- Piercers are essentially useless at this level.

Suddenly, a second roper extruded its tentacles and began to grab the party off the floor!

Virtue launched a fireball of her own, incinerating the tentacles. Everyone held aloft was dropped.

The first Roper extruded new tentacles and picked up some more victims. Willow cast anouther fireball with by-now predictable results.

Pain finally got another good attack on the first roper. DM NOTE- Natural twenty! Critical hit!

His sword pierced the rocky shell and the roper slid out of its casing. The meaty inside fell to the ground with a wet slap.

A final fireball from Virtue seared the second roper.

Ront stood up and began cutting off chunks of cooked roper, "Mmm, cave oyster!"

Pain investigated the humanoid body. It was a drow escapee. A nearby sack contained two spells crolls and a handfull of coins.

Ront choked on some roper meat and spat out a ring.

DM NOTE-  Gravity did more damage to the party than any encounter so far this entire campaign.

The passage eventually linked with the main cavern behind the plateau. The ground was littered with two dozen badly burned dead troglodytes. The smell was incredibly unpleasant.

Looking down to the left they could see the water-filled crater. It was swarming with tiny troglodyte larvae and water-orb mushrooms.

The party found six giant lizard mounts tied in a nearby grotto. At the rear of the grotto was a small concealed passage, barely large enough for a human to squeeze through.

Pain Grille'

Pain decided to investigate the concealed passage alone. The passage connected to an empty cave with two other exits. The passage to the left led into a room with a warm pool of water fed by a small waterfall  which Pain deduced was fed by the stream in the large cavern. The pool was filled with troglodyte larva like those found in the stream above. He left the pool and returned to the passage on the right.

The other passage crossed several fissures, some as wide as two feet. Glowing lava could be seen at the bottom of the cracks. Pain easily navigated the cracks in the floor but was surprised when a strange serpentine creature made of magma emerged from the nearest crack. The creature was little bigger than Pain himself.

Pain paused, uncertain how to react. The magma creature gave Pain a mischievous grin before spitting fire at Pain. Pain escaped and fled down the passage.
Pain encounters a Maga Mephit
Further down the passage Pain encountered another outlet for the pool in the adjacent passage. Some old zurkhwood planks were laid across the stream to make a makeshift bridge. He crossed the bridge and entered a room filled with old zurkhwood planks - the ruins of some kind of outpost that had long ago been scavenged. The passage ultimately reconnected with the main cavern and Pain rejoined the expedition.

The expedition rested in one of the side caves, away from the stench of the troglodytes, before continuing towards the Worm Nursery.

The expedition continues towards the Worm Nursery for several more rest cycles. Within a "day" of the nursery, they encounter a cave-in. The cave-in created a void and a huge pile of rubble. As they neared the cavern created by the void, a loud voice declared in Undercommon, "TURN BACK OR SUFFER A DEATH SO HORRIBLE YOU CANNOT IMAGINE! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!"

Pain spotted a young female drow hiding behind a large rock. He told her it was alright and that she could approach.

She stood tall and haughty, "Be warned, Overworlders! I am Hanne Hallen, daughter of Zhora Hallen, who is leader of the famed Dark Hunters! I am a powerful witch and I can spell your doom!"

Valerius waved her off, "Whatever. Let's go."

Ront gripped his greatsword, "Ront will KILL HER!"

Pain stayed the orc's blade, "Who are the Dark Hunters? What happened here?"

She defiantly replied, "The Dark Hunters scour the Wormwrithings for the eggs of the Purple Worm and return them to Menzoberranzan for use in powerful magical rituals! There was a cave-in. I survived with several of my warriors. Then we were attacked by troglodytes and my warriors were killed and captured. I alone managed to escape thanks to my powerful wizard spells!"

"Yeah, we saw some of your warriors. We rescued them after we killed all the troglodytes. They ran like frightened bitches," said Pain, bluntly, "Look, we're headed towards the Worm Nursery. You're free to stay here but you're also welcome to join us if you want."

The defiant performance of the teenaged drow gave way for a moment, revealing a glimmer of hope. She immediately regained the affectation of superiority, "I will allow you to serve as my entourage so that I may complete my mission! So be it!"

Pain rolled his eyes, "Whatever. Come on. You travel with her." The halfling indicated Willow.

Ront growled at the newcomer. Virtue mumbled something about killing at the first sign of... then trailed off.

Several miles later, the tablet of Garmin indicated that they were nearing their destination. There were no side passages. No entrances. Nothing to indicate the presence of the Worm Nursery. Suddenly, there was a massive tremor and the tunnel floor gave way beneath their feet! The expedition slid down a curving chute ten feet wide!