D&D 5E After Action Report - OotA: Experimenting with 5e and certain death

Long time lurker, first time poster, thought it would be fun to relay the shenanigans our intrepid group has been up to. We finally decided to test the 5e water and I drew the short straw to DM it... and so our adventurers antics shall be recorded for all history here as punishment.

There are *spoilers a plenty* of course, so if you're saving the surprises OotA has in store for you (and there's no shortage of them!) - go away!

The Setup:

I went with standard point buy and rejected the variant humans, but gave the lame-humans an additional skill. The real twist was given the nature of the start of the campaign no player was allowed to consult the other players as to what they were making. In short, it was a blind party creation. Not only does it fit the theme, but it cuts down on some potential powergaming. My group has good habits, but I prefer not to tempt them too much.

The Result:
1 Draconian Fighter (2-H) (Her very first D&D game ever!)
1 Half-Elf Fighter (1-H)
1 Human Monk
1 Shield Dwarf Barbarian
1 Gold Dwarf Cleric... War Priest.

Apparently this means we've got nothing but FRONT LINE TANKS. I knew it was going to be a good time.

Session 1: Welcome to Hell. Please deposit all your gear in the locked box where, without a rogue (or anyone with any stealth skill at all) you're certain to never see it again.

Our party lands in their cells, pretty much naked, and throughout the setup of meeting the NPCs, their drow jailers, and each other, I begin immediately feeding them creepy dreams each night that are a portent of things to come, as well as some that are just random nonsense. Additionally they get their "one random item" which turns out to be 10 total feet of rope, 1 gold coin, and the Drac rolls a lucky club (which ends up being a giant broken ladle handle used by the Quaggoth she smuggles out during an altercation between Jimjar and the chef.

The setup out of the way the party is immediately distrustful of the two deep gnome twins and is already planning a way to kill off the Orc - who to be honest, is also planning on finding a way to ditch these do-gooding heroes somewhere soon. Otherwise they seem pretty on board with every other NPC and I am excited to see which NPCs are going to make it out of the jailbreak alive.

The Jailbreak:
The PCs take the corrupt Drow's offer for him to unlock the cell and make their break for it. However, they do NOT trust him enough to jump straight into the water below. Instead they concoct a plan to use what rope they have, tie it to the spiderweb, and lower themselves down a better way. Their lucky break is that the one place they break into before their escape has swords and 400ft of rope in it, plenty to make it all the way down and drop safely into the water below. Unfortunately I determine it will take 4 rounds to get the rope safely tied off by the only one who feels confident they can tie something safely to the spider webs: Sareth. The PCs also come up with the not very humane idea that the Koa-toa should be the first into the water. They believe he can outswim the Ooze they learn is down there and lead it away from them.

Our huge party then descends down onto the webs in pairs, Sareth gets to work, and it's no shock to anyone that 6 giant spiders make themselves known on a dangerous surface. The PCs and NPCs valiantly form a wall to protect Sareth, who is pretty much thanking Lloth that he's the guy in the back.

Things go wrong:

The whole point of this and the following session is to teach the party that the Underdark is no place to take chances. The adventurers put up a mighty fight, but its in round #1 of combat the priest takes a single blow that drops him to zero. The fighting is fierce, four NPCs are on the walkway above the players raining down bolts and Prince D, the Quaggoth is literally holding off two spiders on his own. Not much help, however, is the cowardly Ront, who immediately sells out his newfound companions and decides to take his chances with jumping into the water. Sadly he immediately fails his roll to move through the sticky webs and will be stuck there for quite a while.

Round 4 rolls around and Sareth finishes, but not before Prince D finally goes down. There's just a handful of spiders left but the players are now down their Quaggoth one man shield-wall, the H-elf fighter goes down this round. The sound of battle has now alerted the drow outpost of the escape and all hell is starting to break loose.

The 4 NPCs on the bridge yell about the impending horde of drow that is on their way and head down. Everyone is fighting with the expectation of death in their future now. They slay the final spider and try to make a break for it. The PCs picking up their two KOed teammates and trying to carry them down the rope. The plan is set in motion. The Koa-toa goes down first, the were-rat twins don't give a crap and just jump for it. Ront finally breaks free and embarrassingly rejoins the plan.

Then the drow arrive. First a half dozen bolts fired, Buppido gets caught in the web and can't break free! So does Jimjar. The barbarian grabs the fighter and tries to carry him down the rope, but fails his roll and falls into the water anyway (after all that). Everyone else manages to make a break for it. The last PC on the webbing is the monk who has a decision to make: use his action to aid Buppido or use it to aid Jimjar. He picks Jimjar and his aid roll helps him get free. Buppido gets turned into a pincushion.

While that is going on I decide to have some extra fun with the Ooze, which I have given a slight buff to for its movement speed. There's no getting away from that thing in the water, it's fueled by the power of the faceless lord! Their plan to sacrifice the Koa-toa is a success, in that the thing spends the next two rounds eating the poor guy - who refuses to fight back of course.

The PCs drag their sorry asses out of the water. The Ooze is telepathically shouting all kinds of creepy stuff at them as it eats the Koa-Toa and everyone makes a break for it.

PCs have escaped slavery. Their Condition:

Two PC KOed (Stable)
Buppido (Dead)
Wererats (Missing)
Prince D (Dead)
Koa-toa (Dead)
Everyone else: Minimal weapons (only 1 crossbow made it out intact and everyone else has either a dagger, scimitar, a couple shields, and mild armor). No food. No water. Nothing to even carry them with.

Saving Them from Total Party Wipe

It's at this moment I trigger the air-combat event. With demons crashing into their outpost the Drow turn their attention towards the new, more dangerous, invaders, figuring they'll have plenty of time to track down their slaves.

They flee north, following their original plan and make their first camp. It is then they realize their first plan needed the Koa-toa (they feel) to help get them into Sloop. Without him they decide... (ugh) to go AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE: Destination: Blingdenstone. Since Jimjar is still alive they feel that is where they will be most welcome. That's over 1 month of travel in the Underdark to get there... and I haven't read up on it recently thinking that would be the LAST place they would go. Luckily... there's plenty of death between them and their destination.

We end session 1 with a broken and battered party with the Drow hot on their heels heading north into the darkness, the madness closing in around them.

Session 2: In which we learn that unexpected critical hits can really ruin your day.

The entire purpose of Session 2 is to get them most of the way to Blingdenstone or Neverlight (they're debating which is better suddenly) while outfitting them with mildly decent gear that fits their needs at SIGNIFICANT risk to they and their NPC companions. I've generated (randomly) a series of encounters, dreams, and madness inducing things that will put their luck to the test. It starts with a long abandoned town, home to a mere 4 goblin ambushers... who fail their stealth rolls, yet still manage to one-shot the cleric. For those of you keeping score, he has now died in the first round of combat for two straight sessions. The point: To get the party a little food and water and remind them that even exploring abandoned places is dangerous. It also lets me play up the madness, since no matter how badly it was going to Goblins did nothing but laugh.... all the way till death.

The PCs take off, encountering the bizarre world of the underdark. I decide I need to level them up because I am afraid I overdid it and the Ocre Jelly I have up next will literally just wipe everyone. So I level them up after the goblins (which was a bit early, but oh well). The H-Elf fighter takes a level in Bard and I fudge the whole "where'd you learn magic suddenly" part under the caveat that it was what he was working on just as he was captured. The Barbarian takes a rogue level (still no thieves' tools). The rest level up as normal.

No need for that level up moment apparently. The war cleric finally makes himself known and practically one-shots the Jelly. Oh well, that pendulum swings both ways!

The party go on, encountering strange Koa-Toa traders. Unfortunately, the party still has basically no resources to trade. I put this here as a test to see if they felt desperate enough to resort to murder. The Draconian suggests it, but is immediately rejected by the more good aligned members of the party. Tsk. They just ask for some information and move on.

More creepy dreams for the PCs as they keep spending nights in "lit" areas of Faerzress (which I am sure I just spelled wrong). Madness numbers are growing slowly.

Madness Time!

Then they reach the horrid wailing, three party members fail their save and gain madness, the Barbarian gets his SECOND level of Madness. He's roleplaying an ever growing paranoia very well and is starting to talk of a giant mushroom... The half-elf can't take it anymore and charges down the corridor they are in shouting and yelling about the doom of us all. The party gives chase, and the noise makes it certain that the Underdark is no place to let your guard down. A rocktopus snags Ront and hauls him up to the ceiling. The entire party FAILS their spot roll against the camo of the creature. They see where Ront is, but are totally unsure what has grabbed him. They begin firing arrows up towards whatever it is, mostly missing (arrows/bows from the earlier Goblins). One round later *snap* no more Ront (He only has 15 HP afterall and he took most of that when it grabbed him initially). The party decide discretion is the better part of valor and flee. XP is awarded for seeing a lost cause and letting it go. Plus nobody liked him anyway.

Hook Horror Hunt:

The next staged event is a slightly easier version of the Hook Horror Hunt, I removed 3 of the Gnolls, but plan on the leader and his 4 minions showing up in round 5 of combat. The party fights valiantly and carefully in the enclosed space. Everything is going pretty well until the half-elf decides to go toe to toe with the Pack Lord. Two lucky and high damage hits later and the fighter is KOed. Everyone else is majorly low on HP, including the Barbarian, who despite damage reduction too a critical hit from a spear and his now down to 5 HP. Things swing in favor of the players eventually after a somewhat long and not terribly interesting fight. The half-elf stablizes and the party decides very carefully NOT to go after the two hook horrors. They, in turn, leave the party alone while they guard their nest.

I award the players the gems and some badly needed food and water.

The Boneyard Trading Company:

The party enters a cavern that is littered with bones. We're talking ankle deep or deeper. The whole thing is another ambush event, this time two minotaur skeletons. The fight immediately goes badly for the group, the initial surprise round nearly KOs the Draconian and due to the marching order the groups are pretty much evenly split between the two. The difficult terrain is wreaking havok on the slow moving dwarves and then... Welcome to Critsville. The minotaur crits his 2d12 dmg roll against - who else - the Cleric. One shot and he's out like a light and starts making (and failing) his save rolls. The next round a SECOND crit brings down the fighter/bard before he can heal the downed Cleric! The party is on their heels, the first mino goes down but the Cleric rolls a 1 and is now on the verge of death. The Dwarf NPC Eldeth dives in heroically, ignoring the attacks against her and uses her skills to stabilize the Cleric at the cost of her own life. A DM sacrifice of an NPC everyone had grown to rely on for her survival skill (Another large part of our group that is just missing). The remaining Mino KOs the Draconian but is then brought down.

With some more effort than it should take, the PCs finally get their KOed members stabilized and just rest where they are, hoping no additional skeletons are lurking in the dark. What raised them? Is the Underdark always this dangerous? What the HELL is going on? That seems to be the topic of debate while they rest up.

Nearly halfway to their destination now, the bedraggled party is full speed ahead. They run into mildly friendly deep gnome traders and for once they have the gear and money to buy things. However, the gnomes know a good deal when they see it and jack the prices up to 2.5x book (in both directions). Still, with the 200gp in gems they are able to outfit themselves with the last key vestments that most level 1 players start with. Not quite perfect, but pretty close. The rogue now has thieves tools, the draconian now has a glaive from the Gnolls. They stock up on food (water being taken care of by the priest) and decide from here on out they're just going to put in a fast pace and get to where they are going before they're dead or caught... they still haven't quite decided between Blingdenstone and Neverlight, and the fork in the road is coming up soon...

End of Session 2:

The Results:

1 Mildly well equipped party
Ront (Dead)
Eldeth (Dead)
NPCs left alive:
JimJar (Owed about 15 GP from various bets he's making with the party)

Will any of our NPCs make it to the first city!? And where the heck will they decide to go first? Even I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but one thing I do know:

The Underdark really is a terrible place. Why would you live there!?

Ironically by sheer random chance the PCs have unwittingly killed off the most dangerous NPC threats to them. Sareth should be a fun event and he and Stool are both pushing HARD for Neverlight as the first stop ;)

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I really enjoyed reading this thread. As I am getting ready to DM this campaign for a group. I am just as excited (and nervous) as they are.

Thanks guys!

Iraelaemei - Depending on how you like to DM, you may be best off guiding the players better than I did. I kind of let them off the leash and they have done a number of surprising things (mostly deciding to go to Blingdenstone first).

Since it is our first 5e campaign I have tried to modify things on the fly with regards to difficulty, so I am not 100% certain its accurate, but it seems to me Blingdenstone (being the last location in the first half of the book) is full of some of "out of depth" enemies. Anyway, the moral of the story is I may have been better off guiding them towards Sloop first. Instead I have decided that while they can do some of the events and adventures of Blingdenstone eventually they're going to have to go to Neverlight Grove to get supplies. Possibly even give them a quest from the Diggermattocks to go to Grack on their behalf as well. Basically my plan is that Blingdenstone offers to get them to the surface in exchange for their service. While in the service of Blingdenstone they will be clearing and securing a long lost path that they found in their maps.

More or less that is the plan at this point, but I have great fears my off-leash group will pull another rabbit and decide to do something unexpected. "Lets go to the City of Spiders!"

"Screw you guys, I quit."


It sounds epic.

I regret rushing the first section, yours sounds way cooler than mine. :)

On the other hand I don't regret (semi)allowing the entire crew of NPCs to escape. It's made for some game management issues, but the players run the NPCs mechanically just fine when needed (fights, saving throws, etc).

Now I get to screw with them more, as the interactions with the party have allowed genuine relationships (not all positive, mind) to develop. I make it clear, that everyone realizes that the threats are, in priority order:

i) the environment
ii) the Drow pursuit
iii) each other

If anything, the relative safety of Gracklstugh is where things are going to become badly unstuck for the group.

(I had Topsy and Turvy wig out during a crossing of rapids within the Darklake. With no magic or silver weapons, that was a hilarious fight, and the party now has several possibly-infected characters to worry about. I didn't make them roll their disease saves just yet, why spoil the paranoia over the next days and weeks? :D)

I hear you Motor. I didn't expect quite so much NPC carnage. Honestly I didn't expect them to stay and fight the spiders at all... but the lesson had to be learned that Underdark is no place for being the great hero. The lesson clearly sunk in when they just left Ront to die. I mean, he was probably already dead, but they didn't even stay to fight and find out. A pretty massive deviation from our party's more traditional "If it moves, kill it because we are heroes!" mentality.

It was just random as to who would live or die really. Prince D's death wasn't a surprise since he becomes LESS stable as time goes on. In his current "I am prince of the elves" role he was pretty much the only way I was going to avoid a total party wipe on the first encounter. Was sad to see him go. Buppido was just a shock. The PCs just kind of abandoned two stuck NPCs (except the Monk, who rolled crap initiative and was the only one with the wherewithall to suggest he could aid their escape. Everyone else was in too much of a panic to care.)

So he had two people stuck and had to pick one... that made an interesting decision and despite the fact that I had been playing both as friendly, jovial, characters his choice basically came down to which one was closest to him.

Before the campaign began I supercharged that Ooze because ... well lets face it. Oozes in water aren't exactly swift. It was basically zero threat at all unless I gave it a faster speed than the heroes while in water. Did NOT expect them to basically toss the pacifist into danger though... but with all the fighting happening right above it, it was basically just sitting there waiting for the first thing to hit the water.

The PCs basically wanted nothing to do with the twins. No clue why, but with absolutely no friendship to hold them here and a losing battle going on they were the least likely to suddenly become heroes on the front line fighting giant spiders and hordes of drow.

After that just some bad luck for Ront and sacrificing one NPC to avoid having our Cleric re-roll a character.

The plus side is I hated having so many NPCs to deal with :) This is way more manageable. No way I would want every one of these NPCs alive.


Lord of the Hidden Layer
Maybe for the future, make waterborne Oozes like a cheetah: one fast sprint, but after X turns - or after it engulfs something - the speed drops due to exhaustion / extra weight.

Personally I thought the Myconid cavern was the most interesting location described in the text. I'm interested to see how your group interacts with it.


On a side note, I run Oozes as being able to change their body shape however they like and instantly snap back into a cube or ball. As such, an ooze waiting and lurker can cover a 20' square area easily, more if they are bigger. The second somebody falls into them, they snap back like a rubberband and engulf them. Also they are pretty much invisible in water. This way they can be slow, but still a decent threat. They wait until a PC falls into them, or more commonly, waits until somebody goes under the water, then moves to where they are going to come up for breath. They come up head first into the ooze that snaps back to shape suffocating and dissolving them.

On another side note, have you folks played or looked at PotA? How does it stack up to OotA? I'm not sure which one to run. Not meaning to derail, but it seemed like the place to ask.


First Post
On another side note, have you folks played or looked at PotA? How does it stack up to OotA? I'm not sure which one to run. Not meaning to derail, but it seemed like the place to ask.

They are both good, OotA is more a sandbox "wilderness" adventure. PotA is a dungeon-amusement park: essentially 13 "dungeons" that are linked, but you can pick and choose which to go to and in what order (for the most part)


I really enjoyed reading your account of the games, Joseph. It seems very exciting. I love the survival aspect. I haven't run or read that much of the adventure yet, but when I'm done with what I'm working on now, I may run it.

I look forward to reading more of your adventures.


Thanks [MENTION=18333]Rhenny[/MENTION]!
[MENTION=98008]Unwise[/MENTION] - Yeah maybe I should have been more creative than just making it "Fueled by evil!" (though that sounds way cooler than "Amorphous pain in the ass") - Either way the result likely would have been the same... first thing to hit the water is taking ~11 dmg per round and at level 1 not much is going to survive for long.

As for PotA vs. OotA I think [MENTION=94389]jrowland[/MENTION] pretty much nailed it. I skimmed through both and let my players pick which one they wanted. If I were new to D&D or P&P RPGs I would NOT pick OotA. It's WAY open. Even at my ~20 years of D&D playing I find it daunting at times to try to get all the plot threads to fit into the narrative and actions of the players. Add in balancing and making some kind of logical chain of events and I am basically giving up an entire day of my life PLANNING a canned adventure. I thought these things were supposed to save me time :D

I think if we had run one of the other two I could have spent a day or two reading the thing and then an hour or two before each session to set it up and print things and that would be that. So... if you have lots of time and experience OotA is proving to be very fun. If not... Avoid it.


First Post
Awesome write-up! OotA has to be one of my favorite adventures to run, and I've been playing for over 25 years.

What backgrounds did your players take? Did anyone choose the optional backgrounds in Appendix A?

My players have just made it to Gracklustugh a grueling 15 days (lots of fast pace plus they found a short-cut) after their escape from Velkynvelve. They have kept all the NPCs alive and have even added 12 more! It's been an interesting group of NPCs to GM! Since then, two of the added NPCs have died (they were escaped slaves from a random encounter), and once they found out what what really going on, they executed the culprit. This leading to our first named NPC death.

I've been posting my own campaign log over on the Paizo forums, if you want to check it out. Reading other's campaign logs have really helped me with running my own game. Maybe mine will help you and yours will help me (if my players ever go to Blingdingstone).


Anyways, keep up with the awesomeness! I look forward to your next campaign update.

Thanks @mgshamster - Nobody took the Appendix A backgrounds - in part because I didnt even notice them until after everyone rolled a character (Woops!)

The Silver Draconian Fighter is an Outlander
The Dwarf Barbarian is a Noble (lets not overthink that one!)
The Half-Elf Fighter is an Entertainer (Hence his move into Bard)
The Dwarf Cleric and the Human Monk are both Acolytes

I've certainly enjoyed ensuring their written flaws are being adhered to, though the brand new player (Draconian) keeps mixing up the idea of "Survival of the Fittest" with "Kill things weaker than me" - We were all there once :) I was very proud of her (my daughter) when she nailed the RP and was arguing to murder the traders they encountered and take their stuff. She convinced the Barbarian but apparently our table runs a democracy :D

EDIT: WTH - you've got like 20 NPCs? Our table ends up in all kinds of trouble when I allow such things :) Last time I let them use Pathfinder's Leadership ability they were trying to convince me to allow them all to hire a squad of halfling sorcerers with nothing but magic missile and stick them all into some giant Dungeons and Dragons Katyusha rocket launcher. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyusha_rocket_launcher) I give them points for creativity when it comes to powergaming :p - It lead to a very long and somewhat ongoing debate of what a war would actually look like in a d20 setting (and yes I know, such a tactic would mean everyone would have the shield spell up at all times... trust me we've gone down this rabbit hole and it isn't pretty.)
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First Post
Yeah. We have lots of NPCs. :)

Part of it is because I decided to use a homebrewed system called the Companion System. It sets up key NPCs as cards the players can acquire; each one gives them special abilities. My players are reluctant to sacrifice an NPC, because they don't want to lose that NPCs special abilities. I have a link to it in my campaign log.

Beyond the normal NPCs from the beginning of the book, they also saved some myconid sprouts from being eaten and they came across a group of escaped slaves and took them in. One of our PCs is on a mission to rescue slaves from the underdark, so he brings as many as he can with him. In fact, reaching slaves has become their primary mission in Gracklstugh, which means I have to homebrew a new adventure for the city. One thing I'm doing is converting the Grey Ghosts (a Thieves Guild) into a slave rescuing organization a la the Underground Railroad (more specifically, I'm having a PC take over and converting them; but I'm also allowing them to be more susceptible to his leadership).

One thing of note is that with all these NPCs traveling with them, they have to figure out how to keep everyone fed, they have to solve conflicts between people, and they're responsible for the lives of everyone they have. As one NPC just ritualistically murders one of the escaped slaves, that can cause some trust issues between the surviving humans and the other underdark denizens. Especially some of the Derro and especially now that they're in Gracklstugh.

If you're worried about too many NPCs, I strongly recommend reading chapters 7-8. It is very possible the PCs can head back into the Underdark with a small army. If my players go with the small army options, then setting up supply lines and an outpost is going to be an important part of the game.


First Post
Thanks [MENTION=18333]Rhenny[/MENTION]!
So... if you have lots of time and experience OotA is proving to be very fun. If not... Avoid it.

First of all I loved your session description.
Secondly you did scare me a bit with what I quoted.
I've read it before though.

I'm a new DM (session 9 coming up) and my group is nearing the end of the Starter Set.
I wanted to continue with another Wotc adventure and OotA seemed the most fun of them all.
The setting, the NPC's, the demon lords, etc.

Now I'm not sure if I'll do well.

Any pointers?
We'll also be starting the adventure at about lvl 5 so I might need to spice things up a bit.
Whether they'll start captured depends on how they handle the LMoP BBEG fight.
They might need to go to the prison for another reason though.

Well, starting at level 5 isn't exactly an issue, but it will require even more work than this campaign already takes. IE: You're going to have to restructure a lot of the combat enemies. If you don't start in prison you'll need another way to introduce the NPCs. You'll lose out possibly on some of the "Survival" aspects as well. You didn't say how much player experience you had, but this is the first campaign in I don't know how long I had the PCs worry about food, water, and MONEY for basic gear. Certainly never have the PCs gotten "200 gold" and spent HALF OF IT on food.

Basically once your party has create food (create water comes early) this sorta goes away :( - similarly if you decide to do some random encounters you'll really have to power up the enemies.

Outside that, however, I think its pretty easy to move the "set" locations up in difficulty a little to match the PC levels. Possibly delay their level up a little so they end up at 8 or 9 by the end of the first half and you'll be right on track.

So, TL;DR - You'll have a little extra homework to go in off book. You'll need to think of a clever way to introduce (and potentially kill) your NPCs. The "regular wandering in the Underdark" to establish that ITS A TERRIBLE PLACE TO LIVE will have to be done in another fashion. Otherwise if you feel bold, go for it. Worst case scenario is you never finish and you can start fresh with one of the other groups (or just recycle back to your level 5 selves).


[MENTION=6806321]mgshamster[/MENTION] have you found that turning NPCs into companion cards makes the fights significantly harder than intended? There is a pretty big difference in combat ability between a 'real' NPC and a companion card. I would imagine that you would have to re-balance many fights to take that into account?


First Post
[MENTION=6806321]mgshamster[/MENTION] have you found that turning NPCs into companion cards makes the fights significantly harder than intended? There is a pretty big difference in combat ability between a 'real' NPC and a companion card. I would imagine that you would have to re-balance many fights to take that into account?

Not in particular.

On one hand, they do grant bonuses which are useful in combat, and I allow for them to assist in combat upon a players request. For example, in one scene, they wanted the twins to cut a rope bridge in order to drop a foe; but after Eldeth used her NPC card ability to push the opponent on to the bridge.

On the other hand, my players have yet to fight hand-to-hand with an opponent more powerful than them. When they escaped the drow prison, they used stealth along with taking advantage of a distraction (the flying demons). They did have to fight a quaggoth and a giant spider, but most of the drow they avoided.

Since the escape, they've fought goblins, giant fire beetles (in that battle, we actually used the NPCs as combatants rather than cards; fire beetles are so easy that it was more of a "we need food" than a "fight the bad guys" type of encounter. Going in to Gracklstugh, they're opting for subterfuge and stealth, rather than any sort of combat.

My players aren't the "go in head first and fight through every obstacle" type of players. Granted, we have played those kinds of campaigns, and they can be a lot of fun, but they're taking OoTA very seriously and trying to do it with minimal combat. Especially since 14 of their NPCs are effectively non-combatants who need protection (8 humans who they rescued from slavery, 4 myconid sprouts they rescued from goblins, Stool, and Shuushar).

The most challenging was the Oozing Temple, where I actually had to change the Black Puddings to Grey Oozes, lest the PCs die (one of them fell into the trap and had no way to survive; I didn't want to kill off the PCs yet).

Beyond that, I'm doing very little to tailor the encounters to the PCs. If they come up against something more powerful than them, I give them a chance to recognize that power and go the other way (very important when meeting demon lords).

As far as I can tell the encounters are balanced so you aren't playing with NPCs on the board by several sessions in anyway. In my session there were NPCs only in the very first battle on board. After that I simply explained "they'd be doing things to help as needed or fighting enemies on their own" and left it at that. Saved a lot of time that way.


Lord of the Hidden Layer
Have you folks played or looked at PotA? How does it stack up to OotA? I'm not sure which one to run. Not meaning to derail, but it seemed like the place to ask.
I'm playing in PotA now, have looked through OotA but no more. If you like to "put down roots" and try to build up some Place (as in, future new kingdom), PotA easily accommodates that.

I already told the group that I will want to move in and renovate the first dungeon / cave we cleared out. When we get famous and powerful enough that anybody who comes looking for us can incidentally smash the town to splinters.
My character has CHR 8 but I've already talked down 2 fights by saying we act under the authority of the Sheriff of Red Larch. (Because we did him a favor early on and he let us help him out, not because we really are.)

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