5E [CAMPAIGN] Out of the Abyss – New GM [SPOILERS]

Boendal2

Villager
Hello everyone,

I am currently running the Out of the Abyss (OotA) campaign with 4 players. We meet roughly every 14 days. The players are also relatively new to 5e, some of them played earlier versions of DnD a few years ago.

I will keep my campaign notes here and share homemade material for others that might be interested. As I am a new GM I will also use this thread to ask occasionally for help/recommendations. English is not my first language btw.


House rules:
Flanking:
flanking an enemy gives +1 to attack roles
Exploding crits: the additional damage die from critical attack roles is automatically the highest number of the die (f.e d12 = 12). this works for and against the PCs.
Insight vs. WIS: insight checks don’t have a DC but the GM rolls in secret WIS against the PCs Insight
Variant start: after the ability scores are determined (3 out of 4d6 or point buy) the players can choose a feature and decrease one ability scores by 2 points or two ability scores by 1 point.
UA Feats for Skills: as found here. This replaced the hombrew "variant start" above as it turned out to be way too powerful.
A lot of other homebrew stuff:
f.e. totem spirit for the barbarian (=boar), lava spells for the sorcerer

The PCs started OotA at level 3, as we played three one shots before the adventure started:
The Midnight Revelry
Let's give Kobold Peace a Chance
No Peace with Kobolds

"No Peace with Kobolds" offers in my opinion the perfect explanation why the PCs are in the underdark to begin with. I had to make some adjustments to keep the adventure short and simple, but in the end it’s one of the two options: either the party follows a duergar slaver or they let him escape and a drow scout party ambushes them while they try to leave the cave. (my party followed the slaver, because he still held a much liked NPC hostage. They were captured and poisoned after 1h of following the duergar. Shoor and some elite drow warriors shot a round of poisoned arrows at them and brought them to Velkynvelve)

Links and material that helped me a lot so far:
A Guide to Out of the Abyss
Out of the Abyss - DM notes
Out of the Abyss - resource collection
Out of the Abyss - resources

A big thanks to all the contributors of these links/materials! You make gaming easier and more fun!


GM notes:
I changed the kobolds in the one shots to goblins…. Because I realised before the session started that I have no kobold minis (but a lot of goblins). The duergar slaver is called Yume and escaped with Kignos, the leader of the goblins, to the underdark. Maybe I let them appear again close to or in Gracklstugh.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
Player character description (short):

Eearia:
female half-orc, barbarian, 13 years old, background: soldier, savage attacker (variant start feat), path of totem warrior (boar), tusks grew bigger than before, has a giant boar piglet (Ebert), favourite weapon: great axe, personality: impulsive, rebellious, stubborn, direct

Stats (rolled): STR 19, DEX 14, CON 15, INT 10, WIS 11, CHA 12

Eeria grew up in a tribe far north that is famous for breeding giant war boars and cutting axe handles. Only 13 years old, she was already part of the tribes militia. After failing a duel with another half-orc to become part of the inner circle of the tribes leaders, she now is wandering the Sword coast to gather skills and one day become the leader of her tribe. She has three younger brothers. She is a hobby woodcrafter.


Thar'den: male half-orc, fighter (duelling), 32 years old, background: mercenary veteran, sentinel feat (variant start), battlemaster, favourite weapons: battleaxe and javelins, personality: honest, brash, socially awkward, caring

Stats (rolled): STR 18, DEX 15, CON 16, INT 14, WIS 16, CHA 4

Thar’den grew up in an orphanage close to Daggerford. As a teenager he joined the Flaming Fist. He served for a few years and eventually became sergeant. That was, when the orphanage was attacked and destroyed (by demons and devils). As soon as he heard of the attack, he left his duty without permission. But he found only rubble and dead bodies. He still hopes to find his closest family members: Avicenna (tiefling paladin), Dunya (aasimar sorceress) and Thorin (dwarf cleric). After the incident he was demoted by the Flaming Fist for leaving his duty without permission and sent to Chult as punishment. There his comrades eventually dropped him off in the jungle. He survived and quit the Flaming Fist on returning. He wandered from Chult to Waterdeep to find more information on his missing family.


Vanya: female aasimar (fallen), looks human, paladin (duelling), 31 years old, background: faction agent (emerald enclave), oath of vengeance, personality: protective, very caring, self-sacrificing, sometimes socially awkward

Stats (rolled): STR 16, DEX 10, CON 13, INT 10, WIS 13, CHA 14

Vanya grew up in a small farming village close to Everlund. As a child she gained healing powers – always linked to dreams of a beautiful blonde lady with a jaybird. When her best friend Vince died after falling from a tree, she couldn’t save him. Silent blame by the villagers followed. Her parents ultimately decided to send her to her uncle Thomas in Everlund. He trained her and they moved later to Waterdeep. There she became a faction agent for the Emerald Enclave.


Veldyn: male forest gnome, wizard/sorcerer, 24 years old, background: sage, sorcerous origin: giant soul (fire), personality: cheeky, easily distracted, speaks without thinking, widely read

Stats (rolled): STR 8, DEX 12, CON 11, INT 17, WIS 14, CHA 17

Veldyns parents were (secret) fire and earth sorcerers. When Veldyn was still a young gnome their village was attacked. His parents stepped up, but in the process most of the village was destroyed. The village afterwards executed his father and exiled his mother. Veldyn never forgave the village for that. After years of secret training he burned down the village completely and left – on a mission to become the mightiest volcano magic sorcerer of all time. On his journey he learned, that also books contain a lot of magical secrets, so he learned magic from them as well. He has a pet familiar called "Demetrius" (black fox).


GM notes:
Ebert the giant boar piglet is used for roleplay only (at the moment). After finding him in the woods (dead mother boar lying besides 4 piglets) and a successful animal handling check, we agreed on a homebrew system for training/domesticating him further: 1d20 per day to make progress on a scaling system for commands. He is roughly 14months old and will still grow substantially, even though he is very large already (approx. the size of a normal boar). When they were descending into the Underdark he roughly listened to his name (10/20 on the tracker = 50% chance).

The skills of the party are above average due to their high dice rolls. Also I am aware of the boost due to the additional feat (variant start). I will have adjust the encounters accordingly.

There is a lot of homebrew stuff going on. I made it clear to the players that we might have to (re)adjust a little later on.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
1st session:
The characters wake up without any equipment, just wearing their common clothes in a dim lit prison cell. Eeria immediately realises, that Ebert is missing. Everybody just levelled up to level 3, but has -5HP due to the poisoning and treatment of the drow.
Veldyn finds out that magic is not working inside the slave pen. After a quick discussion with Eldeth and Prince Derendil two drow scouts appear to put the prisoners to work. As the two drow come closer Eeria and Thar’den decide it’s best to attack them. Together they knock out the first one, by stealing his dagger and sticking it in his throat. The second drow calls for help. 2 more drow and 12 quaggoths arrive and go berserk on all the prisoners. Way to make friends! Vanya tried to hide a crossbow, but fails her stealth check.
The aftermath: On their manacles on the prison wall in front of the cells are now hanging Eeria and Thar’den. Both are down to 1 and 2HP. Illvara arrives really angry to explain to the prisoners how exactly this is going to play out in the future: they are nothing to her and the drow and will follow every single command or be executed or worse. She casts ray of sickness on Eeria and Thar’den, but their relentless endurance brings them up to 1HP. The party is a bit shocked by the whole situation (Illvara essentially tried to kill Eeria and Thar’den with the ray of sickness) but at least now they know a prison break won’t be that easy.


Day 1
The prisoners are put to work: Vanya and Jimjar are on kitchen duty. Jimjar bets who can make more food. Vanya steals a small stone knife (1d2 dmg). Veldyn and Sarith have to empty the chamber pots of the drow at the waterfall (a duty that Sarith has to fulfil every day). The two of them don’t get along very well. Veldyn saw something move down in the water pool. Eeria and Thar’den stay on the wall and are being tortured by the drow guards. Back in the prison cell they started talking more with the NPCs, finding out, that they are here for up to 14 days. Sarith is probably in here the longest (he doesn’t mingle with the others). In the evening Eeria and Thar’den are being tossed in the cell. A drow brings mushroom soup for everybody. They make friends with Stool. Together with Eldeth, Stool, Jimjar, Turvy, Topsy, Prince Derendil and Buppido they decide to attempt a prison break soon. Shuushar is indifferent. Ront and Sarith don’t really care. Turvy and Topsy say they have a plan. On further investigation the plan is “run… really fast, when none of the guards is looking.” The PCs agreed to inspect the waterfall and the (depths of the) pool further, otherwise running sounds good to them.


Day 2
Eeria and Ront were put on lift duty and made a lot of strengths checks. Eerias natural 20s and 18+ rolls seemed to impress Shoor who was today in the barracks and the kitchen.

Thar’den had four drow escort him down to the cave floor, all of them carrying bows/crossbows. They put him against the southern wall and the leader of the four told him to “run, when I say so”. The drow then took position 35m away and let Thar’den run towards them. Every 6 seconds one of the drow released an arrow. Thar’den decided to dash, therefore the drow had advantage on their attacks. Two of them hit before Thar’den reached them. The other two were quite pissed that he was that they didn’t get a shot.

Veldyn and Vanya were sent to gather mushrooms on the cavern floor close to the water pool. Four quaggoths and Jorlan kept an eye on them. Besides the edible waterorbs Vanya found three little fungi (timmask = poisonous). She also saw something move in the water, maybe a fish swimming close to the water!? Veldyn was not very successful haresting the waterorbs and feared punishment by the drow. Suddenly Vanya to decided to check for the depth of the water– by throwing Veldyn as far as she can into the pool. A combat between Veldyn and the ooze in the water followed. Vanya tried to command the ooze, which didn’t work. Veldyn did a bit of damage but was nearly killed, when the third big attack of the ooze kicked him high in the air and out of the water (1d6 fall damage put him at -2HP). Vanya reanimated him and gave him all her waterorbs, which he gallantly took. Jorlan, who watched all of this, scolded Vanya, but didn’t hit her, and told her there are other ways prisoners should try their escape.

Everyone but Eeria was brought to the cells again. She helped a drow patrol come up the lift. The patrol had a tall human slave with them. Shoor talked with Eeria, promising her freedom if she defeated the other slave. Eeria hesitated, but feared further punishment. A fight between her and the human (also barbarian) followed. The drow warriors made bets on the fight, much to Jorlans amusement. Eeria defeated the slave, who was lying unconscious on the floor. Jorlan approached her, gave her a dagger and asked her to finish him if she wants freedom. Not really believing him, but still afraid of punishment/torture she slit the humans throat, screaming loudly. Jorlan laughed and had her escorted back into the cell.

The PCs told each other what they found out (poisonous mushrooms, water is probably deep enough but houses an ooze) but couldn’t really decide on an escape plan. Veldyn tried to craft the small stone knife of Vanya into a lock pick, failed the safe and broke the knife in two. Now he has a very small stone blade without handle, still doing 1d2 damage. Ront bullied Stool but was intimidated by the PCs.


GM notes:
I didn’t describe any of the torture of Eeria and Thar’den, just said “think of a torture that the drow come up with yourself – that happens today to you two”. Weirdly I think that made it worse, at least for Eeria. That’s the power of the human mind I guess…

To differentiate better between the drow, Jorlan is “the one with scars in the face” and Shoor “the one with an especially beautiful face, even for a drow”. Honestly the biggest problem for me during this sessions were all the weird drow names (characters, cities etc.).

Due to the cleaning of chamber pots by the waterfall and simultaneously harvesting waterorbs close to the pool of water the players now imagine the daily mushroom soup way more disgusting than I initially planned. I haven’t corrected them so far.

The skill challenges may sound a bit boring, but I use them to further increase the grim picture of the drow: every time the PCs fail a skill check, a drow hits them with an unarmed strike (or worst case an arrow). Also I felt, that OotA really lacks on content in chapter 1. The text to hard labor is merely a paragraph long and doesn’t offer much for storytelling. I can just recommend making a prerolled list of (interesting) prison duties including skill checks for 3-5 days. Really helped me keeping the game going.

The fight with the ooze: Oh boy, did I make this harder than it had to be…. New GM here… Somehow I spontaneously decided that Veldyn landed exactly on/in the ooze (don’t ask me why)…. Which let furthermore to DEX saving throws to escape the ooze (don’t ask me why)…. Which Veldyn failed round after round! As Vanya threw him really far and all the quaggoths were also far away (don’t ask me why)…. Basically the ooze would have killed Veldyn…. So in the fourth round of combat I let the ooze kick him out of the water. I just didn’t want to kill a (new) player in the first session (also by my kind of own mistake… he could have landed NEXT to the ooze). Well, at least we now have a running gag on the table: “Vanya, do you want to check how deep the water is?” Veldyn steps further away from Vanya

Eerias fight with the human barbarian: Two barbarians fistfighting each other would have taken 10-15 rounds of combat. Even though a well received idea, after approx. four rounds of combat the players became visibly bored (session 1 after all), so I let the drow shoot some arrows at the barbarians, both loosing instantly 12HP. In hindsight it would have been better for the story if Jorlan just hurt them before the fight started (“so you two have a motivation to end this fast”).
 
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Boendal2

Villager
2nd session:

Day 3

In the morning two guards came, looked grim at the prisoners and dragged Jimjar outside. They threw him over the edge into the spider webs. The PCs only heard a single scream and monstrous noises. Then there was silence again. Afterwards more prison labour awaited:

Veldyn was escorted to the temple. While entering he spotted Ebert the pet boar of Vanya on a leash inside the temple. Asha asked him politely to help her translate a letter that her scouts “found” on a duergar trader. She offered him better treatment by the guards, double rations, and even offered to buy him as a personal translator in Menzoberranzan. The letter was covered in blood. Asha knew that Veldyn can help as “comprehend languages” is in his spellbook. Upon agreeing she hands Veldyn his spellbook and he starts casting/translating. Asha is called out of the temple by another drow. Veldyn doesn’t investigate the room further. When Asha came back he claimed, that he needed more time (= lie, successful deception check) and had to come back tomorrow.

Eeria was brought to the cavern floor to carry big and heavy stones from the south to the north. STR checks all the way. She succeeded all of them, further impressing the drow. In the end she found a small stone that she can use for throwing/hitting (1d2 damage).

Shoor took Thar’den and brought him in front of the barracks. There he told him, that he wants to evaluate his fighting skills, as the drow want to sell him as a fighter to a noble house. He gave him a shortsword and signalled a drow scout to attack. Thar’den knocked him out in the first round. Shoor signalling a drow warrior to attack. Thar’den picked up the second shortsword from the scout and also knocked the warrior out easy enough. Then Shoor sent in a drow elite warrior. This fight Thar’den lost and started with death saving throws, as Asha came to heal him. Asha and Shoor had a small fight in front of everybody.

Vanya was left with Sarith alone in the prison cell. After a while Jorlan came and started talking to Sarith. They seemed to fight. Jorlan eventually calling Vanya to join the conversation. He basically begged her to escape with Sarith. Sarith got Shoors key for a day. Then the two had to clean chamber pots.

In the evening everybody shared his or her loot (stones, Turvy& Topsy found more timmasks) and stories. Veldyn made fun of Sarith, Sarith cast “darkness” on him, and everybody went nuts. Thar’den attacked Sarith, but Sarith dodged it and did an unreasonable amount of damage kicking Thar’den. Everybody calmed down and Sarith argued that Jorlan only wants them to escape so he can blame Shoor and catch/kill the prisoners himself. After a lengthy discussion the PCs decided on a plan: poison the food with timmasks, forge a copy of the key, escape during the night, take silently over the guard tower and temple, and then jump into the pool of water. Now everybody, even Sarith and Ront, decided to help with the prison break. As all travel options seem evenly bad, they agreed to bring Stool back to Neverlight Grove (also following Sariths advice where to be safe from the drow).


Day 4
Vanya had to wash the dirty clothes of the drow using buckets and rope at the waterfall. She stole about 7m of silken spider rope (very thin, fits under her clothes).

Veldyn was asked to translate further. He did so, but managed to use “illusory script” on his whole spellbook, basically copying it to the back part of the book and then ripping out the original pages stealthily. He now has his spellbook in single pages stuffed into his clothes.

Asha came to the prison cell and asked who is trained in woodcutting (I imagined Eeria would be the one to answer). Thar’den stepped up, Eeria stayed silent. So Thar’den was brought to the temple as well and had to fix a minor problem on the foot of Lolths wooden statue.

Eeria had kitchen duty with Eldeth. Eldeth cast “heat metal” on a metal spoon, pressing the hot metal in the key shape, thus forming a new key. Turvy and Topsy brought additional timmasks, which Eeria put into the mushroom stew. She saw Ront on lift duty and signalled him to break the mechanism “by accident”. He did so and was beaten by the drow, but not too hard.

Back in the prison cell nobody ate his/her food. Sarith gave Jorlan the key back. They waited a few hours and then silently unlocked the prison door with the new improvised key. Eeria and Thar’den led the majority of the group stealthy into the guard tower and overwhelmed two drow (who had disadvantage on perception checks, being lightly poisoned). Veldyn and Prince Derendil waited outside to deal with the quaggoths. Veldyn cast “mold earth” to make the passage from the quaggoths quarters impassable. Everybody got their (nonmagical) equipment back, took some additional rope, bolts and waterskins from the armoury above the guard post.
The party succeeded on their second stealth check, but Eeria entered the temple loudly (failed stealth check opening the door). In it sat Asha, meditating. Eeria and Thar’den fought Asha, beheading her at the end of round two. Veldyn pillaged the tower completely, taking some damage from the chest traps, and set the quarters on fire. Eeria destroyed the wooden statue of Lolth and Prince Derendil took the polished jet stones from its eyes. He is now cursed.
Vanya knotted two ropes on a stone near the waterfall and all prisoners managed with a successful final stealth check to escape silently. They didn’t encounter the ooze anymore. While running for the southern passage Veldyn shot multiple “fire bolts” at the spider nets enflaming them.

Summary: The 4 PCs and 9 NPCs left a burning drow outpost basically unnoticed. They killed 3 drow in the process, one of them being Asha. They forged a second key, poisoned the drow, broke the lift, rendered the passage to the quaggoths quarters temporarily impassable, and succeeded all their stealth checks. They torched the temple & Ilvaras quarters as well as they inflamed the spider nets. Ilvara won't be happy when she comes back.


Day 5
During the day: The party found a small crystal cave with a narrow entry, where only the small creatures could fit through. Veldyn sent his familiar (Demetrius) to investigate and cast light to see better. Faerzness caused a wild magic effect: for the next minute Veldyn healed 5HP at the start of each turn. Sarith slapped Veldyn for being so reckless and explained the dangers of Faerzness to the party.


Day 6
During the day: Lava vent & 4 orc raiders + 1 orc Eye of Gruumsh (4x50gp gemstones)

Veldyn and Thar’den fell into the lava vent, it took them two rounds to get out. Veldyn was reduced to 0HP but healed by Vanya. The party heard the orc from far away and sent Ront to negotiate with them. They instantly attacked him and fighting ensued. Veldyn killed the Eye of Gruumsh with “burning hands” placed directly on his temples. The lava vent was harder for the party to overcome than 5 orcs.


GM notes:
Oh boy… my stupid ideas again…. Placing Ebert in the temple was not a good idea…. Eeria didn’t want to leave without him, so every escape plan had to include getting inside the temple. That made things 100% harder…. In hindsight Ebert should have been in the guard tower anyway (what does a giant boar do in a temple of Lolth?)

I tried to narrate day 3 as tarantino-esque as possible, jumping from PC-challenge to PC-challenge and linking them all together (Asha healing Thar’den, giving Veldyn time alone in the temple, Eeria hearing the sounds of fighting while carrying stones, Vanya healed Thar’den quickly while walking by). It was in my opinion interesting but needed way more preparation than normal.

For the translation by Veldyn I prepared a handwritten letter. I wrote the initial message (something about a trade caravan arriving soon in Sloobludop) in a very simple code (every second letter was random) on a piece of paper, soaked it in black tea, let it dry and put some red stains on it. Some burning with a lighter, scrambling the paper, and it looked like a pretty used piece of old parchment. I may upload a picture of it later. After all it was quite easy and a nice gadget for the players. After Veldyn cast “comprehend languages” I told the player to mark every second letter and went on to Thar’dens trial outside the temple.

Sarith casting “darkness” in the prison cell was an honest mistake, as I forgot for a moment about the no magic field…. New GM here…. Sarith had to explain that the drow made a specific anti magic field which lets drow still cast magic inside. Also I gave Sarith kind of a promotion. He told the PCs (reluctantly) that he was the lieutenant of Velkynvelve before Jorlan (and therefore before Shoor). This explains in my opinion the rivalry between all three of them a bit better.

But again…. I made the whole thing harder than it had to be…. Why did Jorlan give Sarith the key “just for 24 hours”..... this created a very long discussion on how to copy the key within the next day…. When no one knows exactly where they will be put to work tomorrow…… in the end Turvy and Topsy had an idea: They used dark gnome poop (very hard) to make 4 copies of the key shape….. these 4 poop shapes are distributed between the PCs. Additionally Sarith still has the key…. they now hope that at least one of them can forge a copy. Eldeth told the PCs she is able to cast “heat metal”….. I hardly recommend any other GM to hand out the key indefinitely…..

As the plan seemed to involve more and more stealth roles and taking over the temple I decided to let Ilvara go on a patrol with the drow elite warriors (to investigate why the supply patrol is overdue). So in case a full prison riot starts the PCs still have a chance to escape – not win the fight, but escape. I feel the 19 drow, 12 quaggoths and few giant spiders placed there in the book make it way too hard to escape regularly, especially for level 1 characters. The quaggoths in particular(right next to the prison cells) and also the drow elite warriors are hard to beat. I recommend downscaling or sending some on patrol. (even in a scenario like “demon flight” as proposed by the book the PCs would likely encounter some drow or even Ilvara – and they should sound the alarm…. I just don’t like the mental picture of drow and quaggoths all lining up on the edge of the outpost, strictly looking/firing at the demons, not seeing a single prisoner escape by jumping in the water or using the lift…. there are way too many guards to let that happen, they would run around, get ammunition, everybody would be armed and ready to fight, they would shout commands at each other etc.)

Killing off Jimjar wasn’t originally planned, but I really wanted to strengthen the picture of grim and unforgiving drow. I wanted the PCs to know that failure results in death in the underdark. I chose Jimjar because in the first days I overdid it on the betting and the players started rolling their eyes whenever Jimjar entered a conversation. I didn’t like the obsessive betting myself, but didn’t want to break character on day 4. Anyway, some of the PCs now think Jimjar was “just crazy” – which is also fitting in the overall theme of OotA. Note to myself: NPCs that want to bet are fun; NPCs who bet ALL THE TIME are annoying as hell.

I created a rating system for evaluating the price of the slaves (who knows, maybe we need it someday). Winning against the barbarian: 2k; against a drow scout: 1k; against a drow warrior: 1,5k; against a drow elite/priestess: 2k; killing an unconscious NPC: 0,5k; succeeding on various skill checks: 0,1k. So far Eeria is worth to the drow roughly 3,5k, Thar’den about 3k, Veldyn as a magic user at least 5k (and Vanya still needs to be tested)

Veldyn finding “silken underwear” in Ilvaras quarters (my bad, the book says actually “silken garments”) resulted in loud laughter during an actual tense prison break. I highly recommend describing Ilvaras quarter like a drow sex dungeon. (lots of pillows and candles, maybe some incense, wine… well and the silken "underwear" and silver framed mirror from the book). Also I changed the set up of the temple tower a bit: Shoor has no room here. He sleeps in the elite barracks. The room under the temple is Ilvaras private meditation/storage room; the third and last room in this tower is her bedroom. I don’t think a female drow priestess would actually allow an inferior male drow to live that close to her.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
3rd session:

Very short session, as all of us were busy in real life:

Day 7
Nothing happened during the day
In the evening Ront pushed Stool and complained about the myconid not helping the party. Eeria was close to fighting Ront when the group decided to make an arm wrestling tournament to blow off some steam. Eeria won with 2 victories. (Veldyn didn’t really participate but gave himself 2 points for defeating Stool two times, so there was kind of a draw)
Eeria started carving Stools image in her axe handle. Thar’den asked Turvy & Topsy to teach him some words in undercommon.


Day 8
Nothing happened during the day. The party decided to make camp in a small cave with a huge zurkhwood in the middle. Eeria cut down the zurkhwood and started carving a small statue of Jimjar.
During the last watch of the night Veldyn heard some voices from a tunnel approaching the cave and went to check it out. He saw 6 duergar approaching and started to wake people up (last second). A lengthy battle followed, during which Vanya was nearly killed while trying to help Turvy: two attacks of opportunity brought her down with one automatic failed death saving throw. Thar’den pushed through and gave her a health potion just in time. The last duergar standing tried to flee, Vanya and Thar’den chased him, but lost sight after approx. 10 rounds.


GM notes:
I like the idea of Eeria decorating her axe handle. Fits her character (background) very well. If she proceeds to do so I might give her +1 on the axe after a few successful skill checks.

Vanya was reduced to -5HP by an attack of opportunity. A second attack of opportunity that was triggered at the same time hit her, so I told the player to mark of one failed saving throw immediately. I later looked up the rules – it should have been two (any damage while unconscious is a critical hit, therefore two failed death saving throws). I have to remember that rule for next time. Thar’den was there within a round, so it didn’t matter, but would have been way more dramatic.

Thar’den learns three words in undercommon per night. The player started writing a list with the words learned.

Night watch (for now): 1. Vanya/Eeria/Stool/Ebert; 2. Thar’den/Turvy/Topsy; 3. Derendil/Eldeth; 4. Buppido/Sarith/Shuushar; 5. Sarith/Veldyn/Ront

Marching order (for now): Sarith, Veldyn, Vanya, Eeria/Stool/Ebert, Ront, Derendil, Turvy/Topsy, Shuushar, Eldeth, Buppido, Thar’den
 
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Boendal2

Villager
4th session:

As most of us are busy in real life at the moment I also decided to skip big parts of the “travelling” – otherwise the campaign will last until 2023 (in real life) without reaching the surface.

Day 9-16 (skipped)
Downtime activities: Thar’den learned more words in undercommon. Veldyn transcribed a spell scroll (green flame blade) into his spell book. Eeria trained Ebert (pet giant boar) and worked on the small wooden statue of Jimjar. Vanya spoke to some NPCs and asked Thar’den to carve a small wooden fox for her.

The party slowly turns paranoid. They believe now to be followed not only by the drow but also the duergar. I let them believe it for now, but I think they will avoid Gracklstugh at all costs – I might have to show them some neutral/non-hostile duergar at some point.


Day 17
Nothing happened during the day. In the evening three escaped slaves from Gracklstugh, shield dwarves appeared at their camp. They needed some persuasion to come closer. All three of them had their tongue cut out and a brand mark on their cheek. It’s a duergar rune, symbolising “enemy/slave”. The party managed to communicate with them through Eldeth and hand signs. Ront didn’t want more dwarves in the group, so Eeria told him to leave. Intimidation check was successful, so Ront started packing his stuff and was ready to leave the group.
During the night Eeria and Vanya tried to make Ront stay. Vanya stole a page from Veldyns spell book at night to write a message. Veldyn woke up and shot a fire bolt at her, but was convinced that it’s all a dream. Thar’den and Veldyn discussed if it would be better to kill Ront, as he could lead the pursuing drow in their direction. Thar’den overheard Turvy and Topsy whispering about leaving the group.
Sarith, Veldyn and Ront held the last watch of the night. Ront had his stuff already packed and was ready to leave the group when a painful scream woke everybody up. One of the shield dwarves was dead, stomach opened and all organs outside of his body (arranged symmetrically). Vanya tried to heal him with no effect. The remaining two shield dwarves were in distress and run away as soon as everybody started searching the corpse for clues. The party tried to find clues on the murder, but failed all their investigation checks. Now they are not sure who was it, a NPCs or duergar/drow assassins.


Day 18
During the day Thar’den talked to Turvy and Topsy about them leaving the party. Topsy was impressed by his honesty and compassion and told him they “are not leaving for now as there is no threat for you or us at the moment”.
Camp was made in a small cavern with a water source (small lake). Thar’den and Eldeth had third watch when a chuul attacked them from the water. The fight was no big challenge for the party and everybody was happy about the extra rations (roasted chuul).
Vanya gave Veldyn a secret letter (she wrote on the page from his spell book) with the wooden fox statue.


Day 19
During the day the party came across a small wooden bridge over a pit (roughly 7m deep). The bridge looked very unstable. Eeria decided to climb down and catch anyone who falls down. After half the party crossed (only NPCs) the makeshift bridge collapsed, Vanya failed her dexterity check and fell. Eeria caught her. Suddenly they heard fighting noises. 3 orogs had been waiting for them and booby-trapped the bridge. Sarith held them off until Eeria and Vanya climbed up the pit. Veldyn disengaged. Thar’den and Eldeth took two turns to catch up with the party and jump over the pit (3,5m). The fight was hard even though the players rolled high. Ront and Buppido went down but were healed in time by the party. In the end Eeria beheaded 2 orogs.
At night the party rested in a system of small caverns, connected to each other, all illuminated with red little lights (moss?). During the third night watch (NPCs only) the party woke up to fighting noises – the session ended without recovered HP or spell slots and with a huge cliffhanger.

Magic items found in the orog hideout:
  • Dagger of Wickedness (spend a sorcerer point to make additional damage and enemy makes CON svg throw or poisoned)
  • Pauldrons of Wailing (fighters second wind ability triggers WIS svg throw on everybody within 10ft. failed = frightened)
  • Great Warhammer of Rage (+1 Warhammer and after killing an enemy you get a free attack on an adjacent enemy)
  • Spell Scroll Detect Poison and Disease


GM notes:

After last session we had a talk and decided to skip the survival aspect. It slowed the game down tremendously and most players (and me) didn’t really enjoy it. Also, as long as Sarith is with them, I won’t ask them for navigation checks (the party decided he should lead the way). As I won’t ask them anymore about travelling speed I keep the drow pursuit at level 1 and decide later if I let them have an encounter with the drow. Maybe if they goof around too long in a city/place.

Eeria has been training Ebert every night since the party fled Velkynvelve. He now listens to his name (66% of the time), play dead (10% chance) and search for things on the floor (10% chance).

For anyone wondering why the NPCs are helping in the fights: I let each player control one additional NPC. The remaining ones aren’t fighting or just very rarely… when I feel there’s a need for them to have an action for the sake of roleplay. Most of the time they do miss though (no matter the roll, laugsinGM).

Ront (the most boring NPC so far) is now my favourite NPC – as Thar’den and Veldyn are actively discussing to kill him, while Vanya and Eeria do not want any NPC to leave or get hurt. Great potential for the future, especially when Buppido kills again and destabilises the party further… and we are coming closer to Gracklstugh. The murder of the shield dwarf rose big suspicion on Ronts loyalty (though they cannot believe he has done it stealthy enough for no one to wake up).

With the skipped days 9-16 I lost track of Turvy & Topsy turning into wererats. Probabaly 28 days have passed already. I have to start with them leaving/turning next session!
 
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Boendal2

Villager
Attached are the NPC character sheets that I give to the players for combat (1 NPC per person). Feedback is very welcome! (number in brackets is the level of the NPC)
 

Attachments

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Boendal2

Villager
5th session:

For this session a friend of us took control over Sarith.

Still day 19
We started where we left: With an initiative roll. 100 giant fire beetles were swarming from the ceiling onto the cave floor (10-20 per turn on the battlemap). The party was split up, half was fighting, and half was fleeing. After Veldyn used repeatedly burning hands, the remaining giant fire beetles were retreating to the ceiling of the cave. Still the party decided to sleep somewhere else that night.


Day 20
Nothing happened during the day.
Third watch of the night, Thar’den saw Topsy and Turvy leave their guard post and pack their backpacks. They wanted to leave, he approached them carefully and Topsy told him, it’s for the best of the group if they are not around. She showed him her stomach, where a Duergar stabbed her a few days ago – there was no wound or scar. They hugged, Thar’den let them leave and went to bed visibly sad.

Vanya asked Eldeth during their watch of the night if she also thinks Prince Derendil behaves worrysome (he still is cursed from stealing the polished gems from the statue of Lolth in Velkynvelve). Eldeth cast detect poison and disease on him in the morning, but could not figure out what exactly is wrong with him. After some detective work by the group, Veldyn cast identify on the gemstones and got to know which curse currently affects Prince Derendil. Vanya and Veldyn wanted to give the stones to Sarith which wanted Veldyn to shine his shoes as payment for helping them. Veldyn cast create bonfire under Sarith, which led to a small struggle between Sarith and the party. In the end Sarith took the gemstones.


Day 21-25 (skipped)
Nothing happened. Downtime activities: Vanya tried to reconnect with her angelic guardian. Eeria trained Ebert and started decorating/carving her warhammer handle.

Thar’den and Vanya discussed how to raise moral during night watch on day 25, when the party was woken up by the screams of Ront. Shuushar was lying dead next to him, inner organs outside of his body. After Vanyas investigation the party was sure it had a religious meaning of some sort. They inspected the footprints around Shuushars body as well as the weapons of everybody. The (ritual) dagger of Buppido raised some concern. While the Eeria, Thar'den, Vanya and Veldyn discussed the next steps in private, Sarith tried to sweet talk Buppido. He only got weird and slightly crazy answers. Thar’den had Eldeth cast zone of truth around the campfire and they started to interrogate Buppido. After some more crazy answers Buppido started to run, but Vanya cast command (“Stop!”) on him. Eeria was first to catch up with him. He confessed while grinning at her. She executed him with a single blow of her warhammer. Angrily she screamed at all the remaining NPCs, that whoever is not 100% with the party should leave immedeatly. Ront was intimidated by her and started running away. Thar’den wanted to shoot a crossbow bolt at him, but Vanya pushed his hand down. No one followed Ront into the dark tunnels. The party debated about turning around and looking for other ways to the surface, but in the end agreed to first bring Stool back to Neverlight Grove.


Day 26-27
As the party got closer to Neverlight Grove I had a minimap with “fog of war”, some random encounters and hidden magic items/potions prepared. This should have taken at least a week in game. Sarith has never been in this area, so there were no navigation checks anymore, only guessing which tunnel to take nect. Somehow the players completely broke this mechanic, and found the shortest way possible (1,5 days in game) and ignored all side quest hooks (f.e. dead body next to a giant mushroom). So the party arrived at Neverlight Grove in a record time of 27 days after escaping Velkynvelve. They were attacked by two awakened zurkhwoods, but asked Stool to talk to them (which he did). After this non-encounter encounter, the party was lead by a very excited Stool to the next myconids (circle of builders).

Gasbide, the circle leader greeted them, told them about the big constructions he plans for the Great Seeder and ultimately led them down to the inner circle. There Phylo greeted the party in a very welcoming way. The group saw some tension between Basidia and Phylo and even though interested in the melding and seeing the “holy part of the grove”, decided to first follow Basidia on a tour through Neverlight Grove. They were showed the circle of builders, circle of growers and heard from Basidia, that Phylo and most of the other myconids behave abnormal for a few weeks. He asked the party to investigate further and maybe sneak into the upper/holy parts of the grove. The players agreed to talk to Loobamub (circle of hunters) and Rasharoo (circle of explorers), hoping that they will also know a way out of the underdark. Eeeria asked Basidia for a potion that helps against the spores of myconids (such as Phylo).

In the evening Thar’den wanted to join the myconids in the melding, but was convinced by Vanya not to go to Phylo. So the two took part in the melding of the circle of hunters. Thar’den had a pleasant and nice experience, in which he became part of the shared consciousness of the myconids. He experienced a day of the myconids, hunting through the forest, seeing through their eyes and feeling their emotions. Vanya had a very bad trip, was sweating heavily, saw after an initial “myconid body experience” only flashing colours and couldn’t move until the melding stopped for Thar’den and her. She went directly to bed afterwards.


Day 28
The group talked to Rasharoo, but he only knew a way to Blindgenstone and Gracklstugh. Afterwards they decided to help Loobamub and hunt down a grick. They spent the day searching for tracks and waited in ambush at the southern wall of the cave where they thought the grick would come by eventually. The battle was very short, and they brought the dead grick back to Loobamub. Afterwards Thar’den, Veldyn and Eeria went to the inner circle to take part of another melding. This time Thar’den and Veldyn both had horrible trips, which led to them becoming (indefinitely) insane. Thar’den now sees an altered version of reality and started talking to a mushroom on the way to bed, thinking it was his long lost brother. Veldyn will sometimes slip into a catatonic state. Eeria had a nice melding experience, seeing Stool playing with other myconids etc.
Eeria brought Thar'den and Veldyn home safely, taking especially care of Thar’den who was talking to a mushroom. Basidia came by and asked how they feel. Sadly he couldn’t figure out what is wrong with them, but now urged them to investigate the “holy part of the cave”. He gave them a potion of protection from spores, promising to make another one.


Day 29
The group discussed leaving Neverlight Grove but went to talk to Rasharoo again and was eventually led to a small cliff that they could easily climb up to the "holy part of the grove" (even though Veldyn was catatonic at the time). Ebert stayed with Rasharoo. The party now had good visual on the giant mushroom Yggmorgus. In front of them was a huge field of smaller and mid-sized mushrooms. They stealthily moved forward, following some strange mumbling and whispering noises. Nobody paid much attention to the cavern floor. Suddenly a hand reaching out of the ground held Thar’den back. He realised it was one of the female guards in Velkynvelve. While the body was slowly pulled into the cavern floor, she asked him to kill her, which he did. That led to him failing another WIS save and gaining a level of madness (10min stunned). The party saw him reaching for his axe, hitting the ground between some mushrooms and not moving afterwards.


GM notes:
We lost five NPCs this session and Stool will probably stay with the myconids. Sarith will stay or die in the Neverlight Grove as well, so we are probably down seven NPCs. I didn’t plan for all of that to happen so soon, but honestly: it’s great! Now the party will progress much faster and RP will focus more on the PCs themselves. Also balancing will be much easier.

I made the curse of Lolth a bit stronger than OotA suggests: Basically Prince Derendil had disadvantage on all rolls. That’s because I didn’t roll many random encounters with spiders and also wanted to make the curse more obvious to the party. Also the stones were red gemstones not polished jet. As Sarith is struggling with his belief there is now a 50% chance of the curse still affecting Prince Derendil. Let's see if they remember to loot Sariths corpse or let the stones rot in Neverlight Grove.

The self-made minimap of the tunnels to Neverlight Grove had some major flaws. I have to redraw it for further use. Sadly the party didn’t take any side quest hooks, so they are short of magic items and potions at the moment. That could be a problem in encountering Yestabrod. To make up for the bad equipment and lost NPCs, they already levelled up to level 4 after Day 28.

As Out of the Abyss does not offer any descriptions of the circle leaders, here is a short list I made of them, for easier roleplaying:
  • Phylo: 4m, green/yellow/orange, (character: extrovert mayor of a small town)
  • Basidia: 4m, yellow with blue cap and fungal growth, vertical hat and claws, see page 85 for picture (character: Gandalf)
  • Yestabrod: 3m, green/blue, distgusting larval creature, fungal growths all over his body, multiple orifices, gurgles and spits (character: Evil McEvilface)
  • Loobamub: 3,5m, sturdy with very long arms (more than 2/3 of the body length), green/dark green/brown (character: Treebeard)
  • Rasharoo: 2,8m, walks on four legs, two heads (only one seeing/hearing/speaking), green/brown covered partially with grey mud (character: slightly paranoid doomsday prepper)
  • Gasbide: 3m, sturdy, whole body seems wooden, slow movements, red cap otherwise brown (character: Ross Gellar)
  • Hebopbe: 2,5m, thin body and extremeties, head is very narrow, green/brown (character: dry alcoholic)
  • Yrberop: 3m, very thick, big head (cap starts at 1m), dark red/brown (character: fat monk who works at a childcare)
I adapted the stats of the grick alpha to a normal grick with double HP and multiattack because the party was still level 3-4. In hindsight that was not necessary, but I felt a CR7 was to much for the group at the moment. Fun fact: the cliff they had to climb on day 29 (DC 15 DEX) caused more (falling) damage to the party than the grick (which had horrible rolls and the players rolled only 18+)

In the end I mixed up the events of the book a little. The first WIS/madness save should be after the encounter with Yestabrod. As Thar’den is now stunned for 10 min, and the party still has Sarith with them (which would turn into a spore servant as soon as Yestabrod arrives)…. I am hesitating to bring up Yestabrod immediately. I do not think the party is able to fight Yestabrod, his servants and Sarith all at once, especially without Thar’den. Maybe I will adapt the encounter (a lot) or not let Sarith turn into a spore servant right away…. Suggestions are welcome! The book also offers a “solution” to losing an encounter later: “The PCs are knocked unconscious. They wake up outside Neverlight Grove infested with Zuggtmoy’s spores.” But that feels unsatisfying.

Next session, if possible the myconids will tell them about a way to Darklake, otherwise the party will probably decide to go to Blindgenstone by foot (which will take roughly 60 days according to the book, omg). Also this would allow passing by Sloobludop and seeing Demogorgon. The chance of the party visiting Gracklstugh is 0% at the moment. I guess, the random encounters with Duergar and the mutilated freed slaves were to frightening. I am not really sad about this, as the chapter “Gracklstugh” is really one of the worst parts in the book (great ideas, but badly written and so many many …. many open ends). Even though I really wanted to meet Themberchaud. I think he is one of the most interesting NPCs in part 1 of the book. Maybe I will write a one shot about helping him by investigating the Keepers of the Flame one day.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
6th session:

Still day 29

The PCs decided to investigate Thar'den. While they did their medicine checks and talked about what to do next Thar'den regained control over his body again. They realized that the ground beneath them contained various dead bodies. They continued and encountered Yestabrod very soon after that. He held a small crazy speech about why the PCs had to die, but was interrupted by a charging barbarian (Eeria). Sariths head exploded and he attacked Vanya. She killed him without taking damage. After taking an unreasonable amount of damage within the first two rounds of combat, Yestabrod started to fall back, called some spore servants and myconids for help while healing himself with dead bodies. The party figured his strategy out quickly and decided to destroy all heads/body parts they could see. After a long fight Eeria dealt the final blow to Yestabrod and the party continued deeper down Neverlight Grove. Thar'den found a cloak of elvenkind and boots of elvenkind on one dead drow. As they came closer to the cliff leading to Yggmorgus 6 more myconids appeared, dancing and "singing" the wedding song of Zuggtmoy and Auramycos. The party was fed up with myconid madness at this point and charged the wedding party, killing all of them rapidly. Prince Derendil was infected by infestation spores in the process.

Afterwards they discussed leaving this place and reporting back to Basidia. Thar'den convinced the party to press on in a moment of self-clarification about his latest hallucinations (madness of Zuggtmoy). The party descended into the lower part where Yggmorgus was located. As they approached a half rotten head stuck out of the ground next to them started to scream. Soon the cave was filled with thousands of screams and the air was vibrating. The party had a vision about the interior of Yggmorgus, seeing a giant creature sitting in it. After a few failed wisdom saving throws Eeria sobbed uncontrollably, Veldyn was stunned and Prince Derendil started to attack the party. Thar'den and Vanya grappled and tied Prince Derendil up to a mushroom. Thar'den comforted Eeria and after the party was feeling a bit better decided to scout ahead towards the giant mushroom. As he approached the giant stalk he saw some spore servants come to form a circle and hold hands. They started to scream and laugh hysterically. Thar'den failed another wisdom saving throw and was now 25% blind and 75% deaf. He went back to the party, which decided to just run towards Yggmorgus, ignoring the spore servants standing outside of it and only defending themselves if necessary. Eldeth and the restrained Prince Derendil were left behind.

Inside Yggmorgus the party saw Zuggtmoy (mediocre history check by Veldyn confirmed, that it was something very bad and ancient and not a normal monster they encounter). After a few minutes looking at the demon lord the bridesmaids starting to push the party out. Thar'den, who tried to interact with the demon lord before by offering her mushroom provisions, was apparently unpleased with the outcome of the situation and fired a crossbow at Zuggtmoy. Initiative was rolled but Zuggtmoy charmed everybody immediately after that and commanded them to "go away from me!". Demoralised but happy to survive the party left Yggmorgus.

Back at Basidia the party reported what they saw, much to the confusion of the myconid leader. After hearing the names Zuggtmoy and Auramycos Basidia ordered his fellow myconids to leave Neverlight Grove. The party had a short rest and accompanied the myconids. As they didn't get any sleep for a very long time, everybody gained one level of exhaustion. On their way to the south-eastern exit Eeria realised that Stool was missing. As she realised Basidia only was taking the circle of hunters and explorers with him she ran off to the circle of sporers. She convinced Stool (and Yrberop) that she would take Stool for a walk. She met the party at the terraces leading upwards to the exit.


Day 30
Thar'den and Veldyn succeeded on their constitution checks and their rash/fungal growth (infestation spores of Zuggtmoy from the melding with Phylo the day before) decreased. Prince Derendil failed his check and a small part of his neck in now covered in red fungal growth.
Nothing happened during the day. In the evening Vanya and Eldeth tried to cut out the piece of fungal growth from Prince Derendils neck and shoulder, healing him afterwards. Prince Derendil is on a leash since he attacked the party yesterday. Eeria and Veldyn convinced Thar'den that Prince Derendil is a threat to the party and should be left behind. Vanya opposed strongly but was overruled. Thar'den then went to Prince Derendil to politely ask him to leave. The Prince understood and started saying goodbye to the party. He thanked Thar'den for his compassion and told Eeria that he understood their choice. He asked Veldyn to visit his father and tell him that his son is still alive and trying to find a way to cure the curse bestowed upon him. Then he hugged Eldeth and finally went to search for Vanya who didn't want to say goodbye at first. They had an emotional conversation where she stated that she did not want him to leave. A successful persuasion check let Prince Derendil reconsider and he agreed to stay with the group for a while longer. Much to the fury of Eeria and Veldyn.


GM notes:
I was really nervous for this session, as I thought Yestbrod might kill the first PC in this adventure (or even TPK). Funny enough the players rolled very high during the fight, Yestabrod on the other side very low and the players figured out very fast to destroy the dead bodies on the ground so Yestabrod couldn't use his legendary actions. So I can just conclude: A very good boss encounter for a party of 4 lvl 4 PCs.

Nevertheless the session was very combat orientated and full of wisdom saving throws. I guess my players actually enjoyed turning slightly mad!?

Prince Derendil does not look very healthy at the moment (infestation spores spreading) and has also a indefinite madness of Zuggtmoy.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
7th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so during battle Veldyn was controlled by me.

Day 31
The session started with Vanya trying to heal Prince Derendil in every way possible: lay on hands, healing potion, potion of resistance, asking Eldeth and Basidia for help, cutting out the infected rash etc. She even prayed to her angelic guardian for help (their relationship is not exactly the best). Sadly Prince Derendil failed his third constitution saving throw in a row and therefore died during the night.

Day 32
As Vanya woke up she saw a dead cold Quaggoth body lying next to her, with already small mushroom sprouts coming out of its skin. As a result Vanya went totally mad. Thar’den tried to calm her down, but as soon as he touched her she started smiting him. She unleashed her skeletal Aasimar wings (first time for this campaign) which caused Eeria and Veldyn to run away frightened. Thar’den continued to try to calm her down. The nearby myconids started to take note and Basidia came to help as well. Vanya attacked him as well, but he accepted the damage calmly. He then started to raise Derendil as spore servant, which infuriated Vanya further. She split the spore servant Derendil in half and nearly took down Thar’den and Basidia, hitting and smiting them like crazy. At last some myconids came to help, grappled and disarmed her. She fell unconscious and was cared for by the party. The next hour consisted of conversation with an understanding Basidia and a very sad cremation of Derendil. Vanya, still unconscious, slept through the whole ceremony. The myconids came to say goodbye and Eeria had a last conversation with Stool. He was asked to join the group but declined, stating that his place was with the myconids. Eeria declined his offer to stay with the myconids. Nevertheless: the party knows they are always welcome at the myconids new place wherever it will be.

After Vanya woke up, she put her old used shield and coat over Derendils grave and took of her holy symbol (necklace with a feather). After failing to save yet another life she wanted to cut all ties with her angelic guardian and left it close to Derendils grave.

Day 32-34
The party left the following day aiming for the Darklake. Eeria fell back, searched for Vanyas holy symbol and took it with her.

After three days of travelling the party reached a stony beach at the Darklake. The giant cave in front of them is nearly completely dark. Thar’den startet to restock their rations by fishing. (Vanya refused to eat mushrooms, which makes survival a bit harder). In the evening a Vrock attacked the party, but was dealt with rather quickly. As soon as the monster was slain a mad Spectator flew towards the party. He kept screaming at the party that they were demons and cannot be trusted, shooting his eye rays at random. The party fled without fighting the spectator. Eldeth, trying to secure their retreat, hit the spectator and he fled immediately, swearing at the PCs and their “demon-powers”.

Day 35-36
During the day a discussion between Eeria, Thar’den and Veldyn ensued, if crossing the Darklake is really the best idea (as there are a lot of dangerous monsters flying over it and are probably also living in it). In the end they decided, that the Darklake is probably as safe as the tunnels of the Underdark and started to cut and carve some taller zurkhwood. Together they managed to make two very decent rowing boats for up to 4 people out of the mushroom caps and stalks they found at the lakeside. This took two days.

The night before the party wanted to depart Vanya, still very quiet, wandered a bit further into the tunnels during her watch. She saw a hooded creature appear and fell back to wake the party up. They waited in ambush, but were spotted by the creature as soon as it exited the tunnel. A voice in their heads told them that there was no need for fighting, and “Grazillax” was not a threat to them. A brief discussion with the Illithid made the PCs aware of an increasing amount of demon attacks and the “society of brilliance”. Thar’den even got some directions to navigate through the Darklake (Duergar runes for North, East, South and West). Nevertheless Grazillax left soon after, as the party didn’t seem enthusiastic over a Mindflayer being present.

At the end of the session the two row boats were nearly finished. Eeria was training Ebert further and working on a small wooden Prince Derendil statue. Thar'den was carving paddles for the boats. Vanya was still very quiet and without magic. Veldyn kept writing and drawing in his spell book.



GM notes:
Ok, time to come clean: I normally rolled all non-combat rolls for Prince Derendil. I rolled a 10 on his final CON saving throw. I didn’t have the Quaggoths stats with me at the time and just declared him dead… only to find out later that he had +3 on CON… which would suffice for a DC of 13. Vanya if you ever read this… I’m sorry… not too much though, as it made for an awesome night of RP, but I do feel quite guilty! Desolée!

At the beachside a Demon attacked, followed up by a Spectator and an Illithid came by two nights later. That was probably too much. The players seriously debated going back through the tunnels... all the way back to Velkynvelve and fighting Ilvara. Note to myself: Do not fill an entry area of a new region with big and famous monsters (stupid metagaming though).

The RP-encounter with Grazillax was very often on the edge of combat. I had to make sure, that the Illithid appeared dangerous and powerful but also not too threatening. In the end I settled for a friendly but arrogant guy that “only had an interest of keeping the balance in the Underdark”. He comforted himself constantly by touching his head with his own tentacles (like a nervous tick) and spoke only telepathically with the PCs.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
8th session:

A friend of ours joined for this session as the deep gnome rogue "Schnetherti".

Day 37-40
The party prepared for leaving the shore. As they started to push the rowboats into the water, sounds from the tunnel emerged. No one wanted to fight demons or an illithid again, so everybody hurried up. Running out the tunnel came a dwarf and a deep gnome. Upon seeing the PCs and their boats they screamed and asked for help. As neither, Eeria or Vanya stopped pushing the boats, the dwarf took the deep gnome and ran over the water (ring of waterwalking). He caught up with the boats rather quickly and threw the deep gnome and himself into one. It was at this moment, that 8 dratches, 2 hezrous and 2 vrocks emerged from the tunnel. Everybody rowed as fast as they could. Veldyn cast burning hands for further acceleration (like a jet engine). The demons did not follow.

After a little while the party stopped. To the surprise of everybody the waterwalking dwarf turned out to be Thar’dens long lost brother Filgeal. He told the party that he was searching the Underdark for their sister who was followed by cultists. Thar’den and Filgeal hugged each other and talked a bit. The deep gnome told the party she was called Schnetherti and that she had accompanied Filgeal for the better part of the last two weeks. The PCs decided to keep rowing in shifts and not take a proper long rest until they crossed the Darklake.

Vanya got a telepathic message in abyssal that urged her to believe in herself and her powers. Nobody in the party knows about this.

During the first “night” Thar’den had vivid hallucinations of his siblings, seeing their images in the lake. As a result his mind slipped. He donned his armor, took his weapon and shield and stepped into the Darklake. Eeria (who was awake at the time) managed to get a hold of him, as a water weird emerged and started grabbing Thar’den. It pulled Thar’den into the lake and started fighting with the party. The fight ended without much damage to the PCs after just a few rounds. Eeria and Vanya jumped immediately into the lake, light being cast on their weapons. They dived and searched for Thar’den but were not able to find him. Filgeal who was sleeping on the other boat didn’t realise what happened at first. When a very wet and depressed Eeria told him Thar’den probably drowned he was shocked. Eeria, mistaken his silence for a lack of emotions slapped him. Filgeal, now shocked even more, tried to hit her with his warhammer. He missed and hit the boat. A short brawl ensued, during which one rowboat caught fire and was destroyed mainly by missed weapon attacks. Everybody besides Filgeal got into the other boat, which barely stayed above water. Calmed down, Filgeal started to mend the broken rowboat. The party made sure Eeria and Filgeal were on different boats.

During the next three days nothing important happened, as a slightly depressed party of 6 (plus Ebert) crossed a big part of the Darklake.

Day 41-43
The party approached the eastern end of the gigantic cavern that they know as Darklake. As there was no shore or tunnel the PCs followed the cavern wall for a while. They encountered a floodgate with a hand-sized button on the right. As they pressed it, the gate opened and water started to flood into a tunnel behind it. The boats were pulled into the tunnel that was descending 45 degrees vertically. The PCs tried to hold on to their boats, but Veldyn, Vanya and Filgeal were thrown overboard. Filgeal, able to walk on water, managed to grab Veldyn and Vanya. It took the party a while to reunite, but (especially thanks to Filgeals ring of waterwalking) nobody drowned.

The party traversed an enigmatic flooded tunnel system, realising the Darklake is more than a single big lake. After roughly two days they left the tunnels again and were in another large cavern. As “evening” approached it became very foggy. The PCs could hear another boat approaching but were unable to see anything. As the noises passed, the characters could hear gargling voices. Thinking that these are voices of Kuo-Toa the PCs remained silent. After some more paddling the party finally saw a tunnel leading out of the water onto dry land. Eeria destroyed the rowboats in a depressed rage.

Day 44-46
The party aimed for Blindgenstone, failing most of their navigation checks.

Vanya was again contacted telepathically in abyssal. The voice promised her help and that no one will suffer anymore. Then Vanya saw a small bat that dropped a coin in front of her. The coin has an inverted triangle on it. She took it. Nobody in the party knows about this.

At the third day they saw 8 tall creatures at the end of a tunnel. One creature slowly approached the party. The Duergar on top of a steeder greeted the party in undercommon, started to speak with Schnetherti and proposed to trade with them. Eeria, angry, sad and not speaking undercommon walked away. At the end of the tunnel two Duergar on steeders tried to stop her (not attacking her). Furious about this, Eeria attacked them. The rest of the party rushed towards Eeria. After seeing their leader and two archers killed, the remaining Duergar started to flee, taking most of the steeders (pack animals) with them. During the fight Vanya managed to get on top of a female steeder. She tried to steer the giant spider into the direction of the fleeing Duergar but after an initial success the creature threw her off. After the fight the party looted the dead Duergar and one dead pack animal. They all find +1 maces and +1 hand crossbows, as well as more black coins, ammunition and some golden trinkets. Additionally the Duergar merchant wore a mithril chain mail.


GM notes:
On the Darklake, the PCs took turns rowing. In the meantime the other PCs “rested”. As this results in shifts of roughly 1h rowing and 2h resting per character they did not get exhaustion. The players argued well that 16h of “resting” per day are enough to compensate the long rests. The only thing I did was to adjust their travel speed to fast, which results in harder perception and stealth checks etc.

The demon lord who contacted Vanya telepathically is Fraz-Urb’luu, the Prince of Deception. He is aware that Vanya is an Aasimar who lost touch with her angelic guardian and wants to trick her into becoming an agent of chaos. He sent Vanya a token to use as a new spellcasting focus. He knows, that Vanya would not follow a demon lord, but wants to make her believe that he is a helpful and good being. Fraz-Urb’luu is already trapped in a black jewel in Mantol-Derith. He needs powerful allies to free him from his prison. Vanya is one of the beings he reaches out to.

I use an alternative currency for the Underdark: black and grey coins (basically GP and SP). There is an exchange rate (that the PCs are not yet aware of) of 10:1. Only races/merchants that trade with dwarves or humans is willing to take GP/SP. Bad rolls during trade negotiations result in high exchange rates. On the other side the Underdark economy is flooded with cheep and magical weapons and gemstones, as Duergar and Svirfneblin make most of their money with selling those. Because the party decided to avoid Gracklstugh they could not benefit from trading with the Duergar so far. The traders at the end of the session were supposed to give them an understanding of the Underdark economy – sadly the encounter resulted in a fight where most of the steeders (packed with magical weapons and armor) fled.

Vanya nearly took control over a (tame) giant spider but sadly had a very bad roll on the final animal handling check. She also failed a dexterity saving throw and was thrown off. The party remains without a mount. Too bad, I would have liked a fallen Aasimar paladin riding a giant spider. Maybe there will be another chance in the future.

I spoke with some players after the session. The overall moral seems to be at an all time low. Thar’dens death/suicide was not well perceived. I don’t know if I did a bad job GMing and setting the scene during the last session or if the gritty campaign and harsh environment is getting under the skin of some players. I guess we need to address this before next session. I do not want anyone to be frustrated or unhappy with the way our campaign goes. Thankfully the party is on its way to Blindgenstone where more heroic adventures with “good” characters (that speak common, yey!) await. Probably a good idea for the party at the moment.
 

Boendal2

Villager
Player character description (short):

Filgeal (new character):
male dwarf, cleric (light), 30 years old, background: sailor, favourite weapons: warhamme, personality: reliable, mostly introverted, rightful, afraid of loss

Stats (rolled): STR 16, DEX 8, CON 16, INT 13, WIS 20, CHA 10

Filgeal grew up in an orphanage close to Daggerford. After an attack of demons and devils on the oprhanage he looked at the East Rift for family members. He is asked to leave as more and more demons attack the dwarven settlement after his arrival. In Sheirtalar he took a ship to Waterdeep. The ship was destroyed close to Athkatla in a storm and Filgeal barely survived. He started as an acolyte in a temple of Talos (who saved him). During the next years in Athkatla he forged his own armor. After a few years he left Athkatla, looking for his lost siblings Avicenna, Dunya and Thar'den. In Alaron he got the information that his sister Dunya is being followed by cultists. Desperate to save her he followed their trails into the Underdark. There he met the deep gnome Schnetherti. Together they meet the other PCs close to the Neverlight Grove.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
9th session:

A friend of ours joined for this session as one of the goblins from "The Silken Pathways".

Day 47-52
Schnetherti left the party, leaving behind a note explaining she doesn't do well in groups. The PCs encounter a huge chasm with silken spider webs stretching from on side to the other ("The Silken Paths"). Two goblins slid down the webs and introduced themselves as "Ayns" and "Zwaih". They invited the party to their hideout, traded a bit with them and offered to escort them to the other side of the chasm (and further to Blingdenstone). Eeria bought a giant badger hide and asked the two goblins to make an armour for Ebert.
Halfway through the chasm, the party saw a chest dangling in the webs. Zwaih inspected it and a fight with a mimic followed. Some giant spiders joined the fight but the party successfully stood their ground. While fighting Veldyn burned down a big part of the webs and Eeria fell approx. 35m (into more webs). Vanya started using her paladin powers again.
After two more hours of climbing/sliding through the spider webs the party reached the other side of the chasm. Three cocoons hung from the ceiling, one slightly moving. The PCs opened it and the halfling Fargas Rumblefoot fell out of it. After some chit-chat he asked the party to join him for his quest of finding the legendary lost tomb of Khaem. The party declined and they part their ways soon after.

After five days of travelling, some campfire talk and finding food and water, the party found an abandoned deep gnome outpost. During night watch the party noticed a ochre jelly slide by, direction Blingdenstone. Downtime activity: Eeria finished a rather beautiful small wooden statue of Thar'den.

Day 53-56
The next evening the party discovered again a small but abandoned deep gnome outpost/settlement. Veldyn sent his familiar Demetrios in. A short fight with two giant badgers and a deep gnome ghost ensued. Downtime activity: Vanya talked again with Fraz-Urb’luu.

Two days later the party encountered two cave fishers, killed them and collected their blood for brewing special dwarven liquor (Eldeth has a recipe). In the evening they approached the outskirts of Blingdenstone, the Pickshine Mines. They made Dasco Pickshine's acquaintance. He offered to bring them together with the next caravan to Blingdenstone. The party arrived in Blingdenstone, a new and totally different (somehow welcoming) environment from what they experienced within the last two months.


GM notes:
The "special dwarven liquor" idea I got here

Sadly the party passed down the opportunity to find the lost tomb of Khaem. I think the Dawnbringer would make for an awesome companion for Vanya. Well.... too bad for the party. Maybe I will mix in the opportunity another time again. Even though I guess the party will leave the Underdark immediately after visiting (and saving?) Blingdenstone.
 

Boendal2

Villager
10th session:

The party arrived last session in Blingdenstone. A big cave system lies in front of them. They explored many different parts of Blingdenstone - not every cave and social encounter will be mentioned here. The goblins "Ayns" and "Zwaih" left the party to go drink, refresh and trade at the Foaming Mug inn. They told Eeria to meet them and pick up Ebert's armour in about 5 days.

Day 57
The party met Senni and Dorbo Diggermattock, the temporary leaders and de facto rulers of Blingdenstone. The Diggermattocks told the PCs that Blingdenstone is a safe haven for all good races in the Underdark and that they are welcome to stay as long as they want. They also asked them to help the city out by investigating either the ooze infestation in the former royal chambers or the wererat situation in the locked off western part of the city. The party was also told to talk to the militia leader, Jadger for more information on the wererats.
Sark Axebarrel, captain of the inner guard told the party that there is a monster in the locked off, north-eastern parts of the city. Said monster has been in Blingdenstone since the drow ruled over Blingdenstone.
Filgeal, Vanya and Eldeth went to the temple (Ruby in the Rough), talked to the overly challenged temple priest Glyphic Shroomlight and afterwards to the ghost of Burrow Warden Jadger in the catacombs. The latter gave Filgeal a silver dagger, warned them about the abilities of the wererats and also asked them for help with some ghosts in the residential areas of the city. He also told them that a friend of him, Udshak had been missing for a few weeks. He was last seen entering the north-eastern part of the city (to research Ogremoch's Bane).
In the meantime Eeria and Veldyn went shopping in the Trader's Grotto. A gelatinous cube attacked a deep gnome guard, Eeria killed it quickly (one guard died, but the cube couldn't enter the northern part of the city). Veldyn bought gnome bread and wine from the general trader Satilia Boulderwatch. Eeria wanted a tusk piercing and is sent to the smith in the Caves of Clatter.
Filgeal and Eldeth bought spices and brewing supplies to start brewing their special dwarven liquor.

Day 58
The next morning the party decided to look for Jadger's missing friend Udshak. They left the city through the the north-eastern gates to look for him. They immediately found a dead body but were attacked by a deep gnome ghost. Filgeal used his divine powers to frighten the undead, which fled into the walls. The party brought the dead body to the guards. Sadly it's not Udshak but a guard who had been on reconnaissance mission. The PCs entered the north-eastern parts of the city again. They followed to the place where the ghost had disappeared into the wall, found a deep gnome skeleton and buried it.
Afterwards they explored the abandoned eastern caves, found a pool and waterfall where they had to fight an insane earth elemental. Eeria took a elemental gem with her.


GM notes:
Eldeth starts to fall in love with Filgeal and flirts with him every now and then. She is still shy about it, let's see where this will lead to.

The dead deep gnome Udshak is pretty much the first thing the players will encounter behind the north-eastern gate (section 17). This is utter nonsense! I don't know who wrote that quest, but it's the most boring quest I encountered in OotA so far: 1. get the quest from Jadger, 2. enter the abandoned residences and fight off a single ghost, 3. ??? 4. profit. I guess the other Jadger-ghost-quest will be as simple as that... I really don't know what these boring quests are good for in Blingdenstone. Way to easy and not very interesting. I probably should have taken them out or tweaked them more.
At least I decided on the spot, that Udshak and Vort change places (section 17 and 19). So the party has to explore a bit further the north-eastern caves. I hope I won't mix the names up during next session though.

I took the two gargoyles out of the fight with the stone elemental because the CR seemed to high for a level 5 party. Well I was wrong: The fight was completely one sided... barbarians.....

No one knows yet the earth elemental gem Eeria took with her will bring forward a hostile earth elemental. Vedlyn's check for magic properties was inconsistent. This will be fun!
 
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Boendal2

Villager
10th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so during battle Vanya was controlled by me.

Day 58
The party continued to explore the vacated north-eastern caves. The saw Ogremoch's Bane and 30 drow warrior statues. As they approached the violet nebula six statues started to attack them. They fled and Veldyn cast mold earth multiple times on the upward stairs leading out of the cavern. This held back the attacking statues. Eeria took a large boulder and rolled it towards the statues.
Afterwards they continued to explore. Eeria and Veldyn entered Neheedra's Lair without any scouting and encountered the medusa immediately. Filgeal and the rest of the party was guarding the entry to the lair, so round 1 & 2 of combat was 2 PCs vs. Neheedra. Eeria and Veldyn realized they were fighting a medusa and covered their eyes. Filgeal, who was dashing towards the battle didn't recognised there was a medusa, locked eyes on her and turned to stone before he was able to help his friends. Besides that, the medusa was killed rather quickly. As the party started to investigate the petrified Filgeal two gargoyles appeared. One was killed quickly, the other frightened by Vanya and flew out the lair.
The tried to carry Filgeal, but he was too heavy. They left him in the lair and discovered a large crystal formation (Crystal Garden) with Udshaks statue in the middle of it. Together they pushed him towards the exit and told the guards what happened.

The party talked to Jadger, who thanked them for their service and to the Diggermattocks who promised them a big reward if the guards/scouts confirm the medusas death. Afterwards they went to the Foaming Mug, drunk, cried and contemplated yet another dead friend.


GM notes:
Filgeal's death was sudden and totally unexpected. The player rolled really low on his CON saving throw and was petrified instantly. I tip my hat to the player for not metagaming and deciding to look straight at the medusa while dashing towards the battle. Otherwise the medusa was no match for this level 5 party even with the disadvantage on all of their attack rolls (from covering their eyes). This is why I threw in an additional two gargoyles at the end of the battle (which I took out of the battle last session) to make the boss fight a bit more interesting. It felt a bit forced. Probably should have started with all three enemies at once.

Eldeth who was starting to flirt with Filgeal more openly is quite depressed now. Maybe have to find something to cheer this NPC up.

I offered the player of Filgeal after the session that a high level cleric could be in Blingdenstone and revive Filgeal but he declined. So he will join with yet another character next session. This will be his third character in four sessions. Props to that as well!

At the moment there is some tension between players. I don't know exactly why, maybe the gritty campaign takes its toll, maybe there is something wrong with the RP expectations or my GMing.... we will talk about this in a few days and try to adjust the campaign and/or players expectations a little. I don't think Filgeals death made this easier...
 
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Boendal2

Villager
Player character description (short):

Shrimp (new character):
male thri-kreen, monk (drunken master) , 25 years old, background: far traveller, favourite weapons: hands and staff of a broken gythka (= quarterstaff), personality: reliable, speaks common very slowly, makes sound with his mandibles, eats weird things, makes weird jokes, 100% loyal to Kazook Pickshine, plays the duduk horn

Stats (rolled): STR 10, DEX 18, CON 13, INT 23, WIS 16, CHA 8

Shrimp was adventuring with his tribe of Thri-kreen in the Underdark when an explosion/tunnel collapsing nearly killed them all. Kazook Pickshine recovered, cured and provided for him. For the last 10 years he is Kazooks loyal friend and hitman. (We made Kazook the boss of an underground svirfneblin intelligence agency.) Shrimp and a few other agents of Kazook were working on locating and killing drow "war criminals" as well as retrieving stolen artifacts from the drow. Kazook uses his wealth and trade relations to gather information in the Underdark and supply these avengers of Blingdenstone. Shrimp who still lives with Kazook knows about most of these operations and has proven to be a true friend to all deep gnomes of Blingdenstone. He killed drow in the past and currently is looking for Ilvara to hunt her down and retrieve a painting she commissioned while stationed in Blingdenstone approx. 70 years ago (a picture of a drow priestess painted on svirfneblin skin).
 
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Boendal2

Villager
11th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so Veldyn was controlled by me.

Day 59
Senni Diggermattock came to the Foaming Mug during breakfast. She thanked the party for helping Blingdenstone and killing the medusa. As a compensation she gave the party a lot of money and offered to pay all upcoming bills in the Foaming Mug. The PCs were officially named "Friends of Blingdenstone". Senni offered her condolences regarding the death of Filgeal and asked the party to meet Kazook as he could provide more help to the party.
The party met Kazook who offered a guard help them out: Shrimp the Thri-kreen. Asked about the earth elemental gem Kazook encouraged the PCs to visit Nomi Pathshutter at the Stoneheart Quarry outside of Blingdenstone or Gurnip Tapfinger at the Speaking Stones.
Gurnip cannot help with the elemental gem but told Veldyn that he is impressed with their accomplishments so far and may have another mission for them: cleanse the temple named Steadfast Stones in the north-east caverns by putting a crystal spell gem in a temple obelisk. This would help the city of Blingdenstone tremendously as it might be a protection against Ogremoch's Bane and maybe also the wererats. Gurnip promised a lot of money as reward. The party accepted the mission and retrieved a big crystal clear spell gem.

The party then decided to fulfil the second task of Jadger and killed a poltergeist in the residential area of Blingdenstone. Shrimp visited Kazook once more to get more details on his current mission: killing Ilvara and retrieving a special painting. Kazook revealed that Ilvara is rumoured to be near Blingdenstone. He gave Shrimp some assassins poison and told him to be careful.

The party travelled to Stoneheart Quarry. Vanya used find steed to call a giant badger for easier transport. Nomi Pathshutter was very amicable to the party. She bought the elemental gem from Eeria and showed them their conjuration cavern. The party returned to Blingdenstone in the evening.

Day 60
Next morning the party entered the north-eastern caves once again, this time to cleanse the Steadfast Stones. After some scouting, exploring and checking for traps Shrimp put the spell gem into a fitting hole in the big Obelisk. A hostile Galeb Duhr materialised out of the wall and started to attack the party. They defeated it without further problems. A stone elemental rose from the ground and touched the obelisk, which started to emanate white light. This was when another Galeb Duhr materialised on the other side of the cave.


GM notes:
We had to end the session mid fight as I needed to catch my train. This was a rather short session.

Since Vanya heard from Fraz-Urb’luu that he is in Mantol Derith she keeps asking every NPC for a way to Mantol Derith. I keep refusing to let the party go there just now - as the second part of OotA starts by finding/entering Mantol Derith. And with the current way of playing, the party should be able to leave the Underdark in roughly 2-3 sessions.

Damn, I mixed up Galeb Duhr and Stone Elemental at the Steadfast Stones.... I have to fix the stats/skills of them until next time. Thankfully they are not that different.

A few days after the session we met and talked about the current paste of events and how everybody is feeling about the campaign. It was a blunt and open discussion. Some players do have concerns with the RP, others felt it was time to escape the Underdark soon (session 11 and still no way out). Thankfully the latter will be resolved in 2-3 sessions and until then it will be a heroic fight for Blingdenstone(?). Anyways.... The campaign is really gritty so far, lately a lot of NPCs and PCs died and some players would like not to be hunted by the drow anymore. I guess it is not for everybody after all.
Just as an advice to other (new) GMs: talk with your players regularly about this setting. I was thinking about dragging it out a while longer (and maybe have them go to Gracklstugh or Sloobludop?!) but after this talk it's clear to me, that part one of OotA will end after Blingdenstone. It's time for some sunny side adventure and a meeting with the Bruenor Battlehammer in Gauntlgrym. I don't know yet if I will include the fight with Ilvara or save that for another time.
 
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Boendal2

Villager
12th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so during battle Eeria was controlled by me. But another friend joined us as deep gnome rogue "Athut".

Day 60
The party killed the second hostile Galeb Duhr, and then a third one. During the fight a deep gnome rogue came to the party's aid. The deep gnome rogue is called "Athut" and was sent by Jadger to help the party if needed. After killing each Galeb Duhr a second and third earth elementals rose from the ground near the obelisk. The white light, emanating from the obelisk acts as magical shield. Veldyn collected elemental gems from the Galeb Duhr. The party retreated to Blingdenstone and asked Gurnip for their reward which he gave them willingly. He also told Veldyn that there is a long forgotten summoning place called Entemoch's Boon near Blingdenstone. He hinted that he might need help in the future to find this place with an expedition of brave adventurers.

In the evening some deep gnome miners came to the Foaming Mug and started to praise the party. They heard that the party had killed the medusa and started drinking with the PCs. Soon a drinking game was brought up and nearly everybody besides Vanya was very drunk. Shrimp and Vanya won the drinking game and some money. Veldyn tried his luck with the female miners but was politely turned down.

Day 61
The party went shopping with their newly earned wealth. Some potions, herbs, rations and potions were bought as well as two "philters of love" were commissioned by Vanya (who had tried to make the deep gnome miners fall in love with each other last night). Shrimp asked Kazook to brew a "bomb" or explosive potion.
Veldyn visited Nomi outside of Blingdenstone again and asked for new spells (spell scrolls, spell books).

In the evening the party went to explore the former royal chambers of Blingdenstone. The great cavern was covered in slime. Surrounding the royal sphere were at least 100 oozes. Athut and Shrimp scouted forward. As they approached a gate to the sphere a booming voice told the party to go away as this was not the time for visitors and the Faceless Lord has not yet arrived. The PCs decided to retreat for the moment.

As they re-entered Blingdenstone the guards were in disarray. More and more guards were coming from the barracks to guard the gates to the western gates. The party inquired that a delegation from the wererats had come through the gates and demanded an audience with the Diggermattocks. They were let through. As this had never happened before Blingdenstone is now on high alert. The PCs ran to the quarters of the Diggermattocks. When they arrived a council meeting was starting. Members of the meeting were: Burrow Warden Jadger accompanied by a female militia member, Gurnip Tapfinger, Kazook Pickshine, Perigrog Scrapedust, Senni Diggermattock, Dorbo Diggermattock and the leader of the wererats Chipgrin Goldwhisker who is accompanied by four personal guards. The quarter is guarded by fifteen deep gnome guards.


GM notes:
The drinking game that the miners invented as tribute to the party was inspired by this post.

Blingdenstone is a great chapter in OotA, but all the quests and side quests make me feel like we are in a 90s RPG for PC where every quest is just lying around and waiting for the party to be resolved. Therefore I decided to tangle the two main quests (oozes and wererats) up even more. Starting one of the quests, triggers the other as well. Therefore by scouting the oozes the wererats entered Blingdenstone. If the party scouted into wererat territory the guards of Blingdenstone would have explored the oozes. Either way a council meeting was coming up quickly. I think this helps a little and also lets the campaign progress a bit faster.

The ending of the session is a huge cliff hanger. The party has never met Chipgrin Goldwhisker or Perigrog Scrapedust and does not know what any of this could mean. My goal for next session is to create a diplomatic deadlock, where Chipgrin offers an alliance to defeat the oozes and the council will vote 3 vs. 3. It will be up to the players to convince a member of the council either way (and therefore determine if the upcoming Battle for Blingdenstone will be with, without or even against the wererats).

I just realised that I renamed Gurnip. Should be Gurnik according to OotA. Well.... too late to change that!
 
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Boendal2

Villager
13th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so during battle Shrimp was controlled by me. But another friend joined us again as "Athut".

Day 61
The party was called to the table by Kazook. Chipgrin Goldwhisker made the city of Blingdenstone an offer for an alliance against the oozes. After a long debate the city council voted: 3 in favour 3 against (in favour: Senni, Perigrog, Jadger; against: Dorbo, Gurnip, Kazook) . The party was asked to share the information they gathered. The meeting was already coming to an end, when Veldyn, Vanya and Eeria started to talk in favour of the wererats. They eventually swayed Kazook but infuriated Gurnip and Dorbo.
In the evening the party talked with in private with Chipgrin to find out more about lycanthropy, Blingdenstone and the Faceless Lord. Vanya also had dinner with Perigrog Scrapedust in the Foaming Mug.

Day 62-68
The party was asked for help by Senni for the upcoming battle. After they agreed the council laid out different plans to prepare for the upcoming attack. Eeria had the idea of attacking with a small force from behind, killing the enemy's headquarter. The city council agreed and started preparing for the assault. The PCs were asked to help with preparations. Veldyn searched with Gurnip for Entemoch's Boon. Vanya trained Jadger's militia. Eeria and Athut trained the wererats.

Day 69
The whole city of Blingdenstone was in last minute preparations for the attack. The party joined the last council meeting, laying out a detailed plan for the assault and the target: the pudding king. Together with an earth elemental, a militia ghost and Gurnip they started melting down the stone wall that separated the Steadfast Stones from the oozes territory. Veldyn sent Demetrius forward to scout, who was killed by a black ooze falling off the ceiling. The party had a hard fight in the narrow tunnels against two black puddings, one gelatinous cube and an ochre jelly. They succeeded without further losses (but corrosion on their weapons/armours). The "royal oozes" (black pudding and grey ooze) were a rather small challenge after that. Prince Livid even retreated with his last HP to the throne room after the quick defeat of his sister.
The fight against the pudding king demanded everything from the party. A confusion spell casted at 4 out of 5 party members at the end of the battle nearly turned the battle into a disaster but Vanya managed to snap out of her confusion for a turn and deal the killing blow to the heavily bleeding pudding king. The victory was complete!
Upon returning to Blingdenstone the party was greeted with highest honours and celebrated as heroes. For a moment the svirfneblin and wererats stood all together in unity. Senni and Dorbo named them official "heroes of Blingdenstone" and were more than willing to share the secret next route to the World Above.


GM notes:
As the party nearly resolved all side quests given by OotA before the battle, I wanted to give them a few more options to prepare for the battle. A trade caravan to Gracklstugh or Neverlight Grove seemed unreasonable at this point (and would take much more time). So I came up with three choices: finding Entemoch's Boon, militia training or wererat training. I didn't expect that the party will split up in three and try to do all of it. I therefore cut down the three side quests to downtime activities and some minor ability checks. In the end none of them managed to solve their side quest (as the "group checks" would have required the whole party to participate). Therefore the party didn't receive any benefits from this tasks. They still had the benefits as written in OotA for cleansing the Steadfast Stones and solving both of Jadger's quests. Therefore an earth elemental and a militia ghost accompanied them for the last battle (as well as Gurnip, but that was just a life line in case of TPK).

Balancing the pudding king was rather hard. First off I made a battle map with 150ft. diameter so his high level spells and lair action can be put to good use. Also I gave him 50% more HP. Mind you, this was a party of 5 level 5 players with an allied stone elemental (and a rather useless Gurnip). Also I bent the rules of spellcasting a little and let him perform two spells per round (1A and 1BA). It was definitely an interesting fight, but in the end the party succeeded without taking too much damage but that's also because nearly all saving throws succeeded. The confusion spell in the end really could have turned the battle around... It was fun! This was the first big spellcaster they had to defeat.

- instead of tweaking HP and spellcasting a few minor oozes as guards would probably do the same -

The party now levelled up to level 6 and the players can come up with a reward they will get from the city themselves. This should be ~500gp worth of items (or one uncommon magic item) that could be found/produced in Blingdenstone.
 

Boendal2

Villager
14th session:

Only three players were able to make it, so during battle Shrimp was controlled by me. But another friend joined us again as "Athut".

Day 70-76
The party was led to the cave of the former pudding where the svirfneblin were starting to make statue, depicting the great victory over the oozes. The names of all PCs were already engraved in the bottom and the petrified Filgeal was pulled into this cavern as well - to stand side by side with the heroes of Blingdenstone. A mason ran towards the party and introduced himself to the party: Gelkrou Bouldertrader.

The PCs spent their time socialising with the svirfneblin, enjoying their new found fame, trained with the militia (mixed militia with both: wererats and deep gnomes) and restocking on supplies, clothes and spell components. Gelkrou Bouldertrader and his sister, Shurleni Bouldertrader, spent most of the evenings in the Foaming Mug, listening to the stories of Veldyn and trying to make friends with the PCs. Vanya tried to hook up Shurleni with Athut (philter of love) - but failed.

Eeria met Turvy, who apologised for not talking to them earlier. She and Topsy were too shy and thought the party hated them for abandoning them in the tunnels. The PCs found out that Topsy died during the fight for Blingdenstone.

On the seventh day the population of Blingdenstone met in the cavern of the Singing Stones. Senni and Dorbo held a long and rousing speech in which they swore unity with the wererats. After a long round of applause Senni turned to the PCs and thanked them individually. She and Dorbo handed out custom made magic items to the party as a thank you. Additionally every PC got an emblem of the city, which marks them as true friend of all svirfneblin. A big party ensued.

Day 77-79
Gelkrou and Shurleni were chosen to lead the party to the next exit from the Underdark. The PCs said goodbye to Turvy and left the town as heroes. During their two day journey Gelkrou and Shurleni talked nonstop with the players. Both of them were starstruck by the party.

On the third day, very close to the exit of the Underdark Gelkrou was struck by a drow arrow and fell dead to the floor. Vanya used lay on hands to revive him. The party immediately realised that this was probably the drow patrol accompanying Ilvara that was rumoured to be close to Blingdenstone. Being able to feel already the fresh air from the outside world they decided to run. Vanya conjured a giant badger (find steed) and Eeria led the escape dashing forward. After a thrilling chase the party was stuck in a dead end. They prepared to fight the already engaging drow. After an enduring fight with the drow warriors and dodging most of the ranged spell attacks, Eeria rushed towards Ilvara and killed her by slowly breaking her neck. Jorlan, who was still alive tried first to flee and then to bargain with the party. He was taken hostage and tied up. Gelkrou and Shurleni will bring him to Blingdenstone.

On the early afternoon of the seventy-ninth day since their capture Eeria, Ebert, Vanya and Veldyn step outside the Underdark. They lost some good friends down there: Thar'den, Filgeal and many others. But along their side are some new found friends: Athut, Eldeth and Shrimp.


GM notes:
Oh man... I really hoped they can make the chase. I had a maze prepared that the party had to explore in great haste. It was so close! Just one more turn to the left (but they went right) and they would have escaped the drow. Well it was very interesting to see how the party handles my hombrew chase. I gave the leader (Eeria) 15 seconds per decision. Also props to the whole party for using magic, abilites and strategy to clear the path, cover up tracks etc.

Asha, the junior drow priestess, was not part of the final battle, because the party killed her already in Veklynvelve. I didn't replace her as suggested by OotA. That seems just harsh and not very satisfying.

The big final battle with the drow was quite interesting, as all the drow rolled 20+ on initiative and therefore had their full attack round before the PCs even started to move. In the end everybody survived, I guess I could have used Ilvaras magic a bit better, but with only a level 6 party it was close enough. Also Athut and Eeria made some important saving throws, so it was a close battle after all. The line between easy battle and TPK never felt so thin. I recommend to every DM having some back up plans ready as suggested by OotA (see p. 119 for suggestions).


We decided to take a break from OotA and let the PCs have some side adventures along the Sword Coast. So I won't update this thread for a while. I hope we will return soon - someone has to fight these demons.
 
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