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


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 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.
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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Player character description (short):

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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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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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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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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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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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)


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