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


The player of Shrimp decided to leave the table. Shrimp stayed in Waterdeep, will travel the Sword Coast and maybe enter Blingdenstone soon again. As a replacement, our many-times guest player Athut will join us indefinitely.

Player character description (short):

male svirfneblin (lycanthrope), rogue (arcane trickster), 120 years old, bald, snotty nose and bent posture, background: criminal, favourite weapons: rapier, short bow and ray of frost, personality: serious, sometimes grumpy, honest in a way that can hurt the feelings of others, likes salty food, thinks the upper world is weird

Stats: STR 8, DEX 18, CON 13, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 12

Athut is a member of the Goldwhisker clan in Blingdenstone. He is a wererat and was a deep cover spy within the city's militia until the party killed the pudding king and the relations between clan Goldwhisker and the city officials improved. He was sent out by Jadger to spy on/look after the party and helped them initially in their fight against the Galeb Duhr at the Steadfast Stones. He is with the party ever since.
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We have been playing the short adventure Reef of Madness as a side quest during our break from OotA (tweaked for higher levels). The player of our wizard/sorcerer Veldyn wanted to change character so Veldyn departed from the party to find/see his long lost mother in Waterdeep. The same day the party found a high elf named Tyus stranded on the beach.

Player character description (short):

Tyus (new character):
male high elf, warlock (kraken), 237 years old, slightly bluish skin, background: pirate, favourite weapons: eldritch blast, tentacle strike and ray of frost, personality: curious, deceptive, secretive, superstitious, sometimes spiteful and believes in the "gods" of the abyss

Stats: STR 9, DEX 16, CON 12, INT 14, WIS 13, CHA 18

Tyus is the accidental son of a Sea Elf sailor and High Elf Noble. To keep the noble's reputation untouched, he couldn't stay with his mother, though, neither with his father since he couldn't live under water. Thus, he had to live a poor city live for decades until he made himself a name as a merchant. He became a husband and a father. One day he bought a book of shadows and became increasingly interested in the "old gods" of the Abyss. Little did he know this book of shadows was of high interest to a demon lord. Shortly after, his home city was attacked by pirates (who were sent by the demon lord). Tyus fled and became a sailor. A few decades later his ship was attacked again by same pirates. They took him hostage but didn't hand him to the demon lord. A kraken, minion of the demon lord, sunk the ship. Only Tyus was spared by the sea monster - in exchange for his deeds. He was washed ashore a little island next to Orlumbor in a big piece of ice.
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As mentioned before, we took a little break (4 sessions) from OotA and played through some homebrew content, Reef of Madness and a chapter of Ghost of Saltmarsh.

Ebert, the giant boar of Eeria, grew into a juvenile form. All PCs are now on level 7. Also we introduced
"lingering injuries": players will roll for injuries from now on when they drop to 0 HP but do not die.

Day 80-160 (short summary)
The party spent some time visiting Eeria's tribe and the city of Waterdeep. They accepted a mission from Waterdeep officials to help a little fishing village next to Orlumbor. After a few weeks of killing sea monsters, fighting pirates, talking to sea pixies, healing minotaur druids and trying to negotiate with a neighbouring lizardfolk tribe the party returned to Waterdeep.
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15th session:

Day 161-182 (skipped)

Some shopping was done in Waterdeep and the party visited Veldyn in his rented apartment. There Veldyn introduced the wizard and agent of the Harpers, Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn, to the party. Tyus played some dragonchess with him and lost badly. In the morning the party received an animal messenger from Eldeth, asking the party to come to Gauntlgrym as soon as possible.

Day 183
Upon arrival in Gauntlgrym the party was greeted by Eldeth. Together they had an audience with Bruenor Battlehammer where they told him about their travels in the Underdark. Afterwards the party met Morista Malkin, former teacher of Eldeth and close counsellor of the king. She told the party that there has to be another expedition into the Underdark soon and that the Emerald Enclave will surely support this mission.

Eldeth showed the party the Iron Tabernacle, Great Forge and the Fiery Pit. As Vanya threw some rocks into the primordial's prison a fire elemental escaped from Maegera and the party had a small fight (during which Vanya and Athut were set on fire multiple times). Afterwards Eldeth brought them to a tavern where they drank and recovered their wounds. There they met Eldeth's cousin Khurnok who brought five ale to the table. Eldeth was puzzled, as she thought Khurnok to be on a scouting mission at the moment.

In the evening the party was taken by Eldeth to a feat in their honour. They saw the faction representatives and had some time to chat with dwarven acolyte. She told the party of a dark prophecy and that she hopes king Bruenor will send out another expedition into the Underdark. The party was asked by Davra Jassur (Zhentarim) to meet later in private. Athut, who seemed less interested in the table talk approached Lord Eravien Haund from the Lords' Alliance. Eeria talked to Morista Malkin (EE) and wanted to talk to Davra Jassur as Lord Eravien began choking and gasping for air. He was quickly saved by Morista and other clerics. Tyus realized that during the commotion Athut vanished from the banquet hall. Soon everybody realized that Athut had poisoned the representative from the Lord's Alliance and the party started a man hunt. Eeria's tracking supported by Ebert's sense of smell lead to Eldeth's cousin who was running further into the tunnels. Eeria questioned and ultimately grappled him and started to bring him back to the banquet hall. Tyus and Vanya, who had caught up with Eeria, wanted to question and intimidate the supposed shapechanger - which led to the suicide of the assassin. Eeria brought a dead Doppelganger to the dwarven king at the same time a drugged and dizzy Athut stumbled into the banquet hall. The king had a cleric cast zone of truth on Athut and questioned him briefly.

The party was asked to join king Bruenor in his private quarters. There he asked the party to once again descend into the Underdark to find the mythical library Gravenhollow. The party accepted and Bruenor told them it would be wise to convince the faction representatives to aid them, especially the Zhentarim (as they have an agent with a map to Gravenhollow). Vanya and Tyus went to Davra Jassur (Z). They agreed on her terms: 25% of all findings, following her officer's command in Mantol-Derith and reporting to her directly. Tyus got a sending stone to contact her and the offer to join the Zentharim. For now he declined politely. Eeria and Athut went to see Sir Lanniver Strayl from the Order of the Gauntlet. Their effort of convincing him of their good and just cause failed.

At night the party was summoned to an emergency meeting of the factions with king Bruenor. The king explained to everybody that the party has accepted his request of finding Gravenhollow. He offered the faction representatives to question the party or state their thoughts regarding this endeavour. Morista Malkin (EE) was the first to speak. She showed her full support and promised 3 dwarven scouts and 7 giant lizards as aid. Davra Jassur (Z) slyly grinned and declared that she will allow access to Mantol-Derith as well as send 8 human thugs with the party. Lord Eravien Haund (LA) who was attacked earlier that night, started to question the party. Vanya conviced him that the demon uprising in the Underdark would not stop there. Lord Eravien eventually agreed and will support the expedition with 5 dwarven guards. Afterwards Sir Lanniver Strayl (OG) stated even though he supports the noble effort, he is not convinced of the party's ambitions and therefore will not aid them. At last Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn (H) thanked the characters for their willingness to risk their lives. Bruenor concluded the meeting by strengthening the importance of this task once again. Afterwards Lord Eravien (LA) told the party of a deep cover spy for the Lord's Alliance within the drow named Khelessa Draga. Eldeth asked Morista Malin (EE) to join the expedition as a scout and was granted this privilege.

GM notes:
This was our first big RP session, filled with skill checks (mainly persuasion). The two fights (fire elemental and doppelganger) were quickly handled and no real threat to the party. All in all it was a nice experience even though I would keep the "sightseeing" with Eldeth a bit shorter or more interactive (OotA only gives a lot of description but not really anything to do in Gauntlgyrm - if you don't want the party to fight random encounters).

I decided for the doppelganger assassin last minute to bring a bit more tension into the game, as otherwise the evening would have been 90% persuasion (and history or religion) checks. The player of Athut was informed by private message that he is NOT at the moment with the party, but rather sleeping in his bedroom (poisoned by the doppelganger). He made CON saving throws to wake up and survival checks to find the correct way to the banquet hall (disadvantage because still poisoned) but failed nearly all of them. This allowed the doppelganger to poison Lord Eravien, escape and ultimately led to the chase through the tunnels of Gauntlgrym.

I think the session was fun, but I cannot but feel a bit disappointed by OotA. There is so much potential in this chapter, but really not much more than a vague guideline for the DM. Be warned if you run this chapter, it needed A LOT of extra preparation time. It would have been nice to see a sophisticated and well-engineered chapter with social interactions and multiple social obstacles here rather than a few character descriptions, endless name lists for upcoming NPCs and even NPC stat cards (wtf!? why is this not in the appendix like everything else? This just feels as if someone tried to make the chapter appear two pages longer instead of actually writing some content).

Faction representatives (mechanics):
  • Morista Malkin (Emerald Enclave) meets the party early on and will aid them if not vexed by the party with 3 dwarven scouts and enough giant lizards for said scouts and all PCs. If a party member want to join the Emerald Enclave she will hear them out and maybe take them in on a trial basis.
  • Davra Jassur (Zhentarim) wants a private chat with a party member. She will allow the party access to Mantol-Derith if not irritated by the PCs behaviour. She will ask for three things of the party: 25% of all findings, following her officers' ruling in Mantol-Derith and to report back to her directly. All three things are negotiable (Persuasion 15). If the party has less than two failed Persuasion checks and didn't bother her in any other way Davra will also send 8 human thugs with the party. She is eager to recruit any party member for the Zhentarim.
  • Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn (Harpers) who the party met already in Waterdeep wants to play a private game of dragon chess with a PCs. This will be resolved by 3 Intelligence contests. He has a +9 on Intelligence. He will bet his shield guardian and hand over his control amulet if he loses. If the party does not manage to get any other aid than the 3 dwarven scouts by the Emerald Enclave and/or access to Mantol-Derith he would give the amulet to the party as a present at the end of the session (provided he is not alienated by any party member). If PCs want to join the Harpers he will hear them out and maybe take them in on a trial basis.
  • Sir Lanniver Strayl (Order of the Gauntlet) wants the party to declare their good and just intensions. This can be done in private conversation or during the last meeting at the end of the session. The party has to succeed 3 Persuasion checks of increasing difficulty (12, 13, 14). PCs with a good alignment have advantage on their rolls. Two successes grant them 3 human veterans, three successes 2 additional veterans and a +1 weapon (or similar). If PCs want to join the Order of the Gauntlet he will tell them that heroic actions and/or a just way of living are necessary to be offered a membership in the Order. The expedition in the Underdark might be a chance for the PCs to prove themselves.
  • Lord Eravien Haund (Lords' Alliance) is sceptical of the whole endeavour and needs convincing. This can be done in private conversation or during the last meeting at the end of the session. If the party can argue that the demons are also a threat to the cities of the Sword Coast they have to succeed 3 Persuasion checks of increasing difficulty (15, 16, 17). Two successes grant them 5 dwarven guards, three successes 3 additional human spies. If PCs want to join the Lords' Alliance he will tell them to talk to his superiors in Waterdeep or Baldur's Gate.
The PCs can work together to get advantage on their checks or make a group check. Any intimidation attempts lead to disadvantage on their rolls. Deception is possible but the DC is +3 on all such rolls.
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16th session:

A friend of ours joined for this session as the Zhentarim mercenary "Cy Amakiir" (high elf eldritch knight).

Day 184-204 (skipped)
The party left Gauntlgrym with their troops and some dwarven wine to sell in Mantol-Derith. During their journey through the Underdark they dealt with infighting between some thugs of the Zhentarim and the Lords' Alliance dwarves. Some persuasion and extra alcohol rations increased moral of the troops. Also Athut had a wererat episode, but rolled high on his constitution check - he could control his curse and only roamed/guarded the tunnels surrounding the camp. The PCs were asked by Nero (Zhentarim leader) to leave the troops at a Zhentarim outpost one day before arriving in Mantol-Derith. Vanya and Tyus got more and more telepathic calls from their patron Fraz-Urb'luu, asking them to hurry up and help him in Mantol-Derith. A few party members tried to train their giant lizards (with mixed success).

Day 205
The party, accompanied by Cy and Nero entered Mantol-Derith. Nero told them the passwords for re-entering and showed them the way to the Zhentarim quarters. The PCs didn't interact with the drow entourage waiting in front of the quarters. They met Ghazrim DuLoc and the beholder Lorthuun, but were told both of them had to talk with the drow immediately, as there were fight between svirfneblin and duergar (which is highly unusual in Mantol-Derith). Athut followed the Zhentarim hidden. As the drow assassin Sirak Mazelor started to attack the Zhentarim he called for help and soon enough the party helped the Zhentarim defeat the drow. During battle also a mad gargoyle started to attack the party, but Cy turned him into molten stone and ash with an acid chromatic orb. Vanya and Tyus both got a telepathic message from Fraz-Urb'luu that he is near and they should free him. Both searched the drow and tent, but not the gargoyle remains (outside the tent). Ghazrim and Lorthuun retreated into the Zhentarim quarters to recover. The PCs talked to Ghazrim and told him about their mission. As Ghazrim was already informed by Davra Jassur (and also the party just saved his life) he gave them his ring and explained its properties.

While Tyus and Cy stayed at the merchant stalls to talk with each other Eeria, Vanya and Athut wanted to see what the deep gnomes and duergar were up to. At the svirfneblin quarters they spotted four enlarged duergar trying to mine a way into the quarters. Athut, a deep gnome himself, hid behind Eeria and Vanya, which tried to talk to the duergar. Athut chimed into the conversation slightly aggressively, which led to long fight with 14 duergar. During the fight some formerly hidden deep gnomes tried to flee from in between the market stands. After the fight Cy and Vanya talked to theses surviving merchants. One of them was named Peebles and had a blue quaggoth hide bag. After the party told him about Lorthuun he wanted to leave quickly, which led to suspicion. He was held back by the party and Vanya cast zone of truth on him. The party found out, that he serves a beholder named Xazax. Peebles invited the party to meet Xazax, which they declined. Vanya cast locate object on his bag and the party let him go.

The doors to the svirfneblin quarters opened and a female deep gnome approached to party, thanking them for their aid.

GM notes:
I mixed up the details of Fraz-Urb'luus black gem... regarding the gargoyle and Sirak. I thought the gargoyle has the gem... which is why neither Tyus nor Vanya could find it on the drow assassin. Well, now I have to stick to it. I think the gargoyle had the gem first, fell in love with Sirak, which led to Sirak touching the gem - but the gargoyle kept it and stalked Sirak from a distance.

Maybe I should have just let them find the gem already, but the players SPECIFICALLY searched the inside of the tent (where the dead drow lie) and nothing else.

Oh wow, I did not expect for Peebles or Xazax to be discovered that fast... Zone of truth made it impossible to hide any information from this suspicious party (the quaggoth hide bags fault). Anyways, they let him go and I will not let them find him with locate object spell as it only has a range of 1.000 ft. I think Peebles side quest is dead, maybe I can use Xazax after they were in Araj.
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17th session:

A friend of ours joined for this session as the Zhentarim mercenary "Cy Amakiir" (high elf eldritch knight).

Day 205
The female deep gnome introduced herself as Gabble Dripskillet. She invited the PCs into the svirfneblin quarters and offered them lodging, food and ulitmately asked them for help saving Yantha Coaxrock, who is held by the duergar. She offered an old heirloom, a black sapphire on a silver chain as reward. The party gladly agreed even before she finished her offer. Before approaching the duergar quarters the PCs wanted to talk to Ghazrim and Lorthuun, but they could offer little help. Vanya tried to communicate with her patron once more and was led to the dead gargoyle, where she found the black gem of Fraz-Urb'luu.

Even though badly in need of a long rest, the party decided to check out the duergar quarters. Approaching from the market stands, they saw one duergar guarding the entry to the quarters. Athut realized that he was talking to someone else, and as the PCs encountered invisible duergar before they were sure the quarters were guarded heavily. After a long discussion Cy was sent forward to talk with the duergar guard, but to no avail. Finally the party decided to go back to the Zhentarim quarters for a long rest. Athut sneaked away and over the steel fence, trying to spy into the duergar quarters. He was discovered by invisible duergar guards quickly. A fight with 10 duergar guards ensued, during which Vanya threw the black gem on the floor and stepped on it. The gem broke and Fraz-Urb'luu left his prison, manifesting as black smoke and slowly transforming into the huge demon lord. He looked at Vanya, smiled and tried to hit the party and duergar with his claw, but dissolved again into nothingness before doing any damage. Vanya, Athut, Tyus and Ebert failed their Wisdom saving throw and got a form of indefinite madness.

The last remaining guard fled into the quarters, leaving the door open - the party entered into the duergar quarters and spoke to Ghuldur Flagonfist, the leader of the duergar. He was accompanied by a confused merchant, Krimgol Muzgardt. Ghuldur reluctantly agreed to speak with Gabble about the trial and punishment of Yantha - assuming that Krimgol will get his gem back. The party, Krimgol, Ghuldur and his pet xorn as well as a chained Yantha left the duergar quarters to negotiate with the svirfneblin. Tyus sprinted ahead and picked up the broken gem pieces. Gabble agreed to have a fair trial, judging Yanthas behaviour and sentencing but wanted her released from the duergar. Krimgol agreed but wanted the gem back immediately. As neither Yantha nor Gabble had it, the negotiations were not going anyway. Tyus cast minor illusion on the gem shards he picked up earlier and dramatically let it fall, while acting as he wanted to give the gem back to Krimgol. Krimgol was in tears, Yantha and Gabble confused, Ghuldur demanded compensation. Hoping to get Yantha back, Gabble offered her family heirloom, which Ghuldur gladly accepted (as it is worth roughly 5.000 gp).

GM notes:
I think the party is a bit paranoid (again!?) after all the mad and aggressive behaviour the witnessed in Mantol-Derith. Funny enough, they could have just asked for an audience/negotiation with the duergar, but instead discussed for 1 hour strategies how to sneak or fight their way through "as soon as the duergar attack".

I changed the black gem of Fraz-Urb'luu a bit, as it was pretty clear to me that either Vanya or Tyus would find and destroy it sooner or later. The book recommends a Wisdom saving throw of 23 for everybody that touches the stone. That, coupled with the indefinite madness seems very very harsh. So I planned a cinematic appearance of Fraz-Urb'luu in a 20ft. radius of the broken gem. Everybody in the radius had to make a Wisdom saving throw. As this happened during battle, in the midst of the entry to the duergar quarters, pretty much the whole party had to make a saving throw anyways.

The party will probably leave Mantol-Derith next session, as there is not much left to do. All in all I have to say it was an interesting chapter, but weirdly structered in the book. The chapter is written as if the party is in a sandbox where anything could happen. To any other new GM I can only recommend to anticipate, that the party will go to the Zhentarim first (if no duergar, deep gnomes or drow are with the party that have a special interest). Just one (or two, depending if you still play random encounters) sessions before Bruenor and other leaders asked the party to meet Ghazrim DuLoc.... why would they go anywhere else? Anyway, that means the party could completelly bypass the story of the mad duergar/svirfneblin and the imprisoned Fraz-Urb'luu if they wanted to (which makes Mantol-Derith a very short part of OotA). My party probably would have, if not for Vanya and Tyus who both have Fraz-Urb'luu as their patron.
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18th session:

Day 206

The party left Mantol-Derith and reunited with their troops. As they were preparing for the search for Gravenhollow Eeria heard her father through a sending spell. He asked her to come back and help her tribe. Conflicted Eeria said goodbye to the other PCs. Eldeth gave her the horn Vanya had given her roughly 2 months ago, when they parted ways. It has runes for Vanya and Eldeth carved into it. Tears in her eyes Eeria and Ebert departed to Gauntlgrym.

Day 207-215 (skipped)
The party descended further down the Underdark. Some PCs trained their giant lizards and talked a bit with Eldeth and the other NPCs.

Day 216
The PCs were woken up by the screams of Eldeth. Nearly half the troops had bleeding eyes, others complained about dizziness and blurry vision. Eldeth and Vanya concluded that they probably gathered foul/poisoned water and have sight rot. Vanya cast purify food and drink on the remaining provisions. Eldeth told her that they will need a "false candle morel" if they want to heal the disease. The yellow morel grows in warm/hot caves, sometimes close to lava. Otherwise at least half their troops will be blind within a week. Vanya, Tyus and Athut decided to head out, split up and look for the morel. Athut turned into a wererat and sprinted ahead fast. His keen rat senses lead him into and along a warm tunnel. Vanya and Tyus failed their survival checks and took longer to find warm stone to follow.

Athut followed his senses into a smaller tunnel as he heard some howling from a cave to the right. The warmth came from the left, so he dashed into the tunnel to the left, ignoring the noises from the other side. He found himself in a small and very warm cave. He found a little gap at the ceiling, leading to a nesting area of an unknown species (meanwhile the howling and continued). Next to a big alien looking egg he found some of the yellow morels described by Eldeth. Suddenly he heard some clicking and scraping. From his hideout he looked down into the small cave as he saw two hooked horrors slide through the narrow tunnel. He started stuffing morels into his (wererat) mouth, while one of the hooked horrors came closer. The hooked horror, in panic that an intruder has made it into their nest started to attack Athut.

At the same time Vanya and Tyus arrived on their giant lizards close to the cave. They also eventually found a warm stone wall that they followed. As they dismounted they heard howling and screaming from the tunnel ahead. They prepared themselves for a fight and went into the smaller tunnel. As they wanted to follow the heat, but were attacked by gnolls. Meanwhile Athut managed to avoid all attacks from the hook horrors and dashed out of the nesting area into the small cave and further down a narrow tunnel. Tyus and he crashed into each other, blocking each other's movement.

On the other side of the tunnel system a big horned figure approached the gnolls. She sighed deeply, as she knew that she has to fight her way through them to get closer to her destination, the library of Gravenhollow. Muumas Stronghorn, the female minotaur barbarian started to fight the gnolls from the other side. The gnolls stood little chance, but attacked her fiercely.

Tyus conjured a Barlgura demon to fight the gnolls. Vanya, realized that Athut already has the requested morels grabbed Tyus and called for a retreat. Together they make it out of the tunnels, letting an uncontrolled demon fight the gnolls. Little do they know, there is also a friendly minotaur at the end of the tunnel. As Vanya, Tyus and Athut rushed back to their camp, Muumas defeated half the gnolls, while the Barlgura killed the others. After the conjuration ended Muumas killed the remaining four gnolls and headed slowly down the next tunnel.

In the evening Vanya and Eldeth were busy preparing healing pastes for the troops. Tyus and Athut were guarding the entry to the cave as a minotaur approaches them. They talk and realize, that the minotaur has a vast knowledge in herbalism and could help. They let her through and Muumas helps Eldeth making better healing pastes.

GM notes:
The player of Eeria wanted to change character to improve roleplaying with the rest of the party (the teenager Eeria didn't always get along with all party members). I used the disease Sight Rot (DMG p.257) and the Hook Horror Hunt (OotA p.32) to introduce her new character "Muumas Stronghorn". Sadly that did not go very well. First off, the party immediately split up to find the morels... secondly they retreated as soon as they had the morels... even though the players knew that there is a new character on the other side of the battle map... Basically that would have killed Muumas out right, so I took some still hidden gnolls out of the game and let the uncontrolled Barlgura do an insane amount of damage to the gnolls. Still, it felt very anticlimactic when Muumas slurped into the camp at the very end of the session. I don't know if I should have GMed something different (not let Athut stuff the morels in his mouth?) or what happened here exactly. I think in 20+ sessions this party has never retreated in a fight... I would have liked a bit more metagaming by my players at this point. Anyways, I hope Muumas finds her place within the group nevertheless.

Well... after NOT finding Entemochs Boon and the basilisk eggs roughly 8 sessions ago now Athut didn't take the hook horror egg... Guys... If you ever read this... If you find an egg you can probably hatch it! Damn it, I really liked the idea of a baby hook horror and all the weird stuff that would happen to the party (fun fact: they joked about it at the table but didn't think it's possible.... maybe I should have told them?!)

Also the party leveld up and is now level 8.
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Player character description (short):

Muumas Stronghorn (new character):
female minotaur, barbarian (path of the wild soul), 40 years old, 2,5m and 300kg+, background: hermit, favourite weapons: great axe and her horns, personality: calm, level-headed, patient, does not talk much, is hard to stop if enraged, has a collar with a ruby which contains the soul of her dead companion

Stats (rolled): STR 20, DEX 13, CON 16, INT 13, WIS 11, CHA 14

Muumas and her companion Nookar went adventuring into the Underdark. In the Worm Tunnels they fought an evil drow wizard who killed Nookar and bound his soul to a spell gem in his necklace. Enraged Muumas killed the wizard. She stayed for the next decade in the wizard's tower, trying to find a solution for the bound soul of her companion. She finally gave up on finding an answer to her question in the tower and is now searching for the library of Gravenhollow, as she learned about a magical library with more knowledge than any other place in Toril. She fought some minor demons and a lot of gnolls in the weeks before meeting the party.
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19th session:

A friend of ours joined us again as "Cy".

Day 217-236 (skipped)
After ensuring that everybody in camp is healthy again the party continued on their search for Gravenhollow. After 10 more days the party found eight dead Kuo-Toas. They probably were killed by beasts/monsters/demons. The ring of Ghazrim started to shine brighter and the white light within now resembled a little star (which when observed points towards Gravenhollow). Tyus had the ring and was in charge of navigation (with mixed results).

Day 237
Athut heard some strange humming sounds coming from ahead. He told the others and scouted ahead. After a few minutes he found a singing/humming basilisk. He reported back to the party, which after a lengthy discussion decided to try and interact with the monster. Eyes down, hands on their weapons they approached. To everyone's surprise the basilisk talked with them in a friendly voice, knew who the PCs are and invited them to follow him to Gravenhollow. After initial hesitation the party with all their troops followed Veldyskar the basilisk. Outside of Gravenhollow he bid the troops to camp outside as only the PCs were expected by the librarians. Vanya told Eldeth to bring everybody back to Gauntlgrym and report to Bruenor Battlehammer if they will not be back within seven days.

Inside Gravenhollow the party was greeted by Hourm, a friendly galeb duhr. He explained the PCs how to traverse in Gravenhollow, how to find their quarters and the three different libraries (as well as the librarians). The party split up immediately. Tyus was looking for information on his home town (which was attacked by pirates and his family was killed?) in the library of the past, Cy did the same but visited the library of the future. Athut went to the library of the present to find information in Blingdenstone. Vanya wanted to find information about Nelrindenvane, the kingdom of Prince Derendils family. Muumas looked for information about the drow wizard and how to break the spell on her collar in the library of the past.

Cy brought some scrolls down to the guest quarters with him for the others to read. Muumas and Cy went to bed early, while Vanya stayed up all night researching. Athut transformed into a wererat at night, roaming through the corridors and halls of Gravenhollow. He eventually met Urmas, the librarian of the present, who was interested in him. After the semi-wild Athut hissed at him and tried to scratch his face a galeb duhr grappled Athut and brought him back into his quarter.

Day 238
Tyus, Cy and Muumas awoke. Together with the sleep deprived Athut they wanted to investigate further. They met Vanya coming down the stairs to the main hall.

GM notes:
I feel this campaign would be awesome for a (gloomstalker) ranger, especially now, finding a mystical library... definitely would have helped with the pathfinding checks! It does not really matter at the moment as we do not play the random encounters as suggested anymore. First off, it would take an eternity to get to Gravenhollow, secondly our sessions would be 90% battles with small mobs and no story progress. Also the party is accompanied by 16 guards/scouts/thugs, so probably not every monster would attack anyways.

This was a short session, as I was not prepared enough for the very personal and backstory driven questions of the players. So we ended after 2,5hours and very mediocre GMing. I think they already suspect the library to contain mainly giant related books, but probably they are not sure about this at this point. So they will try again. I also fear the questions that will come with the Stonespeaker Crystals... So I asked everybody to send me their characters most likely questions for the library. That should help!
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20th session:

Day 238

Muumas went to see Ulthar, who was very interested in her motives and stories and gave her a Stonespeaker Crystal. In the meantime Athut, Tyus and Vanya searched the library of the present for clues on the demonic incursion as well as personal matters. They met the eco of Andarin Zarith, a human Red Wizard of Thay (who didn't want to talk with them). The party met again at their quarters and decided to visit Ulthar, Ustova and Urmas together. Ustova explained that the future is blurred at the moment. Ulthar told them of demonic attacks in the east of Faerun and demon worshipping cultists attacking human cities.

Muumas sat down in the library of the future and used her Stonespeaker Crystal to ask "who are we fighting against?" and "will I be united with Nookar again?". She received visions about all seven demon lords, including Fraz-Urb'luu. Also she saw herself and Tyus over the corpse of a giant gnoll (Yeenoghu) trying to excise the heart of the demon lord. On their way back to the quarters they met Vizeran DeVir and his bodyguard red slaad. Vizeran was very friendly to them, explaining that he was looking into the growing presence of demon lords in the Underdark as well. He hinted that Gromph Baenre might have something to do with it. As Ulthar did not give him a Stonespeaker Crystal he was interested in using the Muumas' one. The party denied, as they do not trust the drow. Vizeran offered them his help and suggested a cooperation. At the same time he refused to talk about more details, as he "library is listening to us". He handed a map to his tower in Araj to Muumas. Athut and Vanya were visually uncomfortable with the drow. Tyus and Muumas were a bit more open-minded.

Day 239
The next day Muumas went to the library of the future again. She used the Stonespeaker Crystal to ask "where shall we go?" and "what will happen to us?". She received visions about the Wormwrithings, the Gallery of Angels and the party fighting a beholder. Also she saw herself and the party lying down in ambush and waiting for something as the ground began to tremble. Afterwards Tyus and Muumas went so see Vizeran again. He told them again to look for Gromph Baenre and renewed his proposal for an alliance. Tyus and Muumas wanted to travel with him, but he told them that he will leave tomorrow and teleport to his tower as soon as he leaves the libraries sphere of influence. Tyus and Muumas were ok with leaving together. Later on the party decided to use the Stonespeaker Crystal 3-4 more times, therefore they wanted to stay in Gravenhollow two more days. Tyus went to Vizeran again and promised him one use of the Stonespeaker Crystal if he waits for the party one more day. Vizeran agreed, but will not accompany the party all the way to Araj. After 10 days he will teleport ahead and prepare for their arrival. Tyus was ok with that deal.

GM notes:
Next session the party will use the Stonespeaker Crystal two more times to ask about details of the demons. The following day they want to give Vizeran the crystal. I will use this opportunity to ask about Gromph Baenre, if the party didn't ask already.

Muumas is looking to free her companion Nookar from the ruby she wears around her neck. My plan for potentially freeing Nookars soul involves a search for personalized spell components as well as a "very potent item from a powerful being out of this world" (a demon lords heart should do). Vizeran might offer some help to Muumas, at least offer her some guidance in where to find magic books containing such secret rituals. He already noticed her collar. Maybe I will skim the ingredient list of the "dark heart" to have less repetition (goristro heart, demon lords blood etc.).


21st session:

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

Day 240

The party went to the library of the future and used the Stonespeaker Crystal to ask the following question: "How to kill/banish powerful demons?". Cy received a vision about Vizeran DeVir reading to the party from a huge book. Then the party was in a cave, placing a dark glowing item on the ground and running for cover. Afterwards the party went to the library of the past, where Tyus tried to find books with true demon names in it. He succeeded and found 5 minor demon names (which will allow him to control them better when summoned). Cy used the Stonespeaker Crystal to ask "How were demon lords killed before?". He received a vision about Demogorgon fighting Fraz-Urb'luu in the Abyss as well as Lolth fighting Jubilex.

In the evening the PCs had dinner together. Vanya decided to invite Vizeran and Kleve (against Athut's wish). Vizeran had a little chat with the party, shed a bit of light on his relation to Menzoberranzan and explained again the importance of Gromph Baenre (as well as his hatred for him). He was surprised to hear of a vision involving Lolth and left the party soon after. Vanya snuck out of the quarters at night to ask Ustova about visions of her uncle (there were none). Ustova told her the future is blurry at the moment but most of her visions about the party seem to involve great challenges and deadly risks from historical importance to all of Toril.

Day 241
Vizeran met the party in their quarters and they went together to the library of the past. Vizeran used the Stonespeaker Crystal to get more information about Gromph Baenre and his involvement in the demonic incursion. After his vision he started swearing and cussing about "the idiot fool Gromph". The PCs stocked up on rations and left Gravenhollow.

Day 242-260 (skipped)
Vanya talked a bit with her troops and increased their moral slightly. Vizeran kept his promise and accompanied the party for 10 days. Then he teleported to Araj. The following 8 days the party went deeper underground, always following Vizerans map. After a long day of travelling they heard loud noises from ahead. Vanya and her dwarven scouts rode ahead to scout. Vanya failed her stealth check as she entered a cave where 4 vrocks and 5 shadow demons were fighting over a lava pit. Part of the demons attacked her and the scouts. A long fight ensued, but after the whole party (including 16 troops) arrived at the cave, the demons were fought off easily. Tyus summoned another shadow demon, which turned against the players at round 2 of combat. During combat lava erupted from the battleground. Athut dealt the killing blow to 3 vrocks while screaming and encouraging his fellow Zhentarim troops.

GM notes:
I don't know if the players understood, that the vision of demon lords fighting was set in the Abyss. I tried to set the scene as grotesque as possible and wanted to explain (by vision) that there were no records of fighting a demon lord on Toril, but demon lords still can be defeated (by other powerful beings)... anyway, the players now think they might have to let the demon lords fight each other... which is basically Vizeran's plan.

The last charge of the Stonespeaker Crystal was used by Muumas for a personal question. This was decided out of game. As the player of Muumas couldn't join, we will do this out of game until next time.

Oh my! 4 vrocks and 6 shadow demons were merely a nuisance to this party. Granted: the demons had some unlucky rolls, but I actually had a plan B in mind to avoid a complete TPK. But not one player was reduced to 0 HP. With this 16 additional fighters balancing is quite broken. I guess I just have to throw bigger and scarier demons at them... At the moment I am not even sure if a demon lord would suffice, which is crazy at level 7... but we will find out.


22nd session:

Only two regular players were able to make it, so during battle Vanya and Athut were controlled by me.

Day 261-270 (skipped)
The party travelled to Araj, fighting some monsters (random encounters, narrated not fought) in the tunnels and debating the visions they received in Gravenhollow.

Day 271-272
For the last two days the tunnel system grew in size. These tunnels were familiar to Muumas, who spent some years in a wizard's tower in the Wormwrithings. As they found the magically sealed entrance to Araj they had to leave the scouts on their giant lizard behind. After some initial hesitation they knocked on the door to Vizeran's tower, where they were greeted by Kleve, now in form of a drow servant. Vizeran told Muumas and Tyus about his plans to destroy the demon lords. He blamed Gromph and eventually Lolth for the demon intrusion. His apprentice Grin Ousstyl told the party about Demogorgons appearance in Menzoberranzan and the destruction he caused.

After the party agreed to help Vizeran, he gave them each a piwafwi and an amulet of protection from fiends (1 use). He also revealed which items were necessary to perform a ritual to lure the demon lords in and let them fight each other (in Menzoberranzan, as this is where Demogorgon came to Toril):
  • the egg of a purple worm (representing physical power)
  • the central eye of a beholder (representing magical power)
  • six feathers from different celestial beings (to transcend the plane of existence)
  • a few drops of demon lord blood (to connect with the demon lords)
  • 13 timmasks, growing out of the footprints of a demon, best: demon lord (to lure them in)
  • Gromph Baenre's grimoire and notes for the ritual (to link the two rituals)
Muumas talked to Vizeran in private, asking him for help with a ritual to bring her companion, which is imprisoned in her amulet, back to life (or alternatively let his soul rest). Vizeran was already aware of the presence in her amulet and told her a ritual like this would need 5 items connected to the deceased (1 for each sense) and a powerful otherworldly magic item - a demon lord's heart for example. Muumas thinks of another celestial feather. After a while Muumas told Vizeran the name of the wizard who killed her companion and that she stayed in his tower for the last years. Vizeran started laughing and told her it was an old friend, whose tower is in fact an instant fortress. An identify spell would suffice to learn its command word. Vizeran is very eager to learn the location of this tower. He asked Muumas to tell him the location or better bring the instant fortress to him. Muumas agreed only on the terms that he will bring her companion back to life. A task that, according to Vizeran, only Muumas can accomplish. The party left Araj, knowing they can come back any time to replenish rations and rest.

Day 273-283 (skipped)
After travelling for days through the tunnels made by purple worms the party encountered a troglodyte lair. They saw the troglodytes arguing, screaming and hissing at each other. Waiting for a few minutes they discovered a secret tunnel next to the entry to the cave. The PCs snuck through it, overwhelmed the troglodyte guards, did not free any prisoners and killed a roper. As they heard troglodytes fighting in the cave the party got their troops and left through the tunnel at the opposite end. The guards on their giant lizards waited until the fight in the cave was over and snuck through the cave a bit later.

GM notes:
I combined the Wormwrithings and the Labyrinth. The purple worms dug a "maze" of tunnels throughout this part of the Underdark. Also some dwarven civilization mined a "labyrinth" at the same part of the Underdark. The party is travelling through a tunnel system of purple worm pathways, dwarven mineshafts and occasionally natural caves. This set up makes more sense to me than two separated tunnel systems. All in all it should feel like an ant hill with multiple and different paths leading in various directions.

No insight check was made at Vizeran. Still, Muumas suspects already, that it is not 100% necessary to perform the ritual in Menzoberranzan. As Araj is now a "safe haven" for the party, maybe there will be some more interaction with Vizeran or Grin.

I left the heart of the goristo out of the ingredients as I was already expecting Muumas to ask Vizeran for help with reviving her companion. A demon (lords) heart seemed fitting for the task.

Also I let Vizeran help with the search for ingredients. He would get 1-2 items for the characters if needed, but as a drow wizard with some contacts in Menzoberranzan he volunteered to get Gromph's grimoire. I feel, that 6 ingredients are still a lot to get, and on top of that Muumas has to collect 6 more items (one of them connected to the demons).

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