Mayhem in the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa


In our session yesterday the PCs returned to the Underdark. They are trying to reach the Soul Abattoir, with the goal of undoing Torog's hold over the souls of those who die in the Underdark. They are following a map that takes the form of a magical tapestry created in an ancient minotaur kingdom.

Their map took them down an Underdark tunnel through which flowed an underground river. They were flying above the river on their Phantom Steeds when a surprise attack from beneath the water - with javelins, harpoons and in one case a leaping kick by a Monitor (kuo-toan monk) - destroyed their steeds and dropped them into the water to do battle with the 18-odd kuo-toa. The kuo-toa had the advantage of being aquatic, and hence having a +2 to hit the PCs fighting in the water (which was most of them - the ranger got to dry land on the edge of the river). But they had the disadvantage of being mostly 20th level against 24th level PCs. The final kuo-toa "Lash" (priest) tried to escape underwater but the PC fighter did a mighty dive (using Might Sprint for an Athletics buff) and hit and immobilised the NPC, making its escape impossible.

The PCs then continued down the river - in the direction the kuo-toa priest had been trying to escape - until they came to a point where the river filled the whole tunnel. After some discussion of whether or not to try to manufacture a magic submersible out of kuo-toan body parts (vetoed by the more upright members of the party), the mage conjured a couple of Caps of Waterbreathing out of residuum and other odds and ends, enabling the PCs to go down the river in groups of two. They discovered that the tunnel was blocked by a grille where the river fed into a carved pool in which kuo-toa were swimming. The sorcerer PC used his stone-shaping ability to create a small airspace above the level of the water while the fighter swam back with the (now spare) cap and brought the other PCs down one-by one. The PC mage then cast a Seeming ritual to give the PCs the appearance of kuo-toa, the fighter used his Epic Destiny-enhanced Strenth to pull the grille from the rock (he is an Eternal Defender), and the PCs swam through and tried to bluff their way through the kuo-toa Shrine. (I was using the D2 map, and a page of notes giving 4e monster labels for the bucketloads of kuo-toa guards detailed in the module.)

The "sneak through the Shrine glamoured as kuo-toa" skill challenge went pretty well, but for one hiccup: the player of the paladin hadn't been able to turn up to the session, and no one had a copy of his PC sheet, so (as GM) I had declared that the paladin had gone on ahead. (It is his quest, and a recent encounter with his god following death and resurrection have made him newly serious about it.) The other PCs - particularly the fighter, whose player was insisting on a strong player knowledge/character knowledge distinction - had been happy enough with this until they discovered that the way forward involved passing through the Shrine. And they had become concerened that the paladin - who has neither stealth nor water-breathing capabilities - must have been captured.

So when they noticed a secret door after having successfully bluffed their way across the Shrine (the mage, who had glamoured himself as a lash, and who speaks Deep Speech, had told inquiring guards that they had to take a newly mad kuo-toa - the glamoured dwarf fighter, who had failed his own Bluff check after the others all spent their action points to make theirs - to be dealt with in the priests' quarters), they created a distraction (the mage sent his invisible imp down a passageway and then detonated it with hellfire and brimstone) and snuck through the secret door.

This took them through to the treasure chamber of the kuo-toa priest-prince. The PCs duly helped themselves to his pouch of 20 500 gp pearls (but left his regalia) and then the mage cast Hand of Fate to seek advice on which way to go to find the paladin. The Hand advised exiting through the secret door at the other end of the treasure chamber, which they therefore did. Unfortunately this led them into the private bathing pool of the priest-prince, who was reclining there with two guards on duty - and six lesser priests (more lashes) through an archway at the other end of the room.

Another Bluff attempt was made, but it faled. I took the view that any Bluff to explain why a troupe of 4 kuo-toa was coming out of the secret door to the prince-priests's treasure chamber was Hard (DC 37). And it had to be made by the mage, because only he could speak Deep Speech. That gave a base bonus of +13. When the prince asked "What are you doing?" or something similar, the PC replied "Passing through". I thought that was feeble enough to impose a -2 penalty, making the roll required 26 on the d20. The player rolled a 15, and then used his Memory of 1000 Lifetimes to get another 7, for a total of 22. One of the PCs - the best Bluffer - helped, with some appropriate piece of accompanying mime, taking it to 24. The dwarf then tried to grant the final +2 required by acting out his madness (running across the room babbling and ramming his head into the wall for some modest amount of damage) and trying to imply thereby that the others had eneded up in the wrong place by trying to follow and capture him. It was a noble attempt, and I granted a +2 bonus, but the dwarf isn't very good at Bluff either (+14) and rolled poorly, so the Bluff failed. And then once the priest-prince entered bare-handed melee with the "mad kuo-toa" he worked out that he wasn't really a kuo-toa either (physical contact defeats a Seeming spell). Combat therefore ensued, with much debate about how the PCs might keep it quiet so as not to bring the whole complex down upon them - the sorcerer in particular is a thunder specialist and so has very few quiet attack abilities - but we had to end the session before the combat was concluded.

What happens next session will depend on how quickly and quietly they can finish off the priest-prince - so far it's been about 2 and a half rounds with no noise other than the mad rantings of the dwarf - and also on whether or not the player of the paladin can turn up (as only then can we decide where the paladin actually is!).

The players commented at the end of the session that it had had a definite comic feel compared to some of our more serious recent sessions. I think this was also helped by the fact that most of us had memories of the Shrine from earlier D&D experiences (two of the group played through a great kuo-toa slaughter - taking down every single kuo-toa in the Shrine - which took about 6 months of their 3E campaign that was prior to this campaign).

Has anyone else used D2 in 4e?
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First Post
I haven't run that module, but the way you went about it really reminds me of may last session that was packed full of role-playing combined with skill checks, and players coming up with fun ideas.

I do run intimidate/diplomacy/bluff quite similar to how diplomacy is described in this article: I think it works out very well, since it among other things allows for "retries" if the roll isn't too bad and the players can come up with a reason for it, for instance coming up with a better deal, a worse threat, or a better bluff.

For me, I think the important part of making social skills work in an RPG is to make it pretty important to not just let the players roll the dice, but either role play the situation (preferred) or have them explain how their character tries to convince the NPC. It makes it a bit harder to play a social skilled character, but to me, it's worth it for how much better the sessions run.

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