D&D 5E Need DM Advice: Out of the Abyss - when players get out of the Underdark...

Klaudius Rex

Explorer
Im DM-ing 'Out of the Abyss'...

...and my players are getting ready to reach lv7 and exit the Underdark, having faced a lot of good challenges, finished Sloopbludop, Gracklstugh, and Neverlight Grove.

They are a bit tired of wandering the Underdark, looking for an exit, running for thier lives, and just ready to see some sunlight. I dont blame them. Its been fun and frustrating at the same time.

The problem is: I'm not so sure they will want to delve back in!

Once they get to the surface, they want a bit of freestyle RP, which is fine. They DO have a clear understanding that muliple demon lords are bursting forth from the Abyss and need to be stopped. The thing is, I just dont think they want to be roaming the Underdark a second time around when they could be living a lavish lifestyle basking on the beaches of the Sword Coast!

I read the part that tells how Bruenor Battlehammer will be summoning them, along with the five factions who are all supposed to get along to stop the threat from the demon lords. They need the help of the Zhentarim, which my character is a member of. However, they are evil aligned characters who want to lead a Zhentarim invasion and take over the Lords Alliance, instead of deal with the demon lords below...

On one hand, i want characers goals and asprirations to be realized...i just need a good reason for them to work with the Lords Alliance and other factions to go down to stop these damn demon lords....
 

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Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Treasure as a reward always works for my players. Offer them something they can't refuse. The Lords Alliance is a group of wealthy and powerful Forgotten Realms rulers. They can offer some pretty potent magic to do the job.
 


Daern

Explorer
A short side adventure might be a good idea. Perhaps a light hearted Waterdeep caper or why not send them to Zentil Keep and find out that "leading an invasion" is more difficult than imagined because of backstabbing politics of evil. Then have a demon lord burst forth from the ground and eat Daggerford or something. Orcus is now raising an undead army at Dragonspear Castle! The only way to defeat all the demon lords is to go back down underground!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Im DM-ing 'Out of the Abyss'...

...and my players are getting ready to reach lv7 and exit the Underdark, having faced a lot of good challenges, finished Sloopbludop, Gracklstugh, and Neverlight Grove.

They are a bit tired of wandering the Underdark, looking for an exit, running for thier lives, and just ready to see some sunlight. I dont blame them. Its been fun and frustrating at the same time.

The problem is: I'm not so sure they will want to delve back in!

Once they get to the surface, they want a bit of freestyle RP, which is fine. They DO have a clear understanding that muliple demon lords are bursting forth from the Abyss and need to be stopped. The thing is, I just dont think they want to be roaming the Underdark a second time around when they could be living a lavish lifestyle basking on the beaches of the Sword Coast!

I read the part that tells how Bruenor Battlehammer will be summoning them, along with the five factions who are all supposed to get along to stop the threat from the demon lords. They need the help of the Zhentarim, which my character is a member of. However, they are evil aligned characters who want to lead a Zhentarim invasion and take over the Lords Alliance, instead of deal with the demon lords below...

On one hand, i want characers goals and asprirations to be realized...i just need a good reason for them to work with the Lords Alliance and other factions to go down to stop these damn demon lords....

You don't have to fix the story in this case. You don't have to motivate their characters.

Have your players do it.

All your concerns are valid.

The key: the player does not have to bring the same character to the second half of the campaign.

Talk to your players. Explain that they're (the players that is) only half-way through your massive underdark campaign.

Ask them what their characters do. Give them the choice: keep their characters or make new ones. Let them have their characters retire if that's what they feel is right for that character, and let them generate new (level 8) characters to bring into the underdark.
 

Klaudius Rex

Explorer
You don't have to fix the story in this case. You don't have to motivate their characters.

Have your players do it.

All your concerns are valid.

The key: the player does not have to bring the same character to the second half of the campaign.

Talk to your players. Explain that they're (the players that is) only half-way through your massive underdark campaign.

Ask them what their characters do. Give them the choice: keep their characters or make new ones. Let them have their characters retire if that's what they feel is right for that character, and let them generate new (level 8) characters to bring into the underdark.

I thought about this idea myself.
And i suppose that talking to the players is the best thing to do. Because everyone in the group wants to play D&D in some fashion or another....

I just wasnt sure if i should railroad them back into the Underdark after 8 levels of escaping it!

Its a good story, a good adventure path, but its very long, and im not sure the group is anxious to just go back in. But i think your right in giving them a choice! i was just worried that playing in the surface world would mean that the Out of the Abyss story arch would just be abandoned.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
Yes, let them go play on the surface and do whatever they want. Start your next campaign with heroic 8th level characters getting a summons to fight demons...
 

I think good players will know that that’s the hook for the adventure, and take it for what it is. That being said, if you’re worried about them not taking it, you can always have the demonic threat start bubbling to the surface, perhaps targeting them specifically.

Treasure would totally work, too. If you haven’t used it already and it would be something they’d want, you could send some rumors of the sword Dawnbringer their way.
 

I'd give the characters a break from the underdark for a while and let them pursue their own goals. But as time passes they slowly realize that something is very, very wrong. The madness and influence of the demon lords is spreading beyond the underdark and is threatening their homes, families, or whatever they hold dear. Even of they are not "good guys" self interest should motivate them to stop the threat. Also the Zhentarim is the only faction that plays a key role, so you could just leave out any factions that your group would not want to cooperate with.

I'd also note that the second half of OotA is far shorter than the first - it is nowhere near 8 levels worth of material. You could easily hold off until the characters are level 12 or so to jump back in if you are willing to tweak the difficulty of some early encounters. Then the return to the underdark becomes a mid-length adventure that can serve as the climax of the campaign, rather than continuing an interminable slog.
 

Satyrn

First Post
I just wasnt sure if i should railroad them back into the Underdark after 8 levels of escaping it!

Its a good story, a good adventure path, but its very long, and im not sure the group is anxious to just go back in. But i think your right in giving them a choice! i was just worried that playing in the surface world would mean that the Out of the Abyss story arch would just be abandoned.
It's not bad sort of railroading if they choose to go into it to make the story work and make it easier on you as DM.

But like others have said, 1) give them a break if they'd prefer, and 2) present that "new PCs for the second half" option, perhaps holding off on delving after the original characters do some random aboveground stuff.

Others here have already given you the best advice you can get: bring your players into the decision making.
 

It makes perfect sense that your players are eager to get out of the Underdark and stay out of the Underdark. Great. Go with that. It will take more effort on your part to adapt the adventure to suit the desires of your players, but it is possible. If you take a close look at Out of the Abyss, the action does not need to occur in the Underdark for the story to work.

Here's how you do it.

Once the players exit the Underdark, they are summoned by the Zhentarim. Play out the Bruenor chapter as written, except reskinned for the Zhents. Rather than Bruenor, the conclave is led by a heavy hitter in the Zhentarim (perhaps the person who rules the Zhents, whoever that might be). Most of the guests are unsavory types such as the Red Wizards, Arcane Brotherhood, the Xanathar, etc. If you want, Bruenor and some good guys can show up--reluctant to partner with the Zhents but aware of the dire situation. Once the conclave is finished, a demon lord of your choice explodes from beneath their feet and slaughters everyone present. Dead. Bodies. Everywhere. Zhent HQ in smoking ruins. And the players barely escape with their lives.

Meanwhile, all across the Sword Coast, demon lords are emerging from the Underdark and laying waste to the land. WotC doesn't want to wreck the Forgotten Realms...but you can! Each demon lord is essentially Godzilla, so imagine what it would be like if six Godzillas were running wild across a medieval fantasy landscape. It would be awesome.

Now, the players have to trek across the Sword Coast to gather the necessary McGuffins to destroy the demon lords and save the Realms. All you need to do is reskin each location. For example, Mantol-Derith becomes a Zhent fortress. The library at Gravenhollow becomes Candlekeep. Menzoberranzan becomes Silverymoon or Waterdeep. Et cetera. Reskin Vizeran as Szass Tam or some other heavy hitter from Realmslore.

That's a campaign I would love to play or DM.
 

Daern

Explorer
As an above ground side-quest, the Gravenhollow Library sequence could be reset in a mountain stronghold somewhere, even a cloud castle.
 

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