Out of the Abyss - Alice in Wonderland? Or Reign of Fire

jedijon

Explorer
Having taken players in our group through the reveal of [spoilers follow] Demogorgon (or from their perspective a barely glimpsed monster associated with brief bouts of madness they experienced), I'm left to wonder how much actual Alice in Wonderland is in here.

Chris Perkins' actual reference to Lewis Carol's works is that there's a bad guy in here that's as crazy as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. The association to that work, however, is oft played up. In my pre-purchase research I came across frequent references to crazy travelling companions and the strange surroundings of the Underdark. Then while doing some DM homework, it appears there's an upcoming portion where the characters shrink themselves.

What this adventure arc appears to be from the highest level is the heroes are on the run from their captors operating under the belief that if they can just get back to the surface they will finally be safe. This is underpinned by close calls and making every place they go horrible / knowing that their pursuers are just about to catch up. Although they've never been down here before, it's critical to portray that things aren't right--which is why there's a bunch of NPCs there to tell the players that.

Once out in the sunshine they're summoned by a King who has been watching them somehow. He says that things are terrible down there and they gotta go stop it. The players, who just want to leave, now have to go back. Which is cool because they're now buffed up army leaders and can tell the kings goons to go into the badness for them while they watch. Not long after, a new person says to them that the way to stop the badness is to get all the bad guys in a room and let them beat themselves up. And this is not a stupid plan because they're beings from other planes of existence and without this type of really drastic stuff they'll all just be back tomorrow. Of course, coming into our plane to mess it up is pretty much these folks raison d'être, so.

Now, in the movie Reign of Fire, that's pretty much what's happening. Early - we see the threat. It's too big to kill! Then, we run run run and hide. But, after some suffering, there's an audacious idea that will create a permanent triumph. Of course, the main beauty of that movie is that people are having power struggles not just about who gets to be on camera the most as per most films but about when the tomatoes are ripe. All their Almanacs had burned up previously and now they have to drive a jeep past a sleeping dragon just to spot that ripe red fruit.

So, awful stuff. Stupid plan that works. Check.

But I want Alice.

Why? Well, I'm DM'ing this for an 8 and a 11 year old. I want self-absorbed playing cards. Talking rabbits. Not sure what D&D tropes are being parodied here--we've got the standard save the world schtick, everybody wants to arrest/enslave/stop us. So, after some partly successful side-stepping around the Kuo Toa ritual sacrific...I'm pausing. For good ideas. Things that are fun, lighthearted, and hopefully result in a rational motivation for the players. See, even for the madness element--there's seeing stuff that isn't there [red peach on a table] and there's seeing stuff that isn't there [flayed skeletons dripping ichor]. But there does need to be some alternatives for human/fishman sacrifice. Like a talking caterpillar.
 

MarkB

Hero
Let me recommend Glabbagool, the sentient gelatinous cube.



Play him with a childlike innocence and sense of wonder, with an undertone of sadness that he can never touch anyone without hurting them, alongside a bit of dark humour about how lovely and charming and delicious his travelling companions are, and you'll be able to capture some of that Alice sensibility.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
No disrespect, but isn't this adventure a little long and intense for an 8 and 11 year old? I think you could just sample portions of it, and play up the funny bits, like the sentient gelatinous cube. If you don't want to horrify the 8 year old, then yeah, you'll need to swap in talking caterpillars and white bunnies with a chain watch.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
But I want Alice.

Why? Well, I'm DM'ing this for an 8 and a 11 year old. I want self-absorbed playing cards. Talking rabbits. Not sure what D&D tropes are being parodied here--we've got the standard save the world schtick, everybody wants to arrest/enslave/stop us. So, after some partly successful side-stepping around the Kuo Toa ritual sacrific...I'm pausing. For good ideas. Things that are fun, lighthearted, and hopefully result in a rational motivation for the players. See, even for the madness element--there's seeing stuff that isn't there [red peach on a table] and there's seeing stuff that isn't there [flayed skeletons dripping ichor]. But there does need to be some alternatives for human/fishman sacrifice. Like a talking caterpillar.
If you really want to play the actual 'Alice In Wonderland' story with your kids...

EX1 DUNGEONLAND - Available on DMs Guild

and if you want it set up for 5E right off the bat rather than converting it yourself...

5E CONVERSION OF DUNGEONLAND
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
They keep making these kinds of literary references (Storm King’s Thunder was supposed to be inspired by King Lear) but it’s really just the barest hint in the end. There’s very little that’s whimsical in OotA I’m afraid. It’s a dark and dangerous world. I think you need to stop running it and starting brewing up your own story that will appeal to the kids.

Good luck!
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I'm having a hard time imagining any of the WotC adventure paths are really appropriate for 8-11 year olds. Too many attention problems, turning left instead of right, general grimness and setbacks. My 8 year old certainly doesn't have the maturity for the full 5E experience yet (power fantasies are stronger than interest in narrative; alternating between wild aggression and instantly running away; etc.)

Things like Tiny Dungeon are way better for what it looks like you want to do with the kids. They let you bring in more of the whimsy without doing loads of work the kids are probably not going to notice/care about. Just sort of follow the (Alice) book and always put the next place in front of the kids no matter which direction they go.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Unfortunately (IMHO), the pop-culture perception of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass has been warped by things like American McGee and the Tim Burton movies. A lot of people who haven't actually read the books, or haven't read them since childhood, think they're a lot darker and more sinister than they really are. Since these are my favorite children's books, this pains me greatly.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
Let's not forget that Alice in Wonderland is about dressing up really odd and interesting bits of advanced mathematics in a children's story. Then read by people who are more likely to come up with these things because of... chemistry...
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Thanks! On a less flippant note, I think the tenuous Alice in Wonderland connection was just a marketing gimmick, derived from the fact that that OotA deals with madness and takes place in a location with a lot of mushrooms.
Well there’s bit of trippy stuff and some fanciful creature names, but it would have been fun if it had been Journey to the Center of the Earth. And the society of brilliance idea was decidedly unbrilliant in its execution.The underdark as a whole is a bit monotonous (and the madness affecting the various communities was very samey). All in all very dull.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
The Whorlstone Tunnels location in the Gracklstugh chapter is the only bit with an overt Alice theme. That’s where you can eat mushrooms to shrink or grow bigger. You also get there by following a derro with white displacer beast tentacles (rabbit ears) hanging from his hat.
 

MarkB

Hero
There’s very little that’s whimsical in OotA I’m afraid.
There are some reasonable touches of it, I think. Like the sidebar on playing Kuo-Toa, which plays up their eccentricities (I still love the idea that, since Kuo-Toa lack eyelids, and all Kuo-Toa sleepwalk, there's a reasonable chance that any individual Kuo-Toa you encounter around town is asleep).

And the fact that one entire section of the adventure is set in a town populated entirely by talking mushrooms. That's very Alice in Wonderland.

It’s a dark and dangerous world.
That much is certainly true, however.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I would second the Glabagool advice. My party absolutely loved that Gelatinous Cube.

Another thing to get back to the Alice in the tale would be to focus more on the non-combat encounters. More whimsy and madness and less murdering things.
 

Urriak Uruk

Explorer
I guess you can make OotA more "Wonderland," but I think you really have to make the villains more cartoon Looney Tunes characters to make it work. Less "I want to destroy the world, torture you to death, and eat your family," and more "Off with his head, he was mean to me!"

So the Drow can be more like the Evil Queen in Wonderland (evil and megalomaniac, but are easily flattered and will just kill you not torture you for fun), and the demons should be less murder-ey and more just crazy. So Fraz'U'Blu is a riddler who tries to trick and confuse you until you go insane, think Mysterio. Graz'zt is trying to make you fall in love with him and be his servant. Juublex is the same except he sings about how he loves eating. Yeenoghu is literally laughing all the time like the hyenas from lion king. Zuggtmoy is obsessed with being worshipped, like Pepe le Pu from Looney Tunes. Maybe cut Baphomet and Demogorgon entirely.

I mean, if your making this for kids, you gotta make the villains something kids are OK with fighting and not something that will traumatize them.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
So the Drow can be more like the Evil Queen in Wonderland (evil and megalomaniac, but are easily flattered and will just kill you not torture you for fun), and the demons should be less murder-ey and more just crazy. So Fraz'U'Blu is a riddler who tries to trick and confuse you until you go insane, think Mysterio. Graz'zt is trying to make you fall in love with him and be his servant. Juublex is the same except he sings about how he loves eating. Yeenoghu is literally laughing all the time like the hyenas from lion king. Zuggtmoy is obsessed with being worshipped, like Pepe le Pu from Looney Tunes. Maybe cut Baphomet and Demogorgon entirely.
This is a really great idea. The challenge for the PCs is trying to navigate past these strange creatures and their temptations. Perhaps each of the Demon Lords exhibits one of the 7 deadly sins (to give some thematic thread?) And their goal is not to kill the PCs but to simply tempt them into remaining with them in their lair.
 

Urriak Uruk

Explorer
This is a really great idea. The challenge for the PCs is trying to navigate past these strange creatures and their temptations. Perhaps each of the Demon Lords exhibits one of the 7 deadly sins (to give some thematic thread?) And their goal is not to kill the PCs but to simply tempt them into remaining with them in their lair.
I'm actually going to break down this villains even more just for kicks;

- The Drow are cartoon fascists; think the Red Queen, Scar in the Lion King, the grasshoppers from Bug's Life. Their bad, and will kill you, their self-absorbed, think their superior. Clever and smart, but quick to underestimate you. But nothing more than that.

- Baphomet is the lord of the wild, pure wild abandon. He'll try to convince and show the players that rules and formality is for the weak and meek. Why eat your vegetables and say "please and thank you," when instead you can eat ice cream and make fun of those you don't like? He's an evil version of Baloo from the Jungle Book.

- Demogorgon is pure, unadaltured rage and temper tantrums. Not only are you right to feel angry, it's the anger that makes you strong, the rage that gives you power. You deserve your revenge. He's the classic Sith "hate leaves to the dark side, which leads to suffering," trope.

- Fraz-Urb'luu is here to trick you, solely because he enjoys it. He's your friend, he's your worst nightmare, he's constantly changing and filling your mind with doubt as to who is your friend and who is your foe. Sometimes he'll help you, sometimes he's leading you to your doom. Mixture of the Chesire Cat and Mysterio.

- Graz'zt is every negative trope about love; he's lustful and self-obsessed, and wants you to love him because he's the only one able to love you back just the way you need it. He's everything you want in a partner, except you've got to be totally devoted to him and no one else. Flips genders for whatever is necessary. He's every seductress trope wrapped into one.

- Juiblex loves to eat and consume. He should sing just to give him a little more whimsical, but his whole drive is greed for food, preferably candy and cake and everything nice.

- Orcus is a popularity hoarder, as he wants to be the center of attention. His way of doing that is raising a horde of skeletons and zombies, who all tell him how great he is. Either you got to get with the program and tell him how good he is, or there's something wrong with you. If there is, you need to die and get raised back to be "fixed." Regina from Mean Girls.

- Yeenoghu is a the king of laughs, always thinking he's funnier than he is but having a joke and pun primed for every occasion. Watching people get hurt is of course the highest form of comedy, and the more chaos there is the funnier the world. This is the Mark Hamill Joker.

- Zuggtmoy is a clinging, nitpicky mother. She knows best, and if you disagree you need your mind wiped clean for your own safety. Everyone just needs to slow down, breath the spores deeply, and good old Zuggtmoy will take care of it. She's the snake from the Jungle Book, mixed with bad-mom vibes.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
- Zuggtmoy is a clinging, nitpicky mother. She knows best, and if you disagree you need your mind wiped clean for your own safety. Everyone just needs to slow down, breath the spores deeply, and good old Zuggtmoy will take care of it. She's the snake from the Jungle Book, mixed with bad-mom vibes.
I’d tweak this to be “helicopter parent” from hell, so it’s not so gendered, but all in all super stuff.

Now what are the associated adventures? Each of these must have a quest or something that, if the PCs succeed, will grant their freedom (just kidding!). :) Something OotA suffers from is the sameness of the effects of demon madness on the populations.
 

Urriak Uruk

Explorer
Now what are the associated adventures? Each of these must have a quest or something that, if the PCs succeed, will grant their freedom (just kidding!). :) Something OotA suffers from is the sameness of the effects of demon madness on the populations.
That's more work than I'm willing to put in a forum comment, so I'd leave that to the OP if he's up for it.
 

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