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


Hadn't heard of EX1 so I'll check that out. Sticking with OoTA for a few reasons, not unlike most who've run an out of the box (OoTB?) adventure--great art, feels official, everything's in one place.

So to clarify the motivations about why I'll be making changes away from what's written. Yup, running it for humans that include kids. But also, I'm about 0% interested in demonic rituals, skulking around to avoid enslavement by each race of underdweller. Let's zany this up.

Running this pretty straight up till things start to get heated at the Darklake [pretty much exactly where we are in our playthrough].

It's clear two groups disagree strongly and they're pushing and shoving each other. Shushaar translates for the party that they're through the screaming and shoving they're really talking about the old ways and those who respect the lake and its bounty vs a desire for their community to be much more powerful--these ones keep gesturing upward and out toward the lake saying there's a powerful being who can help make this happen.

Chanting, singing. Pushing, shoving. And a flash. Tentacles - waves. You can't see any colors and everything smells moldy. Then that begins to pass. Several of you are on your knees. Nearby where everyone was pushing and shoving early you see that about half the fish people are reaching down into the mud to smear streaks under their bulgy eyes. They're putting shells on their shoulders. The other half are kicking clods of seaweed back and forth between themselves. They're strapping chunks of driftwood to the front of their lower leg. Someone yells. CLEAR THE PITCH! Someone grabs your arm and asks - and how about you? Football or Futbal?

Something that seems clear in each OoTA chapter is there's things going on for each race and the characters stumble into them. That's part of what we'll keep.

Will be reading back through the chapters to see how the modified approach fits--what sections still stick out and whether they're needed to tell the story or not.

The characters will be in zany extreme situations inspired by The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, and told with some zest and some deadpan à la Dumb And Dumber...

Pre "ritual" - normal

Post "ritual", off the rails. What's spreading out from each community is not madness per se but IDEAS

Darklake - a feud between soccer and football devotees

Gracklstugh - Duergar are cats, Derro are mice. The cats certainly don't question their place while the mice run around in groups, quite afraid and protective of their cheese. The cats don't fully appreciate that there's a dragon...

Neverlight Grove - as is, but most fungi delight in changing sizes and everyone loves chess [this is a good time to show visual evidence of spread--spores spotted hanging in air well before they get their, landing on things, can see things shrinking and growing when the spores land on them]

Blingdenstone - these are pioneers rebuilding their city - they're also twangy cattle ranchers locked in land feuds with each other

Menzoberranzan/Drow patrols - behind it all - they're creating this upsidedown order which is pervading through the underground [and spreading beyond...], the other thing they do...enforce gender divides of "she can" and "he can't" so obviously speak only to female party members [this has some scary potential--I'm thinking of Russel's The Sparrow for assumptions of power differentials...but we're obviously not headed THAT far!]

Gauntlgrym - here's a place to bring home some earlier dropped hints that things just don't seem what they were - everyone should now know that SOMETHING happened "they told me this place was like" or Eldeth saying "this can't be where I grew up?" Everyone is very happy--and very few people IN THE TOWN will brook disagreement with that, probably just one key vizier. But what's going on is posters of the king everywhere. Him jumping over puddles, lifting a bag full of tin cans and people stop and point "he's so strong". An absurd cult of personality. The audience confirms it. He wants the adventurers to go back down and learn about / control for his glory / so people know who's really great / the underground. The adventurers will know that really they need his army's help to get back there and put things right. The way they were.

All the crazy bad ideas fight it out and things are normal. But is that a good thing? The end.


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.
Every child is different. My 4 & 6 year old (and their friends) didn't have any problem picking up D&D. However, I don't know how easy the WotC adventures are, as we ran my own campaign, but they handled the game just find (though it was 4e when we started) without and simplification of the rules.


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.
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.
Sounds like Mother Gothel from Disney's Tangled would be a good inspiration. I like these takes on the villains!