D&D 5E [SPOILERS] Out of the Abyss Escape Scenario: To Fudge or not to Fudge?

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I'm about to run the escape scenario. I'm looking at the math and it's not too favorable to the PCs. A group of unarmed, unarmored players very close to a den of quaggoth, armed and armored drow guards, and giant spider guard dogs expected to escape at level 1 or 2. If I run this scenario as ruthlessly as the character of the drow, I'm not sure they'll survive (at least not all of them).

How are some DMs handling this? Do you plan to fudge a little to let the campaign progress pass the opening chapter or will you let the chips fall where they may even if it leads to the creation of new characters and maybe a continued stay in the prison? Basically, you going to fudge a bit to allow the players to successfully escape or you going to play the drow and their allies like competent prison guards against your unarmed, unarmored players?
 
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Since I'm violently, rabidly, pathologically anti-fudge, well, my advice should be clear. But being anti-fudge and being anti-change--not the same thing. That is: "fudging" is when you roll a die, and then decide "y'know what, no, that's not what happens." I really, really, really dislike doing that--changing the rules of the fight, whether for or against the players, while it's happening. This isn't the appropriate place to get into why. "Change" is when you deviate from the plan in a way that (a) is consistent--or at least not inconsistent--with the stuff the players already know, and (b) the players COULD conceivably learn, once you change your mind, prior to the actual fight and thus prepare appropriately.

I have a big bugaboo about "making informed choices." Fudging prevents being informed, and subverts choice. Change allows (but doesn't force) players to be informed, and preserves choice--both making it, and dealing with the consequences thereof.

So--don't, please please please don't, "fudge" the combat halfway through to ensure that it goes in the party's favor. But, if you're worried that the fun will come to a crashing halt with an encounter that hasn't happened yet, and you have some ability to tweak it to fit the challenge level you WANT from it--by all means, do so. Preferably also come up with ways that, *if* the players *try* to, they can learn something of the forces they'll face and can plan accordingly. That alone will improve their odds of survival.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Play the drow as they should be - Overconfident reckless blowhards - and fudging the dice isn't needed.
This.

My players pickpocketed the key, attacked and killed the drow in the guard tower, armed themselves, chopped off the south rope ladder to the rest of the compound, tricked the drow guards at the north post for a few crucial rounds, then they escaped down a rope into the water north of the webbing while Prince Derendil and Eldeth valiantly held of the Quaggoth servants.

End result: the PCs escaped with a couple NPCs, three Drow dead, Eldeth and Derendil recaptured. Buppido, the twins and the slave Drow weren't even involved, they were out doing hard labor.

No fudging necessary. Obviously it helped tremendously that they didn't try to engage any of the elite warriors or priestesses.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Big point: since the characters are very low level, the cost of having to create new ones is as low as can be.

So why not play it out fair and square?

Worst case scenario - they fail, some are recaptured, some even die.

But it's easy to add a Drow Slaver bringing a couple of new "recruits" to Velkynvelve that just happens to be new characters!

If you have mature players that appreciate the challenge, you should not be afraid to have the PCs try more than once before they succeed! :)
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
This.

My players pickpocketed the key, attacked and killed the drow in the guard tower, armed themselves, chopped off the south rope ladder to the rest of the compound, tricked the drow guards at the north post for a few crucial rounds, then they escaped down a rope into the water north of the webbing while Prince Derendil and Eldeth valiantly held of the Quaggoth servants.

End result: the PCs escaped with a couple NPCs, three Drow dead, Eldeth and Derendil recaptured. Buppido, the twins and the slave Drow weren't even involved, they were out doing hard labor.

No fudging necessary. Obviously it helped tremendously that they didn't try to engage any of the elite warriors or priestesses.

So you ran it without any Elite Drow warriors present. There are five elite drow warriors. I figure one or two are on duty at all times and they would move to engage the PCs quickly. What did you do with the guard dog giant spiders? It says there are six giant spiders that descend into the cavern to engage enemies. I'm assuming they can be ordered by the drow to attack the party when they try to escape. Their ability to climb allows for superior mobility to track the players when they are climbing down.

Looking at the map there are three guards in the guard tower (2 drow guards, 1 elite drow guard), two at area 13 the Northern Watch post, 1d4 quaggoths in the quaggoth area at any given time, and six giant spiders around the webs. I'm assuming at least two or three would be near the area where the prisoners try to escape. The way I'm looking at this is the party will be in visible range of 5 drow guards, 1d4 quaggoth, and a few giant spiders ready to deploy against anyone climbing down the wall. Unarmed and unarmored this is a fairly formidable challenge. They do have nearly all the prisoners available for assistance. Maybe if they sacrifice a few, they can avoid an excessive amount of death.
 
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Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Big point: since the characters are very low level, the cost of having to create new ones is as low as can be.

So why not play it out fair and square?

Worst case scenario - they fail, some are recaptured, some even die.

But it's easy to add a Drow Slaver bringing a couple of new "recruits" to Velkynvelve that just happens to be new characters!

If you have mature players that appreciate the challenge, you should not be afraid to have the PCs try more than once before they succeed! :)

The mechanical bits are low cost. I always have my players write up a quality background prior to play. This causes a few of them to get attached to the character during the background creation process. I'd hate to have a situation where I discourage them from writing a quality background due to a quick death from hard starting circumstances. Hopefully they'll be able to handle it because I'm leaning towards keeping it ruthless. I don't like to fudge. I sure would like to know how it went for more than a few people that did not hold back on the drow response to prisoner escape using their spider guard dogs to pursue as well.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Celtavian, it is going to be as deadly as you want it to be.

You seem to want to have a discussion "look how deadly it is, I don't want it to be that deadly, but my hands are tied" but I won't bite.

The simple truth is that the escape will be exactly as hard as you the DM makes it.

And more to the point, the corrollary: if the escape is hard it is because you made it hard; if the escape is easy it is because you made it easy.

Since changing stuff from the printed book is utterly trivial and the first thing any seasoned DM will do, I really see no point in having the aforementioned discussion, since it boils down to this dialog:

- "The book makes the escape too hard"
- "Then change it"
 

CapnZapp

Legend
The mechanical bits are low cost. I always have my players write up a quality background prior to play. This causes a few of them to get attached to the character during the background creation process. I'd hate to have a situation where I discourage them from writing a quality background due to a quick death from hard starting circumstances. Hopefully they'll be able to handle it because I'm leaning towards keeping it ruthless. I don't like to fudge.
You really can't have it both ways.

If you run your games without any kind of plot immunity, level 1 D&D really isn't what you should be playing, Celtavian. Not if your players 1) invest that much and 2) aren't able to cope with losing said investment.

At first level, a moment of bad luck you're down; two and you're out. Even if you did nothing wrong as a player, even if you took no stupid or rash action, even if you played it safe and made smart decisions.

Have you considered asking your players to hold off writing their background stories until they reach level 3? (Or, perhaps more to your liking, simply starting the escape attempt at level 3)

Good luck!
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Celtavian, it is going to be as deadly as you want it to be.

You seem to want to have a discussion "look how deadly it is, I don't want it to be that deadly, but my hands are tied" but I won't bite.

The simple truth is that the escape will be exactly as hard as you the DM makes it.

And more to the point, the corrollary: if the escape is hard it is because you made it hard; if the escape is easy it is because you made it easy.

Since changing stuff from the printed book is utterly trivial and the first thing any seasoned DM will do, I really see no point in having the aforementioned discussion, since it boils down to this dialog:

- "The book makes the escape too hard"
- "Then change it"

Why would you continue the discussion? You've already answered my question. I'm not looking for an argument. I'm looking for input from people that have run the encounter as to how they used the pieces available. Now I'd like to hear how other people ran it.

I'm leaning towards running it as is and seeing who lives. I'd like to hear how that went from some others. You ran it softer than I would or maybe your party was better set up for stealth. I don't know. Given the number of prisoners, I don't expect the party to be able to stealth out if they take anyone else with them. I also expect they'll need to decide who will be cannon fodder. I plan to have the giant spiders go after people. They are guard dogs for the prison. I'm assuming they are trained as such and will react as such.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I interpreted the text as the spiders keeping to their webs, protecting the settlement against attacks and happily eating everybody that falls off the walkways and into their nets.

Specifically I do not think you "have to" interpret them as "dogs"; specifically climbing down to the cavern floor and pursuing fleeing slaves. I mean no offense, but perhaps that's YOU, not the text?

Not saying this to hijack your thread, but because I believe you might be doing yourself a disservice by interpreting the Drow defense as so hard it gives you the problem "but how on earth will the slaves ever escape?". The solution might not be to ask the forums, since a) even the best of plans won't always go as intended and b) the scenario can and will be interpreted in so many ways... Just saying it might be better for you to revisit the text and try to identify where you are making assumptions that make life harder on the slaves but where there are other equally valid assumptions that would make it easier for the slaves?

In essence, you might be your own worst enemy here. You might not have to "fudge" anything to make things easier for the slaves, you might only have to re-assess the situation :)

In my case, this decision was made much easier because the players tried to make a "smart" decision by leaving from the extreme north, where there are no webs in between lake and settlement. The players did what they could with the information at hand. Of course I could have had the spiders attack them anyway, but I want a potentially smart decision to actually be one, even if details not available to the players suggest otherwise.

As for the three "no name" elite Drow, I changed them into slave overseers ("elite no name" is a contradiction in terms in my book) that just happened to be elsewhere.

Regards,
 


Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I interpreted the text as the spiders keeping to their webs, protecting the settlement against attacks and happily eating everybody that falls off the walkways and into their nets.

Specifically I do not think you "have to" interpret them as "dogs"; specifically climbing down to the cavern floor and pursuing fleeing slaves. I mean no offense, but perhaps that's YOU, not the text?

Not saying this to hijack your thread, but because I believe you might be doing yourself a disservice by interpreting the Drow defense as so hard it gives you the problem "but how on earth will the slaves ever escape?". The solution might not be to ask the forums, since a) even the best of plans won't always go as intended and b) the scenario can and will be interpreted in so many ways... Just saying it might be better for you to revisit the text and try to identify where you are making assumptions that make life harder on the slaves but where there are other equally valid assumptions that would make it easier for the slaves?

In essence, you might be your own worst enemy here. You might not have to "fudge" anything to make things easier for the slaves, you might only have to re-assess the situation :)

In my case, this decision was made much easier because the players tried to make a "smart" decision by leaving from the extreme north, where there are no webs in between lake and settlement. The players did what they could with the information at hand. Of course I could have had the spiders attack them anyway, but I want a potentially smart decision to actually be one, even if details not available to the players suggest otherwise.

As for the three "no name" elite Drow, I changed them into slave overseers ("elite no name" is a contradiction in terms in my book) that just happened to be elsewhere.

Regards,

I was reading a passage stating the spiders descend to the cavern to attack intruders with the drow. I took that to mean they acted per the directives of the drow. Like you said, each DM runs in the fashion they think will be most enjoyable. If the players had fun, then the game was a success.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I think the demon diversion is there for exactly this reason.

I decided to use the distraction. That does help quite a bit given it would take the nearly the entire garrison to defeat the chasme. I think I'm going to have the demons engage and kill a lot of the drow at the facility allowing a much easier escape. I might even roll out the battle just to see who lives amongst the drow.
 

What was your experience running the scenario?

I just ran this last week. My PCs were able to smuggle in a nail and a kitchen knife during the course of their first couple of days of work. From this they then crafted (with some very good RP and rolls) a feasible lock pick which lasted long enough (durability check per use) to free a couple of PCs and open the front gate. However their gate opening was heard by a Drow guard who approached from the guard house to tell them to stay away from the gate. He didn't suspect they had actually opened it and was shocked when it opened during a cursory tug-check. The PCs were on him in a second and dropped him with the knife and unarmed attacks before he could call out. However another guard heard the scuffle and stuck his head out to check. Luckily one of the PCs was a sorcerer with Disguise Self, spoke elvish and got a good Deception check.

This got them to the guard tower, where a fight with the other Drow Guard and the Elite Drow guard happened. This was a tense, close fight which I played straight up (though I missed the Elite Drow's Parry ability) and at least one party member dropped to zero but none of the Drow got out to warn the rest of the camp. We'll see how the rest of it goes but they know I intend to make this a challenge. One caveat - another DM recommended that I put their starting equipment in the armory of the guard tower, so they now have their starting gear back. However. even though they got enough XP to get to 2nd level, they can't move up until they've had a long rest.
 

jrowland

First Post
I decided to use the distraction. That does help quite a bit given it would take the nearly the entire garrison to defeat the chasme. I think I'm going to have the demons engage and kill a lot of the drow at the facility allowing a much easier escape. I might even roll out the battle just to see who lives amongst the drow.

Just a thought (I am not running it at the moment):

What if you (well any DM, you already started your campaign) let the Players run the Chasme vs. the Drow? Try and sell it as a "I want you guys to know how tough Drow are, so here is a little silly scenario". The Chasme don't know NPC names, so don't use them, only simple descriptions. Play the Drow smart and deadly, pull out all the stops using th Priestess and the Spiders, but more importantly, make note of a good moment for a prison break: Then cut scene to PCs and the prison break.

From the Players point of view, its one long epic battle and chase, even though from the PCs point of view, its just an escape.
 

jodyjohnson

Adventurer
I tweaked it slightly from 'by the book'
0. The entire party was 2nd or 3rd level from previous adventuring (Harried in Hillsfar plus some RP experience from the 14 days in confinement).
1. Since the supply caravan was missing I had the drow split and send a detechment toward Menzo late one day (2 elite, 6 drow, 4 quaggoth, 2 spiders, and the high priestess) The prisoners had several unsuccessful attempts.
2. Since the detachment was missing, the prisoners were on lockdown. However, Jorlan still unlocked the prison at dawn.
3. Before the prisoners escaped. the Demon encounter started as Jorlan reached the south end. The alarm dreew all but 1 of the remaining Quaggoth to the south end.
4. Enemies for the prisoners to overcome - 2 spiders, 2 drow, and a quaggoth (one 'droned' elite, one 'droned' subpriestess, and 1 drow sleeping at the north half).
5. The southend drow were focused on fending off the vrock and chasme. By the time the drow crossbows felled the chasme and 1 vrock (sleeping) the prisoners had somewhat stealthily taken the north half (guard tower, temple, quaggoth den).
6. Half the remaining guards went down to the cavern floor to finish off sleeping Chasme.
7. This week's session begins with the remaining drow, spiders, and quaggoth split between cavern floor and south section. The prisoners have all retrieved their gear except putting heavy armors back on.

I have many new players and have shifted the encounter in the party's favor.

They'll have a half a day headstart on the drow force including Ilvarra and I expect the grounded drow to flee north since the party will have the high ground.

Current south force - 2 spiders, 3 quaggoth (2 wounded by chasme), 1 drow, and Jorlan. 4 quaggoth, an elite, and a drow on the ground. I expect another hard fight and then the group will flee west or south with supples and full gear.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I tweaked it slightly from 'by the book'
0. The entire party was 2nd or 3rd level from previous adventuring (Harried in Hillsfar plus some RP experience from the 14 days in confinement).
1. Since the supply caravan was missing I had the drow split and send a detechment toward Menzo late one day (2 elite, 6 drow, 4 quaggoth, 2 spiders, and the high priestess) The prisoners had several unsuccessful attempts.
2. Since the detachment was missing, the prisoners were on lockdown. However, Jorlan still unlocked the prison at dawn.
3. Before the prisoners escaped. the Demon encounter started as Jorlan reached the south end. The alarm dreew all but 1 of the remaining Quaggoth to the south end.
4. Enemies for the prisoners to overcome - 2 spiders, 2 drow, and a quaggoth (one 'droned' elite, one 'droned' subpriestess, and 1 drow sleeping at the north half).
5. The southend drow were focused on fending off the vrock and chasme. By the time the drow crossbows felled the chasme and 1 vrock (sleeping) the prisoners had somewhat stealthily taken the north half (guard tower, temple, quaggoth den).
6. Half the remaining guards went down to the cavern floor to finish off sleeping Chasme.
7. This week's session begins with the remaining drow, spiders, and quaggoth split between cavern floor and south section. The prisoners have all retrieved their gear except putting heavy armors back on.

I have many new players and have shifted the encounter in the party's favor.

They'll have a half a day headstart on the drow force including Ilvarra and I expect the grounded drow to flee north since the party will have the high ground.

Current south force - 2 spiders, 3 quaggoth (2 wounded by chasme), 1 drow, and Jorlan. 4 quaggoth, an elite, and a drow on the ground. I expect another hard fight and then the group will flee west or south with supples and full gear.

Interesting. Sounds like you may have a situation where your players kill the entire drow contingent at Velkynvelve. That would require you to set up a different type of pursuit. The pursuit at Velkynvelve would not be up to the task of tracking and killing a party of higher level characters.
 

jodyjohnson

Adventurer
Interesting. Sounds like you may have a situation where your players kill the entire drow contingent at Velkynvelve. That would require you to set up a different type of pursuit. The pursuit at Velkynvelve would not be up to the task of tracking and killing a party of higher level characters.

At this point I expect the force at the camp to only be down, 1 Elite (Jorlan), 4 quaggoth, 3 drow, and most of the spiders (which can easily be replaced). The party so far has only tied and manacled the slept drow (subpriestess, elite, and a drow guard). The rest flee north and are currently returning (the vrock/chasme came from that direction).
 

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