Out of the Abyss: Adventures Three & Four

ADVENTURE’S THREE & FOUR

underdark 01

SYNOPSIS:

The brave adventurers crawl through the darkness barely keeping ahead of their pursuers while battling the denizens of the Underdark’s nooks and crannies.

PREPARATION:

Monster tokens… HO BOY was this the chapter for Monster Tokens. These two adventures took place using the details laid out in Chapter 2 of Out of the Abyss so I went crazy and made Monster Tokens for anything they could potentially run into during their long trek through the Underdark facing random encounters.

Another item of prep was rolling randomly on the tables provided in Chapter 2 to set up the myriad of random places\creatures\events that cropped up. I accepted the fact that there was the potential for deviation here but for the most part things fell into line.

OTHER ITEMS OF PREP:

MAPS: I created a variety of maps for potential encounters. I also printed out a map for The Lost Tomb location since that was something I rolled randomly and they found.

  • Lost Tomb – Pulled from the book.
  • Camping Encounter 01 – A nice big map purple circles are giant Mushrooms
  • Camping Encounter 02 – A small map near a pool of fresh water
  • Random Encounter 01 – Never got to use this one but I like it a lot. Ground glows eerily light green. The square block is an old alter of sorts
  • Random Encounter 02 – Used this for the Rocktopus encounter. The craggy semicircles represent a valley they had to go through
  • Dark Lake Encounter 01 – Characters would have been in a boat for this one. Circles are pillars under the water

THE GAME:

THE PLAYERS:

Solaris – Half-Elven Bard.

Hunar Brawnanvil – Dwarven Cleric, Brother of Rurick, from Mithral Hall

Rurick Brawnanvil – Dwarven Barbarian, Brother of Hunar, from Mithral Hall

Ander – Half-Elven Paladin, Spent some time in the Underdark before his capture. Wielder of Dawnbringer

Corbin Honeyhump – Half-Elven Sorcerer, Has sworn revenge on Ilvara for her role in the deaths of Tosy & Turvy

NOTABLE NPCS:

COHORTS

BUPPIDO – Derro. Surprisingly affable.
PRINCE DERENDIL – Quaggoth who claims to truly be a cursed elven prince.
ELDETH FELDRUN – Shield Dwarf from Gaultlgrym. Heroic to a fault. Willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the group.
JIMJAR – Taking all in stride this Deep Gnome is also a compulsive gambler. Even when there’s nothing to gamble.
SARITH KZEKARIT – A drow imprisoned for the murder of another drow. Though he claims no memory of it.
SHUUSHAR THE AWAKENED – A Kuo-toa pacifist. He hopes to one day spread his message to others of his kind.
STOOL aka (“TimTum”) – A childlike Mychonid Sprout. Bonded from day one to Rurick
DAWNBRINGER – Sentient Longsword, was locked away for ages. Fears the dark, wishes only to be brought out and to shine a light against it’s enemies. She has now bonded to Ander.

ENEMIES

The Pursuit Party:

ILVARA MIZZRYM – Drow Priestess of Lloth. Recently imprisoned the PCs and their Cohorts with intention to turn them into slaves. Now she hunts them all across the Underdaaarrrrrk! (“I’ll get you!”).
ASHA VANDREE – Junior Preistess of Lloth.
SHOOR VANDREE – Drow Elite, current lover to Ilvara.
JORLAN DUSKRYN – Drow Elite, spurned lover to Ilvara. Assited in the PC’s escape to spite Ilvara.

OTHERS

Runnar Haftholder – Dwarven Scout, had just left the city of Sloobludop. Was convinced to return with the PC’s and NPC Cohorts in tow.

ADVENTURES THREE & FOUR:

Battlebards Cue: “Dark Elf Temple” by Mike Bridge

I combined these two adventures because they represent the long, 8 day, crawl through the Underdark the players had to accomplish as they proceeded to their next destination of Sloobludop, city of the Kuo-Toa (Look… I know Gary Gygax created the Kuo-Toa, but I’m not certain if he is the one to blame for their F$%*ing names. If he is… man is he lucky I have so much more to thank him for…).

Right from the start they realize that they are going to have to rely on someone very unreliable to guide them… the Drow, Sarith Kzekarit. He was the only one who truly knew his way to Dark Lake where Sloobludop lay. Shuushar could assist if they got near Dark Lake but he had no clue how to get there. The fact that their Drow captors quickly revealed that they were in pursuit ensured that the matter was quickly put to rest and they pushed on.

Funny thing about the depths of Fearun, you can never tell when it’s day or night. However, the heroes had to rest at some point. Beaten and bedraggled they prayed for a full rest. They were not so lucky. Only a matter of hours later they were beset by an Orcan..Orcian…ORCISH raiding party. The fight was fortunately brief but they were really starting to feel their wounds. They opted to move out rather than attempt to rest again, fearing the pursuing Drow. They opted for a normal speed of travel. They could have moved faster, with penalties to perception checks, or slower, to improve stealth and foraging, they were pretty good on supplies from when they luckily found their gear though.

Trudging through the next day they were relieved to encounter no beasts and to get a full rest beneath the protective domes of some giant shrooms. Three more days passed like this with only one brief encounter with some forward scouts from their pursuers and a cave-in that they barely survived. Sarith had a rare moment of pleasant chatter when he mentioned that the cave-in would at least slow down Ilvara and company.

Joy at that was short lived however when they happened upon the lair of a Rocktopus! It really wanted to have a few adventurers for dinner. Turns out things went the other way for the beastie.

On the sixth night all were awoken by a ruckus as they discovered a crazed Sarith treating Shuushar to a frenzied beating. They pulled the slavering drow off the poor wretched Kou-toa and restrained him. While most of the group tended to Shuushar Solaris worked up the nerve to delve into the deranged Drow’s mind. Casting Detect Thoughts he was immediately beset by waves of terror and madness that permeated every inch of his surface thoughts. Probing deeper, because Sarith had little willpower to resist anything at this point, Solaris began to feel the Drow’s connection to some great entity. An obsession to find & serve her. He could go no further though, the madness was too much.

Day seven of their trudge brought about something strange. They began to feel almost a whisper in their minds. Soon it began to take form. They discover they are hearing a mental communication. A feminine voice echoes in their mind claiming to be lost and in need of rescue. Fearful of the dark. The group was almost split in its decision of whether or not to follow the vague impressions being given to them of where to follow. Eventually they decided to trust that someone truly did need their aid and they followed. They happened upon an ornate door.

The players left the NPCs behind for this one, asking Derindel to keep a close eye on Sarith, thought the Drow had been silent for most the day. They entered the structure beyond the door. Upon entering they discovered a diorama depicting the fact that this was the tomb of a long dead sorcerer, Brysis Khaem. They continued searching, often being urged on by the mysterious voice. They found what appeared to be the room of the main Sarcophagi. It turned out to be a ruse however, as a curse burst forth while a Magic Mouth uttered a dire threat. Rurick found himself disadvantaged on Attack Rolls and Saving Throws as a result of failing the saving throw. They fought a group of Spectres in a room filled with small coffins, Rurick laboring under the effects of the curse.

After fighting the Spectres Rurick was done, simply raging at his misfortune. He wanted to leave. However, another of the adventurers spotted some rollers affixed to one of the smaller tombs and they pushed it aside revealing a final room in the tomb. Within it was the true resting place of Brysis Khaem, but the sorcerer had arisen once more in the dark form of a Wraith! A battle ensued, throughout the fight the voice continued to cry out that it was “Right here, come grab me! Please! I can help!”. 

It wasn’t until after the fight that the players discovered the source of the pleas for help. A long sword, finely crafted and apparently sentient. Her name was Dawnbringer. She immediately felt a kinship to the party’s Paladin, Ander. They were soon bonded.

Upon leaving the tomb, and discovering to their relief nothing amiss had occurred while they delved, they moved on. Near the end of their long day they discovered the lapping shore of Dark Lake. It’s size was immense, they knew of no way to cross it. However they did notice a small flicker of flame coming from a nearby cave. They decided to brave it.

Within the cave was a Dwarven scout by the name of Runnar Haftholder. Runnar had actually just come from Sloobudop, and had no desire to return. He quickly changed his mind however when told of the impending Drow slaver group heading this way. Grumbling about the crazy Kuo-toa he finally agreed to take the group on the boat he had “acquired” from the fish people.

They slept, knowing the next day they might at last be in some form of civilization, despite Runnar’s harsh words for Shuushar’s people.

POST GAME THOUGHTS:

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE DONE:

I fully believe I could have made the Underdark more interesting. I spent a lot of time prepping physical props for these games and less on just how I was going to package the oddity of the place to the group. I did better on their second night of Underdark crawlin’, especially with the Lost Tomb, but I could sense they were just ready to get to civilization. Though, Sloobludop was a terrible place anyway, so they weren’t all that excited to get there (more on that in the next write-up as I realize I’ve tipped my hand at being late to write these up).

In the Lost Tomb I forgot that the place was infested with an essence known to inhabit portions of the Underdark known as faerzress. This chaotic magic causes magic to react weirldy and can spawn rolls on the Wild Magic Surge table from the PHB. Really bummed I missed my chance at wielding that tool.

THINGS I LIKE/DISLIKE ABOUT OotA: Chapter Two

  • LIKES:
    • Chapter 2’s Random Generation tables and details are legit. They take care to have encounters based on the denizens of the deep and some interesting locales. Often times both.
    • Chapter 2 doesn’t only craft the encounters for the trip to Sloobludop (though that will almost always be the direction the characters will first head), it covers any trek through the Underdark, and some of these treks are a Month or more long in game time!
    • Random encounters aren’t always bad, plenty of desirable things can happen as well.
    • Careful attention was paid to include some BIG encounters as well, my players found the Lost Tomb and
  • DISLIKES:
    • There is a strong chance your players might tire of trudging through the Underdark and from the look of things, this is going to happen a lot. It is becoming apparent that it may take a lot of time for the players to be doing ANYTHING beyond struggling around and getting mixed up in things they probably don’t care about.
      • The trick I need to work on is figuring out how to get them more invested in things beyond survival alone.

Well, that’s it for these two adventures! Join me soon for Adventure 5! If you have any questions or wish for some embellishment on something I mentioned hit me up in the comments. Or on Twitter @SharnDM.

-Melvs

Lessons From the Library

Starter Set

So I had the esteemed pleasure of running a Dungeons and Dragons game for a rare breed of gamer over the weekend. Hank, and his three awesome kids, came to game day at the library in an effort to get even more role-playing under their collective belts than they had been able to at home, and Hank himself wanted to get some experience from another DM. You see, Hank may have played D&D a bit when he was his kids’ age but he didn’t stick with it. Now, decades later, he and his kin came across the D&D Starter Set and did something I didn’t think was honestly happening out there. They picked it up and tried to teach themselves to play. I can likely count on one hand the amount of people I know who have come across D&D\RPGs in the wilds and have attempted to learn them with little to no guidance. It’s practically unheard of honestly, and after speaking with Hank I came to the understanding that his long ago playing of the game had very little measurable effect on his ability to parse the Starter Set. Essentially he was starting from scratch.

The whole experience was enlightening. While I was running the game there kept being these interesting moments where Hank would say something to the effect of “of course! I should have been doing that all along!”. These were not situations where he just liked my style of running the game either, these were things I had always considered common knowledge DM facts. The most glaring was when one of the players asked me for a monster’s Armor Class and I simply mentioned that I wasn’t going to tell him that, I mean c’mon! everyone knows the DM Doesn’t share that kind of information right? Well, turns out Hank had been pretty open about monster details and when I thought on it (and after a little post game look through the rules) I couldn’t really figure out where that information would have ever been mentioned. It’s just kind of something we experienced DM’s know, and certainly something we’d pass along to anyone learning to run games. It made perfect sense to Hank in hindsight but it also makes sense to me why he would have made that mistake. To be fair, nothing says you can’t share that information either though.

It all speaks to what I’ve been saying for a while now. D&D, and I’d argue most RPG’s out there, require that close friend or relative to really teach the game. Hank struck me as a smart guy who’d obviously been doing well enough because his kids were really into getting to play but, by his own admission, he was still struggling to polish his ability. There is a large barrier of entry into our hobby and I don’t know if there is an answer on the game creators’ side of things to lowering the barrier, and if there is I don’t know yet what it would be. However, if that’s not a call to arms to become a fiercer advocate for tabletop gaming I don’t know what is.

I might find myself doing a little more “here’s how to do it” work in the near future honestly. From talking to Hank it sounds like he had the chance to catch helpful videos and podcasts, and I certainly know a few podcasts I’ll send his way. I think I’d like to add to that category out there. If I make a video that helps even one person learn a bit more about running or playing an RPG, I think I would like that. In fact it seems like an organic progression from my current level of advocacy. I’ve planted the seed in my hometown, why not get a bit more widespread!

Take care, and good gaming,

-Melvs

P.S. If for some reason you read this Hank, I hope you don’t mind I shared your story. I had an absolute blast running a game for your family this past weekend. You all have taken to Tabletop RPGs like fish to water, you gasped in all the right spots and I felt very humbled by your constant admiration at my DM’ing skills. I hope I get the chance to run a game for you all again soon! Or maybe, you can run a game that I play in ;P . Feel free to hit me up with any questions you may have! This goes for anyone honestly.

WotC & Drive Thru RPG Present Dungeon Masters Guild

In a huge move toward including its fan-base in the creative process Wizards of the Coast has apparently teamed with Drive Thru RPG to craft a website where fans can generate D&D content, and get paid for it. There’s obviously more to it and I’d try to explain it myself but my rep over at Wizards sent me a great breakdown so I’ll re-post it here.

Dungeons & Dragons is all about creativity. For more than 40 years, the folks who spent the bulk of their time creating amazing adventures, those noble Dungeon Masters, did not have a convenient outlet to share them with the gamers who weren’t sitting at their table. You either had to raise money to publish a physical book or zine on your own, or convince a publisher you had the chops. Now, the Dungeon Masters Guild puts the power to share that creativity firmly in the hands of the DM.

Dungeon Masters Guild

DMs Guild website, as well as browse submissions from some of gaming’s most esteemed designers.The Dungeon Masters Guild is a collaboration between Dungeons & Dragons and our friends at DriveThruRPG, and it is designed to support and reward you – whether you’re an experienced DM or just starting out. Today, you can upload your creations to the

For the first time ever, you’ll be able to self-publish material set in the Forgotten Realms using monsters, spells, characters, and locations previously unavailable. Set your side trek in Neverwinter or Baldur’s Gate, have your characters go toe-to-toe with the Xanathar, the beholder crime lord of Waterdeep, or fall in with some traitorous drow in Menzoberranzan. With some exceptions noted on the DMs Guild website, the Forgotten Realms is at your fingertips.

You can set whatever price you like for your creation; you can give your new monster away for free or charge a few gold coins. If you do decide to ask for money, you’ll get half of the revenue while DriveThruRPG and Dungeons & Dragons will split the other. We care about our creators and that’s why they get the biggest cut!

Creators can upload whatever kind of Forgotten Realms material they’d like to the Dungeon Masters Guild, but we’ll be featuring side treks, monsters, and backgrounds on the site. For now, the Guild is only accepting Forgotten Realms material that uses the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. For everything else, we’ve updated the Open Gaming License so that publishers can continue releasing their own material. Read more about the updated OGL here.

Head to dungeonmastersguild.com to see what’s available to download right now.

On Friday, January 15th starting at 10am PT, Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay from the Dungeons & Dragons team will host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on the D&D sub-Reddit page to speak directly with the public on how the Dungeon Masters Guild works.

So there it is folks, it looks like WotC has finally updated their OGL. If you’re like me you’ll probably nose around this a bunch in the next few weeks. Sadly it looks to be Forgotten Realms only at this time (unless further delving proves otherwise) but this is really neat!

Let me know in the comments if you discover something really cool about this or if it isn’t as good as it seems!

-Melvs

The RPG Academy Network Presents: For the Players

cropped-updated-rpg-academy-banner-long

Welcome to the New Year folks! I just wanted to shoot you all a quick notification that I, and a fair number of other members of the RPG Academy Network will be hosting a panel tomorrow night (Saturday, January 9th) from 8:00 CST to 11:00 CST!

In our last Panel the network members chatted up the GM’s point of view. I covered it on the site, as I was sadly unable to join them. You can read about that HERE and watch it HERE! This time we’ll be tackling aspect of being a better player at the table. Hosted by the illustrious Jim McClure, of Talking Tabletop fame, as his last hoorah with our network before beginning his tenure with the One Shot podcast.

Hopefully you can join us, but even if you can’t you could always join us in spirit by sending a question or two to Jim on his Twitter account. Hope to see you there folks!

Here’s the link to the Hangout!

-Melvs