Apocalypse Maybe: A D&D Campaign Log. Part 14: Naked Ambition

(This is a log of my players run through the  Out of the Abyss campaign (After a brief dabble with Harried at Hillsfar first.  Spoilers abound, though it’s likely the team won’t play the module in the way you, the writers or sanity intended).

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The party had continued their escape, slaying a band of the Drow who were pursuing them. They were making good time, only pausing to briefly murder various random strangers who crossed their path.

Sargen collapsed to the ground, worn out after the long fight. The other members of the jolly band of adventurers were all similarly exhausted.

Sargen: “Was that the third or fourth band of Drow scouts? I’ve lost count.”

Aiyu: “Fourth, I think.”

Anastasia, wiping her blades clean: “What’s the total head-count for today then?”

Sargen, looking around: “Hard to tell. Lots of the heads are missing.”

Zook: “We really need to keep moving. I thought us killing Asha would have stopped them coming after us but no such luck.”

WhiteEagle: “It’s not helped by every critter in five miles trying to snack on us. What the hell was that thing that burst out of the ground this morning?”

Zook: “A land shark I think.”

WhiteEagle: “When you tell me these names I can never tell if you’re being serious or not.”

Zook: “Look, they didn’t teach us much taxology at the academy. Take it up with them.”

Targen: “What was that last thing you named? ‘A Water Monster’ was it?”

Zook: “Pretty accurate, wasn’t it?”

Targen: ” ‘Bitey-eye-beast’? “

Zook: “Like I said, not my department.”

As they made their way through the tunnels they noticed a worsening stench, a horrible mix of decomposition and decay. The floor was becoming slick while the walls glistened with slime and algae.

Targen: “Looks like some sort of secreted slime.”

Aiyu: “But secreted from what?”

Targen: “According to Zook, probably a ‘Slimy-Smeller'”.

As they emerged into a large cavern stuffed with refuse they had barely any time to react when the ground shook and an enormous tentacled monster burst from under them.

Zook: “It’s an Otyugh!”

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WhiteEagle: “He’s definitely making these up, that one was blatant.”

The fight was long and bloody. Their weapons barely pierced the blubbery hide of the monster while it’s long tentacles lashed out to all sides, keeping the fighters away. The stench of the monster combined with the putrefying matter coating it meant the heroes struggled with nausea as much as its powerful blows. When it finally collapsed, dead, Aiyu jumped on it’s corpse, his eyes twitching in all directions and his pallid skin covered in sweat.

Aiyu: “Die potato beast! Zook is blue again? I can FLY!”

Targen: “Riiiight. Get over here so I can heal you.”

But even after the most powerful spells Targen had available, Aiyu was still pale, sweaty and wildly incoherent.

Aiyu: “How did you miss me flying around that monster in that fight? It was the only possible way I could have survived.”

Anastasia: “Look, mate, I saw you. The only flying you did was when that creature flung you into the air.”

Aiyu: “No, no, no I did that on purpose.

Zook, to Targen: “Can’t you do anything about him? He’s acting weird. Well, weirder than normal.”

Targen: “I’ll have a think. He seems pretty convinced and I don’t think he’ll listen to anything that contradicts his hallucinations.”

Zook: “Just do what you can.”

Targen: “Oh, believe me, I will.”

The rest of the party were crawling through the detritus, looking for treasure.

WhiteEagle: “There’s a really big hole in the floor over here. Bet there’s lots of treasure inside it!”

Sargen: “Hey! You don’t know what’s down there WhiteEagle, be careful!”

WhiteEagle: “What was that? Stick my head in the dark hole and take a look? Absolutely!”

There was a muffled scream as WhiteEagle was grabbed by tentacles and hauled into the hole.

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WhiteEagle: Reassuringly predictable.

As Sargen bravely leapt into the pit to save WhiteEagle from himself from the nest of Grell, Aiyu collapsed, mumbling about seeing the glory of Zuggtmoy. As he raved and writhed in the dirt, Targen talked to him, slowly calming him down until he had Aiyu’s rapt attention.

The Grell had soon been pummeled and blasted into submission and the other heroes hauled themselves out of the pit WhiteEagle had got himself stuck in.

WhiteEagle: “I mean, at least now we KNOW there’s no treasure in there. Right? Right?”

As they caught their breath at the mouth of the pit Aiyu ran past them, his arms outstretched, his eyes closed in concentration.

He was also completely naked.

Zook: “What the hell, what’s got into him now? Targen! I thought you were helping him?”

Targen: “I may have suggested that potentially the reason he was having trouble flying was due to an excess of weight.”

Zook: “Is this a way to get his trust and help him recover?”

Targen: “Oh yes, that’s absolutely the reason.”

A few days passed as they carried on through the underdark, endeavouring to keep Aiyu warm and to stay away from the larger Drow patrols. As they progress, they see more signs of evil and chaos corrupting the flora and fauna around them.

During one particularly long detour around a Dark Elf outpost, the team comes across a large cavern where thick seams of purple Faezress ran through the walls Equipment and relics were scattered around room in various states of activity and the air positively crackled with magical potential.

An old Grey Dwarf was working on a piece of equipment in a side-room, sealed off by a shimmering shield of light. The dwarf squinted as he tried to decide whether there really was a naked Eladrin waving a magic sword at him or if it was just a product of cataracts and stress. Either was a worrying possibility. He couldn’t lose focus on The Work now, though. He was so close!

Zook: “This machinery and equipment is bizarre. It seems to be channelling vast amounts of energy into some kind of field.”

Targen, rifling through some documents: “This research has a lot of references to demons. See this symbol? That’s the one for fiends. But next to it is some planar symbols about banishment.”

Zook: “So it looks like he’s channelling loads of energy into a spell to banish the demonic corruption?”

Targen: “Or maybe stop it getting worse. He’s barely controlling the magic though, the equipment here is archaic.”

Zook: “We really need to get through that shield…..”

At that point Aiyu used his Eladrin ability to warp through space, appearing behind the dwarf and impaling him on Dawnblade before he even had a chance to gasp feebly . As soon as the researcher died, Aiyus sword winked out of existence.

Aiyu: “VICTORY!”

Zook: “… and talk to him.”

The rest of the party looked on in stunned horror.

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Almost immediately, the cavern began to shake as the magical energy started escaping from the Grey Dwarf’s experiments. Portals appeared in the empty space around the party, tearing their way through rock and machinery alike. Demons and creatures too hideous for even Zook to name spilled through the new rifts.

Anastasia, Sargen and WhiteEagle desperately held off the hordes while Targen and Zook pieced together anything they could about the ritual. Aiyu stood shaking the hilt of Dawnblade while the sword screamed about refusing to work with psychopaths.

Zook: “We need to leave! I can stabilise a portal long enough for us to get out!”

Anastasia: “Through that one! It looks like a city!”

Targen: “RUN!”

As the team ran through the shimmering portal, enormous black tentacles burst through rifts around the cavern, collapsing it and causing a cataclysmic explosion. The heroes were deposited, bloodied and burnt on the outskirts of a vast underground city.

Aiyu: “Phew, good thing we stopped that guy, right? Oh and Dawnblade appears to be sulking, no idea why.”

The party exchanged glances and Sargen clubbed Aiyu into unconsciousness.

DM Notes:  As much as the general chaos makes running any kind of story-based campaign difficult, it does create some awesome opportunities for role-play and emergent gameplay.  I was trying to use the madness roll from the disease that Aiyu failed to get some more background to the party (via hallucinations) but the random result of "The player thinks they can fly." led to lots of fun, partly fed by Targen's general trollishness.

The dwarf and the experiments was created to solve two problems;  the party (via a combination of sociopathy and obliviousness) had missed most of the clues about what was going on AND the fact they didn't have a map / know where they were going.  The general plan was to give the players some guidance, do a couple of quests and then the dwarf would portal them on their way.  I tried to make the dwarf as non-threatening as possible (I _really_ emphasised his decrepit nature) but just to be on the safe side I encased him in an energy shield so the party HAD to talk to him.

I unfortunately forgot that some of the party would regard a defenseless old man as free XP and that Eladrin misty-step ability.....

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