(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).
Through sheer force of will and use of their smooth charm, the heroes had gained access to the Duergar city of Gracklstugh. They were then promptly arrested.
“I am Captain Errde Blackskull, commander of the Stone Guard. While I’d be within my rights to sell you off for manual labour, I’ve got something better in mind for you.”
After a night in the cells, the team had been dragged in front of an imposing dwarven woman, the head of the Gracklstugh guard. No charges had been made, but the Duergar didn’t seem to be big on the whole “due process” thing anyway.
Errde: “So instead of a life of slavery, I need a group of trained warriors to deal with a problem quickly and quietly.”
Targen: “So why do you want us then?”
Anastasia: “Hush, you. Of course we’d be willing to help. What do you need us to do?”
Cue: [Montage Sequence] The heroes are given the background to the city and some of the key problems, by Errde, then by a collection of priests who tended to the Red Dragon, Emershaw, and finally by the leader of the Stone Giants in the city. After a lot of exposition and keen questioning the team regrouped in the market to discuss what they had to do.
Zook: “Is everyone clear on all that? That’s a lot of information we need keep straight in our heads.”
WhiteEagle: “Nope, not really clear at all. I got bored and my attention started wandering at the Inn.”
Zook: “That was before we got arrested!”
Anastasia, whispering to Sargen: “You can actually hear Zook’s teeth grinding.”
Zook: “To summarise, Errde said the city was feeling more chaotic and fractious. The Derro have started small acts of rebellion and she wants us to make sure it doesn’t get any more serious. The forges of the city are kept lit by a huge Red Dragon and it’s acolytes said someone stole something important from them. And the Stone Giant leader explained how the chaos magic permeating the Underdark shouldn’t have affected their people and yet it still drives some of them insane.”
Sargen: “What does that rock he gave you do?”
Targen: “He was grateful for us not killing his brother in the market. He said this was a Stone-Speaker Crystal that could see things that were hidden.”
Zook: “See! We don’t have to kill everyone. People are actually willing to help if you don’t murder their friends, WhiteEagle.”
Zook looked around. “WhiteEagle?”
Anastasia: “He’s gone. I think he snuck off just after you started speaking. He may well be stabbing someone.”
Zook stared hard into the distance for a few moments. “Lets find him before he burns the half the city down.”
They searched for him for almost an hour before WhiteEagle strolled up to them in the market.
WhiteEagle: “Guys! I saw one of those Derro creeping about so I followed. He was hiding something in one of the stalls and I managed to steal it; a scroll with a weird symbol on it.“
Zook identified it as anti-divination magic and handed it back to WhiteEagle,
Targen: “Someone clearly doesn’t want to be found. What the hell is that symbol? “
Sargen, grabbed the scroll and gasped. “It’s a shape!”
Zook: “Just keep it safe, WhiteEagle. It might get you into trouble if the guards find it.”
Aiyu: “Definitely wouldn’t want to be found with contraband in this city.”
WhiteEagle quietly hid the scroll in Aiyu’s backpack while his back was turned.
WhiteEagle: “I whole-heartedly agree.”
The Derro were relegated to a slum made up of caves weaved into a cleft of rock to the west of the city. The party had been told the Derro were on the verge of rebellion and paranoid about any infiltration by the Duergar.
Anastasia: “Let me scout ahead.”
She played the shadows, crept forward stealthily and within moments had walked into a passing Derro patrol and triggered a cave-in.
Targen: “I’m guessing the sounds of falling rock, screaming and alarms means the silent approach worked as well as it usually does.”
Sargen: “Another rescue?”
WhiteEagle: “Wait. Let me cast Pass Without Trace; they won’t notice us sneaking by.”
Soon the rest of the party were also being pursued by a gang of enraged Derro. They fled through a series of tunnels, turning one way and another until both they and their hunters were completely lost.
The tunnels themselves were an alien world, with swirling patterns of purple glowing Faezress embedded throughout. The air itself had a faint metallic taste and while the tunnels were small and constricted their voices made no echoes.
Anastasia emerging from behind a stalagmite: “Good to see you made it. No idea how the Derro managed to see me, I can only assume they used powerful Divination magic.”
Zook: “That or eyes, yes.”
Sargen: “Let’s scout ahead.”
They found a cave littered with corpses in varying states of decay. Among the recent dead was the body of the Orc barbarian who had once been a captive of the Drow.
Sargen: “Ront! How’d he get here?”
Zook dug out the Stonespeaker Crystal they’d been given and used it to commune with the spirit of the dead barbarian. His eyes rolled back into their sockets and the gnome stood motionless for a few minutes.
Anastasia: “Well, that’s creepy as hell.”
Once Zook recovered full consciousness he told the team how the other survivors were heading towards another settlement. Ront had decided to go with Bupido against the advice of the rest of the team and once they were on their own, Buppido murdered him.
Aiyu: “Buppido! That evil little bastard!“
Targen: “He’s probably blamed us again for the murder, too.”
WhiteEagle: “There’s some writing over here; saying ‘Praise Buppido’. I think it’s in dried blood. Ick.”
Sargen crouched down and laid a hand on Ronts’ shoulder.
Sargen: “It look’s like his poor impulse control finally caught up with him.”
WhiteEagle glanced sideways at Sargen.
Sargen: “I mean; grah, friend dead.”
DM Notes: The last sequence was me trying to keep the idea that the other survivors were still out there (as there were some plot hooks from them the party could use). I also put all the stuff about Buppido in there as several of the team still had a good seethe about his betrayal. All the demon's and world-ending stuff didn't have too much of an effect but a lone gnome psychopath? That really got under their skin 🙂 The rest of the adventure in the city went pretty well; no outbreaks of murder meant they visited all the main NPCs, got some background and headed off in the right direction. A few blown stealth checks trying to sneak past the Derro (and not realising they could see invisible) made things a bit spicey, but things were looking good!