(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).
Having accidentally not murdered everyone the players have obtained some useful information about the Derro’s nefarious plan. They explore further attempting to foil the plot…
The Derro tunnel complex goes deeper into the earth and all the time the heroes notice an escalating military presence. Clearly whatever the Derro are guarding is getting nearer.
After a couple of narrow escapes, the party rests as Zook summons his familiar to scout ahead. He chooses the form of an owl for stealthy reconnaissance.
WhiteEagle watched Zook’s pet: “Is it supposed to twitch all the time like that?”
Using the information relayed to Zook, they were able to approach the next room without being seen. There’s a musky, unpleasant odour coming from three enormous, caged cave bears. Nearby a squad of Derro stand guard near a huge cauldron and a rasied plinth, surrounded by small stone pylons. In the centre of the pylons is an unnatural inky blackness.
Sargen, hefting his axe: “Looks like a tough fight.”
Anastasia: “I can sneak up, open the cages and release the bears. We let the Derro and bears fight, then we slaughter the survivors.”
Sargen: “Just don’t get spotted.”
WhiteEagle: “I can see absolutely no way this plan can go wrong.”
Less than 3 minutes later the team are in simultaneous combat with the Derro, the bears and a random Xorn that somehow ended drawn into the fight.
WhiteEagle: “You were SO close to not being spotted. If only you hadn’t toppled that metal cage on yourself.”
Anastasia: “Shut up.”
There was a “Bamf!” and Zook’s Owl familiar appeared.
Zook: “Fly into that blackness and see what it is.”
IX stared, motionless, at the unnatural patch of darkness swirling in the air and then began shaking violently.
Zook shooed him forward with the butt of his staff and within seconds half of IX’s body had violently disintegrated.
WhiteEagle: “You’ve worked out the evil black void is dangerous I take it?”
Zook: “Apparently so. I’d better get IX back and scout the passages ahead.”
IX was understandably reluctant but after some “persuasion” checked the way ahead was safe. They advanced down the tunnels towards sounds of voices as the tunnel expanded into a huge cavern.
The smell of brimstone and foul chemicals emanated from the large chamber and the light of campfires shows a natural platform where five derro were droning a cacophonous chant. A two-headed dog stirred inside a cage, while another derro nearby played with a crossbow and watched the dog nervously.
A green glow rose suddenly from a magic circle at the center of the platform, where a small humanoid statue was the focus of the chanting ritual. As the party watched, a lump sprouted from the statue’s neck, enlarging and reshaping itself with each unholy verse to take the form of a second head.
Aiyu: “That’s something you don’t see every day.”
Targen: “So what’s the plan? Disrupt the ritual? Shoot the mage? Release the dog to cause chaos?”
Anastasia: “Or we could just follow Sargen in when he charges them.”
They all followed the rampaging barbarian into a direct, frontal assault on the villains. The fight was swift and bloody, notable mainly for the fact the party was fighting against a team of spell-casters.
Zook, patting out his smouldering beard: “Gah, fireball really hurts when we’re on the receiving end. Has anyone seen Ix? I couldn’t find him after the blast.”
Targen: “The bad news is, Ix didn’t make it. The good news is, owl takes remarkably like chicken.”
Anastasia gestured to Sargen, who was trying to get the worst of the blood off of himself. “That whole “The pen is mightier than the sword” stuff has proven to be bullshit too.”
Targen and Zook examined the magical paraphernalia. The ritual seemed to be designed to channel power from the Abyss into objects and people. The statue had the name “Dorhun” on it. That name was also on a long list in a chest nearby.
Targen: “I’m pretty sure some of these are names of the Stone Giants we met in Gracklstugh.”
Zook: “There’s a letter here too.”
Need more scrolls! Stonespeaker Hgraam has traps traps traps. But Droki is wily too and very small! I can hear talk, and in talk they say names, and I hear names and write names and give you names so you give me time. But you have to give me more scrolls. Magicky spelly scrolls!
Aiyu: “Sounds like Droki is a barbarian.”
Zook also found a lump of strange black metal. It radiated strong but unidentifiable magic.
The team advanced deeper into the complex. Down a small side-tunnel they were attacked by a group of demonic quasits. While most of the demons were quickly slaughtered, Aiyu decided to randomly capture one and presented it to a delighted Zook. With a slightly modified “Find Familiar” spell he was able to promote the quasit (now called Dave). Ix’s increasing PTSD has made him an unsuitable employee and was correspondingly fired.
After a steady upward climb, the tunnel opened into a huge, well-lit chamber. The glow of faerzress and bioluminescent fungi competed with shafts of white light that fell upon naturally formed shelves along the walls as well as a rocky mesa at the center of the cavern. Crudely formed ramps connected the different levels of the mesa up to the height of its two topmost tiers, which were linked by a sturdy bridge. Atop one of those tiers sat a large red egg. Atop the other stood a 50-foot-tall obelisk made of smooth black metal with a few noticeable imperfections, as though small parts of it were somehow chipped away.
A female derro stood close to the obelisk, gently patting and stroking its surface. The obelisk flashed once, the glow of faerzress around the cavern flaring in response. The derro squealed with glee as she snatched an object up from the ground, then wrote something down in a small notebook.
Anastasia: “This is it. She’s clearly in charge and has access to all sorts of magic. We need to be extra careful.”
Targen: “Right. Let’s get into position before we try and subdue her.”
Zook: “So. No charging in; we’ll get close to her first.”
The party agreed a a more tactical approach might be a nice thing to try every once in a while.
Anastasia: “So, the quiet way? WhiteEagle can use his magic to conceal us and while she’s busy we can get the drop on her.”
Everyone nodded in acknowledgement.
Spectator: “I agree.”
Other Spectator: “Me too.”
Anastasia: “The ayes have it. But I can’t help feeling we’ve missed something important.”
Caught unawares, the team of tragically unobservant heroes were in dire straights; the spectators were fierce combatants and the derro rained fire and lightning down from up on the mesa.
Sargen: “I can’t get at the monsters in the air! And I’m on fire!”
Targen: “We’re taking too much damage, my healing spells can’t keep up!”
WhiteEagle, who was dangling from the mouth of the second spectator: “Things are also bad for me.”
Anastasia, who was nursing several serious wounds: “Wait! Look up there!”
Aiyu had sped away at the start of the fight and moved silently across the cavern and up the tiered steps of the mesa, undiscovered. He moved steadily like quicksilver, nimbly navigating the terrain without ever slowing down, a stealthy wraith advancing towards the powerful derro like death itself.
As he neared his quarry he drew his sword and prepared his shield, dropping behind her with a stillness and control that promised a swift and bloody end to the team’s nemesis.
Grasping onto his shield and summoning his strength he pushed the derro mage so she staggered forward a few feet.
The spellcaster shrieked in terror and teleported 30 feet away, only to resume peppering Sargen and Zook with magic missiles.
But Aiyu was also able to teleport in response and with a misty step appeared by her again, readied his shield and gave her a gentle push.
For the next few minutes this continued, with Aiyu skillfully pursuing the derro mage through both treacherous terrain and demonic spells only to give her a medium-strength shove at the end. Occasionally the spellcaster would get enough distance to blast Zook, Targen or Anastasia with fire and lightning but Aiyu didn’t let the agonized screams of his teammates distract him from his task.
Eventually, Zook managed to get enough clearance to return fire with his own spells, and the derro and her minions were defeated.
But only just. Half the team had been knocked unconcious and lots of their precious healing potions had been used up.
Zook: “Aiyu! What the hell were you doing?”
Aiyu: “Didn’t you see? I got right up close to her without her even seeing me! I then gave her a REALLY hard shove.”
Zook: “Why didn’t you stab her with your sword for gods sake?”
Aiyu, confused: “But then I couldn’t have pushed her with my shield!”
The party members who were still concious just stared at him.
After a suprisingly brief period of recrimination passed, they gathered up any valuables in the area.
Sargen: “This egg is massive. Is it from a dragon?”
WhiteEagle: “Looks like it. I wonder if it’s what those Dragon Cultists were after?
Zook: “I guess so. Also I think that bit of metal we found earlier comes from that obelisk. It seems like it’ll open a portal back to the city for us.”
He held the metal device against the obelisk and it slid smoothly into the surface, like it was sliding into water. With a jolt the party suddenly found themselves back in the city, on top of a building overlooking the market. The city was gripped by chaos, with Derro, Duergar and mutated Stone Giants all fighting desperately through the streets.
Anastasia: “Looks like the bad-guys have made their move.”
WhiteEagle: “Which set of bad-guys? I don’t think we’ve found any actual good-guys yet have we?”
Targen: “I think we’re the good-guys. Technically.”
Sargen, holding the massive dragon’s egg: “Let’s get this back to the dragon.“
Aiyu: “Should we give it to the dragon’s acolytes? They were the ones who asked us to find something important.”
Sargen: “Nah. It’s a dragon’s egg. It goes with the Dragon. Logic, right?”
That’s why an hour later the party was huddling behind some stone pillars while the dragon laid waste to the room. Having presented the egg the dragon had screamed about being replaced and, as Sargen eloquently described, “went apeshit”.
After a few minutes of abject terror the enraged reptile burst through the roof and began taking out it’s anger on the city at large.
Zook: “Quick! While it’s gone, lets get out of here.”
Sargen: “Yes. Get out of here. Running for safety, getting as far away as possible as quickly as possible is definitely the safest course of action. Orrrrr…. we could try and find its horde.”
So while the party did end up fleeing the building, they did so after loading themselves down with with gold, jewelry and a strange 50 cm disc radiating strong translocation magic.
The city was already gripped by civil war, and the situation was made a lot more complicated by the sudden attack of a dragon enraged by being made redundant. Amongst the debris the team found the corpse of the duergar captain who had let them into the city and they quickly grabbed the sack he was carrying while fleeing.
Aiyu: “We need to get out of here! Anyone got any suggestions?”
WhiteEagle: “My mind is too paralyzed by fear to suggest anything at all.“
Zook: “I can try and figure out how that disc works. It’s got some translocation magic on it and if I cast detect magic I might….”
The world wrenched sideways, and suddenly the party found themselves somewhere else.
Zook: “…. be able to figure out how it works.”
Aiyu: “Well, that was a lucky escape. Let’s find out what that duergar had in the sack he was carrying…… Look! It’s my sword!”
Dawnblade: “Oh gods, no.”
DM Notes: Zook's player wanted to take the Quasit as a familiar and why not? Aiyu capturing something alive was something to encourage, it was a pretty cool idea and I had some thoughts about how we could tie it into the story. In the end, Aiyu managed to write it pretty awesomely into the story himself later on... We never got an adequate response to why he repeatedly shoved the Derro mage rather than, say, stabbing her other than it was a new feat he'd got and he wanted to play with it. Other than showering him in the team's body parts it was difficult to think of a way to emphasize the seriousness of the situation any more than I did. Inadequately appreciating danger would end up causing a 50% Party Kill in the near future... Turning on a dime from hiding in terror to suddenly deciding to loot the horde of an enraged red dragon was Peak Party to be honest. The teleportation disc was another thinly veiled attempt I added on the fly to get them back on track. Similarly with getting Dawnblade back; they'd managed to avoid / lose all the magic items they'd ever found and I was worried about things getting difficult up ahead when the demons get more directly involved. So, Dawnblade Ex Machina. The prospect of it being sullen / passive-aggressive also occurred to me too; a way to give the team the occasional subtle suggestion through a barbed comment or two 😉