Feb 2, 2020

First Day of Sunsebb, CY 580

Things were not looking good for our heroes. With Sir Fenius unconscious from drow poison arrows, two party members unarmed, and a Blade Barrier blocking their escape, they needed to act quickly.

Dalron used the Lolth artifact to walk on webs and ran up to the nearest drider and started to attack. But being outside of the protection of Sarril's Minor Globe of Invulnerability meant he was susceptible to spellfire, and sure enough, another drider hit him with a Ray of Enfeeblement, sapping his strength make him much less effective in battle (but since he uses dagger anyway, he was still able to fight).

Sarril's first course of action was to cast Neutralize Poison on Fen to wake him up so he could then use his holy sword to dispel the Blade Barrier. This worked the next round Fen did just that, allowing the party to escape the onslaught. They closed the doors and ran north. Dammac attempted to listen at the next door, setting off a Glyph of Warding in the process and taking some damage. The party then ran through that door and the double doors that followed, which opened into a large room.

The room was 100 ft, square with 50 ft high ceilings. Across the far end of the room was a large pyramid and flanking the room were three smaller pyramids on each side. Also in the room were about 16 zombies and half as many skeletons shuffling around. The undead turned to the party and begin to advance.

But the party had a plan. They wedged one door shut and kept the other open, then stood in formation around the door. The intent was to let one undead through at a time and kill them. It looked like it was going to work, until one of the zombies coming toward them stopped to cast a spell. It was a Flame Strike, and it got most of the party, including Dammac, who failed his save. The damage from the Flame Strike, on top of the damage previously taken by the glyph, was too much and he went unconscious.

Just as this happened, the door behind them flew open. It was the four remaining driders from previous room, and they began shooting arrows and making melee attacks. Another party member dropped from poison this time (I think it was Sarril, but don't recall). The party realized they were not prepared for what was happening and shut the door to the undead room and wedged it shut, then went after the driders. It took a couple of rounds but they were able to bring them down easily when not separated by webs. They then picked up their unconscious comrades and fled.

While the Demonweb is long and twisted and confusing, it doesn't branch, so running in one direction eventually leads someplace. In this case, retracing their steps back to the sanctuary room where priests and priestesses of a peaceful deity offered them safe rest.

The party knew not to trust these people, but with the paladin unable to effectively Detect Evil, they really had no choice but to spring whatever trap was waiting for them. And a trap it was. These eight clerics were transformed Jackweres, waiting for the party to go to sleep before attacking. Jackalweres are not particularly tough and they don't have especially harmful attacks, but they can use a special gaze to put their victims into a magical sleep from which they can perform a Coup De Grace.

I know a lot of people don't like instant-kill options in AD&D, and many DMs won't use the optional Coup De Grace rules at-all. My house-rule on this is to split the difference. Allow automatic hits against unconscious foes for normal damage and after two consecutive, uninterrupted rounds, the victim is dead regardless of remaining hit points at the end of the second round. The victim has a chance to wake up after each hit, but it is not automatic. I think this is fair in that it gives allies a chance to wake the victim or intervene to save them, and even gives the victim a chance to wake up on their own, while still allowing creatures like Jackalweres their ability to be a little frightening.

The Jackalweres weren't able to do much against the conscious party members, but they attacked on second watch when only Pontus and Tyril were awake. Pontus fought and yelled while Tyril tried to physically wake up the others. Things got difficult as the jackalweres were putting party members to sleep almost as quickly as they were waking up, and Dammac went two rounds with a jackalwere at his unconscious throat. It was Dalron who came to his aid just before his demise, but it was close. The party managed to survive another encounter and now they had an actual peaceful room to rest in, so they did.

The next day, after studying for what spells could be gained in the abyss (clerical spells of 3rd level and above were out), the party decided to go back to the pyramid room and tackle the undead again. Being at full strength, they believed they could handle things better this time around. It didn't quite work out.

They started by charging into the room, hoping to identify the spellcasters quickly and take them out. The working theory is that some drow spellcasters were using illusions to disguise themselves as undead. It was a decent theory, but one they did not get to fully test, as one of the first things that happened was black fog-like tendrils flowed down from the far pyramid and began engulfing the room in darkness. It completely snuffed out all Continual Light coins and other light sources, allowing only those with infravision to see. But since undead don't emit heat, the party was effectively blind. Worse yet, none of the undead were standing out, so either the illusion was good enough to work against infravision (which is not difficult) or this was something else.

Dalron was pretty far into the room, as was Kohvo (the new half-orc that was rescued with Pontus). Both had to use their listening skills as best they could to find the enemy before they could even attack with a -4 penalty. This made things difficult, but not impossible for these high-level fighters. Then the rest of the party heard Dalron yell "I'm held!" (the results of a Hold Person spell) from somewhere in the darkness, a few moments later a wall of fire erupted from within the room, through the doorway, engulfing several party members. Though the wall emitted no light, those with infravision could see its heat, and everyone could feel it. Some small amount of damage was taken by most party members, but the screaming coming from within the room was unmistakable. Dalron was trapped within the wall itself, still unable to move. At maximum damage, it will only be a couple of rounds until he is burned to death.

And this is where we left off. It is the 2nd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580, and this may be the party's toughest challenge to date.

Jan 5, 2020

28th Day of Ready'reat ??, CY 580 - An Old Friend Returns

We left off the last session with the party still asking questions and drawing cards from the Deck of Many Things.

Dammac the dwarf decided to ask if his family was safe. He drew a card. Comet, just like Sarril had drawn earlier. He understood that the next encounter with a monster had to be single-handedly defeated by him and, if he did so, he would gain power. But Sarril had drawn the same card earlier, and they couldn't both single-handedly defeat the next monster the party would encounter. So this, of course, raised another question, one Tyril would be happy to ask on behalf of his dwarven brethren.

So Tyril asked how both Sarril and Dammac could benefit from the cards they drew, and then drew a card of his own. His card was one that raised his primary stat (Strength) by 2 points. So Tyril now has a 20 strength. Wow! The answer was simple. They had to split the party and go their separate ways, so that the next monster encountered by Sarril and the next one encountered by Dammac would be different.

This turned out to be simple. First, Sarril stepped out of the room with Dalron, and waited for a wandering monster. It took two hours, but eventually, two giant pedipalpi (whip scorpions) came along. Sarril easily killed them both with cones of cold. Sarril was then filled with power as he gained a level (past his racial maximum, which he felt extra good about). Next Dammac stepped out and he faced a single pedipalp. He had to work a little harder, but he managed to kill it, gaining a level for himself. The party then got back together and decided they did not want to risk drawing any more cards and left. When they opened the door again, the skeleton with the cards was gone, and a new room had replaced the old.

This new room as 50 x 70 ft and completely littered with bones. The occasional gold coin or gem could be seen, and Dalron even saw a scroll sticking out in one place. An obvious trap, the party concluded, though they were willing to spring the trap. Across the room was a set of large brass double-doors. The party entered the room and spread out to search the room while Dammac listened at the brass doors. Shortly thereafter, 15 ghouls and 5 ghasts erupted from the floor. It was a complicated battle, but nothing the party couldn't easily handle.

Once the ghouls were dead, Tyril tried to open the door. Though he wasn't successful, he did rip the large brass handles off (did I mention how strong he is now?). The rest of the party searched the room and found a potion, but decided they needed to leave come back after they have figured out the secret to opening the door.

And so off they went, spending another few hours in the Demonweb, eventually coming to a new door they haven't seen before. Inside were some people dressed in robes, who offered blessings of peace and tranquility. They offered food and drink and comfortable rest in safety. They mentioned that they are priests of a generous and peaceful god who are trapped here in the abyss, but their god has granted them sanctuary to share with those who come to fight Lolth. They said that others have come and gone over the years, but none have ever defeated her. The party was skeptical, but still tempted to stay, and they were long overdue for rest. But they eventually decided it just didn't feel right, and so they left, saying they would return later.

They eventually came to another door. This one opened into a short hallway and another door, which was trapped with a Glyph of Warding. Tyril set off the trap and took some lightning damage. Another short hallway then came to another door with another glyph. This time, Sarril cast Minor Globe of Invulnerability and opened the door, setting off the glyph which could not harm him. Another longer hallway had a door at one end, and a set of double doors to the left. They opened the double doors to reveal an immense space with no walls, ceiling or floor within sight. Only natural-looking vertical columns spaced 50 to 100 feet apart, with thousands of webs running between them as far as they could see.

Working these webs at various levels were driders, along with thousands of large and giant spiders of various types. Trapped within the webs were the bodies of people. Most dead, but some possibly still alive. At the nearest column was a half-orc whose head was still moving, and appeared to be talking to someone, and spoke the name "Pontus." Sarril and Dalron knew that name, and decided they needed to rescue this half-orc to see what was going on.

As they considered what to do, the driders began hurling fireballs at the party, but Sarril's Minor Globe was still up and the party was bunched together close enough that it protected most of them except Sir Fenius, whose Holy Sword granted him magic resistance. The driders then started shooting bows with poisoned arrows at the party as five sword spiders approached and attacked.

Dalron pulled out the Lolth Idol and used it to command all of the giant spiders to attack the sword spiders. Although the giant spiders were no match, it did keep them occupied long enough for Sarril to cast Wall of Force as a bridge to the column where the half-orc was tied up. When they arrived, they saw the other figure the half-orc was talking to. It was Pontus of the Cold Crow, the party's former companion. His body was physically present and he was very much sentient, but Sarril knew that he wasn't really alive. For some reason, when Pontus died, he was not reborn in the Hall of the Valiant in Ysgard, but here in Lolth's layer of the Abyss. That should not have happened according to Sarril's religious understanding, but however it happened, he was living his afterlife in the Abyss, and permanently if they can't find a way to get him out of here.
Prince Kohvo Koravel

And so the party cut both the half-orc, who introduced himself as Prince Kohvo Koravel (which must be a joke), and Pontus free. As they did so, the driders continued to shoot at them. One arrow managed to pierce Sir Fenius' armor and he succumbed to the poison, falling fast asleep. Tyril picked him up and the party ran back for the entrance, only to see that there was a blade barrier in the way.

Thus ended our session. It is biologically First Day of Sunsebb, CY 580, though, here in the Abyss, no one can be sure what calendar day it is.

Dec 22, 2019

28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - Into the 66th Layer of the Abyss

This was a short session today as we had to end early for holiday festivities, and we were also testing out Fantasy Grounds (https://www.fantasygrounds.com/home/home.php) for the first time. We had a lot of technical hiccups, but overall, it was worth it, even for an in-person game. I highly recommend Fantasy Grounds as it makes administration for the players and DMs both easier and gameplay is smoother, once you get used to it.

We started with the party having just entered the Abyss, seemingly at Lolth's invitation. They found themselves among a maze of hallways, 20 feet wide. Fog formed the walls and ceilings and the floor was made of a smooth stone that appeared to have moving swirling patterns within. Closer examination revealed twisted bodies and tortured faces writhing around in anguish.

Walking along in one direction, the party came across what looked like an overpass. Shan-Ju pulled out a Rope of Climbing that he was able to use to climb up and the rest of the party followed suit. This brought them to another pattern of hallways which they followed for a while until they came to another overpass and repeated the same maneuver. Eventually, they came to an overpass 10 feet overhead and did it again, then eventually came to the same overpass. They realized they had been going in circles and, rather than go overhead again, they decided to go forward, following the hallways as it turned left and right. After about an hour, they came to a turn in the hallway where there was a door on their right and driders approaching from the other side.

The driders were dispatched quickly, and the party decided to enter the door. They found themselves in a very large, strange room. Everything seemed warped - curving up and away from them the further away it was. Above them on the ceiling was a table with a cloaked figure sitting on one end. The party could see that the room appears to a large sphere, and decided to walk forward, ultimately approaching the table, which felt right-side up.

The cloaked figure at the end of the table was a skeleton holding a deck of cards. Seven chairs appeared around the table, and the party members decided to have a seat, with Sebastion asking "Who are you?"

The skeleton answered "I can answer questions you have, Sebastian Silvertongue. For each question you wish answered, you must draw a card."

Sebastain was more than happy to participate. He asked "How do we find Lolth?" and then drew from the deck and disappeared (The Void).

The skeleton said "A question was asked and a card drawn. Lolth can be found in her Spider Ship, which is accessed from a door on the fourth level of the Demonweb. You are currently on the third level. To access the fourth level, you will need a key that you already have on you (it points to Sarril). To enter the ship, you will need a key that you still must obtain."

Shan-Ju then decided to ask a question. "Where is Slerotin's tunnel?" He then drew a card (Throne) and his Charisma was raised to 18 and he became aware of a new Monastery that belonged to him somewhere in the Flanaess.

The skeleton answered the question in great detail, explaining exactly how to find the tunnel, including looking for some ancient runes and how to activate those runes to reveal the tunnel.

Sarril decided to go next. "Why are some priests unable to commune with their gods? and he drew a card (Comet). He is now aware that if he single-handedly defeats the next monster encountered, he will be rewarded with power.

"There are two answers to your question, and I will provide you with both. The first answer is simply that many of the gods are now dead, though their worshippers do not know it, or refuse to believe it. The second answer is that a being of great power has discovered the secrets of the mists from the Domain of Dread, also known as Ravenloft. This being is using these mists to cut-off the connection between the Prime Material plane and the Outer Planes, thus limiting the connection between deities that exist in those planes, and their worshippers in the prime."

Seeing that things were going well, Dalron took a turn. "How do we defeat Lolth?" he asked, as he drew a card (Key). A treasure map then appeared in his backpack.

"You already have the tools you need to destroy Lolth. It won't be easy, but your best chance is for the paladin to use his holy sword against her directly. The rest of you should do everything you can to help make sure that happens."

Unfortunately, Dalron was disappointed in this answer as he had already planned on this strategy and was hoping there was some super-secret way to kill her that they were unaware of. But not this time. They would have to do things the old fashioned way.

At this point, the pressure was on. Everyone still had questions, but the risks were high. Everyone had seen their companion disappear and weren't sure what happened to him. Finally, Shan-Ju decided to ask the question on everyone's minds.

"How do we get Sebastian back?" he asked, then drew a card and disappeared (DonJon).

"To retrieve your friend, you must unmake the universe" came the answer.

And that ended the session. It is sometime, perhaps the 28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580, somewhere in the 66th layer of the Abyss.