Jun 21, 2020

2nd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580 - Where to rest in the Abyss?

We had a very short online session on Sunday using Google Meet and Fantasy Grounds. It's been a while since the group has been together and we wanted to move things forward a little. Using technology is hard. There were a lot of sessions getting hung and people getting booted. I think that was because most of what we were doing was logistic - people updating character inventory, players creating new characters, etc., and all of the changes were stressing out Fantasy Grounds. I am definitely looking forward to post-COVID when we can get back together in-person and play with miniatures on a table.

As the party took time to loot the bodies of the dead drow, Sarril noticed that the silver egg in his bag of holding was vibrating again. He pulled it out and it seemed to be pulling toward an indentation on the floor. Placing the egg in the indentation caused a black portal to appear. The party stepped through.

On the other side of the portal was a long hallway that appears to go on forever. On either side of the hallway, equally spaced, were identical doors, as far as anyone could see. Sarril recognized this place from a dream he had some time back in which he was running from door to door while being chased by a large black spider. He knew that these doors opened up to various worlds - other prime material planes, mostly, which Lolth has either conquered or plans to. The party knew they had to rest, and that without a connection to their deities, could not recover clerical spells. Perhaps if they can find another prime material world to rest on, they can pray and recover spells before coming back to the abyss. The only question is, can they get back? They would need to perform some tests.

Going to the first door on the right, which opened into a blue sky over rolling green hills. They were looking down from about 40 ft. in the air. Cresting over one of the gree hills were a half dozen knights on horseback, who rode by without noticing the party. They then shut the door so they can check some others.

The door on the left opened to an ominous dark forest. Fen decided to attach a Rope of Climbing around his waist and step through. From the other side, he could not see the door, but the rope disappearing into nowhere. He was able to use the rope to pull himself back through. They decided to check even more doors.

Other doors opened into more alien environments, some looked habitable, some not. As they moved toward the end of the hallway they could see a pair of double-doors at the far end. As they got closer to the double-doors, they could see the worlds on either side of the hallways became war-torn wastelands. Sarril explained that these are worlds that Lolth has already conquered and that the party's own world of Oerth would be next. From the destruction that could be seen, it looks like nothing was left behind. The party was getting a glimpse into their own future if they do not stop Lolth.

They decided to go back to the first door to see if it would be a good place to rest. They decided that the party will go down on a Rope of Climbing, leaving one person on watch on the other side of the door. Tyril took first watch while Fen and Sarril and Pontus climbed down. Sarril felt a connection to Boccob, and realized he would be able to renew his spells from here. But soon a came running over a hill. The beast has the head and neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion, and the feet of a hart. It was soon followed by the six knights on horseback chasing it. One of the knights saw the party and signaled to some riders behind them to check it out. The party decided it was best not to stay, and climbed back up the rope. Just as the last party member made it back, a man in purple robes covered in stars, wearing a pointy hat, came up and studied the invisible door carefully and the rope was pulled back through.

They decided instead to select one of war-torn worlds. The good news is that there was nothing there to bother them. The only down-side is that everything was soot and ash. They made camp next to a burnt-out stone structure and rested, taking turns on watch on the other side of the dimensional door. This was effective at securing a much-needed rest, healing, and restoration of spells.

It was now the morning of what should be the 3rd Day of Sunsebb when the party went to the end of the hallway and opened the double doors. The scene before them was awesome in scope and intensity. They were standing on the edge of a rocky parapice overlooking a valley below. This was clearly still the abyss, as everything was dark and harsh. The rocky mountain on which they stood was all sharp, pointed rocks, lightning flashed all around from what seems like permanent black clouds covering every bit of sky. Below in the valley was a city that looked like it was cut out from a world that doesn't belong here. Surrounding that city was a transparent dome of what looked like smoky gray glass. Jutting up out of the middle of the city was a tall tower, and above that tower floated a structure in the sky shaped like a giant spider. A beam of dark energy flowed from the spider structure into the dome around the city.

Surrounding the city and covering much of the valley were what looked like hordes of demons. Tens of thousands of them swarming around. Amongst them were what must be gigantic war machines. Swarming over the dome were thousands of winged demons - Vrocks and other such things. It looked to the party like there would be no easy way to get to the city or the spider structure - which is presumably where Lolth is.

This is where we left off. Technical difficulties prevented us from doing too much in this session. Hopefully next session will be smoother. It is estimated to be the morning of the 3rd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580.

Mar 2, 2020

2nd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580 - Another Near TPK

Today's session was a long continuation of the most difficult battle the party has faced thus far. It was a near Total Party Kill (TPK), though some managed to make it through. The basic setup of the room is that three of the pyramids contained a pair of drow, one female cleric and one male magic-user, all of 9th to 12th level. The floor of the room was crawling with dozens of undead creatures (skeletons and zombies) that, by themselves, were no match for the party, but they were designed to keep them slowed down and occupied while the caster blasted spells from their hidden locations atop the pyramids.

Complicating matters was the fact that one of the drow cast a specialty drow arcane spell called Hand of Darkness, that effectively extinguishes all light sources, without being cancelled out by magical light. Hand of Darkness only snuffs out light, not infrared radiation, so those with infravision could still see, but the undead were (mostly) invisible to infravision and the casters were skillfully keeping themselves out of sight regardless.

Further complicating matters was a drow priest spell of Lolth called Undead Focus (from the 2nd edition Demihuman Handbook), which allowed the priestesses to cast divine spells through the zombies. This caused the party some confusion and allowed the true spellcasters to keep themselves hidden a while longer.


Dalron was held in place, continuing to take 2d6+12 points of damage every round he remained in the Wall of Fire. Pontus immediately rushed to his friend's aid. Following the sounds of the screaming, he reached into the fire and pulled Dalron out, taking damage in the process. The drow wizards, seeing this, did not like it, as they knew from earlier spying that Dalron was currently the biggest threat to them as he could throw daggers with lethal results. In response, they each began casting magic missile at him, striking him multiple times and bringing him to near death.

Pontus carried the, still held, Dalron back to the rest of the party outside the doors while Fen used his holy sword to dispel the Wall of Fire. Kohvo and Tyril pressed forward into the room, determined to kill as many undead as they could. Meanwhile, Sarril used a Gem of True Seeing to look into the room so he could try to see the undead and, hopefully, whoever was casting those spells.

So, it turns out that using a Gem of True Seeing in the Abyss is not such a great idea. The Abyss is a strange place that is formed out of nightmares. What is seen by the naked eye is enough to drive any normal person insane, but the PCs are high enough level to avoid most of those effects. But within the Abyss roams a lot of things that were never meant to be seen by the naked eye. Hidden nightmares that the mind simply cannot comprehend if they were to behold. Sarril, with his very high intelligence, stood a good chance of handling it, but after a bad roll of the dice, he was driven mad by what he saw through the gem. Insanity effectively means that Sarril must roll a die before he can take any significant actions, with failure indicating he goes into a melancholy state and cannot do anything. This may have been one of most significant blows to the party at this point.

As several party members began to cluster in one place, one of the drow wizards took the opportunity to throw a fireball. That revealed his location to those with infravision. He was atop the left-middle pyramid, which gave Kohvo a driven purpose as he rushed that direction. Unfortunately, the fireball was too much for Dalron, who's hit points were driven into far negative territory.

Normally, I allow a single death save to prevent instant death and instead put the PC at zero hit points and unconscious, but because Dalron was already magically held and barely hanging on to life when the fireball hit, I did not give a save. Even if I had, further devastation was on its way, so this was the end of Dalron. He was truly a heroic force of nature. May he rest in peace.

More magic missiles and another fireball were cast from the other pyramids, and many, many failed attempts at Hold Person. Eventually, all of the drow were revealed and one of the Hold Person spells did eventually catch Sir Fenius, who was unable to dispel it. That would have made him a sitting duck if it were not for the fact that his holy sword still gave him 50% magic resistance, and he was able to shrug off most of what was thrown at him. Sarril, in a moment of lucidity, managed to drop a fireball in the room that cleared out most of the remaining undead. Fenius, even though held (rooted in place) was able to kill the rest that surrounded him. The room was now clear for the party to rush the pyramids.

The two dwarves went for the east pyramid while everyone else, led by Kohvo, headed up the west pyramid. Alas, poor Kohvo never made it to the top, as the wizard cast his one and only Cone of Cold spell against him (again, a death save would have been in order normally but had he made his save, he would have been killed by priestess's Flame Strike, which was coming up next, so we shall now say goodby to Prince Kohvo Koravel. His time with the party was too short). To rub salt in the wound, the priestess animated Kohvo's dead body into a zombie, which then attacked Pontus. Zombie Kohvo was no match for the party, but he was able to keep them busy long enough for the priestess to cast a Flame Strike on her next turn, severely injuring the party members climbing the pyramid (except for Sarril, who's magic resistance kicked in). The wizard, seeing the party was not yet down, cast Transmute Rock to Mud on the steps of the pyramid, sending the party sliding away. They would have suffocated in the mud, were it not for Pontus managing a couple of good rolls to grab his friends and hold them up above the mud (Pontus didn't need to breath since he is effectively a corporeal spirit).

On the eastern pyramid, Tyril and Dammic were doing much better. Dammic was able to get a good backstab on the priestess using his Ring of Invisibility, but unfortunately, that exposed him to the wizard, who then killed him (Rest in Peace Dammic Brickhouse - you were a fun dwarf and the party never did get to see just how much). Tyril, however, was able to quickly avenge his fallen dwarven brother. With a 20 strength and two attacks per round, the drow could not handle him up in their face. He killed both drow with extreme prejudice.

The two drow at the western pyramid levitated up and began pushing themselves along the wall to join the others at the north pyramid. The remaining party members gathered together under the protection of Sir Fenius' holy sword and Sarril's Globe of Invulnerability. The Globe negated the hold effect on Fen, allowing the party to move forward as a group. For good measure, Sarril cast Haste on the party, allowing them to close in quickly.

As they climbed the pyramid, the wizard, Rauklanin, cast Cone of Cold, which affected Tyril, but not the others. He then switched to using a Wand of Frost and cast another Cone of Cold before the party could finish making their way up the steps.

The other two drow managed to get the pyramid just as the party reached the top, but they had already exhausted all of their high-level spells and knew none of their low-level spells would penetrate the Globe of Invulnerability. So they began attacking with a Death Lance and a short sword. The short sword was effective (all of the wizards are fighter/wizards), but the priestesses both missed with their death lances. Sarril used a Wand of Paralyzation to paralyze one of the priestesses while Tyril and Fen finished off the other one. Rauklanin realized he wouldn't survive a round of melee attacks from both Tyril and Fen and was about to levitate away when Fen rushed up on him and, thanks to the Haste spell, was able to deliver three attacks, killing him dead.

The final drow wizard grabbed Rauklanin's wand and levitated up. He managed to get one Cone of Cold off before Sarril returned with a powerful blow of Magic Missiles, which penetrated the wizard's magic resistance and killed him. The fight was now over. BAMF Dead: 3. Drow Dead: 6. BAMF wins.

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At the end of the battle, Sarril looks around at the devastation and his dead party members. He then reaches into his bag of holding and pulls out an ornate scroll tube he had been saving. He opens the tube, unfurls the scroll and begins speaking the arcane words contained within. As he speaks each word, he begins to fill with immense power, the likes of which none of the party have ever seen before. Energy begins to crackle like lightning in the air, drawing the primordial power that holds together the very fabric of existence His hair begins to blow fiercely, his eyes turn white, and the energy is so intense that the party can no longer bear to be in his presence The scroll is consumed in flame, leaving Sarril standing, filled with unfathomable power.

He then speaks.

Each word is a command that echoes across time and space.

“I wish for Pontus, Dalron, Kohvo and Dammic to be resurrected right here, right now!”

His words are a command for reality itself to obey.

There is a loud boom as the energy is unleashed from his body, knocking everyone to the floor. When they stand back up and gather their senses, they realize that they are not alone. Standing in the room with them are two demons of immense proportion.

One of them says “Her excellency, the Mistress Lolth, Queen of Spiders and ruler of the Abyss, does not grant your wish.”

The second demon then says "But Lolth is a generous mistress. You may choose one person to bring back."

Sarril considers his choice for a while, then says "I choose my friend, Pontus."

"And so it is done," says the first demon.

With that, color returns to Pontus' face, and he begins breathing again. His memories flood back into his living brain.

The first demon says "Congratulations on passing this difficult test. Our queen looks forward to meeting you in person."

With that, they both disappear in a burst of flame.

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It is approximately late in the day (by biological time) on the 2nd Day of Sunsebb, CY 580. The party is still in the Demonweb - Lolth's layer of the Abyss, contemplating their next move.


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.