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.

Nov 24, 2019

28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - Continuing the Battle in Lolth's Temple

With seven player characters and over 20 high-level enemies on the board, this was the most complicated battle I have ever had to run as a DM. The last session was chaotic and slow as I flipped through books to look at NPCs, we lost track of initiative more than once, and it was hard to remember who had what spell effects on them. Some people were going on the wrong initiative, took too many attacks per round, or not enough attacks. I spent the intervening two weeks putting together a spreadsheet with all of the relevant information that we could step through in initiative order. I shared the spreadsheet on a screen for everyone to see, which means the players could see the effects and hit points of the enemies, but the sanity was well worth it. I also invested in purchasing digital, searchable scans of the Priest Spell Compendium and Wizard Spell Compendiums (thanks DM's Guild https://www.dmsguild.com/) so I can quickly search for spell descriptions as-needed because despite playing for decades, I have never memorized what any of the spells do.

Despite all of this, the remainder of the battle still took four hours. I couldn't begin to describe the details here, but I can summarize some highlights.

 - The hasted Glabrezu cast Reverse Gravity, which didn't affect the drow who could levitate, but everyone else "fell" 50 ft. to the ceiling, taking some considerable damage. The demon was killed shortly thereafter, ending the Reverse Gravity spell, and causing everyone to take damage again from falling back to the floor.

 - The paladin, Sir Fenius Agrivar (Fen), was the star of the show. With his Holy Avenger, combined with Gauntlets of Ogre Power, he was doing +22 damage per hit to all of the chaotic evil beings in the room (which was all of the enemies). The drow tried everything they could to take him out of the fight, but the 50% magic resistance bestowed by his sword, combined with bonuses to saves and the ability to dispel magic, he shrugged off just about everything thrown at him.

 - At one point, the High Priestess cast Lolth's version of Sticks to Snakes, which creates giant spiders. She filled the battlefield with 16 giant spiders to keep the party occupied while she cast more spells. Sebastian responded by pulling out his Pipes of the Sewer and summoning 90 giant rats, which engaged the spiders to a standstill, effectively taking them off the board.

 - Another dozen or so drow, all high-level, came down from the upper levels to join the fight. Two captains were using Death Lances, which can drain levels on a failed save. Dalron lost three levels and was rendered unconscious.

 - Fen dispelled the Blade Barrier around the High Priestess, then killed her, thus getting rid of the spiders. Shortly thereafter, one of the clerics coming down the stairs cast Silence 15 ft. Radius on Sebastian, silencing his pipes and causing the rats to disperse.

 - Sarril cast a large Wall of Stone over the stairwell, causing a massive amount of stone to crash down and get rid of all of the new drow that were coming down. This allowed Fen to finish off the last couple of drow captains, avoiding level drains as he did so, and bringing the party to victory.

But this was not the end. Standing by the tapestry, behind the illusion of Lolth, was another drow. The most beautiful drow woman anyone has ever seen. Her dress was flowing in an eerie, irregular way, which the sharp-eyed PCs could see was because the dress was made of thousands of tiny, living spiders crawling around. There was no doubt now that this was Lolth herself.

As it turns out, Lolth had been summoned by the high priestess shortly before the party infiltrated the temple. That was why the altar on the lower level was covered in fresh blood. Lolth appeared in a room at the end of the webbed corridor, which the party decided to ignore. Had they gone immediately into that room, they could have fought Lolth first, while at full power, and easily defeated her. Once defeated, all of her drow followers would have been temporarily stripped of their power, including magic-resistance, and the party would have been able to easily defeat everyone in the temple. But they, unknowingly, took the hard way, and now have to face Lolth after being severely weakened by their previous fight.
Lolth held out a platinum egg that looked exactly like the one they already possessed. She addressed
the party "I know why you are here. The egg you have is a fake, planted by me personally. This is the real one, and if you want it, you must prove your worth by defeating me." She then transformed into the spider-demon depicted in the images everyone has now seen.

As Lolth was speaking, the party was desperately quaffing healing potions. Fen decided to commune with his holy sword, asking it to grant him the power needed to defeat this goddess of evil. The sword answered, giving him the power to cast a full Heal on himself. The battle started with Lolth jumping up to the ceiling and casting Slay Living on Fen, who made his saving throw but took serious damage nonetheless. She was actually waiting for the party to get close enough together that she could dispel the effects on them, like Haste, but the party was smart enough not to clump together. Dalron headed south to collect daggers from dead drow while Sarril cast Fly on Fen and Tyril who flew up and engaged her in melee.

Lolth responded with a Mirror Image of her own to slow down the dagger attacks against her and cast a Cone of Cold, catching both Fen and Tyril. Being a high-level caster, she was able to penetrate Fen's magic resistance and he subsequently failed his save, taking a lot of damage. Her next move was to put up an anti-magic shell, enveloping herself, Fen and Tyril. With nothing to anchor themselves to the ceiling, Fen and Tyril fell to the floor, with Fen taking enough damage to reach negative hit points (though, as a paladin, he was still able to fight).

Lolth could have stayed in her anti-magic shell indefinitely. Since she requires magic weapons to take damage, and all weapons entering the shell become non-magical, she was effectively immune. But this limited her ability to do damage as well, and she wasn't going to allow them the privilege of entering her realm without fully testing them. She dropped the anti-magic shell and cast a full Heal on herself to wipe out the damage done so far (which was significant due to the extra damage from the paladin's holy sword). She then cast Feeblemind on Sarril, who, due to an amazingly lucky saving throw, was able to resist. And that is how we can describe the rest of the fight. Lolth throwing multiple offensive spells per round and each party member making their saving throws while slowly whittling down her hit points. Sarril read Bigby's Clenched Fist from a scroll and, even though it failed to penetrate her magic resistance on most rounds, it did connect a few times. Altogether, it was enough, and Lolth's avatar was soon defeated.

The truth is, Lolth could have chosen to gate in demons every round, or even teleport away, buff herself, and come back stronger, all of which would have made the fight much more difficult. But that was not the goal. This was a test. Lolth was sizing up her enemy so she can prepare to fight them in her own realm. She accomplished her goal.

Once her avatar was destroyed, the egg fell to the ground, where Shan-Ju, who had been climbing a nearby wall, leaped at the egg and caught it. The party decided they needed to act quickly before more drow showed up, but they were unsure which egg was the correct one to use. Sarril cast Identify on the original egg and got no useful information, so he placed it in the impression to try. The temple began to rumble, there was a flash of light, and then a Nalfeshnee (Type IV) demon appeared and attacked the party. The demon was able to damage several of the party members with an area of effect spell, but the party responded to bring the demon down pretty quickly.

Figuring it must have been the wrong egg, Sarril swapped the eggs and the tapestry before them came to life, opening a portal into a foggy scene beyond. Not having time to search the bodies, but figuring the high-level drow in the immediate vicinity must have good loot, the party tossed the dead bodies through the portal before jumping in themselves.

They now found themselves in a strange fog-filled tunnel. The portal behind them was now gone. Light penetrated the fog 60 ft. ahead, revealing a wall of fog 10 ft. to either side and 50 ft. above them. The floor seemed to be made of the same gray fog. This must be the Abyss.

It is evening of the 28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - at least on the Prime Material Plane it was.


Nov 10, 2019

28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - Infiltrating the Fane of Lolth

After spending the rest of the day in the market at Erelhei-Cinlu, the party made their way back to the inn to have dinner. Underneath Sarril's plate was a note instructing the party to meet with two wizards of the black tower at a specified location in the city. The party decided not to wait and to go directly there.

Inside seemingly abandoned building they met with two wizards who explained that the party was to pass through the Noble Gate of the city and go to the manor of House Eilserv. No non-drow are allowed through the gate and even then, only those who are members of the royal house or on official business may pass. Disguises and illusions will not work, so the only option is to polymorph each party member into a drow - which, of course, comes with risk of death or of losing one's identity. The party agreed to the terms and the two wizards polymorphed everyone, one at a time. Each PC made their system shock roll and intelligence check to remain alive and retain their self identity. The party was given a platinum token with the symbol of House Eilserv on it, which would get them through the gate and up to the manor house. The party, now each a drow, headed there immediately.

The party made their way to the manor house and showed their token and were invited inside and offered some fine drow wine while they waited. Eventually, Viconia came out to speak with the party. She was not interested in a long drawn out conversation. She made stated that she would provide the party with a means to access the Fane of Lolth through a secret passage underneath the temple. If the party would go tonight, there will be minimal guards to deal with. She provided simple instructions on how to get to the upper level where they can use the egg to open up a portal to Lolth's lair in the Abyss.

Sebastian asked what Eilserv would do in return for the risk the party is undertaking and she laughed, saying merely that they would allow the party to live to accomplish their mission. "Is there not a large black bubble on your surface world spewing out demons?" She asked.

"Fair enough" replied Sebastian, who then went on to ask about the Elder Elemental God that House Eilserv seems to worship. Viconia offered to introduce the party to her god if they would like. They declined and went on their way.

The path to the secret entrance required taking a special boat docked beside the Pitchy Flow, an underground canyon and river that leads to the Sunless Sea. The Pitchy Flow consisted of fast moving rapids that would not be navigable by normal means, but the boats provided were magic boats. Stepping inside the boat, the party invoked the name of Lolth, which caused a Hezrou demon statue to come to life and call forth a crew of ghouls to operate the boat and take them down river, stopping at a cave entrance which was their destination.

Just as Viconia said, the cave led to a long tunnel that eventually came to a narrow flight of stairs up to a secret door. The secret door was easily opened from this side and the party found themselves in a large room with a sacrificial altar in an alcove to the south. The altar had recently been used, as there was fresh blood all over the altar and floor.

To the west was a web filled passage which the party chose to avoid, choosing instead to go north where they found a staircase going up. Dammac used his Ring of Invisibility to invisibly and silently sneak up the stairs and scout. The stairs were covered in spider webs, making it difficult, but not impossible, to push through. About halfway up, he was attacked by a giant black widow spider. The spider wasn't much of a match for Dammac, but it did manage to wound him before he killed it and he was no longer invisible.

Dammac returned down the stairs and explained what happened. Sebastian decided the two of them should sneak up the stairs together and scout things out. At the top of the stairs they could see a large hallway going left and right. To the right, the hall opened into a large diamond shaped room with an amber pool in the middle. Floating above this amber pool was a large black spider with a female drow head. Listening checks revealed that there were others in the room, though they could not see them from where they were. They headed back down and reported what they saw to the rest of the party.

Believing the spider may be Lolth herself, the party decided to rush up the stairs and face whatever was in front of them, without casting protective and enhancing magic first. As soon as they entered the main temple area on the first floor, a drow woman stepped forward from behind the illusory image of the Spider Queen. This woman was finely dressed and wearing the broach of House Noquar. She also held aloft the golden idol of Lolth that Sebastian had previously traded to her house. As she spoke, two driders came to join her from side hallways, and the back hallway behind the party began to fill up with drow soldiers. Another drow priestess, wearing a broach with a golden spider on it, and a drow male wizard could also be seen.

The woman directly in front of them spoke "Did you think we did not know what the traitorous House Eilserv was up to? We will deal with them soon enough. But as for you, thank you for returning the egg to us."

"Oh, we will be holding on to this egg" replied Sebastian as the fight broke out.

The very first thing that happened was Dalron focused all of his effort on the drow wizard. Any other wizard would have been dead from the amount of damage put out, but drow wizards typically have fighter levels, and this one had more hit points than the average wizard. He was nearly dead, but not quite. Sarril cast Haste from his ring (at-will) and placed a Wall of Force to block off the southern hallway, allowing the rest of the party to focus their effort on the two drow priestesses. Fen rushed up on the High Priestess of Lolth and did a significant amount of damage to her before she cast a Lolth priest version of Repulsion to push him back. Still, that consumed her spellcasting for the round, which made a huge difference.

The matron of House Noquar cast Hold Person on four of the party members. Only Shan-Ju failed his save, and was now held in place. Tyril was able to then rush up on the matron and begin savagely attacking her, rolling three 18s in a row and nearly killing her in the first round. The wizard, seeing that he would not survive another round, cast Haste on the priestesses and driders before, at the top of the next round, Dalron finished him off. Dalron then turned his attention to one of the driders while the other attacked Tyril.

In the southern hallway, the female leader of the drow guards dispelled the Wall of Force, allowing the guards to flood the back row. Sarril responded by summoning a hydra while Sebastian summoned a Fire Elemental. That kept the drow guards busy and bought the party more time to keep their focus on the priestesses. The matron, now nearly dead, tapped her demonic staff on the ground and transformed into a Glabrezu demon, healing herself as she did so. Tyril was now facing melee with a hasted Glabrezu and hasted Drider, which began tearing into him hard.

Sarril cast Dispel Magic and successfully dispelled the Repulsion on Fen, who, now hasted, was able to rush back up on the high priestess and do some more damage to her. She responded by casting Blade Barrier, which forced him to back away (for now).

DM's Note: I'm missing a lot of details as this was a chaotic battle that went for three rounds. At some point, the high priestess attempted to cast Slay Living on Fen, but failed, and Sarril was able to get out a lightning bolt. Other attacks back and forth were made and some of the drow guards were killed, as was the hydra. At the end round three, two drow guards are dead, the summoned hydra is dead and the drow wizard is dead (or dying). None of the party are yet dead, but a few are close. The battle took so long that we ran out of time, so this is where we leave off.

It is the middle of "night" (whatever that means in the underdark) on the last day of Ready'reat, CY 580. The party noticed that there is at least one more drow hanging out behind a tapestry and a few more driders coming up the side hallways. There are also temple guards outside that could rush in at any moment. This is not going to be easy.

Oct 27, 2019

20th day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - A drow vampire? Really?

Yes, it was a vampire. Specifically his name was Belgos, not that he introduced himself. He wasn't happy that the party just sent his lover back to the Abyss. Belgos swiped twice at Shan-Ju, who was invisible to him at the moment, with clawed fingers. Both attacks missed. Belgos tried and failed to charm Fen, the paladin, but failed. Now it was the party's turn, and the melee fighters did over 60 hit points of damage in a single round - despite that fact that hundreds of bats were swarming around Belgos to give him additional defensive cover. He soon went gaseous, and disappeared under a nearby boulder.

The party decided to go after him, and managed to push the boulder out the way, revealing a circular staircase going down. At the bottom of the stairs was a plush bedroom with lots of fine treasure, but no sign of a coffin. The party began searching for secret doors and eventually found what they were looking for, and opened a passage into what looked like an ancient crypt.

Coming up to a T intersection, there was a room down the right hallway with an eerie green light emanating from it. That must be what they were looking for. But as the party turned to go down the hallways, twelve wights rushed at them from the hall to the left. For any other party, this would have been frightening. But for the badass motherfuckers, it was a lightning bolt followed by a couple of sword swings and it was all over.

Moving into the room with the green glow, there was a coffin in the middle of the room and spider webs all over. Before the party could approach the coffin, a giant black widow dropped down from the ceiling, surprising everyone. The spider could not connect its fangs through the superior armor classes of any of the PCs, and they soon hacked the spider up into bits. But the spider wasn't the real threat. It was primarily acting as an alarm for Belgos, who was now fully regenerated within his coffin. The lid sprang open and Belgos leaped out. The party pivoted and responded with nearly 100 points of damage to the vampire lord before he even had a turn. He turned gaseous and reformed in his coffin and Dalron immediately staked him through the heart, cut off his head and shoved garlic in the stump. The party then burned the corpse. It was possible that some of the steps were unnecessary, but it gave everyone great pleasure.

Within Belgos' chambers the party came across a golden idol of a spider with a woman's torso attached. This was most definitely Lolth. Sebastian picked up the idol and instantly gained several powerful abilities. . . though likely at a price. He placed the idol in a bag and the party went about their way. Searching the rest of the place they found some treasure, some interesting goggles with pink lenses, and a basin full of what they identified as Oil of Etherealness. The latter had been used recently, and Sebastian put it on himself and walked through a wall to another part of the crypt. This part eventually led to another exit elsewhere in the underdark. It seemed like someone else may have been here with Belgos and escaped before the party made it down.

Among Belgos' clothes were some fine drow clothes, which the party took, and a Cloak of Protection that Sarril thought looked odd. Sebastian figured it might be another Cloak of Poisonous, and understood that the only way to know for sure would be to put it on, and so he did. And promptly died. Sarril removed the curse and the poison and cast Raise Dead on him. Down another con point, but just a little bit wiser, Sebastian relayed a harrowing tale.

While dead, Sebastian was unable to move on to his proper afterlife. Instead, he found himself among a sea of lost souls in an empty waste, marching toward a figure upon a rock. Vecna. Sebastian was certain of it. He knew the legends, what little there were, mostly about the eye and hand, but this skeletal creature was most certainly missing an eye and a hand. The fiendish being looked at Sebastian with his one glowing eye and spoke through his mind "you escaped me once before, but now you have returned. I am inevitable." That's all that he saw before being snapped back to life.

It turns out that this bedroom was the perfect place to rest, and so the party spent the night, safely and comfortably. The next day they headed out toward the drow outpost, another three day journey, but this time unobstructed.

The party was interested in getting through the outpost quickly and safely, and let Sebastian talk his way through, saying they wished to trade in Erelhei-Cinlu. The drow agreed to let them pass through, and so they did. On the way through they passed multiple slave pens with dwarves, svirfneblin and human slaves which were being sold to the Kuo-Toa. Sir Fenius, being a Paladin of St. Cuthbert, was appalled, but kept his cool, knowing that they had to get through to accomplish their mission, but there was no way he would not be coming back to rescue these prisoners. After moving through the outpost, it was three more days to Erelhei Cinlu and the party arrived on the morning of 28th Day of Ready'reat.

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The party emerged into an enormous cavern known as the Vault of the Drow. The cavern itself is thousands of feet high at the center and several miles across, all lit by a soft green glow. Underground rivers and fungi forests gave the place an alien outdoor feel. Donning the pink goggles, everything came alive with color - reds, oranges, yellows and greens. It was a sight to behold. Ahead of them loomed a large black tower on a mesa. A paved road led left and right in front of the tower. Sarril's familiar scouted overhead and could see the road to the right led to the city gates, and so that's where they went.

Approaching the gates of the city, they were halted by the guards there, who stated that outsiders are not allowed within the city without the express permission of one of the twelve great houses. Sebastian explained that they were merchants who wished to trade within the city. The guards explained they would need a merchant medallion. Sebastian asked what house the guard represented and he responded "Noquar." Sebastian then asked who within house Noquar he could talk to, and flashed some of the party treasure at him. This piqued his interest, and he directed the Sebastian to speak with Raerna of House Noquar a the envoy compound outside of the city and gave directions, so that's where the party went next.

While meeting with Raerna, Sebastian cut immediately to the chase. Without further negotiation, he presented the Golden Lolth idol, which turns out to be a lost artifact of great power and importance to the drow. He offered it as a gift in exchange for a merchant medallion. Of course the deal was accepted and the party was given permission to trade within the city as representatives of House Noquar - with 10% of all proceeds to the house, of course. Sebastian was all too happy to be rid of the artifact, as he began to notice strange black hairs growing on his neck. Evil artifacts always have a way of changing people, Sebastian knew.

Inside the city, the party was directed to the foreign quarter where non-drow are allowed to stay. They found an inn run by a duergar and purchased rooms for the week. Their instructions were to enter the city and then get word to Eclavdra's agent in the slave pens that they were in the city. So after settling in, they went to the slave pens (without the paladin, who was already struggling hard to avoid killing everything in sight) and gave a message to the drow they believed was the right contact. "We are from the surface and we are here to trade with House Eilserv" followed by where they are staying and where they will be setting up shop in the merchant quarter. The drow did not respond, but Sebastian walked away, confident that the message had been delivered. Now there was nothing to do but sit and wait.

The party did set up shop in the merchant quarter, trying to sell their wares. Business was not great the first day, as most of what they had to sell was jewelry collected from various dungeon exploits, and jewelry is a matter of taste. But Shan-Ju managed to find a mind-flayer merchant selling the most exotic, high-end magical equipment the party had ever seen (thanks to some excellent rolls of the dice). We are talking about magic items that cost 100,000 gp or more (+5 weapons and unique named magic items). It just so happens that the party has been accumulating a lot of wealth in the portal hole for many years, and this looked like a great time to spend some money. Most particularly, the party had an item, the Book of Vile Darkness, which would be hard to sell on the surface, but a more perfect market could not be found than here. The mind-flayer recognized its value to the drow and offered a full-value trade for two magic items. A Holy Sword for the paladin and some special Bracers of Defense for Shan-Ju which appeared to be an artifact from his ancient order and, if he can figure out how to use them, would provide additional benefits.

This is where we left off. The party is still talking to the mind-flayer and intent on making additional purchases while they wait for Eclavdra to contact them. It is the 28th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580.

Oct 6, 2019

17th day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - The Shrine of the Kuo Toa

As the party approached the Kuo-Toan city, the Svirfneblin guide bade them farewell. He explained that, while the svirfneblin do trade with the kuo-toans when necessary, they don't like to spend too
much time with them. They worship a demon-goddess and are very unpredictable. He advised the party to use caution when dealing with them, then went on his way.

The party continued north into an area where the walls were carved and everything glowed in an eerie green light. Large slugs were moving across the walls and ceilings and the air had a salt tang to it. Up ahead they could see what looked like a large nude woman with a lobster head and claws, which was revealed to be a malachite statue as the party got closer.

Passages to the right and left showed many doors, and the party decided they would open the first door and attack and kill anything inside. It turned out to be a barracks housing some low-level kuo-toa soldiers. Sixteen of them, to be exact. They were minding their own business when the party started slaughtering them. A few ran out the back doors while the rest stayed to fight. The battle took some time due to the sheer numbers, but these kuo-toa were no real challenge for the group.

Dammac opened a large door at the end of the room and took a look through. At the other end of a very long hallway to the east was a kuo-toa, who looked surprised to see a dwarf looking at him from the barracks. He decided to throw the door the rest of the way open and run down a southern passageway, leaving room for Dalron to run out and start throwing daggers at the now screeching kuo-toa. This kuo-toa was tougher than the others, and Dalron was not able to kill it in a single round. This gave enough time for its screeches to be heard by others from another passageway intersecting the long hallway from the north. Soon, Dalron and the others were dealing with five kuo-toa in the hallway.

Meanwhile, down south, Tyril joined Dammac and saw five kuo-toa coming up stairs at the end of another long hallway. Tyril started throwing daggers of his own, but before long, both dwarves found themselves magically held by a kuo-toa priest who had come at them from another passage to their southwest. It began to dawn on the party that they just entered an entire city full of these strange creatures and attacked them without provocation, and now might have to deal with hundreds, potentially thousands of them. An escape plan would need to be hatched quickly.

While Dalron and Sebastian finished off the five kuo-toa to the north, Sarril moved south the dispel the Hold Person on the dwarves. That's when he noticed that the priest was surrounded by six more kuo-toa and, from the western passage behind the priest, at least a dozen more were on their way. Dalron and Sebastian also heard more coming from the north, and decided to run south to recombine the party lest they get permanently separated.

Sarril let loose with a Boccob's Rolling Thunder to take out the priest and as many of the surrounding fighters as he could. This bought some time as everyone began running down the east passage toward the stairs going down. Soon the passage behind them was full of dozens of kuo-toa. Sarril, having just cast Protection from Normal missiles on himself to avoid the bow fire, waited until as many were in the hallway as he could get, then unleashed a fireball. The fireball killed half of the fishmen, and the other half were running around screaming on fire. He then ran down the stairs to join the others.

The stairs led down to a narrow hallway going north. All along this hallway for hundreds of feet were cell doors. Inside the cells were humans, dwarves, some svirfneblin and a few humanoids. Dammac picked the locks for the humans, dwarves and svirfneblin and left the rest. Among the human captives was Fenius Agrivar (Fen), a paladin of Saint Cuthbert who was investigating the black bubble around Istivin when he was captured by drow. The drow must not have wanted a paladin amongst their slaves and sold him to the kuo-toa to be sacrificed to their demon goddess. The party equipped Fen with some pretty good equipment, and now there are seven members of the Sarril-branch of the Bad-Ass Motherfuckers.

This dungeon appeared to go to a dead end in a storage room to the north, which effectively meant the party was trapped. They armed the prisoners as best they could and prepared for a full frontal assault to fight their way back out. Then someone had the brilliant idea to search the area more thoroughly. It turns out that there was a concealed escape tunnel in the storage room, which led a few miles north of the Kuo-Toan city. Everyone was able to safely escape.

The Svirfneblin were able to calculate the bearings and figure out the way home, to the south, which would put the party back where they started, having to go through the Kuo-Toa city again in order to get through to the Vault of the Drow (the name for the area that includes Erelhei-Cinlu and the Fane of Lolth). The party was left with a few choices:

1. Try to follow unknown passages to the north and west, hoping that they might find a path leading to the drow city (but possibly getting lost along the way)

2. Go southwest back to the Kuo-Toa city and take their chances

3. Go south with the Svirfneblin back to their home, and take another passage northwest that they were told goes around the Kuo-Toa. This alternate passage leads to a drow area that the svirfneblin avoid at all costs. These drow appear to have some kind of cooperation going on with the kuo-toa and the house symbol was described as a brass bar/rod. This was where the party decided to go.

After travelling south for a couple of days, the party was on their own. Trying their best to follow the vague map they have, they eventually came into a large open area where the stars and moon were visible. Trees and flowers were fully in bloom and the whole area smelled wonderful. In the middle of this "garden" was a statue of a beautiful woman plucking a rose. Sarril saw through the illusion immediately and recognized a succubus in place of the statue. The ceiling was actually covered in bats flying around and there were numerous giant rats all over the cavern. After Sarril shouted a warning, everyone else attempted to disbelieve the illusion, with some amount of success.

Shan-Ju immediately went invisible and rushed up behind the beautiful demon. Dalron, however, was enraptured by her, and yelled at Shan-Ju to leave her alone. Soon, Sebastian fell to her charms, just as Shan-Ju struck her from behind for 52 points of damage, nearly killing her. Sarril unleashed a lightning bolt at her that would have finished her off were it not for a lucky magic resistance roll on her part. Dalron then grappled Sarril to prevent him from casting again, but Sarril had his ring of spell storing which requires only a mental command to work. He unleashed magic missiles from the ring, which struck and killed the succubus who disappeared in a flame, breaking the charm on Dalron and Sebastian.

Just then, one of the bats from overhead flew down and landed behind Shan-Ju, transforming into a male drow. This is where we ended the session.

It is the 20th day of Ready'reat, CY 580. Is this drow a vampire, or maybe just using a Cloak of the Bat? Either way, he looks pretty angry.

Sep 1, 2019

9th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - Deeper into the Underdark they go

A new party member, and another PC death. Just another day for the Bad Ass Motherfuckers.

After searching the bodies of the drow and resting overnight, the party decided to leave these caves through the exit they saw previously. Tyril was able to decipher the map and determine this was the correct way to go. Three days later, the party arrived at the shore of an underground river.

Searching along the bank for a place to cross, they came across a series of smaller caves and searched inside. They came across a dwarf hiding in one of the caves. An escaped slave named Dammac, who was part of the group with Shan-Ju and Tyril that was previously captured by drow. Dammac explained that he was being taken back to Erelhei-Cinlu and when the drow came to the river and started loading onto a ferry, he took the opportunity to slip away. The party gave Dammac some equipment and welcomed him to come along with them on their mission to the drow city.

Dammac was able to describe a very distinct whistle that is used to call the ferry boat operator. Dalron was able to duplicate the whistle, but not knowing what to expect yet, the party prepared by having Sarril cast Fly on Dalron and Tyril. Dalron then performed the whistle and a ferry boat, operated by a mad Kuo-Toa came rowing across the river. The Kuo-Toan only spoke in his native language, but Sarril cast Tongues and began negotiating. After some time, the party began loading.

First the subterranean lizards crossed, as Dalron and Tyril flew beside the boat. When they reached the other side and unloaded the lizards, Dalron and Tyril took to the air again, which, for some reason, caused the mad Kuo-Toan to go berserk and attack. This fight would have been extremely difficult if Dalron and Tyril could not fly, but they took to the air where they could not be reached and Dalron threw daggers at the Kuo Toa, who then dove into the water and disappeared.

Pulling the ferry with ropes while flying, Dalron and Tyril began ferrying everyone else across the river. The last trip was for the cart. As they were pulling the cart across, Sarril noticed something in the water moving at a high speed toward the boat. He immediately cast Levitate on the cart and lifted it up and away as a giant gar smashed the boat into pieces. Dalron then pushed the levitated cart to shore and the party went on their way.

On the other side of the river was a another series of caves that the party decided to explore. One of the caves appeared to be the living quarters for the mad Kuo Toa ferry operator. A careful search of the cave revealed a hidden treasure stash containing coins, some potions, drow items and a magical cloak. Sarril identified the cloak as a Cloak of Elvenkind, but this didn't look like a Cloak of Elvenkind that anyone has ever seen before. It was made of black wool, for one thing. Sebastian attempted a Legend Lore roll, but failed to identify it further, so he decided to put it on and see what it does. It was a cursed Cloak of Poisonous, which instantly killed him.

Now Sarril understood what the cloak is. It requires first a Remove Curse to remove the cloak, then a Neutralize Poison to remove the poison, then, and only then, can a Raise Dead be cast. Luckily for Sebastian, Sarril could do all of these things, though they had to wait a day for him to pray for the spells.

The next day, Sebastian was brought back to life, telling the party a harrowing tale of how his soul was trapped in a "nowhere" place, rather than moving on to the Happy Hunting Grounds he was expecting. He told of seeing a cloaked skeletal figure with one eye reaching for him, saying "Ah, another one for my army. . ." before his soul was ripped back into his body.

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Two more days of travel and then the party came upon another complex series of caves and needed to make sure they found the correct way out. Exploring the caves, they came across a small group of Sverfneblin (deep gnomes) counting gems. Again using Tongues, Sarril spoke to the gnomes and learned that their gem mines had run dry and that they were expanding their operations, searching for new places to mine. They have a hatred for the drow, who attack and enslave their people, and eventually came to an agreement that they would help the party, who seemed intent on doing harm to their enemies. The gnomes agreed to accompany the party and lead them as far as the Kuo-Toan city, which is the last stop before Erelhei-Cinlu. The gnomes would not go any farther than that, and would not enter the city, and if they encounter and kill any drow along the way, the gnomes would get to keep any gems found.

And so, with a contingent of 8 svirfneblin, the party continued on their way. One day into their trip, they came across a male drow patrol. A commander and eight fighters. The commander, who was a fighter/magic user, cast a fireball at the party. Unfortunately, the fireball took out the cart, caused the lizards to panic and flee, and killed all of the svirfneblin except the leader. The drow were no match for the party, of course, who quickly killed them all, but the damage has now been done.

It is now the 17th day of Redy'reat, CY 580. The party no longer has a cart for Dalron and Shan-Ju to ride in and may have to rely on a light source going forward. They may no longer have a guide to the city, either, though we shall see when we pick back up next session.



Jul 28, 2019

6th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580 - Deeper into the Underdark

Because the party dressed like drow and were driving a drow merchant cart, most creatures with some amount of intelligence let them pass. It is clear that the drow rule most of everything down here. There are some exceptions, however, and the first encounter the party experienced was with a dozen wererats.

There was a portion of the road that narrowed between some rocks, forcing the party to stop and guide the lizards through one at a time. The wererats, which had been hiding among the rocks, sprang and ambush. One dozen wererats, to the sides, and fourteen giant rats behind. It may have seemed like a lot, but Sarril was able to quickly take out the 1/2 HD rats with an area of effect spell, allowing the melee fighters to finish off the were rats, which didn't take long at all. The party debated for some time whether or not to explore the side tunnels to look for their nest, but in the end, decided to keep moving, and thus ended their first encounter.

Three days passed. It is now the 9th day of Redy'reat, and the party came across an enormous cavern. 300 ft. across, at least, with ceilings almost as high. Everything was slightly illuminated phosphorescent lichen, and the party could see that there were multiple ways out of the cavern. About halfway across the middle, they were shot at by longbows from archers far away on a shelf. The attackers were bugbears, and while they were too far away to throw daggers, Dalron pulled out a longbow of his own and was able to take them out. Two more began shooting from another shelf, so Sarril cast Fly on Dalron so he can fly up and finish them off with thrown daggers. That's when the drow mage showed up. Sarril spotted him up on the shelf beginning to cast a spell, and, using a held action, he activated Minor Globe of Invulnerability from his staff, which has a 10 ft. radius, protecting everyone around the cart from the incoming fireball. Everyone except one of the lizards, that is. Dalron was able to fly over to the wizard and kill him before he got off another spell.

With only one lizard to pull the cart, things were moving slower. The party decided to allow Dalron to fly ahead, carrying Sebastian with him as a look-out (using Sebastian's infravision). Entering a cavern to the northwest, they smelled a horrible smell of death that caused Dalron to begin retching. In the cavern below were no less than 40 ghouls and ghasts. Dalron turn and flew back toward the party, with the undead horde chasing. Sarril cast a Wall of Force across a narrow portion of the tunnel, causing the horde to crash into it like a scene out of World War Z. Sarril then tossed a fireball over the wall, destroying the entire horde. Dalron, still flying, then searched the remaining side caverns, throwing daggers at any remaining ghouls.

The next encounter was more difficult. Up on high shelves on either side of the next cavern were 24 gargoyles, 12 per side. The gargoyles were not reacting to the party, but that just made things suspicious, so Dalron and Sebastian flew up to one of the shelves and Dalron pushed one of the gargoyles off the ledge. The gargoyle, and the other 11 on the shelf, all came to life and attacked.

Gargoyles are fairly low HD creatures and they don't do a lot of damage, but they get four attacks each, and when a lot of them are swarming, the damage starts to add up. Soon, the other 12 gargoyles were awake and joined the fight, causing the party to be swarmed by more than 20 at a time. Sebastian blew the Iron Horn of Valhalla, summoning two berserk warriors to the shelf he was on while Dalron flew down to join the rest of the party. It took some time to kill all of the gargoyles, and a lot of damage was taken due to the sheer number of attacks, but the party survived. As it turns out, the gargoyles knew better than to attack drow, and had no interest in attacking the party that were dressed like drow, so this was an encounter that could have been avoided, but hey, they got some EXP.

The party decided not to search the area, preferring instead to make use the of the limited time they had with the Fly spell to explore as much as possible. Heading around to the west and then south, they found a small, humanoid sized tunnel with terraced steps leading down. Dalron decided to explore, flying just above the floor to avoid traps. The tunnel was dark ahead, and tossing a Continual Light coin into the darkness did not change that. Realizing this was magical darkness, he asked Sarril to dispel it, but the dispel failed. Pressing forward into the darkness, Dalron triggered a magic mouth warning declaring that the tunnel up ahead has collapsed and is unsafe. Dalron took that to mean that there must be something interesting up ahead that someone doesn't want the party to stumble into, and therefore they should all move forward. He asked Sarril to try a second time to dispel the darkness. He did and it worked the second time.

There was then an argument that took place between the party members, led by Dalron on one side and Sarril on the other. Sarril believed that some very powerful magic-user must be located inside the tunnel (a lich, Sebastian postulated) and should be left alone. Dalron believed that such a powerful being would not need to issue such basic warnings, and that this was likely something trying to appear powerful. In the end, the entire party, except for Sarril, decided to go into the tunnel. They emerged in a cavern where almost everywhere they stepped, they tripped a Magic Mouth warning. At one end of the cavern were three illithids, but the illithids didn't attack. They were shackled to columns, and each one had a small spike driven into its forehead. They looked to be writhing in pain.
The party realized that whatever could do that to illithids was definitely too much for them to handle,  so they ran out of the cavern as fast as they could.

Continuing to explore the cavern, they eventually came across a pen containing pack lizards, which must belong to the drow who use them. Casting Animal Friendship, Sebastian took one of the lizards and connected it to the cart, making it fully functional again.

The final encounter of the session came shortly thereafter. In a nearby sub-cavern was a contingent of drow. Four male fighters with a male commander, and eight female fighters with a female commander. The female commander was riding a nightmare and holding a wicked looking magical lance. Recognizing that the odds were a bit overwhelming, Sarril summoned two, five-headed hydras while Sebastian summoned a fire elemental. These summoned creatures would buy the team the time they needed to squeeze out a victory.

While the male fighters were quickly dispatched, the female fighters proved to be tougher and more capable. Using atlatls, they hurled poisoned spears at Dalron and Shan-Ju, knocking them unconscious pretty early in the battle. Sebastian and Sarril, using the additional time bought by the summoned creatures, were able to cast Neutralize Poison to bring them back up just as the female fighters brought down the hydras. In the meantime, the new dwarf fighter, Tyril, along with the fire elemental, decimated the male troops, including the commander. A now awake Shan-Ju began tearing into the female fighters and Dalron started throwing daggers with terrifying effect at female commander, as Sebastian followed up, throwing a javelin of lightning, nearly killing her.

Enraged, the female commander charged at Dalron, striking him with lance for double damage. The physical damage from the lance was minimal, but the secondary magical damage was severe. Dalron made a save vs. poison and avoided the most devastating effects, then flew into the air and threw more daggers. At this point, the commander was almost dead, and had only one round to do something. She threw the lance at Dalron, rolling a critical and striking him in the chest. Although he took a severe amount of damage, he made his save vs. poison, and avoided the worst secondary effects of the lance, and thus lives another day. After that, with only a couple of hit points left, the party was able to bring the commander down. At that point, the remaining fight with the few female fighters that stood was easy.

We left off here, having overrun our scheduled session by an hour. It is late afternoon (or so is the party can guess) on the 9th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580.

Jul 7, 2019

22nd Day of Patchwall, 580 CY - Into the Depths of Oerth

The party rested for a full six days in order to properly collect all of treasure from the dragon hoard, so they will starting their journey already one week behind as the bubble continues to grow on the surface. But hey, I never called them heroes. EXP and treasure is what matters here. It is a game, after all.

Stand-in image for Tyril until his player provides a better one
During the treasure collection, a dwarf came wandering by and the party intercepted him. He introduced himself as Tyril, and claimed he was with a party of adventurers seeking out the fire giants and the drow to investigate their involvement in the chaos on the surface. He knew of a dwarf named Obmi who was previously sent to investigate and didn't come back. Tyril told the tale of his party being attacked by Mind Flayers (Illithids). He was able to escape but feared his companions all had their brains eaten. Among his companions was a monk named Shan-Ju, who had connected with the party in search of something called Slerotin's Tunnel, which would provide passage through the mountains and back to his homeland. Unless all monks are named Shan-Ju, the party recognized the name as a travelling companion they met in the demi-planes below the Temple of Elemental Evil, who was an honorary member of their group for a short time. Everyone recognized that there is strength in numbers and decided to stay together, so let's welcome Tyril to the party of the Bad Ass Motherfuckers.

The group explained to Tyril that Obmi had turned evil and was working for King Snurr. He had attacked the party, and they managed to defeat him and took his stuff, which they offered to Tyril. He
was honored to accept it (hey, +2 dwarven plate!). Soon, they were on their way, and having a dwarf in the party would be a big help in trying to navigate the complex caves of the underdark.

On their way out, the party explored all of the twisting side passages of the cave network of the fire giants, just to make sure they didn't miss anything. They found many empty rooms that looked they were drow barracks/living areas, but had been recently cleared out. They came across a jewel encrusted grotto that reflected their light brightly in a rainbow of colors. As they stepped into this room, they saw their old friend, Shan-Ju. He didn't look like himself, though. His eyes were staring blankly off into the distance. He then spoke a warning "Turn away from here, and your lives shall be spared."

Knowing that Shan-Ju was last seen with Illithid's, the party was now extra cautious. As much as they would have liked to turn around and walk away, they didn't want to leave their friend to his fate. So they started to fan out and cast various enhancement spells to prepare for battle. If there were Illithids in here, they were out of sight for now. Shan-Ju spoke again "Leave now, or suffer unbearable pain."

The party decided the best course of action would be to attack Shan-Ju, bring him to near-death, and then heal him. So that's what they tried to do. As the party converged on Shan-Ju and started to attack, three Illithids stepped out from behind nearby columns and used their mind-blast attacks on the party. Dalron was stunned, but everyone else miraculously made multiple saving throws. It looked like the party might have a chance to survive this. Sarril began blasting them with spells (ineffectively, due to their 90% magic resistance) while Sebastian and Tyril closed in. The first Illithid used Telekenesis to pull Dalron to him and start munching on his brain, but Tyril closed in on it and began attacking, slowing down the process. The third Illithid cast Suggestion on Sebastian, ordering him to attack Sarril, which he did. Sarril ignored these attacks for a couple of rounds as he tried to continue attacks on the second Illithid without any effect. The good news is that Sarril also made his save against all of the attacks coming from the second and third Illithids, so it was a stalemate with neither side able to affect the other.

Soon, Tyril had killed the first Illithid that was on Dalron. He then turned his attention to the second Illithid, who used Levitate to levitate Tyril into the air and hold him there, taking him out of the fight. Sarril decided to cast Dispel Magic on Sebastian, ending the Suggestion spell, which allowed Sebastian to rush back into the fight. Soon, thanks to some more successful saving throws, he was able to kill the third Illithid, leaving only the second one to face Sarril and Sebastian and a soon to be un-stunned Dalron. The Illithid chose to escape rather than continue the flight, flickering out of sight. Soon Shan-Ju was back to normal, unsure of how he got to where he was, but happy to see his old friend Sarril.

The party spent an hour or so searching the grotto and eventually found a large puzzle box underneath a pile of rocks. The puzzle box could only be opened by someone of 18 intelligence, but Sarril is smart enough and managed to open the box. Inside was an amulet which would later be identified as an Amulet of the Planes, and a book written with strange symbols that Sarril did not recognize. This book would turn out to be a Manual of Clarity (a one-time use artifact-level item which permanently raises intelligence by 1 point).

Almost out of the caves, the party came across a rope bridge over a lava river. Two Fire Salamanders were here, and the party quickly and easily dispatched them before searching the area and then crossing the bridge (with help from a Fly spell, just in case). Across the bridge was another cleared out area used by drow, with a table, chairs, and other furniture. Although everything of value was taken, Sarril discovered a chest hidden by illusion. Inside the chest was an adamantine scroll tube and an Ebony Fly. Inside the tube was a scroll of Wish. The rest of the chest was empty. A parting gift from Eclavdra, perhaps?

The party decided to rest in this area for another four days while Sarril studied the book he found. The book was written with a series of difficult to understand symbols which, once studied, seemed vaguely understandable, though it made his head hurt. After each page, the symbols became more difficult to understand, but he felt himself getting smarter as he went. After four days of headaches, his intelligence was raised by one point. Unfortunately, the book could not be opened again. It was now the 26th Day of Patchwall, and the party would have a lot of time to make-up (if time is of a concern for them).

Off into the Underdark they went. The underdark, at this stage of the campaign, is little more than a myth or legend. A vast network of huge underground cave complexes that connect deep underneath the surface of Oerth, and is home to all manner of vile creatures, like the drow. The party quickly learned why this map was not going to be easy to follow. The natural caverns form multiple levels of shelves with tunnels in many directions. Without a compass, it is unclear which way is north. Even for a surface ranger and druid, they would get quickly lost. And they did.

The Underdark
Near the end of the first day of travel, the party came back to the same area they started. This time, they saw a drow caravan coming over a natural bridge. There were 12 drow in total. Six male guards, two female clerics and four merchants. Sarril cast Invisibility 10' Radius on the party so they could hide off to the side and let them pass.

The drow guards fanned out at the end of the bridge, searching the area, then called back an "all clear" to the caravan behind. The party was safe. Then Dalron started explaining to the party that they should take this caravan out so they can get their stuff (not very "ranger-like" behavior, acting like a highwayman - we may have to visit his alignment in the future). One of the drow heard the voice, and looked over in their direction to figure out where it was coming from. Sebastian, figuring that they had been discovered, fired his own drow crossbow at one of the guards, then activated his Ring of Insvisibility to go invisible again. The drow responded as drow do, by using Faerie Fire to light up the entire party. Now the fight was on.

I don't remember a lot about the specifics of the fight. I do recall that multiple Hold Person attempts failed on the entire party, and that the drow guards, even at 4 HD and specialized with drow crossbows, couldn't hit the -6 and -8 ACs of the melee fighters. One lucky shot did hit Dalron and he failed his poison save, which caused him to fall asleep. A follow-up Web spell from one of the priestesses might have managed to capture the party, except that Sarril was able to leap free of it and then use Dispel Magic to get rid of it. Sebastian was able to use Neutralize Poison to bring Dalron back into the fight, and that pretty much meant things were over for the drow. One of the priestesses had already fallen, and the other priestess uses a Lurker Cloak to transform and escape into the cavern ceiling. Dalron, using Fly and Detect Magic, attempted to find her, but the ceiling was too vast and he was unable to pinpoint her location. The four merchants, in the meantime, used their innate Darkness and Levitate abilities to leap over the bridge under the cover of darkness and run away.

While they didn't manage to kill all of the drow, they did manage to get themselves a wagon, pulled by two subterranean lizards. After picking through the goods in the cart and taking what they want, the party disposed of the rest of the crates and piled onto the wagon. They could now journey through the underdark on the wagon and not worry about being fatigued from staying in heavy armor. They may even make up some time, depending on how often and how long the lizards need to rest (we shall see). For the next seven days, the party traveled unmolested through the Underdark (hopefully on course). Looking like a drow merchant caravan has its perks, it seems.

It is now the 6th Day of Ready'reat, CY 580, and the party is about to encounter something interesting. Stay tuned. . .

Jun 23, 2019

14th Day of Patchwall, CY 580 - Behold the glory of the Great Wyrm, Brazzemal the Bright!

It was an epic day. The party fought a powerful red dragon and won, though at great cost. Rest in Peace, High Priest Luapan, and Pontus Olafson of the Cold Crow.

Before I get started, here is some background information. Anyone who has played, read, or heard about the Against the Giants modules (G1-G3) knows about the red dragon named Brazzemal who shows up near the end of G3. He is located in a cave off to the side (sometimes covered with a boulder), so the party can easily ignore him and continue on their journey. But its a dragon, and dragons have treasure. Everyone wants to take on the dragon, and the Bad Ass Motherfuckers were no different.

As I stated before, I've been slowly switching over to using mostly 2nd edition rules. Starting with the Scourge of the Slavelords, I was blending 1st and 2nd edition monsters. When we started the Against the Giants modules, I had all of the books necessary to fully switch over to 2nd edition monsters and spells. The only thing I preserve from first edition at this point are the classes, because I really don't like the way the classes were redefined in 2nd edition. 2nd edition monsters are tougher. Giants, dragons and demons all have increased base hit dice and abilities. In first edition, a strong fighter with an 18 strength, specialization and a minor magic weapon, even at low levels, could kill any of these in a single round. Since switching to 2nd edition, the challenges for the Bad Ass Motherfuckers are much more appropriate to their power level, and for some encounters, simply powering through is not an option. Sometimes stealth, trickery, negotiation, or very clever tactics must be employed to get through. I think that's where we are now with the game. Choosing to engage Brazzemal should be an epic challenge, and after converting him to 2nd edition, it was.

So about the dragon. . . The G3 module gives some basic stats on Brazzemal. He is a red dragon with 11 HD and 88 hit points. He has two of each spell 1st through 4th level (2/2/2/2) and they are listed as Detect Magic, Erase, ESP, Mirror Image, Invisibility 10' Radius, Protection from Normal Missiles, Confusion and Polymorph Other (though I changed out Protection from Normal Missiles with Dispel Magic and I meant to replace Erase with Shield, which would have made a big difference in the battle, but I forgot to do so). 2nd edition red dragons start at 15 HD minimum, and then go up from there based on age category. To convert the dragon, I took the wizard spells he could cast and looked at the age table to see at what age category such spells could be cast. This put Brazzemal into age category 11, which is 21 hit dice and gives him a breath weapon that does 22d10+11 (I forgot to add the +11 part when I rolled, so it should have been a TPK, but that's okay, I think the result was sufficient). This age category also gave Brazzemal 2 priest spells (which he never had a chance to use) and some innate spell abilities like "Suggestion" that I forgot to use (but probably would have been ineffective anyway), and 60% magic resistance. This dragon is a beast that is over 800 years old and has legends told of his tyranny - legends that will be retold by Sebastian the Bard when his horribly burnt body wakes from being unconscious.


After the fight with King Snurr, the party really needed to rest and recover before dealing with whatever else lie in this cavern, which they know includes drow and a red dragon. The party was a bit excited to fight a red dragon and take it's treasure, so they enacted a plan. For the first night, they camped out in the secret escape tunnel that led between the mausoleum on the 2nd floor to the fire beetle nest on the third level. They were safe here as no monsters could find the secret doors that closed the passage on either end. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, a large explosion on the second floor caused structural damage that made the tunnel unsafe to stay in. Though healed up, the party wanted another day of rest so they could prepare for the fight with the dragon, so they moved into the cave where they had previously found two red dragon hatch-lings (which were actually adult fire lizards which the party mistook for red dragon hatch-lings). To be safe and somewhat hidden, they nestled themselves into a corner and Sarril cast Wall of Stone to seal them off from the rest of the room. That was effective and the party rested another night.

It was now the 14th Day of Patchwall and to prepare themselves for a fight with the dragon, Sebastian the bard was able to use some druid spells to cast Fire Resistance on everyone (bonus to saves vs. fire and half damage from magical fire) and Protection from Fire on Pontus (which makes him immune to 85 hit points worth of fire damage). Sarril cast "See Invisibility" on the melee fighters, in case the dragon was invisible, as well as Fly on himself and Pontus. All-in-all, a great strategy. If they see a dragon, a full-on assault would be devastating.

Sebastian was able to lead the party directly to the large cavern where he had passed the dragon on his way through when he was captured. As soon as they reached the cavern opening, he used his Ring of Invisibility to go invisible and silent and stepped into the room. The rest of the party emerged into an immense cavern. The party's light would not be able to reach its edges, but that was not necessary, as the cavern seemed to shine with a light of its own. In the middle of this gargantuan space was a small mountain of coins, atop of which was a large, sleeping red dragon. As the party was taking in the sight, Pontus felt like something wasn't quite right. There was something in front of them, but it wasn't a dragon. Pontus barely had time to say "That's no dragon!" before the gorgon stepped out from illusion and coughed up a cloud of greenish gas. Pontus was already up on the thing, bashing it with his Hammer of Kord, but he couldn't kill it before the breath attack. Luapan and Dalron were now turned to stone, leaving Sebastian, Sarril and Pontus to deal with the gorgon alone. The gorgon was ready to charge, but with Pontus now in front of it, it had no choice but to use its breath weapon a second time. This time, everyone made their saving throws, and the remaining party was able to finish the beast off.

So this dragon was an illusion, along with its treasure. Does this mean there is no dragon at all? Was the dragon just an illusion and rumor to keep the king's subjects in check? The party wanted to find out, but first, Sarril needed to do something about Luapan and Dalron. And so he spent the last wish remaining in his Ring of Three Wishes, restoring them both to living flesh and blood and releasing the djinn from the ring. The party was now that much more vulnerable, but they decided to explore the cavern anyway.

On the north end, they found a large passage that had a huge boulder moved aside. They could see gold and silver coins strewn about the passage and there was an immense heat radiating from inside. They decided to head in, using their standard marching order, ready for anything. And so they met Brazzemal - the real one.

Brazzemal the Bright

The great wyrm, Brazzemal the Bright, the Scourge of the Sheldomar Valley, had already cast ESP and was watching the party's every move, anticipating their actions. At the time, he was resting invisibly (as he likes to do to keep his enemies and allies alike on their toes so they never know if he is in his cave or not - it keeps people from trying to steal his treasure if they don't know if he is watching or not). While several members of the party were able to see him, he still managed to act first on a surprise round because of the ESP. His first act, as planned, was to cast Dispel Magic on the party, removing most (but not all) of their buffs.

Pontus acted first, attempting to use Fly to fly into the dragon's face and attack. He didn't get off the ground, as the spell had been dispelled. So Pontus instead ran forward, using his phenomenal dexterity to leap over lava and land squarely on some solid rocks. The surprise round then ended and we went to initiative. Dalron went first and threw some daggers, realizing that the -10 AC the dragon had meant that he could actually miss sometimes. This wasn't going to be easy. Then it was the dragon's turn, and he did what dragon's do. He unleased his breath weapon, doing 22d10 damage to the entire party. The damage ended up coming out to somewhere around 122 or so, and luckily the party still had fire protection so they only took half. Alas, that was not good enough for Sebastian, who failed his save and was taken down to -4 HP (dying, but not dead).

Sarril unleashed a Cone of Cold at the dragon's head (which does extra damage to fire-based creatures - not sure that should apply to red dragon but I allowed it). The spell didn't get through the magic resistance, and that's when the party realized they were in for a really tough fight. Luapan cast Prayer and Dalron threw some more daggers, mostly missing, but getting a few good hits in. The dragon then took to the air, which meant Pontus could no longer hit him, so Pontus ran from the room hoping to draw the dragon out. Sarril tried to cast spells, but even when the magic resistance failed, the dragon was able to save. Realizing the spellcaster could be a problem at some point, Brazzemal cast Polymorph Other on Sarril, but Sarril made his save. Brazzemal had a plan to go invisible again, but first he needed to reduce the party's numbers, so he cast Confusion, which took Luapan and Dalron out of the fight for the next 9 rounds. Brazzemal then went invisible. Pontus, who was now outside the lair, tried to bait the dragon by tossing the heads of one of the fire lizards into the lair entrance and yelling "take a look at what I did to your kids." The dragon laughed a deep laugh and said, "You stupid human. You can't tell a fire lizard from a dragon" and then flew out of the room so he can attack from the air.

In response, Sarril cast See Invisibility and Fly on Pontus, who took back to the air to face the dragon head to head. During this time, Dalron had a round or two of lucidity and tried throwing one of the Javelins of Lightning that Sebastian was carrying at Brazzemal, but missed. Brazzemal was prepared and cast Mirror image on himself, causing the party to face five of him. Sarril tried to destroy the images with Magic Missile, but failed to penetrate the dragon's magic resistance. So with Sebastian unconscious, Luapan and Dalron confused and Sarril's spells failing to get through, it was up to Pontus. The next couple of rounds was a hard-core back and forth between Pontus and the dragon as they engaged in a heated one-on-one battle. Sarril was finally able to get his magic missiles through the dragon's magic resistance and destroy the extra images, giving Pontus the advantage he needed. Unfortunately for Pontus, Brazzemal got three good attacks in, sending Pontus unconscious to the ground before he could finish the dragon off. The fall damage was enough to kill him, but Pontus made his death save (custom house rule), and so was left unconscious and near-death. In that same round, a confused Luapan rushed at Sarril to attack him and missed, then stood dumbfounded.

Sarril was now staring up at the dragon above him, with none of his companions left to help. Brazzemal laughed in triumph and spoke to Sarril. "It is just you and I, wizard. You have fought bravely, and for that, I will let you leave here with your life. Go and tell the tale of the great and fearsome Brazzemal. Let the world know what happened here today." Sarril looked around the cavern at his friends, either unconscious or confused, and knew if he walked away, the dragon would have them. He also knew the chaotic evil nature of red dragons means the dragon might just kill him as he tried to leave anyway. No, this was it. He would either find victory in this moment, or it would be a total party kill. The dragon had the initiative, and Sarril knew his chances were slim, but he made his move. "I don't think so" he said, as he moved to unleash a Cone of Cold.

Brazzemal reacted first, ready for this moment. He unleashed the fury of his breath on everyone in the area. That included Sarril, an unconscious Pontus, and a stunned Luapan (Sebastian and Dalron were out of range). The fiery breath seared the three for 137 points of damage (it should have been 148, but I forgot to add +11, but that's okay because this all made for an epic story and I'm okay with it). Pontus and Luapan did not get a save, and took half damage (due to fire protection) but it was still more than enough to completely incinerate their bodies and most of their equipment (save for a couple of magic items). Sarril made his save and took one quarter damage. After some quick math, that came out to 2 hit points remaining. Then Sarril's spell went off. With only a 40% chance of success, and after a series of failures in previous rounds, this spell finally broke through Brazzemal's magic resistance. Even after a successful save, the dragon did not have enough hit points left to sustain himself, and he fell to the ground, dead. Thus ended the Great Brazzemal, Terror of the Melkot, Scourge of the Sea Princes, Bane of the Dreadwood, Lord of the Sheldomar Sky (and so on. . .).

A not exactly accurate image, but it definitely captures the spirit of what happened

I know what some people reading this might be saying. Dragons are fearsome and arrogant, but they are also selfish and will preserve their own life at any cost. If the dragon was that low on hit points, it should have ran away to preserve itself. I thought about it. Brazzemal would have made for a great recurring enemy. But the problem was that Sarril, being a wizard, could have gotten a ranged spell off no matter what if the dragon had tried to fly away. It was effectively cornered and had already burned through most of its useful spells. Brazzemal also wanted one person to survive the encounter to spread the word of his return. He was an ancient dragon that was emerging from a long sleep and ready to reclaim his dominion and terror over the Sheldomar Valley. Having a herald to tell of his coming would be in his twisted interest. If that failed, the odds of winning the fight were still in his favor, and he knew that. Unfortunately for the dragon, the dice favored Sarril this day.

A severely wounded Sarril used another Fly spell to get away from a still confused Dalron who was now trying to kill him. A few more rounds for the Confusion to run its course, and a few more rounds to be safe, and Sarril returned to Dalron. The two of them decided to begin searching the dragon hoard as quickly as possible before the drow returned. This was no easy task for just the two of them, so Sarril cast what little healing he had left on Sebastian to make sure he was stable (though far from functional) and they spent the rest of the day sifting through treasure. Among the find was a silver egg with a spider web design and a spider etched into it. Inside the egg were platinum pieces. They found a lot of other magic items and treasure, but the egg turns out to be the most important thing.

Needing to find a place to rest, Dalron picked up Sebastian to carry him and the three began to exit the cave. On their way out, they encountered the drow priestess, Eclavdra, and an entourage with her.
Eclavdra of House Eilserv
They were in no condition to fight her, so it was good that she just wanted to talk. Eclavdra congratulated the party on successfully slaying Brazzemal and asked if they found the silver egg. Realizing that cooperating at this point was the best way to stay alive, Sarril answered "yes" and showed it to her.

"That egg is the key to opening a portal to the 66th layer of the Abyss, where you will need to go if you want to kill the Demon Queen, Lolth." Lolth, she explained, is responsible for the black bubble over Istivin and only her destruction can remove it. Even now, demons are leaving the bubble and terrorizing the surface, but that is not the worst of it. In two months time, the bubble will have grown to cover most of Sterich. Those within the bubble are trapped within the abyss itself, and suffer an even worse fate. If not stopped, the bubble will eventually cover all of the Flanaess.

"But our interests are aligned. My house would like to see the destruction of Lolth as well, and we cannot do this task ourselves. I became aware of you after the destruction of the Temple of Elemental Evil, and I watched your exploits against Stalman Klim with great interest. Today you have proven yourselves to be the champions I seek."

"What is it you are offering us?" asked Dalron.

"Simple," replied Eclavdra. "The portal only works inside the Fane of Lolth deep within Erelhei Cinlu. You will never be able to reach it on your own. But I will provide safe passage through the city and into the Fane. You will do the rest." With that, she provided the party a map and some additional information about what to do when they reach the city. She also promised that the party will be able to rest in this area without fear from the drow, though she makes no such promises when they leave here as anyone without the broach of House Eilserv will consider them an enemy. Even House Eilserv with treat them with hostility in the presence of other houses. The party agreed and then went off to rest for the next two days while they heal and sort through dragon treasure.

It is now the morning of the 16th Day of Patchwall, CY 580. Luapan and Pontus are dead, and the party is about to undertake the most dangerous mission of their lives.





May 19, 2019

12th Day of Patchwall, CY 580 - Chasing Down King Snurr Ironbelly - Part 4

Having said farewell to Cadwin, the party decided the best thing to do next would be to go down to the third level of the Hall of the Fire Giant King, where they heard there is a red dragon somewhere. It would be best to take care of this problem while they have the benefit of Cadwin's Protection from Fire spell.

The third level of the dungeon was a natural cavern, which everyone knows is where the real danger, and treasure, lies. The passage sloped down steeply, taking the party deep below ground, into the cool darkness. Down here, passages twist an branch in many directions. The party decided to stick to right turns until they found something.

The first thing they found were grey oozes. The thing about oozes, jellies and puddings is that it is easy to get them confused. Is this the one that requires fire, or does that make it multiply? Can I hit this one with my weapons? It turns out that these particular flavor of oozes could be struck with normal weapons, as Sarril remembered from dealing with them in the Caves of Chaos. But it also turns out that they corrode metal. Regular metal corrodes and breaks in the same round in which it comes in contact, and magical items corrode and break one round later for each "+" of enchantment. This was a small detail the party was unaware of, as Luapan decided to throw a +3 hammer at the ooze and Pontus ran in, swinging his own +3 hammer (maul) in melee. The ooze responded by covering Pontus with part of itself. After killing the oozes, which didn't take long, Pontus immediately began washing off the ooze, consuming the available water supply of the party, but saving his equipment from destruction. Luapan was one round too late, however, in picking up his hammer, as it shattered upon retrieval (no big deal as he still has a +5 spear that he his happy he didn't use for this fight).

Continuing through the tunnels, the party next came to an area where a very familiar stench was wafting down the hall. Trolls. As Sarril had a few fire-based spells prepared, the party decided that killing some trolls would make for some quick and easy experience, and they followed the stench into the troll's nest. They encountered not just a few trolls, but dozens, maybe more. The good news is that the trolls were in a large cavern and the party was in a tunnel leading to the cavern. They merely had to wait for the trolls to come to them, where they could create a bottleneck. Sarril cast Boccob's Rolling Thunder and, much to the DMs surprise, all but two of the trolls failed their saves (the DM would be rolling terribly for the rest of the day). This means the trolls in the tunnel were stunned for a round, and the rest of the trolls couldn't advance, making them sitting ducks. The melee fighters up front began making short work of them and started burning the bodies of the incapacitated trolls.

Sebastian, having used his Ring of Invisibility to go stealthy, hung back at the last intersection to keep an eye on anything that might come at the party from behind. He failed to notice the dozen or so trolls that came down a side corridor. The party now had trolls in front and behind them. If that wasn't bad enough, smoke from the fire was beginning to fill the corridor, cutting off visibility and making it hard to breathe. At this rate, the party had only a few rounds before they would start inhaling smoke.

Sarril cast a Wall of Fire in the shape on an "L" to cut-off the trolls in front of them and those coming from the side tunnel. The melee fighters had to spend another couple of rounds finishing off those directly on them, and tossing the bodies into the Wall of Fire, which caused the tunnel to be completely engulfed in smoke. Sarril then cast Gust of Wind to clear the tunnel of smoke and give the party an escape, which they were happy to take. Unfortunately, their escape path led them to a drow patrol that were waiting for them. The leader of the patrol was hoping the trolls would kill or severely hurt the party and he could easily pick off whoever was left. Unfortunately for this drow, he faced a strong and fully ready party. Being clearly outmatched, he was, nonetheless, arrogant, and stated to the party that he was glad the trolls didn't kill them because he was going to enjoy doing it himself. Things didn't work out so well for this drow patrol leader. This must be how the drow cull the weak. As a fighter/mage of not insignificant level, he did get off a lightning bolt, and had the protection of a Shield Spell and Protection from Normal Missiles. But it wasn't enough, as his 1 HD guards can't hit any party members with their crazy low ACs and couldn't buy the leader the time he needed to do anything significant. The party searched the bodies, donned the drow cloaks and broaches, and got the brilliant idea that these broaches might be the answer to penetrating the tentacle wall upstairs, and so up they went.

When they got upstairs, they noticed a couple of things that have happened. First, all of the wall sconces that were lit from natural gas jets were out. It was pitch black upstairs. Second, they heard a loud rumbling coming from upstairs, and cracks began forming in the ceiling as small bits of debris fell. The ground shook as a series of loud booms were heard all around. The party surmised that gas must be leaking and this floor would be next if an open flame or spark were to set it off. Still, they bravely pushed forward to the tentacle room, and the tentacles moved aside to let them through.

Using Detect Magic, they quickly scoured the room to try and get anything magical they could find as fast as possible, before the floor exploded and took them with it. There were some magical candles lit, which they quickly put out, and a brazier that was still hot. They quickly put that out, too. They found some wardrobe items and gems and clerical scroll of Word of Recall, as well as a trapped coffer. Sebastian tried to disarm the trapped coffer, accidentally setting off a poison gas trap. Pontus failed his save, but Sebastian quickly cast Neutralize Poison to prevent death as the party ran from the room and back downstairs. It was not a severe loss, as most of the highly valuable items had already been taken.

Once back downstairs, the party started to explore areas previously unexplored, far away from the trolls and the smoke. They found a fire beetle nest and a secret door leading upstairs to level 2, which looks like it might have been an escape path for someone. In a large cavern to the north they encountered two young red dragons whose fire breath barely made a dent in the massive Fire Protection they all still had left over from Cadwin. They were fairly easily defeated. In another smaller cavern they encountered four hell hounds, who were also no match, but their primary purpose was to bark an alarm, and that worked because in the next large cavern was waiting King Snurr, four fire giants and a contingent of drow led by female cleric. When the party entered the cavern, the female cleric, Viconia, spoke to them:

Viconia
"You must be the terrible anuses who have sex with their mothers. Congratulations on defeating the giants. But you are too late. They have already served their purpose. As we stand here now, Lolth's

demonic armies are flooding into your world and enslaving your people. We are done here."

And with that, she and her contingent turned and left the cavern, leaving an enraged King Snurr and his giants to slaughter, or be slaughtered by, the party. As usual, the fire giants were very little match for Sarril's multiple Cone of Cold attacks. Still, it was a difficult fight. The party retreated into the mouth of the tunnel they just emerged from in order to limit the number of giants that could melee with them at one time. But the giants in the back ranks began throwing boulders, and with the high ceilings in the cavern, were able to lob boulders to hit the party members in the rear. Although the damage wasn't significant, it forced the party forward into the cavern and cut off their retreat.

King Snurr Ironbelly
After a Boccob's Rolling Thunder and another Cone of Cold from Sarril, some Javelin of Lightning throws from Sebastian, healing and prayers from Luapan and a ridiculous amount of damage from the melee fighters, the 8 giants were dead, leaving only the king. The enraged king charged at Dalron and hit him twice, knocking him unconscious and very near death (only saved due to the "Death Save" house rule we have in place). Although the king had been previously damaged by spellpower, he still had a lot of hit points remaining, and the party realized they were close to a TPK. Some very fast adjustments would be necessary. Sebastian suddenly remembered the Iron Horn of Valhalla he had tucked away, and pulled it out and blew hard. Eight berserk warriors were summoned into being and rushed at the giant king. They were no match for him, of course, but it bought the party another much needed round in which to try to kill him. It worked. As the king started slaying two berserkers per round, the rest of the party threw everything they had at him. After 150 hit points of hard fought damage, the king dropped to the ground, dead. Interestingly, he didn't seem to have any healing potions on him like previous giant chiefs had.

And this is where we left off. It is the afternoon of the 12th Day of Patchwall, CY 580. King Snurr and (hopefully) the last of his giants are dead. The party is likely trapped underground and the drow who seem to be manipulating everything have casually walked away from it all.