Tobold's Blog
Monday, March 26, 2018
 
Rage of Demons: Session 4

In the previous session the group encountered Demogorgon and found out that there was a demonic incursion into the Underdark. While Demogorgon demolished Sloobludop, the village of the kuo-toa, the group fled by boat over the Darklake towards Gracklstugh, city of duergars.

With the group now at level 5 and in possession of spells like create food and water, I decided to stop playing the voyage day by day. Otherwise the 20 days of voyage from Sloobludop to Gracklstugh would have become tedious. So I fast forwarded about two weeks to the point where the group was just a day or so away from their destination. On the way the Darklake had become a lot less open, consisting now of streams through tunnels and caves. The group was making good progress, with a current flowing in their direction. However that current became stronger and stronger, until the water was flowing faster than they could row, making return impossible. And a sound from ahead suggested they were heading right towards a waterfall.

Using spells of water walking the group managed to move their boat towards the side of the stream. There they found an artificial basin separated from the waterfall by a thick stone wall. The basin led to a lock, into which they could move their boat, close the door on top, and with the help of a well-oiled wheel open the door at the bottom, 20 meters below. But while their boat was slowly descending, they heard combat noises from below. Suddenly with a big crash somebody ripped out the lower lock door, making the boat descend the last 10 meters very fast and spill out of the lock. Holding the door was a Barlgura demon, while 4 lesser ape demons [which I had to design myself, there not being any demons in the Monster Manual of CR around 2] were fighting the duergar garrison of the lock. Thanks to the ongoing water walking spell the group wasn't too much in trouble from being thrown out of their boat, and had quite a tactical advantage over the demons. So they killed the demons and rescued Horgar, the sergeant of the garrison and chief engineer of the lock. The lock being too damaged to further operate, Horgar commanded the group to bring him to Gracklstugh.

Gracklstugh turned out to be a cheerless place (think North Korea), with the dour duergar constantly working and having no interest in art or merriment. Non-duergar were only allowed in the Darklake district, but couldn't enter into the city proper, and thus also not exit the city towards the rest of the Underdark. But before tackling that problem the group went onto a shopping spree, buying masterwork weapons and armor with the treasure they had found in the previous session. [While the armor and weapon made by the duergar is described as being of superior quality, there are in fact no official rules for that. So I searched the internet and found a suggestion for masterwork weapons and armor at twice the regular price. The weapons allow you to reroll damage rolls of 1, while the armor allow you to reroll enemy max damage rolls. As a more expensive alternative I used the adamantine armor from the 5E Dungeon Masters Guide.] They also found out where there was an inn in which they could stay, and where there was a tavern, always a good way to learn more about a city.

They learned that duergar had the ability to turn invisible, and that invisible guards kept everybody honest. So on the way to the tavern they tried to look out for signs of being followed by invisible dwarves. That led them to remark invisible persons crossing their way towards a dock on which a lone duergar merchant was standing. They shouted out a warning, which turned out to be a good idea, because the invisible dwarves turned out to be assassins, trying to kill the merchant. The group intervened and saved the merchant, whose name was Werz Saltbaron. The merchant told them to go to the tavern, where he would meet them later, after dealing with the approaching guards. In the tavern Werz offered them a job, transporting a bag full of raw gemstones to a contact in Blingdenstone, city of svirfneblin. Although the group wasn't sure to be heading that way (they hoped to find a way to the surface that Buppido the derro had told them was in the Whorlstone Tunnels in Gracklstugh), they accepted the job, because they were curious about the gems. Those turned out to be empty spell gems, used by the deep gnomes in the defense of their city. They also met some orcs in the tavern, the only foreigners there that evening.

They stayed the night in the only inn available to foreigners. The next morning their companion Buppido had disappeared. And there was some commotion, as one of the orcs they had met the previous night had been killed in a ritual fashion, just like Shuushar had in the previous session. A speak with dead spell confirmed their suspicion that Buppido was in fact a serial killer. They really wanted to follow him into the Whorlstone Tunnels, the place he had mentioned as a possible exit to the surface world. But that was in a different district, where non-duergar weren't allowed.

They learned that to enter the rest of the city they needed badges from either the guard or the Keepers of the Flame, guardians to the local red dragon who kept the city's forges going. So Surina the dragonborn sorceress used alter self to assume the form of a duergar sergeant, took Nyx as a spider on her shoulder, and headed through the gate towards the main city and the dragon cave. Nearly there she saw a procession heading her way: The somewhat overweight adult dragon with his Keepers moving from forge to forge to boost them with a breath of magical fire. The dragon could easily detect the dragonborn in spite of her disguise and addressed her in draconic. He invited her and her friends to come to his cave later that day, and instructed his keepers to give her the necessary badges, golden coins with the head of the dragon on it. So Surina returned to the group, and they all went to visit a dragon. They even thought of bringing gold as tribute, which was welcome in spite of the fact that the dragon was sitting on a huge pile of treasure. The dragon sent his keepers away, and told the group that he needed agents of his own, as he suspected that the Keepers of the Flame were keeping information from him. He told the group to report to the Keepers for an assignment he knew they had, but then report everything they found out to him first. The Keepers in fact were psionics and had discovered a "disturbance in the force" from the demonic incursion. However they believed that the disturbance had to do with their enemies, the Gray Ghosts, the local thieves guild. They asked the group to watch the bazaar the next day for a derro named Droki, with a tentacled hat, and follow him to find out what the Gray Ghosts were up to.

On the way back to the Darklake district, the group came upon a commotion on a plaza: One of the stone giants, who normally lived peacefully with the duergar, had sprouted a second head and gone on a rampage. He punted a duergar with his club, but lost grip of the club, so that both the now rather dead dwarf and the giant's weapon crashed into a wall next to the group. The double-headed giant in his confusion blamed the group, and attacked, now fortunately with his bare hands. The fight was tough, but the group subdued him, opting to use non-lethal damage. For that they were thanked by an arriving other Stone Giant, who asked them to accompany him and the unconscious giant to the giants' gave. There they learned that the giant had been "communing with the stone" at a religious altar in the cavern when suddenly he had sprouted that second head and gone mad. An examination of the site revealed no malicious influence, and an examination of the giant suggested that there was some sort of curse involved. They managed to heal the giant with a remove curse spell, and as a reward received a crystal that worked like a wand with some divination spells.

The next day they spread out through the bazaar and watched out for Droki. Merchants could tell them that Droki was a frequent visitor, and that he worked as a courier, always bringing messages and parcels from one person to another. The derro turned up, and with the stuffed tentacles attached to his flamboyant hat was easily recognizable. Droki was very much in a hurry, so they could follow him easily without being detected. Droki left the Darklake district, went into the West Cleft district, which was a derro slum, and from there disappeared into a crack in the cavern wall from which phosphorescent fumes emerged: The Whorlstone Tunnels.

In the tunnels the group came upon a crossroads. To their left they could see Droki eating a mushroom, shrinking to a tiny size, and disappearing through a tiny tunnel. [Droki is behaving somewhat like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.] But from the right they heard Buppido chanting, and they decided to go after him first. Buppido was in the process of arranging skeletons like he had arranged his other victims. They could attack him with surprise, but not before he had animated 6 skeletons. That turned out to be a rather easy fight at this level. They captured Buppido, who turned out to be completely deluded, believing himself to be an avatar of a god on a holy mission. As the group isn't exactly knights in shiny armor either, they decided to just cut his throat. While searching through his cave they disturbed the remains of a gnome, who rose up as a (friendly) ghost. The ghost asked them to return his hand to him, recognizable by an obsidian ring. Through the foul magic of the cave the hand had animated and crawled off some months ago, and he needed his remains to be complete to find eternal rest.

The tunnels were a twisted maze [I used a tablet computer with paint program to show it: Map goes on the lower layer, while the upper layer starts out completely black. While the group explores the dungeon, I erase the black where they go, revealing the map below. Works much better than drawing a map for more complicated dungeons.] which the group followed somewhat at random. They either didn't think of or didn't want to use the size-changing mushrooms, which forced them to use different tunnels than Droki had. But they did come upon traces of him sometimes.

In one cave they came upon a group of myconid behaving strangely (according to their NPC companion Stool). All but one of the myconids were dancing ecstatically to a silent tune. And Sarith the drow, their only other remaining companion, rushed past the group and joined the dance. They were unable to get him to stop dancing. The non-dancing myconid sprout turned out to be a friend of Stool, called Rumpadump. He told them that they had been on a scouting patrol from Neverlight Grove, but had started to behave strangely when arriving in this cave full of mushrooms. The leader of the myconids stopped dancing and asked them whether they would accept "the Lady's gift". Arkoy and Fenn accepted, and were treated with spores that allowed them to once a day travel from one large mushroom by teleport to another one, like a tree stride spell. The spores also made them feel very friendly towards all plant creatures, and they concluded that Sarith had been infected by the same spores before they had met him (he had always been a friend to Stool). The group left without Sarith, but with Stool and Rumpadump.

Next they came upon a forest of mushrooms, which the druid was able to communicate with to find the way Droki had passed. Then they came into a large cave with a flat hill in the middle, from which voices could be heard. It turned out that through some acoustic phenomenon these were voices from Gracklstugh. By trying to listen to a single conversation among many they could gain information about the city, but a failed save provoked psychic damage from the multitude of voice, so they only learned that the guards knew Droki and suspected him of being a courier for the Gray Ghosts.

Finally they came upon a gate made of iron bars. After making some noise a derro appeared behind the gate, who didn't want to open the door for them. So the group picked the lock, while the derro ran back into the dark. Entering the cave they were attacked by two derro and their three cave bears. As by then it had gotten late, we finished the session after that fight.

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Comments:
Your group got a lot accomplished this session. Sounded like a lot of fun.
 
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