Out of the Abyss Campaign (Spoilers!!!)

5th Edition (And Beyond)

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We started this campaign last weekend.

Our players:

Aryndren, Wood Elf Moon Druid. This player chose one of the alternative Underdark Features and Bond. He chose to be able to forage and backtrack, and his Bond is a connection to the deep gnome alchemist Kazook Pickshine. He also was the sole (and last) defender of an ancient temple (which will later become the Temple of Ooze).

Cicero, Half-elf Bard. This player also chose one of the alternate Underdark Features. He chose to have knowledge of the Underdark. However, instead of having vast experience exploring it, he chose to have read about it in a library. Cicero knows much about the cultures, cities, fauna, flora, etc - but does not know how to get from one city to another.

Ronald James. Human Cleric of Helm (Light Domain). He was born a slave to a Dwarven tribe. Eldeth happens to be from the same tribe. This made for some fun roleplaying during our opening session and lead to Eldeth not being immediately friendly with the PCs when the game started.

We have one more player, but he's been too sick to join us for the first two sessions.

I had each player explain to me how they were captured by the Drow. The game started with each of them chained to a long metal rod. The rod connected each prisoner to each other in a line. Upon arrival to Velkynvelve, they had to give up all of their equipment - one by one - before being thrown into the slave pits. I had the slave pit be infused with Faerzrass with anti-magic properties. This explains why the Drow chose this location as their outpost - because it's otherwise a pretty crappy location to hold slaves. Too easy for them to escape.

For this game, I decided to use the NPC Cards.

My players loved this. It gives them bonus abilities and an opportunity to roleplay with the NPCs. I loved it, because they became much more engaged in the game.

Once they bonded with some of the NPCs, they had their first slave task. I used the Rope Trick, which allowed them to gain some extra equipment on the side of the cliff. They also managed to push one of the drow over the edge, killing him. Once this happened, the moon druid quickly tried to contact a small rat and convince it to find a key to their cell so they could escape.

Afterwards, the druid was sent to the Mess Hall (see link above), where the twins managed to grab a bunch of food and steal some knives.

This marked the end of session 1.

The next session we only had two players show up. Our mystery character was still sick, and our Moon Druid was unable to attend. I had his character taken away for some task.

The other PCs were told they had to climb back down the cliff edge to retrieve some property. They were escorted out of the slave pens only to discover they Stool (who by this point had a strong bond with the Cleric) was wrapped up in some spider webbing and hung over the cliff edge while the drow played Pinata with it. Eldeth had also suffered this fate, but she was dropped into the waters below. The PCs were ordered to retrieve her. Our cleric immediately dove into the waters, while the Bard tried to talk the drow out of beating Stool. He rolled high enough and roleplayed it well enough that I let it work, but they retaliated by shoving him over the edge into the waters.

They rescued the dwarf, but then had to contend with the ooze in the waters (and this gave them their first exposure to the demon infestation).

Back in the slave pits, they started planning their escape. They made a bet with Jimjar to see if he could cause a distraction long enough for them to make a break for it. A while later, Jimjar came back with Jarlan's Gambit scheduled for that night. That evening, they heard the shriek of the Vrock and soon Jorlan showed up to unlock the cage. The drow were distracted by the Vrock and the Chasme fighting each other and the drow at the same time. To establish their power, I had the Vrock grab a drow by the ankle and use him as a weapon against the Chasme. I also let the PCs witness Ilvara take out the (weakened) Chasma and the Vrock to show her power.

As they made their escape, they had most of the NPCs dive into the waters. They sent Sarith off to ensure the drow were distracted enough for everyone to escape (taking him out of the picture). They kept Eldeth and the twins with them to get their equipment back. I had them fight a Quaggoth in the Guard Tower, where they managed to get it onto the rope bridge and then they cut the rope so it fell into the waters. In Ilvara's chambers, they fought a giant spider and the Bard was almost killed. They got all their starting equipment back plus a little extra from the Guard Tower and whatever they scavenged. They dove into the waters and met up with their allies.

They opted to let Buppido take the lead and go to Gracklstugh, and the last thing they heard from the drow before escaping was "Prisoners escaped!"

Meanwhile in the background, I'll have Sarith meet up with our lost Moon Druid for their own escape. Then I'll have them meet up with the group later on.

I've seen some talk in the EN World forums about how to show the players the their Drow Pursuit level. Discussions ranged from doing cut scenes to just letting them figure it out. I opted for a more meta game tactic - I just flat out told my players that they were being pursued, when their current pursuit level was, and what they could do do change it.

I will not be telling them their pursuit level in the future, but now that they know what's going on they'll be able to make some good decisions for their characters.

I know a lot of people don't like metagaming, but a few years back I decided to embrace it and incorporate it into my games. Instead of making my players figure out sub-rules from experiment and I'm-game experiences, I prefer to just flat or tell them about it so they can enjoy that part of the game from the get-go. I once even designed a campaign fully embracing the meta game aspect, requiring my players to do small amounts of Internet research outside of game in order to solve puzzles and quests in game.

One question that was brought up with our Drow pursuit conversation was whether they can ever truly escape Ilvara. By the book - no. Not until they escape the underdark. And when they do, no matter how hard they try, they have to face Ilvara just before they escape. I don't like this. This invalidates any major decision making by the players. If they take a ton of active effort to escape the pursuit, I feel like they should be rewarded and not have to face them in the end. Likewise, if they're careless, they may face them much earlier. My players are already talking about trying to set up some sort of ambush later on just to end the pursuit (and once it's over they can slow their pace through the underdark and enjoy the environment).

Even with that, they know they're facing a formidable foe, as they witnessed Ilvara cast Insect Plague. An arcane check allowed them to recognize the spell, so they know as characters and players how powerful she is.

Session 3.

This session was a little more difficult due to my players.

First, I had a new player join the campaign. And by new, I mean he hasn't played since the 90s or early 00s. I also had a player miss the last session, which was the escape from slavery.

The first half, I had to do a solo game while the other two players helped our new player make a character and reintroduce him into tabletop gaming.

For the solo adventure, our Druid was taken to clean up one of the barracks early in the morn. He was required to use his own clothing to scrub the floors. While he was in there, he heard the commotion of Stool being used like a piñata and the other players rescuing Eldeth (which occurred last session). During this commotion, he was left alone so he turned into a spider and made his own escape.

At one point, he was caught by some drow (still as a spider) and he was put into a small box to be pitted against another spider. The Druid-spider and the spider-spider duked it out while three drow hovered over making bets round by round. The Druid lost, and as per the shape changing rules he immediately converted back into and elf - to the surprise of everyone! He then lost his fight against the three drow.

Later that day he awoke naked and chained to a wall. This counted as a short rest, so he had his polymorphs back. However, he decided not to use them when a small rat with a key in its mouth showed up. Back in session one he used Speak with Animals and Animal Friendship to try to convince a rat to bring a key so they could escape; I had planned to have the rat show up at the first time he was recaptured at any point in the campaign, even though his influence should have only lasted 24 hours. My players would have gotten a kick out of it. :)

Naturally, he woke up while the demon fight was going on and all the ther drow and quoggoth were distracted, so he made his escape again. He also met up with Sarith and they dove off the bridge into the waters below a short time after the other players escaped last session. I hand waved it and had them meet up "later that day."

They've decided that fast travel is the order of the day and will continue to keep this pace until they feel they've lost the drow. The first night during camp is when poor Topsy and Turvy turned to wererats and turned on the party. To my surprise, one of my players didn't immediately connect the dots! He didn't even think it was them until the other players pointed it out!

They subdued the poor wererats and realized that they're fighting the curse (a lycanthrope who gains the curse by being bitten can choose to fight it and will involuntarily turn into a raving beast once a month, or accept it and be able to control their shape changing abilities as well as change alignment and personality), and have offered to try to cure them if they can. Also, our cleric also got the curse.


Introducing a new player!

As a City Guard/Investigator from Waterdeep (Rogue 1/Wizard 1/Fighter X), [character name]* is investigating the disappearances of several of the lowest caste in society. The rest of the guard do not care that bums, prostitutes, gutter rats, etc are missing, but he does and he's taken it upon himself to find out why. Following leads, he discovered that they disappearances are related to the underdark, and he abandoned his post to venture in to find his people.

He wanted his character to primarily be an investigator who cares more about the spirit of the law than the letter of the law, and to be the one who would try to solve cases that everyone else thought was a waste of time. As such, he wanted a character with the skills of a thief, a little bit of magic, and the rest as a warrior. After several recommendations of various archetypes like the eldritch knight combined with backgrounds to give appropriate skills, and a few other options. In the end, he decided to start as a rogue/wizard (he started at level 2), and then he wanted to multiclass into a fighter the rest of the time going with battle master. He doesn't really care about optimization or if any of his class decisions are beneficial to a build, he just wants it to make sense as far as how he envisions his character.

*Our new player hasn't decided on a name yet.

Meanwhile, in the underdark...

On the second day of their escape, the came upon a curious sight - a human fighting goblins! This was the introduction to our late joining player. As mentioned above, he was a city guard investigating the disappearance of people from his city. Out bars was from that city and was one of those disappearances. This helped create a bond between them right away - or at least right after they killed the goblins. The rest of the session was a lot of fun roleplaying over the rest of the group trying to explain why they're traveling with "a bunch of monsters."

GM Notes: Underground travel can get tedious, especially if you roll for a random encounter or three every day. Give them some days of relief here and there by fast forwarding a few days of travel with nothing happening. Also, Goodberry helps a lot for overcoming food and water issues.

Sovereign Court

Good on you for posting this. It's invaluable for me.

Thanks! One thing I want to do is add in some captured civilians for our Investogator to rescue. Any ideas you'd like to contribute would be welcome!

Silver Crusade

bookrat wrote:
Thanks! One thing I want to do is add in some captured civilians for our Investogator to rescue. Any ideas you'd like to contribute would be welcome!

You could set that up as an opportunity for the Investigator and the others to come together by happening upon a small Drow raiding party returning from the surface or further afield underground.

Sovereign Court

The my confides seem the most sympathetic, but there are a few other options. There are a surprising number of dwarf encounters in the adventure.

Very good stuff.
Am due to run this later this year

Backgrounds, Episode 1:

Cicero. Lore Bard 3.

Bookrat wrote:
Cicero, Half-elf Bard. This player also chose one of the alternate Underdark Features. He chose to have knowledge of the Underdark. However, instead of having vast experience exploring it, he chose to have read about it in a library. Cicero knows much about the cultures, cities, fauna, flora, etc - but does not know how to get from one city to another.

Cicero has become a very fun character to watch. He debated between taking the sage background or the urchin background. Ended up choosing sage, but had his character grow up very poor. As a result, to become a sage he would often break in to the king's library to learn whatever he could. Most of that knowledge was on the Underdark.

As part of sneaking into the library so much, he was also thrown out of the library. This anecdote became important in game later on.

There was also a girl. A girl Cicero fell in love with, and she with him. Unfortunately for both, she was the king's daughter, and she was forbidden to associate with the riffraff, while he was forbidden to dare speak to someone of such high rank. When their love was discovered, he made his escape before he was thrown into prison. His escape? To the one place yes read so much about all his life - the underdark.

He thought it would be a grand adventure, full of excitement and harrowing escapes. Hey, what do you expect from a young lad who escaped a poor lifestyle through imagination and books.

Much to his chagrin, he was caught by the drow and is learning what true horrors await in the underdark.

Cicero's Feature wrote:

You are no casual visitor to the Underdark, but instead have spent considerable time there learning its ways. You are familiar with the various races. civilizations. and settlements of the Underdark. as well as its major routes for travel. If you fail an Intelligence check to recall some piece of Underdark lore, you know a source you can consult for the answer unless the DM rules that the lore is unknown.

Edits for Cicero - he has not spent considerable time in the underdark, but rather has spent considerable time reading about the underdark.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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That is so cool!

Kind of reminds me of "In the Name of the Wind" where Kvothe (Sp?) was both a street urchin AND went to the magic academy to learn lots of stuff.

I have a character in a back-up campaign that has both the urchin background AND an Int of 8, so he's "street smart" (which means really really book dumb) and pretty much is always wrong. He's tried telling a female dwarf that female dwarves don't exist, because he never met one "on the streets" of whatever big city he's from. It's actually really fun playing someone so dumb. Especially since he thinks he's so smart. He fails Int checks in so many fun and amusing ways. I get to use my meta-knowledge to get things totally wrong, especially about monster lore and planar stuff (it's the World Serpent Inn campaign setting, which is like if Sigil was just a bar instead of a city, and instead of portals, you wander around the back hallways and end up on different planes).

Sovereign Court

I meant to say myconids, not my confides. Damn auto correct.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

They need a D&D auto-correct app.

Backgrounds, Episode 2.

Ronald, Cleric of Light 3; Priest of Helm

Bookrat wrote:
Ronald James. Human Cleric of Helm (Light Domain). He was born a slave to a Dwarven tribe. Eldeth happens to be from the same tribe. This made for some fun roleplaying during our opening session and lead to Eldeth not being immediately friendly with the PCs when the game started.

Another very fun character.

Background on character design: Ronald James is a namesake of the same. When our player decided on a cleric of light, he wanted to pull up a bunch of quotes about light to use during game. He then had a lightbulb pop over his head and ran into the other room. A few minutes later, he was back with a list of lyrics from Dio songs.

Ronald was born in a monastery to Helm, and was captured at the age of 2. He then grew up with his parents as slaves. He's been told that they were sold several times, but his memory is only as a slave in a dwarven stronghold. Even as a child, he worked the mines for the dwarves. His only possession from his short life of freedom is a small mosaic tile from the monastery, given to him by his parents on the day he discovered the calling to Helm.

At ten, he cast his first light spell, and it was seen as a sign by his parents that he has been chosen by Helm for great things - and to one day end their slavery. The family kept this blessing a secret.

From that day, his parents taught him everything they knew about Helm and his teachings, and started their long term plan for freedom. Years later, the day came, and they made their break from the deep caverns of the dwarven mins. The dwarves took chase, and Ronald - with his parents and a group of others - fled deeper and deeper. Ahead, they saw some elves, with whom they thought they could ally themselves against the dwarves. Unfortunately, these were drow slavers, led by Ilvara, Priestess of Lloth (Starting NPC enemy and primary bad guy through the first half of the campaign), and a battle erupted between the drow, the dwarves, and the escaped slaves. In the end, the drow won, capturing Ronald and Eldeth*. No one else survived.

*Eldeth is a starting NPC ally in the slave pens, designed to be an immediately friendly face to assist the PCs in their escape from drow slavery. She's a dwarf from Gauntlgrym, a recently recaptured dwarven city lost for centuries if not millennia, won by Brunor Battle-Hammer and Drizzt Do'Urden. Due to this background, she ended up being the last NPC to ally with the party.

Ronald's Feature wrote:

Fitting In. As a former slave, you know the workings and ways of great households, castles, temples, and other institutions and locations. You can always immediately locate the "worker's" entrance to such a building or compound and, as long as your companions do not give the game away, can often talk your way inside. You can generally move about within such a location without notice, following the patterns and demeanours of working staff.

Note: Home-brewed background, found here.

Lorathorn wrote:
I meant to say myconids, not my confides. Damn auto correct.

That was a good idea, I ended up with a modification of it last session along with Norgrim's idea. I'll describe it in my next campaign log update - as soon as I get time away from chasing the kids around.

bookrat wrote:

Backgrounds, Episode 1:

Cicero. Lore Bard 3.

Forgot to mention, Cicero is from Neverwinter. This also becomes important later in the game.

Silver Crusade

Is there an actual FR book out for 5th at this point?

Backgrounds, Episode 3.

Brin Greycastle, Wizard 1/Rogue 2.

Bookrat wrote:
As a City Guard/Investigator from Waterdeep (Rogue 1/Wizard 1/Fighter X), [character name]* is investigating the disappearances of several of the lowest caste in society. The rest of the guard do not care that bums, prostitutes, gutter rats, etc are missing, but he does and he's taken it upon himself to find out why. Following leads, he discovered that they disappearances are related to the underdark, and he abandoned his post to venture in to find his people.

Brin was our late player, and has been an excellent addition to the group, both as a player and a character.

Brin served on the guard of Neverwinter. Guards in Neverwinter serve multiple jobs, which they rotate through (this is not canon). A few of the jobs they rotate through are wall watch, gate gaurd, street cop, criminal investigation, jailer, and more. Brin was on the investigator rotation leading up to the campaign. Even though Brin worked the other rotations, he truly saw himself as an investigator; this rotation was his true job, while all the others were just things he put up with until he was rotated back on to the investigator position.

Most guards in Neverwinter don't take this position seriously. If a crime happened against a noble or someone of stature (such as a rich merchant), they would round up some typical suspects and throw whoever the nobleman or merchant pointed at into jail. Crimes against the poor were ignored as a waste of time. Crimes against the Guard were the only crimes taken seriously.

Brin was different. He cared about the poor. He took his job seriously. For years, destitute people would disappear from Neverwinter, and he was bound and determined to figure out why. His officers and commanders hand waved it away as poor people dying from disease or just leaving town for better prospects. But Brin suspected differently. The disappearances always occurred when they were alone, and often in locations where the person couldn't have just slipped away, like a dead end alley. Most recently, a young lad he used to throw out of the King's Library disappeared, and he strongly doubted the young half-elf "just left."

Months of investigation lead to a suspiscion that denizens of the underdark were behind the disappearances. He discovered a cavernous entrance in an old abandoned building - from which the disappearances radiated out. He went in, and within a day he realized that he was lost in the underdark. Lost or not, he was determined to continue his mission and rescue some of those who were taken. Especially now that his absence would be officially declared an AWOL by his commanders, and he was undergoing this investigation against orders to cease.

At some point, he encountered some goblins - which Brin believed to be behind some of the disappearances. As he fought them off, the rest of the party stumbled upon him and helped him defeat the goblins.

Brin's Feature wrote:

One of the Guard:

When in a city or town you can always find food and a place to sleep with the local guards garrison. The local Guards will be hesitant to start a fight with you and are likely to come to your aid in a fight, the guards will also believe you except in the face of overwhelming evidence or under the command of a superior. For this effect to apply you must be in a city that you would fit in as a Guard, this is decided by the DM.

City Patrol: From your experience patrolling the streets you are excellent at spotting petty thieves, Sleight of Hand checks suffer disadvantage against you or your companions within 10 feet.

Under Arrest As a guards job is to more often arrest then to kill you gain the following bonus: You gain advantage when attempting to grapple a target, if you would already have advantage than you add your proficiency to your Grapple roll.

Note: Home-Brewed background, found here.

Norgrim Malgus wrote:
Is there an actual FR book out for 5th at this point?

I don't believe so.

Silver Crusade

bookrat wrote:
Norgrim Malgus wrote:
Is there an actual FR book out for 5th at this point?
I don't believe so.

Fair enough.

Good to see that Brin was able to meet up with the group.

Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is a Forgotten Realms book, but it isn't a campaign setting per se. It's basically a 'player's guide to the sword coast'. It does have some mechanical stuff in it - a few new archetypes, some backgrounds, etcetera.

There isn't anything like the old boxed sets though. At this stage, they're restricting any world-information to the adventures they're licensing out to other companies (and those are little more than snippets or details on 'out of the way' places).

Silver Crusade

I truly miss my old romps through Forgotten Realms and here's to hoping they release FR as a campaign setting within the next year or so.

I'm glad they at least have the Sword Coast book available, definitely helps get back into that FR vibe.

Backgrounds, Episode 4.

Aryndren, Moon Druid 3.

Bookrat wrote:
Aryndren, Wood Elf Moon Druid. This player chose one of the alternative Underdark Features and Bond. He chose to be able to forage and backtrack, and his Bond is a connection to the deep gnome alchemist Kazook Pickshine. He also was the sole (and last) defender of an ancient temple.

Aryndren has been a fantastic addition to the group. Even though he's a Druid, he's been our damage powerhouse. This is mostly because - starting at level 2 - he shapeshifts into a bear and whomps people.

The player actually wrote this one up, edited by me.

Aryndren was born and raised in the caves by his druid mother and regular hippy elf father. They were the "original" guardians of the temple, knew and kept it's secret. When they taught Aryndren how to live off the land and in harmony with it, all the while instilling the idea that there was nothing as important as protecting the secret of the temple. He started showing druidic talent, but before his mother could teach him all the secrets of the craft the temple was attacked. Aryndren was out gathering food, and returned to a ravished temple and missing parents. He has never seen them again. Aryndren stayed to protect the unknown secrets of the temple.

Years later a Svirfneblin, Hazook Pickshine (OotA alternate background Bond) started poking around the caverns near the temple. Aryndren scared him off countless times (commanding a bear with magic that lived nearby to scare him off). One time he stood his ground and called out for Aryndren to call off the bear so they could talk. He was curious so he did and the gnome asked him all sorts of questions about himself, the temple, and talked about himself at length. Eventually, after many visits and conversations, the secret of the temple came up.

He asked Aryndren how he could guard a secret if he didn't know what it was. Aryndren figured that if he didn't know what the secret was, then he could never betray it. He became the best guard there was. Hazook dismissed this and promised that he would help Aryndren find the secret and protect it. Aryndren accepted his offer and they worked together. Hazook stumbled across something in his studies and told Aryndren that he had to go back to his lab for further investigation. Roughly a year passed and before he saw Hazook again, Aryndren was captured by drow slavers. He still doesn't know the secret of the temple.

GM Notes: Aryndren doesn't consider himself a "moon Druid," he actually calls himself a Bear Druid. His entire character is based around bears: lives in a cave, shapeshifts into a bear, he's a large and hairy man. And when someone mentioned that he should have named his character Grylls, he cursed himself for not thinking of it when we started the campaign.

Aryndren's Feature wrote:

Deep Delver.

You have a knack for making your way in the deep places of the under world. You can recall the twists and turns of passageways and tunnels such that you can always retrace your steps underground. You're also well acquainted with foraging and survival in the Underdark, and can determine when sources of food and water are safe to consume. You can always find sufficient food and water for yourself and up to five other people in the Underdark, as long as sustenance is available in the area.

Note: This is an alternate Feature available in the Out of the Abyss campaign book.

Silver Crusade

Great background on Aryndren, but I'm curious about the parents. Were you planning on some deeper design for his parents by tying them into the kidnappings?

I had not known about that part of the background until he gave me this write-up today. His character was the only one where I was uncertain on the background, so I asked him for some details so I could whip up a synopsis to post here. He came back with that beautiful beast.

And since my players have started reading this thread, I have to start using spoilers:

Now that I know, heck yes I'm going to incorporate it. I also need to figure out the temple secret so I can have it ready for him when he meets Hazook again.

Maybe I'll make it tied to defeating one of the demons, or even that the temple was the access point to the ancient library they have the option to go to later on.

Silver Crusade

That's the ticket right there and I'm loving the layers that can build from dealing with such an enemy.

After failing to find the method the temple has for defeating a specific demon, instead of being killed, the parents were taken for interrogation at the hands of a council of Matron Mothers at the Temple of Lolth or even Sorcere where Gromph would use his foul powers to rend information from their minds.

Sorry, this has me spinning up possibilities, lol, I get very motivated with underdark campaigns ;)

Ooo, I like that.

And I'm loving this campaign, so I have no issues plotting talking about it more. :)

Silver Crusade

I don't know what the campaign has as far as npc groups providing intelligence to the pc's, but I would be surprised if there wasn't some effort to assist the heroes coming from:

Jarlaxle/Bregan D'aerthe

I do not believe either of those characters are in the campaign. The only major Salvatore character that I'm aware of is Brunor Battlehammer, and he serves as the king of Gauntlgrym and as the quest giver for them going back into the underdark after their escape.

Silver Crusade

Bregan D'aerthe is the name of the mercenary band that Jarlaxle leads in Menzoberranzen, not an npc, just for clarification.

You might be able to use them as a sort of 5th column or even a method of moving slaves out of harms way. They are very closely tied to the political landscape of the various houses within Menzoberranzen.

What I like about Jarlaxle is that the Matron Mothers' agendas and his do not always line up. A great number of houses that have been able to move up within that power structure has been due to the efforts of Bregan D'aerthe.

You have a great deal of potential with that faction my friend, a great deal :)

Session 4.

We picked up right were we left off - the party explaining to the new guy why they were traveling with a bunch of monsters. Remember above when I mentioned that Cicero was from Neverwinter? Now it plays in.

Cicero immediately recognized the guard uniform that donned Brin, and poor Cicero has a natural fear of cops. Brin thought he recognized Cicero, but a quick bluff check kept a him anonymous. For now.

Our players have decided to do contested Bluff vs Insight with each other while this whole "who are you, really" thing plays out. Cicero ends up claiming to be from Neverwindenthen, as he barely passed a lie check. Brin believes him for now, as he's never heard of such a place and it's likely there are many places he's never heard of. This ends the first bout of contested skill checks.

Meanwhile, Brin looks around to see: A sullen drow, two cowering deep gnomes, a happy-go-lucky deep gnome with a half smile twirling a gold coins between his fingers a la Captian Jack Sparrow, a bear licking his paws (Aryndren), a strange looking deep dwarf with mad eyes, an ashamed surface dwarf, an Orc pacing back and forth (and periodically picking on topsy and turvy), a very calm and serene fish-man, a walking foot-stool, a giant furry beast, and a Priest of Helm with a glowing mace.

"What the f~&$?" Are the first words out of his mouth once he realizes what is going on. He immediately holds up his hand as if to tell them all to shut up and wait, and then turns around to face the last goblin alive. "One thing at a time." He then ties up and interrogated the goblin. "Where are the slaves? Where do you keep your captured enemies?" He hounds at the goblin. The goblin responds with a barking voice that their prisoners are not far - at their base a few miles away. With that taken care of, Brin then turns back to the rest of the freaks.

At this point, the giant furry beast with snarling teeth and bloody claws stands up straight and proper, adjusts his glasses, and speaks with an extremely proper high elf accent in perfectly fluent elvish. "Good day sir, allow me to introduce myself and my companions." The quoggoth then explains how he is Prince Derrendil of Nelrindenvane (another place Brin has never heard of), and that this odd group of travelers are escaped slaves from the drow. And while he would be delighted to serve up some tea and discuss their past days ventures, they are in a bit of a hurry as the drow are hot on their heels.

I'm fairly certain Brin's mind broke at this point.

Ronald then steps in as a representative of Helm to explain it human to human. This seemed to help Brin's sanity, and once emotions calmed down, they came up with a plan. Brin has a mission - rescue anyone taken from Neverwinter. He believes that the goblins have some of them. Cicero points out that the goblin only said they had a place they kept prisoners - not that they had prisoners from Neverwinter. Frustrated, Brin turns back to the goblin to clarify, and yes, they do have prisoners. Myconid Sprouts that they plan on making into delicious mushroom soup. Hearing this, Ronald - who has taken up an "older brother" reaction with Stool - now insists that they must rescue the poor little guys.

They decide to split the party. Prince Derendil will take the bear and a few others to scout ahead at a slow pace and to collect some food and water. (There's been complaints about only eating tiny little berries and how it just isn't enough. Complaints have mostly been coming from Ront, who doesn't care if the magicalness of Good Berries nourish you and make you feel content). The rest will rescue the myconids.

These are spoilered for a reason, if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read them:

The Food Scouts:
Unfortunatey, Aryndren went with them, otherwise Buppido was going to have his first sacrifice.

The Rescue Party:
This was quick and painless, as I didn't actually have a plan for it. I was going to use this as an excuse to start the Web Runners, but I was afraid they'd just slaughter the goblins. So I ended up using the Hook Horror map just as something to use for a goblin base.

I didn't want them to spend a lot of time on this, so I gave them one goblin boss and 5 goblin minions to fight. They specifically asked if there was a choke point they could use for tactical advantage, and they were easily able to find one. With their goblin guide leashed up, Brin told it to have them come out to help him carry back some loot. He said, "If you cry an alarm or try any funny business, I'll kill you." The goblin immediately called for help against intruders, and Brin followed up on his word. "If you give a threat and don't follow throw, they won't respect you in the future."

They easily dispatch the goblins with one really cool scene where Brin was about to charge the boss and a last goblin, and Cicero held up his hand for him to stop, following with clapping both his hands for a loud Thunderwave, killing both of the goblins.

In the den, they rescued 6 myconid sprouts, who now all follow Ronald like lost little puppies. He's been dubbed the Sprout King. I also gave Brin and Cicero some random trinkets. One of Brin's was the deed to a price of land in a realm unknown to him. This got used up almost immediately.

After they caught back up with the Food Scouts, Brin and Cicero got back in it. Cicero was talking about how he learned so much from all his time in the library, and Brin mentioned how much he looks like someone he used to throw out of the library. "The library from where, again?" "From Neverrr..Winn..den then? Neverwindenthen. Why do you ask?" Bluff is successful vs insight.

At this point Brin realizes that the bounty of food they discovered is nothing but giant fungus spores, and he is not touching that, much less consuming it. Goodberry is still useful, but Aryndren doesn't want to spend all his spell slots casting it every day. Brin is happy to use his rations to supplement as necessary.

The next day, I roll up some random encounters (Mostly because I just got Fallout 4 and didn't prepare for game this week), and they encountered a Muck Pit and a group of escape slaves. I opted not to combine them, as I immediately envisioned these escapes slaves covered in muck shambling towards the PCs followed by the PCs slaughtering them all in fear of zombies.

Regardless, as they encountered the muck pit - which was a river of muck 40' across and they would lose a lot of time finding a way around - they got into a serious debate about whether they should cross it. Massive fear of giant muck monsters and tentacles caused them to want to go around. Finally, annoyed at the debate, Ronald just wades through. Jimjar immediately places bets on what will kill him first. To their surprise - nothing happens. Well, they got covered in muck up to their waste (or neck for the smaller folks). It was a harrowing event for them. Fortunately, they had some cantrips to clean themselves up.

During a short rest, Brin reads over his deed, and it's to a library in Neverwindenthen. He brings it up to Cicero, who responds with "But...but...but how? I made that place up!" And he finally fails his bluff check vs Brin's insight.

A few hours later, they heard some whispers up ahead. Ronald yells out a friendly creating and the whispers immediately stop. The players are a bit worried about what they'll find, and cautiously investigate. They discover a group of humans wearing tattered clothing, and are a bit starved. And they're from Neverwinter. Brin immediately takes charge and declares that they must stop all this silly wondering and get back to the surface. It's at this point that he finally realizes that this is the same goal everyone else has, and that none of them really know how to get back. They're just hoping to find an escape route in Gracklstugh. This also helps Brin understand why the mad Buppido is with them.

The next day, they suffer from maddening sounds of horror. Cicero passed out from the horrors and Brin sees strange purple lizards crawling on the walls and ceiling, fading in and out, as well as rock formations taking the form of a woman's face blaming him for not rescuing her (this turned out to be the one case he blames himself for, the case that caused him to turn to the side of good and defend the poor - if he wasn't so lax on that case, she would still be alive).

That evening, they hear cowbells ahead. Fearing the worst, they charge forward and come upon a group of traveling Dueggar merchants! Finally! Some relief! The session ends with them trading for new supplies, better food, and clothing for the humans following Brin.


GM Notes: Rolling randomly for each and every day of a 28 day journey can get tedious. I remember hating it as a player when we played Skulls & Shackles book 1. I recommend skipping days at a time. And since the PCs will be encountering single encounters per day or per week (rather than multiple encounters per day), attrition will not be the rule of the day. They'll be fully powered and fully charged going into almost every encounter during travel. Either expect them to win or beef up the encounters.

I've also implemented a Bad Dreams modified house rule. The book has them experiencing bad dreams to help set the mood. I make them roll a cumulative 10% check every night to determine if te bad dreams are so severe that they do not gain the benefits from a long rest, which means no refreshed spells the next day. As soon as they have a bad dream, the counter resets. They also have exhaustion to deal will, and it's a much greater threat than any encounter. Traveling at a fast pace doesn't allow them to recover from exhaustion as easily as normal or slow pace. Some of the random encounters can add to the exhaustion. If you decide to do this, be really careful with exhaustion adding up - Level 6 exhaustion is automatic death.

You know, for a session where I felt that we didn't accomplish much, this post sure is longer than any of my others.

I'm also adding a new NPC card - Escape Slaves.

I'm open for help, but here's what I have so far:

"What was that?" The slaves give you advantage on the first passive perception check you need to make; resets every short rest.

"I'd take a bullet for you." The escaped slaves can spend inspiration to take one attack for you in exchange for an injury.

Throwing Rocks: If the escaped slaves have loyalty, then once per encounter they can deal 1d6 +1d6/2 levels to one 10' radius area.

Special: The escaped slaves do not recover from injuries normally. Each injury box represents the death of one slave; to recovery injuries you have to rescue more slaves. They start with 8 injury boxes.

Silver Crusade

It all sounds good brother.

Is the dream mechanic in the campaign supposed to get more intense based on how close the demonic incursion is to begin?

I like that the slaves are not just dead weight for the party. Good on you for allowing them to provide some use.

The sword coast adventurers guide contains a lot about locations, organisations etc and is designed for players and DMs.

My understanding was that the system was written with FR as the base setting so the whole book + campaigns are all FR.

Love it!

Dream Mechanic:
I hadn't intended for it to get more intense. I don't want to screw the players over. But I do want the constant reminder that something is wrong with the place. What I think I'll end up doing is relieving them of the bad dreams when they escape, and reintroducing it when they get invited to the dwarves stronghold as a way of saying that the surface world is threatened.

Silver Crusade

Maybe you could establish some sanctuary sites, such as the Dwarven stronghold, that allows for protection from the dreams and then reintroduce them and alter their intensity the closer they get to Menzoberranzen. I love the foreshadowing the mechanic can provide and I believe it should have some negatives for the pc's, but don't want them drooling on themselves too soon ;)

Oh that's good. I can start that right away. I want to use the druid's temple from his background as the oozing temple; I can also make it larger; put the oozes in the basemment or attic or something, and have it be a sanctuary.

One thing I wanted to do anyways was provide access back to the temple. In the book, the temple gets filled with water and they have to make a harrowing escape as the water levels rise up (they're trapped in the temple). One suggestion in the book is for them to collapse one of the ceilings, which provides an escape route into an underground river, from which they can swim to shore and continue their journey.

Or maybe I'll leave it as is, and part of the challenge at high level is finding their old temple and swimming back down into it to gain access to the ancient library; which has information on defeating some of the demons.

I'm also going to have the player provide me with a map of the temple.

Silver Crusade

Definitely look forward to seeing how your story and the group progress in this campaign. I like the idea of the temple acting as a sanctuary, can absolutely see that as a possibility.

I need a good image of some people huddled together for the Escaped Slaves NPC card. Anyone know of one?

Silver Crusade

I tried a google search and came up with 'meh' results. Nothing really stands out for what you're looking for that I can find.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32


Druids get water breathing and water walkig at 5th level as a 3rd level spells. So your PCs will have access to those great exploratory spells. Eventually.

Norgrim Malgus wrote:
I tried a google search and came up with 'meh' results. Nothing really stands out for what you're looking for that I can find.

I had the same problem.

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I added to the primary NPC card list, which can be found here.

The original author gave a good suggestion, which I took. Instead of advantage on perception, they grant advantage on initiative and make it so you're not surprised. Once per short rest.

Silver Crusade

Still getting a feel for the new system, but wouldn't having advantage on Perception basically have the same effect in terms of surprise?

Maybe? I don't rightly know.

But even with advantage, you can still roll low twice. So this at least guarantees the PC doesn't get surprised.

I found a home brewed rogue archetype that may work for our investigator.



The strongest weapons of an investigator are not a bow and dagger but their keen mind and quick wits. They are adept at piecing together evidence and observing details that others might miss. These rogues are trained to spot flaws in their opponent’s defences or gaps in their fighting style, and quickly communicate these details to waiting allies.
Detectives, archaeologists, and some monster hunters often belong to this archetype. Some investigators remain criminals, becoming masterminds who rely on underlings for theft and murder.

Identify Weakness
Starting at 3rd level, when you take the Help action to aid a creature’s attack and that attack hits, the creature deals extra damage equal to your Sneak Attack damage.

Keen Observations
Starting at 3rd level, you can use the bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to take the Search action.

In additional, if not already proficient in Survival, you can add your proficiency bonus to Wisdom (Survival) checks to follow tracks.

Evaluate Target
Starting at 9th level, you have learned how to study a creature to learn its capabilities and physical characteristics and mannerisms. For each minute you spend watching the creature, you learn if it is your equal, superior, or inferior in one the following characteristics:
Intelligence score
Wisdom score
Charisma score
A skill
Total class levels (if any)
Rogue class levels (if any)

At the DM’s discretion you might discover other information such as a special ability, vulnerability, or personality trait such as an ideal or bond.

Web of Informants
By 9th level, you have acquired a number of agents and contacts you can approach for information and research materials. These contacts might be tied to your background or individuals who owe you a debt not easily repaid. While in a settlement where you have a contact you have advantage on all Intelligence (Investigation) checks made while researching using downtime days.

In addition, you are typically aware of current events as your contacts will dispatch messages to inform you of noteworthy developments and occasionally approach you with new information.

Distant Assistance
At 13th level, you can direct attacks while keeping yourself a safe distance away. When you use the Help action to aid a friendly creature in attacking, that creature can be within 15 feet of you, but must be able to see and hear you.

Sudden Advantage
When you reach 17th level, when a friendly creature within 15 feet that can see and hear you makes a critical hit, you can use your reaction to grant them your sneak attack damage.

Thoughts? Does this seem balanced to the other rogue archetypes? Not too weak or too strong?

Silver Crusade

lol, where's the fun in that man ;)

It's the Underdark, where all kinds of nasty critters call home and for which the pc's aren't really familiar with the terrain and they have slaves to watch over as well. Giving them advantage on Perception checks, due to the slaves, gives them an edge without losing out on the reality of their situation.

Not trying to sound like a wise guy honestly, but advantage on Perception is more than fair considering their situation.

Silver Crusade

I can't speak intelligently on balance versus other archetypes at this point, again, I have only been a few days with the phb. From what I can tell about the system, it leans towards abilities requiring either a short or long rest to use it again.

Having said that, Identify Weakness looks like it could use such a limiter whereas Sudden Advantage 'looks' balanced based on crit chance of the other PC and it's basically a capstone ability.

Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Yeah, I think use of Identify Weakness should be limited to Wisdom bonus (minimum one). I'd actually make it usable once per long rest until level 7 (or so) then once per Short Rest.

The help action grants advantage, if it also grants your ally your sneak attack damage it's going to become an 'always do this' option (particularly with a champion fighter, since their chance of criticalling really benefits from advantage) and in general, I think if an option becomes universally the best option, that means something is overpowered.

It probably doesn't need spelling out, but I also wouldn't allow it to stack with an ally's own sneak attack damage (an investigator helping a rogue every round is going to do too much, imo, if both sneak attacks are allowed to count).

Norgrim Malgus wrote:

lol, where's the fun in that man ;)

It's the Underdark, where all kinds of nasty critters call home and for which the pc's aren't really familiar with the terrain and they have slaves to watch over as well. Giving them advantage on Perception checks, due to the slaves, gives them an edge without losing out on the reality of their situation.

Not trying to sound like a wise guy honestly, but advantage on Perception is more than fair considering their situation.

So surprise isn't an active percetion roll. It's a passive roll (10 + Perc). Granting advantage on perception for purposes of surprise is meaningless. Also, surprise only happens of one side is actively trying to be stealthy; otherwise both parties notice each other automatically or if the GM says otherwise.

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