After being a player in the last two seasons of D&D Adventurer’s League (Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil), I’ve Answered the Call this season to be a DM for Rage of Demons. Following both the DMG advice of chronicling the party’s adventures, and my own brother’s example of blogging about his campaigns – here we are, with a new feature here on the blog in which I get to tell you all the cool things that happen at my table. We’re kicking things off from Chapter 1 of Out of the Abyss, the recently-released adventure book from Wizards of the Coast. If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading! No, really!
Markel, the dwarven cleric
Necalli, the blue dragonborn barbarian
Lilo, the elven cleric
Trinz, the blue dragonborn bard
Chiannii, the human druid
The Underdark, far beneath the surface of the Sword Coast, in the Forgotten Realms
Velkynvelve, a drow outpost
The Story So Far:
Captured by the drow! Not exactly a noble headstart for our adventurers. We meet our party in a slave pen, along with a host of other prisoners, in Velkynvelve, a small drow outpost not far from the Darklake. They’ve been here for varying amounts of time – Necalli had been here the longest of our characters, a full tenday. Chiannii and Trinz were both brought here about six days ago. Markel had been here only a day, and Lilo was being captured just as another back-breaking day of slave labor was beginning.
The captives were split up to do various menial tasks around the outpost, never in groups of more than three, lest the prisoners threaten to overwhelm their guards. Markel was assigned to empty the prisoners’ chamber pots into the rather filthy pool just outside the post itself. He was accompanied by Stool, a myconid sprout (“Heh, get it? Stool is emptying the chamber pots? Stool? Anyone?” – the drow I imagine assigned him that task) – a lonely and scared young one, who immediately bonded with Markel due to his kindness. Stool wants nothing more than to go home to Neverlight Grove, away from this frightening place and these cruel drow. Stool used his rapport spores to establish communication between the prisoners.
Due to his size and strength, Necalli was assigned to breaking rocks in the caves, to what end no one knows. He was laboring with Eldeth Feldrun, a dwarven scout from Gauntlgrym (“Dwarves like mining, right? This should be like a paradise vacation for this one!” – the drow), dead-set on escape and vengeance. Eldeth had no specific plans for escape, but she believed that the prisoners may be able to overwhelm the drow in sheer numbers. She had been watching carefully and knew that there were no more than nineteen drow in the outpost at any given time (including the cruel Ilvara Mizzrym, a priestess of Lolth; Asha Vandree, a junior priestess serving as Ilvara’s second-in-command; Shoor Vandree, a warrior, Asha’s cousin and Ilvara’s current lover; and Jorlan Duskryn, another warrior and Ilvara’s ex-lover). They were soon joined by Sarith Kzekarit, a drow – if they were surprised to find a drow being held captive by his fellows, rumor soon reached them that Kzekarit was accused of murder, and was being punished for his alleged crimes. Despite Necalli’s best efforts, the haughty drow would not deign to speak to either the dragonborn or the dwarf.
Lilo and Chiannii, appearing to be the most frail of the prisoners (a foolish underestimation on the part of the drow, as it would turn out), were assigned to cleaning up the outpost – mostly scrubbing floors. Nothing is ever really “clean” down here, but the merciless drow have yet to be satisfied. They were assigned to work with Shuushar the Awakened, a kuo-toa hermit. Shuushar was a surprisingly peaceful man, more sane and calm than any kuo-toa the party might have imagined. Unlike the rest of the group, Shuushar seemed mostly resigned to his fate as a prisoner and slave. “Who knows what the gods may have in store for us?” he said.
Trinz was assigned to carry barrels of goods up from storage rooms to the other areas of the outpost, and to bring other barrels back down into the storage area, all heavy and overloaded. He was working with Ront, an orc who while initially scornful of Trinz, was soon charmed by the charismatic fellow and came to a sort of agreement with him. Along with Ront, was “Prince” Derendil, a quaggoth who spoke Common only once – to inform Trinz that he was no mere quaggoth, but an elven prince, cursed with a hideous transformation. The rest of the time, he spoke in Elvish, refusing to use a “lower” language.
The group started making plans to somehow break out of their shackles and foment a rebellion against the cruel drow. Surreptitious steps were taken throughout the next day of work, allies were recruited from among the other prisoners. But before an opportunity could present itself, before the time was right to strike, another very surprising offer came to them from an utterly shocking source – Jorlan himself came down to the slave pen, bringing the prisoners their nightly rations. When he was sure that no one was observing, he whispered to Trinz, the closest prisoner, “If I could offer you a means of escape, would you take it?”
No one was sure if they could trust the drow, but they agreed to hear out his plan anyway. It was simple – he proposed to leave the gate to the slave pen unlocked and to create a distraction during the changing of the guards, allowing the prisoners to escape unnoticed. The question was, of course, raised as to how they would be able to escape from their shackles, and the collars around their necks – Jorlan was ultimately unhelpful, “It is none of my concern,” he said simply. Having limited time to come to a decision, the party agreed that they would go along with Jorlan’s plan, despite some initial misgivings.
Only a few minutes later, as the guards were beginning to walk away from their posts, a strange buzzing hum started to fill the cavern. Not long after, alarm calls were sounded, horns used to warn everyone in the outpost of incoming danger. The two dragonborn managed to successfully break free of their shackles and collars, and the group decided to move before the moment passed. No sooner were they finished than a cacophony of demons flew into the cavern, four chasme demons chasing two vrocks. Their screeching and calling is horrendous to hear, and immediately, all of the guards spring to action to either kill or deter the demons.
As the party began to cautiously exit the slave pen, they encountered one of the drow guards, who had the foresight to stay near the prisoners – can’t let the demons damage the property, right? Having exited the anti-magic field of the slave pen, Chiannii was free to use her druid abilities to turn into a massive bear, thoroughly frightening the guard. Between her mighty jaws and the lightning breath of the two dragonborn (and a well-timed casting of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter from the bard), the party made quick work of the guard, whose screams were lost in the din of the chaos around them. They also made quite certain to retrieve the guard’s ring of keys, a wise precaution.
The party progressed through the hollow stalactites of Velkynvelve, all connected with rope bridges, trying to find the armory where they knew their gear had been stashed. One particular bridge blocked their path, with a wide gap in the wooden slats where the bridge had been damaged by the brawling demons. Though some of the party members were able to make it across without difficulty, others slipped through into the layers of webbing below. Not too far away was a giant spider, no doubt one of the creators of the webs and loyal to the drow. It was a race against time to retrieve the fallen party members before the spider reached them and started preparing itself a meal. Trinz and Chiannii managed to get some rope out of the armory (after an extraordinary turn of luck allowed them to find the right key on the first try), and Chiannii (still in bear form) used her considerable size as an anchor to pull the web-ensnared escapees back up to the rope bridge. After a close call, Lilo was the last one up the rope, just as the giant spider arrived.
Everyone retrieved their gear from the armory, which improved spirits considerably, and also hastened everyone along in their need to get away. Of course, who should be standing on the rope bridge when they return, but another drow guard, likely on his way to the armory himself. Initially paying no attention to the prisoners, he shouted angrily at them to return to their cell and await punishment. Only then, of course, did he notice the giant bear hanging out with the various humanoids, and that was when he realized how very very alone he was. The guard set off in a run back whence he came, and Chiannii took off in hot pursuit. Despite her best efforts, the drow managed to elude her, slipping away into shadows and webs, impossible for a non-drow to navigate. Chiannii reluctantly returned to where the rest of the party was still waiting, without her quarry.
Jorlan had told the party that they could just jump down from the rope bridge into the webs, and jump once more from the webs into the pool below, making their escape from there. The filthy, filthy pool in which they’ve been throwing their waste this whole time. As everyone was bracing themselves for this disgusting inevitability, a faint whistle called their attention – and one of the massive vrocks they witnessed earlier, now grievously wounded, crash-landed in front of them.
And cut scene! Next week, the party will be deciding how to handle a vrock, a pool of fetid waste, and a myriad of conflicting opinions as to the biggest question of all – where do we go from here?