D&D Encounters: Dead in Thay (Week 5)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 12, 2014

dead-in-thay-coverWe left the party in the Far Realms Cysts sector of the Doomvault. They’d just cleared out the Caverns of Chaos zone. The Gnome Druid’s soul had been trapped in a potion which she drank… and then shrank since it was a Potion of Diminution.

This week we saw a noticeable drop in the numbers at Hairy T North in Toronto. We expected to lose a few regulars week in and week out over the summer, but not so many in one week. Table 1 (DM: Craig) had four players, table 2 (DM: Hillel) had five players, and table 3 (substitute DM: Derek) had five players.

That’s right, I got to DM again this week as our regular DM was out sick. So our party was down a Barbarian, but the five remaining party members at my table were a Warforged Monk, Halfling (Kender) Rogue, Gnome Druid (1/10 her normal size), Human Cleric, and Gnome Wizard (currently an undead PC thanks to the Walking Dead option).

Far Realm Cysts

far-realm-cystsBefore the party could leave the Chaos Lair (#44) they received a telepathic communication from one of the other parties. The group marauding through the Masters’ Domain had cleared out most of the Red Wizards stationed there and they were ready to take on a bigger challenge.

They were near a Black Gate and wanted to know if they could meet up with us so they could copy out Glyph Key. During the last session we told them we’d found a Glyph Key attuned to the Temples of Extraction and they wanted to go there next.

Since we were near a Black Gate and not in any immediate danger the other PC teleported in, copied the Glyph Key, and teleported out. The party briefly discussed whether or not they should follow the other party to the Temples of Extraction but decided to let them try alone first.

Prison of Filth

Otyugh Lair (#42)

After the party passed through the White Gate they could either head through a set of closed doors to the south or an open room to the north. They opted for the open room first.

The moment they passed through the White Gate they noticed the smell. As they moved towards the Otyugh Liar the stench got much worse. By the time they got to the actual room they had to make Con saves to not be nauseated. The Warforged Monk and Undead Wizard were thankfully immune since neither of them breathes. The other three PCs failed and threw up.

The room was filled with all matter of decay and animal waste. Needless to say there were a lot of poop and fart jokes made for the next 15 minutes. They party didn’t want to wade through the rotting garbage until they had a plan so they remained still at the mouth of the room, looked at their map, and discussed options.

After a few minutes the PCs heard the sounds of little girls laughing and playing. The Undead Wizard and Warforged Monk heard nothing. The living PCs realized they were hearing these sounds in their minds. The girls’ voices asked the PCs for candy and treats.

At first the party suspected some kind of undead was haunting this area, but the Cleric was able to rule that out quickly. They decided to talk with the girls explaining that they had no candy. Then another voice, this one an adolescent boy, joined the conversation and asked for food. The party wasn’t sure what to do but was reluctant to take action. The male voice became a bit more agitated and aggressive.

The Rogue had been scanning the room, watching for danger, and when he rolled a natural 20 he spotted four medium sized creatures slowly advancing towards the party’s position under the waste and garbage. He alerted his allies and the party immediately threw whatever rations they had at the creatures. The voices expressed happiness and gratitude for the food as the monsters ate it all. The voices were clearly coming from these creatures.

otyugh-1The party was able to identify the monsters as Otyughs – creatures that can and will eat anything. It seemed that this room was a giant sewer where the Red Wizard deposited their waste and these monsters were the means by which the waste was disposed of.

Three larger Otyughs began to move from the back of the chamber towards the PCs. The Cleric decided to try and talk to them. He said he could cast a create food and water ritual that would produce fresh nutritional food for the creatures. The adults were willing to wait and when the food magically appeared they feasted. With full bellies and no signs of violence from the party, the Otyughs were willing to talk.

They explained the function of this room and the one to the North. The PCs asked if they liked it here and said they could bring them someplace else if they preferred. The Otyughs liked that idea. So the PCs decided they’d bring the Otyughs to the Forests of Slaughter after they’d explored this zone.

Garbage Transfer (#41)

The party moved to the door that divided rooms 41 and 42. The Undead Wizard opened the door and saw 20 Skeletons standing around. He alone entered the room. Two nearby Skeletons approached with outstretched hands. He gave them bits of scrap metal he’d found earlier. They took it and sorted it into piles of similar materials scattered around the room.

Any garbage that was organic was obviously sent to room 41 while anything that the Otyughs couldn’t eat was sent here where it was sorted and possibly reused at a later point. After finding no treasure they Wizard left.

Summoning Chamber (#43)

With the Otyughs in tow, the party headed through the south doors towards the Forests of Slaughter. The room ahead had a large blood-red circule inscribed on the floor. With a natural 20 on his Arcana check, the Wizard had no problem identify this as a summoning circle linked to the Far Realms. He also knew exactly how to manipulate the symbols to make the circle inert.

The rest of the party followed the Wizards’ instructions and managed to deface the summoning circle. Unfortunately the Cleric misunderstood his task and was shocked by the evil magic of the circle. It messed with his mind (disadvantage on all Int, Wis, and Cha saves and skill checks, plus no spells that required concentration). The Cleric had a Remove Curse spell ready and cured his own mind of the madness.

The PCs used their Glyph Key to open the White Gate that led to the next sector and let the Otyughs loose in area #60.

Before going back through the Otyugh Lair the Undead Wizard decided to return to the Seclusion Crypt for a second time. He needed hit points and a few spell slots. He also wanted to pen some spells from scrolls into his spellbook which he wouldn’t otherwise have time to do. When he returned a few seconds later he realize his maximum hit points had been reduced, and unexpected consequence of using the Seclusion Crypt once too often.

Warren of Eyes

Slime Slaves (#40)

Rough stone steps lead down into a cavern filled with about one foot of glowing green slime. The Monk took point and was the first to wade into the slime. It didn’t attack or do any permanent damage. As no other dangers seemed to be present the party advanced into the next chamber.

Beholder’s Domain (#39)

Hundreds of unblinking eyes stared at the party from the smooth green walls of this large, star-shaped chamber. The green slime covered the floor in this room too. The PCs advanced slowly, careful not to get too close to the walls.

beholder-01The Rogue managed to roll another natural 20 on his perception check and noticed a large spherical creature floating down towards the party from the ceiling above. Before he could shout a warning, one of the floating creature’s eye stalk spied the party’s Wizard (dressed in a Red Wizard robe he’d found a few sessions earlier) and blasted him. “Die, Red Wizard,” its deep voice bellowed in satisfaction.

The Wizard failed his Con save and realized he was turning to stone, something that had happened to him earlier this season. He threw off his red robe and pleaded with the monster, shouting that he was not a Red Wizard. He was undead and had hair. His cries for mercy quickly faded as he failed a second Con save and was petrified.

The party realized that the creature was a Beholder. It was covered in scars and showed signs of battle damage; some recent and some old. Two of the Beholder’s eye stalks were limp and looked dead. This Beholder had seen a lot of action in its life.

Despite his clearly weakened appearance the party decided not to attack it and instead tried to reason with it. They explained that they were not here to fight him. They were here to fight Red Wizards. This intrigued the Eye Tyrant so he allowed them to tell their tale. The party held nothing back. When they’d finished their story the Beholder was convinced they could be trusted.

The Beholder told them his name, Thaxalia, and that he was a prisoner of the Red Wizards. He’d killed any patrols that tried to pass through but the Red Wizards often tortured him for retribution or fun. He hated the Red Wizards and if freed from this zone he’d wreak havoc upon all of them.

Thaxalia asked the PCs to give him a Glyph Key and help him pass through the barrier, something he’d been unable to do on his own. They tired but realized the Beholder couldn’t work the Glyph Key. The Beholder was convinced that the Glyph Keys needed to be re-attuned to allow for a non-humanoid to use it. The PCs agreed to reverse-engineer a Glyph Key to learn its secrets, even though doing so would destroy the key.

With some great knowledge checks the PCs learned the secrets of the Glyph Keys and were confident the Beholder could use it. Since that wasn’t the case there must be something wrong with him. He was not pleased at that suggestion but some fast talking kept him calm. The Cleric tried casting Remove Curse on the Beholder and that did the trick. Thaxalia demanded that the party give him their remaining Glyph Key, but they were reluctant. Again, good Persuasion checks kept the Beholder calm and he eventually revealed that one of the dead guards concealed in room #40 by the slime might have a Glyph Key, which it did.

The party copied the new Glyph Key to theirs and gave it to the Beholder along with a map of the dungeon. He realized that the Glyph Key would give him total access to the Doomvault and that made him very happy. He floated towards the Block Gate in the next room intending to leave the PCs.

Sinkhole Cavern (#38)

The 10 Zombies in this room didn’t know enough to get out of the way of the Beholder as he headed towards freedom. Thaxalia blasted all the Zombies, clearing the room before he got to the Black Gate and teleported away.

As the PCs watched him go they realized they didn’t tell him that they had friends adventuring in other parts of the dungeon and that he shouldn’t attack them on sight. Oh well. That’s a problem we’ll handle next week.

Thoughts

It was fun to get back behind the DM’s screen this week (metaphorically speaking since I don’t actually use a screen). I was very happy that the party realized they could successfully overcome the encounters by talking to the monsters. We ended up not having any combat this week, but I think the group had fun, I know I did.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Beholders as NPCs so getting to run Thaxalia was a real treat. I tried to make the Beholder seem powerful and I think his obvious scaring and battle damage helped instill that idea. If the PCs decided they wanted to fight it they had a reasonable chance of success, but they did the sensible thing and they talked. As such they made a very powerful ally. I can’t wait to see how the three DMs use Thaxalia in upcoming sessions.

I look forward to going back to playing next week, especially as the PCs have now hit level 7. We’ll see how much more our party can take and dish out with the level bump.

How is your party progressing through the Doomvault? Did you suffer any fatalities this week? Have any other groups encountered the Beholder yet? Did you fight or talk? How have monsters you’ve freed changed areas of the dungeon?

Additional Resources

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Listen to Derek Myers, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (from 20ft Radius) recount our weekly experience at D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective tables and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.

Note: New episodes of Recounting Encounters will be available in our D&D Encounters Archive and on iTunes on Wednesdays moving forward. Now DMs can listen before they play.

Actual Play Podcasts

We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe June 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

We had 2 tables of 4-5 last night at Modern Myths in Northampton. One table mostly new folks, while the other was (relatively) veteran players. I ran the vets table, and we were using my 4e conversion of this season.

This week our team went to the Master’s Domain, where they had to go through 3 different trial rooms used to test Red Wizard initiates to get 3 different keys, which together unlocked a door that held the teleportation key to the next area.

The first room the party faced was the Temple of Light, where angel statues on tall pillars shot beams of radiant fire at anyone who tried to climb the central pillar, which held the key (which was also surrounded in an aura of damaging radiant energy. Even the party’s deva, who at this point resists 8 radiant, found the blasts to be a bit too much to climb all the way up. So instead, the party decided to get destructive. They pushed one of the angel statue pillars towards the central pillar, knocking the key free from the radiant field and letting it fall safely to the ground.

Exiting that room, the party found the tortured corpse of a red wizard, but realized that he was still (barely) alive. They administered some healing, and soon had a new rebel red wizard ally, Vorja, who was too weak to go with the party, but offered some decent advice and tips about the other rooms.

The next room was the Temple of Darkness, where the party had to confront three creatures of darkness (Banshee, Shadow, & Phantasmal Killer) to prove they could withstand their attacks. This was a strict skill challenge, with 2 successes needed with each creature. For the Banshee they had to use Perception to focus on other sounds or Intimidate to scream louder. The Shadow was a Religion check to hold on to faith in the existence of goodness or Endurance to cling to your life essence. And the Phantasmal Killer required Acrobatics to dodge the attacks of their worst nightmare or Arcana to logically reason out that the attacks weren’t real.

The final room my party chose was the Temple of Blood, which was probably the most fun for me as a storyteller. The party saw four giant, multi-armed gargoyle statues with open mouths, and a key hanging from a chain on the ceiling maybe 50 ft up. Then the statues started vomitting blood, and it had the PERFECT level of dangerous trap + gross-out that every DM hopes to have in a dungeon (well, not every DM… but me, at least). Some of the party was less concerned about drowning than other members (the hamadryad could go twice as long underwater as normal folks, and the revenant didn’t have to breathe), but everyone was concerned with the flailing gargoyle arms, which seems to target people in the blood more often. After about 4 rounds of rising blood and (sometimes) dodging attacks, someone shot the key off the chain, and someone else leaped to catch it before it sank into the blood (which, everyone agreed, would’ve been NO FUN to try & find had it sunk).

The key teleported them out of the blood, back to the Conditioning Room with Varja, and afters some furious cleaning, they inserted the 3 keys, got the teleportation key to the next zone (the Golem Laboratories), and even got a magic item or two that Vorja had hidden in an extradimensional space.

But any night I can almost drown my PCs in a room filling with blood is a victory in my DM playbook.

2 Vobekhan June 13, 2014 at 7:03 am

loving the different interpretations of how these rooms run, definitely gets the DM juices going. Between these posts and the podcast over on 20ftradius it gives so many great ideas to make the encounters fun without detracting from the lethality.

Keep up the great work guys.

3 Dan June 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

This week was very disorganized for my group. Our usual DM has been in the process of moving, and has had to miss a few sessions already. This week, I ended up covering for him, but had to borrow another player’s laptop to do so (due to the PDF format). About 45 minutes after our scheduled starting time, we finally got underway.
My table had 5 players and myself (running my usual halfling in the background to keep the party moving and deal minor damage): a tiefling bard, a tiefling cleric/barbarian/fighter and his trusty steed, meatwagon, a warforged bard, an elf archer fighter, and a dwarf fighter.
Last week, we were nearly overwhelmed by barghests, barely surviving when the party split up. The warforged (despite our advice) expended all 5 of his spells. When we started this week, he wanted to take a long rest to regain them. We discussed our resources with the rest of the party (and found that he still had hit dice left anyway), and decided to only take a short rest.
This seemed minor when I first noticed it a while back, but I think the rapid expenditure of resources is a 4e thing. Because he was used to getting back his resources after every battle, he carried it over, which is not a good idea when resources are daily and the encounters are deadly. I’m hoping we can help him get used to conservation rather than expecting an extended rest after each combat.
After the debate about resting, we continued south to the black portal, where we met a wight and a helmed horror. The wight demanded our business, and found our responses lacking. Combat ensued. The battle was quick, and the MVP was the tiefling cleric, as he killed both (though he did use a lot of resources in the process).
After attuning the keys (and finding and attuning a new one) we returned to the north, toward the forest of illusion. A few members of the party were moving stealthily, but a few just didn’t care. When they entered a large clearing with a petrified hook horror, they began to be concerned more with it than the gorgons moving toward them.
This battle took a little longer, which was partially my fault. The way I set it up led to the party being spread out, unable to benefit from the bards’ singing. However, they did coincidentally avoid many players being hit with the petrifying breath. The tiefling cleric got hit twice, but fought it off. His horse was not so lucky. He tried to leap from its stone back to ride the Gorgon, but was thrown. Each gorgon was only engaged by one PC, which made defeating them more difficult. After our archer accidentally shot the warforged bard for the 4th time, tensions were high. Just when he dropped to 1 HP, our other bard (the one who still had spells left) failed her second saving throw, and was turned to stone.
Having lost their first ally, not to mention the bard, the party’s spirits were low. There are also hard feelings about the arrows’ prejudice in only hitting the warforged, and the dwarf and warforged are beginning to suspect that the archer is not truly an ally.
And having lost our mascot, things look dire.
I have decided I don’t particularly enjoy being a DM, at least not yet. I need to learn how better to roll with what my players do, and to set up encounters better. I look forward to our regular DM returning.

4 Joe June 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Dan, we’ve all had rough sessions. Don’t let it discourage you. Remember that these are still playtest rules being used for the next edition of D&D. When the final version drops in August, there’ll be caster options like the Warlock which’ll have more encounter-recharging spells to handle players like the warforged guy. And one of the flaws of the last few sandboxy seasons has been that it’s been very possible for groups to get completely overwhelmed. Fortunately WotC has also announced that the next season, which starts in August with the new rules, will have specifically broken-out 2-hour sessions provided to Encounters DMs, so there’ll be less of a chance that a party wanders off & hits too many hard enemies at once.

And like I said, we’ve all had rough sessions. Heck, I had a player whose character died in his introductory prequel story, because instead of running from the evil army his character was supposed to have a vendetta against, he decided to stand & fight them all… which meant that he didn’t survive to have that vendetta and join up with the other players at the inn. These things happen, but we learn & move on, and try to do better next time.

But please don’t let this throw you off DMing. It will get better.

5 Crossems June 13, 2014 at 11:26 pm

In League City, Texas (Just on the Southern Edge of Houston), we had several new players this week join in our regular encounters, with 2 other tables running home brewed D&D 4th and 5th edition games.

For the Dead in Thay we introduced the new players by combining our normal two tables, into one large party of 8. We then used ‘Theater of the Mind’ so that each turn, I was able to ensure that every player had something exciting to contribute to the story.

The Game was a big success and not only will the new players return next week, but we may be pushing 3 to 4 tables for the Dead in Thay multi-table system (crossing fingers).

I have continued writing out our adventure in script form, as our players and others have enjoyed reading it.

Here’s a sample, from our adventure into the Blood Pens.

(for the rest, follow the link attached to ‘Crossems’)

note: we actually had three players named Chris this night, so I’ve unoffically dubbed this game as the ‘Night of the Three Chris’s’

Dungeon Master
You teleport through the Black Gate into a room covered with holes in the walls, floor and ceiling. There are a half dozen zombies standing motionless by two doors leaving this room. Advancing towards you are two wights, looking you up and down.

Wight #1
-looking alert- And what brings you here?

Chris the Drow Fighter
We’re performing a routine check of all the entry points to make sure their safe?

Wight #1
-looking skeptical- Really? You don’t look like Thayan’s.

Chris the Drow Fighter
We’re not, Phaia, asked us here to examine the Doomvaults defenses.

Wight #1
ah? Yes, then be on your way. -stands back and motions for the zombies to clear the doors they’re blocking-

Zombies
arrraghhh -shuffle shuffle shuffle-

Dungeon Master
As you step off the Black Gate Circle, vines rush forward out of the holes in the walls, floor and ceiling, and entangle your arms and legs!

Wight #1
What’s this? A little trouble? Don’t you know the pass phrase? -places his hand on his sword-

Chris the Drow Fighter
My Thayan’s a little rusty.

Dungeon Master
-rolling an Insight check for the Wight and rolling poorly-

Wight #1
Aye, Thayan is usually too hard for Drow to speak properly.

Chris the Drow Fighter
-bites tongue-

Wight #1
-mutters something in Thayan-

Dungeon Master
The vines loosen and your soon free of their grasp.

Chris the Drow Fighter
I’ll make sure Phaia learns of your diligence.

Wight #1
Of course -stands aside so the party may pass freely-

Dungeon Master
You each move carefully through the room, keeping an eye on the undead guards, except for the Bard.

Tom the Bard
What, it looked important!

Dungeon Master
The Bard has tried to pick the pocket of the Wight and is holding a Glyph Key he stole from it. Unfortunately the Key is still on the chain, which is attached to the Wights belt.
-The Bard rolled a 1 in his first pick pocket attempt, ever!-

Wight #1
-Looks at the Key, then looks at the Bard-

Tom the Bard
-Blinks innocently-

Chris the Drow Fighter
-Mutters something foul in Underdark-

more at http://www.md1840.com/dnd : I’m building out this site in my spare time to help other gamers in Houston find D&D events throughout the city, and share their stories as well.

Until Next Week!

6 Dan June 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Joe. I do prefer to be a little more prepared when I do DM, and there were outside factors causing trouble as well (I had to run home unexpectedly right before we started). As it stands, I probably won’t DM regularly until I get a new laptop to prep on. I think I just need to work on communication with the other players a bit better…

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