The PCs began the adventure in the custody of Drow slavers. They managed to gain the trust and support of the other prisoners, and together they all escaped. But surviving in the Underdark isn’t easy. They spent days wandering aimlessly in search of food and water, all the while trying to avoid dangerous cre3aturs of any pursuers. During last week’s session the PCs decided to ambush whoever or whatever was following them. With a carefully laid trap and coordinated attacks, the party got the jump on four Drow scouts. With the immediate threat of pursuit eliminated (for now) they followed Shuushar’s lead as he led the party towards his village of Sloobludop.
Our numbers continue to hold stead in the low 20s at Face to Face Games in Toronto. We managed to run five tables again this week. My group had four PCs including a Human Druid, Dragonborn Fighter, Elf Wizard, and Human Rogue.
Two if By Sea
We picked things up with the party on the edge of Darklake. Shuushar explained that Darklake is a network of underground rivers, tunnels, and canals that connect numerous caverns and chambers. It’s a vast waterway that stretches over a hundred miles across. The height of the ceiling and the depths of the water vary from chamber to chamber.
If the party travelled by water they could reach Sloobludop in about one day. If they instead chose to continue on foot it would likely take two to three days. After a brief discussion the party decided to go by sea. They searched the area along the shoreline for anything they could use to make water crafts. They found large mushrooms whose caps could flipped over and hollowed out to make crude boats. They also discovered other subterranean plant life that floated. Lashing and binding pieces together they managed to make a large raft. The party (which still consisted of six additional escaped prisoners) boarded their two mushroom-cap boats and the raft and cast off. The boat-building took the party about two hours to complete.
Fearful of unseen, underwater threats, the party wisely hugged the coast as much as possible, never letting it out of sight or swimming distance. For over four hours the party rowed east towards Sloobludop. They encountered a few natural hazards but nothing they couldn’t handle. During their fifth hour the Rogue spotted a faint light in the distance out on the lake. It flashed for just a second and was gone. The party looked and eventually the Druid also saw the light, but only for a second. Curiosity got he better of them and the party quietly rowed out across Darklake towards the light.
The party continued to move towards the light source. It flashed sporadically but never for more than a brief second. When they finally got close enough they realized it was floating on top of the water. Eventually they spotted a small boat. In the centre of the boat a hooded lantern was suspended on a pole. The hood wasn’t closed tightly and as the boat rocked in the waves the hood occasionally slipped open allowing the light to spill out.
The Fighter jumped into the water and swam towards the boat. He easily climbed in the vessel and opened the lantern’s hood so all could see. The boat has provisions and equipment for one person. There were numerous bags and packs secured safely. The Fighter dumped all the contents out into the hull of the boat finding only clothes, food, and books. The books were wrapped in plastic to protect them from the water.
Shuushar was the only PC or NPC in the water and had been swimming around the boats keeping watch. He popped his head above water and warned that a lone figure was surfacing near the boat. The party readied actions in case the creature had hostile intentions. What they saw was a Halfling. He waved to the party and climbed into the boat.
The Treasure Hunter
The Halfling paid no mind to the Fighter who was still ransacking his boat. He spoke to the PCs in gentle tones and welcomed them in friendship. He changed out of a wetsuit, dried off, and donned dry clothes. He told them he was on a mission from god – Lathander specifically. He sought the legendary sword Dawnbringer. The mention of a magic sword got everyone’s undivided attention.
Dawnbringer, he explained, brings light into the darkness and will aid those who battle creatures of darkness, such as Underdark denizens like Drow and undead who fear sunlight like Vampires. Legend has it a great warrior brought Dawnbringer to the Underdark to fight Drow. The Halfling said he’s been searching for the blade for years. He occasionally hears whispers in the back of his mind, as if the weapon is calling for him to fid it. His research has led him to this spot on he lake. A ship carrying the warrior was attacked by marauders and eventually sunk. The Halfling believes Dawnbringer is on the seafloor beneath his boat. If he can recover the sword he’ll return it to the church of Lathander and they can determine who is worthy to carry Dawnbringer next.
The party immediately began preparing for underwater exploration. The Halfling said he needed an hour to rest, warm up, and eat and drink something before he’d be ready to dive again. He possess a limited amount of animal fat that he rubs on his body to insulate himself from the cold. He has enough left for himself plus four more. The four PCs and Shuushar decided to join him on his next dive.
On his last dive he was aided by a water breathing potion but it wore off as he crested the surface earlier. This time they’d have to hold their breath and be quick. He had numerous large rocks in the boat to serve as ballasts. If each PC hugged a large stone and rolled off the boat’s edge they would sink to the bottom faster, giving them more time on the sea floor. They all grabbed a rock, took a deep breath, and rolled off the boat into the chilly water.
Before diving the Wizard cast light on the Fighter’s helmet to let them see underwater. On the seafloor they all split up and headed in different directions to cover more ground. The Fighter and Rogue both noticed what looked like a shipwreck ahead of them. They quickly swam towards it. As they swam into the wreckage they saw a glint of light reflect off something in the sand – it was a sword hilt. The Fighter reached for it and pulled. When its blade was exposed it glowed, they’d found Dawnbringer.
Unfortunately something nearby was aroused by the light sources. Two minor water elementals attacked the Rogue and Fighter. As both PCs took hits underwater they realized they needed to start swimming upwards or they wouldn’t have enough breath to make it above water.
Meanwhile the Wizard who’s also cast Detect Magic before descending, noticed a shimmering area in the water. Closer inspection led him to believe it was a portal to another plane, like the plane of water. He tried to get Shuushar to swim through the portal, but was unable to convince the Kuo-toa using only non-verbal communication. The Wizard eventually just swam towards the portal hoping to have it take him somewhere fantastic. As he swam through it, the portal dissipated. It seemed it was an unstable phenomena and was now gone.
The Druid had transformed into an Octopus for the underwater journey and when he realized his friends were being attacked immediately came to their aid. The Fighter and Rogue battled the Elementals and despite taking some hits did not exhale. Just as the Druid got close enough to help in the combat, the PCs in the thick of it destroyed them. The Druid grabbed the wounded PCs and swam them to the surface at top speed. The Wizard and Shuushar managed to reach the surface on their own.
Who Will Wield Dawnbringer?
Once the PCs were safely back in the ship they all stood agape as they beheld the glowing sword. The Halfling was entranced. He was convinced that his quest was done. He’d found the sword and could now return it to the church. The Fighter wasn’t having any of that. He declared he was Dawnbringer’s new owner. The rest of the party wasn’t thrilled with this idea, but the Halfling was ok with it. He asked the Fighter what Dawnbringer was saying to him. The legends say the sword speaks to its wielder. Only those worthy of the sword can use it in battle. The Fighter heard nothing. The sword was not speaking to him. The other PCs began to ask to see the sword, but the Fighter wouldn’t give it up. Meanwhile the Halfling kept spouting off facts about the sword that he’d learned during his years of research. The sword had a beautiful jewel-encrusted hilt that was magnificent and unequalled. The sword was light despite its large size. The Fighter was oblivious to these comments but the rest of the party was not.
The others began to look more closely at the sword. It did not look like what the Halfling was describing. When they tried to get the Halfling and Fighter to realize that, neither believed them. The Halfling said the sword may be masking its true appearance to avoid being stolen by an unworthy wielder. No matter was evidence the PCs pointed out about the sword perhaps not being Dawnbringer, the Halfling was unwavering in his assessment that this was indeed Dawnbringer. The fact that the Fighter had found it and was now holding it meant that he was worthy. Nothing could change the Halfling’s mind about this conclusion.
The Fighter eventually allowed the Wizard to examine the blade more closely. Once the Wizard pointed out certain flaws in the blade the Fighter had to admit that it was a rather ordinary weapon. The blade was rusted and nicked. If not for the glow, the weapon would never be considered a magic sword. Perhaps this wasn’t Dawnbringer after all. The Halfling never changed his opinion. The Wizard retuned the sword to the Fighter.
The party rowed the boats to shore to rest for the night. The Fighter would not give up the sword even though he now realized it was not likely Dawnbringer. In the morning Shuushar said he could lead the PCs to Sloobludop.
When morning came the party found the Halfling had been killed. He was slashed by a large blade. He did not seem to have struggled or put up a fight. Perhaps he was killed while he slept. The Wizard and Fighter both checked their weapons and both had blood on their blades. As the party began to argue and accuse one and other of killing the Halfling they were surrounded by a doze Kuo-toa warriors.
To be continued.
Has your group had any water encounters? What were they like? Has anyone done underwater combat? For groups heading to Sloobludop, how many NPCs were still with the party by the time you got there?
This week I wanted to do a water-based encounter and I wanted to set the seeds for the legend of the Dawnbringer sword. My solution was the Halfling diver. I wasn’t sure how this encounter would play out nor was I sure how long it would take. I was pleasantly surprised that everything really fell into place and the encounter worked really well. I even had fun doing a three-dimensional underwater combat that took into account PCs holding their breath. The group seemed to enjoy the encounter so that makes it a success in my book.
For those who are curious, Dawnbringer is indeed a real item and is in the adventure. Where, when, and how it appears is largely up to the DM. I have plans for that particular plot hook so I needed to plant the seeds early to get the most out of it when Dawnbringer appears. As for the Halfling diver, his personality shift to that of obsessive and fanatical once the fake Dawnbringer was found displayed his madness, something the PCs haven’t had much experience with yet.
Next week we’ll pick up with the Kuo-toa and the village of Sloobludop. The PCs will have opportunities to make friends and enemies so we’ll se what they choose to do as avenues open before them. I think the combat character will have to give the skill and spells guys a chance to take centre stage next week.
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