Escaping the Ooze Temple was an ordeal that the party was happy to put behind them. They continued their journey towards Gracklstugh through the winding passages of the Underdark. For days they traveled, consuming all of their food and water stores and finding precious little to replenish it. Exhaustion was beginning to set in as some PCs began to go without food and water.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto I finally had my full group back together. The party of consisted of the following six characters: Human Rogue, Elf Wizard #1, new Elf Wizard #2, Dragonborn Fighter, Half-Orc Barbarian, and Human Monk. The player running Wizard #2 has now rebuilt his character three times. Hopefully he’ll be comfortable with this build and stick with it.
In the six days after the party escaped the Ooze Temple they quickly ate all their food. It was time to forage. The first two days were fine, they found just enough food and plenty of excess water. But the next two days were not as fruitful. They didn’t find enough food to feed everyone and the water ran out. On days five and six things started to get dire. The lack of food and water caused some PCs to feel the effects of exhaustion.
As the group returned from a morning of foraging (and unsuccessful venture) the NPC, Buppido, said he spotted a monster lair but no monster. Based on the signs around the lair the monster was clearly something big and clawed. He suggested the party go on the offensive to find and kill the creature. Whatever it was, its flesh could feed the entire group. The characters debated the pros and cons of this plan before they finally agreed. Some more reluctantly than others.
Wizard #1 cast Light on a stone. Wizard #2 had his familiar (a raven) carry the stone down the passage into the liar and the drop it in the middle of the cavern. The Rogue followed the bird as quietly as possible. The hope was that the light would reveal details that the party could use to their advantage. The Rogue got right up to the cavern and looked around. He didn’t see a monster, but did see a pile of bones. The flesh had been gnawed off of all the bodies. He heard the sound of dripping water in the darkness. Quietly he turned and rejoined the group.
The party decided quickly that they should rush in and secure the lair. If the monster was there in the shadows they’d fight. Otherwise they’d set an ambush for when it returned. When the group got to the chamber they split up and searched. The Rogue, Monk and Barbarian moved ahead and spotted a hole in the floor against a far wall. They all listened but couldn’t hear anything down the tunnel. The Fighter moved towards the bones hoping to find good treasure. The Wizards stayed at the cavern entrance ready to cast spells.
The PCs heard the sounds of a creature lumbering towards them. From the shadows stepped a giant Umber Hulk. This triggered Wizard #2’s readied Ray of Frost. The blast stopped the monster in its tracks. The Fighter was near the monster so he charged towards it and attacked. The Rogue fired his hand crossbow. The Monk and Barbarian ran in to attack in melee. The Barbarian looked into the creatures giant bug-eyes and was compelled to stop fighting.
The party quickly learned that the Umber Hulk’s gaze was disorienting. Rather than fall victim to the creature’s defenses the melee combatants chose to close their eyes and fight blindly. This proved remarkably effective as the Monk, Barbarian, and Fighter all continued to score hits even with disadvantage. The Wizards stayed a safe distance back and flung Magic Missiles at the Umber Hulk. The Rogue kept shooting and when he did finally hit it he scored a crit.
The badly wounded Umber Hulk disengaged and burrowed down to flee from the combat. Unfortunately the PCs nearest the tunnel the group spotted at the beginning of the encounter heard the sound of something coming up fast. A Bulette jumped up from the hole and came crashing down on the Monk, Barbarian and Rogue. They all made their saves and despite getting pushed back none fell prone.
The party shifted their focus onto the new foe. Fortunately they could fight with their eyes open so they had little trouble targeting their quarry. The Wizards took cover behind some stalactites and fired Rays of Frost at the Bulette. Wizard #2 attacked with Phantasmal Force drawing the Bulette’s savage jaw attack away from the party. Unbeknownst to the spellcasters, the Umber Hulk was burrowing in behind them. When it crashed through the wall it savagely struck them with all three of its attacks.
Wizard #1 drew his sword to try and stab the Umber Hulk, but the disorientating gaze caused him to attack and hit his ally. Wizard #2 fired a Magic Missile at the Umber Hulk and killed it where it stood. Meanwhile the rest of the party finished off the Bulette.
When the fight was over the group patched their wounds and explored. They sliced open the Bulette and Umber Hulk taking any flesh they felt they could eat safely. The dripping water collected in a small pool which the party drank safely. Many of the corpses in the bone pile were still dressed in some kinds of armor or clothing. The group salvaged what they could and Wizard #2 cast mending to repair any other damaged armor from last week’s session.
After a short rest and some healing the group pressed onward, not eager to see if there were any other creatures that may call this lair their home.
The Mad Barbarians
For the next couple of hours the party marched onward, bellies full of BBQ Bulette. As they advanced they heard strange howls coming from behind them. This gave them all the motivation they needed to keep moving. No matter how far they went the noises followed, never getting closer (louder) or farther away (quieter).
The tunnels eventually split into a maze of choices. They listened from the edge of the maze and heard footfalls and breathing. Something was nearby. When the whole party caught up and flashed their lights, the Monk signaled that they should be quiet. Wizard #1 saw a humanoid figure dart across the passage just beyond the illuminated area. He alerted the group and they decided to advance and face whatever was upon them.
The Rogue and both Wizards readies ranged attacks while the Monk, Barbarian and Fighter all advanced. As they turned at the first passage they were beset upon by a Dwarf wielding a Greataxe. The Dwarf was in a battle frenzy – he had madness in his eyes and he growled as he attacked. From the other side came a second Dwarf Berserker. After the Dwarves attacked the PCs they turned and ran. This provoked opportunity attacks, but drew the PCs in different directions, separating the party.
The readied attacks from the ranged attackers were all triggered as the Dwarves dashed across the passage and then back into the maze. Wizard #1 was brave enough to advance with the melee combatants but Wizard #2 and the Rogue stayed back at first. Wizard #2 sent his familiar into the maze which turned out to be a great idea because a third Dwarf Berserker was waiting in ambush for the PCs.
The combat was difficult for the party. They scored lots of hits, but the Dwarves kept moving about the maze. This made ranged attacks nearly impossible. It also kept the party separated which allowed the Dwarves to get behind the softer PCs and inflict some real damage. The party eventually realized that they needed to focus fire, but by then they’d spread a lot of damage among the three adversaries.
Wizard #2 and the Rogue were relatively ineffective for the first half of the encounter because they kept trying to line up ranged attacks. The Dwarves didn’t put themselves in positions to get sniped so the PCs eventually had to wade into melee or get really close and attack with ranged spells and weapons.
By the time the first Dwarf fell the party was pretty beat up. The Fighter dropped right after the first Dwarf was killed. The Monk was the next one down. Combined magic from the two Wizards dropped the second Dwarf shortly thereafter. The Wizards stabilized their unconscious allies while the Barbarian and Rogue went toe-to-toe in melee with the final Dwarf. It got to the point where a crit or max damage could drop any of the three remaining melee combatants, and it was a crit from the Barbarian that got the last Dwarf.
The party was very badly wounded and needed a rest. Despite the sounds that they continued to hear behind them, they needed to rest. They tucked themselves into a corner of the maze and hunkered down for a short rest while they tended to their unconscious allies and tried to revive them.
To be continued.
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t prepared to run the session I wanted to run this week. My intent was to have the party arrive in Gracklstugh and see what happened from there. The problem was I didn’t give myself adequate time to read through all the materials and prepare. There’s like 25+ pages of stuff in the Gracklstugh chapter! Way more stuff than I expected. So I decided to focus on the traveling part of the campaign and throw a few random encounters at them.
My party is really good at combat but terrible at managing their resources. So I decided to put them through the gauntlet and demonstrate the value of thinking ahead and not blowing everything they have at the first monster they see. I cautioned the group that this would be a tough week. They all nodded in acknowledgement but I don’t think they realized what I was trying to tell them.
I had them make a bunch of Survival checks for food and water. At first they rolled well enough to keep the party fed, then the rolls got worse and they started to go hungry. It got to the point where three PCs had level 2 exhaustion and two PCs had level 1 exhaustion. That’s when it was time to have them face some monsters.
After they defeated the monsters from the first encounter I allowed them to take a short rest but not an overnight. This forced them to go into the next fight down significant resources. The second encounter was tougher than it might have been otherwise. In the end no one’s character died, but two PCs fell during the fight and two more were very, very close to dropping. By the end of the night the party was better aware of their own limits, and learned a valuable lesson in resource management. Most importantly they all had fun.
Next week they’ll get to Gracklstugh. That should present interesting and different options than they’ve had thus far during this adventure. We’ll see what they do when they have the freedom to wander a subterranean city.
What are the toughest random encounters your party’s faced while wandering through the Underdark or sailing across Darklake? Have any PCs dies during your adventures? Was their death spectacular in any way? Has your group looked through the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide? What builds are they considering, if any?
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