Dancing Myconids, hallucinogenic spores, the blessing of the Demon Princess Zuggtomy, swarms of biting insects, a two-headed dog, a two-headed giant, and spellcasting Derro Dwarves were just some of the things the party faced during the last session while exploring the Whorlstone Tunnels. Three PCs were knocked unconscious and captured by the giant Ettin while two others planed for a daring rescue. Can things get any stranger? You bet they can; read on and find out.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto my table was down to only three players. The rest of the tables were all full with five and six players each. Fortunately the three players who were present in my group were the guys playing the three PCs who were knocked unconscious and captured at the end of last week’s session. That made things a lot easier for me as the DM to run. It also gave these three players a lot more face time during play. The party this week was made up of a Half-Orc Barbarian, Human Rogue, and Human Monk.
Escaping from the Cultist Hideout (Area #12)
The PCs were rudely awakened when their jailer threw a bucket of cold water on them. The three realized they were in the cage that used to hold the two-headed dog. It was filthy. The heroes were still very badly hurt – each had only 1 hit point and they had not gained the benefits of a short rest. Looking around they spotted their gear (including all their weapons) about 30 feet from the cage in a big pile. The Derro guard was busing routing through their stuff looking for valuables.
The Derro spellcasters seemed to have resumed their casting as the low hum and murmuring could be heard once again coming from the lower level of the room. The Ettin was back in the corner sitting among the mushrooms, lichen, and other Underdark plants.
While unconscious all three PCs were deliberately subjected to the Faerzress, the source of Underdark magic and a catalyst that makes creatures more susceptible to bouts of madness. Each PCs was now wrestling with their own personal turmoil in addition to their current predicament.
None of the PCs had any idea what was coming next, but they all agreed that they couldn’t wait to be rescued, they had to try and escape. The Monk decided to use his illusion magic to create sounds near the entrance that mimicked well-armored people coming in to attack. Assuming that distracted their guard, the Rogue was then going to try and pick the lock using the lock picks he’d kept carefully hidden in the lining of his boots.
The first part of the plan worked. The guard was scared and immediately ran to the ladder and climbed down to the lower level to warn the others. Unfortunately the Rogue couldn’t get the lock to open as quickly or easily as he’d hoped. The Monk and Barbarian wrenched on the gate and managed to force it open. They party grabbed their gear and began to make their escape.
Two of the Derro climbed back up quickly enough to spot the PCs fleeing. The Monk used the Oil of Slipperiness they’d found a few weeks earlier to coat the floor in front of the pit trap. Hopefully that would cause the pursuers to slide into the pit and slow them down even more. With that done the party ran away at full speed.
When they got to the crossroads they had to decide if they wanted to brave the water and take the most direct route back to the entrance or risk going back through the Fungi Thicket where the swarms of insects lived. As they debated the pros and cons they heard the Derro getting closer. They decided to head for the Fungi Thicket and ran.
Hiding in the Fungi Thicket (Area #5)
When they got to the edge of the thicket they realized that if any insects attacked them they’d die, so they needed to go slow and keep their eyes open. The Monk had the brilliant idea (with a bit of prompting) to eat the pygmywort plants and shrink down. As smaller creatures they hoped their reduced weight may not alert the burrowing insects. It also made it easier for them to hid in the thicket.
Three diminished PCs slowly and quietly moved through the plants. They spotted some insects but managed to avoid them. When they heard the Derros approaching they decided to hide. When the Derros moved past the PCs, the Monk again used his illusionary power to create noises away from the party and near where the insects were. The Derro ran right towards it and the swarms attacked them. One Derro fled. The other fought and defeated the bugs.
The PCs realized that the Derro would likely find them if they didn’t move. The Monk decided to sacrifice himself so his allies could flee undetected. He called out to the Derro and made his location known as his allies left the thicket safely. When the Derro spotted the Monk he shot him with his crossbow. The Monk deflected the bolt and then hid again. The Derro couldn’t find him so the Monk left as quietly as he could.
The party regrouped and then ran back to the cave entrance. Once there they reconnected with the Fighter and Wizard. The two healthy PCs agreed to stand guard while the hurt characters rested. The lone Derro didn’t come out of the thicket to pursue them so they got a long rest without interruptions.
The Obelisk and the Egg (Area #14)
When the party awoke, fully rested, they decided to venture back into the tunnels in search of the Grey Ghosts and the missing Dragon egg. The Fighter was still suffering from the hallucinogenic spores the Myconids shot him with, so the Wizard agreed to stay with him until he recovered. The other three PCs retraced their steps and managed to get through the thicket unmolested. This time they veered right instead of left and found a new tunnel system to explore.
When they came to their first fork in the road, they decided to stay to the right. They made the same decision the next time as well. When they came to their third branching passages they noticed the path to the right was a lot narrower than the main passage. They still went right and cautiously made their way through the narrower tunnels. They found two small chambers, one branching off to the left and then one branching off to the right, both good defensible places if they needed to rest again. The narrow passage continued onward until it joined the main tunnels again. The party went right.
The passage rounded a bend and eventually came to a set of large wooden, reinforced doors. The doors were locked and barred from this side. They decided to leave the doors alone and went back. This time they turned left. The passage veered upward and the temperature got warmer as the progressed.
The huge chamber that opened before them was very well lit. In the centre of the room was a giant stepped rock formation. Ramps connected each level. At the top, two peaks were connected by a bridge. On one peak was a 50-foot tall shiny metal obelisk. Beside the obelisk a female Derro was gentle caressing the structure, noting the imperfections. On the other peak was a large red egg.
As soon as the PCs took a few steps into the chamber they heard laughing in their minds. Behind them a floating sphere lowered from the ceiling. In the centre of the sphere was one huge eye and below it a mouth full of sharp, pointed teeth. Extending from the top of the sphere were four stalks with tiny eyeballs at the end of each. Before the party was a Spectator, a lesser cousin of the deadly Beholder.
The Spectator telepathically expressed its glee that the PCs were here because he wanted to eat them all. It wanted to kill them in front of the obelisk, as if it was a live observer who would praise it for its prowess. The heroes immediately attacked the grotesque abomination.
The hovering Spectator made for a tough target, but the Barbarian and Monk worked together to do a fast-ball special – the Barbarian threw the Monk at the flying monster and the Monk speared it and punched it as he flew through the air. The Rogue waited until the Monk was adjacent and then fired an arrow into the Spectator’s soft underbelly.
The creature howled in pain and then blasted the Monk with his Necrotic eye ray and the Barbarian with his Fear ray. The Monk shrugged off some of the damage but the Barbarian fled like a frightened child. The PCs slowly chipped away at the Spectator for a couple of rounds as it continued to shoot them with its rays. The Derro yelled at the Spectator and then at the PCs but as none of them spoke Dwarven so they had no idea what was said. She then joined the fight shooting at the PCs with Ray of Frost and slowing their movement.
The Monk cast Silence on the area around the obelisk which crippled the spellcaster’s magic. She was forced to move away from the obelisk and towards the egg. All three PCs decided to climb to higher ground and minimize the hovering Spectator’s advantage. When they got up to the top the Barbarian and Rogue headed for he Obelisk while the Monk headed towards the egg.
The Rogue, using inspiration, fired at the Spectator and scored a crit, doubling his sneak dice and easily killing it. The Derro moved closer to the egg, but also so she could line up a Lightning Bolt at both the Barbarian and the Rogue. They took half damage but it was still enough to drop them both, but the Half-Orc Barbarian invoked his racial ability to stay standing.
The Monk attacked the Derro and the Barbarian threw a hand axe at her. She was still up and this time cast sleep on the Monk. He dropped. However, he was perilously near the edge of the ledge so we rolled to see if he fell off. He did. When he landed the magical sleep ended and he took falling damage. The Barbarian charged at the Derro and crushed her under the might of his heavy hammer. They’d defeated both villains and now had the Dragon egg.
The only treasure of note in the room was a strange gold coin the Derro had in her pocket, which the party took. They were happy they’d recovered the egg, but it donned on them that they couldn’t bring the giant egg through the narrow crack in the wall that they’d used to gain entrance into the tunnels. They have to find another way out. How ever the thieves brought the egg in here in the fist place. That will be a problem for the next session.
To be continued.
It was nice to have a small party for once. Usually the lack of players is a problem, but this week it worked really, really well. It gave these three players a chance to really get into their characters and do lots of stuff. Of course combat was more dangerous, but that’s the reality of a small group. I was originally going to curb back the difficulty, but they played so smartly that I didn’t even need to.
Through blind luck the party managed to find the room and the Dragon egg. At first it seemed like they’d completed their quest, but they realized the egg was too big to take back the way they’d come in. So next week they’ll search for another entrance/exit. We’ll see if they do it quietly and try to avoid encountering any monsters or if they decided to clear out each room they explore. I suppose it will really depend on the number of players they have next week.
One other thing I decided to play up this week was the madness effects. I haven’t really been using them much this season. I don’t really understand how it all works as the DM so I’ve just been ignoring it. However, I’ve heard from other DMs hope much fun their players have been having when their PCs get afflicted with temporary madness so I thought I’d try it this week. My guys made their saves as needed so it never really came into play, but for some of them the effects will persist for days so it will still have time to become a bigger factor for them.
How much has the madness affected your group this season? What are some of the best or craziest things you’ve done or seen at your table as a result of a PC’s madness?
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.
Actual Play Podcasts
- Each week we record our D&D Encounters session and make it 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.