What do you do when you find yourself in possession of a stolen Red Dragon egg? What if you knew where to bring it but couldn’t get it there because it was too big to fit through the exit? Simple, find another exit that will accommodate the egg’s size. Oh, and don’t get caught with it or allow it to get cracked in the process. Just another day in the life of an adventuring party wandering through the Duergar city of Gracklstugh.
This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto we had fewer players than normal and only ran four tables, but we did have two new walk-ins so that helped round out the tables we did run. My group had six including one of the new players. He’d been playing at another FLGS and was new to our store, but not to D&D organized play. The party looked like this: Group A had the Human Monk, Human Rogue, and Half-Orc Barbarian; Group B had the Elf Wizard, the Dragonborn Fighter, and the new character a Halfling Rogue (Assassin).
Last week we only had the three players in Group A so they explored the Whorlstone Tunnels while Group B stayed by the entrance waiting for Droki. When we started this week the party was still divided into two groups.
Group A – Looking for an Exit
The three PCs needed to rest after the tough fight they faced in the last session. Once they’d rested they gently grabbed the egg and started looking for another exit. The heavy doors at the end of the winding tunnel opened to a wild thicket of Underdark plants. This was not the way out so they closed the doors and tuned back. They retraced their original path through the narrower tunnels (still wide enough to bring the egg through) and when they got back on the main path they took the road not travelled.
The Rogue scouted ahead and as long as there was no danger he beckoned the party to follow. They came to a large room that smelled really bad, like rot and decay. A lone Duergar stood guard on the top of the plateau, looking down into the pit of filth and rot. Something in the pit moved. The party decided to turn back and try another passage.
Group B – Heeeeere’s Droki!
While the Fighter and Wizard waited for their party to return or for Droki to happen by, a new face emerged from the cavern entrance. A Halfling stood before them and claimed that the Order of the Flame had sent him to help. The party was facing more resistance than they expected so these two accepted his claim and told him to sit tight. Not long after the new PCs arrived a Derro emerged from a crack in the far corner of the room and as he munched on some bigwig mushrooms grew to his normal size.
The floppy hat with tentacles sewn onto it clearly identified this lone traveler as Droki. He was oblivious to the presence of the PCs and wandered towards the tunnel exit muttering to himself, rhyming and giggling. The Fighter quickly grabbed the Derro before he could get away. As soon as hands were placed on him, Droki began screaming. He announced that he had nothing valuable on him because he’d already made his deliveries. He even turned his satchel inside out to prove his lack of possessions.
The Fighter demanded the others search his pockets and see if he had anything else valuable on him. The Wizard took his hat and boots. The Derro was upset when they took his hat, but lost his mind when they took off his boots. He cried that they were a gift from his dear departed mother. Looking at the boots the Wizard realized they were too big for Droki. A quick search revealed coins stuffed into a sock way down in the toes. The three PCs took the coins for themselves. Droki begged for them to return his boots and his hat. The Fighter suggested burning them, but the Wizard eventually returned the hat and boots to the Derro.
Once he had his stuff back, Droki was a bit more relaxed and open to conversation. They asked him about the Grey Ghosts. He said some of them lived in the tunnels. However, when asked to guide the party to them, Droki refused. Even when offered a bribe (with his own money) he still refused to betray their confidence. Finally the Rogue had the idea to hire Droki as a courier. He wrote a note (which included a dirty picture) and told Droki to deliver it to the leader of the Grey Ghosts. Droki agreed.
Group B planned to follow Droki. Unfortunately for them, now that Droki had his magical Boots of Speed back on he was able to run very fast and lost the party easily. They had to resort to tracking his footprints. They followed the tracks through numerous passages and eventually came to a set of doors. However, the tracks seemed to go in and out of the door so they decided to not go inside and instead kept tracking the Derro. When Group B got to a fork in the path, Droki’s tracks led one way but from the other path they saw Group A approaching, carrying the giant Red Dragon egg.
The two groups relayed their respective tales and then continued onward.
Fountain of Evil (area #9)
The reunited party followed Droki’s tracks into an area where multiple passages intersected at a pool. In the water the Fighter saw a glint of something shiny. The new Rogue saw it too. Both PCs let greed to motivate them so they dove in the pool in hope of collecting coins and other treasures. Unfortunately, the pool was home to a Water Weird who promptly attacked them.
The Fighter took the brunt of the attacks while the Rogue, who was smart enough to tie a rope around his waist before diving into the pool, was pulled to safety. The other PCs stood a safe distance back of the pool and attacked the Water Weird with ranged weapons and spells. The Fighter preferred to confront the monster head on so he remained in the pool so he could engage in melee. The watery creature did its best to drown the Fighter but it was no match for six PCs. It was destroyed and the party suffered very little damage.
While the group caught their breath the Halfling Rogue skimmed the bottom of the pool and collected the few copper and silver coins that they saw reflecting the light.
Grey Ghost Garden (area #7)
The party decided to go back and explore the area beyond the doors. In addition to Droki’s tracks there was also evidence of other booted humanoid tracks in this area. The Halfling Rogue searched the doors for traps and finding none proceeded to pick the lock. The party opened the door and everyone stepped inside. The main passage curved to the right towards a powerful and unpleasant smell. Along the left side they saw another smaller passage from which they noticed flickering firelight. The Monk and two Rogues moved ahead silently to peek down the lighted passage.
As the three sneaky PCs got to the fork in the path two invisible Duergar made their presence known when they attacked. It was an ambush! The softest PCs were alone at the front. The Fighter ran up to help, the Wizard cast ranged spells, and the Barbarian (who was protecting the Dragon egg) attacked with throwing axes. The three softies in the front took a pounding before they’re allies could get close enough to help. To make things worse two more Duergar approached from the area that smelled bad.
It was a tough fight and both Rogues fell unconscious during the combat. Fortunately healing potions were plentiful so they managed to get back in the fight before it was over. In the end the four Duregar were killed and the party was very badly wounded. The party could hear the sounds of movement in the room with the firelight. They took a couple of rounds to heal up and get ready before they rush ahead.
Gray Alchemist (area #8)
When the finally got into the room there was no one there. However, they could hear someone behind a steel reinforced door. The Fighter tried to smash the door while the Monk tried to climb up to a ledge and get over the wall and door. The Monk spied a Duergar fleeing through another door as he crested the top of the ledge. He dropped down and opened the door for his allies. They quickly smashed through the second door and just saw the Duergar’s legs step off the top rung of a ladder and disappear through a hole in the ceiling. The exit was large enough for the Dragon egg to pass through. This must have been how they got it in here in the first place.
The Wizard, Fighter and Halfling Rogue climbed the ladder and when they exited through the hatch they discovered that they were in the Darklake District. The streets were crowded with Duergar; it would be nearly impossible for them to find the one they were looking for. They all rolled Perception checks (I told them they’d need a natural 20 to spot him). Two PCs rolled natural 20s and the third got more than 20 when he added all his modifiers. So among the crowd they spotted their quarry and easily caught him. He begged them not to kill him. He agreed to tell them anything they wanted to know if they brought him back down to the tunnels away from prying eyes and ears. They agreed.
Once they brought him back down into the lair he spilled his guts. He figured he could convince the party to let him live if he came clean. The Grey Ghosts stole the Red Dragon egg. They learned that the Order of the Flame planned to kill Themberchaud because he’d grown too big and was becoming too difficult to control. The Order was planning to let the egg hatch, then keep a tight leash on the baby and then kill the adult. If the egg was removed from the equation the Order would continue to lose power as their hold on Themberchaud weakened.
Lorthio pleaded with the party to either return the egg to Themberchaud directly and not let the Order get their hands on it, or to take it out of Gracklstugh. The Monk and Fighter wanted to give it to the Dragon, but wanted to let him know what was going on before they showed up on his doorstep with the egg. Lorthio warned the party that if they crossed the Order of the Flame they’d likely try and kill the party immediately. He suggested they leave the city as soon as the egg was delivered. Lorthio was willing to help them escape and could outfit the party with supplies and equipment needed to traverse the Underdark.
The two heroes went to visit the Dragon while the others helped Lorthio gather the equipment they needed. The Order of the Flame was quite reluctant to let the PCs speak directly with the Dragon. When diplomacy failed they forced their way into Themberchaud’s lair. They gave him a full report. He told them to deliver the egg to a merchant who was loyal to him. This merchant would load the egg into a wagon and bring it to him directly. The grateful Dragon gave the PCs potions and coins as a reward for their good work.
When the Monk and Fighter returned they worked with Lorthio to find the merchant and get the egg out of the cavern and loaded on the wagon. As the egg made its way to Themberchaud the party made their way out of Gracklstugh. With supplies and a detailed map in hand they headed off into the Underdark in search of their next adventure.
To be continued.
After five full session in Gracklstugh (and two session in the Underdark before that) my group just wanted to move on. There is an incredible wealth of information in the hardcover that would be helpful if a campaign was going to take place in Gracklstugh, but as part of the broader Out of the Abyss story there was no way the party could do everything.
I was once again challenged with a party that wanted to split up. I tried to bring the groups together as quickly as possible but it’s always tough. My advice to any DM facing a split party is to jump back and forth between groups quickly; don’t spend too much time with one group or the other. If combat is necessary let the players sitting around doing nothing run the monsters for you. You want to make sure everyone participates in some way.
Another challenge I faced this week as the DM was the new player who was joining us from another store. He had a character but did not have an Adventure Logsheet. When I looked over his character there were a lot of issues that made his character illegal for AL play. He explained that his old DM took care of all the recordkeeping for the players. We worked together to fix his PC and I took this opportunity to remind everyone at my FLGS that they need to be completing their Logsheet after every session.
We’re taking a few weeks off for the holidays but come January we’ll be back in the thick of things. I’m not sure if they’re planning to head to Neverlight Grove or to Blingdenstone. In either case they’ll most likely find another mini-dungeon along the way first.
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