As those of you who are following our 3.5 FR campaign will recall, we last played back in March. That is to say, the Washington state contingent played. In late May, the WA boyz flew south to join their California-dwelling brothers for a lively session in picturesque Monterey.
Much mirth was had over the weekend, starting with a delayed departure from SeaTac, a fun night drinking and BSing, gaming on Saturday and Sunday, and missing our planned flight home on Sunday. We all eventually got home late Sunday, so all's well that ends well. Standby FTW! It's always a hoot to get the whole gang together.
So without further ado, on to the latest recap:
With the party reunited in Relkath’s Foot, all is well once again for our small band of intrepid adventurers…or is it? Garrity is reunited with Esteyr (his father) only to learn that Thindara (his mother) has ventured into the Underdark on a mission and has not been heard from since. She was heading down to Sith Morcane to further investigate the whereabouts of the Red Sword, the blade last wielded by Nikola’s father who was battling the Thayans and their demonic minions. Esteyr and Thindara used their network of friends, peers, and informants to piece together the events leading up to the attack on their home, as well as news of the Red Sword.
Now why would a surface elf venture into the Underdark, seeking information about a sword from the inhabitants of a drow enclave? Well, if the surface elf is actually a drow, and her dark elf name is D’nayen Pa’az of the clan Pa’az, that might be why. Now at this point in time, one might wonder how a drow mother could pass herself off as a sun elf mother, fooling not only her friends and community but her own son as well. Thindara, as it turns out, is a druid/illusionist of no small talent. She used her powers and skills to disguise herself, as it might be hard for her husband to go about his duties in the defense of Aglarond if it was common knowledge he was married to a drow. Most drow, it seems, are still viewed by surface-dwellers with a high level of suspicion, if not downright hostility.
Esteyr had not heard from Thindara in over a week when Garrity & Co. showed up, so of course he did what any good son would do – gather up his friends and plunge into the Underdark! The brave band was given directions to Sith Morcane, and Garrity took a Pa’az clan brooch if needed. Beyond that, they were flying blind, so to speak.
The journey to the Underdark was brief and mostly uneventful, save an encounter with a trio of spectres. The first meeting ended with one spectre dead and two driven off by Posht, and several of the party drained a few levels. Round two ended much better, as the cleric and paladin were determined to put the undead to rest once and for all.
A pair of Maurs provided the first Underdark encounter for the group. One maur was able to expand to full height, but thankfully the second did not. As it was, the pair proved to be formidable foes, and quite a bit of offensive magic and divine healing was necessary to claim victory over the giants.
Less than a week after they set out, the party reached Sith Morcane. They expected the worst, because they found quite a few drow bodies along the way, mostly at overrun outposts. The bodies had all been stripped of clan brooches, piwafis, and boots. Thorough looters, or items taken for other purposes? Other would be the correct answer, once the city proper was reached. A massive battle had obviously taken place, as the city was all but a ghost town. Most of the activity noted was from scavengers, and a few survivors scampering away at our approach. The party headed straight to the clan Pa’az stronghold, and were met by a small handful of survivors.
Once the drow were convinced of Garrity’s heritage, they welcomed the surface-dwellers and shared news with them. Civil war had erupted, a not uncommon event in dark elf communities. What was different was the scale of the war – clan Larak, the main rival to Pa’az, had gathered the lesser houses and consolidated their power to attack Pa’az and two other clans. Bloodshed raged all across Sith Morcane, and well over half the population was destroyed. Survivors melted into the Underdark, or holed up in their clan strongholds to see what would happen next.
With regards to news of Thindara/D’nayen, news was not good: she had been taken captive by Larak, and transferred to Manzessine Prison, a notorious Illithid-controlled fortification. The wardens had a long-standing reputation of never breaking any pact or deal for any of their charges, quite unusual in the back-stabbing and double-dealing realms of Underdark politics.
About this time, a new threat emerged: an ancient wyrm, a massive red dragon had appeared at the main gate, accompanied by a small host of humans. Thayans, no doubt. Garrity took a stab, and decided that the Red Wizards had convinced Larak to attack with the usual promises of magic, profits, and power motivating them. Once the battle had ended, the Thayans would swoop in and mop up any and all survivors in their way, hell-bent on recovering the Red Sword.
One of the Pa’az survivors led the party away from this new threat, but was quickly lost in the darkness and tunnels. The party pushed on at a feverish pace, wanting to distance themselves from this latest threat. Along the way, a group of a dozen ogre miners and their mind flayer overseer were encountered and destroyed. Their lode of raw garnet was tucked into a recently-acquired bag of holding, so their work was not in vain. Callum also sent a prowling grick to a dark grave, earning the paladin some additional experience fighting the various denizens found here.
Finally, the party reached Manzessine. A narrow span crossed a chasm that was billowing green vapors – never a good sign. Across the span, a massive portal stood flanked by two large stalactites. Oh, and a pair of large creatures that looked like patchwork mockeries of huge mind flayers. Garrity rubbed his hands together, flexed his fingers, and began to think. How should the party go about breaking INTO a prison?
Option number one: full frontal assault. Pros – direct, decisive, immediate. Cons – 100% chance of alerting the guards, entry not guaranteed, and increased risk of never seeing the light of the sun ever again. Option number two: entry via stealth. Pros – diminished risk of alerting guards, chance to see what lies ahead, and actual chance of success. Cons – entry not guaranteed, success not guaranteed, chance of joining the other inmates for a long stay on the high side.
So against all odds, the party selects option number two. And lo and behold, not only does it turn out to be the right choice, the brave band actually executes their infiltration with near-perfect success! Palau gets cloaked in a greater invisibility spell, allowing the diminutive rogue to scope out the point of entry. He discovers that the stalactites are actually hollowed out observation points, connected to the prison via small corridors. There is one mind flayer guard on duty, watching the approach to the main gate. Down the corridor a short distance is the lift mechanism for the front gate. And because the jailers are a thorough lot, there are some shriekers growing just outside the main gate as well. Having secured this vital intel, the team hatches a plan…
The assault element will buff up with spells, potions, etc. and will execute a two-pronged assault on the sentries. The support element will silence the area around the main gate, and a fireball will hopefully subtract the shriekers from the equation. Nearly simultaneously, the rogue will attempt a sneak attack on the mind flayer, while the paladin, ranger, and cleric will meet the two strange guardians head-on, supported by Garrity’s arcane arsenal. If the attack is successful, Palau will take a gaseous form to allow him to enter the complex and open the front gate. If the attack fails, all is most likely for naught.
As the attack unfolds, the silence/fireball tactic works as advertised, quieting the area and scorching the shriekers to ashes. Palau’s sneak attack does NOT go as planned, only wounding the flayer with one hit out of three. Some magic missiles (fired through a tiny window in the stalactite) help take down the illithid.
Now on to the remaining guardians. They turn out to be constructs, patched together out of mind flayer, drow, and other not-so-recognizable parts. They also turn out to be totally resistant to spells, much to Garrity’s chagrin. The constructs and fighters trade blows, while the cleric keeps up a steady stream of healing. In the end, the adventurers prevail, toppling the constructs.
Against the odds, the adventurers have gained entry to the prison and so far they have not alerted any other guards! But the timer is now ticking, as sooner or later the relief for the front gate guard will no doubt notice that something is amiss. The team presses on, moving with a purpose while trying to remain as quiet as possible. Their next obstacle soon presents itself in the form of a simple corridor.
At the opposite end of the corridor is a gate. On either side of the corridor is a curtain. Just behind each curtain is a pair of mind flayers – that’s right, a quartet of illithids. So how do we get through here without dying? Vewwy, vewwy qwuietwy. No magic, no acrobatics, just walk down the middle of the hallway, moving as quietly as possible. Any other action would have brought four psionic blasts to bear on us in a heartbeat. To quote William Peterson in To Live and Die in L.A., “We lucked out, Johnny! We lucked out!”
Moving deeper into the complex, we head down a large, curving ramp and run straight into our next obstacle: an 11-headed cryohydra. It’s a fairly simple affair – kill the beastie before it grows back too many heads for us to handle. The party does well to dispatch it with minimal fuss, although our spells continue to dwindle.
Another pair of mind flayer constructs bar the way, and we have to slug it out with them to continue. They pound on the paladin and ranger, and I think the rogue took a few lumps as well. Healing continues to get used up, but at least Garrity doesn’t waste any spells on the patchwork lumps.
A pair of bodaks do their best to stop us cold, but they cannot defeat us, or more specifically, they cannot kill Callum. The paladin is money with on his save vs. death rolls, while Posht unleashes all his undead-hating fury on them too. The bodaks soon join the ranks of dead undead and we move on.
Around a bend, a mind flayer sits behind a large, ornate desk. Dunno if he’s filling out TPS reports or trying to arrange a meeting with The Bobs, but there he sits. Once again, Palau goes in for the sneak attack, and once again, his attack rolls are less than stellar. One for three if I recall correctly. But it matters not, because at this point we can seem to do no wrong. We kill this guard and finally enter the main cell block! We lock onto Thindara, release her from durance vile, and head for freedom.
At this point, one would expect the world to come apart and all sorts of hate come down on our heads. But it was not to be. We waltz out the main gate without any additional trouble and then pick up the pace and put some distance between us and the prison. Thindara is happy to see Garrity and thankful to be free. She fills us in on her journey into the Underdark and what she saw and found out. The Red Sword, created by the drow to combat the Red Wizards, has been sighted! Unfortunately, it seems to have fallen into the hands of notorious drow assassin who might be part of (or at least working for) the rival clan Larak.
Once clear of the Underdark (without any additional encounters), everyone heads back to Relkath’s Foot. Esteyr is reunited with Thindara, along with son Garrity and adoptive son Nikola. What our next move will be is uncertain at this point. The Red Sword is in the hands of enemy drow, and Nikola seems determined to reclaim his father’s potent magic blade. Sith Morcane is in a state of anarchy, and the Thayans seem to have grown so bold as to operate deep inside the Underdark with relative impunity.
I’m not sure what part our small band of heroes will play next, but I know it will be fun! I think everyone has reached 10th level, and we picked up several nice magic items along the way. Garrity even rolled his second consecutive 4 on his HD roll, so huzzah for that. Stay tuned for the next session recap coming sometime in early August.