After completing “Forge of Fury”, the adventurers had not all leveled to 5. This meant they couldn’t start “Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan” as a group. We talked about options, and eventually we decided to run Out of the Abyss instead. That led to further discussion about whether or not to stick with Adventurers League for the campaign; most felt fairly ambivalent, although I leaned away from AL. Two players leaned towards remaining in AL (since all their other games are home games), and so we got started as such.
A few of them brought existing characters, although two created new ones with DM experience. This helps a great deal in the early going, since level 1 characters can really struggle there. We have a lizardfolk druid, a wood elf monk, a high elf sorcerer, a drow rogue, and a bugbear cleric with a sailor background. (I do believe he may be the only one in D&D history so far…)
As the curtain rose, they found themselves in drow captivity. Several of them immediately felt drawn to–and protective of–Stool, the little mushroom boy that I play as essentially on par with a preschooler. (I suspect Ront, the orc bully, won’t last long because of that.) They also seem not to like Jimjar, the deep gnome gambler, but he will stick around for a while yet. Prince Derendil (in the form of a quaggoth) has already made them suspicious, as does Sarith. I found it interesting that they don’t trust him because he’s a drow, even though one of the adventurers themselves is a drow!
After they spent some time understanding their surroundings and meeting their fellow prisoners, we got down to the business of escaping. Honestly, I could almost have gotten away with letting them do it entirely on their own, but the monk had a background feature that explicitly helped him figure out which of the guards might be willing to help. So when Jorlan offered to leave the cell unlocked, that just catalyzed the planning they’d already begun.
The druid shapeshifted into an insect, entered the armory, reverted to form, and started grabbing gear. He then used an interesting feature of Wild Shape to return:
You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the DM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form, and any equipment that the new form can’t wear must either fall to the ground or merge with it. Equipment that merges with the form has no effect until you leave the form.
That last bit is important: the equipment he carries merges into his form! Based on RAW, I elected to allow it even though he didn’t have it all equipped directly. He couldn’t grab more than he could normally carry based on his Strength score, and even then he chose just enough for the initial phase. This seemed like a clever and creative use of game mechanics to me.
They allocated equipment to those best suited to fight; mostly I let them tell me which NPCs got what. Based on the way I planned to run the rest of the encounter, though, I didn’t pay much attention to the bookkeeping. During the distraction provided by the spurned drow, they sniped the one guard left to watch them, liberated more gear, and told the rest of the prisoners to start letting themselves down. The dwarf Eldeth took charge here, making sure everyone got away before she did.
But the adventurers didn’t stop there. They had some important trinkets and minor magical items they wanted back from the priestess in charge. At this point, demons buzzed the outpost and that gave them an opening to head over to her quarters and the shrine to Lolth. On the way back, a couple of quaggoths tried to stop them but failed.
At this point, the only viable option seemed to head through the western tunnel, because the southern tunnel would take them back toward the drow crossbows and the northern tunnel towards Menzobarranzan. The session ended just as they left the cavern.
This week, we won’t be able to play due to my own work schedule, but next week they will get used to Underdark navigation and a glimpse of some of the local fauna. Hopefully we’ll get time to explore a bit of Sloobludop, but that will largely depend on how effectively they navigate and whether they spend most of the time kicking in Ront’s teeth.