goblin king

Crazy Eyes!

Sunday we did an Escape the Room for Nicole's birthday; Inquisition themed! Apparently these folks are franchised from Russia, & they were talking about some of the games that they can't run in America...but I digress. Monk robes! Separate cells! I was in a stockade! & we got out in thirty minutes. There were two "clues" given to us that we didn't need, but I think the person running it was worried we were going to start tearing up floorboards & ripping down walls at one point. No need to fret, we were just checking for secret passages, we weren't going to get aggressive, but the person running it & watching us on spy cam didn't know that. It was also Elly's going away! Or almost, I ended up getting lunch with her & Nicole & Luke the day she actually left. So! Escape the Room, I did that.

Part of a bunch of busy town times! Saw our author Kai Ashante Wilson read & watched him burn the house down. Had a work meet-up & was present only for the flicker of a candle before coming home for the Dating Naked finale, & the last TV Night before Lilly has her baby. Saw Jenny Hval in concert with Jennifer & Liz, & her opener serpentwithfeet was great. Played D&D & Deadlands. Saw Leigh & the Duffs & a bunch of people from the wedding, which was cool, since they were interesting folks. I didn't get as much of a chance to talk to Leigh as I would have liked, but made up for it by hanging out with Ross & catching up with Lisa & Tristan. So that's life; Jennifer has been in Europe a lot lately & my social calendar & work calendar have been crowded. Also, I've got a bit of a stomach ache right now.

thousand yard drink

Deadlands: Uradel von Batory.

I get to be a player in a Deadlands game! I haven't played in the setting since college, when I played a Pinkerton "Mulder" whose Scully had died, in a bowler hat. This time, well, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to be. An...alchemist? Don't I sort of always want to be an alchemist, though? Heck, why not! The question I really struggled with was did I want to be a white guy in the Weird West. Could I be research nerd enough to play a Native American character? I decided that the shamanic route was right out, & came up with a mixed-race concept of a snake-oil salesman who claimed to have been raised by his father, a Prussian baron, but who was actually raised by his mother, a Prussian maid. I'd just read Plague of Doves, so the Ojibwa were on my mind; also, I've researched them before so I wouldn't be starting from square one. As were the family relationships; I'm still not sure when the deal with my father is, yet. Then walking over there I had a brainstorm: my character is albino. Listen, it's the Weird West & I like to have an iconic quirk, & it played into my plan perfectly. I made my character part Hopi, since albinism is 1 in 200 amongst that tribe, & I have at least a smattering of knowledge, thanks to an interest in kachinas & such, enough that I think I can be respectful & not appropriative. I'll use Thelesperma megapotamicum infused vodka as my cure-all!

Raj is the Marshall. Theresa is the one who brought us all together; she's the Western fan & her character is a snake-handling Blessed, who was a revivalist in the carnival where I was selling my tonics. Matt wanted to be a Weird Scientist as well, but he's going more of a Tesla route than my potions, & so to diversify the group I decided I'd be the muscle, as well. So...okay then, how do I justify that? My plan was that I played "Prussian noble" as a persona, culled from my mother's time as a royal maid or something...but ok, let's turn the gain up on the Weird. I scribble out the name "von Wildegrave" & write in "von Batory." I mean...right, if this is the Spooky New World, then the Gothic Old World is out there too, I figure. Dracula's got a cowboy in it! So now my mother is the ghoul Black Widow; a body servant of Countess Bathory, the immortal & evil alchemist. My mother was a snatcher, hence the spy skill suite, & maid, hence the pomp & circumstance; she fled to the Americas & met my father here (a non-albino, though in my fictional history my mother was the white buffalo woman). I grab green glasses-- I need sunglasses, per my character's Hinderances-- & we're off to the races in Coffin Rock! Where the creepy dermatologist makes my choice of albinism quite germane! Now I just need to actually figure out how the Arcane Background rules work...
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sunset samurai

Oubliette Session Twenty-Nine: Bug City!

Not that much to really say in recap of the last Oubliette session; in defiance of most of our game meet-ups, this was pretty much all in-initiative! Not combat, but stealth. Frankly, that's even better in my book; either way, it was a largely tactical episode. Last time the castle-town was over-run by the toxic spores released by the Monkey King's priest, who activated one of the ancient Al-Kem weapons. An anime plague of biblical proportions. The players found their allies mutating, twisted into insectoid monsters & giant ogres, frenzying & really doing a number on the group. Exiting the chapel where Haru & Iroha have just been married, they see that ground zero was in some ways the eye of the storm. The city lies covered in alien coral, scampering toadstool oddities, spiderwebs of fungus; strange, silverfish bugs, horribly twisted people, all manner of horrors.

(Mutated Hokusai Nezumi no-Kappa; "Ruthless Onslaught" by Christopher Burdett.)

Flitting from building to building, jumping across the long drop to the canal below, our "heroes" take the long way around...& see a huge, Lugh of the Long Arm looking fomorian figure. O shit waddup, it's the tumerous, harlequined bodyhorror giant that used to be Hokusai Nezumi no-Kappa! & also from the auction, the beautiful courtier Toku o-Kirin & the assassin Masui...& they are with the enormous Kaori o-Foo, whom Amina is meant to duel to the death, after the wedding. The wedding that just finished. The party hides in a warehouse, breathing heavily through masks. Outside, the "other party" try to reason with their warped friend. In the distance, the sound of strange engines: a heavier-than-air ship!

(Kaori o-Foo; "Hida Shara" by William O'Connor.)

(Masui & Toku o-Kirin; Os Fashion, unknown.)
call of mordicai

Out of the Abyss: Rats on the Ship, Squids in the Sky.

"Can't go wrong with an absurdly avuncular mindflayer," is going on my list of Dungeon Master axioms. It's right there in Out of the Abyss, & that's the sort of thing that made me like the campaign enough to run it. Graziliaxx is a member of the Society of Brilliance, an organization of monstrous humanoids in the Underdark with super-genius IQs who want to "fix" all the problems of the underworld...& who are tangled up temporally with the party somehow? That's just a random encounter I can roll up, & that's to the story's credit. So, the party is traveling along in a kuo-toa keelboat: Ront the orc is a remarkably adept sailor, Jimjar is having an eating contest with the piranha's in the boat's nets...

First, an NPC heel turn, as Topsy, fresh from the death of her twin brother-- a pain Jim's drow warlock knows all too well-- comes rushing towards the party to tell them something...as they svirfneblin's body cracks, bones breaking, white furs sprouting, pink eyes blinking into a feral, lycanthropic snarl. The wererat seems unstoppable...until Imicia knocks her out with sleep. They tie her up...& when she wakes up she transforms into a white mouse & scampers into the bilge to hide, small enough that they can't get at her without squeezing down after her. Norin the elven cleric almost nabs her using a chain shirt as a net, but no dice. So instead, they keep watch on the grates leading in & out, & sail along.

(Meanwhile, the madness of the Abyss is starting to take hold of all of them.)

It was my call to play it as a mad uncle. It's a mindflayer that isn't evil...done as the "benevolent" colonial anthropologist. Grazilazz will squidsplain things like human sexual reproduction to you, but the relief in the face of seeing a Hasturian figure, a tentacled humanoid flying limply through the air, boneless limbs more like tentacles than arms or less, long "fingers" themselves even smaller cephalopodian appendages, & not being eaten by it. Really takes the sting out. Robed in purple, clothed in a sphere of violet light, it hoveringly darts willy-nilly above the cold waters of the Darklake telepathically shoulting "Haloooo!"

"Haloo, scion of DeVir," in fact, & as the thri-kreen bard Pook'cha knows, Imica is of that lineage, revealed long ago by Kalythra, Imica's missing half-drow half-sister. A small family secret-- the name of the House his father fled to the surface to escape-- suddenly germane. They draw the attention of the illithid-- who carries a lightning gun like the one the grell possessed, that the sea-sick (& PC absent) Serafin the halfling ranger now carries-- who oddly & gladly bobs over.

Grazilaxx, a super-genius, brought goggles of night for Serafin, the only character without darkvision. Realizing that Gizem the dwarf & Cavendash the gunslinger aren't with the party, it fears "Temporal Con-tinuity Edits!" if it talks too much about how it knows who the members of the party are, though it lets a few things "accidentally" slip, like wanting them to get the stonespeaker crystal & telling them to avoid anyone asking about "Cyrog." The reason it was looking for "DeVir"-- a House wiped out by Do'Urden, but Grazilazz seems to struggle with the idea that the House & the individual are not interchangeable-- is to tell him that Eilistraee (!) has a message for him, that She's left his House's moonblade with the "eldest of DeVir."

A real swell Thing, Grazliaxx talks while towing their keelboat towards Gracklstugh, the grey dwarf city where Buppido the derro has convinced them to go...largely because its Somewhere, as opposed to the middle of the Underdark or a creepy fishtown. & because if Demogorgon comes out of the Darklake again, at least they have armies & a red dragon. The mindflayer parts ways with the party just out of sight of the city, knowing his appearance might be problematic, warning them about the vrock called the Queen of Fleas, servant of Yeenoghu, who they've encountered twice before.

It leaves, & they paddle: Buppido knows a dock where they can avoid any trouble at the gates...

So, Gracklstugh! Part Singapore, part oilfield-factory complex, the plumes of smoke & bursts of intense flame are contrasted by the spotless, almost empty streets. Empty...except for all of the invisible dwarves, that is. Duergar are the "drow of the dwarves," a cold, ruthless, efficient race that can grow to be giant sized, turn invisible, loves spying, hates lawbreakers & loves making stupid laws to catch people breaking, like "no haggling." The party stays at an inn called The Ghohlbrorn's Lair-- "We Are the Only Establishment Legally Allowed to Serve Non-Dwarves" is their catchy slogan-- Jimjar starts to gambling with treasure he looted from the Netherese temple. Buppido agrees to lead the party to the Blade Bazaar before he parts ways with them, & that's where we call it a session! Music was provided by Makeup & Vanity Set's "Charles Park" II & III.
whiskey cheese

At the Research Station of Madness.

Carl ran a Dread game set in Antarctica for me, Bella, Seth & Alyssa. I sadly had to run out before the end, but after I took the Lead Scientist's LSD in order to talk to the extremeophile meme-creature that had possessed the Russian bases' scientists I really should have knocked the tower over. Yeah, it was one of those kind of games, where I made the empathic-- well, psychopathic, based on the DM's leading questions-- artist & then spent the whole game trying to semiotically communicate with the aurora australis using found materials. Ha. My first piece was called "Pareidolia" from when I painted over the humanoid face we saw in the southern lights. My second was "Camera Obscura," when I disassembled the component parts of a mysteriously smashed camera, down to the circuit boards, because of misunderstanding what the scientists were theorizing about the ice zombies. "Xenoglossia" was my use of all of the neodymium I could scrounge & electromagnets I could rig in a kind of stream-of-consciousness switchboard to try to talk to the sky. I think I might have had another piece that slipped my mind...but what was really slippery was my accent, which ranged from Peter Lorre to Colonel Klink. I never got to get into the death of my rival; I was going to haunt Alyssa about it if I died, that was my plan for that.


What is your name?

Francesco “Franko” Koyen.

When did you first realize that you matter more than other people?

When I got a scholarship to private school. My parents were the kind of warm working class people who nurtured my interests & were surprised by my talents & happy to chase scholarships for their kid. It was the rich pieces of crap who got into the intensive art boarding camp on money or family name that made me realize I had talent, & the rest were husks.

How did you drive your rival to suicide?

Husk? I don’t mean husks. Other people are like a clay jar. You can’t tell if there is light in them without cracking them. Is it my fault that when I cracked him, I didn't find him empty?

Suicide is a hard word for it. He thought I was coming to bring him fuel for the snowmobile. By the time he realized I wasn’t coming, it was too late for him to make it back here. I listened to him curse at me on the short wave, but I know he was a Real Person because he was brave enough to try to walk back, even knowing it was a doomed effort. That is true passion for life, & what is Art but the passion & solitude of life?

Do you think the Junior Scientist knows it’s your fault?

Impossible. No one else was in range of the walkie talkies. Impossible. No one could know. It’s impossible that someone could. No, that can’t be. Not possible. No...can it?

What moves you about your own art?

I prefer to work in native materials, expressing the futility of life’s struggle with multimedia trompe-l'œil. I made an optical illusion of a penguin’s tracks walking suicidally into the Antarctic interior with a small patch of snow & penguin droppings. I painted fishing bobs black to resemble the heads of orcas hunting humans at the ice edge. It is predator & prey, & life versus death that drive even animals mad.

What do you hear in the howl of the blizzard?

I won’t be able to tell you until I figure out how to translate it into Art. It speaks! It is saying something! I must translate it to understand it. Now it is just a haunting whisper in a foreign tongue, swirling across the White.

What artistic accomplishment could satisfy you?

You know that graph of Napoleon’s armies marching to Russia & returning? With all the data embedded in it in interesting ways?

Well I kind of want to do that, but on Death in Antarctica. From ice cores to animals to the first human explorers, Scott & all the rest, up through...now.

In darker, subconscious thoughts:

The idea of painting in the human canvas is a natural one. I always intended to make my death a work of art-- painting with diseased blood, if that’s the way I go out, or making maps from clumps of fallen hair from chemo, or heck, who knows-- but the death of my rival has made me realize that there are other ways to play in that medium.
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call of mordicai

Fallout or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Vault.

Not a lot of replay value to Fallout IV, but I liked it. Most notably, the "morality" of the game is based on who you hang out with. Not in a banal "the good guy is a drip" way, either-- my favorite NPC of the game was Piper, the journalist, because she fit my video game ethics. Of course I will help everyone, I came here to play a game so the more quests the merrier...but I am also going to break in everywhere & snoop for easter eggs or rare stuff, obviously. Played a melee character with a high Charisma, because I always play high Charisma. Give me all the chat options, please. Red Rocket was my main base of operations, I married Piper, befriended everyone except Strong & the mercenary from California, who I sent to some settlement that I can't remember. Did all the DLCs, sided with the Railroad, & favoured gear that gave me a statistical boost. Ended up in the 70s after killing all of the raiders in Nuka-World. I did that quest right up until they wanted to expand, & then I butchered the bandit scum.

Hancock was pretty great, Nick is cool...Jocelyn & Brian played with Deacon last & armoured him up so they didn't get to see what a hilarious weirdo he was. They also wore the Silver Shroud gear most of the game, which I think is fun. Me, you know how I do, I was a crafter. I repped the Vault: painted up my power armor the same, dressed my companion Curie in a yellow trench coat like the Vault-Tec Rep, got Piper in my old 111 blues. Matt came over a few times & messed around on a character, getting as far as Diamond City. It's funny to see how much more of a sarcastic jerk he is than I am; I'm either inquisitive or friendly, pretty much as a rule. I feel like that describes the tenor of the four chat directions, clockwise from the top: curious, mean, nice, & skeptical. I can see how Kingtycoon can wander around on Survival mode. Me, I think a little more complex procedurally generated worldbuilding development & I'll be interested. Skyrim was the first time the emergent complexity of these games hooked me, & I wonder when that will dovetail into the elegant design ethos of Dark Souls & Bloodborne; the Chalice Dungeons show that they are co-evolving...

iron throne

Out of the Abyss: Stranger Tides

Behold! The Demogorgon, Prince of Demons! Demogorgon, the Sibilant Beast, Lord of All That Swims in Darkness! My recent #humblebrag has been about being pals with the Stranger Things creators, but I had independently started running Out of the Abyss before I knew the show was going to name check the Mad Prince of Abysm, the Gaping Maw. I've been a fan of baboon-head for a long time; "Mandrillagon" actually showed up in Oubliette for a cameo. It was just good timing that he got to debut in the campaign while the pop culture buzz was strong, & even better luck that none of the group, including the RPG nerds, are planar cosmology experts, so the kuo-toa's worship about Lemoogoogoon went unremarked. Demogorgon! Not going to lie, throwing down a Demon Prince in the middle of the Underdark is pretty much the elevator pitch that sold me on this module.

So my first & major complaint with Out of the Abyss is that it seems to have been written with an old school "& also a ton of minions" mindset that is annoying for my Dungeon Mastering style & means that even when I've got a bunch of relevant miniatures, I still don't have enough minis. Heck, more than just my DM style, it's my gameplay style overall. I like high-cost heavy-hitter units in wargames & am notorious for playing "swarm" style armies but surprising everyone by focusing on elites. A relatively minor quibble, all things considered. If there was something like Pathfinder's paper pawns for the adventure, that would be swell. I quite enjoy collecting minis but a cardboard set of peons would be alright, since I could use my plastics for the more notable NPCs.

I think my pacing was pretty on-point this session! I knew going in that I wanted to get to Demogorgon by the end, & was pretty sure I could pull it off. After all, when in doubt I could always use the NPCs to advance the plot. Which was a tricky part: I want to make it clear that sometimes the NPCs will try to railroad you, but that's not the same thing as the DM railroading you. (I mean, at the same time who hasn't popped helpful advice in an NPC's mouth...) It's like NPCs giving exposition: please don't mistake that for objective campaign information. NPCs are characters, & even the most honest of them are going to be biased & have their own agendas. The size of the party was good for forward momentum & consensus this session, & the "on turn X, Y happens" & objective based kind of combat is more my speed than straight up slugfests.

& so the kuo-toa archpriest Ploopploopeen has "befriended" the party as "bait" to help kill his daughter, Bloppblippodd. I think my anthropology background gives me a pretty good ground state for addressing alien civilizations. Or as Sam put it, "I like to see what it would be like if people stupider than humans made a city." Kuo-toa are great! You just don't look at anyone directly, suddenly rush up close to their face, combine a bit of sleepwalking & narcolepsy, & you are golden. I went for a cross between amusing & scary, sort of like goblins, & when they all started screaming "BARTA! BARTA!" & dragging chests, chains & shells out from the water, it was one of the better "merchants rows" for offloading loot I've run.

After trading some of their stolen drow gear & other miscellaneous loot near the shrine of the Sea Mother-- a broken ship's figurehead with shark & giant crustacean pieces replacing the missing bits-- Ploopploopeen browbeats them into helping he & his cohort of fish-people kill his daughter. They seem surprised that he's not more concerned about killing his own spawn...but he really, really isn't concerned about killing his own spawn. Ectotherms, what are you gonna do? The party, amongst themselves, are resolved to talk to Bloppblippodd & at least hear the Cult of the Deep Father's side of the story before getting into the middle of this civil war.

Except...that's not really what happens. Because the "shrine" of tied together sharks & octopodes is empty...except for the schools of kuo-toa that dart out of the shadows of the driftwood & kelp buildings to cut each other with crude obsidian knives, their piscine blood driving the sharks in the water below into a frenzy. The cultists are more predatory than odd & it goes sideways pretty quickly, once Ploopploopeen starts pitching his yarn. That farce goes on just long enough to turn into a massive riot, with the PCs & NPCs trapped in the middle. A kuo-toa monitor pins down the svirfneblin twin, Turvy, & the other fish-folk skewer him. With Shuushar the Awakened parting ways with the party here in Sloobludop, that's two NPCs less.

Then, of course, the riot turns into a ritual, & the prayers are heard, & the for-real-actual Demogorgon appears. A screaming chaos of giant baboon heads squabbling amongst themselves as Godzilla legs & kraken arms demolish the crude & eerie kuo-toa settlement building by building, the fish-people themselves half in worship, half mad, half fleeing, all at once, devoured by the tentacle-full. The players, the buzzing of insanity ringing in their brain pans from all they've been subjected to in the Underdark & now this Thing, steal a keelboat from the docks & escape in the confusion. Where to next? Gracklstugh, the Derro "City of Blades" is a subterranean coastal city on the Darklake, while their intended destination is across the sunken sea & then another clip through tunnels to the myconid Neverlight Grove...& those seem to be the two big contenders.

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goblin's grimace

Out of the Abyss: Slouching Toward Sloobludop

I'm not going to drag my heels on this Out of the Abyss recap like I did last one...after all, these can be written up pretty pithily. I've been using Paizo's flipmats for my maps instead of the usual wet-erase mat, & they've been really nice. Easy transitions from "underdark-y caves" to "underground temple" to "fishing village." Still not a fan of tiles really, but I like these. Soundtrack-wise I've been a one-track mind lately: I played the Bloodborne soundtrack. We started with rolling initiative between the party & the spectres they'd disturbed, after putting the order of events together.

"Serafin opened the crypt that triggered the events...or was it Pook'cha who got cursed?" That sort of recap is a sign of a raucous previous game! Spectres are dealt with without too much trouble: the party's mundane weapons are barely effective, but they overwhelm the spooks anyhow. The pleading "help me, please, down here!" voice comes again, as does a crooked, cackling laugh from an incense-full room where some...one? -thing? Promises oracular answers in exchange for a little symbolic cannibalism & an prayer to a thing called Yeenoghu.

The party debates for some time, & when someone finally checks out the room, it's empty. "Don't leave me along in the dark!" says the voice in their heads one last time...& they decide nope, you know what, time to move along. They drag away the deep gnome Jimjar-- stuffing his pockets with looted treasure from the spectres' tombs-- & head down the exit of the shrine into the kuo-toa city of Sloobludop, where they are met by Ploopploopeen, priest of Blibdoolpoolp the Sea Mother, & a bevy of other fish-people. They are involved in an internecine conflict & want the party's help as "bait" against the cultists of Leemooggoogoon the Deep Father.

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Last of the Vilebloods.

I've been playing the hell out of Bloodborne. I mean, I've platinumed it & just kept going because...well, because it's fun as hell to play & I keep seeing new things. & because I have to keep getting Dregs for the Vileblood Queen. Oh my first playthrough I had an alright time with the game, but didn't thing much of it. "I miss my shield," could kind of sum it up. On my second playthrough I found the secret areas, including Castle Cainhurst, where I was like "oh, a Wounded Queen motif, isn't that like one of my top archetypes, right alongside Harlequin?" & on top of that she's the equivalent of the arachnid Fair Lady in Dark Souls. I'm a noted Knight Tannhäuser, anyhow, so of course it was a done deal. I became the Last of the Vilebloods, all done up like a Slasher.

Head: Cainhurst Helmet
Body: Charred Hunter Garb
Hands: Old Hunter Gloves
Legs: Tomb Prospector Trousers

Trick Weapon: Saw Spear
Firearm: Repeating Pistol

I was digging it but then I tried out the Threaded Cane & thought to myself: "well, that's just dandy. Pun intended." I'd also started getting decent at parrying-- a literal game-changer-- & so was ready to switch my whole weapon set. Of course, being me, I can't play a game like this without interjecting a little roleplaying, so I needed a special impetus. I decided that the death of the Pthumerian Queen, the eponymous Yharnam, would be the tilt of the scales, in which I went with an "all Cainhurst" theme. Fashion Souls reigns supreme, so I left myself a little wiggle room, but my endgame look is much classier. I decided to go to level 150, since that's apparently the "meta" for late NG+ multiplayer, so I'm awfully dangerous.

Head: Cainhurst Helmet
Body: Maria Hunter Garb
Hands: Cainhurst Gauntlets
Legs: Black Church Dress

Trick Weapon: Threaded Cane
Firearm: Hunter's Pistol

Here's some more game mechanics analysis. Obviously the Trick Weapons are the game & they are fantastic. Nothing else to say there. Having to teleport back to the Hunter's Dream every time is stupid. The way Bloodgems work is stupid. Dark Souls III almost figured out upgrades. Using tiered upgrade materials, that's a fine system, & then use special gems to add unique properties. None of this "grind dungeons for percentage points" stuff. Don't get me wrong, I want to grind dungeons. Chalice Dungeons are almost there. I suggest a complicated "Boss Souls" system, where a "Boss Soul" can be turned into a ring or rune; a spell, miracle or arcane tool; a special weapon; or a chalice to add that boss to the possible dungeon bosses. Drive folks through some NG+ cycles!

While I'm brainstorming, here's a new Item class for Soulsborne-esque games: the Staff, which blocks like a Shield & casts on the L2. I've got to say, I think that might be a path forward for this style of game: balancing Shields, Guns, Two-Handed, Two Weapons & other options, the same way various Right Hand weapons & spell tools have been balanced. I really like the "class" aspect of these games, & I really like the "generic" aspect of these games; they balance those seemingly at-odds ideas by making you-the-player the steward of it, by getting you invested in a character & a play-style. That's the core of the game's combat mechanics, to me: "every weapon is viable, just pick a moveset you like & build your stats around that," the same way that "anywhere you can see, you can get to" is a thesis statement of the level design.


Out of the Abyss: The Underdark!

I've been lazy about recaps lately-- see also my last Oubliette twofer-- but that's not too bad because not that much narrative-wise happened in the last session of Out of the Abyss, as it was a more survival-exploration themed session. Previously the party escaped the drow, & were thrust out into the black chasms of the Underdark, fleeing with looted drow weapons...but no supplies. We had a little bit of "extreme survival" play, with the party scrambling for food, water, shelter, tools...& where to go. Off to the Kuo-Toa settlement of Sloobludop ("Sloop-du-bloop" is how I end up burbling it more often than not) & from there to Neverlight Grove, where the myconids live. That's the plan, at least, & surviving a grell & sneaking past a carrion crawler with a saddle on its back, they find enough of the underworld's odd fungi-- barrelstalks & fire lichen & trillimac-- to keep going. Sleeping in the dark, pawing along tunnels-- really only the halfling is blind in the forevernight-- they come to flooded caverns. They encountered a cackle of gnolls chasing two extra-large purple panthers with wriggling tentacles on their back-- the collective noun for hyenas is a "cackle," how great is that?-- & rather than parlay, battle was joined. "Ha ha ha, Yeenoghu!" they laugh & screech, as they players cut them down. Just beyond these caves is an abandoned shrine, & beyond that, their destination of Sloobludop...but of course, erupting from sarcophagi in the temple are wailing spectres! From within, a plaintive & feminine voice in their minds begs them to free her from the darkness...which is where we'll pick up tonight. A truncated summary but there you have it!