Thursday, February 1, 2018

Out of the Abyss: Prisoners of the Drow

I started a new 5e campaign on Sunday: we’re playing through the Rage of Demons adventure Out of the Abyss, which was designed by Green Ronin. This looks like a pretty good adventure path, designed to take the PCs all the way from level 1 to level 15. This campaign has a couple of pretty significant challenges ahead of it, and I don’t mean a bunch of demon princes. First, we have a huge group: 10 players, which is the largest group I’ve run since my old Frilond campaign wrapped up 12 years ago. The other challenge is I will be moving within the next month, so we will be running this over Roll20 or similar technology. So we’ll see how this goes.

We certainly got off to a strong start: the adventure path begins, famously, with the PCs as prisoners in the Underdark, captives of the drow. The goal of the first chapter is to escape from the outpost of Velkenvelve, which is commanded by the drow priestess of Lolth, Ilvara. This setup might drive some players bananas but my group was game and rolled with it.

Stool the Myconid

On top of the large number of PCs are an almost equally large number of fellow prisoners: 10 in total, a motley crew of various strange Underdark races. All of these NPCs are fairly well drawn and distinctive, but man there are a lot of them. I gave the PCs a handout just to help them keep all the NPCs straight. Also, with so many NPCs I was able to be a little callous about having the drow execute some just to demonstrate their cruelty.

Velkenvelve is a nicely realized environment, with lots of interesting features to explore. The more important drow are also given motivations that give them a little more texture than just “we are naturally evil elves.”

The large number of PCs allowed the group to really roll through the outpost, but it wasn’t a cakewalk by any means. I discovered that quaggoths are pretty tough bastards in 5e: lots of hit points as well as a couple of nasty attacks. While the group made quick work of Asha the underpriestess they found Ilvara and her consort to be much, much tougher. The first round she unleashed an insect plague that dropped two PCs. But in the end, action economy ruled out and the PCs were able to escape without any deaths—and they still have five of their fellow prisoners.

All-in-all, I was fairly happy with how well the group jelled and the game unfolded. Starting without equipment turned out to be a nice challenge instead of being a real grind.