Where our heroes mix it up some more with some Drow, befriend some Svirfneblin and (sort of) encounter a Deep Dragon. There’s also a big ole’ tortoise. This is: “Jim Clocks Gets Mixed Up With a Svirfneblin Smuggling Ring”

If this is your first time checking out our little D&D Adventure Blog, you might want to check out this post that explains the setup and format of the game. You can check out all “Big Fish” content on this nifty landing page.

Eric had such a good time writing with us last time that he’ll be chipping in his two cents this week as well. This was my story so I will be taking the helm of the storytelling. I’ll be in black, Jon (our DM) is in blue, and Eric shall be in red.

I’m going to preface this one by mentioning that for a few reasons this session wasn’t quite the pinnacle of our little gaming experiment. Remember that as a group we’re kind of trying out a bunch of things in terms of storytelling and mechanics so there are bound to be some missteps. But, part of the reason you might be reading this is to see the ups and the downs of monkeying about with different ideas about what a Dungeons & Dragons game can be.

We want you, the reader, to share our successes and our failures. It’s a learning experience for all of us, players and DM alike. I won’t lie, this session left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

I actually had a really good time. I woke up the next day a little grumpy about Jon’s ruling on Control Water, but I’m happy with everything else.

The Question of Timing

As we mentioned in the primer, each session of the game has a hard stop and start time. We start at 7:30 pm and end at 10:30 pm. If 10:30 pm rolls around and we haven’t completed the adventure our older selves are “kicked out of the tavern” and the story gets washed away in the haze of age and ale.

Jon, you mentioned that plan each session with essentially 3 components: 1 combat, 1 exposition, 1 climax. Is that overly ambitious? As a player, it’s super hard to manage because if you spend too much time enjoying other elements of the adventure, you are (whether you actively realize it or not) putting your chance of seeing a satisfying conclusion deeply in jeopardy.

I think that if we were each a well oiled DnD playing machine it would still be ambitious.  This was going to be a full session if we had been running at 100% anyway, which we were not, and I really failed to calculate for how much extra time we’d need.  With a month between sessions I had a lot of extra time to enrich this one, too.

This also means that if a few players are rusty, fiddling with their character sheets all night will eat up precious minutes of the gameplay. Not to put too fine a point on it, but both our Barbarian and our Warlock haven’t played since before Christmas. The pair of them bumbling about while they got their bearings was infuriating in a time-limited situation.

Not Quite Done With the Drow

Our merry band (The N’er Do Well Cads) have returned to their natural forms and have been wandering the Underdark looking for a way back to the surface. A somewhat friendly band of Duergar have provided us with the best lead we’ve had in weeks with the promise of an exit being “that way”.

So off we went.

We come across what seems to be an ocean. In the Underdark. This is a revelation to our extremely aquatic-based party. Our zeal is short lived however since we are suddenly made aware of the presence of Nyleera, (the presumably new) Matron of House Seerear, some of her warriors, and some goblins.

We throw down despite Jim’s best efforts at triggering a parlay. She wants the dragon eggs back, and Jim was fully ready to sell that Silver Dragon up the river. But it seems this Drow would rather have a fight.

Drow are dumb. Specifically this one too.

I got to say, maybe I don’t understand how Skill checks work then. I rolled a 24 on Persuasion to buy some time by offering her exactly what she was after (information about her eggs). Her response was to start casting. It felt pretty nerfed to not even get a moment’s advantage with a roll like that.

Sometimes people are eager to roll in circumstances where they don’t really have any power to influence the outcome.  In this case she was desperate to kill you. Although in retrospect I could have given a little more exposition there.

So a fight we shall give.

The combat sequence takes place near the aforementioned body of water. Eric/Tidus does some water shenanigans that I will let him expand on.

Tidus was near a large body of water, and that Triton priest of a sea god was chomping at the bit.

But first, I need some information from Jon: Was it a lake or an ocean? This is important because I’m salty.

The Undersea is freshwater. (Then maybe Eric shouldn’t be salty? Ha ha! Good one.)

Then I’m a little salty. On the first round I cast Control Water. Ultimately my 4th level spell (sharing a level with spells like Polymorph, Greater Invisibility and Divination) amounted to washing away the goblins and nothing else. As a player I had hoped that a surprising, situational, clever and – most importantly – fucking cool use of a spell (I even dropped my catchphrase)  I would have my own “Heat Metal” moment.

Had this ended the encounter, I feel we would have had a shot at completing the session.

Knowing we started a little late and have a jam packed session, how do you make the call of “yeah, I’m going to just let this work and end the combat” or not?

The Drow were meant to wipe you out.  Remember the guards doing 4d6 poison on top of their sneak attack damage?  The Creeping Doom that opened the fight? They were meant to be extremely threatening and the fact that they were not was testament to how effective Tidus’ spell and strategy was.  Shows how much I messed this up that you didn’t get that.

Oh, an Illithid watches this fight, but there’s no time to really deal with that.

Towards the end of the fight we pick up an assist from an adorable trio of Svirfneblin. We kill Nyleera, score some loot and make nice with the Deep Gnomes. Jon, help me with the names here. I got Captain Avees, Bertio and Zabini written down.

Sounds good to me!

As the surviving Drow warriors retreat into the surrounding tunnels, Jim Clocks calls after them “Good luck with your future lives as Driders!” One of them pauses, shudders in the thought of what is surely his destiny and they continue to flee. Gain Inspiration for sick burn.

My suggestion! Those Drow should have fought us to the death, and they knew it.

That was actually meant to be a little foreshadowing for a scene that never happened.

We pick up some treasures right out of the early 1990s, including a Sphere of Duo-Dimension. Which is something I couldn’t even find in Google. But here’s a link to a spell of the same effect updated 18 years ago. Basically, it makes you two dimensional and nearly invisible if you turn sideways because why the hell the not?

God damn that’s cool. We’re going to Paper Mario the hell out of things.

More hilarious loot from Master Greenwood’s 1991 The Drow of the Underdark.

Our Warlock was doing this thing where he wanted to capture and question one of the goblins for some reason. This seemed like a waste of time so Jim Clocks killed the goblin to get on with the adventure. I felt a little bad about actively cutting off a player’s idea but time was off the essence.

Jim Clocks and Brubax the Barbarian catch a glimpse of something massive out over the water, wounded and flying off into the distance.

Our Deep Gnome friends inform us that indeed, it is a Deep Dragon. And if we’re up to the task, maybe we can snatch some cash from a Deep Dragon horde. The Deep Dragon is wounded, we just might have a shot.

Oh it’s on.

I’ve always wanted to run a really long hunt game.  Like a demon lord of some sort that takes like 20 sessions to prepare for.  There’s something kind of classic about that. I did a vampire hunt that lasted maybe 6 sessions one time, but it didn’t quite scratch the itch.

The Great Turtle A’Tuin

Ok, it’s a tortoise. But these guys live in little huts that are the back of its shell and they trundle around the Underdark. It’s a cool visual.

As we track this Deep Dragon, we share tales of the surface and delight them with our stories of heroism. It turns out, through happy coincidence that they escaped from the same Kua’Toa slavers that had initially captured us after our run in with Glacius Rex. Those same slavers that we (off camera) beat up and escaped from to kick off our Underdark adventures.

The slavers being weakened were an integral part of how these dudes escaped!

Guys! We really are heroes.

Tidus knows this, why are you surprised? (Jim Clocks is usually only heroic by accident, remember I was ready to sell out that Silver Dragon if the Drow lady would have let me.)

Our Warlock actually spies some vaguely human sized cages also mounted on the back of the tortoise and the twist of the setup is revealed. The Svirfneblin smuggling ring was not a smuggling ring managed by Svirfneblin, it was actually a deep-Gnome trafficking ring run by the Kua’Toa.

What a twist!

The Svirfneblin let us know that we need a few things before taking on a Deep Dragon, even if its wounded.

  •       Some Basilisk musk, to craft a potion to negate having our souls wrenched from our bodies by its breath attack.
  •       Some Undead dust to craft a potion to negate the fear effects of the Deep Dragon.
  •       A scouting report on the Deep Dragon’s lair.
  •       Some clams, Deep Dragons love them some clams.

The clam bit was because it is in the book.  Deep dragons love clams. They do.

Never Split the Party

We split up and try to quickly knock all four items off the list.

The Barbarian and Bertio scout out a lone Basilisk. The Rogue and the Monk sneak into the Dragon’s Lair to get a lay of the land. The Cleric does some stuff with Undead. The Warlock digs for clams.

I cast Divination and located the shit out of whatever the Undead were hiding

The rushed nature of this part was already an ill-omen of the overall time management of the session. Jon said he had plans for more exposition, but this section was already more or less sped through to try and set up time for the climax.

Yeah, they would have been little mini-scenes but there was no time.

The “Climax”

The stage is set. We’ve got all our potions brewed and in our system, the lair is scouted, and we’ve got sacks of clams.

Brubax the Barbarian tosses a sack of a clams towards the pit in the center of the lair, the Deep Dragon’s head pokes out and snatches it out of the air. It summons forth a small army of skeletons and we enter combat.

And two rounds later it’s 10:30 pm and the game ends.

You gotta stick to your guns.

Yep, tragic.  I really wanted to get to the heart of those little Svirfneblin.  They had a sad story to tell. I was pumped for you guys to make some friends, which so rarely seems to happen in DnD stories.  Don’t know what to say other than onward.

I mean, I get it, we’re at time. But shit.

Jon doesn’t rule it as an absolute failure, so we get to have downtime actions.

Naw, it was an absolute failure I just think more downtime actions is more fun.

I wasn’t sure if timing out was an absolute failure or not. Now I am. *sobs*

Tune in in two weeks to join us for “The Warlock and the Purple Dragon Knights”

Deep Dragon by Silinde-Ar-Feiniel
Deep Gnome/Svirfneblin by Narthyxa

Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Jon is a Master of Dungeons of the highest caliber. He podcasts with me over on 9to5 Entertainment System and occasionally blogs here in Jon’s Junk.

Eric plays a Triton Cleric in Big Fish and also once went to Otakuthon for us and interviewed Hamlet Machine.