Session Seven: Floon-raker
As Arvene’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, she made out a small room, likely housing the toilet. She noticed something wobbling in the air. It looked like small bones hovering and faintly shimmering and glistening in the light from Joe’s spell. Suddenly, the air around the bones shivered and tightened and a gelatinous shape formed in front of her like an aggressive blancmange. “Ooze!” she yelled and frantically slammed the door shut.
Last night was the seventh session in our Dragon Heist D&D campaign. It started with an ooze and ended with a reunion with a sweet old lady.
The set up
We are playing via Skype and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information. Last night I also set up a second webcam to show a battle map with minis for my players. This went really well and they enjoyed being able to see the map and visualize the encounters. Although I must remember to ensure both laptops are fully charged or plugged in for next session.
Having dual webcams also allowed me to show off the mini figures I’d painted for each of their characters. These were all unpainted minis which I found online at Reaper Bones and modified. I was particularly happy with Alan and Little Joe, both of whom were selected from non-fantasy settings, but suited the characters my players have built very well.
For Alan, our intrepid investigator-ranger, I used this Max Graves, Pulp Era Investigator, removing the gun, but keeping the torch. For Little Joe, our Wild-West sorcerer, I used Texas Ranger Bob Gidolfi and modified the firearm to represent his arcane focus. The Arvene miniature required no modifications; I used this Olivia Female Cleric to represent our resident ex-nun. Dugg, however, was a little more difficult, and I couldn’t quite find the right Earth Genasi Fighter model for him, so I picked this Bandit Knocker Bobby Jackson, as he looked like he could be related to an Earth Elemental. I used my D&D Adventurer’s Paint Set to bring the figures to life, and once the two screens and battle map were all prepared we were ready to play.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and low level thug.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – estranged son from a noble family.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – channeling the spirit of John Wayne.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, ex-city guard, ex-nun.
Previously in Waterdeep
Alan’s Bureau of Investigators (the ABI) are in Waterdeep and on the trail of Floon Blagmaar. The trail has led them through various destinations and they have discovered much. Including the fact that Floon has been kidnapped. Twice. First he was abducted by Zhentarim thugs. Then, in a case of mistaken identity he was taken again, this time by Xanathar Guild members who believed he was Renear Neverember, estranged son of the ex-Open Lord of Waterdeep.
Last week the heroes entered a Xanathar Guild hideout, aided by the real Renear Neverember, a friend of Floon. They believed Floon to be a captive of the Guild and were keen to rescue him as soon as possible. However, they failed to follow the first rule of sneaking into an enemy lair: don’t make your presence known by shouting about your plans in the foyer. Thus they fought the two goblin sentries and moved deeper into the hideout, defeating two more Xanathar and discovering a Gray Ooze.
Arevene slammed the door and was immediately thankful the disgusting slime monster on the other side didn’t appear familiar with knobs. Eventually the dull drumming stopped and they figured the ooze had given up. Once they had reinstated the barricade, the adventurers cautiously opened the other door. A dark stone corridor with steps heading upwards lead away from the sleeping quarters and they breathed a collective sigh of relief as no gelatinous goop monsters attacked.
So the session began with the party escaping the Ooze and closing in on Floon, although they didn’t know that yet. After the incident with the Duergar and Xanathar Thug, the party was looking like they had fallen off a mountain. Both Dugg and Renear were on 3 or fewer hit points and Arvene had no more healing spells until she rested. With this in mind, I had decided that the Duergar would have a handy healing potion in his satchel. They were only level one after all and it pays to be nice sometimes. This act of generosity would have really helped them out if my players had bothered to check the bodies.
Discussions in the corridor
Arvene went first through the door and a successful perception check of 18 from her meant she could hear two distinct rasping voices coming from beyond the corridor. Pausing to plan their next move, the party sensibly went into stealth mode and argued over who would enter the room first.
They came up with a plan to pretend that they had captured Renear. They would enter the room with Renear in tow and offer him to the Xanathar Thugs, who would be confused because they already thought they had him captured. The party hoped this would distract them long enough to free Floon, or at least to retain the element of surprise. It was a good plan.
Alan, as the least damaged from the previous encounter, would lead Renear in, leaving Arvene, Joe, and Dugg in the doorway. Dugg decided to hang back as much as possible as he only had 2 HP left and had already fallen unconscious four times in the last five sessions.
“We have Renear!”
It didn’t go well.
Alan pushed Renear hard into the room, shouting, “We have Renear!” He followed in him and saw a half-orc wizard standing with a foot resting on the badly injured body of Floon, a mote of red flame engulfing his gnarled fist. Across from him was a nightmarish figure wearing black robes. It had large white eyes and purple rubbery skin, with four tentacles encircling an inhuman mouth. This was Nihiloor the Mindflayer. And it was cradling what looked like a pulsing brain with six tiny, human legs.
Convinced their ruse still might work, Alan and Renear both rolled deception checks. They rolled very badly and failed to convince their foes of the charade. The room’s occupants looked on confused. Joe and Arvene prepared to attack.
Little Joe and Arvene missed with their first strikes, both sending ranged spells wildly into the room. Dugg quickly forgot his intention of not getting involved—his main character flaw is: if there’s a plan I will forget it—and he ran into the room recklessly charging the half-orc. Alan also hurtled towards Grum’shar and scored a critical hit. He dealt enough damage to knock him to the floor. Meanwhile, Renear took the opportunity to rescue Floon and huddled his friend into a safe corner.
Then it was the Mindflayer’s turn. I was surprised that my players had seemingly ignored this fairly major threat. Most of them knew that as a DM the first player character I ever killed was with a Mindflayer, so you might expect them to be more wary. Nihiloor, however, had no intention of attacking the heroes; instead he glided effortlessly towards an exit, pausing only to throw the six-legged brain to the ground in front of Alan, “Eat him,” it hissed, as it made its escape.
This idea’s got legs
The brain with six legs was an Intellect Devourer, and potentially more than a match for these first level adventurers. It scuttled on its legs directly towards Alan and jumped at his head like a xenomorph face-hugger.
It took a couple of rounds of fighting Intellect Devourer and Grum’shar before the party was victorious. This wasn’t before the half-orc cast Burning Hands against Alan and Little Joe, causing both to fall to less than 5 HP. At this point, only Arvene had more than 10 hit points.
A not-so-hasty escape
With the enemies taken care of, it was time to get Floon out of the sewers and back to civilization. Floon was very grateful to be rescued but couldn’t provide any clues as to the best way out. They were worried about following the Mindflayer and didn’t want to go back to the Ooze in the sleeping quarters so looked for a different way back to the surface.
Eventually they discovered a secret passage that lead to a cellar beneath a tavern in the Dock Ward. This cellar belonged to an innocent halfling family called the Peadbodys, but my players never got to meet them. Instead they were chased off by a burly guard who caught them trying to steal the booze.
With the burly halfling’s shouts still echoing through the empty Dock Ward street behind them, the heroes made their way to the only safe place they could think of at 4am. Alan knocked on the door of Alma Moyes’ house and watched as the net curtains twitched. He was breathing heavily. Alma still believed he was her long-lost son and he hated to take advantage of a lonely old lady. But they were badly hurt and needed someplace to rest until they could get Floon back to Volo at the Yawning Portal. “Christopher. Is that you again?” … “Yes, mother.” END
This was a fun session and I really enjoyed everyone’s reaction to the Mindflayer and Intellect Devourer. At level one they would have never been able to defeat a Mindflayer, so I was really pleased they didn’t try to stop Nihiloor from escaping. What’s more, even though it’s not a very high CR (the number assigned to each monster to denote its difficulty is called its Challenge Rating), the Intellect Devourer could have had a far worse impact if it had used either of its main abilities: Devour Intellect or Body Thief. Either would have pretty much meant the end of a character and the creation of a new member of the party.
This session marked the end of the first chapter of Dragon Heist and the heroes also leveled up. At least they should stand a little more chance in some encounters and hopefully Dugg won’t fall unconscious quite so much.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Theatre of the Mind is a fantastic way of playing Dungeons & Dragons, and it’s also the cheapest and most flexible. However, if your players require a bit more visual stimulus, especially in combat situations, it might be time to think creatively about how you can do this—even if you are playing over Skype. I found it surprisingly simple to set up a second Skype account and webcam to feature a battle map for this session, and I’ll definitely use this system again when I know there’s going to be a complicated fight. My players really responded to seeing their character brought to life as minis too—and the Mindflayer mini from the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures range was just the right level of creepy to really scare them.
Next week they have to get Floon back to Volo and claim their reward. I wonder how they’ll react when they discover he doesn’t exactly have what he originally offered them as payment…