D&D Descent into Avernus: Session 2 – Frolicking Nymphs
Two fierce jets of fire blasted out from the sorcerer’s palms as the pirate Dead-Eye was incinerated on the spot. His final words were burnt to a crisp before he could utter them and then the tavern caught fire too. Within seconds the whole upper floor of the Elfsong longue was ablaze and patrons began running for their lives. Tarina, surprising calmly, stood up, dusting herself down. She looked at Alan and then Dugg, both sporting black eyes and bruised egos. She noticed Arvene in her nun’s habit wielding her mace, and saw Little Joe, furiously trying to blow out the encroaching flames. “You’re Reya’s friends aren’t you? She said you were fun.”
Last night was the 70th game in our Geekdad Plays ‘D&D’ campaign, the second session in our online Dungeons & Dragons: Descent into Avernus story. We’re playing Descent as the sequel to our Dragon Heist campaign; the characters remain the same, but the stakes are much higher.
The set up
We started playing Dragon Heist over two years ago and recently completed that campaign. My players wanted to continue playing their (now) level seven characters, and so we agreed to continue – although now we’ll play fortnightly instead of weekly, due to life and things. I hadn’t told them what campaign I’d be running, but I think they might have now guessed (some of them even read this blog).
We play online using Zoom or Roll20’s digital tabletop platform, and we use Trello and DnDBeyond to keep track of NPCs and campaign information. We also stream all our sessions live on our Twitch channel: dnd_TPK. We don’t get a lot of viewers for the channel, but we do have one regular from Belarus – although it could just be the case that they leave us on in the background to entertain their cats while they’re away on holiday.
Our Adventurers Are:
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – a keen law-breaker, mischief-causer, and scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild. Tricked into joining an evil organisation and so now very suspicious of everyone.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a Harper, private investigator, and secret wererat in denial. Recently engaged to Istrid Hrone (cleric and ex-Zhentarim agent).
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric/Warlock – a trickster priestess of Tymora, pact-bound to Golorr the aboleth. Still reeling from accidentally murdering 20 policemen.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – brave, muscly, and prepared to die for his friends. A paid-up member of the Dungsweepers of Waterdeep, and benevolent custodian of Waterdhavian orphans.
Alan, Arvene, Dugg and Joe have been through the mill. Over the course of the last six months three of them have died and been brought back to life; two have accidentally, committed heinous acts of murder; and one has become a snarling wererat once every full moon. Now, having successfully discovered the Vault of Dragons beneath their home in Waterdeep and returned some of the gold therein to the people of the city, they have become embroiled in a new mystery. They headed to Elturel in search of cultists and discovered two separate cult groups operating in the forest there. They quickly dealt with these low-level cultists, but their victory was soured when they saw the city of Elturel sucked into Hell.
In the previous session they returned to Waterdeep, having witnessed the Fall of Elturel and its Companion into Hell. They arrived along with 10,000 uprooted refugees and quickly became entangled in a mission to root out the same cultists who had settled in Waterdeep. They met a spy called Tarina in the Elfsong Tavern. They burned down the Elfsong Tavern. And now they’re heading off to find another ally, Reya, in a bathhouse.
Tarina turned to the group. The Elfsong tavern blazing behind her created a cool silhouette effect which Little Joe made sure to admire. “Several blocks from here is a public bathhouse with a walled garden of frolicking nymphs carved into its front gate,” she said. “ It’s a Cassalanter establishment and hooded figures have been seen coming and going at odd hours. Reya seemed to think this made sense with what you found out in the Eltugard Woods, and headed there last night. She grew tired of waiting for you.”
We began last night’s session with the party of adventurers scoping out a bathhouse. It was about an hour before midnight and the pretty area of the Trade Ward where the Frolicking Nymphs was situated was quiet and the streets were bare.
Alan, Dugg, Arvene and Little Joe stood and looked at the ornate stone walls that formed the perimeter around the stuccoed building beyond. Candle light flickered through the stained glass windows and the occasional silhouettes of patrons inside could be seen through the glass.
The sweet smell of massage oils and incense wafted invitingly around the square where they stood in the moonlight. It was only one more day until full moon and Alan’s lycanthropy was starting to take hold. So he couldn’t decide if they should go in for a lovely hot bath or storm the building and murder everyone inside.
As they stood and watched, they saw two young patrons exiting the building, drying off their hair and nodding happily to the concierge at the gate. Dugg, Arvene and Joe all fancied a bath. So they went in. Alan, growling, followed.
A quick dip
When they entered the bathhouse there was only two other people using the facilities. A steward approached and informed them that they would be closing soon, but they could still take the opportunity to bathe if required. He said this very much looking at the state of the party’s clothes, still scorch-marked and blackened from the fire in the tavern.
Unsure about what else to do – the introduction of the bathhouse and its patrons confused my players so they didn’t remember why they were here – they all decided to undress and relax in the scented waters. I shouldn’t have been surprised that given the opportunity to not play Dungeons & Dragons and instead pretend to have an imaginary bath, my players would gladly accept.
Not long after, the steward, whom Alan and co. regarded as their own personal bath-butler reminded the party of the necessity to close. Arvene thought this odd and checked her insight to see if he was hiding anything. She rolled well (18) and realised the bath-butler seemed nervous and was clearly keen for the party to leave.
They then remembered they were looking for Reya and asked if he’d seen her. At his point he clamed up, visibly sweating and anxious. They knew he was hiding something. Alan decided to try intimidation. He was, after all, naked. He rolled a 21 on his intimidation check and the bath-butler soon divulged the reason for his wanting them out soon. At midnight the bathhouse was taken over by cultists in the employ of the Cassalanters and they were unhappy that the previous day someone had managed to access the complex below by sneaking in during daylight hours. Reya!
Don’t upset the butler
As soon as the beans had been spilt, voices could be heard coming up the path outside. The bath-butler looked desperate. “Oh no. it’s too late. Quick hide. And please, don’t let them know I told you.”
Rolling stealth checks, they hid in one of the massage rooms and looked through a gap in the door as three hooded cultists entered the bathhouse. Little Joe rolled a D20, to see if Rochester the Parrot would give him away; evens he stayed quiet, odds he didn’t. It was even. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
By now all the other patrons had left and it was only Charles the steward present. The three cultists did not treat him well, and he whimpered as they spat insults at him. Arvene and Dugg did not like the way they were treating him and almost dashed out to defend the bath-butler, but the situation calmed down as the cultists all de-robed and decided to take a 10 minute dip, leaving Charles to keep an eye.
He snuck into the massage room where Alan was hiding under a table, Arvene behind a privacy screen, Little Joe had turned invisible, and Dugg was pretending to be a lamp. “Quick” Charles hissed, “there’s a trap door which takes you below the bathhouse, if you take a left you can access the grounds outside. Don’t go right, they catch you and then I’ll really be for it.”
Descending into the Dungeon
Naturally, once they’d gone through the trap door they took the first right turn they could. It led downwards into a damp, smelly tunnel that reminded them all of their time spent in the sewers hunting wererats. They were trying to be stealthy, so Arvene cast Pass Without A Trace as they snuck around the dark, dripping, dank tunnels. Little Joe rolled a D20. It was even. Phew.
They soon came to an area where the tunnel opened up into a small chamber. There was a foot deep of stagnant water on the floor. Splashing around the filfth Little Joe discovered a passageway that lead off from this chamber hidden behind an odd crease in the wall. They followed this passageway until it opened up into another small square room. There was something bobbing in the water, now over a foot deep. Arvene investigated and quickly realised it was a dead body.
The facial tattoos and torn robes indicated the body belonged to a cultist but, rolling poorly (6 history), Arvene couldn’t determine which of the Dead Thee this cultist worshipped. She was able, however, to determine that they hadn’t been dead for more than 24 hours. Was this Reya’s handiwork?
Before they could ascertain any more they heard voices from an adjacent room. They all stood still, holding their breaths, rolling stealth checks. They rolled well. Little Joe rolled a D20. Even again. The voices passed and footsteps lead away.
Alan and Co. then explored further. Alan, deciding to use the dead cultist’s body like a punt, propelled himself along the shallow water whilst standing on the corpse. The water got deeper and they soon found themselves, with the exception of Alan, wading knee high through smelly sewer water. Then they came upon a third room.
This one had an altar in the centre above which hung a giant metal skull, which I described as being the same shape and size as a large gong. Dugg wisely decided not to gong the skull-gong. Then he changed his mind and hit it with his Warhammer as hard as he could.
GONG! The sounded echoed and reverberated around the underground complex. “Ah,” shouted Dugg, his ears ringing. “I think that skull is some kind of gong.”
The others agreed.
Alerted by the summons to serve, four cultists of Bane dashed into the altar room. Luckily for Alan and Co. they had just enough time to hide themselves from view, but not before laying the corpse on the Altar. “Brian!” one of the cultists shouted. “What happened to Brian?” From the shadows Little Joe was quick to answer, “The same thing that’s about to happen to you.” The room filled with arcane fire and the smell of burnt herring. End
I was a little disappointed that Joe rolled six D20s that were all even numbers. If Little Joe had rolled an odd number then his parrot Rochester would have likely given them away, but luck was with them – last night at least. As they explore the dungeon further, he’ll have to continue to roll and hope that Rochester keeps quiet.
What did we learn?
DM Tip Expect your players to be puerile and childish. Especially if you repeated use the phrase “frolicking nymphs”. The average age of our group of players is 33, but frolicking nymphs still sets them off laughing for almost the entire two hour session. I think I know why we only have one regular Twitch viewer.
Next week we will continue to explore the under-bathhouse complex. Arvene, Dugg, Alan and Joe will quickly find sneaking around quietly was the right choice, and perhaps that bringing a loud-mouthed parrot on a stealth mission was a bad idea.
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