descent into Avernus

‘D&D’ Descent into Avernus: Session 4

D&D Adventures Gaming Tabletop Games

Session 4 – More Cultists…

Although unable to revivify the body, they did manage to identify it. Dugg recognized Regnet Amcathra, the idiot heir to a noble dynasty. Clearly these cultists were serious if they were taking on untouchables like that. Dugg was furious, this was his city. Not theirs. Arvene agreed. Alan rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. It looked like there was going to be more murdering on the menu today after all.

Last night was the 72nd game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the fourth session in our online Dungeons & Dragons: Descent Into Avernus story. We’re playing Descent into Avernus as the sequel to our Dragon Heist campaign; the characters remain the same, but the stakes are much higher.

The setup

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 with Descent into Avernus—although now we’ll play fortnightly instead of weekly, due to life and things.

dragon heist

We play Descent into Avernus online using Roll20’s digital tabletop platform, and 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. Last week we unfortunately received a ban from Twitch for not being sexy enough. So last night we all go into our crocheted bikinis, powered up our ASMR microphones, and streamed from our bathtubs. Sadly in the all excitement, Arvene our tech-guy forgot to be streaming, so you’ll just to have to imagine what that looked like. Or actually, don’t.

Our Adventurers Are:

descent into avernus

Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – a keen law-breaker, mischief-causer, and scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild. Tricked into joining an evil organization and so now very suspicious of everyone. ABSENT
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.  

Unfortunately Little Joe was again unable to join the fray last night—although his parrot does make a surprise appearance at the session’s climax—Joe has embarked on a new life path, consuming rusty nails from derelict buildings, and consequently is suffering from a bad case of Tetanus-induced lockjaw. Doctors say he should be fine by next week’s session.

Previously in Descent into Avernus…

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 cults operating in the forest there. They quickly dealt with these low-level cultists, but their victory was soured when they witnessed the city of Elturel sucked into Hell—this was the first literal Descent into Avernus of the campaign.

In our previous session, back in Waterdeep, they were searching for the cultists of the Dead Three in tunnels below a bathhouse. So far they’ve discovered that this cult is split into three factions that each worship one of the Dead Three Gods: Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, and that the cult seems to be inclined to capture and torture nobles from the city.

Crossroads

Dugg searched the room and, aside from the dead noble’s body and the two fresh corpses floating in the well, didn’t find anything of interest. There was no sign of the cultist who turned inviable and fled. He shrugged, took out a small blade, and carved two notches into his broom handle. He was really starting to hate these cultists.

So our latest Descent into Avernus session began with Alan, Arvene, and Dugg searching a room for the missing cultist. None of them rolled particularly good Survival checks so they didn’t discover the tracks leading away.

The room they were in had four exits. Two they had tried already. That left two more possibilities. Arvene gently placed the back of her hand on the door that led south. It was cool. She wasn’t entirely sure why she did this.

3 Dead Cultists

Sure there wasn’t a fire on the other side, Arvene open the door and entered small, square room. Alan and Dugg quickly followed and they saw three bodies wearing cultist robes arranged in a triangle formation on the floor. These weren’t the first dead cultists they’d come across, so Arvene and Alan assumed they must be the handiwork of whomever it was they were following—hopefully erstwhile ally Reya, who they’d been told came here the night before.

Dugg, however, sensing foul play and seeing a lack of blood and carnage, rolled Insight to see what was going on. He rolled badly (8), so did not realize they were in fact alive and only playing dead.

With this, he gave Alan the go-ahead to search the bodies, and began sweeping them into a pile in the corner with his broom. But as soon as they both did this, the bodies leapt up and drew their weapons laughing.

ROLL INITIATIVE!

A very quick fight ensued as the three low-level cultists were butchered by our level seven heroes. Each one made short work of their Necromite of Myrtle: Alan stabbing with his short sword, Arvene using Eldritch Blasts, and Dugg perfecting his broom-based martial arts—Broom-Jitsu.

Their enemies all fell simultaneously and ended in a triangle formation not unlike how they it appeared when they entered the room. Alan was keen to disrupt the pattern in case it was a part of a ritual, so he ordered Dugg to sweep them aside. Which he did after carving another notch in his handle.

Sliding Down the Steps

In one corner of the room there was a doorway which led to a set of stairs leading downward. Remembering a fun incident in the Vault of Dragons where they surfed down a vast spiral staircase on the back of shields, they heroes tried to recreate this using the dead bodies. However, rigor mortis had not set in, so the floppy bodies merely folded awkwardly down the seven steps to form a crumpled heap.

Alan and Arvene were both very disappointed. Dugg, who had waited to see if it worked before attempted to slide down, laughed.

A Damp Crypt

They found themselves in a damp, dark crypt that smelled of Cheetos and a Bradford Pear tree. Arvene smirked, Dugg blushed, and Alan scratched his head.

The room had partially collapsed on the far side and there was masonry and fallen brickwork covering what looked like a sarcophagus in one corner. Apart from that, there was very little in this room aside from three damp bedrolls amongst the murky puddles.

Alan was the first to investigate the broken tomb.

Omen and Portents

Staring into the sarcophagus, Alan rolled a wisdom saving throw. He rolled nine and at first saw only a partial skeleton amongst fallen rubble and dust. He was just about to turn away when movement caught his eye. Suddenly, the skeleton’s jaw dropped open and the skull turned to look at Alan. Suddenly the skeleton grew flesh and fur and had the features of a giant rat-person hybrid. Alan suppressed a scream as the wererat raised a badly broken arm and pointed a gnarled twisted finger silently at the ranger. In panic, Alan stepped back and looked away from the body.

Arvene, hearing Alan’s tale, wanted to take a look for herself. She too peered into the sarcophagus and rolled a wisdom saving throw. She rolled a six and was also consumed by a prophetic vision. In hers, the skeleton’s jaw opened and a familiar voice echoed in Arvene’s mind. “Hello Baby! Fancy seein’ you here. Why don’t you be a doll and lift me out this coffin?” It was the voice of Gollor—her abolith patron—who sounds like Elvis—she hadn’t heard from him since the Vault of Dragons and was not comforted by their presence here.

She screamed and stepped back in a panic, just as Dugg ran to see for himself. Dugg’s vision was of himself lying in the corpse’s place, dressed as a cultist, black robes, skull tattoos, and a barbed wire flail at his side. There was also a silver coin under his tongue. Dugg reached in and picked up the coin, examining it in the dim light. The coin was cold to the touch, but felt heavier than a normal coin and it had a carving of Dugg’s face on one side. The other side was scratched as if someone has tried to obscure the engraving.

Dugg dropped the coin and stepped away from the tomb as Alan launched a burning torch into the sarcophagus. Immediately it caught ablaze. Including the two spell books, handwritten letter, and other useful clues hidden behind the skeleton.

“Let’s get out of here. This feels a little above our paygrade,” suggested Dugg.

“You’re Not Going Anywhere!”

Suddenly a voice as if in reply to Dugg’s statement echoed around the room. “You’re not going anywhere.” They looked up to the stairs where the voice came from and saw 10 black robed figures standing at the top of the stairs blocking the way. One of the cultists stood forward, addressing Alan and Dugg, “I think you’d better come with us.”

Dugg and Alan stood motionless for a moment, deliberating their options. Do they cooperate or attempt to kill them all? It didn’t take long to decide.

Meanwhile, Arvene, who had noticed the arrival of the cultists but hadn’t been clocked by them used her deceptive abilities and cast Disguise Self making her look like a cultist and slipped in the middle of the group of cultists. Alan and Dugg did not notice and, as far as they were concerned, they now faced 11 cultists. 

The math still didn’t dissuade them from fighting.

ROLL INITIATIVE!

A much larger fight ensued and lasted quite a while longer. It began with two of the lead cultists dashing down the stairs and facing Alan and Dugg whilst the remaining cultist watched and cheered. They clearly expected their leader to be victorious. Two rounds in and it became apparent the Alan and Dugg had the upper hand, so two more cultists ran down the stairs to help.

The problem they were having was they were only very weak cultists and my players were level seven, so most went down in a single round of combat. This turned out to be quite fun for my players, especially for Arvene, who was causing chaos from within the cultists’ ranks. Disguised as she was and rolling some very high Performance rolls, she was able to take out more cultists without them even realizing what was happening, occasionally calling out, “Oh no! Something’s in the walls. It’s on the ceiling. It’s here, Aaargh!” Before surreptitiously stabbing another cultist.

After a minute of bloody fighting, only two cultists remained. Alan and Dugg were out of breath and at the foot of the stairs, and the two cultists, panicked, were at the top. They turned and ran and were just able to dodge past Arvene’s outstretched leg. They made it through the room with the well and dashed down a corridor. Even though Alan and Co. gave chase, it looked like they were going to escape as they rounded a corner and disappeared. Suddenly there was an enormous booming sound from where they ran and two black-clad bodies were flung heavily against the wall in front of Alan. Smoke and fire licked out from the shadows and a familiar call echoed from down the dark hallway, “Rochester it is! Rochester it is!” End.

Afterthoughts

My players are really clocking up the body count in this dungeon. Luckily the enemies are all evil, no-good, irredeemable cultists. Although I think my players are playing past the point of conscience, which is good, because Descent into Avernus will take them directly into hell, and having a conscience there will be a disadvantage.

I’m not sure whether Little Joe will be joining us again next week or not, but I do like the idea that if he’s not able to be there in person, he will be following the team around ready to mop up any stragglers that try to get away. Maybe this can be the case for the whole Descent into Avernus campaign?

What did we learn?

DM Tip: If your players are anything like mine, they will never agree to parlay, when fighting to the death is still an option, so you need to make sure the odds are really stacked against them if you NEED them to come along quietly. I had thought that by overwhelming them with superior numbers, Alan and Co. would surrender, at least for the time being, and wait until their chances looked better. Even though the situation didn’t NEED cooperation, I had planned out a whole scene in which they were going to meet the evil boss behind the cultists and learn about their maniacal plot which would be the starting off point for their own Descent into Avernus. But obviously that was all an unnecessary waste of my time. Even when in Waterdeep, and warned that any murder would lead them to be arrested, tried, and sentenced to death, my players found ways to kill city watchmen and rob nobles, so I should have seen this fight coming.

Next week we’ll continue to explore the dungeon below the bathhouse and hopefully discover what’s behind all these infernal cultists and begin the Descent into Avernus.

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