Descent into Avernus Session 6 – Group Performance
As Reya told her tale, Alan and Co. listened intently. They took credit for distracting her captors and explained how many cultists they had already killed. Reya was evidently disappointed at missing some of the fun. Just then the sounds of fighting and yelling came from the next room. “Betrayed! I am betrayed! 100 gold to anyone who defends my honor.” With that, Arvene kicked down the door: “Get ’em boys,” she yelled as the skeletons piled in.
Last night was the 74th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the sixth 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.
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 them through Descent into Avernus—although now we’ll play fortnightly instead of weekly, due to life and things.
We’ve recently returned to using Zoom for our Descent into Avernus sessions, which is a perfectly suitable arrangement as long as you don’t mind ending the session and starting again every 40 minutes—usually just as you’ve gotten into the groove of playing. We also use Trello and DnDBeyond to keep track of NPCs and campaign information and stream all our sessions live on our Twitch channel: dnd_TPK. We’re thinking of seeking a sponsor for our sessions as we’ve gotten so popular. If anyone’s heard of a company looking to advertise to an average of two and a half people a week, please do get in touch. We have two clairvoyants on standby waiting for your mental messages.
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 organization 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.
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, the first Descent into Avernus of this 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.
“Get ‘em boys!”
The four now armless skeletons charged into the room. Inside, three black-robed cultists were fighting a large scarred man in a bloody butcher’s apron. The man was swinging wildly with a cleaver as the three cultists jabbed at him with rapiers. Arvene, sensing the man was in need of aid, instructed her minions to help. The skeleton piled onto the three cultists, and soon there was just a big pile of loose bones and body parts.
So, the session began with Arvene’s cadre of skeletons taking on the three cultists who were attacking the mysterious scarred man in a butcher’s coat. With the help of an arrow from Alan, a Firebolt from Joe, and a broom sweep from Dugg, the three attackers were quickly dispatched.
The scarred man, breathless, introduced himself as Mortlock Cassalanter. “You have surely saved me,” he said. “But we are in dire straits; you must get me out of here. I will reward you greatly for services rendered.”
The prospect of a reward enticed the dollar signs in Alan and Co.’s eyes to start rolling—as if they weren’t already rich enough—and they soon began demanding immediate payment. However, before Mortlock had a chance to respond, Reya Mantleborn, who had been standing back from the scene for a moment, rushed in, dagger drawn, and stabbed him brutally in the stomach.
Reya vs. Mortlock
“Trap me down a well will you! Torture me! I’ll kill you.” It appeared that Reya did not share the rest of the party’s attitude towards Mortlock’s offer of financial reward.
For a moment, this split the group. Half wanted to make money and half wanted to hear Reya out. Meanwhile, Mortlock was dying on the floor.
Reya explained that she believed Mortlock was responsible for the cultists attacking the city and that he was the bad guy. No mercy should be given and he should be left to die here once they had all the information they needed.
Dugg, who by this stage really hated the cultists, agreed, as did Alan; Arvene and Little Joe were more financially motivated. Eventually, they agreed with Reya, but added in a second motion of getting Mortlock to give them money anyway.
A terrible interrogation
Thus followed a rather disturbing interrogation whereby Reya continued to attack Mortlock by asking him questions. If he answered truthfully, Arvene would heal him. Then Reya would attack again, ask another question, and he’d be healed again.
Eventually, they had gotten all the information they could, and Mortlock became exhausted by the constant yoyo-ing of nearly dying only to be healed again.
He told them that the Cassalanters were behind the plot and that he’d been organizing the cultists to attack the city to undermine the City Watch and cause civil unrest. He wasn’t sure of the end game, but knew his mother had ambitions for ruling the city. Mortlock also told them about the four treasure chests in the next room. Stolen from the Dragon Cultists, this treasure was to be used to help Amelia Cassalanter (Mortlock’s mother) persuade others to join her cause.
“Please get me out of here—they’re going to be here soon”
His life fading from the physical torment, Mortlock pleaded with the party to take him to the docks and let him escape the city on a boat. He feared reprisal and, knowing most of the cultists in this dungeon had been dealt with, expected reinforcements to arrive soon.
The party agreed, but weren’t able to stop Reya from stabbing him one last time. Arvene was out of spell slots to heal, so Mortlock died. Arvene and Joe looted his body as Dugg went in to the next room and returned dragging a large treasure chest behind him.
Exit via sewers
Having now cleared the dungeon, rescued Reya, and discovered the connection between the Cassalanters and cultists, the party made their way out of the sewers and back up to the bath house above. Alan rolled a good survival check to find their way out (19), and surprised his companions with his competent ranger skills.
They made their way through the damp tunnels, past numerous piles of dead cultists, and eventually climbed the steps that led to the secret door behind the massage room in the bath house. It was now early morning and no one was about, so they contemplated a quick dip in the baths before heading off.
Reya was pressing them for their next course of action—“Let’s go straight to Cassalanter Villa and kill everyone!” she calmly suggested. But, being the men and women of inaction that they are, they decided to head home for a sleep and a think.
Voices beyond the door
However, just as they approached the door to exit the bathhouse, Arvene, who was still checking every door with the back of her hand to see if it was hot, heard voices outside. A solid perception check (21) meant she could make out five or six voices approaching the door.
“This is the place, right? said the first voice.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Good, we’ll get our gold back then, and make sure you kill every Dead Three servant you see.”
Panic. These were dragon cultists, come to retrieve the treasure stolen by the Dead Three cultists. Dugg was currently carrying one of the treasure chests, and the party were in no state for a fight. They only had one course of action. Hide! First they all rolled stealth checks in the hope they hadn’t been noticed. They passed the group check and quietly ran around the room in a panic, before individually hiding in plain sight.
First, Little Joe cast Disguise Self and caused himself to look exactly like a statue of an old dwarven king that he was standing next to. Then, Arvene cast the same spell, but made herself look like Gustav the concierge whom they had met here the day before. Dugg whipped out his broom and dung-sweeping aprons and began whistling nonchalantly, hoping to pass as an innocent janitor. Reya pulled out a strip of bamboo and slipped into one of the baths using the bamboo pipe as straw to breathe through á la Disney’s Robin Hood cartoon. Finally, Alan, who couldn’t think of anything better, took all his clothes off and lay down on the massage table.
The dragon cultists stormed in and everyone had to roll individual skill checks and then a group performance check to see how well they pulled off their ruse. They rolled pretty well. Little Joe and Arvene both rolled natural 20s on their deceptions, Dugg rolled 18 on his performance, and Alan didn’t need to roll as he was just lying naked on a table.
Musical Statues – A group performance check
Then came the group performance check. I gave them advantage for doing so well on their individual checks. Collectively they just had to roll 25 to convince the Dragon Cultists to move on. They rolled very well.
The heroes collectively held their breaths as the six heavily armed dragon cultists stormed into the bathhouse. “Where’s our treasure?” the lead cultist demanded of the disguised Arvene. Stuttering she imitated the concierge as best she could and directed him to the massage room with the open door and Alan lying naked on the bed. Behind Alan, the secret door was still open from when the heroes came in moments earlier. Taking one last glance at the odd scene behind them, the cultists charged down the stairs. The party heaved a huge sigh of relief. Alan rolled onto his front. End
This was a fun session with quite a lot of tension. I was unsure about how much information Mortlock should give them before he died, but they managed, through some questionable interrogative techniques, to get almost all he could tell them.
The encounter with the Dragon cultists at the end was fun too. If it had led to combat, there’s a good chance they could have lost the battle as they were all quite low on HP and didn’t have many resources left. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and it was a fun end to this Descent into Avernus session.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Sometimes it’s best to let your players get away with the silly ideas, not because it makes sense but because it’s fun. Sure, in real-life there’s no way six angry dragon cultists would simply side-step the fake statues, pretend janitors, and nude massage clients. But then who wants to do real-life? The reason we play silly games like Descent into Avernus week on week is to escape the horrors of real-life and pretend that we live in a world where there are dragons to fight, there are dungeons to explore, and the choices we make in those worlds actually make a difference.
Next week, the party will head back to their home in Trollskull Manor for the first time since we started this Descent into Avernus campaign. Let’s hope the 40 Luskan refugees, the cabal of heavily armed children, and collection of ghosts, robots, and old ladies have kept the place in good order.
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES