Descent into Avernus 8 – Plans Continue to Unravel
It was getting late as they arrived in the Trade Ward and the clouds parted to reveal a glowing full moon. Suddenly Alan remembered what day it was. Too late. His skin began to bristle and sprout clumps of matted fur. His body bent over. His ears and nose elongating, twisting his features into a rat-like monster. Finally, agonizingly, the long leathery tail erupted behind him. He yelled through his sharpened teeth and snarled at his friends. They looked surprised.
Last night was the 76th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the eighth session in our online Dungeons & Dragons: Descent Into Avernus story. We’re playing Descent as the sequel to our Dragon Heist campaign and rather than set in Baldur’s Gate, we’re using the more familiar (to us at least) Waterdeep.
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.
We’ve recently returned to using Zoom for our 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’ve had a few weeks off from playing over the summer as we all learnt new skills for the on-coming apocalypse. Some of us learnt to dowse for water; some of us scouted around the countryside for the optimum places to build a bunker. I just dug a hole in the garden, filled it with sand, and stuck my head in there for two weeks. It’ll be fine. Everything is fine.
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). ABSENT
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 Alan couldn’t join us last night as he had embarked on a quest to reattach his shadow after it got separated during a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The scissors in question were decidedly too sharp and his shadow escaped with his all his worldy possessions. I’m hoping he’ll be back next week, with shadow reattached, but in the meantime I did have a handy get out of jail card: he was a secret wererat after all.
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.
In our previous session, the heroes ate two meals while discussing their next move. They had established that Dead Three cultists were behind the attacks in Waterdeep and that there was a clear connection between these cultists and the Cassalanter noble family. They had two choices, head straight for Cassalanter Villa and a confrontation, or do something a little more sneaky. They opted for the latter. So they headed off to find an assassin. However, before they got too far, Alan’s wererat began to show.
Alan is a wererat
For the briefest of seconds Arvene, Little Joe and Dugg stood shocked. Then simultaneously all moved into action. Arvene yelped, Dugg gulped, and Little Joe hid. Reya drew her shortsword, but was a beat behind were-Alan, who leapt at her. She braced for impact but saw Alan caught mid-air in a giant butterfly net wielded by a fully-armored lady dwarf. “Got ‘im!” yelled Istrid. “Don’t worry guys, I’ve got this sorted. You go on your adventures. He’ll be fine in the morning.”
So, the session began with were-Alan writhing and chomping, caught in a large butterfly net and being dragged off back to Trollskull by his delightful fiancé. The heroes could hear her muttering under her breath as she went. “Fancy forgetting it was a full moon. Now, now, sweetheart. You can’t gnaw on the pavement. Let’s get you home.”
“I totally knew Alan was a wererat,” lied Arvene.
“Me too,” said Little Joe.
“I didn’t,” said Dugg.
“Idiots,” added Reya.
So, one person lighter, the heroes entered the Yawing Portal tavern. It had been at least a year and half since we last played a session that went here, but only a couple of weeks in game.
The Yawning Portal is the most famous tavern in the whole of Waterdeep. It’s where adventures go to recount their tales of daring-do, where heroes retire, and where newly-fledged wannabes descend into the depths of Undermountain below the tavern, never to be seen again. It’s run by a burly ex-adventurer called Durnan and one of the barmaids is a close friend of Arvene.
The tavern was full of all the usual collection of scum and villainy and, since the party was looking for muscle for hire, they headed straight for Durnan. Last night I attempted to play him with an Australian accent. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t convincing and didn’t go well.
“Watcha mates, what can I do you for? You looking for a dingo or a drink?” I’m very sorry to all the Australians who might have accidentally watched our game last night. I promise I won’t do it again.
They told Durnan they were looking for an assassin and he pointed out a group of humanoid-looking crocodiles—gator-folk—who were sat around a table in a dark corner of the tavern. “You want to speak to Bossk,” he said. “He’s the best there is. Expensive, mind you.”
Durnan set up a meeting in a back room with the gator-folk and warned my players to “Be nice, and don’t upset him.” You can’t say they weren’t warned.
Bossk was about 6 feet tall with a crocodilian head, scaly skin, sunken nostrils, large yellow eyes, and wearing an orange jumpsuit. Throughout the meeting he remained silent and his companion, a similar-looking henchman, did all the talking.
Arvene, was feeling confident, so she took the lead in Alan’s absence. She got halfway through the negotiations, they’d agreed a price and told them of the mark, when Bossk began to look irritated. Arvene, in her infinite wisdom, asked if he was bored. Until this point he had remained silent, but he finally spoke, “You’re asking me to kill a Cassalanter; you better have the funds. I do know where you live after all.”
This would have been very threatening and menacing if Bossk didn’t speak in the same voice as Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls.
Arvene tried not to laugh. She was not successful. Bossk became enraged and threatened to kill the party for mocking him. He threw a table across the room and grabbed Arvene, “I know where you live,” he hissed. Arvene was still laughing as she was thrown out of the room. Durnan stood by the doorway. His raised eyebrow was enough to calm the situation. Arvene, Dugg, Reya, and Little Joe left, with Bossk glaring daggers at their backs.
After those failed negotiations, the party were reconsidering their plan as they left the tavern, when two figures approached them offering their own assassination services. One was a large man who appeared to be molded out of clay, the other was a small raven-like person, wearing a hood.
They introduced themselves as “Mimic and Clay” and offered to take the job. Deciding they had nothing more to lose, Arvene agreed and set the two assassins off to the Low Lantern to attack Amrik. They didn’t tell them that their assassination attempt would be foiled. They kept that as little secret for later.
The Low Lantern
Having completed their first item of business, Arvene and Co. made their way to the Low Lantern. As they traveled through the Dock Ward, Dugg noticed some suspicious ravens following them, worried these might be imps, they tried to trick them by shouting obscenities at the birds. The ravens ignored the loud swearing and continued pecking at the dead seagulls that lined the streets here. Eventually, the wooden hull of the Low Lantern loomed heavily over them and Little Joe turned to his friends, “This’ll be easy,” he said. And knocked loudly on the door.
The Low Lantern was a ship permanently moored on the Docks that had been turned into a tavern, it was also the hideout of the local mob, who all worked for Amrik Cassalanter, the man the heroes were trying to gain favor with. In an attempt to fit in with the clientele, Little Joe decided to cast Disguise Self to look like a mobster. Thus Little Joey was born, all pin stripes, fedora hat, and mumbled insults.
Inside the Low Lantern they decided to buy drinks and wait for the sign that their assassins were on the case. After a couple of hours, they began to realize that Mimic and Clay might not be on the level and opted to go for plan B.
They made their way down to the “Big boss’s room” (as Little Joey put it), and pretended to be looking for a loan. They were amazed by the ease in which they were able to convince the guard to let them in.
Amrik Cassalanter greeted them like Marlon Brando in the Godfather—or as good an approximation as I could manage—and listened to their pleas for cash. Little Joey had made a good impression with Amrik—he especially liked the suit—and so he offered Little Joey a job in return for the loan. Arvene and Dugg weren’t too sure, but Little Joey seemed interested.
Plans Continue to Unravel
Remember, at this stage, according to their own plan, they were just supposed to be waiting for the moment that the two hired assassins were going to storm in, so they could “rescue” Amrik. I was rolling dice the whole time and when I rolled a 10 or 20 they would storm in through the window of Amrik’s office.
However, Arvene and Dugg had gotten bored with Little Joey’s showboating and Reya was clearly frustrated at the lack of killing. Amrik picked up on the mood and challenged Little Joey—who had already started calling him “Boss” to a show of faith. When Little Joey refused to attack Arvene or Dugg, Amrik grew enraged, but he couldn’t react quickly enough.
In a moment of madness, Little Joey flew across the room and stabbed Amrik in the face. At the exact same moment, the two assassins smashed in through the porthole and the room descended in to chaos.
Panicking, and with no idea what had just happened, the heroes pushed the two would-be assassins out of the window and heard the splash as they hit the sea below. Now they could hear the slow rumble of activity from behind the door and looked to the window as their only means of escape. Thankfully, Little Joey knew a trick or two and pulled out a rope, cast a quick spell on it, and it levitated out of the window and hung there expectantly. With no other sensible course of action, Reya, Arvene, Dugg, and Little Joey hurled themselves up the rope, just in time to hear the confused shout of, “Oh, no, they’ve killed the Boss,” coming from the room below. “Alan is going to be so mad,” said Dugg. End
Another session where what I thought was going to happen was very different from what actually happened. And none of it ended up how my players would have liked it either. Their plan was to set some low level assassins up against Amrik, foil the assassination attempt, save Amrik’s life, and then use him to gain access to Cassalanter Villa. That plan soon unraveled.
So that now, not only is there now the foremost assassin in Waterdeep gunning for my players, but they have now burned down yet another tavern and killed a second Cassalanter son, and head of the Dock Ward mafia. If I were going to recommend a course of action, neither of those items would be on the list.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Try to keep an NPC list whenever you create a character on the fly or do something different with an NPC. This will really help in future sessions—especially if there are over a year later—when your players want to interact with the character again. This is now the third accent I’ve used for Durnan and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I will however, retire my Australian accent. I think it’s just too much, even for the internet.
Next week they have to tell Alan what they did. He’s not going to be happy.
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES