descent into avernus

‘D&D’ Descent Into Avernus: Session 9

D&D Adventures Gaming Tabletop Games

Descent Into Avernus – Session 9 Cassalanter Villa

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.

Last night was the 76th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the ninth 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.

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

Descent

Last night we tried Vorpal Board as a platform for our game and on the whole we really liked it. It’s got some very useful and intuitive features, but it also is a big drain on your PC’s RAM, and our sorcerer and cleric both experienced some trouble keeping up. 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. Year to date, we’ve totaled 25 viewers. At this rate it will take 45 years for us to break even on our start-up costs. It cost us nothing to start-up.

Our Adventurers Are:

descent into avernus

Little Joey, 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.

In our previous session, the heroes planned to trick Amrik Cassalanter in helping them. Their plan was to win his favor by foiling a fake assassination attempt. He would then grant them access to the Cassalanter Villa where they believed they might discover the truth behind all the cultist activity. However, what actually happened was they upset a very mean-looking assassin and accidentally killed Amrik. Now Little Joey, Arvene, and Dugg have to tell Alan what they did. Meanwhile Alan’s secret wererat identity has been uncovered and he has to come clean to his friends.

Coming Clean

The next morning, the four unlikely heroes sat around the breakfast table awkwardly waiting for the first to speak. Eventually Arvene broke the ice, “So, Alan, would you like any cheese?”

The session began with the party making some confessions to one another. Alan was convinced that Arvene was trying to tell him something—maybe she was a Wererat too? After all she did keep going about cheese. And Little Joe seemed different too, he was wearing a smart suit and talking like a wise guy—was he a mobster now? Eventually, however, the truth of the situation came out.

Little Joe and Dugg admitted to being partly responsible for the second Cassalanter son’s death in a week. Although they did stress that they were both definitely evil and linked to the Dead Three cultists. And then Alan admitted, reluctantly, to being “of the wererat persuasion.”

Pointless Planning

After confessions over breakfast came pointless planning over lunch. I don’t know why they bother spending so much time arguing over their plans; not once have any of my players remembered what they had planned to do by the time they were actually doing it. And their plans also never seemed to be simple or well thought through.

So what they planned to do was to gain access to Cassalanter Villa by pretending to be window inspectors. Then they decided against that and planned to break in to the next door mansion at night and tunnel through the basement. Then they planned to summon a demon, set it loose in the grounds and while the guard were distracted burn down the house.

In the end, they agreed that it really didn’t matter what they planned, so they just headed straight to Cassalanter Villa without a dastardly plan and hoped for the best. Their intention was to find information about the cult of the Dead Three and discover everything they could about what had happened to Elturel and how to bring the fallen city back.

Scoping out the Villa

For our Descent Into Avernus campaign, I have swapped out the Valthampurs (Baldur’s Gate bad-guy noble family) for the Cassalanters (Waterdeep bad-guy noble family), but I was still using the maps and character details from the Descent campaign. This was the first time they’d gone to the “Cassalanter” villa, so they didn’t realize the switcheroo.

When they arrived at the villa, they saw a walled complex with a large garden surrounding a resplendent house. There were four guards positioned at the gates who quickly noticed the party loitering on the corner and looking at the house.

Realizing that they had clearly been spotted, Alan decided to approach the guards and attempt to sweet talk them.  

Bribes

“Hello lads, tough day for it. Am I right? We heard about the poor Cassalanter brothers—is that what you’re hearing doing? Keeping an eye on Thurstwell?”

It wasn’t exactly charming from Alan, but his charisma roll of 19 kept the guards on his side. It helped when, moments later, Little Joey barged in and asked if they could have access to the grounds to “check on the security.” The guards noticed the party’s official watch badges (given to them by Laeral Silverhand, Open Lord of Waterdeep, at the end of the last campaign) and, with Alan and Joe’s charm, were persuaded to let the party sneak through the gates.

“Did we see anything?” asked one of the Guards.
“I don’t think so,” said Arvene.
“Yeah, but did we see anything?” the guard repeated, this time holding out his hand palm up.
“Oh,” said Arvene, comprehension dawning. “Definitely not. Alan, help the man warm his palms.”

With that, they passed through the gates into the Cassalanter Villa, they were also warned that the Cassalanters had hired some private mercenaries to watch the Villa and they weren’t as accommodating. “It would certainly be a shame if anything happened to those guys…”

Never Knock

Successfully through the gates, they approached the house and had to sneak past some mercenary guards on the way, dashing into the nearby stables to avoid detection. Here Dugg discovered a secret entrance to the sewers and the pieces of the puzzle began to click into place: the Cassalanters were definitely connected to the sewer dwelling cultists.

Once the mercenaries had passed, Alan and Arvene dashed across the well-coiffured lawn and approached the front door of the villa, leaving Dugg, Little Joe, and Reya in the stables.

They didn’t politely knock on the door. Instead, Arvene, after testing for fire with the back of her hand, pushed the door open and announced her presence: “Cult inspectors, we heard you had a disturbance.”

The Cassalanter’s butler, Fendrick Gray, met them at the door and let them know that the Cassalanters were indisposed and would not be accepting visitors. Using their official badges, Arvene and Alan tried to convince him that they were here to protect Thurstwell and just wanted to make sure everyone was safe. Fendrick didn’t look impressed. He asked them to sit in the dining room and he would check to see if Thurstwell was OK.

Signs of Cultists

While they waited, they did some snooping around and quickly discovered nothing of significance. Meanwhile, Dugg and Little Joe grew bored of waiting in the stables, so dashed across the lawn and began climbing in through the window. Reya followed grumbling.

When Fendrick returned, all five of them were now in the dining room. Somehow they managed to lie their way into him not raising the alarm. However, the butler told them in no uncertain terms that Thurstwell was ill and could not accept visitors; that the security detail in the building had been increased; and it was time for them to leave.

Alan, knowing they needed to stay and inspect the place, demanded proof that Thurstwell was OK. “We need proof of life. A portrait with him holding today’s newspaper. Or one of his fingers, still warm.”

Believing they were official, Thurstwell left the five of them in the dining room to go and speak with Thurstwell. He asked them to remain in the room and wait for his return. Of course, as soon as he left, they started snooping around some more.

Surprise Evidence

Arvene went to watch Fendrick ascend the stairs as the others began their snooping. With some pretty decent investigation rolls, they found three pieces of surprise evidence. Arvene in particular wasn’t expecting to find any actual connection to the cultists and had in fact prepared to plant some here just in case.

Alan found some very expensive bottles of wine, as well as some suspicious looking vials of poison, and he couldn’t help but notice the artwork in the main reception room. There were three landscape pictures, all three feet by four feet, and showing a vast city descending into hell. Alan identified the cities as Elturel, Baldur’s Gate, and Waterdeep.   

Alan’s discovery of the clear connection between the Cassalanters and the cultists spurred the others on to find evidence of their own. Little Joe and Reya found nothing. Arvene was distracted by a statue of an elderly lady in her finery cradling a winged cat. Dugg was more successful, although he didn’t realize until it was too late. He spotted three ravens sitting on the chandelier, but as soon as he pointed them out to Reya, the ravens took off for the open window. Just as they reached it, their bodies twitched and flexed, they shed their feathers as three evil imps flew through the window. END

Afterthoughts

It was a good session, and we enjoyed using Vorpal Board although there are clearly some teething issues—Arvene’s video was on the wonk and Little Joe had trouble staying connected.

But I was impressed at how my players managed to negotiate their way into the Villa. Normally they use the blunt force method, but this time some deft precision was employed.

Next time we continue our exploration of the Villa and hope to uncover more about the ongoing cultist activities. Now that they’ve seen ravens turn into imps, they might just begin to put to pieces of the puzzle together.

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