‘D&D’ Descent Into Avernus: Session 10

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Descent Into Avernus – Session 10: Devils in the Dark

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, and they shed their feathers as three evil imps flew through the window.

Last night was the 77th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the tenth 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 for the second time as a platform for our game and on the whole we really like it. We haven’t yet figured out how to use many of the functions, but we’re getting there. 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.

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. 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.  

Sadly, Little Joey was unable to join us last night. Usually I try to write something funny when this happens to excuse the dull reasons we can’t play, but this time I’ll just tell the truth. Little Joey was absent because his one of his house rabbits has a vendetta against their PC and chewed through the webcam cable.

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 tricked their way into Cassalanter Villa looking for evidence that the family was connected to the Dead Three cultists, and therefore behind the attacks in the city and the disappearance of Elturel. So far they’ve been involved with the murder of two of the three Cassalanter sons—Amrik and Mortlock—and they’re convinced that the third son Thurstwell will be the key to unlocking the Cassalanter mystery. They’ve also now made the connection between the Cassalanters and the sewers—Amalia Cassalanter the Matriarch of the family is the Waterdeep Secretary for Sewage and Plumbing—and there’s a secret tunnel leading into the sewers from the stables at Cassalanter Villa.

Dugg explained what he saw to the others. “Imps?” asked Alan, “Ravens that turned into imps?” Dugg nodded; that was what he saw. “I guess it makes sense,” Alan said scratching his hairy brow. “We knew these guys were evil. And we’ve had trouble with imps before. Okay, let’s be careful. This could be the big one.”

And so, with that note of caution, Alan, Arvene, and Dugg went to explore the rest of the Villa, while Little Joey and Reya reclined on the comfy chairs in the lounge.

Moments later, Arvene heard footsteps, remembered to cast Pass Without a Trace, and they all hid. Solid stealth checks all round, aided by Arvene’s spell (22, 24, and 14), meant they were unseen as the owner of the footsteps passed them and went through double swing doors at the far end of the hallway. As the doors swung back the party we hit by the steamy smell of fresh cooking. 

You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties

Entering the kitchen was a tall human female in her early twenties. She carried an empty serving tray as she passed the hidden heroes.

Arvene had a stroke of brilliance. Or at least what passes as close to one as she is able to have. Her quickly devised plan involved casting Disguise Self on herself to make Arvene look like the young serving maid that just walked by. She’d then surprise her in the kitchen and take over her duties, thus allowing her access to the upper region of the Villa, where Thurstwell Cassalanter, their target, resided. It was a good plan. What could go wrong? 

Two Ambras are Better Than One

As Arvene rushed into the kitchen following Ambra the serving maid, Alan and Dugg waited outside, listening for her signal: screaming.

Inside the kitchen, Arvene saw the real Ambra talking to a fat, middle-aged man, balding at the temples but with a long handle-bar mustache. Think Freddie Mercury if he were the chef an a truck-stop diner. Upon seeing the two Ambras in the same place, the chef immediately called out his surprise and demanded to know what was happening.

Both Ambras acted shocked to see the other (Arvene was rolling very highly on her deception and performance checks) and so the chef had no idea which one was the real Ambra. This wasn’t helped by the fact that Ambra had only been working in the Cassalanter Villa for just over a fortnight since her predecessor suffered an “unfortunate accident” at the hands of Amelia Cassalanter.

Somehow, Arvene managed to convince the chef that she was the real Ambra and that the other woman was an imposter. So, the confused chef restrained the real Ambra and tied her to a chair. Meanwhile Arvene glanced around the kitchen, searching for a way of subduing the chef. Nothing obvious presented.

Slobberchops

Just then a dark shadow leapt out from behind a stack of pans and darted past Arvene. It was a white, fluffy, winged-cat—a tressym, the Cassalanter family pet, called Slobberchops. It shot past Arvene’s face and darted for the door. Arvene couldn’t help but let out a yelp, just enough of a scream to alert Alan and Dugg and send them both darting into the kitchen.

As they bounded in, they saw the chef standing over a bound Ambra, and a second Ambra crouching in fear in the corner. They had no idea which was the real Arvene, so their only option, as Alan saw it, was to knock out the chef. He did so.

Meanwhile, Slobberchops re-entered the Kitchen and began purring at Arvene’s heels. Arvene scratched behind its ears and gave it some unidentified meat from the counter. This pleased the cat and Arvene made a friend. Meanwhile Ambra, tied to the chair and very unsure of the situation, began sobbing. This gave away to Alan and Dugg which was Arvene—they both knew she had no ready access to the kind of human emotions which produce such an effect.

“Sorry,” said Dugg to the sobbing Ambra, as he lifted up the chair she was tied to and placed it carefully into a small cupboard, “We’ll come back and let you go once we’re done.”

Stairs into Darkness

Having thus dealt with Ambra, they now had to decide how to deal with the unconscious chef. Dugg had noticed a set of stairs leading down from an adjacent room, which he guessed led into a wine cellar. With much less care and compassion than he had shown to Ambra, he tossed the limp chef’s body down the stairs into darkness below.

Moments later he felt a surge of guilt—one of the emotions that sets him apart from Arvene, Alan, and Little Joe. Feeling bad, he ran down the stairs just to check on the chef to make sure he wasn’t too badly hurt. He was potentially innocent in all of this, after all.

As Dugg reached the bottom step, through the darkness he could just about make out the shape of the chef’s unconscious body on the ground ahead of him. It was almost pitch black, and Dugg had no means of making it any lighter. He blinked as his eyes adjusted and suddenly the chef’s body shot away from him as if dragged by some unseen hands.

Dugg let out a yelp and turned to run up the stairs just as sharp pain shot through his leg. He looked down and could see the tip of a bone-like spike protruding from his thigh and dripping with his own blood. “Oh sh…”

ROLL INITIATIVE!

Thus began a fun battle in the dark. At first, Dugg had no way of letting Alan and Arvene know he was in trouble. He didn’t even know how much trouble he was really in.

The three Spined Devils that lurked in this basement all clawed, bit, and shrieked at Dugg as he valiantly fought back. Eventually Alan and Arvene realized what was going on and ran to Dugg’s aid. Badly hurt, he was grateful for the assist and with the three of them rolling well it didn’t take too long to dispatch the three devils.

Encounter over, they had to work out what to do next. They saw the presence of the devils as clear evidence of cultist connection, but didn’t yet know who of the Cassalanters was involved. They still needed to speak to Thurstwell and his reluctance to see them raised their suspicions.

Tension on the Stairs

So, after a quick sweep of the basement—they realized it was connected to a sewer complex (Alan’s favored terrain)—they left the three Spined Devil corpses and the unfortunate chef and decided to carry on with their plan.

Arvene re-Disguise Self­-ed herself to once again look like Ambra, and the plan was to go upstairs in the guise of the serving maid, enter his room, and interrogate. Alan would use his ability as a wererat to shapechange into a rat and hide under a cloche on a serving tray, thus giving them the element of surprise. What could go wrong?

Leaving Dugg, Reya, and Little Joey at the foot of the stairs waiting for her signal, Arvene, disguised as the serving maid, slowly climbed the stairs. She hoped that she wouldn’t bump into any of the staff who might recognize Ambra and ask difficult questions that she couldn’t answer. Ideally, there would be no one between her and Thurstwell’s rooms. Meanwhile Alan, in rat form, crouched under the cloche on the silver platter that Arvene carried. His heightened senses would let him know when the time was right to jump out. Arvene stopped when she reached the top and Alan wondered why. There were five doors on the upstairs landing, each with a guard watching Arvene intently. Ambra would know which door to choose. Arvene had to guess. END

Afterthoughts

This was a fun session with lots of roleplay and mistaken identity. I wasn’t expecting to have the fight in the basement and it wouldn’t have happened at all but for Dugg’s conscience. At least they now know there’s a sewer complex beneath the mansion. That’s something of a home away from home for my players now. This will be their fifth sewer-based dungeon so far this campaign. I should probably mix it up a bit more next time.

Next time we see if Arvene can choose the correct door. Behind one door is Thurstwell and potentially the answers to the heroes’ questions. Behind the others doors, certain doom. And an en suite.

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