descent into avernus

‘D&D: Descent Into Avernus’ — Session 11

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Descent into Avernus – Session 11: Mistaken Identities

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.

Last night was the 78th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the 11th 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 Chapter 1 in Baldur’s Gate, we’re using the more familiar (to us at least) Waterdeep. Our heroes are currently in the Cassalanter mansion attempting to get answers from the final Cassalanter son, Thurstwell. All they need to do is not accidentally kill anyone…

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 play fortnightly instead of weekly now, due to life and things. I’ve found swapping out Baldur’s Gate for Waterdeep to be quite straightforward and easy. In this session, for example, I’m using the Waterdeep-based Cassalanters as a proxy for the Baldur’s Gate Vanthapur family. Both are evil noble families with devilish connections, and so I didn’t have to change much except their surnames.

Descent

Last night continued our trial of Vorpal Board. We’re past the initial “How on earth do you use this thing?” stage and are working through the “OK, I think it got it. Nope. No I don’t got it” phase. 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. Next week, instead of playing Dungeons & Dragons, we’re going to be live streaming yoga in lycra short shorts. That should be just about enough to permanently put off our one regular viewer.

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 on 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, having tricked their way into Cassalanter Villa looking for evidence that the family was connected to the Dead Three cultists, the heroes accidentally fed a chef to three Spined Devils and locked a serving maid in a cupboard. Now, with Arvene disguised as that maid (Ambra), they plan on tricking their way into Thurstwell Cassalanter’s room so they can interrogate him. They know the family is connected to cultists, but not how far that connection goes.

Mistaken Identities

Arvene stood on the top step, looking like Ambra and still carrying the covered serving tray which held rat-form Alan. She didn’t know which of the five rooms to pick and decided to try to trick her way through. So, turning to the closest guard, she winked and whispered in the huskiest voice she could muster, “You couldn’t be dear and open the door to Thurstwell’s room there could you honey? It’s just I have my hands full.”

The first roll of the evening was a high-stakes deception roll from Arvene. If she failed the five guards would know she was a fraud and attack immediately, alerting Thurstwell and the butler. She did, however, have advantage on the roll because of her Disguise Self spell.

Arvene rolled a natural 20 and the guard immediately agreed to do whatever fake-Ambra asked. They would have offered to give her all of the money in the Cassalanter Villa, passed on any secret they were party to, or told her how to defeat the devils hiding in the basement. Arvene just asked to be let in the door, however. So the guard opened the door and Arvene entered carrying the tray with rat-Alan inside. 

As she entered, Fendrick Grey and Thurstwell Cassalanter were in the middle of an animated argument. Fendrick—the Cassalanter butler—immediately stopped, glared menacingly at Arvene/Ambra and marched past her and out of the room. Thurstwell, seeing Ambra assumed his dinner was under the tray. He ordered her to leave the tray on the table and get out. Arvene had little choice but to obey, leaving rat-Alan under the cloche. 

Confusion on the Stairs

Meanwhile, Fendrick was making his way down the stairs in the front of the house. Unbeknownst to him, Little Joey, Dugg, and Reya were waiting at the bottom. They weren’t able to hide in time, and as soon as he saw them, he called for the guards. The guard raced to his aid and immediately grabbed hold of Reya, Joey, and Dugg.

It was happening so fast that my players didn’t really know what to do. They knew Alan and Arvene were upstairs and didn’t want to blow their cover—or their chances of interrogating Thurstwell. Little Joey’s instinct was to fight, but a quickly whispered suggestion from Dugg calmed his nerves and stopped him just in time.

Just then, Arvene (still looking like Ambra) strolled back down the stairs and smiled at her new guard friend. She acted quickly, continuing her deception. “That’s not Fendrick,” she lied. “It’s one of those doppelgangers. We’ve been infiltrated.”

The guards, unsure of what to do next, looked at each other. “The mistress will know what to do,” they agreed, grabbing Fendrick alongside Dugg, Joey, and Reya and began dragging them into the kitchen.

Alan Alone

Under the cloche in Thurstwell’s room, Alan was sniffing the air and using his keen senses to try to understand what was going on. He could hear Thurswell pacing up and down. As soon as it sounded like Thurstwell was close, he readied himself to pounce. He felt a hand grab the lid and saw light begin to come in under the gap as Thurstwell lifted the cloche.

Thurstwell let out a muffled shriek that was quickly cut off as Alan, in rat form, leaped from the tray and clasped onto Thurswell’s neck with his teeth. Thurstwell grabbed at the rodent around his throat just as Alan switched back into human(ish) form. He pushed his whole weight onto Thurstwell’s neck and heard it snap beneath him.

Alan, still affected by the change, bit into Thurstwell’s neck and made sure he was dead.

Some interrogation. Alan panicked. This wasn’t exactly what they had planned, but the lycanthropic urge had overtaken him. The guard’s outside would surely have heard something. Why weren’t they coming in? Alan didn’t know that they’d been called downstairs.

Alan quickly searched the room, tossed Thurstwell’s body out from the window, and grabbed an odd glass sphere that had fallen from the Cassalanter’s hand. He was immediately hit by a searing psychic pain from the ball and dropped it.

Carefully, he wrapped it in some ripped cloth and placed it gingerly in his pack. Whatever it was, if Thurstwell was interested in it, then it might be useful. It certainly wasn’t useful to Thurstwell anymore, mused Alan to himself as he hoisted the limp body out of the window.

Smoke in the Kitchen

Meanwhile, the guards and Ambra-Arvene led Fendrick, Joey, Dugg, and Reya into the kitchen. They were immediately hit by the clouds of smoke and burning within, the evidence of heroes’ prior escapades in the kitchen. Arvene was worried that they’d spot the blood spots and put two ad two together to deduce the real Ambra was somewhere else. Or worse, they might find her tied up in the pantry.

As Arvene panicked, however, Little Joey remained calm. The room was full of smoke and so visibility was poor. No one noticed therefore when he snuck out of the kitchen, nudging Dugg to make a scene to cover for him. Dugg did exactly that, stumbling blindly into Fendrick, who called out and guards turned on them angrily.

None of this was exactly going to plan. Neither me as the DM—supposedly in control of the game—nor my players. But suddenly Little Joey had a brainwave.  

Victoro Cassalanter

In a moment of inspired chaos, Little Joey stormed into the room. Arvene, recognizing the signs, cast a cantrip to dissipate some of the smoke. The guards and butler immediately stood to attention and held their breaths. “Victoro, Master. We weren’t expecting you here.”

Little Joey had cast Disguise Self and made himself look like the head of the household, Victoro Cassalanter. A mean, tall, wide-shouldered man with menace in his eyes and an intensity unmatched by any in Waterdeep. Little Joey had met him a couple of times during the previous campaign and affected his best Vincent D’Onofrio Kingpin impersonation.

“Gentlemen, what is going on here? What madness has taken over my household? I will not have this in MY CITY!”

He immediately ushered the guards away to take Fendrick into custody, leaving just the heroes in the kitchen, which began to fill with smoke once more. Alan entered noisily, wiping Thurstwell’s blood from his mouth.

“Thurstwell fell out of the window. I guess that makes it three for three,” he told the others.

Devils in the Dark

Deciding their investigation hadn’t gone quite as planned, the heroes only had one option left. They knew the basement below the kitchen led to tunnels that the cultist had been using and that Amelia Cassalanter, Thurstwell’s mother, was in charge of the cult and lurking down in the sewers somewhere. So down they went.

Creeping along the damp, dark sewers, Alan, Arvene, Little Joey, Dugg, and Reya reflected on their failed mission. All three Cassalanter sons were dead, and they were the only potential leads they had. Now they’d have to face Amelia Cassalanter with virtually no information on what she was planning. Turning a corner in the dark tunnels, they heard a deep growl ahead of them. A gravely voice, like rocks falling called out. “I don’t know you.” Then the room filled with light as a bronze-skinned, horned, humanoid figure with a glowing spiked beard and trident stepped forward. “If I don’t know you I have to kill you.” END

Afterthoughts

The session went well—not as I planned, although I’ve learned to expect that. I enjoyed all of the deceptions and mistaken identities; my players really kept me on my toes.

It was good to end the year on a cliff-hanger. We’ve missed quite a few sessions this year and haven’t played as much as we hoped, but hopefully, the new year will change that and we’ll get back to more regular game nights. We may even get to the end of the first chapter of this campaign…

Next time we’ll see what else lurks in the depths of the sewers under Cassalanter mansion. It’ll be a new year, but the same old bad plans and poorly executed rescues.

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