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Monday, January 18, 2016

Dead Gods - Vault of the Drow

Tonight we got to a really interesting part of Dead Gods. The heroes had to go to the Vault of the Drow on the world of Oerth (aka the Greyhawk setting). They're looking for a drow named Erehe, who lost his memory. Essentially in this chapter, the group revisited a site from a classic Gary Gygax adventure.

There is some criticism out there of this chapter that I agree with. The problem in this section is that the vault and the city are described, but there are almost literally no encounters or city locations detailed.

It's weird. The heroes could basically zip right to Erehe very quickly, which feels like a waste. We're in the Vault of the Drow! Let's get our money's worth!

So I dug up the 1st edition adventure along with the material in the 4e Underdark book and fleshed out the city. I also borrowed liberally from Out of the Abyss. The Menzoberranzan chapter is littered with fun drow city encounters.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard

George is cautious and thoughtful. Jessie likes to jump into things and take risks for the sake of adventure.

Fiendish Fortresses

Last time, the adventurers helped out a demon on the path of becoming a demon lord. They used a modron device to create a fortress in her image.

I used a great Monte Cook article from Dragon #233 to flesh this place out:
  • It is sentient - It can sense activity within 5 feet of it, it gets 3 attacks per round,  is immune to lightning, fire and poison, etc.
  • It is covered in eyes with blinking eyelashes.
  • It has spell projectors (see the above image of the levlevor).
  • It is surrounded by a clockwork maze with conveyor belts.
  • There's a chamber of mirrors, where the walls, floor and ceiling are all mirrors. When you look into it, each of your infinite reflections show a different possible version of yourself - different race, class, color, gender, etc.
Bidam had seduced the lady would-be demon lord last time. We ran a goofy mini-adventure about Bidam's sperm going through the "Womb of Perils". I'll spare you the details.

Bazuuma gave the heroes a copy of a spell called Teleport Ward. It protects an area from teleportation. It's from the dragon magazine article. I am trying to give the heroes more spells as part of my new policy: when I use an article or supplement that has new spells in it, I should let the players learn some of them.

The Demonweb

The adventurers said goodbye to Bazuuma and their caravan headed back out into the Plain of 1,000 Portals. They spotted some manes (low level demons) and let them be. Later, they passed a lake of molten iron.

They crossed a bridge over the River Styx. Quavis pointed out that if the heroes touched it, they'd lose their memories forever. I meant for this to be a huge clue as to how the two drow in this adventure lost their memories, but neither player picked up on it.

They met with a drow who led them into a portal to the Demonweb. Out among the strands, the group saw a half-mile long spider watching them. It was actually Lolth's animated fortress (from Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits).

The heroes popped out in a chamber in the underground cavern known as the vault of the drow. Dark elves approached them, talked to Quavis and began to unload the cargo. All of them wore green hooded cloaks.

From here, the adventurers were on their own. It was up to them to sneak or talk their way past the drow and get into the city.

I changed this area a bit. In the adventure, there's a chamber called the Egg of Lolth and in it is a tall building known as the Fane of Lolth. The building is dangerous and is barely detailed in this book. There's nothing to gain by going in there. So I just decided that it is nothing but a pile of rubble.

Instead, in the Egg of Lolth, a bunch of drow parade out some prisoners. Three mindflayers pick out some prisoners and eat their brains. The rest are thrown into a magma rift. I did this to foreshadow a few things:
  1. House Kilsek has taken over the city, and they have been killing anyone suspected of being sympathizers to House Tormtor.
  2. House Kilsek is working with mind flayers.
So in the middle of all this, the heroes tried to bluff their way past all these drow. Theran had a really hard time bluffing. The drow heard him speak and were suspicious of his "surface elf" accent. They were the first to ask him, "Where's your pifwafwi?!" He had no idea what she was talking about.

They asked a priestess about the drow they were looking for - Erehe. The priestess explained that Erehe was with the enemy - House Tormtor. After a ton of awkward back and forth, the heroes were able to get past the Egg of Lolth and headed into the vault.

The Vault

I made player maps of the vault, as it is pretty confusing. There's three main sections:
  1. An area with estates of the drow houses.
  2. Erelhei-Cinlu, the depraved city of the drow.
  3. The Lower Vault, an area full of fungus fields and merchant houses.
The whole place is in the middle of a civil war. Three drow houses - Tormtor, Aleval and Everhate are battling the rest of the houses for control.

The group got to the estate area. They ran into some drow riding giant lizards. The drow asked Theran, "Where's your pifwafwi?" The heroes bluffed and privately wondered among themselves, "What the hell is a pifwafwi?!" They'd be asked this question by almost everyone they came across - gate guards, beggars, suspicious merchants, etc.

Theran had no idea what they were talking about. Remember, Theran was a regular elf transformed by a slaad lord to look like a drow. When he speaks, he speaks with a "surface elf" accent.

I kept waiting for the group to head off the road so I could have a displacer beast attack them, but they stuck to the road.

They went to the estate of House Tormtor and asked to speak with Erehe. There were githyanki guards there, which threw the heroes off a bit. Basically what has happened is that Tormtor recruited the aid of the githyanki in the civil war.

After a long discussion, the heroes were told that Erehe was at war further in the vault and wouldn't be in the estate for a few days. The group actually seriously considered handing over all of their weapons, armor and equipment and waiting in the estate for several days for Erehe.


They went into the city. They wanted to make their way through it to get to the Great Gate, as apparently Erehe was involved in a battle there.

The city is crazy. It is full of brothels, torture parlors, drug saloons and beggars who give you leprosy if you don't give them money! There are slaves everywhere. In Gygax's Vault, there's a mention of three different drow drugs:
  • Mushroom powder
  • Poppy juice
  • Lotus dust
No notes on what they do, as far as I could find.

I included a lot of merchants in the city. I figured I'd give the group a chance to acquire magic items if they wanted them.

A group of "bitter youths," who were half-orc/half-drow, tried to mess with the heroes. They shoved Theran to the ground and started stomping on him. Others tried to snatch The Orcusword out of Bidam's sheath!

Theran knocked three of them out with a spell, while Bidam dropped the other three in a single round. The people in the streets gathered around and cheered the heroes on, shouting "Slit their throats!" The heroes refused.

The adventurers watched in dismay as people swarmed the bitter youths, slit their throats and looted their meager belongings. Then, a swarm of spiders began devouring what was left of their bodies.

Spiders are everywhere in Erelhei Cinlu. The people revere them. There are webs all over the place and spiders of all sizes just hanging out.

The heroes resumed their trip through the city, intent on getting out of this evil place as quickly as possible. They saw a drow in an alley whipping a slave and just kept going. They passed by a gambling hall and a torture parlor.

They passed through market, and stopped in their tracks when they saw a lady selling pifwafwis for 1500 gold each.

A pifwafwi is a cloak that all the drow wear in the Vault. They are magic cloaks that make you predator-invisible when the hood is up, and those drow who don't wear one are deemed to be suspicious or outsiders. The heroes were going to buy them, but realized that maybe they should just kill some drow and steal them instead.

They were approached by goblin beggars who asked for food. The heroes gave them a pile of gold. The goblins, overjoyed, asked the heroes to meet their boss in a secret tunnel.

The adventurers went into the secret tunnel, a small area underground area where a bunch of smelly goblins lived in hiding. They explained the House Kilsek had taken control of the city, and were killing thousands of people - anyone they suspected of being allies of Tormtor.

The goblins offered to let the heroes stay in the tunnel whenever they liked. The heroes bought them food, and in exchange the boss gave the heroes a crusty ring. It turned out the ring was actually a ring of arachnid control!


The goblins also knew a guy who might know where Erehe was. His name was Terrigen, a rebellious dark elf who hated the noble houses. The group met him in a bar. I went into this huge description of Terrigen - he was covered in scars, his eyes flickered with equal parts sorrow and rage, he was drinking shadow stein and seemed lost in thought.

Terrigen looked the heroes over. A goblin whispered to him. Terrigen nodded, thought for a moment, looked around conspiratorially and leaned forward.

He asked Theran in a whisper: "Where's your pifwafwi?!"

This might be a "you had to be there" kind of thing, but none of us could stop laughing for what seemed like forever.

Terrigen agreed to take them to Erehe if they would do something for him - he wanted them to kill the House Kilsek constable who was in charge of slaughtering the thousands of civilians.

The group agreed.


Drow and a Draegloth
Theran and Bidam decided to go to a brothel to find some drow to rob. The brothel they chose had human and elf slaves working there, being watched by a draegloth guard. The heroes brought two women to the same room.

There was a bit of planning, which really should have been done prior to the entry of the brothel. Once the slaves realized that the adventurers were intent on battling the drow of Erelhei Cinlu, the slaves begged the heroes to free them.

The heroes went downstairs, talked with the draegloth, and bought the slaves. They took the slaves out of the brothel and hid them with the goblins. Then they hung out outside the brothel and waited for two drow wearing pifwafwis to come out of the brothel.

After some waiting, the adventurers spotted targets. Bidam laid in an alley, pretending to be unconscious or dead. Theran used the ring of arachnid control to make a swarm of spiders head into the alley. The two drow noticed the swarm, followed it, and saw Bidam lying there in the alley. They got excited, as Bidam is overloaded with treasure.

One drow leaned over Bidam and went to slit his throat. Theran jumped into the alley and blasted him with his wand of magic missiles. Bidam stabbed the other guy with the Orcusword. As they traded blows, Bidam repeatedly rolled natural 1's to hit.

If you remember, in the book, The Orcusword is supposed to break on a natural one. I didn't like that, so I am just narrating damage. I think I'll have it where Bidam needs to repair the Orcusword in some fashion next session.

One drow put Theran in a globe of darkness. Bidam killed the other. We had a bit of confusion as far as what spell Theran could cast without seeing his target and what penalties applied. I googled it now and it's still a bit fuzzy.

The surviving drow tried to flee. He lost his concentration on the darkness globe and raced out into the street. Theran used a ray of frost to slow him and then Bidam had a brief duel with him and killed him. Most people in the street fled, but a few drow took notice. I rolled randomly to see if there were guards present, but I rolled low. So I decided that the drow watchers were messed up on lotus dust.

The heroes finally had their pifwafwis. Now they needed to go kill some drow guards. Bidam was hurt very badly (he had about 4 hit points left), as he had been stabbed repeatedly by the drow's poison blade. They needed to find somewhere safe to rest.

Click here to proceed to The Battle of The Great Gate.

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