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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Adventurers in Eberron - The Underwater Dungeon

We played another session of our monthly Eberron campaign yesterday. It was really fun and I am enjoying getting to play a spellcaster, especially now that I am getting access to higher level spells. I am running a 7th level sorcerer who is big and hairy.

The DM has been hinting at this sahuagin story for a long time. There have been rumors of a sahuagin invasion of the city of Sharn for months. To stop the sahuagin, we needed to go into an underwater dungeon and obtain the head of a long-dead sahuagin baron.

An underwater dungeon! In my experience, they are very rare. I think I ran one in Skull and Shackles, and that's it.

Let me tell you something. You never realize how terrible your spell selection is until you go underwater. Fly, fireball, fire bolt.. all useless.

We started off the session by planning the construction of our bar. We've got all sorts of stuff we are going to put in it - a jacuzzi, mannequins with drugs stashed in the heads, giant cherries - you name it.

This bar will open once we've collected the last three cards of the deck of many things, assuming the deck doesn't kill us once we put it together.

The Entrance

Sharn, City of Towers
To get into this underwater dungeon, we had to choose an entrance. There was one in a warehouse and one underwater. There was a shark near the underwater entrance, so we picked the warehouse entrance. The fighter suggested using some chum to distract the shark, but I didn't hear him. In retrospect, that was a great idea and we should have done it.

We did our usual thing where we spent lots of time planning and debating, and then we just busted into the warehouse in broad daylight. This was a place full of bad guys who work for a lady named Tain who is causing all sorts of problems.

I ended up perched on a pile of crates dropping shatter spells. Two of the guards climbed up and stabbed me repeatedly. By the time this battle was over, we were hurt badly and we hadn't even entered the dungeon!

The Cork

We went through the entrance, went down some stairs and came to a pool. Yep, the tomb was underwater. We drank potions of water breathing and in we went.

The first area had a couple of chuuls in it. There was a cork in the ground. Were we supposed to pull it? Yep. We didn't do that right away, though.

We fought the chuuls who proceeded to claw, grab and paralyze the other characters in no time at all! Thankfully, our hireling was messing with the plug. She pretty much saved our lives.

She pulled it out and a strong current started pulling us toward the hole. I was able to pull the wizard free from the grasp of one chuul, and then I used dimension door to bring the fighter into the hole with me.

I was really worried about the wizard, but as we guessed, the suction dragged her into the hole before the chuuls got to her.

The hole wasn't big enough for the chuuls to follow us, but we had a new problem. The current was pulling us down to who knows where, and most of the party was paralyzed and poisoned! The wizard kept failing her save round after round.

Thankfully I was able to tie a rope around her and myself, and then was able to do the same for the fighter and the hireling.

Everyone came to, and we began to explore the depths.

The Undead Baron

Below us was a room with a cauldron and some magic warnings - something about courage bringing great treasure. After a lot of probing and debating, I climbed into the cauldron. It started draining blood from my body!

I got out, having taken five points of damage. I was pretty sure that this thing would reward me for giving blood, but I was worried I'd just die.

There was a connecting room, and in there was the sahuagin corpse we were looking for. Unfortunately, he was a mummy wrapped in seaweed! Worse still, there were 8 sahuagin zombies with him.

We dropped shatter spells like crazy. Both the wizard and I are loaded up on fire spells which, unfortunately, are useless underwater.

The poor fighter took on the mummy. He got hit with a curse that did a ton of damage and prevented him from being able to heal!

We were backing away from the mummy as we blew up the zombies, but the others took a lot of damage. Finally, the wizard used her staff of thunder and lightning to hit the mummy with a lightning bolt, and it turned out that the mummy was vulnerable to lightning.

She killed that thing good. We cut off the head. We had what we came for.

The Cauldron

The Planes of Eberron
By this point we were almost completely out of spells and healing. The water breathing only lasts an hour, so we didn't have time to rest!

It turns out that the sahuagin's tomb was a big clam, which I personally think is a hilarious idea.

I decided to mess with the cauldron again. If you remember, in the last session the rest of the group obtained major magic items and I passed them up. I knew the DM would get to me sooner or later. I figured this was my time, and I was right!

The cauldron drained most of my hit points, and then a chamber was revealed. In it was a treasure chest with a very special magic item in it - a Well of Many Worlds.

You can unfurl this thing like a cloth, and it becomes a portal to a random plane.

So now we had a choice. To get out of the dungeon, we'd have to get past the chuuls again. Or we could go through the well and take our chances.

We debated quite a bit. The fighter volunteered to go through the well and see what was on the other side. In it was the Eberron version of the Feywild. This is a place where time passes differently. One day there equals a week in Eberron.

We were on a time-sensitive mission. The sahuagin invasion was set to happen in a few days, so we couldn't afford to eat away time like that.

The wizard also pointed out we'd likely lose the well, since we'd all have to pass through it and probably wouldn't be able to get it back.

That meant we had to brave the chuuls! The fighter liked the idea of me casting haste on him, and he'd distract the monsters while we fled. The guy was cursed and he had almost no hit points left!

I couldn't let him do it. He'd die! We finally agreed that either we would all make it, or none of us would.

We made some fateful stealth checks - and rolled well! We were able to swim past the chuuls. By the time they noticed us, we were on our way to the stairwell.

Our group got back to our home, all of us royally wounded and weak. We handed the head off to the mermaid who was going to bring it to the sahuagin army.

It was a very epic session.


Different Locale: Underwater dungeons just don't happen very much, for whatever reason. Going through this made me think that lightning bolt is a much better choice than fireball. It also makes me want to try running an underwater dungeon sometime soon.

We fought a monster I don't think I've ever used and we got a magic item I've never seen used in play. I am overloaded with ideas about what we can use the well of many worlds for. For example, if someone's giving us problems, we'll just chuck them in the well. If we're bored and want a random adventure... into the well we go.

The Player Perspective: I'm so glad I am a player in this. It's so easy as a DM to fall into the trap of becoming numb to what it is like running a character. As a player, taking damage is very harrowing! What seems like nothing to you, the DM, is a major ordeal for the player.

This makes me want to ease back on my own players quite a bit. It can be unpleasant when you are getting pummeled on a regular basis. Not that we are in this game at all, it's just eye-opening when your character is in serious peril.

D&D Monsters: In this session, I was also reminded of the simple joy fighting a D&D monster. As a DM, I sometimes feel that just plopping a gelatinous cube in a room is boring. But for a player, it's not. I'd be excited to actually get to interact with one, especially if all of the cube's abilities are used to their potential.


Coffeemate said...

That session sounded awesome! I’ve never played in Eberron. Was the DM using one of the adventures published by WotC, or was it homebrew?

I really like your observation about characters taking damage. Sometimes when I DM, I actually enjoy seeing the party characters take a real hit. Many times, the encounters don’t seem to threaten them enough. They shrug off many of the hits as if they were glancing blows. A bee sting.

However, when someone gets a really good whack or two in a row, their faces drop like a rock. I know that feeling. You suddenly get depressed that your character might die, and the fun-and-game aspect of the session becomes way serious. It’s definitely a balancing act for a DM to make encounters a challenge, even threatening, without sucking the fun out of the whole thing.

As a side note: I’ve also noticed that my players never retreat or take a defensive stance when someone get’s whacked hard or when a character goes down. Sure, a healer will attempt to heal a wounded party member, but for the most part, they keep on fighting no matter if it means they’re all doomed. Maybe, inherently, players assume that if you keep fighting to the last man, they’ll defeat the monster. Do you ever run into this?

Jason Raabis said...

That's an interesting cosmology graphic. I quite like the atomic look to it, and that the other planes are spheres. As one that has been running a Planescape campaign, what's your thoughts on the Ebberon vs the Planescape version?

Sean said...

Coffeemate: I think some of it is homebrewed and some of it is stuff taken from 3e Eberron sourcebooks. It really is a terrible feeling to take a lot of damage! I am definitely going to ease up big time on my players. I have had some groups that never run. I thought that if I "taught them a lesson" by wiping them out that they'd learn - but players never learn that way. I've had most success using NPCs to feed them my thoughts. The players catch on to that quick, and it saves us a lot of headaches. Thanks!

Jason Raabis: I know absolutely nothing about Eberron's planes! I got that image off of an old 3e wizards image gallery. Everything about Eberron is weird to me. There's no overarching "hook," just a lot of cool little things. I love the Planescape cosmology but it is really complicated. I don't like how they mixed "real life" mythology in with the other stuff. I can't refer to Loki or Thor without my players immediately visualizing The Avengers. I scrub all the real life stuff out, as much as I can.

Jason Raabis said...

Yeah, the planes kind of baffle me regarding a few key concepts. I'm sure if I studied the material in depth I'd get a better grasp on it all, but at present the structure eludes full understanding.

I've seen some home-brew cosmologies where each plane is essentially a spheroid, planet-like place, with say the River Styx as a ribbon winding between them. This might be similar to Ebberon from the graphic you posted.

I can't work well with an "infinite plane" type concept, so an understanding of some parameters would be helpful, and I can understand the planetary model well enough. Perhaps it's all unnecessary, however; I haven't seen your players really test the integrity of the overarching environment much from your posts, so it could be just fretting for nothing. I just hate not understanding concepts, even if they are fantastical and complete fiction!

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: With Eberron, I actively try not to learn anything between sessions anything so I can experience the material in play. We learned just a little bit about the planes so far... There's this plane where there are angels and winged creatures. There's a plane of dreams, where everyone who has a dream in the mortal world creates a pocket dimension in the plane of dreams. There are these creatures called the quori who can enter your dreams and mess with you. One nice thing about 4e was how simple the planes were. Elemental Chaos, Shadowfell, Feywild and Astral Sea. Boom! Done! With the 2e set-up, It's been 20 years and I still don't know much about certain planes, like Carceri and Celestia.