Rescuing Ash

Following is the first 5th edition adventure I ran for my spouse and adult son.

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Location: The town of Greenhaven and surrounding area, 2 days east of the capitol city. Greenhaven lies at the foot of a range of mountains that has access to the Underdark. Greenhaven’s claim to fame is the Temple of Vivilea, an aspect of the Life Domain in her role as fertility goddess. In this Temple, Vivilea’s priests and priestesses aid in helping couples procreate in a holy and intimate setting, and use their talents to help individuals overcome sexual anxiety. People travel for days to receive the blessings of the temple prostitutes.

Party (Level 1): Valerius ( Half-Elf Rogue, played by my son), “Captain Salvek” (Human Fighter, played by my spouse), Donella Freewalker (Human Cleric, NPC), and Lula Bree Liani something something Sharpwhistle (Gnome Wizard, NPC).

Mission: Rescue Ash, a teenage boy abducted by Drow.

Background: 15 years ago Drow warriors from House Sinjin, looking for slaves to capture and sell, raided the town of Greenhaven, concentrating on the walled gardens of the temple of Vivilea. Whom they did not rape and kidnap, they raped and killed. However, they inadvertently left one priestess alive, with child by a raider.

The philosophy of Vivilea’s followers is that the goddess gives life to fulfill a purpose. It is against the faith to reject that life. Thus, 9 months later, Ash was born.

The following 15 years were not kind for House Sinjin. Bad luck and defeat met them at every turn, reducing their numbers and status until they were finally driven from the city. It seemed that Llolth had turned Her back on them. It was the House Matron who finally divined why: the Spider Queen viewed Ash’s birth and allowance to exist as an abomination, and until the Drow who brought him into existence made amends by sacrificing him, She would continue to withhold her favor from House Sinjin.

And so what was left of House Sinjin made its way to Greenhaven once again, to set right their mistake.

Meanwhile, Greenhaven and the Temple of Vivilea recovered and forgot about the raid as much as they could. Ash’s existence reminded them of the injuries past, though, and although he was allowed to remain and grow up in Greenhaven, his mother kept him mostly out of sight of the other townsfolk. He worked at the Temple as a layperson, cleaning and tending the grounds, until the Drow came again.

The Adventure Begins: The party is staying at the Greenhaven Inn, about to turn in for the evening, when one of the townsfolk bursts in with news of terrified screams coming from the temple. Our heroes waste no time in going to investigate, but even as they arrive only minutes later, it’s already too late. Worshippers and priests alike lie dead in their own blood, cut down with short swords or impaled by hand crossbow bolts. Only the high priestess remains alive, though badly wounded. “They’ve taken Ash,” she stammers. Just as the word ‘Drow’ comes out of her mouth, two Drow warriors emerge from a side room carrying temple treasures and the fight starts.

(Being that this was my son’s first time playing D&D as an adult, I wanted to test my players’ abilities and team cohesiveness without overwhelming them with battles that would tax their resources. I also knew we would only get a few hours to play during his visit and I wanted to be able to finish the story before my son had to go home. I designed this easy, quick adventure to be played in 1-2 sessions. The encounters follow. I used only the lowest-level Drow [CR 1/4] in the Monster Manual for most of the fights, some non-combatants for variety, and the Elite Warrior [CR 5] for the final battle. I did not want a TPK by including a Mage [CR 7] or a Priestess of Llolth [CR 8] anywhere in there. I was even worried enough about the Elite Warrior [CR 5] wiping out my 1st level party that I was prepared to lower his AC and HP and fudge some rolls.)

1. The Opportunists. (2 Drow). Greed has gotten the better of these two brothers. They have stayed behind to raid the temple of treasure. Either of the brothers can tell the party the direction the drow have taken Ash, providing the party leaves one of them alive to talk. (My party killed both of them before questioning them, but the raiders left a pretty obvious trail on their way out, so they followed it.)

2. The Scouts. (3 Drow). Noticing the missing brothers, three Drow scouts have been sent back to find them. They encounter the party on the forest trail. (My party got some information from the Drow this time, before killing two of them. When questioned about Ash, they replied with vitriol about the ‘abomination’. The third Drow cast darkness over the area, which caused my party to retreat until they could see again, and he got away to warn the next encounter group.)

The Drow cave is only a couple miles from town and should have at least 6 rooms in it, with the main tunnel leading to the final two rooms at the back of the cave. I just drew a quick sketch in my notebook with numbered rooms and let it go at that. Nothing fancy or time-consuming.

3. The Guards (4 Drow). Four Drow Guards are stationed, two at the base and two on ledges, of the cliff face that leads to the cave opening where House Sinjin is living. The tree line is 50′ from the base of the cliff (Guards 1 and 2). The first ledge is 10′ up from the base (Guard 3). The second ledge is diagonal and up 15′ from the first ledge (Guard 4). The cave opening is 10′ up from the second ledge. Ropes and pitons are already placed by the Drow to facilitate climbing. The distance from the treeline to the 2nd ledge is about 100′. (My party arrived at the tree line in time to see the Drow Scout that got away in the last encounter warn the guards at the cliff base about the party’s pursuit. The Scout then began climbing the cliff past the Guards stationed on ledges on the way up. The party realized that they needed to take the Scout out first, before he got inside the cave to warn the rest of the Drow. Although the Guards were alert and ready, the party got surprise by splitting up and firing ranged weapons from different spots within the tree line, maintaining cover for at least the first round and making it seem like there were more than four of them. The Scout that got away was climbing between ledges 1 and 2 when the party attacked.)

4. The Pet (1 Giant Spider). The House Matron keeps a giant spider as a pet. Thick webs all over this room give its presence away. The spider attacks any non-Drow that enter or mess with its webs. (So far in the adventure I had forgotten to give my party any treasure other than XP. The spider’s webs here gave me an opportunity to plant some gold, a Wand of Rope Trick [3 charges left, in case the party got in over their head and needed a quick escape], a Ring of Featherfalling and a future adventure hook [an inheritance notice] on some of the web-wrapped dessicated corpses that the Matron had fed to her pet. YMMV with magic item rewards at this level. I tend to be generous with them. That ring came in very handy at the start of the next adventure.)

5. Blowing Off Steam (4 Drow). Excitement from the raid is high. The party encounters four more Drow raiders (men and women) blowing off steam with a little S&M. Because the Drow are occupied, the party automatically gets surprise. (This was the first room my party looked in on. They did not attack the Drow having sex but left them to have their fun and snuck over to the spider’s room on the opposite side of the main tunnel. It was a mistake that made the battle harder when the spider attacked and the commotion drew the Drow to the noise. They used the Wand of Rope Trick to buy some time and breathing room.)

6. The Nursery. A non-combatant male nanny and six Drow children ranging in age from infant to 13 years (human equivalency) occupy this room. The oldest child, a girl, is abusing a younger boy of about 10 years old while the nanny and 3 younger children look on. The infant is fussing in a bascinet between the nanny and the party. The 13 year-old is the Matron’s daughter and fancies herself a force to be reckoned with, as she assumes she will one day lead the House. The nanny attacks the party as soon as he’s aware of them. He knows that if he doesn’t defend them to the death, the Matron will have his head. (My party killed the nanny swiftly, picked up the infant, and parlayed with the girl. The other children cowered behind the girl while she spat impotent defiance at them. Because my players thankfully aren’t psychopaths, they gave the infant back to the girl and managed to talk to her enough to get the whole story out of her that told of the House’s misfortune since Ash’s birth and Llolth’s condition that Ash be sacrificed by his father in order to restore the House to her favor. The girl eventually got tired of talking to the hairless male ape (Captain Sal) and, after telling the other children something in Undercommon (“run when it’s dark”), which none of my party spoke, she cast darkness and the kids scattered and escaped to warn the rest of the cave. Again my party had to retreat until they could see, and they were developing a growing hatred of the darkness spell.)

7. and 8. Dinnertime. (2 Drow and an Owlbear). Two Drow are preparing dinner: an owlbear the raiders encountered and subdued on the way back from the raid. The owlbear is chained and wounded and will attack the drow in the kitchen if it gets the opportunity. Once the Drow threat is gone and the owlbear is freed, it will attack the party. (I know how to push my spouse’s buttons when it comes to getting her to look at an encounter in a certain way, and this was no exception. The Drow were torturing the owlbear, ripping out its feathers and burning it with fire-heated pokers when the party arrived, the owlbear screaming in pain and rage. That was enough to make her attack the Drow in the kitchen when they could’ve snuck past them like they did in Encounter 5. I originally had intended to have a Bugbear chained up, but when I was describing the scene, I confused the ‘bears’ and mentioned feathers. The price of getting old and senile.)

9. The Altar Room. (5 Drow). Two female Drow stand guard, facing the entrance. Two young female Drow, one of them pregnant, are purifying an altar to Llolth, drawing sigils on it with blood while chanting praises and beseeches to the Spider Queen. The House Matron, an older Drow woman, looks on, directing them in their duties. The young women and the Matron are non-combatants. The Matron will try to run if she can. (When the fight started, my Matron ran for the exit while the girls cowered behind the altar and the guards attacked. The Matron almost made it out. One of the young women did make it out and was able to appear in the final encounter, which made it more exciting.)

10. The Boss Battle. (1 Drow Elite Warrior). Behind the altar room is another room that is bisected with iron bars wedged into the floor and ceiling, creating a prison cell. In the cell is Ash. In front of the cell is Ash’s father, ready and waiting to do battle with the party. (When my party arrived to face down Ash’s father, the girl from the altar room was in the cell with Ash, had the boy down on his knees with a fistful of his hair and a knife at his throat, waiting for a word from dad to kill him. A couple magic missiles and a crossbow bolt from the party wizard and rogue [Lula and Valerius] took her out in one round while the fighter and cleric [Captain Sal and Donella] kept Dad busy. Despite my fears about Dad’s CR, they were landing their hits and doing some damage. They exchanged blows for two rounds, and then I found out how awesome the Witch Bolt spell is. Lula hit with the spell, causing 1d12 points of damage, and then only had to concentrate to get 1d12 automatic damage every round [and she rolled high]. With no other opponents to worry about, it was easy damage. Then Valerius moved in and, thanks to the new rules, all he had to do was have another comrade within 5 feet of his target to deal 1d6 extra Sneak Attack damage. Sal continued to hammer at Dad while Donella kept him healed up in between her own attacks. It was all over before Ash could pick up the dagger from the dead girl and throw the knife at his father’s back.)

It was a quick adventure, maybe 7 hours of play total (less if you’re more focused than us) and probably too easy. But my players had fun (which is what counts), got to experience the game, and made it to Level 2. And the Drow children got away, which the party later regretted…

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