The Fall of Astia – Session 1 Recap

This past Sunday was the first day back in the DM saddle in over a year.  I started a new 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign, except that I had the characters begin at 6th level.  My last campaign ended at 6th level, when we started playing Shadowrun with my Co-DM, so when we jumped back to D&D and I chose to start a new campaign, I didnt’ want the players to suffer.  They could choose to keep the same characters from the last campaign (and I would provide sufficient backstory as to how they arrived at this point) or they could create new PC’s at 6th level.  I think only one of my players decided to keep his old character and the rest chose new.  One of our fellow authors here at 3-Sided Die, Ness, chose to go with a favorite character of his from another campaign, a drow elf rogue / assassin.

I started off the campaign with the PC’s traveling on a decent sized boat to an island called Astia. They have been recruited by the empire as ad-hoc mercenaries; the empire is paying extremely well, however they are being secretive about their work and why they are requesting such costly resources.  The PC’s are traveling to a land yet to be fully explored (in fact, it’s hardly explored at all) and so the players will have more than enough opportunity to discover ancient ruins, forgotten dungeons and the depths of the Underdark.  The journey isn’t a long one, but they always prove to be treacherous.

This was approximately the size of the ship that the PC's boarded.

This was approximately the size of the ship that the PC’s boarded.

Here are the players that made it to the first session:

  • Vola (Female Half-Orc Battlemaster Fighter)
  • Khaleen (Male High Elf Eldritch Knight)
  • Nar (Male Drow Rogue Assassin)
  • Ari (Male Wood Elf Hunter Ranger)

Here are some players who should be joining in the near future:

  • Thri-kreen (class yet to be determined)
  • Male Half-Elf Cleric

The session started out with the PC’s starting to board the Sea Scourge, and Vola, with a successful Perception check, noticed that the boat was sitting much lower in the water than most ships she’s seen working at the docks.

Besides the crew, the recruiting officer, Scarlett and an old Dwarven Cleric, Angus, who was there to bless the voyage, were the only additional people boarding the ship with the PC’s. The PC’s were greeted by the Captain and his first mate, Edgar, and were quickly shown to their room.

The large boat at the bottom was the one the PC's boarded.

The large boat at the bottom was the one the PC’s boarded.  Also the ship graveyard mentioned below.

Immediately after getting settled in their sparse and meager accommodations, Vola preceded to head down to the hold and check it out. Nar, not wanting to deal with the bright sunlight wrought day up on deck, went to the galley and was disappointed that no one was serving him. Vola saw that the boat was heavily burdened (crates and barrels stacked to the brim) and that there were 3 crates that weighed upwards of 600 pounds each, as far as they could tell. Ari and Khaleen, stayed up on deck and spoke with Captain Duncan and Scarlett.

Scarlett then called the PC’s together for a briefing on what was to come. Here were the major points the PC’s found out:

  • Ruby, a notorious pirate and Scarlett’s baby sister, was tracked through a portal, into and to the land of Astia.
  • It seems Ruby had found and been coming through this portal for just shy of 10 years and has amassed herself quite the empire of her own on Astia.
  • The PC’s home world, the portal only opens every 3 months, but the Astia side of the portal remains open, and allows purchase back to the PC’s home world at any time.
  • There is a strange current that runs through the ocean on the Astia side, which is exceptionally strong.
  • The port town that the empire is trying to entrench themselves in, is called Black Hollow, mostly populated by humans, much to Nar’s dismay.
  • Many of the recruits that Scarlett has brought, have been killed by either Ruby’s men, though in many cases, they’ve found strange circular holes scattered throughout the few places they’ve explored on the island or have found the recruits tangled in the neighboring plant-life.
  • Astia seems to be heavily vegetated in plants/trees similar to that of jungle or thick forest.
  • While the apprehension of Ruby is important, the true purpose of the mission can only be given by the commanding officer, back in Black Hollow.

Not long after Scarlett’s long winded monologue, Khaleen and Vola heard a faint sploosh sound from the side of the boat. Edgar, the first mate and just coming out of the lower deck, motioned to the PC’s and when they turned around, it seemed like the entire ship was enveloped in a thick fog, not allowing them to see more than 10 ft. off the side of the boat.

Suddenly they were attacked by the Sahugin and a Shark-man creature. The Sahugin brandished tridents and jagged fish bone spears and swords, that were decorated with pieces of coral and shell. The shark creature held a large bone punching dagger and the Sahugin Priestess held a staff with a large sapphire on top, pulsing with an eerie blue light.

  • Scarlett was caught in a lingering hold person spell, with ghostly manacles binding her hands and wrists, that came for the Sahugin Priestess’s glowing staff.
  • Nar traded insults and blows with the Shark-man and even evaded the shark-man attempting to pull him into the sea, after chomping down and locking its jaw on his shoulder.
  • Vola, used her flame tongue axe to ignite her hammer and quickly dispatched the Sahugin soldiers and aid in the fight against the Shark-man.
  • Ari was pumping arrows into the shark creature, as well as the other 3 Sahugin, pivoting left and right like an arrow machine.
  • Khaleen traded magic for magic with the Sahugin Priestess, eventually dropping her, who fell lifeless off the edge of the boat, floating away. Luckily its staff fell on the boat, which held a sapphire the priestess used as her arcane focus.

Once the battle was over, with a little investigation, a fish bone scroll case was found inside the cavity of the staff. Nar was able to open it, and he found a scroll and some coins. He then told everyone about the scroll he found, as he attempted to pocket the coins. Vola, who’s worked very hard to get to where she was, was furious that Nar would just pocket the coins that should be given to the group as a whole. Noticing his handiwork, she grabbed his wrist and threatened to make him fish food. The insults flew back and forth, but Khaleen managed to get the group back under control.

Captain started evasive maneuvers, in case more Sahugin were on the way. The fog continued, so the party decided to investigate it further, after Vola climbed up to the top of the crow’s nest and saw that the fog originated and surrounded only their boat…the rest of the sea was perfectly clear.

After checking out the crew’s quarters in stealth, they moved onto the lowest level, the hold.  An ever-smoking bottle was found pushed into a port hole in the back of the hold, which could only be found through a serpentine path through crates and boxes.

When the PC’s brought the ever-smoking bottle up to the top deck, to find out who created this sabotage, Edgar, the first mate, looked increasingly more nervous and anxious.  This amplified with Nar stalking up to him, and seeing no other way out, attempted to take a dagger to the throat of Scarlett to use as leverage.  Unfortunately for him, he fumbled the roll and his dagger fell into the depths of the sea below, after bouncing off the deck’s edge. Scarlett, wasting no time, snapped his neck and sent him tumbling after his dagger into the sea depths.

With the ever-smoking bottle removed and capped, the Captain, who could now see that more Sahugin were riding the current, now that the fog was gone, was able to maneuver into the current as well, using the wind, current and expert crew to his advantage and outrun the Sahugin.

(By removing he ever-smoking bottle and giving the Captain this advantage, they successfully mitigated an ADDITIONAL encounter that was supposed to occur)

Sadly, not too long after that, a 4 armed Sahugin Baron, riding a giant dragon turtle surfaced only to mock them, then descended into the sea,which quickly followed by a loud crunch that took out their rudder and steering.

The commotion and chaos distracted the PC’s and the crew enough that a perception check was called for, to notice that the land of Astia was MUCH closer than anticipated and a crash was imminent. This was solidified when the Baron signaled his dragon turtle steed to hurl itself out of the water and then splash down behind their ship, sending a tidal wave of force in their direction. Coupled with the current, high winds and tidal wave, the PC’s were moving at breakneck speeds. As they closed in on the land, they noticed that the current was leading the ship into a veritable ship graveyard, where other ships lay broken and battered on the rocks ahead.

They all decided that jumping ship was the best option, however, Khaleen ended up taking the worse of it, and ended up with a fractured knee, after slamming into a rock.  His critical fail on his Dex saving throw was unfortunate.

Once everyone found purchase on the many ships and were taking a breather, the dwarf, who seemed to have slept through most of the ruckus, was arguing with the Captain.  Seems the captain was attempting to drag some more coin out of the empire, but the dwarf would have none of it.  Angus “convinced” the Captain that his remaining crew would be carrying whatever cargo they could muster from the wrecked ship and that they would do so with a smile. The PC’s were charged with finding the 3 lost crates that contained extremely important cargo, which had broken free of the ship and headed into a cave, and down a waterfall, deep into the Underdark below.

The waterfall is to the left, with the moderately flowing river, headed east.

The waterfall is to the left, with the moderately flowing river, headed east.  The goblin cave sits to the south where many more are hiding.

Nar, standing atop a ledge next to the waterfall, closed his eyes, breathing in the Underdark air…taking in the familiar and always unfamiliar surroundings. For such a long time, he’d been stuck on the surface; trying to find a way back to his home…this was as good of a start as he could hope for. A switch born only of survival, clicked, and when he opened his eyes again, the hunter emerged and instinct kicked in.

The party headed down into the cave, down a 30 ft. waterfall, to where the crates had escaped. A long flowing river twisted and turned, running about 150 feet long through the cavern. While Scarlett kept watch and Angus healed the crew from the damages from the crash, the PC’s scouted ahead, to ensure the path was safe.  They noticed that there were numerous barrels of food stuff, tables and beds, flotsam from the broken ship, all flowing down the river, getting stuck at various points on the sides, though some of the items made it further down the river.

The PC’s noticed something strange happening with their Darkvision. Nar, trying to use his Underdark knowledge and Ari, using his keen survival instincts still couldn’t come up with anything that would cause such an effect to happen. After some additional investigating, it seems the larger mushrooms in the cave (not the smaller ones), produced spores that interrupted and blocked line of sight for Darkvision.

The PC’s also saw lots of chasms on the left and on the right, they saw that there were pools in the cavern floor that actually ran pretty deep, as if the river had carved and spread out under the cavern floor itself.

Ari, using his expert wood elf senses, immediately picked up some small tracks, littered throughout the area. He noticed that the tracks seemed to be deeper behind places of cover and were farther apart in between, as if these creatures were racing from cover to cover, avoiding the attention and grasp of something. Slowly sneaking forward, they found a rudimentary wall that was built, with a triangle point that jutted out over the river. A pail and ladle was found lying on the ground nearby. They also saw in the tracks that something that looked invariably like a large heavy crate, had been dragged to the cave behind them. They decided they would cross that bridge later, as Vola and Nar also found an actual bridge, so they could get to the other side of the river to grab the 1st crate.

That is when hell broke loose:

What was deemed or seen as a large stalagmite turned out to be a well fed (lots and lots of goblins) and large Roper. Its singular eye opened, its maw dripping with anticipation of new food, it lashed out its tentacles, pulling all 4 of our heroes quickly into its grasp.

The tentacles of the roper proved to be extremely problematic, causing disadvantage on all attacks, and while a couple blows were landed before those tentacles sank in, it quickly seemed like a slow death was imminent. Nar kept fumbling with his crossbow, his bolts continuously dropping on the cave floor. Vola was the first to experience the crushing bite of the Roper, taking serious damage that cracked ribs and bones galore. Nar kept trying to sever the tentacles that grasped him and Khaleen, but just couldn’t get all the way through.   Plus, he knew they were regenerating and that it was only a momentary benefit.

Then, Ari, with his quick thinking, used his magical bag of tricks, luckily bringing out a large panther to their aid, effectively flanking the roper and removing the huge disadvantage to the group. Blows were finally able to land, Khaleen expertly used a spell that didn’t require additional attack rolls, as the rocky skin of the roper made it hard to hit, even when advantage was on their side. Vola’s flaming swords came to life and left burn marks all over the Ropers body. Bolts and arrows peppered the Roper, one arrow just missing its singular eye. Firebolts were thrown from Khaleen, adding even more scorch marks to the roper’s hide. The Roper, seeing the turn in tides, began to panic. Knowing it was surrounded and with its incredibly slow movement, this was a do or die situation. It began throwing the PC’s at stalagmites and into some of the surrounding chasms.

Ari was thrown hard, and started sliding down into the chasm, when he deftly hopped out, only to grasp at the scree and rubble on the edge of the chasm, holding on by sheer strength only. It didn’t last long though, as the pain from the tentacles and the crushing blow into the stalagmite, was just too much. His strength gave and he dropped down 30 ft. to crash into the chasm below. Khaleen, with a similar fate, was thrown into a stalactite, crumbling at its base, though barely holding on. Vola, being chewed on, in the Roper’s mouth, went limp and her body, slid to the floor, covered in a mix of blood and saliva. The Roper’s strength being pushed in all directions waned and when it tried to slam Nar into the ground, it was meek, though it did set off nearby mushrooms spores, causing Nar to inhale them and severely hampering his Darkvision.

Luckily, the party just prevailed as the panther cut the roper down a little more and a finishing blow from a witchfire blast from Khaleen, set the monstrous Roper finally to bed.

The party, broken and hurt, immediately headed back to camp with crate #1, though it didn’t escape their notice to see 9 sets of yellow eyes looking at them through the wall. The party took a short rest and coupled with the healing magic of Angus, the Dwarven cleric, were able to push on, but were by no means at full health.

It was also noticed down here, as the party headed toward the back of the cave, that they could see a couple of those holes that Scarlett was talking about, in varying sizes. Nar has never seen anything like this before in the Underdark.

So, the PC’s decided to get crate #2 from the goblins, while Vola went off and secured crate #3, which seemed to be stuck in the water, farther down the river.

A long goblin was keeping an eye on Ari and Khaleen, as they kept an eye on Vola while he was headed down to crate #3.

So, Khaleen, Ari and Nar set up an ambush. Nar crept up behind the goblin, utilizing his cloak of elvenkind, giving him a huge advantage, and put the dagger up against its throat. Scared beyond believe, thinking that the wall had just attacked him, he had problems remembering his own name, when Ari started questioning him.

Ari, spent a good 5 minutes (real time), speaking to the goblin and the goblin boss, working out a deal that if they killed the Roper (which they already had), and if they didn’t kill the goblins, they could have their crate back. I kept it to a minimum on the charisma (persuade) skill rolling, as Ari acted it out so well, rolls were only required at a key moment or two, when the goblin knew the boss wouldn’t approve of him embellishing on information secret to their clan. Plus, when Nar finally revealed himself, the goblin fell almost limp on the blade, succumbing to what was eventually going to happen when dealing with a dark elf.

The goblins, having been tortured and scared by the roper for so long, have had their numbers severely reduced, dwindling with each and every day. The only reason they kept up, is because goblins breed like rabbits. From what Ari gathered, they were large in number, but were clearly tired of fighting and losing, and just wanted to finally be at peace. If one crate could possibly give them a chance at peace, then this was an easy decision for them.

The final crate, needed to be retrieved in the river.

The final crate, needed to be retrieved in the river.  Missing tiles were chasms, though the one near the waterfall was just needed somewhere else.

The game, just about coming to a close, had a STUPENDOUS cliff hanger ending, thanks to Vola.

Vola, finding the 3rd and final crate, which seemed to be wedged in or stuck on something in the water, jumped in, in an effort to tie a rope around the crate and secure it from moving any further down the river. Unfortunately for Vola, what was really keeping the crate in place, was a gelatinous cube, who just happened to be in the river, feeding off all the fish washed down the river from that strong current of the ocean. It most likely just sits here for long periods of time, constantly being fed. Many fish bones can be seen by Vola inside the gelatinous cube, including a goblin skeleton or two, and the crate itself. Vola however, at the start of the next game, will be engulfed by the gelatinous cube and suffocating.

Overall, it was a REALLY fun game.  The players really used the 3D terrain and props to strategically determine their next moves in all aspects I’d expect, but I was especially surprised with the newer player, Ari, who has played maybe once or twice before, really step into his role-playing and the strategy involved.  All the veteran players stepped up and took the role-playing by the reins, which was great to see, considering only one of my players (Nar), is the one who easily slips into his characters skin.  The group was fully immersed in the campaign, the story and the combat, which is all a DM can ask for.  I’m lucky enough to have a group that is respectful, interested, consistent and most of all are there to have fun.  It makes being a DM really easy.

I hope you enjoyed my first session’s recap.  I’d love to hear your feedback and any suggestions or ideas you may have for the campaign or for the players.

Thanks for reading!

Jinx

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called "The Fall of Astia". Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you'd like to see featured on our site.