That Time D&D Went Sideways

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So the characters, Newbie Dwarven Ranger [NDR], Seasoned Planeswalker Ranger [SPR], Intelligence 6 Paladin [I6P], and Not Quite Evil Warlock [NQEW], all decided to venture back to an old dwarven stronghold that was converted to pirate base. Its entrance is in a cliff on the coast.

It is important to note that the heroes have worked out a deal with a local goblin alchemist (Fork Footsplint) where they can make health potions for free before an adventure. There are two small caveats: the first is that the potions lose their efficacy at the end of the adventure; the second is that due to some substitutions by the goblin the potions work “better” and have a random rolled effect from the Wild Magic Surge table. In this case, for the two potions the I6P makes, Fork threw in some grasshopper legs as a substitute. The player rolls a 48 and the potion turns a nice milky white (with the aforementioned bug legs floating at the top). Those of you that can’t stand the anticipation can go look up the effect now, I’ll wait...

As a bit of backstory, the pirate base is run by a Captain who kicked SPR off the boat for mutiny, though she tells the story… as a slightly different series of events. The Captain’s involved with a Witch and has taken a keen interest in the vault portion of their converted stronghold. It must be love, because they’ve started excavations of the vault together. The characters previously found the Witch’s notes, which indicate that there is a hand or eye that belonged to an old-dead-undead-god-creature (the old dwarven doesn’t translate well). This will be their second foray into this place, after killing most of the pirate crew on the first. “I assure you all the people we killed were all bad” the SPR says to the I6P, who nods assent. The players, I think, assume this will be a cakewalk.

Now, I want you to know I don’t play my bad guys as idiots. In the intervening time, the Captain and Witch completed their excavations and found the contents of the vault. The witch took the dead bodies of the crew and raised them as skeletons. Essentially, they are back in business with lower overhead.

Since our bad guys have watched Indiana Jones, they decide to create a portal next to the box that contains the artifact, minimizing the risk of boulder crushing while they figure out how to untangle the artifact from all those magic locks. There is plenty of time for them to do this and escape, I think, because the heroes would have to fight their way through the entire complex, and even if they succeeded, they would be too weak to pursue. Not to mention, the Captain and Witch are a Half-Dragon Veteran (CR 5) and Mage (CR 6), respectively, and the party averages 2nd level. They will politely escape to avoid absolutely murdering the players.

Enter in our team. SPR, for shits, uses the daily fluff ability of “detect portal” as they come up the cliff behind the cave, and finds that there is a portal some 100 yards or so behind the entrance. So they decide to investigate and climb around the cliff and look for a secret entrance.

Except there is no secret entrance because you don’t build secret entrances to vaults. That’s how things get stolen. However, unimportant until now, is the terrain. The highest section of the cliff is near the entrance, and then slopes away from said entrance. This means that to a point, the stone work on the “roof” of the dungeon gets thinner the further in you go. Erosion is a bitch.

The NDR uses their stone cunning and finds the thinnest section of stone and its really thin.

I6P: I begin stamping my feet.

DM: Ok. Make a perception check. Those of you who get a 10 or above notice cracks forming near I6P’s feet.

NDR, NQEW: [They succeed] Yeah, I’m going to take a step back

SPR: [Success] I take a rope and throw it on to… something?

I6P: [Fails] I CAN’T HEAR YOU AND CONTINUE STAMPING [Player: why is nobody telling my character?].

DM: NDR, NQEW after hearing a cracking sound, you suddenly find that two of your party members are missing. They have been seemingly replaced by a large hole in the stone on which the I6P was stomping. After a few seconds, you hear a body wearing chainmail hit a stone floor surface. SPR, you are in a hole hanging from a rope. You see I6P about 30 ft below you on the ground, groaning but moving.

The party has now bypassed most of the monsters and we break for pie and beer.

The new entrance is pretty far from the barracks and dining hall, so none of the remaining crew notices. Our heroes breeze through the rest of the dungeon, heading toward the vault. They break into the vault and catch the Captain loading up the box. A squad of skeletons briefly holds the characters up (the SPR, a newer player, notes that a skeleton casting magic missile was “bullshit” and that magic missile in and of itself is “bullshit”.) The NQEW throws a Staff of the Python at the Captain which turns into a giant snake and grapples the poor pirate. This stops the Captain moments before walking through the portal with the artifact. Fuck.

Time to engage the backup plan. The Witch summons a Bearded Devil, which not exactly a spell, per say, but whatever, we’re having fun. The Devil starts kicking ass with the remaining skeletons. Hope is dwindling.

IP6: I drink the potion. The crappy white one.

DM: It tastes like grasshopper butts. However, it functions like a normal health potion, so you get your 2d4+2 hp back.

[everyone waits with bated breath]

Also…. You summon a Unicorn.

Everyone: What?

The Unicorn attacks the devil. I6P fails her intelligence check and forgets that there were two potions, and thus the possibility of two unicorns. SPR saunters over, snatches the potion, and drinks it.

Another unicorn appears and all hell breaks loose. The devil is doomed, trampled to death by the golden hooves of justice. The Captain is still wrestling with the snake, while the NDR and NQEW pelt him with ranged attacks. The SPR runs up and kicks the box away from the Captain. The Witch, somehow now bloodied, casts greater invisibility and leaves via the portal. The Captain is eventually brought low, regardless of his fire breath.

The unicorns challenge the NQEW who succeeds a persuasion check (even speaking the correct language) to avoid getting gored to death by a confused pissed off horse with a horn.

The box is opened to reveal a shriveled hand: The Hand of Xangeon (similar to, but legally distinct from, the Hand of Vecna). Warlock realizes that this is a powerful artifact. The NQEW’s player and I leave to a different room for a sidebar. I note that this is a onetime shot to become incredibly powerful, otherwise the artifact will find someone “more worthy”. Standard sacrifice is needed… the NQEW’s Hand.

The player of the SPR goes to make tea. The player of the NQEW and I return to the table.

NQEW: Do you mind if I borrow your sword I6P?

I6P: Nope. Take it.

NQEW: [Freakishly Casual] I cut off my hand

DM: It hurts. Through the red haze of pain you feel the blade slicing through your muscle, tendons, and bone. Then, the pain is gone. And you see the shriveled hand has grafted itself onto you. You’re probably evil now.

Everyone in Unison: WHAT THE FUCK? [SPR’s Player: What’s happening? I’m still making tea!]

Now Actually Evil Warlock [NAEW]: What’s the big deal?

NAEW cooly leaves and heads back to town while everyone else’s mouths go agape. SPR arrives with tea.

SPR: Why are all of your mouths open? What happened?