Shattered Star #61: Death in the Depths

At the end of last session, we left our heroes about to enter the hidden sunken cavern that Thaladan had spotted during the battle with the chuuls and the illusionary aboleth.

The Shattered Star


The party entered the cavern cautiously, ready for anything. Within, they feared dwelt an aboleth and such a foe was not to be faced lightly.

Inside cloaked by illusions they discovered a deep pool and beyond a pile of rubble upon which lay a small pile of treasure and the desiccated remains of some gigantic aquatic creature. Emboldened with the lack of any opponents the party advanced.

Then Narfu realised both Zainnis and Karelia were acting strangely. As Zainnis gave Karelia a healing potion, Narfu shouted a warning and chaos descended on the party. Zainnis tried to shoot Grooble, but the canny gnome ducked behind cover and was only injured by one of his once-companion’s shots. Meanwhile, Karelia tried and failed to cast a spell from a scroll.

Grooble realised the best way to nullify the threat from Zainnis was to cancel the water walking ability protecting the party (as both Zainnis and Karelia were standing atop the deep pool filling much of the chamber). This he did, but sadly didn’t realise Thaladan was also above the water. The three promptly plunged into the water and began to sink at varying speeds.

As they did so, a tentacled monstrosity burst forth from the deep pool—an aboleth! The final battle was on!

As Thaladan sank, he quickly pulled his cloak of the manta ray from his pack and struggled into it. Once transformed, he could fight the aboleth on equal terms. In the meantime, Zainnis and Karelia flailed about in the water and seemed unable to get into the fight.

Seeing Thaladan battling the monstrous aboleth alone Grooble and Narfu dived into the water. However, although outnumbered the aboleth yet had some vicious surprises. It’s tentacles—coated in a strange kind of slime—grievously wounded Narfu (who moments later was battered near to death by the aboleth) and Grooble who escaped to the surface only to discover he could now no longer breath air!

However, by this point the aboleth was badly injured and eventually, Thaladin slew it, breaking its hold over his two unfortunate companions. The battle was over and the party saved. Grooble used his most powerful magic—a scroll of heal saved against great need—to revive Narfu and afterwards they all drank their potions of true form, which reversed the horrible mutation effects of the island. They promptly retreated.

Reaching the surface, the heroes set off for the nearest beach, as they desired to get off the island before it began to again mutate them. They reached the canal where they had fought the villagers several days before and discovered a large crowd of confused folk milling about. Explaining the situation to them, Grooble brought forth a swan boat. The party loaded all the villagers they could onto it and set sail for Black Cove.

Shortly thereafter they arrived in triumph, and after the remaining villagers were returned to the village (necessitating another quick trip to the island) the party accepted the villagers’ thanks.

However, the heroes had tarried too long in Black Cove and thoughts of their quest—to recover the next Shard of Sin lay heavily on their mind—and so they retuned to the Mermaid’s Mistress and prepared to set sail…southwards to the City of Strangers and adventure!

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

3 thoughts on “Shattered Star #61: Death in the Depths”

  1. Hey Creighton,
    I love reading your play reports and yours from 3.x/PF games have reminded me of what I discovered while DMing them. It feels like as I read your play reports there is more exploration in the early part of the campaigns than later. Is this a function of the scribe or the needs of the game system or the players needing shorter game sessions?
    I am an older school gamer, (B/X class of ’81 baby!) I observed that as character levels increase in 3.x/PF it seemed that I had to spend more time designing a boss fight: a tough, over CR’ed encounter with frequently hostile environmental effects to challenge the players and the party.
    The unintended consequence is that the lead up encounters which really comprise the body of an adventure and give it tone and flavor either increase in power to nearly match the boss fight(miniboss?!) or are trivialized. While they mean something to the overall adventure (and my sense of game structure or pacing) they are DM timesinks and quickly forgotten.
    The other side effect is that these more complex boss fights while nowhere near as bad as 4E encounters take longer and longer to play through. This pulls time away from exploration and interaction with the sandbox. This gradually diminished my enjoyment of the game and some of the other players as well.
    Thanks, Kirwyn

    1. I think it’s the way the adventures are set up. The first adventure had a fair amount of urban crawl, which led to more roleplaying. Later on, when they moved to the dungeon it became more about maiming and killing.

      The second adventure was almost all dungeon crawl and so there was a lot less talking.

      Sometimes–particularly in this adventure for some reason, the party engaged to multi-session fights (two of them I think) which probably took up half the entire play of the module (give or take). We aren’t overly in the rush at the table as well so we don’t really feel like we are against the clock.

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