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Chapter 2 of the book deals with traveling. And there is A LOT of traveling involved. You can potentially spend real-time days getting from one place to another because of the way the book suggests to handle traveling encounters. Some travel times go up to 15-30 days and you could have en encounter or two each day if you roll them randomly. That’s 20+ encounters in between cities. It will slow the game down.
My recommendation is: calculate the travel time with the table in the book (page 18), and then decide how many encounters will happen in that time. I recommend 5 to 10. Not all encounters should be about combat. Here are some ideas of non-combat things that might arise:
- Foraging skill challenge (ala fourth ed).
- Encountering escaped slaves from a drow or duergar camp.
- Food reserves spoiled or tainted.
- Encountering a small group of humans completely insane, living in a cave almost naked.
- A member of the Society of Brilliance.
- Escaping or hiding from a drow searching party.
- Traveling merchants.
- A member of the group is missing or found eviscerated (done by Buppido)
- Topsy and Turvy are gone (they left during the night)
I recommend to make the decisions in advance, it makes narration more organic, you don’t have to interrupt the game to roll on the random tables. You can pick the encounters from the encounter tables or roll them if you wish so, but do it before the game. When the game starts you should have a “schedule” of the trip, with the different encounters mapped.
Out of the Abyss pretends to be a sand-box campaign, but in my opinion it is not. If the PC’s take some paths, then some quests lose meaning or become obsolete. So, taking into account the continuity of the story and meaning of the different quests and set encounters, my suggested order of encounters and settlement for maximum fun is this:
- Silken paths – set encounter (Fargas Rumblefoot can guide them to the Lost Tomb of Khaem afterwards; page 31)
- Lost Tomb of Khaem – set encounter (page 37)
- Gracklstugh (either by land or water)
- The hook horror hunt – set encounter (it foreshadows Yennoghu’s presence, page 32)
- Neverlight Grove
- The oozing temple (to foreshadow the ooze problem in Blingdenstone, page 34)
- Escape of the underdark
A little rail-roading might be necessary to have the players choose this order, but actually, if well exposed, the order makes sense. All these settlements are found along the darklake’s shore and it makes sense to go around it. After Demogorgon’s appearance in the Kuo-Toa town, only madmen would venture the darklake in makeshift rafts.
It’s very important for the adventure theme that they don’t have food and resources at the beginning. The PC’s will be forced to forage or eat what they kill. Once they reach Gracklstugh or Blingdenstone, this mechanic is not so important anymore. I recommend to drop it by then.
The rules mechanic for the drow pursuit suck. That’s all there is to it. It’s better to manage the drow in a more organic way; that is, whenever the PC’s lose time or otherwise stop their trip progress, the drow scouts will catch up with them, giving them chance to start forced march to get away or fight the scouts and then continue traveling. However if the PC’s do not lose time and continue their escape as they should, there is no way to know that they are being tailed. This is easily fixed with cinematic descriptions of Priestess Illvara and her drow party, tracking them through the underdark, the best moment to do this is at the beginning of a session.
There are 4 set encounters that you can place during the travels from one location to another. I think they are great. The Silken Paths introduces two goblin NPC who are a great tool for guiding the adventure or just for fun. PC’s can rescue a halfling there, who can guide them to the Last Tomb of Khaem. In the tomb the PC’s can find a Sunsword called “Dawnbringer”. It’s great on its own, but I believe it needs a better name, in our game the name was “Lucille” but that is completely optional.
Next is the hook horror hunt, which foreshadows the involvement of Yennoghu, don’t forget to have the gnolls scream his name for whatever reason. The PC’s can also try to hatch a hook horror egg and then try to raise it. The last set encounter is the oozing temple, it’s a great one shot which also prepares the party for what is going down in Blingdenstone. An awesome ally can be picked up here, Glabbagool (page 35), a sentient gelatinous cube; he can help later in Blingdenstone. Do not forget to role-play that he only recently became aware, so he doesn’t know much about anything. In my game, when they met Glabbagool, the PC’s explained that they were “humans”, after that, the cube would refer to any non-ooze creature as “humans”. Humans were “humans”, halflings and gnomes were “small humans”, lizards were “4 feet scaly humans” and so on. It was a great touch and made everybody smile.
Make sure you follow the rest of this GUIDE for Out of the Abyss !
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