The GUIDE index is here !
This chapter is divided into two parts. The first one is about traveling through the lake (but this only happens until after Sloobludop) and the second part is about everything that is going to go down in the Kuo-Toa town Sloobludop.
The first part about traveling through the lake is an option to get to the other Underdark settlements, or it can be used combined with just walking around it. It must be said and constantly reminded to the players that the “Darklake” is not really a lake, but a gigantic area of the underdark filled with lakes, some small and some kilometers wide, and an un-mappable network of underground rivers and grottos that connect all the lakes. Some of these lakes and rivers are completely submerged and are only accesible diving. Now really, after Demogorgon’s number in Sloobludop, with his army of ixitxachitl (page 225), only the worst of madmen would venture willingly into the darklake to escape !
For me the darklake travel options are just an alternative to the somewhat unchanging and boring trips through caves, when trying to go to a different settlement. If the PC’s are following the boundaries of the darklake to get to Gracklstugh for example. Not always will they have the lake on sight, the caves take unexpected turns and might send them some kilometers off mark before winding up again in the desired direction. In the same way, they could end up in a place where the only way to continue is by water for a few kilometers or even days. That’s the moment when they would have to retrace and lose a lot of time, potentially having an encounter with the drow scouts tailing them. Or devote some hours to improvise some rafts and venture into the dark waters of the lake. For a more dangerous alternative, there could be a section traversable only by diving into the lake, down there it would be very dangerous, this option is only viable if a PC has access to the water breathing spell.
I recommend combining a darklake trip with a set-encounter like the Lost tomb of Khaem (page 37); the PC’s would be traveling through a narrow underground river and they suddenly find a hidden shore where the tomb is.
Dark lake traveling is also an option to arrive to Gracklstugh, since it has lake access. If Buppido is with the party he might suggest that, and guide them to a discrete part of the shore for a silent entrance into the city (page 59). He will ditch them right after to go to his shrine (page 70).
The Kuo-Toa town is great in how it portrays the fish-men and their way of life. It is critical to narrate the little details about this town’s inhabitants that make them so unique and alien. Here is a list of the particular differences the Kuo-Toa have:
- They are fish.
- They have a bubbly staccato voice (maybe try to speak with a little water in your mouth).
- They usually adore many gods but this town is all for the great mother of the sea. Except that recently half the town is worshipping the Deep Father Leemoogoogoon (aka Demogorgon)
- They are fish.
- They don’t stay still, like fish swimming, they keep moving, even when being talked to, they might “swim” around the person or “swim” away expecting the person to follow them, like in a school of fish.
- They have no eye lids and sleep standing up, and keep walking. Any encountered fish-man could actually be sleeping.
- They are fish.
- They don’t like Shuushar or his ideas.
- It is considered a sincere show of faith to regurgitate at the feet of any shrine of the mother of the sea, as she is a scavenger god.
- They are mad already and are particularly vulnerable to Demogorgon’s maddening presence.
The Kuo-Toa only speak a gargling bubbly variant of undercommon. Interaction with the Kuo-Toa will be tricky, they may depend on NPC’s to do it (you can alternatively let players roleplay an NPC), Buppido and Sarith can translate. Shuushar can do it too but the Fishmen don’t like him very much. Prince Derendil can do it too, but this “talking quaggoth” will unnerve the fishmen. Finally Stool can use his spores to open general communication, however my advice is that once the Kuo-Toa “hear” telepathic communication they freak out: “What is this voice in my head? is it you? GET OUT OF MY HEAD !!!”
This town is pretty straight forward because the PC’s will be thrown into a railroad cart. They won’t have much choice because the Kuo-Toa outnumber them by the hundreds. The only possible alternative is that after they are welcomed by Ploopploopeen (the archpriest) they could be given quarters and left to visit the town for a day, before the ritual confrontation is supposed to happen. If done like this, the party has a better chance to see some places of the town, like the docks, or simply, more chances to interact with quirky Kuo-Toas.
Know the names. I recommend to really study and practice the pronunciation of the different names and understand who is who. The players WILL be confused, buy if you are too, or start making mistakes with the names (which you probably will anyway) then the players will be lost. My advice is that you also always say the given title for each fishmen. Example: instead of saying “Ploopploopeen”, you can always say, “The archpriest Ploopploopeen”.
Also, a lot of Kuo-Toas should say or mention “Leemoogoogoon” quite a few times before the ritual goes down, maybe in passing, or chanting, or praying, it’s their gargly way of pronouncing the demon lord’s name. It is a purposeful foreshadowing of Demogorgon, but the players won’t make sense of it probably until after they exit the town. There is another clue, the picture of the altar of the Deep Father is supposed to be a crude interpretation of Demogorgon (page 47).
Do not forget to have scores of fishmen chanting the demon lord’s name during the ritual, and let the PC’s be scared of their fate when 2 or 3 of the other prisoners are sacrificed for real in front of the altar, while they are still surrounded by more than 20 guards. The ritual battle is supposed to be a shitstorm of Kuo-Toas fighting all over the place against each other. Each one of them supports one team or the other but for the players there is no way to know exactly which, they wear no colors or symbols. But they know where each of them stands. The Kuo-Toas ignore the prisoners during the battle, unless they join it. During this time, they can try to release other prisoners. For a finishing punch moment, you can have the archpriest kill his daughter right in front of the altar, thus finishing the summoning of Demogorgon.
My take on the Kuo-Toa is that they are already mad, and very vulnerable to Demogorgon’s presence. His appearance is such a huge event that his demonic influence has unexpected effects on the fish men. I advice three outcomes for the fishmen. One third of them is actually sane enough to see that everything is lost so they run. These are the survivors who will in the future reconstruct the town. The second third will be in rapture with his god present, will kneel, pray and sing, and will happily die a crushing death under the demon’s tentacles. The rest of the Kuo-Toas won’t be able to withstand the demonic energies and will instantly mutate explosively (think the movie Evolution): arms, legs and eyes will suddenly protrude from all over their bodies, leaving behind just a mass of bio-nonsense. Most of them will die in the process but a few might manage to survive, now walking mutated monsters. They can either attack anything they see or walk asking to be killed.
Tip – For a dramatic WTF moment, you can have Shuushar explode in a failed mutation, killing him instantly.
The rest is just escaping from town. Probably by land because venturing into the lake at this moment is reserved for the most deranged madmen.
Make sure you follow the rest of this GUIDE for Out of the Abyss !
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