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This chapter is about reaching the surface and having a final confrontation with priestess Illvara. It’s important to note that by this moment, months may have passed and it doesn’t sound plausible that priestess Illvara is still spending her time, men and resources to hunt a severely reduced (in number) group of prisoners.
If you followed my advice in chapter 2, you have narrated cut-scenes for the players, so that they know that this drow party is still looking for them. They may have also run into Xalith in Gracklstugh, and most probably saw the remains of the drow scouts in Neverlight Grove. But why is this still going on? Illvara is a powerful and respected member of her house and even if her expeditionary force has doubts, they will obey her orders. And she is still hunting the PC’s because she has contracted a form of madness that makes her obsessive about her prisoners. She has bad dreams and can’t rest until she hunts them or kills them. She knows that the slave group is very reduced in number and still she follows them through the underdark.
Only junior priest Asha Vandree who craves her authority and Jorlan Duskryn who resents her have realized that she is not herself anymore. They are watching and looking for the best time to openly confront her, though they are not allies.
The chapter is very open about getting back to the surface and provides many options. This chapter of my guide is a suggestion of how this can be handled, it contains a fight with the drows and a close encounter with Orcus. I think it is very convenient since it gives the party a first person glimpse to a third demon lord, setting more pieces in place about the nature of the demon lords’ presence in the underdark. Also because Orcus is an icon in D&D lore, and unfortunately he is mostly absent in this module.
In chapter 11 – Gravenhollow, it is revealed through a vision that Orcus visited a mind-flayers’ community which was mourning the dead of their elder brain. Soon after, Orcus turned the elder brain into an undead version of itself and used it to assert control over the mind flayers. Orcus’ focus is to bring his undead army to the underdark, and he wants to control strategic portals in the underdark.
After helping Blingdenstone get rid of the ooze problem, the medusa and solving the wererat dilema. The PC’s are now local heroes. The gnomes might even indulge in a celebration feast. Dorbo Diggermatock will now help them get back to the surface. He will send guides with them to a location a 12 days away from the city where they can find a magic teleportation portal. The main guide is Flonk Dugars, a gnome scout. He leads a group of 6 gnome guards. Finally, Nomi Pathshutter will go too, she can operate the portal. Flonk knows this part of the underdark very well and can lead them to the portal avoiding any other encounter. The portal is in a vaulted cave with a 40ft tall ceiling. The room itself is 40x60ft. Apart from the portal stone, there is little else in this cave. The portal has not been used in a while but works well. Nomi or any PC with arcana skill can make it work. After activation, it takes some time to warm up and open up a portal to a location in the surface (DM’s choice). It takes a random amount of time between 1 or 2 minutes to open. This can be decided by the DM to accommodate the events during the battle. It should open after 2 or 3 rounds against Orcus. Nomi or a PC with arcana must be the last to go through the portal, in order to make it close after he/she passes, and avoid Orcus or his undead army to follow through. The drow have guessed that the party is going to approach this portal, they will let them arrive and then attack them from behind. Illvara’s strike team consists of:
- Priestess Illvara
- Shoor Vandree and Jorlan Duskryn (drow elite warriors, Jorlan has disadvantage in attacks)
- Asha Vandree (priest)
- 6 drow
- 2 giant spiders
The PC’s group consists of them, the gnome scout party and whatever NPC’s are left. They are supposed to be level 7 and very resourceful by this point. When Nomi activates the portal and it starts to warm up, Illvara attacks head on, coming from the cave that leads to the portal chamber. PC’s can have a final conversation with her before the fight (for cinematic purposes).
On her first turn Illvara casts insect plague and tries to catch the most enemies inside it. It’s a destructive spell and some gnomes might die really fast. After, if things get difficult she tries to summon the Yochlol demon. Asha jumps into the fray with spirit guardians in her first turn, trying to stop people from getting out of the insect plague area. The drow provide cover fire from behind and will move up to protect Illvara if she is attacked. Spiders and drow elite warriors attack whoever they can get close to. If PC’s cast a wall spell to isolate Illvara, she can cast levitate to get line of sight to targets on the other side of the wall. At any point during the fight Asha, Jorlan or both can decide to make their move and betray Illvara. If one of them does, she will take it so personal that she will forget about the PC’s and focus on him/her.
The fun starts when Illvara is close to losing the fight. Near a corner of the room, a mind flayer appears out of nowhere. He teleported in to open a gate for Orcus and company. The PC’s and drow will probably be too invested in their fight to do anything about the newcomer this round. Next round the mind flayer opens up a big gate on the wall of the room. From it, Orcus steps out, behind him there are scores of undead ready to step out of the gate too.
This is a WTF deadly encounter that should last for 2 or 3 rounds, turn after turn the tension must increase, as Orcus’ turn approaches. After two or three rounds, the portal will open and the PC’s can escape to the surface. Nomi will be the last to go through it, closing it behind her. If she’s dead any PC with arcana skill can do the same.
When Orcus arrives, any NPC that is not supposed to go to the surface will run away back to the underdark. This includes Stool who strides through a fungi patch on the wall. Glabbagool might just slide away. The drow party and Illvara recognize Orcus and can even make a temporary truce with the PC’s and fight him while the portal opens. If any drow travel with the party to the surface, they will become aggressive once outside. Although the sunlight (if it is day) will probably make them lose the fight. The only exception is Jorlan who will be on the party’s side. After the fight Jorlan could even join them, after all he won’t be welcome again with the drow; and this would be the second time that he helps them.
The mind flayer’s job is to open the gate, once Orcus steps out he will teleport away. Orcus is a beast and will use his wand and spells as soon as he gets there, low level undead like skeletons and zombies will also protect him. Choose randomly Orcus’ targets, there should be many targets (PC’s and NPC’s) around so as to not overpower the party. They only have to last for 2 rounds and use the third to go through the portal. A PC can easily die and might need to be carried through the portal. After getting out of the underdark and finishing the fight with any remaining drow, the PC’s are finally out of the underdark, they have come close to 2 or more demon lords and are the best informed people about the underdark problems. If Eldeth is with the party she will team up with Nomi Pathshutter and any remaining gnomes and part to Gauntlgrym. She wants to warn her people, and the gnomes now need to get back home. All of them eventually reach their destinations.
If Derendil is still with the party, it is a great chance to run my spin-off backstory of Derendil, if that is agreeable to you.
This is the middle of the Out of the Abyss module. There is a several months hiatus in which the characters are free to follow character related activities like visiting their families, friends and factions. Warn the surface world about the demon threat. A few side-quest adventures are great to bring the characters up to level 8, to be ready for their audience with King Bruenor in Gauntlgrym.
Make sure you follow the rest of this GUIDE for Out of the Abyss !
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