Make sure you visit my Guide to Out of the Abyss.
The first part of the adventure involves lots of traveling, A LOT OF traveling. According to page 25, you should roll twice daily, while traveling through the underdark. Page 18 explains the time it takes to get from one place to the next, for example, a party traveling from Sloobludop to Gracklstugh will take 28 days at normal pace. Rolling randomly for encounters in this time period can result in over 20+ encounters, quite too much if you want to keep the game dynamic. Also, considering that some people play D&D every two weeks or even monthly, it could take such a group months in real time just to get from one point of interest to the next. This is something I mentioned in chapter No. 2 of my OoTa guide.
It is a lot more fluent and convenient to decide before the game, what and how many encounters will the PC’s have while traveling, the number of encounters shouldn’t be related to the time traveling, the underdark is dangerous, yes, but it’s so vast that the PC’s could spend days traveling before encountering a threat. My personal recommendation is to have around 5 wilderness encounters between points of interest. You can adjust it depending on how often your group plays and such.
Now, back to “random” encounters, chapter two has a list of terrain and creature encounters. They work great in synergy if they are combined properly, this is why I advice against random rolling them. This article is about my suggestions for combining these encounters for fun challenges, and some extra options to expand in the rather short list of encounters in the book. These options are geared toward the first half of the adventure; an “Extra encounters part 2” will hold options for the second half of the campaign.
1.-Lava Swell (page 26) with Giant fire beetles (page 28).- This encounter works only if we change the fire beetle and give it fire damage immunity. The encounter starts when the ground opens under the PC’s, some of them could fall into the lava which is a danger in itself. While they panic and try to help their burning friends, the fire beetles emerge from the lava and attack any survivors, be careful, this encounter can wreck an unprepared party.
2.-High ledge (page 26) with 2 grells.- A pair of grells have found the perfect lair, on top of a high ledge. Every time travelers try to go through it, the grells descend on them to feed on them. As the party will be physically separated and unable to switch positions, this encounters is very deadly, and there’s also the danger of falling. 1d6 of bludgeoning damage for every 10ft of falling. Height can be as high or low as you want it to be.
3.-Lost expeditioners.- The party encounters 3 people roaming randomly through caves, Gustaff Gonlid (human), Adrienne Fetherless and a camp servant. They came underground looking for a lost tomb and were attacked by a pack of gnolls, they are the only survivors. If Fargas Rumblefoot is with the party, they recognize him and join the expedition. Fargas was their guide, they thought he was long dead. Regardless of Fargas presence, they will request to join the party at least until they reach a settlement.
4.-Mad people.- The party spots an adjoining cavern some distance ahead, light comes from it in the pattern of campfire. They hear mad laughter and rhythmic sounds, as they get closer they hear people talking in strange unrecognizable languages. When they peer into the cave they see a campfire and 5 people around it, they are almost naked and in a bad state of malnutrition, with scars covering their bodies. Their lips are missing, so they portray a permanent unnerving “smile” They move erratically and ignore the PC’s even if attacked. Their minds are far lost to madness. An arcana check (DC 19) reveals that they are talking in tongues whose origin is the far realm, even if magic is used, their words are unintelligible. A survival check (DC 15) let’s a PC study the area and tracks, the check reveals that they haven’t left the cave in weeks, something keeps them from leaving, they have apparently started to eat each other alive.
5.-Zentharim expedition.- This encounter only occurs between Neverlight Grove and Blingdenstone. Entering a big underground chamber, the PC witness the arrival of an expedition of 10 men and a beholder. They are walking with their backs to the party, so they don’t see the PC’s, except for the beholder who spots them as he enters, but ignores them. They are Zentharim thugs and scouts accompanied by Lorthuun, a beholder allied with the faction. They are traveling to Mantol-Derith. The PC’s should take the hint and ignore them, this is just a foreshadowing of the Zentharim and beholder in Mantol-Derith. Make sure you describe how the beholder is missing some eyes. If the PC’s confront them for whatever reason, the Zentharim do not wish to fight and offer directions to the next settlement politely. If pressed or followed, the Zentharim will try show muscle to scare the PC’s.
6.-Insect ambush.- 2d6 swarm of insects ambushes the party. In turn 3, three giant spiders descend from the dark to prey on the PC’s.
7.-Renegade drow.- The PC’s stumble upon a group of 2d6 drow. If Sarith is with the party, two of the drow recognize him. They were expelled from Menzoberranzan for opposing the matriarchy. They explain that Sarith’s family name has gained a pretty bad reputation recently, so they advice him not to go back (they don’t know that he was taken prisoner). If Sarith is not around, the drow party attacks immediately, they want the PC’s stuff.
8.-Derro cultists.- Buppido had been building a small cult to himself in the underground complex in Gracklstugh. Since he has been away, some of his cultist were drawn to the underdark wilderness, they don’t know how, but they are being drawn toward Buppido. They eventually find him traveling with the PC’s. Four derro cultists arrive and try to kneel before Buppido, and call him “m’Lord”. Buppido is still trying to hide his identity so he instantly jumps and stops them from showing such deference. They can join the party and help Buppido do his deranged ritualistic murders. Or Buppido might chose a difficult time (like after a tough battle) to show his true colors, now that his followers are with him.
9.-Rocks trap and orogs.- Some orogs have set a trap, they have a net holding a ton of rocks. They watch patiently from a ledge. When the PC’s approach they set the trap and let the rocks fall on them, a Dex save (DC 14) let’s them take only half damage (5d8 bludgeoning damage), also, anyone who fails the save is restrained by the rocks. They can spend an action to do an acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 14) to free themselves. After the trap is set the orogs descend with ropes and attack any survivors.
10.-Gnoll pack with prisoners.- A pack of 2d8 gnolls has set up camp along a cave tunnel, they have darkvision and have no need for a camp so the PC’s don’t immediately see them, but they can hear their mad laughter. The gnolls have 2d4 shield dwarf prisoners, they are killing them to cut them in pieces for easier transportation. The more the PC’s take to rush into action the more cries of pain from the dwarves they will hear. Every 20 seconds another dwarf is killed.
11.-Myconid settlement under attack.- This encounter works well a long time before Neverlight Grove. If stool is with the PC’s he will inform that they are approaching a myconid settlement, he can sense the home spores coming from it. When they arrive, it is under attack ! A group of 3d6 dretches lead by one balgura are wrecking the myconid adults. A lot of them have died already. After being saved, the remaining myconids say that they will start a pilgrimage to Neverlight Grove through the fungi network. Although sad, they rejoice because they have heard that the mistress in Neverlight Grove is having a marriage ceremony that will bring joy to all myconids. Stool guesses incorrectly that Sovereign Basidia is going to get married.
12.-Demonic stampede.- When approaching a big settlement, the PC’s find a small mining town a few kilometers from the big city (which could be Gracklstugh or Blingdenstone). PC’s will probably want to rest or sell/buy things. While this happens, an alarm horn sounds. They miners scream about an attack. They go and hide in a narrow mine, as it is more easily defensible. A huge number of manes demons and dretch demons assault the settlement. These demons aren’t very dangerous to the PC’s and they don’t have the damage resistance of stronger demons, however they have the numbers. The PC’s should defend the cave against endless hordes of demons, with no access to short rests.
13.-Shadow assault.- One shadow demon and a pack of 2d4 shadows lurk the underdark in search of souls to eat. They will attack from the shadows to get the advantage and will try to start by ambushing the party. If dawnbringer is drawn they will focus their attacks on its bearer, and if things get hard they will flee to the shadows, they can wait for hours until dawnbringer is sheathed again to repeat to ambush.
14.-Shield dwarf expedition.- The PC’s come across a big dwarf expedition. They are friendly and welcome them to their camp. They are traveling south on an exploration mission, they are mapping the section of the underdark surrounding the Labyrinth. Eldeth can choose to join them, to be later encountered in Gauntlgrym.
15.-Modron march.- The PC’s encounter a march of 22 monodrones, 1 tridrone and 1 pentadrone. They are traveling south. They are neutral but will fight if attacked. If the PC’s use magic to communicate, the pentadrone can explain that they are marching and recording all the information about the underdark. An arcana check (DC20) reveas that the Great March is the reason for their presence here. If the check succeeds by 5 or more it reveals that the last march happened more then 200 years ago. These modrons are lost. They cannot be convinced to travel in a different direction, the Pentadrone is very stubborn, he wants to go south; he explains that he wants to reach the Maximum Orderer, a modron device they can use to travel back to Mechanus. (This fact foreshadows the Maze engine in chapter 14) If left alone they will continue their way, they will be attacked in the Labyrinth by minotaurs; the pentadrone will die and the remaining modrons get lost in the Labyrinth. They are encountered again by the PC’s in chapter 14.
16.-Friendly slavers.- Traversing the underdark, they come across a caravan of 6 duergar slavers. They are transporting 6 human and 2 shield dwarves to sell in Gracklstugh. They don’t want to fight, instead they will try to barter for “weak looking” members of the PC’s party. They will try to buy Eldeth, Stool, Shuushar or the gnome siblings. (or anyone you like, maybe a PC). They offer 15-50 gold coins, depending on who they want to buy. If denied they go on their way, if confronted, they fight to the death (madness causes this).
17.-Lonely elf.- The PC’s find a one person camp, it was recently used. If they wait for an hour a female elf hunter comes back, she is wary of the PC’s but poses no threat (immediately). He requests to join the party if they mention where they are traveling. She is a succubus in disguise. She will try to seduce and charm a party member.
18.-Deranged Kuo-Toa.- While traveling close to the darklake shore, a group of 6 kuo-toa get out of the water and approach the PC’s, they explain that an important wedding is about to happen in an underwater settlement and that they have been invited. They offer water magic that will let them breath without problem underwater. If the PC’s accept they have to travel 1 hour swimming to the depths of the lake, where there is a small kuo-toa town. They have to fight some sharks to get there. The town’s name is Ploobcludbloot. Two important individuals are to get married, after some eating, swimming and dancing around a weird altar. An aboleth emerges from the dark waters to perform the ceremony. He uses his tentacles and mucous slime to bond together the two kuo-toa. With magic, they are fused together in an abominable confusion of limbs and fish parts. A Madness check is required (DC 14). After the event, the aboleth returns to the depths and the kuo-toa thank the PC’s for attending. They won’t escort them back but will renew the breathing magic.
19.-Corrupted Galeb Duhrs.- 1d6 galeb duhrs attack without warning, they detach seamlessly from rock walls and engage the party. Their appearance has weird black cracks. They were infected by Ogremoch’s Bane and are dangerous. When the party reaches Blingdenstone they will be able to find out that the galeb duhrs were originally there and went rogue.
20.-Old gamble partners.- As unlikely as it seems, the PC’s come across an underdark caravan where some old gamble players of Jimjar travel, they recognize him immediately and request to be paid as Jimjar still owes them 200 gold pieces ! The gamblers can be a group of humans, duergar, gnomes or a mix. Jimjar doesn’t have the money to pay and they might want to snatch him to sell him to slavers, to recover some of the money. If the PC’s pay the debt they go away, if confronted in battle, they will fight. If half of them lose their lives, the rest surrender and leave.
So, there you go ! twenty extra encounters to spice your underdark traveling for the first half of the adventure. Remember that although there is a lot of traveling, the focus should be on the settlements, traveling is just flavor for the important bits in the different underdark cities. The book provides only so many wilderness encounters, so I hope this list is useful to all DM’s getting ready and prepping the adventures in the underdark.
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