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Alright, Chapter 15 in the book is actually The City of Spiders. But as I mentioned previously in this guide, it doesn’t make much sense to visit Menzoberranzan, then get out to crash the fetid wedding, only to come back again to Menzoberranzan to place the dark heart (if that is the PCs decision). But of course you are welcome to do it as ordered in the book. This is just my personal informed suggestion for the order of chapters; I feel it correctly conveys the dramatic rise of wildness and danger of the demon lords.
This is actually a very short chapter, and hastily written as much of the second part of the adventure. If you play it as is, you’ll find that a level 13-14 party is going to walk through it unscathed; at those levels, adventurers are almost super heroes. It’s even possible that they faced and defeated Yeenoghu in the previous chapter. In the fetid wedding, PCs get a chance to “confront” Zuggtmoy, by that I mean, talk to her and fight the corruption inside Araumycos, because she doesn’t really fight them (per the book). After that there is a full confrontation with a weakened Juiblex. The problem is that all this is too easy for a regular level 13-14 party. But we are going to fix that.
The chapter starts at any moment or place after the PCs finished the Labyrinth (or the City of Spiders). Sovereign Basidia contacts them through the fungi network. She explains that the wedding is close to happening. If it is allowed to continue, Zuggtmoy will attain unimaginable power. The hook is good, so after that the PCs travel to the region of the underdark that is referred to as Araumycos. Araumycos is a collective hive/consciousness/colony of thousands of fungi beings, interconnected over thousands of miles. It’s immensely big, bigger than whole countries. It has enormous power and it is self aware, but its mind is very alien in nature. Only other myconids creatures can properly communicate with it. The PCs get the chance to do it, in a way, with the help of myconid spores.
There is a list of random encounters in page 210, for appropriate encounters when visiting this area. They are very easy encounters, but usable anyway. The only fun / tough options are some of the demon options. If you want more engaging combat, you need to replace this encounters with something tougher. Here are some ideas.
When the PCs are close to the main event, Basidia contacts them again to give them some myconid spores that make them immune to Zuggtmoy mind control spores. A good buff for the coming battle. After this talk, a pair of regenerating black puddings attack. This is a very simple fight, a good suggestion is to add more, maybe 3-4 black puddings and some grey puddings too. Otherwise this fight is just for show. After this encounter, the PCs can get closer to a place where they can enter rapport with Araumycos. A cloud of spores rises and the rapport starts, but Araumycos is half asleep and cannot tell friend from enemy, so it attacks with two fungi-otyughs (again, maybe add 1 or two more). After defeating them, the PCs go to sleep and travel to something very similar to the astral plane. It’s more like a mental projection or a shared dream with Araumycos. There is an awesome description of how it looks like in page 212. The PCs eventually reach the “brain” or mind or Araumycos, where they witness the severe damage that Zuggtmoy’s influence is causing.
This is the part where we make the real changes, the party will probably have spent a little resources in the previous fights, so it’s the perfect moment to introduce a boss fight. As they start meddling with Araumycos’ mind, Zuggtmoy notices them and projects herself into the shared dream. The PCs will have to fight her in the dream. If you want, you can even allow weird dream manipulation ideas. Zuggtmoy fights to kill; she knows that no one can die here, as death will only bring them back to the material world, but she needs to stop them from interfering so that she can complete her “wedding ritual”. She is fierce, but a little nerfed, because her mind control powers are useless. It’s right in the middle of this battle, that Juiblex arrives to crash the party. She has to go back to reality to fight her nemesis, while the PCs continue to help Araumycos. With the demon queen distracted, Araumycos can explain what has happened and guide them to the part of its mind that is damaged. You can use the part in the book that talks about the corruption appearing to be an Evard’s Black Tentacles spell (page 213).
After healing it, they go back to real life and can rush to the “wedding room” (a big cave) to see Zuggtmoy devoured by Juiblex. There are also scores of myconid adults and basidia, trying to damage the demon lord, unsuccessfully. You as the DM have to make a decision at this point about the current state of Juiblex. The book suggests in page 214 that it only has 200HP and no legendary resistances. If the party has been severely taxed with the previous battles, then this suggestion is good. But if the party is still in a good condition, or there are more than 5 PCs, then don’t fear to bump Juiblex stats to make this “the battle of their lives”. This part of the adventure is about being an epic hero that saves the day, and it has to feel difficult to do it. Level 13-14 parties have a very deep pool of resources to draw from, don’t fear to challenge them. It’s easier said than done, and it takes some experience to make this judgements. If you’re unsure, Juiblex is just an amorphous mass of goo, so it really doesn’t show how damaged it could be at any given time. So you can just start the fight and judge as it goes. Whenever you feel that the party is close to succumbing, have Juiblex start to tremble and melt, as it loses cohesion. This is the sign that the battle is almost over.
After this show of muscle, the myconids will most likely build statues of the PCs. They saved the underdark already, to their eyes. Basidia thanks them, and Araumycos, although severely mind damaged, can bestow a Charm of Heroism which is super awesome, if they save it for the final confrontation. Apart from that, if they still hadn’t collected demon lord blood, there is a lot of it right here, and the timmasks fungi are all over the place. These are the last ingredients for the dark heart ritual. The PCs can return now to Araj Tower and wait for Vizeran DeVir to have everything ready for the end of the adventure.
Make sure you follow the rest of this GUIDE for Out of the Abyss !
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