Spoiler Warning! Underdark Without Darkvision is a based on my experiences on playing Out of the Abyss campaign and will include a host of spoilers. Thread carefully!
This week we started yet another campaign and in this one I get to take the seat of a player for a change. The game in question will be the Out of the Abyss campaign for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition.
Sami will be the DM for the campaign (he ran the famous Duck Tales game as well as the Sailor at the Starless Sea last year). He introduced this campaign to me as a “horror game set into the Underdark” and I was immediately sold. We are trying to play this biweekly and hopefully get to finish this (not a given fact considering our past success with campaigns…).
In this series “Underdark Without Darkvision” I will discuss the game as it progresses. I will be playing a human ranger without darkvision (hence the name).
I haven’t been a big fan of roll playing games ever. When I got into the rpgs I started with ANKH (Adventures of North Kalevala Heroes – a Finnish rpg, don’t worry if you don’t know about it) and Cyberpunk 2020. Right from the beginning I was more interested in the story than rolling the dice. Thus I do not have any fond memories of dungeoneering in my youth and I might have a different approach into the whole genre than most.
This became an apparent fact when I told the other players I wanted to play a human in Underdark. Some of them tried to direct me away from my plan and gave me helpful hints about surviving in the Underdark (and in D&D for that matter) but I really wanted to try out playing a human.
Humans are the necessary evil of fantasy roleplaying games. They tend not to have any notable advantages but we should still believe they are the most numerous race in fantasy settings. As I knew the campaign we were going to play, the setting it is going to take place and the style of game Sami wanted for it I chose the human to strengthen the basic elements of this campaign – darkness and unfamiliarity.
All other characters in our party are non-humans with Darkvision. In essence they can operate in the darkness of the Underdark without any light. My human ranger cannot (even though I chose the Underdark as the favored environment for him). We have yet to encounter an actual situation where this will hinder our game but I’m sure it will come. In fact I’m counting on it.
I came up with a background about a young ranger whose brother was taken by some unseen force in the dark of the night. My character has been searching for him for a year now braving ever deeper into the abyss that is Underdark. He knows enough of it to be afraid of it and the limitations it sets on him. He is afraid of the darkness of the caves as he knows a little about what can lurk in there.
As the game began we were all captured by drow. We spent some time trying to figure out what was happening in the outpost where we were held captive but there wasn’t any real difficulties for my character. Not until I was sent down to do menial labor in complete darkness.
Since my character did know something about the drow he was more than concerned about his current situation. He had no idea where and how deep they were. Most part of the session he spent trying to figure out what was happening and what manner of action he should choose.
As it usually is with highly detailed plans the whole thing escalated quite quickly and all plans were down the drain. My character was sent to clean up the canteen with a dwarf priest (played by Jamo). As my character was “too enamored by wine” he tried to search for leftovers only to get rudely beaten by his guards. Jamo’s character took his chance and shot one of the guards with some kind of bolt (no idea what, as said I’m not that much into reading the gaming rules). Suddenly we were fighting for our lives.
The calamity quickly spread and all of the characters were drawn in. It did not take long for us to discover we were horribly outmatched against our opponents. Luckily weird Underdark insects were drawn to the outpost by the noise and suddenly the drow had more to think than a few escapees.
After some struggles we managed to get our gear back and flee into the darkness leaving the drow to fight the insect menace.
In the heat of the game we got into an argument about the role of my character. Playing it by the book (and by that I mean the gaming rules) he should be in the frontline of the battle, tanking it against the enemies. But I wanted to him to be more proficient with a bow and ranged attacks. He is fragile and cannot take a hit but from a distance he is quite deadly (at least for a 1st level human character anyway…).
Even though that argument was clearly off-game it raised a lot of interesting points. What should the character’s role be in the party? I wanted him to fight from the distance but his Ideal is about Change.
I really want to explore this character and his relation to Underdark. I am willing to change my perception of him and he is willing to change his goals. It is all about survival.
Hopefully during next session(s) we can move the conversation about my character from off-game into in-game. I see it as a potential direction to enhance the ROLEplaying aspect of all characters. On the other hand I’m willing to tone it down if it becomes clear that it is not something other players want to get into.
All-in-all I think we will have interesting and memorable journey while escaping Out of the Abyss.