Spoiler Warning! Underdark Without Nightvision is a based on my experiences on playing Out of the Abyss campaign as a human ranger (deep stalker) and will include a host of spoilers. Thread carefully!
It took us four sessions (and then some) to get into the ages old question in a roleplaying game: Who is our party leader?
In last session we encountered the Kua-Toa of Sloobludop and witnessed the raise of Demogorgon. It shattered the minds of our PCs. At least a bit. We got some neat playing hints from Sami (DM) and were instructed to act them out but I had to leave early and did not get to “kill everybody”.
At the beginning of the fifth sessions I had been restrained by a “friendly” duergar (yes, the same I picked a fight with during previous session). Luckily he was willing to let the past go and trust on me to gather our party before venturing forth. In a haste we ran around the Kua-Toa “city” and found most of our PCs and NPCs before rowing away from the chaotic slaughter.
It was only after this than the things got really interesting.
I had spied with my ranger eyes something wrong with the deep gnome couple (NPCs Topsy and Turvy) and had kept a keen eye on on them. I wouldn’t be caught by surprise!
While sailing (well rowing) at the starless sea we rowed into a tunnel where the ceiling hung low. I heard a faint rumble and suddenly the rocks began to fall! With amazing balance (critical roll with my already high AGI bonus) I avoided the rock as did most of my companions. Only the dwarven priest caught a falling rock (likely with his stout face) but it didn’t do much harm to our tough barges.
Shortly after that I noticed something was wrong. The deep gnomes went through a shapeshift and turned into disgusting wererats! I had been right all along! The dwarven priest prepared to throw them overboard with a might swing of his hammer but our deep gnome wizard Ivridda had a different idea. Suddenly we were rolling initiative.
At this point the game system really worked against the group. Mika (Ivridda’s player) rolled higher initiative than me and the dwarven priest. He ruled that he would hold until the dwarf would act so that she (as in his character) could command the dwarf to not to harm the deep gnomes/wererats. My character was in the order next and was not about to let these beasts to hurt his fellow adventurers.
I shot a couple of arrows and harmed one of the wererats quite deeply. This angered Ivridda but (from my point of view) forced the wererats to retreat to the cabin. We managed to save the dwarven priest from the same barge and entered a heated argument. The second during this session.
Before the wererats were revealed our party was unsure what way they could escape from the Underdark. Ivridda thought that we should strive for the deep gnome city while some of the other thought that in the duergar city we could get better weapons and maybe even some info about escaping out of the abyss. My character was totally against any voting and got behind our gnome thief (played by Jani) whom the NPCs had seen as our leader. The argument died of pretty quickly and we decided to go for the duergar city. But the damage had already been done.
Now after Topsy and Turvy had turned the group decided to tow the barge where they were hiding. I tried to convince others that the humane thing to do was to leave them in the dark since they could (if they wanted to) attack us and infect us with the curse of wererats (in the lack of a better word). My character saw this as the nature’s way to establish who were fit to survive. That didn’t happen.
So at the end of our fifth session we had another random encounter and a water troll attacked us! By some whim (or clever thinking by Sami) it pulled itself from the water on the barge where Topsy and Turvy where hiding. Initiative was rolled again and another combat encounter began.
I saw this as a perfect roleplaying opportunity. My character saw it as a perfect way to get rid of the wererats. I declared hold until the troll would leave their barge and attack ours while shouting to Borkul (half-orc barbarian played by Mikko) to cut the rope that tied the barges together.
In my mind the scenario played out nicely. My character would sacrifice his own conscience to save the party. He knew that the deep gnomes were (likely) not guilty for their curse and that they would not (likely) attack us. But that was not a sure bet. If one from our group would be turned into a wererat by them it would be on my conscience but I could not kill them by myself. Thus the troll would serve a greater good in the end.
But naturally it did not go that way.
Borkul did not cut the rope and the other characters from our group managed to kill the troll (and burn it before it escaped). So there I was. The douchebag that defied the common sense of killing a troll on sight.
At the end I think we (as a gaming group) still came out of this as a winner. In the lack of a strong leader our party is dysfunctional. I kept on checking Borkul wether I should shoot the troll or not. He did not notice this (or ignored this). Ivridda is furious about me not helping to kill the troll. And the blasted gnome thief who I was backing as our leader is now sucking up to Ivridda.
During next session we will have to get over this somehow. Personally I see this as a major roleplaying opportunity – one that I would have never thought a game like Dungeons & Dragons could offer.
On the other hand I know that this is not exactly something some of the other players want from the game. I was even accused not acting according to my alignment (which is always awesome). I countered the argument by explaining why my character thought his actions were justified (he is chaotic good).
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My character is about change and adapting to the situation (as explained in the last post) so I do not think it will be a major issue. Even though from my character’s point of view he would like to have a clear alpha leading our pack. He is not willing to take the mantle and I seriously doubt that anyone would expect him to.
From all of the games I have played I cannot remember a similar situation. The leadership is usually handed to the highest ranking character or there is some other (usually a clear way) to decide who makes the calls. This situation is so natural for the game’s story that I can only hope we get into the bottom of it in a cool way. It’s like first season of Lost or Under the Dome or any other survival story. Who is willing to lead the way and how will they do it?
My ranger would likely get behind Borkul the Barbarian since he is strong in a physical sense but has come out with his opinions more than Prince Derendil (the hulking quaggoth who might or might not actually be an elven prince, and is a NPC). Burham (the dwarven cleric) might be another option, but dwarves are my ranger’s favoured enemies (due duergar). Ivridda might be the strongest option because of her knowledge and magical skills but from my point-of-view she has not been trustworthy – the exact opposite in fact (with her talk of being able to control magic people).
Unfortunately the holiday season is creeping upon us so I’m not sure when we will get to play the next session. But I will definitely blog about it when we do.