Tuesday, September 13, 2016

[CRIT] My Pal Zuggtmoy

My group has been slogging through the Underdark for the higher side of twenty sessions now, and they finally got the fuck Out of the Abyss. But not before our resident Orc decided to congratulate a certain demon lord on her wedding day:

First, A Bit of Background

If you don't want to read this section, you don't gotta! Just skip down to "The CRIT." But if you've played Out of the Abyss before or are just interested in seeing how the party got to this point, read on.

The Party Reunites

You know the old saying "never split the party?" Well, the players fucked up pretty bad on that front.
Up until now, the characters had been split between Gracklstugh and Blingdenstone for the majority of the campaign, each party believing the other to have died in Demogorgon's demolition of Sloobludop. Luckily, both parties had the idea to look for a way back to the surface in Neverlight Grove, encouraged by Stool (a myconid native to Neverlight Grove) and Sarith (a Drow infected with Zuggtmoy's "gift") respectively. Even the Underdark natives wanted to leave at this point, since they had faced evidence of the demon lord's mounting corruption more times than they cared to count.
The party's reunion was a somber one:
Topsy was assumed dead, lost during a sojourn in Mantol-Derith.
Turvy died during an assault by an Orcish slaver party.
Shuushar was drunk in a gutter somewhere in Gracklstugh, losing all will to live after leading what remained of his flock on a death march through the Underdark.
Ilvara had thrown her lot in with the Gracklstugh group after Asha abandoned her at Sloobludop, but the Blingdenstone party found this distasteful, considering she was why they were all in the Underdark in the first place.
The slaves who escaped from Mantol-Derith were gone:
  • Rystia executed Adamantlepiece when he imposed martial law on Blingdenstone, and Peebles helped her escape before the party could execute her to appease the rioting Svirfneblin;
  • Zilch died during the escape from Mantol-Derith when he lost his showdown with Asha's goon Shoor.
  • Sladis Vadir was written out because he was boring died during the medusa Neheedra's raid on Blingdenstone with her army of animated Drow statues.
Everyone saw Buppido die at Sloobludop, but then he turned out to be a lich who started a Demogorgon cult in Gracklstugh, so he had to be killed a second time (which involved getting clotheslined by Ralean, the party's Tiefling Rogue).
Lander perished from starvation on the treacherous ill-advised month-long escapade across the Darklake in a Kuto-Toa Dinghy.
Derendil and his "squire" Jimjar stayed behind at Blingdenstone. With the Diggermattocks, Chipgrin, and Adamantlepiece all dead, the Svirfneblin had no leader. They trusted Derendil though, who had helped settle the genocidal strife between the gnomes and their wererat neighbors. The "Elf prince" snapped out of his "I don't deserve to be a leader" rut just in time to take the metaphorical crown (our Tiefling Monk Sera stole the real one).
But hey, at least everyone's favorite Orc Ront was alive, surviving his lethal fall at Velkynvelve! His essence was absorbed into the faerzress, and was plopped down in the dead body of the Orcish slaver who killed Turvy. It was a pleasant surprise in a sea of disappointments.

"Myconids Don't Dance"

Upon entering Neverlight Grove, it was immediately apparent to Stool that something was up. Most of the myconids of Neverlight Grove have been affected by Zuggtmoy's spores, and they were dancing perpetually in preparation for their new Lady's wedding to - and corruption of - Araumycos, the fungi hivemind that pervades the Underdark and would give the Demon Queen of Fungi immeasurable power. A danger that Stool was able to summarize with a monotone telepathic statement: "Myconids don't dance."
The only myconids not affected by Zuggtmoy's spores were Basidia - one of the two ruling sovereigns - and Rasharoo, who was scouting out tunnels to the surface and planting nutrient caches along the way in preparation for their escape. Since the party knew something was wrong, Basidia was able to encourage them to check out the Garden of Welcome, since the other sovereign Phylo was doing some shady shit up there. Basidia had to know what was going down before it abandoned Neverlight Grove.
What the party found was a grove of captured Drow being grown into spore servants (a horrific process to experience and to behold), and a larval abomination tending to this maddening garden. Sarith's fungal infection finally burst forth from his noggin, turning him into a spore servant and signalling the beginning of combat. The party managed to destroy the gardener and put its crops out of their misery, but not before our Orc Warlock Pyfar sustained some serious acid burns ("THIS TEAM IS ON MY BACK AND IT'S GETTING HEAVY!").

Always the Bridesmaid...

Soon after the battle ended, Zuggtmoy's wedding procession began, her fungal bridesmaids and groomsmen engaging in an obscene mock wedding before scaling the giant mushroom tower Yggmorgus, which loomed in the background, partially obscured by thick pink mist. The party wanted to make sure their investigation for Basidia was thorough, and to satisfy their own morbid curiosity as to what sort of doom the demon lords' incursion spelled for the Underdark. They sneaked through the procession and ascended the tower into Zuggtmoy's chambers. The demon lord was meditating as her bridesmaids prepared her moldy gown and tried to shoo off the party.
But when an Orc as dumb, stubborn, and chemically disfigured as Pyfar has his mind set on something, nothing stops him.

The CRIT

When Pyfar stepped forward to address the Demon Queen of Fungi, she opened her eyes - black voids with pinprick white pupils set deep inside them - and attempted to turn him back the way he came with her mind control spores. The rest of the party couldn't resist the compulsion of Zuggtmoy's noxious spores and filed out of Yggmorgus in an orderly fashion.
Wisdom Saving Throw→ Natural 20
But not Pyfar! No siree.
"So how's the wedding coming along?" He lisped through his giant tusks, cheery as ever. "You excited for the big day?"
Rarely do I freeze up as a DM. I'm of the opinion that riffing off of other players is what makes a good game of Dungeons & Dragons tick. But this? I was utterly speechless. I fruitlessly scoured through the book a couple of times to see if I could get some guidance as to how Zuggtmoy would react. I had her say something along the lines of "you dare approach me, mortal?"
"I just wanted to congratulate you is all. Who's the lucky man?"
I had to pause for a couple minutes just to puzzle this conversation through. I expressed my exacerbation to my players, who at this point were beside themselves with Pyfar's inane questioning. Pyfar's player kept a (relatively) straight face, expectant. I decided that Zuggtmoy would react in much the same way I was: totally caught off guard, befuddled, and sort of amused.
Her conversation with the Orc was short - more of an exchange of pleasantries than anything - but it was an interaction the Demon Queen of Fungi wouldn't soon forget. This stupid little green creature was so sincere, how could she eradicate it, even being the wholly evil god she was?
Pyfar said goodbye and good wishes and strolled out of Yggmorgus to catch up with his zombified party. Zuggtmoy smiled - if only for a second - then slipped back into her trance, gathering the energies needed to assimilate Araumycos in a grand ceremony that would usher in a new age.
But she would remember Pyfar, the Orc who had big enough stones and the uncrushable optimism to address her like an old buddy.