Saturday, 28 August 2021

Summer oneshot: Kraken Corpse Delve

A week ago my group sat around a real table again for the first time in a year and a half - great fun and so much easier than playing remotely. I'll make this a very short summary, because I've still got a lot of writing to do for the third story in this summer "break" from my main campaign. Next up is a couple of sessions romping through spooky scary Ravenloft...

KRAKEN CORPSE DELVE

Is a module by Dungeon Age where the players go on a dungeon crawl through the titanic corpse of a monster from the deep sea. And there's not just arcane organs to harvest down there...

Bryce over at TenFootPole.org did a great review of this module. I agree with him that the concept is cool, the writing is brief and evocative and the document is very easy to use at the table. 

If I missed anything during prep & play it was a handy overview of all the harvestable organs in the Kraken and slightly more detailed maps with symbols and short call-out text of what can be found in each location in the kraken corpse.

Come to think of it, I would have appreciated short hints in the text like 'to the north, there is the glimmering of a great eye; south-west, you hear the creak of large chitin joints'. Right now you're left to improvise that essential info to give players a choice in where they're going.

CHANGES 

I've switched the challenge level of the module for level 7 players and increased gold values of the various organs and the focal diamond to give the party a truly ludicrous prize to fight over. Used stats from the monster manual instead of the stats given; hell hounds as dream foxes (not encountered), black oozes and violet fungi as gill parasites, beholder zombies as Rapid Eye Monsters, an umber hulk for the Vivid Butterfly and a level 13 mindflayer wizard as the big nasty.

INTRO ADDED: A DEBT TO SETTLE

So why are you lunatics delving into the corpse of a kraken? I added a short hook to the oneshot where the players all knew each other from before, had various debts to settle, and needed a quick score: like being the first to stake a claim on the newly discovered kraken corpse on the edge of the Inner Sea of Thal and harvest its arcane organs for the alchemists of His Dread Majesty Gulfrey II. 

(I'm sort of creating a unified setting for this oneshot and the upcoming Ravenloft story, in the same world as Skerples' Kidnap the Archpriest.)

Characters, level 7 in D&D 5e:

  • Feline (Fuh-LEE-nuh, actually a first name in the Netherlands) Allard Berkenbosch de Visser van Coevorden Rakshasa III, Tabaxi wizard affectionally called 'no, bad kitty' by her mom. Cute, chaotic, amoral. Needs 13,000 gp to start an orphanage to take good care of stray rodents.
    "Because a happy mouse is a tasty mouse!"
  • Vydh, lizardman fighter all alone in the world and looking for others of his kind, needs 16.000 gp to pay of gambling and drug debts.
  • Bubastis, shifter ranger with a favored terrain of "someone else's vault and pockets", has 3000 gp in gambling debts
  • El Grande Bomba, catch-phrase spouting, folding-chair wielding bard / barbarian with a whopping 43,000 gp debt (the player elected to roll 3d20 for his debt rather than the d20 I asked for)
  • Bubbles, tiefling druid / warlock with a handy talent for shapeshifting and for teleporting away obstacles. Has a 7000 gp debt to the alchemy guild, inherited from his sadly deceased mentor.


PLAYTHROUGH

I described the party's approach to the kraken corpse, first in a month-long sea voyage, then a weeks-long trek through the desert. They keep finding odd situations: like the original discover of the kraken corpse being surprised to see them already - he only just got back from finding the corpse and sent the letter to inform the party just a week ago. Or the sand-covered remains of an old caravan headed to the kraken corpse, over a decade old. And when they arrive on the shores of the Inner Sea, they find it gone...replaced by an ancient mud flat.

If you're read the module or even just Bryce's review, you know that someone's messing round with time in the module. I decided it was leaking time, which led to all these paradoxical finds.

The party meet Ajeral, a tentacle-bestudded woman from the far future here to change history so that the world's won't be overrun by tentacly beasties that change humanity to fit their own image. Only her sister Xejal is sending dream monsters through the still-open time gate (Ajeral wants to go back at some point!) - can the party yank out the 100,000 gp diamond the size of her head from the gate and close it?

Bubbles shares her memories of her world - sun darkened, mountainous horrors - and comes away convinced the weird lady is telling the truth: there be shiny down there. Also, now has 10ft single-target telepathy.

The party head down into the kraken corpse, meeting Havian the old chitin miner (who'se been her for decades) and Sister Akandra, blind and ancient (immortal?) head priest of a buried temple to a sea angel, who is convinced that the sea is still on her doorstep. She blesses the party for their stories and sends them deeper into the corpse.

Down at the tentacles, the party tangles with paralytic poison from the kraken's tendrils and slides between them, down to the gigantic 10ft kraken eye blocking the way down. There are things inside it, in addition to the eye fluid which acts as potions of true seeing. Bubbles uses her Helm of Teleportation to teleport the entire thing to his alchemy lab. 

Down they go along the optic nerve, to take a side branch and end up in the ink sac. An ancient sailor's body drifts in the black-purple fluid: mouth open in a horror grin, skin twisted into tentacles and see shells. The group very carefully flies, climbs, teleports or otherwise make their way across the ink. Bubastis slips and falls in, which nets her seven tentacles sprouting from his chin and braiding themselves into a goatee.

A squeeze through a fleshy channel later, the group finds themselves in the egg sac, full of tiny (5ft) kraken babies, still ripening or ready to hatch. WISELY, they don't mess with these yet but they do meet the Vivid Butterfly, a dream beast sent by Xeyal. She tells them her younger sister is misguided, and she can offer them anything they want - literally a wish - if they bring Ajeral back through the time gate.

Most of the party is down with this, except for Feline and La Grande Bomba. And so the illusionary showers of pearls, images of the location of lizardman tribes and other gifts vanish as the Vivid Butterfly declares: you are but my dreams, you are not real! We run a fight where the party first needs to convince themselves they are not delusions, and then have to withstand the Butterfly's hypnotic gaze (I used an Umber Hulk stat block). 

Victorious, the party attempts to catch their breath, to discover that this area is full of noxious gasses, krakenflesh quakes and passing dream beasts! Random encounter checks, baby. They wisely retreat to the ink sac to finish their short rest.

Final encounter: Xeyal

I bring out the Dwarven Forge map of the final location in this delve: a big open cavern with the shining, swirling Time Gate to the far future. Xeyal tries to convince the party one last time, but they're not having it - and so it's on! I'm using a 13th level Enchanter wizard on top of a mindflayer chassis, with legendary actions to keep pace with the party. 

* I'm sorry team, I was mistaken in giving Xeyal the ability to focus on two concentration spells at the same time! That's reserved for the opium-smoking wizards in my Belswick campaign ;)

Mind blasts, lightning bolts, a Bigby's Hand to catch Bubbles making an end run around her, invisibility and dominate person* to turn Vydh to her side: in the end Xeyal almost wins by downing the entire party with a Circle of Death, but Feline counterspells it. Enraged Disintegration follows, only for Feline to dodge away by using Sister Akandra's blessing! 

 It's a close call, but as Bubbles yanks out the focal diamond from the time gate and Helm-of-Teleports it to his lab, Xeyal loses focus (as do I, after a long night and fight keeping track of legendary actions, saves, bonus actions and more). The sister drops, and everyone catches their breath after a well-earned victory.

World saves, loot obtained, on the next oneshot!

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