Always, Always, Always Go Back – (A Night Crew Tale) – DISCLAIMER: LONG STORY


got a 5e story that just happened this past weekend. there’s a good bit of set-up and backstory, so bear with me, here. so i am entering this campaign as a Drow Barbarian (a little different, but i wanted a challenge during gameplay) with a group consisting of a Halfling Bard, a Tiefling Warlock, a Dragonborn Cleric, and a Aasimar Ranger, who have already had a few sessions before now (everyone is 3rd level), so i want to make a good impression. the group is trapped on an undead plane, trying to find their way back. well, they run into a lich with a heavy Southern accent being escorted by a small group of undead. the lich, whose name was Canafax or Carafax or something that just encouraged me to refer to him as “show me the Carfax”, offered to help us leave the plane in exchange for two services. he brought us back to his lair and asked us to retrieve a ruby from a location that he could transport us to. when asked about the second favor he needed us to perform, he said it involved his brother. we basically just accepted (yay side quests), and the lich told us that whenever the ruby crossed the seal in the room he was sending us to, everything inside the seal would be transported back to this spot. then he sent us off. immediately upon arriving, the Halfling Bard and the Ranger both decide it would be in their best interests to take a long rest. however, the Tiefling and i, now known in the group as “the Night Crew”, were like, “who needs sleep?”, and we set off to start preparing. we step off of the 5 foot high pedestal that the transportation seal is resting on and survey the room. in the middle of the room is a three-tiered tower, each tier about 25 feet high, with a pedestal holding a giant, basketball-sized ruby on top of it. about 20 feet from each corner of the first tier is a pit. now neither the Tiefling nor i like to do anything without adequately surveying our area of operations, so i spammed my dancing lights cantrip like 400 times while we took perception and investigation checks like they were m&m’s in a bowl on the table of that business meeting you really didn’t want to be at, but you have to make a good impression. the end result was the discovery of 50 7-foot steel rods, about 500 feet of rope, and 2 chests on the far side of the corridor. in addition, we found out that each pit was about 150 feet deep, just outside of the range of our superior darkvision. well, dancing lights revealed a slumped-over skeleton at the bottom with a crown of green flame around its head. i pick up a rock and drop it. the skeleton does not react at all, but we hear a splash. the Tiefling has used to be a builder and has a masonry tool set, so we decide to make a makeshift shark cage with no bottom out of the steel rods and rope. it goes fairly well, and we begin to lower the cage down on top of the skeleton. before descending into the hole, at this point i remember that there are three other freaking gigantic pits around us and rush around to check those with the same method as before. moving counter-clockwise, the pit closest to the pedestal does not appear to contain anything, the next one, towards the back of the room, contains two humanoid skeletons, much like the other one, holding hands, and the last pit contains the skeleton of a giant beast, this one without the fire crown. neither of us had the nature proficiency to tell what it was. to be safe, the Tiefling rolls to construct three steel grates that can stretch across the top of these 20′ x 20′ pits. the first grate is a little shaky, not extremely structurally sound, the second fails horribly, but the third is an absolutely perfect construct. we bolted the shaky grate over the second pit that we checked with nothing in it, just to be safe, and we bolted the perfect grate over the third with the two skeletons. the logic was that if the massive beast came to life, a grate was not going to stop it, so it would be best to prevent what we can, rather than risking by a couple Bonnie and Clyde looking dudes. so we cover our bases, and then work on the first pit with the skeleton in a cage. i lower the Tielfling down with some of the rope we had left, and she reaches the bottom in about ankle deep water. the skeleton does not respond. she takes her staff and pokes the skeleton. its head falls to the ground, and all of a sudden, the flames ignite the water, and i yank her up as fast as i can. she takes minimal damage, and cuts the rope at the top of the cage. i pull up both ropes, and we determine that we both have had enough excitement for a bit. so we decide to change pace. we climb up the ruby pedestal, about 75 feet in the air, and take a survey of the situation. the column that the ruby rests on is about 5′ x 5′, and it is DEFINITELY A TRAP. probably some Indiana Jones-type crap. well Tiefling still has her masonry tools, so we get to work. we drill three holes on each side of the column, right at the base and about halfway through. then we take our remaining 12 rods and shove them into the holes, potentially effectively stopping the column from sinking down into the rest of the pedestal. we tie a rope off around the column to climb down, and i wait at the top while the Tiefling descends to prepare. the DM tells me that the other characters, who have been taking their long rest THIS WHOLE TIME, have about three hours left. so the Tiefling and i take a two hour short rest where we are at, and then wait 59 minutes. just as the rest of our party is stirring, i reach across and pluck the ruby up. immediately, the column tries to sink into the pedestal, and the steel bars hold it in place, metal creaking and grinding with the effort. so i’m rappelling at half-speed down this 75 foot monstrous pyramid of impending doom while the Tielfing is rushing to the rest of the party, all frantically packing up their crap and trying to get to the pedestal with the seal on it. they make it to the seal just as i make it to the bottom of my climb. about halfway in my dash to the seal, i hear the bars cave in above me, and the column drops. on each wall, a trapdoor opens and water begins to flow in to the room. the water pours down into the pit with the shark cage just as i reach the pedestal, and green fire whooshes up, igniting the stream. i leap across the seal to my teammates, and we are immediately transported back to the lich’s lair. the lich looks pleased that the ruby is finally here, but he is visibly perturbed at how long we have taken. regardless, we completed our mission. very much in need of some relaxation, the party sits with the lich to get some information now that we have completed our first quest. i will just list out the key information:

– what does the ruby do? “nothing. it’s just big and shiny” (insight check – 19 – he truly believes that)

– what is the second quest? “i need you to go to a party that my brother is throwing tomorrow with some higher undead and utterly humiliate him. we’ve been feuding, and i want everyone else to know what a tool he is.”

– what was that giant skeleton in the pit? “that was probably Raski, my former pet. i sent him in to get the ruby before you, and he never came back. he is a massive creature, like a dragon without wings and three horns. he was my best friend, and i miss him so much.” (insight check – 18 – it is pretty apparent that he does not care about Raski nearly as much as he is letting on)

– what about the other skeletons? “i have no idea who or what those are.” (insight check – 14 – he is telling the truth)

the gist of the conversation, complete with a few persuasion rolls, was to enact one of the greatest rules i have come to learn in my Dungeons & Dragons career: always, always, always go back. so i persuade this lich to let us go after his “best friend”, though he is visibly uneasy about the quest. i convince him to let us bring the ruby, as we may need it in order to reset something in the trapped room, and to send a zombie in before us to check and see if the fire has died down. the zombie returns unscathed, and the lich produces a large pearl, saying that the magic on the pearl will work the same as the ruby. i bargain with him for a 4 hour time limit (he was going to give us only 1), as we had no idea what we were walking in to. so we take the pearl and head back. my DM has me roll a perception check once we arrive, and i hear a faint skittering and notice a giant rat dash into the shadows to my right, but it is not hostile. very little has changed in the room. i run over to the pits, and the skeletons have fallen apart. besides that and the rat, everything looks just how we left it. my party lowers me into the shark cage pit, and i retie the cage so i can haul it up with my team. when i get to the surface, i turn to the group and hatch my plan. the lich is obviously hiding something, and probably should not be trusted. therefore, i propose that we pull up the shark cage and the skeleton of the giant beast, salvage all of the ropes and rods that we can, and fuse the skeleton back together. the plan will be to release the skeleton from behind the seal pedestal when the lich appears on it, raking the lich off of the pedestal while we jump on immediately afterwards, triggering the transport back to the lair and leaving the lich here. all of a sudden, i hear a skittering coming from directly behind me, and i kick back with my heel. with my strength modifier, the rat is launched back behind me where it hits a wall, taking 9 damage and disrupting the polymorph spell attached to it. the massive undead triceratops begins to get her bearing and rise up off of the ground as we all turn and run. i cast dancing lights to create a humanoid figure next to the triceratops, and as he stomps down on the bright form, the Halfling jumps on my back. i tell my party to dash towards the shaky grate covering the pit closest to the seal pedestal. as we pass the pedestal, the Halfling dismounts me and hides around the side, freeing me up to run my full speed. i’m about 20 feet behind the rest of my party, so they reach the other side of the grate before i do, the grate tremoring loosely under their feet. our Tiefling Warlock casts chill touch on the triceratops to no effect, but the Dragonborn Cleric launches scorching rays behind the triceratops, discouraging it from stopping its charge. i stop at the edge of the pit and turn. the triceratops is no less than five feet from me when i cast dancing lights right in front of it, blinding the beast. its horns still gore through my side carrying me with it as the grate shatters under the force of the triceratops feet. we begin to fall, but we have a few second, so i take an action and rage, ripping myself from the horn of the beast, and pushing away, falling right beside it. the Tiefling above me acts fast, remembering that i still have the rope around my waist and catching it to stop my descent. i am suspended, 50 feet above the bottom of the pit. the triceratops crashes into the ground, not dead, but badly hurt. however, i have a bit of a secret. my character speaks Primordial. so i hang there, looking at this massive creature, trying to converse with it, saying that i did not mean to hurt her, but i had to get her attention, that we do not have much time, and that the bad man who trapped her down here is on his way, but we have a plan to trap him here instead. the triceratops, whose name is Terra, thinks for a while, then agrees to help, confirming that the bones that were in the other pit were fake bones. i spend a while making friends with her, we forgive each other for hurting one another, and my party and i help her out of the pit after my team pulls me up. what happens next is basically a 90s sitcom montage of construction, complete with clumsy mishaps involving hammers, fourth-wall destroying camera shots, and a lot of friendship. in total, we have about half an hour left once we suspend the fake skeleton in position to swing when a mechanism is pulled, but that’s not good enough. everyone bands together to pile as much weight as we can on top of the perfect grate covering the last pit, and our builder builds a pull system to suspend it in the air above the column where the ruby used to rest. i climb back up to the top and reset the trap, then we connect the release for the weighted grate to the same release as the skeleton. after a few minutes, everything is in position, and not a moment too soon. in a small flash, the lich appears on the seal, right as i cast (take a guess) dancing lights to try to throw off his focus. the Tielfling pulls the mechanism, and the skeleton and grate falls. the skeleton knocks the lich prone after sending him flying to the center of the room. everyone jumps on the seal, and as the Tiefling jumps on with the pearl, the grate crashes down on the column. the walls open again, and water begins to pour in, making its way to the pit. then, in a flash, we are back in the lair, surrounded by about thirty surprised and taken aback undead. my team springs in to action. 

now the DM in this campaign likes to make characters really personal, so he allows us all to have a magical item. i based mine off of an item from ‘s comic, “Looking for Group”. a certain item named “the Fork of Truth”. which does absolutely nothing in the comic, but in this campaign? let’s just leave it by saying that after this fight, my DM had to nerf the crap out of the Fork of Truth. now my Fork of Truth is a trident with halberd blades in place of prongs. it is a jet black silver weapon with one magical property: it intensifies any power channeled through it. as we land inside the lair, i thrust my Fork of Truth in the air and cast the old reliable Dancing Lights cantrip. light floods the chamber, blinding everyone except myself and Terra, but that’s cool, cause all i want to do is protect my new best undead best friend. now, just in case we hit combat and needed it, i had everyone hold on to the Fork of Truth at the same time back in the room where we trapped the lich while i guided them towards becoming attuned to the weapon. so now, i hop on Terra’s back and toss the Fork of Truth to our Dragonborn Cleric. she grabs it in midair, spins it, and holds it over her head while she casts Turn Undead. around us, 12 zombies and 3 skeletons fall to the ground, the animation stolen from their now very unlively bodies. The Dragonborn tosses the Fork of Truth behind her, straight into the waiting hands of the Tiefling Warlock. she lifts the Fork above her head, then slams it on the ground, creating a shockwave of Eldritch Blast that rips apart another 10 zombies. we make quick work of the remaining enemies and take the lair, looting everything we can find.

so basically this is the story of how i got a pet undead triceratops, and it’s honestly my favorite thing that’s ever happened to me in DnD.


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