I, as the DM, had recently moved to a new town and got into contact with a group who, as it happens was looking for a DM. I gave them the choice of several homebrew campaigns I had planned and they chose “City of Coral”, a completely undersea campaign.
We met up and made characters. They were Mekis (tiefling bard), Hoon (lizardfolk ranger), Merendithus (shadar-kai sorcerer), Farieth (sea elf ranger), and Bloop (a homebrew summoner). We were ready to go on our first session.
The “drylanders”, Mekis, Merendithus, and Hoon were on a ship that was sank by a powerful marid noble named Shah Orah. He granted them all the ability to breathe water and commanded them to infiltrate the court of the High Priestess of the sea elven city of Mir’assen, the titular city of coral.
They met up with Bloop and Farieth and soon found themselves face to… projected image with the White Shark, the albino wizard-king of the sahuagin and BBEG of the campaign. He had captured a merman diplomat to Mir’assen, who was quickly rescued by our heroes. Out of the blue, one of them rolled insight on the diplomat. Nat 20. He was revealed as a sahuagin in disguise and there goes my carefully planned twist. Should’ve taken it as a sign from the dice gods.
They met the High Priestess and first heard the mournful song of one of the crystalline hearts of the twin goddesses of the sea. They were then assigned to accompany a scout (the first in a loooong line of NPC’s named Jimbo) to investigate a crack in the sea floor.
The next session began and already there were troubles. Life got in the way and Merendithus could no longer come. So the four remaining accompanied the scout to this rift, and saw a ruined city inside.
Jimbo helpfully said that he believed it to be a city built by the kuo-toa. Mekis the bard rolled for history. Nat 1. I told him kuo-toa was a kind of cake, and the next thing I know he shouted “The city is cake!” Bloop, who is already a few swords shy of an smithy, instantly believed him.
The company swam into the dark, grim ruins and looked around. Bloop tried to take a bite from the ruins: nat 20 strength, nat 1 perception. Yep, the city is still cake. Hoon makes a perception check: another nat 1, another party member believing in Cake City. Jimbo the NPC took that moment to leave the insane and probably doomed adventurers to themselves.
Let me tell you, it’s *really* hard to create atmosphere in a sunken city of the dead, when fully three quarters of the party believes the place is made of cake. Even regular attacks by the undead isn’t enough to properly terrify, but I had something else up my sleeve.
The party reached the tower in the center of the city, and heard the same mournful song as they heard in the temple, but before they could enter two terrible, frog-like beasts made an appearance. They correctly identified them as twin hydroloths, fiends that the level 3 characters were in no way prepared to handle. The tone completely shifted again as the boss music started playing. The party wisely fled and the session ended with them face to face with the White Shark in the flesh.
From then on, the party was known as the Cake Squad, and I learned that instead of expecting the unexpected, I should be expecting the totally outlandish.