So we were playing Dungeon of the Mad Mage with a lot of homebrew both in the dungeon and for our PCs. I am playing Senjo, a 7-foot tall, half-orc monk who tries as hard as they can to be a beacon of hope for the hopeless. Superman-esque morals but sometimes too rash or too clumsy to follow through in saving the people they want to. They never use a weapon because as a strong but clumsy child they accidentally killed someone with a sword they picked up. So now they trust only their fists.
And there’s Cavalia – played by my girlfriend, a dragonborn vengeance Paladin searching the Undermountain for her sister. Senjo found Cavalia as a young dragonborn but couldn’t save the rest of her family from the bandits who killed them – leaving only Cavalia alive and alone as her sister had left home years prior as an adventurer. Cavalia has resented Senjo ever since and her feelings are only intensified when they meet back up by chance, both going into the Undermountain.
And while we usually have two or three more members of the party, for this adventure we only have Tad, an Aasimar Warlock who we think used to be a full angel but has lost her memories. She carries a bag of tricks, a magic item she can use to magically summon animals to fight or help traverse the dungeon.
We had been traveling through the Undermountain for a while and Senjo had frequently butted heads with the party and especially Cavalia over sparing or killing enemies. Senjo had endangered the party multiple times by trying to befriend the bad guys, but everyone had survived so far. Senjo picked up a quarterstaff just in case the tension between them and Cavalia came to a head, as Senjo saw Cavalia as enough of a risk to be worth using a weapon and told Cavalia to her face that if she had a problem they could duel it out. But nothing had yet come to pass.
On the second floor of the Undermountain we encountered an encampment of goblins, lead by a human called Yek who was obsessed with how tall and handsome he was. Senjo wanted to bargain with Yek for the release of Glom, a Goblin who had been caged for stealing food from Yek’s plate. We bargained that if we cleared out 8 rooms to the West of the Goblin Bazaar he would let Glom go.
As we left, we were approached by Burnham and Bo, two Goblins in Yek’s retinue. They told us that Yek used to be a Goblin until he was transformed into a human by a magical circlet he found and that he’s become a much worse leader since finding it, caring more about his appearance than expanding the Bazaar. Senjo gets the rest of the party to agree that after we clear those 8 rooms, we will come back and remove the circlet, by force if necessary. Senjo is resigned to the idea that the Bugbear bodyguards might die but Yek needs to stay alive to return him to his Goblin friends and feels like the rest of the party understands that. Burnham and Bo agree to get the rest of the Goblins out of the way to avoid collateral damage.
We explore the West of the goblin camp and run into a spectre and some magically animated kitchen utensils guarding three unlabeled potions. One of the potions is definitely a health potion, Senjo discovers, as they use it on themselves. Tad and Cavalia take one each as well. During the fight, Tad brings out one of her animals – a ferocious honey badger who helps us deal with the spectre – it’s just a regular honey badger but the amount of nat20s it has rolled is hilarious. We assume that the other two potions are also just minor healing as they share the same colour.
We explore a few more rooms and call it there. We take a short rest and keep exploring more after the nap.
We follow some faint music down a corridor and find a room with a harpsichord made entirely of bones in the centre. There are some notes on the north wall which, played correctly, reveals a scroll of Raise Dead inside the instrument. Cavalia pockets it and we all assume she will only use it if it directly helps her find or save her sister.
We then find a hidden room with an arcane gate to another floor in the undermountain, we figure out it requires one gold to activate. Senjo pops a gold in and as it activates a Goblin appears beside them. He says his name is Savaros and that he is the concept of Goblins, not just a regular Goblin and he’s just popped into existence when we activated the portal. Senjo loves this and gives him a makeshift birthday gift and wishes him happy birthday. From that moment on it seems like Savaros would do anything for Senjo, despite being inexorably rude to anyone else. Savaros tells us that we likely wouldn’t survive on level four at our current strength, but it’s handy to know where the portal rooms are.
We make our way back to the Goblin camp and realize that a small platoon of Hobgoblins have arrived to buy supplies and recruit for an ongoing conflict on floor 3 against House Auvryndar, a group of Drow. However they won’t interfere with us getting the circlet from Yek, as Savaros serves as a translator between us and the hobgoblin captain.
Now something you need to know about Cavalia is that unlike Senjo, she loves weapons. She either uses her bone greataxe, her Javelin of Lightning, or a shield and double-headed flail – which does 2d8 damage but it hurts her on a crit fail.
So we move to confront Yek, and the Goblins lock the door behind us. Yek panics and orders his four Bugbear bodyguards to attack us. Two of the Bugbears roll nat 20s, causing us to lose a big chunk of health. Cavalia goes next in the order and moves up to engage Yek and two of the bugbears. When it comes to Senjo’s turn they immediately crit a Bugbear in return, knocking him out cold with a non-lethal elbow and headbutt. Senjo then moves over to the second Bugbear, uses flurry of blows and stunning strike to try and incapicitate them for a turn. The bugbear fails its save and sways in place.
Senjo shouts “I didn’t kill them. Give up now Yek and we won’t have to hurt anyone else!”
Yek panics further and the fight goes on. Cavalia misses the two Bugbears closest to Yek but Senjo is proud that she’s attacking just the Bugbears and not Yek. Maybe there’s hope for her yet!
After taking a bit of a beating from the Bugbears, Tad dissappears briefly using their Seeker warlock ability, returning having cast Vampiric Touch and Armor of Agathys on herself.
When the fight comes back round to Cavalia she hefts her lightning javelin and misty steps so that the two still conscious Bugbears and Yek are all in the line of fire. A streak of lightning bursts through them, reducing one Bugbear and Yek to ash.
Senjo sees red, dashes over, grabs the circlet that turned Yek human and pockets it. Then unhooks their never-used quarterstaff, holds it like a sword as Senjo is very very tall, and whacks Cavalia as hard as they can. One hit and one miss. Cavalia responds with a Hellish Rebuke, fire leaps from her hands enveloping Senjo. Senjo takes half damage due to evasion. Senjo then uses the dodge bonus action to give everyone disadvantage on attacks against them for a turn.
Cavalia then takes an arrow in the shoulder from Savaros who is, of course, on Senjo’s side.
Tad activates her Aasimar aura which (for reasons we don’t yet understand) also causes her honey badger to morph into a giant angelic honey badger. So now we have angelic glowing Tad moving to break up our fight, the remaining Bugbears trying to get out of the door, and Savaros squaring up against a giant angelic honey badger. Then it gets really crazy.
It’s Cavalia’s turn again and let me tell you, out of character, the odds are against me, even with the dodge bonus action and my two handed quarterstaff.
Cavalia uses her channel divinity – vow of emnity. As a Vengeance Paladin she can designate one target and gain advantage on every attack against it until it dies. This balances out my dodge so she’s now rolling flat to attack me. First attack is a natural 1. As I said, her double-flail does full damage to herself on a crit fail, but we also use a crit table which means she ends up trying to move away from Senjo, triggering an opportunity attack on which I roll a nat 1! On the crit table, I trigger an opportunity attack from Cavalia as well, who then rolls the THIRD nat 1 in a row! Doing double-flail damage to herself again, knocking herself unconscious and into death saving throws.
Senjo calls off Savaros from fighting just as he vanquishes the badger and rushes over to Cavalia terrified that they’ve accidentally killed another person in a moment of rashness. Tad rushes over with a 19 on a medicine check to stabilise Cavalia. At the exact same moment, Senjo lifts the mystery potion from Cavalia’s pack, still thinking it’s a health potion and uses it on Cavalia.
The DM messages Cavalia’s player in private explaining that this potion is in fact a philter of love and gives her a moment to decide how to play that as Cavalia comes back to consciousness.
Cavalia comes back to consciousness, and relieved that she’s alive Senjo immediately goes back to wanting to revive Yek, as otherwise we walk back out into a room full of 30 something angry Goblins and ten confused hobgoblins.
The first person Cavalia sees as she wakes is Senjo, triggering the philter of love, unbeknownst to Tad and Senjo. She, in an out of character whisper, says that she can’t bring Yek back if there’s no body and moves to leave.
Seeing how distraught Senjo is, Savaros then volunteers to be a body for Yek’s soul to return to, and explains that he would do anything Senjo asked. He says he might be able come back if they ever come across the Rune that summoned him initially, but isn’t sure. Senjo hugs and thanks him.
Cavalia rolls a nat 20 on the check to use the scroll of Raise Dead and by the end of the hour long ritual, the love potion wears off as well. Cavalia quietly leaves, Yek is alive – a Goblin once again and sleeping peacefully, the remaining Bugbears having slipped from the room. Tad and Senjo argue over Cavalia’s lack of control in fights – Tad saying that she can see both points of view, but eventually Senjo stalks off to free Glom, the Goblin that started all this by stealing food from Yek’s plate.
That’s where we leave our party. A Goblin and a Bugbear that Senjo failed to save and the party divided.
We have never laughed so hard at the three nat 1s in a row and it lead to some of my favourite roleplaying in the campaign.
By: Johnny Millar