This was an interesting session! Jumping straight back into it from last time, the party had a quick scout around an abandoned wizard’s workshop, before…a minor detour.
We begin as we ended, in the company of Hamun Kost and his friends with mortality problems. A short discussion indicated that he definitely had something that would clear up the bird-curse affecting the wizard, but in return he wanted either a) the half-orc (for unspecified purposes) or b) the lab notes of a local wizard. For some reason a party chose option b, and so off they went to search the wizard’s home.
Apparently the party weren’t the first group Hamun had sent, and they found the place fairly well picked over. Unfortunately the previous group didn’t seem to fair so well, as in the bedroom they discovered the half-eaten corpse of a young woman and two minor devils. Quickly despatching the monsters, the party moved on and carried on searching the house/workshop. Finding the kitchen full of rotting food and slimy remains, the barbarian decided to poke around (why wouldn’t you?) and disturbed a Gray Ooze. While it was also rapidly dealt with, it managed to a fair amount of damage to both the barbarian and his trusty warhammer. Life pro tip: don’t leave food waste around in a strong magical area.
After some more searching, the party made it to the old wizard’s lab…and decided not to search the room, but instead press on immediately. No really.
The next room had a magical circle inscribed on the floor, which appeared to be within the centre of the circular room. However upon entering, they realised that the true circle covered the entire room, and were caught in its magical field and transported away.
They found themselves standing in a similar circle to the one they had left, but now in a burning, sulphurous hellscape. A devil had been left to guard the circle, but was quickly subdued by the barbarian and fighter. You’ve got to love this group: they find themselves in hell and immediately set about beating information out the first person they come across. The devil told them that they were in the first layer of Baator (hell essentially), and that the only person who might help them was a witch, far across the plains and on the other side of the river.
Unfortunately the plains were rocky and hard to walk across, especially as fire would randomly erupt beneath the feet of the players. Oh, and the river by the way is the river Styx, an endless river of blood that flows through the lower planes. It also has no bridges, and is inhabited by giant bloodworms. Getting out of this place wasn’t going to be easy.
The party eventually made their way to the witch’s hut. There was a slight misunderstanding where she assumed they were monsters trying to eat her, but once that was cleared up she gave them tea and scones and all the information they needed (no one ate the scones, so rude). She didn’t know how to get out of hell, but someone on the pillar of skulls must know.
The pillar of skulls is a special place where all the liars, cheats and letting agents get sent to when they die. It’s an enormous pillar of living heads, all full of information (most of it false) and all ready to make a deal to get out. Negotiating with the pillar was a challenge, as all the heads vied for attention at once, but the party decided to pull out an elvish head who swore he knew the way out. It just involved crossing the river again, and digging a brick out the road (which would act as the portal key), right in front of that massive horde of devils who were looking for the newcomers.
Digging and hacking at the road for a good while (“oh wait, I have crowbar!”) attracted the horde’s attention, and so it became a flat sprint for the circle to get home. It’s just a shame no-one told the party wizard, who was struck down by a pair of flying devils, scouting ahead of the horde. However the rogue stopped running away long enough to throw a healing potion at the wizard…and a perfect throw saved the wizard’s life!
A panic was setting in now and the party threw everything they had at the devils, before running once more for the portal. Reaching it just in time, the information from the elvish head was good, and they were transported back to the world they knew.
On their way back through the old lab, they just noticed a book, lying on one of the tables amongst a load of other junk. On the cover, plainly printed, were just two words:
This sidequest was taken straight out of The Well of Worlds an old 2nd edition Planescape book. I love it because it’s full of quests like this one, that for the most part can just be dropped straight into an existing campaign. 2e converts really easily to 5e too.