For over five years, I’ve worked at a tech startup writing code. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure to run a game of Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition for my coworkers during our lunch break. This series is a recap of our adventures, the drama, and the communal storytelling we’ve shared in a world that I’ve called “The Beneath.”
In this long-running campaign, we’ve experienced a ton of twists and turns in the story, and what the players are interested in. We’ve had betrayals, battles and bonds. In this post, I’m going to recount the large story arcs that we’ve gone through over the years. This document will serve as a type of table of contents or map for our following blog posts. However, there are some spoilers below, so you are warned.
Our journey began, as outlined in my earlier two blog posts, with a rescue attempt. The Company of Darkvale was hired, or forced, by Rharg son of the King Below to rescue a group of ambassadors. Those ambassadors were taken by “Fish People” as the Dwarves call them or Kuo’Toa in their own tongue. This arc gently introduced a lot of new players to D&D, as they moved from cavern to cavern away from the safety of Doivengsvar, the starting town, towards the Kuo’Toa city of Nerroth Wunder/Bloopdaphil. Along the way, they fought duergar, goblins, hobgoblins, and of course fish people themselves. Finally, they made it to an enormous ritual ziggurat filled with water, where they found the ambassadors.
Upon returning to Doivengsvar the adventurers were well rewarded for their heroism. The local guild leader, a grizzled elf named Intevar, gave them their next contract. The small town of Themar’s Fist, far out in the wilderness of the Beneath, has something of a crime epidemic on its hands. Gruesome murders. Victims are found in their homes, dismembered, and they call on the famous Company of Darkvale to help.
To reach Themar’s Fist would be difficult. It was many days travel away from Doivengsvar, into caverns and tunnels not often traveled. The journey to Nerroth Wunder was trivial by comparison. Along this path they visited the Shrine of Chaeldriaphunth, the home of friendly Kobolds who trade with the dwarves. There, they assisted the kobolds in killing an enraged giant. Once the party reached Themar’s Fist, they discovered another murder had taken place. They spoke with the townsfolk, who had only a rudimentary government and inspected the murder scenes. Eventually, they discerned the culprits and defeated them in combat. They also met a strange Elf wizard named Eithomir who reclusively lives in the town and excavated a strange glowing green stone/metal. They later learn that this is called The Emerald Death.
The nearby city of Gafatheas, a non-evil Drow city, has asked the Company of Darkvale for assistance in finding five missing people. However, everything goes sideways as they arrive in the middle of a political war for control of the city and the future of the Drow that live here. One of the characters in the party, Mez, is a Drow from this town and she is deeply involved in the plot. By the end of this contract, Mez is dead, and the party has ended the dispute in the city.
We also gained a very important character at this stage, Dragnil our loyal Dragonborn Cleric of Life. He has been indispensable to the party since then. With the contract finished, the party returned to Intevar, the local guild master. From him, they received a personal mission: infiltrate the ancient dwarven fortress of Mechanitus. Mechanitus is long abandoned by dwarves, but their ancient creations still serve them. Metal automatons patrol the walls of the fortress, and protect ancient secrets inside. After many puzzles and brief combat, the party gains access to the inner chambers of Mechanitus. Here, Intevar vanishes and the automatons begin to awake. Carrying what treasures they can, the party flees Mechanitus. Confused by what they think is the betrayal of Intevar, the party sets out for the Company’s headquarters: the city of Darkvale.
One of our characters is Taku, an inquisitive halfling who must find answers to all mysteries. This trait is more of a compulsion than a mere character flaw. Taku had to understand everything about the Emerald Death, what it was used for, how it got that name, and how it affects people. Thus begins a long quest. In the previous arc, he had learned some about the Emerald Death, including the location of a city destroyed by the Emerald Death. Along the way to Darkvale, the party decides to take a short detour to the location of this town. This was a fateful decision.
Much was encountered along the way: ambushes, a dragon shrine. They finally reached the destroyed city of Holden. Here, they learned much about the Emerald Death and discovered a cult that worshipped it. They were thrown into a large pit filled with slightly glowing green water. In the pit and subsequent chambers, they discovered the weird and macabre until they met a former ally. Lord Rensworth once a stalwart member of the group, now he was mutated and changed. Evil, ravenous, and murderous. After a harrowing fight, their former comrade was defeated, and they found themselves lost in The Beneath.
Leaving Lord Rensworth’s cave behind, the party was changed, both emotionally and in terms of players. We lost several players: Rexus, Galdir, and more. We gained: Goobra, a Gnome Bard, and Hilfrey, a Dwarf Druid. Along with our returning characters: Taku, Faelana, and Dragnil, the party tried to find their way to Darkvale. However, they were quite lost. They found themselves at a strange tower in a large dark cavern, the tower seemed to radiate dark energy. Of course, what adventurer could turn down such a find? Inside, were terrible terrible things, meant to be forgotten.
When they finally left this tower, they had gained a long-lasting enemy: The Dominator. A creature of who they knew little, only that they had somehow awakened it during their explorations. It had dominated Taku, creating a long-lasting enmity between them. They also encountered Vrinn, the Lord of Destruction, an undead creature bound to the Dominator.
After escaping Vrinn’s Tower, they managed to find their way to the City of Darkvale. Darkvale is the largest city in the Beneath, hundreds of thousands live here, and it is protected by the Barrowcloaks, an organization of city guards funded from an ancient dragon gold vault. The Company of Darkvale is one of the most powerful organizations in the city, as they are the preeminent adventuring company. Our adventurers met with the three Executors of the Company, informed them of Intevar’s betrayal, and learned more about the Emerald Death, the Dominator, and a mysterious group called the Order of the Obsidian Flame.
In their explorations of the city, they met a ratfolk named Robe. In an attempt to learn more about the Emerald Death, as it is said Ratfolk know its secrets, Taku and crew decided to perform a favor for him. In the depths below the city lurked a bandit who preyed upon the trade to and from the city. Our party delved deep below the city, found the bandits and killed them. They gained a large stash of dragon gold, though they knew not what that meant at the time. They also received a few powerful items, including a sword that seemed to radiate evil, from one of Intevar’s strongboxes. Taku took it for safekeeping.
Finally, our heroes decided to track down the members of the Obsidian Flame and learn what they knew about the Dominator. They discovered two of these members lived in the City: Nog a ranger who explores the wilderness, and Thax a Dwarf who runs the Stone Fence, a powerful organization of thieves and smugglers. From them, they learned two important things: first, the Dominator is a creature of extreme potency and once ravaged the world with its powers. Second, the Obsidian Flame was an arcane device constructed with the single purpose of separating the Dominator from his personal planes of existence where much of his power resides. After a few missteps with the town guard, the party hastily leaves Darkvale with Nog leading them towards the inventor of the Obsidian Flame: their old friend Eithomir.
To find their way back to Themar’s Fist from Darkvale was a long and treacherous journey. By boat through rivers that only Nog knew, they could reach it in just a couple of weeks, rather than around a month of travel. Along the way, they encountered a huge dungeon, constructed in recent years. Being the adventurers they are, and sensing an opportunity for more wealth, they delved inside. They found trolls, traps, dwarven builders, and ancient lore. Finally, they met the ruler of this dungeon, a beholder. After a long battle, with most of the characters near death, their resources and spells expended, Taku drew the mysterious evil sword. With that sword, he defeated the Beholder and bathed the sword in the creature’s blood.
Afterward, they discovered the reason the Beholder had constructed this dungeon here. The Pool of Echoes, a magical primordial pool and a strange ancient altar they later learned was called the Thorn of Creation. The two were somehow interlinked, and whoever sacrificed a person to the Thorn of Creation could use the Pool of Echoes to learn anything about the universe. Eventually, with new information learned and new loot obtained, they continued their journey.
They reached the town of Thorinsfield, located in an old Dwarven hall with columns hundreds of feet tall. They learned that between this town and Themar’s Fist, a war raged. Goblins and Gnolls fought for as long as the townsfolk could remember. The next morning, the Gnolls attacked the town, taking people with them as they retreated. Our heroes invaded the Gnoll territory, learning the goblins had been wiped out in recent months.
They explored both the Goblin Kingdom, and the Gnoll Kingdom, until they fought their way into one of the inner chambers, and slew the Gnoll King. In the resulting chaos, they managed to save their companion Nog, and several townsfolk. Eventually, they cleared the path to Themar’s Fist and bought Thorinsfield vital time to rebuild their defenses.
With the path to Themar’s Fist now available, the adventurers finally met with Eithomir, the wizard behind the Obsidian Flame. However, he was not at home. Finding the wizard led them on an incredible and dangerous journey. They followed Eithomir’s trail to an underground sea, stretching far beyond their darkvision. Upon this inner sea, they were attacked by a small sailing ship, crewed by Mind Flayers. They had come upon one of the most dangerous places in the Beneath: Nelithay’ardavium a city of Mind Flayers.
The heroes bravely traversed this floating city, rescuing a new comrade from the captives of the Mind Flayers. Eventually, they reached Eithomir and barely escaped the city alive. Unfortunately, they made a few mistakes on their exit and awakened an ancient evil. But, that evil was for another day.
Finally, they reached Eithomir who revealed more information about the Dominator. They also learned where Vrinn, the Dominator’s right-hand creature, was located: inside an ancient wizard’s tower. They determined that their best course of action would be to travel far to the north to Zeltac’s Tower, and stop whatever Vrinn is doing there. Another difficult and long journey lay before them, but they would be traveling through the lands of Clan Frostpeak, a reclusive Dwarf kingdom, which would be somewhat safe.
Quickly, it became apparent that the Dwarves were not defending their homeland as well as initially thought. The heroes encountered Fire Giants, and then Fire Newts, along the path to the capital city called Frostpeak. Once they reached Frostpeak, they learned it was under siege. An army of Fire Newts, led by a couple dozen Fire Giants, were rampaging through the city and pounding on the gates to the great mountain itself. They plunged into the battle, helping the Dwarves activate an experimental 80-foot tall mech, and turned the tide of the battle.
And that’s it! That’s where we are today. Each of those arcs contained multiple sessions, and sometimes months of gameplay. We’ve taken some breaks, lost players, gained new ones, and had a lot of fun. I’ve left out a large portion of the dramatic twists, reveals, and character decisions that have led to these points. I hope to reveal them all in future blog posts, covering what we’ve gotten up to in detail. Thanks for reading!