D&D: Unmaking a Campaign in One Easy Step

"The Thunderhawks" by Daniel Ramos Santos
“The Thunderhawks” by Daniel Ramos Santos


My players killed my D&D campaign on Wednesday night.

The Demogorgon in question.
The Demogorgon in question.

I’ve been running Out of the Abyss since September, when it was released. (Spoilers for Out of the Abyss ahead.) In that time, the players escaped from a drow prison, accidentally summoned Demogorgon, battled a succubus, climbed into (and then punched out of) a two-headed mad giant, got really tiny and chased a gnome, went on a shroom trip with a bunch of myconids, found a baby black dragon, and fled to the surface.

That was all before winter break.

Then things got weird.

Upon their return, they ventured back into the Underdark, led an army, fought an army of jellies, found Gracklstugh in flames, stole some ships, had some ship battles, trapped a giant dwarf in a stone cube while impaling him with physical light, drove half the party into permanent madness, met a friendly basilisk, saw visions within a massive and ancient library, met the ghost of Elminster, made friends with a drow wizard, and finally, were told exactly what’s been going on this whole time.

deckofthings1_final_400wOh, yeah. And one of the players found the Deck of Many Things.

The Deck of Many Things is bad news. There are some pretty amazing things in there, while at the same time, many, many bad things. As an example, one of the players, Artorious the Dwarf Cleric, chose to draw from it, and drew:

Donjon. You disappear and become entombed in a state of suspended animation in an extradimensional sphere. Everything you were wearing and carrying stays behind in the space you occupied when you disappeared. You remain imprisoned until you are found and removed from the sphere. You can’t be located by any divination magic, but a wish spell can reveal the location of your prison. You draw no more cards.

So, yeah. Bad news. At the same time, some players were pretty successful. One player has a castle to his name, somewhere in the world. He just needs to find it and clear it of any monsters, and it’s his!

So, our Gnome Ranger reaches into the deck and pulls:

Euryale. The card’s medusa-like visage curses you. You take a −2 penalty on saving throws while cursed in this way. Only a god or the magic of The Fates card can end this curse.


Now, the group had spent this evening learning all about the Demon Lords’ plans, how they had been summoned by a ritual in Mezzoberanzan by a Drow Archmage, how they were now spread throughout the Underdark and would soon overtake the surface world.

So, our Gnome Ranger decides to pull again.

Balance. Your mind suffers a wrenching alteration, causing your alignment to change. Lawful becomes chaotic, good becomes evil, and vice versa. If you are true neutral or unaligned, this card has no effect on you.

Eh, not bad. She’s now Neutral Evil instead of Neutral Good. She knows that each pull draws her closer and closer to instant death, but she decides to pull. One. More. Time.

domt__donjon__fates_and_flames_by_karla_chan-d57ca4qThe Fates. Reality’s fabric unravels and spins anew, allowing you to avoid or erase one event as if it never happened. You can use the card’s magic as soon as you draw the card or at any other time before you die.

And there it was. Immediately, she thought she could just remove the curse of the Euryale card, but then thought, “Could we perhaps pull Artorious from his extradimensional plane?” I nodded sagely. “Or we could…” she thought, long and hard. I held my tongue, realizing what she could do with this card.

“We could stop the ritual which summoned the Demon Lords from ever happening…”

Yes, yes you could. Her eyes grew wide. Everyone at the table’s eyes grew wide. They realized the implications. She turned to me. “If you do this,” I told her, “Out of the Abyss is over. The campaign can continue, but not with this specific storyline. The game will no longer be running by the book. I’m fine with that, but everything you’ve all worked for will be nullified.”

She sighed, trying to decide what to do. Finally, she nodded. “The demon lords were never summoned by the Drow Archmage.”

A white light overwhelmed the party.


So, what now? I’ll be doing some future posts to talk about the possible implications of undoing the summoning of Demon Lords, and what fate this could hold for the players.

Keep your eyes open, keep rolling 20’s, and don’t draw from the Deck of Many Things.



10 thoughts on “D&D: Unmaking a Campaign in One Easy Step

  1. Holy Crap…that is an interesting turn of events. Maybe Lolth seeks some revenge for the party screwing up her machinations. Or maybe the party has to prevent Gromph (Gomph?) from casting the ritual in the first place. In other words the ritual never happened, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. I’m starting my own OotA campaign in a couple of weeks…I’ll be sure to avoid a Deck of Many Things .

  2. Treat it like any good DM would her/his salt would treat a wish. What did she literally request, and how can you screw with it? I mean, just because the specific summoning event was nullified doesn’t mean the drow archmage didn’t try again the _next day_, am I right?

    Now, if she had requested that the drow archmage had never been born, or something like that…

    Suffice to say the entire campaign _could_ continue with some changes. Screw with them. Have them “wake up” somewhere else. Time and events have been modified is slight ways. Some events still happened, some didn’t, but the demon lords are still coming.

    OR… maybe the fates send the party back in time so that they have to face the Drow archmage to stop him/her from performing the ritual, thus fulfilling the fates.

    Of course, you know, wibbly wobbly timey whimey, if the drow archmage didn’t summon the demon lord, then the party never found the DoMT, and thus didn’t pull the card to change time, so….

  3. The demon lords were summoned by something else. If possible, having learned that the party tried to stop them from being summoned, they are REALLY P.O.’d at the group.

  4. You could have the Dwarf’s prison be in the castle that the other character has to clear out. Unfortunately, since the drow didn’t summon the demons this other group did. Maybe the Zhentarim or something. That would get both the card issues taken care of and kinda keep the core idea going. Also the characters didn’t get new memories when the past events changed, so there is all kinds of background stuff that they have to figure out.

  5. So the fates card is pretty powerful. Would Lolth even know that you had undone the ritual at all? Does the magic of the greater artiface alter reality (and the unreality) of the multiverse that even deities have no knowledge of the event having occurred? But that in and of itself could have interesting implications. Would Lolth act as though there was something that she had forgotten but was important? Like forgetting that 3:00 appointment with your parole officer that nags your mind until you remember why 3:00 was such an important thing? Perhaps the events/machinations that original led Lolth to this path become a new reality as she desperately tries to remember what she was forgetting. I dunno. It’s an interesting thing to consider how altering reality via something like a deck of many things can impact the whole of the multiverse, in ways that a wish seems to be less absolute.

  6. And immediately Lolth is out to get them, possibly with the full force of Menzoberranzan.

    Or with just the Archmage Gromph, who has not disappeared.

    Do they lose all of the XP they gained in stopping this series events?

    Pale Night, mother of Grazz’t could be unhappy with them.

    Interesting times.

  7. Why not see if you can inadvertently get the players to be the summoners? They have knowledge of the now undone event. Perhaps by saving the world here and there it puts the pieces in place for them to complete the ritual….

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