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Clutches at Greatness
Seeker

Germany
23 Posts

Posted - 07 May 2018 :  01:49:43  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Enslavement is overrated

I have seen youtube videos and forum discussions about the best minions, that a typical Aboleth encounter should feature. Well, definitely a Dragon, a Kraken, why not a Tarrasque...
welllll. To enslave a creature, an Aboleth has to be able to see it and be within 30 feet of it. With the way his lair abilities are worded, it can probably do this via psychic projection within 1 mile of the lair. That's the good part.
Then, the creature has to fail a DC 14 Wisdom save. That is the bad part. Monsters get their proficiency bonus to all their saves, and their proficiency bonus starts as +2 for creatures in the CR 1/8 to CR 4 bracket. So, without any ability modifiers added in even the lowliest minion has a 45% of making the save.
Another good part, the Aboleth can repeat the attempt up to 3 times in a row, once per 24 hours, which seriously enhances its chances of catching that minion.
Followed by another twist, the minion gets another saving throw, whenever he is more than 24 hors more than a mile away from the Aboleth, AND EVERY TIME IT TAKES DAMAGE!!!

I have been reading through a lot of the old edition stuff on Aboleths lately, and until 3.0 edition the Aboleth enslavement ability always had the note "enslaved minions will not fight"!
I think that can be seen as a bit of consistency with the new rules, as with this mechanics the Aboleth will certainly try to avoid sending valuable minions into the front line out of fear of losing them.

What really works:

So, imagine yourself in the role of an adolescent Aboleth, like the one in the Manual, who has been sent away from his great Aboleth city in the deep dark to fulfill a minor function in the great Sovereigntys plan. Mostly relying on his own ability to survive, and dangerously close to the ghastly surface world.

Yes, life is a bit frightening, when you are still a lowly CR 10 Monster Manual standard Aboleth. On the other hand, you remember having this done thousands of times before, so you know the drill.

What are the first logical steps?
Step one, before you leave, ask around if you can take some of the created minions wth you. Skum, Chuul, Kuo Toa. These guys have been created to serve and won't start arguing every time they stub their toes.

Step two, if you don't get any of those (they are awfully rare in published adventures featuring Aboleths, so the big fishes in the big city will likely keep them for urban duties) look around for local wildlife at your place of destiny.

First, check out what forms of organized life exists around you. Tribes, guilds, armies are all great news. Hierarchies of all kind are your best friend, as to control a tribe or a guild, you "only" have to enslave the head honcho, who can then in turn use his institutional power to send HIS minions into combat, while you make sure, that he spends his nights in a padded cell near your lair.
The choice of available races is off course dependent on the location, you were sent to. And you can't even always go for the hardest hitters around After all, the head honcho is likely to be a lot more strong-willed than his subjects, after all that is most likely what brought him into his position. So, Orcs, Gnolls and Bugbears for example are already quite hard to dominate as whole tribes, as their bosses, chieftains, whatever can already be annoyingly stubborn.

Another nagging problem when dominating tribes can be the alignment issue. Not so much along the good versus evil axis (you do still remember how you... yeah, your grand, grand grandsire invented Religion to find ways to make good people do evil stuff after all), but along the chaotic-lawful nexus. In chaotic societies leader figures tend to have to regularly fight for their position, which will likely give them saving throws against your enslavement, which is bad. On the other hand in a lawful society even the local leaders will likely be just part of a bigger structure, and might recieve all kind of sanctions if they ignore their official duties.

A useful trick when dealing with humanoids can be not to go for the chieftain, but for the shaman, medicine man, wizard, sorcerer, whatever. You know how to use your telepathy to snoop out a creatures deepest desire, but with an aspiring magic user, especially in an evil humanoid tribe, you don't really have to. OFF COURSE his deepest desire is to find magical secrets, that give him ULTIMATE POWER HARR HARRR HARRR!!!
Yeah, well, you have been around. You have eaten one or another demonologist in your life. Maybe charmed a Baatezu or Tanar'ri. If you really scratch your memory you will come up with one or another true name of a fiend, that you have met.
Dealing with fiends is usually more troublesome than it is worth it, but their true names can be a wondeful bargaining chip to get tribal shamans to do your bidding. With a bit of good old sweet talking, you can avoid having to actually enslave the Shaman as he might work willingly for your great gift of showing him how to trade his souls away for some trinkets from the outer planes.
With a bit of luck, your pet hedgemage may even learn some necromancy tricks in the act, making him a useful helper to debuff other slaves for you.

Some final mentions about the value of humanoid life: Anything aquatic or amphibic will give you bonus brownie points, when you send them back to the City to trade for extra equipment. After all, most important parts of Abolethic cities are underwater. And yes, surface creatures can properly breathe underwater if enough Abolethic slime is constantly applied, but there are still a lot of accidents with air-breathers drowning, when no Oversser is around, so anything non-amphibic will usually be only good for Skum-breeding back home.
If you have to settle for air-breathers, go for races, that can at least hold a pick or a shovel. Kobolds are really good for digging out and furnishing your personal lair and can be haggled off to your Drow neighbors when no longer needed. They are also much easier to housebreak than Gnomes or any Dwarven subspecies.

And finally you do want some melee grunts. Lesser giant races (trolls, ogres, cyclops, hill giants, ettin) are great in that role, because they tend to be quite dumb, so you can go for more dangerous creatures. But way more important is, that they are ferocious. Meaning, if things go really sour, and you find an annoying group of adventurers poking through stuff in your lair, you can send the brute in as a last gasp measure.
While you prepare your personal exit from stage, your brute starts hitting your "guest" under your command. When the do-gooders start hitting back, your brute will start taking damage, and dumb or not, may or may not snap out of you enslavement. But now he is facing a group of tiny pests, that have just hit him in the face, so no matter the state of his enslavement, he will try to finish the job.

Some choice creatures, that are just too useful to ignore

Basilisks not only use range attacks and are thickly armoured for their willpower, there is also that thrilling feeling of who fails his willpower save first, when catching them.

Beholders.... just kidding, you got no chance to win a willpower fight against a live Eye Tyrant. Beholder Zombies on the other hand fall into your favorite real dumb category. The problem is just getting the right necromancer to make them for you.

Darkmantles are just a useful interior design feature, that no underground lair should exist without. They can usually be found at a reasonable price as trained pets in your neighborhood Drow slave market. Harpies are the classical choice if your lair is located near an island or a coast.

Talking about Drow, and Elves in general, here is a bit of interesting trivia. While Fey Ancestry gives immunity to being charmed, being an actual fey does not. So if you find a useful role for say, a dryad or stuff, go ahead, get one.

And then there are Water Wyrds. You don't have to enslave them. They pick up alignment characteristics from the water sources you live in. And the water in a mile around your lair is sworn to protect you, thanks to your legendary lair effects. Nice fellas!

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 07 May 2018 01:54:53

Storyteller Hero
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USA
101 Posts

Posted - 08 May 2018 :  08:53:57  Show Profile  Visit Storyteller Hero's Homepage Send Storyteller Hero a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It's worth noting that an aboleth could capture a creature, then try as many times as it likes to enslave the prisoner. It doesn't have to be in battle.

Since they dry up easily out of water, it would be common for aboleths to have water-breathing or amphibious minions, such as tritons, tortles, or sahuagin.


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Clutches at Greatness
Seeker

Germany
23 Posts

Posted - 09 May 2018 :  03:00:11  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hi Storyteller Hero, you are absolutely right. Although I must add, that the real practical peoblem isn't so much the "enslaving" part, but the "keeping them enslaved" part. They get another saving throw every time they take damage, or once per day, when they are more than a mile away from the aboleth. And a good part of the aboleth's abilities are tied to its lair, which makes it a quite static and localized menace - which is a problem, if the ultimate goal is conquering the world.

Even keeping your favorite thrall in charge of your choice bunch of evil humanoids can be a challenge. One tiny detail, that is mentioned in the Monster Manual, is, that enslaved creatures lose their reaction. Not so much a problem in a battlefield situation, because a) most monsters don't have a bunch of interesting reactions other than attacks of opportunity and b) you don't want your thrall lieutenant in battle anyway, because you don't want him to get free saving throws against your enslavement. You want him to send OTHER chaps into battle on your bidding!

But, although it is NOT mentioned in the Monster Manual, not having reactions must be quite a drag in social situations. Humour, flirting, even threatening someone successfully relies a lot on timing, spontaneous acting, personal wit. I think a homebrew house rule, that enslaved creatures have disadvantage on quite a lot of social checks is quite appropriate. Enslaved creatures can use all their skills, knowledge and abilities, but they probably appear quite absent-minded or somehow distracted in a conversation.
And, while having an ogre or hill giant stand right behind your thrall lieutenat might protect him quite well from open challenges to his rule, standing guard for days after end isn't very exciting. Without the occassional conquering, looting, stealing and marauding, a chaotic evil tribe might get a massive problem with defectors.
If your head honcho refuses to get more than a mile away from his homestead, you might just get a few pals together and sneak away at night, to start your own tribe far away.

Lawful groups can be even worse, as they might just recieve marching orders through their regular chain of command! An aboleth doesn't want its thrall lieutenant court martialed by someone else!

But... do not despair young Aboleth, a bunch of humanoid goons and a solid brute or two isn't the apex of your control abilities, as all those years of experience, that your ancestry provides you, have established best practice procedure to go after a more rewarding prey

Gardening for aboleths - how to enslave a bunch of fey!

OK, this one needs a bit of preparation work, but it is worth the hassle. And you will either need a good supply of excellent booze (well, decent booze at least, but quite a lot), or the coin to buy it from your underdark peddler of choice.
Shouldn't be to hard to come up with, you might be quite small and underdeveloped compared to the real Aboleth masters, but you are still an Aboleth, and a cog in the Sovereigntys GREAT PLAN, so you should be able to bring a bunch of magic items from some Chuul stash with you, when you set out to rule the surface world.

Also ask around for a rod of silence or as many silence scrolls as you can get your hands on, and then grab some other trinkets for bartering. You will have to pay a drow sommeliers bill, and maybe the services of a bard for a very short time.
Once all is ready follow the Aboleth's Anonymous twelve step plan:

1st, and most important, check the calendar. The Feyrealms proximity to the Material plane waxes and wanes with the seasons and constellations. What you are about to pull off could really brush an Archfey or two the wrong way, and you are definitely not ready for that kind of opponent to interfere with your plans right now.

Step 2, grab yourself a kobold tribe and a lesser giant or two, as discussed above. You will need them later on, and you don't want to waste time chasing them down, when things are already in motion. Set up a multimedia show in your lair for them, to keep them happy for the time.
Edit: Also, this is a great time to establish contact with a hag coven. You will need then soon, and it is better to make sure, you got them, while things aren't urgent. For more specifics on hags, keep reading.

Step 3, enslave a bird of prey, or preferably a bunch of them. Try to get a mix of daylight hunters and owls. The problem with them is, that while they are all quite low challenge rating, you want them for their Perception, so their Wisdom score is quite decent. You will lose quite a few of them over time, just because they will get their daily saving throws while you use them as your eyes in the sky. Doesn't matter, they are just stupid animals, even if someone should ever ask them, they won't be able to explain what happened to them, and you always can get new ones.

Step 4, locate a group of satyrs. Quoting from the Monster Manual entry about dryads, p121: "Dryads work with other sylvan creatures to defend their forests. Unicorns, treants, and satyrs live alongside them, in addition to druids that share the dryads' devotion to the woods they call home." Here is your prey, and the satyrs are the weak link.
Reason 1, they are the most visible of the bunch, easiest to spot in a forest. Treants look like trees, dryad trees look like trees, satyrs look like satyrs, so clearly distinct from trees. Also, they are a lecherous and frivolous bunch, which is perfect for your needs.

Step 5, patience young padavan. Keep watching the satyrs for a time, and see if you get a glimpse at the unicorn. Especially try to estimate the boundaries of the unicorn's domain. This naturally involves a bit of guesswork, but you will figure it out if you keep at it.

Step 6, it is time to move your lair. You want a nice cave opening just a teeny tiny bit outside of the unicorns domain's borders. Maybe a place where an underground river bursts from a mountain into a sparkly pool or something. Make sure the Kobolds don't mess up the place, while you move in, you want everything to look as pristine and sparkly as possible for the time being. Also you want to make sure your bard contacts are ready for your call.

Step 7 First contact.!Find a good hiding spot within a mile of your lair, inside the unicorn domain, and have your birds in overwatch. Wait till one of the satyrs bumbles into view, and put your Psychic Projection power to use, somewhere, where you can see the satyr and he can't see you. Doesn't have to be within 30 feet, all you want to do is establish telepathic contact, so keep as far a distance as practical. Send him a short telepathic greeting note, just a shy "Hello" in as timid a voice as you can fake, to get his curiosity awake. The moment he tries to answer, break contact and end your projection, you really don't want him to find out anything about you, yet. You now know his deepest desires, and being a satyr, this will invariably involve a voluptious female being, probably a specific person.

Step 8. Aboleths aren't famous for their handwriting, so it's now probably time to pay a bard for some correspondence work. You need a convincing pretty love letter, pink envelope, perfumed, all the kitsch and glitter, signed by the one dear maiden that holds the keys to the satyrs heart. The letter should ask for a rendezvous in a very romantic cave, just a bit out of view from the others - your new lair. Insist, that it is extremely important, that he shows up on time, so he can recieve his wonderful surprise. Make your lair pretty, use real candles and set up a nice picknic place, nothing illusionary this time. Place sufficient amounts of the best booze from your collection. Leave another note, that you couldn't make it in time, but you will be there with him, and he should feel free to taste a sip of wine or two, while he waits.
Wait until he is drunk as a kenku sailor on shore leave, before you turn on your phantasmal force lair power. Satyrs get advantage on saving throws against magic, but once he is intoxicated enough, he also has the "poisoned" status, which gives him disadvantage on all saving throws, and advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out. If he still makes the save, kill him, dispose of the body discreetly, find another satyr and try again. If he accepts the illusion for real, well, you know his deepest desires, and you get all the means at your disposal to fulfill every one of them. After he is done, it is time for a bit of pillow talk.
You want the name and location of every dryad and treant he knows, also all the gossip about druids and unicorns. Once he is done spilling the beans on his community, enslave him, order him to sleep, store him away for now.

Step 9: Set your kobolds to work. You need a reeeeally deep pit trap right outside the lair, it is time to go treant hunting. Treants are challenge rating 9, and they get a +3 modifier for their high wisdom score, so they have a +7 total bonus on their save against enslavement. 70% chance to succeed on their first attempt, this might take some time, so you need him secured.

Once the pit trap is prepared, wake the satyr and send him out to the nearest treant he knows, with an urgent call for help. Don't explain, what the urgency is about, but let the satyr feign as much desperation as possible and insist that the treant hurries for his life, so he doesn't spot the trap, before the ground gives in.
This is the riskiest part of the enterprise, if you fail to catch the first treant, you are done here. You got 3 enslavement chances immediately, which sums up to a total chance of 34% for the treant to fail at least one. If the treant is neither trapped nor enslaved after the 3rd attempt, get the hell out of Dodge and start all over in as distant an area as possible.
If the treant did fall into the pit trap, you got more time at hand. If you can hold him for another day, his total chance of succeeding all saving throws drops to 11%, third day to 4%, fourth day to 1%. You will need all the silence spells you can pop, to prevent him from shouting for help, and while we Aboleths make a point of being as unreligious as it is feasible in a fantasy setting, an occassional thought to Piscaethes might be in order right there. Relying on kobold engineering to keep a treant encaged is a risky bet. He won't do great at climbing, but his siege damage slams will mess up the walls of the pit quite nicely. If he breaks free, just run. If you get him controlled...

Gratulation, you got yourself your first treant guard. This is the ideal thrall for your choice. Everybody but his best friends will just take him for an innocent tree, as long as he doesn't move, and you will make sure this treant never moves again, except once a day to use his "Animate Trees" ability, or when you decide to move your lair. He will never be more than one mile away from you, and he will never take damage, unless he is struck by chance lightning. He will NEVER get another saving throw, and still be a perfectly capable guard.
But you arent done yet. There are more treants to get out there. Have your kobolds repair the pit, rinse and repeat, until you got them all. Every other Treant you collect will be easier and easier, because if things go sour you will have a growing army of animated trees ready to subdue any attempts of escape.

Step 10 Prepare for battle. A single satyr, who is missing for a few days won't be noticed, and while treants are quite social, they also have their alone-times.
But with all of the treants vanishing from the area over a relatively short period of time, some sprite or pixie is bound to get nosy and poke around, where they all went. You will sooner or later have a unicorn and a bunch of angry satyrs and druids with a possee of sprites and pixies at your doorstep, anyway.

Better for you, if you chose when the fight starts, so you still have surprise on your side. Prepare a big pile of wet wood, send your satyr to the unicorn, with a call for help. Then set the wood on fire to produce a widely visible column of smoke. Let the satyr insist, that their is no time for running, the treants are all on fire and burning, the unicorn must teleport in a help crew RIGHT NOW!
Once the unicorn has used up its teleport for the day, f**ing slaughter it and any assistance it might have teleported in with. Don't bother with trying to control it, it is immune against charms, and you want that obnoxious domain power of it gone as soon as possible. Things could still go wrong right now, so make sure, your escape route into the mountain is prepared. Open for you, but secured by a bunch of kobold traps to keep pursuers at bay.

Step 11. If you won the battle, pay house visits to the local dryads. No need for psychic enslavement with this gals, when good old blackmail can do the trick. Whether their tree is close to your lair, or miles away, you don't care. You know, where it is, you can keep some bird eyes on the dryads whenever you wish, and should you ever hear them talk about what happened to anyone, well, there is no one left, who will be able to protect their precious homes from your wrath.
Edit: Oops, I got hasty here. You don't want to blackmail the dryads yourself, as they might feel courageous enough to rat on you, once the fey nobility shows up. Instead you tell your HAGS, where those trees are, and let THEM do the blackmailing. This will buy you even more loyalty from them, and if things go sour, the hags will be ideal fall guys for your crimes.

Step 12. Cash in and hire some extra muscle. You are now the absolute ruler over a decent piece of woodland, plus you got a pile of unicorn remains and at least one thoroughly traumatized satyr. Both the carcass and the satyr will fetch choice prices from hags, drow and other magic users, who dabble in despair.

You shouldn't get too comfortable, still, as you will have inevitably sent a swarm of panicked pixie and sprites throughout the region, begging for help from all the druids and adventurer groups, they can bring to listen to their squeeky voices. Plus, you defintely want to be long gone, before the portals to the Feyrealm open again, and the Fey nobility shows up.

Edit: Leave the hag coven in charge of the territory, after you plunder it for all the valuables. You don't have to tell them, that there is wrath from some fey big guys incoming, they will probably figure it out themselves. And they will most likely not care, as spitting into these guys faces is really their home game. They will happily take the fall for that crime, as it will help their street cred with other hags immensely.

Check back in, to learn how to rule empires and ruin churches from the safety of your lair

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 10 May 2018 15:07:16
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Clutches at Greatness
Seeker

Germany
23 Posts

Posted - 10 May 2018 :  22:07:38  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote


I was a bit hasty in the last paragraph, refering to the use of hags, whithout having given a prior summary of their overall usefulness to your plans, and even more important, the best way for an Aboleth to acauire their services. That is why it is best to develop complex plans in writing, to make sure, you don't miss such minor details.

Let's get at it:

The beauty of hags

Hags aren't too high level creatures, their wisdom score is worse than one might assume, and they aren't immune to charm effects, so in theory an Aboleth could "simply" enslave one. But, frankly, that would be a waste of ressorces. Because with a bit of diplomacy, hags can quite easily be persuaded to serve an Aboleth willingly.

Hags main motivation is their hatred of other beings. To be more precise:

(MM page 177+) "Green hags revel in the failings and tragedies of other creatures. They derive joy from bringing people low and seeing hope turn into despair, not just for individuals but also for whole nations.", "Sly and subversive, night hags want to see the virtuous turn to villainy: love turned into obsession, kindness turned to hate, devotion to disregard, and generosity to selfishness. Night hags take perverse joy in corrupting mortals." and "Beauty drives a sea hag to fits of anger. When confronted with something beautiful, the hag might simply attack it or deface it. If something beautiful gives hope, a sea hag wants it to cause despair. If it inspires courage, the sea hag wants it to cause fear."

You won't have to go out of your way to make hags as happy as such a wretched creature might ever be. After all, hatred of all surface dwellers, for their lack of obedience, and the wish to conquer the gods themselves is YOUR driving goal. Despair, corruption and ruined landscapes will follow naturally in your wake. Just imagine the squeals of glee, when you execute the above detailed 12 step plan of raiding a unicorn domain for treant slaves, and then installing the hag coven as your levy overseers over a bunch of badly beaten up satyrs and blackmailed dryads.
You won't have to enslave the hags, so you won't have to worry about them breaking free from your enslavement. No need to keep within a mile of them, no need for babysitting or micro-managing. Hags are perfect independent governors of your newly conquered woodland enclave.
In return you won't demand any tithes from them, just the occasional use of their services - which delivers you the access to a perfect swiss army knife package of useful spells from the equivalent of a lvl 12 spellcaster -
1st level (4 slots): identify, ray of sickness
2nd level (3 slots): hold person, locate object
3rd level (3 slots): bestow curse, counterspe/1, lightning bolt
4th level (3 slots): phantasmal killer, polymorph
5th level (2 slots): contact other plane, scrying
6th level (1 slot): eye bite

And, keeping the stick with the carrot, hags are smart enough to understand power and have a keen sense of self preservation. The fact alone, that you were able to track them down will give them pause on any plans to doublecross you. Which leads to the main problem in hag servitude:

Where is a hag, when you need one?
Hags have a lot of enemies, and few friends. Although they are fey creatures, no other fey creature, not even from the Unseelie court will willingly assist them, as their sheer appearance will hurt the delicate sense of aesthetic that all fey are compelled by. Especially humans, but generally all good aligned creatures, will also strongly disagree with their reproductive method, which involves eating human babies, and will actively hunt them down whenever encountered.
Hags main survival strategies in this hostile environment revolve around deception, camouflage, and generally keeping a low profile. A bit of a drag for your first attempt to establish contact with them, but nothing you can't overcome.
Your first big advantage is your expert knowledge of history. Hags are quite longlived creatures, and they love to meddle with their surroundings. If you search your memories for areas which seem to suffer from unexplicable patterns of catastrophes and strikes of misfortune, you will get some good first ideas where to start looking.
Then you need your eye-in-the-sky birds of prey,... and most likely a constant source of "comprehend language" magic at your disposal. Thing is, you can use enslaved creatures to watch quite wast stretches of land, but to track down hags, you will probably to also be able to listen into a lot of conversations. The only language you are really skilled in is Deepspeech, which normally isn't a problem for you, as you mostly communicate telepathically, but which is a problem for eavesdropping on surface dwellers.
Good thing, that "comprehend language" is only a level 1 spell, available to bards, sorcerers, warlocks and wizards. I mentioned the usefulness of bardic service in step 8 of the unicorn raid, you should probably really have your KuoToa allies ask around in the underworld slave markets to get yourself a constant addition to your evergrowing retinue with the skills in question.

Last thing you need is a loooot of patience. Even with all those tools, tracking down your first hag will be a quite grueling piece of puzzling and detective work. But you will eventually figure it out.

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1621 Posts

Posted - 10 May 2018 :  22:49:21  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Clutches at Greatness

Enslavement is overrated

I have seen youtube videos and forum discussions about the best minions, that a typical Aboleth encounter should feature. Well, definitely a Dragon, a Kraken, why not a Tarrasque...
welllll. To enslave a creature, an Aboleth has to be able to see it and be within 30 feet of it. With the way his lair abilities are worded, it can probably do this via psychic projection within 1 mile of the lair. That's the good part.
Then, the creature has to fail a DC 14 Wisdom save. That is the bad part. [...]
I have been reading through a lot of the old edition stuff on Aboleths lately, and until 3.0 edition the Aboleth enslavement ability always had the note "enslaved minions will not fight"!

Well, yeah. Ancestral minions, on the other eyestalk...
Aboleths don't just raid for fresh meat like some illithids, they play a long game.
A lot of skum and suchlike, maybe even lord over a kuo-toa or sahuagin community.
quote:
here is a bit of interesting trivia. While Fey Ancestry gives immunity to being charmed, being an actual fey does not.

Derp, indeed.

If you want aboleths to be troublesome, just use more savants and coordinated action.
Even moving around their territory is pain - wards everywhere.
Once they noticed intruders, guerilla warfare with wards instead of booby traps - planned, telepathically coordinated and wit lots of telepathic spying (via senses of other creatures, so there are interesting possibilities, and detect scrying doesn't help).
And you never ever see an aboleth, only minions.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Clutches at Greatness
Seeker

Germany
23 Posts

Posted - 12 May 2018 :  18:32:20  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh highly valued TBeholder,

Thank you for your interest in the topic. You do raise an interesting point, that I maybe should explain: What about the traditional depiction of aboleth's in previous editions, and why do I make so little use of it in this thread so far?
You are mentioning aboleth savants, ward glyphs, and aboleth territory. I assume you are refering to the great entries in "Lords of Madness: The book of Aberration." And I do love this book, the descriptions of aboleth anatomy, aboleth society, their extended use of glyphs, and the details of their big underground cities, down to architectural design choices. I think this book is an absolute must-read for everyone, who is interested in aboleths, but...

I think introducing aboleths the way they are described in that book poses a series of difficulties to any gamemaster, that decides to use aboleths in his campaign:
The first, and probably smallest problem, it is of course 3.5 material, and has to be converted with some houserules to use it in a 5.0 setting.

More important, this is definitely epic level stuff. The aboleth savant you mentioned isn't just any old aboleth, it is an aboleth with any entire prestige class worth of character levels added on top, and few reasons to leave the city he is in. Which probably contains at least a dozen or more equally high ranked aboleths and a sizable army of minions and slaves, plus defenses, fortifications, guards, wards, etcetera. If you don't enjoy instant total party kills in your game session, you can't seriously put an adventuring group of anything below epic to godhood levels into that environment.
Now running an epic to godhood level group comes along with its own bag of fleas attached. Growing a group "naturally", via normally paced role playing sessions from Lvl 1 charcters to this level of plays takes literally years of play. If you live to see that happen once or twice during your lifetime, you can count yourself happy, and you are probably a great, talented and incredibly experienced GM, to keep your friends interested for such a long time. (Except if they just come for the snacks. But then you are at least a great cook, probably, which is also fine)
The alternative is starting your campaign with characters created at high levels, which also can be daunting. The amount of decisions involved in stomping out a high level character from scratch might leave some players overwhelmed, others might come to you with extremely unbalanced character creations, which leaves you the hard decision how to deal with both the incredible abilities and probably glaring weaknesses of their character build.

And the final and biggest problem is, even if you get such an epic-level party going, how do you even get them interested in dealing with this aboleth cities, which are situated somewhere far away in the undersea or in the deepest ocean pits? Your players will likely have to cross either a few drow or sahuagin kingdoms to even get there, and why would they? The aboleths are more or less happily sitting in their underground bunkers and tinkering secretly away at their doomsday devices, interfering with the despised surface world above them as little as possible, until they can take them all out in one fell swoop.
As far as aboleth's impact on the adventurer's previous lifes, experiences and interests is concerned, hmm let Larry explain it for me, in this short educational video about the scourge of aboleth piracy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaWU1CmrJNc
The to my knowledge only ever published grand campaign that features an aboleth city, "Dwellers of the forbidden city", while still a great campaign, needs quite a bit of railroading to even get the characters to their final destination, and in the campaign, that I experienced as the player, the group decided to run get the cops (i.e. the mage guild of Waterdeep) instead of throwing away their lives (and thereby the valuable informations they had) by suicidally trying to enter a city run by giant monsters from outer space. A rational decision from the group, although thoroughly frustrating both for the GM and my character, who really valued his own curiosity a lot above any imaginable greater good.

So, my intention for starting this threat was to collect ideas about how to use a single bogstandard lvl 10 aboleth as end-game monster for a low-level campaign, that starts in a fairly typical game setiing. No additional powers, spells or skills on him beyond what is lined out in the MM entry. As an aboleth's "shtick" is naturally, that it is a control monster, it should have an interesting array of monsters at it's command, but I wanted to avoid hand-waiving the question, which monsters it would actually be able to control, what challenges it would have to overcome to secure this control in critical moments, like in an all-out fight against an uppity group of heroes, and also what evil deeds it would logically have to have comitted to assemble its retinue of choice, producing logical adventure hooks and clues of its existence for the adventuring group to discover and judge about. I want to keep any additional powers, the aboleth might have access to, as exclusively as possible to include only such powers, that its minions can provide with their own creature abilities. (Plus maybe a few, ideally low-level items, that the aboleth might just have picked up in a kuotoa market in the underworld, or might have brought with him initially from the aboleth city.)

My endeavour of writing this thread started with lots of idle thoughts during work, followed by my decision to find a nice fantasy forum to start posting, developing and sharing them.
At the moment I am just happily brainstorming into the voids of the internet and following wherever my ideas would take me.
I am happy with the development of the thread so far. My first post about controlling mostly tribal leaders of evil humanoids and lesser giants felt quite logical to me, but also rather boring in its conclusion. After all, an evil tribe and a big guy brute or two is pretty much, what any decent boss monster would have under its control, so the aboleth could easily be replaced by just a lvl 10 evil humanoid character with class levels, and would be probably even scarier and more effective as tribal leader and opponent in the result.

The idea to concentrate on exploring the possible control over MM's fey creatures in my second post turned out great for my mental journey. It gave me great ideas for developing a woodland encounter with an aboleth, complete with victims, witnesses and a ravaged landscape for the party to explore. I will keep developing this idea in my next posts, and then start with my ideas for other backgrounds. After the woodland area I have a great idea with a rural setting, which would tie seemlessly to the woodland start just by geographical proximity. I will definitely write up some thoughts about aboleth use in an urban setting, as any grand plan to become a power player in the surface world will logically have to include entering the capital city at some point. Coastal, (big) river and maritime settings seem another logical area to explore, where the aboleth can take advantage of his physical abilities as big aquatic monster, and at some time I will write down my thoughts about the political situation that seems logical to me in an underground setting. I also have some ideas for Lost world settings a la Maztica or Chult, but I will have to introduce material from "Volo's guide to monsters" at that point, as I believe an aboleth really needs help from grung to successfully command a dinosaur army...

I love developing my ideas in a forum, as the increase of the number on the view counter and your guys occassional feedback help me make my insanity checks over wasting all my time writing down stuff, that no one will ever want to read. Thanks, for checking in and feeding your thoughts and idea into my little project,

Your obedient servant,
Clutches at Greatness,
mad Tabaxi bard

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 12 May 2018 19:52:18
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TBeholder
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Posted - 13 May 2018 :  02:00:12  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Clutches at Greatness

that I maybe should explain: What about the traditional depiction of aboleth's in previous editions, and why do I make so little use of it in this thread so far?
You are mentioning aboleth savants, ward glyphs, and aboleth territory. I assume you are refering to the great entries in "Lords of Madness: The book of Aberration."

No, they are older than that. At least from "Night Below". Also, there were extras in Dragon:
Aboleth: Glyph magic	"Secrets of the Sunless Seas"	Wolfgang Baur		222(90)		

quote:
The aboleth savant you mentioned isn't just any old aboleth, it is an aboleth with any entire prestige class worth of character levels added on top, and few reasons to leave the city he is in.

Well, yes. This just makes sense. Aboleths think of themselves as godlike, and not entirely without reasons. They don't live to their age by making bubbles and taking stupid risks.
quote:
Which probably contains at least a dozen or more equally high ranked aboleths and a sizable army of minions and slaves, plus defenses, fortifications, guards, wards, etcetera.

Larger settlements, yes. Though even smaller ones (a few aboleths plus a village or a whole tribe of minions) could have one - lower-ranking aboleths run tasks like coordinating minions, leaving the best spellcasters with free time to use magic.

quote:
If you don't enjoy instant total party kills in your game session, you can't seriously put an adventuring group of anything below epic to godhood levels into that environment. [...]
Growing a group "naturally", via normally paced role playing sessions from Lvl 1 charcters to this level of plays takes literally years of play. [...]
The alternative is starting your campaign with characters created at high levels

Attacking head-on whole cities with defenses built to keep away other Underdark powers (small armies of duergar, drow and illithids), i.e. acting as a pocket army? Sure.
Passing through territory of such a polity, or near its outpost - on a mission, or just trying to walk from point A to point B through the wrong tunnel? Slightly above general "adequate for survival in Underdark on their own".
Which is significantly different from 1st level armed with sticks and dried herring too, of course. Nut that's something everyone involved should expect.
quote:
The aboleths are more or less happily sitting in their underground bunkers and tinkering secretly away at their doomsday devices, interfering with the despised surface world above them as little as possible, until they can take them all out in one fell swoop.

Exactly. A direct and deliberate conflict with a polity like this is an exception among the exceptions.
A few clashes on the borders of their territory are much more likely, and the rest is down to how alert, persistent and oblivious willing to escalate a call the other guys will be.
quote:
and in the campaign, that I experienced as the player, the group decided to run get the cops (i.e. the mage guild of Waterdeep) instead of throwing away their lives (and thereby the valuable informations they had) by suicidally trying to enter a city run by giant monsters from outer space. A rational decision from the group, although thoroughly frustrating both for the GM and my character, who really valued his own curiosity a lot above any imaginable greater good.

It's like they have a shred of good sense, or something.
quote:
So, my intention for starting this threat was to collect ideas about how to use a single bogstandard lvl 10 aboleth as end-game monster for a low-level campaign, that starts in a fairly typical game setiing. No additional powers, spells or skills on him beyond what is lined out in the MM entry. As an aboleth's "shtick" is naturally, that it is a control monster, it should have an interesting array of monsters at it's command,

This can easily be a part of something bigger. A "lowly" aboleth may work for older ones, as an overseer of minions on the outskirts of their territory.
Thus it doesn't have to be able to make everything on its own, it's there just to coordinate various critters who actually work in the field.
Which gives it reasons to at least try and sort out any intruders, rather than lie low in the silt or hide behind the mommy's fins: it would very much like more power and/or promotion to a better place.
Capturing someone valuable could help. Still with minions' hands/tentacles until the very end - an aboleth knows how vulnerable it is.
quote:
which monsters it would actually be able to control, what challenges it would have to overcome to secure this control in critical moments, like in an all-out fight against an uppity group of heroes, and also what evil deeds it would logically have to have comitted to assemble its retinue of choice, producing logical adventure hooks and clues of its existence for the adventuring group to discover and judge about.

It doesn't need to be involved directly and deliberately to be in conflict with PCs.
It may simply protect its territory from a group that causes inconvenience or threatens its plans.
And try to get a wizard's brain, if there will be an opportunity to do so without much risk.
Or there's an usual bunch of raiding monsters, but they are way too "lucky" at slowing down pursuit and evading retaliatory raids.
quote:
great ideas for developing a woodland encounter with an aboleth, complete with victims, witnesses and a ravaged landscape for the party to explore. I will keep developing this idea in my next posts, and then start with my ideas for other backgrounds. After the woodland area I have a great idea with a rural setting, which would tie seemlessly to the woodland start just by geographical proximity. [...] any grand plan to become a power player in the surface world will logically have to include entering the capital city at some point.

This can work. The question is, what exactly does it want, both as short term and long term goals.
Create a spying and information brokering network? Set up traps to grab some quality spellcasters' brains with minimal risk to itself?

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Clutches at Greatness
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Posted - 13 May 2018 :  10:09:22  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TBeholder
This can easily be a part of something bigger. A "lowly" aboleth may work for older ones, as an overseer of minions on the outskirts of their territory.
Thus it doesn't have to be able to make everything on its own,


I pretty much assume, that the... let's call him aboleth grunt, works as an agent for other aboleths, who are tucked away somewhere far away, and who may be secretly as scary and powerful as they wish to be, without actually messing up the challenge ratings at the beginning stages of the campaign. So, yes, the epic-level aboleth city technically exists, but it is more a looming part of the background tapestry, than actually something the party will interact with (or even find out about) until possibly very, very much later in the campaign.

I will try to keep the grunt as independent as possible for now. The meta-reason being to keep his power level manageable by reducing the resources at his disposal, the in-game-logic reasons, a) that the city IS far away, so importing stuff from there produces logistical problems, which would have to be solved first, and b) also, that the grunt, being low-ranking, most likely won't have the full material support of the city's elders until he has proven his value by producing some impressive results with little extra means. Yes, the grunt is probably acting on someone's general directive, but that someone will likely be still hedging his bets and trying to keep the operational budget as low as feasible for now.

quote:
The question is, what exactly does it want, both as short term and long term goals.
Create a spying and information brokering network? Set up traps to grab some quality spellcasters' brains with minimal risk to itself?



That is the question indeed. I think I will retcon the answer to these question once I have expanded the bag of tricks, that an aboleth grunt still has at its disposal, given the above limitations of mostly relying on its own powers as detailed in the MM and those of any minions he might be able to enslave, blackmail or hire on his journey.

Little spoiler on what I am planning as next step for the aboleth journey: I yesterday found out, that there is a restaurant in my town, that is set up inside a historical water mill. I am planning to have brunch there in about an hour, and I will definitely take a lot of pictures with my cellphone, and may even ask around if they know a way to get floor plans of the estate and the buildings...

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 13 May 2018 10:45:21
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Clutches at Greatness
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Posted - 13 May 2018 :  22:09:59  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Back to the woods (for now)

OK, when we last left our aboleth grunt, it had just finished its team bonding exercise with its kobold sapper team and its hag coven lieutenants. In the process it had secured itself an undetermined number of enslaved treant thralls, and its hags enough blackmailing information about dryad hometrees, to establish their rule over a small woodland domain settled by terrified satyrs. But there are still a few loose ties to fix.
It is still somewhere in the woodland wilderness, with a fey portal nearby, that is bound to open again sometime soon, and potentially unleash an unclear amount of fey nobility, bent for revenge.
To keep the control over his treant booty, the aboleth is determined never to have them separated from itself more than a mile. It could leave the area via the cave entrance to the underworld, but treants aren't good at surviving underground for a long time. They are plants after all, and bound to starve, when denied sunlight for an extended period.
They could follow the creek, that starts at the spring, but this close to its well, the creek is far too puny and shallow, to allow the aboleth to even use its swim speed, let alone effectively hide in its water.
Sure, an aboleth could just slither overland, but with a 3-ton body, that leaves a constant trail of slime behind, its tracks could be followed by an urban grandmother with an eye cataract, let alone the Wild Hunt itself.
It could ask the hags to polymorph it into a more convenient traveling shape, but that would also break its control over its thralls, and would allow all of them (kobold leader, lesser giants, treants) their daily saving throw.
And then, there is also the problem of keeping the treants hidden from divination magic. "Locate animals or plants", a lvl 2 spell available to bards, druids, rangers, would give the treants whereabouts away from 5 miles around, while at higher level a cast of "Scrying" (lvl 5, Bards, Druids, Clerics, Warlock, Wizard) would give anyone, who knows the names of the treants a pretty good impression of their surroundings, if not their specific location.

OK, let's tackle one problem at a time

Hiding the treants from magical eyes
-The gold star solution for hiding from divination spells would be, off course, an "amulet of proof against detection and location". Command the treants to put it under their tongues and keep their mouths shut, basta. Now, this little trinket bears, engraved into its delicate runes, an interesting game balance problem. DMG 5e lists the items rarity as merely "uncommon", with an estimated market value below 500 gc. In 3.5e the very same amulet had an estimated market price of 35.000 gc, and the wearer had to attune itself. The difference between the prices is a design decision about the potency of divination spells, both for PCs and NPCs. Lowering the price tag of this device to 1/70th of its original value is nothing else but a massive nerf to divination magic. If you as a GM follow that nerf, even possessing several such items wouldn't break the bank for an aspiring aboleth agent, and it could either have brought them along from some chuul stashes near the Sovereignties city, or bought them on the way to the surface on a KuoToa market.
If you prefer your diviners to play dominating roles in the games of power and keep the 3.5e pricetag, even a single one of those might be too expensive to bring along.

-the gritty low-level solution, on the other hand, is to convince all survivors of the fey raid, that those treants are dead, gone forever, a pile of smoking ash. No sense in using magic to track down someone, who you "know" is dead and buried after all.
Select one to three of the treants, that you want to keep, and get some really sturdy chains and a few galleons of oil. Command the surplus treants to huddle together on an open space, use your other treant(s) awakened trees to stand in for those treants you want to take with you. Douse the gropu with fire, then have the hags tell the dryads to spread word, that all fey survivors should gather at midnight at that very place to salute their new hag overlords.
I haven't specified the composition of the coven until now, and for the aboleth it is partly reliant on chance, but given the area, let's assume its either three green hags or two green hags and a night hag.
At midnight, let either the night hag or one of the green hags hold a rousing speech to the gathered assembly, while two green hags hide from view. Then, let the hag set the poor bundle on fire. The animated trees have no voice, but the hidden green hags can use their mimicry ability to fill in for their death cries.
The hags will sorrowly enjoy the spectacle, and you will have produced enough smoke for your smoke-and-mirror trick of hiding your treant slaves from prying fey eyes.

Now for the transportation problem. The logical first step in an escape plan is probably to determine the destination first. Let me introduce you to one interesting piece of trivia, that you might not be aware of by now:
Water Mills are an invention of the devil Aboleths!
What, you doubt my words? You say, you are an aboleth yourself, with access to the full racial memory, and you don't remember having done so? Shickshnack, watermills MUST have been invented by aboleths, they are just too gold ham useful for our race.

Look at your situation right now. Are you stuck in a woodland, close to the mountains, where no forking creek is even deep enough to keep your back wet? Wouldn't it be awfully convenient if someone build a nice earth mound across one of these creeks to dam them up into a decent sized pond for you to hide in? Well, humans do just that, regularly, (or pay gnomes to do it for them) and it is called a mill pond. Mill ponds can span an area from five to fifteen acres, and while they are known to be shallow over most of their area, at the side right next to the dam and the weir, they will have a depth of seven to ten feet. Their water is stagnant, muddy and overgrown by algae. If a human reaches into a mill pond, he will barely be able to see his hand at the time his ellbow gets wet.

Hiding in a millpond doesn't sound so glorious to you? Well have you ever heard of a fascinating human law called thirlage, also know as mill soke, banalité du moulin, banmolen, Mühlenzwang? All watermills are property of a laird, a member of the rural gentry, usually a high ranking knight or a count, and all vassals on that laird's fiefdom, the sucken, are obligated to mill all their grain exclusively in that mill, "astricted" to it. The miller will legaly keep a fraction of the grain as payment, his multure, he is sanctioned to seek all privately owned quern-stones in the sucken and destoy them, and off course he keeps records of how much grain he milled for which farmer, which then is the basis for calculating the taxes, that are owed to the laird. This law will be active in every advanced human nation, no matter their moral alignment, as it is the basis for the feudal system, that allows their kings to sustain their levied armies.

A typical sucken can span two to four entire villages. With your lair established in the mill pond, at harvest time, you will have folks from every homestead, farm and barnyard in the area line up right next to your lair, idling in the sun and waiting for the mill to grind their grain, with nothing to do than to gaze at the mill pond. And as a wise aboleth once said "If you gaze long into a mill pond, the mill pond will gaze back into you."

So, your mill pond lair is completely inconspiciously hidden in open sight, you can spend your days producing psychograms of entire village populations and picking your choice thralls by just squinting a bit with your upmost eye, the millers book, the basic for the tax records, is just across the dam from you in the mill, so the tax collector is also guaranteed to drop by right before tax day.
The miller itself is an interesting character. Most villagers will assume he is filthy rich, but in reality he will have to pay a huge rent to the laird. If you either enslave him or find a way to blackmail him or otherwise can bind him to your service, he is the perfect guy to sell underworld contraband or booty for legitimate surface coins, or to buy property for you to use in your plans,... a mill pond is just heaven for your plans.

Now, how do you get from your woodland enclave to this hallowed pond? You still haven't solved the problem of extricating your 3 ton body without leaving a giant trail behind. Well, you obviously need a nice sturdy freight wagon, that is able to carry your weight. And where can it most likely be found in a rural area: next to a watermill!

I told you, that whole system MUST have been set up with aboleth convenience in mind, it is just too perfect to explain its existence otherwise.

OK, the watermill has one single serious drawback. The escape route downstream only consists of a small creek. If things go really wird for you, and you have good reasons to assume, that you have been found out and will be attacked, you will pretty much have to jump over the wheir, get into that creek and slither along its path until it flows into something, that is deep enogh for you to swim at full speed until you rach a hiding place.
This is exactly where you want your treants, and probably some kobold traps, that you can arm, while you slither buy, to slow down and distract pursuers, plus probably a few caches of consumables for yourself along the way.

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 18 May 2018 12:11:41
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Clutches at Greatness
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Posted - 13 May 2018 :  22:23:33  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OK, note to self. Listen to criticism. Then react to it by changing stuff you do.

What is the big plan? (maybe get a wizard brain?)

I was so far totally enamored with the villains toolset and the setting, and I thought, if I just kept expanding them, the great plan would reveal itself naturally to me.

But, yeah, there are some peculiarities in the set-up. Why is the Aboleth not utilizing the normal set of barachtite minions? (all the fishmen and aquatic/amphibic monster, plus possibly Dopplegangers)
And why isn't it in the usual aboleth setting, either in a lake in the underdark, or in a deep part of the ocean, possibly a coast, but definitely not in a rural setting cole to woodland/mountain area?
Why IS it working alone, and not in close cahoots with an entire aboleth metropolis, like it would be typical for its race?
Once it has established its lair in a millpond, it can excert enormous control over up to 3 villages. Mindcontrol, economic control, even control ober their food supply (nothing easier than to get a slow-acting posion into all of their flour, if you control the mill), but what does he need all those villagers for?

He certainly could rob them all blind or sell them off as slaves, but that would just put him on a level with every other evil boss. Nothing very abolethic about that. Nothing very abolethic about that, not very thematic at all.

OK, doing my little brainstorming exercise:
-TBeholder mentioned a wizard's brain as a worthy goal. Hmm, I haven't done much with that fey portal yet.... that fey nobility, who's appearance looms isn't detailed yet. The official laird of the mill also isn't detailed yet. Having his domain so close to an unspoiled fey settlement makes it likely, that he is someone, who gets along well with them. .... either one of them could be the real price goal, that the aboleth is after. Braaaaaiins, I need braaaains....

-If I think of a thematic connection between eon-old seas and mountains, I always think about the fossils of shells, kelp and prehistoric fish, that are found in limestone and slate. That would sure be thematic, but to make them relevant for the story, a quarry would have to be one key location.

-Given the importance of water, the exact pathways of creeks, rivers, lakes, etc. also have to be story relevant. Mountains and rivers,... lumber and charcoal for some not too distant mines could be part of the economic foundation of the closer region, in support for mining activities downstream. Potash is a charcoal derivate, and with limestone and potash, sulfur is the only missing ingredient for black powder

-As part of the story hook for the adventure I wanted the players to rescue an important NPC from an ambush. The NPC would then hire them as bodyguard, which would give the players a reason to spend more time in the area.
The reasoning for hiring the players (who are still strangers, after all, even if they showed useful qualities of character and skill during the rescue) could be emphasized if there is a sudden manpower shortage in the area. Like, people have been recruited for a far-off but patriotic war.
How about, the coastal area of the nations are under attack from waves of fishmen, reason unknown (of course the aboleth city is orchestrating this). The laird (who is after all most likely a noble and therefor part of the military caste) has been called to service and recruited all able-bodied, but dispensable men for a camapaign to aid the coastal regions. His keep is only manned by a skeleton crew of aging veterans, to protect the lairds family and possessions from random hazards.

-I still want more connection to the far realms in the campaign. Nightmares in the region could be a good tool for setting the mood. Maybe the mill is used to mill something else at night, which leaves traces in the flour, that it mills at day.

-Locations to map out so far
--the fey settlement
--the mill with millpond
--the laird's keep
--limestone quarry
--lumberjack/log driver/coalburner camp, where the deeper river starts
--three villages (which could/should include most of the sites above, plus appropriate number of grain farmers and the usual infrastructure, like a temple/shrine to ???, basic merchants, an inn)
--ambush site for adventure hook
(--a distant mining town as buyer for the lumber/charcoal/etc.. and background option for dwarven/tinkergnome PCs)

-Persons of interest
--Looming fey nobility
--miller and crew
--lairds family and guard
--the patron (either a family member of the laird, or a tax collector?)

And yepp, I still haven't totalized the plan...

OK, after consulting "Heroes of the Feywild", here are a few more decisions.

The "Fey Portal" isn't a portal in the strictest sense. At Ostara (the date night and day are equal in length in spring, the equivalent of march the 22nd in our world) a study tower of an Eladrin Wizard with ties to Astrazalian appears, at Mabon in fall, it disappears into the feywild. The unicorn and the satyr community are there to guard the mortal world from dark fey, using the proximity of the planes at this space in winter.
The unicorn's presence made the grain fields in the nearby human hamlets extremely fertile.
The aboleth's are especially interested in his brain, because he is the only survivor from an Eladrin expedition into the Far Realm, who hasn't gone completely insane. The expedition used captured Illithid arcanotechnology, and he was the mystical assistance in charge of overseeing the device....

The wizard's sister has fallen in love with a mortal warrior, the Knight of Hechtensee, whose fief encompasses the hamlets, and lives constantly in the mortal world now, in the Knight's keep.

In the nearby quarry, bloodred limestone is occassionally found, but discarded out of superstition. The aboleths know of the source of the colour,.. it is corroded iron from a meteor, that was used as a weapon against an aboleth city, long before this area rose from the bottom of the sea and became a mountainous region.
This iron from a fallen star has powerful anti-magic and especially anti-fey properties. The aboleth wants to use it to trap the Eladrin wizard, because braaaains, and has the miller grind down the red limestone at night.
As a side effect, everyone who eats bread, that is made from the flour, that the mill produces during the day, develops nightmares, visions of the aboleth cities demise, and becomes increasingly moody and/or ill tempered over time, and develops an immunity against healing magic.

Oh, the patron is a 3rd level bard in Knight of Hechtensee's retinue, who was crippled in the war, but wanted to keep at his lords side. von Hechtensee sent him home instead to help his wife to collect taxes and keep order in the liege.

The aboleth has sent his kobolds and one of the giants to kill him. His guards are already dead, and he is in imminent danger, when the adventurers happen upon the ambush site. They rescue him, and he asks if he can hire them as his new guard. voila, hook completed.

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 16 May 2018 17:05:30
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Clutches at Greatness
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Posted - 18 May 2018 :  11:44:56  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
OK, having second thoughts about the actual way the treant plantnapping would go down in detail. According to the rules, it would take 144 castings of silence to keep a treant from alarming the neighborhood for an entire day, and there is no way the aboleth would carry 21+ wands of silence around with himself.

So, following Wooly Ruperts wise advice http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=22340, let's think about how to gag a treant.

Let's start by retconning the initial cave, where the satyr was entrapped. Let's say, it isn't so much a natural cave, but a mineshaft from an abandoned Duergar or Dwarven mine. The original entrance had collapsed long ago, but inside the cave the planking of the lift and a solid winch have withstood the onslaught of time. The aboleth enters the mine through the underdark, employs the kobold crew to dig it open from inside, and create an entrance hole, maybe 6 foot by 6 foot. Less of a romantic setting for entrapping the satyr, but with some extra candles in front probably still good enough to trick a horny guy, who assumes he is following the love of his heart's calling into their leisure nest.

The trap, that the kobolds have to build isn't a 15-foot by 15-foot pit-trap now, but actually a set of giant slings from really sturdy rope or chain. The rope leads into the cave, over the winch, and down into the shaft, where a massive counterweight is prepared.

When the treant arrives, two kobolds jump out of hiding and make sure, the slings are attached to the treants... feet? roots? stems? the two thingies that make up his walking apparatus, .... and the counterweight is released, pulling the treant on his back, then through the cave entrance and into the cave, where he ends up dangling over the mine shaft.
Advantage 1, the aboleth's caged bard has to cast silence only once, to prevent the community from hearing the thud of the treants fall and his initial screams for help, the cave walls will provide the necessary accoustic isolation for the following days.
Advantage 2, dangling from his roots over a bottomless shaft also prevents the treant from using his immense strength and his siege attacks from freeing himself. That would definitely require dexterity instead, the treant's "drop stat"

Slight disadvantage... I am not so sure about the actual physics.

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string

Edited by - Clutches at Greatness on 18 May 2018 12:14:32
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Clutches at Greatness
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Posted - 18 May 2018 :  22:47:06  Show Profile Send Clutches at Greatness a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Pecularities of the Underdark

OK, having collected enough thought material for my own campaign, I will continue my musings and speculations about the general roll of aboleths in Faerun. One interesting conclusion from reading through varying materials - the aboleths will probably not feel especially cozy in the Underdark itself, and not too motivated in conquering it. Yes, there are aboleth cities in the Undersea, but that is technically located in an even even deeper strata than the proper Underdark itself.

Dominating imperial powers of the Underdark are mostly drow or duergar forces, with possibly fomorian, illithid and beholder enclaves strewn in between. None of these are especially vulnerable to the rank-and-file aboleths strong suit, deception and mind control.
Duergar not only have that horrible advantage against all attempts of mindcontrol, they are also resistant to poison, so even the trick of making them drunk to prepare for enslavement, that works so well on satyrs, won't have any practical chances of success. Drow are straight-up immune against charm effects, fomorians and beholders just exceed the possible potency of the average aboleth's abilities with their massive proficiencies on all their saves. Illithids are mentioned in the fluff as endlessly perplexing and frustrating the aboleths by being the only sentient species on Faerun, whose origin escapes the aboleths vast knowledge.
Then there is the case of derro and kuotoa. Both races have developed racial insanity, especially and explicitly as a means to escape illithid mind control. It is nowhere explained in detail, how that actually works, so here some informed guesswork from your humble author:

Possibility a) Unsuitable institutional structures for mind control. As I mentioned somewhere far far above about controlling humanoid tribes and organisations, hierarchies are your friend. In a functioning hierarchy every weak-willed leader you control comes with the command over a lot of minions of his own, simply by virtue of his institutional power over his underlings. Racial insanity makes derro and kuotoa tribes just uninteresting for mind-controllers, as they will never develop powerful enough leaders to warrant using enslavement powers on them.
Possibility b) Unpredictable outcome of mental commands. As the aboleth enslavement abilities and most enchantment spells allow the thrall full use of his abilities in service of his controller, even if the controller does not have this abilities itself, the control can't happen on a micromanagement puppet-string control over individual muscle movement. It must work on a programming language level of planting strong desires to achieve a given outcome instead. With a racially insane creature like a derro or kuotoa this can likely produce quite random effects, while the creature struggles to pursuit this implanted desire. Commanding a derro or kuotoa for example to attack another creature may end up in the thrall offering his sincere assistence, as part of an overly complicated deception strategy, while a command to assist another creature may end in an attack to teach the counterpart about the cruelties of existence.

Luckily for the aboleths, they don't have to bother enslaving the kuotoa, as kuotoa are huge aboleth fanboys. Even better, other underground races tend to leave them to their own devices, and their towns and settlements are even considered neutral zones and markets for evil underdark races. Conveniently this means, that aboleths can always just sell a crapton of worthless aboleth fan articles and merchandise to the kuotoa traders, whenever the aboleths need access to some Underdark trade goods.
The aboleth-derro relationship is less clear, but interestingly in "Night below - an Underdark campaign" the aboleth city sports a derro quarter. In the main underdark derro only appear in small hunting bands, and in some warrens in drow or duergar cities, their only independent strongholds are said to be located in the deepest parts of the underdark, which means they are close to the Undersea, aboleth territory. My guess is that the aboleth-derro general relation is neutral to slightly friendly towards each other, with the aboleths able to occassionally hire derro for mercenary work, like escort services.

aboleth geostrategic interests in the underdark
are actually quite few. The main racial motivation of aboleths throughout editions one to three was hatred of surface dwellers. Surface dwellers by definition don't dwell in the Underdark, so little interest here. 5th edition added a strong grudge against gods to this motivation (or possibly replaced it?), but... Well, all the Underdark races have some kind of deity, but Lolth and Laduguer are pretty much outcasts of their own pantheons, and depending on the exact time, Laduguer may be even actually dead and replaced by Asmodeus posing as deity. The other racial deities in the Underdark are small tribal peddlers of fate with little influence on the grand affairs of the realm.
Special mention goes to Blibdoolpoolp, the main kuotoa deity, who has all the trappings of being a total aboleth ruse: Her appearance is described as a nude female human torso with lobster or crayfish head and claws. Now, close your eyes, imagine an antique statue, that has sunken underneath the waves, head and arms missing. imagine a small wall behind that statue. Imagine a Chuul, who was identified as a 100% aboleth servant creature in 5th Edition, leaning over that wall, and over the statue. So, the kuotoa, who are not very bright, known to worship made-up gods, and by some fluffs even designed by the aboleths to do so, before they went insane, see that Chuuls head and claws over the nude human body, reminding them to keep their spawning pools nurtured and to always revere their aboleth overlords... I mean, come on, that is totally an aboleth plot.

So TL;DR the aboleths have no real interest in expanding their rule to the main Underdark. Drow and duergar empires make a convenient buffer zone to the hated surface world, kuo-toa markets give them cheap and easy access to all the trade goods the aboleths may want from this empires, although probably not in bulk. All they need is a network of hidden passages, that they had eons to explore, and allow them access to the surface, where their real enemies live. If in doubt about drow or duergar activities they can use their own skum escorts or barter for derro mercenaries while using this passages.

I'll be right back, after I caught that piece of string
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