Monster Analysis: Escape from Urukaxl

With the breaking of the first seal of Uk’otoa, The Mighty Nein began their desperate escape from the temple as it rapidly flooded with sea water. Just as their initial path through the temple was fraught with challenges, so too was their expeditious retreat.

While we typically reserve this series to focus on creatures, their abilities, any lore surrounding them, and how the party interacted with them, the series of skill challenges followed certain rules that also provided an interesting set of encounters for the party to strategize against.

The Sealing Room, the Orchard, and the Fountain Chamber

After dealing with the Warden of the False Serpent, the party was rewarded with a short rest and a few clues regarding not only the history of Uk’otoa, but other “pets” of the Calamity. This was soon followed by Avantika and Fjord’s race to the bottom of the well in search of the first seal. The party’s nervousness regarding releasing such a powerful entity slowed Fjord’s progress, giving Avantika just enough time to claim the first blessing of the ancient entity.

After Avantika broke the first seal, the air-filled chamber far above them began filling up with rushing water where the rest of the party waited. Both Fjord and Avantika had already been underwater for several minutes, and Avantika was pretty profusely bleeding by the loss of her orb and losing air. As she attempted to return to the surface, Fjord attempted to hold her down; although she slipped free of his grasp, he successfully played it off as trying to get her attention (Nat20) before she continued swimming to the surface.

Meanwhile, water started pouring into the sealing room the rest of the Nein were standing in. None of them had taken a short rest, so they were still hurting pretty badly from fighting the hydra and the abomination. There was also concern about leaving without Fjord, who hadn’t come out of the well yet. While everyone hurried out, Jester and Beau waited at the doorway for Fjord to emerge, and then they proceeded onward. The race began.

Thanks to entrylevel-adult for this art piece!

The orchard chamber formed the passageway between the sealing room and the fountain chamber. A button controlled the door into the orchard that would simultaneously close the way out when activated. This device cost the Nein precious time as they attempted to recall how the switch worked as the flood pushed forward still. Nott’s mage hand allowed them to progress up the stairs.

Though there was a stairwell from the orchard up to the fountain, there was still a ten-foot gap between the fountain and the floor of the chamber. Though it was too big a gap for Beau to parkour up with a rope, Caleb burned a casting of Enlarge/Reduce on Caduceus to first make him 14 feet tall so he could lift everyone in (or be used as a firbolg-ladder for Nott). Caleb used a second casting of the spell to to reduce Caduceus to 3 ½ feet tall so he could navigate into the next chamber.

Battle with Yuan-ti Pit Master and Broodguards

The crack of the temple and the water that began pouring out into the streets had finally drawn the attention of the yuan-ti who were not already inside the temple. By the time the Nein had reached the temple’s entry room, yuan-ti reinforcements had made it in.

Yuan-ti Pit Master

  • First Appearance: 2-39 Welcome to the Jungle

  • Encounter Appearance: 2-40 Dubious Pursuits

  • Armor Class 12

  • Darkvision 120 ft, Passive 11

  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 88, 144

  • 72 damage taken, 21 HDYWTDT by Nott

Yuan-ti Broodguard

  • First Appearance: 2-39 Welcome to the Jungle

  • Encounter Appearance: 2-40 Dubious Pursuits

  • Armor Class 14

  • Darkvision 60 feet, Passive 12

  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 45, 70

    • Broodguard 1: 58 damage taken, 11 killing blow by Fjord

    • Broodguard 2: 45 damage taken: 15 killing blow by Caduceus

Both of these types of yuan-ti were seen as the Nein made their way through Urukaxl the first time. The Pit Masters are malisons, the middle-class of yuan-ti society. More snakelike than purebloods, there’s no mistaking them for humans. Pit Masters, in particular, have snakes for arms (just arms, Jester). The poisonous fangs are not to be taken lightly.

Broodguards are among the absolute lowest of the low in the yuan-ti hierarchy. They are created by feeding a humanoid an expensive potion that turns them into scaly, order-obeying creatures. They make decent guards, and as such, we saw our first one of these on the outside of the temple before Fjord unceremoniously punted it to its death.

In addition to the standard rules of combat with three angry yuan-ti, the Nein also had to contend with the rules of an entirely underwater arena. First, the party’s movement was reduced to their swim speed. Second, the party had to contend with drowning mechanics. Although typically a creature can hold their breath for a number of minutes equal to their constitution modifier, the action of the battle added a few more complications.

All characters began with a total of 5 air points. Every time someone took damage, they lost 1-2 points. Spellcasting that required a verbal component would spend 5 points in exchange for the spell’s effect, effectively using up the caster’s full breath and forcing them to rely on their Constitution Saves in the following round. Once the character had gotten to this point and failed their constitution save for the round, assuming they didn’t get air by the start of the next turn, their HP would immediately drop to 0, and death saving throws would commence.

The Mighty Nein had to make some tough calls in this battle. Beau and Caleb both dashed for the top, knowing their low health would likely only slow down the Nein, get them knocked out by the yuan-ti, or drowned by the water. Everyone did their part to take down their foes, but it was really Caduceus’ Spirit Guardians, his last third level spell, that saved the day. By moving so that he was in optimal damage dealing position, rather than escaping to the top, he dealt 70 points of radiant damage to the three enemies, killing one of them.

Thanks to @ozziyo for this art piece!

By the end of the battle, the water was threatening to fill the entire room. The Mighty Nein had been underwater for quite a while, and all started to make constitution saves to not drown. Caduceus and Jester both began drowning, though Fjord opted to give the remaining air in his lungs to Jester, who had the only key to get them out. Jester managed to open the hatch to the pyramid just before Fjord would have fallen unconscious, exploding the party out on the tidal wave bursting from the temple. Both Caleb and Nott used their last spell slots to save their party’s lives with Feather Fall. After a slow descent with the eyes of trapped yuan-ti watching, the Mighty Nein began their dash through the village around the temple.

Escape into the Jungle

Thanks to @CandaceAprilLee for this art piece!

Not that they had much chance of not being noticed, what with being flung from the top of the temple atop a giant water jet, but the Nein’s next step was to get through the yuan-ti village surrounding the pyramid. The residents’ panic over surviving a flash flood helped mask their retreat, but the Nein were soon spotted, unable to disguise themselves (aside from Caduceus, who, after being brought back to consciousness, opted to appear like a lizardfolk). After navigating the sudden river through the village, the Nein were able to use their feet again to escape into the jungle, with approximately two dozen yuan-ti trackers hot on their heels.

This is where the second interesting point structure of skill challenges popped up. Where drowning had its own point system, Matt introduced the jungle survival skill challenge, integrating 5e’s exhaustion rules along with requiring that the Mighty Nein to brainstorm how they intended to navigate the jungle while trying to throw their pursuers off their trail. Everyone had to do their part to help the group succeed. Repeating activities that worked before would raise the DC for subsequent attempts, encouraging the players to come up with new ways to evade their trackers:

  • Caleb, with his Keen Mind, was able to guide everyone on the right path while Yasha cleared away the undergrowth that would impede their progress.

  • Caduceus distracted some of their hunters with Thaumaturgy to make it sound like they had gone in a different direction.

  • Nott finally got to pull Fluffernutter with Caleb’s fire, which slowed down their trackers as they skirted around the explosion.

  • Nott also used her Mage Hand (and some flat-out yelling) to distract both the yuan-ti and the newly-acquired lizardfolk trackers.

The Mighty Nein took more than a day to sneak their way through the Urukaxl jungle on their way in. Their retreat was much less measured as they tried to stay ahead of their pursuers. By the fourth skill challenge, several members began to succumb to exhaustion as a result of running for such a long duration. By the time the party reached the sandy shore and rolled another round of constitution saves, five of the nine (the Nein, Avantika, and Jamedi) had at least one point of exhaustion.

As the party broke the treeline to the beach, they reached the skiffs just as the yuan-ti and the newly pursuing lizardfolk also came out in the open. Unfortunately for the Nein, the skiffs travel much slower than a creature running on foot. Fortunately for the Nein, yuan-ti hate lizardfolk as much as they hate anyone else (which is to say: a lot). Half of each tribe focused on killing each other, while the other half kept their attention on the escaping humanoids. As Caleb flung Fire Bolts, Fjord slung Eldritch Blasts, and Caduceus sent Sacred Flames, the mighty cannons of the Squalleater provided the final deterrent, granting the party the end of a (not so) merry chase and allowing several members to reflect on their new (and old) grudges against water.

Thanks to @BusyMatches for this art piece!

Due to the resounding success of their attempts and their survival checks, Matt confirmed on Talks Machina that the party avoided most of the dangers of the jungle, including various traps and dangerous wildlife. Considering no one had any spell slots remaining, and a significant portion of the group were suffering from exhaustion and low HP totals, that was probably for the best.