View Full Version : advice on aboleths

2012-10-11, 10:19 PM
Hello, i am fairly new to DMing and trying to design a long term campaign arc for the first time. I'm using the Greyhawk setting advanced 30 years from CY 591, and want to have a cabal of aboleths as the big bad. my idea is that the Invoked Devastation called down by the Suel Imperium caused the Far Realm to bleed into Oerth, unleashing the aberrant creatures into the world. Now the Aboleths want to return to their home reality, and control (or perhaps founded) the Scarlet brotherhood as a means of gathering all the bits of the original device that cause the planar bleed so that they can suck Oerth into the Far Realm. My problem is that i don't really know how I should characterize them, or what their home base should be like. Any thoughts on how Aboleths would act and live in their role as the puppeteers of the Empire of the Scarlet Sign?

2012-10-11, 10:56 PM
I used them in my last game. Their plot didn't play out as much as I'd expected, so their full involvement was never really revealed.

The game was mostly the PCs versus Netheril. The aboleths had decided that Netheril was badass enough that they should have it. They controlled a couple of the twelve princes of Netheril, but the PCs didn't figure that out. The effect of this was that the princes were acting irrationally. There were times when the aboleth controlled princes acted out of accordance with ones they didn't control. It was supposed to be a hint, but I think the PCs thought I was throwing them a bone so they didn't investigate it in game. If I were doing it again, I'd either make the aboleths more powerful or ditch them entirely. They didn't work as a side dish BBEG. In your case, that means they'll have established control over the other organization.

Anyway, most of the PC interaction with the aboleth plot was with NPCs who were under the control of the aboleths. It was in their best interest that those NPCs behaved as normal so as to not be detected. They belonged to other groups and went about their business as much as possible. The only sign that there was an aboleth plot was occasional odd behavior when around the ocean.

Had the players pursued the aboleths further, their homebase was going to be Xxiphu as described in the FR books. Xxiphu was mentioned several times, but I think the PCs decided it was a red herring.

2012-10-12, 02:52 PM
Hmm, that does make sense. Mind control slip ups might be too subtle to draw the PC's deeper into the plot. They'd probably just kill the Scarlet Brotherhood folks and move on if I don't drop some sort of physical evidence. But it will have to be something that makes sense in the context of aboleths being millennial old hyperintellegences; after all, they wouldn't be so careless as to leave evidence lying around, and they communicate telepathically so written commands wouldn't work either. Maybe I will give some of the lead monks crazy grafts. At least that will let the PCs know that [I]something[I] grotesquely alien is going on.
Thanks for sharing your experience. What is that city you mentioned published in?

2012-10-12, 02:56 PM
I belive it was the 4e FR campaign setting. I used wikia's FR forum for general research (http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Aboleth) but their Xxiphu section left a lot to be desired.

2012-10-12, 04:57 PM
If you want a good resource for aboleth lore I can strongly recomend Lords of Madness. its a very interesting book on the aberrations.

A plot like this is a fine balance between doing what is right for the villains and doing what is dramatically appropriate for the story.
Aboleths are genius level master manipulators, they shouldn't make mistakes, they should be undetectable in the way they manipulate their puppets and seamlessly steer events onto the correct course.

But of course if they don't slip up then its not going to be clear that they are really behind it all and your players might not realise anything more supspicious is going on.

I would suggest that the aboleths thralls control small cells of free willed "cultists" who don't really know what their deep gods want and believe that serving them and their prophets (the thralls) can work out for them. (reading up on Cthullhu mythos stuff might help here, as the aboleths were deliberately based on some lovecraft stories)

Your cult can be less competant than the aboleths. they can be sloppy, and ultimately your PC's can take them out and discover the graft on the cult leader discussed in the previous posts.

That should inspire them to ask awkward questions and try to find out more, at which point they shouldn't be able to learn much. After all the Aboleths plan is far more advanced than the minor jobs they were getting their cultists to do, and the thralls in positions of power will be a lot more careful and indeed ruthless.

If the players start asking the wrong questions have them attract the attention of the more powerful levels of the aboleth's organisation, who can threaten, blackmail or try to do away with these meddlers in their affairs. that should bring them into the plot.

It can be difficult to pull off without being either so subtle that the PC's don't get involved, or so unsubtle that it doesn't engage their interest. On one occasion I tried to do this, with the result that the Yuan Ti cult i'd been trying to set up as the big bad just came off seeming to be too incompetant. Other times its worked very well indeed. But you have to be ready to cast aside the elements of the organisation who have messed up in order to draw the PC's in and be ready to deploy the far more ruthless and effective puppetmasters in a way that will really draw them in. If they don't walk away from the first second order encounter feeling that they are now facing a credible threat then you will have your work cut out convincing them that anyone of the aboleth's thralls is more dangerous than the first man with the graft whom they were able to kill.

When it works well it can be really rewarding to run this kind of plot. so Good Luck!

2012-10-12, 10:30 PM
Your cult can be less competant than the aboleths. they can be sloppy, and ultimately your PC's can take them out and discover the graft on the cult leader discussed in the previous posts.

This. An aboleth, however smart it might be, can't micromanage every aspect of a large number of thralls' activities. At some point, it needs underlings to act on their own in order to accomplish anything of scale. Ultimately, these underlings are going to have to communicate with each other, or write things down for their own benefit, or even just order suspiciously large shipments of fish food. These things are what's going to give the clues that lead back to the aboleths.