13 min read

Path of the Purple Eye

In an effort to lose a tail, the party slips into the sewers. Following markers left on the walls, they must survive that dangerous world beneath the city.
Path of the Purple Eye

You can read my session prep notes for free on Patreon.


The Morning After

The latest issue of the Waterdeep Sentry

The party awoke mid-morning to a light rapping at their door. Outside was a man standing beside a cart with trays of food and a stack of newspapers. He nodded toward the group and informed them that Zardoz would be unable to join them in the morning. The admiral wished them the best of luck and looked forward to seeing them again.

The party thanked him and then grabbed the bread, cheese, and tea. They sat around in their cabins reading the newspapers while they ate.

The headline surprised no one. Families Implicated in Devil Worship. Scanning the rest of the articles they learned that an entire noble family had gone missing. The opinion section shed more light on the violence and prejudices that the city held. It seemed that the Waterdavians had begun to pin the violence resulting from the gang war on the arrival of the Luskans. In the letter, penned by a true Waterdavian, called for a shorter leash on the entertainers.

Finishing their breakfast they went topside. They took a moment to appreciate the view of the city. The rain from the previous night had brought a cool breeze and the sun warmed the city to a refreshing spring temperature. After looking around to see if Khafeyta had returned they requested a ride back to shore.

As their boat jerked toward the water Taman caught sight of Margo coming from below deck. She made eye contact with him for a moment before they lowered out of sight. As they moved across the smooth bay she stepped to the railing. Though they could not make out the features of her face, they could feel the intensity of her eyes. She didn’t move until they had arrived at the docks.

A Tail

The party decided that it was time to check in on Mirt. They had been meaning to for some time, and now, without any pressing matters, felt like as good a time as any. The opinion section of the newspaper had explicitly called out the increased crime in the Dock Ward. Because of this, Taman took extra note of his surroundings.

The streets were busy with carts, horses, and people. They moved and weaved around each other through the street, creating a living tapestry. But something did catch Taman’s eye. They shouldn’t have stood out but something was odd about the way they moved. Far enough back that he could not make out their features were two individuals dressed as City Watch. They looked legitimate enough but something was off. He couldn’t put his finger on it.

They continued down Snail Street, keeping an eye on the two Watchmen. When they moved the tail did the same, always keeping the same distance. The pair didn’t look to be in any particular hurry to close the gap. They simply followed. And when the party stopped they made like they were inspecting a shop or a cart nearby.

Feeling uneasy about the situation, Taman suggested they duck into the nearest tavern for a drink. Crossing the street they entered the Sleeping Syph. It was a small bar made up of two round tables and a bar big enough for five. But it was empty this early in the day. Taman stepped to the bar and called out.

From below emerged an older gentleman.

Barkeep: Oh, forgive me, tis a bit early. I didn’t think anyone would be in for a drink at this hour. What can I get you?

The party each ordered an ale and the barkeep retreated downstairs to retrieve the mugs. Akta kept watch through the window but found nothing unusual. When the barkeep returned he filled the mugs and turned to leave. But Taman stopped him.

Taman: Excuse me, but you wouldn’t happen to have a back door we might be able to use?

Barkeep, looking nervous: I, uh, now, you wouldn’t be bringing trouble around would you? If so, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.

Taman: No, sir. We bring no trouble slides a gold piece onto the counter top

Barkeep, eyeing the gold: Yes, well, sadly we don’t have a back door. The only way in or out like that would be that there door. But, if you’re willing to get your boots dirty, we do have another exit. In the cellar, there is an old sewer entrance that may suit your needs.

The party agreed, finished their drinks, and followed the man to the basement. He walked to the back wall and felt around a large rack. Then, with surprising ease, he swung it to the side. A dark passage leading downward stood exposed. The barkeep nodded toward the opening and they entered, descending the crumbling steps. When the man closed the hidden door, darkness enveloped them.

The Purple Eye

They found themselves in the Upper Sewer system, identified by its intact walls and walkways flanking the channel of water. After about an hour of wandering northward, they came to an intersection. While they debated which direction to take, Finzu noticed a familiar symbol. A yellow eye had been painted onto one of the stones. Looking around for another to help them determine the direction, he noticed something across the channel.

Purple eye marker on the sewer walls

Painted on the stone, identical to the yellow eye, was another in purple. The darker color made it more difficult to see but now that he was close, it was plain as day. The last time they had been in the sewers, the yellow eye had led them to a Xanatharian outpost and eventually to an exit. Maybe the purple eye acted as a similar marker.

They followed the eye back the way they came and then turned east and arrived at the intersection where the Upper and Lower sewers meet. Wrinkling their noses, they jumped in. The water came up to Finzu’s waist and smelled foul. The paths that once flanked the channel had long ago crumbled to time and the only path was to wade forward.

After some time, they noticed movement in the water up ahead. Taman recognized the scaly back breaching the surface and let the party know that there was a pair of crocodiles up ahead. He, Akta, and Finzu were content to wait, hoping they would leave and open a path forward. But Viigo let loose a Radiant Blast.

Light flared in the darkness and the crocodiles began to thrash in the water. Taman and Akta managed to avert their eyes in time, but Finzu caught the blast head-on. His world went white and he was left with his other senses to guide him.

The crocodiles lunged forward. Akta and Taman were able to open wounds as the first passed by. Dark blood clouded the muddy waters. Finzu waited, listening, feeling the direction of the waves.

And then he struck. Even blinded his flurry was true and the crocodile went still and began to sink to the bottom of the channel.

The remaining crocodile lunged at Akta. Its powerful jaws latched on and it used the weight of its body in an effort to drag her under. Akta took a half-step forward, shifting her weight to her front leg, and managed to stay standing. From there, the party descended on the lone creature.

Once it was over, the party splashed onward.

The Porcelain Doll

Continuing to explore the lower sewers, they came across a crumbled wall. The stone had fallen away long ago and revealed a small alcove big enough for a single human. A shrine made of skulls was tucked inside and resting against it was a porcelain doll with large blue gems in her eye sockets. Written across the walls was a long passage in abyssal.

Torn, the party debated what to do. Finzu eventually had enough, stepped forward, and grabbed the doll. Everyone began yelling at him to put it back. They wanted to avoid being cursed at all costs and despite the allure of the gems, it wasn’t worth it. Disgruntled, Finzu acquiesced and returned the doll to her resting place.


The purple eye led them to a large circular room. Channels like the one they had come from webbed outward as the water flowed towards its center. It swirled in the large basin before flowing over the edge of a large opening. Trash floated in from all the channels and rode the wave down the chute.

Investigating the walls, they followed the eye around the outskirts of the room and found themselves staring down the smooth slide. While Viigo turned to ask what the party wanted to do, Taman took two steps and jumped in. Folding his hands on his chest he sped out of sight.

Before Viigo could react Akta had followed him. Then Finzu.

Shaking his head, Viigo grimaced and took his turn.

Garbage Disposal

They landed in a large open room. A channel of dirty water framed a platform at its center. Pipes large enough to be used as bridges connected the central platform to either end of the room, providing clear entry and exit points. Garbage sat piled in heaps in ankle-deep water on the platform. Rats swarmed over the refuse, making it look as if alive.

Acknowledging that there was only one path forward, the party eyed the channel of running water. It was too crowded with trash to judge the depth. The gap between their landing and the central platform, however, was within jumping distance0

The terminus of the sewer system beneath Waterdeep

Taman was the first to go and cleared the gap with ease. As Finzu leaped, a large fleshy tentacle sprang from the water below. It swiped at the halfling but missed and Finzu landed safely. Viigo was the next to go and made it across without issue.

Akta decided that she wanted to get her halberd across first. Taman edged closer to the gap and reached out as she stretched the weapon toward him. As his hand clasped around the shaft another tentacle sprang forth. He pulled as quickly as he could and narrowly missed being grabbed. Seeing her opportunity, Akta sprang forward and joined the party.

Surveying the platform they could now see that water swirled toward its center. A large drain took water and any garbage that happened to fall in and directed it out of the room. Not wanting to find out where it led, the party decided it would be best to use their rope and tie each other together in a chain. That way, if one slipped, they could catch them.

Once secured, they began to edge around the fringes of the drain, taking care to avoid the squeaking piles of trash. As they passed the halfway point the water erupted and the owner of the tentacle charged from the rancid waters.

Three sturdy legs launched the grotesque creature forward. Its rubbery tentacles lashed out with spiky, leaf-like appendages. One tentacle wrapped around Finzu and pinned him to the ground while the other swung askew of Taman.

Akta hit with her attack so Finzu was able to roll to determine if he could escape the grapple - DC 13

As the party scrambled to adjust to the attack, they kicked and stumbled over the garbage piles. Rats poured forth and swarmed around their feet, nipping at their ankles and knees.

Seeing Finzu pinned, Akta circled around and brought her halberd down on the tentacle. The creature roared and, seizing the moment, Finzu wriggled free.

An Otyugh serves as the city garbage disposal

The party alternated between striking the aberration and stomping on rats. But then the creature lunged forward and clamped its maw around Finzu’s arm. At the same time, a tentacle wrapped up Akta and attempted to slam her to the ground but she was able to resist. Finzu ripped his arm free and, for a moment, began to feel the poison seep into his blood. Closing his eyes, he focused and managed to fight off its effects.

The onslaught continued as Finzu and Taman kept the creature’s attention while Viigo hurriedly worked to free Akta. Since they were still tied together, if the creature managed to slam and throw Akta, it would take them all with it. He hammered away at the tentacle as hard as he could.

It went slack and he celebrated by helping Akta to her feet. He then wheeled on the creature, ready to join the attack. Seeing Finzu covered in the beast’s blood, he allowed himself to relax. The beast continued to seize, the last of its life slipping out, as they made quick work of the remaining rats.


Margo and Khafeyta

Margo and Khafeyta are lovers and she is incredibly concerned that her partner is missing. To a certain extent, she is holding the party responsible. This is mostly because of what they had shared with Zardoz the previous night. That they had chosen not to go with Khafeyta to the ship and had, instead, opted to follow the drow to the warehouse.

The Black Network

The tail the party noticed was in fact looking for them. It was one of a number of groups that are tracking the party, looking for an opportunity to approach. While being members of the City Watch, they were in the pocket of the Black Network.

Their intention was to “arrest” the party, citing various crimes, and to escort them to another Zhentarim warehouse outpost. There, Skeemo and Urstel Floxin would arrive and attempt to “convert” the party. They intended to do this through a combination of torture, magic, and potions.

When the party disappeared into the bar and never emerged, the tail approached the barkeep. When he claimed ignorance they took him instead, intending to extract any information they could.

The Purple Eye Marker

While the yellow eye led to the Xanatharian Outpost run by Grum’shar, the purple eye is much more significant. The purple eye leads to Xanathar’s lair in Skullport. Being much more difficult to spot, it weaves through the Upper and Lower sewers, leading through dangerous checkpoints before arriving at a staircase. This staircase leads to the Hall of Eyes entrance.

The Shrine

The shrine that the party stumbled across is for Asmodeus. It is ancient and had been hidden in the sewers until this section of the wall crumbled. The symbols on the wall refer to a deal that a family made, much like the Cassalanters, where they sacrificed their child for power.

It says:

Let’s plunge ourselves into the roar of time

Pain and pleasure, success and failure mine

With this gift, our child, the deal is finished

The wicked one, not the wicked ones, has vanished

The doll was their daughter’s and they had it outfitted with gemstones as a more symbolic gesture to the deal they had made.


Playing With Expectations

One of the most humorous parts of the session was listening to the players debate about taking the porcelain doll from the shrine. They didn’t know that it was a piece of treasure I had laid out for them, the gems totaling 750 gold dragons in value.

However, their suspicion of my intentions overwrote their greed. It was a fun moment for me because it meant that not only did I have them on their toes, but they were invested in the story. They remembered the cursed sword from the Crypt of the Seven and the Badge of the Watch which tracks them. This attention to the consequences is a good feeling.

Best Laid Plans

The session went off the rails almost immediately. As they made their way through the Dock Ward I made a random roll on the Waterdeep: City Encounters tables. I got a random event called Strange Feelings and chose the option with the City Watch officers.

The characters get a strange feeling they’re being followed. Roll a d4 to determine who’s on their tail.

Two veteran City Watch officers have been tailing the group to ensure that they’re not troublemakers. They approach to question the characters about their business in the city.

The other options had to do with:

  • Thugs (they had just fought a bunch of bandits)
  • A boy following them hoping to see something amazing (cute, but I didn’t know where to take it at the time)
  • A servant wants them to investigate the family crypt (they had already done something similar with the Crypt of the Seven)

At the time I knew I didn’t want the tail to be legitimate officers so I had the two officers act ‘normal’. What heightened the paranoia was that I said something like:

They don’t seem to care if they lose you

The players took that to mean that there were others in the crowd that would pick them up if the original two lost them. That is why they fled to the bar instead of continuing down the street.

I have heard a lot about how players will derail your plans but I don’t believe that that means you are sunk. You don’t need to know all the details at that exact moment. In this case, I filled in the backstory of the tail the next day. At the time, all the party cared about was getting out of there.

Ultimately, you control the level of detail you share. If I were to have forced a social encounter I would have had to provide many details. By letting them forge their own path, it gave me the opportunity to button everything up.

Keeping Old Ideas

One thing I have heard time and again is never to tell your party what could have happened. You never know when you could re-use it. This was a case study of that advice.

Way back when the party was traveling through the sewers to Xanathar’s Hideout, I had planned two encounters. These encounters would have taken place if they didn’t notice the yellow eye markers on the walls or if they failed a Survival check. (See Session 2 Prep Notes for how that worked).

Once Taman asked if there was a back door, something triggered in my mind. The first was that I remembered from the Blackstaff Tower book, there were many ancient sewer entrances in the older buildings. The others were the encounters I had previously prepared.

So I pulled up my Session 2 Prep Notes and inserted them into the party’s sewer exploration.

“Borrowing” Ideas

Warning: Critical Role Campaign 1 Mild Spoiler

Even though I had two minor encounters ready to go, I didn’t have a meaningful ending to the session. Luckily, I am in the process of watching Critical Role (I know, I’m way behind). In one of my recently watched episodes, they were chasing a mark through the sewers and they came upon a shoot that led to a large room… where rats attacked… and a giant fleshy creature…

Spoilers for Critical Role Campaign 1 Episode 21

Okay, I took the whole encounter from the show. Some DMs might feel weird about this. They may feel that everything they have in their game has to come from their own creativity. I disagree completely.

I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants

And I would consider Matt Mercer a giant in the world of DMs. Why not leverage his experience when it comes to encounter design?