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leozelig

Blogging the Apocalypse - Part 2

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In my last post, I discussed how to set the stage for the adventure Princes of the Apocalypse. In this installment, I reveal how my players unearthed the haunted keeps as the adventure leads them deep into the Sumber Hills.

This post contains spoilers for the Wizards of the Coast adventure Princes of the Apocalypse. You have been warned...

By now, the characters should be armed with a lead or two to help them with their initial search for the missing Mirabar delegation. Confusion about the significance of the missing delegation is likely. The delegation members are higher profile citizens than your typical caravan, but this is simply a (somewhat random) reason to explore the Sumber Hills. You can just as easily focus on the strange weather events or the escalation of banditry along the roads. Two of my players were tracking a girl whom the Mud Sorcerer had employed as his assistant, though not entirely of her own free will.

So, my group explored the shallow graves in the windswept hills outside Red Larch, which led them to Feathergale Spire and its reclusive aerial riders. This should arouse plenty of suspicion, as it did for my group, but I was careful not to present them as obviously evil. I wanted to preserve an atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion. On the way, I ran the Reaver Ambush cult reprisal. This was my group's first encounter with cultists, and I wanted to throw them off the scent of the air cult by showing them a very different look. My players interrogated one of the bandits, who directed them to Rivergard Keep and the bandit captain Jolliver Grimjaw, a lead they bypassed in Red Larch.

The Feathergale Knights, led by Thurl Merosska, were flashy and eccentric, and though wary, the characters played along for the most part. After a successful manticore hunt, Thurl implicated an order of secretive monks as the source of trouble in the region and engaged the party in a midnight reconnaissance mission. I had some fun when the Feathergale Knights "air-dropped" the characters near the monastery, ordering them to jump before casting feather fall at the last possible moment.

The Sacred Stone Monastery is scaled for level 5 characters (my group was level 3), so I was a little concerned. After a few skirmishes in the darkened corridors of the monastery, the characters learned that the monks were led by a "prophet" named Marlos Urnrayle. They also met the lich Renwick Caradoon who asked them to retrieve his brother's remains from Summit Hall in exchange for a reward. The players chose not to return directly to Feathergale Spire as Thurl Merosska instructed, and instead they headed for Summit Hall with plans to stop at Rivergard Keep along the way.

My group climbed the wall of Rivergard Keep hoping to avoid the guards, and they made it into the courtyard before raising the alarm. With water cultists bearing down on them from all sides, they ducked into the Great Hall and barred the door. There they faced the bandit captain Jolliver Grimjaw in an exciting two-story combat. We also had fun with the surly teenage wannabe cultists, one of whom was slain by our paladin/child-murderer, which became a running joke for the rest of our campaign. Jolliver fled to the secret landing, and although the ghouls disrupted the pursuit, the wizard critically hit the bandit captain with a ray of frost as he swam away, turning him into a miniature iceberg. The current carried him away in plenty of time, and the characters escaped out the water gate under a volley of arrows.

After negotiating for the remains of Samular Caradoon at Summit Hall, the heroes set off for the monastery with a retinue of guards (actually, 2 knights and 4 guards). They dropped off the teenage water cultists in Womford and spent the night at the Bargewright Inn (skipped the side quest) along the way. Having rolled the random encounter Air Cult Scouts, I used the opportunity to remind the players that Thurl was not-so-patiently awaiting their return. After sneaking in the back door of the monastery, the party was discovered by a duergar patrol, and another battle royale ensued, with earth cultists seemingly pouring out of every doorway. In the end, Samular's remains were interred in the crypt, and Renwick handed over his amulet as a reward. On the lower level, the characters freed several slaves who informed them that the Mud Sorcerer was working for the earth cult.

On the way back to Red Larch, the party encountered air cultists locked in aerial battle with some aarakocra. They intervened on the bird-men's behalf, and the aarakocra confirmed that the aerial riders were in fact air cultists. The characters made a deal with the aarakocra to help them overthrow Feathergale Spire. Back at the inn in Red Larch, the party was mid-celebration when hell hounds crashed through the windows (another cult reprisal). Sadly, the innkeeper Kaylessa was killed during the attack, but the characters decided to continue running the inn in her absence. They recruited some help from the tavern across the street, which included the water cult spy Justran Daehl.

The following morning, the newly minted level 5 adventurers headed for Feathergale Spire and, with the help of the aarocokra, made quick work of the Feathergale Knights. One player tried (a few times) and failed to tame one of the hippogriff mounts, a difficult animal handling check made at disadvantage in my game. From the top of the spire, they saw smoke rising from Scarlet Moon Hall in the distance, where the fire cultists were hosting their own Burning Man festival. My group mostly bypassed the campers and snuck around back. The hell hounds were a clear sign of trouble with the ambush in Red Larch still a recent memory. Between the scaffolding (which I made sure to set on fire with hell hound breath) and the rampaging fire elemental, this was an amazing combat set on a fairly basic map.

So, with the last of the haunted keeps toppled, the party set their sites on the underground temples. Knifepoint Gully near Feathergale Spire was the only entrance that my group ignored. The aarakocra encouraged them to explore it further, but the Mud Sorcerer remained a high priority since two of the five characters had a personal vendetta with him. That meant another expedition into an area that was scaled a couple levels higher than the party.

In the next post, we find out how they fared!

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Updated September 11th, 2019 at 04:24 by leozelig

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