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Blogging the Apocalypse - Part 4

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The party has dealt the cultists a serious blow by taking out the earth and water temples. But they are about to discover that the threat is far from over!

This post contains spoilers for the Wizards of the Coast adventure Princes of the Apocalypse...

You have been warned!

After some thrilling battles in the Temple of the Crushing Wave, the heroes return to Red Larch for some well-deserved rest. Early the next morning, they are awakened by a commotion in the street outside the inn as a group of air cultists activate a devastation orb, unleashing a violent storm. The cultists themselves are easily dispatched, but the storm cannot be averted. The inn is trashed, as is the rest of Red Larch. The half-orc fighter Wyk returned by a separate route (for reasons that escape me), and he rode into Red Larch at midday to find the town leveled. The module allows total flexibility regarding which elemental cult attacks, and I used this opportunity to "remind" my players that they walked away from the air cult to rescue the girl from Miraj and the earth cult. One of the great strengths of this adventure is how events can unfold very much in response to the heroes’ actions.

With Red Larch in ruins (and a giant tree crashed through the roof of their inn), the PCs headed for the air temple! Eerie tormented screams can be heard outside the temple entrance, echoing through the cavern. The heroes entered the gatehouse cautiously facing arrow slits from every angle, but then things got weird fast as they were recruited into the bard Windharrow's musical group and outfitted with cultist robes and bone flutes (pause for lewd humor). I portrayed the air cultists as bizarre and flighty, whereas the other cultists had a more sinister flavor. Having gained a few levels, the PCs easily slashed their way through the cultists' living quarters, rescued a few prisoners from the kenku, and met the enslaved djinni Ahtayir. I had a hard time getting my players to care much about the prisoners or the djinni, so we moved along at a steady pace. The adventure does seem to have more than a few NPCs who fail to generate much sympathy, but maybe that’s on me. Advancing on the pyramid, they battled with the wyvern rider Kaz, quickly surveyed the perimeter of the ziggurat, and wiped out the levitating cultists inside. The monk Vinchenzo sneaked upstairs and destroyed an ancient dwarven horn, thus freeing the djinni. He then rejoined the party who by this time had dropped into the Fane of the Eye.

The first excursion into the ancient drow temple was short. After fending off the harpies and pummeling the elemental myrmidon, we had an entertaining interaction with the ooze god Ghaunadaur. For some reason, my players really wanted that purple orb. Only the paladin resisted the urge and avoided being transformed into an ochre jelly. The warlock Haven was transformed twice, convinced that he had figured out a work-around! You can't predict these things, but that was one of the funniest parts of the adventure. In the temple proper, the heroes battled the air prophet Aerisi. She was not much of a challenge, so I did my best with my very limited time to play up her immature and petulant personality.

At this point, my players wanted some closure with the elemental temples, so they returned to the surface and headed for the fire temple. They were a little wary of leaving any loose threads after what happened in Red Larch. When they resurfaced, their aarakocra friends warned them that they had spotted fire cultists heading for Beliard. To condense the overland travel time, I allowed Wyk to finally train a hippogriff mount. He had been feeding them regularly for most of the adventure but was not having much luck with his animal handling rolls. He and Vinchenzo flew north and ambushed the fire cultists as they camped overnight outside of town. The party had stopped briefly in Beliard earlier in the adventure, but not until after the fate of the Mirabar delegation had been discovered. At that time, they also rescued some homesteaders fleeing an orc horde, setting up a potential future side quest. In Beliard, the wizard Grenlon attempted to get friendly with a tavern girl. We had some fun with that, and it provided the characters with at least a small personal connection with Beliard.

After saving Beliard from conflagration, the party infiltrated the fire temple. We had a crazy battle with a fire elemental outside of Scarlet Moon Hall earlier - probably one of most exciting of the adventure for me, but the fire cultists otherwise remained something of a mystery. The columned chamber near the entrance proved to be a much tougher (and fun) challenge than I anticipated, and the PCs dropped some hit points early. The characters disregarded the azers and salamanders in the prison block, which actually made the battle with the efreeti much more chaotic as azers and salamanders occasionally traded shots with each other (and the PCs and the efreeti), while the efreeti attempted a fighting retreat. My players were pleasantly confused by this. From there, they plowed through the rest of the temple, taking a few fireballs to the face courtesy of the eternal flame priests, but otherwise holding up rather well. I had high hopes for the chimera, but it ended up feeling a little tacked-on. No matter, the players were mostly just taking care of business at this point anyway...

Tune in next time as the party returns to the Fane of the Eye and faces their final showdown with the Mud Sorcerer!

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Updated October 19th, 2019 at 11:22 by leozelig



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