D&D Encounters: Princes of the Apocalypse (Episode 2.1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 25, 2015

princes-of-the-apocalypse-coverIt’s been a few weeks since we last posted our D&D Encounters recaps. There were many contributing factors to the disruption including absent DMs, personal vacation, and real life conflicts with blog posting. However, we’re back on track now and plan to keep up the weekly posts as we have in the past. I realize that our adventures may be falling behind the pace of many other FLGS, but we hope you still find these reports entertaining, valuable, and helpful.

In order to get things back on track with our adventure recaps we’ll be posting three articles this week. Today is episode 2.1, Tuesday will be episode 2.2, and Wednesday will be episode 3.1. That will bring us back to even with our ongoing weekly adventures.

In episode 1 the PCs traveled to Red Larch and found ample opportunities to demonstrate their heroics. They stopped bandits who were attacking local caravans and freed an imprisoned bear in the process; they investigated reports of a Ghost who attacked a little girl and helped put a dutiful spirit to rest; and they travelled to Lance Rock where they battled numerous Zombies and killed an evil Necromancer.

As we began episode 2 the PCs had returned to Red Larch and were enjoying celebrity status as news of their deeds became common knowledge among the locals. During this session the party consisted of seven PCs: Goliath Bard, Elf Bard, Dwarf Fighter (Hammer), Dwarf Fighter (Sword & Long Bow), Half-Orc Druid/Barbarian, Human Sorcerer (Wild Magic), and Human Monk.

Spending Time in Red Larch

During episode 1 the players didn’t spend much time in Red Larch and didn’t really get a chance to meet very many of the locals. Many of the important plot points in episode 2 and episode 3 require the PCs to know some of the people and have a sense of who’s who. To remedy this problem I decided to let the players interact with the townsfolk for a while before proceeding to the next scripted encounters in the adventure.

During the next few days in town the PCs all did their own thing which allowed me to introduce them to numerous NPCs. During their battle with the Necromancer in episode 1.4 I described all the undead minions as having strange black oil oozing from their insides. The PCs carefully collected some of the oil and were determined to find its source.

The two Bards and the Wild Mage went to the Allfaiths Shrine (#1) to see if the priests there could help them identify the oil. The Cleric of Tempus on duty tried to help the PCs by performing various rituals and blessing upon the oils, but he was unsuccessful in identifying the substance.

The Druid continued to visit a nearby grove hoping for some sign that a fellow Druid or an Emerald Enclave emissary was in Red Larch. No sign yet so he returned to town to join the Fighter and Monk. The three PCs asked around and tried to find a good place to learn more about the strange occurrences happening around Red Larch. They were eventually directed to Gaelkur’s (#17). Gaelkur’s was a social hot spot where patrons could buy and trade goods, and have a cheap beverage with their friends.

When the three PCs approached Gaelkur’s they noticed someone inside flip the open sign to closed and the front door was closed and locked. They heard voiced inside, so clearly the shop wasn’t empty. When they knocked a voice told them Gaelkur’s was closed for a private function and to go away. The heroes wouldn’t take no for an answer so the smashed the front door demanding to see Gaelkur.

Gaelkur was extremely angry that the PCs smashed his front door and told someone to get the Constable. The PCs took everyone hostage and demanded that Gaelkur help them identify the black oil. He claimed to know what it was but refused to help in light of the situation. While the PCs were distracted a few hostages slipped out the back door. With the Constable likely on his way soon, the PCs left ample money to cover the broken door and stormed out of Gaelkur’s without answers.

The whole party returned to The Helm at Highsun (#3) to share a meal and figure out what to do next. During dinner a stranger approached them. He was a Dwarven Fighter (the new PC) who’d heard of the party’s recent deeds and wanted to join them. He offered information to demonstrate his worth. He’d been in Red Larch for a couple of weeks and observed the locals. He’d also befriended a young man who the PCs had learned was the town’s most well informed gossip-monger. They agreed to let the new guy join them.

It turned out that Gaelkur was a shady character who was known to buy and sell anything for a price. He was good at hiding his tracks and the Constable had never been able to prove any illicit activities. But everyone knew Gaelkur ran a black-market and would fence anything. This made the Goliath and Dwarf Fighter even angrier at the way Gaelkur treated them.

Later that day some the Druid returned to Gaelkur’s transformed into a common house cat. This let him get close enough to overhear a few choice things including something about “The Believers” and “The Delvers.” He also heard discussions about the PCs and concern that “they may discover it.” The Druid returned to the party to share what he’d learned.

By this time the PCs had met the gossip-monger, a youngster known as Gus. Gus was known around town as an information broker of sorts despite his homelessness. He’d relay messages and share information and stories for food, shelter, and even a hug on occasion. Most of the locals were sympathetic of his plight and felt sorry for him. They tried to help out when they could and had come to rely on his speedy message relays. The newest PC managed to convince his friend Gus to talk to the PCs.

Gus knew of the term The Believers but was having a hard time learning more. He felt that many members of the town were part of The Believers but he didn’t know who, aside from Gaelkur. Gus also secretly revealed to the Druid that he was part of the Emerald Enclave and often took refuge in the sacred grove near the town.

The heroes decided to get the Constable involved in their scuffle with Gaelkur (even though the PCs were the ones who caused all the friction). While looking for the Constable they encountered a couple of the deputies coming from Mellikho Stoneworks (#18). While talking to the deputies Gaelkur walked past them and into Mellikho’s. The deputies could sense the rage in the PCs and warned them not to do anything stupid.

The PCs waited for Gaelkur to leave so they could rough him up. The deputies realized this was likely the plan so they waited too. After about a half-hour Gaelkur and Mellikho both emerged. The deputies offered to walk Gaelkur home while Albaeri Mellikho invited the PCs inside for tea and cake. They reluctantly accepted her offer.

Albaeri apologized for her friend Gaelkur’s behaviour. She explained that he is quick to temper and was jealous of all the attention the PCs received latterly. While he was visiting before the heroes come inside, Gaelkur told Albaeri all about the mystery oil and even provided a map with the likely location of the source. He wanted her to give it to the PCs along with an apology for his behaviour earlier.

The PCs were concerned that this might be a trap but they felt they could trust Albaeri. They also felt that they had to follow-up on the off chance that it was true. They gathered their belongings and headed into the hills.

Finding the Source of the Oil

The map they were given was devoid of useful landmarks and the PCs spent six days travelling in the Sumber Hills looking for the source of the oil. They found nothing.

While setting up camp on the sixth day the PCs were approached by a lone traveller. He was wearing a strange cloak that was attached to his arms and legs. He told the PCs that they were not welcome in the Valley and that if they returned to Red Larch they’d never make it. They should head to Waterdeep or some other place. The PCs felt that they could easily take on one threatening NCP so they attacked him.

Before they could land a single blow or target him with a single spell, two more men appeared. They were invisible and hiding nearby. They blasted the PCs with Lightning Bolts, dropping the Goliath Bard and Dwarf Fighter (Hammer) quickly.

The battle was fierce. The villainous spellcasters cast Fly spells and took to the air. The new party member, the Dwarf Fighter, displayed remarkable accuracy with his longbow hitting every single target he shot at during the fight. The downed Dwarf showed incredible fortitude and rolled a 20 on his first death save to get himself back into the fight. The Goliath was revived by the other Bard and put his wrestling moves on display as he grappled the leader with the funny cloak.

The PCs took heavy damage and were almost defeated, but some great rolls by the PCs and amazing sharp-shooting by the archer allowed the heroes to emerge victorious. The Goliath claimed the Wingwear for himself remembering how much fun it was to fly in the Necromancer’s cave.

Based on how things turned out, the party was convinced they were set up. They headed back to Red Larch double-time ready to throttle Gaelkur and Mellikho.

To be continued.

Thoughts

I’m often unsure how sessions with extended role-playing and social interactions are received by the players. I know that many players enjoy the chance to do more than fighting, but I realize some players feel a bit lost without clearer direction in these cases. When I sense the players are getting frustrated or don’t know what to do next I usually try to put them in a position where they can roll dice. In this session I really needed the PCs to interact with key locals and they did. However, the players were overly aggressive for no good reason (in my opinion) and wouldn’t back down despite my attempts to inject rationalization and reason.

I knew I wanted the session to end with the NPCs sending the PCs out of town where they would be ambushed by some elemental cultists. In retrospect I’m not sure using air cultists was the right choice as they were a lot more powerful than I anticipated (Lightning Bolts will do that). In the end it accomplished what I wanted so it all worked out.

Shortly after this session I picked up the Princes of the Apocalypse hardcover adventure. When I read through it I was impressed. However, I was also frustrated. There was so much more in the hardcover than what was provided in the free PDF. A lot of the details I had to make up were right there in the hardcover. I guess I expected the section in the free PDF to be exactly what was in the book, much like it was for Hoard of the Dragon Queen. If I’d known how much more detail was in the hardcover I’d have bought it on day one and never have used the PDF.

How much time did your party spend in Red Larch getting to know the locals? How many other DMs out there are running from the hardcover vs. the PDF?

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Listen to Derek Myers, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (from 20ft Radius) recount our weekly experience at D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective tables and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.

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