D&D Encounters: Princes of the Apocalypse (Episode 3.1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 27, 2015

princes-of-the-apocalypse-coverOur story picks up a few days following the events in the Tomb of Moving Stones. The PCs have once again proven to the people of Red Larch why they deserve the title of heroes. Following their subterranean adventures in the last session there were still some unanswered questions regarding what they found in the caverns. They also still had a score to settle with some of the local merchants who had sent the PCs into an ambush a few weeks before.

Unfortunately our story took a bit of a detour. We’ve done a great job of growing the public play program at our FLGS and we’ve expanded into three groups from two. One of the players from my group volunteered to step up and become the DM. He’s been doing a great job running D&D Expeditions adventures so we felt it was time to get him to be a full time D&D Encounters DM. He took over my table since he already knew all the players, their characters, and the intimate details of the story so far. That allowed me to take on the table of newbies.

This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto my table had five players. Three were new to D&D Encounters, one had played a single session a few weeks earlier, and one was a vet I borrowed from my old table for one session. The party shaped up like this: Elf Wizard (new), Human Fighter (new), Dragonborn Rogue (new), Dwarf Fighter – greatsword (one game), and Dwarf Fighter – hammer (veteran).

I decided to just start them at the beginning of episode 3 so that the tables all remained more or less at the same spot in the story. This meant I had to provide a quick recap of the important plot points and introduce the new players to Red Larch. I dropped most of the threads that my previous group left dangling to keep things as simple as possible.

The Missing Delegation

For simplicity, we said that the new party had recently arrived in Red Larch and they’d heard stories of the previous party’s accomplishments and good deeds. We also assumed that all the new characters knew each other so that we didn’t need to spend too much time getting to know everyone in-game.

The PCs were enjoying a meal and a few beverages at The Hem at High Sun (#3). Throughout the day they’d begun to hear rumours about a missing delegation from Miramar. Details were sparse, but as more travellers arrived in Red Larch throughout the day each brought new news of this missing group.

During the dinner rush three travellers entered the tavern. Based on their clothing it was clear they’d been travelling all day and that they were followers of Lathander. The three holy men grabbed the first open seat they could find and ordered a meal. The two Dwarven PCs decided to join them.

The Dwarves quickly learned that these were holy soldiers (devout Fighters, not Paladins) and they’d been working as caravan guards for a group that started out of Beliard. When asked about the missing delegation these men knew of the delegation but not that they were missing. They told the Dwarves they remembered someone from the delegation mentioning that they were headed to Summit Hall. The new friends exchanged stories of their glorious deeds and shared a few drinks.

The Human Fighter spent time looking for a lady who might provide him with companionship that night. Part of his quest for a lover involved listening to the ladies in the tavern to try and pick up on their interested and marital status. While eavesdropping on three women sharing a few glasses of wine he overheard one saying she was a rare book scholar and was asked to appraise some Dwarven tomes Gaelkur had acquired earlier that day. She had undervalued the books to make a quick profit and dupe Gaelkur.

For the new players I described Gaelkur as a really sleazy Rick from Pawn Stars and this woman was who he’d call whenever he said “I have a buddy who knows everything about old books.” It was clear she didn’t really care for Gaelkur but knew she could make easy money helping him. The Fighter returned to the party’s table and when the Dwarves returned he told them what he overheard.

The Wizard and Rogue tried interacting with the locals but had a hard time making friends and loosening lips. Bad rolls will have that effect. I had to remind the new players that their characters can’t be good at everything.

When the party regrouped they shared what they’d learned. The Dwarves and the Fighter went to talk to the three ladies. When they asked about the books the expert suggested her friends take the Human Fighter and Dwarf Fighter (greatsword) to the bar for shots so she could talk business with the Dwarf Fighter (hammer). The Human put the moves on the ladies and easily won over one of them. He wasted no time and invited her back to his room. They finished their shots and left.

It took some convincing, but eventually the book expert opened up to the Fighter as they bonded over a mutual dislike of Gaelkur. She explained that a merchant from Womford recently arrived in Red Larch with a dozen old Dwarven tomes. He sold Gaelkur six. She under-appraised them and then bought them from Gaelkur. The merchants still had six more books from the set and might be willing to sell them. For a price she agreed to point out the Womford merchants. The two Dwarves accompanied her across the street to The Swinging Sword (#2)

The interaction with the merchants at The Singing Sword went badly. The merchants were drunk on spirits they’d purchased with the money they’d made off the book sale. They hated Dwarves and refused to talk to the PCs. This led to a very short fight that ended with the leader getting dropped with one punch. When he awoke the Dwarves convinced him to sell them the remaining books. They also learned he got them from a shady keelboat skipper in Womford.

Back in the Helm at Highsun the remaining PCs learned that a reward was being offered for information about the missing delegation. They decided that they’d head out at first light to see what they could find. Their first stop would be Beliard.

Shallow Graves

The next morning the PCs headed north east through the Sumber Hills. A few miles out of Red Larch they came across four freshly dug graves just off the road. At first they weren’t sure if they should disturb the greaves. Eventually they decided to just dig up one. The corpse was a Human female warrior dressed in a red surcoat with a black axe. This was the symbol of Miramar. This woman was possibly affiliated with the delegation, perhaps a guard.

This was the nudge the PCs needed and they dug up all the other graves too. Next was a Human male in a white robe with feathers on the shoulders. They kept a feather. The third grave contained a Human male in a black cloak and adorned in strange rocky armor. The final grave had a Dwarf male dressed in fine clothing. The PCs easily identified the style as that popular in Miramar, indicating the Dwarf was likely an artisan of some kind.

All of the deceased were recently killed, in the last week or earlier. All were killed by arrows, while the man in white and the man with the strange armor also had slashing wounds likely from swords or axes. No other clues were discovered, just more questions. The PCs buried the corpses and continued onward.

Feathergale Spire

feathergale-spire-viewIn the distance the PCs could see a tall spire piercing the clear sky ahead. As they approached they realized it was a fortress of some kind, build on top of a solitary mountain of rock arising from the valley floor. Access to the spire was gained by a drawbridge that spanned the distance from the cliff edge to the spire’s gatehouse.

Circles of open stalls ringed the lowest level of the spire. Above each stall was a sculpture of a Hippogriff in flight. The PCs realized that flying mounts likely resided inside. In the distance they spotted two Giant Vultures circling the spire. Clearly there were riders controlling the birds.

The heroes rang a bell that was left hanging on a wooden post. The drawbridge was lowered and a Human woman named Savra came out to meet them. After a brief exchange of information the PCs were invited inside. Savra showed them around and answered their questions. The tour ended on the pinnacle, the top level of the Feathergale Spire.

Atop the spire an older Human male introduced himself to the PCs as Thurl Merosska, the commander of Feathergale Knights. He invited the PCs to stay as there was a celebration happening that very night at the spire. It was the Feathergale Society’s 10th anniversary and a great feast was being prepared. The PCs accepted the invitation.

During the feast the PCs heard more about the order and got to know some of the Feathergale Knight, most of them former Waterdeep Griffon riders or aspiring riders trying to better their animal handling under close supervision from experts. During the main course the doors to the great hall flew open and a sentry from the pinnacle shouted: “Manticore! It’s on the move!”

To be continued.

Thoughts

I was a bit hesitant to throw a random combat encounter at my new party since all but one of the PCs was level 1. I felt it was more important to get them into the story and try to figure out what’s going on with the Elemental Evil cultists. They’ll be in the thick of thing during the next session and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to fight monsters.

I want to again reiterate to anyone running this adventure at their own FLGS that the material provided in the Princes of the Apocalypse hardcover is different than what’s provided in the free PDF download. The PDF is a very bare-bone stripped down version of the full adventure. The DM’s job will be much easier if you have the hardcover. There is so much more information in there that makes the bigger picture a lot clearer. It also has additional hooks and side quests that can work really well when trying to get more information into the hands of the players.

One thing that I didn’t feel was done very well in either the PDF of hardcover was a strong motive for the PCs to investigate the missing delegation. I mean, I know they’re heroes and this kind of thing should be in their wheelhouse, but players want rewards and nothing’s provided. There are faction side quests associated with the missing delegation but with my table of new players none of them really knew about the factions so that was a bust. I had to eventually introduce a reward for information to get them interested and moving in the right direction. Perhaps I’ll spend some time talking about factions at the outset of the next session and then work in the side quests.

What motivated your party to leave Red Larch and go looking for the missing delegation? How much of what you learned in the Tomb of Moving Stones helped your decision?

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.

Actual Play Podcasts

Each week we record our D&D Encounters session and make it available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.


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