D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 1 Recap

Part 1 of the party’s journey from Phandalin to Red Larch, where they meet Cragmaw riders, cursed skulls, and ominous weather.

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Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

After the events of our previous campaign “The Lost Mine of Phandelver,” the party receives a job to escort a wagon East to Red Larch. On the way they encounter a retaliatory strike by some Cragmaw Hobgoblins, experience strange weather patterns, and suffer fitful nightmares of elemental forces destroying the world.

If you want to learn about our cast of heroes, see this post from before our first adventure, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver.”

The logical next step after “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” was to select another official published adventure for our new campaign. I really enjoy having everything already organized and planned out, and especially official maps of dungeons. Since Phandelver only brought our heroes to level 4, I wanted to continue their journey. Out of all the official campaigns released thus far, “Princes of the Apocalypse” made the most sense to adapt it as a sequel to the events around Phandalin.

PotA Dessarin Valley mapBecause I’m adapting it as a sequel, I had to modify the beginning portions of the campaign. Our heroes begin in Phandalin and have to first make the long journey to Red Larch.

I gave them two of the adventure hooks suggested in the book – escort a wagon-load of ore from the mine, and accompany Sister Garaele. Both send them to Red Larch, but the journey should not be a simple quick montage.

There’s a huge list of random encounters presented in “Princes of the Apocalypse.” Instead of simply following the rules and rolling for a possible encounter every few steps, I chose to pre-determine when, where, and what an encounter would be. This allowed me to better tailor each situation and be far better prepared.

My players admitted they enjoyed the outside random encounters for the main reason that they could unleash everything, rather than having to mitigate their abilities like in the middle of a dungeon where resting is tough to come by. But I didn’t like whipping up purely random encounters and having to quickly shuffle over a generic map with tokens and rolling hit points. I found that having pre-determined encounters worked really well, and this session was praised for the interesting and more engaging encounters.

The first was a force of Hobgoblins mounted on Worgs, with a few wolves. They simply ran up behind the party and attacked, a retaliation strike force from the party’s previous invasion (and retreat) of their base in Cragmaw Castle. We hadn’t really done mounted combat before and for the purposes of this fight I simply treated them like separate entities. Thanks in part from a Level 2 Sleep spell the forces were easily dispatched.

PotA triboar trail combat

Not every encounter need be a hostile enemy force, and I decided to present the ominous, unnatural weather as a literal destructive force. As the party continued East they were assailed by a ferocious windstorm, requiring STR saving throws followed by Acrobatics check. Some of the party were knocked down, while Talus actually failed so badly he was flung into a tree. Most of them lost most of their rations in the process. Kalinaar was hilariously shaken up about it. It’s hard to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner to the wind.

In Triboar the party resupplied and met up with Dara Shendrel. My players enjoy having some direction when it comes to being in town, and I pointed them towards the Home of the Boars lodge as the only notable location. Lord Protector Shendrel talked with them of the mysterious weather they’ve been having, as well as some missing persons they should look out for.

Traveling South along The Long Road the party soon had to cross the Haunted Bridge in the Black Maw Bog. Talus rolled a crit on his History check so I gave them some fun information on the history of the bridge and its magical properties.

I decided to incorporate the Red Larch side trek The Last Laugh here at the Haunted Bridge. Kethra found the skull and the arrow, then hilariously handed it off to Talus via Mage Hand. Talus received the laughing skull vision, and I had the party get attacked by ghouls that night to show off its effects. Unfortunately between Sister Garaele’s Turn Undead and the general strength of our heroes, I barely had a chance to show their fear of Talus before they were overrun and defeated.

We ended our session just as our party reached Westbridge. We covered a ton of ground in one session and everyone praised the variety of encounters and the ominous foreboding of the weather. Excited to reach Red Larch next week and dive into the main story of our new campaign.

Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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