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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!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

Our party finally makes it to Red Larch. The main adventure hook of the missing delegation begins, as well as hints and teases to troubles around the area, and within the town itself.

Dungeons are easy. Towns full of NPCs are hard. In terms of pure DM prepwork. Sure, I don’t have to align grids or create monster sheets or roll for hit points. Instead I have to perfectly layer in the story hooks, quests, and information available to the players. I can’t say too much so they have an opportunity to investigate on their own. But I have to say enough to get them invested and on the right track. It’s a tricky balance, and “Princes of the Apocalypse” is particularly open-ended when it comes to following leads and deciding where to go.

Red Larch is the Phandalin of this adventure. It’s a fleshed out town full of dozens of NPCs, business, and locations. For our previous adventure I highlighted which NPCs had information or a quest for our heroes – not unlike the floating yellow exclamation point that many RPGs use. I did a smiliar thing here, using a player map version of Red Larch and only annotating the important areas.

Since we’re starting at level 4, I’m omitting most of the newbie stuff, which also eliminates a good chunk of the NPCs. I know my players, and I know they are not interested in wandering around town striking up conversations with random people. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy role-playing, but they enjoy having a bit of guidance – me presenting them with a situation, rather than they exploring and seeking one out.

I also know that introducing a stream of NPCs with generic fantasy names and one sentence descriptions was not terribly memorable. I tried to incorporate the Game of Thrones style of consolidation – less characters (than the books), and make the ones you use more important. I think this served us well as I was able to concentrate on fewer characters to provide bigger swaths of information and dialogue. Namely – Lymmura at the shrine, Maegla at the clothiers, Endrith at the general store, and Kayelssa at the inn.

We actually had a bit of travel left before we reached Phandalin. As I mentioned in my previous recap, I created encounters rather than randomize them. Though I did base them on random encounters from the book. In this case, reaching the Sumber Hills triggered the Bandit Robber encounter.

PoTA bandit robbers

I had a lot of fun role-playing the smarmy highwaymen posing as local militia and rangers. I also made sure not to show the grid map until combat finally triggered. To my players’ credit, they tried bribing the bandits twice to avoid a confrontation. But the bandits wanted the contents of the wagon so badly. I also showed off the rock armor guards of the Black Earth, teasing one of the elemental cults.

I knew the PCs had two locations they wanted to visit to complete their current quests – Bethendur’s Storage and the Allfaiths Shrine. With the storage business I had a bit of fun, trying to charge the players rather than rewarding them as was promised by Gundren in Phandalin. Instead of arguing much, they agreed to simply sell the ore to Bethendur directly for a tidy sum. No persuasion checks required as I enjoyed this surprising outcome.

At the Allfaiths Shrine the PCs were set to drop off Sister Garaele. I made this a more interesting area by having the town responding to an earthquake at the quarry (the same quake caused a landslide for the PCs as they exited the hills). The clerics were busy healing the injured, and Kalinaar jumped in with some Lay on Hands to help out. Lymmura was grateful and told them about the missing delegation, the weird weather, and some shifty town elders.

Lymmura pointed them to the Clotheir’s across the street. Maegla and her husband are members of the Lord’s Alliance. She’s also the only NPC to get her own pic in the book, so I used her as my main quest-giver. She detailed the Missing Delegation, giving all the clues she knows and explaining the missing diplomats. The PCs were intrigued, especially as one of them has certain familial ties to the party’s monk, Miri. She also spoke of shifty town elders, and pointed the PCs to Kalyessa at the Inn.

Red Larch - Player edit

Having NPCs point to other NPCs helped guide the players to each area. Sister Garaele whispered to Talus that Endrith Vallivoe was a fellow Harper agent. He ran the general store on the South side of town, and the party briefly broke up as Talus went to speak with him. Endrith told Talus of the missing dwarven sage and his books from the delegation that need be recovered. Endrith had found what he thinks is one of the books (Talus, able to read Dwarvish, confirmed) and told Talus it had come from Womford.

At the inn the rest of the party talked to Kaylessa, asking about the weather and the missing delegation. A traveling priest overheard the conversation and admitted to being in Beliard about two weeks ago. He had definitely seen the large entourage of the delegation there, and was surprised they hadn’t arrived in Red Larch. I stressed and explained as much of the delegation’s purpose and size, and my players felt satisfied that this was an important, critical group of people they need to find.

We had gotten a bit of a late start and were approaching our cut off time, so nightfall at the inn made for a good stopping point. We ended up covering most of what Red Larch has to offer in terms of locations and NPCs – with one major exception that our heroes will discover next week!

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