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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” 

The aftermath of the scandalous town elder – secret cult revelation lead to some fun role-playing. Our heroes then leveled up to 5 and left Red Larch to follow one of their leads – some shallow graves near the mysterious white tower in the hills.

I’m never quite sure how a purely role-playing section is going to pan out. My players feel most comfortable rooting through dungeons and killing bad guys. Occasionally some big dialogue sessions can occur, and the enjoyment level seems to fluctuate depending on the mood of the table and the players’ interest levels in the NPCs and plot.

In this case my players got to be the triumphant heroes, having defeated Larrakh and exposed Red Larch’s town elders as a creepy, murderous cult.

Kalinaar immediately took an authoritative position and waved his Tyr flag around. Since the Knights of Samular are a major part of the Dessarin Valley, I had the town acquiesce to his leadership and rank (and the Constable was way over his head anyway).

I enjoyed how they handled Larrakh – a captive prisoner thanks to Talus. Talus secretively cast Charm Person, leading Larrkah to willingly give up information in a friendly manner. I did have to change and mostly dial back what he knew from the “Princes of the Apocalypse” book, as I wasn’t quite ready for my players to have that information, and I guess the book doesn’t account for the PCs taking him alive. I did give them one very important piece of information – the location of the Sacred Stone Monastery.

Kalinaar wanted to execute Larrakh there in front of the whole town but the rest of the party defended him, suggesting he go to Waterdeep to stand trial. Thanks to Larrakh’s cooperative mood, they won out, and Kalinaar stayed his hand. It was a very fun bit of role-playing. Moments where my players can RP without my direct involvement is definitely a treat for me.

Red-Larch pic

At this point the main campaign begins in earnest. The party has several clues and leads with which to track down the missing delegation. They went with the closest one – the shallow graves South of the white Spire near Red Larch.

The journey was less than a day and uneventful. At the graves my players were more bewildered and confused by the bodies and the pitched battle that had taken place. Just as they were scratching their heads about what to do, I unleashed an attack.

“Princes of the Apocalypse” has detailed reprisals, counter attacks, and random events to help fill the gaps between major events. In this case I used the Skyriders reprisal. I had teased the giant birds and mounted knights throughout the last few sessions, always hanging around in the air scouting the heroes.

However because everyone leveled up to five this session, I had to scale everything up a bit. The attack consisted of two Feathergale Knights mounted on two Giant Vultures. Each also had a second rider, two Hurricanes. They all had wingwear, and the plan was for the monks to fly down and engage while the knights threw spears and the vultures swooped in and out.

Princes of the Apocalypse Shallow Graves

It wasn’t meant to be a super difficult fight, and the party was fully rested. Even so I underestimated their ability to incapacitate their foes. Talus the wizard is especially keen on this tactic, picking up new 3rd level spells Counterspell and Hypnotic Pattern. Both would prove very useful.

I rolled pretty badly on initiative. The knights went early and ineffectively threw spears. Kalinaar used Abjure Enemy on one Vulure to reduce its speed to 0, and it crashed to the ground. Talus used Hypnotic Pattern on the other with the same effect. So much for aerial combat!

I had the knights roll Acrobatics checks to stay seated while the vultures crashed, and both rolled over 15. The Hurricanes went next and I had them unfurl the wingwear and glide in the middle of the fight, both of them unleashing Thunderwaves!

The first one I rolled near max damage, but Talus Counterspell’d it. Between Sleep and Hypnotic Pattern, the fight was over fairly quickly. Kethra was excited to loot the wingwear, and I had them find the map of Sighing Valley on one of the knights. Now the party had a way to get to the tower, and possibly some answers.

The fight wasn’t terribly damaging but it did drain Talus’ spells slots. I used the Sighing Valley map directly in Roll20, with each square representing about 250 feet. They couldn’t cross the river but they could either follow it North, or hug the canyon wall toward the spire. They opted to go toward the canyon to seek out shelter for a long rest.

I’d grabbed several battlemaps depending on where they went, and was prepared for the canyons. The party stumbled upon several Griffon nests, and the large creatures attacked! This was also not a particularly tough fight (Medium for four level 5’s) but the party was somewhat damaged and drained from the last one. In one strike thanks to a Crit and max damage, one griffon did 30 damage to Kalinaar, shocking everyone and nearly dropping him.

Princes of the Apocalypse Griffon Roost

My players had an odd strategy where they purposefully damaged all three of them equally instead of ganging up on them. Kalinaar got his vengeance in the end, killing two of them in one turn thanks to Cleave.  I love that my players feel stronger, but area also battling strong foes that make them nervous. I especially enjoyed when Talus opened with a level 2 sleep spell (rolling quite well), only to fight that Griffons generally have more than 45 hit points (their AC is terrible, however).

The party found shelter and were able to get a Long Rest and examine the wingwear. They were excited, though the limited charges put a damper on Kethra’s dreams of testing it out. I like the way the Valley is set up and hopefully my system of using it as an overland map works well as we make our way to the Spire next week.

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