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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” 

Here’s an interesting solution to making a lower-level dungeon a bit more difficult: have the PCs fight multiple rooms together, and without a proper rest! In this week’s session our heroes act on their new information gained from Aerisi’s note to Thurl, and end up in a giant battle royale with the Knights of the Feathergale Spire.

The Spire is an interesting set up. A small, multi-leveled dungeon offers some interesting perspectives for going room-to-room. The most important factor is that the knights are not initially hostile, and I further played with that by having the guard at the door, Savra, be an old childhood friend of Miri, the party’s runaway-from-home monk.

However, at the end of last week’s session Kethra did some snooping and found an incriminating letter in Thurl’s room. It spoke of a battle with a Black Earth Cult, and a captured prisoner – one that matches the description of one of the diplomats that went missing.

Armed with this information our heroes marched straight to the Pinnacle and accosted Thurl himself. The party’s emotional interrogation was awkward at best, including Thurl successfully resisting a Zone of Truth spell from Kalinaar. Coupled with Kalinaar drawing his sword and Miri kicking him toward the ledge, Thurl called the alarm and the fight was on!

I thought my players would attempt to use an element of surprise or subterfuge but instead went straight for the throat. Currently at the pinnacle were a pair of knights mounted on giant vultures, and I soon had two more knights arrive up the stairs. Thurl had sent one of them down during the interrogation with a “knowing glance” – which was prepping the knights to be vigilant in case of the PC’s shenanigans.

d&D Feathergale Knight Vulture

The pinnacle fight was a close one, as our heroes were still somewhat drained from the gnoll battle and manticore aerial hunt last week. I tried to play with the tower setting and have the knights cast Gust multiple times on a PC near the edge, but those pesky heroes kept making their saving throws.

Thurl is a beefy combatant and basically a low-level fighter-mage. Even with Misty Step helping him reposition, the party focused most of their attention on him, especially an enraged Miri. You see, I made that particular missing diplomat her mother, as she was from a noble family in Waterdeep.

Despite her rage she continued to role-play quite nicely, yelling at Thurl to give up the information upon raining blow after blow. Finally when he was at about 10% health I had him relent somewhat, teasing the spyglass and ordering them to stand down and leave the spire.

Kalinaar, of course, would have none of it and wanted to kill them all and burn the place to the ground. The rest were a bit more mollified, mostly as they were quite injured and drained – Talus had actually come close to death after some particularly vicious vulture strikes. Half the party needed to down some healing potions, and Kalinaar used the brief respite (I actually ended combat/initiative temporarily) to use Lay on Hands on himself.

Kalinaar tried to role-playing walking up and swiftly murdering Thurl, but I wasn’t quite prepared to let him just do that. Instead that act brought up an adjacent knight’s sword, and Thurl spit at them for being lying dogs. The fight was back on (“Damn it Kalinaar,” yelled the other beleaguered players, heh). Talus won the best initiative, and promptly killed Thurl in a volley of Magic Missiles.

Kalinaar remembered to blow his whistle the aarakocra gave him, summoning them to the pinnacle. I pictured them swooping in to save the day just when things got dire, but the timing ended up being awkward and a bit anticlimactic. During the RP-break, Kalinaar actively wondered where they were (I had to remind them that a single combat round is like 6 seconds), and then when they arrived next round, half the enemies had been slain.

Princes of the Apocalypse feathergale spire pinnacle

One of the knights had retreated down the stairs to warn the others, and the PCs briefly deliberated on what to do next – including possible flying down via the aarakocra and working their way up the tower. But since it’s all a central staircase, they correctly surmised that it wouldn’t make much difference.

There was some debate on whether they even needed to kill everyone, seeing as how they had already killed Thurl and gained some information. Miri tired to get Kalinaar to agree to leave them along if they didn’t attack them, creating a tense stalemate situation.

Savra greeted them with a contingent of knights, initiates, and an air monk (Hurricane) at the 2nd level – at least half a dozen foes. Miri tried to talk things out with Savra and ended up being partially successful, disarming her while she wrestled with the cult’s mental influence over her. I later had her flee down stairs and keep more reinforcements from coming up to flank the PCs.

The rest of the Feathergale residents were furious at the attack and death of their lord commander, and attacked. Both Kalinaar and Miri sustained heavy blows. That Guiding Wind ability from the Initiates proved quite useful, letting each of their dagger attacks hit their mark.

I got exactly one round out of my Hurricane – Gust of Wind, which was embarrassingly cut short after Miri used Water Whip for a One Hit Knock Out. Even Talus managed to crit with his Fire Bolt, which he misses with so often it’s become a running joke. We were laughing so hard after he effectively role-played his own surprise that he gained a point of Inspiration.

Note our expressions after that Crit Fire Bolt!
Note our expressions after that Crit Fire Bolt!

At this point our heroes were bleeding and drained quite badly. With no more forces coming up the stairs, they quickly piled up the bodies on the stairwell and settled in for a Short Rest to lick their wounds. An entire session of just two combat encounters. But they were big, tense, and fun action sequences filled with some nifty role-playing and dialogue.

Where the party goes from here is anyone’s guess, and I spent a good chunk of time off-stream explaining how “Princes of the Apocalypse” is quite open-ended in where the party can go. I use Roll20 Handouts to keep track of quests and missing people, including a note of all the clues the PCs have learned. I also warned them that it’s quite possible to stumble on dungeons or areas that are higher level than our party. While there’s a few things I can do to adjust the difficulty, it does get quite tricky. Thanks to this being our second campaign, our heroes are already 5th level, so that does give me some breathing room for tackling the rest of the initial adventure hooks.

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