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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

When my players are roaming around the world trying to figure out where to go and what to do, I’m a nervous wreck. With dungeon crawls, however, I’m in my element. D&D has a lot of dungeon crawls, and “Princes of the Apocalypse” is no exception.

Each dungeon features some unique hooks, denizens, and geography. In the Sacred Stone Monastery it’s the nifty Umber Hulk trap I sprung last week. This week’s session was a bit less exciting. But I enjoyed my players’ nervously shuffling through the dark winding mines having been weakened and drained from the last battle.

The mines aren’t a terribly safe place to rest but my players needed a breather. Thankfully D&D 5E has the Short Rest mechanic, which seems designed explicitly to allow some mid-dungeon breaks without completely leaving and setting up tents.

I had a patrolling orog (slightly tougher orc) wander by but the PCs chose not to engage. Not every enemy sighting has to lead straight to combat, and I like giving my players as many options as possible – even if they simply choose the straightforward path most of the time.

The Sacred Stone Monastery’s basement is large but not very dense. There’s the Guardroom full of Jurth and friends, a crypt full of zombies, and the Umber Hulk. The book has a few tips for random encounters in the mines, but I didn’t want to over due it, given their already drained resources (thankfully Wizards get a few spell slots back after a Short Rest).

I decided to plug in the Violet Fungus as a fun little encounter, as they hadn’t fought anything like a sentient mushroom before. I clearly telegraphed the purple mushrooms on the map, and even had some nearby enslaved mine workers warn them. The prisoners gave them some info on the guards and captors, and the PCs told them to sit tight. My players are nothing if not practical, even if Kethra and Kalinaar both get them in trouble in their own ways.

OrogThey decided to avoid the crypt for now, especially after Kalinaar used Divine Sense to detect the presence of Undead. They deduced that the guardroom was in the middle, as the guards made a bit of noise. In the Southeast they found the Slave Pens, including one important piece of the main plot puzzle – Bruldenthar, the dwarven sage from Mirabar and one of the four missing delegation members.

The dwarf was able to relay a lot of important information including the delegation’s attack, their capture, the river pirates, Rivergard Keep, and the battle that caused the shallow graves the PCs found a few sessions back.

Armed with this information I went ahead and added Rivergard Keep to their map. They’ve basically bypassed the need to actually hunt after the delegation’s ambush site, which is perfectly fine. It’s important to note that the PCs are currently level 5, so skipping some lower level content or investigations works well. In fact they’ll probably reach level 6 after the monastery’s cleared.

That being said I definitely hope they head to Rivergard Keep next, given that it’s technically easier level-wise than Sacred Stone Monastery. I tried to push the importance of the lost books that Bruldenthar said was given to the pirates, as well as teasing that they were no ordinary pirates.

Once again they told the prisoners to sit tight, though I had a bit of fun with this scene. There are over a dozen prisoners and despite Kalinaar’s bellowing I had two of them try to just make a run for it. He had to physically tackle one and bring him back. Kalinaar loves his manacles and used them to shackle some prisoners together.

Things got a little goofy and fun as the others joined in using minor cantrips to try and remove the shackles, shackle other prisoners together, or otherwise distract Kalinaar’s rough treatment. I had Bruldenthar huff and remark, “These aren’t the heroes we deserve, but they are the ones we need.”

Another role-playing scene unraveled as the party entered the guardroom rather peacefully. Kalinaar wanted to break down the door, expecting immediate combat. He rolled an 11 so I had the door gingerly open normally. Jurth, the orog guard captain, barked out about the pass sign. The PCs sat there dumbfounded before someone (Talus I think) randomly made the earth cult sign. Jurth nodded and the scene unfolded into an awkward, sometimes tense dialogue session.

I sensed my players were completely caught off guard by the orogs’ willingness to talk. Kalinaar did a good job not technically lying but also trying to split the guards apart for an easier kill. He told them that something killed their prized Umber Hulk. I let one orog go investigate but the party didn’t capitalize, and he returned.

A few Persuasion and Charisma checks later and Jurth agrees to send an orog to escort the party up the stairs back to the monastery. Once the party reached the top of the stairs, they opened combat, quickly killing the poor henchman before Jurth and his ogre pet could respond.

princes of the apocalypse sacred stone monastery basement

I don’t think I’ve ever rolled so terribly in my life. Literally every single hit with the orogs and the ogre were a miss. Dice combat is funny that way, and it ended up being a trivial battle.  The PCs found the keys, some nice coinage loot, and a unique little treasure item I whipped up – a magical self-sustaining potted plant that casts Goodberry once per day.

This party is perpetually low on healing options (Kalinaar’s Lay on Hands is about it) so I don’t mind adding in a few potions of healing now and then, and something like this that could help them during a long dungeon crawl. I was hoping one of them would treat it reverently like in Leon the Professional, but instead Talus handed it off to Droop – a funny almost nonentity that still follows Talus around and is mentioned about once per session.

With nary a scratch suffered the party returned to the crypt. I modified things a bit here. Since I used a magical lock to seal the air temple (a total cop-out, I know) I didn’t want to do that here, as I want my players to meet [redacted].

Instead I put a dangerous Glyph of Warding there, and even gave out its details thanks to Talus rolling a 20 on Arcana check. Kalinaar saw a tomb that was meant for Samular Caradoon – the founder of his old Paladin order. The tomb lay ominously empty. Despite the warnings of Undead the party sauntered into the crypt and the zombies shambled to un-life.

princes of the apocalypse sacred stone monastery crypt

Half a dozen zombies is little match for four level 5 PCs. However, Talus absolutely shocked me when he decided to use Mage Hand to trigger the trap!

I had the glyph infused with a Cloudkill spell as it seemed appropriate as a defense mechanism. More deliciously, zombies are immune to poison! This easy fight instantly turned far more interesting and challenging, as the PCs suddenly had to maneuver out of the way of the deadly poisonous gas as it seeped toward the North and West. At least two of them took the full brunt of the poison damage (lucky for them I rolled terribly for damage, 14 on a freaking 5d8), as well as some Attacks of Opportunity from the zombies as they fled its large area.

It was a pretty funny “ruh-roh” moment for Talus. Zombies make for fun meat walls with their Undead Fortitude but by themselves they prove little trouble. The party took some hits but the cloud seeped west and all was well.

I’m very excited for next week as I’m really looking forward to an intriguing role-playing session with [redacted], especially with Kalinaar and Talus. I also expect we’ll clean up more of the monastery proper, as the basement is pretty much done.

Recorded every Sunday night, uploaded on Mondays. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!