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

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

The unexpected can make for some supremely fun and memorable moments in tabletop role-playing. It’s a two-way street. Players often do things that will take me completely by surprise, and part of the DM’s skillbook is how to react to that. Sometimes though, I can throw a fun monkey wrench at my players and watch events unfold exactly as planned – like Renwick the friendly lich.

This week my players had finished mopping up the Sacred Stone Monastery basement, and were intrigued about a well guarded door in the crypt. Having fought the zombie guards and survived the Cloudkill glyph, they prepared for a tough battle. They opened the door and were surprised to find stairs that lead back up to the monastery.

Inside was a lich. Renwick is a few centuries old and has a neat backstory involving the creation of the paladin order that Kalinaar once ascribed too – the Knights of Samular.

Weaving a player character’s background into the adventure is a very satisfying result, and something I’ve really worked on for “Princes of the Apocalypse.” Talus received portent visions of doom that helped lead them here. One of the captured delegates is Miri’s noble mother. And now Kalinaar has to wrestle with the implications of a lich who still believes in Tyr and his paladin order (don’t worry Kethra, your time will come soon).

RenwickThe exchange went off perfectly. I telegraphed the lich’s quiet power as well as the plate armor of the order he still bore. He was agreeable and forthcoming once he realized the party wasn’t with the earth cult. Kalinaar went through a satisfying crises of faith. He ultimately was warmed over the lich’s Wise Man demeanor, and admitted his own dissatisfaction with the knight’s bureaucracy.

One important piece of advice I read about DMing is to give each important NPC a goal or desire. Not everyone has to have a major quest but if I bother including anyone in the adventure, they should have something important to say and a reason for existing.

In Renwick’s case, it was his brother’s remains. He had built a tomb for Samular and hoped to convert the entire monastery into a shrine and pilgrimage site for his beloved brother. Kalinaar had a few reasonable questions and doubts but soon sided with the lich. Especially after Renwick agreed to share some of his treasure up front with the party. Nothing says loyalty and friendship like sweet, sweet loot!

I couldn’t quite hand out awesome stuff to everyone but came pretty close. Kalinaar received an Amulet of Health – a huge boost to his stats that raised his CON from 12 to 19 – another 15 hit points at level 5! The party received a Wand of Magic Missiles that was briefly fought over but ultimately lovingly embraced by Talus the wizard. Some scrolls and potions were greedily gobbled up as well. The lich also offered his backroom for a safe long rest.

I had a lot of fun role-playing this ancient creature and the party was relieved to find a friendly face in the middle of this decently-sized dungeon – even a skeletal one. I’m very glad this sequence was at the beginning of a session instead of the end so I didn’t feel like we had to rush through it.

princes of the apocalypse sacred stone monastery combat

After the Long Rest the party dove into the rest of the Monastery. By now our heroes had gone through 3 Short Rests and 1 Long Rest since they were first sent down with the Umber Hulk. No doubt the monks should have realized the creature lay dead and the party free, but they still wouldn’t venture anywhere near the lich, and the mines are quite large.

I had a few patrolling guards in the hallways to reflect the high alert status of the monastery. The party played it pretty well, setting up ambushes and taking monks by surprise. But fighting in a hallway inevitably leads to at least some noise, and Hellenrae’s dojo was alerted. They spilled out into the hallway and created the most difficult fight of the night.

The Sacred Stone monks are basically just low-level player monks, but Hellenrae is a force to be reckoned with. She’s technically the boss of the dungeon, although not at all chatty. I described her like Daredevil – blind but totally badass. She proceeded to nearly pummel Kalinaar to death – he needed every bit of those extra hit points to stay on his feet!

They key maneuver was a Charm Person spell from Talus. I really like the way his wizard is played – always thinking outside the box and making each fight interesting and varied with stuns, sleeps, and other distractions. He’d yet to use Charm Person in combat and he was able to grab one of the monks.

Now I may have been a bit too generous by how much this monk was willing to quickly change sides and attack his former comrades, but it made for a fun moment and my players really enjoyed it – and ultimately that’s what role-playing is about.

Everyone was cheering as “Larry” dealt the killing blow to Hellenrae, after Talus unleashed the full might of the Wand of Magic Missiles at her. They cleverly used their temporary new friend as a font of information: relaying the layout of the monastery and its guards, as well as using him to bait others out of the room where our heroes could jump them. It was a winning strategy and the next several rooms of monks proved little challenge.

sacred stone monks

We made it about halfway through the Monastery. The total death tally was 12 monks and 1 monk boss. Both frontline fighters had to use the health potions they’d received from Renwick, and Kalinaar had to use Lay on Hands. It’s tricky finding that perfect challenge level but I think we hit it this week.

We should be able to clear out the rest of the Sacred Stone Monastery next week. The party has acquired Hellenrae’s keys, as well as a special glass contraption in the shape of the air cult. Many more paths await our heroes. Though with Kalinaar so starry-eyed over his new lich buddy (“hey guys we can feed these monks’ souls to Renwick!”) they may just stay and help with renovations.

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