Thumbnail pic

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

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

A live DM can enhance a dungeon-crawling experience above a typical video game offering. The obvious example is a dungeon as a living ecosystem rather than a static area, waiting for the players to stumble into room-by-room.

In this week’s session our party cleaved a bloody path through the remainder of the Sacred Stone Monastery. They traveled West past the original entrance and worked a large circle through the kitchens, shrine, and courtyard in the North.

Last week they were quite proficient at stealthily ambushing the monks. This time when a wandering monk rounded a corner, Kalinaar charged him heedlessly, right in front of the barracks.

From the point the party arrived until now they’ve Long Rested once and Short Rested, so more than enough time has passed for the resident to realize the Umber Hulk trap failed, and this adventuring group is loose somewhere. However they don’t have access to the lich’s lair, and people don’t exactly have cell phones in this age. I had one monk cautiously searching the monastery after he didn’t see anyone else around, and he was quickly slain.

However the commotion caused the duergar in the nearby sleeping quarters to open their door and investigate, starting a large combat encounter. It grew even larger as some nearby sleeping monks woke up. Choosing when and where to call in reinforcements is a very tricky balancing act, as the duergar alone count as a Medium encounter for a foursome of level 5 adventurers. I staggered the monks’ entrance into the fight to allow them to properly wake up and assess the situation.

Princes of the Apocalypse monastery duergar

Having another door open with foes inside added a fun dynamic to an otherwise static fight. Talus launched a Hypnotic Gaze at the duergar, stunning two of them, while Kalinaar teleported inside with Misty Step. Miri and Kethra held off the remaining duergar and monks as they emerged, with Miri’s Patient Defense saving her life on multiple occasions.

I made a point to mention the boarded up window in the duergar’s barracks, and allowed my players to role Insight or History checks to try and hypothesize about duergar and sunlight. I teased that there was definitely something there, but they didn’t explore it until there was only one remaining.

Then they got a bit cruel and experimental on our lone duergar, torturing the poor fool by shattering the wood and even casting a Light spell right on top of him. It actually fits Talus’ personality to callously experiment on things (and people) so that awarded him a point of Inspiration!

The party was rewarded with a third empty barracks that contained the loot chest for Qarbo the Black Earth Priest – mostly spell scrolls and money. PCs get a ton of money and not much to spend it on, it seems. Maybe I need to introduce wandering merchants and interesting magical loot they can actually purchase. Hmmm.

The dining area to the North was empty. My players were filled with a bit of hubris from the last fight and Kalinaar began randomly smashing plates, which caused the monks in the kitchen to investigate. And more combat ensued! They were surprised that I reacted to them making noise, but let that be a lesson to them!

Of course the monks were no match for them. I did like that Miri took some initiative in disguising herself as a monk with the robes and mask they found in the barracks, and attempting to trick the monks. This tactic was especially used to draw out Qarbo and his Black Earth Guards out of the shrine and into the dining hall, where the PCs lay in waiting.

Stealth and ambush can be an awkward thing in D&D 5E and takes a bit of getting used to. Successfully using Stealth (beating out your opponent’s passive perception) grants you a free bonus turn at the start of combat. We organized it by letting the PCs take the Ready action, which is basically Overwatch in XCOM. That way they could stand on either side of a doorway and attack anyone that came through.

Black Earth GuardOnly Kethra and Miri got the proper checks to get off an attack and the Guards surged into the room. Qarbo cast Spider Climb to run along the walls inside, planning on laying waste to the pesky intruders. It was here that the change of location worked really well for the PCs, as he had to use his first critical action just getting into position.

Miri then used Water Whip at nearly full strength (expending I think 4 total Ki points) to deal 29 damage to him. He failed his DEX save but prevented his fall with his Unyielding trait. However, he was still concentrating on Spider Climb, and he failed that save as well. Thus he came crashing to the ground taking another 8 damage and landing prone. The Massive Damage (a rule we use from the Dungeon Master Guide) left him stunned and prone on the ground. Miri basically took him out in a single blow, holy crap!

The Guards proved slightly trickier as they’re just big and beefy, getting two attacks a round with some high AC and HP. Kalinaar took a particularly gruesome blow with a combination critical hit and second attack that hit him hard. Talus tried to use Charm Person at a higher level to get both of them, but targets gain advantage if they’re currently being attacked, which allowed both to make the save.

But with Qarbo down the Guards didn’t last too long, and the fight ended up being even easier than the duergar + monk battle earlier. It’s fun to see characters hit the nitrus like that on their abilities. While it’s a bummer when I don’t get to play with my toys as much, I know it’s empowering and fun for my players to show off their abilities and strengths like that. And that priest isn’t exactly a unique foe, anyway.

The party finished their giant circle of the monastery by heading out into the walled courtyard filled with gargoyle statues. Once again they were pretty foolhardy, with only Kalinaar casting Divine Sense (which doesn’t detect elemental-based foes). They went toward a door to the South and two gargoyles sprang to life.

GargoyleThe gargoyles ignored Miri since she was still dressed an Earth monk, but attacked the others. They’re basically slightly weaker versions of griffons, and despite their many wounds the party didn’t have much trouble with them. Kethra was glad she had that magic glowing dagger from the Tomb of Moving Stones to beat out their non-magical resistance, however.

And with that the monastery was cleared out. The party never went in the main entrance to the shrine (M8). They could tell the hallway was lined with gargoyle statues and decided to steer clear of it.

We discussed how they talked to Renwick the lich and told him of the monastery’s clearing, as well as returning to the prisoners in the basement and helping lead them out. Since some time had passed since they told them to stay put, I had half the prisoners escape on their own. Renwick was pleased with their actions and promised to keep the monastery clear. He also warned them of an ancient staircase in the basement that lead deeper into the ground, should the party want to venture there at some point.

All told the Sacred Stone Monastery took a little over three sessions to run through. It didn’t seem like a large dungeon but it was two stories and had a number of encounters. The party rescued Bruldenthar, a member of the delegation, and I awarded them 2000xp (as well as another 500 for freeing about half the slaves) for escorting everyone back to Red Larch. Bruldenthar begged the party to go to Rivergard Keep to retrieve his sacred texts he was traveling with, and added the location to their map.

The party also gained a mysterious blown glass air symbol key thingy from Hellenrae last week, as well as the key to the staircase in the basement of the monastery – so several avenues are open. And I may even open up a few more as they return to town….

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