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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

We typically have our Dungeons & Dragons sessions filled with dungeon crawling and combat. But even the most video game-like D&D groups occasionally need a session to sell all their phat lootz.

With the heroes wanting to personally escrot the prisoners from the Sacred Stone Monastery to Red Larch, I decided it was a good time to provide them with ample options to spend their accumulated wealth.

D&D 5E solved the power-struggle quite elegantly with the Proficiency Bonus. The side effect is that magic items are no longer needed quite as much, and end up being more rare than ever before. Heroes still gain hundreds of gold after only a few sessions, however.

If you have a group that’s not particularly interested in the more esoteric role-playing side of RPGs, such as building castles or engaging in politics, it’s difficult to create a proper money sink. My personal solution was to allow them to purchase a few select magic items from their local Harper agent (Endrith Vallivoe), as well as potions of healing, greater healing, and even their own horses.

I used a combination of the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide to set prices and availability of the items. There were a little over half a dozen potions of greater healing and about a dozen potions of healing.

D&D horseEveryone could buy either a horse or warhorse, along with horse armor. I let my players name their horses, gave them their own NPC character sheets and tokens, and let them roll for hit points. They were all delighted by this new addition, though I do worry I may have added too much complexity with mounted combat. More on this later.

As for the magic items, I mostly used some Uncommon items listed in the DMG, along with a funny item of my creation that sadly went unwanted:

  • Pauldrons of Buoyancy – Striking yellow shoulderpads in the shape of a duck’s head with a fierce grimace. Grants advantage on Swim Checks and requires attunement.
  • Cloak of Protection – A fine blue hooded cloak with gold trim that always stays immaculately clean. Grants +1 AC, requires attunement.
  • Quiver of +1 Arrows – A leather quiver adorned with beads and feathers, full of 20 +1 arrows.
  • Eyes of Minute Seeing – pair of bronze glasses with red crystalline shards that fit over the eyes. Grants advantage on Investigation checks that rely on sight within melee range.
  • Keoghtom’s Ointment – Glass Jar containing five doses of a thick paste that smells of aloe. An action can be used to swallow or apply paste to the skin. Target receives 2d8+2 hit points and is cured of disease and poison.

My goal was to use mostly fun, utility items that where tailored to my party of heroes – a paladin, monk, rogue, and wizard. Uncommon Items are listed as being between 100 and 500gp, so I played with this and had the first person to inspect each item roll 50d10. Not exactly something that would be feasible in a real, physical setting!

The results ended up being quite average, with costs ranging from 254gp to 287. The PCs wanted to barter, however, and I let two of them sell their wingsuits, as well as Kalinaar’s Dragonguard he had found in Wave Echo Cave from the previous campaign. Using the DMG’s rules for selling items I had the sellers roll a d100 to determine how much Endrith would pay. Even at 1/4 to 1/2 cost they received hundreds – and in the case of Dragonguard – thousands of gold.

d&d cloak of protectionMiri bought the cloak, Kalinaar the ointment, and I knew Talus couldn’t resist spiffy crystal glasses. Kethra considered the quiver but ultimately passed. Three out of Four ain’t bad, and it seemed well-received.

Other than that I mostly treated Red Larch like a cutscene. I’ve learned from experience that this group doesn’t like to linger and explore a town unless there are clear reasons to. I mentioned the clean-up efforts from the sinkhole, the burning spire, the town’s political upheaval, and the worsening weather.

Most importantly, Endrith told them of another way they could get inside Rivergard Keep. I had used Brulendthar to emphasize the importance of traveling to the keep next, which introduces our third elemental evil faction. However to change things up and make it a bit more interesting, he revealed that Rivergard often resupplies via the Dessarin River at Womford. The PCs could commandeer a river boat and use it to sneak inside.

I spelled this all out for two reasons. One, my players seem reticent to tackle situations outside of the standard charge in and fight variety. Often they’ll discuss wild plans (usually involving Kethra’s insane machinations), but 9 times out of 10 vote for a straightforward assault. The keep is like a miniature castle, and a straight-forward assault could quickly become a slog of fights.

Two, introducing boats and a river instantly make for an interesting session. There are numerous possibilities for fun and inventive encounters on the river. It also makes for a spiffy rear-entrance if the PCs can pull it off.

I then panicked when the party all leaned toward the damn straightforward entrance on land. Now granted the overland path is much more straightforward – simply go back towards the monastery and a few more miles to the east is the keep and the river. Traveling down to Womford, however, is a solid day’s travel, then another day to travel up river. Plus, they’d all just bought horses and wanted to use them.

I already steer them quite a bit and I didn’t want to influence too much. But I would’ve been saddened to pass up the river opportunities. I assured them the horses could travel with them on a river boat and that finally won them over, as well as explaining the fortifications a keep was likely to have. All of this was technically through Endrith, but let’s face it – it’s the DM talking to the players.

I think for the most part my players have an understanding that if they follow along, fun will ensue. That being said, I do want to encourage them to seek slightly alternate routes and tactics to spice things up. I think we’ve hit a pretty good compromise thus far.

I also had a planned encounter on the way to Womford. Actually it was planned in case the PCs traveled to Beliard after the Spire, but it worked here just as well. I had a group of Crushing Wave Reavers and Bandits, lead by a Priest, in the middle of attacking a caravan.

crushing wave

The PCs rushed into battle. Kalinaar charged with his warhorse up a hill while Kethra and Miri sneaked around the side. Bandits are super weak and the PCs had the added benefit of NPC allies in the form of the surviving guards and caravan leader. It was here that I quickly realize the added mounts caused a lot of additional work on everyone’s part. Suddenly my PCs had to tackle using multiple character sheets – something I’ve taken for granted (Talus also gained a rat familiar in Red Larch, so he’s up to three sheets!).

I think everything worked out well, though the warhorse’s are decently strong, and Kethra and Kalinaar purchased top of the line horse armor for them. It wasn’t meant to be a difficult fight, but the PCs ended with nary a scratch on them.

The caravan leader paid them the dead guards’ wages. More importantly she pointed out the reason for their travel – the now dead Amnian merchant who was traveling to a gathering of druids. The merchant’s goods were marked with a strange elemental symbol that the PCs debated on. I added the location of Scarlet Moon Hall to their map, but noted that the gathering wouldn’t take place for a few more days. Rivergard Keep first!

The buying and selling of loot and horses in Red Larch took over half our time for the session, so we had to end it after saving the caravan. I’m stoked the PCs picked up on the river option and look forward to making it a memorable one!

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