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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

In some dungeon-crawling sessions we simply go room-to-room, slaying monsters and looting. The Action-RPG approach isn’t necessarily wrong – everyone plays D&D differently. Sometimes, however, your party stumbles into an area that’s way over their head, and the ensuing chaos can be just as fun as actual combat.

The party was on their third dungeon in a row, doing most of the air temple, running through almost half of the Fane, and emerging in the Water temple. It’s been hell on my prep work, but it also lead to some of our most memorable moments in the entire campaign.

The Cult of the Crushing Wave is home to the largest monster we’ve seen so far – a dragon turtle. Of course I was super excited to unleash this monstrosity, and the campaign book had several scenarios that Bronzefume could be utilized in.

Turns out, I wouldn’t need any of them. The party decided to jump into the river, and attempt to deal with a long series of Swim checks that lead them closer to the Market Hall/Docks area in the Southeast. I added some torches to the quay on the west side to help orient them a little better, but they spotted the glowing lights in the Western part of the lake. Like moths to the flame, they decided to investigate.

Well, turns out that’s exactly where Bronzefume makes her lair! Seeing some pesky intruders, I had her resurface in dramatic fashion. A Godzilla sound effect I found worked wonders in setting the growing dread of this massive creature emerging from the depths.

Talus levitated up to the ceiling and began investigating the luminescent lichen. Miri, Kalinaar, and Talus’ pet zombie were floundering in the water right next to the beast (and preparing to attack – until they saw its immense size). Kethra’s player was unfortunately running late, so I attempted a daring strategy that felt Kethra-esque. She stealthy swam over to the docks and attempted to snag the rowboat to help the others.


I was actually very worried about Bronzefume. I straight up told my players that this was the largest foe they’d ever faced – larger than the young green dragon that they had to parley with many moons ago in “The Lost Mine of Phandelver.” They got the hint – and really got the message when I unleashed her Steam Breath. Kalinaar and Miri are resistant to fire damage which helped ease the sting of the 15d6 attack. But, poor Tim the zombie was not. Bye Tim!

Miri and Kalinaar immediately swam for their lives into a Southern channel, while Talus threw down the glowing lichen to try and distract the dragon. I liked this idea, and had her respond with curious interest.

At this point the party was dangerously split. Kethra cast Disguise Self and got into a conversation with the cultists in the docking area. She learned about the gong that brings the dragon turtle over as the cult’s alarm system.

d&dDespite having the dragon retreat back to its lair, Kethra wanted to stir things up again by shooting the gong. She missed, but Talus’ magic missiles did not. The dragon turtle roared to life once again, heading to the docks. This let Miri and Kalinaar swim back up the channel and rejoin the rest of the party in Kethra’s boat.

Bronzefume killed a cultist in her attack before they could explain things to the annoyed dragon. A critical success Perception check from one of the cultists caused them to spot the party while they further attempted to distract the dragon. Bronzefume turned and we attempted a mini-chase sequence as she swam toward them while they rowed like hell up to the door they first came out of. I had them slam the door shut just as a bout of her steam breath slammed up against the door!

Truthfully I would’ve preferred the PCs continue in that path to the docks, but they kind of borked that up. Now they’ve alerted the temple to their presence. This time they took the door to the North, leading to a hallway and another room full of cultists.

There was nothing in this hallway so I decided to add a fun little trap. I’ve been really disappointed in the lack of traps, riddles, and puzzles in these dungeons. I find non-combat situations to be an interesting and fun breakup to the traditional dungeon crawl. And I thought I made a fun little floor puzzle with letters and pressure plates.

d&dAlas my players didn’t want anything to do with it. Kalinaar used his damn boots of jumping to leap across then climb to the ceiling and attach a rope. Everyone simply swung across Tarzan-style, and my heart sank a bit. Part of being a DM is learning to roll with the punches (or jumping boots as it were) but it definitely stings a bit to spend time prepping something only for it to be bypassed completely. Such is the nature of the tabletop game!

Here’s where things got super silly and fun. So up until now we’d had excitement and exploration, but little actual combat. The PCs listened at a door, and I had the door open right then. Hey, dungeons aren’t just static things waiting around for players to activate them!

The result was pretty funny. Kethra was still disguised as a cultist, trying to suss out information before slipping in behind while Miri tried to crush the newcomer’s face in. Kethra slammed the door shut behind her, and immediately blended in with the others. She did a fantastic job pretending to be a cultist, talking about the attackers and trying to relay information to the rest of the party. It ended up being really funny.

Things got even crazier when Kethra produced a vial of poison (from back when the water cultist spy tried to poison our heroes in Red Larch) and convinced the other cultists to imbibe her “Potion of Heroism.” A few Deception and Persuasion rolls later (and a Sleight of Hand for Kethra to pretend to drink it herself) and all three cultists drank it down. All three failed the CON saving throws and their low HP meant they were literally killed by the poison.


I don’t think we’ve every laughed so hard in our role-playing history. Kethra convinced (and in one case, basically bullied) cultists to perform suicide. It was crazy, darkly humorous, and a big reason why I love tabletop RPGs – your players will always surprise you! The two priests in the room could only stare in bafflement before they realized Kethra was an impostor. The rest of the party charged in and cut them down easily.

The room had some beds in it, so they settled in for a Short Rest. It was one of the most interesting sessions we’ve ever had, full of excitement and hilarity. I feel like now more than ever we’ve hit our stride with tabletop role-playing, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

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