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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

I love writing, but I’m not an artist. I find building a map to be more of a chore than enjoyable. Using official campaigns and scenarios help immensely with my creative process – most of the maps are already created!

But as I mentioned in the last few weeks, I’m going a bit off-book with these current side treks.

In this session we finished up “The House of Reeds and Whispers” from Kobold Press’ Book of Lairs. Then we ventured to an old Temple of Tyr, which has recently become occupied. This mini-dungeon is from Nerzugal’s Dungeon Master Toolkit, and I had to build the map from scratch.

We’d left off just as our heroes entered the cellar to the mysterious collector’s house in the swamp. The source of the magical blood-draining reeds seemed to emanate from the back, behind a reed-curtain. I loved that one of my players continued to make reed-based jokes throughout the session.

“The House of Reeds and Whispers” has only two encounters, and we faced the first in our previous session. The fight in the cellar included several tiny plant creatures called Child of the Briar that were more nuisance than threat.

d&dThe real foes were the pair of Red Hag sisters. These creatures have a wicked claw attack, employ spells up to 4th level, and can turn on a powerful fluid-draining aura that lasts several rounds.

And of course I got my ass kicked.

PCs are much stronger in these side treks by simple virtue that they’re far more rested and prepared than a lengthy dungeon crawl. They only have to withstand maybe 2-3 fights before they get a chance to Long Rest again, so it’s easy to unleash abilities left and right.

And a hasted Kalinaar is fucking frightening – 91 damage in a single round! I though that was a new record, until Talus pointed out the time he knocked a manticore out of the sky and it fell like 100 feet to the ground.

The Hags’ Siphoning Aura was a nifty ability that did some constant damage to everyone, despite them frequently making the CON saves. I had barely enough time to try and cast Dispel Magic on Kalinaar’s Haste, only to have it Counterspell’d by Talus. Bye Hag!

Her sister didn’t fare any better. The fight is designed to stagger them, but that just made it way easier to gang up and defeat them one at a time. The PCs did take some severe damage from the auras, with Kethra having to retreat out of the Siphoning Aura range before falling.

The source of the reeds was discovered – an artifact that had been woven together with the Red Hag’s hair and some blood. This is a fairly powerful magical item that can create more Child of the Briars – but Miri instantly smashed it without even hesitating. I thought this was actually perfectly in line with her character, as someone that was being corrupted by Drown, only to finally reject it.

Plus anything that uses blood magic is probably Bad News. I hadn’t yet decided what repercussions using or even possessing such an artifact would bring, and now I don’t have to!


Unfortunately the final mini-story fell a little flat, and my players expressed their general confusion and dissatisfaction with the Hags’ motivation. In hindsight I should have included a bit more dialogue for them to spout during the fight, or left behind a journal or something – the classic DM exposition.

Their purpose (and existence) was meant to be a bit enigmatic. But I’m learning that my players aren’t exactly a fan of these kind of open-ended mysteries, and prefer clear payoffs. Duly noted!

After an easy Long Rest in Westbridge, the party headed out to Kryptgarden Forest, an unused part of the Princes of the Apocalypse map where I inserted the ruined Temple of Tyr.

d&dI adapted the “Ruins of Nehk’Talosh” dungeon from Nerzugal’s Dungeon Master Toolkit. It caught my eye because it specifically used followers of Tyr and Tyr-lore and weapons – perfect for Kalinaar! It was a simple bit of writing to convert them into defectors from the Knights of Samular.

After a random encounter with some Owlbears (which lead to the funny line by Talus, “Hey Kalinaar…are you fire resistant? FIREBALL!”) the party found the ancient temple and waltzed up to the entrance.

If you need to usher your PCs to be in a certain spot – use theatre of the mind rather than the tabletop map. I could tell my players were growing annoyed when I kept describing scenes and characters without showing them. We’ve relied on the Roll20 maps so much that doing anything without a map makes them anxious.

Of course the reason was because I planned on trapping them.

It’s a cheap DM move, and I should probably be thankful that the normal monkey wrench in my schemes – Kethra, was called away to work early on and was gone for most of the session.

I dumped them into a cell with a CR 7 Shield Guardian. The scenario in the .pdf lists this adventure for levels 4-5, so I had to scale it up. It used a modified version of the Shield Guardian to make it weaker. I simply used the real deal.


It wasn’t nearly enough, and I’m definitely learning that no matter how powerful something is, just having one foe is no match for a well-rested party (well, unless it’s a dragon turtle or something). Still, I had fun role-playing this robot-like creature in a cramped space.

Kalinaar was rewarded with a spiffy new weapon that he’ll need to identify. If the House of Reeds was for Talus, this dungeon is obviously built with our paladin/fighter in mind.

The party broke free using the Hammer of Justice and began to explore the temple. Talus used his Arcane Eye spell – his first useful divination spell, to scout ahead. They used the Immovable Rod on the door containing some knights and priests while ransacking the study for some spells.

We ended our session with the captors still trapped behind the door. What lies deeper within the temple? What source of power did the Ironsmith discover? Will Talus continue his reckless disregard for the safety of his teammates? Find out more next week!

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