D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 35 Recap

We battle the Ironsmith and his creations, then return to find Red Larch ablaze by fire cultists and a devastation orb ready to explode.

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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

“Princes of the Apocalypse” is a very lengthy campaign. We get together online to play for 2-3 hours once a week. A single large dungeon could easily last 10 hours – and the main story is essentially a series of dungeon crawls.

There are some nifty built-in side quests, but I ended up eliminating about half of them. With the main story already being beefy enough, I need side treks to really be worth our time.

I inserted a few dungeons and scenarios from other sources. I could tailor these experiences into our story and world – but more importantly, into the player characters and their own backstories.

This week we finished up at the ancient temple of Tyr, battling a renegade Tyr worshiper with a golem fetish – right up Kalinaar’s alley! Then we returned to Red Larch to find the fire cult ready to detonate a devastation orb, and Kethra’s former mentor Fengell ready to throw down once and for all.

d&dAs I mentioned last week, the temple is a mini-dungeon I found in Nerzugal’s DM Toolkit. I really liked the way it used a Frankenstein set-up for its end boss, while tying into an extreme view of Tyr and Justice.

Unfortunately the dungeon had two problems – no visual materials and it was designed for level 4-5 PCs.

Our heroes are level 8 so I had to scale up the dungeon. I still wanted to keep it small – three total encounters. But that also means the PCs are pretty well-rested for each encounter.

I added a pair of Knights with the two priests (who laughably went down in nearly a single round), and four Animated Armors and two Flying Swords to give the Ironsmith a small thematic army.

The Ironsmith uses the Helmed Horror stat block, so I turned him into a heavily armored, Iron Man-like dude. I role-played him as unhinged and obsessive, having found an ancient device that could be used to (forcibly) impose Tyr’s will.

An interesting twist in the fight is that the Ironsmith’s death triggers the Iron Golem awaiting the final soul. I enjoyed the mystery and magic built into the machine over two rooms, and tried to reflect that in my super simple Roll20 map – mapmaking is not my forté!

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I grappled with myself on whether to unleash the Iron Golem. Half the party immediately sensed the danger and went to attack the pillars surrounding the golem, while the other half cleaned up the Armors and Swords who still remained.

It took them two rounds to destroy one pillar. I should’ve launched the Iron Golem, but at that point it did feel like predictable cop-out. As a DM I do love launching my carefully scripted plans and become annoyed when they go awry – but it’s also no fun for PCs to figure something out, only to see the same results just because the DM wanted them to happen.

So instead I described a simple cutscene with the Golem coming to life only to fall down and be destroyed, since the final creation process was interrupted.

d&dBy the way, the Iron Golem is a CR 16 creature, putting it up there with the likes of the Dragon Turtle in the water temple my players ran from on two separate occasions.

That fight could’ve been interesting – possibly even deadly. But ultimately our time is limited, and I felt like the overall dungeon climaxed with the Ironsmith’s death, rather than linger with this second, far more difficult boss.

Besides, I had another fun event to get to.

“Princes of the Apocalypse” includes several triggered scenarios that occur at different intervals in the story. They really make the world feel alive, and create a sense of impending danger that the cults are wrecking upon the world (thus motivating our heroes to take care of business).

In this case I ran the “Reckless Hate” event at Red Larch. The seldom seen fire cult arrived with a small entourage to unleash a devastation orb – the same that had destroyed much of Womford in our campaign by the air cult.

I did let the PCs Short Rest before arriving into a Red Larch that was already burning. I also replaced one of the Eternal Flame Guardians with Fengell – Kethra’s former half-orc mentor. I previously used Fengell as a fire cult member at the Scarlet Moon Hall, but he had managed to get away, with, I admit, a bit of DM magic.

This time I built Fengell as a CR 8 Assassin, modified with Fire abilities instead of Poison. I neutered his fire ability down that of the Guardians, though, which I should have lowered his CR in response.

Ultimately it didn’t matter – I rolled so terribly I don’t think he was able to hit a single thing with his +6. Talus was able to shut down both my priest and flamewrath (the fire mage) three total times, allowing only one Fireball – which everyone saved against. It just wasn’t my night (cue tiny violin).

But the orb exploded. I secretly rolled for the countdown clock. Once they recovered it from the Priest, they seemingly forgot about it while battling the fire cultists. They didn’t know how to stop it, and the orb detonated. Instead of creating a massive fire-explosion, however, it temporarily unleashed a massive, and violent, weather change.

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For the next 24 hours in a 1 mile radius the area suffers Extreme Heat (as per the Dungeon Master’s Guide), creating highly damaging wildfires all around.

We were running late in our session so together we described the scene that unfolded, with our heroes running around trying to put out fires and saving people.

Many of the people were saved but the buildings were not. Only a few areas still remain in Red Larch, destroying much of the resources the PCs were benefiting from.

Red Larch was previously used as a refugee camp for people from Womford, and now most of Red Larch lay in ruins. The Dessarin Valley is not looking so good!

I like the dire situation this creates. It makes the world feel much more alive than say a dungeon-crawling video game. Hopefully our heroes can begin to discover the source of the orbs and put a stop to the cults before the entire valley is destroyed.

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

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

1 thought on “D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 35 Recap”

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