D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 39 Recap

After a harrowing battle last week, the party accidentally delves further into the Drow caves and battles some minotaurs.

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Recorded Friday night, uploaded Saturday. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

We had a hell of a dramatic session last week. The second of four elemental prophets was defeated and one of the four delegates rescued in a night that included PC ooze transformation, a djinni granting a wish, and some fun personal heroics.

Like a TV show that just ran a jaw-dropping episode, I expected this week to be far more subdued. I had planned on including a massive info dump from the captive delegate, whom I totally replaced with Miri’s mom since she came from Waterdeep nobility (but was estranged from her family).

This session was anything but, as my players decided to inadvertently delve deeper into the Fane of the Eye, running into the Fire cult’s domain and some minotaur guards.

Upon rescuing her mother, Miri played it cool and hid her identity, so I skipped over the reunion and went right to the info. I played Mara like a very resourceful, clever captive that learned basically the entire main quest.

d&dShe had learned about the elemental nodes, the prophets and their weapons, and their shared visions. Most importantly, she knew that the weapons were the key to permanently sealing the nodes and stopping the rain of destruction that each cult raced towards.

This was a complete revelation to the party. Up until now they’ve just been battling the cults haphazardly, journeying through the rather confusing interlocking dungeons. We’re nearly 40 weeks in and just now learning the end game main quest! Now that’s a hefty campaign.

Now the PCs know they have to defeat the other two prophets, but also use the elemental weapons, get to the nodes, and seal them up. I strongly hinted, then pretty blatantly pointed out that the Howling Caves the party had previously emerged from contained the Air Node.

However, the party had been through a lot. Three straight sessions of combat encounters without so much as a Short Rest (I think?). Their resources were nearly completely drained and everyone had taken some heavy hits (though they did still have quite a few health potions). They’d also reached enough experience to reach level 9, but our house rules state that you must rest to officially level up.

minotaurI fully expected my players to completely retreat, rest, and level up after the Mara dialogue session. Hence the subdued, slower episode. Instead, they couldn’t resist journeying North out of the Altar room, and in doing so exploring deeper into the Fane of the Eye.

My players later admitted that they believed the caves would simply loop around – which is quite the gamble to make when you’re dragging along a bloody trail.

They found the drow coffin in F18 of the Fane of the Eye. It’s a simple trapped sarcophagus with a Glyph of Warding – which the party was able to find. Of course no self-respecting adventurer can leave a trapped chest alone, so Talus used his polymorphed zombie pet Tim the Ooze (new name: T’Ooze) to pry it open.

Unlike most AOE blasts from magical traps, this one summoned Mordenkainen’s Sword. The high level spell-sword doesn’t have AC or hit points, but it does have a hell of an attack, which took a solid chunk out of Kalinaar when he tried to charge into it. After a few rounds of trial and error, the party finally retreated to a safe distance, and the guardian sword eventually wore off. Nothing of value was left in the chest. Suckers!

Mara tried to encourage everyone to retreat back the way they came. I was actually a bit worried about my players given their low health and lack of spells/ki points. But journey onward they did, going through the inky veils (which constantly do damage) into F17.

At this point the party entered the Fire realm’s section of the Fane, complete with special fire cult minotaurs who posses a fire breath attack. Kalinaar was able to Bane and Fear one of them, while Talus still had an ace up his sleeve – a level 4 Polymorph spell. He used it on Kalinaar to turn him into a mother-fucking T-Rex.

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Well, that escalated quickly! My initial worry quickly wore off, though the battle triggers the next room over, containing even more minotaurs. Talus wisely stayed back while the fighters all moved up, preventing me from getting to Talus to turn off the giant fucking T-Rex. The minotaurs got in some solid hits, but the T-Rex adds over 100 hit points to absorb.

I teased more sounds and movement further North into the caves, but there are very few sentient creatures that would go anywhere near a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Kalinaar made sure to roar in their direction accordingly. With the minotaurs dead and the only paths leading North, the party finally decided they needed to pull back.

Lead by the T-Rex (and literally riding him at some point) the party trudged back out of the Fane, up the worm stairs into the air temple, and out into the Sighing Valley.

This campaign lends itself to a lot of awkward backtracking through empty dungeons, so I simply hand-wave through it and just describe the journey. They finally made camp in the Sighing Valley, ready to level up at the beginning of our next session.

The biggest surprise for me as a DM is how lost my players get. These are some fairly large dungeons, and the caverns are full of twists and turns. Dynamic Lighting makes navigation tricky. It’s funny for me since I see everything and all the paths seem so obvious. Maybe my players need to go back to sketching out maps on graph paper?

Still, even when stumbling into some moderately challenging battles, our heroes still find ways to succeed. I do think that this D&D day that’s lasted three sessions has been a record without even a Short Rest (pyramid fight, Vrock, air elemental, deep gnome specters, Nycaloth, air elemental myrmidon, Aerisi boss battle, minotaurs, and lots of traps that have done damage). That is damn impressive.

Recorded Friday night, uploaded Saturday. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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