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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

The tricky thing about side quests is that they’re technically optional. As a DM there’s a definite allure to creating an open-world filled with things to do. But I’m not exactly Bethesda or Rockstar. Creating or adapting content into Roll20 takes time – and anything my players choose not to do unfortunately becomes time wasted (although the way “Princes of the Apocalypse” is structured it’s not only possible but even emphasized that the PCs skip some of the main quest dungeons).

That hasn’t happened too much in our campaign. What does happen is my players putting off at least one side quest until much later, after they’d gained two more levels. The Vale of Dancing Waters side trek was designed for a 7th level party, and certainly meant to be tackled before their mishaps in Yartar last week.

I could’ve adjusted the self-contained encounters a bit to make them more challenging, but these side treks tend to lean easy anyway since the party is almost always fully-rested.

So they made it to the Shrine of Tender Oaths and kicked its ass – including some fun moments.

The rocky mountain path up to the dwarven shrine had a classic tripwire boulder trap set up. My players haven’t encountered very many traps in this adventure, and they tend to be surprised by them – much to my delight.

Kalinaar was charging forward and triggered the trap, though between his balloon pack and Miri’s monk ability to walk on walls, it wasn’t exactly a big hazard.

d&dWhat it does do is alert all the dwarves inside the shrine. The set up is that a renegade group of dwarves found a map to an old king’s palace, hidden somewhere in the Sumber Hills. The map shows an entrance could be found by digging in this shrine. The dwarves, lead by a rogue named Grumink and helped by an Oni named Obratu, slew all the clergy within the shrine and started digging.

When the PCs show up, the dwarves cease their digging and quickly don robes to try and pass off as a wedding. Thanks to Talus’ Arcane Eye reconnaissance, however, the PCs knew ahead of time that it was all a ruse. They played a long for a bit anyway but eventually a fight broke out.

I wasted no time trying to keep the Oni alive in the first fight with a bunch of CR 1/8 dwarf guards. I had it flee on its first turn while the guards were quickly slaughtered.

The shrine is a fairly small dungeon with only a few areas. The PCs found the bodies of the original shrine occupants, and went upstairs to meet with Grumink and the last of his crew.

The Oni is a capable spellcaster and wields a deadly glaive, while Grumink is an assassin with some impressive damage. Unfortunately I rolled abysmally, nary hitting anyone with his poisonous dagger. A Cone of Cold from Obratu did manage to kill a freshly animated Tim 5.0.


The fight was over almost as soon as it began. I replaced the battleaxe loot from the book with the oni’s glaive with the same power, knowing Kalinaar could use it to replace his lance.

I also decided to give the PCs some magical healing water as loot. I had mentioned when first giving the side quest that the shrine’s waters were blessed. They had found the offering bowl empty and Grumink had filled two water skins with the last of it. The PCs don’t know exactly what drinking the water will do, only that it’s beneficial. Mystery potion!

With the shrine done we’ve run most of the side treks I plan on tackling in this campaign. I don’t think I’ll add any more from outside sources, and there’s only one left that I want to look at which springs directly out of this one – the king’s palace that Grumink was looking for.

Turns out the maps were right about the palace but wrong about the location. In the end I’ll end up using half the printed side treks from the campaign book, and a few more from other sources.

I enjoy these side trek sojourns. But at this point we’re nearing the end game for the main quest. The PCs need to work to seal the nodes, defeat the final two prophets, and stop the impending cataclysm of Elemental Evil!

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