Recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

RPG groups can range from die-hard role-players with nary a dice roll to hardcore combat aficionados where story is merely an excuse to fight monsters. My group definitely veers closer to the latter camp. They enjoy a good story and fun character-focused moments, but in the end it’s all about the battles. So it was very unusual this week that we barely had any combat at all.

This week the PCs traveled around and completed three side quests before finally delving back into the elemental dungeons. Two of the quests had technically already been completed – the shrine last week and the renegade paladins from a few weeks ago. But the third required a trip to Summit Hall, which I set up as a role-playing scenario.

I let the role-playing spill over into their overland travel as well. The PCs have been utilizing their Bead of Windwalking to travel around, but I don’t want them to just Long Rest everywhere and abuse it.

d&dThey were setting up a rather funny scenario in crossing the Dessarin River. It involved Kethra casting Alter Self to gain aquatic swimming, and the others lashing a crudely-built raft while she pulled them.

I didn’t really have any rules for this so I winged it with a few rolls and enjoyed the moment. I definitely want to reward outside-the-box thinking in non-combat situations, so they crossed successfully.

On the East bank I showed them the remains of the delegation ambush, and revealed that it was one possible path to the opening salvo of the entire adventure, had they chosen to go this way. Originally I had some ideas for events at this spot, but decided to keep them for possible future adventures. For now it was just a grim reminder of the cult’s power.

Along the road South the PCs met with some of the Knights of Samular, and Kalinaar flexed his reputation as a former member. They escorted the party all the way to Lady Ushien Stormbanner, where they reported on their success with the cults.

Ushien was thankful but implacable. The knights had plenty to deal with. Enemy forces were not sitting idly by while the elemental cults grew in power and threatened the land.

Mostly it was a fun excuse for her and Kalinaar to argue. It grew even more enjoyable when Kalinaar awkwardly tried to convince them to hand over the body of Samular Caradoon – their most revered patron and post-humus founder of their order – so that he can fulfill the wishes of Samular’s brother who’s now a lich.

The reactions and dialogue were hilarious and fun. It was a nice moment, though not everyone in my group enjoys a heavy amount of role-playing. To lighten up the mood (and give them an out since the conversation was ultimately going nowhere), Kethra was able to sneak out and find the body below the main hall. With a few sneaky rolls and Talus’ Bag of Holding she was able to do a little grave-robbing while the knights were none the wiser.

Their conversation at a stalemate, Kalinaar finally did the equivalent of Cartman’s “Screw you guys, I’m going home,” only with a bit more growling. When they left, Kethra told them to pick up the pace as she was able to acquire the remains of the holy warrior. They returned to the Sacred Stone Monastery and the lich having told the Knights about said lich and of their desire for Samular’s bones, which could lead to some interesting ramifications.

Renwick the lich was pleased with their success. It marked a big personal milestone for Kalinaar, who once again pledged his service. It’s a fun bit of character-building, and it’s natural that much of my original role-playing content is focused on the group’s best role-player. Everyone earned an extra point of inspiration for doing a bad thing for the right reasons. I think.

We did get a bit of combat in towards the end. With every other loose end dealt with the party finally returned to the labyrinthine, inter-connected elemental dungeons. There was a staircase leading downward within the monastery, so my players started there.


They ended up in the first room (B1) of the Temple of the Black Earth. I warned/reminded them that they’ve learned the prophets have most likely retreated deeper to their respective elemental nodes, and that all the dungeons are connected to each other.

A trio of gargoyles guards a stone bridge in the middle of a giant chasm and Talus couldn’t help but launch Hypnotic Pattern, hoping to repeat the falling damage death of the manticore many months ago. It worked on one of them, shattering it as it fell to the jagged rocks below. The rest were beaten into submission, including Miri using her monk wall-walking powers to gain flanking bonuses.

I can breathe a little easier now that the party is firmly within another dungeon. Planning is a lot smoother when I can look ahead to single rooms, rather than entire scenarios and events. The way the campaign is designed we tend to bulk the side quests together and tackle them over the course of several weeks. It’s fun, but a hell of a lot more work on my end!

Now it’s a not-so-straight shot to the endgame. But there’s still plenty of danger waiting to be found.

Recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!