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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”
This week we continue cutting an effective swath through the Temple of the Black Earth. Dungeon crawling is what “Princes of the Apocalypse” does best, and I love when we get a chance to battle an encounter in a dangerous situation. This week: several bulettes in the middle of a giant chasm.
Whether the party decided to go North or South from their current position after the mud sorcerer in B8 would have greatly altered what would have happened this session. Since Kethra knew what was to the South – a chained up bulette, they decided to sneak their way down there.
Bulette’s have a high Passive Perception, and Kalinaar’s clunking armor woke it up while they scoped out the large chasm in B9. Sensing a distraction was needed, Talus uses his Pipe of Smoke Mephits and sicced them on the creature – who tore off its chains on my second STR check.
The party ran across the stepping stones across the chasm while the mephits did their job blinding the enraged beast. They made it halfway before they realized they were charging into another two bulettes at the Southern end of the hallway!
This was a fun moment, as the party found themselves in a tense situation. One of the bulettes made the STR check (the bottom two require a DC 20) and uses its Deadly Leap attack to throw itself at the edge of the chasm.
Unfortunately it landed on Miri and Kethra. Both of them made the saves and have Evasion, negating all 30+ damage. That ability comes into play very frequently and feels incredibly useful. The beast was quickly surrounded and taken down, while the second never could make its STR check to free itself.
The smoke mephits proved useful in distracting the original bulette to the North of the chasm, even as it began eating them one by one. Miri and Kethra took potshots with seeker darts and crossbow and Talus with his Firebolt to finally down it safely from afar.
I also had a bit of fun releasing the Swarm of Bats encounter in the middle of this fight, surrounding Talus while he remained on the larger standing rock in the chasm. He used Invisibility to try and evade them, forgetting for a moment that bats have echolocation! I did give them disadvantage, but it’s not like they’re particularly strong anyway.
The real MVP in this battle were Miri’s Seeker Darts, a unique weapon to “Princes of the Apocalypse” that she’d been holding onto for awhile. She used all of them in this encounter, but almost each one hit for 20+ damage while keeping her safely out of range.
Paths from here led West and South. The awkward thing about using a battle map on Roll20 is there’s no good way to disguise the edge of the map. I suppose I could always make the grid much larger than the map itself, but the maps are already crazy big as it is.
To keep the party from wandering off too much, I described how the hallway psychically changed, and even included the appropriate elemental symbols on the walls.
Technically the party could have gone this way, and might have found a part of the Water Temple they hadn’t seen yet (and I was prepared for that). But they knew their priority was to go down, so they headed West.
To the West was the lair of an Ettin. Up until now the party probably didn’t realize they are slightly over-leveled for this dungeon. The encounters they’ve faced are some of the strongest, and I piled a bunch of rooms together for the big battle two sessions ago.
Here was just a CR 4 creature in a room by itself. The two-headed ogre could’ve made for a funny conversation but I think the party was more willing to battle than talk. And I admit, I hadn’t done much prep work (holidays + illness, hence also a few days late on this week’s session).
Broog-Norb the Ettin went down in half a round, before I even got a chance to act. And I rolled a 19! I completely failed a STR save vs. Miri’s Fist of Unbroken Air, despite an excellent STR stat, and the rest was history.
From there the party headed Northwest into B13 with the pool. This area has four different paths to explore, and at this point I was really feeling bad that I hadn’t done my additional dialogue prep that I usually include. They’d made it much further into the dungeon than I anticipated.
I teased some anvil and hammering sounds from the door to the North, and Kethra opened it up and strutted inside. She was interested in forging a new weapon, or something.
The dao inside was having none of it, giving the universal gesture for “get the fuck out.” Kethra continued inside and picked up a hammer, prompting the attack.
The earth genie didn’t speak Common, but as one of my players pointed out, the air genie they worked with many sessions ago did (and now I realize the genies have the Tongues spell to solve this issue – oops!).
Well the dao doesn’t really have a side quest or anything going for it, and as I said, I didn’t do enough prep work to create an interesting scenario. A fight it is!
The dao is a powerful spellcaster with a mess of HP and a strong attack. I didn’t waste any time and summoned an earth elemental in the first round. One of my duergar went down fast from Miri, while Kethra let the other one live for several rounds while she sneaked in to attack the dao. Hilariously I got off some really solid damage with it, much to Miri’s chagrin.
The dao’s earth spells didn’t seem particularly powerful compared to its basic attacks – or maybe I just hadn’t studied them very much. At one point I used Wall of Stone to try and cut off Talus, but Concentration spells are pretty moot when the PCs have you surrounded.
The party took some hits and used more spells and abilities, but eventually the dao and the elemental went down. Kethra took the Claws of the Umber Hulk the dao had been working on and the party helped themselves to a collection of baubles and coins.
It was a solid, combat-filled session. The party never felt like they were ever in real danger, but they’ve certainly taken some deep hits and used many abilities. They had to Short Rest and the beginning of this session, and another Short Rest will probably soon follow.
Although at this point the party has also officially reached enough XP to reach level 10, they require a Long Rest to do so. Long Resting in the middle of a dungeon could prove difficult. We’ll see how the party wants to handle it next week!
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We did this dungeon a few weeks ago. My players were level 6.
When it started going bad for the Dao, she used her ability to move into stone to make her escape leaving the party to deal with the Earth Elemental.
She went to get the boss! (No spoilers). She is immune to his charm. So just as they were searching the room they all had to make perception checks. Those that beat the DC 12 check, noticed someone at the door. They did not expect to see him there. Those who made it all had some serious dice rolls. None failed. T’was a tense and awesome session.
Very cool, I love hearing these different stories!