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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

Our heroes find themselves in the middle of a dungeon crawl of elemental evil. Due to the nature of “Princes of the Apocalypse,” they’re exploring a dungeon I don’t necessarily need or want them in, however. The solution? Give them a map with fairly obvious neon blinking arrows.

I’ve been known to pull out some DM cheats to get the players to go where I want. Directly railroading your players usually isn’t fun, but if your players are more frustrated than fascinated by directionless exploration (as mine are), it can be a useful tool to pull out a magically locked gate, or an incredibly useful map.

I had them find maps of both the current dungeon and the next one, the Fane of the Eye. They’d explored quite a bit of the Fane already, but hadn’t approached from the Earth side yet.

Meanwhile they were cutting a haphazard path through the Earth Temple. It was fun enough but with the prophet gone their main goal was simply getting down to the Fane, and from there start exploring the deeper Elemental Node dungeons.

I wanted to get them out of the Temple of the Black Earth ASAP, and the map pointed them the way directly. I did have an ambush set up in the guard house (B18) near the giant stone staircase. The party was forced to split up and rush down the hallways to engage the Black Earth Guards and Priest.


I got off some solid hits, nearly downing Miri who tanked three of the four Guards and the Priest. The party was already drained from their previous battles in the temple, and hunkered down for a Short Rest there in the bunkroom. I delighted that finally they were having to actually Short Rest and use their hit dice – and they hadn’t even made it to the Fane yet.

The map of the Fane told them approximately where each elemental node dungeon was located – though they’ve pretty much been to three of them already (only actually venturing inside the Air one, however). Ironically the NorthEast corner, the Earth domain, was the one least explored that they found themselves in now.

A nearby sarcophagus offered a helpful boon instead of a deadly trap for once, but only for Good-aligned heroes (F10). To the West lay an interesting crossroads – the fungal caves they had passed through before (heading West to East and eventually meeting the lizard dudes) lay to the South.

According to the map they could make it to either the Air or Water areas from there. To the West I teased some large, loud voices on the other side of a door, and they just couldn’t resist.

Inside a pair of Hill Giants were engaged in some Tic-Tac-Toe (F13). Some of my favorite encounters are when dangerous creatures engage the party in some fun role-playing moments. I was pleased that the party (well Kalinaar anyway) attempted to play along, accepting the challenge to play, and wagering for safe passage to the crystal caves beyond.


The giants accepted, and the party were unsure whether to throw the game or beat them. Kalinaar rolled a natural 1 on his INT check, which could have had interesting (and probably better) results. But they wanted to win, and he used a point of Inspiration to roll a natural 20! I let him use Deception to try and make it look like a tough, well-played win, but he rolled the internal DC I set for him, and kicked the giant’s ass.

The giants were of course infuriated and immediately attacked. I’ll go ahead and reveal to my players (since they read these recaps) that if you had accepted the loss and asked nicely, they probably would have taken the bet money and let you pass.

But humility is not in our heroes nature – kicking ass is. The giants went down alarmingly fast doing little damage, and the PCs didn’t really have to pull any strong abilities. Instead they get the treasure, the XP, and the path to the Earth node.

I’m leaving the order of tackling the final elemental dungeons completely up to my players. They may be able to guess by now the relative strength of the elemental cults (some are definitely stronger than others). But it’s also been a very long time since they were truly challenged by a tough fight.

The entrance to the Black Geode didn’t prove terribly difficult, thanks to some stellar stealth checks from Miri and Kethra sneaking up on the posted guards (G1). They nearly killed both opponents before the Earth Elementals erupted in the middle of the room.


Kalinaar was able to fear one of them with a Menacing Strike, and Talus cast Haste, turning the Paladin into an insane murder machine with half a dozen attacks (when Cleave goes off due to a crit). I think at one point he did 100 damage in a single round.

Even as much ass as they kicked, they still find their resources dwindling. They’re pretty much out of Hit Dice, low on spells, and they’ve reached enough XP for level 10 as soon as they Long Rest.

There will only be a few select safe areas within these dungeons that the party could even attempt a Long Rest – and certainly none in the final node areas. I’ll leave it up to my players to deliberate on where they are, and how they want to manage things going forward.

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