D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 53 Recap

We return to the Howling Caves, where the party has to stop one of their own from completing the elemental ritual!

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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

Sometimes you step out of your comfort zone and enter uncharted waters within a role-playing space. This week we attempted to spice up the story of elemental evil by having one of the PCs become corrupted by the elemental weapon she’d been wielding, ultimately acting as the Prophet of Air while the other three raced to stop her.

It was a neat idea but the execution left the rest of the party bewildered and hurt rather than excited at the prospect. They thought Miri was just straight-up betraying them.

I had previously established that the elemental prophet weapons were semi-sentient and definitely capable of having negative effects on those who wielded them. Miri had previously used and ultimately rejected Drown. But she was heedless with Windvane, having used it for quite some time. I had mostly forgotten about it, occasionally teasing the gossamer wings she’d grown and her haughty (haughtier) attitude.

But being so close to the wind node and having attuned to the weapon for so long compelled her to separate from the party about halfway through the dungeon.

The party first had to retrace their confusing steps from their first visit to the Howling Caves. This bugs me quite a bit about this campaign – backtracking through empty dungeons. I could just restock them but it feels like a waste of time, particularly after the cult leaders have been destroyed.

I was able to revisit the drow mage they had rescued, Balix, who had lost his partner somewhere in the caves. They found her in the Breathless Cave in N6 and definitely looted her nice pile of treasure. I had the mage return (using Greater Invisibility) and accost them. I was prepared for a fight but also willing to strike a deal. Balix wanted her loot back and he’d be on his way.

After some successful speech checks the party had to only give up one of the ruby daggers before he departed. At that point Miri quietly journeyed East towards N14 while the rest of the party explored south, visiting the Mushroom Forest (N9) and the Hero’s Tomb in the lake (N11-12).

princes-of-the-apocalypse-howling-caves-heros-tomb

As DM it’s tricky to handle a split party in a dungeon. You want to make sure everyone has an equal amount of “screen time” by swapping back and forth and taking turns. Combat is particularly tricky, since it slows the action down while still only lasting seconds in real time. Thankfully the black pudding in N16 didn’t last long, but it did give Miri a chance to role-play her way past the air priests in N18 and make it to the Air node.

She may have sold the evil-ness a bit too well when she warned the cultists to stop anyone who approached. And as DM I should have made it more clear that Windvane was having a very strong, possessive effect on her.

It did create some neat moments of tension as the players realized she was gone and raced toward the chasm in N14. They crossed using their Balloon Packs (I swear they’d already used them…) and Talus used a Fireball to kill all the cultists in N15.

princes-of-the-apocalypse-howling-caves-fireball

Given the unique time-frame and structure here I let them pass through N17 unmolested, and launched a surprise attack with the air priests in N18, firing off four Witch Bolts. Kalinaar would get pretty fucked up in these fights, sizzling from the black pudding and smoking from the electric lightning.

Miri was rolling WIS saves to break off from being forced into the ritual to summon Yan-C-Bin from the air portal. She role-played well so I had the myrmidon guards let her pass back and forth. She returned to the priest fight to help the party, but failed a WIS save to handle Windvane in combat against its fellow cultists.

She should have role-played her characters’ internal struggle a bit more, as both Talus and Kethra were keen on killing her right then and there. Only Kalinaar (ironically) urged clemency, believing her to be possessed or mind controlled. Tensions flared a bit here and I admit I was getting frustrated as well.

Miri returend to the air portal and she (briefly) resumed the ritual. Kalinaar thought to roll the fire orb in the middle of the room (“the nuclear option”) but opted to use his bead of Planar Ally to summon Tyr’s Avatar, giving the instructions to free Miri from the enchantment.

It was a good plan though I fear I weakened the spell a bit too much. I liked turning the avatar into a Shield Guardian that would obey any command, but it frankly pales in comparison to Talus’ spells. Specifically Bigby’s Hand, which was able to snatch Windvane from Miri and hurl it into the portal, destroying them both (not Miri, the portal and the weapon)!

princes-of-the-apocalypse-howling-caves-air-node

It was awesome, though it made the Planar Ally a waste. The air elemental myrmidons were attacking but fell swiftly to the party’s onslaught. The third elemental node was sealed. Ultimately whey it was far from perfect I liked the brief twist that forced one party member to antagonize the others. I think it made the otherwise half-empty dungeon a lot more interesting.

Three nodes down in as many weeks! The sprint at the end has been astonishing, though it helps when the party comes in and clears large swaths of the dungeons earlier. Only one node remains – the fire node. Kalinaar destroyed water, Miri earth, and now Talus with air – no pressure Kethra! We’ve never stepped foot within the fire temple or the final node dungeon. But first the party will reach their final level of the campaign right here at the end – level 11!

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Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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