D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 56 Recap

We survive a flameskull caucus, rescue some prisoners, cross a bridge of fire, and battle cultists within a shrine.

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Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

This week we delved further into what is easily one of the most well-designed dungeons of a very dungeon-heavy campaign. While the other three elemental dungeons do feature their own unique quirks and interesting layouts, too many of them simply look like the same caves the PCs have been trapsizing through for weeks. Earth and Air are particularly egregious.

I’m glad we saved the best for last. The Weeping Colossus is the shortest of the elemental node dungeons but packed with dangerous hazards, cool enemies, and tons of lava. This week our party made it from the first room to the final one in the span of a single session.

After the harrowing battle at the entrance last week our heroes hunkered down for a Short Rest in the tunnels. I rolled twice on the d20 encounter sheet, both times having nothing terrible occur, the lucky ducks.

Kalinaar explored the causeway to the East (W3-4) while Miri and Talus checked out the ledge in W2. Kethra’s player had to step away here, which may have changed things quite a bit. A gong lay near a large pit of lava, and the party stayed well clear of it. So far many of the dungeons have featured gongs, and they’ve all been bad. But what hero can resist a big red button? All the ones not named Kethra apparently.

Talus’ Passive Perception of 15 let him notice the hidden tunnel entrance to W5, the chamber of the skulls. I had a ton of fun with this encounter given our previous history with a flameskull in Wave Echo Cave. My player still talk about that difficult encounter, as their first meeting with a foe who could cast 3rd level spells.

When I saw that this room featured four flameskulls, I knew I had to bring it up. I decided to go pure comedy with it – all four skulls would talk to each other with various accents, remarking about the party as if they weren’t even there before launching into their attack (“We’ve wandered into the movie Labyrinth!”).

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First I let the party try to deal with the poisonous gases that filled the room. As a level 11 monk Miri was immune to poison, and was the only one that could be in there without taking damage. She tried to search around the niches but rolled hilariously bad at each Investigation attempt. I launched into my little role-playing scene and we rolled for initiative. I managed to go first with my four flameskulls and let the fire spells fly!

It was another interesting battle with a large environmental hazard in the middle. Only Miri could fight them in melee, but I was foolish and left two of them within 10 feet of the other tunnel, where Kalinaar could pull out a lance from relative safety.

I got some good licks in but the skulls have poor defenses, and even four of them is no match for a level 11 party. Miri smashed one of the skulls against the wall and threw it down a nearby hole, where she heard voices. She started to talk to them and realized they were prisoners (whom I had teased in my RP scene).

The four prisoners were Teresiel, the last of the delegation members, Kharloss and Jarlee, two Waterdhavian merchants, and Savra, Miri’s old friend and former Feathergale Knight (I replaced a random water cultist with her as a fun callback).

Initially they thought the prisoners were simply stuck down the hole, but their prison was a bit more advanced than that – they were in the middle of a ringed Wall of Fire. Attempting to escape (or going down to rescue them) would result in some nasty damage that would probably kill the prisoners. Even worse, the hole was outside the ring of fire.

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There was a lot of deliberation and strategizing on how to get them out. The easiest way is to simply cast Dispel Magic, one of the most basic Wizard spells. But apparently Talus doesn’t have it (and to be fair, has never really needed it before). They couldn’t fly in and grab them as the fire stretched to the ceiling. Kethra wanted to go down and scope it out, but I warned it looked very hot and uh, damage-y down there.

Finally Kalinaar decided to pull the emergency card and summon his Planar Ally, who has thus far been a huge disappointment. I’m not a big fan of any spell that requires several paragraphs to explain, then comes down to “the DM will figure it out.”

It was my last chance to make the Planar Ally useful, so I had him go down the hole and suck up all the flames like a vacuum. The prisoners ran up the rope before it exploded, reforming the wall of fire. No payment needed!

The prisoners grant a lot of XP for rescuing them, as well as Teresiel’s druid spells and knowledge of a small hidden caché of potions nearby. Teresiel used Cure Wounds to top off the party after their flameskull battle. The merchants wanted a personal escort back to town but the party (and the other two prisoners) knew the severity of the situation, and they had to press on to stop Vanifer and the ritual.

dndCrossing the bridge at W7 gave me a choice – harry the party with weakly thrown spear attacks from the Salamanders 30 feet below, or let them run across quickly?

Kethra made it across via stealth to check the bridge’s structure (never trust a bridge) and Miri found the stash of potions in the center column. As she crossed the rest of the way, she hissed at the agitated Fire Snakes swimming below, and their larger Salamander cousins rose up, spears pointed.

At that point I let the PCs simply run across and into the next room to avoid the fight – and they did just that. Without giving any time to think or plan I also let them get off a Surprise Round in the Fire Shrine (W8) as the three cultists still had their backs turned.

It was a useful round, as they were able to take out one of the priests before he was ever the wiser. However as the first of them charged in they saw another occupant – an Efreeti lounging in his room to the South (W9). The powerful fire genie joined the fray, summoning a Fire Elemental. Talus responded by Polymorphing Kalinaar into a T-Rex, Miri unleashed her Lighting Strike and Thunderclap attacks, and another epic battle was on!

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I had the Razerblast climb on top of Kalinaar and dig into the T-Rex body again and again, while the Efreeti also carved into it. By the end I went through all 150 HP the T-Rex form gave him – that’s a useful damn Polymorph! It helped split up the damage and Talus saved the rest of his spells.

The fire node dungeon will end up taking us a bit longer than I anticipated. Next week will for sure be our Grand Finale as the players look beyond into the final chamber. There will also be a full Recap episode the following week, as we openly talk about our year long-plus campaign and announce the plans for our next adventure!

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific!

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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