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Monday, April 27, 2015

Elemental Evil - A Guide to Princes of the Apocalypse

This page is what will hopefully be a useful guide for Dungeon Masters running the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition adventure Princes of the Apocalypse.

I will be updating this page often as I run the adventure for my group, just like I did with my Tyranny of Dragons guide. There will likely be mistakes and errors, so please bear with me.

This has tons of spoilers, so players please keep out. Feel free to email me with links or ideas.

http://www.dmsguild.com/product/188187/A-Guide-to-Princes-of-the-Apocalypse

I put up a pdf version of this guide on the DMs Guild here. It's reorganized and in a print-friendly format.

You can buy this adventure on amazon here:

Princes of the Apocalypse



Official Elemental Evil Links

Elemental Evil Player's Companion - New spells and races, completely free!
Elemental Evil Trinkets - A great list of 100 little treasures.
Mike Schley's Maps - They are awesome, cheap and very useful.
Sean Macdonald's Maps - Also awesome, cheap and very useful.
Updated Dessarin Valley Map - This map is free and fixes some of the errors in the published adventure.

Relevant Elemental Evil Links

* NEW * Maptools Files for Princes of the Apocalypse - Gigantic! By Jordan.
Creating a Character for the Elemental Evil Season - Everything you need to know for making a character for Adventurer's League play.
Elemental Evil Pre-Gens - Premade characters for you to use in your game 
List of Errors in the Book - The first post in this thread contains a fantastic rundown of the discrepencies in the adventure.
Handling Orcsplitter - This Adventurers League article talks about the dwarven relic Orcsplitter and lists a bunch of awesome magic items that any DM could use in this adventure.
Red Larch Outline - Daniel Davis of Detect Magic did a real nice reference sheet for Red Larch
Running Earth Priests - Detect Magic covers how to run an earth priest combat.

My Elemental Evil Articles

The History of Elemental Evil - I did my best to give a synopsis of each elemental evil D&D product
A Guide to Imix - A history of the elemental prince of fire.
My Review of Princes of the Apocalypse - It is certainly thorough.

Elemental Crystal


This is a special magic item for characters who play in the adventurer's league. You might want to work it into your game somehow.

Where is the Dessarin Valley?

This adventure takes place in the Dessarin Valley area. The heroes start off in the town of Red Larch. Red Larch is about 100 miles northeast of Waterdeep (which was featured heavily in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline). Here's a map:


To Sandbox or Not to Sandbox?

Ogremoch
This adventure is something of a "sandbox" - the heroes are free to wander and stumble on adventure hooks. You as DM will need to decide if you want to let your players roam or if you want to organize it in a more linear fashion. If you are going to go the sandbox route, make sure to familiarize yourself with the NPCs of Red Larch, as they have a ton of hooks which can send your party in many different directions.

The main thing to keep in mind if you are going to let your players free roam, is that it is likely they will head to Beliard once they find out that that is the last place the delegates were seen at. What happens if the players head there is covered on page 42.

Exploration Challenges

Something else you will need to consider is how you want to handle the outposts and the temple. Each of the cult outposts in chapter 3 has an entrance to the temple of elemental evil in it. If your heroes find the entrance, they can go down to the temple. The temple dungeons are generally made for characters 3 levels higher than the respective outpost locations. From what I understand, in theory 5th edition characters can survive such a jaunt.

I decided not to chance it, and I simply removed those entrances. Likewise, I am removing certain passageways in the temple so that my players can only head to the temple location that most closely corresponds to their level. I am doing this to avoid the possibility that my players will end up in a place that is simply too difficult for them to handle. Also, I don't want them to miss out on the cool core material.

Consider how you want to handle this. If you want to let them wander freely, be sure to read up on places they may stumble on in a session. If you run Rivergard Keep, your heroes may end up delving into the Temple of the Crushing Wave, so read up on that temple area prior to the session just in case. The nice thing about the temple locations is that they each only take up a few pages, so it's not too time-consuming to read and prepare.

The Mirabar Delegation

This is the thing that has confused me the most about this adventure, so I am going to try and put all the information right here for all of us to use as a resource. The delegation is the main hook that leads the heroes into the whole elemental evil plot.

What the Heroes Know: A delegation was traveling from Mirabar to Waterdeep. It stopped in a tiny village called Beliard (see page 33 for a description of Beliard, and page 42 for what happens when the PCs go there).  The delegation was last seen at the west end of the stone bridge, turning south to proceed overland through the heart of the Sumber Hills. It has been a month, and the delegation has not turned up.

What Happened: According to "The Missing Delegation" (on page 40) and Bruldenthar's tale (on page 67), the earth cultists ambushed the Mirabar delegation and killed most of the guards. Air cultists attacked and stole Deseyna from the earth cultists.The earth cult brought the rest of the delegates to the Sacred Stone Monastery and the earth temple below. From there, the poor delegates were further snatched by various cults to be imprisoned, put to work, or sacrificed.

Many of the delegates' locations are revealed on page 115, "Saving the Delegates". It says Teresiel is in The Weeping Colossus room W17, but there is no W17 on the map.

Map Issues:

The Path of the Delegates
This is a map of the path of the delegates, made by Carl Jonard. He says:

"The location of the Shallow Graves is very odd. The earth cultists would have had to travel over 10 miles west past Sacred Stone Monastery to get attacked by air cultists before looping back to their destination. Maybe it would work better if the locations of the Shallow Graves and Sacred Stone Monastery were swapped…"

Carl further notes that the scale of this map does not match up with the maps in Phandelver and Scourge of the Sword Coast:

"There’s definitely something odd going on with the Princes of the Apocalypse map. To be consistent with the other maps, each hex should be about 3.75 miles, not 10 miles."

Carl even contacted map artist Mike Schley about this on twitter. Here is Schley's response:

"Good eye! I brought that up when I got the initial art order for Princes from WotC. I was concerned about edition consistency. I brought it up in the design phase of Princes and was told to proceed. In this case, I’m the art monkey & do what they tell me."

"Not being in the inner circle over at the R&D temple, I’ll defer questions about FR world scale to WotC. That's their call. The question about the 4/5 edition map scale change would be a great one for @ChrisPerkinsDnD or any of the other in-house guys."

Chris Perkins responded: "In studying older maps, we've become aware of "scale drift" that has occured over the years. We're still refining."

 You can download a bigger .pdf version of this map here. Carl Jonard is awesome.

Where the Heroes Can Find the Delegates: The factions are interested in different delegates, which is covered on page 41. This is the delegation:

Bruldenthar: A shield dwarf historian who was transporting his collection of manuscripts to Waterdeep. 5 of his books about Delzoun are now in the possession of water cultist Shoalar Quanderil, who can be encountered in "Womford Rats" (page 43) or in Rivergard Keep (page 56, K12). Two more of the books are in Gar Shatterkeel's  vault (page 94). Bruldenthar is imprisoned in the Sacred Stone Monastery (page 67, M19).

Teresiel: A moon elf from Silverymoon. Has a coded Lords' Alliance document. She also has magical seeds that the Emerald Enclave wants to bring to Goldenfields. According to page 115, she is in the Weeping Colossus, room W17. But there is no W17. I don't see her anywhere. It seems like you could just put her in the prison, which is room W6 on page 144.

Rhundorth: A shield dwarf from Mirabar. Has a coded Lords' Alliance document. Rhundorth is in the Black Geode page 140, room G15. He is being forced to make weapons

Deseyna Norvael: A noble from Waterdeep. Has a coded Lords' Alliance document. She is in the Howling Caves page 126, room N17. She will be tied to a rock column and sacrificed if our heroes aren't quick on their feet.

The body of a knight: This corpse is of a Knight of Samular killed by orcs at the Spine of the World. The corpse is to be interred with honor at Summit Hall, which is detailed on page 36 and 43.The location of the body was apparently omitted from the adventure, so you'll need to make something up.

There's evidence of who else was on the caravan:
  • A male dwarf in artisan robes: A dead body found in "Shallow Graves" on page 43. It seems like this is an assistant of Rhundorth.
  • A female human warrior dressed in a red surcoat with a black axe: A dead body found in "Shallow Graves" on page 43. Probably the captain of the guards.
  • A dozen more soldiers in black surcoats with red axes: More dead bodies found on the road where the delegation was attacked.
The Factions

The five factions are a part of this adventure. That's the Harpers, the Lords' Alliance, the Emerald Enclave, the Order of the Gauntlet and the Zhentarim. There's one representative of each faction in Red Larch, and more spread throughout the region. Here they are in one easy cheat sheet:

Harpers
  • (Triboar) Darathra Shendrel, Lord Protector of Triboar
  • (Red Larch) Endrith Vallivoe (page 29, area 22): Merchant. A shy, scuttling man, not cut out for "derring-do".
Emerald Enclave
  • (Red Larch) Haeleeya Hanadroum (page 27, area 15): Owner of the bath house/dress shop. Caters to local women seeking dresses for special occasions. She hears a lot of gossip. 
  • (Goldenfields) Abbot Ellardin Darovik in Goldenfields
  • (Dellmon Ranch) Dreena Dellmon (page 165): A young druid.
  • Flamerin Verminbane (page 165): A lightfoot halfling scout, delelgate to the elves of the High Forest.
Lords' Alliance
  • (Red Larch) Helvur and Maegla Tarnlar (page 25, area 7): Clothiers. Helvur acts snobby to everyone but fellow members of the Lords' Alliance. Maegla is a sharp businesswoman.
  • (Yartar) Nestra Ruthiol, Waterbaron of Yartar
Order of the Gauntlet
  • (Red Larch) Imdarr Ralvaunder (page 22, area 1): Priest of Tempus. A stern man keenly interested in news.
  • Erned Stoutblade (page 165): A Tethyrian human knight, really hates orcs.
Zhentarim 
  • (Red Larch) Magobarl Lorren (page 25, area 8): Town Baker. Thin, energetic, loves gossip.
  • (Bargewright Inn) Nalaskur Thaelond (page 160, "New Management"): Innkeeper, doesn't trust his employees.
  • (Bargewright Inn) Inglor Brathren (page 161): Dwarf handyman.
Navigating Red Larch


Red Larch (page 19) has a lot going on. Here is my attempt to give you the essential stuff you need to know to run the town well.

Fun Facts:
  • Named after red larch trees that were cut down when the town was founded.
  • Known for crumblecake (page 28) - "This much-maligned but hearty food is useful on the trail".
  • A center for stonecutters quarrying slate and marble. Also home to farmers and shepherds.
  • Places to stay: The Swinging Sword (page 22) and Mother Yalantha's (page 24).
  • Cult Spies can be found working at The Swinging Sword (page 22) and working at The Helm at Highsun (page 23). Six bandits with ties to the cult are lurking at Mother Yalantha's (page 24).
The Water Cult Spy: Justran Daehl (page 24) is writing letters to a water cultist named Morbeoth (page 91). The heroes might be able to learn from Justrin that Morbeoth makes magic water tanks with "water snakes" in them.

Leadership and the Law:

The town is run by a constable and a group of town elders. The town elders are wealthy business owners who belong to a secret group known as The Believers, with ties to the cult.
  • Harburk Tuthmarillar: The constable who runs the town. Is a judge and the commander of the town guard.   
  • Town Guard:  Four people who are based out of the butchery (page 26) where Harburk lives.
  • Town Elders: A group of wealthy people who advise Harburk. They are secretly "The Believers", a group who is being warped by the cult.
The Believers:
  • Dornen Firestone (page 26): The de facto leader. He is stern and inflexible.
  • Ilmeth Waelvur (page 27): Hard-drinking and sullen.
  • Albaeri Mellikho (page 28): She is jovial and a "whirlwind". 
  • Ulhro Luruth (page 28): Runs a storage place, has no sense of smell.
  • Grund (page 29): This goofy half-orc is a sort of hired goon for The Believers.
Adventure Hooks:

Here is a listing of where adventure hooks are found in Red Larch, by scenario.

Bears and Bows:
  • Harburk (page 26) will want the PCs to check out some bandits.
The Haunted Tomb:
  • Minny Mhandyver (page 27) has a granddaughter who ran into a "ghost" near a tomb.
  • Mangobarl Lorren (page 25/26) checked out the granddaughter's claims and spotted a goblin.
Lance Rock:
  • The owner of The Swinging Sword, Kaylessa (page 22), thinks something is up in the region. She will pay the heroes to check out Lance Rock.
  • Helvur Tarnlar, Clothier (page 25): He's a snob, his wife is nice. Their kids met a grizzled dwarf who warned them about a plague at Lance Rock.
Tomb of Moving Stones:
  • Stannor Thistlehair (page 25 & 27) A carpenter who knows stuff that could lead the heroes into the dungeon under Red Larch.
Mirabar Delegation Hooks:
  • Brother Eardon (page 23): A customer at The helm of Highsun, says he saw the Mirabar delegation at Beliard (leads to "Beliard", page 42).
  • Zomith (page 24): A drunk customer at The Helm at Highsun who spotted the Mirabar delegation 15 days ago (leads to 'The Dessarin Road", page 42).
  • Larmon Greenboot (page 28): Hangs out at Gaelkur's, has a hook that can lead the heroes to freshly-dug graves (leads to "Shallow Graves", page 43)
  • Endrith Vallivoe (page 29): Has a book that links to "Womford Rats" (page 43).
Weird Side-Encounters:
  • Albaeri Mellikho (page 28) and Elak Dornan (area 12) both have hooks that send the PCs to "Bloody Treasure". It is a cave with stirges in it.
  • Endrith Vallivoe (page 29) can send the PCs to "The Last Laugh" (page 150). It leads to a skull that does stuff I won't spoil here.
Listing of Scenarios by Level

I have gone through the book and found the assorted dungeons, adventures and encounters and have tried to sort them in order of when they should be used (if you want to use everything - many of the chapter 6 mini-adventures are very optional). This is a work in progress, as so many things are spread out throughout the book. Here is what I have come up with:

Level 1:

Red Larch Flavor (page 41): This kicks off the adventure.
Bears and Bows (page 149): Bandits and a caged bear.
Haunted Tomb (page 149) Small dungeon with undead.
Necromancer's Cave (page 151) Dungeon with undead and a necromancer.

Level 2:

Tomb of Moving Stones (page 153): Dungeon underneath Red Larch with links to the Earth Cult.

Level 3:

Skyriders (page 45): Air cult skyriders attack the PCs.
The Sighing Valley (page 50): The PCs might go through the valley to get to Feathergale Spire.
Feathergale Spire (pg 46): Air cult outpost.
New Management (page 160): The PCs get involved with an inn and the zhentarim.
Reaver Ambush (page 45): Water cult bandits on the trail between Red Larch and the Ironford Bridge.

Level 4:

Rivergard Keep (pg 52): Water cult outpost.
The Spy's Letter (page 75): A letter the PCs can find in Rivergard Keep may expose a spy in Red Larch.
Iceshield Orcs (page 163): Orc invaders.
Tremors (page 44): Two ankhegs jump the party on the barren countryside.

Level 5:

Sacred Stone Monastery (pg 59): Earth cult outpost.
The Long Road (page 166): Escort a caravan to Triboar.
Fiery Fangs (page 45): Hell hounds with iron collars hunt the heroes.

Level 6:

Curse of the Fire Witch (page 167): A trap set by earth cultists.
Scarlet Moon Hall (pg 69): Fire cult outpost.
Temple of Howling Hatred (pg 78): Air temple.

Level 7:

Temple of the Crushing Wave (page 84): Water temple.
Dire Tidings (page 76): The cult uses an orb on a town.

Level 8:

Vale of Dancing Waters: A dwarven shrine has been overtaken.
Temple of Black Earth (page 95): Earth temple.
Reckless Hate (page 76): Cultists attack the party's home.

Level 9:

Dark Dealings in Yartar (page 175): A devastation orb is being sold in Yartar.
Temple of Eternal Flame (page 103): Fire temple.
Race to Destruction (page 77): The party is lured into a trap.

Level 10:

Rundreth Manor (page 179): A haunted house.
Fane of the Eye (page 115): A common area/dungeon for members of all of the cults.

Level 11:

Halls of the Hunting Axe (page 180): Quest to find a tomb.
The Howling Caves (page 123): Air node.
Downpour (page 113): The water cult creates a torrential downpour.

Level 12:

The Plunging Torrents (page 128): Water Cult.
Tortured Earth (page 113): Earthquake/purple worm.
Counsel of Despair (page 113): The Cult has infiltrated Westbridge.
The Black Geode (page 135): Earth node.
Haayon the Punisher (page 114): A cloud giant tries to take over a faction of scattered cultists.

Level 13:

Burning Hills (page 113): The fire cult traps the PCs in a raging forest fire.
The Weeping Colossus (page 141): Fire node.

Chapter 3


Feathergale Spire (page 46): The main thing to think about here is the weird set-up of the spire. It can only be accessed by a walkway/drawbridge above the sighing valley. In the valley is a whole mess of encounters, as well as an entrance to the temple of elemental evil.

If your heroes go into the spire under false pretenses, they can go on a manticore hunt with the knights and that can open the door to explore the valley.

Rivergard Keep (page 52): This place is interesting. It's run by a wereboar and you can get to it by water if you like. When I ran this, by far the most fun part was a huge battle on the boats.
  • Shoalar Quanderil is detailed in three different sections of the book. See pages 56, 44 and 208.
  • I found K22 to be a confusing location. You can get to it by a secret door in K16 or through a grate at K13. This stream eventually leads to the temple of elemental evil.
Sacred Stone Monastery (page 61): Be warned, if you take the hack and slash route, you're in for a lot of dull fights. I circumvented this by having the place be under attack by the fire cult. There's a few interesting things about this place:
  • This is where one of the delegates is kept. Bruldenthar is in M19 (page 67).
  • There's a lich here behind an arcane locked door. You may want to supply your PCs with knock spells in advance. This lich is not necessarily a bad guy at all. You may also want to foreshadow his story - he has deep ties to the knights of Samular at Summit Hall (page 36). Remember, as noted on page 67, the lich's phylactery is actually back beneath Summit Hall.
  • The battle in M21 can be pretty epic. Remember about the lever in there. If the bad guys can send some of the PCs down the stairs, they can collapse it and sick an umber hulk on them! Note that the hulk has messed up eyes, so it can't use the confusion power.
Scarlet Moon Hall (page 69): This is, in my opinion, the best of the four outposts. The fire cultists are posing as druids, putting on a phony ritual involving a giant wicker man that is on fire. Camped on the hill all around the wicker man are potential recruits.
  • The fires cause a haze over the whole area, making it lightly obscured, which means the heroes have disadvantage on perception checks.
  • The tower is a little odd. Remember that the door at the base is choked with rubble (which is being burned by magmins). The actual entrance is up on the scaffolding.
  • Don't forget about the crumbling floors in the tower - that goes a long way in making the place exciting.
  • The main encounter in this area is the battle by the wicker giant, involving a big pile of bad guys (and at your discretion, you could add some more from inside the tower). I was worried it would be too tough. The guardians have a 17 AC that proved to be tricky for my party to hit. They had a ton of healers though, so they won out in the end. You might want to consider having the four druids at HC1 come up to help if things are going badly. I gave them both healing word and cure wounds.
Chapter 4

The first thing you should definitely look at is "counterattack" on page 76. It lists what happens when heroes try to rest in the different temple sections.

Temple of Howling Hatred (page 78): This is a cool place full of kenku, air cultists suffering in the name of Yan C Bin, and a gigantic pyramid surrounded by cool encounters.

Aside from the stairs to the sighing valley by A1, There are 4 exits to be aware of:
  1. There's a tunnel to the fire temple above A7.
  2. A20 leads to the Temple of the Eye.
  3. The shaft in A18 leads to the air node.
  4. On the bottom right of the map by many of the A14's is a tunnel that leads to area C20 (page 92) in the Temple of the Crushing Wave.
Other things I noticed:
  • There is a good chance your party will end up right at Aerisi's pyramid (A10) very quickly. It's a little weird to fight the 'big boss' of the whole temple before exploring most of the complex, but I guess it doesn't matter.
  • A11 (page 82): The moat is really cool. Remember that there's treasure in the water. You might want to place the platinum chalice right by the waterfall to create a really scary encounter, especially if you add in the giant dwarf statue. That statue is incredibly tough! It is immune to non-magic weapons and does piles and piles of damage. Use it with caution, 6th level PCs simply may not be able to defeat it.
Temple of the Crushing Wave (page 84): The heroes might end up rowing around in here, which could be awesome, with bad guys shooting arrows at them from bridges overhead and a dragon turtle attacking their boat.

There's a few entrances & exits in here:
  • C1. The river goes up and connects to Rivergard Keep
  • C10. The hallway past this room with a magic fountain leads to B11 in the Temple of Black Earth.
  • C20. There's a locked gate here, and a connecting tunnel to the Temple of Howling Hatred.
  • C28. This room has a mezzoloth guarding a stairwell that leads down to F6. in the Fane of the Eye (page 116). Remember, this dungeon is for level 10 PCs.
Other Observations:
  • Captured: If the heroes are defeated/captured, they are put in C5. If Gar is around, they'd probably be brought before him in C25. Their stuff would probably get put in C26. If Gar is gone, maybe the hag Thuluna Maah in C14 would get to question them. A likely fate would be that the bad guys would decide to hand the PCs off one at a time to the ghouls in C4. Remember, the pool in C25 is connected to the culverts in C24, so that could make for a cool escape scene.
  • Arrow Slits: PCs making noise by C8 will probably attract the attention of the guards in C9, who will open the slits and fire on the poor PC at the front of the group.
  • Fight on a Bridge: The bridges over the water, like the one at C6, are screaming for an encounter. Maybe have the cultists in C13 just happen to be coming out of their room as the PCs cross the bridge.
  • Bronzefume the Dragon Turtle: The dragon turtle at C21 is very powerful! Remember that it goes for boats first, taking d4 rounds to destroy it. The heroes have the chance to run.. if they stay, they might die. It has a pretty lousy treasure hoard, too. You might want to put something cool in there.
Temple of Black Earth (page 95):

Entrances and Exits:
  • B1 has The Ancient Stair that leads up to M24 in the Sacred Stone Monastery.
  • B11 has a hallway that leads to C10 of he Temple of the Crushing Wave
  • B16 is an ogre-filled room with a tunnel to E30 in the Temple of Eternal Flame
  • B17 This stairway has a magic trap on it, and it leads down to F11 in the Fane of the Eye.
  • B24 This area is guarded by a stone golem and has a passage that leads to E5 in the Temple of Eternal Flame.
Things to Note:
  • Chasms: Remember that the chasms have sloping walls, which means if your heroes fall in over the side, they won't necessarily plummet to their doom, they'll be tumbling down an angled hill.
  • Mud Sorcerer: Miraj Vizann in C8 (page 97) is a mud sorcerer! "The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb" (dungeon magazine #37 & a D&D Next playtest adventure) is considered one of the best adventures of all time. It's a death trap-filled dungeon that has all sorts of fun stuff you can steal, including a boat that can sail through mud. Here's how one guy's session went.
  • Prisoners: If the PCs are defeated, they could end up imprisoned in B14, the torture chamber You could have all sorts of shenanigans involving the NPC prisoners in there. Being hauled before Marlos is grim.. the heroes are likely to be turned to stone.
The heroes can disguise themselves as cultists and do quite well in these temples. The bad guys all have passwords that the heroes may need to acquire or bluff their way past.
Most temples have disgruntled NPCs who will team up with the heroes to take out the prophet.
All of the temple have arrow slits, so make sure you know how that works.

Temple of Eternal Flame (page 103): This level is a little underwhelming. Lots of treasure, though.

Getting In & Out:
  • E1 has lava tubes that connect to Scarlet Moon Hall
  • E5 has ogres in plate mail (!) and a tunnel that connects to B24 in the temple of Black Earth.
  • E14 has a hovering disk that will lower the heroes into F15 in the Fane of the Eye, or even further down into W1 in the fire node.
  • E27 contains 6 hobgoblins protecting a tunnel to A7 in the Temple of Howling Hatred.
  • E30 is guarded by a chimera, who watches a tunnel to B16 in the Temple of Black Earth.
Notes:
  • NPC Army: E11 has azers and salamanders who might fight alongside the heroes. Think carefully on whether or not you want all those NPCs accompanying the party.
  • Brown Mold: E18 has brown mold, which is detailed on page 105 in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Once someone gets within 5 feet of the mold, they make a DC 12 Constitution save or take 22 damage (half damage on a successful save!). Brown mold is immune to fire and actually expands when exposed to it, which could lead to some awesome hijinks here in the fire temple.
Chapter 5

Fane of the Eye (page 115): Remember, there's supposed to be one prophet down on this level. The prophet is lurking in F21 (page 122).

Exits and Entrances:
  • F1 has a skeleton-stairwell that leads to A20 in the Temple of Howling Hatred.
  • F2 contains a shaft in the floor that, if climbed, leads to N1 of the Howling Caves.
  • F6 has stairs that lead to C28 in the Temple of the Crushing Wave.
  • F8 has a waterfall that plunges into P1 of the Plunging Torrents. There's also stairs that head down there.
Notes:

Violet Fungus: F9 has 3 violet fungi, which are on page 138 of the monster manual. They look like normal fungus, but spring to life and make d4 rotting touch attacks per round.

The Howling Caves (page 123): Now we're in the nodes! This is where it gets really fun. This dungeon is overloaded with awesome ideas.

Exits and Entrances:
  • N1 is a climbable shaft/tunnel that connects to F2 in the Fane of the Eye.
  • N3 has a shaft that leads to A19 in the air temple. There's a very angry air elemental down here that cultists give sacrifices to.
Notes:

N2 Deadly Pool (page 123): This room is freezing and there's an icy pool. We are told to refer to the DMG for details on extreme cold and slippery ice. Here it is:
  • Extreme Cold (DMG page 110): At the end of each hour, make a DC 10 CON save or gain a level of exhaustion.
  • Slippery Ice (DMG page 110): When a creature moves onto slippery ice for the first time on a turn, make a DC 10 DEX (Acrobatics) check or fall prone.
In this room, there's a 10% chance per minute of a temperature shift to...
  • Extreme Heat (DMG page 110): After an hour, make a  DC 5 CON save or gain exhaustion. There's penalties depending on how you're dressed.
This room on its own isn't much of a hazard. The heroes are likely to just go around the lake. It seems your best bet is to have some monsters attack, or put a glowing treasure in the frozen lake.

N9. Mushroom Forest (page 125): This is a great room with edible toadstools. Some give you potion effects, others will poison you! You might want to think about whether a nature or arcana check will aid the PCs or not. You might want to come up with details on how the poisonous toadstools look, as it will come off as suspicious when you describe the aqua-spotted one and the two amber ones, but then go blank on the others.

Maybe go with a variation of a "death cap" - a pale white, almost translucent, glowing toadstool.

N10. The Stalagmite Garden (page 125): This room conjures images of people struggling against air. It's kind of left up to you. You might want to show images of a battle your heroes had against air cultists, but in this one it goes horribly wrong.

Or you could have Yan-C-Bin using scary powers to tear the heroes apart one by one (see page 221 for Yan-C-Bin's powers - creating torrents of debris, throwing heroes around with wind, dropping the temperature to cover the heroes in sheets of ice, etc). This would be a nice way to foreshadow a possible threat and build anticipation for a big battle.

N11. Hero's Tomb (page 125): We better check out Yellow Mold...
  • Yellow Mold (DMG page 105): When touched it ejects a spore cloud that fills a 10 foot cube. DC 15 CON save or take 11 damage and be poisoned. You keep taking 5 damage each round until you save. Sunlight or fire destroys yellow mold instantly.
N17 Sacrifices (page 126): Finally! A member of the mirabar delegation! She's tied to a thingie and guarded by invisible demons.

The Plunging Torrents (page 128): This is a great dungeon. My only beef is that there's a few too many rooms that just have monsters to be killed. Kind of dull. That said, there's a billion cool concepts crammed into one dungeon. The most major thing to keep in mind is that the heroes can take a water globe right at the beginning and pretty much bypass most of the encounters.

Exits and Entrances:
  • W1 connects to F8 in the Fane of the Eye. The watery globe in here can take a single hero to P20. When it leaves the cave, another one ploops up out of the water. I talk about this more below.
A Lot of Things to Juggle: There are quite a few things to remember when you're running this place, all listed on page 128. The main ones:
  • Currents: Entering a strong current means you roll a DC 15 Strength save. Fail means you're pulled 10 feet. It is entirely possible that the heroes boat might get pulled into one of the P19 vortexes, and they'll be teleported to a random room in the node!
  • Waterfalls: Falling over the side of a waterfall causes no damage, but you might get restrained underwater where you'll be making DC 15 strength saves.
  • Aboleth Whispers: In each new area, roll a d6. On a 1, one character sees a vision of room P4, P5 or P6. The aboleth can link to the PC's mind and mess with him or her, causing madness. "Madness" is on page 258 of the DMG. Have your PC make a WIS or CHA save.. DC 15, maybe? If they fail, they roll on the short-term madness chart on page 259 of the DMG.
  • Symbol of Water: Certain creatures have this inscribed on them. It gives them a swim speed equal to their ground speed, immunity to currents and waterfalls are not a problem for them. Inscribing the mark on someone gives them 1 damage and can be removed by healing magic.
P1. Waterfall Basin (page 128): This area has a watery globe that can carry the heroes right to P20. The globe fits a single hero, but once the globe begins its journey, another globe pops up to carry a second hero. Basically, you can end up with your heroes taking a weird sort of disney ride through the dungeon.

The most likely route would be from W1, over the waterfall to P12, where they'll pass over a floating cotpse. It's not likely the ghouls will be alerted. They'll pass by P14, and hear the screams of those that the one-eyed shiver is torturing. Then they'll float on to P16, here a Dark Tide Knight is standing guard. The knight is likely to call upon the other knight, summon their water weird mounts, and attack.

Remember, you could throw in a wrinkle by having a monster from the random encounter table attack them while they're globing around. A giant octopus pulling a PC out of a globe sounds like a pretty epic scene!

P18. Wrecks (page 133): This room is awesome. Battle a hydra among "the shattered hulks of sailing vessels" leaning on their sides. This is one where you will need to figure out the map/terrain on your own. You should think about stuff like whether you want it to be possible to swing on ropes from ship to ship, and whether there's a working ballista on a ship. Stuff like that. Maybe have a scene where a hydra's head explodes up through the deck of a ship and tries to bite a hero.

The Black Geode (page 135): This dungeon feels a bit shorter than the others. I'd definitely use the effects in the random encounters quite a bit and in general the whole idea of this place spawning mephits (G11 page 139), that kind of thing.

Entrances and Exits:
  • G1 (page 135) is a guarded room (elementals with purple glowing veins!) and contains a twisting tunnel that lead to F13 in the Fane of the Eye.
  • G5 (page 136) has a tunnel to the Underdark. It's up to you what to do with this. A drider lurking nearby? A drow patrol? Or maybe a tunnel collapse?
Random Encounters: The environmental random encounters might be awesome to use to add a wrinkle to a combat. A fireball spell causes a ceiling collapse, a missed attack causes a crystal extrusion, or a fissure opens up under a random participant in a battle.

G4. The Crystal Forest (page 136): What a great room. A vast crystal forest. The glowing causes confusion. Confusion is on page 224 of the PH. Victims make a DC 10 WIS save or they have to roll on the confusion chart (PH page 225).

You might want to consider writing down the wisdom saves of your heroes at the start of this session. That way you can roll their saves in private. Oftentimes players find this type of scenario difficult not to metagame. They may not want to send their character in the room once they have an ally who went in a succeeded on a saving throw. Though you could also tell the hero who succeeded tha they feel slightly confused and disoriented, an in-game clue they could relate to their allies.

G8 Cavern of the Lost Crown (page 138): The dwarf ghost in here has the plot hook for the side adventure "Vale of Dancing Waters". The crown is the lost crown of Besilmer (page 223). The crown gives you resistance to psychic damage, advantage on saves vs. charm, and you can use a bonus action to give an ally +d6 to a roll.

This is your classic D&D scenario where the heroes get their hands on an artifact and are expected to go give it to someone else. Be wary of the idea of the ghost possessing a PC to force it to happen, that needs to be handled carefully out of game.

G15. Arcane Foundry (page 140): A delegate is in here! Rhundorth the dwarf is being forced to make weapons.

The Weeping Colossus (page 141): This is a pretty short dungeon, but features tons of cool and dangerous things. There's a prison made of fire, a red dragon, and a "...miniature sun with motes of fire swirling around it."

Entrances and Exits:
  • W1 (page 142) has a magic disc that will bring you up to F15 in the Fane of the Eye. There's guards in here and really cool pillars that rise out of the lava.
Lava: This place has lots of lava. It seems like lava does a different amount of damage in every D&D adventure. Here, lava does 6d10 damage.

Random Encounters: Once again, the random encounter chart (page 142) has a bunch of cool ideas that you should definitely work in somehow. The crust break, lava rain and smoke cloud should definitely be a part of some encounters.

The Missing Delegate: This is the place where one of the delegates is supposed to be, but was accidentally left out of the book. She is Teresiel, a moon elf from Silverymoon.

W3 and W4 are a little confusing. There's a walkway over the lave between the two areas. It leads to nowhere. Vanifer forces prisoners to cross it, then she hits the gong (I think the gong is the brown line two squares under the "w" in "w4" on the map). The gong summons a roper made of magma (!!!) who is lurking in W4.

Seems to me that a really cool idea would be to have the heroes stumble on cultists forcing Teresiel to cross the causeway. During the resultant battle with the roper on the causeway, you could add in flame gouts from the random encounters section for added danger.

W6. Prison (page 144): This is a good place to put Teresiel if you don't decide to use her in some other way.

Chapter 6
Bears and Bows (page 149): Don't forget to read the wilderness flavor text just above this entry if this is the first time your heroes have left Red Larch.

Haunted Tomb (page 149): The half-ogre and the goblin can be memorable NPCs. I ran it so the goblin rode on the half-ogre's shoulders. Remember, they'd rather rob the PCs than fight them.

Lance Rock (page 151): This is a neat little mini-dungeon with undead and a necromancer. You might want to have the "Dancing Dead" on page 152 cause some kind of hypnotic effect when they perform. Also remember that the necromancer has a wand of magic missiles - an awesome item that could drop a number of characters, and also a great piece of treasure. The necromancer has a nice little background on page 211.

Tomb of Moving Stones (page 154): This is a cool dungeon that ties into elemental evil a little bit. The beginning of the adventure seems like a good way to kick off the whole campaign. Things to note:
  • The hallway ("Cage Trap" page 155) is tricky to describe. It is one of the coolest areas in the dungeon, so try to make sure you understand it well.
  • Grund is here. IMO, he is a fun NPC. You might want to play him up a bit in Red Larch prior to this adventure.
  • The final battle (page 158) can be really cool with the hovering, rotating stones. You might want to have the bad guy on a stone as it hovers and rotates - might make for an epic battle.
  • Remember that Larrakh was part of the assault on the delegation, so he knows a lot of priceless information as far as this adventure is concerned. He can get your PCs on the right path. He'd probably be happy to send the PCs right at the air cult at Feathergale Spire, as the air cult dared to attack the earth cult during the delegation trip (and they even stole Deseyna, one of the delegates).
Furthermore, you should definitely check out this post on Detect Magic. It discusses how best to run Larrakh and the earth priests in combat and I wish I'd read it earlier.

New Management (page 160): I didn't use this one. I think if you have PCs who are members of the Zhentarim and you like the idea of the heroes running an inn then this can work for you.

Iceshield Orcs (page 163): This one involves rampaging orcs attacking farms. It ends up in a cool scenario where the heroes defend a compound from the orcs. One thing you should decide on is how the orcs spend their time in the woods between probing attacks. Are they all in one group? Do they sharpen sticks to make more javelins? Do they spread out and watch the compound? There is a good chance your heroes may try to sneak up to the orc camp, so be ready.

That's where I'm at so far. Check back again soon, I'll be plugging away at this thing.

77 comments:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very helpful. Thank you!

Aaron Tudyk said...

Thank you so much. This is extremely helpful.

Sean said...

Anonymous & Aaron Tudyk: You are welcome! I have a long way to go.

Rick Underwood said...

This is great, very helpful, thanks for your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This article is saving my bacon right now. I'm in the process of also doing a list of npc's by location with what they want and what they know to help my campaign out. This is AWESOME! Thanks!

Sean said...

Anonymous: Thank you! I am glad it is useful. In my opinion, Princes of the Apocalypse is a very daunting book to try to run.

Mark Nimphius said...

Super helpful. Why don't published adventures have this as a Cliff Notes at the end of each book? Well done!

Roger Farley said...

I need help making the connection... if the delegation stayed in and made an excursion from Beliard... why is it that the characters would first go to Red Larch and make it the hub of the campaign???

Sean said...

Mark Nimphius: Thank you very much! I don't know why they made this book the way it is.. sometimes I feel like game designers aren't in touch with the real life people actually running the games.

Roger Farley: That is a fantastic question. The only answer I can think of is that red larch is located close to the haunted keeps/cult outposts, and thus that makes it a logical base for the characters. But then I look at the map and Beliard isn't much farther away from them! I guess the PCs are in Red Larch first because that's where the adventure starts them at.

Roger Farley said...

I have modified the delegation story a little to make it work... The adventurers are coming from Waterdeep. The last known sighting of the delegation was Westbridge. The folks back in Mirabar were unaware of the excursion to Beliard. The captain of the guard detail was asked by clerics at the Temple of Samular in Mirabar to escort the body of the knight to Summit Hall, south of Beliard, as a favor at the last minute and she asked the dwarves if that was ok. The dwarves agreed seeing an opportunity to visit the old dwarven ruin on their way through the area, but never bothered to update the itinerary. The adventurers are asked to start in Red Larch and work their way backwards. They still get the rumors of the delegation being seen in Beliard... the captain of the guard will have a note from the clerics on her when she is found to fill in the gap.

Roger Farley said...

Oh. I also beefed up the delegation. They're very rich, so a major reward is possible if found alive. I gave them magical artifacts, so there is major reward if they are found dead. I made them powerful in their respective homelands so the party feels that they are heading off a potential war and to give a serious sense of urgency to the whole thing as the party feels that EVERYONE is looking for them. Going to run with the sink hole as they are entering town so they get that Red Larch is the honey pot, and sprinkle clues that Red Larch is the hub of their investigation.

Sean said...

Roger Farley: That sounds really good. Maybe you could tie this stuff into Orcsplitter or the lost crown of besilmer. Once the PCs go through the sinkhole dungeon, they'll find mirabar trade bars on the earth cult priest, which should also help point them in the right direction.

Carl Jonard said...

Have you taken a look at the Regional Effects for the Elemental Princes in Chapter 7?

There's some cool stuff there, but I can't figure out when you're actually supposed to use it. Any idea what being present in the elemental node means?

Larry said...

I have a basic question (as a DM who has ran only a handful of campaigns, many very loose goose with the rules). When the party descends into the Fane, are they still encouraged to visit the nodes of defeated prophets? I'm trying to gather up info and notes to run the campaign, and currently dont have time to compile all the exp together to see how that falls. I want to know, should I encourage them to visit the node of fire for example if they defeated Vanifer on the surface? I'm talking purely a level- exp standpoint here, as I hope they will be relatively able to stand up to the elemental prince at the end. Thank you for your hard work! This has been a life saving resource in helping to make sense of this awkwardly laid out book!

Sean said...

Carl Jonard: I'll take a look, I don't remember that part.

Larry: It goes like this.. one prophet is killed in the temples, one is killed in the temple of the eye, and the last two are killed in the nodes. That means that, in theory, the PCs might skip two nodes. But remember, the heroes are also looking for the delegates. In your example, the heroes will still want to go in the fire node because one of the delegates is held prisoner in there.

So basically the heroes will want to go through each place because they are looking for the delegates. If you aren't using the delegates, you should plant some reasons for the heroes to want to go into those areas - rumors of magic items, their friends are captive, etc.

Supposedly characters can survive going into a higher level area. I haven't heard of anyone doing it so I don't know if that's true. I don't know if lower level PCs could take out an elemental prince.. I have noticed that characters are generally pretty powerful, so I'd guess that even a group of level 11 PCs might have a shot at taking out a prince.

Thanks!

Steve said...

Fantastic guide!
I was thinking of running an epilogue to this adventure with the hints that the end of the book give you, where the elemental eye decides to use Drow for his next plot. The book hints at the character Vizeran DeVir, a renegade Drow wizard who crafted the four elemental weapons. I'm hoping my party will reach level 14 from doing the full extent of the adventure.
Is there any other mention of DeVir in the book? I took a look and didnt find him anywhere. Basically i wanted to set him up as the main antagonist in a campaign from level 14-20. I was thinking maybe the party finds his journal in the Fane of the Eye, and after they defeat one prince and seal off the other three, they have to travel to the elemental planes themselves to stop the Eye's next plot.

either way POTA is going to be a lot of fun. thanks for all the tips.

steve said...

Also here is a suggestion on what to do about the missing body of the knight since the book lacks an answer to this quest line.

When the group gets into sacred stone monastery and saves the shield dwarf, have him mention that the cultists brought the body of the knight back with them (could be one of many reasons, because the delegation pleaded to save the body, because they wanted his fancy armor...). Renwick Caradoon, the Lich in the monastary gets word of the body and confiscates it from the cultists. he places the body in the tomb he made up for his brother. The party certainly wont be able to defeat the Lich and take the body, he is also not hostile, so they will have to negotiate with him. Renwick wants the party to retrieve his brother's body (a legendary knight of Samular) from summit hall, and the knights of Samular are very unwilling to give this up.
To continue this plot point the party can do one of several actions. They can steal Caradoon's brother body from the knights of Samular. They can convince the knights to make a trade of bodies. Or they can find clues to uncovering the Lich's phylactery at summit hall, destroying it or using it as a bargaining chip to recover the knights body.

the tricky part about this is that all of this can be accomplished without the party ever entering the elemental temples. basically any character with the order of Gauntlet quest line can finish his portion of the delegation mission by level 6. Maybe during this side trek the cultists take the knights body from the lich by force and bring it deeper into the temple. Maybe one of the key bargaining chips for making the trade of bodies is found deeper in the temples. maybe the gauntlet tells you that there was a magical item kept with the body that the cultists now possess, something that posses great danger for the world if left in the wrong hands.

Forex Idiot said...

Good work, please update.

Roger Farley said...

I planned to have each temple/node they clear out be progressively closer to summoning a prince, with the final prophet to be confronted in the midst of the final ritual. The prophet will finish the ritual, but it will require 12-20 additional turns for the prince to step through the portal, giving the party time to dispatch the prophet and minions and try to stop the prince from the final step. I will think of a skill challenge, maybe aided by an NPC... but.. 1 PC will die... someone has to be the hero and make the sacrifice.. hell... i may come up with a skill challenge where the entire party will likely die... My group is heading into the first temple (air), and they know about the Earth cult. The air temple has a tunnel to the water temple. So it looks like fire may be last unless the break off and go directly after the earth cult. And this will be a freebie. Kill the prophet, no chance of a prince. Second prophet, in the node, starting the ritual... Third prophet, in the node, hurries the ritual something goes wrong... prince crushes them due to their colossal failure... Fourth prophet... on like donkey kong... lol

Roger Farley said...

BTW. I have adopted a "1 epic event per session" rule. I devised an air combat system for The Manitcore Hunt and that mission was handled in the air. Party gained Riding a Flying Mount proficiency. An angry paladin got dealt with by being sent off to lead a party of air knights to a "dragon sighting"... he was ambushed... he won his battle and had JUST enough time to fly back to the Spire.... Where he witnessed Thurl Merosska chuck the party's gnome wizard off the top of the tower. Paladin failed to save him twice... but Savra turned ally and saved before he hit the Dead Rocks below... if she would have missed, the leader of the knights at Summit Hall would have shown up and cast Raise Undead at the end of the battle... boy did the rest of the party get pissed! lol... the bard cast hold person, Thurl failed the save.. then the dwarf picked Thurl up and chucked him off the Spire... face first...

How you gonna make your sessions EPIC?

Taylor Adams said...

Aren't you sposed to have the Cult Retaliations start after the first temple, not the second?

Leonardo Raele said...

Awesome guide, helped a lot. Since WotC forum closed, here is a page you can find a list of incongruites in the book: http://firstblood20.tumblr.com/post/118789568028/incongruities-in-princes-of-the-apocalypse (not sure if the content is the same, but surely a useful guide)

Oh. And an errata: The mane is "Elak Dornen", not "Dornen Firestone". He runs a shop called "Dornen Finestone". (FINEstone, not FIREstone)

Sean: Did you actually finished this campaign? Did you run the other adventures from chapter 6?

Roger Farley: I planned a system to run an air chase against the Manticore too, I hope it ends as epic as your game did haha You make great suggestions, I will most likely use all of them in my campaign. The idea about the corpse and the lich was genial!

Leonardo Raele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniele Silvi said...

Thank You very very much for the useful guide! I'm a DM, my party is gonna to leave Red larch to travel to Triboar, in search of the missing delegation. This point is very problematic, as everyone well knows. I've some questions for who has already played this part of the (or the whole) story.
1) Who was exactly part of the delegation? I've made a list, reading several forums. Here it is:

Teresiel
Brundlenthar
Rhundarth
Talbok (who is ? Some forums speaks of him as a male elf)
Deseyna Norvael
A male dwarf in artisan robes
A female human warrior dressed in a red surcoat with a black axe
A dozen more soldiers in black surcoats with red axes

Correct? But why they are together and where are they going, to do what?

2) Someone must be have organized the expedition. The presence of 12 soldiers with the same surcoats clearly indicates that they are soldiers from someone...but, once again, who? And, if it is true, also is true that the Patron (organizer) of the delegation is on search as well, or expecting some news ...

Those are things that, in my opinion, are very relevant in order to develop the story...what is your opinion?
Thanks




Leonardo Raele said...

Daniele Silve:

The delegation set off from Mirabar, a big city many miles north from the Dessarin Valley map presented in the book, populated by both dwarves and human. The red surcoats with a black axe are the symbol of Mirabar army. They where meant to arrive in Water Deep, a big city south of Amphail, populated by many different races, but mainly human.
They carried the body of a knight that died in the Spine of the World and was supposed to be burried in the Summit Hall. From westbridge, they turned to Beliard and read south through the Dessarin road headed to the Summit Hall. There's where they were attacked by Black Earth cultists.
The Black Earth cultists killed guards and captured the important people. They paid Crushing Wave cultists to use their keelboats to transport the captives to the Sacred Stone Monastery to work in the mines bellow, but where attacked by Howling Hatred cultists. The earth cultists won, but the air cultists were able to capture Deseyna and kill the captain of the delegation guards and the apprentice of Rhundorth, which are found burried in the "Shallow Graves". The earth cultists burried them not by respect, but because they believe that all people should be consumed by the earth; this is like a superstition thing of them.
One of the incoherences of the book is that the earth cultists should have reached Sacred Stone Monastery without passing around the Feathergale Spire to be attacked by Howling Hatred cultists. They should have made a very odd route, as Sean stated.
The book doesn't states whoever is searching for the delegates besides the five main factions, but both Water Deep and Mirabar are memebers of the Lord's Alliance, which is one of the factions looking for the delegation. Also, the Zhentarim are only helping to get the trust of Mirabar leaders, so you could change that and say they were hired to do so, showing the concern of Mirabar leaders toward the delegation members.
The book also says that the players can be part of any other factions like Uthgardt Barbarians, the Hand of Yartar, the elves of the High Forest or no faction at all; and you can create a reason for these factions be concerned about the delegation. One of my players, for instance, plays a Red Wizard.

Leonardo Raele said...

The delegation memebers are:

• Bruldenthar
shield dwarf historian (unknown gender), was transporting his collection of manuscripts from Mirabar to Waterdeep
--
5 of his books about Delzoun are now in the possession of water cultist Shoalar Quanderil, who can be encountered in "Womford Rats" (page 43) or in Rivergard Keep (page 56, K12). Two more of the books are in Gar Shatterkeel's vault (page 94).
--
Bruldenthar is imprisoned in the Sacred Stone Monastery (page 67, M19).

• Teresiel
female moon elf diplomat from Silverymoon, carries one part of three of a secret coded document important to the lord's alliance (Lord's Alliance's interest)
--
moon elf, had a pouch of magical seeds that should be delivered to the abbey of Goldenfields (Emerald Enclave's interest)
--
According to page 115, she is in the Weeping Colossus, room W17. ("along with her pouch of magical seeds") But there is no W17. I don't see her anywhere. It seems like you could just put her in the prison, which is room W6 on page 144.

• Rhundorth
male shield dwarf diplomat from Mirabar, carries one part of three of a secret coded document important to the lord's alliance (Lord's Alliance's interest)
--
Rhundorth is in the Black Geode (area G15, page 140). He is being forced to make weapons

• Deseyna
female human diplomat noble from Waterdeep, carries one part of three of a secret coded document important to the lord's alliance (Lord's Alliance's interest)
--
Deseyna is in the Howling Caves (area N17, page 126). She will be tied to a rock column and sacrificed if our heroes aren't quick on their feet.
--
Fun fact: Once referred as Deseyna Majarra (page 41) and then as Deseyna Norvael (pages 67, 115 and 126)

• male dwarf artisan found in "Shallow Graves" (probably an apprentice of Rhundorth)
• female human warrior found in "Shallow Graves" dressed in a red surcoat with a black axe (one of the guards, probably the captain, because the colors of her surcoat are switched)
• a dozen guards dressed in black surcoats with red axes

Daniele Silvi said...

Thanks. But why the delegation is on the road? Which reason keep together that kind of person? Why they are escorted by warrior? I think such questions remains unresolved in the story, am I right?

Leonardo Raele said...

All this is open. The book doesn't explain the detail, the only thing we know is that three diplomats are carrying an importantant cryptographed message from Mirabar to Water Deep and that they are being escorted by men from Mirabar. We also don't know how much important are
Bruldenthar's scripts or what kind of information they hold.

Sean said...

Leonardo: Cool, thanks for the link. I didn't realize they closed the forums. I didn't finish this campaign, our group got into the first temple (wind, I think) when I ended it. Thank you!

The whole delegation thing is a mess. You guys figured it out better than I did.

Daniele Silvi said...

Another mistake in the module: the earth prophet Marlos is also called Marios,... I wonder which is the real spelling...Marlos or Marios? I suppose the first one...

Unknown said...

Awesome guide, this is helping me a lot. Many thanks!

Daniele Silvi said...

Feathergale Spire is sometimes called FeathergaTe Spire... Incredible the number of mistakes of this module

Greg said...

Awesome reference guide and links to other docs. I'm a DM of 30+ years and this adventure is awesome but it's a serious juggling/who's who challenge for us oldsters (and I'm going to guess somewhat intimidating for newer DMs as well:)).

Thanks for doing the legwork!

Greg said...

Awesome reference guide and links to other docs. I'm a DM of 30+ years and this adventure is awesome but it's a serious juggling/who's who challenge for us oldsters (and I'm going to guess somewhat intimidating for newer DMs as well:)).

Thanks for doing the legwork!

Sean said...

Unknown: You're welcome! I'm glad it is useful.

Daniele: Wow, I didn't notice. I think every module has errors in it, but it's weird that in this book some of the mistakes involve very important things (the mirabar delegation).

Greg: Thank you, yeah this adventure is a real headache to prepare. I definitely feel bad for newer DMs trying to get through this.. though D&D players tend to be really smart people, so I'd bet almost all of them are up to the challenge.

Michael English said...

Hands down, the best guide for Princes of the Apocalypse I've found. Sits on my tablet for reference while I run the game. Probably should have posted earlier, both my enthusiasm for it, but also my solutions to some of the questions here, as they are working really well. Red Larch was a blast, with my group really exploring the political dynamics. The first delegation related hook they pursued was the shallow graves. For some reason they really wanted to hire the drunk Half-Orc Zomith to escort them, so I let them do that. (Maybe it was out of pity for her.) I did not change the location, rather looking at the map of the hills I understand it was just the best path to take from where they crossed the river. Two reasons: first, they probably just followed an easy route along the hills rather than climb over them and second, if the air cult is known to be hunting them, they would want to try to travel in the valleys to keep as much cover as they could (they were just seen near where they had to come out). I just don't see any north to south running valleys on the map they could have taken to shorten the route. Also the entrance into the valley where the Sacred Stone Monastery sits is only a narrow defile on the south side of the hills. I'll add more comments later.

Sean said...

Michael English: Thanks, I am honored you use it during the game. Is Zomith still with them? It's funny how sometimes a random NPC just ends up destined for greatness.

Michael English said...

Sean: To answer your question, Zomith is still with them, but won’t be for long. After examining the shallow graves, the party then found the monastery. Being turned away at the front door, they left and camped out. At night they were attacked by four hurricanes (Early Travels #12). The group had an easy time of it despite being surprised. Zomith did not even get a swing in. After the fight I had her approach the leader and privately confide that she was not an adventurer. She was happy to guard them, but that they seemed more than capable of defending themselves. Also she thought they might be looking for trouble, while she was not. They agreed to part ways at Womford, where they are heading to follow up on the dwarven book hook. The players spent considerable effort (three five hour sessions) interacting with Red Larch citizens and have most of the hooks to go on. There are six players, so I don’t think I’ll have NPCs tag along, unless it will add to the core story or move them forward when they stall. The day the sinkhole opened there were a low three players, so I did have Imdarr accompany them, but they made all the right turns, and while the advice given in the link to Detect Magic made the encounter with Larrakh memorable, it still ended well for them, killing him just as he opened the secret passage.

Daniele Silvi said...

Another discrepancy : about the 4 weapons of the princes, At pag. 6 we can read: "few years ago a drow named Vizeran DeVir returned to the ancient Fane of the Eye. [...] Guided by visions, Vizeran DeVir created four mighty weapons imbued with Elemental
Evil:"...but...at pag. 180 we find "Centuries ago, a drow named Vizeran DeVir used the power of the shrine to make four elemental weapons,"...so..few yard o centuries ago???

Dustin Saunier said...

Running the Weeping Colossus tonight and have a questions. Are the PCs supposed to fight Imix (plus 3 fire elementals), Vanifer and Halinaxus all at once? The damage output, along with Imix's awful legendary actions seem like it will lay waste to the PCs.

Is this correct?

IndistinctChattr said...

Dustin - if Vanifer is the only prophet left then the she will start the summoning ritual and will have Halinaxus as well. It might be best to have a few turns between the start of the summoning or before Imix can enter the fight. The PCs should have some knowledge to close the portal by throwing the weapons in!

If there are other prophets still remaining then the PCs will encounter Vanifer and Halinaxus.

1 Prophet should have been defeated at their respective temple. This causes the other three to retreat deeper into the Fane/Nodes.
1 Prophet defeated at the Fane.
1 Prophet + help defeated at their respective node.
1 Prophet + help + Elemental Prince are the last battle in the last node.

Michael English said...

A major issue for the story and early encounters with Howling Hatred forces is that none use any type of bow. Where do the arrow wounds found on the dead buried in the shallow graves come from? And how do encounters with Howling Hatred patrols or reprisals who “prefer to keep their distance and make ranged attacks” make sense? Other than magic, they only have spears and daggers to throw. For forces met outside, I gave each non-magic using cultist a shortbow and 10 arrows.

Rob Plummer said...

Sean, Were you ever going to get back to this campaign? I like your posts and use a lot of your ideas, in fact I have your site open during play. My group just started this campaign last week.

thanks for all your posts!

Sean said...

Michael English: Ha.. great question on the arrow wounds! There's all sorts of weird little discrepencies in this adventure.

Rob Plummer: I think this guide is pretty much done. I wish I could have run the whole thing, I'd likely have much better insight. I am glad that this is useful, that is really cool that you use it during a game!

Andrew Tempest said...

My players are due at the Sacred Stone Monastery this week. I expect Hellenrae will prompt comments about how she is going to New York to become a lawyer/vigilante.
With Renwick, I can see how you could say becoming a lich does not make you evil, normally only evil people become liches. Can the process really be as simple as pouting a potion of trasformation intended for someone else down an unconcious person's throat? He would still need to make soul sacrifices. though the MM does not say how often.







lord_kelvin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lord_kelvin said...

Dear Sean,
great job!!
I would like to know how did you replace the entrance to the temples? The idea to avoid the possibility to access to temple directly form the outposts is very good, but where did you put the entrances and which is the reason for the lack of entrance under the outpost?

Thanks!!

Sean said...

Lord Kelvin: I just didn't have the entrances there, I erased them from existence. I guess you could say that the entrances are in a different spot off somewhere where the heroes are unlikely to find them. Or you could make them into magical teleport circles that the heroes can't activate until they've finished the haunted keeps. Maybe the circles only work for cultists, but the heroes find an item in Scarlet Moon Hall that can activate one. Thanks!

lord_kelvin said...

Thanks for your reply. This a non-negligible bug, and moving the entrances out of the outposts changes a lot the role of the hunted keeps... I'll try to find a way to resolve this plot problem.

lord_kelvin said...

Thanks for your reply. This a non-negligible bug, and moving the entrances out of the outposts changes a lot the role of the hunted keeps... I'll try to find a way to resolve this plot problem.

Michael English said...

Lord Kelvin: I did this. The passage to the Earth Temple was filled with loose earth. The cultists were passed through by higher level adherents (you know how). The party simply didn't know how long it would take to dig through, so left to deal with another threat. Did not have to use these as the party is now high enough level, but: The river from Rivergard Keep was flooded to the roof and a water elemental seen patrolling ahead; The route to the fire temple would be filled with flame (add elemental if necessary); and the path to the air temple was obviously lacking in oxygen (see dead rats, torches die) and the party would not know how far that went (the air cultists mostly have items or can hold their breath for a long time). By the time the party is ready for each of the temples, the effects would have expired, except the earth, but when ready they could dig. Hope this helps.

lord_kelvin said...

Michael English: Dear Michael, great suggestions!! I'll use them as start ideas to customize my campaign!!! Thanks! ^^

Daniele Silvi said...

Another discrepancy: the module indicates The Hall of Hunting Axe as a 11 level scenario. I don't see any reason for this. Probably it should be a 1 level scenario!! There isn't anything than can motivate such an high CR...
What do You think?

Andrew Tempest said...

5 thugs (CR1/2) and a mage (CR6) total 17. Mage (CR6) and two scouts (CR1/2) total 16; Drannin Splithelm (CR7), Shield Guardian (CR7), Three veterens(CR3), total 46; Two stone golems (CR10) total 30. To make a first level scenario you would have to substitute much weaker foes.

Daniele Silvi said...

Yes true 😄😄😄 but not all together ....it still seems to me bad calculated by the authors of the module. I expanded it by placing in its place the old and famous Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gigax , obviously adapting it

Sean said...

I am compiling this to post in .pdf form to put it on the DMs Guild site. I just went through the comments (you're all in the "special thanks" section) and I am seeing a million posts that I never responded to. I'm sorry about that! It's been so long since I made this that I barely remember anything about this adventure.

Thanks to everyone for reading this one and helping me make this guide. I had a really hard time with this adventure.

Leonardo Raele said...

@Sean Consider reading the errata wotc published about this adventure not long time ago, with some (but far from all) of the incongruences of this adventure corrected.

Daniele Silvi said...

I wrote a complete guide to this adventure, filling every "hole" in the story and writing down some additional materials, such as the entire collection of Bruldenthar's books, the various letters for and from the principles png (Aerisi, Vainer, Marlos, ecc...)...and so on. Unfortunately it is in italian..if someone can translate from italian to english i'll be very happy to send him my work!

lord_kelvin said...

Dear Daniele,
I'm interested in your italian guide... Where can I find it?

Sean said...

Leonardo Raele: I will! Thanks!

Daniele Silvi: You should post that on the DMs Guild! It is a lot of work writing these guides, right? Thanks!

Daniele Silvi said...

Lord Kevin and Leonardo, write me a pm at d.silvi@me.com
I'll send you my work and,...yes...it took me about six months and it is still in progress. At the moment I've 67 pages of general module adjustments and clarifications. Plus tons of letters, clues and the entire collection of 20 brundelthar's books in order to distribute information over the course of the campaign. :-)

Nightfall said...

Since i wanted to thank you for your work, i bought this guide at the dm-guild. It is not much, but it is a "thank you" =)

Lobe said...

This article is fantastic. I'm in the process of putting this whole adventure into Maptools and the suggestions on how to add a bit more flavor or incorporate the random encounters into the nodes sounded awesome. The resources you post have been HUGE at giving me ideas to spice it up too. Thank you so much for your hard work!

P.S. If anyone's interested, when I'm completely done with putting drawing this whole thing in Maptools (I'm using a 5e framework, so tokens, vision blocking, treasure, all that jazz is done) I'm happy to give it away to whomever wants it. Should be done in a couple weeks.

Sean said...

Nightfall: Thank you! I really appreciate it. The DMs Guild pdfs are doing very well and I am really happy about it.

Lobe: Thanks! I am glad it is useful. I am getting ready to start Storm King's Thunder once it is out. It is very satisfying to write these guides. If you have a link to those Maptools things I'd be happy to put a link to them up in the links section of this post. My email: powerscorerpg@gmail.com

lord_kelvin said...

I've also partecipated in supporting you work buying the pdf! Thanks for your activity!!

I'm also interested in the maptools stuff! ;)

Sean said...

Lord Kevlin: Thanks so much! I appreciate it.

Lobe said...

At long last, it's finally done. Here's the link to the location on my google drive. It includes the campaign file and a .7z with all the textures I used in case you want to modify any of it.

https://goo.gl/3SqPZ1

Hope it helps!

Schmale van Goth said...

Thank you for the maptools link. which version of Maptool do you use? i cannot open the campaign unfortunately "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError:"

Schmale van Goth said...

64 bit Java fixed the issue for me!

Lobe said...

Sorry, yes, it's 64 bit Java.

Schmale van Goth said...

and put the maximum memory to 2056mb in the 1.4.0.5 launcher: http://www.rptools.net/downloadsw/

great work Lobe, this is awesome. cant imagine how much work you put in
and thank you power score for the very useful guide!

Sean said...

Lobe: Wow, 267 megs! You must have put a ton of time into this. Do you mind if I put that link to these files in the guide? Thanks!

Lobe said...

Don't mind at all, please do.

The whole thing took me about ~60 hours. My party should be playing this campaign for a year or two without any more in between session work on my end (unless I wanna make up a player specific sidequest or something) so it'll pay off in the long run.

Jonathan Gazda said...

Hello Sean! Thanks so much for putting this together. I am currently running PotA for a group of 3 and wanted to chime in on some thoughts I've had.

1. Having a dwarf or someone who speaks dwarvish in this adventure changes the feel of the adventure considerably. Also, Bruldenthar being rescued early on means you have a scholarly dwarf who can act as a mouthpiece for lore on Tyer-Besil as well as a quest-giver for Halls of the Hunting Axe and the Lost Crown of Besilmer.

2. The blog that you linked under "running earth priests" also has a fantastic section on adding "elemental shrines" for each element. This can be a good way to divulge the lore and backstory of the four prophets, who otherwise get hardly any screentime.

3. Not sure if it is a typo in the book or not, but apparently there are 50(!) of Bruldenthar's books in Gar Shatterkeel's treasure hoarde. I changed this to 2 for my adventure, it makes much more sense for a single scholar to have several books than dozens.

Finally, I definitely took your advice and made the adventure more linear. Of course, that involves directing the players a little bit, but so far I've been able to get Bruldenthar, the Aaracokra, and Vanifer more involved as quest-givers and NPCs.

Again, thank you for the great analysis and information! I'm running Curse of Strahd soon and definitely plan to use your guide.

That Portland Guy said...

I just wished to express my thanks for posting all this organized information. Its immensely helpful.

Sean said...

That Portland Guy: Thanks! I appreciate it. The first half of this adventure was a real pain in the butt.. the second half was much more straightforward.