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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Feathergale Spire

I kind of assumed that once Elemental Evil hit, attendance to our Wednesday D&D Encounters games at the store would drop off as people moved on to other things. That is usually what happens with new editions or campaigns/launches here.

That did not happen. We had more people than ever tonight. The owner said D&D is now better attended than Magic. To put that in perspective, our store revolves around Magic: The Gathering completely. Tonight we had 4 tables, all of which were over the limit. I think we had 8 players per table.

What's interesting is that it is not Elemental Evil that is necessarily bringing them in. All of the other tables are still playing through Tyranny of Dragons. I guess people are just plain into D&D.

It always boggles my mind that nobody wants to be a DM, but that is a problem we are having. To me, playing is pretty boring in compared to running the game, but I am clearly in the minority.

Last time, the heroes found clues that Elemental Evil was occurring in the Sighing Valley. There, a cult of elemental air was up to no good, disguised as griffon-riding animal hunters known as Feathergale Knights.

The Players

  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck".   
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad. He has a scottish accent.
  • Tiefling Sorcerer: Middle Schooler. His character is apparently a jester. He uses wild magic.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler. Wants to be evil, but Adventurer's League rules restrict this.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: The new kid. Taking to the game very well.
Feathergale Spire is tricky. The adventure sort of suggests that the heroes come to the Spire and are befriended by the knights, who take the PCs on a Manticore-hunting expedition and try to convert them to... elemental evil.

Feathergale Knight
But my group is so big and full of young, excitable players, that I felt like this would be utter chaos and the older players would get annoyed. So I ran it intending to have them just hack their way through the spire.

The spire itself looked boring. I figured I'd empty some rooms to move it along if necessary. But in the end, the wild magic table saved the whole session. The party sorcerer has the ability to give himself advantage, but he has to roll on the wild magic table, so he did so all night and it was awesome.

We started off at the Sighing Valley. The heroes spotted a cave high up on a cliff, and two PCs made the incredibly dangerous climb up. It was a griffon nest. No griffons were in there... but their eggs were. The heroes stole the eggs.

They climbed down and crossed the valley a bit. They met some aarakocra (bird people) who warned the heroes about the feathergale knights. They were mortified when Lucky showed them a stolen egg and asked them what kind of creature was in the egg. The aarakocra warned them to put the egg back or the mother would hunt them down!

The heroes made their way right through the valley, avoiding the gnoll encounters by mere chance. They found some rocks with a giant vulture picking at a corpse, and they left it alone.

They came to the spire and went right up to the stables at the base, which housed giant vultures and hippogriffs. One lone, nervous knight was tending to the stables. The PCs didn't trust her and began poking her and threatening her. A fight broke out. A few vulture-riders swooped down from the top of the tower, and were killed.We had our first wild surge. The party bard could fly for one minute. He loved that so much.
The adventurers made their way inside. The new guy dodged a really cool wooden eagle/battering ram trap expertly. The heroes proceeded to hack their way through the tower. A wild surge caused the caster to become invisible.

It is a pretty dry series of encounters when run as a hackfest. This is where the wild surges kicked in and kept things fun. The heroes looted an armory and came upon a kitchen.

The kitchen is odd. 4 cultists are around a cauldron, sniffing steam and trying to become steam. Somewhere in here, Lucky decided that her black cat rides her driftglobe (a hovering ball which follows her and glows on command).

The heroes looted some bread and "ghost peppers" (I don't know what they are but the players really wanted them).

There's a solarium with a couple cultists, led by an awesome spellcaster called a Hurricane. He can catch missiles fired at him! I ran him like a kung fu guy, who brazenly dared them to fire at him.
A wild surge summoned 3 flumphs who were afraid of the caster. The lawful good gas bags observed the heroes and asked them why they had been summoned. They let out lavender gas of fear. The players requested that these same three flumphs be summoned every time that result on the wild surge table is rolled, which I think is a hilarious idea.

The heroes headed up some stairs and came upon a trophy room with a pair of knights inside. A wild surge summoned... a unicorn! Yes! The unicorn reared up. At first, Lucky wanted to hit it (I think she was just trying to make me laugh). Once the battle was over, Lucky tried to touch the unicorn. But she is chaotic neutral! The unicorn danced away from her in fear. She fed it a "ghost pepper". I just googled it, and these peppers are known as the "world's hottest pepper". This is good, as we ended right here so I can pick up next time with the unicorn freaking out.

The cleric is lawful good. I had the unicorn touch him with its' horn. It healed him completely and he regained all his spells, as if he had taken a long rest. It was pretty awesome.

I was disappointed that we didn't get through the whole scenario, but we got close. We are playing a special session on Saturday at the store so we should finish it and start the next one then.


Alastair Scarlett said...

Appreciate I am over a year late to this particular party, but I got Princes of the Apocalypse for Christmas and am doing as much reading up as possible before I consider DMing this for my group.
Did you specifically omit to mention the crack/pathway that leads to the the air temple?
I'm wondering if the other way to get around it is to have the existing defenders of the pathway (Whirlwinds?) bolstered by mounted Feathergale Knights to hopefully make the party run off.. Or, use a friendly NPC to warn them off or direct them elsewhere.

Sean said...

Alastair Scarlett: When I ran this, I was really confused by Feathergale Spire. I messed it up pretty badly. Specifically, the connecting land bridge at the top.. I don't know why, but I couldn't wrap my head around it. I did omit the crack. The thing about using NPCs to block it is that the players might just get more determined to get in, and come up with clever schemes to get in. If they come up with something hilarious and feasible, it will feel really lame to block it. That's why I just handwave it away - I don't want to risk having the players bump into an invisible wall, like in a video game. Thanks!

Alastair Scarlett said...

Thanks Sean.
Having read anther journal, the DM left a clue that a faction contact/friend of one of the players was missing and had left a sketch map indicating Feathergale Spire - I like that as a way to get the players there.
Later on, one of the arakokra came and informed them that they'd spotted cultists disappearing into a crack that they'd not noticed before.
I think I will try to use these ideas.
Having read all through your journal now I was sorry to read about your bad experience that led to dropping the campaign. I hope things have worked out for you now. I was regaling my playing group last night with some of the exploits of Lucky and Squirrel Man - they thought it was hilarious!! :o)

Sean said...

Alastair: Thanks! Yeah I was very bummed about how this turned out, it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I LOVED running for those kids. They really liked Squirrel Man, it was a nice way to get the new guy into the game in a fun way. Sometimes you get that home run NPC and you just ride it for all that it's worth!

valkin15 said...

Haven't finished fully reading this yet, but I just wanted to thank you for writing this and giving me some perspective of running this module; I thought I was the only one who was thinking these things when I ran POTA. It's nice to see someone who really thought this module through and put a lot more effort into the game than I did. It makes me want to run mine better. Thank you!

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