Table of Contents - A handy way to check out my articles by topic
Follow me on Twitter
Check out the Power Score RPG Youtube Channel here.
You can reach me at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Knights of Samular

5e Demogorgon
The new D&D adventure has been announced. It is called Out of the Abyss, and it apparently deals with the underdark, Demogorgon, and perhaps other demon lords. I am very excited about this, as I have been a big fan of D&D demons for a long time. In particular, the final adventures of the Savage Tide adventure path and the Dragon Magazine articles by James Jacobs really brought them to life for me.

4e Demogorgon
I am fine with the new look of Demogorgon. While I like the way he looks in 4e, The new one isn't overly different - just darker and 2015 CGI-ish. It's much better than the weird 3rd edition version of him with the long necks and the wolf heads.

Troubled Times?

As for this Elemental Evil D&D campaign at the game store, our group has reached critical mass. There's too many players and I felt tonight that changes were coming. One player didn't make it, which is something that pretty much never happens. I have a feeling sometime soon players may drop out. I have a few reasons why I think this will happen:
  • The "golden" time is over. The players now understand the game and those first exciting, illuminating sessions are long gone.
  • The players are starting to get tired of each other. 
  • 8 players is just too many.
  • I am not too thrilled with this adventure and it is probably showing through. I think it will pick up when we get to the temples, but that's a few sessions away.
  • I think running the Iceshield Orcs mini-adventure was a mistake. It ate up 3 weeks of gaming and it has nothing to do with the main storyline.
Not that this was a bad session. It was fine. I came armed with some squirrel stats, as last week "Squirrel Man" aka "Squirrel Gear Solid" made his debut. I looked at rat stats in the PH and based Squirrel Man on those. The poor little guy has +0 and does 2 points of damage. I also ruled that Druid Okobo cast animal friendship on him and speak with animals, which explains some of last week's wackiness.

In general, the players don't like the idea of Squirrel Man being run like a normal squirrel. I sensed this immediately and loosened up a bit to accommodate their vision.

The Party     

  • 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 and worships Ilmater.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler. Wants to be evil, but Adventurer's League rules restrict this. Has a dog.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Worships Helm. Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: A new player. Taking to the game very well.
The Orcs

The heroes were holed up in Dellmon Ranch, with a few dozen homesteaders, a druid and a skeletal knight. A party rogue had been snatched by the orcs!

The adventurers decided to head into the woods to try to rescue him. They crept up into the forest. They saw that the orc horde was gathered around the rogue, going through his stuff. They revived him so they could question him.

The shaman found his wand of magic missiles! It had only one charge left. She took it and began to question the rogue, and told him he'd make a useful slave.

The orcs then heard a noise in the forest - a cantrip cast by one of the heroes. It sounded like the party issuing a challenge. Many of the orcs went to check it out, led by their orog leader.

The adventurers jumped the shaman and her orcs. The rogue being questioned gave her a leg sweep. Squirrel Man raced forth and pulled the wand from her grasp (yes, Squirrel Man made an opposed strength check against an orc and won - the orc rolled a natural 1).

Shatter spells and arrows from trees devastated the shaman and her orcs. The shaman created a spiritual weapon, but it was of little use. The orog and the 17 orcs with him came back and saw the slaughter. They decided to leave the shaman to her fate.

The heroes returned to the ranch. Late in the night, the orcs tried to creep close to the ranch to set the place on fire. They created a decoy, letting a pair of orcs be spotted past the ranch entrance, while the rest of the pcs tried to creep up from the other side. Squirrel Man was sent out to sweep around and see what was going on.

Squirrel Man was soon being chased by 15 bloodthirsty orcs, but escaped with his life. The orcs retreated into the forest, their scheme foiled.

At dawn, the orcs emerged from the forest with... flaming javelins! Buildings were set ablaze and javelins struck the party rogues, who were perched of the rooftops.

The heroes were out of spells and all of them were injured. As the orcs advanced, elves burst out from the forest and attacked the orcs. The elves were led by a paladin riding a spectral stag. He was the paladin who killed Rezmir in Hoard of the Dragon Queen, now a great hero known throughout the land!

The adventurers let out a cheer as the paladin rode up to the orog and hacked into him, ultimately rolling a critical hit, slaughtering him. The heroes and the elves killed every last Iceshield Orc.

The paladin and the elves came to the ranch and everyone celebrated. The paladin told stories about fighting Tiamat, and one party realized that his father was one of the slayers of Tiamat (he's playing the son of his previous character).

Lucky decided to try to make friends with the paladin, so she could add him to her friends list. She tried to impress him with her juggling, but it didn't go well. Ultimately he became a friend.

Summit Hall

The paladin took a look at the skeletal warrior, and saw that he was wearing a tabard of the Knights of Samular, who lived in Summit Hall, not too far away. This is where the skeletal knight was trying to get to, so he could at last rest.

The heroes slept and healed. Once refreshed, they struck out for Summit Hall, leaving Druid Okobo behind. She gave the party three potions of animal friendship (for Squirrel Man dealings) and 2 scrolls of knock (there's an arcane-locked door in the Sacred Stone Monastery that I want the PCs to be able to get through).

Along the way, they spotted 5 robed figures up ahead. They wore golden gargoyle masks that glinted in the sunlight. The adventurers didn't know it, but these were earth cultists posing as monks.

As the heroes approached to greet them, the cultists saw a few of the heroes wearing wingwear (looted off of dead air cultists at Feathergale Spire). They thought that the heroes were air cultists who had fled Feathergale Spire. The earth cultists began to make fun of them, and asked them where their vultures were.

A fight broke out. I had the priestess cast a slow spell, which didn't have much effect. Almost everyone made their saves, and then when she took damage, she lost concentration. It was an experiment. I wanted to see how slow worked in play. It seems like concentration spells are going to be difficult to use effectively.

There was a ridiculous moment where Squirrel Man ended up in a bad guy's body (don't ask) and the party priest hit that cultist cast sacred flame. This created a sort of classic action movie scene, where Squirrel Man had to tunnel out of the guy's body as a fireball chased him. Squirrel Man exploded out of the poor guy's eye socket in slow motion as fire rolled out right behind him.

The earth cultists were so freaked out by this, they turned and ran.

The adventurers made it to Summit Hall, and the skeletal knight laid down on a slab. He was at last at rest. The Knights of Samular offered to allow the party paladin to join them. He decided to mull it over..

The knights recognized the golden gargoyle masks and directed the heroes to the Sacred Stone Monastery - an outpost of the earth cult.

That's as far as we got. Next week, the adventurers will arrive at the monastery to find it had just been attacked by the fire cult!


Jake Mitchell said...

Two topics today :P

I know there has been a rather loud bunch of people decrying the newly announced adventure because drizzt was mentioned so heavily.

I have to say it has me worried too, not because I expect him to be directly involved in the tabletop story so much. But because if he plays such a large role in the other (canonical as far as WotC is concerned) stories then he will be mentioned.

As we discussed with PotA one of the core reasons to pick up a prewritten adventure is to make life as a GM easier. I am worried that to keep the new adventure interesting/meaningful I am going to have to go through the entire thing and scrub all mention of another more powerful/influential hero doing all the background work from it -sighs-
Still going to buy the book, if people don't then hasbro are less likely to be happy with the tabletop division of the brand.

I think people expecting him not to be in the story at all are overly optimistic and being a one time quest giver is highly unlikely.

Nooowwww onto your game itself, shame to read about the possibility of player loss. I know you wanted fewer players, but the ideal is always to shift a player to another group while moral is still high.
By the time even one player has left in this maner it tends to have a knockon effect for other players.

Luckily you have some people who have been there since the Tyranny story line. But I am so invested in wanting growth in the hobby, no matter where it is -laughs-

On a side note, very cool article on planescape, or rather sigil a while back. I had forgotten quite how evocative the setting was.

Sean said...

Jake: Yeah, I don't understand how they plan on using Drizzt. Will he join the heroes for a session, or send them on quests? It might be cool if the bad guys brainwash him and the heroes have to fight him!

As for the group, I tried to split them into two groups of four but they didn't like the idea. I could be wrong - maybe they'll all stick around. But I'm getting a vibe. What might save it is that soon we'll be getting into the temple of elemental evil itself, and it is pretty awesome.

Jake Mitchell said...

I think the temple itself and the various details added to the cults is what really saves this adventure for me.

I will have to wait a while before running it for any of my groups though, I think everyone is a bit cultisted out at the moment. (Silly me I ran phandelver for my two introductory groups with a lovecraftian cult focus and nezznar (bbeg) being one of the villagers and the redbrand being set up to trick non cultist villagers into joining their safe cult)

Drizzt worries me because of how big he is, the marketing division is unlikely to allow anything too drastic to occur with him in a negative sense, and at the same time limiting his interactions will be cheap.
Still excited, their limited release schedule has me excited regardless of what book they release.

Wish a couple of my long standing players would stop complaining about lack of character options, I had to point out to one recently that pathfinder had less character creation options in the core book than 5e does.

Really looking forward to reading about the parties adventures through the temple though.

Sean said...

Jake: Yeah I like the limited release schedule too. 4e really blew through books at an alarming rate. You might want to just skip Elemental Evil entirely, as I am finding it to be quite dull. Out of the Abyss looks really cool.

Daniel Davis said...

*Slow* is a bad spell to use for the black earth priests most of the time. Wrote a post about how to use those guys here:

In general: *spider climb* to get out of the way, then unload *shatter*s until you run out, then *expeditious retreat*.

Sean said...

Daniel Davis: Awesome... I am going to add this link to my guide to elemental evil. Everyone running the temple of moving stones should see this.

Malcolm Coleman said...

Hi Sean,

Thanks for your posts on Princes, I'm enjoying reading them. I'm running it for my group, and your posts have been very useful, including this mention of the Black Earth priest tactics, which I used in the tomb of moving stones to good effect :)

I'm posting because I'm planning on using Iceshield Orcs soon, and I was wondering how you handled an encounter that has so many PCs, NPCs and monsters? Did you group the monsters together for initiative purposes? Who controlled the NPCs, or did they just get hand-waved? Would be interested in your experience, to help me make my play sessions fun.

Thanks in advance for any tips you can give me!

Sean said...

Malcolm Coleman: Thanks! I handled the NPCs in hand-waving fashion. Rolling for all of them would slow things to a crawl and everyone would be bored out of their minds. Just find out what the PCs are doing and think logically from there. If the heroes send the NPCs off on a mission, you can either decide what you want to happen, or roll a d20... high means they did well, low means disaster.

That "roll and see" method works well in other situations. Say an NPC is in the open and a bunch of orcs chuck javelins at him/her. Do some quick d20 rolls and eyeball it - it should be obvious whether they missed the NPC, wounded them, or killed them (critical hit).

The NPCs can be used to add some drama - an NPC might be in danger in the middle of a battle, and a hero may have to run over to help. Also, NPCs can assist heroes... if a PC was nice to a certain NPC, maybe that NPC saves the PC or flanks a foe, or drops a barrel of hay on the bad guy. Also, if the pcs have a crazy idea that might doom them, you can have an NPC warn them (you can advise your players through the NPC). In the end though, the players might want to try it anyway. Hey, you warned them.

Make sure not to use the NPCs solely in negative ways, otherwise your players will resent them and become trained to think that you only us NPCs to "screw" with them. Te NPCs should help them and be kind to them most of the time.

In general, remember that the NPCs are the "supporting cast".

Malcolm Coleman said...

Awesome tips, thanks. Good to remember that NPCs are (in this case at least) trying to help! Did you use a battlegrid and miniatures for your fight, and how did you handle the orcs? My concern is that my group will decide to station themselves at strategic points around the perimeter, meaning that I'll effectively be running 5 fights at once. I can't very well hand-wave the PC fights.

After posting the above I read your later posts about your difficulties at the store. Real sorry to read about that, it seems some people just don't know what they've got! As another commenter said, if you were over in England you would be very welcome in our group! Anyway, I wanted to say, from this 1st-time DM, that your posts have been really helpful to me :)

Sean said...

Malcolm Coleman: I used a giant poster map of a grassy field, and used building tiles to create the compound. One tricky thing was that the fence is not well described in the book. You should figure out what type of fence it is - I decided it was made of vertical logs lashed together with rope. If you end up with your player spread out, just roll initiative as normal (roll once for all your bad guys) and go from there.

That's a little scary that hey might be out there alone, 4 orcs might rush a single PC! It seems like your group would likely have to flee and run back to the compound as javelins rained down on them, which could be an awesome scene.

Haha sheesh I should take a trip to england! Thanks! The store was fun but ultimately it starts to feel like a chore when you can't pick who is at your table.