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 20, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Scarlet Moon Hall

We had 5 tables going once again at the game store tonight. I encouraged some of the other tables to give themselves a group name. The group that is still in episode 4 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen christened themselves the "Butts". The group that has gone completely off-script and are now playing a Freeport adventure are known as the "Semi-Aquatic Weasels".

I cooked up some more spell-infused trinkets:
  • Owlbear Ragdoll of Holding: This Ragdoll has an opening in its belly that acts as a bag of holding. Inside the bag is a tiny forest demiplane that is home to an owlbear. The owlbear will only hand out items when fed.
  • Pewter Clasp: This clasp is charred and glows as if smoldering, but gives out no heat. Once per day the wielder can cast pyrotechnics.
  • Enchanted Flint and Steel: This flint and steel makes fire of random colors. Three times per day you can cast create bonfire with it.
  • Gauntlet of Zaaman Rul: This gauntlet bears the symbol of Zaamn Rul, The god prince of elemental fire. Once per day it can cast Aganazzar's scorcher.
My goal tonight was to get the party to Scarlet Moon Hall, which is the fire cult outpost. I hoped to get them to the set piece encounter, involving a giant burning wicker man. I was excited, as I like Scarlet Moon Hall and, once it's done, we will finally actually get in to the Temple itself!

The Party
  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck". Her character loves ghost peppers.
  • 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 Mines
Owlbear Ragdoll
The adventurers had met the lich in the Scared Stone Monastery. They left him alone, and continued to explore the mines underneath. They entered a room where an ogre named Drool and three orogs were beating up a fire cultist. The fire cult had just attacked this place and been defeated.

An orog demanded the secret sign, and the party paladin immediately gave them the triangle symbol. He had paid attention!

The heroes decided to join in on the pummeling. They sliced the poor guy with a halberd, cut both of his achilles tendons, and then shot him in the heart. Then they put an arrow in the corpse's head. The party cleric was disgusted. He ended up casting spare the dying on the poor guy at the first chance.

The ogre had found a magic item - the owlbear ragdoll of holding. He was baffled by the weird forest demiplane inside, and the owlbear. Lucky went over and ended up climbing in. She made friends with the owlbear (I believe her friends list in D&D is up to 10 NPCs now). The ogre stuck his head in and watched. His face was gigantic in the sky. His drool fell from his mouth and created a tidal wave. Lucky climbed a tree to save herself.

The adventurers had seen enough. They attacked the orogs. A rogue fired an arrow at the owlbear ragdoll, shooting it out of the ogre's hands. Squirrel Man, the squirrel with magic miniature armor, was launched at an orog. Squirrel man tried to climb into the orog's nose.

Lucky climbed out of the owlbear ragdoll and slapped the ogre in the face, which made him mad. A rogue ran over and sliced the ogre's achilles tendon, and then the bard cast Tasha's hideous laughter on him.

Once the bad guys were dealt with, the cleric chastised the party for being so vicious. The player is Lucky's dad in real life. In the previous campaign, he played a very violent rogue. Now he is playing a super-nice character, which I like.

The heroes explored further and found 17 prisoners. They freed them. It turned out that one of the prisoners was Bruldenthar, a dwarf from the Mirabar Delegation. He told the adventurers about how the delegation had been captured by the earth cultists, and how the air cult had stolen a prisoner from them. Bruldenthar believed that the rest of the delegation was being kept in a place called... The Temple of Elemental Evil.

The Heat Wave
The adventurers left the Monastery and decided to bring the prisoners to Red Larch, where they would be safe.

A heat wave had hit. I had some hell hounds track them. The heroes heard howling and saw scorched paw prints. The hounds attacked at night when the heroes camped.

Attacking PCs when they are sleeping is always weird. Who sleeps in their armor? Is it even possible to sleep in plate mail? I generally just let them do it, because honestly they're in big trouble if they don't have their armor. The hell hounds are tough!

The hounds made awesome stealth checks and took the party completely by surprise. A tent was set on fire and heroes were mauled. Two PCs actually were dropped early on in the battle. The adventurers won out. I made sure to say that when slain, the hounds became a pile of ash, as I'd just read their entry in the monster manual prior to the game.


A few days later, the heroes returned to Red Larch, to deposit the prisoners and regroup. There was all sorts of Red Larchery:
  • They saw a bunch of kids pretending to be the heroes from Tyranny of dragons, re-enacting the "gem floating over a lake" encounter of Xonthal's Tower.
  • Minsc and Boo met the heroes in a tavern. Minsc decided that his hamster should battle Squirrel Man to see who was tougher. As far as I know, Boo is just a normal hamster, so he was in big trouble. Squirrel Man kept rolling low, though, so basically Squirrel Man would leap at Boo, but Boo would lean over to grab a nut and Squirrel Man would fly right by. Lucky helped out by giving Boo a seed tainted by a ghost pepper. This staggered the hamster, which allowed Squirrel Man to deliver a piledriver to end the battle.
  • Really the point of this bar trip was to run the "poison ale" encounter. There's a water cult spy in Red Larch who wants revenge for the heroes destroying Rivergard Keep. When you're running an encounter like this, you can't just say 'you're in a bar and a guy buys you drinks - do you drink it?' It's too obvious in a meta-game way. You have to throw a number of details and questions at them, all benign, so that way the poison ale doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.
So I had the owner of The Swinging Sword buy them a round of (safe, normal) drinks and asked the players, "Do you drink it?" They did. Then I had people come up and talk to them, stuff like that. Then I hit them with this Justran guy, who bought them a round of (poison) drinks. Well played, I thought.

But my players were too savvy! They all immediately felt something was up and they checked their drinks. The guy got nervous, and ended up trying to run but got hit with a blindness spell. He ran into a wall.

The characters roughed him up, and he admitted he was with the water cult and that Gar Shatterkeel would destroy them all. The guy was placed in the custody of Harburk, the constable.

The heroes picking out the poison ale was, in my opinion. an example of "good play". I did my job in trying to avoid meta-game pitfalls, and they succeeded in the encounter thanks simply to being on their toes.

The Haze at Scarlet Moon Hall

The heroes had learned from the fire cultist they saved that the fire cult was up to no good at the Scarlet Moon Monastery. The next day, the heroes headed for the place.

It's a really cool location. The fire cult is disguised as druids. They are claiming they're going to do a ritual to end the heat wave, and have invited other druids and people to join in. Really, they're recruiting for the fire cult.

The place is on a hill. There's a lot of bonfires on the hill, which creates a haze over the whole place (lightly obscured). At the top of the hill is a tower and a giant wicker man, on fire.

At each bonfire are some NPCs. Some are actually good guys who think the ritual is legit. Others are cultists or bad guys that the cult is trying to recruit.

The adventurers met some druids and their elk. The druids were friendly. Lucky fed an elk a ghost pepper, which didn't go so well.

The heroes went up the hill, and met two hairy guys hanging out by a bonfire. They gave the adventurers the stink eye and told them to move along. A party rogue started arguing with them and a fight broke out. The cleric chastised the rogue.

These hairy dudes were werewolves! I was hoping a PC would get bit and get the curse of lycanthropy. I thought that might be fun. But I rolled low.

Lucky kept hugging the werewolves (remember, her player is 9 years old) and she got upset when the rogue killed one of them.

She wanted to befriend them, but they both ended up dead. There was a bit of a squabble between players over this, which sort of illustrated the slight issue in the group - some of the players just want to play grim vigilante type characters, while others want to be a bit more subtle. Everyone is generally very willing to let Lucky do her fun stuff, but sometimes things like this pop up.

It was an above average session, maybe the best one that we've had since the campaign started. Next week we will have the big wicker man battle and we should also actually get into the Temple itself!


Zingbob Co said...

Couple things, one I REALLY enjoy reading these, they are amazing. However, I do have a couple questions for you. The Spell-infused trinkets, are you purposefully going off of AL rules for that? Secondly, really great descriptions with what's going on. Thirdly, sadly, the curse of lycanthropy has been touched on by the AL crew, see here: so sorry but the player's can't become a lycanthrope. Fourthly, how long do you normally play for? Finally, I really like all of these session reports and hope to hear more of them. My group is still at Feathergale Spire, but is unsure about what lies beneath their feet in the Dessarin Valley.

Sean said...

Zingbob Co: Thank you! Here's the deal with AL stuff. Nobody in my store except for me knows about or cares about the Adventurer's League rules. Up until recently I enforced them at my table, but everyone from the store owner on down just doesn't care. Nobody in my store goes to conventions or anything like that. Almost across the board, this store game is their only game.

So, the trinkets are illegal. The lycanthropy is illegal. When illegal stuff happens at my table, I point it out and make sure everyone knows that if they took their character to another store or a con, they'd need to understand certain things they have just aren't allowed.

We play for 2 hours. I run my games like a swat team. I want to get a certain amount done and I push them to make it happen.

Feathergale Spire is cool. I wish I could run it again, as I didn't really handle the whole thing well at all, particularly the entrance drawbridge.

Benji said...

Mad, isn't it that they'd say that Al rules prevent lycanthropic players then put two encounters in and explicitly state that the bites transfer lycanthropy in an AL adventure? i think wizard now view expeditions as the core AL adventures and Encounters as for everybody else.

Zingbob Co said...

@Sean. Ah, I see, I was just wondering about the whole thing as I run my games for the most part straight on AL. If you understand that and point it out to your players that sounds good. Man, two hours? You must go straight through everything, I have like three hour sessions, and this is our 6th session, though they have traveled to a lot of the keeps.

@Benji, That interestingly is false, I have had a talk with my regional coordinator about a similar topic (gaining renown in encounters vs. expeditions) and it turns out that Encounters is there main focus, however, they cannot edit the encounters adventures or make Errata as the adventures are owned by WotC and the AL staff are volunteers. However, in expeditions they can make edits and things because the AL staff are the people who come up with the adventures.

Jake Mitchell said...

Taking the tip about the poison ale to heart, normally I handle it well but I think with PoA I would have skipped it entirely.

Sean said...

Benji: The whole AL system is bizarre. It's only encounters for the first few chapters, then technically we're playing casual play. Why wouldn't the whole book be encounters? Why do they design adventures that most people can't finish in 6 months when the next adventure comes out?

Zingbob Co: I definitely sacrifice a certain amount of roleplaying... when you let players sit and soak in a town or environment, they usually end up getting into shenanigans and that is a great way for them to develop their character's personality. But on the whole they all seem to enjoy the pace, especially after a DM filled in for me one week in Tyranny of Dragons and they got absolutely nothing done.

Jake Mitchell: It's worth it... it might be extra fun to introduce the poisoner earlier in the campaign so the players will really feel the sting of deception - or maybe they'd find him out in some fun way, that would be cool too.