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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Iceshield Orcs

I've mentioned a few times that I have had a hard time reading this adventure. I finally finished my review of Princes of the Apocalypse, and started a guide to it. That means that I learned a lot over the past few weeks.

One thing I saw was that I didn't handle the whole delegation thing well. The entire initial hook to this adventure is that there is a missing delegation and the factions want to find out what happened to certain people or items. This investigation can lead the heroes to Beliard or Summit Hall, all sorts of places.

It was quite an ordeal poring over the book and finding out where the delegation ended up. One thing I could never find was this dead body that was meant to be brought to Summit Hall, home of the Knights of Samular. I scoured the book, I even asked people on twitter... as far as I can tell, the book gives the hook for the dead knight but never actually resolves it.

So I decided to take it into my own hands. I thought it would be cool if, when the delegation was attacked, that the knight rose up as undead and fought them. The skeletal knight now wanders the land, drawn to Summit Hall but only vaguely sure of how to get there.

Symbol of Tyr
The Knights worship Tyr, so I read up on Tyr as well as the Knights of Samular.

My goal for tonight was to have the heroes befriend the knight, go to Dellmon ranch and do that whole Iceshield Orcs side scenario in chapter 6. Then, time permitting, they can take the knight to Summit Hall to his final resting place. It is there that they can also learn about the location of the earth cult.

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.
  • Tiefling Sorcerer: Middle Schooler. His character is apparently a jester. He uses wild magic and his skin is blue.
  • 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 Knight of Samular

The adventurers had just taken down the water cult at Rivergard Keep. They rescued a druid named Okobo, an NPC from the Neverwinter MMO. She claimed that the wind talked to her, and that she believed it was actually Chan talking to her. Chan is the archomental of good air, the eternal foe of Yan C Bin, the evil air archomental.

Before Okobo was captured, she had been looking for help. Iceshield orcs were rampaging to the north, burning and looting farmsteads. The heroes agreed to go there and help Okobo try to take down the orcs.

They traveled northeast. After a day or so, Okobo sensed danger on the wind. A cardinal landed on the dwarf's shoulder (I like to have an animal interact with the PCs just prior to an encounter with a cult, to sort of show that nature is on the side of the heroes in their battle against elemental evil).

They spotted a skeletal knight in a field. In the sky was a feathergale knight riding a giant vulture, and three hurricanes gliding on their wingwear. They were clearly about to attack the knight.

The air cultists were trying to recover the knight for Aerisi Kalenoth, who was none too happy about the destruction of Feathergale Spire. The knight was the only part of the delegation that had slipped through the cult's grasp.

Crazy Okobo told the heroes to help the knight, and they did. The heroes are now 5th level, so they kicked some butt here (I leveled them a bit too fast, but now they are going to be level 5 for quite a while). The sorcerer caused a wild surge that hit the bad guys with lightning that did 4d10 damage, which shortened the combat considerably.

The we played Dungeons & Friends. The heroes tried to make friends with the skeleton. The knight is based on the skeleton from the D&D cartoon.

The Knight
I decided that he was missing his right hand, just like his god Tyr. I did this just to see what the PCs thought of this. Once they realized the knight was a follower of Tyr, they theorized that knights were required to cut off their own hand to prove their devotion to their god.

They befriended him in a lackluster skill challenge - I'll need to revamp these considerably. The way I am doing it is not working to my liking.

The skeleton knight joined the party. They saw on his tabard a symbol: a crossed sword and torch (the symbol of the knights of samular) but they didn't know what it meant.

The Burning Farm

They continued on and came upon a burning farm. There was a woman in the barn calling for help. Lucky ran in to the barn. I added in a couple of "traps": A beam that falls from the ceiling and incapacitating smoke. Lucky navigated both traps and rescues the woman. The woman told the heroes that orcs had taken her husband and all their stuff.

The cleric healed the woman (named Maygan) and followed the tracks. After a half hour, the heroes found the orcs camped in what would turn out to be a fateful encounter.

Squirrel Man

The adventurers jumped the orcs. One of the rogues, played by the new player, climbed a tree and aimed his crossbow at an orc. I told him that a squirrel was in the tree, worried that the rogue was going to take it's acorns. The squirrel was frantically stuffing acorns into it's mouth.

I did not know until today that the reason that this new player wanted to play D&D was because he heard a story from our Tyranny of Dragons campaign. When the heroes in that game fought the green dragon Chuth, a rogue had impaled a squirrel on an arrow and shot it at the dragon (rolling a critical hit).

The new player lit up and excitedly snatched the squirrel. He wanted to shoot the squirrel at an orc's mouth, hoping that the orcs would suffocate or something. He rolled a natural 20.

He shot the squirrel and the bolt (The squirrel rode the bolt) into the orc's mouth. The damage was enough to kill the orc. The orc fell to the ground and the squirrel exploded out of the orc's skull, covered in blood and squeaking triumphantly.

I know this is fairly implausible, even for D&D, but everyone was laughing so much that I just went with it and figured I'd come up with an explanation later. At the moment we decided that the squirrel truly hated orcs and had waited a long time to take them on.

The adventurers finished off the orcs. Druid Okobo spoke with the squirrel and befriended it. The new guy asked the squirrel to join the party. He agreed to do so. The new player named the little fellow: Squirrel Man.

The heroes rescued the captured husband. In the adventure, it's the wife who gets captured and the man who is in the barn. I switched them, because orcs taking the woman and leaving the man sort of implies orc breeding, and I don't want to touch that with a ten foot pole in this group.

Dellmon Ranch

The adventurers continued on to a place where farmers had holed up: Dellmon Ranch. About 40 farmers were there in a little compound with a wall made up of logs tied together with twine. The emerald enclave had sent for help, but it had yet to arrive.

The farmers warned the heroes that a horde of orcs were near, and would likely attack soon. A couple PCs wanted to make friends with certain NPCs, and did so.

The adventurers set themselves up in the complex, and waited.

The Initial Surge

An hour or so passed, and then the orcs emerged from the forest. They gathered 100 feet from the northernmost building. Two heroes were on the roof of that building. To their horror, they watched as the orcs threw a total of 40 javelins (!!) at the compound. 10 of the javelins went at the two guys on the roof. Then, the orcs fled back into the forest as the PCs returned fire.

A javelin hit and killed one of Kerbin Dellmon's sons (A number of PCs and NPCs were out in the middle of the compound and were sitting ducks for javelins). The cleric had a spell that saved him. The Dellmons were most grateful.

There was more waiting. The heroes huddled with the NPCs and decided to stay inside the buildings, to protect themselves from the javelins.

The new player had druid Okobo to ask Squirrel Man to go on a recon mission. At this point, the party had been talking about Squirrel Man as if he was Rambo, complete with a red headband. Squirrel Man of course agreed, and set out alone.

I had the new player roll for Squirrel Man's stealth checks and etc., and his dice were on fire. Squirrel Man found the orcs in the woods. They were carving up sticks to make more javelins. The squirrel saw the leader - an orog. He also spotted a shaman/priestess (I had half of the orcs be female - blue-skinned with long black hair in a topknot). The shaman was tending to some of the orcs' wounds.
Orog
Squirrel Man found one orc away from the others, sharpening a javelin. Squirrel Man decided to try to trip the man in such a way that he might fall on his own javelin. More dice were rolled. Another natural 20! The orc tripped and was impaled on his own javelin! He died. The players at the table could not get enough of this.

Squirrel Man returned and told Druid Okobo the news.

The Orcs Return

20 minutes later, the orcs emerged from the forest and heaved 40 more javelins. But this time, everyone was safe inside the buildings. Twenty of the orcs drew melee weapons, roared and charged. Once they got within 40 feet of Dellmon Ranch, the heroes took action. The bard cast a shatter spell that exploded in their midst, sending orcs flying in all directions. Ranged attacks were fired out of windows.

The new guy, Lucky and the barbarian hopped out of the ranch and faced off against about 18 orcs! Other players tried to talk them out of it, but they didn't listen. I knew this was big trouble for the party. Four orcs rushed the new guy, who fired a crossbow bolt at an orc. Squirrel Man rode the bolt onto the orc. The orcs closed in on the rogue and cut him down almost instantly (they do 9 points of damage each).

Four more orcs charged Lucky. Lucky's real life dad cast a sanctuary spell on her, which saved her from them (the spell prevented most of them from attacking her).

The barbarian stood in front of the Dellmon Ranch entrance. He rightly assumed that the orcs were going to try to bash in or damage the front gate. The sorcerer cast a cloud of daggers spell in front of the gate, which was very smart. This triggered a wild surge, which turned him into a potted plant for a round. Because he has blue skin, I decided that the plant was blue.

The barbarian is tough and he fended off the orcs, with aid from the bard who hit them with another shatter spell.

A couple of orcs broke through a window in the northern building and attacked the heroes and NPCs in there. A rogue grabbed the potted plant/sorcerer and chucked it at an orc. He rolled (what else?) a natural 20! He caved in the orc's skull and killed it.

A few orcs were slain. The others grabbed the dying rogue as a hostage as they fled back into the woods.

We had to stop there as we ran out of time. I generally hate taking a PC hostage. I had to make a snap decision, and to me it felt like the orcs would do that. I also wanted to have consequences for the fact that a few PCs actually decided to try to fight 17 orcs in melee combat.

Plans For Next Week

Now I have a week to sort of mull over the situation. Squirrel Man is stowed away on an orc and might be able to save the rogue. The rogue had failed his first death save. There's a lot of ways to go - The rogue could get tied up and try to escape with the aid of his squirrel. The heroes could go out there, create a diversion, and save him. Or maybe a hostage exchange of some kind can take place.

I will need to be careful not to let things drag.

I should also note that Lucky was quick to ask the people of Dellmon Ranch why the orcs were attacking. The orcs were sort of displaced by the cult activity and have decided to take the farms, live in them until they are trashed, and then move on. She is a good player like that. She always asks the right questions.

I'm going to have to cook up more realistic rules for the squirrel. I want to keep him fun, but not let it get too cartoonish.

I knew this mini-adventure would be fun. I think the players have really enjoyed it so far.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Planescape - A Guide to Sigil, City of Doors

I am going through one of those campaign-planning phases again, where I do a lot of research for a campaign that may never take place. I am going to attempt to create a reference for the city of Sigil, which is the extra-planar city that serves as the home base for the Planescape setting.

I am using material from these sources:
The point here is to take the essential material out of those sources to create a brief outline that can be used by a DM to get a handle on the city without having to do hours of research. It's pretty much my notes on the city that I will refer to in play when the heroes are in Sigil. I tried my best to use as few words as possible.

I would highly suggest that you play Planescape: Torment, if you're OK with a computer RPG game that involves a ton of reading. The characters are great, the details are insanely deep, and it gives you a feel for how the city should be depicted. I took notes as I played, so that I can use all of the coolest locations, like the Smoldering Corpse bar and the Curiosity Shoppe.

Sigil is built on the inside of a hollowed-out donut. Gravity works there in such a way that you can walk all the way up the side to the ceiling. So if you are on a Sigil street and look up, there's city above you.

There is a hovering luminescence above the buildings that creates day and night, though much of it is the gloom of twilight (Noon is known as "Peak", and midnight is known as "Anti-Peak"). There's no moon or stars, obviously, but the twinkling lights of the city above create a similar effect. Brownish rain is frequent and fog in the streets is common.

Important Things to Know

Sigil is Run by The Lady of Pain: She is around 15 feet tall with blades growing out of her face. It is rumored that she was once a demon lord. She doesn't speak, she just drifts down streets and those who engage her suffer her gaze, which causes cuts to begin to open on their body. She also has the power to send enemies to The Mazes.

The Mazes: A wasting maze that is a demi-plane, a copy of Sigil and in the Ethereal plane. Things can get in to a maze, but they can't get out. Food and water appear. The prisoner knows there's a portal out but can't find it or activate it.

"Powers" Not Welcome: Gods/demon lords/primordials are physically unable to step foot in Sigil. Their priests and proxies come to Sigil to try to figure out a way to remedy this.

Factions: Sigil is full of factions devoted to all sorts of things. I find it hard to keep them all straight. This site has a faction index.


Portals

The City of Sigil is full of portals in all sorts of weird places. Each portal has a gate key, which can be things like a rose from a specific mortal world, or a sword - often the gate key is connected to the plane the portal leads to. Portals are the only way in and out of Sigil. Often, a person will accidentally activate a portal and stumble into some other plane or world.

Nobody knows how to make a portal, except maybe the Lady of Pain. Even wish spells can't make portals.

There's three types of portals:
  • Permanent Portals: These don't change, they always go to and from the same place.
  • Temporary Portals: Disappear after being used once or twice.
  • Shifting Portals: These portals move on a schedule throughout the city. It might be in an arch n one section for a few days, and then in a merchant's house for a week. It will take a PC to one plane like the Shadowfell for a few days, and then to the Elemental Plane of fire for a week.
The Law

The Lady of Pain doesn't care about murders or theft.  She only cares about things like:
  • Someone killing a dabus.
  • Someone trying to help a god or demon lord enter Sigil.
  • Rebellion against her rule.
She might show up and cut you up or send you to the Mazes. If not, you might still have to deal with the factions.
The Harmonium
Three factions have taken it upon themselves to form a "wheel of justice". The Harmonium makes the arrest, The Fraternity of Order conduct the trial, and the Mercykillers carry out the sentence.
  • The Harmonium: They paladins and fighters who wear red armor. They believe that to create universal harmony, everyone has to think and act like they do. They use shifter's manacles on their captives - shackles with a magic effect that prevents teleporting and causes those who try to teleport to take d10 damage. They wield planar man-catchers with the same spell effect.
  • The Fraternity of Order: They search for order in all things, and they are obsessed with learning the laws and loopholes of the universe.
  • The Mercykillers: These people think "mercy" is an excuse created by the weak and criminals. Every crime must be punished according to the law - there is no such thing as "extenuating circumstances". They can cast detect lie once per day. They run the prison of Sigil.
Court

If a PC has to go to court, they can hire an advocate for 100 to 1,000 gp (usually a tiefling or devil). Often the advocate can bribe an official or work out a blackmail scheme to the PCs' benefit.
  • Punishment for lesser crimes are usually fines.
  • Thieves are whipped.
  • Blasphemers (those who dare openly worship the Lady of Pain, for example) have their tongues pierced with a red-hot poker.
  • Those who tamper with portals suffer Strappado (ugh).
  • Deserters, embezzlers and murderers are hanged.
Public Executions

Death by wyrm
It goes like this. The Mercykillers bring out the condemned in a two-wheeled cart. Citizens pelt them with rocks. They are brought to the Petitioners' Square. The prisoners get to make a short final speech, which the crowd buys meat pies and pamphlets.There's three methods of execution:
  • By the Noose: The victim pays the executioner to set the knot to the side of the neck for a quick death.
  • By the Sword: This form of execution is for people of status who did something like not paying taxes or libeling the Lady of Pain. The executioners use two sword/cleavers, known as "Scythe" and "Raven" to behead the victims. Fun fact: If the victim isn't dead after three slices, he or she is pardoned and set free.
  • By the Wyrm: This one is rare and considered a public holiday. The victim is usually a traitor to the city or a dabus-killer. The victim is tied to a post and fed to the Mercykiller Wyrm.
The Mercykiller Wyrm: The Mercykillers have a "mascot", a pet wyvern with stubby wings (it can only fly for a minute or two). It has a venomous bite that causes delirium, which makes it easier to extract confessions from people. The venom is a main ingredient for potions of truth.

Most of those who are executed are put on pikes and displayed. The worst of the executed criminals have their bodies placed in iron cages where the city's ravens pick at their remains.


Other Things That Make Sigil Different

Money: Merchants accept any coins, as long as they are made of gold or silver. So your PCs will likely end up with money from Krynn, Toril, and who knows where else in their pouch. "Sure it may be minted in the likeness of hideous Juiblex, but gold is gold."

Razorvine from the 5e DMG, page 110
Razorvine: This stuff grows in Sigil. It's a vine with black leaves that are a sharp as a blade (it does "2d3" damage if touched!). It grows fast - a foot per day. It becomes dull and brittle if cut.

A Dabus
Dabus: Blue-skinned humanoids who hover and make repairs on the city and trim razorvine. Some may be agents of the Lady of Pain. They communicate by creating hovering symbols above them (these symbols are known as "rebuses"). The Helm of the Dabus is a magic helmet allows the wearer to communicate as the dabus do - with rebuses. Only one of these is known to exist.

Most people get around on foot (there's not many horses) or by sedan chair. It is literally a chair that fits two people, carried on the backs of four burly humanoids.

Cranium Rats: Sigil has a lot of vermin. Rats, wererats and cranium rats. Cranium Rats share a group mind. The more there are in a swarm, the smarter they are. 100 cranium rats in a swarm have a 20 intelligence. Swarms have spells, can use the mind flayer mindblast power, and even gain magic resistance when the swarm nears 100 rats. It is believed that they refer to themselves as "The Us" and that they wage war with Ilsensine, god of the mindflayers.

Two Special Spells for Sigil:
  • Warp Sense: This is a level 2 wizard spell that lasts 1 round per level. Range: touch. The recipient can concentrate and see portals. He or she can then roll (Arcana?) to see if they can sense where the portal leads and what the key is.
  • Surelock: This is a level 4 priest spell. Casting time: 1 hour. Duration: 1 day/level. This spell protects an area against planar portals.
Locations in Sigil

The city is divided into wards. I am going to describe each ward and list a few interesting locations.

The Lady's Ward

The richest and safest section of Sigil. Home to the Barracks, the Court, the Prison and the Armory. There's a statue of Bigby here as well.

The Prison: Home to the Mercykillers.

The City Court: Judges hear cases here. There's a vast library of laws.

The City Barracks: Home to the Harmonium.

(inn/tavern) Fortune's Wheel: A major social hotspot, owned by Shemeshka the Marauder. It is divided into a few sections:

  • The Dragon Bar: A vast common room/tavern. There's this huge carved dragon head that can breathe a black cloud on unruly patrons.
  • The Dicing Cup: Where wealthy people gamble large sums of money. It is watched over by an invisible mage and two gargoyles. There's an albino musician named Estrella with silver hair who often performs.
  • The Bear-Baiting Room: There's a pit on the map. I have no idea.
  • Fortune's Wheel:  The minimum bet is 10 gp.  You spin the wheel and hope it lands on a gold square. Most of the squares are black and pay out nothing. The mage's prize is a relic imbued with arcane power.
  • The Azure Iris: An inn on the top of the building with magically warded rooms to prevent scrying or eavesdropping.
The menu includes Abyssal Beef (5 gp), Divine Dogmeat (3 gp), Hangman's Ham (2 gp).

NPCs

Shemeshka the Marauder: There is a massive article on her in Dungeon Magazine #205. She is an arcanaloth (or raavasta) involved in everything from slave-trade to ownership of devil festhalls. She specializes in selling secrets and is an amoral liar/manipulator. She actually wears a sort of crown of razorvine on her head.

She runs The Mutual Trade Association and the Knights of the Cross-Trade and has a hand in the the Order of Master Clerks and Scribes, the Runner and Escort Guild, the Entertainer’s Guild, and the Adventurer’s Guild

Lissandra the Gate-Seeker: This woman is a mage formerly from the Forgotten Realms. She keeps a log of portals, and is known to question people who emerge from portals to describe the other side, and what the portal key is. She tracks shifting gates, trying to predict patterns. People pay her for portal information. She always has her protal lo book with her, and it is protected by multiple magic traps. She's a 9th level wizard. Here's her stats: Str 11; Dex 15; Con 12; Int 17; Wis 15; Cha 16.

The Hive Ward
This is a grim and poor place, full of thieves, pawnbrokers, secret slave markets and the insane. There's even gladiatorial pits. There are a lot of demons and devils here, quietly waging the blood war in back alleys. The entire ward is home to the Xaositects, a faction of the insane.

The Mortuary: This vast complex is home to the Dustmen, who inter the city's corpses here. It is said to have portals to every plane. This is the place that Planescape: Torment begins in.

The Gatehouse Night Market: Thieves sell goods to fences, who sell the stuff to other people who ship it out of Sigil. You could come here to try to buy back something stolen from you.

(tavern) Smoldering Corpse Bar: This bar has a poor wizard hovering in the air, on fire. He is cursed. This is an awesome location overloaded with cool NPCs, including Dak'kon the githzerai.

Fell's Tattoos: Fell is a dabus that everyone avoids. He makes magic tattoos which could be a really cool magic item for your PCs.

The Slaughterhouse: This place features pit fighting in a cage. People sit on tables on scaffolds that line the walls, allowing them to watch the fight as they eat and drink. There's even an "elevator" with a rope and pulley system. The place is guarded by a minotaur bouncer named Vaargh. A popular drink is viperwine: A poisonous tanar'ric concoction demons drink. It is deadly to all except for demons. (This location appeared in the adventure "Nemesis" in Dungeon magazine #60).

NPCs

Kylie
Kylie: She is a tout (a guide to the city), a whip-smart tiefling and an NPC featured in a number of Planescape products. She seemingly knows everyone in Sigil and wins people over with her irrepressible spirit. She has a pet named Dib. It's an ethyk (a cute, furry little one-eyed rabbit/raccoon creature). Kylie specializes in knowing things people will pay to find out. She prefers to be paid in magic items

Lower Ward

This area is home to the city's craftsmen. It is full of warehouses, smoky mills, forges and workshops. There are a lot of portals here.

The Great Foundry: Home of the godsmen. They make anything that can be fashioned out of iron.

The Friendly Fiend: A magic shop run by A'kin the Friendly Fiend (see below).

The Parted Veil: This is a bookshop on Forgotten Lane which is a tremendous resource. There is a secret back room that nobody is allowed to go in except the owner, and in it seems to be any book a person could want. The front door has a magic mouth that utters inspirational messages whena customer enters. The walls and floors are made of old books. The place is run by a gnome named Kesto Brighteyes, who thinks the gods are weak and undeserving of worship. He is assisted by Cleve, a bodak who somehow retained his mortal memories and disposition. Cleve was a paladin from Krynn who was slain by demons of demogorgon.

The Ditch: The only large body of water in Sigil, a foul and reeking morass that corrodes corpses within hours of being dumped. Wererats gather here to receive orders from their leader, Tattershade. Metal refuse is dumped here by the dabus.

Society of the Luminiferous Aether: A gentlemen's club for working mages. Only members are let in by the doorman - Gamnesto the Vile, a bound gehreleth. The place has a library and a list of portals and keys that work in Sigil and the planes. Membership fee: 10,000 gp!

(tavern) The Face of Gith: A githzerai establishment. They drink silently and sullenly. There's a sealed blob of primal chaos from Limbo here that some spellcasters can shape it into images and creatures to amuse the patrons.

(tavern) The Ubiquitous Wayfarer: This tavern is popular in part because people believe it holds over two dozen portals (all activated by obscure portal keys, of course). The proprieter is a middle-aged woman named Riaen Blackhome who belongs to the Fraternity of Order. There's a magical statue in the center of the taproom that "...depicts a barmy old wizard with a long beard". It speaks a new riddle each week. The Wayfarer is 2 stories high and it is known as a friendly and safe place. Meals are filling if not fancy.  This location is heavily featured in the Planescape adventure "Dead Gods", by Monte Cook.

(tavern/inn) The Black Sail: Fused to the tavern is the hull of a galleon that has a gargoylish figurehead and a soot-stained sail. The establishment is ill-kept. There are tables in the middle of the room and curtained-off booths. The innkeeper is a brooding thief named Zaren. Salja Slitterknife, a tiefling waitress, sees a lot. She happy to sell information to people for 100-400 gold. Her brother, Llisian is a thief. This place appears in "The Eternal Boundary" adventure, as well as two Chris Perkins Dungeon magazine adventures - "Umbra" and "Nemesis".

(tavern/inn) The Styx Oarsmen: This inn prides itself on accepting the more exotic beings of the city, although you can't get in here without a password. Most of the patrons are demons who come here to meet and do business. The Oarsmen is a dark, dangerous place run by a githzerai named Zegonz Vlaric who has one arm frozen in a clawlike pose. He was crippled by "do-gooder" adventurers and hates them. Unseen servants keep the place tidy. There's a secret room in the back for clandestine meetings - you'll need to pay the bartender 100 gold for access. The bartender is a marilith named "Marilith" who mixes three drinks at a time. The place is secretly owned by Rule-of-Three, who is usually in disguise as a githzerai scholar. There's a ridiculously awesome page on this place here.

NPCs

A'kin the Friendly Fiend: A raavasta who always seems a little too happy. He is connected to Shemeshka as both a friend and an enemy. She has burned down his shop 3 times in the last 100 years. Some think he is a spy for demons or devils, reporting on the Lady of Pain.

Rule-of-Three

Rule-of-Three: He is a cambion who may be linked to the demon lord Graz'zt. He often disguises himself in the form of a githzerai. He gives three answers to every question. He also insists on being paid for information with three payments, like one gold, one silver and one copper or a joke, a proverb and an insult.

Clerk's Ward

Home to bureaucrats, sages and scribes. Clerks, shopkeepers and moneylenders live here. There's a 200 foot tall statue called the Trioptic Nic'Epona (a 3-eyed horse). Each of the statue's eyes are made of a certain type of gem. If you hold a similar gem in your hand and step on the base of the statue and speak a command word (which is only known to a few dignitaries), you will teleport to Elysium, Celestia or a Prime Material Plane.

The Hall of Records: Home to the Fated and the hub of Sigil's financial world. In the adjacent Hall of Information, there's this door with nine levers. Pulling them in the right sequence gives you access to a vault full of good stuff: piles of gold from fees and bundles of documents that implicate Sigil officials in all sorts of crimes. Pulling the wrong sequence of levers sucks you into the negative material plane.

The Hall of Speakers: Home to The Sign of One. This is where the factions debate laws and feud with one another.

The Streetsweeper's Yard: A junkyard where dabus gather the refuse collected from the city's streets into huge, stinking piles. The dabus watch over this place, but it is known to be home to otyughs, cross-trading bandits and diseased giant rats. There's a portal here to duergar mines in Acheron that opens on its own once a week. The dabus use it to throw trash in. (This location is from The Great Modron March, page 118)

(Inn) The Whole Note Inn: Menu - Carceri Snails (7 sp), Poached Stirge Eggs (5sp), Glorium Ox (8 sp), Goat Filet in Strawberry Sauce (6 sp), Pickled Eel and Mustard Pie (6 sp), Boiled Shank of Bebelith (5 sp).

Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts: A brothel with workers who converse with the patrons. There's a secret area where the workers have these sensory orbs that contain their thoughts and feelings.

Civic Festhall: It's a concert hall, opera house, museum, tavern, and faction headquarters of the Sensates. It has these public and private sensoriums, where you can touch a magic stone and experience things like: frightened exhilaration, sheer wonder, lycanthropy and supernatural lust (!).

Curiosity Shoppe: This place sells tons of cool items. It is run by a cold alu-fiend with blue skin and yellow eyes named Vrishika. The magic items in here are awesome and unique. There's a rune-covered ale stein that keeps drinks ice cold, a monster jug (with a monster trapped inside) and a chocolate quasit - a quasit magically turned to chocolate.

NPCs

Estavan the Merchant Lord: An oni merchant lord. Ostentatious, manipulative and merciless. He often wears a red silk kimono and a gold necklace.He lives in an office building with a sign that depicts a caravan passing through a series of portals (the symbol of the Planar Trade Consortium). Estavan is never seen outside of his office - many think that there's a portal in his office to a secret headquarters of the consortium.

Jeena Ealy: The most popular author in Sigil. She writes true life adventure books. She hires freelance adventurers for research. She is planning books on the river styx and the beastlands. Some works include:
  • Death in the Norns: Adventures in the Outlands
  • In Darkest Sigil: Chronicles the horrid conditions in the Hive.
  • Other books include a history of the blood war, and a study of yugoloths.
The Guildhall and Market Wards

There are permanent portals here to cities of the planes. This is where you come to buy stuff.

The Great Gymnasium: Home of the Transcendent Order. This place has baths, steam rooms, massage tables, etc. It's a place for people to relax, and also a neutral ground for hostile parties (weapons and spells are not allowed in here).

The Flame Pits: This bath house is run by a sharp-tongued githzerai named Laril Zasskos. This place has exotic baths: lava pools for elementals, scouring whirlwinds, rank ooze, and pure water.

The Great Bazaar: Home the the Free League, a great place to buy stuff and get information.

Imel's Happy Tongue: A restaurant that sometimes sells cheeses: Warrior's Cheese (2 gp), Bytopian Red (1 gp), Tiefling's Delight (2 gp), Death Cheese (made from catoblepas milk! 20 gp).

Ensin's Discount Elixirs: Ensin, a mage, brews potions with cheap components. No refunds! He makes concoctions such as:
  • Potion of Small Animal Control (50 gp) - 1 to 4 rats, etc.
  • Potion of Limited Invisibility (50 gp) - Only works at night or in a dark room.
  • Potion of Limited Healing (30 gp) - Heals d6 damage
  • Potion of Blue Hue (10 gp) - Turns you light blue.
  • Potion of Drowning Resistance (75 gp) - You can breathe water for 10 minutes
Zakk's Corpse Curing: Mhasha Zakk is a taxidermist that will stuff anything. It's a good place to dump a body or make a little extra money. She pays 2 gp for a dog or cat, and 20 for a man-sized creature (or a man).

Alluvius Ruskin
Tivvum's Antiquities:  I am using material from Dragon Magazine #414 - "From the Attic of Alluvius Ruskin". This store is in a tower with green marble walls. It is known as good place to buy portal keys and is run by Alluvius Ruskin, a tiefling, old and frail. Some keys: Ice made from water of the river Styx, a balor skull inlaid with gems. The place also has some awesome magic items:

  • Mimir: A small skull made of metal that can give you information on the planes.
  • Karach Armor: Githzerai armor made from chaos matter of Limbo. It has no speed penalty despite acting as chain, scale or platemail.
  • Spellsoul Blade: A blade that allows you to store a piece of your soul in it. You can use it to deal different types of damage (fire, lightning, etc.). You can store it and recall it from an extradimensional space.
  • Modron Toy: You can use this to summon a modron, or open a portal to a "pocket dimension bounded by interlocked gears". You can rest in there, though if you spend more than 8 hours in there, you're either dumped out or sucked into the lawful plane of Mechanus. Time flows differently in the pocket realm. The DM rolls a d20, and the result indicates whether time flowed faster or slower while you were in there.

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.