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5E Plot Summary - Storm Lord's Wrath

If you are not DMing this adventure, don't ruin your fun by reading this!
The story begins with what is seemingly a random encounter while the party is on their way to Leilon. A roadside inn the party is passing is under attack by a group of zombies and wraiths. After defeating the undead, the party gets to meet the residents and other travelers. Unbeknownst to the party, many of these folks are actually cultists of Talos (the Storm Lord) bent upon bringing destruction to the Sword Coast and the undead have been sent by Argus Skeel from a nearby town of Phandalin, a rival cultist that worships Myrkul (the Lord of Bones) that are also seeking to establish a power base in the region.

After this, the party continues its journey and as they arrive in Leilon they find that the town is under attack by a group of storm cultists (of Talos) led by the kraken priest Nixoxious. This fight is mostly between human(oid) cultists and the party, though a few water elementals are thrown in for variety. This provides a chance for the party to meet the various key leaders in the town, and to ingratiate themselves to the town as heroes. This is done not only by defeating the cultists, but by rescuing several town children in the process.

As heroes, the party is then given four opportunities to further help the town. The order of these are not important, but some of them can be foreshadowed by the GM with some gentle scene setting and environmental descriptions prior to the actual events occurring.

One of these is the request to help a local goatherder take some giant goats to the nearby town of Phandalin and to collect some supplies including holy water for Leilon. This provides the party to once more get caught up in the struggle between the two cults. In Phandalin, the Cult of Talos is led by a young elven thief by the name of Velleen Firecrow, who has garnered a group of kobolds to help in her tasks. While the Myrkul cultists here are represented by the vampire spawn Argus Skeel and the ghouls he has protecting him. It is important that the party defeat Velleen and take from her a pair of magical lenses that are later used to decipher the clues that lead to the final encounter.

Another of these quests is a return to the Wayside Inn, where the party is drawn to magical storms centered upon the place. This time is it the resident cultists, led by the barkeep Backes Dunfield, who have captured the owner, Martisha Vinetalker, and the other non-cultists and are performing a ritual to Talos and plan to sacrifice their prisoners to complete the ritual. One of the prisoners, the bard Tarbun Tul, is taken away by the cultists before the party arrives and to be rescued in a re-appearance in a later adventure (Sleeping Dragon’s Wake/Divine Contention) and the party finds a map, that when combined with the lenses found with Velleen lead the party to the final encounter at Thunder Cliffs. It can therefore be important that the DM not present either this or the Phandalin quest until they are ready for the party to be able to move onto the end game of this module or has otherwise accounted for getting the party to the end of this adventure.

There is a bit of a disconnect with the plot of this quest, as written the party is made aware of the trouble by a group of settlers who travelled from Leilon to the Wayside Inn and fled back to Leilon, leaving behind one guard to watch one of the wagons left behind. The disconnect is that the Wayside Inn as described in the adventure is 15-20 miles from Leilon, a days travel each way. Meaning the party would normally arrive back on that Inn until about 2 days after the ritual has started and the innocent had been taken prisoner and the guard has been alone the whole time. This can be hand-waved and ignored easily enough, but it does not need to be if the DM plans ahead a bit and either once again makes this appear to be a random encounter when the party is passing by, or foreshadows it and gives the party a reason to visit the Inn when things are looking ominous.

The third one of these quests has nothing to do with the two cults, but rather an issue in town itself brought about by the mage Gallio Elibro and has been tasked by Lord Neverember to restore the planar beacon in the tower of House Thalivar. Gallio has been possessed by the ghost of Thalivar and the party must rescue him and put the old wizard’s spirit to rest. This is one of the quests who’s timing doesn’t much matter but should be foreshadowed by the DM mentioning strange goings on in town and near the tower in advance of the party actually being tasked with solving this mystery. It is also a good time to enhance the myths and appearances of the various Swords of Leilon spirits that still protect the town.

The last of these quests is to rescue a town patrol that has gone missing in the Mere of Deadmen. As written, this quest has little connection to the struggle between the cults, but it can easily be tied into them. By motivating the rot trolls that have caused the problems for the lizard folk being either allies of the Mrykul cultists, or led by them, this expands the story and shows that the evil of these cults reach far and wide. The DM can make this tie to the death cultists by giving the rot trolls the same skull marks as the ghouls from the other encounters or by including a Mrykul Lieutenant in the battle with the rot trolls that might be hunted down by the party if they had investigated why the lizard folk clan had been fleeing. This quest also could be given more emotional impact if the DM introduces Private Jessup and/or Breltora earlier in the adventure. Perhaps even their first night in Leilon.

Once the party has the map from the cultists at the Wayside and the lenses from Velleen, they will be able to discover that the cult of Talos has a stronghold along the coast, at Thunder Cliffs and they will be able to make plans to rid the region of this cult of destruction. Travelling to the cliffs though is not so simple, as they are attacked by a ghost ship and get caught up in a mutiny and perhaps are betrayed. If the follow-on modules (Sleeping Dragon’s Wake and Divine contention) are to be used, the DM may wish to mark the ghost ship, or it’s crew, once more with the skull marks and otherwise account for the ship’s continued presence.

While in the cult stronghold, there are several opportunities to sow division among different factions of the cultists. Particularly between the local leader Gadrille the Reef-Reaver and her second in command Sovendahl. But there is also a coven of hags that the party may non-violently interact with as well as a small group of disenchanted cultists who could be persuaded otherwise. Again, if the follow-on modules are to be used, tie ins to those quests should be included in the notes and treasures found when Gadrille is defeated.

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