5E Princes of the Apocalypse campaign recaps

Nebulous

Adventurer
Interesting. And that means Serena will need to keep up the bluff of being an air prophet. How long can you bluff something like that before it comes true? After all, if she is not holding Windvane then questions will be asked. IMO.

And the monastery seems reasonably defensible. Lots of entrances and windows, but they are all high. They'll need to come up with a good plan.
Excellent points. Brey's player just said this in our emails:



I think we are all on the same page. It makes sense to finish up the immediate dungeon area, but I definitely think we take it to the earth cult next. We have lots of free soldiers on our side with the added benefit that we don't care if they die and actually even prefer it. The longer we wait, the greater the chance we do something that makes them suspicious and screw the whole thing up.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I don't know anything about the monastery, i have not read that chapter, so I have my work cut out before (gulp) tomorrow night. :/

I have no clue how they'll get in, but they're creative sorts, they'll think of something.

The more immediate problem is that Hadrian is supposed to be DEAD - so how's he going to be all chummy with Queen Serena all of a sudden? The players are also aware of this hiccup in their plan. And yeah, Serena doesn't want to hold the spear now that it forced a Wisdom save on her. That could be a problem, but one that a minor illusion might rectify?
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
And yes, if the air genasi keeps effing around with an evil artifact designed by an evil elemental deity, she's going to get possessed or something and then things are going to head south.
 
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Creamsteak

Villager
A couple random thoughts I was having today: What if the four prophets were friends once? What if they were an adventuring party that came down to the Fane of the Eye together... and only there did they sunder their bonds?

Starting from that assumption, I actually got into the notion of maybe telling more of the prophets backstory when the party starts clearing out the nodes. Maybe some ghostly echoes of each of the prophets own stories. Just a little something to try to add some meaning to what the party is doing... and with my game at least... lead into why the party might be driven against one another.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
A couple random thoughts I was having today: What if the four prophets were friends once? What if they were an adventuring party that came down to the Fane of the Eye together... and only there did they sunder their bonds?

Starting from that assumption, I actually got into the notion of maybe telling more of the prophets backstory when the party starts clearing out the nodes. Maybe some ghostly echoes of each of the prophets own stories. Just a little something to try to add some meaning to what the party is doing... and with my game at least... lead into why the party might be driven against one another.
Damn you Creamstake for a good idea. No, really, i do like that. One advantage of running this massive campaign in 2 hour spurts, I can direct it slowly, no need for an "end game" as I can change the end game. And so many Enworlders have given me neat ideas already. No really Creamstake, post that same idea again to remind me, it might not come up for multiple sessions, but i like it.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
And the monastery seems reasonably defensible. Lots of entrances and windows, but they are all high. They'll need to come up with a good plan.
I'm reading the scenario closer. There's the main doors with 2 guards behind it. There are two other side entrances, and these are unlocked during the day, per the adventure anyway. The windows are too narrow to enter, but there are many windows that can be barred from behind with wooden shutters. Anyone shape changed into a small animal could slip inside an open window. Area M8 is open to the sky and accessible from the roof.

If the monks are not anticipating anyone attacking then it looks like multiple entries could be breached in one coordinated assault. This of course would result in, oh, I can't even imagine how many combatants. It would be one hell of a long fight.
 
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Rabbitbait

Explorer
If the monks are not anticipating anyone attacking then it looks like multiple entries could be breached in one coordinated assault. This of course would result in, oh, I can't even imagine how many combatants. It would be one hell of a long fight.
They'd have to do very well to bring a small army to their doorstep without anyone noticing. Also, I'd play up the statues in the walled garden being obviously real people who have been turned to stone - Too realistic and shocked or fearful expressions on their faces. For no other reason than to make them scared. Do you think the inhabitants of the temple underneath will come up to help? If so, then the characters have a very good chance of losing.

As for a long combat - I ran the bit the players were involved with as a normal combat, but didn't track hitpoints for the mooks but just had a certain amount die from area attacks etc. All the things that happened out of sight of the characters I just made up. Otherwise there would be too much going on and the combat would be a boring grind. The key is speed - take shortcuts wherever you can. Otherwise you are looking at one combat taking several sessions.
 

Uller

Explorer

[MENTION=31465]Nebulous[/MENTION] I know how much you like your imagery. The approach to Sacred Stone Monestary...
 

Unwise

Adventurer
Thanks so much for the write up @Nebulous. I am thinking of running PotA next after Lost Mines and this write up has really helped me. I have a few questions:

1) Given the amount of wrangling you had to do to make a purpose for the delegation, wouldn't it have been OK to just leave them out entirely? Why are they needed at all? Where do they lead the PCs to that is needed?

- I am thinking of including them but making it clear early on that they are not involved at all, but the cult maybe though that they were. As far as I can see, their only purpose is to be a catalyst for Mirabar and Neverwinter to take this threat seriously and send troops if the PCs call them.
- If the do need to be involved, maybe the Paladin they are burying is an Oath of the Ancients guy and was very powerful. The seeds are from a super duper elder tree and will stabilize the nature in the area. Burying that saint and putting those seeds on top of his grave would soon make it very difficult for any unnatural forces to come into play. This makes the actual burial and seeds relevant to the plot, not a distraction.

2) Why did the cult use an Orb of Destruction? What have they made them for? What does the book say they are for? I loved the scene, but I don't know why they would use it on a town when the cults could use it on each other.

- I was thinking that the storm elemental thing briefly summoned is actually Tharzidun or whatever his name is and he feeds on those killed in the storm, so basically he is hungry and that is a the motivation. Its a sacrifice thing. The 'bomb' just allows for a brief break in the prison that holds him.

3) If the PCs get their hands on an Orb at the auction, I know that mine will just sneak it into an enemy base and set it off. You were looking at ways to speed up the game, are you PCs the sort to use a WMD if they get their hands on it?

4) As written, what are the cults trying to do? why haven't they succeeded yet? I want them to be active participants, but other than recruiting I don't know what they are actually waiting for or looking for.

5) I want my players to be able to carry on PCs from LMoP to PotP. Would it change to much to allow 5th level guys to play this adventure? It seems that many of the issues are with people wandering into places that are too tough, maybe higher levels could alleviate this somewhat. Given bounded accuracy, would simply adding more of what each place has work well enough? e.g. 5 wind knights rather than the 3 it says are in a room. I am not too experienced with this in 5e.
 
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Thanks so much for the write up @Nebulous. I am thinking of running PotA next after Lost Mines and this write up has really helped me. I have a few questions:

1) Given the amount of wrangling you had to do to make a purpose for the delegation, wouldn't it have been OK to just leave them out entirely? Why are they needed at all? Where do they lead the PCs to that is needed?
I'm not Nebulous, but I could try and answer some of these questions.

The Delegation is there as the initial hook, the thing that makes the PCs wander around the Sumber Hills and find the cults. If you can think of a different way of getting the players involved in the cults' business, then you could happily remove the delegation. I personally just ran the delegation as presented in the book, and my players (other than slight confusion over who was in the delegation) seem reasonably engaged with it as a directive. I also made them pick factions, so that their characters are here to do a job ('find the delegation'), which helps to make the delegation hook a little more important to them.

The biggest problem that I foresee is that the players will notice how the Delegation just drops off the radar as an important element as the campaign progresses, but that isn't necessarily a huge problem - the cults should rapidly become obviously the biggest issue in town.

2) Why did the cult use an Orb of Destruction? What have they made them for? What does the book say they are for? I loved the scene, but I don't know why they would use it on a town when the cults could use it on each other.
They use the Orbs for three main reasons, I think: to spread chaos (generic bad guy stuff, you know), to help upset the elements as part of summoning the Princes (though obviously they only succeed at that task at a dramatically appropriate moment), and to try and make the players piss off. They don't want adventurers snooping around, so they blow up a settlement to distract/scare off anyone nearby. Probably not the best plan, but then they are not exactly top-drawer in the sanity stakes anyway.

4) As written, what are the cults trying to do? why haven't they succeeded yet? I want them to be active participants, but other than recruiting I don't know what they are actually waiting for or looking for.
They want to summon the Princes of Elemental Evil to Faerun. They are mostly unaware of the Elder Eye stuff, I think, at least at levels below the Prophets. Their plan is essentially:

1) Start cult
2) Cause elemental disturbances to make a breach easier
3) Summon the Prince of their own element
4) ???
5) Profit

They are somewhat vague on steps four and five, but then the cults are stocked with madmen and monsters, who can convince themselves that elemental chaos washing over civilisation will only benefit them directly in the long run.

5) I want my players to be able to carry on PCs from LMoP to PotP. Would it change to much to allow 5th level guys to play this adventure? It seems that many of the issues are with people wandering into places that are too tough, maybe higher levels could alleviate this somewhat. Given bounded accuracy, would simply adding more of what each place has work well enough? e.g. 5 wind knights rather than the 3 it says are in a room. I am not too experienced with this in 5e.
Honestly, it would be the easiest thing in the world. What will happen is that your guys will be really hard at the start of the campaign, and easily overwhelm the enemies that the book suggests. You could beef up the combats without trouble though - as you say, just add a guy or two to each combat. But even if you don't, what will happen is that - since they are only getting the exp from combats appropriate for 3rd level - they will quickly catch pace with the adventure. Where a group of 3rd level adventurers would get enough exp to hit 4th and then 5th, your 5th level characters will get enough to take them... partway to 6th. And this will happen sometime during the first part of the campaign.

So my advice is simply to run the campaign without changes, and not worry about the initial discrepancy in player ability.
 
For my part, I ran the third session of my game last night. The players started by engaging in some town justice, handing over the believers in the Tomb to the sheriff, then leaving the next morning while rumours were still swirling. I'm planning on mentioning this a little, whenever they return to town - especially when the guy that they are storing their equipment with leaves town after being outed as a believer.

They then tramped with Larmon the Shepherd down the trail, camping with his sheep overnight, and then finding the shallow graves the next day. They swiftly found all of the interesting information here, and were intrigued to find more stone armour in play. They spent some time trying to work out who or what group would use stone armour. Then they followed the clues (giant vultures flying overhead at night, the Spire with its flocks of birds visible in the distance from the Shallow Graves) to the Feathergale Spire. This seemed fairly organic, but I got the impression that the players had noted the black feathers on one corpse and connected that with the tower's prominent mention in the boxed text.

The tower really impressed them with its scale and location - and the players dived into roleplaying with Thurl and Sevra with gusto. The group's sort-of leader - a mostly naked yet urbane Barbarian - spent a lot of time chatting with Thurl about hunting on the ground vs hunting form the air, while chatting up Sevra. The opportunity to go Manticore hunting was also eagerly seized on by the players, who were bitterly disappointed to have one of the Knights killsteal from them. :D The session ended at that point, with the players and knights descending to claim the beast's head.

Intriguingly, one player, who had the hook where he had guided some strange pilgrims to the Stone Monastery, left the Feathergale Spire before the feast in order to go investigate the Monastery. He reached it at the end of the session. So I have 3 players in the Spire, well on their way to convincing Sevra/Thurl of their quality, and 1 player trying to sneak his way into the Monastery. This could be messy!
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
They'd have to do very well to bring a small army to their doorstep without anyone noticing. Also, I'd play up the statues in the walled garden being obviously real people who have been turned to stone - Too realistic and shocked or fearful expressions on their faces. For no other reason than to make them scared. Do you think the inhabitants of the temple underneath will come up to help? If so, then the characters have a very good chance of losing.

As for a long combat - I ran the bit the players were involved with as a normal combat, but didn't track hitpoints for the mooks but just had a certain amount die from area attacks etc. All the things that happened out of sight of the characters I just made up. Otherwise there would be too much going on and the combat would be a boring grind. The key is speed - take shortcuts wherever you can. Otherwise you are looking at one combat taking several sessions.

That's what I'm worried about, having 20 people in a fight, and that's not going to be fun. Unless, as you said, find shortcuts. I'll need to think about it. The PCs and Air cultists are currently grouped 1 mile from the monastery, full daylight. The earth cult is unaware of their presence, and the PCs have not determined their next course of action yet.

I determined that the orogs and the ogre from down below would join the fight if they hear it. The players are weighing the options of "Do we use the air cultists like disposable fodder, or do we really jump into the fray WITH them and keep them alive as long as possible, all the way into the depths of the Temple?"

Yeah, i found some cool pictures for the stone statues in the garden. They've known for a long time that a medusa is here, and that already scares them, but they don't know where he is.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I'm not Nebulous, but I could try and answer some of these questions.

The Delegation is there as the initial hook, the thing that makes the PCs wander around the Sumber Hills and find the cults. If you can think of a different way of getting the players involved in the cults' business, then you could happily remove the delegation. I personally just ran the delegation as presented in the book, and my players (other than slight confusion over who was in the delegation) seem reasonably engaged with it as a directive. I also made them pick factions, so that their characters are here to do a job ('find the delegation'), which helps to make the delegation hook a little more important to them.

The biggest problem that I foresee is that the players will notice how the Delegation just drops off the radar as an important element as the campaign progresses, but that isn't necessarily a huge problem - the cults should rapidly become obviously the biggest issue in town.



They use the Orbs for three main reasons, I think: to spread chaos (generic bad guy stuff, you know), to help upset the elements as part of summoning the Princes (though obviously they only succeed at that task at a dramatically appropriate moment), and to try and make the players piss off. They don't want adventurers snooping around, so they blow up a settlement to distract/scare off anyone nearby. Probably not the best plan, but then they are not exactly top-drawer in the sanity stakes anyway.



They want to summon the Princes of Elemental Evil to Faerun. They are mostly unaware of the Elder Eye stuff, I think, at least at levels below the Prophets. Their plan is essentially:

1) Start cult
2) Cause elemental disturbances to make a breach easier
3) Summon the Prince of their own element
4) ???
5) Profit

They are somewhat vague on steps four and five, but then the cults are stocked with madmen and monsters, who can convince themselves that elemental chaos washing over civilisation will only benefit them directly in the long run.



Honestly, it would be the easiest thing in the world. What will happen is that your guys will be really hard at the start of the campaign, and easily overwhelm the enemies that the book suggests. You could beef up the combats without trouble though - as you say, just add a guy or two to each combat. But even if you don't, what will happen is that - since they are only getting the exp from combats appropriate for 3rd level - they will quickly catch pace with the adventure. Where a group of 3rd level adventurers would get enough exp to hit 4th and then 5th, your 5th level characters will get enough to take them... partway to 6th. And this will happen sometime during the first part of the campaign.

So my advice is simply to run the campaign without changes, and not worry about the initial discrepancy in player ability.
I pretty much agree with Entsuropi. Princes is a very fun adventure, but where it drops the ball, IMO, is the how's and why's and what's of the cult's motivations and the larger motivations of the elemental gods themselves. Part of me LIKES filling in the blanks, but another part of me is equally annoyed that I have to do this just so the story makes more logical sense. And the Elder Eye aspect is barely addressed at all in the scenario. I'm really beefing that up, and the 5th and final cult of the Eye is going to be three undead drow ringleaders in the Fane....

I don't plan for my players to get anywhere near the orb. I think I'm going to have Windharrow and the Zhentarim take care of that, and the superorb might be whisked away to create havoc elsewhere. Or not. I don't know, i'm going to keep it as a wild card.

Despite all the plot machinations i've worked into the story, I'm still not sure myself where it's going, and I'm muddling it out as we work through it.
 
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I'm personally quite happy to stick with the fairly vague cult motivations as outlined in the book, but I can see why you might like to change things up. I get the impression from the stuff that you've posted here that you're looking forward to the end-game, and content that would happen after the Princes of the Apocalypse book which would see the players go up against the Elder Eye thingy, so for sure those kinds of questions help. For my end, I'm running this in a student society, so I'm more likely to run out of time before I run out of campaign - thus less complex is better! :D
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
The tower really impressed them with its scale and location - and the players dived into roleplaying with Thurl and Sevra with gusto. The group's sort-of leader - a mostly naked yet urbane Barbarian - spent a lot of time chatting with Thurl about hunting on the ground vs hunting form the air, while chatting up Sevra. The opportunity to go Manticore hunting was also eagerly seized on by the players, who were bitterly disappointed to have one of the Knights killsteal from them. :D The session ended at that point, with the players and knights descending to claim the beast's head.
I absolutely loved Feathergale Spire. I think we spent roughly 5 sessions there, and I was able to find these really neat color maps online that gave the place it's own unique signature. The manticore chase was super fun too, although I changed mine to a purple dragon just to shake things up.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I'm personally quite happy to stick with the fairly vague cult motivations as outlined in the book, but I can see why you might like to change things up. I get the impression from the stuff that you've posted here that you're looking forward to the end-game, and content that would happen after the Princes of the Apocalypse book which would see the players go up against the Elder Eye thingy, so for sure those kinds of questions help. For my end, I'm running this in a student society, so I'm more likely to run out of time before I run out of campaign - thus less complex is better! :D
Actually no, funny you should say that. I'm not a fan of high level superhero D&D 15th +. I'm actually cutting Princes short around 12th level, and although this wobbly gobbly stuff is in the works, it will involve the Mirabar delegation's Princes of Good. Somehow. I'm capping this campaign at 12th.

I've already jumped off this cliff. Somehow the Elemental Princes of Good are now aware of the Elemental Princes of Evil trying to summon The Evil Eye into Toril. What then? I don't effin know.
 
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Eis

Explorer
So I'm DM'ing POTA for our group starting next weekend.

Pretty excited as I haven't DM'ed in a long time and our regular DM hasn't played a character in a campaign in about ten years.

We have a new player who is joining us at least for the first session and he may not be able to make it on a regular basis so I rolled up a human fighter that is from Red Larch. Then if the player is not present the fighter can fade into the background. I can also use this character to feed information to the group (the fighter is a young man who works with Constable Harburk and helps with the town peacekeeping etc...he knows most of the townspeople and the surrounding area)
 

Unwise

Adventurer
[MENTION=6801206]Eis[/MENTION], I have a few suggestions for having a character who comes in and out of sessions. I have had to do that a fair bit. To make it smoother, some options include:

- The character has a serious health issue. I played a character with a faulty heart valve. It was great, it played normally, but whenever I was not there, my character was too sick to do anything. He was racked by coughing up blood, or something similar. This meant that if we finished a session half way through a dungeon and the group met without me next time, then they did not have to worry about running my character, he was just slumped against a wall somewhere, or left to go back to camp. My character just wanted to die a hero, he knew he was going to die soon regardless. It also meant if I had to leave the game in the longer term, they could kill me off easily.

- A serious mental health issue like dementia worked well for me too, I played an old wizard who would forget where he was and what he was doing. This was great as I was looking after my baby while playing, so every time I left to change a nappy or feed her, if my initiative came up my character just stared off into space.

- Family commitments, having a pregnant wife, or a sick kid means that the PC only participates in really important adventures, then heads back home as quickly as possible. It explains a lot of absences.

- It is great if the character is highly mobile as part of their daily occupation. What if he was the messenger between villages rather than a constable? This would mean that he would have his finger on the pulse about goings on around the place and it would be reasonable for him to stumble across the PCs now and then. So it is not contrived when he suddenly appears to help them.

- Have you considered making that PC a redeemed cultist of the Feathergale Knights? If he had occasional access to a flying mount, it might be OP for a while, but it would let him come and go easily. What if he was the ward/son/nephew of one of the knights and he witnessed his guardian throw somebody off a roof in cold blood? He is starting to think he is on the wrong side. He can only borrow the keys to the eagle now and then before people ask too many questions about where he has been.
 

Eis

Explorer
[MENTION=6801206]Eis[/MENTION], I have a few suggestions for having a character who comes in and out of sessions. I have had to do that a fair bit. To make it smoother, some options include:

- The character has a serious health issue. I played a character with a faulty heart valve. It was great, it played normally, but whenever I was not there, my character was too sick to do anything. He was racked by coughing up blood, or something similar. This meant that if we finished a session half way through a dungeon and the group met without me next time, then they did not have to worry about running my character, he was just slumped against a wall somewhere, or left to go back to camp. My character just wanted to die a hero, he knew he was going to die soon regardless. It also meant if I had to leave the game in the longer term, they could kill me off easily.

- A serious mental health issue like dementia worked well for me too, I played an old wizard who would forget where he was and what he was doing. This was great as I was looking after my baby while playing, so every time I left to change a nappy or feed her, if my initiative came up my character just stared off into space.

- Family commitments, having a pregnant wife, or a sick kid means that the PC only participates in really important adventures, then heads back home as quickly as possible. It explains a lot of absences.

- It is great if the character is highly mobile as part of their daily occupation. What if he was the messenger between villages rather than a constable? This would mean that he would have his finger on the pulse about goings on around the place and it would be reasonable for him to stumble across the PCs now and then. So it is not contrived when he suddenly appears to help them.

- Have you considered making that PC a redeemed cultist of the Feathergale Knights? If he had occasional access to a flying mount, it might be OP for a while, but it would let him come and go easily. What if he was the ward/son/nephew of one of the knights and he witnessed his guardian throw somebody off a roof in cold blood? He is starting to think he is on the wrong side. He can only borrow the keys to the eagle now and then before people ask too many questions about where he has been.
wow, thanks, there are some really good ideas here!

the way that I envision it is that the character is, as you say, mobile as part of his daily routine.....Constable Harburk uses the young man to do his running and courier work between towns because he knows that the lad enjoys being out and about and frankly he is the most expendable at the butcher shop.

I am going to have the rest of the party meet him on the Long Road between Amphail and Red Larch, probably under some kind of duress. Once they arrive at Red Larch and the party talks to Harburk he is going to ask them to check further into the local bandit rumors that he has not had time to run down. Then he can assign the young fighter as liaison between he and the party.

Our group has been playing together off and on for a long time and we have no problem hand waving characters not being available due to player absence with the thinnest of reasonings.

I did laugh at the character with mental problems staring into space instead of acting.....I think that would fit a couple of my friends perfectly even when they are present and accounted for at the table!
 

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