Princes of the Apocalypse, session 1

Red Larch. The Dessamber Valley. 1st Mirtul, 1491 DR.

Adventures begin in small places. As these things happened, it was in the small town of Red Larch, in the Dessarin Valley, that a group of six adventurers met and began their investigation into the rumours of trouble that had been coming from this land.

The adventurers? Their names and stations? Let me lay out for you their details, so far as I understand them.

There was Gimbel (Noah), a forest gnome of the west. His talents for criminal behaviour had soon been realised by the Zhentarim, and they had sent him here as a promising agent to discover what was causing the trouble and – if possible – to subvert it for the Black Network’s ends. Accompanying him was Jandor (Jesse), a fighter, sent to protect Gimbel from coming to an untimely end.

The Lords’ Alliance, always alert to problems that beset the trade routes, had sent three men: Diablo, a dragonborn warlock sage, Grigori, a goliath bard and spy, and Krovis Thorn, once a pirate, now plying his warrior trade to protect his companions.

Finally, they were met by Thumbalina, a mountain dwarf who had been raised by goliaths, and whom was native to the area. The six adventurers, their names and identities having been told to each other by their mentors in the factions – the events caused by the Cult of the Dragon, two years previous, being fresh in the minds of the powers that be, and the benefits of co-operation likewise – met in the local tavern, The Helm at Highsun. It was a ramshackle affair, and dark within, perfect for meeting in the minds of most of the adventurers – although Thumbalina would have preferred somewhere outdoors.

The discussion, after introductions were made, turned to the troubles in the area. They’d heard rumours of bandit activity, but little more. Speaking with the proprietor, the adventurers learnt that the local constable (and butcher), Harburk Tuthmarillar would likely be the person to ask. One of the patrons in the tavern drunkenly demanded to know why the bandits had been taking all of his fish hooks – something the adventurers assured him they would keep in mind.

As it turned out, Harburk was a busy man – with butchering. He was not hard to find, sitting on a step outside the store smoking a pipe, but he informed the adventurers that they were more than welcome to chase up the bandits that had been attacking merchants – he didn’t have time to keep law and order in Red Larch, work for Jalessa Ornra, the head butcher, and travel the roads in search of bandits as well! He did give the group a few likely locations where the bandits might be hiding, before finishing his pipe and returning inside to resume his job.

The adventurers considered the distance to the locations Harburk suggested – about ten miles to the southeast – and decided to investigate early the next morning. Some of the adventurers went to the local inn, the Swinging Sword, while others stayed at the local boarding house, Mother Yalantha’s.

The next day, the group travelled to find the bandits. The trip took a little over three hours to make, and after a few false leads, they came upon a cave, with six men sitting outside it, sharpening their blades. Atop a nearby wagon stood a wooden cage that held a black bear.

Krovis was not convinced that the men were the bandits they were looking for, and stepped forward from cover to talk to them and confirm that they were bandits, and not – say – circus performers. He returned to the other adventurers still not quite sure, having basically been told to go away. Eventually, based on the available evidence, the adventurers concluded that they had to be the bandits, and Gimbel launched a sneak attack, which – because he hadn’t co-ordinated that well with the other adventurers – left him fighting the bulk of the bandits by himself for a round or two. It was enough to drop him, but the bandits didn’t survive that much longer themselves. Grigori revived Gimbel, and the adventurers discovered the goods the bandits had stolen. Thumbalina calmed the bear and let it go, and the adventurers returned to town.

They were greeted with acclaim by Harburk, and returned a number of the stolen goods to the merchants who had ordered them. Harburk treated them to dinner that night at the Swinging Sword, where they heard more tales of the troubles besetting the town.

Of particular note, they heard tales that some of the children in the village had disturbing tales to tell, and that Kaylessa Irkell, the innkeeper, was particularly worried about a nearby landmark called Lance Rock, where she felt danger was lurking. She offered the group a small amount of money to investigate, as none of her fellow villagers had the inclination (or time) to investigate.

The next day, the group began by speaking to some of the children they’d heard stories of, they discovered a couple of potential adventure sites. What drew their attention most was reports of plague out by Lance Rock, and so they headed out there, arriving in the late afternoon.

Signs had been posted near the rock warning of plague – but by none of the villagers. The adventurers pressed onwards, entering a brush-choked canyon, which led to a cave where they could see a dead body.

One of the adventurers moved forward and poked it, and – not much to their surprise – the body animated and attacked! The group slew the animated corpse easily, and considered the path leading further into the cave.

Gimbel and Grigori scouted out ahead of the rest of the group, but were separated when four further zombies surrounded Grigori in the next chamber. Grigori cast a number of thunderclap spells to protect himself, and the others soon aided him and destroyed the zombies, although it was a hard-fought battle. The adventurers considered their next moves as the echoes from the thunderclaps died away… two passages led onwards from the cave…

The Players and their Characters

Noah is playing Gimbel, CN forest gnome rogue, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.

Jesse is playing Jandar, CN human fighter, a criminal working for the Zhentarim. (Jesse played Music, the tiefling bard, in Tyranny of Dragons)

Mikey is playing Diablo, N gold dragonborn warlock, a sage working for the Lords’ Alliance.

Michael is playing Krovis Thorn, LE human fighter, an ex-pirate working for the Lords’ Alliance. (Michael played a monk, in Tyranny of Dragons)

Josh is playing Grigori, LE goliath bard, a spy working for the Lords’ Alliance. (Josh played Mordechai, the tiefling eldritch knight, in Tyranny of Dragons)

Danielle is playing Thumbalina, CN mountain dwarf barbarian, an outlander working for the Emerald Enclave. (Danielle played Vanilla Ice, the halfling sorcerer, in Tyranny of Dragons)

Dungeon Master Notes

This was the first session of my Princes of the Apocalypse campaign at Guf Games Ballarat. We have five groups in store at present; numbers tend to fluctuate from week to week, but this week had 30 people in store, with a few players unable to make it. I hope they can come to future sessions.

In preparation, I’d read through the early encounters of Chapter 6, the background information in Chapter 1, and the Red Larch locations in Chapter 2, but the way I run things it doesn’t really come together until I start running the session. At that point I begin to see how things connect up properly and start making things up to fill in the holes.

A case in point: I really wasn’t sure about how to introduce the rumours of trouble in Red Larch. I opted to start in the tavern with the characters having a drink, with the bartender filling them in on rumours, but then froze a bit and only managed to give them the bandit rumour and direct them to the constable. Thankfully, that gave me enough of a chance to think things over while they were facing the bandits so that I could introduce more rumours at the dinner. The group also got to talk to the Lords’ Alliance contact in town, although I don’t think the players caught up with that – I’ll make it more explicit as we continue.

The NPCs of Red Larch are going to be quite important to this campaign, so I’m hoping to develop them further next session. There are a lot of potential NPCs in Red Larch, but I find it works best if only a few are introduced at any one time, which gives me more of a chance to develop them and bring them to life for the PCs, rather than overwhelming them with “flat” NPCs I don’t really understand how to run.

Anyway, next session beckons, and I’ll return to write about it when it’s over. I still have a couple of The Rise of Tiamat reports to write, which will finish off the reports of play through that storyline. I hope to get both out this week. Until next time!

One comment

  1. Daniel

    Sounds like a fun session. I look forward to your review of the PotA product overall, I’m strongly considering it as an option for my first 5e campaign.


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