Princes of the Apocalypse, session 2

Lance Rock. The Dessamber Valley. 3rd Mirtul, 1491 DR

The adventurers considered the two paths before them and chose to move along a narrow, winding tunnel further into the cave system. They were met with an unusual sight: three zombies dressed in strange garments – one as a bear, one as a clown, and one as a lady.

Thumbalina immediately wanted to acquire the bear costume (and possibly the zombie wearing it as well), but was talked out of it. The adventurers were not particularly surprised to be attacked by the zombies once they revealed themselves, and made short work of the undead. It was now clear a necromancer had claimed the cave, and it didn’t take all that long for the group to find the cavern in which he was hiding.

It was a big cavern, with several dead bodies lying on slabs and the necromancer in question peering at something from a flight of stairs. A number of skeletons, armed with bows, protected the necromancer.

The adventurers, led by Grigori, began to negotiate with the necromancer, who referred to himself as the “Lord of Lance Rock”. They attempted to portray themselves as super-zombies, amazingly life-like, sent to him by the gods to aid in his work. The Lord of Lance Rock was suspicious, and demanded to know which god in particular. This stumped Grigori, but Krovis leaned over and whispered the answer to him. Grigori then told the Lord that they served Kelemvor.

The Lord of Lance Rock immediately ordered his minions to attack, with severed hands in the first wave, and the group retreated quickly before they could be overwhelmed.

Back in town, Krovis apologised. “That’s right – Kelemvor’s the god who hates undead! I meant Myrkul!” Grigori was not amused.

The next day, the group decided to leave the necromancer for now and instead investigate tales of a ghost in a nearby tomb. Finding the tomb was easy, although they were puzzled when they pushed open its door to dislodge a bunch of metal objects, which fell with a crash. An old, rusty door barred further exploration, but they disturbed a spirit as they investigated the door. The ghostly figure rose before them and ordered them to leave the tomb of his master.

Who was his master, the group wanted to know. “Lord Boartusk” was the answer. The group then agreed to leave, feeling that the ghost posed no threat to the town.

As they left, they were ambushed by two bandits – a goblin and a half-ogre – who had been attempting to enter the inner chamber, but had decided that letting adventurers do it for them was a better plan. Unfortunately, they greatly misjudged their own strength, leading to a short, bloody combat which ended up with both bandits being slain. Unfortunately for the party, neither bandit had any coin! And so, the adventurers returned to town.

On the 5th of Mirtul, the adventurers resolved to tackle the Lord of Lance Rock once again. They chose to investigate other parts of the cave system before confronting the necromancer, but weren’t quite careful enough when entering the cave and so were ambushed by a couple of zombies on the ledge above the entrance. The zombies inflicted some harm on Thumbalina, but were eventually dispatched.

The first of the passages they investigated proved to lead to the necromancer’s store of bodies. The group destroyed the bodies, and the skeletons that protected the cave. The second passage led to a set of three chests – all empty – that were a focus of a trap, which they determined could be activated from the necromancer’s chambers that lay on the other side of the southern wall. However, as the necromancer was not paying attention, they were able to return back the way they came, unharmed.

With that, the only further passage led to the necromancer. The group were somewhat stealthy in their approach, but the necromancer and his skeletons were a long way back in the cave. Grigori moved forward to the slabs around where the severed hands were stored and used a thunderclap spell to destroy them all, alerting the necromancer to his presence. The necromancer cast a high-level magic missile spell, causing five missiles to strike Grigori, killing him instantly.

Thumbalina then charged in, but was felled by two arrows from the skeletons… she had not been healed after the zombie ambush when they first entered the caves, and fell to the ground some fifty feet away from the two remaining adventurers. Jandar and Krovis considered the situation, and realised their only hope was retreat. Krovis was able to sneak forward, hiding behind the slabs, and retrieve Grigori’s body, but they were not able to get to Thumbalina.

Back in Red Larch, they brought Grigori’s body to the local priests, but the raise dead spell failed to function. Grigori’s soul was happier where it was, and the two remaining adventurers considered their options…

The Players and their Characters

We were down two players this session (Noah and Mikey), so we had the basic group of four PCs.

  • Jesse is playing Jandar, CN human fighter, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.
  • Michael is playing Krovis Thorn, LE human fighter, an ex-pirate working for the Lords’ Alliance.
  • Josh is playing Grigori, LE goliath bard, a spy working for the Lords’ Alliance.
  • Danielle is playing Thumbalina, CN mountain dwarf barbarian, an outlander working for the Emerald Enclave.

Dungeon Master Notes

I’m running the adventure in sandbox style, not adjusting the difficulty of encounters for party level (although I scale up or down according to player numbers to keep the same proportionate difficulty). As a result, the CR 2 “Lord of Lance Rock” was extremely dangerous – and made even more so by the dimensions of the chamber in which the battle takes place. According to the map, it should be 60 feet wide by about 240 feet long! That’s an absolutely massive chamber. I placed the necromancer and his skeletons about 80 feet away from the party (by the map, it should be closer to 120 feet), but it was still entirely too far for Danielle’s dwarf to make the charge.

That said, I thought she’d survive and possibly kill the necromancer. I hadn’t counted on the group not healing her after the ambush, which had reduced her to six hit points. Grigori’s death – on the other hand – was considered probable. He’d drawn attention to himself, and the necromancer was able to use his magic to deal a lot of damage. 20 damage from 5 missiles was on the high end, and he might consider himself unlucky, but I’m not entirely unhappy with the result: deaths at the beginning of the campaign tend to show you’re serious, and the party will be aware that not every fight is “balanced”.

Michael’s blunder with Kelemvor/Myrkul was hilarious. Michael had been playing through the Phlan D&D Expeditions adventures with me, and so had become quite familiar with the worship of Kelemvor; he just blundered when trying to think of a god’s name on the spot. It’s the type of blunder that is memorable, and also cements the lore of the Forgotten Realms in the players’ minds, something that I’m really hoping to do with this campaign.

The group will be able to recover Thumbalina’s body and raise her if they choose (although Danielle might prefer to play her new character, whatever it ends up being). Of course, by the time they find her, Thumbalina is likely to be a zombie! Their destruction of the Lord’s stash of corpses is likely to have implications in the future – in particular, he’ll be unable to replace the losses for a little period of time.

I hope Mikey and Noah are able to rejoin us next session. (They’ve historically been unable to make every session). Exactly how the campaign proceeds from here will be interesting. There are more opportunities for adventure around Red Larch at this stage, but I might bring in elements of the Lost Mine of Phandalin to help the gain of XP, especially as the group really needs quite a lot more XP before reaching a level that can deal with the main storyline of Princes of the Apocalypse…

One comment

  1. Mike

    I’m happy to see your party had so much trouble with this place, as I’m just starting DMing the adventure, and I am really worried about this dungeon. Other session logs I’ve seen didn’t have nearly the trouble, and I can’t understand why. The way I see it, even if you have Oreioth run away and hide immediately (he’d be much more effective fighting *with* the skeletons), he is still incredibly beefy against a level 1 party, a bunch of HP, plus temporary HP from false life, plus an OK AC if he buffs himself, he can heal with Vampiric Touch or his ability, and he can raise one of the group if he kills them, and misty step if he’s in a bad spot. My goal is to get my party to complete the other two side treks before this one, and level them up if given any opportunity during this cave (they should level by XP right before facing Oreioth, so if they regroup before following him, or if they have another random encounter or two before coming here…).

    I also have a rather random PotA question for you or others – the symbols for the cults are supposed to combine to form the symbol for the eye somehow, but I don’t ever actually see that in the book. Has anyone figured this out? They don’t just mean the drawing with the eye symbol and all the cult symbols separate below it, do they?

    Like

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