The Elders of the town of Red Larch were now imprisoned, or fled, or dead. The innkeeper, Kaylessa, had been acclaimed as the town’s temporary mayor, and her well-considered decision-making was winning over the townspeople. It seemed that soon she’d be acclaimed as permanent mayor of the township.
However, news of something more sinister was beginning to make itself known about the town: a trade delegation from the dwarven city of Mirabar had gone missing! Each of the adventurers were called in by the local representatives of their faction and told about this disappearance, and were set on the task of discovering what had happened to it!
The adventurers began by gathering as much news as they could in town on the disappearance. What they gathered was fairly slim: the delegation had been last seen in Beliard, four new graves had been found in the Sumber Hills, and a number of beautiful dwarven books had been sold in Wormford (Womford – see the DM Notes) that could have been taken from the delegation. Where to begin?
The adventurers – after much discussion – decided upon first going to the graves, then making their way south to Womford.
A local farmer guided them to the graves, where they discovered a few hastily-gathered stones covering the bodies, with vultures circling overhead. Uncovering the bodies revealed a dwarf in an artisan’s robe, a woman warrior dressed as a guard of Mirabar, a human warrior with a black cloak in strange stony armour, and a human in a white robe adorned with black feathers – all dead from arrow wounds or crushing blows. It seemed likely that the dwarf and the woman were from the delegation, but who were the others? The group then prepared to go to Wormford… first returning to Red Larch as they weren’t sure of their way through the wilderness!
The trip to Wormford passed through a wretched hive of scum and villainy named the Bargewright Inn. The members of the Zhentarim in the party felt right at home, and engaged with the Innkeeper there, Nalaskur Thaelond who gave them a little background information on the smugglers and river merchants that pass through the village of Wormford.
At Wormford itself, the adventures discovered a group of river pirates who had been selling the dwarven books. Initially, they negotiated with the pirates but soon enough the negotiations devolved into combat. With all the pirates dead, the group discovered a map showing a strange symbol – also present on many of the supplies in the hold – marked on the river, upstream in the Sumber Hills. It was time to investigate the map!
The Players and their Characters
- Michael is playing Krovis Thorn, a LN human fighter/paladin (soldier) working for the Lord’s Alliance.
- Danielle is playing Thumbalina. CN dwarf barbarian (outlander) working for the Emerald Enclave.
- Dean is playing Zed Lepplin, CN human warlock, an entertainer working for the Zhentarim
- Jesse is playing Jandar, CN human fighter, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.
- Mikey is playing Diablo, N gold dragonborn warlock, a sage working for the Lords’ Alliance.
- Noah is playing Gimbel, CN forest gnome rogue, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.
And so, we get to the main adventure. For those unaware, Princes of the Apocalypse is properly an adventure for levels 3-15 characters, with the main hook being the missing trade delegation. As the D&D Encounters program runs from levels 1-4 (and new characters in the D&D Adventurers League need to be first level), there’s a small amount of material that is meant to take characters from levels 1-3 and serves as a prequel to the main adventure. Unfortunately, the second of those sections (The Tomb of Moving Stones) has nowhere enough adventure material in it to get characters from levels 2-3. A few of my players have played D&D Expeditions adventures to get them to level 3 or higher, and I’m trying to scale the adventure so the group isn’t completely overwhelmed… mind you, when everyone turns up, there’s not much scaling needed! Seven players this week with the return of Mikey and Noah ensured that!
Investigations are tough to run in D&D, and they’re harder to write well. The mystery of the missing delegation starts out with very few clues, as a large part of the early adventure is trying to “Unearth the Deception”, and it’s not good saying “This place is full of cultists” when you’re meant to be unsure when you get there if they are cultists or not. So, vague clues that lead characters into the Sumber Hills and eventually to the cult locations. It’s entirely possible to run this adventure with the players having no idea what’s going on and just searching through the Hills for some sign of the delegation, and that’s fine. There’s no One True Way to run this adventure, much like the Tyranny series. Go with what works for you.
You may be wondering at why I’m using Wormford and not Womford. Doesn’t it say Womford on the map? It certainly does, but it’s meant to be Wormfood – a long ago map error (in one of the very first Forgotten Realms adventures) now enshrined in the latest adventure! “Wormford” gains its name from a small dragon being killed near that location. The standard explanation for Womford is that it’s the dialect of the settlement that renders it that way, but I think I’ll be calling Wormford from now on.
A couple of the characters have changed since the adventure begun. Josh’s replacement character after Grigori died is Ivan, a water genasi. (He missed this session, but the report of last session had me still cut’n’pasting his old identity). Meanwhile, Michael has recast Krovis as an ex-soldier rather than an ex-pirate (Strangely enough, Josh’s new PC is an ex-pirate), and has changed from the Zhentarim to the Lord’s Alliance.
I’ve skipped over much of the role-playing in this session in my notes, as it tends not to translate well to the text (when I can even remember the high points!) That said, it was a good opportunity to further the engagement of the players with the townsfolk of Red Larch, and something I hope to improve upon in future sessions.