Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 14-15

Dellmon Ranch. The Dessarin Valley. 9th Flamerule. 591 DR.

A small ranch. About thirty or forty people to defend. And a warband of 40 orcs is on their way.

It’s time for the adventurers to be heroes!

It’s fascinating watching a group of adventurers at work, especially when you’ve got seven of them all there at the same time. There’s a lot of damage they can do. One thing this particular group is lacking is wizards: you don’t have the same destructive potential that fireball can bring to the fray. However, even without fireball the party were quite able to make a lot of attacks and deal a lot of damage, especially against the relatively lightly-armoured orcs. When the orcs sent in a scouting party of about ten orcs, the orcs were massacred before the orcs really knew what was going on.

This cheered up the defenders no end, especially one of the older, more grizzled farmers who’d once been a soldier. He offered advice that the party really didn’t need, and they prepared for the next attack, which was a rather determined assault by the remaining orcs. More fireballs met them, and although there ended up with a small melee between the orc leader and Krovis and Thumbalina, the end result wasn’t really in doubt.

You know that scene at Helm’s Deep when Gandalf arrives with reinforcements? Well, reinforcements arrived with the dawn – a company of elves, summoned by members of the Emerald Enclave – but they were not needed. The orcs had been defeated. At least it meant that someone else could do the mopping up, and if there were other orcs around (quite likely), the adventurers wouldn’t need to deal with them.

Instead, with the thanks of the farmers following them, they headed off to return to the mystery of the missing delegation. Passing through Beliard, they interviewed several of the townsfolk and discovered that the delegation had headed south from the town – they just hadn’t reached their next stop! Rumours of strange cultists and bandits were rife.

That the cultist rumours were true was something the group already knew, but they proceeded southwards along their path to discover the site where the delegation had been ambushed. The delegation had not gone without a fight, slaying several bugbears as well as one of the monks from the Sacred Stone Monastery; confirmation of what they already knew. Tracks of many bugbears and others led down to the riverbank, where there were signs of riverboats having been drawn up against the bank.

This didn’t really reveal much new information, but gave confirmation of what they’d learnt in previous sessions. From there, they made their way down the road to Womford, where they spent several fruitless nights trying to get to the bottom of tales of the “Womford Bat” – but unfortunately, there were no bat sightings. They checked in with the Zhentarim contact at the Bargewright Inn, where Nalaskyr Thaelond was very complimentary about their efforts so far.

Taking the long way around, they finally arrived back in Red Larch, where Kaylessa Irkhill was very glad to see them safely returned – and victorious.

DM Notes

I’m tremendously behind in these reports, so a lot of the finer details have been lost. I’ll be releasing several more reports (aggregating several sessions together, most likely) to catch up over the next week.

The Iceshield Orcs sidetrek is designed for 4th level characters. These characters were only slightly above that, but what a difference it made! Fifth level has been recognised as a significant level in D&D for a long time, and it’s very true in this edition. Fireball turns a lot of combats on its head, especially as it deals a base 8d6 damage (in AD&D, it was 5d6 at 5th level…) Even without fireball, extra attacks and the +3d6 sneak attack damage mean that low-level monsters start going down very, very fast. And that’s great! It’s good for the players to feel like they’re heroes from time to time. (Admittedly, they’ll probably be beaten down in the next few sessions… sandbox campaigns are like that).

Story-wise, these sessions were about reconnecting the characters with the world outside the dungeon, something that they probably didn’t do entirely successfully, although the Womford Bat search really stuck in the player’s mind. Or, at least, the possibility of it. Despite never actually seeing the bat, they’re still bringing it up a month or two after the session where it (didn’t) appear!

For those wondering whether or not I’ll be reporting on Out of the Abyss, it seems unlikely at this stage that I’ll be running it. Princes is going to keep me busy for another few months. I hope to put out a more traditional review of the product soon after I acquire it.

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