Category: Elemental Evil

Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 28-31

The adventurers had, by this stage, basically cleared the Air, Earth and Water temples. The Air Prophet was dead, and the Earth and Water Prophets were somewhere else – current locations unknown. Not that the players were paying that much attention to the location of the prophets.

Their current location was the Fane of the Eye, the twisting caverns that linked the four temples – and which make little sense when you try to line up the maps of the adventure. (There’s now errata to the overland map scale. It still doesn’t make that much sense). Some of the passages were blocked by a black mist that made the adventurers particularly paranoid. When the DM isn’t telling the players what the mist does, then the players are free to work out the worst possibilities and act as if they were true.

The most significant encounter in this area – at least according to Thumbelina, our dwarven (sorry, giant) barbarian, was the discovery of the dwarven (giant) thrower, a magic item of great power that the spirit of a dwarven hero guarded. This item, in the hands of a high-strength dwarf, is extremely powerful, and Thumbelina loved it.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned Thumbelina before, but it’s been a while since I discussed this campaign, so here’s a reminder: Thumbelina is a dwarf who was raised by giants. She considers herself to be a giant, and she is very, very sensitive about her height. The best way to start a fight with her was to call her short. As I (and everyone else) considered her wonderful, I took care to have her foes call her short at every opportunity. Her standard response was to growl, “Who are you calling short?” and, unless restrained to then go berserk and attack them. Once she got the dwarven thrower, the damage the party was inflicting on the opposition grew substantially. A raging dwarven barbarian with a dwarven thrower? That’s scary!

Magic weapons are important in the later stages of this adventure; fighters without such weapons were having trouble. Thankfully, weapons were being acquired, especially the artefacts held by the prophets. My players finally decided to brave the black mist, and discovered it wasn’t a disintegration field after all! It just felt a little weird and hadn’t turned their food into green slime at all.

What they did find was the centre of the Fane, where Marlos Unrayle, the Earth Prophet, guarded the Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye. Fighting a medusa always gives the possibility of petrification, but Marlos – even with Ironfang – isn’t otherwise that dangerous, and he didn’t have enough other guards with him to properly challenge the party, especially not an enraged giant (dwarf). With his defeat, the party took possession of his magical weapon (although no-one wanted to use it), and then proceeded to ignore the great altar in the cavern. Rescue the prisoner, yes (a poor commoner abducted from Womford), but they didn’t spend any time investigating the altar.

I bring this up because investigating the altar doesn’t get them anywhere. It allows them to see all four elements brought together, but that’s about it. It’s just an unknowable thing. Ultimately, the “Elder Elemental Eye” is mostly irrelevant to the adventure, and its ultimate plans are unrealised – it’s likely the players never find out about it.

One thing the players did do is interrogate the prisoner to discover if he knew anything about the Womford Bat. It was an ongoing point of curiosity in our game. No, he knew nothing.

The next area the adventurers wanted to investigate was the Fire Temple. They first attempted to get to it from below – there’s a platform that magically can raise creatures and objects into the Temple. Unfortunately, it requires a magic command word, and the adventurers didn’t have it. They considered going up to the surface and then trying to find the outpost of Elemental Fire on the surface, before they realised they could just return to the Earth Temple and take the tunnel to the Fire Temple. (The remaining denizens of the Earth Temple just let them go. They weren’t going to get involved!)

One thing about the Fire Temple: the denizens there know fire magic, which the players became extremely aware of, after I fireballed them three times in one combat. Somewhat blackened, the group retreated to lick their wounds, leaving behind the bodies of a couple of dead fire mages.

Their next expedition was more successful, and the group happily made their way through ogre, magmin and cultists as a great battle developed around the forge area. Quite a lot of magic was expended on each side, and the fighters were very happy with how much damage they were dealing.

Then they came upon a fire cultist who didn’t attack them, and, in addition, revealed himself to be a member of the Zhentarim who had infiltrated the cult. He gave them the passwords to use the platform to return to the Fane level, as well as alerting them to the presence of the Nodes beneath the Fane, where the final prophets has gone – to perform some ritual or another. He also offered to take Ironfang from them – and allow the Zhentarim to deal with it. The group were happy to do this, and handed it over.

It’s worth noting that the group as it currently stood was very much lacking healing magic. Player changes (and character changes) had left the group without a dedicated cleric. druid or bard. Jesse decided after the assault on the Fire Temple that he’d switch characters to the bard he’d used in Tyranny of Dragons. For the bulk of this campaign, his character had represented the Zhentarim, and began each negotiation with the words “Hello, we’re the Zhentarim. We’re here to help!” He always managed to get that out before any other player – something that rather frustrated our Harpers, but that everyone found incredibly amusing. His new character was a Harper.

And so, shortly after his new character joined, it was revealed that the “Zhentarim” cultist was in fact lying – and they’d given one of the main artefacts to the leaders of the Fire Cult. Jesse was not amused by this. “Why did you trust the Zhentarim?” he asked. I was greatly amused.

Running Princes of the Apocalypse: Temple of Black Earth

Over the course of running Princes of the Apocalypse, the characters spent a lot of time in the Temple of Black Earth and its connected outpost, the Sacred Stone Monastery. When my group first encountered the Monastery, they weren’t powerful enough. They could defeat the gate guards, but that fight left them hurt and needing to rest. So, they would retreat and come back the next day. Meanwhile, the monastery replaced the gate guards – with tougher and tougher foes. And sent some scouts to find the party (the adventurers killed the scouts).

Eventually, getting sick of this, one of the priests in the temple, Qarbo, invited the characters in and explained to them that they were attacking the wrong people. Did they really want to find the delegation? Go bother the cultists in Feathergale Spire. Qarbo even demonstrated a couple of brainwashed delegates to them who told the adventurers that everything was fine.

My group, being extremely easy to lead around, followed Qarbo’s suggestion. Unfortunately for Qarbo, my group was extremely easy to lead around, and so were sent right back to the monastery by the Feathergale Knights. And then they slaughtered Qarbo, freed the prisoners, and took their first view of the temple below – and discovered that it was very dangerous. Thankfully, they retreated and used information from the rescued prisoners to go back to the Feathergale Knights and start bothering them again, eventually leading to their sacking of the Air Temple.

The entrance to the Temple of Black Earth is one of the most dangerous in the adventure. The cult has it very well-defended. In theory, a group of characters who are too low-level will go away and try to find some other way in (as my group did), but the danger comes from the players being stubborn and just trying again and again and again (see above for how my group handled the monastery). One of the biggest challenges in Princes of the Apocalypse is giving the players enough leads and quests so that when they reach a place that is too difficult, they can attempt something different – and letting them know that this is an option. There’s enough material in the adventure so you can do it, but actually conveying that information to the players isn’t always easy.

When my players returned to the Temple of Black Earth, it was from below – from the connecting passages through the Fane of the Eye. This time, they were higher level, but the opposition was still dangerous. There’s a lot of opportunity for the Earth Cultists to attack them from multiple directions. When you’re running Princes of the Apocalypse, it’s a good idea to make a copy of the map, then write on it where each of the groups of enemies are… and then move them in relation to the adventurers as the game progresses. Opponents fleeing from a combat can alert further groups, until the entire complex is alerted and defending against the adventurers. It requires some smart play to overcome the massed opposition.

The most dangerous thing for a group of adventurers to do is to follow retreating cultists. If you check the map of the Temple, there’s a lot of connecting passages and loops. So, it’s very easy for the party to be attacked from both sides at once. It’s definitely entertaining for the DM – and likely the players as well. You want to give the players a feeling of accomplishment, and that works best when they feel like they’re fighting something dangerous. The Temple of Black Earth gives plenty of opportunity for that to occur. In my game, while the adventurers were fighting in area 23, I had reinforcements coming along the corridors from the north and east. The group got the idea in a hurry and fled, though they were able to slay their target.

The other aspect of the Temple that makes it interesting to run is Yarsha (in area B6), who would like nothing more for the characters to murder the second in command, Miraj, for her, so she can become the new deputy, and then to go away. This occurred in my game: she allied with the characters, told them where the “prophet” was – actually Miraj, rather than the prophet – and then laughed maniacally to herself once the characters left.

As it happened, because the characters had already killed the Air Prophet, the real Earth Prophet was down below in the Fane. They encountered and slew him later. However, as I never really told the players that each prophet had his own special weapon (they worked it out later), they weren’t aware of the deception. Yarsha is still down there, but given the characters were eventually successful at closing the nodes, I don’t she’s living the life of power she expected.

Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 24-27

Seeking revenge for the destruction of Westbridge, the adventurers returned to the Sacred Stone Monastery and made their way through the mines beneath into the Earth Temple. They were hampered by several attacks by Earth Cultists and gargoyles as they crossed the Great Bridge. The broken doors to the Temple were well-defended, with a porticullus preventing them from progressing further while with cultists used missiles and spells against them in the entrance chamber. Krovis used his great strength to lift the porticullis, allowing Thumbelina to slip underneath. The barbarian dwarf (giant!) slew many cultists before reinforcements flooded the chamber and forced her to retreat. However, she’d caused great losses to the cult. The adventurers returned to the surface to recuperate. That night, the cultists sent assassins against them, but the party were watchful and were able to detect them before they attacked – the assassins didn’t live long enough to really disturb the party’s rest!

The cult had made ready to defend their stronghold during the night, but a dimension door from Zed allowed the warlock to slip into the side tunnels where he surprised and slew several of the lesser cultists. As he made his way back towards the main group, he ran into a priestess of the cult who was interested in negotiating with the warlock: her name was Yarsha. She explained that she was unhappy with the cult’s actions and she was willing to betray her leader and help the adventurers. Zed accepted her aid, and Yarsha proved her worth by calling off the few remaining cultists (the battle had been raging in their absence), and gave the adventurers directions to find the Earth Prophet. The group chose to rest before dealing with him.

So it was the adventurers were guided by Yarsha to the quarters of the Prophet of Elemental Earth. They found him animating stone golems from the remnants of great statues carved by the dwarves of Tyar-Besil. He was not going to go down easily, with his golems attacking the party as he threw spell after spell at the group. Most of the party were kept busy by the golems, with Thumbelina taking the bulk of their attacks, her rage protecting her somewhat from their blows. Krovis and Ivan fought the prophet toe-to-toe, and eventually were able to overthrow him, with even his last desperate attempt to become invisible and flee proving unsuccessful.

Yarsha was very pleased, and promised to turn the Earth Cult to gentler pursuits and away from the destructive path they had been taking. The group, satisfied that Westbridge had been avenged, left the temple and returned to Red Larch for some much needed rest.

However, it the rest of the cultists were still threatening the area, and more and more elemental manifestations were wreaking havoc in the Sumber Hills. Trade was down, and the folk of Red Larch were getting very concerned. So, the adventurers mounted another expedition – this time to investigate Rivergard Keep.

This was not their first time visiting the river fortress. Then, they had been rebuffed by the soldiers who lived there, when the group had completely failed to prosecute any sort of useful negotiation. This time, they weren’t working from vague rumours; they’d discovered from interrogating prisoners of the cult that the pirates of the keep had been involved in the ambush of the trade delegation. However, how does one assault a fortified keep?

Well, in the case of these adventurers, by scaling the walls, killing everything that moves, and not giving the folk of the keep enough time to react. A few fireball spells may have been involved as well.

The leader of the keep, Jollivar Grimjaw, proved no coward and died in the battle, along with all of his men. It was a long battle, but the adventurers were skilled enough to not have to retreat and come back; something which definitely would not have been the case if they’d attempted this as novice adventurers. They gained a few nice valuables in the process, which they’d convert into coin – and likely healing potions!

Investigating the area revealed a river flowing from underground, with boats neatly pulled up on its banks. The adventurers found this intriguing, and used the boats to traverse the river into the depths of the earth, where they discovered the entrance to the Water Temple. It was well-defended, but the party were stealthy enough to pull up at the dock and attack from the shoreline – although some of them were soon pushed into the river where water creatures attacked them. Unfortunately for the guards, they were outmatched and no reinforcements were nearby, a flaw in their planned defences. And so the adventurers were victorious, and they pressed onwards into the Temple. A prison cell was long-abandoned, and they were able, once more, to surprise another guard post, slaying all within in seconds.

They crossed a bridge over one of the canals that flowed through this area of the Temple, and came across a number of aquatic trolls who proved to burn just as well as regular trolls. The adventurers were witnessed by a group of lizardfolk, the Blackmaws tribe, who sent a representative to negotiate with the adventurers; it seemed the lizardfolk were being oppressed by the human cultists and needed help in getting rid of them. Ivan was quite taken by the idea of helping the scaly ones (and Jandar let the lizardfolk know that the Zhentarim were always happy to help!)

The cultists who were busy doing whatever water cultists do in nearby chambers were thus quite surprised when the adventurers, armed with the knowledge of the cultists’ locations, attacked in force. Few were even able to attack before being slain; those that succeeded, were soon defeated.

Unfortunately for the alliance between the lizardfolk and the adventurers, the heroes stumbled across a sea hag and her ogre bodyguards and slew them all. This proved to be the “mother” of the lizardfolk tribe, which led to a few amusing moments of realisation by the adventurers and the lizardfolk as to what had transpired. And then to a short, bloody combat, that did not go well for the lizardfolk! So much for their short-lived reign over the water cult!

Another stone bridge led to the heart of the Water Temple; the glyph on it was discovered by the adventurers so it did not trigger, and the group successfully reached main Temple of Elemental Water. A hezrou demon and more lizardfolk guarded it. Thumbelina was greatly amused by the demon, and smashed it again and again whilst Diablo and Gimble stood back throwing eldritch blasts and firing arrows into it. Two priests came to aid the demon, but a fireball spell soon put paid to those ambitions. With the demon slain, the group were able to destroy the altar and discover a great stairway leading down below – they had, indeed, seen it from the other side as they explored the Fane of the Eye. It was time to resume their investigation of that mysterious area!

DM Notes

It’s been over two months since my last report on our play of Princes – plans to catch up got well and truly blown with the announcement of the DMs Guild, but I’ve just been tremendously busy otherwise – not least with running sessions of this campaign and The Rise of Tiamat. And my home Greyhawk game…

So here’s a massive report on the “final” stages of the Earth Temple and Water Temple explorations. Session numbers are now purely approximate. As you might expect, I’ve left out a lot of details that I’ve forgotten in the ensuing period. However, the bulk of the important events are recorded. There are two events in particular I’m quite pleased about.

The first is in the negotiations with Yarsha. It’s nice to have cultists betraying other cultists (and then living to tell the tale!) The Earth Temple has proved challenging to the party from the start, and these sessions continued that theme. Will Yarsha really turn the cult to gentler pursuits? It does seem unlikely, but it isn’t the first time that the players have been persuaded to go elsewhere by Earth cultists. Did they really kill the Earth Prophet? Well, no – it was just Yarsha’s immediate superior. The true Earth Prophet was quite amused by Yarsha’s ingenuity and later gave her command of the Earth Temple while he dealt with matters down below. At some point, I’ll revisit what Yarsha’s been doing in the meantime.

The second was the return to Rivergard Keep. The first time, the party had very little knowledge of what was going on. Their laughable intimidation of the keep’s lord in the early days was done from a position of ignorance, but they’ve discovered a lot more clues since then. The true story of what happened to the delegation is something that can be uncovered, and now my group knows a lot of it – if not the location of the last captured delegates. (It’s still in their minds; they ask me from time to time if the latest batch of rescued prisoners include one of the delegation. Unfortunately, the answer is always “no”. But not forever!) With that knowledge, they were able to assault the keep and end its threat to the river traffic in the area.

Princes of the Apocalypse allows a great many paths through it, but it’s very challenging for the DM, especially in the beginning, to understand how it all fits together. If you’re just starting to run the adventure, don’t panic! The best advice I can give you is to allow the players to very quickly discover some clues that point them unambiguously to one or more of the Haunted Keeps. At that point, they’ve got a starting point for their investigations and the rest of the adventure will develop from there. The individual cults are likely to try and befriend the players at first, and send them on missions against the other cults… this duplicity can be their downfall, of course, as the players begin to realise they haven’t been told everything!

Incidentally, my records indicate I’ve run 35 sessions of Princes of the Apocalypse so far. In those sessions, they’ve discovered the Earth Prophet and slain him, and are only now beginning their investigation of the Fire Temple after cleaning out most of the Fane. I hope to describe these events in the near future. The sessions are part of our local D&D Adventurers League play and typically run for 90-120 minutes each – so we’ve been going for about 60 hours or so.

D&D Expeditions Narratives

Have you ever wondered about what the background was on the adventures of the D&D Expeditions line?

Now, you can find out! Travis Woodall, the D&D Adventurers League Content Manager, has uploaded three documents to the DMs Guild – one for each season – that have information on the story themes, city information, and NPC information that guided the creation of the adventures.

They’ve been released as pay-what-you-want documents, and I definitely recommend them to anyone running any of the adventures. Or you could use them to design your own adventures; they’re full of interesting information!

Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 22-23

The adventurers were now deep in the depth of the Temple of Elemental Evil, in that mysterious area known as the Fane of the Eye, although not, admittedly, to them. In the previous sessions they’d explored those areas accessible from the Air Temple and the Water Temple, now they headed north to that area under the Earth Temple.

They didn’t actually stay that long there – passing through the Tomb of Foebreaker before finding the great Earth Obelisk and the stairs that wound their way around it to the top. Ignoring the doors that would take them further into the Fane, they climbed up the long stair and thus discovered another entrance to the Earth Temple – the first they’d discovered some time ago under the Sacred Stone Monastery.

The way was guarded, with the nearby guards alerted by an alarm spell that triggered as the adventurers reached the top of the stair. Unfortunately, only four guards and a priest were set to guard this way into the Temple, and they weren’t a great threat to the party. However, one escaped and soon after the adventurers began to hear a great drum-beat echoing down the subterranean corridors. BOOM! BOOM! DOOM! DOOM!

These adventurers have many flaws, but being cowardly isn’t one of them. They pressed onwards, chasing the escaped guards deeper into the temple. They came to a room with a great statue of Ogrémoch, the Prince of Evil Earth Elementals, and there found another wave of guards and priests coming towards them. Fireball spells were followed by the charges of Thumbalina and Krovis; the guards stood little chance against such an assault.

The drums continued, and the adventurers had a choice of pathways. They chose to go away from the drumbeats, heading north along the corridor. The passageway looped away back towards where they’d entered the Temple, and they continued to follow it, ignoring the side corridors. A pair of double-doors attracted their attention, and they entered it to find a priest and four cultists attempting to sacrifice a gnome. Of course, they charged in to save her.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t counted on the instrument of sacrifice – a great Black Pudding which seeped out of the altar and devoured the poor gnome before moving on towards the adventurers. Their charge was hampered (briefly) by the cultists and a little more substantially by the slow spells cast by the priest, but facing the black pudding was something that the warriors really didn’t want to do. It was fortunate that the warlocks were able to burn it into oblivion before it split and destroyed everyone.

However, the battle wasn’t that simple, because even as they fought the priest and the ooze, they were being attacked from behind by the guards the drums had summoned: cultists, more priests and great ogres. Thumbalina was holding off the ogres from getting to the warlocks as the battle raged on and more and more reinforcements flooded in. Eventually, the adventurers were successful, but it had been a hard fight, and they all needed rest and healing. So they retraced their steps – down to the Fane, through the Fane, and up to the Air Temple and then the surface!

The group were now needing to resupply – especially their stock of healing potions – and so they made their way to Red Larch. There they discovered troubling reports of missing caravans and traders: no-one had approached from the North Road for some time.

The adventures headed out to discover the reason. And it was a terrifying one: Westbridge was devastated, the centre of the town gone, and only a few of the townsfolk trying to survive in the rubble or in a nearby camp. The adventurers learnt that earth cultists had brought a great chest into the centre of town, which had then detonated and laid waste the surrounding area in a massive explosion.

The group conferred, and began to organise the survivors; seeing that they had food and healing, and that they could make their way to Red Larch for shelter. That night, as the adventurers worked, a pack of hellhounds from the fire cult attacked. They were driven off, but it wasn’t an easy fight. The adventurers pledged to follow the retreating cultists while the refugees made for Red Larch.

Their journey took them towards the Stone Bridge, where more minions of the stone cult – Ogres – attacked, in an ambush that almost slew several of the party, with the adventurers caught between fighting the ogres and controlling their panicked mounts. Eventually the ogres and the priest commanding them were slain, and the adventurers had a new goal: to wreak revenge of the Earth Elemental Cult. Their destination: the Sacred Stone Monastery.

DM Notes

I’m still terribly behind on these reports (about 2 months, I think), but these were a couple of terribly significant sessions. The first – the attack on the “west” of the Earth Temple – displays one of the things that DMs need to do that aren’t always explained in the adventure: organising a reactive defense.

The great alarm drums aren’t in the published adventure, but they provide a sense of urgency and tension to the game. They are – as you might guess – drawn from the orc drums in The Fellowship of the Ring, which accompany the fellowship’s journey through Moria, and especially their flight from the Balrog out of the mines. It’s my second-favourite passage in The Lord of the Rings, with only the charge of the Rohirrim and the slaying of the Witch King by Éowyn being superior in my opinion. They allow the party to know that yes, they have been noticed, and that there will be consequences. All of which my party basically ignored – which led to a fantastic fight with them engaged with one foe while more foes came from behind!

That’s the sort of thing you need to do in Princes of the Apocalypse to keep it entertaining. There are a lot of dungeons, but if the inhabitants are clever and react to the players, then the adventure remains interesting.

The second session, with the destruction of Westbridge, brings the threat posed by the cult into sharp relief. One of the problems with the cults is that they can be entirely too passive: lurking in their temples without having a big effect on the outside world. It’s utterly imperative that you use these sorts of events to really drive home the point that the cults of Elemental Evil mean business, and that leaving them along will be very, very bad for the world.

The ogre fight actually almost ended in a TPK (Total Party Kill). I think we were missing a couple of players and the ogres did a lot of damage to those remaining, with the priest likewise making things very difficult for the players. The group actually had gone the wrong way, with Thumbalina not properly tracking the cultists to their origin, but the group was going to end up at the right location, the Sacred Stone Monastery, in after all.

And what happened there was hilarious. But that story will have to wait for another time…

Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 20-21

With the prophet of the air cult now slain, the group were able to return to the Air Temple and explore mostly unmolested. A few kenku remained in the ruined underground city, but they scattered and fled from the adventurers – the few that did not quickly learnt the error of their ways, probably from a fireball spell exploding nearby!

It was certain that the section the adventurers now explored was in less good repair than what came before, and had mostly been ignored by the cultists, leaving only their kenku allies to live amongst its fallen glamour – or as much glamour as could have existed in a dwarven merchant quarter. There were a few places that the kenku had not looted and that still retained items of value, but the adventurers soon learnt that the neglect of the kenku was due to the presence of creatures the kenku feared.

One of those creatures, an ancient terror known as a Cloaker, ambushed the adventurers as they entered its lair, although Gimble was alert enough to cry out a warning before it totally overwhelmed them. His shout gave them enough time to react, and their fire and steel combined to slay the beast. It had gathered a tidy pile of gold and silver that the adventurers now claimed for themselves.

However, it was the corpse of a great worm that really caught their attention – dead in the process of tunnelling through the deep earth and now, it seemed, converted into a stairway for the cultists to enter the lower caverns. The adventurers investigated it cautiously, climbing down into the depths. No-one marked their passing; the air temple now lay abandoned and it seemed the elemental cultists had no further use for those who had failed.

The adventurers emerged into a set of rough, natural caverns. A great pit, descending even further below, yawned before them, gusts of wind blowing erratically around the chamber. The adventurers skirted it uneasily, and pressed forward to a chamber where three harpies perched on a ledge high above the floor, and sang a song of great beauty – enough to charm some of the adventurers and lure them upwards. The harpies took great delight in the fumbling attempts of the adventurers to climb the cavern wall, their song interrupted by peals of great laughter as one would almost make it to them before being dislodged and falling. Unfortunately for the harpies, the warlocks of the group were skilled at firing their eldritch blasts at distant targets, even ones obscured by gloom or seeking cover behind the ledge: if any of the harpies became visible at all, they were blasted by Drakul and Zed. The harpies were eventually slain, and the adventurers return upstairs to tend to their wounds.

The next day, their investigation continued. Investigation further northwards was blocked by a strange dark mist that filled the passageway, and no-one was brave (or foolish) enough to enter it. Instead they sought easier passage. I might not call jumping from giant fungus to giant fungus (the better to avoid the floor) the safest way of crossing a chamber, but it was the one they chose. Zed found himself being attacked, once more, by a grell, but a quick shot from Gimble slew the monster. Thinking better of that path, the adventurers returned the way they came and chose another of the branching pathways that led through the caverns.

The next chamber held three captives – unattended but manacled against the wall. One was a riverboat crewmen who told the group about how water cultists had captured him and dragged him to Rivergard Keep and from there down below. The adventurers remembered the Keep, from which they had been barred after some unfortunate discussions, and resolved to return there in future. The other two captives proved to be members of the fire cult who had been captured by the water cult. They proved full of scorn towards the adventurers, and were left there whilst the crewman accompanied the adventurers a little further.

The great torrent that ran beside the next cavern flowed from the Water Temple above, or so their new companion informed them. It proved to be guarded by water weirds, who attacked the adventurers when they ventured too close. It was an entertaining combat, distinguished by how long the adventurers could hold their breath, but they were eventually successful. Fearing for the safety of their companion, they once more returned above, settling him in Feathergale Spire. The explorations could continue on the next day.

Princes of the Apocalypse, sessions 18-19

Two of the adventurers had died in an ambush by the air cult as they had returned from the dwarven city below, and so the group had become indebted to the Zhentarim. This mean that they were obligated to travel down to Bargewright Inn to meet the local Zhentarim contact, Nalaskur Thaelond.

The amount of money they owed wasn’t too large, so the job they were given wasn’t tremendously onerous: all they had to do was accompany a caravan of goods up to Triboar. Of course, the reason they needed to accompany it was because of increased bandit activity on the roads.

It is to be certain that the bandits were not expecting such a well-defended caravan. The spell-casters of the party were key to the adventurers’ victory, with fireball spells and other area-effect magics doing horrible things to the bandits as they attempted to keep hidden and snipe from cover. Yes, they might have the numbers, but when the adventurers were now attacking twice per round (in the case of the fighters) or using superior spells, not much can stand in their way.

An attack by air cultists mounted on giant vultures was thwarted on the third day by the group’s superior alertness – they just saw them far away. And you know what the range of the fireball spell is? It’s significant. And that was that for the air cultists.

The caravan reached Triboar, finished its business there, and returned to Womford. The adventurers were thanked, and their debt was discharged. The Zhentarim were pleased with them… should the adventurers feel pleased? (Jandar was happy, however!)

With all the party resurrected and debt-free, they returned to the dwarf city near Feathergale Spire. A couple of the adventurers moved ahead stealthily, and were able to neutralise the guards before the alarm was raised. The group then proceeded north, where a number of air cultists tried to stop them from approaching the great pyramid. More and more cultists arrived, their leader riding a great wyvern. It was a hard-fought battle, with spells, missiles and swords all employed. Thumbalina was knocked off into the moat that surrounded the pyramid and was swept towards a great waterfall that plummeted to unknown depths, only to be saved by Krovis, using winged boots to fly and pull her from the current – and just before a great, underwater stone golem smote her!

Zed was kept busy alongside Diablo using their magic to keep the wyvern at bay, while Jandar protected them both with his axe and sword. Once rescued, Thumbalina returned to the fray with a vengeance, and Gimble continued to snipe from the shadows, cultists falling one after the other, unaware from where the deadly missiles were emanating.

Eventually, all fell quiet – the party triumphant – and they entered the pyramid. Within the grand half of the temple, more cultists attempted to stop their advance, but the cultists’ spells were resisted with Krovis’ divine aura working well to protect his friends, while more missiles and weapons – Jandar running to the front and engaging the foes – kept the battle short, if bloody. Up the stairs the party proceeded, to the Great Temple of Elemental Air, where the Prophet of Air waited for them, whiling away the time by torturing Windharrow, the musician they had met a tenday or so ago.

The Prophet, Aerisi, attempted to summon aid with a great horn, but she was unable to reach it with the party using weapon and spell against her to slay her before she could do anything of note, save cast a single lightning bolt spell that severely hurt man of the adventurers A great shaft led down from the temple into immeasurable depths, but the adventurers ignored it as they went in search of plunder.

Krovis took the great spear of the Prophet from her, lightning crackling around its tip, and claimed it for his own. The others made do with gold and gems.

However, as the group was now hurt, bloodied and exhausted, it was time for them to leave. They were able to do so unmolested. Finally, they could get some much-needed rest.