Monday, June 24, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 7: Cloudy with a chance of Sinkholes

Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)

Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

Evan spent most of the week leading up to this session asking if his wagon survived the sink hole, to which I’d smirkingly reply, ‘Maybe’. Yes, it’s good to be the DM Dad.

I start off this session by telling Jojo, “Did you know that ‘Tempest’ is actually the name of a cleric domain? It’s supposed to be the domain of storm and weather gods. So you are actually a cleric named Tempest, but of the Trickery domain!”

Jojo says, “Really? How was I supposed to know!? Maybe that’s what my dragonborn parents named me because they wanted me to be a cleric of the tempest domain!” We reason that this might be why Tempest got kicked out from her clan when she chose to follow Loki instead.

“Well, kids, if you recall from the last session, there was an earthquake in Red Larch, and a massive sinkhole has opened up in the middle of the street - right under Folax’s new wagon! Everyone is running around shouting and in panic, and someone yells that the children were in the wagon!” When the last of the tremors subside, a large group of townsfolk gather around the house-sized sinkhole, peering into the dark depths.

“Wow, house-sized? I thought it was just as big as the wagon,” says Jojo.

The adventurers join the crowd of onlookers around the sinkhole. I tell the kids, “There seems to be some sort of commotion in front of the crowd. You see Waelvur, the dodgy wagon-dealer, sweat beading on his bald head, hastily telling the crowd, ‘There’s nothing to see here! Go back to your homes! Keep back!’. Next to him is the Stone Quarry Overseer woman who is saying even weirder things with her stern voice, stuff like, ‘Non-Believers are forbidden to enter the Tomb!’ and ‘The Delvers cannot be disturbed!’”

The adventurers make their way to the front to confront the pair. Waelvur is much shorter than Tempest, but he puffs himself up nervously as the dragonborn looms over him. “Um.. nothing to see here?” he squeaks.

Just then, Constable Harburk and his burly sons turn up. “What’s going on here?” asks the Constable. Waelvur looks visibly relieved. “Um, yes Constable, we were just keeping people away from this dangerous sinkhole. In fact, I think everyone should just go home and leave this matter to myself and Melli here.”

The Constable gives him a strange look. “I heard there are children trapped down there! We should rescue them straight away!” to which Waelvur immediately protests.

I tell the kids, “The crowd parts again, and you see Zoey the half-orc caravan guard come through. She’s carrying a coil of rope.”

“Zoey!” greets Jojo happily. After arranging who goes down the sinkhole (Zoey, Tempest and Folax) and who stands above-ground holding the rope (Constable Harburk and his sons, and DEFINITELY NOT Waelvur and Melli the Stone Quarry Overseer), the adventurers descend into the depths of the gaping sinkhole.

I read from the campaign book: “This wide, irregularly shaped cavern has a floor of smooth bedrock. Damp dirt and stone, with tree roots protruding here and there, make up the walls. A five-foot-wide tunnel leads off to the north, and a stone slab - a door with a rusty pull-ring - stands to the east. By the stone door, a couple of well-used cloaks and a waterskin are on the floor.

Of course, the first thing Evan asks is if they can see his wagon. I affirm, “The wagon is right in the middle of this cavern! You can see that although one of the back axles is broken, the main structure of the wagon seems intact!”

Evan nods approvingly. “This is what you get for 100 gold! Thelorn’s quality wagon!” The adventurers peer into the wagon, and they see three children huddled together in tears. From here, it was a simple matter to get the kids hoisted out with the rope. “What about my wagon!?” demands Evan.

I tell him, “Well, it’s too big to be hoisted up using these ropes! You’ll have to figure out another way to get your wagon out!” The adventurers decide to check out the stone-slab door. After inspecting the two cloaks, they decide that Zoey and Folax should wear them, while Tempest casts Disguise Self to make it look like she’s wearing a similar cloak herself.

Proceeding through the stone-slab door, the adventurers find themselves in a long straight corridor heading eastwards. “The walls and floor are perfectly smooth. It definitely looks as if this was chiseled out a long time ago.” They pass two stone sentinels carved into the walls facing each other (not bothering to check if they are hidden doors, which they were) and eventually come to a portion of corridor where the ceiling rises into the darkness above. “Even with darkvision, you can only see a series of floating panels where the ceiling should be. Further on, you can see the corridor ends with another stone-slab door.”

Even my kids can figure this out. “It’s a trap. I wonder what’s up there?” Evan decides to jump to see if he can reach a panel, and rolls an amazing 19 with his acrobatics check. “You manage to grab hold of a panel… and it swings from side to side! You hoist yourself up, and you see iron bars. The panels are actually the undersides of cages suspended with chains from the ceiling!”

Jojo ponders. “Cages. Which fall as soon as we go under them. I… RUN LIKE BLAZES DOWN THE CORRIDOR!” Demonstrating a natural lack of mutual consideration, Tempest sprints down the corridor. Seeing the dragonborn sprint through, Folax drops down and runs as well, followed by Zoey. I get them to roll Dexterity checks, and announce, “Immediately, there is a rattling of chains, and sure enough, the cages fall down from the ceiling! Zoey and Tempest are trapped in cages, but Folax makes it to the stone-slab door at the end of the corridor!”

Folax tries to open the stone-slab door, but this one seems bolted from the inside. I tell him, “And then, you suddenly smell… pickles!”

“Pickle-seller guy!” Sure enough, the voice of Grund the half-orc sounds through the stone-slab door. “You not give password!”

Evan says, “A password? Oh, what was that word? ‘Delvers’?”

“Um no. It something you are.”

The kids crack their heads for a while, but eventually give up. I tell them that they can hear Grund moving off. “I go get others now!”

Evan slaps his forehead. “Ah, it’s Zoey! The pickle-seller guy has a crush on Zoey! We should have gotten Zoey to talk to him!”

Ah well, opportunity missed. I ask the kids what they want to do now. After trying again to open the door himself (and using up a series of Magic Missles from his wand to blast the door), I patiently remind him that his companions are still stuck in cages, and perhaps they can help. Eventually, the gunslinger helps Zoey and Tempest to lift and escape their cages, and together, they bust open the stone-slab door.

The room beyond the stone-slab door just has a bench, and a series of levers and chains along the walls, obviously used to activate the cage traps. There are more stone-slab doors to the north and east, and the adventurers proceed eastwards.

Adventure Notes:
The campaign book has a boy pinned under a stone-slab here, apparently the son of one of the Believers who is being punished for some minor infraction. Personally, I thought that the Believers already had enough crimes under their belt without adding child-abuse to the list, so I removed that scene.

“You guys come to another stone room, and this one has a statue of a dwarf warrior here.” I describe the statue, and that it had coins and various gems littered on the ground around it. “There’s also an interesting-looking dagger here!”

Evan hastily diverts his attention from playing with his phone and declares that he’s scooping up the loot on the floor, while Jojo picks up the dagger and asks me to describe it. “It’s a dagger decorated with star motifs! The grip is made from night-blue leather! Dried blood still coats the blade. It hardly whispers a sound when you swing it through the air. And there’s a word ‘Reszur’ inscribed on the pommel!”

Evan declares, “I say, ‘Reszur’!”

Nothing happens. “Probably because you’re not holding the dagger, Tempest is.” I point out.

Somewhat hesitantly, the dragonborn cleric says ‘Reszur’, and the blade gives off a cold glow that lights up the area like a torch. “And that’s what it does,” I finish.

Jojo splutters, “A glow-stick!? Evan gets a cool Wand of Magic Missiles, and I get a stupid glow-stick!? I’ve got darkvision for crying out loud!!”

Oooo... Magic!

Even my consolation of ‘Well, it’s +1!’ doesn’t mollify her. Tempest tosses the glowing dagger over her shoulder in disgust. I tell her that Zoey picks it up and shrugs as she keeps it.

There’s another door to the east, so the adventurers proceed through that one. “You guys are in another short corridor. It ends at another door. Next to this door, a small lantern hangs from a hook. Sitting on a wooden stool by the lantern is a balding, beardless old man in patched and faded work trousers and tunic. He’s idly whittling a stick.”

Evan says, “I point my rifle at his face!” The old man exclaims in terror and immediately begs for his life. The adventurers ask him who he is and what is this place, and the old man gives his name as Baragustus, and that he is one of the Believers. Many years ago, the chamber beyond this door was discovered by miners. They called it the ‘Tomb of Moving Stones’ because there were strange dwarven skeletons entombed in there, and big rocks which seem to change their positions from time to time. The Believers call the dead dwarves Delvers and believe that they move the rocks to communicate and show signs of coming danger. “The Delvers care for the good of Red Larch! And recently, someone named Larrakh came to us. He said he was an earth priest, and he could help us understand the Delvers better!”

“Where’s this earth priest now?” asks Tempest.

The old carpenter nods towards the door. “He’s inside the Tomb.”

Anticipating a boss-fight coming up, the kids continue through the stone door into the Tomb. As they enter, I lift up the campaign book to give the kids some visual:

Jojo exclaims, “That’s exactly like how I imagined it! Me and Evan the midget and everything!”

I tell the kids that there are stone slab beds along the sides of the walls with dwarven skeletons. They go over to inspect these, and find dwarven inscriptions on the walls. Rummaging through their character sheets, the kids are disappointed to find that neither of them speak Dwarf.

“I speak Dwarf!” sounds out S'il-vous-plaît from his scabbard.


“Yup! I once had a dwarf room-mate who could only speak in his own language. So I took night-classes to learn Dwarf so that I could talk to him.” S'il-vous-plaît looks downcast. “Then I found out that he was saying very bad things about me to his friends all this while, so.. yeah.”

Jojo sighs. “Well, can you read what this inscription says?”

S'il-vous-plaît mutters as he picks through the words. “It says… ‘Caution! Heavy equipment in operation! Do not use while drunk or fatigued!’

While the kids ponder on the strange sign, I tell them. “Suddenly, you hear a whining sound, like something powering up! Tempest, you see a very large stone sliding towards you, like it was sliding over ice!” Jojo succeeds her Dexterity check and leaps up on the stone slab bed, scattering dwarven bones everywhere, as the large stone crashes against the bed and bounces away, as if it were a puck on an air-hockey table.

I tell the kids, “In the middle of the chamber, you see a dark robed man sneering at you. ‘You dare interfere with the Black Earth Cult! Your meddling ends here!’ And then, six more figures spring out in front of him, and you hear this…” I search up and play this YouTube video on my phone:

The six figures clad in leather armour strike poses in front of the Black Earth Cult priest. “It’s the Bringers of Woe!”

“Oh no, these butt-triangles again!” groans Evan.

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