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Master Dungeon Master #10

#10 : Princes of the Apocalypse, part 1


I am so Bilanko_oldmodsexcited to have, in my hands, the hardcopy of Princes of the Apocalypse. I am a big fan of Elemental Evil. I have been hoarding original copies of Temple of Elemental Evil and The Elder Elemental Eye, which was one of my favorite 4th edition Encounters seasons.

For fun, check out the video footage from Twenty Sided Store’s Elder Elemental Eye Session 0 a few years ago.

Adventure Planning

Many of you have asked how I take an open sandbox adventure and break it up into Encounters sessions. In next few articles, I will outline my main goal for each session, how I directed Team DM, and how we brought the players to the table creating a great start to a new season of collaborative storytelling.

Bilanko_boardThe first decision I had to make was whether or not we would complete the entire Princes of Apocalypse adventure. I decided we would only run a portion of the adventure on Wednesday nights and once we got to Tier 3, I would run the rest of the adventure for those who wanted to continue as a separate event.

By narrowing down the adventure, I am able to elaborate on details and advance at a slower pace. Players who tend to miss several sessions over the course of the season will have no problem keeping up, and new players will have an easier time joining in late season.

It also gives us an opportunity to allow the players to drive the direction of the story. In order to accomplish this successfully, we needed to start the players with a strong grounding in the setting and location, Red Larch.

Team DM Meeting

At the Twenty Sided Team DM Meeting, we discussed who the most important NPCs in Red Larch were. We really wanted our players to have a relationship with the Factions this season, so we started with their contacts in town. We also wanted to start seeding rumors. We all agreed on specific facts and determined how much would be revealed at a time. This is what we agreed on for the cult signs:

Bilanko_wind Bilanko_water Bilanko_fire Bilanko_earth

Session 0

For Session 0, I wanted to allow players time to build their characters but not get lost in numbers. I wanted players to get familiar with Red Larch, build bonds with other players and their characters, and develop relationships with their Faction Contacts.

Session 0 Beat

  • Players received a map of Red Larch and visited the local shops, meeting with other adventurers and gathering rumors as they arrived. 
  • Players were then recruited by Faction Contacts. Players grouped with their chosen Factions and discussed their goals for the season in more detail. 
  • Later the town Constable asked the Adventurers if they would follow up on disturbances in the area.

What Was Covered

  • Trouble in Red Larch and Arrival in Red Larch (HC pg. 148-149, PDF pg. 18)
  • Important Red Larchers and Trouble in Red Larch ( HC pg. 20-21, PDF pg. 9-13)
  • Into the Wilderness ( HC pg. 149-150, PDF pg. 9-13)

Session 1

It is important to reinforce the ideas developed in Session 0, so we again spent some time meeting the faction contacts, building relationships with each other and NPCs in town, while investigating new developments on the original rumors. My goal was to keep players unsure of who is telling the truth, who is hiding something, and who is definitely lying to them. I wanted players to start to think about who they could trust in Red Larch outside of their faction contacts. It was also important to have players realize that some NPCs in town might be sending on wild goose chases.

Session 1 Beat

  • Factions recruit new players
  • Players explore more of Red Larch, looking for leads
  • Players learn that there is some kind of evil presence near Lance Rock.
  • Players can go investigate.

What Was Covered

  • Red Larch Mellikho Stoneworks, Helvur Tarnlar Clothier, The Swinging Sword (HC p. 22- 29)
  • Random Encounters Table, Early Travels, 7 & 16 (HC pg. 30), or Wilderness Threats (PDF pg. 15)
  • Lance Rock & Necromancer’s Cave (HC pg. 151-153, PDF pg. 20-22)

What’s Next…

Stay Tuned for what happens in Session 2 & 3 as players face their first plot twist and Team DM discusses which direction the story will turn.

Dear Master Dungeon Master

Need advice? Want to share something cool you are doing for your store? Have any comments? Don’t be shy… Ask Master Dungeon Master!

In the meantime, I have a couple questions for all of you to help inspire future article for this column.

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Lauren Bilanko
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