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Master Dungeon Master #14

14#: Princes of the Apocalypse, part 5

In this article I will cover Twenty Sided Store’s D&D Encounters Sessions 8 and 9. If you are reading for the first time, you may want to start with Sessions 1and 2 in article #10: Princes of the Apocalypse, part 1 to follow along in consecutive order. You can also check out my earlier posts by visiting my article page, Master Dungeon Master.


At this point we are halfway through our D&D Encounters Elemental Evil season. After 7 sessions we have only touched the surface of what The Princes of Apocalypse has in store for the Adventurers. As we delve deeper into the Hard Cover, I am discovering just how rich this setting is. There are so many possible outcomes. Team DM has been creating a great foundation for players to continue after the organized play season is over and I can’t wait to hear how players everywhere will prevail.

So many of the decisions we are making in preparing for the following sessions are specifically based on what the players and DMs at Twenty Sided Store have created. After editing this article many times, I decided to create a section called Site Specific. In this section I have separated ideas, that although based on the Princes of Apocalypse, have been interpreted and developed specifically for Twenty Sided Store’s community of players based on the outcomes of previous sessions. I am hoping that by separating the Site Specific information from the Session Beat and What Was Covered  I can continue to provide a resource for your game group to shape Princes of Apocalypse into your own unique Site Specific story.

Adventure Recap

During the last two sessions, players secured a Keel Barge to take them North up the Dessarin River in pursuit of Larrakh. They got into some trouble back in Womford with the Rats and word traveled to Riverguard Keep. Grimjaw, protector of the keep, sent a drow sellsword, by the name of Elaine, to ambush the Adventurers in revenge for the murder of Shoalar. The Adventurers managed to capture Elaine alive, learned that Larrakh had been staying at Riverguard Keep for the past few days, and that he had the Dwarven Books with him.

Session #8 – Riverguard Keep, part 1

We started the adventurers just south of the Keep. There were still keelboats carrying cargo up and down the river and every boat had to be checked and taxed – for their own protection. I wanted to play up the river checkpoint front, that the Crushing Wave was maintaining publicly, and I wanted these next two sessions to be a big reveal. This was going to be the first of the four Dwarven Keeps that the players would visit, and they stumbled upon it, unaware of the larger threat that plagues the Dessarin Valley. Excited to see what the players would do, DMs planned for a variety of situations depending on who would discover who’s deception first.

Site Specific

What the players didn’t know yet was that the Womford Rats were connected to the Crushing Wave Cultists. We seeded this idea subtlety to players by revealing the the cult symbol on barrels and crates moving between Riverguard Keep and Womford, but none of our players were able to get a confirmation on who was responsible for the Cult activity.

The challenge here was for the players to figure out how they could get into Riverguard Keep, find Larrakh, get the information they needed, and get out knowing full well that Grimjaw and the Womford Rats were expecting them and wanted them out of the picture.

Since Shoalar and Pike were killed in a previous session we replaced Shoalar with Charlie “FishBone” Hamberdale (Captain) and Pike with Dilwich, “Oneleg” (Harbormaster) (K12).

In this session, DMs had many options as to how this was going to play out. Since I imagined some tables would talk their way into an audience with Grimjaw and others would get taken to him, I thought the best place to end the session was with everyone arriving in the same place at relatively the same time regardless of how they got there.

Merchants who refuse to pay dues or try to interfere with cult business are captured and held prisoner – there are prisoners here that the players can rescue. No one has seen Larrakh in the past few days. In order to find Larrakh and secure the Dwarven Books, the players will have to parley with Grimjaw.

END – No matter how each table gets there, the session ends when the players arrive in the Great Hall about to have an audience with Grimjaw.

Session 8 Beat
  • Allow the players time to figure out how they want to approach Riverguard Keep, now that it is in sight.
  • The Pirates are expecting the Adventurers, if they recognize them straight away, they might pretend this is business as usual so they can try to capture the Adventurers and bring them to Grimjaw.
  • Prepare for several different ways the players could be kept busy from the time they arrive at the Keep to the time they meet Grimjaw. Players could explore, interrogate, or have numerous stand-offs.
What Was Covered
  • Riverguard Keep (pg. 52 – 56). ONLY AREAS ON RIVER : K9 – K14 (If players try to go in the front entrance, the alarm sounds and a fight breaks out just outside the keep and players are brought straight to Grimjaw.)
  • More Information for added flavor – Haunted Keeps : Riverguard Keep (pg. 34), Womford (for NPCs in Riverguard Keep pg. 39), Factions / Rumors in Red Larch (pg. 40-42)

Session #9 – Riverguard Keep, Part 2

Anticipating what players will do and trying to write an encounter that can handle all of the “What ifs” doesn’t have to be a challenge if you think a couple steps ahead and play off of what your players bring to the table. Each table had a slightly different approach getting into the Keep, one table decided they wanted to free all of the prisoners at the Keep. This set up an opportunity in this session to have a prisoner revolt, if the players needed help in getting out or securing the location. Another party set the ship on fire, set off the alarms immediately, and used the distraction to gain advantage by drawing out the enemies away from the those forced into labor. This gave us some great insider NPCs for players to gain information from.

By the end of Session 8, all the tables were in melee and the alarms had been sounded. As more and more Reavers and Fathomers came at the Adventurers, Grimjaw stopped the fight and ordered the Adventurers to be brought to the Audience Chamber where they could have a civilized discussion. I wanted to start with Audience with Grimjaw (pg. 58) as group RP to open Session 9 to give the players an opportunity to succeed or fail together at their overall objective. As this would play out at individual tables for the rest of the session, I wanted to make sure players got a chance to explore the rest of the Keep.

Site Specific

During the Parley with Grimjaw, Players wanted information on Larrakh and the Dwarven Books. Since Grimjaw’s main job was to protect the Keep and not allow anyone to enter the Temple below, he was wiling to offer up Larrakh and the Books. In exchange he wanted the players to leave Riverguard Keep by dawn and stop meddling in his trade business. An agreement was made and the players were shown to the Barracks (K8) where they could take a long rest and heal up for the night and be on their way in the morning.

After the parley, Team DM had a short meeting before breaking off into individual tables so we could all agree on a couple changes that arose from the parley. We agreed that that Grimjaw did not trust the Adventurers to keep their word. Grimjaw had a lot to hide and couldn’t take the risk that they would find the secret passage to the tunnels below. We decided that Grimjaw would attempt to have the players killed in their sleep and then escape to the lower levels securing the passage so players couldn’t follow.

In the background, Larrakh had left Riverguard Keep a day or two ago (when he learned that the players escaped Grimjaw’s Ambush – see session 7). Larrakh read The Terrible Art, one of the Dwarven Books in Bruldennthar’s Collection. He learned how to make a Devastation Orb and went to see Grimjaw about a component he needed, the Blessing. Drosnin (K15) made several, what she called Failed Blessings, so Grimjaw agreed to trade one of these worthless commodities to Larrakh for the valuable Dwarven Books. While Larrakh stayed at Riverguard Keep, working with Drosnin, he had the entire manuscript tattooed on his body, before making the trade with Grimjaw.

END – Players will most likely explore the Keep after it is secured. Make sure they find the Dwarven Books in the Lord’s Chambers (K21) and the Reports (K16 pg. 58). Players DO NOT learn the Location of Larrakh. When players successfully secure and take over Riverguard Keep they receive a message from their Faction contacts who would like to meet with them in Beliard.

Session #9 Beat
  • Group RP – Audience with Grimjaw “The Lord of the Castle”
  • Grimjaw turns to a Wereboar and can escape from the Great Hall (K16) secret door – sealing the entrance behind him or through the Gate to the Dark Steam (K13).
  • If players go sneaking off in the night, a fight can break out at any time in any location. Make sure to allow time for the players to explore the rest of the Keep – find the Womford teens who ran away to join the cult (K18), Foreshadow Westbridge, the captured girls in the servant quarter (K17), etc.
  • If players try to take a long rest, they are awoken by Assassins.
What Was Covered
  • Riverguard Keep (pg. 52- 59)
  • Key Areas – K16, K8, K15, K21
  • Additional areas for gaining needed information – K17, K18, K19

Stay Tuned for what happens next in Session #10 & #11…

In my next article I will talk about how we pieced together everything that has happened so far and used it to shape the rest of the Twenty Sided Store D&D Encounters Season.

Dear Master Dungeon Master,

In the Necromancer’s Cave my character came into possession of the Drift Globe after the party defeated the Necromancer in his room. I have been told that it is not a magic item, but everything I have read so far indicates that it is a magic item.

The Driftglobe is an uncommon wondrous item that can bring light to an adventurer on command. You can find it’s stat block in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (p.166) or for free in the Rise of Tiamat Supplement (pg. 2).

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

Lauren Bilanko
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  1. Master, Dungeon Master #15 | D&D Adventurers League Organizers - […] my last article, I covered sessions 8 & 9, Riverguard Keep. The players secured the Keep and collected the…

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