Descent into Avernus

1.2 Escape from Elturgard

Tables of Contents

Following the cataclysm in Elturel, the Player Characters are now confronted with two large buildings burning a short distance away. In front of the buildings are a group of very panic stricken villagers – as well as 3 unusual figures; Dara, Ghorin and Clyde.

These NPCs, and the entire rest of this article, are from the Adventure League module DDAL09-01 Escape from Elturgard*. Obviously I won’t reproduce all of the content here, as that isn’t very ethical and you should support creators! Instead I will summarise the events and provide any changes I’ve made, or thoughts to consider.

Evil Abounds!

Dara, Ghorin and Clyde

The first section of Escape from Elturgard is just an introduction which presents some important NPCs; Dara a Chosen of Ilmater, Ghorin her chaperone and Clyde the goat.

Dara is about 10 years old (even though the Adventure League modules don’t mention it until the next one) and the ward of the old man Ghorin – who has a goat that my players absolutely love. They (jokingly) refer to Clyde as the most important character in the game.

Dara isn’t a normal 10 year old. As mentioned she is the Chosen of Ilmater. This makes her essentially a demigod in terms of her power – which could make her a massive mistake. After all, being told what to do by a literal demigod who could easily do those things is stupid (see Elminster).

Fortunately, Dara is the Chosen of the god Ilmater whose portfolio covers endurance, suffering, perseverance and martyrdom. As such we can simply say that despite her divine nature Dara does not have access to demigod levels of power, as a test of her god. As such she is ‘simply a divinely created 10 year old on a pilgrimage from Amn to Baldur’s Gate, who happened to be stopping off near Elturel when the city fell.

At this point in time Ghorin and Clyde are as they appear – a stubborn and protective old man and his goat. Later they will be revealed to be a planetar and deva respectively, but I wouldn’t even remotely hint at that yet.

Dara directs the PCs to the 3 locations of named refugees to rescue, while she and Ghorin gather a number of unnamed NPCs.

These 3 locations are; The Smith, The Miller and The Innkeeper.

While they could be tackled in any order, it makes sense to start with The Innkeeper, as a burning building is an immediate problem and you can’t realistically expect the PCs to walk away from it. Next it makes sense for the PCs to go and secure weapons for the refugees, now that monsters have been seen. Finally, getting supplies from the miller puts everything in place to leave for Baldur’s Gate.

Of course, your players may have different ideas, so don’t feel as if you need to in any way direct them.

The Innkeeper

I ran this unchanged from the module. It ran well except we had 3 characters get knocked down… that many enemies for a split party is challenging (some went to the barn, some the inn).

Consider having Vasha come out and help if necessary – this also presents her as an actual defender of the refugees, not just a snotty noble who hides in cupboards.

Also, the module tells you not to let Sergen recover from his injuries, even with magical healing. This appears to have been a plot thread set up for later modules that then gets forgotten and dropped… I’d just let him recover normally if her survives.

The Smith

I ran this unchanged from the module. It worked really well and the cult lair had some interesting puzzle solving, combat and interrogation all wrapped up in about 40 minutes.

The Miller

Oh boy. This part just completely needs to be gutted. While I really enjoyed the idea of Billiam the author, his fetch quests just seemed trite and unnecessary.

Skip them entirely and the pegasus attack and just make it a skill check to convince him to come with them. If they succeed he comes happily, if they fail he comes along out of pity.

The Liar

Don’t run this now, it will be added into the Journey to Baldur’s Gate section.

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Descent into Avernus

1.1 The Fall of Elturel

Tables of Contents

Descent into Avernus has one of the single worst openings of any module I have ever read.

I am not even exaggerating. It literally forces you to care about some city you aren’t even in, or possibly in any way connected to. If you refuse, then the quest giver sends murder squads after you until you die or do as he says.

Wow let’s not do that.

First of all, check out Remixing Avernus – Part 1: The Beginning over on The Alexandrian. Justin writes in detail about the premise of the campaign and ways to fix the glaring errors.

One of his suggestions is to start the adventure way before the module suggests – so that is what we are going to do.

PRELUDE TO DISASTER: The PCs are actually in Elturel when something goes horribly wrong with the Companion in the sky above. Black lightning seems to be attacking the guardian of the city! Then black lightning begins lancing down, as well, striking buildings, streets, and people. Panic sets in and some people begin trying to flee the city. The PCs barely escape when the city suddenly vanishes!

Justin Alexander on Remixing Avernus – Part 1: The Beginning

Prelude to Disaster

Initially my plan was to run a whole session before the Companion goes all crazy and the city of Elturel falls. This is in fact what the DM’s Guild adventure The Fall of Elturel* does. It also entirely undermines the Alexandrian Remix by revealing key information for the first chapter’s mystery – the villains of Baldur’s Gate.

I’m sure you could rewrite it to make it work, but I had already informed my players in our Session 0 that Elturel would ‘be destroyed’ and to create characters who would care to find out why and by whom. As such, that’s where I started the campaign.

I told the players to create characters who would be in Elturel and to think about what they were doing and why they were there.

The Fall of Elturel

This introductory scene starts in Elturel around midnight. Each player (except Lulu’s) gives a brief introduction of their character and what they are doing. What do they look like? What is their role or position in life? Why are they in Elturel?

Lulu as a Player Character: I am also using Lulu as a PC, so she is with us from Session 1. If that isn’t the case for your group, simply replace her with some sort of divine intervention or other deus ex machina. This could be a warlock’s patron, one of the characters gods, Torm, or even Dara (see below).

Once everyone has done their introductions, send Lulu’s player the following message;

You hear the voice of Torm in your head “You must protect them; the guided blade, the divinely inspired, and the betrayer’s son. Flee Lulu, flee and find out who did this. I charge you with this sacred duty. Find them and bring my fury upon them!”​

Then immediately begin narrating how the Companion is struck by black lightening, which forks off and hits buildings and people – mass panic in the streets and a moment of chaos. Do this while Lulu’s player reads your message.

Obviously you will want to change the names of the characters, or as in my case come up with prophetic names. My group has a hexblade Hellrider (reskinned an unknown to the player celestial patron it’s the Sword of Zariel), an artificer of Gond from Lantan, and an elven outcast whose parents were Hellriders who betrayed their companions during the Night of the Red Coup and were vampires.

Because I didn’t want to drag out this opening, I just narrated how Lulu found the characters and teleported them a dozen miles outside of the city to the west. You may want to instead frame this as a series of small montage scenes, but that potentially loses some of the immediate impact and chaos.

Once the teleport happens, Lulu doesn’t really even know how or if she did it. Maybe it was her, maybe it was Torm. The rest of the characters will no doubt question her, serving as her character introduction.

Of course if you aren’t using Lulu as a PC, the deus ex machina will be just as surprising and just as unclear as to what even happened (thanks Lulu amnesia!).

It is important to realise here that due to the fact these events happened at night time, once the city of Elturel falls and the Companion disappears the entire region is now in darkness. The Companion had been bathing the region in its unnatural light for 50 years, so any character from Elturel itself might have never seen real night and darkness before – which could be an interesting character moment.

Once the conversation between the PCs begins to slow down, they spot a small collection of buildings nearby, the largest of which catches ablaze. Soon the barn next to it is ablaze too… and there’s a gathering of people, all in chaos.

Climbing on top of a cart stands an approximately 10 year old girl. This is Dara, from the Adventure League module DDAL09-01 Escape from Elturgard*

We will be using that module for the first couple of sessions, and using the refugee NPCs it provides to further complicate matters – as well as reinforce the plight of the common people of Elturgard and their now refugee status. It’s the hook into Elturel and its people that the original Descent into Avernus entirely lacks!

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