Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.3b Day 2 Fort Morninglord

Tables of Contents

Day 2

Morning: Far From Home

Overview: The journey continues the next morning, as the wagons make their way towards Baldur’s Gate. Wellum conducts a ritual of his people and asks others about their homelands.

Setup: In the distance looms Fort Morninglord, an Order of the Companion camp beside it next to the river Chionthar. During a moment of rest, Wellum stops to bury a coin by the side of the road and say a prayer to Chauntea.

This scene is much more freeform than most of the others and will largely depend on the PCs and their backstories. If you want to ‘bounce off’ some NPCs I’ve listed any who aren’t from Elturel… but again try not to make this just NPCs talking to NPCs – involve the players!

  • Wellum: is from Alaghôn the ‘throne of Turmish’ far to the east, based largely on real world Turkey.
  • Vollis: is from Baldur’s Gate, by her elf father was from Turmish, known for its large elven population. Vollis knows little about her heritage.
  • Hasterine: is a wood elf who spent most of her life living in the Feywild. As such she has developed a pattern of speech of cryptic rhyming. She knows a great deal about strange creatures and monstrous races.

Purpose: This scene is somewhat of a continuation of the previous one, in providing an opportunity for characters to talk about themselves and their backgrounds.

It also foreshadows Fort Morninglord which will be the afternoons event. If you are planning on skipping that event, consider mentioning the cursed Fort as it passes by and the squalid and desperate conditions of the camp next to it.

Afternoon: Fort Morninglord

Overview: Fort Morninglord is a sealed and cursed place, once a bastion of the Order of the Companion. In 1476DR (18 years ago) the entire garrison disappeared overnight and obeslisks appeared at its perimeter which magically keep people out (or something in…). Now there is an influx of refugees overwhelming the small camp.

Setup: Trying to stay at the camp is basically impossible. There’s nowhere near enough food for everyone here and the situation is already at a breaking point.

Camp Garrison: The Order of the Companion maintain the garrison, lead by Star Jan Edelgard. As far as they are aware Star Edelgard is the highest ranking member of Elturel’s military left. His latest intelligence is that The Companion exploded and nothing remains of the city except a smoking crater – he will be keen to know more about the PCs knowledge.

Hellriders: A group of five Hellriders on horses are resting at the camp and are planning to head to Elturel and figure out what has happened. They are led by Katja Sturms, a paladin of Tyr known for being cold but fair.

Fort Morninglord Refugees: are mostly hoping that a boat will come and take them away from here, while some might hope to join the PCs and journey to Baldur’s Gate. Buying supplies here is possible but very expensive – consider prices x2 more expensive than the PHB and food is x5 more expensive and limited supply.

Purpose: This is a good place to add extra NPCs to the group, or even new PCs if you have someone who couldn’t join the first session. Maybe they are a Knight of Elturel, or a refugee… or perhaps just someone caught up while passing through.

If you wanted to expand this into a whole sessions worth of content, consider utilising the content of SPEC2-01-H3 The Morninglord’s Laughter which allows the PCs to figure out what happened here nearly two decades ago.

Evening: Death on the Road

Overview: While on guard duty a rider on a horse rapidly approaches the camp from the direction Baldur’s Gate. This might seem like a threat, but it turns out to be a woman in dire need.

Setup: Have the person(s) on guard duty make a DC15 Wisdom (Perception) check. If so they notice the rider at 1,2000 feet (2 minutes away), otherwise they notice them at 120 feet (2 rounds away).

The horse charges into the camp and clinging on is Alyssa Obaartaen. She is alone, terrified and heavily pregnant. Alyssa explains that she and her husband Fessel were attacked earlier on the evening by a group of robed figures who ambushed them.

Fessel forced Alyssa’s horse to flee and the last she saw he was being dragged from his own horse by the figures. She doesn’t know that he was murdered, or that they were Zariel cultists killing him because he was the son of a Hellrider.

Should they question Alyssa she can tell them the following once calmed down;

  • Alyssa is 7 months pregnant, conceiving very soon after their wedding.
  • Fessel was from Baldur’s Gate and she had been there with him after they got married less than a year ago.
  • They were heading to Elturel to give birth surrounded by Alyssa’s family.
  • Fessel was the son of a Hellrider, Marcus Obaartaen.

If the PCs decide to try and find the scene of the attack now, it requires a DC10 Wisdom (Survival) check, otherwise they unknowingly pass the body. If successful they find him, see 1.3c Day 3 Afternoon: Fessel’s Body.

Purpose: This scene introduces Alyssa who could possibly serve as the vector for both a devout follower of Unity, as well as introduce the concept of Knights of Elturel being murdered (although at this point the clue shouldn’t be made obvious – more something to realise later in hindsight).

In the next article we will discuss exactly what happened to Fessel, how he was murdered and what happened to his body.

Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.3 Journey to Baldur’s Gate: Setup and Day 1

Tables of Contents

So we now have our refugees, and have them integrated with the next step of the PCs story – Get to Baldur’s Gate, the nearest place of safety and figure out what is going on.

But how do we do that? Sure you could handwave it in a sentence, “You travel with the refugee wagons along the road to Baldur’s Gate, arriving the next tenday.”

That’s pretty boring though and it doesn’t really help make our players and their characters care about these refugees. So lets create some events that can happen during the journey.

These probably should fill a single session and no more. To keep the pace up we likely want the next (third) session to start at the arrival in Baldur’s Gate itself. One thing that’s perfect about these sort of ‘travel sessions’ is that you can just cut content to make it fit, giving you a perfectly paced session no matter how long or short it runs.

The three most important parts are;

  • Sticking around Elturel is too dangerous
  • Thavius Kreeg and Ulder Ravengard were ‘lost’ in Elturel’s fall
  • Before you sprawls the city of Baldur’s Gate!

That’s accomplished in just three scenes, which could easily be an hour of playtime or less, giving you the freedom to add or remove all the other scenes as necessary for your session length.

Justin Alexander proposed a Main Series of Events which many of these use as their basis. I’ve turned some of these short bullet points into actual scenes but again you probably don’t want/need to include all of them.

Travel Scenes

I’ve laid these out as 3 scenes per day for the first few days where it makes sense to ‘zoom in’ on things, before moving to just single scenes per day.

Narrate in a sentence or two what happens on any day(s) you are skipping and cut to the next scene you find interesting. If you realise time is running out on your session just cut to the next important scene from the bullet points above!

Focus on the NPCs that the player and their characters resonate the most with and as mentioned in the last article feel free to really side-line a number of them.

Day 1

Morning: A Hope and a Prayer

Overview: The refugees say a Unity Prayer before their first meal together on the road.

Setup: Vasha says a ​Unity Prayer, “Before all, we give thanks to the Companion, whose light gives us the bounty of the fields and shields us from the dark; whose eternal presence is a constant ally against all those who would threaten Elturgard. Let all those who stand within its blessing remember that it is a beacon of righteousness, which we will follow to our greater glory.​”​

Purpose: This is an opportunity for the players to reaquaint themselves with all of the NPCs at the start of the session and serves as a recap to what has happened. You want to touch on the following;

  • Elturel has fallen and no one knows how or whyGet the PCs involved, they were in Elturel and everyone will want to know what they saw.
  • The Companion and the Unity Prayers were an integral part of modern Elturian lifeThis sets up the subversion of religion that has taken place in Elturgard and gives the players a snapshot of what it means to be from Elturel
  • Despite their differences everyone here is together and depend on each other, at least until they reach Baldur’s Gate where everything will be betterIt won’t be fine and everyone knows it! This just reminds the players what their aim is and why they need to head to Baldur’s Gate

Afternoon: A Lack of Food

Overview: There are serious concerns about whether there is enough food for everyone.

Setup: Ippon has made Pal check over all the wagons contents (3 times), while she extensively catalogues their total supplies. She’s worried there isn’t enough. Vollis suggests ‘checking any abandoned farmsteads’, while Hastrine thinks hunting and gathering is less morally corrupt – nature provides for those in need after all.

Purpose: You could either have this be a literal ‘puzzle’ where the players need to do a head count, work out daily food consumption and calculate this… or if you don’t think your group is into that, make it more of a narrative thing about the moral quandaries of helping yourself to things without permission.

‘Finding’ Supplies: Investigation check DC 10 to recover food for 1d4+WIS mod people and equal number of gold pieces once per day.

Hunting and Foraging: Survival check DC 10 to gather food for 1d6+WIS mod people once per day.

We are not worrying about water as the road literally travels along the length of the Chionthar River, so it seems somewhat redundant to track it.

If you really wanted to lean into this survival aspect you could definitely increase the complexity of this but I would avoid the temptation. This is a single sessions worth of ‘survival’ and the campaign then stops caring about it – keep it simple and just touch on the theme and move on.

Evening: Worse than Vampires

Overview: Most of the refugees are getting ready for bed, but a few stay up to talk about the situation. They talk about the Night of the Red Coup and how somehow even that pales in comparison to current events.

Setup: One of the NPCs from Elturel says that their people have never known such devastation; not even during the Night of the Red Coup and the rule of the Vampire Lord Ikaia. High Overseer Kreeg is surely dead, as he was in negotiations with Grand Duke Ravengard from Baldur’s Gate.

Purpose: This scene is in danger of being a mass of exposition from NPCs while the players just sit and listen. DO NOT DO THAT.

Instead we can lean into our PC backstories.

I’ll have a whole article about this at some point but essentially any PC old enough (elves, etc.) might have actually experienced the Red Coup, or anyone in a noble/diplomatic position might know about Ravengard’s visit. Or maybe they are a Hellrider or Knight of the Order of the Companion and know about devil cults in the region which might explain all the crazy goings on.

Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.2b Dara’s Refugees

Tables of Contents

The refugees from Escape from Elturgard* are a great way to get the PCs to care about the fate of Elturel and to drive them towards Baldur’s Gate.

On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to make all of these refugees important, or that you need in any way to protect them from dying or being largely ignored. In fact I would recommend letting some die or fade into the background a bit – just let it be lead by the players.

For example if Segren Hall dies in the stables, then Vasha is going to be a very different character than if he is saved. Or maybe like my group, your players just aren’t drawn to Ippon and Pal… well then they just stop being prominent in scenes. Later they might just do their own thing in Baldur’s Gate, rather than sticking around with the other refugees.

The only slight exception is Dara, Ghorin and Clyde. While they aren’t protected with plot armour; Ghorin and Clyde secretly being celestials makes it ‘interesting’ should they be attacked. You could either have this fact be revealed early, and ignore my later articles on the trio, or you could trigger similar events but within whatever context this occurs. Or make them mundane mortals – Ghorin really is just an old man with a goat.

Personally I’m a big fan of Dara and my players really latched onto them (they are in love with Clyde), so you can expect at least two more articles featuring them. One will be in Baldur’s Gate after the Dungeon of the Dead Three, and the other in Avernus possibly related to the Crypt of the Hellriders (or in finding it).

I’ve made a number of changes to the NPCs from the Adventure League module, so assume these versions of ‘canon’ and replace any conflicts with the module.

Dara

Appearance: A young human girl about 10 years of age, clearly marked as a priestess of Ilmater – God of the Suffering – with blood red cord tied around her wrists. She keeps her long brown hair tied in a ponytail with similar red cord.​

Roleplaying:

  • Often implores with her hands raised, the red cord of her faith visible on her wrists.​
  • ​Dara carries an air of reason and composure far beyond her apparent years.​
  • She stays focused on the current task at hand, but never forgets the overall importance of the mission.​

Background:

  • Dara is a 10 year old girl who was fostered by priests of Ilmater and raised in the Tower of Willful Suffering, a temple of Ilmater in Eshpurta, Amn.​
  • ​The young Chosen of Ilmater has been traveling for a long time en route to Baldur’s Gate aided by Ghorin and his goat Clyde.​
  • ​She doesn’t yet know the reason behind her pilgrimage, but is relieved to be nearing her destination.​

Key Info:

  • ​Dara doesn’t know what has happened to Elturel, she Ghorin and Clyde had just passed through a day ago and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.​
  • ​Dara’s is searching for others to accompany her to Baldur’s Gate and wants to rally the refugees from outside Elturel
  • Despite being a Chosen of Ilmater, she is just a normal 10 year old human girl (of immaculate conception) with some cleric powers. At least for now.

Stats: LG female human child acolyte (page 342, 5e Monster Manual)

Ghorin

Appearance: A dottering old man who wears dusty clothes worn thin from years of hard work. He walks with a stooped gait supported by a long, smooth yew staff. ​

Roleplaying:

  • He’s frequently accompanied by an equally old goat with grey fur named Clyde.​
  • ​Ghorin’s keen eyes miss nothing and he never let Dara out of his sight.​
  • ​Despite his apparent age, he’s still sharp as a tack, no nonsense and has a proverb about everything.​

Background: A priest from Amn’s Tower of Willful Suffering, a temple of Ilmater in Eshpurta, Amn.​ His duty is to watch over Dara with Clyde.

Key Info:

  • Ghorin is secretly a planetar named Rinzel and Clyde a deva with goat legs named Ausuriel, but even Dara doesn’t know this.
  • They would only reveal their true forms if confronted with the very real possibility of Dara’s death.

Stats: Ghorin LG male human elder, secretly a planetar (page 17, 5e Monster Manual).
Clyde LG male goat, secretly a deva (page 15, 5e Monster Manual)

Vasha Hall

Appearance: ​Fierce featured, with long brown hair and an air of confidence about her, this human woman stands tall in her worn breastplate, rapier at her hip.​

Roleplaying:

  • Puts her hand on her hip when she talks, in a posh Elturian nobles accent.​
  • Stands tall and proud, Vasha is never defeated and never gives up.
  • Confident, a natural leader.

Background:

  • Vasha is minor Elturgard nobility.​
  • She owned the Fabled Fawn Inn with her husband Segren.

Stats: LG female human noble (page 348, 5e Monster Manual)

Segren Hall

Appearance: ​The massive head wound on this mans head appears pretty serious. He looks like a man who enjoys fine food and drink and has lived a life of hard work.

Roleplaying:

  • Rubs the massive horse-inflicted dent on his head often, with a grimace.
  • ​​Subservient to Vasha, he is used to being led by her.

Background: Owned the Fabled Fawn Inn with his wife Vasha. Unlike Vasha, Segren isn’t a noble and is of middle class.

Stats: LG male human commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Hastrine Leaftender

Appearance: A nonbinary elf, who wears the robes of a traveller. Their features are soft, and their brown hair tumbles about their face and neck.​

Roleplaying:

  • ​They speak in cryptic rhymes due to the lingering effects of a long stint in the Feywild.​
  • ​A wanderer at heart, Hastrine has a deep passion for discovering new people and places.

Background: A travelling furrier and herbalist who was passing through the area when Elturel was destroyed.​

Stats: NG nonbinary elf scout (page 349, 5e Monster Manual)

Wellum Smith

Appearance: A dark skinned human from Turmish descent, he has two black tattoo lines on his skin under each eye and a shaved head. His physical strength is readily apparent as his arms bulge under his clothes.​

Roleplaying:

  • ​Cracks his knuckles often, one hand then the other​
  • ​A bit too fond of a drink, especially with Gordrick​
  • Bury’s objects in the ground before saying a prayer in offering each morning

Background:

  • Ran a blacksmithy outside Elturel.
  • The Turmish tattoos beneath both his eyes mark him as literate
    • 0 lines marks you illiterate, 1 lines as able to read, 2 lines as able to write and 3 lines as a mage.
  • His offerings are to the goddess Chauntea and are a tradition of his homeland.

Stats: CG male human guard (page 347, 5e Monster Manual)

Gordrick Ironarm

Appearance: ​A male dwarf with a clean shaven face, incredibly unusual for his people.​ He wears open or low cut shirts and piercings in both ears.

Roleplaying:

  • ​Takes a sip from a ‘waterskin’ often, clearly filled with strong smelling alcohol.​
  • ​Forlorn and prone to bouts of despondent depression

Background: His father, and entire bloodline, were exiled for causing a mine to collapse by trying to save money by using few tunnel supports.​ Many lives were lost.

Stats: NG male dwarf commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Vollis Foote

Appearance: ​A female half-elf with dark skin – although clearly on her human side, for it is the rich brown of the Turmish people – and not the ashen skin of a drow. A golden amulet sits at her throat, a green topaz faceted into it’s centre.​

Roleplaying:

  • Clicks her tongue when she talks.
  • Pretends to be overly honest and forthcoming – she is a skilled liar and possesses a silver tongue.

Background:

  • Vollis father was from Turmish, but moved to Baldur’s Gate before she was born.
  • She is illiterate and so therefore has no tattooed lines below her eyes.
  • Indoctrinated into the Cult of Zariel in Baldur’s Gate.

Key Info:

  • Vollis is being mentally guided by Gargauth to find descendants of Elturian Knights and kill them.
  • The necklace she wears is an amulet of proof against detection and location.

Stats: LE female half-elf cult fanatic (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Ippon Waston

Appearance: ​A bookish looking halfling woman, with a high ponytail of brown hair and spectacles on her nose.​

Roleplaying:

  • ​Pushes her spectacles up her nose​.
  • Always counting supplies, keeping a tight ledger of how many days food and water the caravan has.​
  • Very no-nonsense​.

Background: Formerly a miller and general store owner, where she employed Pal.

Stats: LG female halfling commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Pal Tithrin

Appearance: Male half-elf who wears a warm smile on his soft face, despite the situation​. His long hair is tied up, but still runs down the length of his back.

Roleplaying:

  • Makes motions like killing himself behind people’s backs in joke mockery, especially Ippon’s.​
  • Has a real gallows humour.
  • Charming, most find him hard to dislike but also to take seriously.

Background: Pal worked with Ippon as her assistant. He is an enthusiastic fan of Billiam’s writings, which he has long appreciated.

Stats: LN male half-elf commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Billiam Staodwall

Appearance: A flamboyant yet morose of later years human who wears a smart blue tunic. He looks tired, pale and scrawny, yet somehow still retains a regal air.

Roleplaying:

  • He is frequently found writing of his experiences his journal​.
  • ​Billiam frequently neglects whatever other duties he might have been charged with, due to writing instead.
  • Often argues with and says hurtful things to himself.​

Background:

  • He hopes someday to go to Candlekeep, where he hopes they will accept his works as the donation required for entry.​

Key Info:

  • Secretly a member of the Cult of Bel.

Stats: LE male human commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

Alyssa Obartaen

Note, Alyssa doesn’t show up until later in 1.3 Journey to Baldur’s Gate

Appearance: This human woman is clearly pregnant, perhaps 6 or 7 months so. She has religious garb on, although clearly is not of high station or wealth.​

Roleplaying:

  • ​Places her hand on her bump​ for reassurance.
  • ​Alyssa is fearful of the dark.
  • ​Hopeless, has only her unborn child’s safety keeping her going.​

Background: Alyssa is from Elutrel, but her husband Fessel was working in Baldur’s Gate. Alyssa had gone with him months ago while he worked in his home city. ​She is a reverent believer in Unity and Companion worship, saying Unity Prayers frequently and creating Unity Tributes.

Key Info:

  • Alyssa is pregnant, not imminently so, but enough to hinder her.​
  • Her husband Fessel was from Baldur’s Gate, but they were going back to Elturel so Alyssa could have her child around her own family.​
  • ​Fessel’s mother was a Hellrider.​

Stats: LG female human commoner (page 345, 5e Monster Manual)

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