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Descent into Avernus

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

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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.

Note: After having run though these scenes I’ve since changed my opinion on the pacing. I discuss this more in the next article, but essentially I feel the campaign would be enhanced by having the journey from Elturel to Baldur’s Gate play out over two sessions rather than one.

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 why – Get 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 life – This 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 better – It 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.

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