Afternoon: Goblin Ambush
As the caravan travels continue along the Chionthar they enter back into a woodland area. Unfortunately, this is the home of the Black Fang Clan of goblins who have laid an ambush to try and steal supplies.
It’s important to remember that the goblins aren’t look for a fight to the death, they just see the caravan as easy pickings. There’s shouts in goblin to surrender, the wolves come charging from the forest, and arrows begin peppering the caravans.
The PCs are level 2 at this point and so the battle itself should be with goblins each of which has a wolf, 1 per PC minus 1 (So a 4 person party should face 3 goblins and 3 wolves). The goblins release the wolves to attack and harry the enemy and keep them at a distance, while they attack from cover with their short bows.
There are more goblins than this, which are being fought on the other side by the combative refugees; Vasha, Wellum, Gordrick and Pal.
Should the wolves be slaughtered the goblins will flee into the forest. Any goblin hit by an attack and not killed will also flee on their turn.
Yet more danger on the road and a chance for some more combat if that’s what your group needs. Not all groups will be keen on the roleplaying based events, so events like this and some combat from the Bad Fortunes can really help!
The PCs may choose to have the caravans flee, so don’t feel you need to set up a battle map and miniatures and have the PCs dismounted or anything like that. See how they react to the initial attack and go from there!
It also presents an opportunity to have some of the refugees killed off in the attack if you want to lessen the number of them going into the Baldur’s Gate portion of the adventure and further highlight the dangers of being outside of civilisation.
Morning: Devil in the Details
This scene is from D&D Beyond’s Encounter of the Week. It’s a whole series of encounters meant to present an entry point for a Descent into Avernus campaign, but in my opinion it’s pretty flawed which is why I haven’t used it… this isn’t a full review although maybe that could be something I look into in a future article.
The encounter is of a more social nature, with an imp named Pip Kip who is stranded on the material plane after his summoner was killed. He will approach the wagon disguised as a raven and claim to be a wizard’s familiar and offer infernal contracts, with a trick attached.
As written I don’t see this ending in anything but the PCs refusing the deals and killing the devil. After all, you would be mad to trust a raven that produces contracts in Infernal and hurries you to sign them.
Instead lets use this as an opportunity to explain the nature of devils, their power and the rules of contracts.
Pip Kip, in raven form, descends down and lands on a felled tree before the caravans. He calls out in Common “Help! Help!” to lure people over to him.
He will then tell the truth (kind of) saying he was summoned to the Material Plane by a wizard who was then killed, leaving him trapped here until his bargain is complete. The disguised imp will then ask for the PCs to agree to help him complete his contract so that he can return to his home plane.
If pressed he will say that his contract was to help his summoner get revenge on a group of gnolls who had killed his son. Should the PCs be interested, he asks them to swear an oath that they will help him.
The oath is in no way binding or a contract, Pip Kip just hopes that do-gooders will want to keep their oath.
If an oath is made, Pip Kip will confide in them his true nature as an imp, explaining that all devils must be true to their sworn word, due to the Pact Primevil made between Asmodeus and the Gods. He made a pact with his summoner to help him kill the gnolls and would remain on the Material Plane until the gnolls were dead. Unfortunately the summoner was killed by the gnolls when he attacked them, but Pip Kip had failed to realise his own contract was flawed – he was now cursed to stay here until the gnolls died… and that could take years!
He presents to the PCs a contract, appearing in his beak in a puff of smoke. Pip Kip explains that no Devil can make a contract and break it, or the Pact Primeval will see the devil punished for eternity.
The contract details how the PCs will work to kill the gnolls as soon as possible, in order for Pip Kip to return back to his home plane of Avernus. Neither side is allowed to harm the other or they forfeit their souls to the other. Should the PCs help Pip Kip they will be granted one Common Minor Magic Item, from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything page 140.
Here are some example items you may wish Pip Kip to offer, or you could let players choose;
- Armour of Gleaming
- Ruby of the War Mage
- Tankard of Sobriety
- Enduring Spellbook
- Charlatan’s Die
If questioned most of the refugees would obviously be against helping a devil in any way. Dara however confirms Pip Kip’s statements – he is trapped here and his contract is legitimate. Plus gnolls are chaotic demon spawn who attack without mercy and eat the fallen, they are inherently evil and wiping them out is a good idea.
Should the PCs take Pip Kip up on his offer and sign the contract he will present each of them with a duplicate and keep a copy for himself. He explains that all devil contracts are two part and only when brought together can a contract be broken. The other half of his summoner’s contract in near his body, so that’s what he needs recovered.
He will escort them to the gnolls who are nearby. The band consists of 1 gnoll per 2 PCs lead by a Gnoll Flesh Gnawer. The body of the summoner can be found among them, nothing more than chewed bones and blood soaked robes. His discarded coin purse contains 14 gp and the summoner’s copy of the contract he made with Pip Kip. The imp will be overjoyed to have it and will summon his own version and destroy the two together, causing them to burn into infernal flames.
Pip Kip will then thank the PCs for their help and give them their rewards as promised. Should any of the PCs be interested he would consider becoming their familiar instead, although this time he has learnt his lesson and will place a time limit – although he might be willing to negotiate to extend it once it is near expiration with another deal. If they agree he will serve them for a tenday. Failing that he will simply return to Avernus.
The point of this encounter is to impart lore on what devils are within the setting and how deals work. We don’t even need to care if the PCs take the deal here really, we just want to set them up for later in Avernus.
It’s also a good way to put across “Deals with devils can be rewarding without screwing you over” which sets them up to be more keen to take bigger, worse deals in the future.
Evening: Hope at last
As evening starts to set in the group decides to stop and set up camp once they reach the hill ahead. Yet as they crest the top they are greeted by the sight of the Sea of Swords and the city of Baldur’s Gate! It looks like they will arrive tomorrow afternoon.
As such it’s nice to have a small scene of reflection on what happened since Elturel fell and everyone had to leave their homes over the evening meal.
With this travel section being something of a ‘choose the scenes you want’, I can’t explicitly tell you what to include here but here’s some ideas.
- A Unity prayer to thank the Companion for their imminent arrival in Baldur’s Gate.
- Time to mourn and talk about those who have died on the journey.
- People’s plans once they arrive at Baldur’s Gate
- Dara wants to visit the Shrine of the Suffering to complete her pilgrimage.
- Alyssa wants to find Fessel’s family and inform them of his death.
- Speculate on what happened to Elturel and if the same thing could happen to Baldur’s Gate, or has already happened to other cities.
This is a moment of hope for the PCs and refugees. It should be something of a relief to have their destination in sight. Think of it as the calm before the storm, as soon they arrive in Baldur’s Gate and realise things aren’t as simple as they thought.
Any NPCs you want to leave could make their intentions known in this scene. Here are some specific ideas for each NPC group if you would like them to leave the campaign.
THE FOLLOWING SUGGESTIONS ARE FOR HOW TO REMOVE NPCS FROM THE CAMPAIGN – They are not what you ‘should do’.
- Dara, Ghorin and Clyde: Dara’s been on a pilgrimage from Amn to the Shrine of the Suffering in Baldur’s Gate, so they are almost there.
- GM Note: I have plans for them in my Extra Content, so you may need to ignore later articles about them, or otherwise work to reincorporate them, should you remove them from the campaign.
- Vasha and Sergen: They have the money to get a ship to Waterdeep, where Vasha has distant family.
- Hastrine: There are ancient stories that the Cloak Wood Forest is said to hold fey portals to the Feywild. She would very much like to investigate and find her way back there.
- Wellum: Wants to put the dreadful business behind him and take up work again in a small village smithy.
- Gordrick Ironarm: Thinks maybe it is time to return home and end his exile. He will return to the Cloak Wood Forest mines, which have once again become a dwarven mine after being drained of flood water a century ago.
- Ippon and Pal: Ippon wishes to travel to Daggerford. She heard that the city was recently attacked by strange frog demons who emerged from magic portals, and is hoping to establish herself as an important merchant there. Pal of course is being dragged whether Ippon leads.
- Alyssa: Will leave to inform Fessel’s family of his death and mourn with them in Baldur’s Gate.
- Billiam: If you used The Liar section then he’s already dead. However if you did not then he wants to continue on to Candlekeep to present his great story as his entry gift.
- Vollis: Is likely either dead or fled from the group follow The Liar. However, if not she will say she is happy to be home and will seek out her family. This is a lie, she will go to the Hamhock Slaughterhouse and inform them all about the refugees if any of them are Elturgard Knights.
I actually didn’t remove any of the NPCs in my own campaign, although other than Dara, Ghorin, Clyde, Vasha and Hasterine most faded into the background entirely once the PCs reached Baldur’s Gate and were more just a nebulous group.
Afternoon: Arrival at Baldur’s Gate
Farmland turns into small villages and more civilized areas as Baldur’s Gate draws nearer and nearer. The refugees past by various small hamlets and eventually Rivington and cross Wyrm’s Crossing.
Wyrm’s Crossing is stopping all river traffic and redirecting them to a temporary dock in Rivington. Vessels are searched and only genuine merchants are permitted entry into the Gray Harbour of the city proper – everyone else is forced to disembark and cross Wyrm’s Crossing.
Wrym’s Crossing taxes everyone who passes through it a 5 cp toll.
There are many beggars here and one scrawny looking teenage girl approaches the caravan asking for a silver for her and her sister to pay the toll. Even if the PCs give her the money, she immediately leaves and approaches another group and gives them the same sob story and asks again for a silver.
Inns won’t take refugees mostly because they are already full, but also a growing fear that the ‘refugees’ are a precursor to invasion. Everyone just tells them to head to the Basilisk Gate where a refugee camp is forming by the city wall suitable for their kind.
Finally as the caravans reach the city walls, they see the camp for themselves. It’s cramped in between Stonyeyes and the city wall. These refugees are clearly not doing well.
An elvish druid named Marsaadi Woodsoul, the leader of the camp and former companion of Hasterine’s approaches them and welcomes them to the camp. She tells them of the situation;
- The Basilisk Gate is closed to refugees. Only citizens are being allowed into the city right now.
- Many of the locals fear that the refugees are scouts or an advanced force from Elturel who have killed Grand Duke Ravengard after failed negotiations with Thavius Kreeg and now seek to invade.
- Some refugees are risking forged papers and extortionate fees for ‘The Guild’ to smuggle them into the city.
- GM Note: It isn’t The Guild, it is Amrik Vanthampur’s agents.
- Refugees are being murdered and dumped behind an inn nearby. The Flaming Fists aren’t investigating, but perhaps the PCs could speak with Flame Zodge at the Basilisk Gate and convince him to help make this place safe.
This final scene sets up the transition from wilderness travel across the wild countryside into an urban campaign.
Ideally you want to paint the Outer City as a hostile and unwelcoming place for the refugees – they need to get into the Lower City to really feel safe.
We are also setting up for the Outer City Murders, which will be the next major series of articles. First up will be a single post on using the Baldur’s Mouth newspaper as a vector to get rumours and lore in handout form to your players.
This has all been great stuff — thank you so much for sharing!
Thanks Owen, I really appreciate the kind words. More is coming so keep checking back!
Thanks for the awesome ideas! For a newbie DM like me all this is immensely helpful. Excited for more to come!
A quick question regarding the imp: what was its motivation for making a deal with the father? His soul? And would the imp then get his soul if it can return to Avernus?
That is a great question! I think ‘the price is your soul’ is a bad idea for devil deals in general, simply because everyone in the Forgotten Realms knows for certainty the afterlife exists and as such eternal damnation is a massive price. It’s better to use the soul as collateral on the deal should the mortal fail to live up to their end of the bargain; “I will give you power and in exchange you will destroy an altar to Torm in the nearby village. Should you die before completing the task your soul is eternally damned.”
As such maybe Pip Kip was playing a longer game, hoping to keep by the father’s side and slowly corrupting him to evil. Imps seem to serve that purpose well, or as ‘gifts’ from patrons.
Thanks for the kind words. I’ve got more rumour posts scheduled to come up over the next few days!
Just wanted to note, I ran the Devil Deal earlier, and I’d been running a quick foraging roll in order to flesh out each day. Albeit, I’m running a slightly more punishing survival aspect (not that it really matters given the amount of the campaign that occurs without access to food and water, but instead of 1d6 pounds/gallons, it’s just 1 lb./gallon), thus they were slowly realizing that they were going to start going hungry. They still were getting some, but there was a constant threat in the back of their minds wondering what they should do. This was then the perfect segue into the Devil Deal, which easily offered the opportunity for Pip Kip to offer 100 days worth of rations to the caravan (and a couple of common minor magic items on top of it all) should they accept his deal, which made the characters consider the deal even more strongly. Just wanted to throw that out there.
My group is right in the middle of the devil in the details arc. I made a few changes though, I wanted the players to feel an “adventuring day’s” worth of XP. Shortly after making a deal with Pipkip, the party comes under attack by gnolls that were tracking him.
Right before the fight, as part of the agreement, Pipkip revealed that Bel was the entity Pipkip was working for and backing his deals. Fast forward to the end of our session, where the only pc that agreed to the deal with Pipkip is laying unconscious with no obvious help incoming…
The player completely surprised me! They roleplayed out of session their pc calling out to Bel and striking another deal! It’s gonna be amazing.