Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.3a Bad Fortunes

Tables of Contents

As a reminder, the idea here isn’t necessarily to use all of the events I’m posting. In fact I didn’t when running my game. Just highlight the tone, NPCs and problems that you and your players will find most interesting.

I’ve had a couple people ask me, “So why bother prepping them at all?”

Well… because I’m not that comfortable with that level of improvisation yet.

It is something I am working on, but these little planned scenes help me feel confident before and during the game. They are concrete scenes for me to use if necessary. Could you just use the prompts from Justin’s original article and make these scenes up as you go? Sure! Could I? Not yet… It would just be too overwhelming for me to run. Perhaps you feel the same, in which case hopefully these pre-planned scenes will help you too.

Today’s scenes are bonus content I hadn’t originally planned to include. I ended up passing over them on my own campaign, as getting everything in a single session was important to me at the time. However, if I were to run the campaign again it would definitely be something I’d do over two sessions to really highlight the distance between Elturel and Baldur’s Gate and to juxtapose city life to wilderness and rural life.

Any: Bad Fortunes

Overview

Things start to go wrong with the journey. Food has spoiled unexpectedly, harsh weather causes a miserable days travel, a wagon axle breaks.

These are a series of mini events which you can spread out and place on pretty much any day, or you could group them into a single day if you prefer making for one very bad day.

Setup

Spoilt Supplies

Pal has carried out his check on the supplies, under the meticulous eyes of Ippon. One of the food stores have spoilt. There’s just not enough to last the rest of the trip. How will the PCs handle the situation? There should be a small village nearby (Groatfield), woods with game to hunt, the Chionthar has fish to catch, and so forth.

Harsh Weather

Thunder clouds loom on the horizon and within an hour are hanging dark overhead – the clap of thunder and lighting fills the sky.

Safe travel is almost impossible in such weather and it may force a day of camping out. Vision is obscured beyond 20 feet due to the downpour and unprotected flames are likely to go out.

A Wagon Breaks

The mud from yesterday’s downpour causes travelling the main road difficult, yet trying to skirt it proves risky too. One of the wagons slips into a ditch, breaking its axle in the process. It will need to be dragged out and then repaired.

This probably involves some sort of Carpenter’s Tools being used, or a spell like Mending. Ippon could provide some tools and supplies and Wellum might be able to assist with the actual repairs.

Optional Combat Encounters

Spoilt Supplies: The enemy type depends on what your PCs choose to do to locate food – they might split up, allowing you to run simultaneous combats but in entirely separate places and even times. Consider 1 boar per PC in the woods, 1 sahuagin per 2 PCs by the river or 2 bandits per PC after exiting Groatsfield with supplies.

Harsh Weather: A nest of stirges, 2 per PC, descend and attack. They drop down, attack and then fly up into the air if they fail to latch on. Ranged attacks have disadvantage due to the heavy rain and limited visibility of the thunderstorm.

A Wagon Breaks: Churning of earth heading straight for a wagon erupts as an ankheg bursts forth. This may be quite a difficult encounter for a level 1 party so consider having it initially burst out and surprise attack a horse and try to drag it back to its larvae, only fighting the PCs if they attack it. It will flee, preferably with prey, by burrowing underground and retreating as fast as possible back to its nest.

Purpose

Each of these scenes is designed to provide some sort of complication and level of mundanity. After all there are lots of problems that can arrive on such a long trip.

Really the problems aren’t about mechanics and complex skill checks to solve them. It is a matter of player creativity. Pretty much any proposed solutions could work!

If you have an exceptionally long session, or are having the journey play out over multiple sessions, then these elements could be expanded into ‘campfire’ style scenes with in character roleplaying if that sort of thing interests your group. Simply grab a handful of Dara’s Refugees and throw them into the scene with the PCs.

Maybe Ippon (and a bemoaning Pal) want to head to the village of Groatfield to ensure the correct provisions are purchased? Or Hasterine and would like to join the foraging party? Perhaps Dara wants to try her hand at fishing?

Conversely you could easily add some enemies encountered while out searching for food, who attack during the thunderstorm or ambush the group while they struggle with the wagon.

Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.3d Day 5 and 6

Tables of Contents

Day 5

Afternoon: Flaming Fist Get Rough

Overview

Once back on the road again a dozen riders are seen approaching. They wear a red and grey uniform and a symbol on their shields that marks them as Flaming Fist from Baldur’s Gate.

Their leader, Flame Daryn Falburn has been dispatched to Elturel to find out what has happened to Grand Duke Ulder Ravengard. She doesn’t take too kindly to anyone who doesn’t submit to her authority.

Setup

Anyone who has been to Baldur’s Gate would know that the Flaming Fists used to be mercenaries working for the city but were legitimized as the main forces of the Outer and Lower City. Others might still consider them mercenaries or nothing but ruffians who get paid.

Flame Falburn is a knight and the other 11 Flaming Fists are guards. All are mounted on riding horses. They are Lawful Evil and don’t really care about the refugees plight.

They will avoid a full on fight, as they aren’t confident fighters on horseback, using shove attacks and non-lethal hits with their spear hafts. They aren’t interested in fights to the death and anyone who wants to put up such a challenge will be fled from as their mission is more important (in the direction of Elturel).

Flame Falburn is a cynical but mostly upholding of the law. Her primary concern is finding out what happened to Ravengard who she knows was in Elturel on diplomatic negotiations with High Observer Kreeg of Elturgard. Some of the PCs or even NPCs might have seen Ravengard’s forces enter Elturel the day of The Fall of Elturel.

Anyone who she knows was in the city (such as the PCs) will be questioned vigorously. Falburn thinks that perhaps the Red Wizards took advantage of the two political leaders being together and wiped out the city to kill them both.

She knows that forward refugees have already been denied access to the city and that a refugee camp has began to form outside Basilisk Gate.

Purpose

This encounter is supposed to reinforce the fact Grand Duke Ravengard was in Elturel when it disappeared, and also name drop Thavius Kreeg once more.​

Flame Daryn Falburn could also show up later when the PCs are in Baldur’s Gate, either in support of or against Blaze Liara Portyr.

Day 6

Morning: The Merryweather

Overview

A large merchant boat is sailing down the Chionthar towards Baldur’s Gate. It is overloaded with refugees, and is ruled by Captain Odhani. He’s charging his passengers a royal fortune, but they will reach Baldur’s Gate more quickly and safely than by wagon.​

Setup

Captain Odhani will stop the boat 50 feet from the bank, in the middle of the river, and talk to the PCs. ​

He is a rock gnome bandit captain from Iriaebor and loyal to Elturgard. The crew of the Merryweather are 5 gnomish bandits who are loyal to Odhani as they are all family.

They want to save as many people as they can and aren’t interested in the money…but the boat is already overloaded – they can’t take anymore people safely. The crew already dumped expensive trade goods just to make room for as many people as possible.

The other 30 people on the boat are refugees, upper class people from near Elturel who manged to survive the calamity. They have a much less charitable outlook. Most paid a fortune to get other refugees to leave the boat and take their place back in Fort Morninglord.

Trying to convince these upper class refugees to leave the boat is difficult and they all want paying 20 gp to leave and let someone else take their place.

Convincing upper class refugees to leave the Merryweather:
DC15: Convinces 5 to leave
DC20: Convinces 10 to leave
DC25+: Convinces 15 to leave

If you were feeling charitable and the PCs can’t afford it you may consider having one of Dara’s Refugees loan or pay for some of them. Vasha Hall or Ippon are likely choices for this.

Purpose

This scene, just like the previous one, reinforces the fact there’s more refugees than just Dara and the PCs. It also gives you an option to ‘skip’ the next couple days content if you like, as the river is an easy way to handwave the rest of the travel.

You can also play up some upper class vs. lower/middle class strife here, with the passengers refusing to even let the pregnant Alyssa take their place.

An important point to note is that Baldur’s Gate is closed to refugees – so the Merryweather will be stopped at Wyrm’s Crossing and the passengers will have to still go to Basilisk Gate.

Categories
Descent into Avernus

1.3c Day 3 and 4 The Liar

Tables of Contents

Day 3

Morning: Fessel’s Body

Overview

After Alyssa’s arrival last night the refugees are probably going to want to find Fessel’s body. It turns out he was killed by devil cultists, although why wont be obvious at this point.

GM Note: It was because he was a son of a Hellrider, he was tracked and murdered by the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell of the Cult of Zariel in Baldur’s Gate.

Setup

This scene could either be the PCs specific going out either at night or in the morning to find Fessel, or it might be the refugees just continuing their journey and stumbling across the corpse by the side of the road.

If you wanted to increase the tension you could have Fessel’s horse found first, wandering without its rider… especially if the PCs scout for him at night, but skip this if you don’t really have time.

Strung up to a tree by the side of the road swings Fessel’s body. He has been tied with a noose around his neck and his chest is exposed and covered in a bloody carving of a curled horn, his weapons and armour taken.

Curled Horn Symbol: Intelligence (Religion) check:
DC5 – An unholy symbol of a devil.
DC10 – Specifically Gargauth’s symbol, an Arch-Devil.
DC20 – Gargauth is known as the Tenth Lord of the Nine or the Hidden Lord. They were once the treasurer of Hell but was exiled and stripped of rank long ago.
DC25 – They were exiled after forming an alliance with the Dark Gods (Bane, Bhaal, Loviatar and Talona) to invade hell and seize it. The plan failed and Asmodeus exiled them from the Nine Hells.

The Unholy Symbol of Gargauth

Anyone examining the body can tell that Fessel’s forearms were slit from wrist to elbow (this is important for later). In addition he has a number of defensive wounds and clearly tried to defend himself.

Anyone searching the area can see spilt blood and signs of a fight on the road, with hoof prints of multiple horses.

Examining the tracks: DC 10 Wisdom (Survival) check reveals there were 2 horses riding together (Fessel and Alyssa’s) from Baldur’s Gate in the west to Elturel in the east. They were pursued by 3 other horses. Fessel’s horse has wandered off and Alyssa’s churned up dirt as it charged off towards Elturel. By the tree is a massive amount of blood (from Fessel’s sliced forearms) and three sets of boot prints. After the murder the 3 pursuers rode back to Baldur’s Gate.

Purpose

This entire murder is to make the PCs sympathetic to Alyssa (and by extension the other refugees) and to foreshadow the murders happening in Baldur’s Gate.

It also gives Vollis a way of murdering Billiam and trying to pin it on the same cultists, which she will attempt tonight in the next scenes.

Day 4

Morning: The Liar

Overview

This next series of scenes is continuing on from the Adventure League module DDAL09-01 Escape from Elturgard*.

We already ran parts 1 through 3 back in 1.2 Escape from Elturgard and now reincorporating the final part.

An important change is exactly how Billiam is murdered. Rather than having his throat slit, change this to his forearms being slit from wrist to elbow – just like Fessel’s. This foreshadows how the murders are taking place in Outer City.

The other thing to change is the symbol on Billiam’s body – again make it the symbol of Gargauth, but have it crudely done. Anyone suceeding on the Wisdom (Medicine) check listed in the Examining the Scene section realises it seems almost like an attempt to copy the symbol.

One thing I would suggest is not to overcomplicate the murder. In my initial planning I did so and its just a lot of extra bloat… instead think of this as the tutorial for the murders going on in the city.

In that vein, don’t be afraid to handhold the Players a bit more than you might otherwise, especially if you have newer players or you notice the group isn’t really getting anywhere. Have an NPC the players trust such as Gorin, Dara or Vasha assist them by giving some or all of the following help;

  • The NPC advises the PCs to take notes, on what people say and any clues.
  • The NPC suggests they investigate the murder scene and the body, before moving on to questioning.
  • If the PCs lack investigation skills perhaps they could ask a relevant NPC to assist them, granting them advantage on their checks.

Confronting Vollis

Ultimately the PCs investigations are likely to lead them to confronting Vollis. But what if they don’t? What if the investigation falls flat and they give up, or just have no idea who might of done it… what then?

This actually happened to my group – through some combination of a late session, a long week, and some overcomplication of the NPC testimonies on my part – they just didn’t know who to trust and who to accuse. As such the party agreed that everyone should sleep much closer together and many people PCs placed on watch.

There’s no need to force the plot to a confrontation… maybe Vollis simply continues to hide within the refugees until they reach Baldur’s Gate, or perhaps she worries the net is closing and she tries to steal a horse and flee as soon as she thinks it safe.

One thing I would avoid doing is having Vollis trying to kill any PC Hellrider/Order of the Companion knights. Treat her as if she doesn’t know why certain people are being targeted by her cult – otherwise you risk revealing this revelation far too soon and undermining the later investigations.

Instead you could have her name drop either a minor villain such as Pasque (leader of the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell) or a major villain such as Gargauth or Zariel.

Finally, if Vollis does manage to escape, make sure you reintroduce her later. Recurring villains are great and she could easily be added to the members of the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell.

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