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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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Categories
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.

Level Up!

The PCs advance to level 2 after this first session. I pretty much always advance to level 2 after one session as it’s a great way to ‘reward’ players for the start of the campaign.

It also helps with survivability, as level 1 is arguably the most deadly level in the game, because some characters can die from a single unlucky crit or a couple hits.

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Categories
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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