Elemental Evil: Princes of the Apocalypse Review

The new D&D adventure Elemental Evil: Princes of the Apocalypse comes out on Tuesday. I received my copy last week from Wizards of the Coast and started flipping through the book as quick as I could get it out of the box. My initial impressions were positive and never lessened as I read through the book. This book is 250+ pages of elemental awesomeness full of adventure, monsters, magic and more. It’s a really solid purchase that will provide hours and hours of gameplay. This book will give you everything you need to run PotA as a campaign or provide you with a valuable sourcebook for adding elemental themes to your own campaign.

What is Princes of the Apocalypse?

“Abolish an ancient evil threatening devastation in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game!”

Princes of the Apocalypse is an epic campaign adventure set in the Forgotten Realms. It is being released on April 7, 2015 as one of the many Elemental Evil storyline products coming out this spring.

Called by the Elder Elemental Eye to serve, four corrupt prophets have risen from the depths of anonymity to claim mighty weapons with direct links to the power of the elemental princes. Each of these prophets has assembled a cadre of cultists and creatures to serve them in the construction of four elemental temples of lethal design. It is up to adventurers from heroic factions such as the Emerald Enclave and the Order of the Gauntlet to discover where the true power of each prophet lay, and dismantle it before it comes boiling up to obliterate the Realms.

What Do You Get?

For around US$50 (or less if you shop around), PotA is a great value that will take your players from level 3 to 15. I’m really happy to see so much useful content crammed into one book versus the two books we saw in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. The paper and binding of this 250+ page book matches the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide and it will lie flat when opened. The art and Mike Schley cartography are at the same level as the core books too and look terrific.

PotA is broken down into 7 chapters and 3 appendices. It really can be broken down into 6 parts.

  • Getting Started/Adventure Background (Chapters 1 & 2)
  • Main Adventure (Chapters 3-5) – for players levels 3-15
  • Mini Adventures/Side Treks (Chapter 6) – for PCs level 1 and 2 or used as side quests when they fit throughout the campaign.
  • Monsters, Villains and Magic Items
  • Player Options: Genasi and Spells (Appendix A and B)
  • How to Adapt the Adventure to Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Eberron, Greyhawk and your own world

The Adventure

The original Temple of Elemental Evil was set in Greyhawk and released as 4 modules in 1985. Wizards of the Coast also published a sequel to this adventure in 2001 called Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil set in Greyhawk again. The new Elemental Evil storyline takes place in the Sumber Hills of the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms., but it doesn’t feel like they forced the setting, with the adventure providing lots of backstory.

PotA is a flexible campaign the balances the line between railroad and sandbox. It allows your players to jump right in at level 3 (avoiding the squishy levels 1 and 2) or level up by starting PCs with side quests first to advance through level 1 and 2. PotA is also a better adventure to bring your PCs to after running the Starter Set than Tyranny of Dragons and PotA has specific instructions on how to bring your players from the Starter Set to PotA. The adventure also provides hooks for bringing members of each faction to the area to investigate.

The adventure starts in Red Larch with your players investigating a missing delegation from the Dwarven city of Mirabar. The investigation leads to the players exploring the area and finding four elemental cult outposts on the surface, each with a large base of operation hidden below. You are also provided with ideas for reprisals to take against your players after they are successful, allowing you to help the cultists lash out at the surrounding area and cause mayhem. It will take a little bit of work to link everything together perfectly and keep the players facing challenges they are ready for. All four elements are supported with an outpost and temple, with each leading to the final confrontation in the Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye.

red-larch

The side treks are split into adventures for your characters to advance through levels 1 and 2, and adventures you can add in to space out delves into the temple cults.

Monsters, Villains and Magic Items

An entire chapter is dedicated to providing elemental monsters, villains and magic items. This is basically a mini monster manual with 18 pages of elemental enemies to provide lots of baddies for each cult. You also are provided 4 pages of elemental themed magic items and weapons.

The Appendices

Appendix A provides details for adding the Genasi race as a player option and Appendix B provides new elemental flavored spells. These two appendices are basically a shorter version of the free PotA Player’s Companion content provided earlier. This book does not have Aarakocra, Deep Gnome or Goliath race content. Appendix C is eight pages and provides ideas for setting the adventure in worlds other than the Forgotten Realms including Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Eberron, Greyhawk and your own world.

Conclusion

Having had the book for only few days, this review is based on reading the adventure and some limited playtesting at home with my family. When I get a chance to play through the entire adventure with my players, it will be interesting to see if I love it as much.

The book is high quality with paper, illustrations and cartography that match the other core D&D 5th edition books and is a great value cramming in so much content into one adventure book (versus the two books we saw for the previous Tyranny of Dragons storyline).

Elemental Evil: Princes of the Apocalypse is a flexible campaign that balances the line between a plot driven and sandbox campaign, providing exploration, investigation, temple delving and more. A first time Dungeon Master might have an easier time trying our the Starter Set first, as this is not an adventure that I would have been able to run well as a rookie. That being said, this book provides more than just an adventure that links a bunch of elemental themed dungeons. DMs are provided with lots of support with history, locations and more for the entire Sumber Hills area.

There are only negative things I’ll mention about this adventure book and they are pretty minor:

  • Your campaign might feel a bit video game like as your delve through a temple for each of the four elements. The chapter of side treks provided is a good way to avoid a feeling of repetition building up for you and your players.
  • I think they wanted a page count around 250 pages, but it would have been nice to have all of the PotA Player’s Companion content in this book too.

If you have any interest in elemental stories or monsters I would pick up this book for sure. I couldn’t help thinking about all the ways I wanted to “borrow” the water elemental sections for my own campaign. If you are a player looking for elemental options for your character – the free PotA Player’s Companion is a better resource.

A great adventure and resource! Pick it up this week and start defeating the elemental cults.

Rating 9.5/10

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Shawn Ellsworth

Shawn is an author and co-founder of Tribality.com. He first got into tabletop RPGs through ninjas and then by playing a Kender in Dragonlance. Years later, he can be found running games in the Nentir Vale and his own Seas of Vodari campaign setting.