Princes of the Apocalypse – Summary and Review for DMs

Last Updated on February 1, 2023

If you’ve played D&D for a bit, you’ve probably heard about Princes of the Apocalypse. This incredible adventure is an amazing take on a classic module, one that focuses on ancient lore, secret cults, and powerful elemental beings. You can check out our full guide to 5e books here, but in this article, we’re going to talk a bit about what you can expect if you decide to purchase this WotC product.

Key Takeaways:

  • Princes of the Apocalypse is focused on powerful beings from the elemental planes.
  • This adventure is a sandbox, but playing it more linearly can be helpful for newer groups.
  • The level range is 3-15, although players can start at level 1 with an optional adventure.

What Is Princes of the Apocalypse?

Princes of the Apocalypse is a 5e adaptation of a classic adventure named The Temple of Elemental Evil. Instead of just reprinting this Greyhawk adventure with updated stats, the designers at WotC took inspiration from the classic module to develop something that fits into the lore of the Forgotten Realms.

This new adventure takes place in Faerun, in an area known as the Dessarin Valley, which is situated to the northeast of Waterdeep.

The adventure itself is centered around a group of cults that seek to unleash the Princes of Elemental Evil — think primordial beings or demigods with dominion over a specific elemental plane. As the heroes progress, they’ll face a variety of challenges and trials, all to prevent an elemental apocalypse from occurring.

Naturally, the book gives us a mild sense of progression in the “Adventure Synopsis,” which you can find on page 6. The adventurers discover what’s going on, and then, as they begin thwarting the cult leaders (elemental prophets), they learn more of what’s going on. 

Things get more challenging as the story progresses until the party finds themselves face-to-face with the actual Princes of Elemental Evil.

While that itself is pretty linear, it isn’t so straightforward as taking down a few cult leaders and some near-gods and then calling it a day. This adventure is full of subplots, complications, and challenges that our party can easily arrive at too early.

As with any adventure, Princes of the Apocalypse is a trial of balance for both DMs and players. It can easily require a lot of work on the DMs part, but a significantly competent group of players might fly through challenges that could’ve been deadly. 

As a DM, this is an adventure where knowing your group is paramount. So long as that’s something you’re secure in and you’re willing to put in a bit of prep work, this should be an exciting time.

What’s in Princes of the Apocalypse?

As a sandbox adventure, Princes of the Apocalypse is simply broken down into five chapters that provide all the components and a foundation that you’ll need to build upon. This is as opposed to something like Hoard of the Dragon Queen, which is broken down into much more regimented episodes to play out along a regular schedule.

Those chapters are as follows:

  1. Rise of Elemental Evil – This chapter provides the majority of the basic lore you’ll need to start running the adventure, the adventure’s synopsis, and a rough guideline for running the adventure.
  2. The Dessarin Valley – This chapter provides information about the setting that you’ll need to have if you wish to do more than railroad your players from one plot point to the next.
  3. Secret of the Sumber Hills – This chapter defines the initial spark that fuels the adventure and provides suggested quests and plot points to really start things off and set your group on the right path.
  4. Air, Earth, Fire, Water – This chapter focuses on the starting entanglements with the cults.
  5. Temple of the Elder Elemental Eye – This chapter is all about the actual temples, cult strongholds, and the bulk of the driving plot. 
  6. Alarums and Excursions – This chapter is devoted to… everything else — side quests and journeys that are important but not directly related to the main plot.
  7. Monsters and Magic Items – Just as you thought, it’s monsters and magic items.

How Long Is Princes of the Apocalypse?

The sandbox nature of PotA means that it can really go for any amount of time, depending on how fast players deal with problems and what paths they decide to take. On average though, this module probably runs anywhere from a year to eighteen months.

Should You Buy Princes of the Apocalypse?

If you’re someone who likes putting in the extra effort to build a world, someone who can improvise and adapt as your characters make interesting decisions that send them along unexpected paths, then you should buy this adventure module. 

If not and you’re still figuring out the ropes of being a DM or you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, then you should probably put this on your wishlist and save it for a bit down the line when you feel more comfortable with it.

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