This article contains spoilers for chapter 1 of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus.
Last week, we began our Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus campaign, kicking it off with Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel, an alternative introductory adventure I co-wrote with Anthony Joyce. That adventure personalizes the campaign’s inciting event: the fall of the holy city of Elturel. It also introduces three new background options—members of the Flaming Fist, Hellriders, and the Order of the Gauntlet—that tie the characters more heavily to the campaign. You can read those in my free Session 0 Campaign Companion for Descent into Avernus.
Anthony and I changed a lot about the first session of the campaign, but I found I wasn’t quite ready for the characters to go straight to the bathhouse. I’m a big fan of foreshadowing, and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to use the awesome map of the Elfsong Tavern contained in my Platinum Edition of the adventure by Beadle & Grimm’s. (B&G is currently selling a Silver Edition of the adventure right now, which includes this awesome map on canvas paper!)
There’s nothing wrong with the way the “With Friends Like These” encounter in the Elfsong plays out in the official adventure. Tarina has information, and just like everything else in Baldur’s Gate, it has a price. She’s on the run from an old pirate crew that she may have stolen from, so she asks the characters to hang around a while and beat up some pirate bandits in exchange for the down low. Not a bad way to get acquainted with kind of rough-and-tumble folk that call the City of Blood’s docks home.
This encounter is meant to do three things:
- Give the characters a moral quandary
- Portray the disorganized Flaming Fist as a violent organization that doesn’t always have the best interests of its citizens at heart
- Introduce them to both the brutality and humanity of members in the Cult of the Dead Three
- Use this awesome version of “The Song of Elturel” by Keith McCollough
The Adventuring Party
Before I detail the encounter, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to the characters, as their affiliations made this encounter even more personal.
- Luri, a half-elf Flaming Fist and former Hellrider. Luri is sister to Alex. The pair became Hellriders after they survived the reveal of the High Rider as a vampire lord in 1444 DR.
- Alex, a half-elf Flaming Fist and former Hellrider. Alex is brother to Luri. The two left the Hellriders after their dark secret.
- Milt, a half-orc forge cleric of Torm and member of the Order of the Gauntlet.
- Lil’ Bit, a faceless gnome artificer whose persona is a luchadora named La Rama.
- Cassandra, an aasimar fighter and current Hellrider. Cassandra snuck into the city along with her warhorse, Bug.
The encounter, “The Song of My People,” is below.
The Song of My People
In this encounter, Tarina isn’t concerned that her former pirate crew from the Uncivil Servant are in the city; in fact, they’re probably miles away. Instead, Tarina’s made a living for herself by acting as an informant for various power groups in the city. She has an array of badges under her heavy waistcoat—Flaming Fist ranks, the badge of the Watch, the Guild, and even minor identifiers of the Cult of the Dead Three. Ultimately, Tarina is only loyal to herself. She knows the city like the back of her hand, and always chooses to meet the characters at the Elfsong to avoid any crossover between her connections.
If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: the Fall of Elturel, you can have the dragon cultist mention an informant in the city who has more info on the bathhouse. It’s probably unwise for characters to rush into the bathhouse when entering the city, but they should always have that option.
If you’re running the adventure as written, you shouldn’t have any problems. Captain Zodge asks the characters to go meet with Tarina or they’ll get a good floggin’. And Flaming Fists love themselves a good floggin’.
The Elfsong Tavern
When the characters enter the Elfsong, read or paraphrase the following:
Sullen-eyed patrons dot the Elfsong’s spacious taproom. Gruff sailors, hardened criminals, and grizzled citizens—all armed with swords, clubs, and daggers—take a brief moment to size you up, almost in unison, before returning to mugs of ale and stout glasses of hard liquor.
A muscular, sunburned woman laughs in a corner booth as she rakes in a pile of coins from a game of Baldur’s Bones. A frustrated half-orc slaps his dice off the table, which clatter to the floor, grumbling, “Ye’ve bled me dry!” as he leaves the game.
Seated among the patrons is a table of three Cultists of the Dead Three (a fist of bane, necromite of Myrkul, and a night blade of Bhaal). Without their ceremonial garb, however, they draw no more suspicion than any of the other patrons. They look like a group of friends enjoying a drink.
The woman in the corner booth is Tarina, the informant. Characters can make a DC 12 Intelligence (History) check to know the following information about Tarina. Any Flaming Fists in the party have advantage on this check. Alternatively, you could have Captain Zodge give them the information.
- Tarina is an informant for the Flaming Fist, as well as a few other organizations within Baldur’s Gate
- She is a former pirate of the Uncivil Serpent, captained by Murosko Sessprin
- She’s in good standing with Nine-Fingers Keene, leader of the Guild, from which she gets occasional work
What Tarina Knows
Tarina invites the characters to play a game of Baldur’s Bones as she talks with them (see chapter 1 of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus). Like everything within Baldur’s Gate, Tarina’s services come at a price. The informant charges 1 gp for each piece of information, tantalizing those who gripe about the cost with, “What a shame! I was just getting to the juicy part.” A character can attempt to coerce Tarina to spill the beans with a successful DC 16 (Charisma) Intimidation check. On a failure, Tarina doubles her price.
Similarly, Tarina buys interesting information off of the characters for the same amount. Those who give her valuable insights regarding the inner workings of the Flaming Fists, the fall of Elturel, or other relevant groups are rewarded with 1 gp.
Tarina gives the characters the following information, so long as they make it worth her while:
- The Cult of the Dead Three is storing treasure at the Bathhouse several blocks northwest of the Elfsong Tavern.
- The bathhouse is bigger than it looks.
- The purchase is a distant one, but the bathhouse is owned by the Vanthampur family: Mortlock, Amrik, Thurstwell, and Duke Vanthampur herself showed up on the paperwork. Tarina thinks it’s operated by them, but she’s not sure.
- Rumor has it there’s something being stored at the bathhouse that doesn’t belong to the Vanthampurs. It’s got the Cult of the Dragon all in a tizzy, and some of them are here in the city looking for it, including a high-ranking black half-dragon named Rezmir.
As the characters finish up their discussion with Tarina—which may or may not have been interrupted by the Elfsong at some point—a young bard (halfling male commoner) begins to play “The Song of Elturel.” The bard is a refugee from Elturgard named Olos. A character who succeeds on a DC 11 Intelligence (Investigation) check can tell from the poor condition of Olos’ clothing that he is a refugee. As Olos begins to play the introduction, a Flaming Fist manip and two fists (a veteran and two thugs) enter the Elfsong Tavern and order a couple of drinks.
The Song of Elturel
To give this scene weight, I recommend playing the Keith McCollouch version of this song. You can even provide your players with the lyrics and grant inspiration to any character who sings along. Cutting the song short when the fists interrupt can add further gravity to the scene.
Disturbing the Peace
It takes the three Flaming Fists a while to realize the song that Olos is playing, but upon the mention of the Hellriders, the manip spits out their drink and commands the bard to stop. Angry at the way the refugees have been received in the City of Blood, Olos plays and sings more forcefully. In response, one of the Flaming Fists uses their club to teach the bard a lesson. If the characters do nothing to intervene at this point, read or paraphrase the following text:
As the bard’s song grows more forceful, the commanding fist smashes the bard’s fretting hand in a violent display of force. The bard cries out in pain, his fingers broken and the neck of his Oud shattered by the blow. “That oughtta teach you to obey the Flaming Fist. You’re not in Elturgard anymore, little singer!”
If the characters intervene, the Flaming Fists defend themselves fiercely, shouting that they will place the characters under arrest for their betrayal. If any of the characters display a Flaming Fist badge openly, the manips threaten to demote the character, spitting, “You’ll answer to Captain Zodge for this!” The Flaming Fists do not kill any of the characters, but rather aim to knock them unconscious and place them under arrest.
Elfsong Employees. Unless one of the employees was harmed in the struggle, the Elfsong crew doesn’t get involved. The tavern’s two bouncers protect the tavern staff, not its patrons.
Undercover Cultists. Roll initiative for the three cultists of the Dead Three. If the characters intervene, the cultists join them during the second round of combat, seizing the chaos. If not, the cultists allow the beating to continue for a few seconds, then enter the fray. The cultists make sure that neither of the oppressive fists make it out alive, slitting their throats and rejoicing in the bloodshed.
Cultist of the Dead Three Voice Lines
The following phrases may help to inspire your roleplay.
“Bathe in Bhaal’s flowing river! The Dead Three will not be silenced by your mortal corruption, Flaming Fist pigs!”
“Thank you for standing up to those mindless goons. They’ve ruined our city.”
“Blood will be spilled. There’s no question of that. Let it matter this time”
The Flaming Fists and cultists of the Dead Three fight until one of the two groups is dead. Regardless of who won the struggle, the Elfsong Tavern employees speedily cleans up the floor and dispose of the bodies via the Lower City’s corpse cart service.
Friend of the Cult. If the characters intervened, the cultists are friendly towards them and thank them for “doing the right thing.” The group’s leader, a Willing Whip Banite and butcher named Gary, cheerfully hands them the following letter and invites them to join the Cult of Dead Three. If the cultists were killed, the characters can find the letter on Gary’s corpse.
Characters can meet with Gary for a complimentary brunch. Even if they decide not to join the cult, they may be able to learn helpful information about the Dead Three and its operations within the city, including the stolen Cult of the Dragon treasure underneath the bathhouse. Characters could also use it as an opportunity to infiltrate the cult.
Flaming Fists. If the Flaming Fists were successful but the characters intervened, the fists turn the characters over to Captain Zodge. They’re held in a Lower City prison cell awaiting further punishment.
Concluding the Encounter
The characters proceed to the bathhouse (see “The Dungeon of the Dead Three” in chapter 1 of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus).
Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts, or Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.