After leaving the City of Caravans behind them, the Road to Baldur’s Gate has led the adventurers to Elturel. This majestic holy city is the capital of Elturgard, a realm which has long been known for its noble knights and selfless defense of the innocent. The characters may have met some of these knights earlier in the journey, and they may bear a missive for Thavius Kreeg, High Overseer of Elturel. However, delivering the message may lead these adventurers to a terrible fate.
This encounter contains spoilers for the beginning of Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus
This week’s encounter is titled Escape from Elturel, and it sees them enter the holy city of Elturel as travelers—and leave as fugitives. Someone with great power within the city senses that the adventurers represent a terrible threat to their evil schemes, and will use the full power of the knights of Elturgard to eliminate these interlopers before they can cause everything to go wrong. This encounter is part of the series “The Road to Baldur’s Gate,” in which a group of adventurers will travel down the Sword Coast over road and wilderness, from the gates of Waterdeep to the threshold of Baldur’s Gate. You may use this series as an introduction to the upcoming D&D storyline Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, or piecemeal as standalone encounters.
You can keep track of this journey on this massive map of the Sword Coast, originally presented in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The trip from Waterdeep to Baldur’s Gate covers about 750 miles of both road and off-road wilderness. A small party on horseback can cover about 24 miles per day at a casual pace, with just under two days off for rest per tenday of travel. All in all, this journey takes just over a month to complete for a small party of adventurers—assuming they’re well-prepared and no serious complications arise. And note, not every day of travel needs to be represented by an encounter; the characters may go for days with only minor encounters with passing merchants or travelers.
This is the twelfth encounter along this journey. The previous encounters are:
- The Road to Baldur’s Gate
- Devil in the Details
- Danger in Daggerford
- Misty Marauders
- Detour Past Dragonspear
- Trollclaw Terrors
- A Break at Boareskyr Bridge
- Najaran Nemeses
- Deathly Demons!
- Raiders of the Reaching Woods
- Crisis in the City of Caravans
The characters should be at least 4th level by the time they begin this encounter. If your characters are 5th level or higher, you can adjust the difficulty of this encounter in the D&D Beyond Encounter Builder. Though this encounter series is supposed to lead directly into Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, that adventure begins its characters at 1st level. You can choose one of the following options, or create your own plan, in order to make this series flow smoothly into Descent into Avernus:
- Treat this series as a prologue, and start Descent into Avernus fresh at 1st level with new characters
- Scale up the Baldur's Gate content in Descent into Avernus from 1st to 3rd level, and slow XP gain down significantly by halving or even quartering XP values until they reach Avernus.
- Skip the Baldur's Gate content and go straight to Avernus.
The High Overseer of Elturel is a man named Thavius Kreeg. This aging human man who is about to destroy countless lives in the pursuit of worldly power—he has forged a secretive compact with Zariel, archduchess of Avernus. The exact details of his scheme are irrelevant to this encounter—all that’s important is that his impish spies have informed him of the arrival of adventurers who have combated devils and demons on the way to Elturel. The cowardly Thavius Kreeg overreacted terribly to this information, and is convinced that the adventurers know of his deal with Zariel, and is intent on destroying them—or at least imprisoning them deep in the dungeons of Elturel.
Thavius Kreeg plans to escape the city of Elturel in secret in two tendays’ time—for something terrible will happen to the holy city in a mere twenty-one days. Kreeg and his wicked deeds are described in greater detail in Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus.
Social Encounter: A Letter for Thavius Kreeg
This is a social encounter for characters that accepted the quest given by the Companions of Elturgard on Boareskyr Bridge.
Earlier in this series, in Encounter of the Week: Najaran Nemeses, the characters were tasked with delivering news to Thavius Kreeg of a Najaran invasion in the northern reaches of Elturgard. If they still wish to complete this request, they can find Kreeg at the High Hall, an alabaster-walled castle that sits atop a granite tor and looms majestically above the rest of the city. Appended to the fortress is a glorious cathedral consecrated to the gods most venerated within Elturgard, the sun god Lathander, as well as holy Triad composed of Helm, Torm, and Tyr. These four gods of good are described in chapter 1 of the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide.
Floating in the sky above the High Hall is the Companion, a second sun that shines its purifying light across the entire realm of Elturgard. Decades ago, a vampire lord infiltrated Elturel and bent its ideals of justice to his own fell purposes. In this time, Thavius Kreeg was a priest of Torm possessed of a heart brimming with idealism. He prayed for salvation—and Zariel answered. He signed a deal with her, and was gifted the Companion, whose radiant light drove the vampires from Elturgard and saved his people. Ever thankful, the citizens of Elturel named Kreeg a hero and made him High Overseer. Though the Companion is out of reach for all but the most powerful arcanists in Elturgard, its presence is constantly known, felt, and appreciated throughout the realm.
Thavius Kreeg’s residence is within the High Hall. Characters who wish to visit him must first walk up a set of marble steps to reach the front door, and then speak with the pair of guards who flank the gates of their keep. The guards confer for a moment, and then escort the characters up a flight of stairs to the High Overseer’s chambers. A map of the High Hall is included within Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, but if you don’t have this adventure, you can use a map of another castle to represent it. As they enter the High Hall, read or paraphrase the following:
The guards guide you through the grand oaken doors and into a marvelous hall of glimmering marble. Rather than proceeding down a shining hallway and into the cathedral beyond, they take you off to the side and wind up a set of staircases to a room on the upper floor. The guard looks to you, inclines her head, and says, “The High Overseer’s chambers. You will keep your weapons stowed at all times while dealing with the High Overseer.”
She opens the door and enters with you, while one guard remains outside. Within is an aged and balding man hunched over a desk lit by an oil lamp. He sits and scribbles upon a piece of parchment, and then looks up with a slight jolt as you enter. “Ah,” he says with a wan smile. “You must be the adventurers I was told about. Please, do sit. What’s this business that you have to bring to me?”
High Overseer’s Chambers
Thavius Kreeg’s face remains impassive the entire time the characters deliver the message from the knights in the north. When they conclude, he nods and frowns, then simply says, “We shall dispatch the Hellriders northward. You have my thanks. On the behalf of the people of Elturgard, let me offer you a reward for your troubles. It is a badge declaring you an honorary Hellknight. Have you heard of them?”
Kreeg reaches into his desk and produces a pouch filled with 50 gold per character. He also produces gleaming silver brooch emblazoned with the icon of a horse’s head surrounded by the gold-inlaid rays of Lathander’s light. This magic item can be worn as an amulet, and any character that wears it gains a +1 bonus to AC, and the ability to cast phantom steed. Once this property is used, it can’t be used again until next dawn. It is also simply a badge of authority that is respected throughout Elturgard—and loathed in the Nine Hells.
If asked, Kreeg describes the Hellknights in the simplest possible terms. “They were a group of sacred knights that long ago followed a divine leader into Avernus, uppermost layer of the Nine Hells themselves. There, they did battle with demons and devils and all sorts of vile creatures until they could fight no more. Their descendants are still some of the proudest and most driven knights in all of Faerûn. You ought well to wear that badge with pride.”
A tricky imp named Zip Krik sits invisibly on a bookshelf on the far side of the room. A paladin that uses their Divine Sense feature or a creature that can otherwise detect this imp notes the presence of a fiend in this room. Any threats to the High Overseer are treated as a threat against the state of Elturgard itself. If the characters invoke the wrath of Elturel, a group of six knights aided by eight priests arrive within 1 minute. Proceed to Skill Challenge: Escape from Elturel, later in this encounter.
Once the characters leave the High Overseer’s office, Kreeg dismisses his guards back to the gate and beckons his imp companion close. He signs a small contract with the imp, signing away another tiny fragment of his humanity, and commands a squadron of spined devils to eliminate the characters in the dark of night. Proceed to Skill Challenge: Escape from Elturel, below.
Skill Challenge: Escape from Elturel
This chase scene is suited for characters of 4th level. If they successfully complete this encounter, they can avoid a dangerous combat. If they fail, their enemies catch them and attack!
If the characters visited Thavius Kreeg, a flock of twenty spined devils swoop down upon wherever the characters are staying for the night just before they go to bed. If the characters never met with Kreeg, then he never learns of their presence in Elturgard, and they can continue to Baldur’s Gate unharried. Against a host of monsters this large, the characters have no choice but to flee. Even if the Companions of Elturgard or any of the other paladins or clerics within the city were to arrive, they would be far too late—the characters would already be torn to shreds. The characters can flee the city of Elturel using the chase rules presented in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, or by using this custom skill challenge.
If Pip Kip the imp is with the characters, it alerts them to this attack with horror, saying that someone must have made a pact with a devil to get infernal soldiers on their side. That person must be within Elturel itself. With this many spined devils searching, the pact-signer probably only signed a deal with a serious stipulation—such as “these devils can only search within the city of Elturel.” This is the case, as Pip Kip rightly guesses, and the imp urges the characters to flee the city as quickly as possible.
Alternative Encounter: Enemy of the State. If the characters made themselves enemies of the state of Elturgard, these spined devils are replaced by the cadre of knights and priests listed in the sidebar above.
In this skill challenge, each turn is 6 seconds long, just like in a round of combat.
Making Ability Checks. On their turn, the character can make one ability check using any ability score and skill proficiency they like, as long as they can explain how this check could reasonably help them escape their pursuers. For example, a character might make a Strength (Athletics) check, claiming that there is a shortcut out of the city if they can scale a wall, thus allowing them to exit the city without taking a lengthy detour. Alternatively, a character could make a Charisma (Deception) check to pretend to be a random passerby, giving them a few precious seconds to evade from their pursuers’ gaze and put some distance between them.
As long as the player can convince you that a given ability check could help the party, that check should be allowed. As the Dungeon Master, you can either allow the players to fully describe the results of their successful or failed checks, or you could narrate them yourself. Giving narrative control to the players can let them feel more invested in the world as storytellers, but it could also pull them out of their immersion as characters. Find what works for your group!
Variant: Non-Repeating Ability Checks. If you want to make this skill challenge a little harder, but a little less repetitive, consider using one or both of these optional rules. First, once a character has made a particular ability check, they can’t use that skill proficiency for the rest of the skill challenge. For example, once the character has made a Dexterity (Stealth) check, they can’t use their proficiency in the Stealth skill to benefit another ability check until the end of the challenge. They can, however, make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, instead.
Second, once a character has made a particular ability check, the character immediately after them in initiative can’t use that skill proficiency on that turn. For example, after character A makes a Charisma (Persuasion) check on their turn, character B can’t use the Persuasion skill until their next turn.
The DC of this skill challenge is 15. If a character makes an ability check to progress the skill challenge and it doesn’t meet or exceed this number, their check is a failure. Otherwise, it is a success. On a failure, the character’s actions have no immediate consequences.
Success or Failure. The characters’ ultimate goal is to escape from their pursuers. If the characters win a number of successes equal to the number of characters (not counting NPC allies) in the party, they reach the edge of Elturgard—either a gate or a river harbor, their choice. If the characters accrue three failures first, however, a group of spined devils catch up with them and corner them in a dead-end alley.
If the characters accrued 0 successes before being caught, all twenty of the spined devils catch them. If they accrued at least success, they managed to evade the devils long enough for some of them to be defeated by Elturel’s own protectors. Remove 1d6 spined devils from the upcoming encounter for each success the characters earned before being caught. In the Enemy of the State alternate encounter, remove 1 knight and two priests for each success.
Combat Encounter: Infernal Pursuers
A group of twenty spined devils corner the characters if they fail to escape. These devils kill without remorse, and it may spell doom for the characters if they were unable to evade a sufficient number of them in the earlier skill challenge. Characters in this situation can try to come up with a creative solution to utter annihilation; you may permit solutions that you think will make the game more fun.
If the characters are successful in their battle against the spined devils and have Pip Kip with them, the terrified imp urges them to flee the city as soon as possible. Someone wants them dead, and the sooner they can get away from the prying forces of the Nine Hells, the better. Pip Kip is also afraid that these Avernian devils will recognize him and inflict terrible torment upon it for traveling with these enemies of the Nine Hells.
The spined devils possess no treasure, but escaping them pushes the characters onward towards Baldur’s Gate—and the conclusion of their journey.
Did you like this encounter? If you want to read more adventures, take a look at the other encounters in the Encounter of the Week series! If you're looking for full adventures instead of short encounters, you can pick up the adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventures are included in the Platinum Bestseller Tactical Maps: Adventure Atlas, a collection of 88 unique encounters created by the Guild Adepts, which can be paired with the beautiful tactical poster maps in Tactical Maps Reincarnated, recently published by Wizards of the Coast.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.