Storm King’s Thunder is a published adventure for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. One of the weaker aspects of Storm King’s Thunder are the references to the four cults from Princes of the Apocalypse. These do not connect thematically and are not developed in any logical progression.
A challenge in D&D is that a dungeon master has a whole book in their head that the players have to reconstruct from snippets of conversation. There isn’t room for long information dumps in a game, and players wouldn’t retain the information if a DM tried. If you are going to have multiple different groups of people in robes run out and attack the players, they better all be plot relevant or they’ll merge into one generic blob in player heads.
There are two or three plot-relevant cults in Storm King’s Thunder:
- Cult of the Dragon in support of Klauth
- Cult of the Kraken (or Umberlee) in support of Slarkrethel
- (arguably) Cult of Dendar the Night Serpent that shows up in the last chapter
The four extra cults are not relevant at all:
- Cult of Howling Hatred (wind)
- Cult of Black Earth (earth)
- Cult of Eternal Flame (fire)
- Cult of the Crushing Wave (water)
The cameos that the four elemental cults have in the campaign distract player attention from the plot-relevant cults, which do not have enough time in the spotlight.
Chapter 1 of Storm King’s Thunder ends with the eccentric cloud giant Zephyros — think Doc Brown from Back to the Future — picking up the players and giving them a lift in his flying castle. En route, he’s accosted by Howling Hatred cultists (CR 1/8) and cult fanatics (CR2) flying on giant vultures (CR1). These are not plot-relevant and will never be seen again.
Replace them with:
- Kraken cultists mounted on Pteranodons (CR 1/2) or Quetzalcoatluses (CR2)
- Dragon cultists mounted on same
- Dragon cultists in the shape of winged kobolds (CR 1/4)
- or Dragon cultists using Klauth’s airship, though you’d want to take care to make sure the players don’t capture it early
For more Klauth airship ideas, check out Wyrms of the Realm: Klauth on DM’s Guild.
Chapter 4 of the adventure sends the players on a fetch quest to several burial mounds sacred to the Uthgardt barbarians. One of these burial mounds is One Stone (maps), a holy site for the Sky Pony barbarians.
For some reason, Cultists of Black Earth are also there. They seem to be seeking the same magic items. They are cult fanatics (CR2) mounted on bulettes (CR5).
Cult of the Dragon is a bad choice for this one because the players are likely arriving via airship provided by Klauth and his worshippers.
Replace the cultists at One Stone with:
- Kraken cultists in the shape of sahuagin champions (CR3), priestesses (CR2), or high priestesses (CR5) mounted on bulettes or hulking crabs (CR5)
- Dendar cultists in the shape of yuan-ti priests (CR3) in the company of yuan-ti abominations (CR7)
The presence of Dendar cultists in the last chapter suggests that Iymrith is seeking to raise that god. Perhaps the Uthgardt artifacts are relevant to that plan. The Cult of Dendar is explored more in the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, along with Artus Cimber and that Ring of Winter that the Frost Giants want.