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D&D 5E Adventures in Elsir Vale (pre-Red Hand of Doom)

pukunui

Legend
Hi all,

I recently got a hankering to run Red Hand of Doom again. I last ran it when it was new, and my old hard copy is still in pretty good condition. I'm aware there are several conversions out there already, and I am making liberal use of them in my own conversion, so that is not why I'm writing this post.

The reason I'm posting is because, like many other DMs who have run Red Hand of Doom, I'd like to start the PCs at 1st level and have them get to know Elsir Vale before tasking them with its defense. Rather than run a longer adventure set in one location (like LMoP or Sunless Citadel or the like), I'd prefer to run a series of brief adventures (1-3 sessions long) that will take the PCs around the vale.

I'd prefer more "help the locals" type adventures than dungeon crawls, although the latter are acceptable as long as there is some tie-in with a nearby settlement.

So far the only adventure I've settled on for sure is Pudding Faire, which is meant for 3rd level PCs.

On that note, here's a quick rundown of the named locations in Elsir Vale (in alphabetical order):
  • Brindol: The main city in the vale. Ruled by a lord whose title dates back to a fallen kingdom. Situated on a river. Has a small thieves' guild with ties to a prominent aristocrat. The climax of RHoD involves the defense of this city from the Red Hand army. It would be nice to set an adventure or two in the city prior to this to get the players more invested in saving it. The old 3e adventure Mad God's Key is a possible contender here.

  • Dauth: A sleepy hamlet ruled by a council of elders. Situated more or less smack dab in the middle of the vale. Has an abandoned noble manor. Could be a good stand-in for Phandalin, if I wanted to use elements from the starter box adventures. I think I will place Pudding Faire in the small woodland to the east.

  • Dennovar: Technically the biggest city in the vale, although it doesn't feature in the campaign. Controlled by a council of merchants with a noblewoman as its figurehead leader. Eastern gateway to the vale. Not that keen to include this place in my campaign.

  • Drellin's Ferry: A small town at the west end of Elsir Vale. The starting place for the main RHoD campaign. Would prefer to avoid during the lead-up to RHoD.

  • Elsircross: A small town upriver from Brindol. Known for its timber/paper industry. Ruled by a self-styled baron and his thuggish cronies. Could be a place where the PCs work to overthrow the baron and his thugs to improve the place. Could lead to the players being motivated to fight the Red Hand so they don't see their hard work cleaning up the town undone.

  • Hammerfist Holds: A group of dwarven clanholds in the foothills in the southwest corner of the vale. RHoD does include a minor side quest involving the leaders of Brindol hiring dwarven mercenaries to help fight the invaders, so I could just expand on that rather than send the PCs here beforehand.

  • Hillwatch: A "dusty flyspeck" in the southeastern corner of the vale. No inn or tavern. Most likely a place someone comes from rather than a place people go to.

  • Marthton: A small town located between Brindol and Dennovar. Ruled by a miserly old aristocrat who taxes the locals heavily. The nearby forest is peppered with barrows and stone circles from the "druidic folk" who lived in the vale previously. Like Elsircross, this could be a possible "save the townsfolk from their bad leader" adventure site. [Last time I ran RHoD, I ran Barrow of the Forgotten King here because of the barrow connection. That was an awful adventure, though, and I have no intention of ever running it again.]

  • Nimon Gap: A tiny hamlet between Drellin's Ferry and Brindol. Known for its orchards and its walled inn. Falls to the Red Hand as they march towards Brindol. I could place an adventure in the bordering hills.

  • Prosser: A quiet village home to some retired adventurers (a wizard and a fighter/rogue are named but its implied that there are more of them) who have brought some prosperity to the town. Located on the other side of the small wood from Dauth, about halfway between Brindol and Hillwatch.

  • Red Rock: A "rough-and-tumble" copper mining town in the foothills north of Brindol. Home to dwarves and half-orcs who don't get along. Could be an interesting adventure location.

  • Talar: A small town west of Brindol governed by a town council overseen by an adventurous young woman who only returned home because her father died. This town falls as the Red Hand army approaches Brindol. Not sure what, if any, adventures can be had here previously.

  • Terrelton: A dusty town located east of Drellin's Ferry. Known for its tanneries and corrupt merchants council. A crusading cleric is trying to clean up the town. First town to fall after Drellin's Ferry. Plenty of opportunity for adventuring to be had here beforehand.

  • Witchcross: A large village located north of Brindol. Town council makes no decisions without consulting the local druid circle. Could make for some interesting interactions.

If anyone has any good ideas for short adventures for PCs of levels 1-4 that I could set in any of the towns or villages of Elsir Vale, I'd appreciate your suggestions. Happy to consider adventures from any edition of D&D, including third party material.


One other bit of information: Brindol does have a mercenary guild of sorts, so one option could be to base the PCs in Brindol and have them work for the guild, which hires them out to go on various missions around the vale. By the time they reach 5th level, they'll have built up enough of a reputation that Brindol's lord can summon them and ask them to go investigate the goings on near Drellin's Ferry.

I also don't have to feature all of the named locations prior to RHoD. Even just a few would suffice, as many of them do feature in the main campaign, and there is some small scope for side quests even while the invasion is taking place.

Thanks in advance for reading this and doubly so for posting suggestions!
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
If you want to disassemble Keep on the Borderlands and scatter the Caves of Chaos across the Vale, consider this tie-in:
When the PCs get to the goblin / hobgoblin cave complex, there are no hobgoblins of military age present; only the old, the young, and the feeble.

The RHoD could be using that cave as a forward staging base for spies, including the famous spy in the adventure. Place the cave in hilly ground along an 'unused backroad path' that bypasses Nimon Gap.
 

jayoungr

Legend
This level 3 adventure seems like it should fit Elsircross nicely:


For level 4, are any of these towns near a small lake that could have an island in it? If so, I'm a big fan of this adventure:


Here are some other threads that could also be useful, in case you haven't already checked them:

 

pukunui

Legend
If you want to disassemble Keep on the Borderlands and scatter the Caves of Chaos across the Vale, consider this tie-in:
When the PCs get to the goblin / hobgoblin cave complex, there are no hobgoblins of military age present; only the old, the young, and the feeble.

The RHoD could be using that cave as a forward staging base for spies, including the famous spy in the adventure. Place the cave in hilly ground along an 'unused backroad path' that bypasses Nimon Gap.
I think the Caves of Chaos might be a little too dungeon crawly but your idea of splitting the pieces of an adventure up and spreading them out more could work! Thanks for the suggestion!

This level 3 adventure seems like it should fit Elsircross nicely:

Thanks. I'll take a look at that one!

For level 4, are any of these towns near a small lake that could have an island in it? If so, I'm a big fan of this adventure:

IIRC Dennovar is the only one by a lake, though a number of the towns sit along the Elsir River. I'll have a look at this one too.

Here are some other threads that could also be useful, in case you haven't already checked them:

I've lost track of which ones I've already looked at here on EN World, so I'll check all those out and see what I can find.
 

pukunui

Legend
I'm running Red Hand of Doom right now in D&D 5e which follows the events of my previous town-to-dungeon campaign, The Delve, but with new characters. Both were set in Elsir Vale. The 6th-level PCs have just destroyed Skull Gorge Bridge, right at the end of Session Two. I changed Tiamat to Maglubiyet because I had enough of Tiamat in Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat.

At the same time, I'm running a D&D 4e "one-shot" of the first module in the Scales of War adventure path, "Rescue at Rivenroar." The events of this adventure take place well after Red Hand of Doom, so it's neat to see the crossovers for players in both games.

All this to say I think your plan is fine as these adventures should have plenty of similar elements to meld them together. It will require a lot of adjusting of encounters to match the appropriate character levels, especially Red Hand which I think is 6th to 12th level.
@iserith: Would it be possible to get some more info on your pre-RHoD adventure, The Delve? Also any info you're able to share on how you ran RHoD in 5e would be welcome too!
 





amethal

Adventurer
I used Sunless Citadel as my introduction to RHoD; I gave the kobolds links to the Red Hand and it seemed to work quite well. I appreciate the OP was looking for shorter adventures, if you remove the second level and the plot elements relating to it then it needn't take many sessions to run.
 

Lost Mines of Phandelver (starter box) would be easy to drop into the Elsir Vale or just outside of it. That's what I am planning on doing. That would get characters to level 5. Then throw in something to transition from LMoP to RHoD and get the characters another level and you're good.
 

Ringtail

World Traveller
I bought this collection several years back and have occasionally sprinkling them into games over the past few years. The Complete Adventures of M.T. Black Volume 1. They are excellent adventures, spanning a range of levels at 1-2 sessions each. I'll be honest, a lot of them seem kind of simple and were used as introductory adventures for new players but an experienced GM like you could probably liven them up a little. There's also a Volume 2 if you like these. I think they're all forgotten realms by default but that's easy enough to fix.

I also like the Book of Lairs from Kobold Press. These are like mini-dungeons but they are good for one session sort of things and cover a gamut of levels. They are mostly mini-dungeons but are good for one or two sessions. They also have a bunch of similar products like Eldritch Lairs, Creature Codex Lairs, Prepared! and Prepared! 2. I think most of these reference monsters from Kobold Press's Creature Codex and Tome of Beasts however. Tales of the Old Margreve might also be a good choice though they are forest themed I think.

Call of the Elvenflow, Wayward Wives, the Tainted Grove and the Bourne of Candles are a short series of adventures themed around the Moonsea in Forgotten Realms. The theming for some might be too specific to relocate easily, but I've ran the first two in this series and they were excellent. Wayward Wives was my favorite.

Oh, and the Uncaged books. My brother has run a few out of these are they were pretty fun to play in. Again, short, spanning a range of levels.
 

pukunui

Legend
Our internet was down for about 6 hours yesterday, so I wasn't able to do any work. Instead, I grabbed Rime of the Frostmaiden off the shelf and started reading through the Ten-Towns quests. I think most of them would work quite well in Elsir Vale. I was already considering making the vale's climate more temperate, with hot summers and snowy winters. I could start things off in winter time and give them the option to investigate various opening quests.

  • Bremen's "Lake Monster" quest: There's only one lake on the map in Elsir Vale - the lake next to the city of Dennovar. I could put the lake monster there, but I feel like it would beg the question of "why hasn't the city guard dealt with it already?" Instead, I could make it a river monster and have it be bothering any of the smaller towns/villages along the Elsir River. (Or I could just have there be a smaller lake somewhere that's just not on the map.)

  • Bryn Shander's "Foaming Mugs" quest: I'm inclined to skip this one, but if I were to use it, it would probably make the most sense to have it pop up when the PCs go to one of the more remote towns in the vale.

  • Caer-Dineval's "Black Swords" quest: I could set this one in Dauth, with the cultists hiding out in the ruined keep there.

  • Caer-Konig's "The Unseen" quest: I'm inclined to skip this one as well, primarily because it is more closely tied into the bigger duergar plot in Frostmaiden.

  • Dougan's Hole's "Holed Up" quest: Hillwatch would be a good stand-in for Dougan's Hole.

  • Easthaven's "Toil and Trouble" and "Town Hall Capers" quests: The only suitable place to put these would be Dennovar. I could make it a smaller town (rather than the biggest city in the vale). That could work quite nicely.

  • Good Mead's "The Mead Must Flow" quest: I could replace Good Mead with Nimon Gap. Some of the produce from the orchards surely must go into making alcohol, and the verbeeg who steals the mead could be living in the nearby hills.

  • Lonelywood's "The White Moose" quest: Either Elsircross or Marthton could be the setting for this one. Marthton works well because of the barrows in the nearby forest (which could be elf barrows rather than old druidic human barrows). If I were to use Elsircross, the druid could have created the killer moose to punish the locals because of their logging. (Maybe greedy "Baron" Trask is cutting down more trees than he should be or something.)

  • Targos' "Mountain Climb" quest: Starting town doesn't really matter, but the lost climbers could either be in the Giantshield Mountains to the north or the Wyvernwatch Mountains to the south. (Technically the Wyrmsmokes to the west are an option as well, but I'd rather not send the PCs that way too soon.)

  • Termalaine's "A Beautiful Mine" quest: Termalaine becomes Red Rock. The gem mine can either become one of the copper mines or be a unique mine. There's a minor mention of some politics in this quest - which could be a result of "Baron" Trask from Elsircross wanting to add Red Rock to his "domain".
There are also some quests from the broader Icewind Dale chapter that could be fun to sprinkle in (and they're tuned for 4th level, so they'd be the last few quests the PCs undertake before embarking on RHoD).



I used Sunless Citadel as my introduction to RHoD; I gave the kobolds links to the Red Hand and it seemed to work quite well. I appreciate the OP was looking for shorter adventures, if you remove the second level and the plot elements relating to it then it needn't take many sessions to run.
I've run the 5e version of The Sunless Citadel before and didn't enjoy it all that much, but I appreciate the suggestion just the same.

Lost Mines of Phandelver (starter box) would be easy to drop into the Elsir Vale or just outside of it. That's what I am planning on doing. That would get characters to level 5. Then throw in something to transition from LMoP to RHoD and get the characters another level and you're good.
I have noted that I think Dauth would make a good stand-in for Phandalin. I would rather use the Essentials Kit adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, due to the fact that it's really more sandboxy with a bunch of short quests. Plus I think just about everyone in my group has either played in or DMed LMoP, so it's a bit overused at this point. (It also doesn't fit my criteria insofar as it is a longer adventure more or less set in one place.) I appreciate your suggestion just the same, though.

I bought this collection several years back ...
Thanks for all those suggestions! I'll take a look at those.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
The adventures anthologies of Adventures in Middle-Earth are really good; each adventure is stand-alone but they can be linked by an over-arching plot if you want to. They work quite well for low-level adventuring in a more ''point of light'' setting.

Adventures in the Wilderlands is my favorite one and should take your PCs to level 7. It does a good job of mixing challenges from all 3 pillars of play. You could replace the named NPC (such as Beorn) with another names NPC from the Red Hand (like the old, last giant from the mountains).

You'd need to replace the Tolkien's orcs for more goblinoids, but the difference between the two of them is pretty thin anyway.
 


@vincegetorix: Thanks! I'll check those out as well!
I second the Adventures in Middle Earth 5E as well. Just watch out: since Cubicle 7 no longer has the license for it, trying to find copies of em for Non-Scalper prices can be a headache.

Case in point, I found four of the ones I wanted for Normal Retail value. It was a headache and a half though for the searching. The other two I got, well I paid 79 and 20 for when they are normally 29.99 and Less respectfully.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I second the Adventures in Middle Earth 5E as well. Just watch out: since Cubicle 7 no longer has the license for it, trying to find copies of em for Non-Scalper prices can be a headache.

Case in point, I found four of the ones I wanted for Normal Retail value. It was a headache and a half though for the searching. The other two I got, well I paid 79 and 20 for when they are normally 29.99 and Less respectfully.
That's a shame. I thought Free League (or Modiphius) got the license to continue to publish the One Ring and AiME stuff so they could still produce older material.

I just went to check my local FLGs and they are out of stock of older AiME stuff.
On nobleknight.com they indeed go up to 200 U$D!

Guess I'll treasure my own books!
 

Sorry for the minor necro, but I just came across this. I had originally planned to do the same, at least with prologues for levels 3-4, to get the party (and players, let's be honest) invested emotionally in the vale before it burns to the ground. In the end people wanted a shorter campaign so we just dove straight in with the ambush. Below are some thoughts from that prep, but definitely keen to hear more from others!

One idea I had was to use The Scroll Thief from the Tyranny of Dragons AL season 1, set it in Brindol and change the 3 stolen books to things that tie into the RHOD story (eg the book stolen from the wizard could be a book on Tiamat stolen from Immerstal; another could point to Rhest, and the lienage one could maybe connect to the Vraath Keep adventure hook in RHOD), and have Miha the spy behind it all. If run at 1st-3rd level, the payoff will be quite a fair bit later, and hopefully pretty cool.

Another AL option is DDEX2-10 Cloaks and Shadows (from the Elemental Evil season, with good reviews), reworking the elemental cult into Kul's people. Perhaps Miha has set up the cult cell (having seduced Zor) and now that the invasion is imminent, is removing any potential telltales. This would be set in Brindol (or even Dennovar), and has a political intrigue element in which the party are actually hiding form the law, having been framed for a murder.

There are probably tons of other AL adventures that would fit in pretty well too.

Wolves of Welton can be placed almost anywhere in the vale, and is a highly rated (and free) 2nd-3rd level adventure.

WOTC actually published a short prologue adventure for level 4. It's pretty lame IMHO, but could be built on. Weirdly, they don't even specify a potential location in the vale, other than that it's "in a hillside cave at the fringes of populated land (near where the PCs are adventuring), living off of pigs and sheep stolen from nearby farmsteads," which fits pretty much every single named locaton in RHOD.

I tried to find a perfect adventure for Baron Trask in Elsircross because the lovely little detail in RHOD is screaming for a prologue or side quest adventure, but no luck so far. Ideally it would be something emphasising his evil alignment, and giving the party either a reason to hate him or overthrow him (but ultimately to point out that good and evil are not static racial features).

I really like your idea of reskinning some of the ROTFM ten towns early quests, but I haven't played through any of them to know which ones are the most fun.

From the Essentials Kit, my personal favourites were Gnomengarde, a much-revamped Dwaren Excavation (replacing the TPK gem trap with a more Indiana Jones-eque slowly collapsing ceiling, and spending time to describe the temple's details), and Axeholm (again, building up the tragic story for the party to learn - this one could give the party a boon when negotiating with the dwarves in RHOD perhaps; would need debuffing to level 3-4).

From LMOP I would think either of the rescue missions (Cragmaw Hideout and Cragmaw Castle) could be worked in fairly easily, with the castle being in the Witchwood near any of Drellin's Ferry, Talar, or Elsircross. As could Thundertree, but you'd have to be confident you can get Venomfang Ozzyrandion out of there alive.
 

pukunui

Legend
@Satirical Bard: Thanks for the input! I haven't made a whole lot of progress on this myself, as I kind of got bogged down on some of the overarching setting elements. But I haven't given up on it entirely, and I really appreciate that you took the time to post your suggestions. :)
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essential boxed set has more "help the locals" type adventures than dungeon crawls that could work, it visit nearby settlements. It could be situated in Dauth or Elsircross for exemple and explore the surrounding region during it's different missions.
 

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