D&D 5E Against the Cult of the Reptile God: advice

birdchili

Explorer
I'm converting this module for the kickoff of a new campaign. I've never played it and haven't run a game at-all in quite a while. I'm both delighted and terrified that based on a reading of the adventure, I have no clue what's going to happen (my players tend to impatience begetting violence).

Obviously the bbeg has an ability that's completely out of proportion with anything else in 5e. I spent some time trying to reconcile this, but I think I'm going to just let it slide and run with it. I'll convert the charm/dominate ability to a long-to-perform ritual, and make the in-combat ability use the charm status. I'll back things up with a legit god behind-the-scenes.

Any suggestions or gotchas I should be aware of? I'm particularly concerned with making the early rp parts in town compelling. Did anyone add encounters there that worked particularly well?

In my mind, there's so much possibility for awesome here. Would like for that to actually convert to a reality:)
 

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I'm converting this module for the kickoff of a new campaign. I've never played it and haven't run a game at-all in quite a while. I'm both delighted and terrified that based on a reading of the adventure, I have no clue what's going to happen (my players tend to impatience begetting violence).

Obviously the bbeg has an ability that's completely out of proportion with anything else in 5e. I spent some time trying to reconcile this, but I think I'm going to just let it slide and run with it. I'll convert the charm/dominate ability to a long-to-perform ritual, and make the in-combat ability use the charm status. I'll back things up with a legit god behind-the-scenes.

Any suggestions or gotchas I should be aware of? I'm particularly concerned with making the early rp parts in town compelling. Did anyone add encounters there that worked particularly well?

In my mind, there's so much possibility for awesome here. Would like for that to actually convert to a reality:)

Having run this adventure in several editions, the best thing I can suggest is to completely redesign the BBEG naga into something a low level party has a chance against and swap out the mary sue Ramne character with an old hedge wizard who may have helpful knowledge, and thus be worthwhile to include without being a high level babysitter for the party.

The rest of the module is pretty ok.

For feel, remember that the village is divided between cultists and regular folk. The regular folk are going to be distrustful because they don't know who all is involved with the cult. Convincing anyone to trust the party offers a whole lot of RP opportunity.
 
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WARNING SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I love this module. There were things that jumped out when I ran it, that I didn't even think of when I just read it. I didn't realized that almost everyone offers the party wine, and the party starts to get real suspicious of the wine.

The first person they meet is the local sheriff. Make sure to play him as nosy and questioning. It actually makes the party respect him for doing his job. Little do they know....
It can trigger later if they ever think to turn someone in or go to the law for help, they go right to him. And then he can go "Ah, let's go get some help... at the temple"

The crazy blacksmith is one of the greatest NPC's ever. Play him for maximum aggression to pick a fight, make him like a barely contained rabid dog, it's often the best place for the first fight to break out. As you ask for initiative, Your players will be like "what are we really going to fight this guy?" "He's a townsperson for crissake". Then his wife and kids get in on the fight. She has a crossbow I think. It's awesome.

I ran this in 4E, where its super easy to just knock people out. So I made it so that any charmed person (cult member) when they got reduced to 0 HP, would start gurgling green bile, and die even if someone tried to knock them out. It ensured a body count. Kept the party from easily interrogating someone, although the cult members are charmed, so you could instead, rule they resist interrogation.

Also there's two inns in town. Their names are somewhat innocuous. something like Honey, and the other is Slumbering Serpent something or other. I didn't even realize that when the players start getting suspicious and desperately need somewhere to rest, they will avoid the serpent simply because of the name, snake~reptile? metagame with the title? Oh and dont let them rest in the streets or in townsperson's house, remember all the town are suspicious. Even if they do somehow convince a townsperson to let them rest in their home, you can do the ambush scene there.

Oh it's such great glory if you can get them to go to the honey tavern. The little rat faced guy cooks their food, and he can put sleep poison in it. If that happens, just launch the ambush right then and there. If half of them fell asleep, let the others wake them with slaps or something. After a long day, a big feast somehow puts even the most suspicious adventurer at ease.

It can be really cool if Derek, towards the end of the fight, says "Hey, I know what's going on here. I can help you. I can tell you where the cult is" There's a very slim chance you can get the party not to kill him, and even slimmer if you can get the party to allow him to guide them. But if you do! there's so much potential for future betrayal!!

The ambush scene. You have to flexible. You don't have to force it to be in the rooms of the inn. You can have it happen anywhere in town, or even in the woods, if the party is so paranoid they sleep in the woods! Do it at night when they are damaged and out of spells. Try to control your dice so you dont kill the party, it can get dangerous. Or even if you have a TPK; you can always have the classic "whole party is tied up and left alone in a room while the idiot minions go notify the big bad guy" and of course the party gets an attempt to escape. Always a fun scene.


My players were like "this town is crazy, surely the temple might be able to help us." ha ha ha
The temple is like another perfect place to launch a betrayal/ambush. With a cleric, and several monks it can be a really cool fight.



The very scared townsfolk are actually nicely detailed out. Each one has a description of what they do when approached. Enough that you can make more up on the fly as to their motivations and personalities.

Ramne who is often assumed to be with them, comes with Dispel Magic. Very useful for dispelling Charm Person. If he's not with them, maybe consider having some scrolls of dispel magic.

Don't be afraid for the Naga to open up with a Fireball (which is part of the classic memory for this module). I just ran Starter Set and a 4th level party can take a Fireball, they took one from the Flameskull. As long as someone has a healing potion to get a potential downed healer back up. Actually opening with the fireball is over-all much safer than saving it for later when everyone is bruised battered.

Plus always keep in mind. The naga is arrogant as all hell, so if there is ever a TPK, remember she puts all the players in a room, and will try to seduce/charm each one in turn. She wants more cult members, and isn't ever worried about being defeated. She is immortal after all. Doing this, allows a reset, and always keeps the story going.
 
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birdchili

Explorer
I'm converting Ramne to a gnome (one of my pcs has a deep, deep hatred of gnomes) and down-levelling him a bit. There's no Minor Globe of Invulnerability in 5e anyway, so the "trick" of having that to save the party from the fireball doesn't even work. I'm planning on telegraphing it by having one of the naga sculptures have a fireball in its mouth as well as having the pillars in the boss room charred - hopefully that's enough to encourage a less direct approach (I certainly plan on playing the naga as crazed and none-too-bright, so I'll let any reasonable trick "lure out" the fireball).

Using Derek as a (temporary) ally might give me some flex-room to avoid a tpk if things go south... I like that. The way the capture is set-up makes it look very, very difficult for the pcs to avoid or emerge victorious in any way.

I was planning on running charmed cult members as completely shifted/convinced and unable to give up any information under interrogation. Having some sort of clue that something's up when they die might be a good idea though... I'm always worried in mystery scenarios that the pcs won't figure anything out.

So appreciate the advice. This Internet-thing is pretty cool.
 
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Uller

Adventurer
This module is the source of a line that is repeated frequently around my table ten years later..said the party wizard as they were about to investigate a cellar that contained some baddies: "it's only a basement. How bad could it be?" Two PCs died...so anytime the group is weighing the potential risks and rewards of exploring an underground location someone is sure to repeat it.
 


birdchili

Explorer
What about hooking players into things in the first place?

You can't really have the town bring them in... Do you just rely on their curiosity (this is somewhat what the module suggests "something strange in Orlane... figure it out"). That doesn't feel like a very compelling hook in the big picture.

I've considered having the party's "hip" evangelistic cleric (not of-Merikka) come to a town needing some spiritual guidance and healing... but I don't want to necessarily drive them to the temple too early. I also thought of converting the temple to the cleric's religion, which would make this become a potentially huge long-term campaign issue.

I'd like to have the curiosity there so they don't just end up with "screw this place".
 

Agamon

Adventurer
When I last ran it, one of the families was related to one of the PCs and sent word to him to come check things out because they thought something weird was going on. Of course, they were converted by the time the party gets there.

"Hey, sis, so what's the problem?"

"Problem? No problem. I'm just happy to see you again!"

"???"

That hooked the party good. They definitely knew something was going on after that exchange.
 

Galendril

Explorer
I am running it in conjunction with U1 (Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh). This allows the PC's a chance to gain an extra level or two before facing the boss at the end of N1. I've also expanded the village a bit to provide more local flavor.

As for hooks, I borrowed some from HotDQ and added a couple of unique ones:

8. Your mother is concerned for your Aunt Vilma. She's never been right since her husband passed away eight years ago, but lately her letters have become even more frantic. Please go visit her in Ravenport and calm her down.

9. A close friend you made while serving in the Greyhawk Wars together wants you to come visit him in his hometown Ravenport. Halco is currently employed as a guard. In his letter, he says he feels like a stranger in his own home and it would be nice to see a friendly face.
 

birdchili

Explorer
Coming back to the well of ideas here...

After what was supposed to be some short side-treks that turned into likely campaign-defining events, the party finally made it to Orlane with various pc motivations (including an implored visit to great aunt Vilma (thanks Galendril!)). Investigations were proceeding normally when a curious pc managed to get into the basement of the Golden Grain through a should-have-been-locked door and discovered the secret door below (dm fail (i mean - lousy Snigrot leaving the door unlocked again!)).

At any rate... a late-night incursion was underway when the party alerted Bertram (who was on kidnapping duty) to their below-ground presence. An attempted ambush by Derek and cultists has resulted in a captured Derek and the party locked in the underground tunnels.

So... next session is going to involve the interrogation of Derek and some cultists. The party doesn't really know anything yet (other than the general town strangeness and the statue under the inn) and haven't been to the temple at-all. Bertram and Snigrot are alive and safe and will either flee to the temple or get Grover and company to try and chase the party out of town...

Derek knows a lot, but I'd rather not give *everything* up right away. I'm thinking he'll hold back info and try and pursue revenge against Bertram, whom he feels threw him under the bus, but I'm looking for ideas for how to play things at this point. Thoughts?
 
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Galendril

Explorer
Derek is very much a free agent. Remember, he withstood the naga's charm *and*, more importantly, has fooled the naga and every single one of her followers into believing he's one of them.

So, he's not going to break under any interrogation the PC's can throw at him. He'll tell them what they want to hear.

In my game, Derek ratted out the cult after all the leadership in Orlane was taken out. He was used by the head priest of the temple to try to force the PC's into a moral dilemma (let me go and this girl won't get eaten by this ravenous crocodile). However, it didn't work out and Derek fled the situation which revealed he was not really charmed.

Fearing that the naga would exact revenge on him, he secretly approached one of the party members and suggested he would lead them to the naga's lair so they could kill it.

In your case, Derek has a few options:

1. He can claim to know nothing about the cult. He's simply a thief trying to make a few coins at the PC's expense. Now that he's caught, he'll do everything he can to help them.

2. He says Bertram is the head of a gang that robs customers and he's an unwilling accomplice.

3. He can claim he's heard there's a cult operating in the area and he was afraid the PC's were part of the cult. It's all one big misunderstanding.

4. The entire town is taken over by cultists and it's headed by the Mayor.

5. There is a cult and it's HQ is in the basement of the burnt out Golden Grain Inn. <You could combine this with #3. And, if he has time, he could arrange for an ambush in that basement>

Honestly, there are a million lies and half truths Derek could tell that could get the heat off of him. Always remember his two priorities are:

1. Staying alive
2. Keeping all of his loot (including what's in his room)

I hope this helps!
 

birdchili

Explorer
I kind-of like having Derek claim ignorance of the cult and suggesting that Bertram was running a robbery scam from within the inn (he can provide evidence of this with the secret doors and such). This minimizes the chances that he gets caught in a lie too (most of what he actually needs to say is more-or-less truthful). He's going to want to make a play for his own freedom, as you suggest and he'll likely feel the need for some sort of bargaining chip for that (he may or may not depending on which pc ends up running this interrogation). I'm not sure how to play this, though perhaps it's as simple as "i'll tell you what's going on here if you let me go".

If he's never been in the tunnels before I don't need for him to have an explanation regarding the statue either, which is nice.
 

birdchili

Explorer
of course... if Bertram is robbing travellers, you'd think they'd go to the authorities and/or blame the innkeeper...

Snigrot drugs them so they don't recall and they get dumped outside of town?

lying NPCs are hard...
 

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