D&D 5E Against the Giants: Campaign Journal


Against The Giants: Campaign Journal

This journal is not really meant to be a story hour, but it didn't seem to fit on the main 5E board, so I asked that it be ported over here. If I were to write out my current campaign as a story hour I'd start from the beginning and write it out in a much more narrative form. What follows are essentially my session summaries and some observations about the module. Basically, it's what I'd like to have been able to read before I ran the thing. During the module run, I tried to flesh out certain NPC's to give them depth and make them interesting, and possibly have them become reoccurring personalities, be they allies or enemies. Also I tried to play the enemy strategically, moving them from their areas as written in the module description as the PC's advance into their territory. My hope was to add a dynamic that is missing from a static string of room to room encounters. In other words, I tried to play the giants intelligently and realistically. I'm sure I missed a lot of opportunities, but again, that's why I'd have loved to read someone elses session logs to see how they handled certain areas and enemies.

Hopefully it'll be entertaining and informative enough to hold the reader's attention.

***Warning! Spoilers ahead! The following will contain a reasonably detailed account of my RPG group's foray into the module, Against The Giants, as presented in Tales From The Yawning Portal.***

A bit of background.

For the past year or so I've been running my D&D group on our first lengthy 5E campaign. Starting at 1st level, as of the start of Against The Giants, they have risen to 11th level.

Set in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the PC's have become embroiled in a search for several missing parts of an artifact that, when correctly assembled, will form a scrying device unparalleled. They are in the employ of an eccentric wizard named, Annabelle Zane. Their relationship with her is strained at best, but due to events and circumstances, they still continue their work for her, which has consisted largely of finding the missing components for her, Eye Of Zane, as she calls it. They have found all but one as they reach 11th level, and she finally has a lead on where the last piece may be. Her information points to it being in the hands of a particularly loathsome giant king by the name of King Snurre, or one of his compatriots. Unable to exactly locate Snurre, her spies have indicated that he has had dealings with a clan of hill giants who have been coming down out of the Lortmil mountains to terrorize and raid villages in Ulek in a manner far more organized than is usually seen from hill giants. Her spy has located the hill giant steading and the PC's are to meet him in Ulek and follow him to the keep. Their mission is to infiltrate and follow any leads they might find that will eventually locate King Snurre and the final artifact piece.

On a personal note, several years ago one of our RPG group ran us on the 3.5E version of AtG. I played a dwarf barbarian, and it was great fun until it all went sideways. Long story short: it was the only TPK our group has ever had. We made it as far as the upper level of the fire giant king before being wiped out, to a man.

Fast forward to 2017, when I saw that AtG had been reprinted and converted to 5E, I was intrigued enough to read through it, and decided that it would easily fit into my existing campaign.

Two of my current players were also present during the aforementioned 3.5E game, and there was some worry that they would remember too much of it, but thus far it hasn't been an issue. Enough time has passed that this new run through is all new to them.

The Party.

Thoradin. Played by Ron, Thoradin is a dwarf cleric of Moradin. Honorable, generally good humored, and fiercely loyal to his clan and his god, Thoradin aspires to bring glory to both through spreading the word, being an example of Moradin's tenants, and the good old fashioned beat down of evil via dwarven steel. As of the beginning of AtG, Thoradin is chaotic neutral. He started out chaotic good, but circumstances, not the least of which was one of his own party members, have caused him to drift into a more ambivalent morality.

Krote. Played by Brandon, Krote is a half-orc barbarian. Raised by his human mother in a human village, he took to the adventuring lifestyle through the necessity of not being much good at anything other than a natural ability to swing a big axe, and the genuine desire to do good in the world. He loves his mother and misses her greatly, but he is loyal to his friends and has vowed to see their mission through to the end. He currently wields Black Metal, a great axe with a split personality, also of human and orc, that has slowly been revealing itself to Krote over time, both in terms of power and it's own agenda (or two agendas, as the case may be). What started out as a mere +1 greataxe has now grown into a weapon of substantial power, although it's continued conversations with Krote has the big barbarian worried.

Sai. Played by Ryan, Sai is an elf wizard. Bookish and reserved, Sai is an evoker with the heart of a necromancer. Despite his ability to fling fireballs without end, he is ever interested in all things undead, spending most of his off time studying ancient tomes dedicated to the necromatic arts. Not evil, but not entirely good either, Sai pulls his weight with the party and continues with them after having been freed of his apprenticeship from Annabelle Zane. He opts for real world experience as a faster means of gaining knowledge and power. He may have some overarching plan for his future, but at this point, even I don't know what that is.

Edran. Played by Chris, Edran is a cross between Spider Man and Andy Dick. He is a half-elf rogue with the capabilities of a ninja coupled with the temperament of a eight year old. Edran is the party's perpetual problem child. He wanders away from the group at the worst of times, steals compulsively, says the exact worst thing at the exact worst time, is utterly unable to keep a secret, and is generally a giant pain for all involved. He has been addicted to drugs, stolen a finger from a witch who then demanded a finger of his in return, and has even managed to make Thoradin, the dwarven cleric, question his own moral code and slide from CG to CN. He's died at least three times, and is actually a clone of his original self that was created by the same witch who used his lopped off finger to create that clone and now has Edran under contract for some future service in return for the clone's use after his first death. Even his patron wizard, Annabelle Zane, Power Word Killed him after she explicitly warned him never to try to steal from her, after which he did just that. Thoradin had to Revivify him. And yet... Edran is just likable enough that his friends can't quite bring themselves to cut him loose. That, and he is uncannily good at his job. At this point, there's hardly a lock in the land that he can't get through, not to mention his combat skills. Edran is a sneak attack maestro.

Rufus. Rufus is an NPC. He's a dog. Somewhere around their third level, while the party was en route to some location and camping for the night, I had a stray dog wander out of the woods and come sniffing around for food. He took an instant liking to Edran, who named him, Rufus, and he's been with them ever since. It was an impulse to introduce a dog to the party, but since then Rufus has become an integral member of the team, and perhaps the only real loyalty Edran has. Even I am not entirely certain as to Rufus' true nature at this point. I can say that Rufus displays some fairly non-doglike behavior, and has survived events that would spell doom for any normal canine. Most of the time he seems to have the wherewithal to keep himself just at the edge of danger. The party strongly suspects that Rufus is more than he seems. Krote has used Speak With Animals to ask Rufus what his deal is, but Rufus simply “woofed” that he is just a dog, and wagged his tail. Krote remains unconvinced. But Rufus' nose has helped them track bad guys and alerted them of ambushes, and he has a way of keeping Edran at least a little in check, so the rest of the party is happy to have him along. I'm just hoping that I figure out what Rufus is up to before the end of the campaign.

What follows are my notes made at the end of each session with some addendum added for clarity and detail. I should probably also apologize for any wonky formatting issues. These notes are pasted here from a word processing program, and sometimes the port over gets a little weird. I will try to clean it up as best I can, but forgive me if I miss something.

Also, it should be noted that the party is in possession of a few decent magic items, and the module, being old school has a wealth of powerful items to be found despite it's transition to 5E. Because of that, all creatures have maximum hit points.

Session One

We started the session on the morning of Goodmonth 12 with the party still in Pellak. That morning Annabelle Zane greets them for breakfast and informs them of her latest plan. It seems that the Duchy of Ulek, a few hundred miles to the south, is experiencing some issues with raids by giants in unusually large numbers and with uncommon organization. At the same time, Annabelle has been able to use her incomplete but still very powerful Eye of Zane to zero in on a fire giant king named Snurre Ironbelly. She doesn't know if the giant has the tooth or not, but whenever she concentrates on the tooth and lets the Eye seek out her desire, it settles upon him, although he, apparently, has some sort of non-detection magic working in his favor, as she has been unable to get a bead on exactly where he is.

However, she has been able to catch him in conversation with a hill giant chieftain named Nosnra, who just happens to have a stronghold built in the foothills of the Lortmil mountains, very close to the Duchy of Ulek. Since the Duchy is currently at odds with their southern neighbors, the County of Ulek, and has pulled the majority of it's small military to that border, it has not been able to send it's knights to deal with the giant threat, and therefor have sent out word that they are in the market for mercenaries. Annabelle arranges for the party to meet with an Ulek agent in the tiny village of Hammerfall in the shadow of the Lortmil mountains. The hope is twofold: One, that they will be able to find clues that will eventually lead them to the ninth tooth, and two, that they will relieve Ulek of it's giant problem and thus gain some heroic clout in the small kingdom.

The ride is a rather pleasant one through generally civilized kingdoms, and they arrive in Hammerfall fifteen days later, unmolested by bandits or wandering creatures.

They meet the Ulek agent, Donovan Price, at the only tavern in Hammerfall, the Loose Goose, and immediately set out for the giant hold. Price gets them to within a mile or so of the structure where he shows them a dry and abandoned cave that they can perhaps use as a base. He then leads them to an overlook where they can get a view of the building.

As night begins to fall, and rain starts to pour, Edran sneaks down for a quick look around. He manages to scale the walls and peer into the open courtyard, seeing the two dozen dire wolves that prowl the grounds. Upon his return, they consider a rooftop assault, with Thoradin arguing that his Call Lightning spell would make short work of the wolves, and perhaps draw the giants out into the open. But he soon realizes that the grounds are too big to cover with his spell, and eventually it is decided that they will enter through the watch tower to the south.

They circle wide and make for the south wall as the moon begins to rise. Unfortunately, Thoradin's forte is not stealth, and he nearly tips off the hill giant guard atop the tower with his clanking armor.

The party wait awhile for the guard to settle back in after not spotting them, and finally they reach the wall. Edran and Krote scale the wall to find the hill giant already back to sleep, and they position themselves for an assassination. Sai makes it up alright, but Thoradin is having no luck at all, and upon reaching the top of the wall, falls face first to the other side, making a terrible racket. It is only sheer luck that the giant does not wake up. Finally, they surround the guard and lay into him. The giant never wakes up as blades and spell kill him.

Edran heads down the stairs, followed by Krote and Sai. The rogue finds two more sleeping giants in the room at the bottom, and he is working his way towards them as Thoradin, not wanting to be left behind, heads down the stairs, rolling double 1's on his stealth check. He trips and drops his axe, which falls down the stairs with a mighty racket. This time it wakes one of the sentries and the battle is on as Krote leaps the rest of the way down to catch up with Edran.

Edran, Krote and Sai engage with the two giants. Thoradin makes to leap down as well, and rolls another 1, missing the table below that was to be his landing spot, and slams into the stone floor.

Eventually the two giants are killed with a minimum of damage to the party. They open the door to the outside to let Rufus in.

From there it is into the keep proper. They choose a side door to the northeast and make their way from room to room, finding and killing a few more sleeping giants. Things are still going reasonably smoothly, although Krote is taking a few hits along the way from giants that do manage to get an attack in before being overwhelmed.

They slay a hill giant matron and three servants, and then find themselves in large hall. Edran opens a door to the south, releasing a cave bear that they manage to kill as well.

They make their way deeper into the hold, finding a few empty rooms and quite a bit of treasure.

Finally, Edran decides that it is time to deal with a large set of double doors, behind which he can hear raucous carousing. They are wholly unprepared for the sheer number of giants and giant kin in the great hall. In all, there are twenty-seven giants, ogres, and at least one bear in the massive room.

We ended the night there.

It is Harvester 4th, roughly 10:00pm

Thoradin makes 12th level.
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Session 2

We start with the party just having opened the door to the giant's great hall so there's not much to plan here except to prepare for a fairly epic battle. They are facing some 27 giants and giant kin.

I give them ten minutes to plan, OOG, plus they get a free round to act since the giants are largely drunk or slow on the uptake.

The party opens the door to the hill giant great hall, interrupting their festivities. The giants are slow to grasp that there are intruders in their midst so the party get a free round to act.

Edran tags the cloud giant with a couple of arrows, Sai tosses in a Fireball, and Thoradin casts a flame strike, and then they all retreat back around the corner to the matron's room, setting themselves with Krote and Thoradin holding the doorway while Sai and Edran ready bow and spell behind them.

The giants start coming. And coming. And coming.

Given the narrow (for giants) hallway and the doorway to the room the PC's have taken their stand in, it's difficult for the giants to attack more than two or three at a time, but they do attack, and even though the party metes out terrible amounts of damage, the giants give as good as they get. Krote's axe bites again and again. Thoradin alternates between damaging spells and healing. Sai pounds away with Fireballs, Ice Storms and Fire Bolts, while Edran fires arrows with pinpoint accuracy. But still, when the giants hit, they hit hard! Krote goes down two or three times. Edran goes down at least once. There is some talk of using Word of Recall or Teleportation Circle, but in the end they decide to make their stand here. Thoradin fills the hallway with a Blade Barrier with devastating effect.

The fight took up pretty much the entire session, but when it was finally over, the PC's stood amongst the blood, viscera, and pulped up corpses, victorious.

Well, more or less.

The hill giant chief and his wife and their sub-chief managed to flee, and the party were so low on hit points and spells that they had to flee as well. But they left a scene of truly mind boggling carnage behind them. They even had to slay a half-dozen hill giant young to get out of the keep, but eventually they staggered through the pounding rain to return to their base cave for much needed rest.

We leave them there, hunkered down in the cave, hoping for eight uninterrupted hours with which to heal themselves and get ready to return to the giant hold.

It is Harvester 4, 11:00pm (roughly).

Notes: It has been noted that the designers did not take into account the larger footprint that giants have in 5E which causes some issues with the square footage in the locations in this module. I tend to resize on the flay, as needed during the game, and allow a bit of leeway for giant movement.

One thing I found was that, because the locations are giant sized, it can be difficult to fit an entire area on a battle mat. But we use a fairly large, gridded, white board, and as long as I just draw it out room by room, we get by.

Another issue was not having enough minis to represent the giants and their kin. I eventually cut out several dozen appropriately sized circles out of Styrofoam board, which allowed me to mark them as, “Hill Giant 1, AC 13”, etc. I use similarly marked poker chips for large sized creatures. They're not as dynamic as a 3D mini, but they work very well, and being able to number each disc is a huge help when dealing with multiple enemy combats, of which there are many.

I also cut out about 80 squares of the same styro stuff and labeled each one as an item found in a giant bag. Most of them are trash or common items, but there are a few valuable trinkets in there as well (potions, minor magic items, treasures, etc). Whenever the module notes a giant bag found among the treasure, I allow the PC's to randomly pull 3d4 items per bag from the Crown Royal bag full of styro squares. The players love it! Credit where it's due, I picked up the idea from a post here on the EN world boards. I wish I could remember the actual poster to give full kudos, but if he/she happens to read this, thanks!


Session 3

An hour after they hunker down in the cave to rest, Edran, up in a tree on watch, hears Rufus whine at him. A few seconds later he hears the tell tale howling of wolves on the hunt. Ten minutes later the wolf pack is cresting the rise and Edran scurries down the tree and tries to get into the Leomund's Tiny Hut that Sai has set up only to find that, since he wasn't inside the hut when it was cast, he cannot enter it now. He and Rufus are stuck outside as the wolves close in, followed closely by fifteen ogres and hill giant servants, as well as the hill giant sub chief and hill giant wolf master.

Edran and Rufus are quickly surrounded and harried by the wolves. Rufus takes an awful beating, and Thoradin and Krote leave the protection of the hut to aide their comrades.

What follows is a very tough fight, given that Thoradin is very low on spells, and all of them are low on hit points, having only the benefit of a short rest to heal. Sai is unable to even leave the hut, for if he does the shelter will disappear, and with so many foes in close quarters he would probably be overwhelmed.

They slowly kill wolf after wolf, but the ogres and servants close in right behind. Rufus goes down, but Edran manages to save him, only to go down a moment later himself. By the time Sai is able to leave the hut with some sort of chance of staying alive more than a round, Krote is down to a single hit point, and even Thoradin, with his high armor class, only has a handful of life left.

But now that Sai is able to cast, he piles on the fireballs, three in a row, even as Thoradin and Krote take on the two giants. It is seriously touch and go for a few rounds, but fortunately for our heroes, my dice go rather cold, and despite being surrounded on all sides by hill giant servants, I'm barely able to put even a small pounding on Sai, let alone put him down.

As his fireballs pile up, the servants go down, then the sub chief, then the beast master, and finally the last servant. Thoradin is able to stabilize Edran at the last possible moment, saving their rogue.

What follows is a well deserved rest, uninterrupted by further attacks.

The following morning, at 9:00am, healed and refreshed, they head back to the hill giant keep. Only to find it deserted, except for a pair of injured orc slaves, whom they set free. It takes them a good hour of searching, but at last they are satisfied that no more giants are occupying the top level. One thing they do discover via a lucky Detect Magic casting is Wayth, the giant killing greatsword. They also find a stair case leading downwards, and soon they brave the depths of the hill giant dungeon.

The first room they enter is rather large with several exits and doors leading from it. Thoradin and Edran are having a philosophical conversation as Krote peers down a couple of darkened corridors. He is approaching one of the doors in the chamber, with the other three following, as the ambush is sprung! The door slams open to reveal a particularly tough looking hill giant wielding a huge axe. Even as that happens, a door to the south opens and bugbears begin to stream into the room, screaming their bloodcurdling war cry.

And that's where we wrapped for the night.

It is Harvester 5, about 11:00am

Notes: After the PC's initial assault on the hill giant keep, Chief Nosnra has retreated to the lower level, but before he does, he instructs his sub-chief to have their beast master round up their wolf pack and track down the interlopers. Despite the rain, the pack of dire wolves pick up the scent and follow it to our heroes. I did give the party a short rest, figuring that it would take at least that long for the giants to
organize and track them down.

The giant posse consisted of...
The sub-chief (still wounded, but had downed several healing potions)
The hill giant beast master with his whip, urging the wolves forward
2 hill giant warriors
10 hill giant servants (ogres, basically)
5 ogres
14 dire wolves

Leomund's Tiny Hut has long been a bone of contention for me, and I was curious as to how the encounter would go, with the party being holed up in it while the giants wait for them to come out. But Edran, true to form, chose to climb a tree and be on watch, neglecting to be inside the area when the LTH was cast. Upon careful reading of the spell, I realized that since he wasn't in the area when the spell was cast, he couldn't enter it at all!

Yes, it was probably cheap of me not to assume that by that time they wouldn't have known that important detail, but then again, they all have Player's Handbooks. Read your spells! So there's Edran, swinging in the breeze, as the giant/ogre/wolf horde come streaming over the rise. This forced a combat that was much more dangerous and interesting than if they'd simply been able to wait out the eight hours and come out at top form.

As it was, the presence of the Hut in the cave took up enough space that the PC's were able to retreat somewhat behind it, forcing the enemy to funnel in and not surround them. Being able to deal with their foes one or two at a time probably made the difference between success and failure.

Meanwhile, Nosnra has gone down to the dungeon and has set up another ambush with The Keeper and some forty bugbears just in case the PC's manage to survive. Nosnra plans to hide in the secret passage off of room 1 in the dungeon and watch events unfold. He has also set up an ogre to keep watch from the guard tower on the upper level. If the sub-chief returns, then all is well. But if the sentry spots the PC's, he'll come down and give the word, triggering an ambush set up.

Also of note, Annabelle Zane sends a Sending to Edran telling him specifically not to beat the drum, ring the chimes and strike the triangle. Edran has no idea what this means and Annabelle is not forthcoming with explanation, but it is certain to have Edran now on the lookout for any of those things.

This is an allusion to the Temple of the Eye located on the 2nd level of the fire giant lair, and almost guarantees that Edran will do all three of those things the first chance he gets.


Session 4

Some pre-session notes to myself to try to work out some possible avenues of intrigue among the different factions dwelling within the hill giant dungeon:

The party has walked into an ambush. From the NE door, the Keeper and his two ape pets will charge. The Keeper will step back to allow his two pet apes to rush out, then he will hurl stones if he can, or go right to work with his +1 axe. He will attempt to put his back to the wall, but he is still very aggressive. Remember his 15' reach!

From the South door will charge 40 bugbears (one of whom is a chief). The bugbears will do their best to surround the PC's, and cut off escape routes, specifically the stairs back up. Several of them should be armed with missile weapons and stand up on the tables to get shots off at the party.

In the meantime, the two hill giants from room 15 (torture chamber) will rush in from the south hall. Be sure to take advantage of the giant's reach.

The ambush party...

The Keeper, HP 200, AC 16, Spd 40, Int +2
2 +1 Battleaxe +10 (3d8+7) reach 15'
1 Rock +9 (4d10+6) 60/240'

2 Giant Ape – HP 150, AC 12, Spd 40', Int +2
2 Fists +9 (3d10+6) 10'

Biasco, Bugbear chief, HP 100, AC 18 (plate), Spd 30, Int +2
Advantage vs non evocation spells.
2 x morningstar +6 (2d8+4)

40 Bugbear HP 45, AC 16, Spd 30, Int +2
Surprise attack (2d6)
Morningstar +4 (2d8+2)
Javelin +4 (1d6+2)

2 Hill Giant, HP: 160, AC: 13, Spd 40', Int -1
2 Greatclub: +8 (3d8+5), reach 10'
1 Rock: +8 (3d10+5) 60/240'

I should really try to open the story of this dungeon up, considering the tension of having the orcish rebellion just looking for an opportunity to strike. The hill giants have pulled all the bugbears away from their watch over the orcs, and the orcs know something is up. An orcish spy (Jok), with the aide of his Ring of Invisibility, will find that something big is happening and has his people get ready for action.

Once the battle in room 1 is pitched, the orcs will bide their time. When the Keeper and the other hill giants are down, and the time is right, they will rush in to join the fray, harassing the bugbears.

In the end, several of the bugbears might surrender and the PC's will have to figure out what to do with them. The orcs, of course, will want to execute them, as will Black Metal. Krote's magic axe is most insistent and might even decide to force Krote to shed bugbear blood, depending on Krote's stance on the matter.

The bugbear chief might try to bargain their way to freedom, offering to map out the rest of the level and even guide them. He is, Biasco. He knows about the secret treasure in room 33. All of this should be role played out. The surviving enemy still have their motivations.

The troglodytes will hang back, satisfied to either retain their current location, or take over the dungeon if the hill giants and bugbears are destroyed.

The orcs, of many different clans, will want to escape and head back into the Lortmil mountains.

23 troglodytes, 14 young.
78 rebel orcs (2 orog, 26 fighters, 50 commoners). Key npc: Jok.
82 submissive orc slaves.
87 imprisoned orcs.

I'll need to have the stats for the female elvish knight, Selendra Rainfall, and the dwarf veteran, Joshua Ironjaw, ready for the PC's.

Selendra Rainfall, Knight (MM 347), 80 hit points, AC 10, no weapon or armor currently.

Selendra is an elvish knight of the Silverthorn order, of the Lat'iran tribe of elves. She has taken up her brothers quest to find Wayth, the greatsword now in the possession of the players. Her brother, Theatrous, died trying to find it. She tracked him as far as Ulek and was following a rumor that he'd been seen in the Kron hills. She was on her way to crossing the Lortmils when she was captured by the giants.

She and Joshua Ironjaw are comrades.

Joshua Ironjaw, Veteran (MM 350), 90 hit points, AC 10, no weapon or armor currently. Change weapon to greataxe.

Ironjaw is from the Holdernecht dwarf clan. He has been traveling with Selendra on her quest. He was a friend and fighting companion of her brother's, and now that he is missing, he has joined with Selendra, becoming very close to her in the process.

The Session

We begin the session with battle. The Keeper unleashes his giant ape pets upon the party, and forty bugbears stream into the room. Soon after, two more hill giants arrive.

Area spells quickly thin the bugbears, and the apes and giants are no match for the fully rested party. The PC's take a few hard hits, but eventually the apes fall, then The Keeper, and the remaining hill giants. Only one bugbear soldier is left, and he runs for his life down the south tunnel, while the chief bugbear flees down a tunnel to the east.

The fleeing bugbear soldier is soon ushered back into the room, prodded by the weapons of Jok and his rebel orcs. The PC's and the orcs soon realize that they are on the same side, and once they get a load of Black metal their loyalty is assured.

Edran attacks and kills the bugbear captive, which Thoradin is not happy with. Even Krote has issues with such unsportsmanlike conduct, although Black metal is only unhappy that it wasn't Krote who drew that blood.

Krote and Edran, led by the orcs, head south to free the remaining orcish captives. After setting loose 82 of them, they press on, surrounding four bugbear guards who immediately surrender. Black Metal demands Krote slay these bugbears, at which point there is a contest of wills between the two. Krote falls under Black Metal's command and unloads on a helpless bugbear captive, spitting him in half. This pleases the orcs, who, with Edran's help, slaughter the remaining three captives. Krote finally gets his axe back under control, but things are a bit tense between the two right now.

Meanwhile, Thoradin goes back upstairs to sweep the top level with a Detect Magic, finding nothing.

Once they are all back in one place they check the remaining door in the central room and discover the holding cells. They release Marcus, an engineer from Lampsberg, cure an insane man, who still is suffering from a bit of amnesia, and meet Selendra Rainfall, an elven knight. After Selendra tells them her story it doesn't take long for Thoradin to put two and two together and he soon shows Selendra the greatsword they'd found upstairs. With tears of gratitude, she takes the weapon and swears her allegiance to the party for one year.

Edran also released the wights, who are quickly dispatched.

From there, they head east, then north, discovering the cistern and the wine cellar, along with the bugbear chief who's been hiding there. They promise him his freedom if he shows them the hill giant chief's treasure chamber, which he gladly does.

The bugbear chief beats feet out of there as the party moves to deal with the manticores.

Once the manticores are dead, the party moves to the treasure room the manticores had been guarding, but even as they do, Sai, who out in the main chamber, casting a ritual Detect Magic, catches sight of the hill giant chief slipping through a secret door. It takes the party a few rounds to get to that door, but once there they find a secret chamber, but no giant chief. Just a chain on the ground laid out in the form of a figure eight.

After much back and forth, it is Thoradin who threw caution to the wind and steps into one of the chains loops, instantly disappearing. Selendra follows without hesitation, and eventually the rest of the party follows suit.

And that's where we ended.

It is Harvester 5th, roughly 1:00pm

Notes: If you're familiar with AtG you'll notice that the party skipped a good portion of this dungeon, which I was a bit disappointed with. I was looking forward to seeing them in the abandoned temple. Plus, they left a hallway unexplored which would have introduced them to Joshua Ironjaw which meant I had to figure out a way to get him to the frost giant lair and into the party.


Session 5

Notes: Looking over my end notes for session 5, I see that they're not very detailed, so I might try to flesh them out a bit. But before I get to them, I'll backtrack just a little to fill in some gaps in the narrative.

In the hill giant dungeon, after the heroes set all the orcs free, the orcs leave the steading, intent on returning to their clans in the Lortmil mountains. But they take with them the stories that will become legend of Krote and his greataxe, Black Metal. Jok, the orc leader, swears his loyalty to Krote, and over a hundred orcish fists pump the air and their war cries of agreement follow. So Krote is becoming something of an orcish folk hero whether he likes it or not. Black Metal (at least it's orcish side) is only too happy about this turn of events.

Regarding Joshua Ironjaw, Selendra Rainfall had a difficult decision to make when she followed Thoradin through the portal to who knows where. On the one hand, Joshua is her long time friend and connection to her brother, and she is loath to leave him behind. On the other, she swore an oath to the party (and she sort of sees Thoradin as the party leader, although the dwarf might not agree with that). In the end, her knightly pride and sense of honor and duty won out and she followed Thoradin. But she is mightily troubled by that decision.

Fortunately for her, my plan is to have the pair of fire giants who are holding Ironjaw captive eventually realize that the hill giant steading and dungeon have been compromised. They will grab their dwarf prisoner and head through the chain portal, intent on getting back to the fire giant lair. This means that they will probably cross paths with the PC's again soon enough.

Chief Nosnra fled through the portal, headed for the safety of the frost giant lair, and hopefully the fire giant hold beyond. He sent his wife on through beforehand, so she is already in the frost giant Jarl's lair. The point being, the frost giants will have plenty of warning that intruders are probably on the way.

Given the hubris of most giants, I assume that the Jarl (Grugnur) doesn't take the threat too seriously. He beefs up his sentries on watch a bit, but beyond that, he assumes that Nosnra's failure is simply typical hill giant incompetence. So the PC's will not be met with terribly stiff resistance at first. But, should a giant escape to warn that Jarl that the interlopers are not a threat to be taken lightly, the frost giants will dig in and get a whole lot more dangerous.

Also, before going through the portal, the party finds the flame tongue short sword in chief Nosnra's secret treasure room. Edran is soon wearing it at his hip. It's called, Diamond Flame, and it balances nicely with the frost brand rapier called, Icicle, that hangs from his other hip.

Finally, before session 4, I decided to implement a few house rules.

We'd been playing strictly RAW up to this point, which was fine, but I'd recently read a good thread on these boards concerning a few house rules that addressed some issues I'd been having. From here on out, going to zero hit points will cause a level of exhaustion. These levels stack if a character goes to zero multiple times. I like that this offsets the Whack A Mole effect that we'd seen all too often.

Also, failed death saves don't just go away once a PC is healed from zero. This makes the whole business a little more dangerous, which is fine.

And, just to add some more tension, I will now be rolling all death saves. The party won't know where a downed PC is with regard to death saves, which ratchets up the tension and prevents meta gaming.

On the plus side, inspiration points now stack. In general I don't give out a lot of IP's, although at the end of each session all the players can roll a d20. A natural 20 gets you an inspiration point. And even though I resolve to be a little more generous with them in game, they'll still be pretty rare, so why not have them stack?

Also, PC's now get hero points, as optioned in the DMG.

PC's now gain another magic item attunement slot at levels 10, 15, and 20.

The session

Stepping through the chain portal, they are immediately caught off guard by the blast of freezing wind and driving snow. They find themselves on a vast glacier, in a shallow ravine. They can see giant footprints in the snow, heading away from where they are standing. They must belong to Nosnra!

But they are a bit wounded and low on resources. They think better of charging after the hill giant chief half cocked and decide to rest before pressing on. Finding a spot several hundred yards away from the ravine, Sai casts a Tiny Hut and they all settle in for a comfortable, if cramped, rest. Snow soon covers the hut, and it looks like nothing more than another mound of snow on an endless plain of white.

They cast their hut at 2:pm for a long rest. They have to cast it twice to get in the rest. They head into the frost giant glacier at 6am, Harvester 6th. Taking the right fork through the tunnel and heading into the first cave they immediately have to deal with six normal yeti, an abominable yeti and two snow cats. The abominable yeti actually gives them a pretty good fight, but soon enough all of their foes lie dead.

Following the right hand wall, they press on, finding the snow cat lair, now empty, and an icy cavern slick with steam rising from cracks in the glacier.

In the next set of caverns they slay five frost giants. Krote takes a hell of a pounding, but they press on.

Soon after, they come upon a tunnel with a dire warning carved into the ice, telling all who care to listen that nothing but danger and death lie beyond. They decide to heed the warning and head down a different tunnel, quickly stumbling onto another set of giants. Selendra goes down a couple of times and both Krote and Edran take a few good hits, but in the end both giants go die.

That's where we called it.

It is 9:00am, Harvester 6

Notes: I should mention that I completely forgot about the effects of fire based AOE spells in the frost giant upper lair. Sai tossed a couple fireballs during the aforementioned fights, and they should have caused a huge bank of steam to rise up off the icy floor, heavily obscuring that area.

I remember this detail later, and implement it. It makes a huge difference!


Session 6

We started the session in the room with two fresh frost giant corpses. After a quick search, and with no other exits from the room, the party carries on the strategy of sticking to the right wall which leads them back out onto the ledge overlooking the rift, and then back into the glacier. A long tunnel led them to a far south western room with another pair of frost giants. One of them was easily dispatched, but the second ran out an eastern exit. The party gave chase, but the giant knocked aside a support log as he ran by it, causing the roof to collapse behind him. Thinking to catch him, Edran ran back to the southwestern room and then northeast through an offshoot tunnel, only to run right into a room occupied by a fire giant and his hill giant minion. Edran turned tail and led the pursuing pair back to his party. The fight was swift and the giants soon lay dead.

Back out to the ledge, and down another tunnel, they found six hill giants who did their best, but were ultimately no match for the heroes, and soon all six were dispatched.

Despite their victory, they were wounded and low on spells. It was decided that a rest was in order, especially since they had all gained new powers which would only be realized after some down time. To that end, they left the rift the same way they entered, finding their secluded spot for a Tiny Hut.

It was an especially long rest, given that they had only just had one, so it was nearly twenty hours later when they set out at first light on Harvester 7.

During the rest, Edran has a dream of having dinner with Mad Malexi (the witch). While he gorged himself, even after being full, she silently read his contract.

Also, Krote has begun to experience some orc centric thoughts and dreams. He has begun to think more and more in orcish, and has even caught himself looking upon his non orc friends with a bit of disdain. He actually seems to embrace this, humming orcish songs to himself the following day, and speaking several times in orc.

They re-enter the lair, this time choosing to explore the left fork in the entry tunnel which leads them into the eastern portion of the glacier. They soon realize, after coming across several empty rooms that appear to have been cleaned out, that the giants here seem to have vacated.

They do stumble across what appears to be a frozen array of adventurers. A detect magic reveals several interesting items, which they chip free of the ice. Distrustful of such easy pickings, they nonetheless help themselves to the treasures and continue on.

After a few more empty rooms they begin to wonder if the giants may have all simply fled, when suddenly they walk into an ambush (room 9/10). Rufus gives them warning with his talented nose, so they are not surprised, but are certainly outnumbered as frost giants, fire giants, ogres, and winter wolves seem to come out of nowhere, bearing down on them. Krote, especially, took a hard beating as critical hits rained down upon him. Sai also took a critical hit from a thrown boulder, knocking off most of his health in a single blow. Badly outnumbered and already bearing some heavy hits, the party made a strategic retreat into the entry tunnel, pressed by the giants. The offense was stopped by a fireball from Sai, which threw a large portion of the room into a foggy morass, and Thoradin compounded this with an Insect Plague that any pursuing foes would have to pass through to get to them.

But the giants are not stupid, and after the loss of a few of them, they chose their own strategic retreat, taking cover behind a rock wall, and an exit tunnel to the south.

We were forced to break for the night in mid-combat as both sides wait for the other to make a move.

Currently we are at the top of the round. The foggy area has about 4 ½ minutes to go, and the Insect Plague has roughly twice that.

It is Harvester 7, roughly 9:00am

Notes: So, after having cleared out the western portion of the rift, they head back out for a rest, which gives the giants time to organize. The giant that escaped by collapsing the tunnel behind him races over to the east side and alerts the giants there, commanding them to hold the line at the last room before the tunnel that leads down to the frost giant lower lair. He then heads down there himself to warn his Jarl.

By the time the party re-enter the rift most of the giants have pulled back to await them.

When the party finally do find the giants, it's a very tough battle, made all the more so by the implementation of fire AOE spells causing obscuring steam. Sai dumped a fireball into the midst of the melee and instantly blinded nearly everybody, which obviously had a profound effect on the combat.

As an aside, it's interesting to me, given 5E's stinginess with regard to magic items, that these updates of older modules seem to contain almost exactly the same magic items as when they were first written. For example, the frozen adventurers room was a veritable treasure trove of magic items (a staff of frost, a ring of resistance, a +1 axe, etc). It doesn't really bother me since I've long since thrown out the, “magic items are ultra-rare philosophy” in favor of a, “magic items are rare, sure, but they're out there and the PC's are going to get them philosophy” and it doesn't seem to hurt things too much. The one concession I've made is to have armor buffing items be pretty few and far between. I've swapped out several magical shields and the like with non-armor buffing items in this adventure.

My point is, if they're going to update these mods to 5E that means more than just monster stats and mechanics. It seems to me you really have to embrace the whole low magic, bonded accuracy thing if you're going to call a module 5E.


Session 7

Note: It was somewhere around this session that I realized that I was going to have to beef Selendra Rainfall and Joshua Ironjaw up a little bit if they were going to be viable combatant NPC's rather than cannon fodder. After getting some good advice here on the boards re: leveling up Monster Manual NPC's, they get a boost that's enough to make them valuable while not outshining the PC's.

One nice thing about having a couple of NPC's is that it spreads out the xp a little bit. Given that AtG is such a combat heavy module with a lot of high xp value opponents, the PC's have made it to 13th level by this time. Generally I give xp right after every session and allow PC's to level up as soon as they make it (I don't require training, etc.), but I'm a little worried about them getting out ahead of the suggested level for the module so I'm waiting to award xp until certain key milestones. I'm also giving the NPC's a portion of the xp since they are pulling their weight, which ought to slow down the leveling a little bit.

For whatever reason, Edran takes a dislike to both Selendra and Joshua. He is snarky and unkind toward Selendra in particular, and the two have exchanged a few unkind words. Why this is, only Edran can say, and he's not really saying.

A very quick bit of back story to help make the following session notes make sense: During the campaign, Edran has so exasperated Thoradin with his behavior that one of the ways Thoradin had for dealing with it was to slide from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral. I decided that Moradin, for reasons of his own, was not pleased with this. So, during one of the times that Edran died, his soul was brought forth for an audience with Moradin (or his avatar). Moradin informed Edran that he was now in charge of Thoradin's ethical future, and that he needed to, by example, show Thoradin that he needed to return to his former alignment. Edran was not to tell Thoradin anything about his meeting with Moradin. Until this happened and Thoradin returns to CG, Edran can expect no further resurrection from Moradin, which is how Edran has been kept alive all this time.

This was strictly between Edran's player and I. None of the rest of the group knew about it. Besides laying out a challenge for Edran, it was also a way to sort of reel him in a little bit, which it did, kind of. Suffice to say, it sparked some excellent role play from Chris (Edran's player) and provided a lot of entertainment.

The Session

We started the session mid-combat in room 9/10, at something of an impasse, with the party backed into the entry tunnel and the giants, ogres, and wolves taking cover in their own way.

Determined to break the stalemate, the party charged in, ganging up on the first fire giant they came to. This led to an all out counter by the giant forces. It was a long and tough battle, and by the time it was done and all of the enemy lay dead, the party is more or less out of spells and hit points.

They search the room and, besides a decent amount of treasure, they make the happy discovery of Joshua Ironjaw. It turns out that his fire giant captors, upon seeing the carnage in the hill giant steading, had grabbed him and gone through the portal. They had made it as far as the frost giant's ambush point in room 9/10 and had stuffed Joshua into a barrel while they aided in the ambush against the PC's.

Selendra is overjoyed to see her companion again, and the gruff dwarf is glad to finally be out from under captivity. He is eager to kill giants and declares that where Selendra goes, so does he.

But the first place they go is back to Pellak for much needed rest and resupply. This is Sai's first chance to use Teleport, and the spell lives up to it's reputation, zipping the heroes out of the deadly giant lair and back to the safety of a human city in the blink of an eye.

There is much to do and only a day to do it. Thoradin gets busy dividing and liquidating treasure, of which there is quite a lot.

Krote, who is barely standing, given his wounds, finds a piece of floor at the Golden Flute Inn and promptly curls up to sleep.

Sai buys a few spells, visits Temple Urzinine for some magic item shopping, and generally keeps himself busy.

Selendra is given a goodly amount of gold by Thoradin, Krote and Sai, and she takes Joshua shopping to get him properly outfitted.

Edran, of course, promptly finds a deep end and goes right off of it. He lops off his own finger in order to rid himself of the supposed taint of Hextor given to him by Landorel the Cruel when he regenerated the rogue's finger so long ago. Then he spends the rest of the night wandering the streets of Pellak trying to get himself pick pocketed, which he is frustrated to have no luck at. He buys all the healing potions he can find, gives most of his gold away, and shows up back at the inn with enough time to get himself completely drunk by the time the rest of his party comes down for breakfast. He is belligerent even as Thoradin Regenerates his missing finger, demanding that Thoradin get his house in order with regards to Clangadin, else Edran refuse to allow Selendra and Joshua to accompany the party.

This has been a long time coming for Thoradin anyway, so he once again changes his alignment back to chaotic good via ceremony, spell and lengthy prayer to Moradin. Edran breaths a sigh of relief, and all is right with his world again.

Also, during his rest, Krote has an interesting conversation with Black Metal. This is the first time Black Metal's human side makes itself known. It's orcish side doesn't know about it's human side, and the two are not entirely on the same page. Which personality will Krote gravitate to and trust? Who knows?

Knowing that the longer they tarry, the more prepared the giants will be to deal with them upon their return, the heroes gather their gear and group around Sai once again. With another Teleport, they are back in the Jarl's lair; the cave where they found the frozen adventurer's, to be precise.

They take a look at their map and decide to check a few locations they'd passed up previously, and the very first cave they enter sees them battling ten giant ice toads.

It turns out to be a more difficult battle than perhaps it needed to be, given A) that Edran in his drunken state, is unable to sneak attack, B) they find out, to their dismay, that the magical armor they had found on one of the frozen adventurers and subsequently given to Selendra was cursed. While it provides her with resistance to bludgeoning damage, it makes her vulnerable to slashing and piercing damage. And then, C) Sai puts a hurting on nine of the ten toads with a fireball, which is fine, except for the huge, blinding fog cloud it produces from the steam rising from the ice. Much of the rest of the battle is spent blind fighting, with some of the party not even able to find a foe to attack. Edran gets swallowed briefly by a toad, and the cold aura from the toads piles on damage rather quickly. By the time the battle is over, the party is showing far more wounds than they'd like to, given the fact that they only just rested.

We wrapped there for the night.

Edran is still drunk, and can expect to be for a few hours.

Krote rolls a 20 for an inspiration point, and Edran gets one as well for finally appeasing Clangadin and good role play, electing to forgo his sneak attack in favor of intoxication.

Parsnip is going to give them 55% of the treasure value Thoradin took to him, but it will be at least a week before that gold comes in. He will deposit it directly into Thoradin's account.

Remember, Selendra is cursed by the armor and is vulnerable to slashing/piercing damage.

So is Sai, but the players don't know that yet. DON'T FORGET!!!

It is roughly 10:30am, Harvester 8th.


Gaaa! I just realized that I've been writing about Thoradin as a cleric of Moradin when he is, in fact, a cleric of Clangeden! A small detail, but one to get right nonetheless.

Sent from my SGH-M919 using EN World mobile app


Session 8

Note: This was our 50th session of the campaign. As such, I decided a little bonus was in order. All players got an inspiration point.

During the big fight in room 9/10 of the upper lair, one of the fire giants had commanded an ogre to run and warn the Jarl, and that's just what that ogre did. So, with ample warning and plenty of time to prepare, the Jarl gets ready for the intruders.

First, he has the boulder that conceals the white dragon cave left just enough ajar that anyone actively looking is sure to see it. The plan is to tempt the party into the dragon cave, let the dragons soften them up a bit, then have the frost giant, cloud giant, Oni and his ogres that are all dwelling in the first of the western caves of the lair come in behind the heroes and finish them off. One ogre is to hang back and warn the Jarl if this first attempt fails, in which case all remaining giants will set up an ambush in the throne room.

The Session

We started the session in the ice toad lair, and after a bit of healing the party searched out the rest of the area, finding the toads amethyst deity. From there, they decide to check out the rest of this level, heading first to an unexplored cave on the west side of the rift, only to find it empty. Then it was down to the floor of the rift to check out the odd snow mound they'd spotted in it's southern end. Edran scouts on ahead and is greeted by the Remorhaz that lairs there. The fight isn't so tough with the whole group ganging up on the thing, despite Edran still being unable to sneak attack due to his drunken state. They take a short rest there, helping themselves to some Remorhaz blood and bile for future magic item crafting. At one point Edran sneaks off around the side of the mound to have another drink, but Rufus follows him and whines in what can only be disappointment. Edran stoppers the flask and puts it away.

At last, they finally head down the south tunnel that leads them to the lower level of the frost giant lair.

They enter the grand hall. Edran spies a boulder against the east wall that has been shoved aside, allowing passage into a cave beyond. He slips in to explore, with Krote not too far behind. It is only seconds later that Edran discovers the mated pair of white dragons that occupy the cavern, and he runs like hell out of there. The rest of the party, eager to test their mettle against the dragons, charge on in. Thus begins a protracted battle that ends in a bit of disaster, at least for Sai.

The PC's engage the dragons, taking blast after blast of icy breath attacks. Just as they slay the male dragon and turn their attention fully upon the female, the boulder at the entrance is pushed aside and a frost giant, accompanied by four ogres, steps in to attack. Unfortunately, Sai had posted himself near the entrance in a place of seeming safety, and he was the first hero the frost giant encounters. He only hits the wizard once, but it is then that we find out that Sai is still cursed by the armor they'd previously found, and is vulnerable to slashing and piercing weapons. The double damage from the giant's axe is more than enough to put Sai down.

The rest of the party gang up on the female dragon, killing her before turning their attention on the frost giant in the entryway. But as they close with him, a cloud giant appears. He Misty Steps past his frost giant brethren, and attacks from behind.

Thoradin gets Sai back on his feet, only to have the frost giant axe him again, putting the wizard back down.

In the meantime, Edran, seeking high ground, meets the Oni that has flown in, invisibly. Edran shakes off the attempted Charm spell from the Oni, but the villain disappears again.

Thoradin heals Sai again, and our wizard is finally able to Misty Step away from the giants deadly axe. He gets off a spell or two, only to have the Oni toss down a bead from a necklace of fireballs onto he and Thoradin, and for the third time, Sai is down. Thoradin has his hands full though, as the cloud giant beats hell out of Selendra, and Krote and Joshua are going toe to toe with the frost giant. Edran flits from foe to foe, but isn't much help, as he is still unable to sneak attack, a condition Thoradin finally decides to do something about with a spell (delivered with a vicious slap across the face) that instantly sobers the lad up.

Edran, at last, punctures the frost giant a good one and then races over to aide Sai, who has been bleeding out. As Edran gets to Sai, he notices that Sai's handy haversack is missing. A second later, Sai's new staff of frost disappears as well, and Edran realizes that the Oni is helping itself to Sai's possessions.

Not far away, the cloud giant clouts Selendra hard enough to take her down, thanks, in part, to the armor of vulnerability. Thoradin gets her to her feet with a heal spell, and she rises, slamming at the giant with everything she has. The cloud giant had intended to flee, but Selendra cuts him down with a mighty swing.

Both giants are dead, and Edran has used a scroll and a potion to get Sai back up again. The four ogre are determined to die fighting, and they block the entryway, going up against Krote and Joshua, even as the Oni attempts to make his escape. The ogres are little match for Krote who mows them down in about two rounds. .

On a hunch, Thoradin casts a new spell: Dawn. It catches the Oni in it's wide area, causing him to go visible. The Oni tosses down another fireball bead that knocks Selendra down, then flies for the exit with Edran hot on his heels. Thoradin chases him with the Dawn spell as well, and it is extremely touch and go for a few rounds as the Oni attempts to get away.

They are chasing him down the tunnel that leads back to the upper lair, when he manages to turn invisible once again. Did he continue on down the tunnel? Did he double back into the grand hall? One thing is sure, he barely makes a save against Sai's Fireball, that, had he not, would have dropped him. As it was, the rounds begin to pass with no sign of him. It is with palpable frustration that they realize that the slippery Ogre-Mage has gotten away with Sai's precious belongings.

Hurt, low on spells, and pissed off but good, they content themselves with securing the dragon's horde.

It is Harvester 8th, approximately 1:30pm

Notes: They found a suit of armor among the items on the frozen adventurers. When they were back in the city of Pellak, Sai went ahead and attuned himself to the suit to find out what it's magical properties were. After finding out that it conferred resistance to bludgeoning damage he took it off and gave it to Selendra. Unbeknownst to either of them it was armor of vulnerability, and even though Sai took it off, he still carried the curse. I have to admit, I got a good chuckle out of that, and waited patiently for poor Sai to take an axe to the chops. Once he did, his new vulnerability to slashing damage nearly cut him in half.

As I was looking through the creatures in the lair I saw the Oni, and at first, didn't even know what it was. Looking it up in the MM I recognized the ogre-magi. The closer I looked at him, the more I liked what I saw. He doesn't pack much of a punch, but anything that can fly and be invisible at will just had to get some spotlight. This party has been used to rolling over most bad guys of late, and it was hard knocks when this Oni got the better of them. To be fair, he barely escaped. Sai actually caught him with a fireball at the very end, and had he not made his save, that would have been it for him. But save he did, and then he was gone. He really got under their skin, and you can't ask for a better villain than that. I think he'll have a place in this campaign's future.

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