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5E Enhancing "Hoard of the Dragon Queen" (Practical stuff to try at your table!)

pukunui

Adventurer
The out-of-game reason is because Skyreach Castle is fun ...
Is it really? I've been reading over that chapter and I'm just not sure. I feel like it's potentially one of the weaker parts of the campaign. Blagothkus' reasons for helping the cult aren't all that convincing, especially given how easy it is to get him to betray Rezmir.
It also feels like a TPK waiting to happen, if you run it without making any changes. Rezmir's pretty tough, as are the two Red Wizards. Then you've got a vampire with two vampire spawn underlings, which just seems like overkill, some stone giants and an adult white dragon. It really is a death trap. I almost feel like skipping it just to make sure that we *don't* end up with a TPK.

Plus, if I were to skip it, it would solve the issue of there being two white dragons (back-to-back no less!) in the campaign and no red ones.

I can think of a couple of ways to patch it over. One is to let them get their resurrection more quickly than expected. Is there anyone left in the castle who might know exactly where some druids might be? Or what if a cult-aligned cleric/druid happens to come in through one of the portals--could they bluff a cultist into doing the spell for them?
I don't really want to cheapen character death any more than I already have, though.
 
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jayoungr

Explorer
Blagothkus' reasons for helping the cult aren't all that convincing, especially given how easy it is to get him to betray Rezmir.
Funny you mention that. I just got around to reading the entry on Giants from the Monster Manual in preparation for running The Frozen Castle, and I meant to post here that Blagothkus makes so much more sense in light of what it has to say. The giants believe that their creator god turned his back on them when they lost their ancient empires, and that they have to earn his favor once again. I wish I'd read that before I roleplayed Blagothkus the first time.

It also feels like a TPK waiting to happen, if you run it without making any changes.
For your group, you may have a point, since they do die rather a lot. I've become convinced that mine are simply unkillable. They even managed to get in a long rest, plausibly, while slaughtering their way through Skyreach. (Of course, it helped that they had Blagothkus and his ogres on their side by then.)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Is it really? I've been reading over that chapter and I'm just not sure. I feel like it's potentially one of the weaker parts of the campaign. Blagothkus' reasons for helping the cult aren't all that convincing, especially given how easy it is to get him to betray Rezmir.
It also feels like a TPK waiting to happen, if you run it without making any changes. Rezmir's pretty tough, as are the two Red Wizards. Then you've got a vampire with two vampire spawn underlings, which just seems like overkill, some stone giants and an adult white dragon. It really is a death trap. I almost feel like skipping it just to make sure that we *don't* end up with a TPK.

Plus, if I were to skip it, it would solve the issue of there being two white dragons (back-to-back no less!) in the campaign and no red ones.

I don't really want to cheapen character death any more than I already have, though.
I agree Pukunui, the Skyreach Castle is a hodge podge of stuff (as must things are in this adventure - not a lot of internal logic going on).

I've changed things based on discussion here (and probably lost). I have Blagothkus being blackmailed by the cultists as they have infiltrated Escarlotta's tomb and are willing to destroy her spirit if he doesn't go along with them.

I ditched the vampires and replaced them with an Ice Devil who guards the castle at night.

We're preparing for the big final battle (my players have already dealt with Rath Modar thanks to stealthy use of Silence to neutralize him) so I'm coming up with a special treat. They've learned that there's a teleportation ring in Rezmir's quarters (which they've not searched yet) that leads to Escarlotta's crypt. But what they don't know is that the arcane lock I've added to Rezmir's door will signal the Dragonwings in the crypt that the situation has gone south and they should perform the ritual. The PCs will have to battle past a helmed horror in Rezmir's quarters to get to the crypt and stop the ritual. I also plan to have the castle lurch about as Escarlotta's spirit starts to become aware of the threat.

The Ice Devil and the rest of the Dragon cultists will probably make an appearance (thanks to the alert) once they think they're safe :) Cue battle royale for control of the castle.

Hopefully it turns out well.
 
Hmm.. so I will have new players introduced to D&D and I'm thinking of running HOTDQ.
With all the tweaks to 'fix' it, is it really worth running it to new players?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Hmm.. so I will have new players introduced to D&D and I'm thinking of running HOTDQ.
With all the tweaks to 'fix' it, is it really worth running it to new players?
Three of the four players in my ToD campaign were more or less new players when we started. The fourth player, while he has been playing D&D of various kinds for years, was also fairly new to 5e when we first started. They've all been enjoying the campaign immensely! So yes, I'd say it's worth it.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Hmm.. so I will have new players introduced to D&D and I'm thinking of running HOTDQ.
With all the tweaks to 'fix' it, is it really worth running it to new players?
How new are you to DMing?

As I new DM I'm finding it a bit of a challenge as the adventure needs a lot of correction. In hindsight I should have run it more freeform (that's definitely when we as a group have more fun).

But the players seem to be enjoying it. About to finish up HotDQ so I'll be having a Q&A with them before we proceed to part 2 (if that's what they want to do)
 
Thanks for the comments above. Good to know that players are still ok with this adventure.

How new are you to DMing?
3.5: player and DM
4e: player and DM
5e: AL player but first time to DM 5e directly from a module

Will have to note the tips on enhance HOTDQ.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Thanks for the comments above. Good to know that players are still ok with this adventure.



3.5: player and DM
4e: player and DM
5e: AL player but first time to DM 5e directly from a module

Will have to note the tips on enhance HOTDQ.
Cool. I should qualify my remarks that we joined the adventure halfway in (after finishing LMoP) so our experiences don't cover the earlier chapters - some of which have some real gotchas so definitely read this thread.

I would say that fast and loose is the way to run this adventure. Strict adherence to the book will trip you up. Use it as a sketchy map rather than an authority.
 

cmad1977

Explorer
How new are you to DMing?

As I new DM I'm finding it a bit of a challenge as the adventure needs a lot of correction. In hindsight I should have run it more freeform (that's definitely when we as a group have more fun).

But the players seem to be enjoying it. About to finish up HotDQ so I'll be having a Q&A with them before we proceed to part 2 (if that's what they want to do)
I agree with Robus.
I want to post my experiences with HOTDQ, but it's gonna be a bit of a post. The long and the short of it is...
I ran it after having not gamed in years and decided to keep it simple, not adjust anything and run it by the book. It turned out to have highs and lows. In retrospect I should have used the book as a sourcebook. I'm running Tyranny of Dragons now more loosely than HOTDQ and it seems to be more enjoyable for everybody.
The 'failings' of the printed adventure were mostly my failing as a DM.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Sloblock

Explorer
On the subject of the Sky Caste, I felt that this was no better / worse than some of the other chapters as written.

Things I changed up

1. Made the two stone giants inquisitive about other races, and explain why Blagothkus was co-operating with the Cult and that they needed help to get him back
2. Made
Blagothkus a bit more approachable and then was able to get the PCs to rid the tower of the vampire ( and get the XP rewards )
3. As the PCs helped get rid of the Vampire,
Blagothkus said in the final battle he would face the dragon if they would deal with Rezmir.
4. I inserted a side scene in which the Red Wizards were going to take the mask early so to speak. The PCs whilst passing the room I put the Red Wizards in they hear "you take the mask and I will get it ready..." or something similar
5. and as I was off work ill, I then role-played out the battle between Rezmir and the Red Wizard and had this occur during the night, in the morning at breakfast there is a rumour that there was some issue during the night, PCs then signal the attack and fight a weakened Rezmir
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Just finished off the Skyreach Castle chapter. As noted earlier, Blagothkus was being coerced into helping by the cultists who had a crew around Escarlottas tomb ready to destroy her spirit if he refused. A teleportation circle in Rezmirs quarters guarded by a helmed horror blocked the way. An alarm attached to an arcane lock in her door alerted the cultists that they were under attack and should perform the ritual to destroy escarlotta.

The PCs struggled to take down the helmed horror then got to the tomb as the cultists were finishing their incantation. Savvy use of silence put a stop to that and the next stage of the battle was on. I had the castle lurch from side to side as escarlotta was sensing the danger - dexterity checks all round to keep ones footing. As they were finishing up with the cultists an ice devil burrowed through the ceiling and joined the fray! (I'd replaced the vampires with the ice devil - it turned out well :) ). A sorcerer had a wild magic surge that brought back a retired PC from LMoP and he gamely joined in. The battle continued and toward the end the retired PC was making death saves and the others were close. The retired PC was restored to health and landed a critical hit on the ice devil to win the day. It was an epic battle as hoped and planned. The players were reliving moments as soon as it was done.

A good evening of adventure. Now it's on to part two.
 

Sadras

Explorer
I still have some ways to go before we get to the Sky Castle. We are finishing up Murder in Baldur's Gate, which is going superbly well as one of the PCs is vying, via his noble background, to become one of the Dukes. Some crafty politicking and ingenious ideas have 2 of the factions manipulated into working with the PCs with a possibility that the Duke candidate may actually succeed given their current sway with the populace.
All this occurs within the backdrop of Tyranny of Dragons (running the storylines con-currently) as more information comes to light about the Cult through from their alliance with the Harpers Leosin and the moon elf Ysuran Auondril (the latter from Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II).

The PCs are currently under the impression that the Cult is somehow behind much of the mayhem within Baldur's Gate. They've just discovered Abdel was the hero from the PC games, but haven't realised Bhaal is very much the BBEG in this story-arc.
 
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Foreshadowing the Draakhorn

A while back I mentioned that I reworked things to foreshadow the Draakhorn's role in Rise of Tiamat. My players just survived the encounter last session, so now you all get to see it.

Oh, and a word of caution - this is an *extremely* tough encounter - the party was fully rested, full up on resources, it was the only encounter for the day, and it *still* took *everything* they had.

[h1]The Mysterious Fellow Travelers[/h1]

Notable NPCs:
  • Lasfelro the Silent, Dragonfang/Wizard 2
  • Leda Widris, Paladin 1
  • The Draakhorn's Gargoyle

Lasfelro is a cultist, and a moderately high-ranking one at that. He was part of a cultist adventuring party that sought the Draakhorn for Severin. They found it, well-guarded. He is the only survivor, and is currently transporting the Draakhorn south to the Well of Dragons, which he must do by hand as the Draakhorn's power makes teleportation magics (like the portals) both unreliable and hazardous. He is actually of high enough rank that he would probably recognize Rezmir in her true form. As it is, he's barely observant, as he's still dealing with the trauma of the Draakhorn, both its recovery and its continued presence.

The gargoyle is an integral part of the Draakhorn's protection, but is docile if no-one investigates the wagon or attacks it.

Leda is a Paladin of Helm fresh out of her noviate; she attached herself to Lasfelro to watch over the gargoyle and help protect the cargo.

Lasfelro is a dragonfang, but rather than possessing an Orb of Dragon's Breath, the Draakhorn has caused it to merge with him, granting him fire bolt[3d10] at will, and burning hands[6d6] twice per day. The gargoyle is non-standard, and is closer to being a stone golem than a real gargoyle. Leda is a 1st Level Paladin of Helm.

[h1]The Barrow Giant's Attack[/h1]
This happens during the trip to the Carnath Roadhouse, at a fortified stop along the way. Because of the strenuous nature of the combat, this should not occur on the same day, the day after, or the day before, any other combat-based encounter.

[h3]Enc: The Barrow Giant's Attack[/h3]
[sblock]
  • 20 Dwarf Zombies
  • 2 Giant Skeletons
  • 6 Ogre Zombies
  • The Barrow Giant
[/sblock]
Supplementary Monster Pack (not needed/used):
[sblock]
  • Wight
  • 12 Zombies
[/sblock]

During the night, attracted by the aura of the Draakhorn, a force of the Barrow-Giant , 2 giant skeletons , 6 Ogre Zombies, and 20 dwarf zombies attacks. They will be focusing their attacks on the Draakhorn. Without the player character's help, Leda Widris and Lasfelro will die, the Gargoyle will be destroyed, and the Draakhorn will be taken back to the Barrow-Giant's lair. Award a medium XP award if any of those three survive the attack due to the player character's efforts. For the remaining NPCs, the survival DC is 15+CR. Award the player characters an Easy XP award if any of the named NPCs survive the combat due to their efforts, award a Medium XP award if the NPC is Orvustia. Do not award bonus XP for the survival of Sulesdeg, Samardag, Aldor, or any of the cultists. The other NPCs are each being attacked by a wight and 12 zombies.

If Lasfelro does not die, he will go pale and start babbling about the danger of the Draakhorn and how it must be returned and safely guarded. If the gargoyle is destroyed, he will start trying to put it back together, babbling about how it kept the Draakhorn safe. Under the right guidance, Lasfelro will reveal that the necklace worn by the gargoyle helps keep the Draakhorn's energies suppressed.

If the gargoyle is not destroyed, it will pursue the Draakhorn immediately. and die before reaching the lair. Lasfelro (if alive) will tell the players to fetch the gargoyle, or at least its necklace, back.

Even if she survives, Leda is in no condition to pursue the Barrow-Giant.

If the party manages to keep the Draakhorn with the caravan, grant a Hard XP bonus award. Note that the Barrow-Giant will reform in 3 days if not killed in his lair, and he will continue to lead an identical force until the caravan passes beyond Carnath, or he successfully manages to acquire the Draakhorn.

If the party tracks the Barrow-Giant to its lair, it's easy to do so. However, the Mere does not count as difficult terrain for the Barrow-Giant's forces. It will take them 2 days to return to his lair. It will take the party 6.

[h2]Treasure:[/h2]
The Barrow-Giant was a Frost Giant King when he was alive, and warring against the dragons. His lair has the treasure hoard to reflect this: 1500 cp, 17000 sp, 4000 gp, 225 pp, 1 2750 gp circlet (which he wears), Spell Scroll of Web, Deck of Illusions, Boots of the Winterlands, and the Gauntlet of Frost (which he wears). The circlet and Guantlet of Frost are both parts of his regalia (as are the greataxes); returning these to the Giants grants a +3 bonus to any negotiations. Both the gauntlet and the circlet change size to fit the attuned wearer.

[h2]Development:[/h2]
If Lasfelro survives, he will repair, or replace, the gargoyle. Lasfelro has a ritual that can be used to replace the gargoyle, but it requires the necklace. If Lasfelro died, but Leda didn't, she will escort the Draakhorn to Waterdeep, as she knows who Lasfelro's contact was, but not about the gargoyle. If neither survive, the cultists will offer to escort the horn to Waterdeep. So will Sulesdeg and Samardag (who is young enough to not know what the Draakhorn is, and is no better at detecting cultists than the party). If the party insists on escorting it themselves, they will lose Rezmir and Skyreach Castle. Regardless, without the gargoyle, the Draakhorn increases Wandering encounters to the level used approaching Eastmarsh for the remainder of the trip. Additionally, every time a character is hit by a critical while within 5 miles of the Draakhorn, an additional 1 hit point of necrotic damage is inflicted, and no necrotic damage can be healed.

[h2]Custom Monsters[/h2]
Giant Skeleton
[sblock]
Huge, Undead, unaligned
AC 13 (armor scraps); HP: 125; Speed 40 ft.
Str: 20 (+5), Dex: 8 (-1), Con: 19 (+4)
Int: 6 (-2), Wis: 8 (-1), Cha: 5 (-3)

Saving Throws: None
Damage Vulnerabilities: Bludgeoning
Damage Resistances: Piercing
Damage Immunities: Poison
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive perception 8
Languages: understands Giant
CR: 4 (1100 xp)

ACTIONS
Multiattack: The giant skeleton makes 2 greatclub attacks.
Greatclub: Melee Weapon Attack. +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., 1 target. Hit: 18 (3d8+5) bludgeoning damage.
Rock: Ranged Weapon Attack. +7 to hit, range 60/240 ft., 1 target. Hit: 21 (3d10+5) bludgeoning damage.
[/sblock]

The Barrow Giant
[sblock]
Huge, Undead, Neutral Evil
AC 16 (chain mail); HP: 344 (16d12+112); Speed 40 ft.
Str: 25 (+7), Dex: 11 (+0), Con: 25 (+7)
Int: 9 (-1), Wis: 12 (+1), Cha: 17 (+3)

Saving Throws: Con +11, Wis +5, Cha +7
Skills: Athletics +11, Perception +5
Damage Resistances: Necrotic; Bludgeoning, Slashing, or Piercing from non-silvered non-magical weapons
Damage Immunities: Cold, Poison
Condition Immunities: Poisoned, Exhaustion
Senses: darkvision 120 ft., passive perception 15
Languages: Giant, Draconic, Archaic Common
CR: 9 (5000 xp)

Sunlight Sensitivity: While in sunlight, the Barrow-Giant has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom(Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Turn Resistance: The Barrow-Giant has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.

ACTIONS
Multiattack: The Barrow Giant makes 2 greataxe attacks.
Greatclub: Melee Weapon Attack. +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., 1 target. Hit: 26 (3d12+7) slashing damage.
Rock: Ranged Weapon Attack. +11 to hit, range 60/240 ft., 1 target. Hit: 29 (4d10+7) bludgeoning damage.
Life Drain: Melee Weapon Attack +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., 1 targets. Hit: 26 (3d12+7) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies immediately if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
A humanoid slain by this attack rises 24 hours later as a zombie under the Barrow-Giant's control, unless the humanoid is restored to life or its body destroyed. The Barrow-Giant can have no more than 32 zombies under its control at any one time.
Ballista: Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 120/480 ft., 1 targets. Hit: 16 (3d10) piercing damage; loading (as crossbow)
Gauntlet of Frost (1/d): Ranged Spell Attack +5 to hit, range 120 ft., 1 target. Hit: 7 (2d6) cold damage. (Essentially, as circlet of blasting, but cold instead of fire.)

LEGENDARY ACTIONS
The Barrow Giant can use 1 legendary action at the end of an opponent's turn. His options are:
Life Drain: The Barrow Giant may make an additional life-drain attack.
Rock: The Barrow Giant may throw an additional rock.
Guantlet: The Barrow Giant may use the Gauntlet of Frost. This does not change the number of times per day the gauntlet may be used.

LAIR ACTIONS
While in his Barrow, the Barrow Giant may, at the beginning of the round, summon 8 Ogre Zombies or 4 Giant Skeletons.
[/sblock]
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Lasfelro is a dragonfang, but rather than possessing an Orb of Dragon's Breath, the Draakhorn has caused it to merge with him, granting him fire bolt[3d10] at will, and burning hands[6d6] twice per day.
I was under the impression that the orbs weren't physical objects but just a magical ability similar to the chromatic orb spell.
 
Heh. That actually makes a little more sense. It completely unclear in the original write up - both ways would be statted the same. I've always envisioned them as physical things, along the lines of the artifacts the Orbs of the Dragons. It's why the Severin simulacrum has 5 different ones.

Thinkage must now happen.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Yeah, I'm pretty sure the orb actions that various cultists have, Severin included, are just meant to be magical abilities that aren't a specific spell. They're conjuring up a bit of dragon's breath that happens to be shaped like an orb rather than a line or a cone or whatever.
 

jayoungr

Explorer
While searching for something else, I just ran across another thread that has a minis list for HotDQ. I'm going to C&P the list here for the convenience of anyone who might need it. (Thanks, [MENTION=6320]AstroCat[/MENTION]!)

I started putting together a big ole list of what I'm gonna need to run this sucker. Here is my first pass. I think some of the named might be ok without minis but we'll see. I am gonna start looking through my collection and see what I'll need to pick up. Totally open to suggestion, edits, etc...

Oh and of course if your gonna play in it... Spoiler city!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1COEUE0FKWsvNnjuixn7fJ35awyoMcTI_ymfiBOax3JA/edit?usp=sharing

Here's the list in this post too...scroll down... (does enworld have the "click to open" type spoiler tag?)




























Episodes 1 - 3
Named:
Castellan Escobert the Red
Frulam Mondath
Governor Nighthill
Langdedrosa Cyanwrath (1/2 Blue Dragon champion)
Leosin Erlanthar
Linan commoner (Cuth and 3 children secondary)
Rezmir
Sergeant Markguth (Old Veteran)

Monsters:
Acolytes 2
Adult Blue Dragon (Huge) 1
Ambush Drake 6
Cultists 12
Dragonclaws 4
Guard 5
Guard Drakes 4
Human Berserkers 2
Kobolds 22
Kobolds, Winged 5
Roper 1
Stirges 10
Swarm of Rats 2
Townsfolk 6
Troglodytes 4
Violet Fungi 4

Episodes 4 - 6:
Named:
Ardred Briferhew Human Veteran
Azbara Jos (Red Wizard of Thay)
Blagothkus (Cloud Giant)
Bog Luck Half Orc
Brother Caemon Human Priest Amaunator
Captain Othelstan
Cultist Veteran Female
Dralmorrer Borngray Elf
Jamna Gleamsilver
Ontharr Frume
Pharblex Spattergoo Bullywug
Rath Modar (Red Wizard of Thay)
Sandeyl Morgia (Vampire Female Moonelf)
Talis the White
Tharm Tharmzid Dwarf (secondary) and 2 Human Helpers (Secondary)
Trepsin Troll 4-armed!
Wessic the Wizened (Old Male Human Wizard)

Monsters:
Adult White Dragon (Glazhael)
Air Elemental
Dwarf Female
Ettercaps 3
Giant Spiders 5
Merchant (Noble) 1
Merchant Guards 3
Helmed Horror 1
Griffon
Hobgoblins 6
Hobgoblin Captain 1
Human Veterans (Talis guards) 2
Lizardfolk 12
Human Bandits 12
Troll 2
Orcs 4
Ogre 3 (maybe up to 12 but secondary)
Perytons 2
Giant Lizards 8
Giant Frogs 12
Bullywugs 12
Crocodiles 8
Shambling Mound
Will-o-Wisps 3
Yuan-ti Malisons 2
Yuan-ti Purebloods 3
Otyugh
Giant Centipede 10
Dragonwing 10
Spectre 6
Gargoyles 4
Gray ooze
Rug of Smothering
Scout Human female
Stag (Elk)
Stone Giants 2
Stone Golems 2
Swam of Centipede 8
Vampire Spawn 2
Wyverns 2
 

Charles Rampant

Registered User
Sorry for the slight necro here - though I was actually not expecting this thread to have been active so recently! My party finished Curse of Strahd last night and, after a vote for the next campaign, Tyranny of Dragons won (12 points, with 10 for OotA and 8 for SKT, which I apparently didn't sell well). I suspect that, since they've played through PotA and CoS, they were keen to actually face a dragon or two - and I did play up the Epic Storyline nature of the campaign.

Anyway, today I sat and typed up a handout for the campaign, since I wanted the players to be able to interact with the geography and politics of the campaign. I thought that I'd share it here, since why not?

Link

I drew the information primarily from SCAG, the wikia, and a couple bits from SKT. I focused on the Factions, since I really like them but think that they work best when the players have a solid understanding of them, as well as the places that they'll visit in Hoard; I'm not sure if I've gotten a useful overview for Tyranny, and I worry also that the map and the places list are too obvious (e.g. listing the Mere of Dead Men). There are a couple red herrings, at least in part since they are close enough to the coast that it'd look weird not to mention them. I wanted to have a list of People, especially those that turn up in the Council of Waterdeep, but that seemed like it would be information overload at that stage!

Anyway, hope that this helps. My plan is to print it out in colour, and give each player a copy during character creation; that way they'll have something in their PC folder that'll help guide them through the adventure.
 
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