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

Torgaard

Explorer
So far we've only made it through Episode 1. Literally finished it last weekend. Here's my comments I guess...
  • Healing - Think about dishing out a few Potions of Healing before the adventure gets rolling. Dunno if I'd say "Everybody should get two!" or anything, but you should probably hand out a few. Maybe to the Cleric? Or maybe be ready to dish out a few more here and there if the need arises (though that could get risky, because they might have to survive an encounter to acquire the items that could save them). Maybe from the the Governor or Escobert the Red, once the party reaches the keep. Even through it does state Nighthill will offer them a pot or two, I don't think he offers until after the dust has settled. Why all this Potion of Healing talk? Episode 1 only takes place in the span of like 6 hours. If you have them run down just a couple of the suggested missions, then factor in a random encounter or two, the party might end up having 3-5 combat encounters in the 3-5 hours that the episode runs. If they want to save villagers, capture cultists, etc - they definitely won't get to take a long rest. Frankly, I had a hard time trying to justifying a short rest. People are dyin' out there, man! This is a raid. This is happening - right - now. It's really kinda "Go-go-go!", or at least that's how I saw it. If they're anything like the players in my campaign, if your spellcasters don't expend all their spell slots in the first encounter, I'd frankly be stunned if they hadn't by the time the 2nd or 3rd one roles around. By that point, they will be scairt. Outta healing and starin' down the barrel of another encounter or two. Now, for the record: this did create alot of really juicy suspense for the party, and I have to admit I enjoyed myself a little too much making them squirm. :>
  • Missions I Ran in Episode 1 - (1) "Seek the Keep" (2) A random encounter while the party rescued more villagers. (3) A sort of half small encounter, half theatrical encounter when I morphed the "Half-dragon Champion" encounter into a final run to the keep by the party with their rescued villagers where the half-dragon and a small armor of cultists almost reach them before they can reach the keep. (3) "The Old Tunnel" with its encounter. (4) "Prisoners" was completed with the Old Tunnel encounter, plus I merged it into (5) another encounter where (on the fly, I made up) a group of kobolds chasing a young girl who was fleeing towards the keep, the party rescued her, and she told them she'd first tried to reach the Temple of Chauntea but it was being besieged by cultists who were "Trying to burn it down right now! You must help them!". Which led to (5) the "Sanctuary" encounter. After the party rescued the people in the Sanctuary mission, it was on to (6) the "Dragon Attack". That was it. By then, the party had nuthin' left. Spells slots were gone, Potions of Healing were gone, Heal Kits couldn't be used on anybody anymore, and frankly the party was a frazzled and jittery group who were possibly gonna walk away with like PTSD.
  • Missions I Skipped in Episode 1 - "The Sally Port", because it made sense to run it middle-late part of the night, sometime after "The Old Tunnel", but by then the party was long out of spell slots so I chose not to run it. "Save the Mill" I just flatout skipped, because again: the party was almost completed drained of healing for most of the night. "Half-dragon Champion" because I pretty much hated the design of that encounter. As mentioned, I merged it into "Seek the Keep" and didn't actually have a fight with Cyanwrath (I wouldn't have let it happen, frankly).
  • The Dragon - It worked as designed for the party that I ran through Episode 1, though it should be pointed out that I made it relatively clear when describing what they saw in "Greenest in Flames", that it didn't see the party. That while they did just witness an actual adult blue dragon blasting away at this small village, that not long after it makes its little strafing run, it kinda disappears into the smoke, and the night (the sun is just setting). I then waiting until they were like right on the edge of town, and just about to begin "Seek the Keep" before I started describing how they could hear the roar of the dragon in the distance, and that they hear the detonation of another lightning attack (probably on the other side of town), etc. I then dropped a bit of background flavor here and there, where they'd be constantly looking over their shoulder, swearing they just saw some huge shape fly by overhead through the smoke, but it's too dark to tell, stuff like that. Building suspense basically, but never actually letting them see the dragon (until the "Dragon Attack" scene).
 

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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I found this Reddit post where someone has tried homebrewing young green slaads to replace the assassins in "No Room at the Inn." (That encounter was originally written with slaads, but then they were cut from the monster manual.)

Young Green Slaad

AC:16, HP:60, Shapechanger. Multiattack (2, Bite&Claw), CR:3 (700)

Bite (+4 to hit, 1d8+3)

Claw (+5 to hit, 1d6+3)
 

Tommy Brownell

First Post
I found this Reddit post where someone has tried homebrewing young green slaads to replace the assassins in "No Room at the Inn." (That encounter was originally written with slaads, but then they were cut from the monster manual.)

Young Green Slaad

AC:16, HP:60, Shapechanger. Multiattack (2, Bite&Claw), CR:3 (700)

Bite (+4 to hit, 1d8+3)

Claw (+5 to hit, 1d6+3)

I don't have my books with me, but I'm preeeeeetty sure slaads are in the Monster Manual. It was just decided that Assassins were slightly less scary and lethal than Slaads.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I don't have my books with me, but I'm preeeeeetty sure slaads are in the Monster Manual. It was just decided that Assassins were slightly less scary and lethal than Slaads.
Adult slaads are in the Monster Manual. The encounter originally featured immature slaads more appropriate to the party's level. Steve Winters has explained the history of the adventure on the WotC forums (link):

Steve Winters said:
Regarding the "No Room At the Inn" road encounter -- That encounter has a long, sad history. The original version was very different, because the villains were not assassins but young green slaads polymorphed into human form and out to cause trouble. Playtesters loved the original encounter because of the twist -- no one expected slaads in that situation.

But then young green slaads disappeared from the MM and we were instructed not to use them in this encounter. We cast around for alternatives and found no really good ones, but assassins were at least close to the slaads in power -- as they were then written. In hindsight, we probably should have dropped the encounter entirely and replaced it with something else, because making the villains into just a bunch of human a**holes took all the charm out of the situation. But it had been such a hit with playtesters, we hated to lose it.

The problem was compounded tenfold because, by the time monster stat blocks were finalized, assassins wound up significantly more powerful than the original slaads or even than assassins had been when they were chosen as the slaads' replacement. Thus, we wind up with the killer encounter described by the OP.

I recommend one of the following changes to fix it.

  • Use veterans instead of assassins. They're still just a pack of jerks, but at least they won't TPK the caravan.
  • Use doppelgangers instead, although that makes this encounter rather redundant with another.
  • Use werewolves instead.
  • Choose any other creatures you like in the challenge 3-5 range, select enough to make a tough encounter, and give them potions of polymorph, hats of disguise, or some other way to conceal their true identities until it's time for them to spring the surprise.
Any of those solutions would work, of course, but homebrewing young slaads is also an option!
 

cmad1977

Hero
I know that it's extremely nerd-uncool of me, but I'm really liking HotDq. The typos don't bother me as I can easily figure out what was intended. The 'railroad' issue is a non-factor as none of my players have had a problem with it. The 'difficulty' or danger of a TPK is frankly part of the fun. The heroes have had a hard time at moments, but with smart play have triumphed without me fudging rolls(which I'm willing to do, but haven't needed to). The opening sequence wasn't a problem because I made it clear, and to me it was clear in the text, that the dragon isn't just sitting on the edge of town blasting the castle, but strafing occasionally. And even the final fight with Cyanwrath clearly states that the player who faces him will be rescued by the townsfolk at the last minute.

My players seem to be having a blast and one of the thing that is surprising me is how effective the group is. Hunter ranger, assassin rogue, shadow monk, land Druid are the core and are handling things quite well.

I guess this was a little off topic, but all the nerd rage about tyranny of dragons has been bugging me a little as I find most of the criticism to be overwrought and at times hypocritical. Is the adventure a railroad or does it not provide enough guidance? To me it can't do both. And if people are afraid of the'work' that it takes to DM... Then don't. I'm certain it's far from perfect and I've changed parts as we've gone along to fit some of the character backgrounds... But that's just what you do.
 

sobchak

First Post
Completely agree with everything you said. No adventure is going to be perfect. You have to tweak it to suit your group, and your DMing style. I'm a player in HotDQ. Just finished chapter 3. Ever since I saw that massive dragon flying over Greenast and not laying waste to the town or raising the keep, I've been trying to unravel what is going on. Sure, it was an intimidating opening scene, but that only made it more fun. As a veteran player I knew there could not be design intent for the PC's to directly fight the blue dragon.

In our game the DM had the blue dragon return and "inspire" us to get the eggs held by the cult, rather than Leosin. And there is a drow faction courting us. But our DM is starting to go off the rails.

My best suggestions for the OP are the following:
1)Add a religious leader and/or merchant in the keep. Give the PC's someone else to interact with and get info. Also a way for players to get access to healing.
2)Make that dragon a talker. Don't miss out on the opportunity to mock those pathetic PC's. Potential for good RP, and perhaps PC's can learn something about the cult if they are clever
3)Read all the reviews and blogs about the raider camp. Put some thought into how you want to run it or it can turn out to be a confusing mess. Walking in to the camp as a player just did not make sense to me. Our group ran a number of raids against the cult. We took Izzek prisoner, very briefly, fought the duel with Cyanwrath, and Escobar the Red was in the camp as a double agent (and at the time we believed he was truly a traitor). Too many people recognized us for my PC to believe we could just walk in. Our DM even had undercover cultists watching the mercenaries when we infiltrated the camp. As a player, I really struggled with the camp.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I recently re-listened to the November-December episode of "Behind the DM Screen" (here). Mike Shea had some interesting comments on how he handled certain aspects of the adventure that don't seem to have made it onto his blog. I've transcribed his comments below (cleaning them up a bit to get rid of "like," "you know," interruptions, and things like that).

Mike Shea on the Tome Show said:
I actually threw in another thing that isn't in the adventure but helped me, and I'm hoping helped the players, and helped kind of centralize what's going on. I created this thing called the Council Quiet, a group of members of the five factions--it's actually four factions at this point, and then Jamna Gleamsilver, who's a Zhentarim, invites herself as the fifth member of the Council Quiet. Ontharr Frume is there for the Lords' Alliance, and Leosin Erlanthar is there as the representative of the Harpers. So each of these NPCs that the players have met are now together in Waterdeep as part of this council, and they're sort of deciding, "What are we going to do?" And the fun bit is, the party becomes part of the council, so they get a vote--they might even get the majority vote. So both groups [that I run for] got to decide, "Do we want the Zhentarim to join this group or not?" I had one group who said, "Uh, you know, we'll give them a trial basis," and the other group's like, "Oh yeah, they're fine."

So that was kind of a fun point, where they can say, "Here's what's really going on. The Cult of the Dragon is trying to resurrect Tiamat out of hell, and we want to stop that. There are five wyrmspeakers that are responsible for this, and we want to hunt down and kill the five wyrmspeakers and get their masks, because their masks are powerful. We want to start with Rezmir, who's the black wyrmspeaker that you guys have already seen, and find her through the trail of money that she's leaving, kill her and get the mask, and then find out who the other wyrmspeakers are and kill them too." So now it's a nice clean plot that can actually last through the entire next adventure.

I'm using [James] Intercaso's idea--let them go ahead and get the masks. The masks don't have to be this thing they can't actually get. They can be things they can get. Maybe they get them all, maybe they only get one or two, maybe they destroy them instead of keeping them--who knows what they'll do with them? But I think I've got a pretty good plan so the adventure can go forward regardless of what happens to the masks, yet they still have an impact on the game. If all five wyrmspeakers have all five masks and the party stopped and didn't get any of them, that means Tiamat's coming back at full power and she's going to kill them. For each mask they manage to either destroy or get rid of or whatever, she'll be a little weaker, until she's weak enough that they might actually be able to beat her. So I think that that's kind of a nice scaling way to have the masks have a big impact without being totally useless and without forcing them to go a certain way.

Now, all of the interesting bits about how certain wyrmspeakers are not necessarily loyal to the whole plan to resurrect Tiamat--that's all fine, and they'll still figure that out as they meet these wyrmspeakers. Then it's not boss fights one right after the other. One of them might be dead already. One of them might be betrayed. There could be all kinds of things going on with the wyrmspeakers at the same time. So I'm glad to have this sort of central moment now, before the big Waterdeep council occurs at beginning of Rise of Tiamat. Because right now, none of the leaders have any idea what's really going on; they don't really care. So they're not going to get involved. But they might have representatives who are like, "Yeah, we're a little worried about this." So that's why the Council Quiet sort of works.
 
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OpsKT

First Post
First, go through and take notes on the chapter before running. Not everything is in a good location in the text for at-table use.

Second, it really helps to have printed out the supplement pages for the monsters ahead of time, or to have copied down the stats. Not having to flip really smooths it out.

Thirdly, remember that not all the encounters presented are mandatory.

That last part is very important for chapter 6. If you try to run that entire castle as is, you will drive yourself nuts.
 

cmad1977

Hero
That last part is very important for chapter 6. If you try to run that entire castle as is, you will drive yourself nuts.

Yeah, I see that episode turning into a chaotic brawl between bullywugs and lizard men with the heroes kind of slipping through in the confusion.

Of course my players may very well try to build a catapult to fling themselves onto the ramparts.
 

Tommy Brownell

First Post
I ran it close to as-is, and used my hacked Savage Worlds/Army of Darkness Mass Combat rules to great effect when it all went down.

Most of the group disguised themselves as Cultists and brought their wounded Dragonborn party member in as a "prisoner", so he could heal, then they began convincing the lizard folk that he was a god, and they took to calling him "The Thunder Lizard".

Whole thing ended in the PCs leading the Lizard Folk in a full blown takeover of the castle in the early morning hours.
 

KingsRule77

First Post
I ran it close to as-is, and used my hacked Savage Worlds/Army of Darkness Mass Combat rules to great effect when it all went down.

Most of the group disguised themselves as Cultists and brought their wounded Dragonborn party member in as a "prisoner", so he could heal, then they began convincing the lizard folk that he was a god, and they took to calling him "The Thunder Lizard".

Whole thing ended in the PCs leading the Lizard Folk in a full blown takeover of the castle in the early morning hours.

That's sounds rad.
 

vandaexpress

First Post
I'm loving Hoard. I've made a lot of changes, I'll try to remember them and add those I've forgotten later:

- additional notes, backstory, and art for some of the characters and villains can be found at the WotC site, for example:
https://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/story/villains/rathmodar

- Another big plug for using the bonds at the end. All my players used them and it was quite helpful

- Read through the entire module, as well as rise of Tiamat, before running so you have a good handle on what happens and can adapt to PC decisions and enable them to do whatever they want while being able to gently steer them back on course. This addresses the railroad issue for me. I read both books through twice before running the first session. Very key for me as my players went WAY off the rails at the hatchery.

- Similar to the last point, I found that making a TIMELINE was enormously helpful. In other words, where is Rezmir? What is she doing? What about Leosin? What are they up to on a given day? When are the dragon eggs expected to hatch? When is Mondath expected to rendezvous with the rest of the cult after the eggs are hatched? This helps you to keep track of what the cult is doing if the PCs get distracted or captured. You can reference dates and times in journal entries left by cultists. For example my PCs found a journal in Baldur's gate wondering where Mondath was, because "she was supposed to be here by now". It makes the players feel like their actions have an impact, even at low levels. Feel free to revise and update your timeline as the situation evolves. I chose to start my campaign on Ches 1st, 1489 DR. It is now Tarsakh the 18th.

- I put some cult documents (strategic operations stuff) in different places that the PCs could turn in to gain influence with various factions. The documents might have cover identities for cult spies and the like

- Ed Greenwood had a few articles on WotC's site with writeups on cultist NPCs and spies in various cities. Good if you need a quick operative or if the PCs go off the rails and you need to reintroduce the cult outside of the established adventure locales.

- I made Escobert a drug addict who was coked out of his mind during the siege. He was deeply ashamed the next day and committed suicide. I wanted to communicate how traumatic the experience was. I think I got this idea from one of the remixes I read.

- During the Sally port attack, my party almost died. They had to retreat into the keep, the guards tried to help but mostly got killed, they left governor Nighthill alone with the cultist he was interrogating. During the Sally port combat, the cultist broke free and tried to strangle Nighthill. This put the PCs in a tough spot as they fought a rearguard action against the oncoming forces while racing to save the governor in time from the cultist. It was very dramatic and makes the encounter much better.

- if you use minis, the Star Wars yuuzhan vong minis from wiz kids are cheap and work great for cultists (black leather armor with spikes). I changed the flavor on the cultists so that they had dragon whips and dragon staves to match the weapons on the minis. The default cultist mini can be found in the tyranny of dragons icons of the realm packs from wiz kids but the vong are way cheaper.

- Put a ballista atop the keep and have Escobert load it, one PC aim it, and another fire it. I don't know. Honestly the dragon scene fell flat for my group. I'd eliminate it if I ran it again.

- If your party doesn't have a cleric (especially for the first couple episodes), give them an NPC life cleric to run. A cleric of Bahamut is an interesting choice. I created one using the "former gold dragon" bond. She became a favorite of the party. I feel that the church of Bahamut in general can be introduced as a helpful faction in this and the following adventure.

- The artist for most of the characters is Bryan Syme, I think. You can find his deviant art account and download character portraits and images. I run a wiki on obsidian portal and like to update the portraits for NPCs when they die so they're black and white and say RIP in bright red letters. The players love seeing the body count of cult leaders rise over time.

- I found it beneficial to download lots of purple-garbed portraits to represent various wearers of purple the party might encounter. Mid level leaders and the like.

- if you run the caravan, give the cultists more personality. I made the leader of the caravan cultists an insane true believer named Ivor Marvaldi. He had a dream where Tiamat spoke to him. In reality it was a devil manipulating him to get more information on cult plans (a servant of the bone devil referenced in Rise of Tiamat). He is an insane abusive psychopath. I put him in an abusive relationship with a masochistic priestess of loviatar named Merona who always has warding bond cast on Marvaldi (share the pain). Marvaldi becomes enraged when anyone but him hurts her (he's a veteran but gains the reckless trait when she is attacked). One could use these cultists as the murder victim/veteran from the caravan. As for my group, well, they left Marvaldi floating face down, dead in the indoor pool of a whorehouse in the red light district of Baldur's gate. Long story. Give him a Russian accent and make your eyes really wide when you play him for extra crazy.

- Introduce the Lord's Alliance when the party hits Baldur's Gate. I used a polite and well-spoken female half-Orc bounty hunter (Hagatha) who works for the Patriars. They aren't too serious about the cult, but they may have one operative who is monitoring the situation for national security purposes. The PCs may run into her as early as Greenest and she keeps popping up with her partner, a silent Dwarven diviner named Glimmer (a joke, since the dwarf is perpetually scowling and grumpy). She is aloof and never discloses too much information. She seems to be tracking Rezmir as well, and I found my party's curiosity about Hagatha was enough to give them additional motive to track the cult. I used the pathfinder portrait for a character named Imrijka to represent her. You can google it.

- Put a loved one or close friend in the dungeon at Naerytar. If a player is searching for them, drop hints as early as greenest in journal entries etc that hint about where the loved one is.

- I put another Harper in Baldur's gate, Bianca, Leosin's former lover. I felt it was useful to show the organization was large and had agents everywhere, especially in big cities.

- If any of your players are barbarians, I made a hook that one of them came from the Icewind Dale region, a reghed barbarian of the elk tribe, and unbeknownst to him, his family and tribe has been enslaved by a rival tribe that's in cahoots with the cult. The berserkers encountered with Cyanwrath in the hatchery are from the rival tribe, which should confuse the PC since they're far from home. The rival tribe helped the cult locate a dragon mask up north. The PC will have the opportunity to discover the fate of his tribe and save them in Rise of Tiamat when the party goes north.

- it was helpful for me to hex out the map of the sword coast to help with constructing a timeline.

- I put a merchant in the keep in greenest with healing potions. He turns out to have ties to the Zhents and allowed me to introduce that faction early on. He offers to pay the players or somehow reward them if they bring him a dragon egg from the hatchery. Zhent-aligned PCs get discounts on goods. Enough to make other chars seriously think about working for this shady organization. ;) His name was Lysander and I used the turban guy portrait from the cover of dead in thay (the portrait is available for download in the gallery section of the Wizards website)

- Level 2 is a great place to start the first episode, as suggested by slyflourish.

- Rezmir makes a good baddie to tie into a char background (murdered a lover or something) since so much of the adventure is spent chasing her. This is a good bond for neutral or evil aligned characters (revenge) since fulfilling it makes the character a major enemy of the cult and puts them in opposition for the rest of the campaign when they might otherwise say "screw it, I'm out of here, not my fight"

- My group got TPK'd in the hatchery when one pc was an idiot and ran off by himself, Mondath captured them. I gave her the ideal of greed based on her brief description. As a result, the PCs were able to convince her to leave the hatchery and take them to Baldur's gate where one of the PC's parents paid a ransom. This ended up turning into a big mini arc, I ended up running an abbreviated version of Murder in Baldur's Gate, and I put a secret cult safe house beneath wyrm's rock that was controlled by a dragon wing named Lazaro. He had messages and letters from Rezmir and a map to the roadhouse/Naerytar. The adventure in Baldur's gate wound up replacing the traveling chapters and worked really well. It introduced power players from the LA for use later in RoT

- Mondath is hated by the PCs since she TPK'd them, but she got captured by slavers while trying to evade them. Long story. I decided she was sold to the red wizard renegades and when they found out who she was, Rezmir demoted her and left her as property of Azbara Jos. She has basically been humiliated and experimented on with magic. She will return later on as a vampire, replacing sandesyl.

- I gave Azbara Jos a sister using the portrait of phaia from dead in Thay. She is a loyalist with szass tam and is looking for her brother. The pcs can either help her or kill her or ignore her. She becomes the liaison to the loyalists for the Thay section in RoT. This seemed appropriate since the text describes AJ as being curious about the PCs opinion of the splinter group's plan, telling me he has doubts.

- Use Rise of Tiamat style cult reprisals on the party if they are known to the cult, especially in large urban areas like BG or Waterdeep. This may not work well if the PCs did a good job maintaining cover. Mine didn't.

- Jared Blando's maps are available online at very affordable prices in high res for printing or use with VTT software.
 

vandaexpress

First Post
Other stuff:

- If your party has more than 5 people or less than 4, take the time to rebalance the encounters by plugging the enemy CRs for each encounter into the table in the Dungeonmaster Guide to figure out the xp budget that was used. Adjust the budget based on your party size. In my case, this meant adding a few more enemies for some encounters.

- The Hatchery's meat locker or empty vault might make a good place for the party to take a rest if needed. I put a sleeping cultist in the meat locker (like they did with the vault) to help illustrate the fact that the PCs can probably get away with resting there. If they get TPK'd in the hatchery or the camp, these also make good places for them to wake up as prisoners and escape. Put their weapons one of the rooms or something and sprinkle some CR 1/8 guards in between in small numbers. Or better yet, put their weapons ON the guards.

- Remember the raid on Greenest takes place in dim lighting and to apply the necessary penalties to creatures without darkvision. Remember most of the cultists do not have darkvision, which should enable easier sneaking for the PCs.

- Don't stress too much about including the caravan chapters if they don't seem to be interesting to you or your group. You can easily substitute pretty much any kind of challenge in the interim and then have Leosin contact the party and say he's got a lead to the Carnath roadhouse once they're ready, level wise.

- I implemented the spellcasting as a service table from the adventurer league's handout, this provides the party with access to raise dead for 1,200gp, among other things, so long as they're in a major city. Given the chance of PC death, this seems smart.

- I put a Kobold boss in the Hatchery (in the barracks) named Wyrmnugget. He's a wyrmpriest (basically a kobold with eldritch blast and bless). I wanted there to be a hierarchy amongst that portion of the cultist presence. Wyrmnugget can be encountered when infilitrating the raiders and can be manipulated into turning on the other cultists who have a tendency to abuse the Kobolds. Appealing to his delusions of grandeur is the way to do this. That being said, he is a coward. He might just take a simple bribe (or "offering") to leave the PCs alone.

- I supplemented the raiders with Orc Mercenaries called the "Pale Ravagers", a minor faction. Use them to provide additional variety in the enemies at low levels. The Pale Ravagers are cooperating with the cult because the cult lets them get slaves during the raids on the towns. By the time the raider camp mission comes around, though, they've made a big nuisance of themselves with constant squabbles with the humanoid cultists. They can be used to create a distraction (brawl) during the infiltration mission. The Ravagers can continue to harry the party on the road to Baldur's Gate before the party squares off with their leader as an encounter on the road to Waterdeep. Use the Orc Warchief stats for the leader, eye of gruumsh or Orog for lieutenants.

- If you use minis and have the coin, Gale Force 9 has produced excellent unpainted figs for some of the cult leaders, sandesyl, pharblex spattergoo, naergoth bladelord and Rath Modar. I purchased them and had them professionally painted for about $25 a piece. It's pricey, but worth it if you have the coin and want to bring maximum production value to the table. Alternatively, you can paint them yourself if you're handy with a brush (I'm not).

- Consider throwing Galvan the Blue Wyrmspeaker into the adventure somewhere. Reskin Talis for his stats. Maybe give him some features from the blue dragon mask. He's got a picture and a background online, I'm guessing he was cut, which is a shame. You can never have too many villains. He has ties to the Red Wizards, so you can include him as part of the Azbara Jos or Rath Modar encounters if you think your party can handle it.

- The stats for each of the dragon masks was posted online somewhere. Probably more relevant for RoT than HotDQ but you never know, especially if your PCs go off the rails.

- I've read that Borngrey and Pharblex are underpowered (I'm just getting to Naerytar, so I haven't run them, but eyeballing the stats, I agree). Slyflourish recommends maxing up their HP and giving them an 18 or two to keep them from being pushovers. I agree with this decision and will implement it.

- If the PCs botch the infiltration mission in the camp, set up a delayed timer where enemies show up really far away at the beginning of each round, with Mondath and Cyanwrath eventually arriving. This might allow the PCs enough time to free a few of the prisoners before booking it. Most of the cultists are confused about who is a spy and who is supposed to be there, lots of chaos means that rolling a natural one isn't going to automatically result in party capture immediately.

- If you do the caravan mission, pick a few of the NPCs included and develop them to be long-term allies for the PCs. Consider including members of the Emerald Enclave, Lord's Alliance, etc. There is a noticeable paucity of allies after a certain point in HotDQ. It's helpful to fill out those ranks with friendlies, especially with faction allegiances, who can help advise and point the PCs in the right direction.

- You can do what you want, but I chose to restrict the PCs from picking dragonborn as the module states that Rezmir causes quite a stir as a half-dragon. It seemed like the players would logically wonder why their dragonborn companion wasn't causing a similar stir. A DB would stand out on infiltration missions as well, which can be problematic or beneficial if the PCs develop the DB char as a major cultist. They'd be quick to accept him for his draconic bloodline, I'm sure.

- Throw in as much dragon stuff in the character backgrounds as you want. Any character that has an interest in or a background relating to dragons will be MUCH easier to steer along the campaign, as they will want to learn more about all things dragon.

- I gave one of the characters a draconic research guide as a treasure (it was made for him by the scribes he saved from the temple of bahamut). It makes a great piece of flavor for a wizard or sorcerer that likes dragons. Among other things, it allows the owner to reroll any failed intelligence check relating to dragons with advantage if he has at least 10 minutes to consult the book. Additionally, it gives him access to the dragon statblocks in the MM. It's resistant to the various elements used by dragons and functions as a scroll case. This is great flavor, but also really helps the PCs to draw interesting conclusions and learn things based on various draconic iconography that they might encounter in various cult lairs. You can combine it with another uncommon magic item if you choose. In my case, I made it function as a pearl of power when it's attuned, allow it to function as a spell focus, and have it radiate dim light for 10 feet when opened and delivers a small elemental shock when someone other than the owner tries to open it. Mechanically it's a pearl of power/scroll case/focus/skill enhancer. Not game breaking at all, but it's that player's favorite item in the game.
 

cmad1977

Hero
I'm currently preparing for chapter 4. My intention is to make the wagon train function kind of like a small town. 9 wagons, three of which are cult wagons using the business as a front. With cult guards secretly sprinkled throughout the rest of the train and the heroes hiring on with whoever they can I hope to have some interesting/unexpected conflicts to arise.
I'm looking forward to the 'assassins in the inn' part as I'm re-skinning that to be a group of monks from a rival school of one of the PCs. 'Oh... Your shadow style... Is no match... for... fire dragon fist!'
 

pukunui

Legend
Has anyone got any resources to share? I mean things like pictures and handouts they've used during their sessions and stuff.
 

cmad1977

Hero
Has anyone got any resources to share? I mean things like pictures and handouts they've used during their sessions and stuff.

I don't really have anything off hand. I out together an index card for each wagon in the train with a brief description of cargo and personality of the owner. I'll use them to randomly determine what wagons are involved in whatever goes on. Hopefully that provides the heroes with a few NPCs to remember.
 


pukunui

Legend
It seems to me like a lot of people got hung up on the idea that the adventure starts with a dragon attacking a village. I know that the read-aloud text actually says that, but I got the impression from the "Dragon Attack" section that Lennithon has spent most of the raid just flying overhead, weakening the town's defence by merely being present. Hence why that mission is labelled "Dragon Attack" - it represents when he changes from "support" mode to "attack" mode.

Just a thought.


EDIT: Another thing people seem to get stuck on is the whole "Why is the cult taking the loot all over the Sword Coast only to end up back where they started?" Steve Winter's answer is twofold: 1) Going straight from Greenest to the Well of Dragons would leave too obvious a trail, and 2) The caravan carrying the loot from Greenest is just one of many.

With that in mind, I think it would be cool to have more cultists (with more loot taken from other parts of the Sword Coast) join the caravan on its journey. Maybe another wagonload of cultists could join up just south of Dragonspear, where those two roads meet, and another could join up at Daggerford, having come down the Delimbiyr Route from Secomber and around there. Maybe there could even be a wagon or two at the Roadhouse that had come down from the north. This way you can *show* the players that the caravan they've been following is but one of many.
 
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YourSwordIsMine

First Post
I bought HotDQ when it first came out in hopes of running it after Phandelver. I was a little annoyed that it started so far away, so I looked at it as running it as a start to a campaign. And that's where I began to run into problems.

The more I read of the module one thing stuck out above all else. I kept having this nagging feeling that the whole module was written with a higher level party than levels 1-8. Every encounter and scene seemed to be written one way and then changed to be Level 1-8 last minute without really changing the base assumptions of the encounters. I know I am not describing this feeling very well, but this was the impression I got as I was reading it. Its why I set it aside eventually and figured I'd never get to use it.

But, I think I might look at it again with a new perspective. I'm thinking about still running Phandelver, and then moving from there into PotA. This would bring the party up to L15 or so. At this point I think I will rework Tyranny of Dragons to be the culmination of my campaign. Starting HotDQ at L15 seems to be about right with the assumptions of the story (stopping army of cultists and dragons from raising Tiamat). It just feels right compared to using it for lower level characters...

IMHO anyway.
 

vandaexpress

First Post
Random tip: Google the names of the illustrators from the credits—many of them have online galleries that include artwork from HOTDQ. I know I already mentioned Bryan Syme, but I was able to do this to grab a shot of castle Naerytar from the chapter info for setting the stage when my party arrives.

Also, there are stats for all of the dragon masks out there somewhere, in case your party comes across more.
 

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