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

Eirikrautha

First Post
I don't get it. Character "motivation" should be the least of a DM's worries. Seriously.

First, there's the tried-and-true method: "Your characters decide not to go into town? OK, hand me your sheets. Now roll up characters that have a reason for participating in this adventure, or you can DM instead."

Secondly, you do a little work beforehand. I've got a party of four. One is looking for a scroll of resurrection for his dead master, and his cousin lives in Greenest. The other is looking for his patron with his stolen lute, and the only clues are a scrap of paper with the word "Greenest" on it and a symbol. A third has been dispossessed of his lands and has an uncle hiding in Greenest. All had reasons to enter the town. I swapped out Markuth for the uncle, and after Cyanwrath killed him and dropped the player's character, instant motivation. Frulam was spotted wearing a medallion with the other character's wanted symbol on it. And guess what was in the church that was attacked? A scroll of resurrection that was taken by the raiders. Now I can string along the characters and keep dropping clues to move them towards the resolutions of both RoT and their own characters' stories. How hard is that?
 

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KarinsDad

Adventurer
One suggestion is to not follow the adventure verbatim. Our DM took us off on side quests and dropped the entire caravan chapter. She thought it was terrible. So, she changed it. Use some of the ideas of the adventure and some of the encounters, but flesh it out with your own material.

Our DM had to step down (too many commitments), so I took over. She had gotten us to Waterdeep at level 5, so I sent the PCs into the Ruins of Undermountain. One PC is looking for Dragonscale armor and another PC is looking for an Orb of Dragonkind, but none of the other PCs (or players) know why these two PCs wanted to go search under the city. So we did episodes 1 through 3, skipped 4 and 5, and will be picking back up at episode 6 at the castle (and the group already has hooks to lead them there).
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
My first suggestion is to use the Bonds from Appendix 1. They're really important to link player characters into the adventure.

I recently ran the first session of Hoard again for a different group, having already finished it with another. It was very interesting how much my understanding of the adventure had improved, and I was able to properly understand how the backgrounds linked in.

There are a few bonds that work a lot better if the character begins in Greenest - so, instead of having to run into the village, the character is either in the keep or making for the keep when they meet up with the other characters. This is most true of bond #2 (resettled in Greenest) and #6 (escaping the cult).

Other notes on initial bonds:
#1: Leosin was in Greenest, but got captured by cultists. The group may be able to find Nesim Walandra (chapter 2) a bit earlier if they look for him to learn about what happened to Leosin, although they still won't be able to rescue him until the initial raid ends.

#4: Onthar Frume is a senior member of the Order of the Gauntlet, a holy order dedicated to fighting evil. This bond works best when applied to a priest, paladin or character who strongly believes in the gods (and is likely good). He appears at the beginning of Episode 4 to guide the players on their quest, and is a major character in The Rise of Tiamat when he is on the Council of Waterdeep - and likely interacts with the party a lot.

#5: Talis wasn't kidnapped; she joined the cult! However, she has become disaffected (as seen in Episode 7). So, this bond gives a strong role-playing connection which will become important later. It is unlikely anyone in Greenest knows about her. (The characters probably won't interact with any cultist who will know and/or tell them!)

#9: Mondath is in Episodes 1-3, Bog Luck is in Episode 5, and Rezmir is one of the chief foes throughout the adventure - most of the time, the group will be chasing Rezmir, and have a chance to fight her at the conclusion of the adventure.

Cheers!
 
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koga305

First Post
<snip>

#9: Mondath is in Episodes 1-3, Bog Luck is in Episode 5, and Rezmir is one of the chief foes throughout the adventure - most of the time, the group will be chasing Rezmir, and have a chance to fight him at the conclusion of the adventure.

Cheers!

Great post! I agree that backgrounds are a great idea. One thing though - Rezmir is a "her."
 

GlobeOfDankness

Banned
Banned
As the OP, may I politely request that if you bring up things in the adventure that you think don't work, you also offer a potential solution, ideally something you've actually done at your table? As I said in post 17 above, I would like this thread to be a grab-bag of suggestions to give people running the adventure ideas and inspiration, rather than a place to analyze and discuss flaws in the adventure as written. There are plenty of threads already open--such as, for example, this one--where people can discuss why certain things about the adventure are or are not problems.

Thanks!


Thanks for posting your tweaks! I'm curious, do you have any plans for Rezmir's dragon mask to reappear? It seems like the cult might easily get wind of it being at the antique shop and get their hands on it again.

the antiquities dealer was the Karavakos guy. they didn't know at the time that he'd join up with the cult, but had known that he was in the market for a mask.
 

Taronkov

Explorer
Ok so to actually help out the OP... Add more healing potions or a cleric at the keep and make sure your party know that the first part is going to take multiple sessions(2-3 we've found on average) and it will be all one night. So there won't be time for a long rest. First time we played through it we didn't understand that and we burned through way to many of our powers early one leaving us little to nothing for the later fights. Also possibly modifying the rat scene in the tunnel. We had our first player death there do to the lack of a weapon that wasn't having it's damage halved. Now this wouldn't have been an issue if we had a caster(we initially didn't) but it is something to consider. It was honestly probably one of the harder fights we dealt with. Also our DM allowed(although it could be in the rules I don't remember) a party member to use an action to knock the rats of of a party member(since they can occupy the same square) that way you could, in theory, run away.

That's all I can currently think of, more as I go through my notes.
 

MrZeddaPiras

[insert something clever]
I started DMing HotDQ a couple of weeks ago, and I basically went through the first session two times because the first time the party got wiped by some wandering monsters (Ambush Drake + 3 Kobolds). A couple of them had never played 5th edition and they took some very poor tactical decisions. One thing I tried the second time was to print out a scan of the map of Greenest (with the location keys brushed out), and show it to the players as they approached the village. The players immediately got into the canal for cover and tried to get to the fortress, and that actually made it harder for me to set the scene for the very first "mission" with the running family and the kobolds. Later, when cleaning the tunnel exit from inside the keep, my players spotted the cultist patrol and just let it pass by without revealing themselves. I realized that it actually made little sense for them to engage the monster in that situation, since they aim to use the tunnel to get out of the keep undetected and a missing patrol would draw attention to it.
 

GuardianLurker

Adventurer
Tie it to RoT

So let me first preface this that I made a LOT of changes to HotDQ, because I'm running Phandelver/HoDTQ/RoT as one long campaign arc. Unless you're interested I won't talk about the Phandelver required changes (the two biggest of which are +3-4 levels, and coming in from the north instead of the south).

*Playing up the internal factions in the Cult is a good idea.
- For instance, Talis hired the Zhentarim to steal the White Dragon Mask from Varram.
- Try to place the "successors" of your enemy NPCs into the adventures as earlier mini-bosses.
- All the bosses are more concerned with not losing power in the Cult than actually defeating the characters; make the characters WORK to capture/kill that fleeing villain.

* Foreshadow key events in RoT
- In chapter 4, we're given a guy named Lasfelro hauling a wagon with a mysterious cargo and a chained gargoyle, but nothing's ever done with him - he's just color. In my version, he's hauling the Draakhorn down to the Well of Dragons.
- Use the gates at the lodge, and the ogre's "places the castle visits" to give the characters "previews" of places or events in RoT. For instance, the "south gate" would let the characters explore the village by Xonthal's Tower, before the Cultists start looking at the Mask. "That place in the moors" is Roth Modar's home fortress, where he leads the Thayan Resurrection from.

* The Council Scorecard in RoT is essentially already in play in HoDTQ
- And it doesn't have "Misc: Awesome Player Actions". For instance, how valuable do you think turning Talis would be to the Council? How about showing up having already brought the Giants onboard?

* If you're hearing train sounds from your players, you aren't using a big enough lure.
- Introduce Rezmir early. Frulam Mondath is introduced as the big bad for the Greenest invasion. When the players are at camp, show her groveling before Rezmir.
- Have Rezmir get away with NPC prisoners the characters care about and want to resuce. RoT has a ritual that's powered by soul sacrifice - where are all the prisoners coming from and going to?

* Your players will NOT follow the adventure's expected pacing.
- Prepare for "characters are early" i.e. Exploring the Dragon Hatchery during their initial scouting of the camp.
- Prepare for "characters are late", and if you're doing anything other than "always just in time", make sure you convey that info to the players. Be careful not to deprive them of necessary healing time.

For more ideas, read the negative reviews for the perceived problems, and figure out ways to fix them, then include that in your enhanced version.
 


jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I've been listening to some Actual Play recordings of the adventure to get inspiration and ideas on how to handle the trickier bits:

Begging for XP
The Escapist
The DiceStormers

The Begging for XP group had a good idea on how to handle getting the PCs involved. They had the PCs start out by traveling to Greenest in the company of Pate "Patchy" Nighthill, brother of the governor, Tarbaw Nighthill. Patchy is a former adventurer who gets his nickname from the eyepatch he wears. He is amiable, very friendly to everyone (even the half-orc), an excellent cook, and a good storyteller. He helps the party to bond while on the road, encouraging them to talk about themselves and sharing his own tales of adventure.

When the group arrives and sees Greenest being attacked, Patchy looks completely distraught. He goes into his wagon and starts rifling around. He comes out of the back with a bag, a mace, and a shield. He throws the bag to the PCs (it proves to contain a few healing potions), telling them they'll need it. Then he pulls off a medallion with his family crest which he has been wearing. "Give this to my brother. Get out of here! I'll distract the dragon." He strikes his mace against his shield, and the mace lights up. He starts running. As he does this, the dragon notices the magic weapon and swerves toward him. Patchy yells, "Run! Get down to Greenest, now! I'll cover you! Go!"

***

P.S. @GuardianLurker, those are great suggestions for integrating HotDQ with RoT! I'm keeping them in mind as I finish reading the adventures.
 

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