5E Enhancing "Rise of Tiamat" (Practical stuff to try at your table!)

Sloblock

Explorer
The foam board sounds great and does make it feel more epic. These are things that should have been in the book!

I filled in the meetings with reports from 2 other groups of Adventurers and other fluff from the realms. Sean over at http://thecampaign20xx.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 had a group called Darks Company, I used the characters from his Tyranny of Dragons campaign. The PCs hated competition and the running joke throughout our subsequent campaigns is that everyone sings songs about Dark’s company rather than the PCs.
 

grob76

Villager
Hi all, I just wanted to add my small contribution since I got so many great ideas from all of you guys. I was disappointed with all the Draakhorn idea: the first time players hear the sound it was really scary, and they soon went to the Sea of Moving Ice to find out more about it, even if in the end Maccath provides no real additional information, at least in the adventure as it is written. So I pimped it up a little, and decided that the horn has a secondary effect that only Maccath knows: not only it calls back all chromatic dragons, but it can also knock out metallic ones. This makes it a much more valuable asset for the Cult forces. Moreover it turned out pretty well in the Metallic Dragon episode, since right in the middle of the Metallic Dragon Council the Cult forces kicked in, flying on Skyreach Castle (my players did not succeed to crash it at the end of the previous book), blasting all the Draakhorn power, and trying to kill all the stunned metallic dragons there. The players had to sneak in the castle , find the Draakhorn and stop its sound before the Metalic Dragons were slained.
 

Eltab

Villager
I was disappointed with all the Draakhorn idea
The player with a Ranger character wasn't happy that I "played his character for him" when I tried to foreshadow the Final Battle a little bit (by giving them a clue where the Cult's base is).

The group had heard the initial call of the horn while they were in Waterdeep.
The group heard it again, one day out from Waterdeep, and I told them the sound might be coming from somewhere southeast.
Just before they tracked down Varram, I had the Ranger wake up to watch the sunrise. He could hear the horn sound in the quiet moment between the night creatures going a-bed and day creatures stirring in the morning. It seemed to be coming from the east.

None of the group thought to get out a map and run a rough plot. If the campaign had lasted all the way through, I would have had the Council send the group off on some mission and have a member (probably whoever they didn't especially like) tell them "by the way, find out where the Draakhorn IS when you get a chance, would ya?"

edit: The truly ancient dragons who just sit on the sidelines for both Tiamat and Storm King, should probably awaken and stir from their ages-long slumber because the Draakhorn buzzes in their ears like a nasty alarm clock.
The metallic dragons on their Council should mention it too. An additional way to gain favor with the metallic dragons could be to create / invent an "aspirin" or "earmuffs" for them...
 
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akr71

Explorer
My group is nearing the second "Cult Strikes Back" and now that MToF is out I had the though of replacing the Yugoloths (Nycaloth & Mezzoloths specifically) with Abishai.

Pros
Abishai are devils, loyal to Tiamat which makes more sense, story wise.

Cons
Even though the strike is meant to be a power statement by the Cult, I don't want to accidentally TPK. This limits me to Black & White Abishai which don't have any of the magical abilities of the Yugoloths (teleport, invisibility). Those are the kind of things that really panic my players and make them step up their game.

Thoughts?

I could always save the Abishai for the Well of Dragons and would be more interesting than more high level Cultists.
 

Eltab

Villager
Even though the strike is meant to be a power statement by the Cult, I don't want to accidentally TPK.
You got further into Tiamat than my group and I did, so maybe a purchase of Morton Salt (trade goods) would be in order:

Yes you do want to try to TPK the group with this. A power statement doesn't work if the intended target survives; the other meddling hero groups learn 'Team Villain is not as tough as they think they are', if Team Hero strides out of the smoke of battle visibly still functional.

IMC, my metagame plan was to teach the group to cooperate and good battle tactics. I seriously tried to kill them only with Arauthator (even then I got interested in 'how are they going to get out of this one?' half-way through, and they did) and with the assassins. The Cult Strikes Back scenes SHOULD feel different from the other encounters, like the PCs have made a difference in thwarting / delaying the Cult's plans with all their other activities - and the Cult wants revenge.
 

akr71

Explorer
You got further into Tiamat than my group and I did, so maybe a purchase of Morton Salt (trade goods) would be in order:

Yes you do want to try to TPK the group with this. A power statement doesn't work if the intended target survives; the other meddling hero groups learn 'Team Villain is not as tough as they think they are', if Team Hero strides out of the smoke of battle visibly still functional.

IMC, my metagame plan was to teach the group to cooperate and good battle tactics. I seriously tried to kill them only with Arauthator (even then I got interested in 'how are they going to get out of this one?' half-way through, and they did) and with the assassins. The Cult Strikes Back scenes SHOULD feel different from the other encounters, like the PCs have made a difference in thwarting / delaying the Cult's plans with all their other activities - and the Cult wants revenge.
Hmm, you've given me something to think about here. The difficulty for what I have planned out is in the 'Deadly' category already.

I'm planning on the second attack on happening in a populated area (a town square) with an adult black dragon. The dragon is going to stick to the air. There will likely be lots of civilian casualties - afterwards the survivors will not look too kindly on the party from bringing this down on their sleepy town.

Don't get me wrong - I'm planning on coming at them hard, but I don't want them to feel I set them up to fail with no chance to succeed. Many of the encounters have been met with methodical planning - I want to see what they do in a completely reactionary position.
 

akr71

Explorer
I should add that these players, while they have a healthy respect for a dragon in it lair, a dragon out in the open where they can't somewhat corner it terrifies them. Glazhael(sp?) escaped them on the cloud castle and teamed up with Talis the White. Talis and the dragon ambushed them as they were about to enter the Tomb of Diderus. She offered a shortcut (the secret door into the final room) in exchange for them retrieving the White Mask for her.

Why did they cooperate? Because she threatened to have her white dragon rip their airship from the sky and let the innocent crew plummet to the ground. It was their first real setback where they didn't get exactly what they wanted and it was all due to a flying dragon threatening much weaker allies.

The black dragon hitting the town square (& perhaps their airship) when it is full of powerless commoners is going to hurt more than a character death I think. Sort of "Ok, coming after us powerful adventurers in one thing. We can take it & if we fall, we have powerful friends who will resurrect us, but innocent townsfolk! How dare they!"
 
Enhancng thw tomb of diderius

Ive just finished runn8ng through the tomb of diderius and have a few points to make to enhance it, upgrade if you need to and shift the focus a little.

- previously in the first council meeting the pcs learned that varam was rumoured intheserpent hills, te pcs were dispatched to the sea of movng ice and another adventuring group was sent to the hill.
- another group of heroes was sent to soubar to slay a great green dragon that was ravaging the countryside.
- The pcs found out from macath that varam called on makath to fond the location of the well of diderius.
- the location was revealed as serpent ISLE not hills so the others guys had a bad lead.
- this helped lead the pcs straight on in pursuit of varam on the rocky desert serpent isle.
- they found varams beached longship but guards were gone(killed by predatory yuan ti)

- they found the tmple and scouting around discovered some shallow graves. And blood marks leading to the well.
- i changed the trolls to blue and red slaad.(all grey so it didnt give the game away for those monster manual readers). I use the colour as just the portal iol slick colour when they are either banished or summoned. And the colour of thier blood.
- they searched down the well and found blood pools where the red slaad feasted o;the remaining guards.
there was on guard corpse ther that had a viscious chest wound. The pc barbarian recoginised this as similar to the wickedly barbed spears of his people, hinting at the chest burst death of a red slaad victim.

Other Monster. changes
- my pcs are quite a bit more powerful so i have 3 stone golems instead of one.
- manticore i simply reskinned to a land based beast with 5 base attacks instead of 3.
- i changed the barbed devils into male 3 erinyes easily mostaken for angels. These erinyes massacrd the mumies that our pc priest turned so the pcs were also wary of attacking. i played the erinyes as entirely despising varam and the followers of tiamat in general so willing to assist the party with information.

- despite their level the party had real trouble withfood and water. On their first rest retreat they went hungry and did some tense digging in the wet sand at the base of the well to find potable water.

- i havent played outthe yuan ti section yet but have planted a grey slaad in human form as another captive. He is really relishing causing chaos amongst the yuan ti sureptitiously. When the party are parleying he is goignto see an opportunity for causing more trouble and will choose that point to break his weakened bonds, attack the yuan ti from the rear and call on his ‘rescuers’ assistance against thes vile cannibal snake people.
 
I like the abisahai idea and may add them to encounter 3. After skyreach my pcs learned from the zhents than not only were the cult intent on killing the party b7t had put a large price on thier heads. A powerful eastern mercenary group based on the ten thunders from malifaux took up the mark. The second attack, largely about me4cenary yugoloths, is going to be when the ten thunders strike.
- 2 assasins
- 2 gladiators
- 1 shadow thief with poisoned weapons
- some sort of outer planar me4cenary thrall beef

its not practical for the attempt to be after the6 are already weakened for standard remote adventure chapters so the assassins will set up a couple of softener assaaain attempts through the day to soften them up before e the real hit.
 
I am approaching the Neronvain chapter of rise of tiamat and am troubled by his stats.
he looks to have 18 hit dice but as what? An 18th level what. I presume he doesnt wear armout given his AC is only 17: 2 from dex and 4 from the mask gives a 16 base alone. My 10th level party will eviscerate him. Any ideas on how to flesh him out (arcane archers etc...?).

NB: instead of hostage elves I am using allied "beastmen of Malar" who are natural enemies of the elves in both the high and misty forests.
 

akr71

Explorer
Nerovain has Eldritch Arrow and like higher ranking Dragon Cult members (Dragonfang & Dragonsoul) have a warlock feel to them. Not Warlock abilities, but just a feel. I would say that the 18 HD is fudged to give Nerovain enough HP to last long enough in battle to make it interesting. Given the shortsword and multiattack, I would have thought a fighter as a base would be better.

Certainly some allies or minions to soak up damage will help. I upgraded one of the Dragonfang to a Dragonsoul. The Dragonsoul ran from the party to warn Nerovain. They both ran to Chuth's Lair - I had a counter start at that point and Chuth showed up mid battle. The Dragonsoul was already injured and went down quickly. My party was intent on taking Nerovain alive, so he lasted longer than expected. He even dove into the pool and tried to swim away.
 

Eltab

Villager
My group figured out the Wyrmspeakers were all human and therefore were good targets for Hold Person. Think about how to defuse that plan.
Our Wizard and Barbarian planned ahead and set up an Alpha Strike on Neronvain.

When he gave them arrogant backtalk during an interrogation session (including my OOC comment "I'm not prepared for this yet; how about next week?"), they cut off his head.

The campaign went on permanent hiatus the next session (my job hours changed) but I was thinking about a scene back at the Council where they would report their doings, the Elven King would put two and two together, break out lamenting "Neronvain, Neronvain, my son, my son!" and collapse.
 
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Ok I’ve settled on neronvain being a classed arcane archer 15.
i didn’t like the captive elves so changed them to evil wild elf barbarians - natural enemies of the wood elves of the misty forest.
the females all have scout stats and the males have ogre stats (due to psychotropic Druid creatin juice provided b6 the shamans(Druid worshippers of malar).

if the party lose I will have any survivors added to the hostage numbers and ferreted by the cult to the well of dragons for eventual sacrifice.

this gives an easy means of introducing any new pcs.
it lets the party be active in the location of the well of dragons.
they can then be provided with chances to escape by freeing the each chromatic dragon held for sacrifice nearby.

this essentiall6 skips the good dragons rise chapter and lets them ride dragons across faerun to warn and alert the council of the location and how close to the summoning the cult are. Thereby escalating to heroic levels of play and the sense of ungency.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Now that Dragon Heist is out, it's a great resource for local color in Waterdeep. If you're running this as a DM, it's worth looking through that book for inspiration on how to handle the Waterdeep scenes in both this adventure and Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

If you don't have Dragon Heist, there are a couple of free excerpts on the Wizards site. The Waterdeep Code Legal lays out the punishments for various crimes that PCs might commit while there. And if you're planning a side trip to the Yawning Portal, or just need some NPCs, "Friendly Faces" has portraits and sample quotes to suggest personality.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
To add to what [MENTION=6702445]jayoungr[/MENTION] said, you can actually purchase Volo’s Waterdeep Enchiridion (the fluff piece at the end of Dragon Heist) separately on the DMs Guild. It’s worth noting, however, that it assumes the Tyranny of Dragons storyline has already taken place as Laeral Silverhand is Open Lord of Waterdeep.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
To add to what [MENTION=6702445]jayoungr[/MENTION] said, you can actually purchase Volo’s Waterdeep Enchiridion (the fluff piece at the end of Dragon Heist) separately on the DMs Guild. It’s worth noting, however, that it assumes the Tyranny of Dragons storyline has already taken place as Laeral Silverhand is Open Lord of Waterdeep.
Thanks for the tip about that! Here's a link:

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/254063/Volos-Waterdeep-Enchiridion-5e?term=Volo's+Waterdeep+En&test_epoch=0

Proceeds from this product go toward Extra Life, also, so it's for a good cause.

And Laeral Silverhand becomes Open Lord during Rise of Tiamat, so if that's the only problem, it could still be contemporaneous. (Haven't finished reading it yet myself.)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
And Laeral Silverhand becomes Open Lord during Rise of Tiamat, so if that's the only problem, it could still be contemporaneous. (Haven't finished reading it yet myself.)
Yeah - that's pretty trivial especially if the table has little interest in the political side of things (like my table).
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
My table is approaching the final battle at the Temple of Tiamat. As written the fight within the temple is going to be ‘deadly’. I’m trying to build the session ahead of the fight in the temple and touch on some of the victories that the heroes have accumulated up to this point.
I think this will include
A: And brush your hair OKa battle on Skyreach Castle where victory means the castle does damage to the temple itself
B: an attack by bullete riding dwarf warriors. This one might be mostly flavor as the heroes brought the dwarves of the north into the battle.(which reminds me about the improved armaments the dwarfs promised the alliance... gotta put that somewhere.
C:saving the sacrifices. If they beeline for the captured people I’ll need to build an encounter there... which, now that I’m thinking on it, could include a bit of revenge against an ancient green dragon that’s been a thorn in their side.
D: Minotaurs. The heroes aided the Minos on Mintarn. Maybe an escort or ‘tip of the spear’ type scene.

Maybe other stuff if I can think on it. Humorously I’m confident that despite any and all planning on my part the heroes will plan something else ;)
 
Practical homebrew as a precursor to the dragon council.
( I hope to flesh this out and get it up on DMs guild at some point)

We had a great last few sessions I wanted to share.
The party had just finished defeating Chuth and driving off Neronvain.
I had provided a mechanism for how Neronvain and Chuth were getting captives to the well for eventual sacrifice while also swapping out the subservient elf silliness.

A group of feral elf worshippers of Malar were always subservient to Chuth as the greatest forest hunter. with the rise of the cult and the arrival of Neronvain they continued to assist with hunting, but also capturing and returning captive wood elves and other fey humanoids. There were evil aligned druids/shamans in the group who had the ability to cast a druid form of teleportation circle. This is a sect of Druids very different and antithetical to the Emerald Enclave. Druidic organisation is a loose web of alliances and relationships rather than a traditional top down hierarchy.

Teleportation circles (Ley nodes):
The druid stone circles found in wild places across the world are on Ley lines of natural power. Druids with sufficient power, knowledge and resources can craft a rune stone which they can activate the stone circle, teleporting all within to another stone circle they also know and hold the rune for. These particular Malarite druids had been transporting captives from a stone circle near Chuth's lair to a stone circle in a rocky outcropping near the well of dragons. Each stone circle can onlybe activated once per day. The stone circle near the well is at the centre of the campground of the evil Uthgardt barbarians that had turned to the Cults cause and were destined to be the skirmishers and shock troops of Tiamat's army.

Neronvain's journal also revealed that he had captured adn returned a good young brass dragon to the well. Five good dragons were planned to be the crowning point of hostage sacrifice in the tiamat summoning ritual.


So... upon defeating the druids and finding the stone amulets the party could transport themselves to the middle of the gathering encamped army and

So the party could choose right away (or return to the council and be directed) to get a seeming spell to look like either hobgoblins, cultists, barbarians or mercenaries. Then:
- teleport into the gathering army.
- bluff, persuade or intimidate their way out of the encamped barbarian horde.
- make their way through the camped army between the mercenary force and the humanoid/hobgoblin force
- avoid or masquerade as cultist or devil commanders
- gain entrance to the slave/sacrifice camp
- locate the cave half way up the skull gorge and enter the area reserved for high profile/important hostages/sacrifices
- fight their way past devils and guards
- release/rescue the five dragons
- ride them to freedom with a flight of black dragons in pursuit.

NB: If the party got in a protracted fight in the middle of the enemy army it was a guaranteed TPK. any PCs that give up or were left on 0HP were quickly restrained and stabilised for eventual sacrifice. Treasure/items were temporarily placed with jailors and the PCs imprisoned in the same complex as the metallic dragons. This turns the adventure into a breakout rather than a rescue - to the same effect. Any dead PCs could easily be replaced from other similarly captured prisoners.
 

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