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

Eltab

Explorer
I'm having trouble with the Cult Strikes Back setup.
I like having the dragon swoop in for a breath weapon strafing attack (with surprise?), drop the devils to melee the PCs, and hang out somewhere that the victorious (or so they presume) devils can teleport back to him. For flair, he can circle in the air nearby. Or take potshots at the town's defenses; no reason to let the Guards reinforce the PCs, and grown-up dragons might well be overconfident.

Need a location that might draw out the PCs? How about a temple of Bahamut that has advertised that they will train new Paladins to fight against Tiamat? Have the Cult send a (youngling) dracolich against that. It draws the PCs' attention, deliberately disrespects Bahamut, and warns the general populace against interfering with their betters' plans. The Council asks the PCs to be seen nearby in order to demonstrate 'action is being taken' to assure the recruits' safety.

This IS supposed to be an assassination, after all; prepare with the thought that some but not all of the PCs do die. Have an NPC cleric handy who can 'call 911' for a Resurrection spell. The text briefly mentions the advantages of being thought dead when you really are not. I've tried twice to really kill my PC group. Arauthator was prevented only because the Bard max'ed out a Staff of Healing. The first Cult assassin team was ganged up on by late-arriving PCs, but I had scattered the group and almost killed the Wizard - forcing him to flee and turn Invisible - before help arrived.

If the Cult is actively tracking the PCs around, they could be ambushed while in a Marketplace or somewhere else with lots of civilians and valuable property and things that might distract the PCs, or at least provide expendable cover for the devils. Some of the assassin squad would 'waste' a turn murdering civilians and drawing the PCs' attention - presumably so another devil can Sneak Attack them.
Would the Cult's version of James Bond reveal himself when/if the assassination fails to go as planned?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
On a different note: while prepping for Chuth's lair, I noticed that the text doesn't say anything about what's inside Neronvain's trapped chest. Did anyone put anything in it? Or is it meant to be empty?
[MENTION=6686829]Steven Winter[/MENTION]
 

Eltab

Explorer
I noticed that the text doesn't say anything about what's inside Neronvain's trapped chest. Did anyone put anything in it?
I was working up the idea that Neronvain thinks himself the real heir to the Elven throne, and was working with the Classic Cult's criminal cells to provide himself with some muscle. Tiamat and the living dragons are even more muscle, as far as he is concerned.

I would put some incriminating documents in the chest, plus enough information (once analyzed) that the PCs plus the Authorities can shut down all the treasure raids on the Misty Forest area.
There is also enough information to destroy Neronvain's incipient rebellion. The authorities will not want PC help with 'this internal matter', thank you very much get out goodbye.

I would also put Neronvain's diary, describing his dreams of grandeur, in the chest. If your players are good with Realmslore, drop the names of the Crown Wars-era elven kingdoms as the places that Neronvain thinks should properly be his kingdom(s) in a Tiamat-ruled world (this covers the entire Sword Coast map plus a bit more).

My group's campaign went on hiatus (my work schedule changed) when they had cleared everything but Chuth himself out of the lair. They haven't looked for the chest yet.
 
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Spoilers for Storm King's Thunder.

TL;DR: I'm thinking about lifting the main plot from SKT wholesale and using it to add Giants to the storyline, as well as beefing up the adventuring in Rise of Tiamat.

With my group voting for Tyranny of Dragons as the next campaign, I've begun thinking about how I'll run it. One thing in particular caught my eye with Rise of Tiamat: it feels like there is not enough adventuring to get them up to level 15 smoothly. Another thing that I noticed was the scant space given to talking about the Giants, ancient enemies of the Dragons, as all I can find is a couple short paragraphs mentioning them on page 17. Now, my group voted fairly strongly against playing Storm King's Thunder, and that means that I am unlikely to get to run it for them - considering that there will probably be another 2 APs out by the time that we finish Tyranny. So, let's cannibalise it!

The basic gist of Storm King's Thunder is this:

Storm King Hekaton, head of the Ordning is missing.

Other Giant lords are going mental, and causing chaos, with Hekaton missing.

Harshnag, member of Waterdeep's Grey Hands and good Frost Giant, leads the players to an ancient Giant temple, to speak to a prophet. It tells them the plot, and then directs them to get a teleportation conch so that they can reach the Storm Giant palace.

The players find one of the Giant lords, each of which has a different tone to its adventuring location, and defeat them before taking the conch.

They go to Maelstrom, under the seas, and discover an Ancient Blue Dragon busily manipulating affairs, with the three daughters of Hekaton being the nexus of a little political section.

Hekaton is being kept prisoner by the Kraken Society, who kidnapped him and have him chained up on a boat out on the ocean, near Purple Rocks. To find him, the players have to go to Yartar, get into a fight on a gambling barge, and ask some penetrating questions of those there.

Hopefully they find and rescue Hekaton, possibly having to run away from a Kraken in the process, and then restore him to his throne - with a sort of epilogue as the Storm Giants and players go to the Dragon's lair and kick its ass.
Now, my thinking is that if I replace the Kraken Society with the Cult of the Dragon, we'll have a solid start. The bad guys kidnapped Hekaton to keep the Giants off-balance and out of the game; without his leadership, the other Giants are going mental and adding to the chaos of the Cult's war. To make them calm down, and get their aid against Tiamat, the players have to find Hekaton, with Harshnag (who they'll meet in Waterdeep at the First Council) fulfilling his role as normal. I'll remove the Cloud Giant castle - Lyn Armaal - since they will have already done that theme with Blagothkus at the end of Hoard, but instead direct them towards the Hill, Fire or Stone varieties, all within reasonable distance of the Tyranny plotline area.

The toughest bit of this incorporation will be to work out what to do with the Kraken Society ship. One idea that appeals is to use a Dragon Turtle instead of the Kraken, but I don't know if they follow Tiamat at all. Perhaps I could fill the boat with Devils, and stipulate that the Cult outsourced this to Tiamat's Devilish allies, meaning that this bit will have a different set of bad guys from the normal Cultists. Another is actually just to keep the Kraken Society, as they were being paid by the Blue Dragon in Storm King's Thunder anyway; but it is a little hard to understand why a Kraken would be happy to help being Tiamat to the Realms, unless it just enjoyed spreading chaos.

The benefits of incorporating all this stuff from Storm King's Thunder is that I'll get a storyline extension that should fit pretty well, especially with the Blue Dragon serving as another powerful Draconic personality, get to use the stuff from the AP that I wouldn't otherwise, and bring in the Giants in an interesting way. My big concern is that this will be too big of an extension - that the players will start to wonder whether they're still playing Tyranny - since a rough guess is that the essential plot elements will probably take about two months. If that appears to be happening, I can always have Hekaton being held prisoner in the Dragon's lair, with cultists around him; that'll help return us to a nicely Cult of the Dragon theme.




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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Now, my thinking is that if I replace the Kraken Society with the Cult of the Dragon, we'll have a solid start. The bad guys kidnapped Hekaton to keep the Giants off-balance and out of the game; without his leadership, the other Giants are going mental and adding to the chaos of the Cult's war. To make them calm down, and get their aid against Tiamat, the players have to find Hekaton, with Harshnag (who they'll meet in Waterdeep at the First Council) fulfilling his role as normal. I'll remove the Cloud Giant castle - Lyn Armaal - since they will have already done that theme with Blagothkus at the end of Hoard, but instead direct them towards the Hill, Fire or Stone varieties, all within reasonable distance of the Tyranny plotline area.

The toughest bit of this incorporation will be to work out what to do with the Kraken Society ship. One idea that appeals is to use a Dragon Turtle instead of the Kraken, but I don't know if they follow Tiamat at all. Perhaps I could fill the boat with Devils, and stipulate that the Cult outsourced this to Tiamat's Devilish allies, meaning that this bit will have a different set of bad guys from the normal Cultists. Another is actually just to keep the Kraken Society, as they were being paid by the Blue Dragon in Storm King's Thunder anyway; but it is a little hard to understand why a Kraken would be happy to help being Tiamat to the Realms, unless it just enjoyed spreading chaos.

The benefits of incorporating all this stuff from Storm King's Thunder is that I'll get a storyline extension that should fit pretty well, especially with the Blue Dragon serving as another powerful Draconic personality, get to use the stuff from the AP that I wouldn't otherwise, and bring in the Giants in an interesting way. My big concern is that this will be too big of an extension - that the players will start to wonder whether they're still playing Tyranny - since a rough guess is that the essential plot elements will probably take about two months. If that appears to be happening, I can always have Hekaton being held prisoner in the Dragon's lair, with cultists around him; that'll help return us to a nicely Cult of the Dragon theme.
Now that you mention it having the giants out of the picture for RoT really makes no sense so having the cult be behind it is perfect. Some chapters in RoT are super light (metallic dragons and Thay) so ripping those two out and replacing them with the giants sounds like a great idea. And now I'm wondering if I should do the same as we've just embarked on RoT... :)

as as far as the size of the expansion I think there's a lot of SKT that can be tossed overboard. So it should be OK. I guess I have some holiday reading to do...
 
The above is the essentials of the SKT plot: the rest of the book is comprised of the Giant lairs, of which you only need one, and the setting description of the North. That setting description, by the way, is REALLY useful for Tyranny of Dragons - helps to fill in the blanks on where and what all these places are!

You're right to say that it 'makes sense' for the Cult to be behind the Giants' non-intervention in the events of Rise of Tiamat. I think that I can have the Harpers, most likely, deliver information about 'disruption' in Maelstrom to the Council of Waterdeep, and then have the Dwarven delegate push strongly for an investigation into WTF is going on at Ironslag. The players get a push into the side-plot, and I can pair it with another important element (say, the trip to Thay, or one of the Wyrmspeakers, or Elturgrad coming under attack and asking for aid) so that the players get put under pressure to prioritise one thing or another.

In my game, the timeline is going to be wonky - I'll be using the 5e realms, but Waterdeep is going to be restored to the 2e timeline, simply because I've read all the material for that era on the city. That means Peirgeiron the Paladinson will be the Open Lord, with the Harper representatives also including Khelben Blackstaff. This means also that Harshnag will be a member of the Grey Hands, so is likely to be present at the Councils as an advisor to the Open Lord, and that will make it easy to integrate all of this side-plot.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
You're right to say that it 'makes sense' for the Cult to be behind the Giants' non-intervention in the events of Rise of Tiamat. I think that I can have the Harpers, most likely, deliver information about 'disruption' in Maelstrom to the Council of Waterdeep, and then have the Dwarven delegate push strongly for an investigation into WTF is going on at Ironslag. The players get a push into the side-plot, and I can pair it with another important element (say, the trip to Thay, or one of the Wyrmspeakers, or Elturgrad coming under attack and asking for aid) so that the players get put under pressure to prioritise one thing or another.
I did my holiday reading and I'm definitely going to proceed with integrating the two.

The connection point for my campaign will be Blagothkus. The PCs helped him regain control of his cloud castle and they left on amicable terms.

The council will report that they've been trying to enlist the help of the giants but their embassies have returned reporting chaos in that world, Hekaton is missing and the ordning is broken.

The PCs are tasked with finding Hekaton and bringing order to the world of giants so as to gain their aid in battling Tiamat.

Blagothkus will take the place of Harshnag who is a "giant-ex-machina" in SKT anyway. Really, I was quite unimpressed when I read that once the players get bored at the end of chapter 3 the DM should airdrop in Harshnag to lead them into the next section of the story. Terrible plotting IMHO.

I'm stripping out the whole raid the tombs to find bits and pieces in order to prove themselves, Blagothkus will provide assurances on their behalf. Once find out from the oracle that they need a conch, they'll choose the giant stronghold to infiltrate and head there. Iymrith (sp?) in dragon form will appear as they're about to leave the oracle and Blagothkus will do his best to hold her off - probably dying in the attempt. (as described in the book).

So Oracle, Conch, Maestrom and Iymrith, and then the PCs will lead a cohort of giants back to Waterdeep ready to do battle with Tiamat and those nasty cultists. That will replace the Thay and Metallic Dragons chapters and actually be mission given by the third council.

So my RoT campaign breakdown:

First Council
Sea of Moving Ice
Varram
First Cult Attack

Second Council
Neronvain
Xonthal’s Tower
Second Cult Attack

Third Council
SKT redux
Third Cult Attack

Fourth Council
Tiamat’s Return​
 
Nice. I think that I'm going to add the Giants on top of the Thay and Metallic Dragons elements, not least because I sold the adventure to my players as having a heavy political component.

I like that you're replacing Harshnag with Blagothkus. Though I really like Harshnag, that could be a very efficient use of your NPC time - the players will find it easier to grok having one Frost Giant NPC, not two.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Draakhorn Mcguffin

I need help. My players just went on a wild goose chase searching for Varram's white dragon mask. Now they're off in the sea of moving ice looking for the draakhorn. I can't have this item also not be where they think it is... that seems annoying.

So is there a better way to deal with it? Or do players take it in stride that it's anything thing they're not going to get?
 

Sloblock

Explorer
I need help. My players just went on a wild goose chase searching for Varram's white dragon mask. Now they're off in the sea of moving ice looking for the draakhorn. I can't have this item also not be where they think it is... that seems annoying.

So is there a better way to deal with it? Or do players take it in stride that it's anything thing they're not going to get?

Good question.

For me the white mask was "lost" so it wasn't a massive wild goose chase per se for the players. They assumed that it was taken by the big bad.

As for Sea Ice escapade I played this as they were after a specialist rather than the horn its self. So you could have it that if/when they save Maccath they find plot rather than the horn? It great but at least some reward. Could she mention that dragon masks too?

But I know what you mean about wild goose chases, as I made the blue mask later on a real one.

I allowed the players to get the black, green and blue masks. I then added some extra scenes to compensate for this.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
I allowed the PCs to acquire the black mask when they defeated Rezmir at the end of Hoard. I reworked the RoT mission hooks so that a) they were trying to capture Varram rather than recover his mask and b) they were attempting to locate Maccath in order to find out what the draakhorn was (I made it so Dala knew much less about it than she does in the adventure). So my players weren't disappointed to not get their hands on either item.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I allowed the PCs to acquire the black mask when they defeated Rezmir at the end of Hoard. I reworked the RoT mission hooks so that a) they were trying to capture Varram rather than recover his mask and b) they were attempting to locate Maccath in order to find out what the draakhorn was (I made it so Dala knew much less about it than she does in the adventure). So my players weren't disappointed to not get their hands on either item.
Yep kicking myself for not planning further ahead. The players surprised me by picking the Varram mission first.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Yep kicking myself for not planning further ahead. The players surprised me by picking the Varram mission first.
I had Talis tell the PCs about Varram. She was hoping to use them to do her dirty work for her, but they managed to hang on to Varram and got him safely back to Waterdeep. Still, Talis is going to take his place as the white wyrmspeaker. They'll meet her (and Cloudchaser) again at the Well of Dragons.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I had Talis tell the PCs about Varram. She was hoping to use them to do her dirty work for her, but they managed to hang on to Varram and got him safely back to Waterdeep. Still, Talis is going to take his place as the white wyrmspeaker. They'll meet her (and Cloudchaser) again at the Well of Dragons.
Oh Talis is definitely going to replace Varram, and this is made more delicious by the fact that Talis is the childhood friend of one my PCs.
 

Sloblock

Explorer
I had Talis tell the PCs about Varram. She was hoping to use them to do her dirty work for her, but they managed to hang on to Varram and got him safely back to Waterdeep. Still, Talis is going to take his place as the white wyrmspeaker. They'll meet her (and Cloudchaser) again at the Well of Dragons.
One of my regrets of this campaign is that I didn't expand on Talis at the end. I played the scene with her as she was a kind host and then added rumours of her cruelness.

I also had one of the PCs be a childhood friend.



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pukunui

Adventurer
Talis was the childhood friend of one of the PCs in my campaign too. In fact, it was that PC - feeling betrayed - who started a fight with Talis, which very nearly resulted in a TPK. (Talis shouted for help, and the PCs ended up getting devastated by the helmed horror's black tentacles spell.)
 
Good question.

For me the white mask was "lost" so it wasn't a massive wild goose chase per se for the players. They assumed that it was taken by the big bad.

As for Sea Ice escapade I played this as they were after a specialist rather than the horn its self. So you could have it that if/when they save Maccath they find plot rather than the horn? It great but at least some reward. Could she mention that dragon masks too?

But I know what you mean about wild goose chases, as I made the blue mask later on a real one.

I allowed the players to get the black, green and blue masks. I then added some extra scenes to compensate for this.
I did the same exact thing! The "fetch" quests were really starting to get my players, so A little change up is always a good thing!
 

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