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

I was wondering if anyone took the factions battles further than the "one on one" match ups? Something more on the line of large scale warfare Ala companion rules?

Also, any guesses as to the amount of troops per faction on the good and bad sides?
 

3beaner

Villager
I'm having trouble with the Cult Strikes Back setup.

I've got four 10th level PCs, with a 6th level NPC druid companion, and I'm looking at the Second Attack options. The text makes it sound like it should be a big force - it talks about multiple nycaloths and mezzoloths and/or multiple cultists dropping down from the black dragon ... but when I do the calculations, I'm getting a deadly encounter with just one dragonsoul, one mezzoloth, and one nycaloth. One dragonsoul and one adult black dragon gets me a deadly encounter as well. (Whereas the black dragon by itself is merely hard.)

Anyone got any advice?
I'm really struggling with this myself right now...like you say the book makes it seem like there should be a lot of Yugoloth on the board but the encounter building guidelines from the DMG just don't support it. After a couple creatures you already hit the threshold. I've spent a lot of time researching this topic and haven't really found any satisfactory solutions...eventually I decided to go with what 'felt' good rather than made any sort of mathematical sense.

I'm running this encounter tomorrow night so I hope it goes alright - although the adjusted XP value (75,000xp!!!) is greater than 4 X the Deadly threshold I'm still worried it might not be enough:

1 Dragonsoul
6 Dragonwings
1 Nycaloth
3 Mezzoloth
1 Adult Black Dragon

The Party is 4 characters, all level 11:

Vengeance Paladin of Tempus
Dragonborn Sorcerer
Gnome Wizard
Halfling Bard/Rogue

They're returning to Silverymoon after the council of Metallic Dragons to meet up with Thunderspells and go back to Waterdeep for the next council session. Before they went to the Nether mountains to speak with the dragons they'd been hearing about a prominent citizen of Silverymoon that had just died. He was a well-known scholar, adventurer and collector of antiquities. The PCs heard various songs by bards around town and watched a Vistani play about his exploits and heroics. They've also learned his will is going to be read to the public and they're very interested in his collection of antiquities (sound familiar? check out 4e Dungeon Delve, chapter 11). So when they return to Silverymoon they'll learn the will reading is happening and go check it out. The Cult also knows about the will reading, and aided by Red Wizards, they have managed to disrupt the wards protecting the town. The cultists fly in on a black dragon and figure they can attack the gathering, take the antiquities for themselves and cause some mayhem and terror in Silverymoon. They don't know the PCs are there but once the PCs try to stop them they immediately recognize the adventurers Severin put a bounty on and summon their Yugoloth mercenaries to kill the PCs.

Here's what makes it hard for the group:
-The cultists will have fire resistance. The wizard and sorcerer are fond of their fire spells
-No one has any magic weapons (the Council requested the Paladin hand over Hazirawn and traded him a Sun Sword for it and then confiscated it from him when he killed an innocent blacksmith) so the Yugoloths resistances will matter
-The Yugoloths can cast Darkness and have Blindvision - I doubt the mage/sorcerer will have Dispel Magic slotted
-The plaza is crowded with civilians, limiting movement

Here's what makes it easier for the group:
-The dragon is really only doing a fly by, using it's breath weapon and then going elsewhere in town to cause mayhem. Not a main participant in the combat.
-The Yugoloths disengage from battle when being hit for more than 1/2 their remaining hit points. The way the Paladin dishes out pain I'm sure it won't take much before they flee. When they disengage they try to summon an ally but their success rates aren't great. Failing that, they flee the battle entirely.
-Each player character will also control one NPC ally during the fight [3 Silver Knights (Knight), and Thunderspells' apprentice (wizard)]
-Crowds are basically cannon fodder
-The Dragonwings are basically pushovers at this point

So I don't know - part of me thinks the PCs will stomp all over this encounter like they usually do but another part worries I've gone completely mad and made an impossible and unfair encounter. I wish the encounter building in 5e was a lot more straightforward and didn't require quite so much guesswork. And it's really, really inaccurate if this ends up being a fair Deadly encounter.
 
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pukunui

Adventurer
[MENTION=6872251]3beaner[/MENTION]: I hear ya! Just remember, if the PCs die in a civilized place where their allies can collect their bodies, they can be raised from the dead easily enough.

The problem my group is facing is that they're staring a TPK in the face in Chuth's forest lair. If they all die in the cave, there's little chance their allies will be able to recover their bodies.
 
Fiends in general are surprisingly tough to do 'hordes' of, since they are individually so highly rated by the encounter building guidelines. Yet you basically never see 'and then the heroes valiantly faced a single demon and two giant rats to save the damsel's life' in any fiction! Around level 8 I started ignoring the DMG advice and it has gone well for me so far, but then I also had five level 13 characters fight an Adult Red Dragon by itself so your fight above looks hellish. Of course, that chapter does emphasise that this is the point - the players should be really intimidated and impressed by the power put against them.

If all else fails, you can have some Silverymoon military forces statted up, using some of the Volo's NPC statblocks; if the players are getting really pumped, have a pair of Spellguard Evokers or whatnot turn up with a patrol of Veterans. That way the players can be saved, it remains obvious that they only survived through the aid of others so they shouldn't get cocky about victory (which I think is part of the point of these attacks) and you can trigger that aid at any time using Teleport spells, so you don't need to use it if the players are looking okay.
 

V0RTEX

Explorer
Don't be afraid to up the ante on this encounter. The whole point of this encounter is to remind the PCs that they are up against a formidable force. Add in additional foes, gate in extra Yugaloths as needed. Use their teleportation and telepathy to direct the black Dragons attacks, even if they try to flee. If the PC's have the Black Dragon Mask or any other powerful asset, try to steal it back at this point. At this level, even a TPK can be reversed by they parties allies raising them. A PC death or two will remind the players that the threat is real.

In my game Rezmir made a reappearance in this encounter as a reoccurring nemesis. (The players foolishly used her ashes after she self-immolated as the material component to find familiar at Skyreach Castle. The PC's felt pretty smug when a black pseudo-dragon appeared, its acid stinger was very useful to dispatch the trolls in the tomb of Diderius. They didn't feel quite so clever when the first cult attack occurred and the cultists reincarnated the pseudo-dragon back to Rezmir. She got very close to retaking the Black Mask before fleeing, only to return again with Talis on Myklos Glacier as well as on the Black Dragon in the second cult attack). Most of the PC's escaped, including the bearer of the Black Mask, but one was cornered and was slain. That particular player used this as an excuse to switch over to a new character. The dead character was surreptitiously raised and now lurks in the shadows under the cover of his own demise.

My point is, not all fights need to be fair. Sometimes a well timed, unfair fight can increase level of drama, particularly is such a broad sweeping and epic campaign.

Good luck!
 

3beaner

Villager
your fight above looks hellish.
From my perspective it wasn't tough enough, though talking to the players they felt it was deadly despite nobody dying. The Sorcerer was dropped unconscious along with the NPC mage but no one else died or even came close to dying. The Nycaloth even managed to summon a 2nd one!

The wizard had his Blink/Sunbeam on and always made his Blink roll, so he'd scorch something w/ radiant damage then pop out of existence. The Sorcerer and Bard both had Greater Invisibility and basically remained untouched. Which left the Paladin who tanked the Nycaloths with Divine Smites, doing extra damage because they were fiends. The crowd and NPC knights were effective damage sponges. It was a long drawn out battle with a few tense spots but it ended with the dragon flying off and the lone remaining Nycaloth rolling on the ground, incapacitated by Tasha's Hideous Laughter and getting worked by everyone.

In hindsight I should have been more ruthless with the Dragon - there was a turn his breath weapon recharged but I didn't use it. The Mezzoloths used Darkness and Cloudkill but otherwise were somewhat ineffective. After the battle ended I lamented that it wasn't deadly enough and all the players reacted like, "What do you mean, it was super deadly!" So I guess difficulty is in the eye of the Beholder.

Ultimately I think this encounter serves as concrete proof that the encounter guidelines in the DMG are horribly inaccurate and totally whack and in desperate need of a complete overhaul.

LastWillandTestament.jpg
 

Daern

Explorer
The line between Scary encounter and super Deadly is so thin. It may have been that had you used the dragon breath that round it would have turned the tide significantly and invited a TPK. In any case, as long as it was tense and not too long, then it was a good battle.
I'm running SKT at a higher level now and realizing that giants are a little underpowered. I'm thinking it could be because they make individual hits. At high level a monster needs area attacks to be a severe threat. It was the same in CoS, where the butler Rahadin was the scariest fore encountered because he did automatic damage to everyone in the room each round. They had to run away twice before they got him.
My concern with higher level play at this point is that I would like to have challenging but QUICK battles, and the masses of HP involved make that difficult. Lower HP and have foes hit even harder?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Mission to Thay

Regarding the "Mission to Thay" chapter, I was reading over it last night, and I came across part that didn't make any sense: namely, the Persuasion check the PCs each have to make after meeting with the vampire doesn't seem to serve any purpose. Ignoring the fact that it is later referred to as a saving throw, the text states that the check's "outcome determines what happens to them that night".

Except that it doesn't! The outcome of the check doesn't factor into the "Dreams and Nightmares" section, which states that all non-elf PCs are subjected to the dream, nor the "Outcome" section, which states that Nhy Ilmichh's response is determined by the outcome of the dream questioning.

The Persuasion check is utterly pointless. If a successful check meant, perhaps, that the PC wasn't subjected to the dream, that would make sense, but it doesn't say that.

As it is, I'm inclined to just skip this mission.


EDIT: Never mind. It is there, in the fourth paragraph under "Dreams and Nightmares". If you pass the check, you have advantage on each check you make to answer a question put to you during the dream.
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Heading to the Neronvain chapter and Galin's motivation seems awfully weak. He sees his wife killed and then begs for mercy for himself?

How about something a bit darker... he saw his wife, child and a few others carted off. Neronvain comes back with a deal. Give him intelligence and he'll let them live. Refuse or give bad intelligence and he'll start to kill the hostages. Galin tried to be clever and warned a village of a coming attack but Neronvain discovered the treachery. So now a hostage had to be killed, but worse than that, Neronvain made him pick a number so that Galin had to "choose" the victim. The victim ended up being his wife. Which is what finally broke him.

The child and others are the prisoners being held in Chult's lair.

Thoughts?
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Heading to the Neronvain chapter and Galin's motivation seems awfully weak. He sees his wife killed and then begs for mercy for himself?

How about something a bit darker...
It's cool ... but don't underestimate the effects of seeing a loved one gruesomely devoured by a dragon before your eyes while half your village dies at the same time. I truly think that's plenty sufficient to snap someone.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
It's cool ... but don't underestimate the effects of seeing a loved one gruesomely devoured by a dragon before your eyes while half your village dies at the same time. I truly think that's plenty sufficient to snap someone.
True, but I also am coming to the opinion that as a DM you have to "believe" in your NPCs. If you don't buy their motivations then you'll never be able to sell it to the players.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Absolutely. If something doesn't make sense to you (even if it makes sense to others), then by all means change it!
 

pukunui

Adventurer
My group's going to be doing the Xonthal's Tower mission next. Any suggestions on how to improve it? I've heard it can be a bit too easy for high-level PCs. My guys are all 11th level.

One change I've already made is to use the new necromancer statblock from Volo's for Jorgen Pawl. I've also replaced the regular elementals with elemental myrmidons.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
My group's going to be doing the Xonthal's Tower mission next. Any suggestions on how to improve it? I've heard it can be a bit too easy for high-level PCs. My guys are all 11th level.

One change I've already made is to use the new necromancer statblock from Volo's for Jorgen Pawl. I've also replaced the regular elementals with elemental myrmidons.
Sounds good. We're right behind you finishing up the Neronvain episode tonight. I'll do some prep on Xonthal and watch this space with interest.

I'd also heard that some groups get stuck in the maze?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I can see that happening. I've got some clever thinkers in my group, though, so I'm fairly confident it won't happen to them.
Cool. I'm also not going to bait and switch them. The Blue Dragon Mask is real but Severin thinks it's fake which is why it's at the tower for testing. Hmm perhaps the adventurers are tasked with taking a fake mask and doing a switcheroo?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Cool. I'm also not going to bait and switch them. The Blue Dragon Mask is real but Severin thinks it's fake which is why it's at the tower for testing. Hmm perhaps the adventurers are tasked with taking a fake mask and doing a switcheroo?
I let my players get their hands on the black dragon mask at the end of Hoard. I've come to regret that a bit. I'm going to stick with the fake mask, but then I'm going to downplay the whole mask element of the adventure. I'm going to have the alliance state flat out that they're sure it's a trap. Instead, they're going to push for the PCs to reclaim the tower itself so that the alliance can use it as a staging point for the fight against the cult, since it's fairly close to the Well of Dragons.

I am also planning on putting a bit of spin on things so that part of the cult's plan here is to get the PCs to do their dirty work for them, eliminating the dracolich holdouts so that they don't have to.
 
I let my players get their hands on the black dragon mask at the end of Hoard. I've come to regret that a bit.
Out of interest, why do you say this? I just ran my group through Greenest in Flames, so I'm a fair way away, but I know that Steve Winter said he wanted to let the players get the masks, while WotC were resistant to that idea.
 

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