5E Enhancing "Storm King's Thunder"

Daern

Explorer
For discussing aspects of Storm King's Thunder and how to run it.

This thread WILL HAVE SPOILERS IN IT. Do not read if you're not going to run it.

This post contains shortcuts to particular posts* that offer suggestions and answer questions raised by the adventure. It is broken down by chapter:

General
  • Art/Maps:#14, #23, #33
  • Minis: #58, #80
  • Backstory/Motivation/Foreshadowing: #12, #21, #41
  • Backgrounds/Hooks: #53
  • Further Reading: #19, #39
  • Streamlining: #34
  • Tying in with Tyranny of Dragons: #43, #72
  • Tying in with Lost Mine of Phandelver: #54

Chapter 1: A Great Upheaval

Chapter 2: Rumblings
Chapter 3: The Savage Frontier
  • Additional adventure: #32
Chapter 4: The Chosen Path
  • Harshnag: #25
Chapter 5: Den of the Hill Giants
Chapter 6: Canyon of the Stone Giants
Chapter 7: Berg of the Frost Giants
Chapter 8: Forge of the Fire Giants
  • Fire giant stats: #83
Chapter 9: Castle of the Cloud Giants
Chapter 10: Hold of the Storm Giants
  • Risk level: #25
  • Sneaking: #77
Chapter 11: Caught in the Tentacles
Chapter 12: Doom of the Desert
  • Extending the adventure: #24

Indexed up to: #83

I think this thread was a victim of the purge.
In any case I still want to talk about the module and improve it as I'm going to run it after Curse of Strahd I think. I really dig it, but you gotta make it your own. Let's do it!
SKT hasn't been getting much love so far. I think people must be pretty full up with adventures at the moment.
Anyways, the first place to go for a guide to improving the module is of course http://thecampaign20xx.blogspot.com/2016/09/dungeons-dragons-how-to-run-storm-kings.html
That blog is amazing.
I am also blogging about by sessions here: http://neradia.blogspot.com/
I agree that putting some thought into a lot of foreshadowing is key to really making the module pop.
Have giants say "The King is Dead!" a lot. Bring in Felgolos early, so players care about him later. Make less different dragons in general (maybe make the silver one in chapter one the same as the captured one later on). Bring in Old Snarl and the Dragon Cult's ship early on, have a seeming innocuous encounter with a fishy viking from the "Purple Rocks" etc.
I'm going to supply my players with a poster map. The 3rd edition one I think. So they can add to it.
You will want to get clear on your travel times. I did some internet research.
To Waterdeep: (time at 20/day by foot or 48/day sailing)
Anauroch (via the Black Road) 660 miles, 33 days
Athkatla 950 miles, 47 days
Baldur's Gate 550 miles, 27 days
Caer Calidyrr, Moonshae Isles 750 miles (travel by water only), 15 days
Candlekeep 720 miles, 36 days
Daggerford 120 miles, 6 days
Evereska 750 miles (via the path past Llorkh, between the Greycloak Hills and Forgotten Forest), 33 days
Everlund 450 miles, 22 days
Iriaebor 870 miles, 43 days
Longsaddle 300 miles, 15 days
Loudwater 390 miles, 18 days
Luskan 440 miles, 22 days
Mirabar 650 miles, 32 days
Neverwinter 300 miles, 15 days
Red Larch 100 miles, 5 days
Scornubel 550 miles, 27 days
Secomber 260 miles, 23 days
Silverymoon 500 miles, 25 days
Westgate 1,370 miles, 69 days
Yartar 210 miles, 11 days
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
I, like many others, didn't particularly like the rapid advance from level 1 to level 5. My solution was to replace the dripping caves with a much longer and robust adventure that would give the PCs a much meatier experience that feels like a more traditional pace of level advancement. Originally I was going to replace them with Caves of Chaos, but instead I'm going with Horror on the Hill. Both are easily drag and dropped into SKT, and all I really have to do is place the SKT NPCs into the modules. Easy peasy.
 

Daern

Explorer
I agree about the super fast leveling. It was weird when I played it at a con. I'm going the opposite direction and starting characters at a much higher level, continuing my campaign.
Horror on the Hill? I think I had that as part of the "In Search of Adventure" compilation. If I remember the Halls of the Hobgoblin King lie beneath?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
To Waterdeep: (time at 20/day by foot or 48/day sailing)
Anauroch (via the Black Road) 660 miles, 33 days
Athkatla 950 miles, 47 days
Baldur's Gate 550 miles, 27 days
Caer Calidyrr, Moonshae Isles 750 miles (travel by water only), 15 days
Candlekeep 720 miles, 36 days
Daggerford 120 miles, 6 days
Evereska 750 miles (via the path past Llorkh, between the Greycloak Hills and Forgotten Forest), 33 days
Everlund 450 miles, 22 days
Iriaebor 870 miles, 43 days
Longsaddle 300 miles, 15 days
Loudwater 390 miles, 18 days
Luskan 440 miles, 22 days
Mirabar 650 miles, 32 days
Neverwinter 300 miles, 15 days
Red Larch 100 miles, 5 days
Scornubel 550 miles, 27 days
Secomber 260 miles, 23 days
Silverymoon 500 miles, 25 days
Westgate 1,370 miles, 69 days
Yartar 210 miles, 11 days
What is your deal with the white text? Are you trying to deliberately obfuscate things? This was an issue in the last version of this thread as well...
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I agree about the super fast leveling. It was weird when I played it at a con. I'm going the opposite direction and starting characters at a much higher level, continuing my campaign.
Horror on the Hill? I think I had that as part of the "In Search of Adventure" compilation. If I remember the Halls of the Hobgoblin King lie beneath?
Yep. Part of the B series. Really, most of those adventures would be easy to use. In this case, with B5 HotH, all I have to do is say the Nightstone villagers fled to an old monastery a few miles away in the hills to avoid the giant attack. And all the NPC prisoners in the original adventure are replaced with the SKT NPCs. It pretty much writes itself :) In fact, I think I'm gonna skip the orc attack on Nightstone altogether. That never felt right to me either, especially if the elves come to the rescue and just leave. I've never been a fan of "no matter what the protagonists do, they will be rescued!" trope, even if it's highly used (Gandalf, etc).
 

Daern

Explorer
Sorry dude. It's pasted from a google doc. It comes in black, then I recolored it. Does it not show up on the white background version? This forum is weird.
 

Daern

Explorer
Yeah, I would change the orcs part of Nightstone as well. I like the idea of the elves showing up to help against the orcs, then reluctantly asking for help against orcs in the forest. You could make those orcs hobgoblins, or make the HotH hobs into orcs.
The worry for me with old dungeons is that they are so big and take so long. By the time you get out, the players forgot what was going on in the campaign.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Sorry dude. It's pasted from a google doc. It comes in black, then I recolored it. Does it not show up on the white background version? This forum is weird.
What it looks like to most of us:

D&D 5th Edition Enhancing _Storm King_s Thunder_.png
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Yeah, I would change the orcs part of Nightstone as well. I like the idea of the elves showing up to help against the orcs, then reluctantly asking for help against orcs in the forest. You could make those orcs hobgoblins, or make the HotH hobs into orcs.
The worry for me with old dungeons is that they are so big and take so long. By the time you get out, the players forgot what was going on in the campaign.
At this point, they players still don't know the main plot hook because they haven't gotten the next plot quest until they free Morak. So they wouldn't get the next plot hook until the finished HotH anyway. And even if that weren't the case, that's why you modify the old dungeons to tie in elements of the current campaign, making it a seamless transitions. We're DM's, it's our job ;)
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Reposting from Google Cache after database crash

I feel like the whole plot needs a re-write. Here, in a nutshell, is what I would change:

Change:
King Hekaton's disappearance is the cause of the giants' misbehavior, not the breaking of the ordning.
Reason: This change gives players an incentive to rescue King Hekaton, and resolves the plot at the end of the story. If the players want to stop the giant attacks, then they need to find and rescue King Hekaton.
How: Maybe Hekaton was the only thing keeping the ordning together. Maybe he was more of a demi-god (the son of Annam) than a king. Either way, he was a powerful ruler, and without him keeping them in line, the giants don't respect the ordning or the small-folk.

Change:
The giants are actively looking for the characters and want them dead or captured.
Reason: If the giants are just blundering around, attacking small towns and villages, then the characters don't have much incentive to put a stop to things.
How: I got this idea from Serac of Suzail's backstory. He's the son of Artus Cimber, who possesses the Ring of Winter. The Frost Giants are looking for the Ring, which is why they attack Bryn Shander. What if the ring falls into the characters' hands at the start of the adventure? Maybe as they're walking to Bryn Shander (or Goldenfields or Triboar), they come across a dying Serac, who pushes the ring into their hands, asking them to hide and protect it. Now the characters have a powerful artifact in their hands, along with a mystery to unravel.

Change:
The characters get wrapped up in Queen Neri's assassination early on, making it a potent mystery that directly involves them.
Reason: As above, the characters don't have much incentive to put a stop to things if they aren't directly involved.
How: The first thing that comes to mind is having the characters framed for Queen Neri's death. But I also like the idea of tying this in with the change above. What if, instead of the Ring of Winter, the characters somehow receive a sentient ring possessed by the Queen's spirit? Perhaps a loyal retainer was able to trap Queen Neri's soul in a ring and whisk her away before being killed by Kraken Society operatives? Now the characters have an information source (Queen Neri, who doesn't know who attacked her or why, but wants to find out), and the added danger of the Kraken Society, whose thugs are hunting them down.
 

Daern

Explorer
Great stuff. I also prefer to having the breaking of the order be the disappearance of Hekaton. It makes more sense to me that he was keeping the giants in check than some divine caste system.
What if the players stumble on some evidence of Imryth's guilt that has her sending assassins after them throughout the campaign. Maybe Kraken dudes or air cultists.
 

Daern

Explorer
I'm going to have the goblins survive being chucked. Before getting in the sling, the goblins have drinking contests where they take shots of magicmushroommoonshine. The winner gets to fly. Besides enraged bravery, the brew allows the goblin to run around and fight on broken legs or whatever, basically half damage from the throw.
In my minds eye spiked goblins flying out the air and then running around and tackling screaming townsfolk reminds me of something out of Labyrinth or Baron Munchausen.
 

Daern

Explorer
I'm going to try to work Blagothus into the story. My players encountered his flying castle some time ago during a "best bits of HotQ" series of sessions. I'd like them to encounter the castle again, or perhaps watch it crash into the mountains, using the Frozen Castle module on DMsGuild.
 

dpmcalister

Visitor
Great stuff guys. I'm starting to prep for SKT later this year. Like some of you I dislike the rapid rise in Chapter 1 so I'm going to merge it with Under Illefarn (don't forget to grab the 5e Conversion) which is set just a little south and a great module in it's own right.
 

Daern

Explorer
If I were to start with a different, longer dungeon, I would add in some connection to the giant plot and load it with foreshadowing. Maybe a book about the caste system of the giants. Or a History of the Giant Dragon Wars. Or a Golden Goose token. Maybe an ancient wreck of a Fire Giant Mech.
 

Daern

Explorer
Here's a couple of good blogs on SKT. Merric is positive about the structure of the book, but the Raging Owlbear blog makes some good criticisms.
1st, he points out the initial quest hooks to get the pcs to travel around the Sword Coast are pretty weak ("deliver the news of a family member's death"). This is definitely something I will want to improve upon. Maybe a warning or some important information. "My brother lives near near a fire giant lair and this hobgoblin insists they are out looking for something called a Vodinod. Triboar is known as Vodinod City!" That's not the great, but at least it contributes to the plot.
Another other criticism is the "guide npcs" such as Zephyros and Harshnag. I don't agree that these are a problem, they just need to be fleshed out a bit. Maybe Zephyros picked up the pcs to interview them but had not thought about setting them down. He's on his way to the Moonshaes and must be convinced to drop them off. He will only turn the castle around for something interesting.
A final criticism is that there are many npcs spread out across the Sword Coast who will only be encountered once and never seen again. To me, this is simply an opportunity. It will require keeping some notes on npcs encountered, but there is every chance that npcs may be encountered again, perhaps even in later campaigns. This is how a campaign world comes to life. In addition, certain npcs should become recurring characters. Harshag and Felgolos should be foreshadowed early and referenced often throughout. There is no reason Zephyros cannot reappear. The wizards in charge of the teleport circles will no doubt be encountered often. Klauth should be parlayed with a few times.
Whew. Anyways, I'm excited to play this one.
I think I'm gonna start it off in Goldenfields with the Hill Giant attack. Maybe treat it as a mini-wargame like Frostgrave?

http://ragingowlbear.blogspot.com.br/2016/09/dnd-5e-storm-kings-thunder.html
https://merricb.com/2016/09/23/adventure-structure-and-design-storm-kings-thunder/
 

Demetrios1453

Adventurer
A few of Raging Owlbear's criticisms are warranted, but it's not as bad as he's making it out to be. If you want your characters to be invested in delivering the bad news of relative X's death, it's easiest to do with the Xelbrins because of the tressym. Someone an a typical gaming group is going to fall in love with the winged kitty, so it's easy to persuade the characters to take up the quest to deliver it to the Xelbrin's next of kin. Raging Owlbear is correct that the quests are basically interchangeable, so there isn't any real issue in making the next-of-kin be the contact in the next town. I planned to have my group go to Triboar, so I made it that not only would they go to the Lion's Share to tell Aleastra about her ex-husband's death by rats ("Couldn't have happened to a better guy"), but made Narth the Xelbrins' nephew and heir to the tressym. In this case, the interchangeability of the towns bcame a strength, not a weakness...

Raging Owlbear also is exaggerating the problem with the special NPCs in each town. As I said, my group is in Triboar, so, as a DM, I've made sure they all meet and significantly interact with the NPCs who will be appearing to fight alongside them. As I said, they deliver the tressym to Narth (NPC #1), and when they ask about upgrading their weapons and armor, he tells them that he is going to visit Ghelryn Foehammer (NPC #2) to pick up some items the dwarf has made for sale at the Lion's Share here shortly, so the party can come along as soon as they are done shopping for general goods. Before they go, Lord Protector Darathra Shendrel (NPC #3) crosses the street from the town keep to see who these well-armed strangers who were dropped off by a cloud giant castle are doing in town, and, judging their character, suggests they meet with her later for some tasks that need to be doing since most of the town guard are out in the farmlands due to orc attacks (something mentioned in the adventure itself). When the party travels to visit Ghelryn, Narth stops by Othovir's (NPC #4) tackle and harness shop to pick up some elk meat for his store to sell (something straight out of the book as well). As they travel along the road north, Narth mentions how much trouble Hyuth Kolstaag and his gargoyles have been causing in town from his manor Boar's Rest. Then the party shops for new weapons and armor from Ghelryn, after which Narth recommends they go to the Northshield House if they are looking for an inn to stay at. There they meet and interact with Urgala Meltimer (NPC #5). This bit of roleplaying introduced all the major NPCs they will be interacting with (with only five players in my group, they only will get five special NPCs to run), allowed me as DM to sprinkle in dialogue which personalized them (Narth would like to be adventurer, but can't leave the store; Ghelryn hates giants, no, he really means it, he hates giants, he really, really hates giants), and set up some extra adventure hooks (Hyuth Kolstaag, the orc attacks on the outer farms) that I can use to build up more of a connection with the town and its inhabitants for the party. So while it's true that just having a party land and then immediately launch the fire giant attack would make this section be a little flat, there's plenty there for a DM to work with to get the characters involved in the town they are going to defend...
 
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