D&D 5E Enhancing "Storm King's Thunder"

Creamsteak

Explorer
In my roll20 game I started off with a quasi-evil party working for the Zhentarim to raid the cloud giant castle with the wizard hat as an intro. I didn't know if they'd kill him or listen to him, but they went with kill. Then they wanted to stay there for a while. I had Klauth show up to nuke the place, the cleric of Garyx played convinced him that they'd serve Klauth. So Klauth has been their (usually absent) patron more or less. I'm playing Klauth's goals as "the long game" in the sense that he doesn't want some giant revolution that does things like collect the Ring of Winter or build the Vonindod. He'd much rather the giants remain there previous stagnant selves.

The players seem interested in wrecking all the giant lords, so that's no problem, though I've chosen to move the plot forward a bit this last session. They've created their own meta goal after meeting a hill giant mother that was chased off by Guh. They gave her kid a headband of intellect, and are trying to "win the ordning" for the hill giants. I kinda love this idea. I'm thinking if this does happen, the new generation of hill giants that follow will be Mountain Giants or some such to correspond to elevating their intelligence a bit and making them more muscular and skilled instead of stupid and fat.
 

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Motorskills

Explorer
Well, I simply had the storm giant court request the group retrieve the remaining conches from the other giant lords as punishment while the storm giants attempted to track Iymrith down. If you wait until that point, you can gauge how your group feels about an extended campaign and either go the short route by going straight to Iymrith or the long route by going and taking each of the conches back...

That sounds like a very clever route, thanks. :)
 

Sorry, if anyone posted something similar in an earlier post, but I am still working through all 30 pages of this thread. One thing I had to change in the storyline, and which was pretty much unplanned, is when the PC's came across Grudd Haug. During their wanderings of the North, due to a roll on the random encounter table, they came across a lone Hill Giant foraging for food. The PC's managed to make their stealth rolls and avoided a confrontation. Instead they decided to follow it to its den. I could've made it impossible for them not to intervene, by having it attack a homestead, forcing the PC's (very much in the heroic vein) to protect the farmers from the giant, but instead decided to move the Grudd Haug chapter up. I included in that session with the heroes witnessing the male Hill Giant dropping off some food at Moog (see featured encounter: Old Tower). The PC's talked to Moog and learnt some of what was going on with Grudd Haug and Guh and ended the session there.
The PC"'s were still 6th level characters, so in my preparations for the next session, I scaled down the difficulty of the Den of the Hill Giants chapter (mainly by having less male Hill Giants in the Feasting Hall) and it worked wonders. The PC's barely survived the encounter, with many ending the fight in the feasting hall on 0 hitpoints and only the use of healing word preventing outright death in some. (Three had to make a few death saves, scraped by, and I didn't even need to fudge.)
I really like the way this worked out. The PC's didn't get their hands on the Conch, since they didn't know that they were supposed to be looking for it. If they decide to go back for it (I'm starting on The Chosen Path this Friday), they'll discover it is in shards. (Guh fell down the pit, and it was hidden somewhere in her skin folds. Or something similar.) So, no worries about that. And since the Hill Giants should be the easiest to defeat, it didn't disrupt the progression the PC's are making.
I should add that I don't give the players XP, but just tell them to level up at the end of a chapter/encounter, much like the campaign proscribes. So having them fight the hill giants didn't affect their progress, since it is just a part of The Savage North.
 

hastur_nz

First Post
One thing I had to change in the storyline, and which was pretty much unplanned, is [...] the heroes witnessing the male Hill Giant dropping off some food at Moog (see featured encounter: Old Tower). The PC's talked to Moog and learnt some of what was going on with Grudd Haug and Guh and ended the session there. [...] I scaled down the difficulty of the Den of the Hill Giants chapter (mainly by having less male Hill Giants in the Feasting Hall) and it worked wonders. The PC's barely survived the encounter, with many ending the fight in the feasting hall on 0 hitpoints and only the use of healing word preventing outright death in some. (Three had to make a few death saves, scraped by, and I didn't even need to fudge.)
I really like the way this worked out.

That is cool, and I'm running something vaguely similar too (see below). It's certainly one thing that I didn't like about the book as written - it totally road-blocks the players from following up on the attack at Goldenfields, and forces them to wander around in the wilderness following stupid 'quests' until eventually the Plot hits them on the head, and they can proceed. As soon as read that, I thought "well, I'm sure at least one of my players is going to want to find out where these Giants came from, and go looking for revenge..."

In my game, I also had a random hill giant encounter outside Goldenfields which, eventually, kind of leads to Old Tower - it wasn't my plan, it just came about like yours did. The PC's eventually let their initial 'captive' go, then picked up Moog, who is just as unreliable, but so far she's the way they are planning on getting to Grudd Haug. That said, I have put the nearby villages, ranches etc in danger, from Giants allied with the Icefield Orcs (using an enhanced version of a piece from Princes of the Apocalypse). So in my game, Guh is actively working with the Orcs, to terrorise and subjugate the Dessarin Valley. The players are currently being pressed into a dilemma - how much to try and help villagers, vs Go for Guh. Ultimately, I've always planned on allowing my players to find Grudd Haug after Goldenfields, without having to treck all the way over Faerun and back. Exactly how they might find Grudd Haug, depends on what they do, but I see that they don't need a hill giant guide, although that might help, eventually the troubles in the valley will get so bad that it won't be hard to find...

So for me, it's a very simple plot-line, from Goldenfields to Grudd Haug, which I see as a more satisfying Chapter of sorts, from a player point of view.

That said, I also have multiple and parallel 'threads' planned, so Grudd Haug is the cap-stone of one thread, then two other threads deal with Triboar and Bryn Shander and so on. Eventually the threads converge for the final chapters.
 

That is cool, and I'm running something vaguely similar too (see below). It's certainly one thing that I didn't like about the book as written - it totally road-blocks the players from following up on the attack at Goldenfields, and forces them to wander around in the wilderness following stupid 'quests' until eventually the Plot hits them on the head, and they can proceed. As soon as read that, I thought "well, I'm sure at least one of my players is going to want to find out where these Giants came from, and go looking for revenge..."

In my game, I also had a random hill giant encounter outside Goldenfields which, eventually, kind of leads to Old Tower - it wasn't my plan, it just came about like yours did. The PC's eventually let their initial 'captive' go, then picked up Moog, who is just as unreliable, but so far she's the way they are planning on getting to Grudd Haug. That said, I have put the nearby villages, ranches etc in danger, from Giants allied with the Icefield Orcs (using an enhanced version of a piece from Princes of the Apocalypse). So in my game, Guh is actively working with the Orcs, to terrorise and subjugate the Dessarin Valley. The players are currently being pressed into a dilemma - how much to try and help villagers, vs Go for Guh. Ultimately, I've always planned on allowing my players to find Grudd Haug after Goldenfields, without having to treck all the way over Faerun and back. Exactly how they might find Grudd Haug, depends on what they do, but I see that they don't need a hill giant guide, although that might help, eventually the troubles in the valley will get so bad that it won't be hard to find...

So for me, it's a very simple plot-line, from Goldenfields to Grudd Haug, which I see as a more satisfying Chapter of sorts, from a player point of view.

That said, I also have multiple and parallel 'threads' planned, so Grudd Haug is the cap-stone of one thread, then two other threads deal with Triboar and Bryn Shander and so on. Eventually the threads converge for the final chapters.

That's part of the reason why, in my opinion, Triboar is the best choice of the three (the other part is that I liked the follow-up quests better than the other two). Goldenfields and Bryn Shander are just too close to the attacking giants' strongholds, while Triboar is much further away, allowing them to get more involved with the overall plot before going out to find the giant lairs. In the game I ran, the characters could see the smoke from the attack on Goldenfields as they flew past on the way to Triboar, and I used a modified (read: tougher) version of the Bryn Shander attack when they visited the town when investigating where the frost giant lord's base was located.
 

I also went for Triboar, much for the same reasons as yours. I also liked the combat-encounter and the hints towards the overall metaplot of Triboar better than the other two. After defeating the Fire Giants, saving the village, and subsequently uncovering the adamantine, I had Ghelryn Foehammer offer the PC's to make them a full plate armor and a shield from the a small piece of the adamantine. It took him a few months to make it, so it forced the players to double back to Triboar after wandering the North for a few months, during which they came across the lone Hill Giant and took care of Grudd Haug.
I forgot to mention in my original post that after taking care of Grudd Haug, Ghalvin Dragonmoor (one of the prisoners they freed) took them (and the other prisoners) back to Goldenfields. Though, instead of playing out the Goldenfields siege as written in the book, I decided to have the siege being over already, and the PC's on their voyage to Goldenfields, coming across the returning army of Hill Giants and their allies. They were heavily packed with loot and shepherding a large group of prisoners, thus forcing the PC's to take care of the army. I let them set an ambush, and they had help from Gryhark and Ghalvin. Thus they were able to surprise the army, take out most of the Hill Giants rather quickly, and by doing so lower the morale of their giants' minions, allowing them to disperse the rest. Thus they arrived in Goldenfields as heroes, returning the prisoners, telling the mayor where the giants' loot could be found (it was too much for the PC's to take along), and also able to assure Goldenfields that the threat of the Hill Giants was over.
Because that fight with the Hill Giants went over with relative ease (mainly because they laid a great ambush, but also because I couldn't be bothered to draw out the combat with the giants' minions for another twenty rounds), the players were quite confident that they could take whatever I threw at them. Not much later they easily slew the Fire Giant and his Hell Hound at Stoney Bridge. And they got cockey.
Then, in the next session (they had gotten to Silverymoon and decided to help out Hawk's Nest) I had them fight two Fire Giants. Again they laid the same type of ambush with which they had so much success against the Hill Giants, and the PC's were slaughtered. One PC died (was raised next session), two almost died (0 hitpoints, but scraped through on their death saving throws), and the others were on their last hitpoints. They won, but at a high cost. (I don't go TPK's, and wasn't trying to so here, but the players botched a few rolls, and the Giants scored a few crits.) After that they decided to takes slightly more caution in their giant encounters.
Now they're going back to Triboar to pick up the adamantine armor, where Harshnag will be waiting for them. I always had trouble figuring out how to get the PC's to cross paths with Harshnag, but since the PC's are developing quite a reputation in the North for taking care of giants (there are tales told about them, because of what they did for both Triboar and Goldenfields). Harshnag heard about these exploits and decided that he wanted to meet them. So he went to Triboar to investigate and heard that Ghelryn Foehammer was expecting them to return within a few weeks, because he was almost finished with the armor.
So that encounter with Harsnag is happening tonight and they'll be on The Chosen Path.
 

Daern

Explorer
In my campaign I've mixed in the plot from the Tyranny of Dragons module. It has become apparent that the disappearance of Hekaton is part of a larger plot to return Tiamat to the Realms. This is because I have a high level party.
They just finished up at the Temple of Annam. Much plot point was put together, but I dropped the "gathering of the relics" part for level and pacing reasons. So, I had a dilemma. Does Imryth blast in there? Would that make it weird if they then went straight to Maelstrom (they were considering taking the flying ship they stole from some cultists)?
I went with Klauth. The ancient red stepped into the temple. He had been tracking the party ever since they stole his airship filled with a hoard meant to be delivered to him (he is ambivalent about the plan to revive Tiamat). Klauth stepped in, roared something about his stolen treasure and the false oracle of Annam. Harshnag ran forward to strike the central pillar as the party ran for it, escaping as the temple collapsed.
The group returned to Mirabar where they had docked their airship to find the ship had already been stolen by Klauth (the dwarven guards were shamefaced at this). The ship was last seen floating north west toward Klauthen Vale.
So the group had now lost their easy transport and a huge amount of treasure. They decided to take Harper Circle Transport to Waterdeep to save the starving population by tracking down the lair of the Hill Giants. They are not entirely sure how to find Maelstrom, but they do know they'll need the giants' help to stop Tiamat.
All are around 10th level, which means Guh should be not too hard. I plan on supplementing the steading with an ambush courtesy of the Cult of the Dragon, attempting to retrieve a Black Dragon Mask carried by the wizard.
Another thought I have is that I haven't done much to foreshadow the Kraken Society. I don't much like the idea of Hekaton on a ship. Much better if he is chained to a dragon turtle floating in the Sea of Swords. But how do the players discover this? There is a clue in Maelstrom, the coin. I set this up in the beginning when the players messed about on a gambling boat from Yartar while at a fancy Waterdeep party. Perhaps the wizard of Pow Ming is the artificer of the chains. They will remember him because they wanted to steal his bag of holding. The only issue is that it is yet another Cult. Perhaps it is better if I make Pow Ming a Dragon Cultist.
Thoughts, ideas?
 

Motorskills

Explorer
An epic finale to the assault on Ironslag.

The evening before, the party had sneaked past the Yikari village, and freed the prisoners in the mines, cages, and on the wheel.
Many fire giants, fire giant dreadnaughts, and the Duke himself were slain, but the party were on their last legs by the end.

Thus, now with a helpful ally in tow, the newly-rescued Jasper Dimmerchasm, they decided to take a long rest in the kitchen area (31-33).

Ten hours later they emerged, ready to conquer the rest of the complex.


....


Duchess Brimskalda, putting her grief, fear and anger aside, showed why she was the real power behind the throne.
Wisely hesitant to take on the party, she had used the intervening time well. Key entrances were barricaded using the basalt tables from the dining room. The kitchen slaves were armed and armoured and a message was to the Yikari to bring the overdue Drow down as soon as they arrived.

When the party emerged, she offered them an ultimatum. Leave with but the clothes on their back, and their lives would be spared.

The party declined and a huge fight ensued. Unable to access the Vonindod room from below, and with the corridor to the dining area barricaded and defended, the party attacked from the barracks balcony. The party’s Ranger and Sorcerer sent arrows and fireballs into the massed goblin and hobgoblin infantry, who quickly crumbled and fled.

Now confident, the party assaulted in two prongs towards the dining hall, along the corridor and via the Vonindod hall. After much effort, the Fire Sorceress and her bodyguards were slain, but not before the party’s Paladin was disintegrated by the Duchess. The party captured the ducal heirs, and bade them remain in their chambers or suffer the fate of the rest of their clan.

With barely a breath to spare, the party understood that the descending elevator was nearly arrived. Unable to conceal the devastation of the fighting, the Bard created an illusion of the Duchess and as soon as the elevator was in sight, gave a shout to pursue the invaders. The rest of the party concealed themselves in the dining hall.

This ruse worked perhaps too well. Upon hearing the cry for aid, the two drow mages each cast Fly on themselves and two companions and flew off the descending platform.

Even with the Sorceror’s fireball wreaking terrible damage on the platform, the party’s ambush collapsed immediately.

The Druid was the only one of the party in the Vonindod hall. Polymorphed into a Great Ape, the plan was that he could hold that flank solo. This though was for naught as he was immediately banished to another plane.

The drow cast Darkness on the archway and regrouped in the Vonidod hall.

While the party debated what to do, the leader of the Drow force, now revealed as a powerful warlock, summoned a major demon (Nalfeshnee), and the surviving mage summoned his Shadow Demon. The three Yikari warriors stood guard while the Yikari priest cast spells of healing and aid.

They then dropped the Banishment and all thundered on the Ape as it reappeared.

The party then miscalculated for a second time, their over-confidence serving them ill. The Barbarian and the Ranger charged through the Darkness, and each were swiftly in danger of being beaten down.

At this critical juncture, the Sorcerer and Assassin dimension-doored to the balcony and launched attacks from distance.

The Darkness was dispelled and the rest of the party surged through the archway to save the day.



Pretty much a ten-hour RT battle, this was on a knife-edge at several times. As DM my energy level never dropped, the game was a continual source of adrenaline!
One of the players NPC'd Jasper for me (with special instructions!) and the Paladin player helped me run the bad guys after his PC was disintegrated.

He will be rezzed for the bargain price of 3000gp, since they have 25000gp worth of gems ready to go (the Vonidod eye!)

In all, the party has collected 90,000gp worth of treasure. the downside is that this weighs FOUR TONS!
Not to mention the fact that they have two noble children hostages in tow!


The cleanup and aftermath at Ironslag isn't quite done and dusted, but that should be a welcome breather to start our next session!

***

They will meet Harshnag next and then head either to Ascore (JValeur's The Flying Misfortune) or to the Shrine of Annam.

Two of our players are leaving (as in leaving the State!) so we will be down to six, although a replacement is being considered. As I explained to the gang, normally six players would be my maximum upper limit. However things have been running so amazingly smoothly with the current group that I am happy to keep the number of PCs high.
 
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Motorskills

Explorer
So we will have a bunch of IC clean-up to do at the start of the next session.

1) Since the party has access to the Harper Teleportation Circle network, the Bard can probably teleport to a big city to get the paladin True Rezzed. Which of the locations is most likely to have a 17th Level cleric they can ask nicely?


2) Assuming they head next to the Shrine of Annam (I'm going to have Harshnag make an appearance and suggest it), I'm interested in all y'all's views on making the "barbarians at the gate" fight significantly tougher. (Location 4)


That chapter is nominally for a 7th level party of (let's say) 5 PCs. That's 35 party levels.
With 6 berzerkers (CR2), one double-strength bezerker (say CR3), an Uthgardt shaman (CR2) and a white dragon wyrmling (CR3), I don't think it is necessarily intended to be a seriously tough fight, but certainly not a pushover either.


My guys are now 10th level, and there will probably be 8 of them for 80 party levels. So I'm wanting to up the encounter, but without making it a huge long drag.

The Great Worm tribe uses the Wolf totem template, but since they already get Advantage from their berzerking (Reckless equivalent), the main thing that the Wolf totem gives them doesn't really help. So I'm planning on giving them something else flavourful, something white dragony.

Initial thoughts....

1) For all the tribespeople present:

i) move on ice as if it is normal ground
ii) Frost Soul - create a 5 x 5 patch of ice as a Reaction 3/day, range 5'. Save versus Dex or be Restrained. Break out of the ice by doing 10 points of damage to it, or making a DC 10 Athletics check.
iii) Frost Breath 1/day as a bonus action - as Burning Hands. 6d6 cold
iv) Resistant to Cold Damage

For the BBEG and the Evil Vizieress:
iv) unlimited Frost Soul - do 20 points of damage to smash the ice or make a DC 15 Athletics check.
v) Frost Breath 3/day, as above, 8d6 cold
vi) Frightful Presence - as adult white dragon 1/day as action
vii) Cold breath 1/day - as adult white dragon 1/day as action
viii) Immune to Cold damage, Resistant to Fire damage (I plan to housreule the same or better for my white dragons, etc.)


2) ten berzerkers, standard stats, plus benefits as above


3) four shaman - as Uthgardt shaman,
i) also get Freeze Metal (as Heat Metal) 1/day
ii) also get Sleet Storm 1/day
iii) their extra damage is cold, not radiant, and does twice the PHB.
iv) saves against their specifically cold-based spells and Frost Soul / Frost Breath are made at Disadvantage


4) A Young White Dragon for the BBEG's pet.


5) Replacing the basic Shaman with a tough Arctic Druidess. Probably 14th level-ish equivalent. Can you suggest a spell selection / battle strategy for her?
i) saves against her specifically cold-based spells and Frost Soul / Frost Breath are made with Disadvantage


6) For the BBEG I was thinking of doing something pretty nasty, maybe something based on the evil Druid-Barbarian multiclass that people go on about, but I don't really know how that is supposed to work (maths-wise).
Rage, transform into something brutal, then use spell slots to heal - something like that?
I figure he could transform into a wooly mammoth, I'll probably use the Triceratops stats. I figure he would be 14th to 16th level equivalent. Does he sound fun, does he sound strong enough?


Looking forward to your feedback!
 
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