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Horde of the Dragon Queen (what am I doing wrong)spoilers

2 TPKs.

I don't get it. Am I playing the enemies too hard/smart?

Greenest: they try to rescue the people from the church. They attack the kobolds and cultists. One of the cultists gets hurt to 1hp so I make him retreat to get help. I give the group 10 rounds before reinforcements come. They rescue the people from the church but the Goliath goes down, no-one is strong enough to move him and they all get dropped defending him.

- should I not have my enemies run to get help? The fight seemed way too hard for a 1st level adventure. Maybe they were 2nd.

I started the next session with them captured at the enemy camp.

Next:

Hatchery: They wipe the whole dungeon, including Cyanwrath and leave Fruluum and the 10 guards/cultists for last. They were all in single digit hps and out of spells and abilities before that fight and they didn't take a long rest. I gave them a second short rest AND let them level to 4th (no new spells but added hps and hit dice, new abilities and spell slots). That felt like the best compromise because taking a long rest after slaughtering everyone didn't seem prudent. Fruluum just wiped the floor with them. It was a drawn out battle and they killed everyone but one cultist and one guard but hardly touched the Boss. She just stood back, surrounded by guards with Spirit Guardian up and Sanctuary. If anyone got close(which only happened once) she smacked them with her Halberd and recast sanctuary. I used mooks to block up the narrow passageways to prevent more than one or two PCs getting into the room at once and to gang up on anyone who got in the room. I never made all the cultists attack. I always made one do the help action (to flank or whatever)and the second attack at advantage.

The adventure just seems so hard. And now what? They all made their death saves so they're unconcious but I find it hard to suspend disbelief by making them prisoners AGAIN....time for new characters? Is the whole module like this? I hate the idea of new characters because the adventure is a bit rail-roady and I'd spent a great deal of time making hooks for the characters.

My idea is to have the one survivor - a player who wasn't at the game last night and is disguised as a guard - to run back and find a new group of adventurers to help him finish off the cult at the hatchery.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I can tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong. You’re running Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It’s a terrible module.
 
I can tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong. You’re running Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It’s a terrible module.

Ok, fair enough. One of my players had it and I don't have lots of time to do a homebrew campaign, so I ran it. Are you suggesting I ran things properly?

I've been playing 5e for three or so years and have been finding it to be a less deadly compared to previous editions. It could be that I've had a couple 'story driven' DMs who didn't push combat very hard. Even when I DM one-shots, I've found I've been able to err on the side of more deadly to challenge PCs.

I guess I was just 'trusting' the module for balance but a lot doesn't feel 'right' as I was prepping stuff. I know there's a thread to help 'improve' the module but what's the point of having a module if you have to read a 10-page thread? For me, I run modules to save time and reading piles of threads is just more prep that I don't have time for.

What modules are good? I'm willing to buy a different one. I was thinking of running Storm King's Thunder.

I told them to make new characters. They're all new to D&D so, on the bright side, they've learned the value of retreating and caution.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I definitely found it pitched tough. IIRC (it was a few years back!) we had to tone down a lot of the encounters at the time.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
I think even the good ones benefit from preperation and tweeking to suit your table. I haven't read HotDQ, but I'm aware that it isn't well regarded.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
The first chapters of HotDQ are incredibly lethal. The numbers of enemies encountered versus the staying power of a 1st level group is ridicule. It requires a lot of Dm work to work adequately, and even then, most of the chapters arent that interesting. The whole caravan trip is really a motivation killer; sooner of later a party member will ask the fatal question: ''why are we even doing this?''

I replaced the first chapters of HotQD with Sunless Citadel, with the party as resident of Oakhurst looking for their friends, and have the party find the red dragon mask in a discarded pile of junk. What a surprise when the cult of dragon shows up just as the party exit the citadel to ask to hand them over the mask! They were taken as slave, separated from their friends from Oakhurst, along a huge (in cinematic) trip until they reached the hatchery not far from the Castle Nerytar. They entered the hatchery, found the password to enter the castle (I used the Forge of Fury instead of the regular castle), then fought their way to the bottom of the castle, found a portal that would take them to the Floating Castle.

This way, the party would fight some dragons (there's just one dragon fight in HotDQ) and have a better motivation to pursue the cult.

Alternatively, all first chapters of HotDQ could be replaced with a refluff for lower levels of Red Hand of Doom, but it will require more work since its a 3ed module.
 

akr71

Explorer
I had to place a number of healing potions for the characters to find in the first 3 chapters. I also had a few NPCs available for help in certain situations because my group was only 3 people and that felt like certain death at points.

If you don't have time for a lot of prep, I would certainly consider something different. HotDQ & RoT took A LOT of prep and tweaking.

My group is having a lot of fun with Dungeon of the Mad Mage, but they're big into dungeon crawls. A dungeon crawl beneath a big city where they can escape to when they need a break - and I need a DM break - is suiting us just fine.
 

Sadras

Explorer
They're all new to D&D so, on the bright side, they've learned the value of retreating and caution.
Despite the module's difficulty inexperience might also be a factor.

With regards to where to restart from...
I'd say keep the characters, have them rescued by Delaan Winterhound (Rise of Tiamat - Council Member) with his pet Loska, who was investigating rumours of a dragon hatchery in the area. The cult has long since taken off - so the party are a tenday or so behind the Cult.

The characters failed so they should have a setback of some kind besides the fact that they lost their equipment...
Let them select from one or more of the below, no two characters should have the same

(a) Lingering Injury: Festering Wound, Horrible Scar, Lose an Eye/Hand (think Beric Dondarrion or Jaime Lannister)*;

(b) Madness (when in the presence of Frulam again): The character retreats into his or her mind and becomes paralyzed . The effect ends if the character takes any damage, OR the character becomes incapacitated and spends the duration screaming or weeping OR the character becomes frightened and must use his or her action and movement each round to flee from the source of the fear. Only a successful DC 12 will save at the end of the round removes the temporary madness.

(c) Demoralised: Loss of Inspiration until party succeeds in their first combat encounter;

(d) Hardened: Additional character Flaw or negative character trait

* They can have have these repaired at great personal cost to the characters - financial debt, pledge allegiance to a faction, individual which may be used for interesting roleplaying opportunities during the council meetings in Rise of Tiamat OR to offset the negative give such a player a Plot Point.

Also you can build up Frulam as the party's nemesis, maybe Frulam impressed by one of the party members during the combat, woke him/her out of unconsciousness in attempt to recruit him/her to the cult's cause, perhaps mistakenly providing additional information on the cult's further activities, maybe she kissed the character - being physically attracted to them...before knocking them out again for their refusal to join her.

I think this is a great roleplaying opportunity to setup some great future conflict.
Perhaps one of them comes back with a vision/memory from the Wall of the Faithless...did that really happen...
 
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DEFCON 1

Hero
I don't see you doing anything wrong.

I see your group deciding to "all go down with the ship".

That's not a problem you have to solve, that's their choice.

*****

In the first instance, once the goliath fell unconscious and they discovered they couldn't lift him and get him away, the group could have decided to leave him there and get the villagers to safety. They chose not to and decided to defend him. You rightly made the call to give the enemies 10 rounds before coming back with reinforcements, plenty of time for them to get away if they wanted to. They decided not to and they paid for it with their lives, which is neither your fault nor the fault of the adventure.

In the second case... they knew what their status was prior to that final fight. They could have (if they had decided to) just camped out at the mouth of the hatchery (assuming Fruluum anbd the guards were still inside) to get their long rest, and let the enemies come to them. That would have given them a better position for the fight most likely, if Fruluum and the guards decided to try and get out.

Instead, they chose to forsake a long rest in order to try and "clear the level" in a single go. Again... they didn't have to do that. And the chapter of the book isn't written specifically to allow parties to do that. Now is it possible? Sure. The right plan, getting lucky on rolls, etc. etc. and quite possibly some groups could kill each and every inhabitant of the camp without needing to take a long rest. But the chapter wasn't written under the expectation that every group would be doing that. So again... it's not your fault, and its not the fault of the adventure. Your players made a choice and they were killed because of it.

If this is something neither you nor your players want to have happen... then they either need to change their battle plans going forward, or you need to change how you throw encounters at them so they can easily rest whenever they want.

Does that mean you can't just play HotDQ "as-is"? Quite possibly. But this will be true of any adventures you run... at some point as the DM you have to put a little thought and time into what you run because only you know what your group's inclinations and abilities are. That's the job of the DM... to give their players the experience they are looking for.
 

jayoungr

Explorer
Ok, fair enough. One of my players had it and I don't have lots of time to do a homebrew campaign, so I ran it.
The idea that HotDQ is "a terrible module" is not shared by everyone on this board. My group had a great time with it, and I think it is unfairly maligned.

Are you suggesting I ran things properly?
Hard to say without more information. The fact that your players are inexperienced may be a large factor.

Are they making any effort to be stealthy and avoid encounters that they're not ready for? If so, are you calling for group checks or does everyone in the group have to pass in order for it to work? Do they ever try to talk their way out of combat instead of fighting, and if so, do you let them do that?

How is the lethality happening? For example, you said one of your players is a Goliath; what class is he? Are your spellcasters getting caught in melee? Are you using the flanking rules, and if so, are your players making use of them?

I guess I was just 'trusting' the module for balance but a lot doesn't feel 'right' as I was prepping stuff.
My group didn't have any deaths in the early levels, but they were all experienced players, which may make a difference. It got so that I'd add a couple of extra minions to every fight just to keep them challenged. If you want a quick-and-dirty solution, why not just remove a couple of minions from every fight?

The whole caravan trip is really a motivation killer;
For some groups, maybe. If your group enjoys roleplaying and social interaction, as mine does, it can be the high point of the adventure. That chapter definitely plays better than it reads, in my experience.

sooner of later a party member will ask the fatal question: ''why are we even doing this?''
They're doing it to stay with the treasure and find out where it's going. Pretty simple answer.

(there's just one dragon fight in HotDQ)
Two, technically; there's the blue dragon at the beginning that the PCs help to drive away from Greenest, and the white dragon in the flying castle at the end.
 

Sadras

Explorer
The idea that HotDQ is "a terrible module" is not shared by everyone on this board. My group had a great time with it, and I think it is unfairly maligned.
100%

vincegetorix said:
(there's just one dragon fight in HotDQ)
The Draakhorn only gets sounded in RoT, so I never saw the reason for HotDQ getting criticism for this. Two dragons as @jayoungr correctly points out with the possibility of more (dragon eggs in chapter 3, perhaps observe one flying overhead in chapter 4, and the two sibling black dragons that live in the marsh) - is more than enough as a starter.
 

Retreater

Explorer
I'm not saying anyone's wrong for liking this adventure. I'm not saying it's impossible to have fun with it with the right group and a lot of DM work. But I will say this is one of the worst published adventures I've seen in my 30 years in the hobby. Poorly balanced. Complete railroad.
 
I think even the good ones benefit from preperation and tweeking to suit your table. I haven't read HotDQ, but I'm aware that it isn't well regarded.
If you don't have time for a lot of prep, I would certainly consider something different. HotDQ & RoT took A LOT of prep and tweaking.
I did prep...I just didn't read a lot of extra on-line stuff. I read the adventure from cover to cover, made plot hooks for all the PCs, dropped potion in tough areas and even reduced enemies in a couple places.

Despite the module's difficulty inexperience might also be a factor.
With regards to where to restart from...
I'd say keep the characters, have them rescued by Delaan Winterhound (Rise of Tiamat - Council Member) with his pet Loska, who was investigating rumours of a dragon hatchery in the area. The cult has long since taken off - so the party are a tenday or so behind the Cult.

The characters failed so they should have a setback of some kind besides the fact that they lost their equipment...
Let them select from one or more of the below, no two characters should have the same

(a) Lingering Injury: Festering Wound, Horrible Scar, Lose an Eye/Hand (think Beric Dondarrion or Jaime Lannister)*;

(b) Madness (when in the presence of Frulam again): The character retreats into his or her mind and becomes paralyzed . The effect ends if the character takes any damage, OR the character becomes incapacitated and spends the duration screaming or weeping OR the character becomes frightened and must use his or her action and movement each round to flee from the source of the fear. Only a successful DC 12 will save at the end of the round removes the temporary madness.

(c) Demoralised: Loss of Inspiration until party succeeds in their first combat encounter;

(d) Hardened: Additional character Flaw or negative character trait

* They can have have these repaired at great personal cost to the characters - financial debt, pledge allegiance to a faction, individual which may be used for interesting roleplaying opportunities during the council meetings in Rise of Tiamat OR to offset the negative give such a player a Plot Point.

Also you can build up Frulam as the party's nemesis, maybe Frulam impressed by one of the party members during the combat, woke him/her out of unconsciousness in attempt to recruit him/her to the cult's cause, perhaps mistakenly providing additional information on the cult's further activities, maybe she kissed the character - being physically attracted to them...before knocking them out again for their refusal to join her.

I think this is a great roleplaying opportunity to setup some great future conflict.
Perhaps one of them comes back with a vision/memory from the Wall of the Faithless...did that really happen...
I've been thinking about it. One of the PCs (who couldn't make the previous session) can go back to find help. New adventuring group. They can find the old one and then choose which PCs to play. But it feels shallow after a while. Giving them a mulligan after the first TPK seems fair...but two? There would have to be a serious setback. I'm not sure Frulam would be likely to keep them alive. But she might just torture them for a while to figure out who they are and what they know. It's possible they'd still be alive especially since she's supposed to sit on the dragon eggs for a week or so.

I don't see you doing anything wrong.

I see your group deciding to "all go down with the ship".

That's not a problem you have to solve, that's their choice.

*****

In the first instance, once the goliath fell unconscious and they discovered they couldn't lift him and get him away, the group could have decided to leave him there and get the villagers to safety. They chose not to and decided to defend him. You rightly made the call to give the enemies 10 rounds before coming back with reinforcements, plenty of time for them to get away if they wanted to. They decided not to and they paid for it with their lives, which is neither your fault nor the fault of the adventure.

In the second case... they knew what their status was prior to that final fight. They could have (if they had decided to) just camped out at the mouth of the hatchery (assuming Fruluum anbd the guards were still inside) to get their long rest, and let the enemies come to them. That would have given them a better position for the fight most likely, if Fruluum and the guards decided to try and get out.

Instead, they chose to forsake a long rest in order to try and "clear the level" in a single go. Again... they didn't have to do that. And the chapter of the book isn't written specifically to allow parties to do that. Now is it possible? Sure. The right plan, getting lucky on rolls, etc. etc. and quite possibly some groups could kill each and every inhabitant of the camp without needing to take a long rest. But the chapter wasn't written under the expectation that every group would be doing that. So again... it's not your fault, and its not the fault of the adventure. Your players made a choice and they were killed because of it.

If this is something neither you nor your players want to have happen... then they either need to change their battle plans going forward, or you need to change how you throw encounters at them so they can easily rest whenever they want.

Does that mean you can't just play HotDQ "as-is"? Quite possibly. But this will be true of any adventures you run... at some point as the DM you have to put a little thought and time into what you run because only you know what your group's inclinations and abilities are. That's the job of the DM... to give their players the experience they are looking for.
As I said, I did prep. The group never seems to want to 'slow down' or retreat so maybe I should consider this. The more I think about it, the more I think they pushed too hard and fast. As enemies would retreat to get help, they'd make chase in to a new room and be forced to deal with a room full of enemies. Then another enemy would go get help and they'd make chase again...they never considered backing off.

The idea that HotDQ is "a terrible module" is not shared by everyone on this board. My group had a great time with it, and I think it is unfairly maligned.


Hard to say without more information. The fact that your players are inexperienced may be a large factor.

Are they making any effort to be stealthy and avoid encounters that they're not ready for? If so, are you calling for group checks or does everyone in the group have to pass in order for it to work? Do they ever try to talk their way out of combat instead of fighting, and if so, do you let them do that?
They did some smart things: stealth, checking for traps (half the time), tricked some kobolds in the hatchery room into thinking one of them was Cyanwrath with disguise self and managed avoid that fight and to discover the roper and avoid a potentially lethal fight.

How is the lethality happening? For example, you said one of your players is a Goliath; what class is he? Are your spellcasters getting caught in melee? Are you using the flanking rules, and if so, are your players making use of them?
Wizard stays back mostly, the Goliath is a Paladin but got hit with a couple lucky rolls. The first TPK, he was just spent. I don't use flanking. I usually have one enemy use the 'help' action to flank and allow the second enemy to attack with advantage. It works well with mooks. My kobolds tend to fight with caution, using their pack tactics and always retreating when overwhelmed to run and get help or lead enemies into traps. I just find there's almost no time to rest and recuperate. In the hatchery, there was always one enemy who would flee to get help and they'd run after him into a room full of enemies where a new fight would happen. They would just keep pushing.

My group didn't have any deaths in the early levels, but they were all experienced players, which may make a difference. It got so that I'd add a couple of extra minions to every fight just to keep them challenged. If you want a quick-and-dirty solution, why not just remove a couple of minions from every fight?
Might be a good idea. The group knew EXACTLY how many enemies there were because they had done a great deal of investigation ahead of time. I could have given them a couple less enemies. But, once again, it feels a bit cheap to me...and to be honest, I was worried they'd just destroy the encounter. Cultists have a very low AC and very little hps. But the party still only had 1 attack/round and the wizard and druid only had one spell slot.
 
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jayoungr

Explorer
But I will say this is one of the worst published adventures I've seen in my 30 years in the hobby.
In your opinion.

Poorly balanced.
This is also partly a matter of opinion and/or individual experience, because not all PC groups are equal. And in fairness to the folks who wrote it, the rules were being finalized at the same time as they were working on it. (Tip for [MENTION=15882]TaranTheWanderer[/MENTION]: if you do that encounter with the disguised assassins at the inn in chapter 4, you'll want to scale way back on that encounter. While they were writing the adventure, they were working from a draft of the monster manual where an assassin was a much lower-CR foe than the CR 8 it ended up being. I'd suggest using the stats for the bandit captain (CR 2) instead, maybe with a veteran (CR 3) for the leader if you think your players can handle it.)

Complete railroad.
Linear is not the same as railroad. But yes, if you prefer sandboxes, this is not going to be your cup of tea.

I always recommend this review, which I think does a good job of analyzing the adventure's strengths and weaknesses in a fair way:

http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/blog/2015/2/23/ygs4p90jb1dlkoqe0r9f5tqatvxsgx
 

jayoungr

Explorer
Giving them a mulligan after the first TPK seems fair...but two?
They're new players; they're still learning the ropes. I think it's okay to be lenient on them for their first adventure.

I'm not sure Frulam would be likely to keep them alive.
Here's a possibility. I don't know if you've read through to Rise of Tiamat yet, but you find out in that adventure that the cult's raids on villages have also involved the taking of prisoners intended as sacrifices for the ritual to bring Tiamat out of the Nine Hells. Frulam Mondath might decide to keep them alive for that purpose. (The prisoners are clearly not sent along the same road as the treasure, so that's a reason to hold them in the camp until someone can transport them to the Well of Dragons.)

The group never seems to want to 'slow down' or retreat so maybe I should consider this. The more I think about it, the more I think they pushed too hard and fast.
Yeah, it sounds like this is their biggest issue. They're still learning their limits.

In the hatchery, there was always one enemy who would flee to get help and they'd run after him into a room full of enemies where a new fight would happen.
What about having some of the enemies just flee in terror at this stage, instead of getting help? The kobolds don't have to be Tucker's kobolds at this level. Also, it sounds like you're using tactics a lot better than the players at this stage of the game, which might be contributing to the lethality issue.

I could have given them a couple less enemies. But, once again, it feels a bit cheap to me...
How is it cheap to tailor the encounters to the group's capabilities? Especially when you're dealing with new players who are still learning the game?

and to be honest, I was worried they'd just destroy the encounter.
Would that have been so bad? They'd probably have found it fun, and it would have given you some baseline knowledge of what they can handle, which would help you adjust encounters on the fly in future.
 
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5ekyu

Explorer
I did prep...I just didn't read a lot of extra on-line stuff. I read the adventure from cover to cover, made plot hooks for all the PCs, dropped potion in tough areas and even reduced enemies in a couple places.

I've been thinking about it. One of the PCs (who couldn't make the previous session) can go back to find help. New adventuring group. They can find the old one and then choose which PCs to play. But it feels shallow after a while. Giving them a mulligan after the first TPK seems fair...but two? There would have to be a serious setback. I'm not sure Frulam would be likely to keep them alive. But she might just torture them for a while to figure out who they are and what they know. It's possible they'd still be alive especially since she's supposed to sit on the dragon eggs for a week or so.



As I said, I did prep. The group never seems to want to 'slow down' or retreat so maybe I should consider this. The more I think about it, the more I think they pushed too hard and fast. As enemies would retreat to get help, they'd make chase in to a new room and be forced to deal with a room full of enemies. Then another enemy would go get help and they'd make chase again...they never considered backing off.



They did some smart things: stealth, checking for traps (half the time), tricked some kobolds in the hatchery room into thinking one of them was Cyanwrath with disguise self and managed avoid that fight and to discover the roper and avoid a potentially lethal fight.



Wizard stays back mostly, the Goliath is a Paladin but got hit with a couple lucky rolls. The first TPK, he was just spent. I don't use flanking. I usually have one enemy use the 'help' action to flank and allow the second enemy to attack with advantage. It works well with mooks. My kobolds tend to fight with caution, using their pack tactics and always retreating when overwhelmed to run and get help or lead enemies into traps. I just find there's almost no time to rest and recuperate. In the hatchery, there was always one enemy who would flee to get help and they'd run after him into a room full of enemies where a new fight would happen. They would just keep pushing.


Might be a good idea. The group knew EXACTLY how many enemies there were because they had done a great deal of investigation ahead of time. I could have given them a couple less enemies. But, once again, it feels a bit cheap to me...and to be honest, I was worried they'd just destroy the encounter. Cultists have a very low AC and very little hps. But the party still only had 1 attack/round and the wizard and druid only had one spell slot.


Another general go-to i use a lot stems from the notion and trope that "evil doesn't play well with others" and "everything is better with three sides.".

basically when adapting modules or other such products i fond its good to add in divisions and cracks within and between the various groups and individuals to reflect the situations not being as much of a monolithic presentation as often put forth.

So, whether that is rumors of guards who have disagreement over a woman or a score to settle to adding in a third side, or an ambitious junior officer, or a miserly boss who uderpays his crewe to a dispute between factions... adding in reasons one side might see it advantageous to use the PCs instead of just attack the PCs always seems to open up a can of richer layered flavor.

Plant the seeds ahead of time in the early scenes or random encounters and you have a recipe for it "all makes sense" when someone turns on another for payoff and a way out or revenge or ambition.

This is especially fruitful when the reasons for division also tie back to PC personal traits. Maybe the ambitious number three is from the same town as one of the PCs or the same order or some other personal connection which leads them to see this as "the chance we have been waiting for."

Some modules/paths/adventures do better than others but this added spice rarely fails.

I did not find HotDQ to be particularly terrible for what it was meant to be - an early breadcrumb adventure tale.

As for on the fly balancing for a new group, most often my go-to until i have enough play-time with a group to see how strong/weak they are - waves - or "extended encounters". it can be as simple as in the bigger more "worrisome" encounters having some of the bad guys not there right away - off taking a crap, running errands, getting messages, bringing lunch - whatever. having the same number of bad guys but spread out over larger time shifts the balance very noticably and allows the scene to ramp up in intensity. it also allows the very reasonable option of the late arrivals seeing it as hopeless and turning and running or turning and looting on their way out.

A key thing is - these also tend to show the PCs that they should expect a variety of reactions and scaling of situations - and not just expect a full room ready to fight to the death at every chance.
 
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akr71

Explorer
As I said, I did prep. The group never seems to want to 'slow down' or retreat so maybe I should consider this. The more I think about it, the more I think they pushed too hard and fast. As enemies would retreat to get help, they'd make chase in to a new room and be forced to deal with a room full of enemies. Then another enemy would go get help and they'd make chase again...they never considered backing off.
I've frequently had this problem too. Players rarely (if ever), want to back down, or run away and it usually ends badly. I don't have a solution to this except hopefully, in time, they learn that if something seems unwinnable, it likely is.

If I were in your shoes, I'd ask the players what they want. New adventure or keep going? We had fun with a lot of it, but it did drag on in parts (the Caravan). If they want to continue, I would suggest new characters - Harper or Alliance agents. They've received Intel on the Cult's movements and they characters are being assigned to investigate. I think a good insertion point might be Waterdeep, following the Cultists to Carnath - or even starting in Carnath itself. The players could be agents waiting for the Cult members to arrive and have been instructed to find out what is going on and follow.

I think having the players as sleeper agents in the caravan could work too, but like I said, my players absolutely hated the caravan, so I would hesitate to put them there.
 

Retreater

Explorer
In your opinion.


This is also partly a matter of opinion and/or individual experience, because not all PC groups are equal. And in fairness to the folks who wrote it, the rules were being finalized at the same time as they were working on it. (Tip for @TaranTheWanderer: if you do that encounter with the disguised assassins at the inn in chapter 4, you'll want to scale way back on that encounter. While they were writing the adventure, they were working from a draft of the monster manual where an assassin was a much lower-CR foe than the CR 8 it ended up being. I'd suggest using the stats for the bandit captain (CR 2) instead, maybe with a veteran (CR 3) for the leader if you think your players can handle it.)


Linear is not the same as railroad. But yes, if you prefer sandboxes, this is not going to be your cup of tea.

I always recommend this review, which I think does a good job of analyzing the adventure's strengths and weaknesses in a fair way:

http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/blog/2015/2/23/ygs4p90jb1dlkoqe0r9f5tqatvxsgx
Of course it's my opinion. That's why I started my post with the disclaimer.

And it's as close to a literal railroad as you can get in medieval fantasy game - sticking to a caravan trek. If it had been a modern game, it would've been on an actual railroad. Haha.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I suggest you do three things. Talk to your players about tactics. AKA RUN AWAY. Get a plastic skull and start writing pcs names on it. (I bring out skully when the tough should be going). Adjust the encounter (this requires xp to do on the fly.)
 

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