D&D 5E Living Elsir Vale / Red Hand of Doom - Feedback Requested


First Post
A little background:

So I recently picked up the 5th edition PHB after about ten years away from the game and it's inspired me to run a new campaign. I reached out to my two long-running gaming groups from my past and it turned out that they were both interested in a new game! Great! But I only have time for one game, really. So which gaming group do I choose? Well, then I had an idea, why don't I run one mega adventure / story arc, but with the two groups both completing different parts of the story, only to come together to defeat the big bad evil guy at the end?

A year or so ago I picked up Red Hand of Doom and read through it - I just couldn't put it down. It is a very tolkien-esque romp with a very D&D feel. It's a near perfect module. I can't wait to run it. Plus, I really enjoyed the rich background of the Elsir Vale. It's a great fit for what I'm looking for. Expect everything below to include a bunch of spoilers.


My goal here is to make the Elsir Vale feel like a living, breathing world. This will require a lot of work on my end, but I plan to heavily leverage materials out there to fill in the gaps. I plan to make the Elsir Vale one big sandbox made up of a bunch of pre-published sandboxes. I'll grab my favorite modules and make the tweaks so they'll all fit together well. I want the PCs to all feel ownership and accountability for the Vale, and want to protect it with all their might when the Red Hand cult invades. They really have to *care*. I plan to do this in two ways - (1) spend a lot of time with each PC and work on each PC's back story, and work in a number of places and NPCs throughout. For example, one of the PCs is from the noble family Haskinar from Brindol, and went to the Brindol Academy as a youth. He even apprenticed under Immerstal the Red before they had a disagreement. Another PC is a distant relative from Drellin himself, the namesake of Drellin's Ferry. He has second and third cousins in every town and village from Dennovar to Overlook. (2) Have the PCs adventure throughout the Vale and get to know its inhabitants, save villages from bandits, recover stolen relics, etc. etc. etc. so when they are watching the villages burn, they'll go back to Fedrin's house and see if he made it out alive. Anyway, you guys get the idea. That's the goal.

The Adventure Path:

So I spent a bunch of hours reading the boards, top 10 lists, and blogs to triangulate around what the "best modules of all time" are. There are probably 50 or so modules that come up frequently throughout these lists, and so I perused a bunch of them and narrowed a bunch down based on feel, scope of heroism (need more simple adventures for the beginning before scaling up into RHoD), level requirements, etc. A draft of my initial thoughts are below but I'd love feedback here:

Group One:
A Wizard's Amulet (Necromancer Games) - PCs leave Brindol heading towards Nimon Gap
Trouble at Grogs (Dungeon Magazine #4) - Dagger Rock converted to the village of Talar
Crucible of Freya (Necromancer Games) - Fairhill converted into Nimon Gap
Hollow's Last Hope (Pathfinder) - Falcon's Hollow converted into Elsircross; Hargil Trask runs the Lumber Consortium
[Need some small side-trek here - preferably in Brindol itself]
Crown of the Kobold King (Pathfinder)
[One other adventure TBD with hook to get PCs to head to Vraath Keep]
Red Hand of Doom (D&D 3E)

Group Two (likely a dwarf-centric party):
This adventure path is a work in progress, as I'm still thinking through this, but the adventures may be in some order:

Into the Wilds (Dungeon Crawl Classics) - Wildsgate replaces Red Rock
Sons of Gruumsh (D&D 3E) - this module seems like the plot fits extremely well with Siege of Bordrin's Watch
Siege of Bordrin's Watch (D&D 4E) - either move this into the Hammerfist Holds or leave in Overlook; make the witch a Wyrmlord?
Vault of Larin Karr (Necromancer Games) - dwarves ruled the Vale long before the humans of Rhestilor did, so they built the complexes below the Elsir Valley. Towns of Prosser, Dauth, and Marthton / Hillwatch will be converted to make this adventure fit. The vaults will include a dragon slaying weapon of some sort that will be helpful for the end of RHoD.
Red Hand of Doom (D&D 3E) - focused on mercenary gold, then a side adventure to recruit the Hammerfist Holds to the cause.

For the finale of RHoD I've got a number of ideas, such as some of the PCs battling at the Fane simultaneously as other PCs war at the Battle of Brindol. Alternatively, could make the battle of Brindol bigger and split the parties to deal with different challenges at the same time, then really, really buff up the battle at the Fane for 8 PCs and combine the groups for the last go.

Other modules that I've considered:
- Into the Haunted Forest
- Revenge of the Kobold King
- Whispering Cairn
- The Shattered Circle
- Lost City of Brakkus
- Mad God's Key
- Realm of the Fellnight Queen
- NeMoran's Vault


There is where you all come in, dear Enworlders. I'd love to get feedback, opinions, thoughts, etc. on all of the above, specifically:

1) Am I crazy? is this too ambitious?
2) Are there any other modules that are must includes? Any module ideas for the "recruit the dwarves" part of the story? Any sandbox style towns that have interesting PCs and would fit well into a generic valley setting?
3) What do you think of the adventure paths? Focusing on path 2, any ideas on the Sons of Gruummsh / Siege of Bordrin's Watch?
4) Are there any other encounters that would be interesting to include in RHoD? Perhaps even taken from Scales of War or the new 5E adventure path?
5) What are some interesting ways for the setting to feel more "living"? Are there tips for having the two groups of PCs to hear more about one another? Ways for one group's actions to impact the other group?

Thank you in advance for the help on this!

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If I just came back to rpgs after ten years, I would start simple. Run Lost Mines of Phandelver for 4 of my friends, and get the hang of it. Confirming to myself I can do this. That I really want this.

Only then would I consider such a wildly ambitious plan as yours.

Otherwise I fear you're setting yourself up for burn-out, I'm afraid... DMing is much fun, but it is also work. Probably much more than your rose-tinted memory from ten years back...?


"Good golly, Miss Molly!" to quote Little Richard.


1) Maybe, but it's crazy-awesome. I've been considering adapting RHoD to my own game world for a new 5e group that's just getting underway, and I'm impressed all over the place with the amount of R&D you've put into your plans. What you've described is much more ambitious than anything I've put into this so far and, like CapnZapp, I worry about you burning out; that happened to me at one time, and it took a dozen years for me to get back into RPGing.

I might borrow/steal (on the advice of Oscar Wilde and my doctor) from your efforts to ease my own work. So, Thank You from the bottom of my wicked DM's heart.

That being said, I'm not qualified to comment on the reduced list of adventure modules you've compiled as I have neither played nor run nor even read most of them.

For my own group, to bring them up to 6th level for RHoD, I'm planning on adapting the first two sections of the most recent Pathfinder Adventure Path, Giant Slayer, which should make for an effective bridge along with the added conflicts between the giant and the hobgoblin factions.

I wish you the best of luck with your campaign. May we both give our players game table experiences they will talk about for years to come.


I need to get a copy of Red Hand of Doom. I have heard lots of good things about it. I don't think it is up on dndclassics.com yet.

EDIT: I stand corrected. It is on dndclassics.com, and now I do have it.
Last edited:


First Post
Hey aurin,

First, this sounds like a really fun idea. I'll keep an eye on this thread to see what you're doing with it.

As a huge fan of RHoD (played it once, ran it once) I can tell you that expanding Elsir Vale is not only possible, but it also works really well thanks to the way it's structured. However, I think your list of modules to steal from is way too long. Even if you only grab a small idea from a module, compiling it all into a coherent pile of notes that you can actually refer to and use during a game seems like a daunting task at best, if not outright unrealistic. Even if you have lots of free time on your hands, start smaller - select three modules you really like and start integrating them into Elsir Vale. Once you've done that, take a long and hard look at the result. Are there any problems you need to adress? Plotholes that weren't there before thanks to a magic item, an NPC with an unsual ability, or anything like that? Can the result of one adventure create problems for other adventures? Once you're halfway sure nothing like that can happen, proceed with the next batch of three modules you like. Because if you do it all at once, chances are you will overlook something that'll bite you in the ass later. At least that's how I see it.

And, on a technical level, there are only so many adventures the PCs can have before RHoD kicks in, because delaying RHoD itself for a few levels might create all kinds of problems since the increases power threshold could render a lot of the RHoD's challenges obsolete (like, if the group can fly/teleport/get around really fast, the whole timeline is screwed).

As to your questions:

1) Probably, and maybe :)
2) Sunless Citadel is a great addition to RHoD, since it's story is so easily connected to Azar Kul and his cronies: Ashardalon is easily re-written as a progenitor of Azar Kul (or you drop other hints and relics of him in Elsir Vale), the goblins in the dungeon could be scouting party send by the Red Hand to gather gold and magic items for the war, and the evil druid could be an ex-apprentice of the Ghostlord who was denied immortality by his master and therefore took the whole vampire route. Since Sunless Citadel is a 1st-level adventure you can foreshadow a lot of things that happen later on and have things come full circle, which is always very satisfying.
3) Couldn't really tell since I've never players Sons of Gruumsh (but I heard it makes a good add-on to Elsir Vale).
4) Depending on your much of Elsir Vale's original flavor you want to keep, there are references to the druidic folk that was the first to settle the vale after the dwarves where gone. If that doesn't sound like a great hook for some shenanigans involving (dark) fey and stone circles, what does? This can easily be used to plug Hollow's Last Hope into the campaign.
5) If you run a setting with two or more groups, let both parties find evidence of each other's activities. NPCs who share stories about "that other group coming through and doing XXX". This doesn't have to mean that it's always a question about who's first in any given settlement, because in the wake of a group's passing whole new adventures can emerge because the BEEG hasn'T actually been defeated, or because of some other ripples.
However, prepare for the event that both groups actually meet. Elsir Vale isn't really all that big and sooner or later they are bound to meet each other. Recruit a Co-GM and prepare an epic session where two groups have to work side-by-side to overcome an epic challenge (the end of RHoD comes to mind). If done properly, this will be something the players keep talking about for years.

Shameless self-plug: I've created a bunch of maps for Red Hand of Doom that you might find useful :)


First Post
Hey folks! Thanks for the feedback. Thanks for the (cautious) encouragement! I'm going to continue to brainstorm and I'll see where I get. I've been compiling NPCs and will share that when some it is more baked, particularly as I convert the different modules from adventure path #1.

In the meantime, I've been doing some thinking about Tiamat and her plans. In the Red Hand of Doom, Tiamat really takes a back seat. It's actually the half-dragon Azarr Kul who has united the tribes and are attempting to summon Tiamat's avatar at the Fane. Three important items that I've learned while researching Tiamat (thanks wikipedia!) are that (i) Tiamat once lived on the prime material plane and was banished to the Nine Hells by Bahamut and Pelor, (ii) Moradin is one of her arch-rivals, and (iii) she is the mother to Kurtulmak, the Kobold deity.

(1) this one matters because this is just general motivation. Tiamat obviously hates Pelor, and she wants to destroy all of Pelor's followers. Tiamat is all about spreading evil, defeating good, and propagating chromatic dragons. She never forgets a slight, so she can't wait to make it back to the prime material and seek vengeance.

(2) this one matters because it gives me a good dwarven angle here. Tiamat hates Moradin, so the dwarves will be in the wake of her vengeance as well. As I think about the second adventure path for RHoD, this will be important.

(3) Kobolds all revere Tiamat. Further, Kurtulmak also resides on the first level of Baator with Tiamat. Kobolds make a natural enemy to weave in to the story somewhow.

I'd now like to brainstorm with all of you the potential backstory plots that have gone on here. Tiamat is trapped in the Dragonspawn Pits of Azharul on the first levvel of Hell seeks influence on the Prime Material. She has this half dragon worshiper named Azarr Kul who's been doing great work for the last thirty years building up an invading force on the Elsir Vale. So what other things could Tiamat be up to?

Here are some simple ideas that I've had:
- She's made some sort of deal with Kurtulmak. Perhaps she's promised him the Dragonspawn Pits in exchange for his servitude once she returns to the Prime Material Plane. In exchange, Kurtulmak has been communicating with his worshipers, stirring the kobolds to come up from their caves and militarize. She doesn't lose any of her own in this exchange and this will weaken the humans.

- She also wants to punish Morodin. She has sent one of her powerful servants (an erinyes? a half-devil of some sort? a Tiamat-worshiping witch?) as an ambassador to the orcs. Tiamat's followers have somehow recovered the Hammer of Gruumsh, and have promised them power in exchange for their help. Perhaps also bred a half-dragon / half-orc as champion for them. Also showered the clan leader in gold / concubines / pleasure devils to buy his loyalty. This can makes Siege at Bordrin's Watch much more interesting. Plus, it gives opportunity for some really memorable bad guys. Alternatively, we could completely swap out orcs for bugbears or kobolds or something else in Bordrin's Watch.

- I would like to include human cultists in some way. Three adventures that I really like include human cultists, so I need to tie the plots in some way - Mad God's Key, the first chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and the Crucible of Freya.


I've been looking over parts 1 and 2 (of 6) of the latest Pathfinder Adventure Path (Giantslayer), with the idea of adapting it to D&D 5e for my lead-in to RHoD. The first Adventure Path begins with a giant chieftain seeking to regain a powerful stone warhammer called - get ready for it - Agrimmosh.

Agrimmosh? Gruumsh? Who's stealing from whom here?

Because your own story development ideas look really, REALLY good, I don't know if you'd gain anything from the PFRPG material, but I thought you might enjoy the "convergent evolution" of getting hammered.

And I might just take that Tiamat angle from you, too.


First Post
Thanks for the recommendation, Redthistle! I'm going to take a look at those two adventures as well and see how I may be able to borrow some pieces and work them in to the second RHoD adventure path. I keep noodling around on the second adventure path but have been working more on adventure conversions and chronicling the NPCs from Wizard's Amulet / Trouble at Grogs / Crucible of Freya / Hollow's Last Hope / Crown of the Kobold King / Cities of the Inner Sea (for the Falcon's Hollow write-up).

Anyway, most recently I was thinking something like this:

- A few non-RHoD related events (perhaps work in the two Giantslayer adventures? Mines of Phandelver? Into the Wilds?)
- Greenest in Flames (from Hoard of the Dragon Queen) : PCs do what they can to save citizens of the village (perhaps Dauth or something like that). After the adventure, the PCs race to Brindol to notify the nobility and the Lion Guard. Perhaps convert the half dragon because he's a bit repetitive with Azzar Kul. Also need to make the champion a Wyrmlord. He will also show back up for Streets of Blood in Brindol at the end of RHoD
- On the way to Brindol, they do the Mercenary Gold side trek from RHoD. They receive the 6,000 gp notes and the contract for the 200 dwarven mercenaries. The PCs will likely from here either travel to Brindol, tell Lord Jarmaath, who will then send them as emissaries to the Hammerfist Holds, or they will deliver the contract directly (skipping a trip to Brindol)
- Some adventure here at one of the clanholds, showing off some diplomacy with the dwarves. The idea here is to do a set of scenes similar to the Tiri Kitor elves parlay in RHoD since the PCs in this adventure path won't have done that chapter. I will mirror the mechanic of alliance points based on number of NPCs swayed, etc. Rather than flying owls for an extreme success, the dwarves will give the PCs a powerful item (dragonslaying weapon? devil slaying weapon? something else? Anyone have ideas?)
- While the PCs are visiting the dwarves, they hear from scouts that there are kobolds / bugbears / orcs / hobgoblins (TBD) north of Bordrin's watch, which should be impenetrable. The PCs must go investigate. This is where I'll heavily leverage Forge of Fury and convert it.
- PCs return with the bad news that the monsters have found a way around Bordrin's watch, which will then start the Siege at Bordrin's Watch.
- After PCs seal Bordrin's Watch, they'll take the mercenaries north and arrive at Brindol just in time for the big battle.

I'll award RHoD Victory Points for # of citizens saved during Greenest in Flames, recovering the mcguffin at Forge of Fury, for their diplomacy with the dwarves, and for sealing the nexus at Bordrin's Watch.

What do y'all think?


It sounds really good. I remain in awe of all the work you're putting into your preparation, especially since you're going to be running parallel campaigns.


First Post
Notes on fitting Falcon's Hollow from Towns of the Inner Sea into RHoD:

Hollow’s Last Hope and Crown of the Kobold King are two of the best-written, low-level adventures to be published by Paizo during the early days of Pathfinder and both perfectly capture the essence of what low-level adventuring is all about. The beginnings of any epic campaign start small, with the PCs first becoming heroes on a small stage – such as saving the town from a terrible disease by finding the cure or rescuing kidnapped children from the clutches of some evil kobolds. The backdrop of these two wonderful quests is Falcon’s Hollow, a small frontier town on the edge of a mysterious and potentially dangerous forest. The town is ruled under the might of the Lumber Consortium, led by Gavel Thuldrin Kreed.

Falcon’s Hollow is further detailed in the Pathfinder campaign supplement Towns of the Inner Sea. Falcon’s Hollow fits almost perfectly into the Elsir Vale but the minor tweaks to integrate the town into the broader campaign setting are below.

The history for Falcon’s Hollow is interesting but a little too “high fantasy” for my tastes at times. Nothing to really change here, though I’ll likely not go deeply into the fey curses, the hobgoblin strife, and the werewolf attacks in the village’s past. All of the cultural and setting material I’ll fully leverage. Elsircross is a rough and tumble frontier town built on the back of the lumber trade, with all of the hardships that come with it.

The obvious choice was to fit Falcon’s Hollow into the town of Elsircross. From Red Hand of Doom, the description of Elsircross reads:
A small town at a ford of the Elsir River, Elsircross is known for woodcutting and papermaking. The self-styled “Baron” Hargil Trask and the rest of the no-good Trask clan govern the town by the Baron’s fiat. Lord Jarmaath of Brindol has no use for Trask and would like to see him and his lot driven out of Elsircross. The towns of Elsir Vale haven’t fought among themselves in many years, however, and Lord Jarmaath is loath to intervene in another town’s business, even if that business is getting rid of a despot like Hargil Trask. For his own part, Trask is smart enough to keep his thugs from running amok in his own lands, so his subjects (and neighbors) tolerate him and his swaggering kin for now – but Trask has ideas about adding Marthton or Red Rock to his “barony,” and maybe even Brindol some day.
Additionally, Elsircross and Falcon’s Hollow have very similar maps provided in the source materials. Both towns have rivers run by, both towns are near a forest, and both towns have mountains beyond the forest.

Falcon’s Hollow = Elsircross

River Foam = Elsir River

Darkmoon Vale = Marth Forest

Only minor changes were made to the village, as most works great.

Hollow Tribunal: Renamed Elsircross Tribunal

Temple of Iomedae: renamed Temple of Pelor

Sharvaros Vade’s tower: now just an abandoned tower.

Hargil Trask: Trask is the perfect fit for Thuldrin Kreed. Further, the Lumber Consortium is a great addition to the Elsir Vale, so now Hargil is the self-styled baron of Elsircross as well as the Gavel of the Lumber Consortium.

Ayda Vorshin: changed to human from half-orc. Caravans now come from Dennovar to the east.

Jak Crimmy: He’s a retired adventurer. I added in his background that he was part of the Six Blades (the adventuring band that retired in Prosser in RHoD).

Namdrin Quinn: human rather than half-elf. No longer an adventurer. He may just be a simple entertainer.

Lady Cirthana Gensar: no longer a lady, now Mother Cirthana Gensar. Missionary of Pelor

Ralla Hebbradan: now a member of the Drellin family (one of the ancestors were founders of Drellin’s Ferry from RHoD). I plan to include a Drellin in every town in the Elsir Vale. She’s now just a human, no longer a changeling.

Hollin: Now Hollin Drellin, Ralla’s true brother.

Sharvaros Vade: Removed the necromancer hermit. Too high fantasy.

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