5E Surprise Lizard Theater presents Tyranny of Dragons!

jayoungr

Adventurer
This is the one-year anniversary of the start of our game.



The party:

Landin Hornraven Lackman III (human Eldritch Knight fighter): A tall, strapping, blond teenager originally from the northern Sword Coast. He was orphaned as a child, but a kindly paladin named Ontharr Frume took him under his wing and placed him in Elturel to train as a paladin. Landin recently failed his paladin trial, but he hasn't told Ontharr yet; meanwhile, Ontharr has asked him to travel to Greenest and gather information about reports of increased dragon activity.

Atex V (human evoker wizard): Coming from a long line of magic users, Atex studied at the famous Hosttower and is a member of the Arcane Brotherhood. Most recently, he was in Phandelver helping to get the Forge of Spells up and running now that it has been rediscovered. While there, he started having strange apocalyptic dreams that drew him to the small town of Greenest. He is very curious and likes to look at things through him monocle with no lens, insisting it helps him see properly.

Aricanthalykrythicos (Aric for short) (human life domain cleric of Bahamut): A former gold dragon trapped in human form as punishment for his great pride. He now wanders Faerûn doing good in an attempt to redeem himself, though his bluntness and lack of social graces sometimes get in the way. He doesn't remember many specific details of his past, but he knows a lot about dragons and still has the urge to sleep on piles of gold.

Ariana yr Nusrah el Jassan (variant human Spirit Dancer (Battle Master)* fighter): Granddaughter of two famous Calishite adventurers, Ariana left home after a dispute with her parents and was making a living as a traveling dancer when she was savagely attacked by mercenary thugs delivering a message from the Cult of the Dragon. Injured and humiliated, she prayed to any deity who would listen that she might learn to defend herself. That night, she had a dream of being trained, and when she awoke, she found a pair of rapiers and a book with no writing in it lying next to her.

*Spirit Dancer is a homebrewed class. The Spirit Dancer wields two weapons and wears no armor. Otherwise it plays as a Battle Master.

NOTES: None of us are experts in Forgotten Realms lore. Our familiarity level ranges from casual to newbie. If we do anything that contradicts the canon, just chalk it up to our own ignorance!

Some PCs were rolled randomly, using the 4d6-drop-lowest method, and others used the elite array.

Aric and Ariana are played by the same player. Atex's player is not available for every session, so sometimes Landin's player runs that character as well.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Chapter 1

On the Road


The story began in late summer.

On their way south, Landin and Atex met up with Pate "Patchy" Nighthill, a former adventurer nicknamed for the patch over his eye. He was old but wiry and still strong. On learning they were both going to Greenest, he said he was bound there himself and asked if they'd like to travel together for company and protection. Patchy proved to be a great cook and a friendly fellow, sharing many stories of his previous adventures. He mentioned that Greenest was his hometown, and he was going back for the first time in forty years to see his younger brother.

Meanwhile, Aric encountered Ariana on her way north and offered to accompany her on her travels, at least for a time, in case the thugs showed up again. As they passed a crossroads east of Greenest, they were hailed by Patchy, who had stopped to eat with his two companions. Patchy invited the newcomers to sit down and share the last of the rabbit and root vegetables he had cooked. Landin was immediately struck by the attractive dancer just a couple of years older than himself, and he gallantly offered Ariana the last leg of rabbit.

Having no particular destination, Aric and Ariana decided to accompany the others to Greenest. On the way, Atex told the rest of the group about the strange dreams that had brought him to this part of the Sword Coast.

As they got closer to Greenest, they noticed that Patchy's steps were growing slower, as if he were reluctant to return. He showed them a medallion with an image of an owl flying over a mountain and told them it was his family crest. Landin remembered that the Nighthill family had been minor nobility at one time, though Patchy said they now made a living selling furniture. In his younger days, he had run off to become an adventurer rather than take over the family shop, leaving that duty to his brother. Landin told him that his brother Tarbaw was now the governor of Greenest and Patchy said he hoped Tarbaw would still speak to him.

Near sunset, they climbed a gentle rise from which Patchy said they should be able to see Greenest. The wind shifted, bringing with it the smell of smoke. When they reached the top of the hill, they could see Greenest below them being attacked by cultists, mercenaries, and a large blue dragon!

Patchy started digging around in his backpack. He tossed a small cloth sack containing two healing potions to Aric and then handed his medallion to Landin. "Take this and give it to my brother," he said. "He needs to have it."

"Where are you going?" the others asked.

Patchy pulled out a mace and struck it against his shield, causing it to light up with magic. "I'm going to distract the dragon. You run to the keep and give that to my brother. I'm ordering you! This is one thing I can do for him."

Yelling out a prayer to Tyr, he dashed down the hill--to his death, the PCs assumed. They made their way into the burning village and shortly encountered a family being chased by kobolds as they tried to make for the keep. They managed to fight off the kobolds, but the mother was wounded in the process. Landin picked up one of the children so they could move faster.

They passed many strange sights as they headed toward the center of town. First they saw a wagon being drawn by strange blue four-legged creatures which Aric identified as "surprise lizards." Then they edged unnoticed through a square where several cultists stood in a ring chanting a hymn to Tiamat. Next, they came upon two mercenaries guarding a house while two kobolds held open a large bag and a third one tossed valuables into it from an upper window. The party slipped around the back of the building while the mercenaries were distracted and emerged in the square outside the keep, where soldiers with green tabards were fighting off the invaders. A dwarf with a red beard shouted for everyone to retreat. The PCs, along with the family they had rescued, darted into the keep and were the last ones in before the doors closed.

DM Notes: "Surprise lizards" was the result of the player knowing the name of the ambush drake, having read it when I showed them the picture, but botching the roll for the character to remember it.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
If I could start again, I might go with the PCs meeting Patchy on the road rather than in the tavern. I can't really articulate why. Maybe because it makes his sacrifice more poignant?
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
If I could start again, I might go with the PCs meeting Patchy on the road rather than in the tavern. I can't really articulate why. Maybe because it makes his sacrifice more poignant?
Interesting! I decided to have them meet on the road just so I could keep that moment when they get to the top of the hill and see the whole dragon attack spread out below. But maybe it also changes things subtly if the players know their characters have been traveling with Patchy for a while, even if the time was handwaved at the table.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
The Keep

Inside the tower, it was obvious that only a small percentage of the town's population had been able to get to the safety of the keep before the doors closed. Escobert, the red-bearded dwarf, was surprised to see strangers, but the family whom the PCs had rescued vouched for them. Once a healer started bandaging the mother's wounds, Landin asked to see Tarbaw Nighthill. Escobert directed them to the great hall and then went up to the ramparts to oversee the defense.

The PCs found Governor Nighthill directing the placement of supplies. He was stunned when Landin gave him the medallion and told him that Patchy had been on his way to see him. The others told him how Patchy had sacrificed himself distracting the dragon. Tarbaw thanked them and pocketed the medallion as if in a daze. When the group asked if there was anything they could do to help, he suggested they talk to Escobert.

On the ramparts, they found Escobert and some soldiers looking sadly at a broken ballista. It had been struck by the dragon's lightning breath and was now completely unusable. Ariana asked how the group could aid in the defense, and Escobert suggested they open up the old tunnel leading to the river and try to bring more townsfolk into the keep. He also asked them to try to keep the mill from being burned down, as torchlight in that area suggested the cultists were trying to set it on fire.

The Tunnel

Escobert led the PCs to the basement of the keep and showed them a door behind a pile of crates and boxes. He gave them the key and went back up to the ramparts. While they were clearing a path to the door, Governor Nighthill came downstairs. He thanked them again for their help and gave them two additional missions: first, to retrieve tools and metal sheeting from the smithy so that the ballista could be repaired, and second, to try to capture a cultist or mercenary for questioning.

With some effort, they got the door open, revealing a worked stone tunnel full of cobwebs. Near the far end, they could see a grating--and the reflection of many, many little red eyes. Atex used a firebolt to set the cobwebs on fire, causing half of the rats to run away in panic. Landin then frightened off the rest by threatening them with a burning torch.

The grate was rusted from exposure to the damp air near the stream, but Ariana managed to unlock it. At the mouth of the tunnel, they stopped. Two mercenaries were between them and the river, with a group of six kobolds lounging on the far side!

The River

Atex used mage hand to throw rocks and mud at the mercenaries, making it look as if the missiles were coming from the kobolds. While the mercenaries waded across the river to confront the kobolds, the PCs nipped out of the tunnel behind them.

A little way up the river, they overheard four cultists on the far side who had looted a crate of brandy and were getting drunk on it. The party doubled back and crossed the river where they wouldn't be noticed, then sneaked up and attacked. They killed three but made sure to keep one alive for questioning later. After stripping all four of their robes and masks, they tied up the unconscious cultist and dragged him into the long grass where he wouldn't be seen.

The Smithy

Now wearing the robes and masks, the group approached the smithy openly, but they encountered another group of cultists and mercenaries coming out of another building across the street. By listening to the other group, they were able to pick up some of the cues to passing as cultists. So when Aric greeted the cultists in Draconic and gave the Tiamat sign, the other group did not suspect them. The mercenaries broke down the door to the smithy and grabbed a jeweled sword from the workroom. Aric convinced them that there was a fine goods shop ripe for looting further up the street. When the raiders left, the PCs took the supplies needed to repair the ballista from the shop.

The Mill

When they reached the mill, they realized that the kobolds surrounding the place were only making a show of pretending to set it on fire. Atex strode up to them, gave the cult sign, and said in Draconic, "Hail Tiamat! How goes the deception?" The kobolds eagerly replied that they had already entrapped eight guards.

"We want to see the prisoners you've caught, so we can interrogate them--for Tiamat!" Aric told them.

The mention of Tiamat was all the explanation the kobolds needed. One poked his head into the mill and told the mercenaries in broken Common not to attack because their bosses were coming in. Then he showed the group to an inner room where the eight town guards in green tabards were tied up. Dropping a name they'd heard a couple of times, Aric said they would take the prisoners to Frulam Mondath. Landin whispered to the guards to play along, and the party marched them out past the mercenaries and kobolds.

Once out of sight, they cut the prisoners' bonds and quickly explained the situation. Stopping only to pick up the unconscious cultist, they headed back toward the keep. As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, the moon was suddenly blotted out: the dragon was flying overhead!

Most of the guards immediately sank to the ground in fetal positions. Two of them tried to run away, as did Landin (who dropped the cultist he was carrying) and Ariana. Only Atex and Aric were unaffected by the dragon's terrifying presence. Aric caught one of fleeing guards with a flying tackle and then helped Atex to round up the others. Fortunately, the mercenaries and cultists were no longer outside the tunnel mouth, so they were able to return to the keep with no further trouble.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Interesting changes you made there! I like the bit about the broken ballista and needing to go into town to scavenge for parts. Since I just ran most of the listed scenarios, my group mostly avoided the center of town and so didn't really encounter anyone actively looting anything specific.

I also like the addition of the mercenaries getting drunk on some stolen wine. That certainly adds to the atmosphere and shows the PCs that not all of the raiders are necessarily fanatics. Some of them are just in it for the loot.

One question though: How come you had them wearing cult robes and masks? The adventure states that no one other than the leaders are dressed in cult regalia to make it look more like just some random bandits attacking. Was that a deliberate change you made, and if so, was it just to make it easier for the PCs to pretend to be cultists themselves?

I'd also like to commend Atex's player for his handling of the mill. Even though one of the PCs in my group has the Cult Infiltrator background, he didn't think to do that. While they did spot that the cultists were making a show of setting the mill on fire, they decided to just go back to the governor and tell him that the cultists were trying to set up an ambush. I had the governor state that he still wanted them to free up the mill, and so they asked for assistance. I had the governor provide them with a detachment of four guards*. They then went and sprang the trap. And if it hadn't been for those four guards, they all would've died.



*In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have, but at the time, I felt they'd made a compelling argument, and they'd already done a number of other things to help, so it didn't seem *that* unreasonable a request, even if I could have easily had him say he didn't have any men to spare.
 
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jayoungr

Adventurer
Interesting changes you made there! I like the bit about the broken ballista and needing to go into town to scavenge for parts.
Thanks! I've heard of more than one group adding a ballista; there was one podcast I listened to (possibly the Escapist?) where they made it quite elaborate, requiring a PC's magical energy to be focused into the ballista bolt after it was repaired in order for it to injure the dragon.

I also like the addition of the mercenaries getting drunk on some stolen wine. That certainly adds to the atmosphere and shows the PCs that not all of the raiders are necessarily fanatics. Some of them are just in it for the loot. One question though: How come you had them wearing cult robes and masks?
Having the cultists in robes and masks was borrowed from Hack and Slash, as was the drunken cultist encounter. The author of that blog was really into differentiating the various branches of the Cult of the Dragon, and he had elaborate descriptions of the differences in appearance and philosophy between the blues, greens, reds, etc. I had not decided at that point how much I was going to use from the blog, but I also didn't see any major gain from keeping the cult's involvement secret, so I went ahead and revealed that aspect. It did allow me to use several of the less gruesome cultist encounters, plus the lightning stun-sticks the blue cultists carried.

was it just to make it easier for the PCs to pretend to be cultists themselves?
No, but it was a happy side effect. When I decided to use that detail, I didn't know what sort of characters the players would be building. They turned out to have a group without a real "face" character, so the masks and costumes gave them more confidence to try bluffing.

I'd also like to commend Atex's player for his handling of the mill.
Yes, that tactic surprised me too! I had vaguely decided in the back of my mind that it was a trap for city guards, since the cultists didn't know yet that any "heroes" were in town, but I had to improvise some details rather quickly.

Even though one of the PCs in my group has the Cult Infiltrator background, he didn't think to do that. While they did spot that the cultists were making a show of setting the mill on fire, they decided to just go back to the governor and tell him that the cultists were trying to set up an ambush. I had the governor state that he still wanted them to free up the mill, and so they asked for assistance. I had the governor provide them with a detachment of four guards*. They then went and sprang the trap. And if it hadn't been for those four guards, they all would've died.
Well--not having a TPK in chapter one is a good outcome, so sending some guards with them was probably a good idea. :) Even if it made combat slower, that doesn't make much difference at level one. Did you run all the guards, or did your players run them?
 
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jayoungr

Adventurer
The Sally-Port

When the PCs emerged from the basement with their prisoner, they found chaos in the great hall. Escobert and the guards were trying to fight off a band of kobolds, mercenaries, and "surprise lizards," led by a spellcasting gnome cultist, who had broken in through the sally-port.

Atex dropped the gnome with a well-placed magic missile, and then the others quickly took out the kobolds. Aric whacked one of the drakes so hard that he knocked it out through the broken door, and Ariana dispatched the other with her whirling blades of death. Then Aric stabilized the wounded guards. Landin and Ariana helped Escobert and his fellows defeat the remaining mercenaries. Meanwhile, Atex used his mending cantrip to repair the door. Three more kobolds scampered past him into the tower while he was working on it. Telling Atex to keep repairing the door, Aric fought the kobolds on his own until Ariana and Landin were free to help him.

Once the kobolds were dispatched and the door was good as new, the party told Escobert that they had a prisoner ready for interrogation. They also turned over the tools and sheet metal salvaged from the smithy.

The Interrogation

Escobert stood by while they questioned the prisoner, hefting his axe and playing "mean cop" to Atex's "nice cop." The captured cultist told them how the cult was gathering up treasure to build a hoard to welcome Tiamat into the world. Aric kept up a muttered stream of insulting comments about how Tiamat should stop being lazy and assemble her own hoard, but a memory tugged at the back of his mind. He told the group that he knew Tiamat was exiled to the Nine Hells, but he couldn't remember why or how it had happened.

The cultist also revealed the location of his camp and told them that their leader, Rezmir, had dragon blood. He said she had remained in the camp to carry on the great work of "tending to Tiamat's children." Ariana asked him why the cult had attacked her the previous week, but he knew nothing about that incident.

The Temple

The PCs barely had time to catch their breaths before the bells of the temple of Chauntea began to ring and they were sent to see if they could rescue the villagers who had taken refuge there. They slipped out easily through the tunnel and crept along the riverbank to the temple.

Crouching behind the wall, they observed the situation in order to plan their attack. They spotted a group of kobolds and cultists at the front door, another at the back, and a third circling the building. Once the circling group had passed, the PCs sprang out of hiding and quickly took out the ones who were trying to set a fire at the back door.

Knowing that the large circling group would reappear at any moment, they tried to enter the temple but found that it had been locked from the inside. Aric knocked and urgently asked those within to open up in the name of Chauntea and Bahamut.

"Give me some proof I can trust you!" said a voice from inside.

Aric shoved a dead kobold's hand under the door. "Look, he's dead! Hurry up and open the door!"

This only brought a scream and a cry of "What is that thing?"

"It's proof that we killed the kobolds! Open the door! Hurry! Otherwise we'll have to run, and they'll burn down the temple with you in it!" The others added their pleas, but nothing seemed to convince the frightened people.

Finally, realizing they had only seconds before the circling cultists appeared, Aric made one last try. He unleashed a torrent of graphic and profane insults at Tiamat, making Landin (the paladin trainee) blush. It had the desired effect: the door opened, and the PCs piled into the temple at the last possible moment.

They found about a hundred people sheltering inside, mostly just simple civilians. There was hardly time to start making plans before a loud thud on the front door told them the cultists had a battering ram. Fearing that the back door would be guarded once the patrolling group found the dead kobolds, the PCs decided to fight their way out through the front. The cleric of Chauntea blessed them all, and they waited for the doors to break.

When the front door burst open, there was a short but intense battle. The heroes shook off several spell attacks to defeat the cultists and kobolds. The cleric of Chauntea, who had been watching the back door in case more cultists broke in, reported that he could hear voices and smell smoke at that end of the building. Aric directed him to lead the villagers out the front door and follow the river to the keep. Meanwhile, the PCs made noise near the back door to make the attackers think they were going out that way.

While they were trading taunts with the cultists through the closed doors, the dragon flew overhead! It shot lightning at the bell tower and toppled it, to the kobolds' delight. The fleeing villagers were paralyzed with fear. Having experienced the dragon's aura before, the PCs were able to resist it. Ariana and Atex managed to snap some of the villagers out of their fright so that they could lead the ones who were still affected. Landin and Aric kept up the distraction, and eventually the whole group was able to sneak away without being noticed by the attackers at the back door.

On the way back to the keep, they spotted a woman in a purple robe who seemed to be in charge of the treasure. They guessed that she must be Frulam Mondath, a name they'd heard from a few cultists.

When they returned to the keep with those rescued from the temple, they were welcomed as heroes. Governor Nighthill invited them to rest for a little while and have a small meal with him in his quarters.
 
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jayoungr

Adventurer
The Ramparts

Refreshed by the meal, the PCs accompanied Governor Nighthill up to the ramparts to see what progress was being made on repairing the ballista. The new parts had been fitted on, but one arm was still splintered. Atex volunteered to help fix it using mending. The others surveyed the town and discussed how to rescue more people.

Just then, the dragon flew overhead again. It circled the keep several times, setting fires and eating defenders. Once, its lightning breath fried an entire line of guards where they stood; Governor Nighthill was among them, but he was unharmed. With shaking hands, he pulled the Nighthill medallion out of his pocket. It was glowing faintly.

Ariana ran below to urge the townsfolk to take shelter in the basement of the keep, in case the entire structure was destroyed. The other PCs worked together to load and wind the ballista. Their first shot missed, but the second bolt sank into the dragon's neck. With a roar of pain, it flew away.

Dawn was coming, and the raiders seemed to be withdrawing. Armed with their newly repaired ballista, the PCs managed to kill or drive off the kobolds pulling a couple of wagons full of loot, thereby saving a little bit of the town's wealth.

The Duel

A small group detatched from the retreating line: a blue half-dragon, some kobolds, and four prisoners. The half-dragon roared a challenge up to the keep, offering to trade the prisoners back to the town if a champion would come out and fight him. Ariana immediately volunteered, causing Landin to feel guilty because he hadn't really wanted to do it.

Cyanwrath, the half-dragon, offered Ariana the choice of which weapon he would use, sword or spear. With a shrug, Ariana said she did not mind if he used the spear. Cyanwrath offered to let her strike first; she hit him with both her rapiers. He threw back his head and bellowed, "Ah, I'm going to enjoy this!" Then he breathed lightning at her. She managed to avoid a direct hit and then came back at him with a surge of energy. Her blades moved at dizzying speed, and nearly every attack struck home.

Finally, Cyanwrath stepped back. "You fight well," he told Ariana. "We shall meet again." He ordered the kobolds to release the prisoners. Then he bowed, turned his back, and walked away.

The PCs all went to bed and slept until mid-afternoon. They awoke to find the town cleanup efforts well underway. Governor Nighthill told them that Patchy had been found, terribly wounded but alive, in an alleyway and taken to his home to recuperate.

DM Notes: Ariana actually took Cyanwrath down well below half of his hitpoints and probably would have killed him if he hadn't stopped the duel. She was rolled randomly and had very good stats, plus I had allowed the PCs to level up during the night.

Patchy's survival was not planned. I let the players roll death saves to see if he survived and to introduce the death save mechanic.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
I quite like some of the small details you added, like the bells of the temple ringing and Cyanwrath letting the PC get the first attack in. I like what you did with the ballista, too. I added a ballista to the top of the keep in my game, but it was in working condition - until the PCs went to use it and attracted the dragon's attention. Since I wasn't having the dragon actively attacking the town (he was mainly just there to scare the townsfolk into not fighting back), it made sense to me that the ballista being fired directly at him would catch his attention. He blasted it with a lightning bolt (nearly killing three of the PCs in the process). The wizard, however, was able to drive him off with several well-aimed catapult spells.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
I quite like some of the small details you added, like the bells of the temple ringing and Cyanwrath letting the PC get the first attack in.
Thanks! I was trying to establish him as an honorable duelist. I'm not sure I would have done it if I had known how close Ariana would come to killing him, though!

I like what you did with the ballista, too. I added a ballista to the top of the keep in my game, but it was in working condition - until the PCs went to use it and attracted the dragon's attention. Since I wasn't having the dragon actively attacking the town (he was mainly just there to scare the townsfolk into not fighting back), it made sense to me that the ballista being fired directly at him would catch his attention. He blasted it with a lightning bolt (nearly killing three of the PCs in the process).
I figure something like that happened before the PCs showed up in my game.

The wizard, however, was able to drive him off with several well-aimed catapult spells.
Oo, nice use of the spell!
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Chapter 2

aka "The Party Blows an Infiltration Mission"

Governor Nighthill asked the group if they would investigate the cultists' camp and find out whether they had plans for further raids in the neighborhood. He offered to pay them each two hundred gold pieces. Aric's eyes lit up: "I could almost make a pillow out of that!" A little later, a young monk also asked them to find and rescue his master, Leosin Erlanthar.

The group set out and followed the wagon tracks across country to the east. After a couple of hours, they came across some mercenaries and kobolds roasting chickens over a fire. The PCs surprised the stragglers, killing most of them and scaring off the rest.

Night began to fall as they continued to follow the cart tracks. Eventually, they came to an area where the road ran between two high bluffs. Suspecting an ambush, they attempted to sneak up the sides of the bluffs but were spotted. A mercenary in a tabard with a red sun challenged them and asked them to identify themselves. The PCs retreated in a hail of arrows, taking only minor damage.

Next they saw a box canyon with campfires and a watchtower on the north side. Keeping their distance, they circled around from the north and waited for darkness. Then Ariana climbed the tower's ladder and found four kobolds at the top. She killed them all, but not before they managed to get off a couple of warning blasts on a horn. While the others climbed up behind her, she looked over the edge and saw the camp for the first time: about fifty tents and mud huts, with a big pavilion at one end.

They decided to get out of the tower, but by the time they reached the ground, some kobolds had swarmed over the edge of the canyon. Ariana knocked one out, but the other kobolds grabbed it and pulled its body back. The PCs retreated.

DM Notes: It's rather painful for me to listen to the recordings of chapter 2 and hear everyone getting frustrated as it went wrong. I don't really understand why the players chose to approach it as they did; obviously, there was some mismatch between what I thought I had communicated about the mission and what they heard. I should discuss it with them and see if we can figure out what went wrong, in retrospect.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
My players were extremely cautious when it came to the camp. Only one of them went in, and only under cover of darkness, in order to rescue Leosin. And he had the foresight to replace Leosin with a dummy, so I gave them a decent headstart as per the adventure text. So that episode was over in one session.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
My players were extremely cautious when it came to the camp. Only one of them went in, and only under cover of darkness, in order to rescue Leosin. And he had the foresight to replace Leosin with a dummy, so I gave them a decent headstart as per the adventure text. So that episode was over in one session.
My group had done so well at bluffing their way through Greenest that I really expected them to do the same at the camp! I simply couldn't understand why they suddenly attacked everything on sight, didn't talk to anyone, and didn't scout the camp before attacking the watchtower. They should have known the strength of the attacking force both from observing the raid on Greenest and from questioning the cultist (although the latter was a few sessions ago at the time). I keep wondering if I should have tried to steer them more, but I wanted to let them make their own plans. Also, when they saw how big the camp was and decided to retreat, I reminded them that they hadn't done any recon before attacking, and they said that it wouldn't have made any difference in their plans. So it's still a mystery to me. I really should ask them about it next time I get the chance.

Oh well, on to...

Chapter 3

The group walked back to Greenest, reported that they had no information, and went to sleep. When they awoke, they encountered the young monk, who informed them that his master had managed to escape and was meeting with Governor Nighthill. They went to Nighthill's headquarters in the keep, where they met Leosin Erlanthar.

Leosin told them he had not learned much during his captivity, except that the cultists were planning to decamp soon and that there was a cave at the back of the canyon called "the nursery." He revealed that he was a member of the Harpers and said that the PCs could help solve a dilemma for him: he had been debating whether to go back to the camp and gather more information or travel to Elturel to alert his superiors and the Lords' Alliance. He asked the PCs to gather what information they could at the camp while he went to Elturel.

So the next day, the PCs set out for the canyon once again. As they approached, they saw deep cart tracks, suggesting that many heavily laden wagons had rolled out of the camp recently. The party donned their cultist robes before stepping into the nearly deserted canyon.

After bluffing their way past some hunters and the guards at the entrance to the cave, they started to explore the cavern complex.

Hatchery Exploration, part 1

The first place they found was an empty treasure room with a sleeping cultist. They let him sleep and continued to explore.

Ariana accidentally set off the stair trap in the fungus cavern and rolled right to the base of a violet fungus! Fortunately, she was able to fend off its attacks while the others assaulted it at range. After she was safe, they realized that the other path through the cavern was safe, so they took it.

Next, they came to the kobolds' barracks. They overheard some kobolds complaining that they hadn't been allowed to go with the treasure. Taking advantage of their disguises, they told the kobolds there had been a change of plan, and they should hurry to catch up with the treasure. The kobolds cheered and immediately started packing to leave.

The PCs continued on and found a room with animal training implements and a pit full of large creatures. After racking his brains to identify them, Aric said they were "super surprise lizards." The party decided to kill them--which led to a surprisingly epic battle lasting many rounds and drawing in two groups of kobolds that were attracted by the noise. Afterward, Aric searched through the pen and was disgruntled to find only bones and dirty straw. "How can they sleep on straw?" he grumbled.

They continued to explore. Ariana got good and dirty rummaging through a garbage pit, Atex lost a lot of blood to angry stirges, and Landin was poisoned by the barbs in the curtain covering the refrigeration cave. They decided to cut down the curtain to prevent further trouble, but Landin didn't want to touch it after that experience. So Ariana rolled her eyes and did it for him.

Rematch with Cyanwrath

Eventually, they came to a cave that had been turned into a shrine to Tiamat. There they met their old adversary Cyanwrath, who recognized Ariana from their duel. "It's you!" he said. "Back for more?"

"I didn't get enough the first time," Ariana quipped.

Cyanwrath unleashed his lightning breath on Ariana and Aric, but then Atex surprised him with hold person. Once the half-dragon was immobilized, Ariana made short work of him with her rapiers. His bodyguards, however, proved to be a tougher fight. Only a steady stream of healing spells from Aric kept them on their feet. One guard in particular seemed to absorb every hit they gave him until finally Aric, being out of healing spells, zapped him with a simple firebolt and he crumpled.

DM Notes: Yep, Aric's player blew another creature identification roll, resulting in "super surprise lizards."

Landin has the "secretly I'm a coward" flaw.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
We have an entire forum for game stories/transcripts called Story Hour. I'll slip this one over there for you! :)
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
We have an entire forum for game stories/transcripts called Story Hour. I'll slip this one over there for you! :)
Sorry, hadn't found that one. There seemed to be plenty of campaign recaps in the regular forum. Have those just not been moved yet, or is my style of recapping just too "story-ish" for the main forum?

ETA: Sorry, I realized that sounds a little angry. I know that being placed in Story Time isn't a reprimand, and I would have posted there to begin with if I'd known that the forum existed. I'm just confused as to why my thread was moved and others that seem pretty similar in style were not.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Sorry, hadn't found that one. There seemed to be plenty of campaign recaps in the regular forum. Have those just not been moved yet, or is my style of recapping just too "story-ish" for the main forum?

ETA: Sorry, I realized that sounds a little angry. I know that being placed in Story Time isn't a reprimand, and I would have posted there to begin with if I'd known that the forum existed. I'm just confused as to why my thread was moved and others that seem pretty similar in style were not.
I haven't seen the others. Feel free to point them out!
 

pukunui

Adventurer
My group had done so well at bluffing their way through Greenest that I really expected them to do the same at the camp ... it's still a mystery to me. I really should ask them about it next time I get the chance.
Yeah, that is strange. I'd be interested to know why they did that too. Hopefully they remember after all this time!

Next, they came to the kobolds' barracks. They overheard some kobolds complaining that they hadn't been allowed to go with the treasure. Taking advantage of their disguises, they told the kobolds there had been a change of plan, and they should hurry to catch up with the treasure. The kobolds cheered and immediately started packing to leave.
That was clever!

Cyanwrath unleashed his lightning breath on Ariana and Aric, but then Atex surprised him with hold person. Once the half-dragon was immobilized, Ariana made short work of him with her rapiers. His bodyguards, however, proved to be a tougher fight. Only a steady stream of healing spells from Aric kept them on their feet. One guard in particular seemed to absorb every hit they gave him until finally Aric, being out of healing spells, zapped him with a simple firebolt and he crumpled.
Wow. This battle went completely different for my group, but then Mondath was part of the fight too, having escaped down the secret shaft after they attacked her in her quarters. I ended up having the cultists capture them all and throw them in a pit, from which they were able to escape a little too easily ...

I haven't seen the others. Feel free to point them out!
You could start with Nebulous' PotA recap thread. It's been in the general discussion forum for a year now. There are some of mine there as well. I completely forgot about the Story Hour forum when I made them. There are a few other threads with "recap" or "campaign log" in their titles. Pretty easy to spot.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
The Mysterious Chest

While Aric idly defaced the Tiamat murals on the walls with his mace, Ariana and Atex checked out a chest on the floor of the shrine. Atex noticed that the chest was sitting on a plate in the floor, and Ariana realized that many of the carved dragons around the room had holes in their mouths. Atex guessed that moving the chest or picking the lock would set off the trap.

Aric started to plug the holes with the bits of stone he'd chipped off the murals, but they quickly realized that there were too many of them. They tied a long rope to the chest and yanked on it from the safety of the stairway. It came loose with a snap, followed by a loud hiss. They pulled the chest around the corner, and Landin went to grab it. He saw that the top was wet and pitted with acid, and that a cloud of mist was drifting out of the shrine. He wrapped the chest in a blanket from his bedroll and carried it back to the others.

The group retreated to the deserted kobold barracks. They pulled the hole-filled blanket off the chest and forced the lock with a greataxe taken from one of the fallen bodyguards. Inside they found a string of pearls, a beautiful sapphire ring, and a bag containing six gems. Aric begged to take charge of the treasure, but was voted down by the rest of the group.

Showdown with Frulam Mondath

After a short rest, the group moved on to the one area they had not yet explored, starting with a door where they'd heard voices. When they went in, they found that this room was where the cultists slept. Their disguises didn't save them this time because the sentries from the entry cavern recognized them...and noticed that their robes were covered with blood. The cultists attacked, except for two, who slipped through a door at the far end of the room as soon as the combat started.

Once the cultists in the barracks were all dead or unconscious, the PCs opened the far door. Two cultists defended the door for a short time and then ran out of sight, followed by the sounds of distant thuds and coughing. The party entered Frulam Mondath's sitting room and saw that a rug in the corner had been kicked aside, exposing a hole in the floor from which acid fumes drifted up.

Landin climbed down the hole, managing not to choke, and discovered that he was back in the shrine. The body of one of the cultists was on the floor; a lungful of acid fumes, in addition to the wounds he had sustained while defending the door, had been enough to kill him. From the tracks in the film of acid on the floor, he guessed which direction the others had gone. He climbed back up the shaft, calling out to the rest of the party to cut off the fleeing cultists.

Aric, Ariana, and Atex ran ahead of Landin and finally came within sight of Frulam Mondath and her two remaining bodyguards at the cave entrance. Ariana put on a burst of speed and surged forward, striking fear into Mondath with the speed and ferocity of her attacks (dash + action surge + menacing attack + bonus action off-hand attack). In a desperate attempt to get away, Mondath cast calm emotions on Ariana, making her feel uninterested in attacking Mondath and her friends. It worked briefly, but unfortunately, one of her bodyguards didn't realize what she had done, and he ended the spell almost immediately by attacking Ariana. Landin arrived on the scene seconds later, just in time to see Ariana swiftly skewer Frulam Mondath with her rapiers. The bodyguards fell shortly after that.

Hatchery Exploration, part 2

The PCs went back and searched Frulam Mondath's sitting room. They found a great deal of bad poetry about dragons in the papers on her desk.

Roses are red.
Dragons are red.
They breathe fire,
And then you're all dead.

Violets are blue.
Dragons are blue.
My love for them is true.
They breathe lightning,
And then you're dead too.

Black as a dragon.
Black as night.
I don't know the rest,
So I'll end it right.

Snow is white.
Dragons are white.
They're the opposite of night,
And that's all right.


And other poems in a more emo vein:

Black!!!
Black night.
Black dragon.
Black acid.
Black me.
Black like my tormented soul.


One useful item was a crude but recognizable map of the area with an arrow pointing north along the Sword Coast. On the same page was a list of towns that had already been raided, including Greenest, with check marks next to their names.

Another sheet had columns of numbers and a cryptic message at the bottom:

Freight north to Naerytar.
Keep pearls, ring, six stones per Rezmir.


The PCs recognized this as the contents of the chest. They thought the name Rezmir sounded familiar but did not connect it with the leader mentioned by the captured cultist in Greenest.

In Mondath's bedroom, they only found clothes. Ariana took them, since she had been traveling in her dancing costume since the cult attack.

DM Notes: We improvised the dragon poetry at the table. We didn't get around to doing a poem for green dragons, so here's one to finish the set:

Dragons are green,
If you know what I mean.
When they breathe on the forest,
They make it quite clean.

 
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