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5E Surprise Lizard Theater presents Tyranny of Dragons!


I love the little details:

- the "newlyweds" bouncing on the bed
- Atex using mending to repair Samardag's broken pottery

They really help the story come to life!

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I love the little details:

- the "newlyweds" bouncing on the bed
- Atex using mending to repair Samardag's broken pottery

They really help the story come to life!
Thanks--glad to hear you're enjoying those bits. I always wonder if I'm putting in too many of those sorts of details. I thought that was a great use of mending too!


Who's Your Friend? (Part 2)

Later in the day, Jamna asked to see them in private, saying, "It's time we put our cards on the table and see how we can help each other. We don't work for the same people, but I think we might be on the same side."

"And who exactly do you work for?" Landin asked suspiciously.

"That's a little more information than I want to give away right now..."

"That's it! I'm leaving!" Aric yelled.

"For once, I agree with him," said Landin.

"C'mon, I did you a favor this morning," said Jamna.

"That bit of deception was unnecessary," said Atex.

"Deception? Ah, so you figured it out, huh?"

"Indeed," said Atex severely, putting on his monocle.

Jamna seemed unabashed. "You can't blame a girl for trying. You'd have been grateful to me if it had worked out, and maybe you'd have been a little more willing to share."

"You're just here to rob them! Get out of my sight!" said Aric.

"No, no, tempting as it is, I am not here to rob. I'm here for information." She went on to explain that she was part of an unnamed group (the group guessed that she meant the Zhentarim), and she was looking for information on the caravan's "real" cargo. She also mentioned that her "friends" had wanted to attack the caravan and get the information by force, but she'd persuaded them to let her try going undercover first.

The PCs didn't like the threat, and they were still angry about being tricked, but they did grudgingly share the basics of what they knew. Jamna left satisfied.

Interlude: Waterdeep

After a disturbing encounter with some devotees of the goddess of pain who insisted on being whipped so they could properly celebrate a holiday, the caravan finally arrived at Waterdeep. They rolled over cobbled streets into the business center of the city, where the guards were paid off and the wagon drivers scattered to their various destinations.

The PCs approached Nyerhite Verther and demanded that he make good on his bargain with them. He readily paid them each 400 gold and signaled that the cultists were headed to an inn called the Owlbear. Aric, who had been spoiling for a fight after traveling with him for many days, was disappointed.

Aric noticed Jamna loitering nearby and called her over. He offered her a trade: he'd tell her where the cultists were going if she promised to let him in on any information she learned about Rezmir or about where they might be going next. She readily agreed. "Have fun killing cultists," Aric muttered as she left for the Owlbear.

Ontharr Frume Returns

Toward evening, the PCs stopped at the chapter house belonging to the Order of the Gauntlet. They learned that Ontharr Frume was in town, having arrived by ship a few days before. He was delighted to see them and immediately asked for a report. They filled him in on everything they had learned during their travels with the caravan. Ontharr said that he was hoping to have a meeting in a few days with high-ranking members of the Order of the Gauntlet and other groups, and he hoped the PCs could be present.

Jamna's Report

The next morning, Jamna Gleamsilver strolled in while the PCs were having breakfast. "And to what do we owe this delightful visit?" Aric asked sarcastically.

"I just thought you'd like to hear how things went yesterday," the gnome answered as she helped herself to a piece of bread and jam.

"Went?" said Landin. "You've done something already?"

"I'm not saying I did it. But something happened."

"Did they slit their own throats in their sleep, or what?" asked Atex.

"It's too bad you weren't at the Owlbear last night," Jamna continued. "There was kind of a commotion. You remember that guy Nyerhite, that had the wagon full of silk? It was really sad--he had way too much to drink and fell out of a window. Broke his neck."

"That's very unfortunate," said Aric happily. "I don't suppose he happened to say anything interesting as he fell out the window?"

"He didn't so much say anything..."

"Perhaps write a parting note?"

Jamna produced a folded note and showed it to the group. "He had a little thing in his pockets."

"How much do you want for the note?" asked Landin.

Jamna shrugged. "Eh, you did me a good turn, so I figure now we're even. Besides, I already read it anyway."

The letter was from Rezmir:

Greetings, bearers of the glorious Hoard of the Dragon Queen!

I have gone ahead to Naerytar, so I will be unable to greet you when you arrive. However, I have arranged for your lodging here.

Consolidate your wagons and sell any you do not need. Then seek out Ardred Briferhew of the High Road Charter Company and join the next supply convoy bound for the work camp. This will reduce the risks of travel. When you reach the roadhouse, Bog Luck will show you where to unload. Your shipment will be collected from there. You may then return to Waterdeep and await further instructions.

The Queen of Dragons will reward you for your aid in bringing about her return. To this I add my own thanks for your work.

Wyrmspeaker Rezmir


The Council Quiet

The PCs spent the next few days in Waterdeep, shopping and keeping an eye on the Owlbear Inn with the help of the Order of the Gauntlet and the Harpers. Two days after their arrival, Atex recieved a delivery of his share of the proceeds from Samardag the Hoper's merchandise. The money allowed him to copy several new spells into his spellbook.

The evening of the next day, the group received a meeting request from Ontharr Frume. Carlon, the Harper whom they had dug out of the road near Daggerford was also there; he had taken to wearing a kerchief around his head to hide the scars where the word "oathbreaker" had been carved into his forehead. (Landin gave him some gold to get it healed at the temple.) Carlon had brought Remallia Haventree, an elf, who was the head of the Harpers in Waterdeep. Next to her was a mysterious, silver-haired young woman who introduced herself as Elia and said she had connections to "other interested parties."

At Ontharr's request, the PCs told their story to the newcomers. When they had finished, he rose and paced about the room. "It's clear that there's a grave threat to the entire Sword Coast, if not wider. These cultists appear to be well-organized and serious about trying to bring Tiamat into this world. We don't know how far advanced their plans are, but if they're already gathering a hoard, that speaks of their level of organization, given the distances they are transporting it."

After some discussion, Ontharr and Remallia jointly gave the following list of goals to the PCs in their factions:

* Continue following the trail of the stolen goods until you learn their final destination.
* Once you know the final destination, do your best to disrupt the delivery in any way.
* If you get the opportunity, hunt down and slay Rezmir. Do anything else you can to prevent the rise of Tiamat.
* Return to Waterdeep and report once you have done all these things.

The PCs decided to buy horses and leave for the roadhouse one day ahead of the supply convoy. They hoped to be able to convince Bog Luck that they were with the cultists and con him into giving them some information.

A Fatherly Chat

A couple of days later, Landin received a message from Ontharr Frume, asking him to come to the Jade Jug for a drink. A cup of punch and a plate of snacks were already waiting on the table when he arrived.

"Have a seat, Landin. I knew you wouldn't want anything strong, so I had them make it for you without the liquor," said Ontharr, gesturing at the cup.

"Thank you," Landin answered nervously.

"It's good to see you looking fit and healthy. No injuries along the way, I hope?"

"Nothing major, no."

"Good. I worry about you, you know, when you're not here. It was one thing when you were safe at the training hall in Elturel, but it's another thing now that you're actually out in the world. So, how do you feel about adventuring life?"

"It's interesting so far."

"And the ... reason you didn't want to be a paladin--is that still bothering you?"

"If you mean, am I going to be a paladin, I'm not."

"I didn't ask you that; I said, is it still bothering you?"

"Um ... not as much, I guess." Landin blushed and fidgeted.

Ontharr gave him a knowing look. "That girl you're traveling with--very pretty, isn't she?"

Landin blushed even deeper, if possible. "Yes, she is."

"If it's that way," said Ontharr with a chuckle, "then it's just as well you didn't take your vows."

"You never ... got married or had ... a girl?"

Ontharr set down his mug, and his face took on a faw-away expression. "There was a time I thought about it, yes."

"And what happened?"

"She died. She was--in my younger days, when I was adventuring, we had to pursue some elementals that had been possessed and corrupted into the region of Mount Hotenow, and--" He took a long drink. "Well, anyway, there was no body to resurrect when we came out."

"Wow. I'm sorry."

"Ah well, perhaps it's for the best. I am reasonably content with my life now."

"Were you a paladin then?"

"Oh yes. I seriously thought about leaving the order. But it's easier for you; you haven't taken your vows. And if you choose not to, then just be the best fighter you can be, and try to stand up for the good training that you've had."

Patron of the Arts

Atex also received a message, asking him to meet Radecere at the Yawning Portal. The famous tavern was packed with adventuring types drinking and swapping tales. A sign just inside the door gave the rates for passage to and from the Undermountain, but a second sign proclaimed that trips were temporarily suspended; the bartender was explaining to several disgruntled adventurers that the entrance was blocked by a rockfall.

Radecere motioned to Atex from a table in a side room. With him was another man whom Atex recognized immediately: Gedsel, the leader of the well-dressed phony adventurers from the caravan.

Gedsel stood and bowed as Atex approached. "Friend Radecere, you did not tell me that I already knew the person that was going to be meeting us today. That makes this a little awkward."

"Oh, c'mon," said Radecere, "I'm surprised you didn't think of it before! I mean, you guys fought together at that inn--you know, when there were those big toad-creatures?"

"It's awkward for me too, because I don't know why we're all meeting here," commented Atex. "So what brings us here, Radecere?"

"Ah well, my friend Gel here has a business proposition, and it sounded like a good deal. I thought I'd see if you wanted to get in on it."

Gedsel pulled nervously at his collar, but seemed to decide to make the best of it. He cleared his throat. "My colleagues and I--you remember my friends who were traveling with me?--were hoping to find someone who was willing to invest in an artistic endeavor. We were hoping to earn some money along the way, but that did not work out quite the way we'd hoped. As a result, here we are in Waterdeep and seriously short on funds.

"I suppose now that we are here, I can lay my cards on the table," Gedsel continued, warming to to subject. "We are, good sir, the finest troupe of thespians, acrobats, and entertainers on the Sword Coast."

Atex laughed. "During that row in the bar, I was quite entertained indeed."

Gedsel grinned in a frozen way. "Ah. Well, we were looking for someone to invest additional capital so that we can purchase costumes and supplies to put on our performances. You would, of course, own a share in our traveling company and be entitled therefore to a proportion of the profits. Friend Radecere has already invested in our company, I'm very pleased to say."

"Yeah!" said Radecere. "I think this is going to be a great money-making venture, and I wanted to get you in on it. I mean, you're my pal!"

Atex considered. "Tell me more about this troupe of yours," he told Gedsel.

Gedsel launched into an enthusiastic spiel about how they intended to perform all the classics, with juggling and light entertainment on the side. He capped it off with a sample of his art, bursting into a speech from The Tragedy of King Uth, which attracted some attention and applause from the other taverngoers.

Atex let Gedsel buy him a few drinks while he deliberated, but he eventually decided to buy his way into the company. Gedsel pumped his hand and suggested that they name the company the Atex and Radecere players. They all drank to celebrate their new partnership.

Light Reading

The night before they meant to leave Waterdeep, Ariana returned to the inn to find her book lying open on the bed. The writing in it had become much clearer, with entire pages now visible. It seemed to be a history and guide to the Cult of the Dragon: their history, rituals, methods of identifying each other, and similar information. She shared the information with the rest of the group; they figured that they now knew enough to pose as low-level cult members if needed.

*DM note: The name of the Council Quiet came from Mike Shea's blog. I didn't call it that in the game, but I'm using the name in my summary here.

We had no idea whether paladins of Torm are typically celibate, but since his domain includes self-sacrifice, it seemed reasonable to think there might be at least one order that was.
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What is the deal with Ariana's book again? I've lost track of the details there.

Did anything ever come of Atex's investment?

Landin's conversation with Ontharr was a nice touch. I wish I'd thought of something like that.


What is the deal with Ariana's book again? I've lost track of the details there.
It was her trinket. I used it to give the group the benefits of the Cult Infiltrator background, hoping it would encourage them to do a little more, well, infiltration!

Did anything ever come of Atex's investment?
Oh yes. Remember that thread on the main board about an upcoming showdown with an illusionist in a theater? :D

Landin's conversation with Ontharr was a nice touch. I wish I'd thought of something like that.
Thanks--again, I wasn't sure whether that would interest anyone not in our group, so it's good to hear you enjoyed it. I wanted to do something different from the cliche of the rigid paladin who can't imagine any way to be virtuous outside of the confines of the order. Though, the player eats up angst with a spoon, so she might have preferred to have that!


Chapter 5

Carnath Roadhouse

One day before the road crew was due to leave Waterdeep, the PCs set out northward on horseback. They were favored with unseasonably warm and dry weather, so they made good time, and they arrived at the roadhouse several days early.

They met with Bog Luck, the roadhouse's half-orc manager, posing as extra guards hired by Frulam Mondath to ensure the safety of the treasure. Bog Luck was being paid by someone named Borngray to place crates of treasure in the one lockable room of the storehouse. He told them that when he did this, the crates would typically disappear during the night. The roadhouse cook also mentioned that he always heard scuffling coming from that room right after a new shift of workers arrived.

Not wanting to be recognized by anyone from the caravan, the PCs arranged to go out hunting early the next day. They watched from a distance as the convoy arrived. That night, the PCs stayed in the storeroom with the crates of treasure. After a bit of investigation, they discovered a trapdoor leading to a secret passage beneath the roadhouse.

Around midnight, a party of lizardmen showed up to collect the treasure. The PCs attacked immediately, killing all of the lizardmen except for two that they kept alive for questioning.

The two lizardfolk, Snapjaw and Sunscale, explained that their tribe were slaves at Castle Naerytar. The PCs had the grace to feel bad about killing the rest of the party, but Sunscale simply shrugged. "Alive, dead--what does it matter? We are slaves."

Snapjaw told them that he had tried to convince the tribe to rise up against the bullywugs, but they were too afraid ever since their shaman had been killed by the bullywug overseers.

"Can't you elect a new leader?" Atex asked.

"Perhaps the black dragon would tell us who is the chosen leader," said Snapjaw, "but he stays silent. We do not know why he does not come to save us."

"You're friends with a dragon?"

"We revere the dragon. He is great and powerful."

With continued questioning, they learned that there were more bullywugs than lizardmen at the castle, but sometimes the bullywugs were ordered off on missions in the swamp by one of the commanders: Rezmir, the bullywug leader Spattergoo, or the elf commander Borngray. Also, the castle was where the contents of the treasure crates were sorted, cleaned, and repacked by a team of a dozen or so cultists.

The PCs decided to hide most of the treasure in the tunnel, saving only a few crates of less-valuable items to deliver to the castle. Using the sending spell, Aric told Ontharr Frume where the crates were hidden and asked him to send a party to retrieve them.

They agreed on a story to explain their presence and the lack of treasure. The PCs decided to stick to the cover story about being extra security for the treasure. They would claim to have rescued Snapjaw and Sunscale from an ambush in which the other lizardmen were killed and most of the treasure was lost in the swamp.

As a final gesture, they also left behind a message for Bog Luck saying that his services would no longer be required and that he should turn away any further shipments.

The Mere of Dead Men Strikes Back

They set out through the misty swamp, heading for where the lizardmen had stashed some boats. The PCs quickly learned that failing to stay exactly on the path could lead to stepping into ankle-deep cold water, or worse. Landin, being the largest of the group, found that his steps sank further into the muck than anyone else's.

In the early afternoon, after they had been walking for several hours, a group of orc and ogre zombies rose from the murky water and attacked. The lizardmen quickly threw their javelins, and then Aric stepped forward. Raising his hand, he shouted words of praise to Bahamut; a giant, shadowy dragon head appeared and roared at the undead, destroying most of the orcs and causing one of the two ogres to flee in terror. After that, the battle was just a matter of clean-up.

The lizardmen looked at Aric with new respect afterward. Noticing this, Aric told them, "I follow the greatest dragon there is."

"Where is this dragon's lair?" asked Snapjaw.

"It's in the heavens themselves," Aric replied. "He's not just a dragon--he's a god."

Snapjaw and Sunscale looked at each other, oooh'd with reverence, and nodded. Aric regaled them with legends about Bahamut's might until they reached the lizardmen's campsite.
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Castle Naerytar

The next morning, they set out for Castle Naerytar in dugout canoes.

Castle Naerytar proved to be an old structure with attached observatory. Atex recalled that it had been used decades ago by a group of astrologers called the Academy of Stargazers. "But they only stayed for a short time. They disappeared under somewhat"--he put in his monocle for effect--"mysterious circumstances."

Accompanied by Snapjaw, the PCs walked through the mud-filled courtyard and into the keep. Aric had to restrain himself from leaping forward and rolling in the treasure that filled a long table in the hall. There were piles of gold and silver coins, gems sorted by color and quality, and artworks and trinkets of all sorts. Another table was a repair and polishing station. The whole operation was being overseen by Dralmorrer Borngray, a battle-hardened elf with an eyepatch.

The PCs told Borngray their story about having rescued the lizardmen from ambush by a large force who were on their way through the mere toward the castle. They hoped this would cause some of the bullywug troops to be sent out to chase the nonexistent attackers. Borngray heard them out and then suggested they retire to his study for further discussion. Aric looked longingly at the piles of treasure on the tables as they left the room.

In his mind, he swept an armful of treasure into his bag, filling it so full that it bulged. No one noticed! He imagined spreading it out and rolling in it, the coins and gems sticking to his body ...

Borngray's study was a comfortable room on the second floor of the castle. He took the most comfortable chair and sent someone to bring Pharblex Spattergoo, the chief bullywug, for further consultation. "I can't say I like working with bullywugs," he explained to the group while they waited, "but it is necessary. I don't suppose it bothers you as much; lower creatures all understand each other. But you must understand, it's very difficult for me."

After a short and awkward wait, a bullywug shaman wearing a headdress made of a crocodile's head arrived. "Borngray! You interrupted my divinations," he complained. "What do you want?"

The PCs told their story again while Borngray discreetly held his nose. Spattergoo looked very interested at their tale. "Ah! The entrails foretold something this nature. It shall be dealt with. I will send some bullywugs out to meet them in the swamp." He waggled his tongue for emphasis.

"It's a large group of spellcasters," said Aric.

"You'll need lots of people," added Landin.

Spattergoo grinned. "Indeed! My warriors have not tasted combat lately. They are becoming restless. I will send sixty of our warriors to meet the attackers first thing in the morning."

"Will you be going with them?" asked Borgray hopefully.

"No. I must stay here and attend to my divinations. Good evening." Spattergoo gave a sarcastic bow and left.
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