D&D 5E Thundertree (5ed Starter Box Set) Possible Spoilers

Jaracove

First Post
About Thundertree (5ed Starter Box Set) Possibnle Spoilers
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Do you find it lacking a bit of substance, a bit bland perhaps? Twigblights, Ash Zombies, and a green dragon you have to be feeling very lucky to take on. For me, the whole of Thundertree environment feels like it was bolted on around the quest to 'find the druid'. Almost an afterthought

Does it need spicing up, if so, how would you go about it?
 
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77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Yes, Thundertree is pretty damn grindy. Lots of buildings with nothing in them, too many damn twig blights attacking for no reason (and fighting to the death, apparently).

I'm not sure how to fix it. Giving the twig blights really good hearing -- so neighboring encounters get pulled in to one mega-encounter -- would get things over with quickly and be tough, but more interesting.

Having the dragon cultists be "up to something" in this town rather than just hanging out in a cottage could help too. Maybe:
- The first cottage the PCs investigate, someone has (recently) dug up the hearth
- Later, the PC on point notices some dragon cultists sneaking out of a cottage with a shovel -- and when the PCs enter the cottage, the hearthstone is dug up
- The PCs are going to start digging up every hearthstone they can find
- At some point there is an overgrown building foundation. Clearing some brush reveals a hearth stone with, of course, treasure under it. (Maybe some dragonsbane arrows and some potions of resist poison?) Plus a clue, or something dragonish that the cultists want. In fact maybe Venomfang lives here because he wants this specific treasure; he may try to parley with the PCs for it, or let them live if they find it for him (instead of just a TPK).
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Yes, Thundertree is pretty damn grindy. Lots of buildings with nothing in them, too many damn twig blights attacking for no reason (and fighting to the death, apparently).

I'm not sure how to fix it. Giving the twig blights really good hearing -- so neighboring encounters get pulled in to one mega-encounter -- would get things over with quickly and be tough, but more interesting.

Having the dragon cultists be "up to something" in this town rather than just hanging out in a cottage could help too. Maybe:
- The first cottage the PCs investigate, someone has (recently) dug up the hearth
- Later, the PC on point notices some dragon cultists sneaking out of a cottage with a shovel -- and when the PCs enter the cottage, the hearthstone is dug up
- The PCs are going to start digging up every hearthstone they can find
- At some point there is an overgrown building foundation. Clearing some brush reveals a hearth stone with, of course, treasure under it. (Maybe some dragonsbane arrows and some potions of resist poison?) Plus a clue, or something dragonish that the cultists want. In fact maybe Venomfang lives here because he wants this specific treasure; he may try to parley with the PCs for it, or let them live if they find it for him (instead of just a TPK).

That's pretty darn good. Some treasure that would make it possible to scare off the dragon (like the Dragonbane arrows. Make 'em do an extra d8 against dragons or something.) OR to give you something as leverage to parley with the dragon AND gives the cultists something interesting to be up to. (And gives you a find-it-before-they-do bit, assuming you don't just kill them all.)
 

doctorhook

Adventurer
Honestly, you're right about Thundertree. My pet peeve was how the druid is has seen the cultists skulking around, the cultists haven't seen him, and the dragon hasn't engaged with any of them. On that map, none of those parties are more than 200 ft. apart, and there are six of those damn cultists hiding in a building smaller than my apartment. If you've ever been in a remote or abandoned rural region, you know there's no way that many people are hanging out that close together without noticing each other.

What are those cultists doing in that building? They certainly aren't talking to that dragon, so they must be up to something else... :heh:
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Yesterday I put together a blog post on some ideas for expanding/revising Thundertree by making it into an outpost for loggers led by a Cult of the Dragon agent mentioned in one of Ed's online articles. This agent has stolen the green dragon's eggs and she lurks about the outskirts of Thundertree trying to find cat's-paws whom she can bribe and/or manipulate to recover the eggs on her behalf as she is afraid her appearance will cause the Cult to destroy them.

I then propose separating out the dragon's lair as another encounter for later in the campaign and then drawing on the new green dragon lore posted on the WotC website during the 5E playtest process.

For now I have simple ignored the druid but it wouldn't be too difficult to throw him into the mix as someone irritated by the actions of the loggers.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
Thundertree is sounding suspiciously similar to The Sunless Citadel, the first 3.0 adventure and I believe one of the best written starting adventures to date.

I had plans of up-converting it to 5e to run as an intro just before the PH(B) drops, but is it possible that Thundertree has "done all the work" for me?

Twigblights and a Druid foe caught my attention as both are prominently featured in TSC.
 

YourSwordIsMine

First Post
I haven't read or played the Starter Adventure yet.

Maybe you could make the druid evil. Have him be a worshiper of the dragon as well, but see's the dragon cultists as rivals for the dragons favor.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Thundertree is sounding suspiciously similar to The Sunless Citadel, the first 3.0 adventure and I believe one of the best written starting adventures to date.

I had plans of up-converting it to 5e to run as an intro just before the PH(B) drops, but is it possible that Thundertree has "done all the work" for me?

Twigblights and a Druid foe caught my attention as both are prominently featured in TSC.

Actually, that makes me wonder whether Thundertree might work better as an adaptation of The Sunless Citadel with most of the village having been swallowed up by a quake triggered by Mt Hotenow's eruption. Hmmm....

FYI, Thundertree, as written, takes place entirely above ground as the map clearly shows.
 

Jaracove

First Post
Yes, Thundertree is pretty damn grindy. Lots of buildings with nothing in them, too many damn twig blights attacking for no reason (and fighting to the death, apparently).

I'm not sure how to fix it. Giving the twig blights really good hearing -- so neighboring encounters get pulled in to one mega-encounter -- would get things over with quickly and be tough, but more interesting.

Having the dragon cultists be "up to something" in this town rather than just hanging out in a cottage could help too. Maybe:
- The first cottage the PCs investigate, someone has (recently) dug up the hearth
- Later, the PC on point notices some dragon cultists sneaking out of a cottage with a shovel -- and when the PCs enter the cottage, the hearthstone is dug up
- The PCs are going to start digging up every hearthstone they can find
- At some point there is an overgrown building foundation. Clearing some brush reveals a hearth stone with, of course, treasure under it. (Maybe some dragonsbane arrows and some potions of resist poison?) Plus a clue, or something dragonish that the cultists want. In fact maybe Venomfang lives here because he wants this specific treasure; he may try to parley with the PCs for it, or let them live if they find it for him (instead of just a TPK).
This is great stuff!

Thanks very much +1
 

Ceylin

First Post
Yesterday I put together a blog post on some ideas for expanding/revising Thundertree by making it into an outpost for loggers led by a Cult of the Dragon agent mentioned in one of Ed's online articles. This agent has stolen the green dragon's eggs and she lurks about the outskirts of Thundertree trying to find cat's-paws whom she can bribe and/or manipulate to recover the eggs on her behalf as she is afraid her appearance will cause the Cult to destroy them.

I then propose separating out the dragon's lair as another encounter for later in the campaign and then drawing on the new green dragon lore posted on the WotC website during the 5E playtest process.

For now I have simple ignored the druid but it wouldn't be too difficult to throw him into the mix as someone irritated by the actions of the loggers.

This is an excellent idea to make the encounter much more interesting. It actually provides some 'what are the NPCs doing here, and what is their motivation' to the whole area. I'm definitely going to steal your ideas and work with it. It'll be fun to 'homebrew' alter this piece to make it work.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
This is an excellent idea to make the encounter much more interesting. It actually provides some 'what are the NPCs doing here, and what is their motivation' to the whole area. I'm definitely going to steal your ideas and work with it. It'll be fun to 'homebrew' alter this piece to make it work.

Thanks for the positive feedback, and also to those who have sent me PMs or XP.

I've actually started a series of posts trying to expand on the locations on the map. A couple of hours ago I wrote up another that covers Wyvern Tor and potentially links that site to Cragmaw Castle (I haven't written a post for that location yet). My purpose for writing up Wyvern Tor was very much to explain what the NPCs were doing there. After all, it makes no sense for the Many Arrows orcs to be scouting around this far away from their own nation but a little bit of Realmslore made the difference.

If anyone is interested, there are also some ideas about how to turn Old Owl Well into a megadungeon and some notes about combining what little we know about Icespire Peak with G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.
 

Jaracove

First Post
Thanks for the positive feedback, and also to those who have sent me PMs or XP.

I've actually started a series of posts trying to expand on the locations on the map. A couple of hours ago I wrote up another that covers Wyvern Tor and potentially links that site to Cragmaw Castle (I haven't written a post for that location yet). My purpose for writing up Wyvern Tor was very much to explain what the NPCs were doing there. After all, it makes no sense for the Many Arrows orcs to be scouting around this far away from their own nation but a little bit of Realmslore made the difference.

If anyone is interested, there are also some ideas about how to turn Old Owl Well into a megadungeon and some notes about combining what little we know about Icespire Peak with G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.
I just read your blog and think it's a great idea, your suggestions

Put it this way, I'd gladly pay for any 'pdf' you put out there

Lawsuits notwithstanding of course :D
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
I just read your blog and think it's a great idea, your suggestions

Put it this way, I'd gladly pay for any 'pdf' you put out there

Lawsuits notwithstanding of course :D

Thanks, mate.

I don't have to worry about lawsuits: I live in a country without a functioning legal system! :) Anyway, it's obviously all free... in large part because of its half-assedness. It's good to know others beyond my players are getting some value from it.
 

the Jester

Legend
Thundertree is sounding suspiciously similar to The Sunless Citadel, the first 3.0 adventure and I believe one of the best written starting adventures to date.

I had plans of up-converting it to 5e to run as an intro just before the PH(B) drops, but is it possible that Thundertree has "done all the work" for me?

Twigblights and a Druid foe caught my attention as both are prominently featured in TSC.

The druid is presented as more of an information source/friendly npc.
 

Storminator

First Post
Isn't the folk hero fighter from Thundertree? Is his/her house marked on the map? Seems like it would be a place the character would want to visit.

PS
 

Fastjack

First Post
Manipulation

I really like the idea of having the dragon try and manipulate the party, however I am not clever enough to come up with a dragon's plan (at least one my players don't see through immediately). I'm hoping someone else might be able to give me a few ideas or perhaps some examples of draconian manipulations past? I'm thinking something playing on the pregen human from Thundertree's emotions, promising the town will be restored and he will be the town hero for helping everyone (and their descendants) come home after all the years that have passed. I also want to have the cultists already working for the dragon in some capacity since it seems lame for the party to arrive while the cultists are there but before they have made contact with the dragon (how does the dragon not know they are there?). I'm thinking that the dragon became aware of the druid snooping around and has sent the cultists to look for him and bring him to the lair so that he can be made an offer he can't refuse.

Any ideas or descriptions of what you are doing with the dragon would be great. I did read the blog post about expanding some of the areas but honestly the ideas therein (whole new dungeons and so forth) are more work than I want to put in. I'm looking more for motivations to make Thundertree's ecology more interesting possibly with a few new encounters.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
[MENTION=6747838]Fastjack[/MENTION], if you want to use Thundertree largely as is then you need to answer two basic questions:

1. What does the dragon want?
2. What does the Cult of the Dragon want?

Of course, you can expand those questions to ask why they are here, where they are from etc... but you're wanting to keep this simple, as far as I can tell, so you can run the encounter as it is written but have it actually make some sort of logical sense.

The 5E lore on green dragons - which is quoted in full in the blog post you mentioned - has this to say about the goals of a green dragon:

A green dragon seeks dominion over the forest and treasure, like other dragons. It has a broad definition of treasure that includes the minions and pawns it can use to gain more treasure. Control is its driving desire—control over its environment and every living thing therein.

Back to that in a minute. Let's look at the Cult of the Dragon. What do they want? Traditionally, the Cult's basic goal was to convert a dragon into a dracolich in fulfilment of some weird prophecy. It seems that is going to change somewhat in 5E but I don't have that information so I will stick with traditional Cult objective.

To do that, the Cult must demonstrate to a dragon that it is in the dragon's best interests to ally with the Cult. The Cult lavishes the dragon with treasure and generally helps it achieve its objectives. So, back to the green dragon's goals. It seeks dominion over the Neverwinter Wood. Obviously it's too young to claim the whole thing, but perhaps it has targeted a small elf village not far from Thundertree. (This doesn't have to be designed at all; just make it far enough away - and hidden - so that it isn't an issue. You can also replace "elf" with "gnome" or "pixie" or any other sort of fey creature that you think would work better in your game.)

So what you now have is the Cult helping the dragon in its raids on that village. The cultists in Thundertree are part of a larger group some of whom may be en route to or from that village (which also suggest the possibility of reinforcements). This means you have a more logical backstory for the cohabitation of the dragon and the cultists but you also haven't had to do any extra work.

You can also build further on this. Perhaps the dragon has achieved its objectives and now thinks of the Cult as a liability. Maybe it can polymorph into some sort of talking animal and convince the PCs of the evil of this Cult and persuade the PCs to wipe the Cult out.

However, there's something else in the aforementioned green dragon lore that I think is interesting:

A green dragon’s favoured treasures include people bent to its will, famous or significant people it has subverted (such as a renowned bard), emeralds, sculpted wood, musical instruments, and artistic busts and other sculptures of humanoid subjects.

If the Cult of the Dragon is providing Venomfang with treasure, prima facie that suggests a pretty significant increase in the size of the dragon's hoard... unless, of course, the treasure they have provided is a renowed bard as this snippet suggests. Further, I would spend a few minutes changing the other treasure in the dragon's hoard to reflect what is described here... and make one of the statues a petrified NPC of some sort: players sometimes love that sort of thing.

How does all of that sound? It will add only a few minutes to your preparation but things now make a bit more sense. Even the presence of the druid is more logical: maybe he is the self-appointed defender of the fey village and he is trying to do his bit to end this threat.

Personally, I think the first appearance of a dragon in a new edition is a time to really pull out the stops and show the dragons as something truly special. I would be drawing on the descriptions in the green dragon lore from the blog post and filling Thundertree with strange mists and whatnot, as well as the warning crows and skulking animals. It might take some extra effort but, IME, players tend to really riff off that sort of extra effort and become better and more committed/interested players as a result.

Or you could just have them walk into a ruined village, fight the Cult, and then get blasted by a green dragon appearing out of nowhere.
 

Fastjack

First Post
The description of the green dragon from the blog post really got me excited to run the encounter. I love the eery mood it sets with the fog and other strange aspects of the forest surrounding the lair. Thanks for all of your suggestions. I really like the idea of the dragon collecting people as treasure and your idea for a petrified npc seems like it would really hook my players.

I know I don't want to run it as is, with all of these groups (twigblights, ash zombies, spiders, druid, dragon, cultists) standing around about 20 feet from each other with the players walking from building to building killing things until getting tpked by the dragon. I like the idea of the dragon just beginning to exert control over the southern Neverwinter Wood and these cultists being his first foot soldiers. I liked your notes in the blog about possible dragon parents in the area to give an origin for the dragon in case that comes up so that the players don't feel like it just came out of nowhere. I think it would be cool if the dragon was something that the pcs kept encountering or hearing about as it increases its power in the area. While they grow in level hoping to come back and slay the monster its own power will grow by attracting more followers and perhaps improving its lair.

I'm thinking I might have the dragon hold someone hostage (either the druid or the party member being run as an npc) in order to get the party to perform some seemingly harmless task. Maybe he wants them to bring a bard to him? Or even just announce his presence to Phandalin? In the meantime he will have turned his hostage into a follower either through trickery or magic.

Right now I'm thinking I might have the cultists camping outside of town and having trouble accomplishing the task given to them by the dragon: to find the druid whom the dragon caught spying on him while in animal form. They might ask the party for help or tell them to get lost. The druid is in town laying low in an abandoned building surrounded by the twigblight encounters with the spiders in one building on the edge of town and the zombies inside of the other intact buildings. Basically this keeps the town as written but move the cultists to some distance before the town and move the tower lair outside of town a ways. I'll also just run one big twigblight encounter with the druid helping if needed.

I'm definitely going to read that passage about green dragons quoted in your blog again tonight before we play so that I can try and set the same mood at the table, where it is creepy and the whole surrounding forest might be working for this dragon.
 


Nebulous

Legend
@Fastjack, if you want to use Thundertree largely as is then you need to answer two basic questions:

1. What does the dragon want?
2. What does the Cult of the Dragon want?

Of course, you can expand those questions to ask why they are here, where they are from etc... but you're wanting to keep this simple, as far as I can tell, so you can run the encounter as it is written but have it actually make some sort of logical sense.

The 5E lore on green dragons - which is quoted in full in the blog post you mentioned - has this to say about the goals of a green dragon:

A green dragon seeks dominion over the forest and treasure, like other dragons. It has a broad definition of treasure that includes the minions and pawns it can use to gain more treasure. Control is its driving desire—control over its environment and every living thing therein.
Personally, I think the first appearance of a dragon in a new edition is a time to really pull out the stops and show the dragons as something truly special. I would be drawing on the descriptions in the green dragon lore from the blog post and filling Thundertree with strange mists and whatnot, as well as the warning crows and skulking animals. It might take some extra effort but, IME, players tend to really riff off that sort of extra effort and become better and more committed/interested players as a result.

Or you could just have them walk into a ruined village, fight the Cult, and then get blasted by a green dragon appearing out of nowhere.

Yes, yes! Having a bard/skald chained up and playing a lute and telling stories/singing/praising the dragon is a fantastic idea. Evoking sympathy for the poor NPC is a great way to get players involved as well.
 

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