We D&D- LMoP & HotDQ Complete The Rise of Tiamat #001b Into the Serpent Hills.

Goonalan

Adventurer
We D&D.

Session #40b Hoard of the Dragon Queen #26b Review.

Just a few words (actually a lot of words- sorry) about what we got up to and how much, or little, we enjoyed the adventure. As with the previous review (of Lost Mines of Phandelver) I gave out a questionnaire to each of the Players at the end of the module, and then had an extended chat with the group via e-mail.

So, in episode order, mostly- although there are a few other things discussed, see the headings.

The Module Book

Apologies if lots of other people have said this already but, it’s a bit of a mess in places- daft errata, odd asides and a little higgledy-piggledy; at least to me- at times it lacks style, clarity and/or coherency. It feels like episode to episode, a bit of a mash-up. Also, the maps are too dark- too large, and yet too small, and worst of all- not that interesting. Here’s the caveat, I don’t mean the book is terrible, I’m mostly comparing it to Lost Mine which was very nicely written and presented. The plot/story of HotDQ is all good, and the potential action even better. Even the old skool players in my group were ‘stoked’ with the flying ice castle at the end, and the opening Dragon (Cult) invasion was a ripper. As to episode 2, when the PCs had to go place nice at the Dragon Cultist camp, then nearly 100 session later and the Players are still talking about it. The module itself is FTW, but it perhaps needed (at least) one more visit of the red pen before it went to print.

The PCs

The guys liked the fact (eventually- see below) that they were playing the converted Dragon Cultists from the previous adventure, and that I had encouraged them at the start to build their PCs with a few social skills. Except for Pete, of course, who duly ignored the latter request.

That’s not to say it was a smooth ride.

Jackie (playing Watt and the hardly used Derek) decided very quickly that she didn’t want to be playing a Bard (although, of course, she chose to play a Bard), she wanted to play a Rogue, like Hotlips. Oddly when I was writing the story up I kept stating in the text that Hotlips was played by Jackie. I’ve been back through and corrected my errors- so you’ll not find them. In the PC creation session Jackie ‘allowed’ (her word) Sandy to have a go at playing a Rogue (Hotlips). But she was maudlin for a good while afterwards, Jackie hearts Rogues, they’re her thing, actually up until this adventure they’re the only Class she has played ever, so… there’s that. In the last adventure Jackie played Nimbus (Tiefling Rogue) RIP, and Elvis Pickersgilly (Gnome Rogue).

Jackie changed her tune (very droll, tune- Bard, get it) when she realised just how versatile Watt was, as she stated, “he’s the master of nothing much- but very good at everything- cool spells, a bit sneaky, great ranged attacks, plenty of other good skills & powers, and tip-top when it comes to chatter”, which nicely sums up the Bard class.

Derek, the Druid, Jackie concluded was ‘funny’, but not something she wanted to try again.

Rob (Lummins & the hardly used Hard Bonk) was also unsure to begin with- he felt that he had to play the Cleric (the need for healing), and then… then he was particularly delighted when he got to fifth level and Fireball appeared on his spell list. By the time we finished the module he was full-on converted (get it- converted- Cleric, oh- I’m a wag). Rob will be playing Clerics more often, and chatty ones at that.

Rob had nothing much to say about Hard Bonk, the Monk, which is apposite because Hard Bonk gained a reputation for saying nothing much throughout.

Sandy (Lux & the party favourite Hotlips) heart Lux. Sandy also heart Rogues- she described Hotlips as a ‘sneaky revelation’. No issues here, move on.

Pete (Sgt Bobby, and the hardly used Sgt Harald) is just Pete- the seasons keep changing but Pete… doesn’t. Well, not much. The best thing you can say about him is he’s dependable- like the rain (kidding Pete).

And so to the module, or at least our journey through it…

Episode 1: Greenest in Flames (Sessions 1-5).

“There was too much of it”, said Jackie- and that would be my fault. I said at the start of this write up that I like to get my money’s worth from the published adventures- to do ALL of it. That said all the Players had positive things to say about how the scenario started- they arrive in Greenest and discover the place overrun with Dragon Cultists. Then they have to get to the Keep while preventing the townsfolk they pick up along the way from coming to harm. Nicely heroic, and a trial- with plenty to see, and hear en route. As Jackie said (actually insisted, rather than just said), however- “That should have been the end of the first episode.”

Meaning it was time to level up.

It took two sessions for the PCs to get back to the Keep, and another three to get all of the missions done. On reflection, and after observing the action from behind the DMs screen, I think that all of the Players were extremely disappointed that they didn’t get to level up when they got to the Keep. They wanted their reward, I think if I played HotDQ again- and I wanted to play through all of the missions then I’d level up the PCs up at the Keep (somehow) and then re-fit the missions for Level 2 and slow their progression later.

Again, none of the Players had anything bad to say about the missions, so I’m leaning towards my explanation (because that’s what we do, lean towards our own explanations). They particularly liked rescuing the Priest and the townsfolk from the Church of Lathander- and the first appearance of the Light of Lathander (automatic level up time). Pete described this event as, “Stonking!” So, that worked- and remember (particularly you Mr DM) that the game is (mainly) about just three things- fun & enjoyment (that’s just one thing), a (good, better still- great) story that keeps the Players asking questions and wanting to figure out the next bit, and good action- be it fighting, puzzles, discovery or chatter. It would be nice to get in some character development as well, perfect world, both for the PCs and for some of the NPCs.

Oh, and so while we’re at it- nobody particularly mourned the passing of Ray the Zealot, Pete likes to be in-charge, to be the loudest voice- when he has something to say. However, he also likes his PCs to be outsiders- all action and brave, but not the kind of people you’d particularly want to follow. Too abrupt. Too direct. Too… uncomplicated. Not always, but at times. That said Sgt Bobby, after Pete (and friends) knocked some of the sharper edges off the PC, started to enjoy being a part of the team. So, we got there in the end.

The use of eight PCs in this section was also not a universal success, again the Players weren’t entirely against it. See the level up thing above, they’d have preferred to be Level 2 and using the same four, scratch that- five PCs to complete the entire adventure.

It was at this point that the Players insisted that five PCs in action was the way to go, four was just “too dangerous” (?) according to Sandy.

Episode 2: Raiders’ Camp (Sessions 6-7).

Not one bad word about this section, from any of the Players, they all loved it- particularly the action at what became known as Camp Dragonclaw- with a bit of investigation, a bucket load of roleplay- lots of it with the PCs/Players put on the spot, and the ever-present threat. “I mean, we’re in their camp…”, Rob stated, “I was EXPLETIVE DELETED myself, not knowing what was going to come next.” They loved all of it- the bad guys, the situation, the story and most of all the fact that they had to keep making up the next part of the script- and roleplaying and rolling the dice to see how successful they were. Jackie thought that this was by far the best bit of the adventure, I had the Players score each episode out of 10- Jackie gave episode 1 a ‘6’, this one got a ‘10’. Point of fact it got a ‘10’ from all four Players.

“It was better than combat”, said Pete, which is high praise indeed.

If I played the scenario again, I’d pretty much do it the same way.

This episode, perhaps even more than the first, also helped to stoke the PCs/Players hatred for the Dragon Cultists- particularly the management (Rezmir and the Red Wizard that fireballed the good citizens of Greenest).

Episode 3: Dragon Hatchery (Sessions 8-10).

I’ll be honest, this was probably my favourite bit of the adventure, the Players also scored it high. There was a bit of everything here- good fights that left the PCs terrified in places- for some reason they got it in to their heads early on that they were exploring a ‘large’ Cult complex- packed with bad guys. They kept expecting more Dragonclaws to come running and make things even more difficult, this continued even after they had taken a few prisoners and interrogated them. They thought that they were constantly in danger, frightened to take a rest, while not wanting to retreat out of the cavern and by doing so allow the bad guys to escape.

I think I got them on the back foot right from the start- there were two or three fights in which I just threw everything at them, basically combining as many encounters as I could in to one great rolling maul. The Brothers managed to take down Cyanwrath and his Hit Point heavy Berserkers- this after fighting through two rooms of Cultists. Then, when they should have been resting, a host of Kobolds (& Urds) got in to action- it was the cumulative effect, for nearly two sessions they were fighting to maintain their foothold in the Cult lair.

The Players were also sore amazed when they managed to convince Frulam Mondath to give it up, with a lot of good work from Sandy- Lux. I think it was at this point that three of the Players (Sandy, Rob and Jackie) came to the conclusion that the way to go in future was not to just rush in to the fight. If an NPC had something to say then they were better off hearing it, their various social skill checks backed up with good roleplay could be as effective as the slaughter. Pete, obviously, took a little longer to get on board with this new (and alien) strategy. Sgt Bobby (Pete) was mostly of the opinion that the only good Cultist is a dead Cultist.

The interlude with King Urp (the Roper) helped to shake Pete’s old skool (maybe) style of play- the Roper did a lot of damage to Watt very quickly, and also proved to be very difficult to hurt. This fact only served to emphasise the ‘ask questions first’ strategy (or at least introduce it as a possible option) which was being promoted by the other three Players. It also proved to be a very funny and entertaining section of the adventure- the chatter amongst the Players about King Urp’s potential new homes, delivered in Estate Agent speak, “east facing aspect, with hot and cold running Troglodytes etc.” left many at the table crying with laughter.

As I said at the start, this section was the most fun for me- I had a ball with Urp, Mondath and Cyanwrath; I love a bit of bad guy acting.

The section also did well in setting up the next bit of the story, I didn’t want to rely too much on NPCs just telling the PCs what comes next- I’d rather have the Players extract the information about the caravan north full of Cult treasure from the Cult leaders directly. If there’s ever a choice between giving the PCs info or else getting them to track down and roleplay the information out of a bad guy/NPC, then the latter every time. Earning the info gave it extra weight and pumped up the Player’s kudos- they had achieved something.

Last bit, in this section Hotlips joined the Brothers of the First Light for the first time- and all was well with the world. As Rob said latter- “having the Rogue, Hotlips, that made things much easier…”

Everybody enjoyed the bar games in session 10, but that was nothing much to do with the scenario, just an excuse to drink beer and do silly things with dice.

Episode 4: On The Road (Sessions 11-16).

This… this was the least liked section of the adventure, although- there’s always a caveat with me. The problem was at the start the Players were straining to find something to do each day while the caravan plodded along, and a lot of the time it was rinse and repeat- the same thing every day for their PCs. It wasn’t until I made it absolutely explicit that they didn’t actually need to do anything at all for time to pass that things started to get good again.

It also didn’t help that the action was diluted (my fault again) there were eight PCs in play and on occasion (particularly with Derek the Druid) the good stuff was happening to one of the secondary characters, while the Brothers of the First Light were just marking time.

Up until this point Lux (Sandy) was mostly in-charge of things, on the caravan there was no need (really) to be issuing orders or else constantly making decisions- it was sit still, ask a few questions, and see what happens.

If I played this scenario again then I would make it crystal clear from the start that there was no need to ‘find’ things to do, just sit tight and observe- wait for events to happen.

Having said all of that there were many moments on the caravan journey that the Players really enjoyed, the following events received positive reviews in the questionnaires-

Pete loved the Peryton attack in the Trollclaws, the creature ripping the heart out of one of the wannabe adventurers, and Sgt Bobby of course got to play the action hero. Same again with the Hobgoblins attacking the crippled wagon high in the Trollclaws- Sgt Bobby, again, to the rescue.

All of the Players were left giggling like loons in the Terror Fungi session, particularly Jackie (playing Derek the Druid) who turned in to a doomsayer in a matter of moments. I remember her running around the dining table with her hands in the air screaming “We’re all going to die!” like it was only yesterday.

There were, of course, lots of other good bits- but overall- too much samey-same, and not enough new information about the Cult and their story, it was an endurance test for the PCs/Players rather than a thrill ride. Also, as stated previously, a lot of the action involved the Players secondary characters- they didn’t want (so much) to be playing these guys- they wanted the action to be concentrated on the Brothers of the First Light- Lummins, Lux, Sgt Bobby & Watt (and maybe Hotlips).

If I play the scenario again then the journey will only take half the time- three sessions maximum, skipping to the points of action, and rushing through the rest of the day-to-day. You live and you learn.

These six sessions also worked against me later on, play drifted and there was much more non-game-related chatter (and looking at phones etc.), for a while I thought I’d lost them (a bit), and I knew that there was yet more travel to come…

Episode 5: Construction Ahead (Sessions 17-18).

This episode proved to be very popular, just goes to show- all you have to do is keep adding more monsters to the mash. It also helped that is section of the adventure (kinda) serves as the climax to the previous episode- the showdown, of sorts, with the Cultists from the caravan. Also, the big reveal- the Cult treasure is heading in to the Mere of Dead Men, carried on the backs of Lizardfolk.

It was also very short and intense, and that’s nearly always a winner.

The Players loved everything about it- the battle to get to the Carnath Roadhouse, although that was just a bunch of random encounters done RAW. Some good fights- by which I mean the PCs slaughtered my bad guys, and the chance for Derek the Druid (played by Jackie) to climb on top of a wagon (her chair) and make frog noises. Another one of those moments that are going to live in the memory for a good while, long after the plot of the adventure has been forgotten.

I did good with the cliff-hanger at the end of session #17 (at the Roadhouse), this session seemed to revive the Player’s flagging (a little) interest. I also managed to put Sgt Bobby (Pete) on the spot here, he had to roleplay and try to explain why he was so certain that Hotlips didn’t murder the Cult guard in the previous episode. Pete’s always good value when you force him to roleplay- he says he hates it of course, but… the lady doth protest too much.

Also, a nice escape from the Roadhouse in to the Mere by the PCs at the end- dumping Jamna Gleamsilver in the process, the murdering Gnome- although none of the PCs/Players figured that the Gnome (and Lux) were in cahoots, and Zhents.

Episode 6: Castle Naerytar (Sessions 18-22).

Another very popular episode that had a bit (actually a lot) of everything- even the journey to the castle with Snapjaw was cool, Rob agreed- “Snapjaw was great”, Pete adding- “I was really unhappy that he died at the end”. I played Snapjaw like a fervent Marxist revolutionary- the Lizardfolk proletariat trying to overthrow their bourgeoisie (er… Bullywug) masters. Actually, just Master (singular)- I made Fartbox (Pharblex) the target of Snapjaw’s ire. The Players bought in to the Glorious Revolution big time, even going the extra mile to think up campaign slogans- “The best folk are Lizardfolk”, I’m getting that on a badge for work. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Sandy (Lux) had done a Powerpoint for the Glorious Revolution, with a SWAT analysis attached.

Then, of course, after the roleplay a hefty dose of pandemonium with the Strike Teams, and lots of bad guys versus the first appearance of Lummins’ (soon to be beloved) Fireball spell, and the PCs are kick-ass Level 5. They adored the crazy sprawling melee that lasted for hours.

The Players also (briefly) enjoyed having a Lizardfolk companion for each of their PCs to employ as canon-fodder. Although the arrival of their Lizardfolk helpers seemed to coincide with several Player’s dice going spectacularly bad. At times they just couldn’t roll high, there was a lot of despair to balance out the eventual joy- who knew a small plastic random number generating device could instigate such ire and fury.

It made me laugh.

Then at the end of the fighting there was just time for me to disappear Azbara Jos and Rezmir, which also served to rile the PCs/Players greatly- good. Ultimately however the ongoing ‘debate’ (that’s the polite word for it) between (mostly) Sandy (Lux) and Pete (Sgt Bobby) as to whether to heal up or to immediately chase after the fleeing Cult management, caused a great deal of consternation in the ranks. It was up in the air for a while, but of course it all worked out in the end, mainly because we’re all grownups.

I added a little impetus, and killed Snapjaw and wrecked the Carnath Roadhouse, with the visit of Scaly Dread, the Black Dragon, at the end of this segment. This “betrayal” (Sandy’s word) was not appreciated by several of the Players- apparently, I am “heartless”, this according to Jackie, they didn’t like it when the Lizardfolk started to die. Snapjaw was their ‘fwend’.

Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

The titanic battle in the caverns below the castle, versus Fartbox and the Bullywugs, was much less titanic than it (possibly) read. The PCs handed me my derriere. No contest.

Oh, and Lux = Frulam Mondath, the first appearance of the Wearer of Purple, Sandy really got in to the role later on.

Episode 7: Hunting Lodge (Sessions 22-23).

Another favourite, I was on a roll- seemingly. Fighting Trolls proved popular, and nasty, and the intro to Trepsin, the four-armed Troll, his mistress- Talis, and her other Cult lackeys was all good. I also started to make it much more difficult for the PCs to get in a Rest, something I continued to do in the next episode. Keep kicking ‘em, that’s what I say.

I wanted to try to keep the impetus going in to the last section.

There were some great moments with Talis (me) and Lux (Sandy) during the roleplay in the lodge, point of fact all of the Players are very good at talking their way in (and even sometimes out) of trouble. It’s also good when it’s high-wire stuff, when the threat is obvious- Trepsin, Talis, more Cultists etc. Let the Players know that should they mess up then it’s straight to Initiative, or similar, keep them concentrating on saying/doing the right thing.

It worked like a charm, and now the Brothers (maybe) have a contact for the future, an actual Cult insider.

The promise of the ice castle, and a chance to kill Rezmir et al certainly fired them up for the next episode, and with the second Lathander based intervention and emergency level up- the Players were buzzing. I tried hard not to disappoint with the final episode…

Episode 8: Castle in the Clouds (Sessions 23-26).

So… to sustain the pace, the Players skipped Parnast (their choice) they wanted to get straight to the action, on board the flying ice castle, at which point I just kept hitting them.

I wanted the threat to be immediate- hence Othelstan and his gang coming on board the castle and hunting the PCs down, then bring on Rezmir, Azbara Jos and the next ‘to-be-continued…’ bad guy- Rath Modar. The Players very quickly figured out that it was the Red Wizard Modar that killed the civilian’s way back in Greenest, I made sure of it OOC. They have a new Cult hate figure, after despatching Rezmir.

In the fight with Rezmir et al I really tried to take a PC or two down, perhaps too hard, I should have used Rezmir’s Breath Weapon earlier instead of trying to save it until I could get at least a couple of PCs in its compass. Then a Crit Sneak Attack from that little bastard Halfling- Hotlips Houlihan, and I was sunk.

If I had just got Lummins down- Sgt Bobby was already dirt-napping, if only.

I’m kidding myself of course- if I had got Lummins down then the bloody Bard (providing he had spells left) would have just started rationing out the healing.

Enter the Stone Giant hippies to interrupt the PCs rest (briefly) and then a little later (when they really start to believe they’re going to get a Short Rest in) here come more Cultists and the (comedy gold) Ogre flunkies- nice hats!

The Players were getting annoyed (a little) with me at this point, not being able to rest and heal their PCs was becoming an issue- they had quickly grasped that I was doing this on purpose. Here’s the thing, it’s artificial- when the PCs are hanging on then everything that happens to them is a potential threat (and therefore dangerous- and therefore exciting). They had Healing Potions in their packs- they could have used them, but they knew that if they did then they’d have to be much conservative in their approach from that point on.

So, keep ‘em on edge, any way that you can- deny them the thing they need, it’ll make them appreciate it more when they finally get it.

I kept kicking the PCs/Players until they’d had enough- and then a glimmer of hope, Blagothkus- a chance for the PCs to explain themselves, and at this point even Pete (Sgt Bobby) was now fully on board with the plan. The Brothers were really starting to swing...

So, plenty of great roleplay and then the challenge- fix the remaining Cultists still on board the castle (the Vampire and Dragon) and get the ultimate sky-ride as a reward. Blagothkus didn’t want to fight the PCs, particularly as all but two of the Cultists were dead at this point, I just wanted to try to keep the threat rolling.

The PCs eventually get a rest- do some nice roleplaying and investigating, and then… they collapse the ice tower- and let’s be clear that was their intention, it was odd to witness, and I’m not one of those DMs that say “you can’t do that!” and get in a strop when the Players go off the page. But I’ll be honest here- I was thinking that. How is this a (good) plan?

A foolish plan then, but nothing more- the challenge (for me) was to give the PCs a get-out option, to make it tough- more threat, you need to convince Blagothkus that it wasn’t you that collapsed his ice tower or fight… well, everybody non-Cultist left on the castle.

The Players rose to the challenge, although between sessions they took to begging and cajoling in an attempt to get a do-over, but when it came to the crunch, they roleplayed their way out of it- and they were all involved, all of the PCs/Players facing in the same direction. Nobody wanted to fight Blagothkus and the Stone Giants et al- that would be just suicidal.

So, it worked out for the better- in the end.

Last stop the Dragon (& the Vampire), the fight with Glazhael was terrifying for the PCs, particularly after the Breath Weapon hit, but… over too quickly. I don’t know why I let Hulda the Stone Giant accompany them- he hit the Dragon for 27 damage with a rock! I also could have got the Vampire in to the fight earlier, but after the Breath Weapon the Vampire option just seemed liked a TPK waiting to happen.

Just to make clear, Rob and Pete had obviously been telling tall tails about Dragons- specifically big Dragons, i.e. Cloudchaser. None of the Players wanted to sacrifice their PCs, and so Sgt Bobby (Pete) & Hulda were the designated hitters for Glazhael. The plan for Lux, Lummins, Watt and Hotlips was not to get anywhere near the Dragon unless they really had to- to stick to the ice tunnels, dodge out- fire off spell or ranged attacks, then run (far) away (and, if possible, hide). When Sgt Bobby got Frightened it kinda, briefly, all fell apart. The backup plan, fathomed on the spot, was basically this- let Hulda the Stone Giant get murderised by the Dragon, get Sgt Bobby back up and running again and then go back to the original plan. It was at this point that several of the Players also started to appreciate Sgt Bobby (and Pete) a whole lot more.

Four of the PCs- Lux, Lummins, Watt and Hotlips (that’s a familiar list) really (really) don’t want to get killed- they don’t want to (unless they really have to) get anywhere close to the bad guys- they want to do their killing at range. Just less than sixty feet away from the monsters would be ideal for the ranged specialist/s and/or casters. Ridiculous, the only way this could possibly work is if they had a reckless idiot, preferably in heavy armour and with a big sword, that just rushed headlong in to every fight- regardless of the odds and gave his (or her) all to stop the monsters from getting to the squishy backroom staff.

We all HEART Pete, I mean Sgt Bobby, as it turns out.

And so to the finale- it seemed the obvious thing to do, to get the Vampire to kill the Dragon and give the PCs, who were still mostly broken an option- a way out. The Vampire would have murderised them otherwise. In the last scene around the table, with the Vampire measuring up the corpse of the Dragon for a new Dracolich- Lux, Lummins and Watt all had less than twenty hit points each (even after a brief bout of Healing). They were also all mostly out of spells, although Lummins had his Radiance of the Dawn ready and waiting.

Perhaps I should have thrown the Vampire at them- got her to call up a few (Bat) swarm mobs, stay out of sight until they arrive, and then attempt to take the PCs out one-by-one, with a bit of Charm for Sgt Bobby. I wanted to… but it was very late, and it seemed like a good (and funny-ish) way to end the piece… although, we continued for a few weeks afterwards via e-mail.

The Players loved the final episode.

If I played the adventure again there’s very little I’d do differently for these last three or four episodes of the adventure, it seemed to mostly work- a few tweaks here and there, but nothing major. Here’s the thing though- different Players, different adventure.

We D&D’ed good though, I think.

Just for info-

Players scoring for each episode (Max 40)
Ep 1 Greenest = 6 + 6 + 7 + 8 = 27
Ep 2 Investigating Camp Dragonclaw = 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 40
Ep 3 The Dragon Hatchery = 8 + 8 + 8 + 9 = 33
Ep 4 The Journey to Waterdeep = 5 + 6 + 6 + 7 = 24
Ep 5 The Carnath Roadhouse = 8 + 8 + 9 + 10 = 35
Ep 6 Castle Naerytar = 9 + 9 + 9 + 10 = 37
Ep 7 Talis at the Hunting Lodge = 8 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 35
Ep 8 The Flying Ice Castle = 9.5 (Pete, you bastard- I said whole numbers) + 10 + 10 + 10 = 39.5

Apologies, I much rambled.

Next… downtime, the bit before the start of the next adventure.
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
We D&D.

Session #41 Hoard of the Dragon Queen #27 Next… Downtime.

Brothers of the First Light.
Lummins (played by Rob) Male Half-Elf Cleric of Lathander Lvl 8
Lux (played by Sandy) Female Human Warlock Lvl 8
Watt (played by Jackie) Male Human Bard Lvl 8
Sgt Bobby Markguth (played by Pete) Male Human Fighter Lvl 8
&
Hotlips Houlihan (played by Sandy) Female Halfling Rogue Lvl 8

Secondary PCs.
Derek Pilch (played by Jackie) Male Human Druid Lvl 8
Hard Bonk (played by Rob) Male Half-Orc Monk Lvl 8
Sgt Harald Hardaxe (played by Pete) Male Shield Dwarf Fighter Lvl 8


Next… The Rise of Tiamat, obviously.

But first a little bit of in-between times, a look at what the PCs and Players got up to betwixt HotDQ and the start of TRoT, and there’s enough of this to constitute a session’s worth of activity.

Just to say in the real world we had a month off between the two scenarios, mainly due to holidays, and so we also had time to exchange hundreds of e-mails, I kid you not- hundreds of e-mails (thanks, mostly Sandy).

Basically, between the two scenarios the PCs had thirty days off- sorta, a tenday spent flying around in the ice castle (back to Greenest, and then on to Castle Naerytar for the Farseer) and then after a Sending spell from Leosin (Harper contact) on to Waterdeep, and then two more tendays in the City of Splendours. In short a month of downtime activities.

The lesser used PCs- Derek Pilch (Human Druid), Hard Bonk (Half-Orc Monk) & Sgt Harald Hardaxe (Dwarf Fighter) got up to, well… nothing much, they were put back in their boxes, and ignored.

The glorious Brothers of the First Light (and Hotlips (Halfling Rogue), chief hanger-on) they however got up to plenty.

Lux’s information exchange.

Lux (Human Warlock) did lots of stuff- because Sandy is like that. She’s keen.

However, for the first tenday the Warlock just kept her head down, after being drained by the Vampire, she kind of went in to hiding. Or else she was just waiting for her arrival in Waterdeep to swing in to action.

And boy did she swing in to action…

While in Waterdeep, Lux visited with the Harpers, and learned things- more Dragon attacks, and lots more Dragon Cult activity in the big cities (and even some of the bigger towns) of the Sword Coast. There’s something nasty brewing… Reports of physical attacks in Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter, although mostly small stuff, but… the threat definitely is growing. Also signs that the Cult is recruiting in some of the less salubrious quarters of the aforementioned cities.

Harper Rank 2 = Harpshadow (Agent).

Lux also visited with her Zhent friends- and found out more of the same (see above). The Black Network however is very keen for Lux to carry on finding things out and, of course, protecting her/their position- they need to be in the know and ahead of the information war. Lux gets a big promotion, and access to more resources, including the names of a few helpers- should she need to call on them (in Waterdeep).

Zhent Rank 3 = Viper (Stalwart).

The Warlock also finds time to check in with some of her Dragon Cult contacts, firstly of old- alas no new info comes to light; and then some of her new connections. She contacts Talis the White, with a little help from her Zhent friends- we play out a nice exchange of veiled insults via e-mail. I’ll hold off revealing the new info gained for a bit. It’s enough to say that Talis is a little amused (& bemused) by Lux, the Cult gossip about events on board Blagothkus’ flying ice castle (as reported by Rath Modar, the Red Wizard that fled) leaves Talis not entirely sure which side is Lux on? She’s also a little frightened of her- which is the smart move.

Then Lux gets in contact with Sandesyl the old skool ‘may all of your liches be Dracoliches’ Dragon Cult Vampire, again the Zhent provide the gateway, the two hit it off almost immediately.

So, Lux gets the inside track on the big secret (from Talis (a bit) and Sandesyl (a lot- the Vampire has plenty to say, and an axe to grind))- the Cult are summoning Tiamat, the clock is ticking- there are five big bad guys- they each have a mask (Black, Blue, Green, Red & White- obviously). Severin (Red mask) is the new Cult boss, he’s the one making all the decisions. However, if the PCs were to get hold of one of the masks… things would be much harder for the Cult.

Also, Sandesyl will pay handsomely (payment offered in money, kind or info) for the intact(-ish) and fresh corpses of any Dragons Lux happens to locate, the Vampire has got the Dracolich bug.

That’s a lot to tell one of the Players up front- but it was a good (in character) exchange of e-mails, and lots of them- sometimes a dozen a day. Besides the Zhent, and the Cult insiders, and more importantly the DM get Lux (Sandy) to swear to reveal nothing of the above to her fellow Players/PCs. She can add flavour when the truth comes out but for now… Shhh, it’s a secret.

Hotlips and Gary.

Also played by Sandy, the Halfling Rogue has a brief chat with her Harper contact and gets hold of a few more Potions of Healing, and then when she gets to Waterdeep goes shopping for new clothes, and a new haircut. She also manages to establish a very weird relationship with the Ogre called Gary. The two are (sorta) dating, or at least the plumed helmet wearing Ogre (on his days off) takes to squiring the Halfling around Waterdeep. This after straightening things out with the authorities- sadly, Gary the Ogre is initially made to feel very unwelcome in the City of Splendours. A sign of the times, perhaps. Two things change the authorities (collective) mind- 1) Blagothkus (intermediary Hotlips & Lux) is persuaded to spend a lot of money in Waterdeep on a gargantuan restock of the ice castle, after all the Cloud Giant has just chipped a small fortune out of Cloudchaser’s icy lair. And 2) the threat that Blagothkus will come and do his shopping in person. It’s free drinks all round for the rest of the month for Hotlips and her new beau, Gary the Ogre.

Harper Rank 2 = Harpshadow (Agent).

Lummins and the Cloud Giants.

Lummins (Half-Elf Cleric) played by Rob, spends the first tenday ensconced with Blagothkus, still working to try and convert the Cloud Giant to the worship of Lathander, he gets closer to it than he thinks- one good roll away in fact, sorry Rob. But the Cloud Giant is not for changing, he is however up for showing Lummins how to work the flying ice castle- which takes the Priest another tenday to get the hang of. The Priest even manages to make a connection with Esclarotta, the spirit of Blagothkus’ dead wife.

The Priest of Lathander however does not give up…

In the final tenday (of his downtime) Lummins manages to reconcile (and by doing so reinforce) the relationship between the two Cloud Giants. Blagothkus finally sees the Light, as does Esclarotta- both Cloud Giants are converted to the worship of Lathander, and in that moment (thanks to a ‘20’) the pair are granted a permanent link (kinda like an always switched on Speak with the Dead spell). The pair swear to do whatever is needed to help Lummins, and his cause.

Later, on the last day before the actions starts, Lummins reports this new info to his Harper bosses, they’re overjoyed- he gets a big promotion.

Harper Rank 3 = Brightcandle (Stalwart).

Watt is on song.

Watt (Human Bard) played by Jackie, accomplishes plenty, although all of the info the Bard finds out has already been covered in the sections above.

The Bard also spends a good tenday making a name for himself in the bars and clubs of Waterdeep, singing songs and telling tall tales about the adventures of the Brothers of the First Light. In short, and very quickly (thanks, as usual, to some cracking (Performance) rolls) he gains a reputation in the City of Splendours and makes a few new friends along the way.

Harper Rank 2 = Harpshadow (Agent).

And lastly…

Sgt Bobby Markguth’s new blade.

Sgt Bobby (Human Fighter) played by the irreplaceable, irresponsible, irredeemable Pete. Sgt Bobby also gets up to quite a bit- first off after the Brothers et al depart Greenest it quickly becomes apparent that Bobby has moved his family in to one of ‘state rooms’ on the ice castle. And when I say family… fourteen members of the Markguth clan take up residence, including the cantankerous Old Man Markguth who is not at all happy to discover that there’s no tavern aboard the flying wonder. “It’s rubbish” is the Old Man’s much-repeated opinion, and “bloody freezing.”

The situation is however allowed to continue, and fester a little, until we get to Waterdeep- at which point Sgt Bobby uses his new-found fortune (garnered from the Cult treasure pile) to rent a house in the City of Splendours. The Markguth family move out of the ice castle and in to their new abode, soon after Sgt Bobby is pretty much back to being penniless.

He moves back in to the ice castle towards the end of the last tenday of his downtime activity, remembering why it was he left his family in the first place.

So far, so family, and funny.

Sgt Bobby does however do one more (terrible) thing, he attunes Hazirawn the ferocious (and semi-evil) greatsword, formerly owned by the Half-Black Dragon- Rezmir. This after cajoling, cussing, cursing and finally creeping out his very considerate DM- Sgt Bobby is a sword and board guy, the PC isn’t built for greatsword use, and yet… Hazirawn calls to him, and Pete wants it.

So, I ask Pete what he will give me in return, if I allow him to make some changes to his PC, to make Sgt Bobby more greatsword-enabled.

He offers me, well… anything, everything… certainly lots of things. Including for Sgt Bobby to start to pursue a more violently active form of terror (targeting the enemies of the Brothers et al, of course). In short, you ain’t seen nothing yet- Sgt Bobby (if I say the word, and allow Pete to re-do a few of his PCs skills and powers) will take the role of blood thirsty lunatic to the next level.

Keep in mind, three of the Players around the table will (and do) do anything they can to preserve their PCs. Pete ain’t built that way- if Sgt Bobby gets slaughtered, then there’s Sgt Harald just marking time in the rear with the gear, and the Dwarf hates (sorry, I mean HATES) Dragons. Of the two- Bobby and Harald, well… Bobby’s the nice guy.

So, what’s a DM to do- give in to Pete’s stupidity, find a compromise, or just tell him to do one.

You’re going to have to read on to find out.

Oh, and Sgt Bobby doesn’t even bother to call in to see his Order of the Gauntlet handlers in Waterdeep, he’s just too busy, or else can’t be bothered.

Next time… The Rise of Tiamat.
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
We D&D.

Session #42a The Rise of Tiamat #01a The First Council of Waterdeep.

Brothers of the First Light.
Lummins (played by Rob) Male Half-Elf Cleric of Lathander Lvl 8
Lux (played by Sandy) Female Human Warlock Lvl 8
Watt (played by Jackie) Male Human Bard Lvl 8
Sgt Bobby Markguth (played by Pete) Male Human Fighter Lvl 8
&
Hotlips Houlihan (played by Sandy) Female Halfling Rogue Lvl 8

Secondary PCs.
Derek Pilch (played by Jackie) Male Human Druid Lvl 8
Hard Bonk (played by Rob) Male Half-Orc Monk Lvl 8
Sgt Harald Hardaxe (played by Pete) Male Shield Dwarf Fighter Lvl 8


And so, after last session’s downtime activities the start of the action proper, and remember- this is session #42 of our game but only session #01 of The Rise of Tiamat scenario.

The Brothers of the First Light are in Waterdeep, a majority of them- over the last two tendays, have spoken to Leosin Erlanthar, the Monk Harper contact they rescued from Camp Dragonclaw. Ontharr Frume, the Dwarven Paladin- and Order of the Gauntlet contact, has however been missing, or else he’s not visited with the adventurers.

So, it comes as quite a surprise when the Brothers receive a ‘priority’ communication from Ontharr, basically they have twenty minutes to make themselves presentable and to get to the Lord’s Palace. The quintet (Lummins (Half-Elf Cleric), Lux (Human Warlock), Watt (Human Bard), Sgt Bobby (Human Fighter) & Hotlips (Halfling Rogue)) arrive in a variety of states of flustered.

Episode 1: Council of Waterdeep, Part 1.

Leosin is around to meet them, and ushers the Brothers through a number of high-ceilinged rooms- most of which are packed with a wide variety of surly-looking guard’s officers, all of whom are wearing (or carrying) the pennants and flags of a selection of cities and regions of the Sword Coast. The Lord’s Palace is busy with it- and the Brothers are getting plenty of stares.

In five minutes flat the adventurers are through the crush and in to a rather pleasant and uncluttered large and well-appointed room, home to a massive semi-circular table- at which sit a sea of (familiar-ish) faces- all seemingly waiting on the PCs arrival. Looking expectant. Lux starts to speak and is shushed in to silence- behind the adventurers a mage waves his hands and incants, thirty seconds later and the room is magically sealed.

I wanted to impress upon the Players that this meeting was a) important, and b) secret.

Then the introductions begin, barking at the PCs for a while is Lord Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep, Lord Protector of Neverwinter, and according to his preamble the leader of the Lords’ Alliance.

The other members of the assembled interviewing committee, formerly titled “The Council of Waterdeep”, are as follows-
(Lady) Remallia Haventree (representing the Harpers & Waterdeep),
(Lord) Ontharr Frume (Order of the Gauntlet),
Delaan Winterhound (Emerald Enclave),
Lady Laeral Silverhand (Lords’ Alliance, Waterdeep & Mystra),
Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil (Lords’ Alliance & all the Dwarf clans of the North),
Marshall Ulder Ravengard (Lords’ Alliance & Baldur’s Gate (Flaming Fist)),
King Melandrach (Lords’ Alliance & the Elves of the Misty & High Forests),
Taern “Thunderblade” Hornblade (Lords’ Alliance & Silverymoon), &
Sir Isteval (Lords’ Alliance & Daggerford).

I take my time with the intros in order to let the PCs know how important the assembled crowd is, with Leosin whispering all the while in the PCs ears.

And with Jackie (Watt) and Sandy (Lux) all the while making notes.

So, this is an interview, as it turns out- which wasn’t what the PCs/Players expected. Lord Dagult makes it clear that the PCs should be on their best behaviour from the outset, although Ontharr Frume softens the tone slightly by nodding, grinning and giving random ‘thumbs up’ signs to the various PCs.

Oh, and at this point I make the Players get up from their seats (character sheets in hand) and stand over the far-side of the room, facing me (I’m seated). The following topics are thoroughly investigated by the board- your glorious DM in essence fires questions at each of the Players in turn (although at random). They answer as best they can, and mostly at attention, and with the correct titles used for the various leaders (when they can remember them).

I may have to confess at this point, my first career was in the military, I have the voice- size and presence for the part. Although, there was a fair amount of giggling throughout the event.

And so, after each of the PCs takes a moment to introduce themselves, including their titles (which I give them a few minutes to make up, if they like). They are-

The Radiant Lummins of Lathander (Rob’s getting a bit big for his boots),
Lady Lux,
Watt,
Sgt Bobby Markguth of the Greenest Guard, &
Hotlips Houlihan, Duke (actually Duchess, but who am I to argue) of Earl (of Greenest).

We then learn/play-through the following, and for each subject I’ve also included a little of the committee’s reaction to the Brothers of the First Light’s story- because that’s what we’re talking about, initially- what the heroes have been getting up to.

And so, the subjects discussed are-

1) The ownership, and present disposition of Castle Skyreach, or as it is now known- The (Flying) Lighthouse, I’m talking about Blagothkus’ flying ice castle. The PCs explain (actually mostly Lummins) that the place is fully operational, and theirs to employ as they wish.

The crowd go wild, several members of the board rise to applaud- astounding work, and a great start to the interview. I think I even set off a few party poppers- go atmosphere!

2) Speeches in support of the Brothers of the First Light by Ontharr Frume and Leosin Erlanthar- I try to say something nice about each of the PCs present.

A number of the committee smile, nod and show their thanks, several others look a little bored by proceedings.

3) The Brother’s adventures, the start of their story from Greenest to Camp Dragonclaw- including the capture of Cyanwrath & Frulam Mondath, and the presence of Rezmir and a Red Wizard of Thay (Rath Modar). Also, the destruction of the Dragon Hatchery.

At which point there’s a little bit of a kerfuffle, it seems that several members of the assembled council are not convinced that destroying the Dragon eggs would be their preferred outcome. The storm (such as it is- more just a squall) eventually passes- but not before I get the chance to ask, “Why did you do X?” lots of times and to a variety of the Players. I love putting them on the spot.

I’m really enjoying the start of this adventure module.

4) Then on to the caravan journey to Waterdeep, then to the Carnath Roadhouse, through the Mere of the Dead and to Castle Naerytar, and on through the magical portal to Parnast and eventually the ice castle- the (Flying) Lighthouse.

Particular attention is paid to the death of Rezmir (with a lot of questions asked about the mask he was wearing), and also the Red Wizard’s (Rath Modar) escape. The council are obviously delighted to hear that Rezmir is dead, however of greater concern is Rath Modar’s exit.

There’s also a fair amount of speculation about what the Red Wizard’s of Thay are doing mixed up with the Dragon Cultists.

The chat drifts a while, and the PCs are also encouraged to join in with the speculation.

At which point the interview comes to an abrupt end, well… sorta, two more things occur before we get to the abrupt end-

5) Lord Dagult Neverember ‘tells’ the PCs that they have been deputised to serve as agents of the Council of Waterdeep (this committee), he makes clear their responsibilities and also their (potential) rewards- money, titles and lands. Basically, they’re hired- the PCs questions are hushed in to silence. They’re supplied with written (and signed, and elaborately stamped) papers to this end. This is all done very quickly- the PCs don’t get a say.

6) Then the end- the sudden sounding of… well, nothing. Hang on, let me write that again. The meeting kinda breaks in to mayhem when suddenly everyone in the room stops, looks up and left (or right) and listens intently to… nothing, by which I mean the obvious (and profound) absence of (a) sound. The effect is unnerving, more than unnerving- seconds later there are shouting people banging on the doors to the chamber and demanding entry, concerned doesn’t cover it. Several of the higher-ups around the table are eventually ushered away by scrums of their guards.

What was that?

After the meeting has broken up, the absence of sound continues to repeat itself- seemingly at the same time on every hour, and throughout the City of Splendours- or else every waking citizen- all at the same time, stops what they are doing to listen to… nothing.

Every hour, as regular as clockwork.

The City of Splendours is on edge, it’s weird, and a little frightening- and no explanation is (immediately) offered. Something is going on… most likely something very bad.

The meeting above, with extended giggling time, lasted for something like an hour, with all four Players on their feet throughout.

The Brothers are then quickly ushered in to a follow up meeting with Leosin Erlanthar, Ontharr Frume, and joined latterly by Remallia Haventree (the ranking Harper delegate on the Council of Waterdeep).

The Brother’s orders, stated briefly before the council broke up, were to continue their investigations in to the Dragon Cult. Well, to that end, the Harpers have got a new lead.

Remallia explains, patiently and repeatedly (the PCs have a fair few questions)- some of the Dragon Cult leaders, known as the Wearers of Purple, wear Dragon Masks (like Rezmir, his (Black) mask disappeared when he was killed). These elite bunch call themselves Wyrmspeakers, there are five of them, although initially only two of them were known to the Harpers- Severin (the Dragon Cult leader) who wears the Red Dragon Mask & Rezmir (RIP) who wore the Black Dragon Mask. The information gathering organisation has in the last few days learned about another Wyrmspeaker- Varram the White, the White Dragon Mask wearer (obviously). Varram is reported to be a favourite of Severin’s. The Harper’s have further learnt that Varram, a surly Dwarf, has been spotted in a small hamlet called Boareskyr Bridge (over the Winding Water), on the Trade Way. Ontharr fetches out a map, the place is all the way back to the Fields of the Dead, near to the Trollclaws- both of which the Brothers passed through during their marathon caravan journey to Waterdeep.

Remallia would like the PCs to head there, immediately, and attempt to locate and capture Varram the White (and as importantly- his mask). The Harpers are convinced that the Dragon Masks are vital to whatever the Cult are planning.

The PCs are very quickly onboard with the idea, and soon after are on board the (Flying) Lighthouse, and en route to Boareskyr Bridge.

The rest of this session follows in the next instalment, however- just a brief heads-up about the Council Scorecard so far, the PCs obviously (at the time) didn’t know anything about this. They were however told by Leosin and Ontharr that all of the members of the Council of Waterdeep command great resources, which could be employed in the fight against the Cult of the Dragon. Basically, the PCs need to keep the high-ups informed and onside- Leosin and Ontharr are the PCs contacts, stay in touch.

And so, the scores on the doors after the first council session are-
The Harpers +3 (5/7/10)
The Order of the Gauntlet +5 (7/9/12)
The Emerald Enclave +1 (5/7/10)
& the various Lords’ Alliance delegates-
Lady Silverhand +3 (7/9/12)
Lord Neverember +2 (5/7/10)
Ambassador Brawnanvil +4 (7/9/12)
King Melandrach +3 (6/8/11)
Marshall Ravengard +5 (7/9/12)
Taern Hornblade +3 (6/8/11)
Sir Isteval +5 (6/8/11)

Note the numbers in the parenthesis, let me explain- at the end of all four council sessions the PCs need to score +5 to garner one favour from the Harpers, +7 would earn them two favours, while +10 would result in three. The numbers in the parenthesis therefore indicate the scores needed for one to three favours from each of the delegates.

Probably more of this in the next council meeting.

More adventure, although not much more, next time…
 

Goonalan

Adventurer
We D&D.

Session #42b The Rise of Tiamat #01b Into the Serpent Hills.

Brothers of the First Light.
Lummins (played by Rob) Male Half-Elf Cleric of Lathander Lvl 8
Lux (played by Sandy) Female Human Warlock Lvl 8
Watt (played by Jackie) Male Human Bard Lvl 8
Sgt Bobby Markguth (played by Pete) Male Human Fighter Lvl 8
&
Hotlips Houlihan (played by Sandy) Female Halfling Rogue Lvl 8

Secondary PCs.
Derek Pilch (played by Jackie) Male Human Druid Lvl 8
Hard Bonk (played by Rob) Male Half-Orc Monk Lvl 8
Sgt Harald Hardaxe (played by Pete) Male Shield Dwarf Fighter Lvl 8


The start of the action proper and remember- this is session #42 of our game but only session #01 of The Rise of Tiamat scenario.

Oddly Boareskyr Bridge is exactly (I mean- exactly) 500 miles away from Waterdeep, that’s five days travel on the Lighthouse, mostly at full-power ahead. The flying ice castle arrives in the region veiled in cloud. Blagothkus (and Lummins) generate a (minor) storm as it approaches- mainly to drive people indoors and keep away prying eyes (good idea- Rob).

The away team- the Brothers of the First Light, are landed, the PCs enter the hamlet- mostly a collection of tents although with a few wood and/or stone buildings, the largest and most imposing a small but sturdy keep. Home the PCs have been told by Ontharr to a bunch of soldiers from Elturgard. The PCs make a bee-line for this place, and then after an hour of standing around get to chat with a very stiff and serious old major. The fellow is very helpful, although only after he sees the Brother’s papers.

Alas the old major doesn’t know a great deal- only that a Yuan-ti camp infiltrator was killed approximately four days ago in Bolo’s Tentside Inn, the killer was reported to be a gruff Dwarf- name unknown. Soon after the PCs locate the aforementioned tavern, and interview the owner- Bolo, a tough talking female Halfling.

Bolo adds a few details to the story (after a bit of chat and a few gold coins are given over), the killer Dwarf was wearing purple robes (a bit of a giveaway) and accompanied by at least a dozen hooded/cloaked companions- all tall and thin, they could have been barbarian mercenaries. The Dwarf, before he killed the cloaked Yuan-ti, was asking about guides to the Serpent Hills, home to many Yuan-ti- Bolo warns. After the slaying the Dwarf and his company set off immediately and without a guide, heading straight for, you guessed it- the Serpent Hills. That was four days ago, as the major said.

The PCs have their target. Then a short debate- can we follow the trail from the air, from the comfort of the Lighthouse, not a chance says the DM- the group therefore buy up some trail rations (and some other bits of equipment) and then depart, in a rush to get after Varram the White.

Varram’s trail is easy to follow- his company were moving quickly and making no attempt to disguise their tracks. The Brothers spend the rest of the day and a night in the wilds- moving quickly through semi-cultivated lands in to cracked dirt plains studded with low hills and mesas, it’s an arid place- finally bedding down by a dry riverbed.

Then a second day on the trail- in the morning the PCs encounter a clearly visible, but unmarked, grave- it’s old, and therefore left undisturbed by the PCs. The Brothers press on and spend the last hour of light that day exploring a small ruin on the plains- an ancient shrine perhaps, but the stone of the building has been worn smooth by the wind. The Brothers make camp here, convinced that Varram and his company also camped hereabouts.

Remarkably nothing attacks them- I’m doing the Random Encounters RAW, as previous.

Then a third day, and once again the trail is easy to follow- mid-morning several discarded waterskins are found within one of a dozen or so ruined buildings, in what was (probably) once a hamlet.

Later the PCs come across the ruined remains of a much larger settlement, at least fifty ravaged stone buildings, some of them must have once been very large and imposing structures- time and the elements have scoured the place of its history. The ruined town (or temple complex?) is, thankfully, abandoned- although the PCs slow their pace and chose to pass around the outer edge of the ruins. Several of the PCs become agitated, mainly because the DM keeps getting them to make a variety of rolls. The kindly DM is toying with the PCs for a reason- read on. The PCs insist (to the DM) that they keep a close eye on the ruins as they move away from them.

And thus, they are mostly otherwise engaged when they walk around a butte and straight in to an ambush (of sorts), the temporary camp of a pair of Hill Giants hiding in the lee of the rise, and out of the sun.

01 Serpent Hills Hill Giants.jpg


The first Hill Giant spots Sgt Bobby (Human Fighter) approaching and brains the warrior with its massive club, remarkably Hotlips (Halfling Rogue) is awake to the action- the Halfling hustles forward and shoots a crossbow bolt in to the great beast. Lummins (Half-Elf Cleric) is also quickly on it, targeting (his favourite) Fireball just behind the first Hill Giant, which burns- and screams, its hair on fire. The second Hill Giant stays back, grabs up a hunk of rock the size of Hotlips and hurls it at the aforementioned Halfling, the Rogue is hurt badly- and sent sprawling (for 25 damage, nice).

The Brothers are in a fight.

Sgt Bobby unleashes Hazirawn, his new (malicious) magical greatsword- the blade slices through the burnt Hill Giant’s flesh like a knife through butter- three hits (with Action Surge) for a total of 62 damage (lots of it Necrotic). The partially incinerated Hill Giant is left screaming and crying like a baby- and trying to get away as fast as it can. It’s going nowhere.

Hotlips fires a crossbow bolt in to the back of the Hill Giant’s skull- the bolt protrudes through the beast’s forehead (a Crit with Sneak Attack for 40 damage). The first Giant falls.

The second Hill Giant looks unsure for a moment- whether to fight or to run, the decision is entirely taken out of its hands. Watt (Human Bard) moves towards it- waves his hands while muttering (sing-song) arcane sounds- a second later and the Hill Giant is gone, squatting in its stead is a fairly small bright green frog.

Alas for the PCs (and later for the Hill Giant) the frog manages to leap in to a crack in the baked earth and thereby escape Watt and Sgt Bobby’s clutches. The Players however take a moment to applaud Jackie (playing Watt) they didn’t know the Bard could do that, several of them are hooting with laughter.

Then, when the PCs are ready, Watt stops concentrating on his Polymorph spell- the Hill Giant screaming, having just reverted to full size while wedged at the bottom of a narrow fissure in the hard-baked ground, reveals itself. Soon after the beast is persuaded to surrender- and then to chat (remember Lummins and Lux (Human Warlock) both speak the Giant tongue).

Odd-Nob, the Hill Giant, is treated well- prior to being released back in to the wilds he reveals (after much questioning) the following-

1) The Serpent Hills are home to many Lizardfolk, and their masters the Yuan-ti.

2) A bunch of people (Varram the White et al, probably) passed this way at least three (or maybe five- see below) days previously. Odd-Nob finds the concept of time slightly confusing, he uses the term ‘yesterthen’ to indicate any time already passed.

3) There are lots more ruins in the Serpent Hills, in short Odd-Nob is not sure where Varram is heading. In translation- the DM is not telling the PCs where varram and friends are going; they’re going to have to continue to track the Dwarf.

The rest of the day (after a short bout of healing), and the night, pass without further incident.

The fourth day on the trail is a little more interesting- at midday the adventurers stumble upon the remains of a patrol from Elturgard, the group has been decimated- only three (from twelve) of them left alive. It seems they too have encountered Varram and his cohorts. This after a bit of back and forth between the two groups, the wounded soldiers are initially very wary of the PCs- they eventually agree for the Brothers to close with them (and to help/heal them).

Their story is they’re all that’s left of a long-range patrol, they encountered a Dwarf and his companions (Varram et al) approximately four days previously, they’re exhausted and more than a little disorientated- hence they’re a little unsure how much time has passed since the encounter. The Dwarf seemed to be asking for directions. Note- none of the survivors are able to answer the question “directions to where?” All of the troopers, including the captain of the group, involved in the discussion with the Dwarf and his company, were slaughtered. Perhaps their captain was not keen to provide directions, the soldiers heard raised voices- furthermore the captain was clearly disturbed by the Dwarf and his followers. Varram is variously described as being- short, arrogant, violent and awfully sweary (and very very angry). The three soldiers escaped with their lives because they were at the back of their group, and they ran- as fast as they could when they saw their comrades being slaughtered.

The Dwarf’s companions, described as ‘a bunch of tall, thin- cloaked men’, fought like furies.

Lots of good questioning by the PCs here, but I didn’t want to give too much away.

The three survivors are healed, given food and water, and also directions back to Boareskyr Bridge. The PCs add half a day to their march stopping to interact with the broken patrol- they spend the rest of their fourth day looking after the trio, and then part company the next morning.

Again, Varram’s trail is easily found- the fifth day is spent heading in to the Serpent Hills proper, the PCs pass around yet another ruined settlement, this one much larger in size- a town or else a small city- they do not however approach the ruins- the trail leads elsewhere, Varram didn’t stop here.

The Dwarf’s trail does however come to a conclusion at the end of the day’s travel, in yet another set of ruins hidden away in a canyon between two steep bluffs. The hills here are dotted with caves, the PCs therefore proceed cautiously, they quickly discover a (not long, maybe) abandoned campsite close by. Night however is closing in, the Brothers find a nearby ruin and make their own camp, the light fades quickly they therefore have no time to explore the area. The Brothers resolve to stay in hiding, and to keep a keen an eye on the (abandoned) campsite- and double guards for the night watch.

That however is the end of the first session of The Rise of Tiamat.
 

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