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We D&D- Tyranny of Dragons Part 2: The Rise of Tiamat #24b Strike Team 1 Part 2 A Ton of Undead.

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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.


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.


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,
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…


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 (Half-Elf Cleric)) 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 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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We D&D.

Session #43 The Rise of Tiamat #02 Frottage, I would ask you to surrender all of your Philanderers.

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

This is session #43 of our game, but only session #02 of The Rise of Tiamat scenario.

The PCs are camped in the ruins, at trails end- this, as best as they can tell, is as far as Varram the White and his crew journeyed in to the Serpent Hills. The PCs have found a camp, and more worryingly a clutch of freshly dug graves nearby. Night however is falling; the PCs therefore decide to rest up and watch what they presume to be Varram’s (abandoned?) camp.

Nothing happens for a good long while, it’s not until the wee small hours that Lux (Human Warlock) on watch spots a pair of Trolls nosing around the aforementioned camp, she quickly wakes her friends. Then after a very brief chat- the Trolls are getting closer, and the PCs are (of course) eager for a fight- they launch their attacks. It’s the start of the session- the Players are always eager for a fight at the start of the (game) night, or at least one of them always is. Say hello to Pete- Sgt Bobby Markguth (Human Fighter), he’s going to have a great session tonight.

Lummins (Half-Elf Cleric) as usual drops a Fireball in to the mix, note at this point the PCs can only see two Trolls- there’s a third, a tardy fellow who has not yet caught up with his pals. The two Trolls scream- both in flames, a second later the closest takes a crossbow bolt to the side of the head (and is thus reduced from 72 HP to 8 HP in two hits) the latter courtesy of Hotlips (Halfling Rogue). Watt (Human Bard) fires an arrow in to the beast- it drops, for good measure the Bard fires a second arrow in to the other Troll- yeah, that’s right- the Players are so tough they’re pulling their punches. Jackie playing Watt usually goes through her spells in double quick time- word around the table is, she’s saving them for something big. Trolls, it seems, cut no ice with her.

Lux fires a pair of Eldritch Blasts in to the lone survivor (the PCs believe) then Sgt Bobby spends an Action Surge to get to the beast- he almost destroys the creature with two hefty swings of Hazirawn- his new magical (and slightly evil- Shhh, none of the other Players know this) greatsword.

Sgt Bobby cackles with glee, as the blood and gore fly. I’ve had a word with Pete, he’s got to do more monstrous roleplaying if he wants to keep Hazirawn.

Me and my big mouth.

Seconds later, the second Troll (cursed with low Initiative) is also taken down, the bodies of the fallen pair are quickly set on fire, the third Troll stays in hiding, the PCs have not got a scratch on them. The last bad guy has seen enough; he heads back in to the tomb complex double-quick time.

A short while later, during the clear up after the fight, Sgt Bobby (somehow- he rolled a ‘19’ plus bonuses) finds the Trolls tracks, they lead to a very narrow culvert (opening) in to the cliff wall. Furthermore, it’s clear from the tracks that one Troll escaped this way. The opening is too small even for Hotlips- and yet the Fighter insists that the Trolls came (and went) through here (he’s not wrong).

After shrugs the PCs return to their vigil, or else to sleep, and awake four or more hours later ready to face the day, and ready to continue their pursuit of Varram the White (and his mask).

After a brief scope around the ruins in daylight- nothing much else is found, the PCs investigate the broken statues that seem to guard the way in to a high cavern entrance- the cliff wall here is carved with the strangest of sights. The images depicted show stars and planets, faceless tyrants and kings, and a variety of other fantastical scenes including a many-headed dragon (Tiamat, of course) emerging from what looks to be a river of fire. I thought I’d throw that one in there. The skill of the carvers has however been lost in places, areas of the cliff-face have been worn smooth by the steady hand of entropy.

Then the scared and partially broken twenty-foot-tall statues turn to face our intrepid quintet.

03 Talking Statues.jpg

"Halt. You come before Diderius, ether walker and conduit of clairvoyance. Behold ye now his wondrous triumphs. Diderius extends wisdom, and Diderius offers knowledge. Which do you seek?"

Watt (Jackie), Lummins (Rob), Hotlips (Sandy) & Lux (still Sandy) chorus back more or less in unison- “Wisdom & Knowledge”, it seems they’ve got the hang of this.

Sgt Bobby (Pete) mutters “kiss-asses”, and kinda skulks about a bit.

A sign of things to come.

The statues reply- "Diderius shall grant you what you seek, but only if you heed him and continue to show proper respect!"

Watt quickly summarises- “This is Diderius’ home (and possibly his tomb)- he was a seeker of knowledge and wisdom, we should show respect, and listen to any other voices we hear.”

Lux begins pre-warning Hotlips, and more specifically Sgt Bobby- basically, the rough-house Fighter needs to be on his best behaviour.

Fat chance.

Up a ladder and in to the cave mouth- Watt notes the residue of an illusion here- depicting a simple but well-appointed tomb- then through a large stone door and in to a wide passage leading to another stone door. Six black stone statues of cowled and robed figures with staffs (Wizards?), arranged in pairs, guard the way to the far stone door.

Four of the five adventurers are suddenly struck by the same thought- "Some secrets are not meant for mortal minds to know. Look away from the darkness in which such knowledge hides."

No warning for Sgt Bobby though.

The statues turn in unison to face the approaching PCs, four of the five adventurers look away instinctively- Watt shouts for Sgt Bobby to “look away” also, but alas the Bard is much too late.

“There’s not even a face in here- shoddy workmanship”, Bobby states, while peering deeply in to the cowled recess of the nearest statue, the Fighter (the lucky bugger) makes his save. Pete is gurning like a fool (apposite) while Sandy & Jackie berate him, as per normal.

Hotlips leads the way- the group pass on and to the next door, and after a little caution in to the chamber beyond- a large domed room with a high-ceiling, with a balcony/ledge circling fifteen feet above. The entire floor of the chamber is an intricate mosaic- a knight with glowing sword fights against a Chimera (the PCs quickly identify the beast), the confrontation bathed in the rays of a glowing sun.

Suddenly the tiles start shifting- flipping over, turning… Lummins, Hotlips and Sgt Bobby spot the danger and are ready for the two-dimensional tile Chimera when it flies up from the floor of the chamber.

04 Tile Chimera.jpg

Alas, the highest of the PCs initiative rolls is Lux, and she’s surprised- the second highest is Lummins with an adjusted ‘7’, it had to happen one day. The Chimera takes flight, and while in motion bathes the PCs in flame- yep, all of them. It gets worse- all five PCs fail their saves, only Hotlips with her Evasion manages to soften the blow- that’s 37 Fire damage each, except for the Halfling.

There is swearing.

Much, much swearing.

I have never heard ladies swear so loudly, or so longly.

The tile Chimera takes off- heading up towards the ledge, Hotlips hits it with a crossbow bolt, while Sgt Bobby flails ineffectively with Hazirawn (that’s a ‘1’) as the creature gains altitude.

Just to note, three of the five PCs (Lux, Lummins & Watt) are bloodied- nice work.

Pete isn’t happy.

Lummins hits the beast with three (out of five) of his Scorching Rays, and then scurries away from his comrades. Hotlips fires another crossbow bolt in to the beast and runs in the opposite direction in to a shadowy corner to hide, the frustrated Rogue is aware that her crossbow bolts are doing very little damage to the brute, but the Chimera is fifteen feet up- in the air.

The PCs are trying to spread out- they don’t want to suffer the Chimera’s fiery breath again.

Sgt Bobby has the same problem as Hotlips, the Fighter throws a dagger at the beast (a hit, but for very little damage), he therefore gets his Second Wind and then screams at Lux- “make me Fly, witch!” (Pete’s sailing close to the wind already).

Lux goes one better- she casts Fly on Sgt Bobby and Hotlips, and then backs all the way out of the chamber.

The tile Chimera swoops down again, and tears in to Sgt Bobby- the Dragon head bites, the Goat head butts with its horns, and the Lion claws, all three hits- and now Sgt Bobby (Pete) is full on swear storm, and well below bloodied.

Remember Sgt Bobby was a sword and board guy- well, he ain’t no more with Hazirawn clutched in his murderous hands. He ditched two points of AC for his shield- and now he’s a much easier target.

The Chimera immediately attempts to fly up and away again- Sgt Bobby instinctively lashes out with Hazirawn and cuts through it, scattering broken tiles throughout the chamber.

A moment later Lummins gets to Sgt Bobby with an enhanced Cure Wounds, just as the big bad Fighter takes to the air- charging (swooping?) in to his prey, alas at the last moment the Chimera somehow turns side on- making it much harder for the warrior to connect with his greatsword (Disadvantage on his attacks).

Not for Sgt Bobby- two out of three of his attacks (with added Action Surge) are hits, the tiled beast is shattered and almost spent. Hotlips also floats up to savage the foe, but barely manages to scratch the beast (resistance and low damage rolls), and Watt’s much enhanced Shatter spell (really low damage 5d8 = ‘3’, ‘2’ & ‘1’ x 3, the Chimera saves for half) is also not enough. The tile Chimera is going to survive for another round of terror… Woo-hoo!

At which point Lux makes her way back in to the chamber, she had been watching the fight from the corridor- peeking through a gap in the door. The Warlock fires an Eldritch Blast in to the Chimera- it shatters spectacularly sending shards of tile ricocheting around the chamber (for a few points of damage for each PC, because the DM forgot about the Warlock and is now pissed).

That was a very nice fight, of course, the PCs- and Players are less inclined to agree.

The PCs, after a very brief chat, and some general grumpiness- they hate it when their PCs take a battering, and pointedly ignoring the door in the chamber marked ‘safe’ in chalk- retreat back the way they came. They, heads bowed (all of them), exit back through the corridor with the statue wizards, and all the way back out on to the ledge. A short rest is taken, uninterrupted, and with Sgt Bobby on guard throughout.

The Players are mostly sulking, there’s very little chat.

Just to note around the table when the PCs take a rest (Short or Extended) it often also signals a ten-minute time out for the Players.

Then, after much healing, they’re back in again, same routine- heads down as they pass the statues, and back in to the tile chamber. Hotlips is the first to spot that the tiles on the floor are slowly regenerating, the Chimera is being reconstructed. Sgt Bobby starts smashes up the regenerating tiles, that is until Lux and Watt barking at him to stop makes him reconsider his actions- or else he just can’t be bothered to argue with them. Watt and Lux’s concerns are as follows- 1) they’re supposed to be respecting the place, not vandalising it, and 2) Sgt Bobby is making a helluva noise.

We break for a brief time out (another), as the DM tries to placate the soon to be warring parties. Here we go again.

Back to the game…

Hotlips checks out the rest of the chamber- the door marked ‘safe’ (in chalk) opens in to a dank and dark area with a well in it (maybe), while the double doors to the north have something very heavy pressing on them from the other side. The Halfling Rogue, after a bunch of good to great rolls, correctly surmises that there has been a collapse beyond these portals, opening them would be foolish. Lastly there’s a downward sloping passage to the south east, not investigated yet.

In to the ‘safe’ room, there’s a well- with a rope and bucket, and a basin (of sorts) with a lever nearby. A short while later Lummins discovers there’s water in the well, the Priest of Lathander (with a little help from Hotlips to check for traps) empties the water in to the basin and then pulls the lever. The water (when the lever is pulled) disappears through a formerly plugged outlet and can be heard gurgling through hidden pipes within the wall.

Most odd.

Lummins, with a little help from his friends, repeats the action several more times- to the same effect, where does the water go? And, why? These are the questions the PCs need to know the answers to, it seems.

Hotlips is briefly lowered in to the well- the walls however are dotted with nasty looking red fungi that seem to weep a bloody substance; the Halfling gets in a bit of a panic (or else Sandy does) and is eventually hauled back up before the area below can be properly investigated.

Shame, I had a Troll down there waiting for the Rogue.

Back out to the mosaic chamber- the tile Chimera is definitely regenerating, after a brief game of guesstimate the PCs reckon that it will be ready to redeploy in about 24 hours.

Then down the sloped corridor- with Hotlips, as usual, leading the way.

Before the non-sneaky PCs even set off to follow the Halfling down the slope there’s a sudden grinding noise, the sun section of the tile mosaic on the floor swiftly slides aside and a ball of bones (skeletal parts) easily five feet in diameter shoots up through the newly revealed hatch and then goes bowling after the now scurrying Halfling- down the slope. The hatch of course closes up again.

Lux, Lummins and Watt scream a variety of warnings at Hotlips.

Hotlips spots the danger and screams some more.

Sgt Bobby laughs like a drain- “look at her go… her little legs…”, the Fighter dissolves in to belly laughs.

05 Run Hotlips Run.jpg

The result of which is… inevitable, the various bone limbs reach out to scoot the skeletal ball along the corridor faster- the Halfling is mown down, but only briefly (and for only 5 damage, thanks to Evasion) the skeletal ball careers on- in to an as yet unseen chamber, and somewhere there smashes to a halt.

There follows five to ten minutes of intense investigations, basically Hotlips has wandered in to the danger zone, so it’s now her job to find out how the trap works, and then to nullify it. The other PCs are not venturing in to the corridor until the fix is in.

Hotlips discovers two things- the very well-hidden pressure plate that activates the trap, she cannot however disarm it, a chalk outline is therefore scrawled on to the floor in the hope that the PCs will remember it is there and avoid it. Secondly a secret compartment set in to the wall- like a shaft for a dumbwaiter (which is exactly what it is). Hotlips could fit down the shaft easily, but she’s disinclined to do so, at the moment- maybe later.

So, forward- down the passage and in to another chamber, this one complete with faded tapestries on almost every wall, and with a shaft of light streaming in from high on the southern wall. There’s a door opposite the sloped passage, and nearby the shattered remains of the skeletal ball, also a much grander pair of stone doors to the north.

Again, a voice speaks, although only inside the heads of four of the five PCs-

"Humility proffered in the manner of Mystril shelters those opening the way to seeking knowledge."

All four PCs (three Players) automatically scream at Sgt Bobby- “don’t touch anything”, and then explain what they have heard.

Hotlips, meantime is sent for a sneak around the strange shaped chamber (a triangle with the pointy bit truncated) while the clever folk figure out the riddle- Lux works out what priests of Mystril do to show respect to their god- head bowed, hands held high as if holding a lamp. Lux and Watt quickly deduce that the way forward is through the double doors to the north, adopting the attitude of respectful Mystril priests.

Meantime Hotlips has gingerly lifted a few of the tapestries away from the walls- and found two upright sarcophagi embedded in the revealed stone surfaces- that’s not good, she concludes.

Which just leaves the plain looking door ahead to be investigated, no sound- no traps, the door leads in to a short passage with an identical door ahead, oddly the Halfling thinks she can hear crying coming from beyond the second door.

After a brief chat the PCs decide to head this way first, after Hotlips again checks the new door- and in to another oddly shaped chamber (the mirror of the first) although this placed is decked out like a study-cum-library, it’s very dusty here and alas the shelves are all empty.

Seconds later the sound of crying fades, and Ilda appears.

Ilda is a robed young human woman, and more disturbing- transparent, “she’s a Ghost”, Lux states confidently.

06 Ilda Ghost.jpg

The PCs decide to chat, which is fortunate as Ilda begins by screaming at the intruders- issuing dire warnings (and threats) should the PCs attempt to steal anything from the tomb of her master- Diderius. Watt and Lux swing in to action, with Lummins helping out here and there, the trio eventually convince Ilda that the Brothers are here in search of Varram the White, and his companions, and not here to despoil.

There follows nearly twenty minutes of roleplay during which the PCs learn the following from Ilda-

1) This is Diderius the Diviner’s tomb, and during his life his scrying chambers- the great Diviner was regularly visited by kings and emperors who paid him fortunes to work his magic.

2) There is a very powerful divination pool within the complex. Note Watt (smart ass) figures out that the well and the water basin they found earlier must supply the water to the divining pool.

3) Ilda is sad because before he died Diderius, her beloved master, accused her of losing one of his precious books, a tome called ‘Transubstantiality across Potentialities’. Ilda would (obviously) like the PCs to look for the tome.

Note the PCs rolls are high throughout the above, and the roleplaying suitably great- even Sgt Bobby gets involved at one point. Lastly-

4) Ilda is aware that there are at present other strangers within the tomb complex, she would say more- i.e. tell the PCs all she knows, but… she’s so sad, right now. If only they could find the missing book.

So, the PCs have a book to find. After polite adieu’s (they’ll be back) the PCs retrace their steps in to the previous chamber, make like respectful priests of Mystril, and push open the great doors to the north.

In to a throne room.

07 Throne Room.jpg

Sat on the massive stone throne is an unmoving, but regal looking, figure- robed and with a long white beard, and easily over ten feet tall.

And before the throne a pile of treasure- silver coins and jewellery, and at least one potion flask.

“Don’t!” Issued simultaneously by Watt and Lux, but a little too late because Sgt Bobby heads over to the treasure pile…

Then a voice, rich and eloquent, the figure speaks-

"Ye who seek Diderius's insight must first furnish tribute, that Diderius might work his mighty magic. Lay such tribute at my feet or depart."

There follows a ten minute, sometimes (very) tetchy, debate- the crux of the matter is this- the PCs quickly figure out they have to add to the treasure pile in order to pass through the door to the west, which they also figure is the direction they need to go. Sgt Bobby (Pete) in his own words- “don’t pay tribute to no-one”.

The ten-minute (very tetchy) debate centres on the fact that for a good while (about ten minutes) Sgt Bobby refuses to put money in to the pile, even when all of the other PCs (and Players) offer to supply Sgt Bobby with the money to pay to pass.

Lummins offers the good Sgt ten gold pieces, so that he can pay one- nine profit.

It’s still a ‘no’ from Pete.

Note, at the end of this session we have time to reprise the argument above, with three Players asking (maybe hectoring is a better word) Pete about why he is, and in quotes (for legal reasons), “such an arse?” Hey-ho, we’ve been here before. The crux of the matter (once again) is this- Sgt Bobby (according to Pete, and he should know) bows to no man. The other three Players offer the following counter-arguments (again)-

a) Sgt Bobby (Pete) plays ball and does what he’s told when it suits him- a variety of examples are provided.

b) Sgt Bobby is good at the things he does (mostly fighting stuff) several of the other PCs (played by his friends, including his wife) are good at other things- one of those things is roleplaying, and talking, and asking questions- and finding stuff out. Without the ‘finding out of things’ there can be very little fighting- the plot must go on etc.

c) More directly, why does Pete constantly make it difficult for his friends to enjoy the game.

There’s a few more arguments I’ve missed off the list, but the squabbling kinda wandered around a bit. It’s the above three points, and particularly the last one, that hit home (maybe, for a bit) with Pete.

Pete plays the “that’s what my character is like” card several times, at least once too many as it happens, as Jackie (his wife) eventually (at last) tells him to “grow up”, followed in her most exasperated voice by- “it’s just a game!”

But that’s for later… and, rest assured, if your eyes only skimmed some of the above then don’t worry because you’ll read it again, and again, and… well, we’re still playing and we’re still falling out.

So, eventually… all five PCs drop a gold coin in to the treasure pile.

The stone door to the west grinds open, and the massive bearded figure on the throne signals for the PCs to pass on, and so they do- Hotlips, as always, taking the lead.

The Halfling sneaks down a set of stairs, and peers in to the lit chamber ahead- at a large stone table a clutch of tall humanoid figures sit- all dressed in rough clothing. All five of the figures possess the strangest of beards which seem to consist of knots of writhing appendages- most odd. The quintet are all smoking (cigars) and playing cards, a very odd game of cards.

They’re playing an Infernal version of Happy Families (see later).

The Players didn’t get the joke either, but I was laughing all the while (inside).

The five figures are engrossed in their game, Hotlips can’t understand what they are saying- nor can any of the other PCs, they’re speaking in Infernal. However (after a ‘20’ Monster Knowledge check) the Halfling is certain that the creatures are Bearded Devils- all five of them.

That’s a lot of Devils.

The Halfling Rogue goes to sneak back to her friends, but is interrupted…

“You may as well come in. We heard the door open.” One of the Bearded Devil’s declares, in the Common tongue.

Note, Hotlips Stealth check was a ‘9’, she’d forgotten about that.

All five PCs descend the stair to see the Devils, who continue at their card game talking in the Common tongue now.

“Cokbox, I would ask you for all of your Murderers.”
“I have no Murderers, Snotflinch. It is now my go.”
“Frottage, I would ask you to surrender all of you Philanderers.”

The Bearded Devil named Frottage hands over two cards.

“There are my Philanderers, Cokbox- well played.”
“Most thank you, Frottage.”

The PCs are ignored, until a seething Sgt Bobby (somehow, he’s en route to being offended) draws his sword (Hazirawn) and makes for the Devils, at which point the closest of the quintet points at a set of stairs exiting the chamber to the south.

“I think you’ll find that Varram went that way”, the Bearded Devil (actually Frottage) simply states.

That however is the (frustrating) end of the session.

There’s a lot of “this is mad…” from several of the Players, and then we descend rapidly in to the bickering described above.

More action, less falling-out, next time.

Remember, as Bill Hicks used to say- it’s just a ride.

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We D&D.

Session #44 The Rise of Tiamat #03 The Throne Guardian Toll Booth.

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

This is session #44 of our game, but only session #03 of The Rise of Tiamat scenario.

After a brief falling out last session, we’re all back in-game, and in a much better place…

The PCs are mid-conversation with a pack of five Bearded Devils, the Devils are polite and insistent- the much sought Varram the White has ventured down the stairs exiting to the south of this chamber, and about an hour ago. The Devils are keen that the PCs should know this.

The PCs are, of course, highly suspicious of the Devils- several of them (okay, at least one of them) is looking for an excuse to start killing the infernal bastards (that’d be Pete, I mean Sgt Bobby (Human Fighter)).

Lux (Human Warlock) and Watt (Human Bard) however swing in to action with the chat, the pair quickly ascertain that the five Bearded Devils work for Varram but are ‘off-shift’ at the moment, one of the Devils (Frottage, again) mumbles something about “union rates”. It also becomes obvious to the chatty pair that the Devils know a lot more than they are telling.

Lummins (Half-Elf Cleric) wants to fire up his Zone of Truth and start asking a few more hardball questions but the Devils (politely) object.

“It would be awfully bad show if you just started casting spells on us, that’s prejudice. How would you like it if we cast spells on you? I’d like you to think about that for a minute, please. How would you feel? You’d be upset wouldn’t you?”
Frottage states.

Sgt Bobby isn’t happy at all, but Pete’s having fun with it- rather than being an ass.

Eventually after ten more minutes of hilarious (in places) roleplay a deal is struck- Frottage and friends (Cokbox, Snotflinch, Phlembandit, and Peewee) are willing to say more- lots more, but only if they’re paid 200gp, five minutes later and the price is down to 150gp.

Note the Bearded Devils all look like George V, only with small stubby horns and snake-like beard appendages.

The chat continues, how does this work in your game, quite often I imagine the film version of our game- during which in instances like this one, the PCs (every now and then) break from the action to huddle up (US Football style) and chitter-chat in hushed whispers amongst themselves.

While the monsters… well, look mystified.

Finally, a decision is (nearly) made- the PCs are going to go back to Ilda the Ghost and see what she thinks (and/or advises) about the presence of the Devils et al. Don’t ask me how we got here, but that’s what happens.

The thing is the Players are not sure how to play this. Violence is an option, of course, but they also want to find out what the Devil’s know.

Anyway, so the PCs (after apologies) retreat out of the chamber, back up the stairs and past the ten-foot-tall fellow on the throne- paying 1gp each as they exit, and then back in to the dusty empty library and to Ilda.

Note the PCs only have to leave an offering when they pass through the door in to the Devil’s chamber, however at no point did I tell them this- so that’s 10gp for the Throne Guardian so far.

Ilda, after listening to the PCs for a while- mostly shrugging along to their story, states that she is also prepared to tell the PCs more (about this place) but only if they- a) retrieve the lost book, and b) kill or clear out the despoilers within the tomb (that means the Devils and Varram the White).

The PCs chat some more. It’s very chatty tonight- we’ve been in-game for nearly an hour at this point.

Then- there’s a plan. I’ll not spoil the surprise except to say that all members of the Brothers of the First Light are in agreement.

The PCs say adieu (they’ll be back) to Ilda once again, head through the throne room- paying the Guardian (15gp now) and down the stairs in to the Devil’s chamber. Lummins has cast his Zone of Truth spell already. Lux hands over 150gp and the Devils agree to five minutes of questioning.

Five minutes real-time the (firm, but fare) DM states, and then takes an age with the Devil’s much considered, and often verbose, answers.

Remarkably all five PCs get involved with the Q&A.

Note, Lummins is using his Zone of Truth, the Devils however have Magic Resistance, and remember they are also aware that the spell has been cast. They have advantage on their saves versus the spell, and yet all of them fail to do so, also remember that Lummins is aware that they have failed their saves.

So, they’re telling the truth- and seemingly happy to do so… the PCs learn, in the order that the questions are asked-

a) Within the tomb the Devils have fought and killed undead creatures.

b) Varram has lost his Dragon mask.

c) Varram and the Devils are here to consult the Divination pool- actually the Devils use the term ‘Looking Pool’, sadly it takes over two minutes to determine that the ‘Looking Pool’ is in fact the Divination pool- shame that. They’re going to use the ‘Looking Pool’ to find out where the lost Dragon mask is.

d) The Divination pool is further on in to the complex (and not down the southern stairs).

e) The Devils work for a fallen angel (now Archduchess of Avernus) by the name of Zariel.

f) Zariel wants Tiamat out of the Nine Hells.

Time’s up!

Oh, how I laughed- actually, the PCs/Players were a little less amused, particularly with my rambling shambolic answer to c) which took over half the allotted time to get said.

Just as an example answer d) went a little like this-

Watt: “Where is the Divination pool?”
Frottage: “Err… [Frottage looks around the room for several seconds]. If that’s north [Frottage points north]. And that’s south [Frottage points South]. Like on a compass!”
[SILENCE] Eventually…
Frottage: “Do you understand me. North? South? Like on a compass?”
Watt (and all other PCs): [Screaming & yelling] “Yes, we understand.”
Frottage: “Sorry, I just wanted to make sure- and there’s really no need to shout!”
[SILENCE] Eventually…
Watt (and all other PCs): [Screaming & yelling] “Yes, we understand.”
Frottage: “Well it’s over there [Frottage points in a vaguely westerly direction].

As I say, I think it went very well.

So, that’s the first part of the plan- now the second bit, time for the PCs to get their money back- the hard way. But the Bearded Devils are ready and waiting- there’s no surprise round for the scheming two-faced PCs, my poor sweet Devils- betrayed when they were just trying to be helpful.

08 Bearded Devils.jpg

Sgt Bobby rolls a ‘20’ for his initiative (the bastard) and with an Action Surge (and Hazirawn) kills Frottage (my innocent, beautiful, young Frottage). Bobby screams his delight and then seconds later is surrounded by all four of the remaining Bearded Devils who enter a frenzy- remarkably he’s only hit once, but the glaive wound bleeds profusely.

Watt fires two arrows in to the nearest Devil (the first a Crit), the Bard knows the Devils are Magic Resistant and so is doing this old skool. Lummins hits the Radiance of the Dawn button, and then kick starts his Spiritual Weapon- one of the Devils is now badly wounded- the room is bathed in the Light of Lathander. Hotlips (Halfling Rogue) enters Stab Fury Mode, and seconds later another of the Devils is also badly wounded.

Lux fires Eldritch Blasts at the two badly wounded Devils- one dies (Peewee), the other only just survives.

The Devils are really not winning this fight.

As if to emphasise this point Sgt Bobby (and Hazirawn) cuts down the other badly wounded Bearded Devil (Snotflinch), and then savages a second- the Devils have had enough, alas Sgt Bobby hasn’t. With an Inspiration Point the Fighter decapitates the badly wounded Phlembandit.

Which just leaves Cokbox, who drops to his knees, and swears he’ll be good- and cries out- “I say, would you mind awfully not slaying me?”

After five more minutes of chat the PCs finally oblige, the Bearded Devil- Cokbox lives, for now- more questions follow, although the price eventually agreed is to allow Cokbox to leave the tomb alive, after his interrogation.

Oh, but before that Watt and Lummins manage to staunch the bleeding wound on Sgt Bobby, the Fighter is soon all better again (well, almost).

Lummins fires up his Zone of Truth again, and the PCs learn the following from Cokbox-

1) Down the stairs to the south is the treasure vault, home to a bunch of undead guardians. Cokbox is not sure what sort of undead the guardians are- he describes them as ‘spectral’ and when that doesn’t suffice he states that they are also ‘floaty’, and ‘rather upset’.

2) Varram the White has been gone for some time (over an hour), he went on to the Looking Pool (to the west) with a bunch of his Dragon Cultists, they have not returned. The Bearded Devils were playing cards in effort to determine which of them was going to go looking for Varram and his friends.

3) The last orders Varram gave the Devils was to wait here and attack anyone (or thing) that emerged from the treasure vault. “Which would have been us if we followed your directions”, Watt helpfully states. Cokbox shrugs and replies- “What can you do? We’re Devils- what did you expect?”

The PCs have lots more questions but alas Cokbox has reached the outer limits of his knowledge regarding Varram et al.

After more chatter it is agreed that the PCs will escort Cokbox out of the tomb complex- this after first getting the Devil to swear not to re-enter the place. Thirty minutes later and the adventurers are back in the room- Cokbox is outta here.

Note- the Throne Guardian has now taken 25gp from the PCs total, there’s a job in this.

So, we’re back in the Devil’s chamber (now sans Devils), the options are- the stairs down to the treasure vault (and undead), or else further in to the complex and to the Divination pool (and Varram and company). There’s a vote, 5-0. The treasure vault and the undead it is.

So, Hotlips leading the way the Brothers descend the stairs- the Halfling Rogue checking every step of the way down. The only item found is an open hollow space (a shaft going up) in the wall and strewn about the remains of the dumbwaiter that went in the shaft. Best guess the opening emerges in the sloping corridor above this area, as found previously by Hotlips.

The PCs press on to a door, untrapped, and then Lummins fires up the Bless spell and they head in- to a well-appointed bedroom-cum-study, very nice. Cautiously the PCs enter, spread about a bit- snooping, but swords and spells in hand (as it were).

Which is fortunate as seconds later the undead arrive- through the walls.

09 Theyre coming through the walls.jpg

Suddenly Spectres (four of) and Wraiths (two of) are charging through the walls of the chamber- swooping and flying at the PCs. Lux fails to Banish one of the Wraiths. Sgt Bobby and Hazirawn slice a Spectre clean in two- it fades to nothing with a hollow scream.

Hotlips is briefly hemmed in to a corner by a Spectre, the Halfling however manages to dodge past the ghostly undead and get in behind a Wraith reaching for Sgt Bobby. The Rogue stabs the creature with her magical rapier, the undead creature howls in pain.

Watt uses his Dissonant Whispers to cause the second Wraith, threatening Lummins, to flee the area- the undead scurries back through the nearest wall, “It’ll be back”, the Bard warns.

Lummins shrugs, nonchalant, hoists his holy symbol of Lathander in the air and incants- Turn Undead, the three remaining Spectres are ripped to shreds, the Wraith- the only undead remaining in the chamber (for now) doesn’t even blink.

There’s a brief pause in the game as the Players stop to applaud Rob (Lummins), they love these kick ass moments when one PC hits the sweet spot.

Lux fires an Eldritch Blast in to the Wraith, Sgt Bobby (with a little Bardic Inspiration) savages it- the Wraith is cut clean in two, and fades to nothing. Seconds later, with all of the PCs ready and waiting, the second Wraith flies through a wall and straight at the hateful Priest of Light- Lummins.

Some of the PCs (alas) have readied actions- the bastards, when did they start learning the rules.

Hotlips dodges in to stab at the undead foe with her magical rapier, Watt- while waiting for the Wraith’s return has got ready his magical bow- the Bard fires two arrows in to the fiend. The Wraith hate in its burning eyes, however makes it to the Priest- and throttles Lummins, or at least has a real good go. I roll a Crit- Yay! For 40 Necrotic damage. Lummins fails his Constitution save- his hit point total is reduced by 40 also, he’s down- and dying.

The Wraith, seemingly grinning- or is that the DM, attempts to flee through the opposite wall, fate or rather karma gets in the way, Lux kills the undead beast with another of her Eldritch Blasts, a Crit- as it happens. What goes around comes around.

Seconds later of course Lummins is back in the land of the living and gasping for air, courtesy of the Bard’s healing song.

Gah! Bring me more Wraiths.

Still Lummins’ hit point maximum is reduced to about twenty, the debate that follows is short and to the point, although in a non-confrontational way you understand. The PCs are going to search the room (for treasure) and then retreat for an extended rest. Note all of the PCs really took a beating fighting the tile Chimera, they’ve all spent 75% of their healing hit dice already.

So, the room is taken apart in search of, well… anything, there are lots of books on the shelves (some valuable), and between the bed and the wall a crumbling copy of a tome called- Transubstantiality across Potentialities. The tome Ilda is searching for- quest complete, they just need to return to the quest-giver. There’s also a silver ewer and some fine goblets- yoink, they’re taken; and in a chest a whole bunch of stuff- a pair of scrolls, a ring, and several beautiful (and immaculate- no rot) silk robes. Plenty of things for the PCs to examine during their forthcoming extended rest.

Hotlips also finds a secret compartment, actually just a loose brick that slots out of a wall- there’s nothing hidden there, then the Halfling notes the runes carved on the inward facing side of the brick. Lux and Lummins examine the object and determine the runes constitute some sort of magical ward (skill checks okay but not great). The brick is broken- the runes, well… ruined.

Then retrace their steps (yet again) and the PCs head all the way back to the library, with another 5gp for the Throne Guardian (30gp so far) on the way.

That Throne Guardian is well minted, as the youth say around here (probably about a decade ago, I’m an increasingly old git).

The rest of the session is played out swiftly, we’re over time already and the Players are keen to park their PCs in a well-earned extended rest. A bit of what follows is added on later via e-mail.

Back in the library Ilda is shown (but not given) the missing book, only shown because the PCs want to first hear what the Ghost has to say, which is this-

1) An age ago (or more) a bunch of Yuan-ti and their Lizardfolk servitors broke in to the tomb, they explored deep in to the complex and have been using it ever since as a hide-out, and of course making use of the Divination pool.

2) The Divination pool exacts a price for its use- in blood, the more it has been used the greater the price that has to be paid. The Yuan-ti, Ilda has observed on her spectral travels through the tomb, sacrifice humanoids (et al) which they capture in the Serpent Hills in order to make the Divination pool work. The implication being (which the PCs understand) is they too will have to sacrifice a sentient being in order to activate the device.

3) The pool allows the scryer to see past (or through) a variety of magical protections that would otherwise block the watcher.

4) The pool can also exact a high price on the scryer, several of the Yuan-ti, Ilda has observed, were rendered insane by the device, berserk style insane… so, there’s that.

Ilda completes her assessment of the situation.

However, the information gathering process does not run smoothly, between info point 2) and info point 3) Ilda notices that the PCs have been stealing from the tomb- to wit the silk robes and items taken from the ‘treasure vault’ (actually Diderius’ bedroom). She’s not happy- it gets fraught for a while, particularly when Sgt Bobby starts waving Hazirawn about.

Eventually Lummins and Watt (bad rolls from Lux) calm things down and we get to info point 3) and then 4) at which point things get twitchy again when Ilda starts screaming at the PCs to “Now, go and kill this wretched Dwarf- Varram”, and then starts yelling that the PCs should kill all of the other intruders, specifically the Yuan-ti. Basically, Ilda loses it…

Next stop however for the PCs is a snooze, but Ilda is insistent that they act now- remember she’s a crazy Ghost and the PCs represent her best chance (for centuries) of getting rid of the intruders.

In the end Watt prevents the fight from starting- the Bard roughly shoves the missing text- Transubstantiality across Potentialities, in to Ilda’s spectral hands, instinctively she grasps the book- and in that moment her spirit is finally laid to rest.

The PCs make camp where they are, set watch and settle down to investigate their new-found treasures, and of course to get a much-needed extended rest.

The tomb is deserted, not much (save the lone Troll, and the Yuan-ti- and I’m saving these for a rainy day) could stumble upon the encamped PCs, I’m speaking from a Wandering Monsters POV, so- the Brothers of the First Light rest easy.

Next session, well… more of the same.
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