Category Archives: Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Tyranny of Dragons – Adding Continuity

As you may know, I’ve been running the Tyranny of Dragons campaign with my home group.  We left off partway through Episode 8 (Skyreach Castle) and I anticipate that we’ll wrap up Hoard of the Dragon Queen during our next session.  I’m still loving D&D 5E and the campaign has been a good experience overall.  The broad strokes of the storyline are interesting and it covers a lot of different areas of the Sword Coast.

Having said that, there are plenty of criticisms to be made.  I have to say that I’ve had to put far more work into this published adventure than I would normally put into developing my own material.  Most of the problem areas fall into one of two broad categories.  First, the material was written while the 5E rules were still under development and many of the monster statistics hadn’t been finalized.  This results in some of the scripted encounters being highly unbalanced if you don’t adjust accordingly.  A DM running this campaign should perform a careful sanity check on the difficulty of encounters and make sure that they’re not setting themselves up for a TPK.

The second category of problem is a little more insidious.  It’s the lack of continuity between episodes as well as a lack of continuity between HotDQ and Rise of Tiamat.  I attribute this partially to the production timelines put on these products and partially to the requirement that they fit into the D&D Encounters 2-hour format.  The episodic format seems well suited to an Encounters program where the membership of the group may shift from week to week and the inclusion of too many “callbacks” to previous episodes would prove confusing to players who weren’t there for previous events.  However, while running the campaign as a home game all I can see are a lot of lost opportunities for continuity between episodes.  There are lots of scenes that serve as great set-ups for future development but that never come to fruition.

Here are some of the areas that I found unsatisfying as well as my recommendations for modifying them for your home play Tyranny of Dragons game:

  • Frulam Mondath: One of the first high-ranking cultists identified by the party.  She’s supposed to be a cunning villain and  the adventure text specifically states that Mondath doesn’t want to die for the cult.  So what does she do if she manages to escape?  (a likely scenario given that there are two possible exits from her quarters)  The first part of Episode 4 of HotDQ is lacking in the action department, so it would be appropriate to have Mondath make her appearance there along with some additional muscle.  Use her to spice up the journey from Greenest to Baldur’s Gate.  Mike Shea (@slyflourish) used a disfigured (acid-scarred) Mondath as a repeat character several episodes down the road, which I think is a great idea.
  • Baldur’s Gate: One of the truly iconic cities of the realm, Baldur’s Gate warranted a whopping half page of content in HotDQ.  While it’s unfair to expect a full city supplement within the limited page count of an adventure, I wanted to give my players a little more here.  I created a side adventure involving one of the prominent leaders of Baldur’s Gate that put the party in a position where he might owe them a favor down the line.  This gives the party some attachment to Baldur’s Gate and creates an opportunity to have this same leader appear at the Councils of Waterdeep during Rise of Tiamat.  Depending on how things go in Baldur’s Gate, your group may end up with an ally or enemy among the representatives of the Lords Alliance.  The supplement “Murder in Baldur’s Gate” is an excellent source of information and inspiration for running an adventure in the city.
  • Jamna Gleamsilver: She plays an important role in Episode 4 of HotDQ.  She’s the party’s introduction and connection to the Zhentarim.  She goes out of her way to ingratiate herself to the party in the “Who’s your friend scene?”  She’s on essentially the same mission as the party, tracking the movement of the cultists and their treasure.  When everyone arrives in Waterdeep in Episode 5, what happens to Jamna?  The answer is: NOTHING.  She sticks with the party through the Carnath Roadhouse and then there is *no further mention* of her in the module.You’re left with one of two options here.  She can either remain with the party as a semi-permanent NPC through at least Skyreach Castle OR she can mysteriously disappear at some point to pursue her own interests.  I didn’t want a long-term NPC following the group for no specific purpose, so I had her disappear in Waterdeep before the group ever left for the Carnath Roadhouse.  I intend to use her again later during Rise of Tiamat as the Zhentarim’s representative at the council.  I don’t see the need to introduce another Zhent when I already have a perfectly good one available to me.
  • Waterdeep: Similar to Baldur’s Gate, Episode 5 fails to capitalize on a visit to one of the major cities of the Realms.  Episode 4 was a long slog up the Sword Coast, both for the characters and their players.  They were excited to finally reach their destination only to be rewarded by… more traveling to the north after a very brief stay in Waterdeep.  In this instance I hustled my group through the city as written in the adventure (because *I* was ready for the whole traveling segment of the campaign to be over with) but the disappointment was palpable.I will again refer you to @slyfloush in this instance.  Mike writes here about this episodes and proposes a miniature Council of Waterdeep to set up the second half of HotDQ.  I think that this is a great lead-in to the events of Rise of Tiamat.  It’s also a good opportunity to clarify the party’s goals as they continue to pursue the cultists up the Sword Coast and give them a little bit of a break from a very long stretch on the road.  This would also be a good opportunity for a side adventure involving Jamna Gleamsilver that would explain her removal from the party.
  • Voaraghamanthar: There is some great lore available about this deadly black dragon.  A hidden lair in a swamp?  Clues about the dragon’s true nature left at Castle Naerytar?  A magical observatory that can be used to find the dragon’s lair?  Awesome!  So where does Tyranny of Dragons go with this material?  Well, nowhere.  After dropping some great hints, there’s no payoff.I plan on adding a mission to Rise of Tiamat whereupon we return to the Mere of Dead Men and have some “up close and personal” time with one or both of the dragon brothers.  Should Rezmir happen to survive Castle Skyreach, this seems like a perfectly rational place for her to run and hide.
  • Talis the White: I love how Talis is used to illustrate the internal divide among the different factions of the Cult of the Dragon.  One of my players used the optional background for his PC that involved arriving at Greenest in search of Talis, his lost childhood friend.  He’s playing a goodly character, so it was a pretty dramatic moment when he realized that she hadn’t been *taken* but the cult but was *part of* the cult.  In any case, let’s take a look at what happens with Talis if the party strikes a bargain with her at the Hunting Lodge. That’s right: nothing!  Her name doesn’t even *appear* in Rise of Tiamat.Making a deal with Talis should feel like making a deal with the devil.  She’s clearly not a good person.  She doesn’t have the party’s best interests in mind.  If they decide to accept the benefit of working with her, they should eventually have to make some hard decisions related to that choice.  I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to use her in Rise of Tiamat, but I’m sure as hell going to use her.  You could consider her and her allies within the cult as a possible addition to the list of potential allies at the Well of Dragons.  That’d be pretty damn cool if the white dragons suddenly turned on the rest at the final moment.
  • Glazhael / Aurathator: One of the culminating encounters of HotDQ is a confrontation with Glazhael, an adult white dragon.  That’s a pretty cool moment in your campaign.  One of the first big moments in Rise of Tiamat is a fight with… an adult white dragon.  “What, *another* fight with a white dragon?” isn’t something that I ever expected to find myself saying, but here we are.In my campaign I decided that Glazhael and Aurathator are in fact one and the same.  Having a party of 7th level characters fight a CR 13 dragon seems like quite the stretch anyway, so I had Glazhael go a little easy on them by being dumb and cocky.  She also wasn’t so thrilled about dying to protect someone else’s horde, so she headed for the hills once reaching about 50% of her total hit points.  This was still a great victory for the party, but it lets me use that dragon again in Rise of Tiamat.  Next time she’ll be better prepared and she’s going to be *pissed*.

    If you really want to use two different dragons, establish a relationship between the two.  Allies, cousins, rivals, etc.  Just don’t make it two completely arbitrary encounters with the exact same solo monster within the spam of a couple sessions.

  • The Longest Road: By the time you reach the end of HotDQ, most astute players will realize that the Cult just transported their treasure a couple thousand miles north only to bring it almost exactly back where they started from.  Why?  Probably because the Well of Dragons was an existing place and the authors wanted to use it.  This doesn’t exactly make a ton of sense to rational characters, so set the stage early with the idea that the Cult is heavily into misdirection.  That and the general inaccessibility of the Well of Dragons area are the only possible theories for why they cart their stuff all over the Sword Coast only to have it end up back at the beginning.  Either that or just move the Well of Dragons scene somewhere else in the north that makes more sense.

    If you *are* going to keep the finale at the Well of Dragons, it may be fun to create a little prologue where the party returns to Greenest to save it one more time.  Imagine a wounded Tiamat and some of her dragons fleeing the onslaught at the Well of Dragons and the heroes in hot pursuit mounted on the backs of their allied metallic dragons.  The final conflict just *happens* to occur in or near the newly rebuilt Greenest where it all began.  Now *that* is a finale.

Have another idea for expanding on the ideas in Tyranny of Dragons?  Leave a comment or tweet me @dungeonleft.

On the Road 2 – DM’s Notes

This session was essentially a detour from the main plot of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.  The module as written calls for the party to arrive in Baldur’s Gate several days ahead of the cultists with the assumption that they’ll simply pass time waiting for their targets to arrive.  This seemed like a wasted opportunity for exploration in one of the most iconic cities of the Sword Coast.  I’ve been enjoying the Tyranny of Dragons story line overall, but one of my few complaints is that there are large portions of it that lack supporting details.  I would’ve preferred to see a bigger book at a higher price that included more information (or ANY information about the cities that the adventure passes through.  For example, I believe that the journey from the Dragon Hatchery all of the way to Baldur’s Gate covers 2-3 pages of the book.  As such, I came up with this week’s adventure largely using material from the recently published Murder in Baldur’s Gate sourcebook.

I used the city material as my setting but decided to pass on the whole “return of Bhaal” story line.  One “evil god tries to return to the Realms” story line per campaign is plenty for me.  Anyway, I took them through several of the more interesting areas of the city and tried to highlight some of the disparities between rich and poor in Baldur’s Gate.  I also wanted to emphasize the influence of the Guild so they seemed like the perfect villains to use in this case.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll show up later in the employ of the Cult of the Dragon.  I’ve been mostly using published material since starting with this particular group, so it was slightly nerve-wracking to put together an investigation-based adventure of my own.  It took me several revisions to get to the point where I felt like I had left enough bread crumbs to follow but in the end it came off as I had hoped.

Overall, this was an enjoyable romp through the city and a nice break from dealing with potentially world-shaking events.  Next week: back to stalking the Cult of the Dragon as they carry their ill-gotten treasures northward.

On the Road 2 – Emmerik’s Report

Arriving in Baldur’s Gate after some few short days of river travel (with Caelum still ill – this time mostly from snake venom) the group found Pry in a riverside tavern while they shared a drink with Captain Mailk (of the barge they had traveled on).

But the time of relaxing was not to last.  A large explosion rocked the docks and the squad, rushing to see what had happened, found the Captain’s vessel at risk due to the fire ravaging the ship docked in the next slip.  Swinging into action the squad members prevented the fire from spreading to the dock and neighboring vessels.  Just as swiftly the squad made itself scarce, after learning that the captain of the damaged ship was of the litigious variety.

Traveling through the city, with a porter to push a wheelbarrow full of Caelum, the squad met with Aeckyn Selebon to discuss caravans and “infiltrating” one. The matter of determining which caravan the cultists were in, however, was not resolved.

The squad took up accommodations at an inn frequented by traveling guards and mercenaries, where they were approached by a functionary of one of the city’s Dukes.  The Duke, it turned out, had had some of important cargo (a type of amber) stolen from the vessel which had earlier exploded in the harbor. There was quite a bit of reward, and prestige, at stake if the squad could recover the goods.

So the squad went about questioning sailors, low-level criminals, fireworks makers, and old grannies drinking tea, before they got a lead to an abandoned weapon store.  Upon entering the (seemingly) abandoned building the squad was set upon by thieves and an animated set of armor.  A hard-fought melee resulted in Dag, Faurgar, and Starag all unconscious and a few thieves dead, with one thief prisoner.  Dag and Pry again coordinated their interrogation and learned that the “client” who had hired the thieves was a Calamshite healer (witch doctor to the locals).

As Captain Malik happened to be a Calamshite the squad asked if he would accompany them to the “Little Calam” village outside of the city, to which he eagerly agreed.  The squad quickly was in the presence of the healer but, when the topic turned to the amber, the situation became tense.  Apparently the healer had hired the thieves to steal the amberdyne because it was a necessary ingredient in a remedy to cure an otherwise-fatal disease that had infected a pair of men.

The squad negotiated for the unused portion of the amberdyne, in return for their silence in the matter, and returned that amount to the Duke.

On the Road – DM’s notes

As you’ve seen, I’m running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen as my first campaign using the release version of the 5E rules.  Up until this point I’ve stayed fairly close to the script since Episodes 1-3 all tie pretty closely together.  Moving into Episode 4, there was a long stretch of travel where minimal detail was provided.  Since I’m running this as a home campaign and not as public play, I decided that this was a missed opportunity and created some material to fill in some of the gaps.

The player running Pry was unable to attend the last session, so that seemed like a good chance to tie up a loose end with Frulam Mondath.  The module as written doesn’t make any further use of her down the line and gives no direction as to what she might do if she managed to escape the party in Episode 3, so I left it up to the player to decide how things would play out.  You can see the results in Emmerik’s write-up of the last session.

A journey by boat seemed like a good chance for a combat encounter and I was pleased with how it played out.  Caelum’s player had to call in sick at the last minute, so he was the lucky one to be attacked first by the swarm of venomous snakes summoned by the lizardfolk shaman.  The humorous part about that aspect of the encounter was that the ranger (Dag) critically failed his nature check to identify the snakes, so he repeatedly assured the group that they were harmless and that Caelum would be totally fine.

The farm encounter was inspired by a simple flip through the incredible new Monster Manual.  Again, it was mostly about doing something other than deal with world-conquering dragon cults for a little while.  I started from “ankheg attack” and worked my way back to why the ankhegs might be a problem.  It was a lot of fun to play and the farmers sort of spontaneously morphed into characters from the Dukes of Hazzard somewhere along the way.

I have a little more home-brew material ready for when the party arrives at Baldur’s Gate.  It’s such an iconic city within the Realms that I’d like to try and give the group a little taste of it before they’re hustled onward to deal with the whole “Tiamat taking over the world” issue.

 

On the Road – Emmerik’s Report

The squad, having taken a good night’s rest, left Greenest to follow Leosin.  Pry had left separately – and secretively – to hunt the escaped dragon-cult leader.

Following the trade route north the squad passed through the farmed countryside, stopping at farmsteads along the way to sleep in the hay barn. The group entered the town of Berdusk where they found signs of Pry’s passing – he had been handing-out crudely-drawn “Wanted” posters for the cultist leader.  When the group got to the city of Scornubl they found more of Pry’s handiwork – there in the square was the cultist leader, pinned to a tree with an arrow and a note stating “Got her”.

After a few more days of uneventful journey the squad arrived in Eltuvel, a walled city on the riverbank with much barge traffic.  Inquiring with the city guard they learned that the Unther had set-up the Order of the Gauntlet at a tavern called “The Black Antlers”.  The squad found Leosin being inconspicuous amongst a bustle of burly, thick-armed and hairy-chested drinking louts (representing a number of various holy orders) and they collected the sum previously promised to them – paid in platinum coins.

Before any other business with Unther could be attended to, though, there were various “rituals” to be done.  Dag ingratiated himself to the paladins, besting them at games of arm-wrestling and axe-throwing (and Faurgar made a good sum of cash betting on his companion’s prowess).  Starag showed himself less than capable, though, when it came time to race horses through the city.

The following morning the squad accepted a mission from Unther to travel to the city of Baulder’s Gate and there meet up with an informant named Ackyn Selebon, who would give the squad information about which caravan the dragon cultists would be using to transport their captured booty from their rampage in Greenest and its surrounding communities.  The Order opened up its armory for some re-equipping of the squad before sending them down-river on a barge.

Caelum, who had been sick for the duration of the journey so far (although the other squad members think he was faking it so he could spend time, undisturbed, to devote to the dragon poetry found in the caves), turned out to be “sea-sick”.

The barge was captained by a veteran of the river – one who knew all the sand bars and snags but wasn’t foolhardy with his speed.  Fearing attacks from river pirates the squad set up a watch outside of the small shack that was built onto the deck of the barge.

This caution was not unrewarded – on the first watch Emmerik noticed some humanoid figures creeping up onto the deck.  A group of lizardmen, led by one of their shaman, had boarded the ship for some nefarious reason.  A swift and brutal melee ensued, in which the sick Caelum was bitten by many snakes magically summoned by the shaman.  One of the lizardmen was thrown from the barge by Starag’s magic while the others were slain under the assault of Faurgar, Dag, and Emmerik.

The captain wasn’t one to spend the remainder of the night anchored in place after that assault – he explained that there were likely additional parties of raiders out.  So, running cautiously at night, the barge proceeded downriver for the rest of the night and the better part of the next day.  Nearing dusk the captain docked at an unnamed village on the riverbank for some relative safety.

At the village’s inn the squad learned that one of the farmers – Darren Darren – had run afoul of a traveling wizard who had cursed his farm with a series of curses, culminating in the invasion of huge insects.  The hale members – Emmerik, Dag, Faurgar, and Starag – made their way to the farm.  At the farm they fought several Anhkegs before discovering that a magical “beacon” was causing seismic vibrations that attracted them.  The group had quite the puzzle as to how to deal with the beacon since the object seemed quite indestructible and, wherever it was taken to, the anhkegs would surely follow.  At last the squad took the beacon to a nearby quarry – trailed by a large number of the creatures – where they threw the beacon, to attract the anhkegs away from the village and its farms.

The squad then returned to the nameless village to rest before continuing on their journey.

The Dragon Hatchery – Emmerik’s Notes

After the squad had safely returned to Greenest with the monk Leosin and villagers-turned-temporary-slaves Ned and Paul the group was rewarded by the Governor and took a few days to rest and recuperate from the hectic 48 hours previous.  Emmerik and his companions also used their time to practice their skills and learn a few new tricks.

Having made a full recovery from the injuries he had suffered at the hands of the Dragon Cult, Leosin told his rescuers that he would be leaving to meet with an associate of his – a paladin who belonged to the Order of the Gauntlet – in a city to the north to share what information he had already gathered on the Cult. However Leosin asked the squad if it could return to the cultists’ camp and recover any information possible about the army’s next move; the squad readily accepted the charge (it didn’t hurt that there was a promise made of a cash payment when the group delivered the information).

Donning the assortment of cultist robes the squad members had acquired in their earlier encounters with cult members the squad made directly for the location of the cultist army’s encampment but, when they arrived, they found the camp nearly deserted and destroyed.  In every direction from the camp small parties (with roughly a score of soldiers each) had issued forth, after having burned their former facilities.  Only a few of the hunters remained, setting up their camp near the mouth of a cave (which had been under heavy guard during the squad’s earlier visit – it reputedly being the headquarters of the Black Wyrmspeaker and housing dragon hatchlings).  With their disguises the squad openly moved into the cave to find what they could.

Shortly after entering the cave, which had been worked to create a subterranean complex, Pry was knocked unconscious during an ambush by cultist fanatics – but Starag magically healed him.  The cleric then proceeded to blunder around which resulted in the squad suffering attack from swarms of bats and stirges, but the parasites were defeated and the bats driven off without causing any serious damage, which Starag used his magic powers to heal.

Then passing through a series of traps the squad came upon a room with a number of kobolds – they had most likely laid the traps.  A brief fight ensued, with Dag hewing many of the mongrels.

With the trap-makers dealt with the squad moved down a flight of stairs and came to a large room, with a shrine dedicated to the evil five-headed dragon goddess – Tiamat.  Guarding the shrine was the half-dragon general, Cyanwrath, and two berserker bodyguards of his.  Itching to repay his loss in their earlier duel, Dag rushed into combat against Cyanwrath while Caelum and Starag used their magical abilities to hamper the general and Pry moved into position to aid Dag’s assault (and take a few shots at the general’s back). Emmerik took a stance to engage the berserkers and keep them off Faurgar while the sorcerer unleashed a torrent of energy attacks against them. Eventually the general fell, and the squad finished off the berserkers. Investigating the shrine Caelum had a premonition of danger, but Emmerik triggered a trap of poison gas when he moved a lockbox and the group retreated up the stairs from whence they had come, all except Starag, who pushed further into the complex.

After the poison subsided the squad caught up with Starag, who had discovered a room with dragon eggs guarded by a pair of dog-like lizard beasts, some kobolds, and a roper (looking like a stalagmite).  After defeating the kobolds and dog/lizards in combat the group was able to convince the roper that they would bring it more food if it would allow them to leave alive.  After an agreement was reached the squad proceeded to destroy the dragon eggs and exited quickly.

With the rest of the compound explored the squad climbed up a ladder and into what appeared to be the room of a high-ranking cultist (the garments found indicate it may have even housed the cult’s black wyrmspeaker).  Proceeding to the next chamber the squad encountered a group of cultists, prepared to face an attack.  While the cultists were mostly made quick work of, one of their number, protected by magical wards, guarded a passage down which the cultists’ leader had fled.  By the time that guard was finished off the leader had long since fled from the cavern and had stolen a horse from the hunters’ camp.

So, with a bitter taste in their mouths, the squad returned, once again, to Greenest before leaving to bring their information to Leosin’s paladin associate.

Raider’s Camp – The Personal Journal of Pry Loreweaver

I continue to gather more and more information about the movement and plans of the dragon cult. While searching the countryside of Greenest I came across a group that fell behind from the primary force. I found a good place to hide and tried to observe the group. I was hoping to find out why Greenest was looted, what they needed with all the funds, and where they were headed next.

Much to my surprise a band of adventures showed up. They seemed to discuss their plans for quite a bit. They split up and took cover in the trees surrounding the straggler camp. I was a little concerned that their plan was to kill everyone. That really isn’t the best way to gather information. You should always try and leave a survivor. I was uncertain if their planned surprise attack would work, but I knew I would be in for a good show.

I was surprised to see most of the kobolds drift off to sleep. This was looking like one of my plans. Then the arrows started flying. The stragglers started dropping. A few started to head towards to adventures. I thought it best to help them out and killed a few myself. I remained in hiding to keep a watchful eye on the situation. I didn’t what to show myself just in case I needed to run away or attack the adventures if they were on their way to kill everyone. I wasn’t entirely sure that they were good or not.

Luckily the arrows stopped and one of the cultists surrendered. Beyond that they didn’t kill him were he stood. It turned out better than I thought. Then they started to question the cultist with demands, threats, and insults. Adventures and their demands. It never works and people just end up dead and nobody learned anything new. So, what the hell, let’s go meet some new people.

The adventures seemed quite alarmed when I came out of the trees and started talking to the cultist. The turned their questioning to me. I’m not the cultist here. The guy tied up is. It was really quite rude. They were asking who I was, why I was here, what I was doing in the woods, was I in the town, etc. None of it was relevant to the situation. Eyes on the prize people. After a brief bit of awkwardness we were all able to get back on task. For a little bit anyways. Eventually the questions turned back to me. They were easily distracted though and didn’t really need to know my secrets.

From the cultist we found out where the cultist camp was located and that an ambush waited on the way to the camp. The cultist showed good judgment in sharing his information and agreed to change his ways and not join a cult again. I was about to give him his weapons back and send him on his way when the rotund tavern smelling dwarf decided it would be best if the cultist was naked. I understand the cultist was not a good guy, but nobody should be left defenseless. Even if the cultist turned to his evil ways again my network would be sure to keep an eye on him. He already showed himself to freely give up information. Not a bad person to have as your enemy. You just capture him again, get all the new information, and send him back on his way.

After brief discussion I found out the adventurers were looking for their friend who was captured by the cultists. The name Leocin sounded familiar for some reason. I happen to be heading the same direction so we decided to work together. We started our journey towards the ambush. In hindsight who walks into an ambush?

To get past the ambush the adventures decided to disguise themselves as cultist and pretend the half-orc was their prisoner. Something about a fight, that turned out to be a disgraceful beating. If all didn’t go well I could have just pretend to be a cultist pretending to be an adventurer that was pretending to be a cultist. It didn’t come to that though. It actually worked out really well They laughed at the half-orc, we laughed at the half-orc, then they let us through. I kind of like these guys. Quick side note at this point. There is another adventure with us. I think he is a cleric. He could also be a less intelligent individual they found on the side of the road and dressed him as a cleric. I will definitely need to figure this out. So, we are walking on the path between the ambush and guy dressed as cleric says “He guys, look at all the traps!” He may look up to a box of rocks for inspiration, but he is perceptive. I will keep a close eye on this one. Maybe just to make sure he doesn’t get lost. Anyways…

We made it to the camp of the cult. Hundreds of cultists and kobolds roamed the camp all celebrating their recent plunder. Our disguises continued to hold up. We had a brief confrontation with a kobold. Get prepared to run like hell…and…the group intimidated the kobold and he backed away. That was close. We all continued towards the back of the camp. We started with the mercenaries. We joined them for some drinks and found out the prisoners were going to be executed. That put some urgency around our quest. With some digging we determined where the prisoners were being kept. So, speaking of digging, some of our group decided it would be a good idea to mouth off to the cultist in black robes. So off they went to dig latrines. I feel like this may be a trend. You know a little flattery can go a long ways. You don’t have to mean it.

Eventually we ended up back together. Some of us smelled better than others. Why do the latrine diggers look slightly vindicated? Note to self what type of person looks happy after digging poop trenches? Wait a second…Where did the guy in black robes go? Hmm, additional note to self. Anyways…

We found Leocin tied up behind the red robe camp. Now I know why I know that name. I need to find out what he learned. Now was not a good time to find out. It was becoming more and more critical to get out of here. We needed a plan to get everyone out safely. To our rescue, the rotund tavern smelling dwarf. One thing dwarfs are good at is drinking. Even better than that it is a drinking game. A few moments later the dwarf comes back with red robes to dress Leocin in and a passed out cultist to tie up in his place. This also goes very well. The pretty half-orc and I start carrying Leocin out of the camp. Oh, did I mention the orc thinks he is pretty. Yet another note to self. Pretty half-orc, funny.

As we head out I notice the rest of the group freeing the other prisoners. While the adventures are a little unpolished they have good hearts and seem to care about those that are in need. It is good I met them. As night falls the kobolds are beginning to wake. I venture off to the hunters portion of the camp to leave little surprise. Then we all charm our way past the kobolds. As the camp fades into the distance alarms start to sound, then the camp catches on fire…Surprise! We venture a ways south and camp in a cave a mile or so off the path back to Greenest. In the morning we head back to Greenest.

I am happy to have met this group of adventures and will gladly travel with them. Even though I typically go it alone. I guess that makes me an adventurer too. I wonder what secrets this group has come across. Note to self, gather information about the group of adventurers and write down names.

Off to chat with Leocin. We have some catching up to do.

Raider’s Camp – Emmerik’s Recollections

With Emmerik still reeling from his experience with death, the squad was summoned to meet with the Governor the very afternoon of the day when Dag (the half-orc) had dueled the half-dragon from the invading army.  The Governor asked that the squad follow the withdrawal of the army and scout to find any information as to the force’s motivation for the attack and what its next move may be and, secondarily, to recover any of the town’s wealth that had been looted.  The squad readily accepted the mission, especially after Dag learned that his friend – Leosin – was reportedly held as a captive of the Dragon Cult army.

Following the obvious trail that the withdrawing force had left the squad came upon a camp of stragglers, a mixed group of kobolds and cultists, with some division amongst their ranks.  Conferring quickly the squad sprung an ambush upon the camp – a mix of missile fire and a highly-effective sleeping spell from Caelum (who single-handedly struck down most of the kobolds).  One cultist survived and promptly surrendered, at which point a stranger appeared – a half-elf named Pry who spoke cryptically about information as he nonchalantly insinuated himself in the interrogation of the prisoner.

Based on the intelligence gathered from the cultist – who turned-out to be a low-ranking initiate – the squad, plus Pry, planned to use subterfuge to walk past the army’s rear guard (laying in ambush along the army’s route) and into the encampment of the Cult forces.  Dag played the role of prisoner during the encounter with the guards, and the squad, plus Pry, passed by without incident.  But time would be short in the camp, since the guards now knew that the half-orc who had lost to the half-dragon was captured and being brought to the camp as a prisoner.

When the squad reached the camp they found the Dragon Cult forces segregated – kobolds not intermixing with humans and demi-humans, the cult forces separated by color of robes, and their mercenary soldiers outside of either group.  Thus the squad, very organically, split to gain as much information as they could about the camp, the cult’s purpose and its next objective, and the location of the prisoners (chiefly Leosin).  Eventually the squad regrouped, after gaining much information, and they set forth to free Leosin from his bonds before his execution (which was to be the following day) and replaced him with a cultist who had celebrated himself into a stupor.

After freeing another two other prisoners, whom Caelum and Faurgar had met earlier in the camp, and disguising them as cultists, the squad made to leave the encampment.  Pry singlehandedly set off a diversion, lighting a few of the camp’s tents on fire, and the squad easily made off into the night during the ensuing chaos.

The squad took a quick break in a cave a few miles from the camp, giving Leosin and the prisoners time to recuperate enough to make the trek back to Greenest.  The remainder of the journey was uneventful, and the squad returned to the relative safety of the town.

Greenest in Flames – Emmerik’s Perspective

Emmerik thought it was a good plan – hold the chapel as a shelter for the civilians and defeat the cultists as they came in through the front door – but he knew that a plan was only good until the fighting started.

The battle started with a few skirmishes in the streets of Greenest, with Emmerik and his fellow traveling adventurers (although they quickly became “the squad” in Emmerik’s mind) finding civilians who needed to take shelter in the village’s keep.  Sticking to the cover and limited concealment of the buildings, as the squad and civilians advanced to the besieged keep, they struck at a few small pockets of attackers and made quick work of them.

The squad had a terse conference with the Governor of the keep and went to secure an exit from the keep’s basement so a sortie could be launched.  That was quick work, the rats’ nest not withstanding, and soon the Governor had given the next objective – rescue a large group of civilians who were holed-up in the Temple of Chauntea in the village’s east side.

The first moments of the engagement at the chapel went just according to plan. The squad had quickly dispatched the enemy who was attempting to enter through the rear entrance and accessed the interior due to some quick talking. As soon as the front doors were breached by the forces outside the pair of cultists there fell to a barrage of missiles and magic.  The kill zone they’d set up worked amazingly – funneling the kobolds straight to him where he held the choke point.  However the plan hadn’t accounted for the lead cultist turning tail and bringing reinforcements or, worse yet, the civilians panicking and the squad having to split itself in order to protect the scattered humans.

Even then the fight was close.   The kobold cannon fodder was easily felled but Emmerik and his magic-using companions could not seem to do more than scratch the cultists’ leader.  That leader, with a fanatical look in his eyes, unleashed a flurry of blows against Emmerik which soon brought Emmerik low.

Emmerik’s soul drifted and he looked down upon his body.  He noticed a strong light and people standing there, in the place where the living meet the dead. From behind him another soul flew past and joined the host in the light.  Then Emmerik felt a gentle pull, almost as if he was being shaken from a sleep, and Emmerik knew that his time to join that number in the afterlife.

Shaken by the ordeal Emmerik followed his companions the next few hours, although he was just above catatonic.  He saw the young wizard talk to the blue dragon.  He watched as the brash young half-orc dueled against the half-dragon warrior (thinking that it should have been him to face that foe).

“Chet” was the name of the soul, the one civilian who had died after fleeing the chapel.  It was an amazing thing – that only one of the villagers was lost, even after the plan fell apart.  Emmerik couldn’t help but wonder about Chet’s death and his life.  Why had the priest of Chauntea asked his god to let Emmerik return to the land of the living instead of Chet and why had the god agreed to such a bargain?  But Emmerik wouldn’t give-in to survivor’s grief; he’d been a soldier too long.  So he prayed for the soul of Chet alongside with the souls of all his departed companions, and he prayed for the lives of those still on earth.

Greenest in Flames – Caelum’s Journal

This journal is being kept for posterity and as collection of my thoughts from my journey to Greenest and beyond. It’s important to note that as I recall the details of my travels that certain aspects of these events were tragic but that does not make them any less fascinating. An opportunity to learn can give any cloud a silver lining (if you’ll forgive the cliché). This is not meant to make little of any suffering that people may have endured or to ignore the heavy cost some families may have faced during these events. At times it is just difficult to suppress my excitement when presented with an opportunity to appease my academic curiosities.

Over the course of our journey I had the opportunity to get to know a few of my companions. Emmerick seemed a noble dwarf, courageous and strong. Dag, son of Nabbit, had a demeanor could easily cause someone to mistake him as a simpleton, though I suspect it would be a painful mistake. Faugar seemed to barely have control of an emerging power inside him. Then there was Starag. I had met Starag before and knew he would turn out to be a particularly, a peculiar companion. One thing was certain from the group’s countenance, we seemed to carry with us a weight, a burden if you will. Because of this we were all determined to reach Greenest.

Our desire to arrive was met with a fantastical but tragic sight. A blue dragon, a big one at that, was soaring over the town. It was splendid to see such a creature in real life. Terrifying but splendid. There was a brief discussion of what should be done. Ultimately our merry band decided we had to try and help the folk of Greenest to the best of our ability. The caravan we were travelling with stayed back and we approached the town on foot.

As we were approaching we got a better view of the town and the level of destruction this raid was causing. Dragon cultists, kobolds and mercenaries were on the ground looting, burning and killing all over town. The dragon had caused a great deal of destruction and terror as well but it looked like the bulk of the true destruction was manmade. Well man and Kobold. We saw that there was a keep on a small hill and most of the towns resistance was gathered there. The decision was made to work our way towards the keep. Along the way we met a bit of resistance. At one point we encountered a woman defending her family with a broken spear. She was bravely facing off against several Kobolds and what can only be described as a drake dog. I’m sure that there is a proper name for them but in my excitement at seeing one I seem to have lost it. The thing was incredible. Huge teeth filled it’s powerful jaws. His claws… Oh yeah, so we helped the woman fight off the vile creatures and escorted her family to the keep.

Upon arriving at the keep we spoke with the Governor. He was a crass fellow who seemed grateful for our help in his own way. He made a request that our band secure a secret tunnel that lead out of the keep and into the city. Some of us seemed more eager to help than others but all of us understood the need to lend a hand and so we made our way into the tunnel. The only danger in the tunnel was a nest of vermin that probably took up residence due to the lack of use. Starag returned to the governor while the rest of us guarded the tunnel.

When Starag came back he indicated that there were two spots in town that could use our help. There were kobolds who appeared to be starting a fire at the mill and there was a group of townsfolk held up in a temple. We decided that grain could be replaced but people could not so we made our way to the temple. There was an odd little parade of cultists and kobolds marching near the temple and groups working on trying to force the front and back doors open. We assessed the situation and decided that the group in the back would be more vulnerable to a quick strike. Dag signaled the attack and we all struck. I must say that my companions were able to bring forth a fiercely efficient attack and seconds after the first arrow was fired four kobolds and two cultists were dead.

We convinced the townsfolk to let us into the temple and then explained the situation to them. We had also decided we wanted to attempt to capture the cultist from the group in front of the temple. So we prepared an attack for when they broke through the doors. Emmerick, who needs an honorific in my opinion, braced himself in the middle of a choke point. He prepared to meet the onslaught of kobolds and cultists while we all took up positions to await the breaking of the doors. When the doors came down Dag, Starag and Faugar dropped the two lower ranked cultists in a blink of an eye. Kobolds rushed into the room and engaged Emmerick the bold…nah that’s not it. Anyway, in the heat of battle it is often hard to remember who did what. I can tell you that several of townsfolk panicked and bolted through the back door. The lead cultist also ran. We quickly finished off the kobolds. Dag and Starag chased out the back door after the townsfolk. The rest of us pursued the lead cultist.

We caught up to the lead cultist just outside the temple and to our dismay he had already alerted the parading cultists to our presence. We were rushed by cultists, drake dogs and kobolds. A group split off to chase the townsfolk and were met by Starag and Dag. I was unable to see their combat but I know my companions were victorious. For our part Emmerick the Stalwart, yeah I like that…stalwart, charged forward to protect Faugar and me from the initial kobold attack.

Unfortunately the kobolds were able to drop Faugar with ranged attacks. I pulled him to cover and then to my surprise the priest emerged from the temple and healed him. The joy of having him return to the battle was short lived because just as we were beginning to thin the ranks of the kobolds the cultist leader slew Emmerick. There was a moment that I believed all was lost. Then the priest emerged from the temple, picked up Emmerick’s warhammer and struck the cultist down. To be honest I am certain that without the priest’s help, both healing and the final blow against the cultist, I am not sure that we would have survived.

Dag carried Emmerick’s body and we returned to the keep with the townsfolk and the captured cultist. At the keep we encountered the dragon. The beast was magnificent. He circle the keep and breathed lightning down upon us. It was the most exciting and terrifying moment of my life. Then…I spoke to it! And it spoke back! I won’t go into great details about the conversation but the gist of it was that the dragon felt what it was doing was beneath him and after our conversation he seemed even more disinterested in his task. Faugar and Starag interrogated our prisoner and found out that they were there to accumulate wealth to add to the dragon queen’s horde. Oh! I almost forgot. The priest used a scroll that had been stored at the temple to resurrect Emmerick.

Finally we understood the senselessness of this whole attack. Loot. As that knowledge settled upon us we heard another commotion from outside the keep. A half dragon, presumably the leader of this rabble, had come forth with prisoners. He demanded that our best warrior come out to face him or he would execute the townsfolk he had taken prisoner. No one from the town volunteered. They feared a certain death and looked to us to save their people. I could tell that Emmerick wanted to volunteer but alas he was still recovering from being recently dead. (Note to self, ask Emmerick what being dead is like. I am curious but not yet curious enough to try it myself) Dag ended up volunteering. He bravely faced the half dragon and for a while I thought he may prevail. In the end he was just over matched. He fought fiercely but was defeated. The half dragon stood over Dag’s unconscious form and contemplated finishing him. In the end he turned and walked away. I get the impression that this cult of the dragon is almost toying with us. I hope that someday that arrogance will be their undoing. For now I am content to have fallen in with such brave and capable companions.