Ranger Variant (without spells)

Since it came up in the wizard forum, I made a ranger variant without spells. Even though it will most likely be less powerful, it should do the job.

Additional Tool Proficiency: Traps (for setting up an complicated trap, craft a trap, hiding a trap, etc.)

Use this table instead the normal one for class traits

1st: Fighting Style, Favored Enemy
2nd: Natural Explorer, Hunter’s Action (use a Bonus Action to either disengage or set up a trap)
3rd: Ranger Archetype, Primeval Awareness (WIS-mod per day, at minimum length)
4th: Ability Score Improvement
5th: Extra Attack
6th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Skill Expertise (three skills/tools [traps would be tools, too])
7th: Ranger Archetype Feature
8th: Natural Explorer Improvement, Ability Score Improvement
9th: Land Stride, Expert Trapper (add your prof bonus on DC of traps you’re setting)
10th: Ability Score Improvement, Favored Enemy Improvement
11th: Ranger Archetype Feature
12th: Ability Score Improvement
13th: Hide in Plain Sight, Natural Explorer Improvement
14th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Vanish
15th: Ranger Archetype Feature
16th: Ability Score Improvement
17th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Natural Explorer Improvement
18th: Feral Senses
19th: Ability Score Improvement
20th: Foe Slayer

Differences:

  • Some features changed their level, to keep the power-gain per level in check
  • Hunter’s Action added at 2nd level, a variety of the Cunning Action of the Rogue
  • Primeval Awareness got (since lacking spell slots) a per day use of the ranger’s WIS mod at the minimum length
  • Skill Expertise at 6th level, since this build have some trap synergy (if you don’t have magic, go mechanical!), player gets reminded, that you could possibly say traps are tools in a sense (which got already mentioned in the tool proficiency)
  • Expert Trapper added at 9th level, which makes even mundane traps pretty dangerous
  • an additional Ability Score improvement at 10th level
  • 5 favored enemy and 4 natural explorer overall, to increase the variety of the ranger and keep it ranger-like without too much trouble

This build suffers in the damage department of a damage focused normal ranger and even don’t have that much utility to boast around, if you consider all the possible spells which would be possible. But since spells are harder to grasp in power-level and ranger’s and that good spellcasters, I personally think the use of at-will features which will come handy every time and more specific features which doesn’t use up any resources. Especially increasing favored enemies and natural explorer makes it much more reliable, since you got a broader array of choices and more favored enemies enhances the foe slayer capstone.

Short today, won’t probably get to the warlock overview until Monday, since I got some gamedays before me (even though I try).

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What makes the warlock different?

I already said, that the warlock is an entirely different class than any other. That mean, while you can somehow categorize the other classes into some generic groups (like fighter, paladin, barbarian as the front-liners, ranger and rogue as the skirmishers/artillery, bard, cleric and druid as the support/healer and sorcerer and wizard as the arcane support/blasting), the warlock might be everything and none to it.

The basic of this view follows the fact, that the warlock uses a lot of unique mechanism, while other classes has some very basic commonalities, like Extra Attack for the weapon based, spellcasting trait, etc. So this means, that despite all differences, you can get a bit of insight what these class are supposed to do.

The warlock is supposed to be a main-caster in a way, but lacks spellcasting. He uses Pact Magic, which is quite different. He isn’t as squishy as a standard wizard/sorcerer, but have the basic defense capabilities of a rogue. And with the Invocation mechanism, he can be pretty well customized on a basic level (means there will never be need for a new kind of subclasses, which would replace standard features like Pathfinder archetypes do), be it in focusing on damage, utility, spellpower or other departments.

And of course he has practically 2 subclasses, one pact which would be the real subclass and the pact boon, which doesn’t have anything to do with the pact in the first place, but will affect many builds as much if not more than the choice of fey, fiend or great old.

This makes the options of customization fourfold: Known spells, Invocations, subclass, Pact Boon. A fey warlock with the pact blade will feel much different than one with the pact tome, since the focused went from enhanced weapon damage (and the utility to use the weapon you want unless you got another item bounded) to utility-magic focused type, even though both excels in mind-affecting and tricky spells. And if you would change to the pact of the fiend instead, you got your weapon plus a bunch of offensive potential.

 

So even when writing my overview I just get the feeling, I can’t really pin down this class as good as others. Even though the cleric is problematic, since his domain will give him a huge jump and change the class focus for a great mileage, the warlock is just more complicated. And if you get into feats and other non-class dependent customization, you can do about anything with this class, even though it might not excel in it. But if a warlock would be a better fighter than the fighter, I would definitely complain about it.

But for most people who are looking forward or have already fun playing a warlock, this variety might be exactly the reason why to. Personally, I’d like to play a fey pact blade warlock, combining a charming personality, swashbuckling and a bit of useful spells, even consider to not take Eldritch Blast as a cantrip or even if I do, to ignore the Agonizing Blast Invocation, since there are so many other nice ones there.

Homebrew Genasi

This is a home-brew version of the genasi, which I wrote before the Player’s Companion: Temple of Elemental Evil. So if you want to grab the real one, you’d better download the .pdf on the Supplement page.

Since the DMG got released and we got a few peak-views, I’m pretty excited to use those few things I know. Here I tried to use the official excerpt of the DMG to create a well-known but less used race: Genasi. Much like the tiefling, but with a more elemental flair.

I’m going solely mechanical to this, since I think that those who know them, should know their fluff as well and the time I got left is going to be spend to the warlock overview (and it’s less enough).

Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Heart! Well, less heart, but you know...

Even if the Genasi are further categorized as Fire Genasi, Earth Genasi, etc. they share the same basic idea: The blood of elementals (means Dao, Efreeti, Marid and Djinni for exampel) combined with the blood of mortals. So we choose the same base race (genasi) and add (for now) 5 subraces, windsoul, earthsoul, firesoul, windsoul and stormsoul.

Since there are similarities origin-wise with the tiefing, I use it as a basic. Then I look into my 3e and 4e Forgotten Realms and realize, that it might be a bit difficult. But in the end I realized, that the Genasi are supposed to be a bit like elemental warriors, using magic and physical power, so I think I got a good conses.

Genasi

Ability Score Increase: +1 Intelligence

Age: Genasi matures at the same rate as humans, but live a few years longer

Alignment: Since they have a elemental nature, genasis are more leaned to a neutral alignment.

Size: Genasi are about the same size as humans, even though depending on their element their stature differs. Your size is Medium.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30ft

Languages: Common and Primordial

Subrace: Choose one of the following subraces.

Earthsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Strength

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to acid damage

Earthen Legacy: You know the blade ward cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the thunderwave spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the spike growth spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Firesoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Dexterity

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to fire damage

Fiery Legacy: You know the produce flame cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the burning hands spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the heat metal spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Stormsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Strength

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to lightning damage

Stormy Legacy: You know the light cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the witch bolt spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the shatter spell once per day as a 3rd-level spell. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Watersoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Constitution

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to cold damage

Watery Legacy: You know the resistance cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the create or destroy water spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the blur spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Windsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Dexterity

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to lightning damage

Earthen Legacy: You know the mage hand cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the featherfall spell once per day. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the gust of wind spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

So let’s talk about some choices: Earthsoul was hard, since there are less earth-themed spells there, but after consulting the 4e power and the 3e fluff (for female earthsouls), I went with a shockwave and growing plants. Produce flame for firesoul was a hard choice, since its damage increases over the time, but since one action is creating that flame and another to throw it, it shouldn’t break anything. Not everytime the spell is cast at a higher level, since here and there I felt like overall it would be too powerful, like seeing the fire genasi, who has a pure damage based legacy (even though I did consider misty step there).

That the subrace gives a greater ability improvement is meant to be, since the element should have some physical impact.

I’m sure I like what I’ll see as the official genasi, but sometimes you just get a bit giddy in thinking about what could be. For now it’ll work. 😉

Bound to level

Since time issues and the fact, that the warlock is unlike any other class, I’ll postpone the overview for now, I try to make it happen any day, but make it so, that I first write a less time.consuming post and afterwards put some time into drafting the overview piece a piece.

For today like to talk about levels and level-bound traits. These came up when playing and after seeing some postings about it, I thought that it might still be confusing. And sometimes not even that clear.

First, I want to explain, that I will not talk about the traits, which are entirely bound to classes, where the improvements are part of the class table (like Wild Shape, Aura Improvement, Extra Attacks, etc.), but where the character level seems to be the deciding factor or at least could be.

Second, I will take on the ability score improvement trait, which is now bounded to class, instead of character level, simply because I think this is somehow viable to talk about in this post.

Third, every DM is free to make changes to it, so if you don’t feel like this is a good or logical choice, you’re free to disagree. But you should expect that others don’t agree to your disagreement and stay cool about it.

Cantrips: Taken from this site here:

With cantrips, does a MC caster use their character or class level for determining damage? A multiclass character uses character level to determine the damage of a cantrip. -J

Cantrips comes from multiple choices, starting with spellcasting classes, races (like the high elf) or feats (Magic Initiate). Since the offensive cantrips are meant to rival multiple attacks at some point, they become stronger with rising level, but why should it be character level be the basic?

OK, there are multiple ways to get them and even if a high elf isn’t needlessly a wizard, it doesn’t mean that he won’t put some work into it. Same for a ranger/wizard or other combination of caster/non/less-caster class. Even though you might suspect, that it would be illogical if the fighter picks up the wizard class after having a lot of fighter levels and have as lethal cantrips as an non-evocation wizard of the same level.

Multiclassing shouldn’t punish or reward players ideally and dishing out damage per round is somewhat crucial for staying competitive through the levels. Extra attacks are the way for melees and these don’t stack, so why would cantrips do it in any way? Counter-question: How much does it hurt? Since cantrips are still often inferior to weapon choices of weapon-focused class (at the at-will department), you often needs some basic traits of these classes to make them stronger, limiting either your options (like warlock Invocations) or the need to take some levels (like Arcane Tradition of Evocation).

I don’t really see any damage here, especially since most cantrips aren’t that reliable in comparisons to other at-will features.

Warlock Invocations prerequisite: This is a thing, which is asked quite often. Do you need the specific character or warlock level to choose those high-level invocations? RAW it doesn’t become clear, but if you look at those features, it seems kinda unfair to other classes to make this 2 level dip into warlock something which gives you some features you wouldn’t be able to get when multiclassing into another class. Jeremy Crawford answered in his twitter (source):

The intent is that a level prerequisite in a warlock invocation refers to warlock level.

Intend doesn’t needlessly means that it’s meant to be a rule. I would decide on a case to case basic here, a valor bard/blade warlock who seeks to increase the damage a bit with the Lifedrinker-Invocation might get another treatment as a paladin who seeks to do the same. It’s about how much the party might need it (if you run official modules with 3 characters, you might consider that this is within reason or if the player of the tank is leaving the party due personal circumstances and no one could otherwise be that melee-prescience).

But for the most part, I agree.

Ability Score Improvements (or feats): In 3e and 4e these were bounded to character level, now they’re not, which is bad for multiclass characters. At the beginning, a great “Why?!”-wave came around and after all that time, some don’t even tried to understand. There were a lot of change-requests, house rules and the like flowing around (like feats at 1st level, bounding the ASI at character level and such).

Before house-ruling something, I suggest trying it out first. It’s really not that bad. And there are some reasons not to be so fast to expand it:

  • The team are unlikely to be composed of idiots, since they got the job in one of the greatest companies in the gaming business
    • classes aren’t design to have the ASI at character levels, which would lead to dead levels (means no benefit), if the normal ones are taken away
  • Multiclassing brings other features, seems even logical that characters wouldn’t have the resources to improve abilities or learn a new feat in the meanwhile
  • Most feats are terrifying strong and define characters quite strongly. In most cases, you will feel the benefits of a feat much more than the benefit of a ASI, at least that’s what I experienced so far. They can easily match up to class features in terms of benefits and are often even more overwhelming than those at the mid-levels
    • I do think, the human variant is the more D&D-like human (at least 3e upwards) and the standard is the one you only tend to use when feats are not allowed. Since feats are so strong, a lot of (PC-)Adventurers are actually human.

So why should you even expand to those without thinking things through and not even trying to use the actual rules at this point? Of course there might be good reasons, like having less PCs than normal, but I run a campaign with 3 PCs and advanced standard rules (means multiclassing allowed [nobody wants to], variant human [one] and feats [at least 2 will take a feat at 4th level instead of ASI]) and even if the start was hard, they managed.

So, that’s it. If I missed something, please feel free to comment and I’ll add it.

Sorcerer – Overview

Been a while, but now it’s time for another overview and now’s the sorcerer’s turn. I already made some posts about this class, since it fascinates me in this edition for the first time. So let’s get to it.

This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.

Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in the sorcerer’s case DB for Draconic Bloodline and WM for Wild Magic). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • Full level for casters
  • a lot of cantrips, especially at lower levels
  • even few levels can bring some serious spellcasting action, since it brings you Metamagic and Sorcery Points (SP), which functions even with non-sorcerer spells. Twinned Cure Wounds? Splendid! Even though you need some levels to attain enough SP to wield this power without drying out too fast
  • Even though the other features are nice, you might consider to not dabbed too much into or outo the sorcerer class, since you want either enough SP to spend or on the other side the better overall spell potencial of another spellcasting class
  • outside a rogue, a non-spellcasting/-subclass class doesn’t really make the cut here (rogues can use the DB quite efficiently and some metamagics are pretty useful for a rogue (especially the Arcane Trickster) who wants to dabble into magic (more).
  • the capstone is ignorable

Offensive:

  • Spellcasting: The offensive potential of the sorcerer’s spellist is horrendous and he get some really juicy spells, even though no sorcerer-only ones.
  • Metamagic (Distant Spell): More range means an earlier attack.
  • Metamagic (Empowered Spell): Great for re-rolling those 1s and 2s!
  • Metamagic (Heightened Spell): Save for half/no damage? Disadvantage on save!
  • Metamagic (Quickened Spell): Spell-sling a cantrip after a now bonus action spell. Or use Witch Bolt/Sun Beam and use an action to fire another one at the same turn.
  • Metamagic (Subtle Spell): Hard to deny, that your enemies won’t be surprised, if you pull that off while hiding.
  • Metamagic (Twinned Spell): Strike more targets!
  • Elemental Affinity (DB): Get some bonus damage to your dragon element.
  • Dragon Wings (DB): If the front is too loaded, target those spell-casters from above!
  • Wild Magic Surge (WM): A lot of options allows you to either increase your damage that round.
  • Tides of Chaos (WM): Useful when casting attack spells.
  • Bend Luck (WM): Saved by the point? Minus 1d4!
  • Spell Bombardment (WM): More damage, as long your dice rolls don’t suck too hard.
  • Weapon Proficiency: Like a wizard this edition and the wizard’s choice is pretty bad. Good that you’ll never use weapons at a certain point (most likely 5th level with cantrip damage increase), but until then, DEX-bonus to damage can be more viable to kill kobolds than a 1-X damage value.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Mostly a heolp to manage your hit points and such better, not that strong in the ranger’s case.
  • Font of Magic: You get a way to create spell-slots on the fly and get SP back, if needed. So if you ever get the feeling, that you rather need more SP than spells (like in the obvious boss fight, were you won’t be able to burn all those and rather wants to kick some asses with your last spells), you can decide to transform then. Right now, without much delay!
  • Metamagic (Empowered Spell): Use SP efficiently and make your spells more worth! If your damage sucked on a spell, spend a SP afterwards to re-roll only the bad dice (up to your CHA-mod).
  • Metamagic (Extended Spell): Useful if you’re either going into a long encounter (like boss fights), where your 1 minute buffs will wear of during the fight or if you can see reinforcements or a whole second encounter shortly behind coming. Or for exploration stuff.
  • Metamagic (Heightened Spell): Do you need the remorse you feel, when wasting a high level spell, because a save? Make it more unlikely!
  • Metamagic (Quickened Spell): If you need your action otherwise (like for running away, while wanting to obstruct your foes), this will make some nice action management.
  • Metamagic (Twinned Spell): One action for targeting two people with the same spell and using less SP than creating spell slots with Font of Magic (and even higher than 5th level).
  • Sorcerous Restoration: Some SP-regaining after a short rest, useful (since you should consider 2 short rests per day, so 8 SP), but lacking compared to other capstones.
  • Draconic Resilience (DB): Who needs Mage Armor?!
  • Tides of Chaos (WM): Important attack spell you need delivered and don’t have inspiration? Here is your insurance!
  • Wild Magic Surge (WM): Ways to recover resources! If you only could control it…
  • Bend Luck (WM): Use it after the roll to decide how useful it’ll be. And it will save all kind of resources in any situation where it can actually change the outcome.
  • Controlled Chaos (WM): Choose the better result and save or regain resources on the way.
  • Font of Magic: Just a minor one, bonus action for this can be sometimes tricky, especially if you want to quicken it or have other stuff to do with your only once per turn bonus action.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: A nice combinations of debuffs, buffs and other stuff helps much here.
  • Metamagic (Careful Spell): Works on every spell which won’t discriminate between allies and foes. Like Circle of Death (for half damage at least) or some of the cool controlling spells, like Fear.
  • Metamagic (Heightened Spell): Deliver your debuffs more reliable, spells like Slow will be terrifying this way.
  • Metamagic (Twinned Spell): You realize, that you can haste now two allies at the same time? Concentration spells will work so much better!
  • Draconic Presence (DB): Debuff your enemies in decent range.
  • Bend Luck (WM): Buff or debuff. That is the question!

Survivability:

  • Spellcasting: Some protection potential here and even spells which allows you to be a very annoying target, like Mirror Images.
  • Metamagic (Distant Spell): Staying some feet away can really, really help and even those touch spells can be delivered at 30ft now!
  • Metamagic (Subtle Spell): If the enemy doesn’t see you casting, there is less reason to think, that you’re a sorcerer.
  • Draconic Resilience (DB): Hit Point increase is almost as good as getting a higher hit die and higher AC will always be useful.
  • Elemental Affinity (DB): Get some resistance vs. your dragon element!
  • Dragon Wings (DB): Flying over your opponents makes you a hard target vs. melees and an easy one for ranges and spell-slinger. But since you can decide to fly and position yourself much better this way, this will definitely come in handy.
  • Draconic Presence (DB): Those who failed the save won’t attack you anymore when charmed and will have a lot of problems if frightened.
  • Tides of Chaos (WM): You want advantage if your life is on the line and often saves and ability checks might be that roll to decide that.
  • Bend Luck (WM): Better to lower that attack roll, which would most likely obliterate you.
  • Hit points: With the lowest Hit Die (d6), the sorcerer is pretty squishy, which will show over the course of levels.
  • Armor Proficiency: None.
  • Wild Magic Surge (WM): Tiny chance to fireball your 1st level party to death.

Utility:

  • Spellcasting: At least the basic utility you need is covered, even though not as convenient as others. At least if you remember to take some of your limited known spells for this. And a good amount of cantrips.
  • Metamagic (Subtle Spell): Charm a person without any forewarning. Ghost Sound while being talked to, to get a distraction. As long as you only need V and S components, you can spell people without them noticing!
  • Dragon Ancestor (DB): Double proficiency bonus (if you are trained in this skill/tool) to CHA-checks to talk with dragons and draconic as language? Since dragons tends to be a bit powerful, ways to talk you out are pretty sweet.
  • Dragon Wings (DB): If you can move on the z-axis, you can explore and do much more.
  • Draconic Presence (DB): Charmed people are a lot easier to talk to and won’t attack you.
  • Controlled Chaos (WM): Even though Wild Surge doesn’t increase your utility per se, this one makes it more useful at least.
  • Spellcasting: Too less known spells for being too useful in this department.
  • Dragon Ancestor (DB): Since fire is the best choice in synergy with the traits of this subclass and poison and acid are simply bad choices, you will wait until some new spells come out to make these doable choices.
  • Wild Magic Surge (WM): Unpredictable, so you can’t count on it, even though there are many good effects there.

Grading:

Multiclass: Great
Offense: Great
Resource Management: Great
Support: Good
Survivability: Bad (WM) to Decent (DB)
Utility: Decent

Overall: Good

As multiclass option for casters, sorcerer is most likely the best choice, bringing the cool metamagics into your other class.

But the sorcerer as a pure class is one, which relies on a good offense potential (even though not necessarily a lot of offense spells) and much more important: To make every action and spell more worth due the use of metamagics over the course and using unused spell-slots to get more SP again. As long as you can manage your resources, the sorcerer will be an overwhelming battery of arcane power, which can adapt the spell potential and prowess to the given situation.

I guess the survivability might be a bit higher, but it really depends which spells are selected and used and which metamagics you have. With Quickened Spells you can buff yourself while firing cantrips to avoid combats, where your buffs takes too much time to make yourself useful, but of you select only one buff as insurance, bad/decent is pretty true. Other classes do just better in this.

What hurts the sorcerer is the fact, that he has the least utility out of all full casters spell-wise (and even the ranger is more broad imo), even though he can learn the most basics arcane utility spells (like teleport, fly, etc.), his selection of spells are limited, not only in known spells, but in learnable spells, too.

If you’re smart, the sorcerer can be a great character, like using Twinned Spells to buff your allies, which might be more useful than just fingering two people to death, erm, meant use Finger of Death on two targets. And even though Wild Magic brings a bit of unpredictability into the game, the Surge table brings some of the best effects you can get, while only few of them are outright horrible (and most will lose some effectiveness, if you can either metamagic them [Careful Spell!!!] or have some hit points to endure them at least).

Not too sure, if I can get around another overview (or any post) tomorrow, but we’ll see.

Tyranny of Dragon Report 01

Back in action, PC broke down and work kept me busy, so even though I got a new PC after some time considering my finances and needs, I still had little time to set it up and make it ready for exploring the wide web. On the upside, I finally started my Tyranny of Dragons campaign, so I start my first post in a while with a game report.

Before I start, I want you to understand the party first. We already played 4e together, but sadly we only stayed at 3 PCs (and me as a full-time DM), we tried to start this 5e campaign out with a new player, but after always postponing the rest, we grew kinda tired of it, especially after learning, that he can’t promise to show up regularly anymore. So we establish this one as a guest player, when the times comes.
Between 4e and 5e two of the three players weren’t fond of the idea to play the playtest, so we switched over to Scion for a while, and might play that once a while to change the pace. Especially, since these two players are great World of Darkness (2e) fans.
So after a system which was more social based and characters who defies logic (especially since we reached the Demigod range), we got back to classic fantasy.

What changed between editions within this party? One of the players weren’t that active in 4e and even though he enjoyed the game itself, he tried to not get too involved, since he wasn’t too confident. After being forced to actually roleplay in a more social focused game, he got much more active on that first day, even if his character isn’t too well elaborated. But he simple realized that simple design makes it a lot easier.
My too strong player is the one who got damped. After experiencing the more disappointing sides of 4e and the fact, that you can’t make a character unbeatable in Scion (since it’s pretty easy to stop the seemingly unstoppable, ignore the ‘AC’ or other points), he grew to like a bit of uncertainty and the focus on character design over character numbers.
The last player is a stable one, but sometimes he was too stable, too completed characters without too much room for growth. At least this one is a bit more promising, I guess, even though more because he decided to make this character grow from green to experienced, instead of realizing something for himself. We’ll see in the long run.
But generally: Playing a more social focused RPG definitely helped.

Everyone needed to take at one of the bounds from Hoard of the Dragon Queen, so I would have an easier time to keep these characters motivated.

The characters:

Aelar Naïlo (Woodelf Druid; NG) – Aelar is an elf in his 3rd century and saw a lot. But most of the time he spent learning, first to become a druid, but after he got prophetic dreams every fifth tenday, he tried to learn what these dreams mean. So he traveled around the Sword Coast, searching for different tomes and mentors and ended up learning from a Copper Dragon, since his dreams showed signs about the destruction by chromatic dragons. And who could possibly know more about dragons than dragons themselves? But after years of study, his dreams became much more vivid and came more often, so he thought it was time to bring his knowledge to the field and prevent the oncoming disaster. And it seems, that Greenest will be the first of many steps of this way.
His background is Outlander to show how much he traveled, his campaign-bound are those prophetic dreams, which comes every fifth night now. His personality makes him more patient, taking time to see problems from different angles, while he has the flaw to underestimate the short-lived races, since they can’t possibly acclaim the experience of the centuries. He decided to take the Dragon Scholar trait instead of his Outlander one, since he is well-versed in terms of dragons.

Enna Amakiir (Half-Elf Sorceress; CN) – Enna was once a street-kid in Waterdeep who cut purses. One day she tried to steal from two cultists from the Cult of Dragon, but was caught. Since she was quite dexterous, the cultists decided to adopt her, but years after members of the Cult, Frulam Mondath, Bog Log and Rezmir backstabbed her adoptive parents to further their goals and even Enna was thought dead. But after fleeing first, she changed her appearance and took an alias to join the Cult again, even though in another region. After passing the tests, she chose the red affinity and since she seemed to be viable, she was one of the chosen new Dragonclaws (practically the lowest rank within the cult after a test-phase as an initiate), which should be used in an experiment to grant the specimen draconic magic. For this an organ of a wyrmling and a blood-transfusion was made, Enna’s left eye was replaced and she was one of those who survived. After some basic training, she became a Dragon Sorcerer, the power she sought to execute her revenge. And after hearing, that at least 2 of her 3 targets planned to attack the town Greenest, she decided to travel there.
To express the life on the street, she took the Urchin background and replaced the trait with the Cult of the Dragon Infiltrator, while choosing the bound of revenge for her parents. She’s neither trusting, nor trustworthy, but she does what’s necessarily for survival, even though some of her actions seem suicidal.

Konrad Dorn (Human Paladin; LG): Konrad is a son of one of the Nine of Neverwinter and seek to follow his father’s footsteps. He was trained by Ontharr Frume, a paladin of Torm, but since Konrad is pretty ambitious and seeks a more direct and stark way to confer good and justice, he decided to take Bahamuth as his patron deity. After reaching knighthood, he wanted to gain experience and spread the good to the world, so his mentor offered him a quest: To visit Greenest and
Even though Konrad is a knight, he’s also a Noble by birth, so he took the standard background. His bound lies within his mentor/pupil-relationship with Ontharr Frume (an important NPC of the campaign) and while he is generous and couth, he can also be fierce and sometimes a bit slick, especially when women comes into play.

Summary:

This is a Game Report of the first Episode of Tyranny of Dragons, which got completed that day, so if you haven’t played it but want to, don’t read any further.
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The party weren’t a party at first, but got acquainted by being guards of the same caravan. They didn’t know, that Greenest were their common goal. But when Greenest should came into sight, they saw the town in flames, black smoke rising and a dragon attacking the settlement.
After short discussing with the caravan leader, the caravan decided to unload some wagons to help the injured, while some guards go ahead, to get a better understanding of the situation. So the three were sent and became a party. After arriving in Greenest, they witnessed humans and kobolds raiding the place and a family of civilians, which were hunted by some kobolds. Konrad decided to step in and the rest followed, even though the sorceress didn’t like it much, but before anyone could act, the kobolds surrounded the wife, who tried to slow the kobolds down and beat her unconscious. But since eight kobolds seemed to be a bit unbalanced, she used magic for the first time to put them to sleep. Sadly one stayed awake and began to woke another one, since the party was unable to drop a single kobold in one round.
It didn’t escalate, but it was hard to catch up for them, since some bad rolls at the start (like missing with advantage) helped the kobolds to regain some edge. But the Sleep-spell was still devastating! To rescue the woman, Aelar casted Goodberry and gave her one and the party decided to accompany the Swift-family to the keep, there they should get information.
They ran into 3 (random rolled) raider groups. The first was huge, 3 humans and 6 kobold, one of them winged, so Enna fast-talked their way through them by using her insider knowledge of the cult, even though the first kobolds already attacked. But Aelar and Konrad picked up fast enough to make the party look like important cultists, which were doing their business in this raid.
They tried to outsneak the second group, but 8 characters (3 PCs and the five headed family) were too loud and so it came down to a fight and took a human as a prisoner to interrogate later. The last one was the smalles, 2 humans and a kobold, but this made it look much more suspicious. Aelar decided to bait them away to see, if there is anyone lying in ambush nearby, but nobody there and Aelar was able to outwit them.
In the keep they met the Governor of Greenest, Tarbaw Nighthill, and decided to help Greenest. Aelar wanted to help, Konrad to do the right and punish these guys and even though Enna didn’t want to, she decided to keep accompany for the case, they’d run into Frulam or Rezmir.
They opened the Old Tunnel (after Thunderwaving swarms of rats and executing another cultist group) to get sneakingly in and out of the keep and made it possible for other citizens to reach the keep without being seen and freed the Sally Port, so the doors there could be repaired by Aelar’s Mending Cantrip, keeping in mind, that more raiders might come while these repairs were undertaken and blocking the path with crates to buy more time. The battles were more on the edge of the PCs, since they got some decent tactic: Paladin Konrad with shield and the Heavy Armor Mastery feat first, which absorbs the first 3 slashing/piercing/bludgeoning damage from non-magical weapons, while concentrating their fire on kobolds first to undermine their Pact Tactic Trait (advantage on attack rolls if an ally is in 5ft to the target), while using narrow passages if possible. And if necessarily, even Enna came into melee, to spread some damage if needed. But since they got outnumbered at the Sally Port, Enna casted her last Sleep-spell and so the party had to go on with cantrips as spellcasting.
After those two missions, the captured human was conscious again and could be interrogated, Konrad did this by offering good will and reminding the prisoner, that they don’t need particularly him to get the info. It’d be only a bit of an inconvenience and since nobody of his friends would attack the castle anymore.
The cultist spilled everything out he knew, namely:

  • the raiders are the Cult of Dragons and Rezmir, one of the Wyrmspeakers (highest rank) leads the attack
  • additionally they got kobolds as allies, which share the same goals and hired mercenaries for more muscle
  • they try to gather a hoard which will usher the reign of the Queen of Dragons
  • in their camp they keep some dragon eggs

Enna already knew most, but since she hides her past, she never spur this knowledge and covered it up well, if a situation demanded it. But now the other players had some rough idea, what’s going on and were even more eager to help poor Greenest.
And that was warranted, since the mill of the town was about to be burned by kobolds, they rushed there and young Konrad realized something fishy, after hearing how they did it. So he took some time to observe them and realized, that they didn’t actually wanted to burn down the mill:
It's a trap!
The party took some steps back and decided they tactics, using Aelars knowledge about kobolds and even though Enna was kinda against it first, she gave in by using her somewhat draconic appearance to have a lot more influence on the kobolds, which refer evil dragons like demigods. She told the kobolds, that the humans decided to use the dragon eggs in the cave (which they learned just before) for some evil experiments and that she came to save those eggs. The humans betrayed the kobolds! In fierce fury (and one Charisma Deception roll later) the kobolds began to storm the mill, where the ambushers were. With some back-up, the kobolds killed those and went out to warn the rest, before it’s too late. Stupid kobolds.
After getting back to the keep, the adventurers faced the first true horror in their career: The dragon who attacked Greenest before came back! And eradicated 4 keep guards with a single breath, while wounding 2 others, which weren’t even that near this lightning line. A marvelous adult blue dragon vs. a 1st level party: Sweet-Shit!
Aelar, as an expert in the dragon field, identified the dragon as Lennithon, one of the evil dragon, which can be hired by paying a horrendous sum. Even though Lennithon wasn’t too motivated after some glances, he could reduce anyone to ashes with his lightning breath and the party wasn’t successful in hurting him. So they decided to change tactics, using the double proficiency bonus on charisma checks a draconic sorcerer gets. After shouting to Lennithon (who rolled every 6 seconds if his breath weapon recharges) that the cult wants to plunder and might not pay him in the end, since it would be contravene to their goals. Lennithon flew away without any further word: He done enough this night to earn his fee and won’t do anything more, since the cult is unlikely to pay him a bonus following that logic. And they better pay what was brokered.
But some survivors of Greenest were found at the Chauntea temple and the cult tried to open it. Three groups, one at front with a ram, a second circling the temple (2 minutes a side) and the smallest one at the back entrance, trying to literally smoke the people out. The party ambushed the rear, got into the temple due the back, conveyed the survivors to go through the back into the secret tunnel of the keep, while the adventurers will delay the cultist, which would destroy the front door any second. The last preparation they could do was to empty coal pans in front of the door (Dex save DC 10, 1d6 fire damage on a fail). Sadly half of the incoming kobolds stepped into the coals and a third were incapacitated due the pain/reduced to 0 hit points. But one of the humans there were a real danger, a Dragonclaw, who almost whiped out the party, who had to use their last Goodberries and Lay on Hands to remain standing afterwards. Before the circling group could arrive, the party ran away as fastest as possible.
Then it meant short rest. But after this hour, the final encounter came in the form of Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, a blue half dragon.
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At morrow he came with his kobold groupies, and showed the keep 4 of his captives, one woman and her 3 children. He demanded to fight their champion in a duel, if they agree, he would set the hostages free. Konrad decided to go, his honor as a paladin made this choice unavoidable. The three kids were set free at the start of the duel, Langdedrosa was much stronger than Konrad and overwhelmed him. Satisfied he ordered to set the woman three, after hitting the unconscious Konrad another time and left with the last of the cultist. Konrad was on death’s door, but Aelar succeeded in first aid timely.
With this, Greenest night of horror ended.

Afterthoughts:

Player’s side: Don’t underestimate a big attack on a settlement, you’ll need those spells. The Thunderwave wasn’t necessarily (even though I can understand it, after seeing the terror of 3e and 4e swarms), another Goodberry would’ve calm the party more, but combined with Lay on Hands they got through. Even though it’s mostly because of the Heavy Armor Mastery of Konrad, which absorbed some hits entirely and softened the rest. Only because of that they could actually complete all Missions.
And healing isn’t too good in-combat (at least without further upgrades like the Life Domain), in these regards 5e reminds much more of 1e and 2e, when you tried to avoid healing in-combat, since it only took your action to heal an amount, which will be quickly depleted again. Since all healing class have some decent after-combat healing (bards Song of Rest, druid Goodberry-spell and cleric Prayer of Healing-spell), you should see, if you can manage combats without using healing spells.
The Sleep-spells were strong, but used up too fast for encounters which weren’t too hard (theoretically), so the party ran out of options when facing a real threat and had to act all classy. But at least the Sleep-spell is worth its slot, definitely one of the most controlling spells at low levels, due the no-save mechanism. And at least 24x more useful as in 3e.
Finally: Since 1st level in 5e is rather lacking compared to 4e, the players saw the need to play smart and this made a lot of difference. Even though rolling good at the best times at least helped.

DM’s side: Pack Tactics is a huge bonus for monsters, since advantage doesn’t only give you a better hit chance, but a 9,75% chance to get a critical one (instead the normal 5%). Kobolds en mass are pretty mean for level 1 characters, since they lack the spells and the hit points do deal with them quickly enoughto minimize the damage, unless you get some area effect like Entangle or Sleep, even though multiple groups of kobolds will deplete those area effects more quickly.
This first part is pretty combat heavy, even though it’s one way to easily explain most standard rules. And you run into some checks on the way, so it wasn’t too bad, but at 1st level (and only 3 players, to boot) it was a hard challenge and the players did the right call to seek alternative ways to solve their problems.

DM-Work:

Preparation time: About 30 min. After reading this episode (and weeks before the whole adventure), I could play most without any further preparations, even though I took the liberty to print some monster stats for easier handling and noting down the PC’s final names, personality traits (etc.), and deciding to map out some encounters beforehand for myself, like the Port Sally, which would make a big difference not only for the fight, but the things afterwards.
Had to decide two NPC-personalities, but decided to make Nighthill and Escobert more bland, since the texts makes them simple a bit helpless and needy and to keep my players focused on the happening, instead some quirks.

The preparations before the campaign were about 5,5 hours, 90 min for reading the adventure in whole, about an 30 min for briefing before and the edition in general (like difference between 4e and 5e in terms of power level, complexity, bounded accuracy, etc.), 40 min per player to discuss character ideas and about how to convert those ideas to the Forgotten Realms, 45-60 min for character creation and about 30 min for thinking about how to adapt the campaign in correspondence to those characters and where I want to expand the campaign in general (like using the stops at Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep to play at least one mini-adventure there, so those cities will remain more rememberable).

Changes: The only real change would be, that I added some infos to Lennithon, since balling an encounter out with a dragon seemed to be a bit heartless. If Lennithon would be too keen for the cults goals, he wouldn’t be that disinterested, and since every dragon likes wealth, I gave him the outlet for acclaiming some of the plunder the cultist gain for himself, leading into another options to the players.
But this part is pretty straightforward and my players didn’t falter too much in the end, so I got lucky on that one.

Special Techniques: Took a break for dinner, which kinda escalated in length, but took steam out of the ones, who needed to communicate unrelated stuff. And since we’re kinda new to the rules, I make sure by sitting behind my DM-Screen, that I’ll tell something related to the ingame situation, while standing up and coming to the side of the table meant, that I’m going to either ask something out of situation or explain some rule-bits.

Final Thought: Even though the campaign doesn’t give much mapping, it wasn’t needed at all. Most fights went well without the need of the grid, which should come in handy, if the PCs are fighting inside a dungeon.