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.

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