Tyranny of Dragon Report 02

Got entangled with a video game and failed the saving and strength checks multiple times. About every day, using a lot of precious non-working time on that. But now it’s played (even though I might start the sequel soon) and I want to write a bit before seeking for new pleasures.

But we had our second Tyranny of Dragons Session, if you haven’t read the first even though you want to, here is the link.

Level Up:

Since we play with only 3 players, I use the XP like normal, since it should balance itself out at some point. But in the last session, we got enough XP to gain 2 levels, so I let the players decide, if they really want to skip the 2nd level entirely. And after some thoughts they said yes.
So we have now our lightly enhanced party, Konrad took the Oath of Vengeance and Aelar entered the Circle of the Land (Forest), since he tries to emerge in the role of a supporter and healer, a thing he hadn’t done before.

The characters:

Aelar Na├»lo (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 second 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. This time we didn’t got that much game-time, since one had to leave early, but we got through that one barely… Good enough!
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The raiders were fought back and the party showed some saiyan-feature: Getting stronger after being on the brink of death. Especially Konrad, who got his ass whooped by Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. After a long rest, Governor Nighthill asked the players to visit the camp of the raiders to gather more information. The party accepted, even though Enna wanted to hear about the reward first.
Before they left, a monk of Berdusk asked them to look for another brother, the half-elf monk Leosin Erlanthar. He studied the Cult of Dragons before and they came to Greenest for some further investigations and Leosin’s colleague feared that the half-elf got captured in the attacked or (maybe worse) tried to infiltrate the cult at that opportunity. So another check-point to the list.
After a while of following the very obvious path a small army leaves behind, they saw some cooking fire smoke a mile ahead and decided to get a look. When they got closer, Aelar decided to scout ahead and wild shaped himself into a mouse, so he wouldn’t get another look, even when detected.
There was a small camp there with 4 humans and 8 kobolds, after watching those a while, they didn’t seem that careful, made a camp in a tactically poor place and weren’t showing awareness at all. After reporting, the party didn’t thought of them as a rearguard, but most likely stragglers. Time for intelligence gathering, means first looking for traps around that camp, a bit of sabotage afterwards, then putting some of them into sleep and finally, beating the rest up.
They got the hint, where a real rearguard could be and bound the survivors on a tree. Avoiding the rearguard wasn’t a problem with this information, there was no reason to risk the mission by attacking it. If the rearguard gives an ‘all-OK’, then it’s much easier to infiltrate the camp.
Since it was only a day since the Greenest attack, stragglers coming back to the camp weren’t too unusual. The cultists still weren’t at uniform and they hired a bunch of mercenaries, so after blending in (with a Charisma Check), they could move freely.
Here the problems started. Konrad wasn’t willing to befriend cultists for gathering information, so he took a look around the camp, while avoiding the tents and the cave, which got highlighted in importance, for the case, he run into Langdedrosa. Aelar used his second wild shape per rest during the straggler fight and they didn’t rest before, but he was also fixed at the idea of entering the cave. He wanted to leave the camp again for collecting poisonous herbs to mix it in the guard’s meal, so they get diarrhea. Not bad per se, but leaving the camp might get too much attention and they still knew nothing. So for leaving the camp unnoticed, he wanted to take a short rest to regain wild shape. Enna took the liberty to mesh into the cult (like she did in the past) and gather some information.
After rolling on a list I made, Konrad and Enna could do their actions, while Aelar who wanted to rest, met up with Frulam, who became suspicious of Aelar, since he was resting at a random place! She talked to him and the dialogue left both inactive players grind their teeth, since Aelar wasn’t humble and ‘initiatish’ at all. I described her down to the Purple Robes, without calling her name, but he sadly forgot about the fact, that Wearer of Purple are high ranked members of the cult and if it’s not a half-dragon, it has to be Frulam. It was very fun to see the other players reaction.
If you served the army for compulsory military service (or watched some movies with that theme), you know that one guy, who is kinda wishy-washy, reeks out of unwillingness, and subtly doesn’t accept any authority without speaking that line out. Aelar was this case, but he tried his best, after Frulam asked some questions.
It may be mean to say, but his answers were… shocking. Like ‘Where did you join the cult?’ He said: ‘The last town, how was it called…?’ ‘Interesting. And who recruited you?’ ‘Erm… that kobold. Can’t exactly pronounce its name… and they all look the same.’ I get old, I guess. Because I brainfarted for some seconds there, not able to have a clear thought. I guess Frulam was the same.
Too unsure if this was the worst cultist or spy in history, Frulam made the character standing watch at Leosin, who got captured before and now was tied up at the tents, while one of Frulam’s trusted men was observing him. More to see, if there was any kind of reaction there, while she would consult Rezmir later (even though the PCs didn’t knew about that).
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Leosin was in a pretty bad shape and when he was coughing, Aelar used this to secretly put a Goodberry into his mouth, while pretending slapping the monk. It became a suspicious incident, but the watcher of Aelar didn’t notice the real intend. Afterwards Aelar began talking to his watcher in a nonchalant manner, acting like an airhead. He got too many lucky rolls there!
Meanwhile Konrad found other prisoners and Enna began to obtain the reasons, why the cultists are here: To gather treasures for a big hoard to present it to the Dragon Queen, so Tiamat will rise from the Nine Hells to the world. That can’t be good! She heard about the fact, that in the cave will be the treasures additionally to the dragon eggs, and some other informations, which might be interesting for the governor.
Enna and Konrad met up, Aelar not. He was still under observation, so he didn’t want to risk meeting the others. Enna was about to plan an assassination of two of her three targets, Rezmir and Frulam Mondath, but Konrad on the other side wanted to free all prisoners as quickly as possible. Since he declared he’d do this even this night, Enna who would need a lot more of preparation time had to concede, especially since she wants to survive her revenge: Killing leaders inside a big camp without good means of escaping might be a bit suicidal, especially if said leaders aren’t helpless either.
So they sought out Aelar, Konrad was able to notice that Aelar was consciously avoiding them and thought, it’d be better to realize his plans without him. Enna found out where Leosin was held captured and after a session of minor work, they ‘switched’ nightly guard duty with some cultists.
At night Aelar was able to use the darkness to lose his warder and he wanted to free Leosin himself, where he met the other two. Leosin who remembered the Goodberry told the party openly, that he doesn’t wish to be freed, since he was about to gather some precious information, but since the characters planned to free the other prisoners, he resigned. They put on a dummy, sneaked to the other prisoners who were locked up for the night, picked the lock and freed them. Since they reduced the night watch by taking over that post, it was quite easy until they got to the watchtower at the entrance. After some thought and a gentle reminder of the ability to cast spells at higher slots, the high risk sleep (which would put down 2 guards at average to sleep and will definitely caught attention with the chanting) became a low-to-mid risk sleep, since casting it on 2nd spell level definitely put the numbers to their favor.
The escape succeeded! They returned to Greenest with Leosin and the other prisoners without too much of a ruckus. And timely.

Afterthoughts:

Player’s side: If the moon druid have one flaw, it’s the fact that he has to really weight up every wild shape he wants to use. Only 2 per short rest and combat forms makes most of his class, while the often much better way is to use wild shape to become something weak, but not outstanding. And something you can ignore if you’re still detected.
And yes, remember that you can always cast spells at higher spell-levels! Especially the Sleep-spell enhances its use more steeply than other ones, even though it might lose a bit of handiness in the high levels.
Finally, it’s a dumb idea to give some attitude to someone who is leading the camp you’re spying on. As long as you don’t try to become a Power Ranger, attitude should be presented with care. Helps in RL, too.

DM’s side: The really hard part was to hint to the players, they don’t have to enter the cave and that it’s a recon mission, instead of a spying one. Gladly, after detecting those prisoners, Konrad forced his ideals to the other PCs and it went smoothly like the adventure said. I mean: How can PCs even think about forcing their way into the cave, if access is very restricted and too much cultists to fight are in the camp?!

DM-Work:

Preparation time: About 20 min, 7 min of reading and 13 min of noting down some possible ‘random encounters’, which might occur, when they roam or stand around the camp. Got the Frulam Encounter there, too.

Here for reference: After the players decide to take action, roll a d20.
1-8: The PC can make the called action without further interference.
9-12: The character will be assigned to a job by a higher cult member, roll a d6 (1: Standing watch at the entrance; 2-3: Standing guard by the prisoners; 4-5 move crates, food brought by the hunters and other goods; 6: Be assigned to a job outside the camp, like replacing one of the rearguard)
13-16: A cultist remembers the character from the attack of Greenest, but not necessarily its role. Maybe he thinks of the character as a mercenary or has no idea why the character is that familiar, but is ready to find out.
15-17: Langedrosa comes by, the player character must make a DC Charisma Check to hide in the cultist crowd, otherwise Langdedrosa might notice them. A character which fought against Langedrosa is immediately
18: Frulam Mondath becomes suspicious of the character’s action and she/he has to roleplay her/his way out.
19: Rezmir is making an example to increase the camp’s discipline again. And the character was one of the randomly chosen ‘initiates’, who get bound, whipped and/or Dragon Breathed.
20: Be evil.

Changes: Add a personality to Frulam? And cutting some corners in gathering information, after confirming that only Enna was willing and able to do it, to decrease some game time. The player would have get any bit of information out there with time, but letting the player roll for feeling it was accomplished is simply way faster than using a lot of time to make an ingame-dialogue, which would bore the other players.

Special Techniques: I rotated the players regularly, normally first to say what they want to do in camp, afterwards I handled every one of them by ‘timing’ and used up playtime so far. After that, mostly improvisation, since social encounters works more smoothly that way. Every DM should have some impro-skills or be willing to learn those, since it makes the game less mechanical and cuts down preparation time immensely in a social situation. If you disagree, try running ‘World of Darkness’ without any improvisation and you will find a very sad system.

Final Thought: This was more of a social challenge and it was kinda bumpy, since Konrad didn’t want to befriend the cultists in any way if possible and Aelar’s player almost got them captured. Even though there is a captured paragraph, it’s hard to punish someone who tries to roleplay, but just got the wrong idea what would be wise to do, especially with a character who has actually a above average wisdom score.
But at least I’m happy that he rolled well and after talking to him, I hope he understood where the problem lies. He got that much better after playing Scion, but in D&D he’s not a child of a god and can’t boost with a body, who is almost maxed in the undestructible-department.
As a paladin of vengeance, Konrad can actually lie his way into the camp, but since he plays a young fool with too much stories about heroics in his head, this wasn’t too bad in a roleplay point of view. Even though that simply means, that in infiltration Enna have to carry the whole party and there are some segments in this module, where infiltration is smarter than assault.
But in the end, a great day, especially since after a combat-heavy start, now a social interaction took most of the time. So module really likes to introduce one pillar at the time, next time it’ll become a dungeoneering experience, so the third pillar, exploration, will be introduced in this edition. Hope they didn’t forget how to do it…

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