News and such

I’m moving, in April I will get into the new house. So there is still a lot to do, but at least I wanted to share something…

First of all, I share some official stuff from WotC on my side, you can download them there, too, it’s totally free, but since not all of you likes to look regularly there, I just figured, I can simply upload them here, too, and you can get it, if you want.
In this case we get the first 2 instances of Unearthen Arcana, which provides pre-rulings for Eberron and a army-combat system. I guess it might be worked over after some thought there for the hard-cover variant (especially since the Eberron races only have +1 to two abilities, which is uncommon so far).

Now I’m proud to say, that I will begin a Baldur’s Gate campaign with a new party. And that means to transfer the beloved PC-game to the P&P media in 5e! I will try to transfer my campaign notes into a self-made gaming module, which can be DMed by those, who also played and love the game or if I’m a bit skilled even those, who don’t.

Of course I know, that I’m not able to make it like the game, since the companion NPCs and the playstyle does a lot for the mood. But in the end, it’s still a strong plot, a great journey and some quite great story twists, which will make this very enjoyable, especially for those, who don’t know the games or were too weak to play them.

The plan is to make a campaign with a proud numbers of the optional quests, since you can actually take some time in most cases. I’ll try to write game reports, too, but I still have two left for Tyranny of Dragons (and the campaign will go on, too), so I won’t make promises.

This is sadly all this time, with the new campaign I have a lot to do, and moving isn’t good on your time, either. Be patient and I will make the wizard’s overview, even though I will first update my paladin and cleric overview with the options of the DMG.

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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 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 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…

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.

It’s OK, Steve Winter

After reading the forums, I realized (too late), that the issue of mistakes in Hoard of the Dragon Queen is already partially answered by one of its designers, Steve Winter. You can read the interview here.

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Some people would be angry, but every college student who actually had to redo a term paper knows, how hard it is to actually do this. You are so familiar with the sentences, that you can’t actually read them anymore, but more of interpret them, all the stuff and basics in your head is always saying yes, while the new adjustments on the briefing before says no.

You always miss things and even proof reading isn’t all that helpful, if you have either those who also have the old rulings in their heads or those, who doesn’t know the rules at all. It’s a very sad thing, but this was unavoidable. Yes, they could push back the release, but since Tyranny of the Dragons is such a large event, this couldn’t happen without further consequences. Especially considering that they even includes comics and a quest path in the Neverwinter online game about it. When there is so many things about this adventure, it’d be better on time, right?

Since I’ll run HotDQ, I plan to make game reports for my players and readers and DM adjustments I made will be included and marked, too. Maybe this might help and maybe it will speak in a humor, which only DMs understands. Sometimes game designers seems to have no clue what they’re doing, but mostly they do better than everyone of us. We only need to look into our party, they need to look from a broader perspective.

Even though there are parts that annoys me (like why they did not included those special NPCs in the supplement, which would make some more sense in organizing) and I’ll have to have my adjustments ready, I wanted to say this: It’s OK, Steve Winter. Let’s hope together, that an official errata will be allowed by WotC, so your team will regain its honor and we don’t keep the feeling of being betrayed by buying this book which is seemingly faulty here and there. 😉
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Hoard of the Dragon Queen (HotDQ) Impression

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After finally finishing reading the first part of Tyranny of Dragons, I had the urge to talk about it. This will contain heavy spoilers, so everyone who actually wants to play it as a player should ignore this post. Even though I doubt that without the context it might be hard to follow certain parts.

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First my overall impression: I kinda like it. I see some problems here and there, but I wanted to play it for my first real 5e campaign and I’ll stick to it, even though there is one inexperienced player (to any kind of roleplay-system) at my table. But before I explain why I like it, I get through the cons first:

  1. Very basic storyline: There is so far no interesting twist, the plot is more generic and is much about: Evil do stuff, so interfere! – I don’t mind much, but for players it might get boring at some point, since everything is as it seems and there is no questioning about motives or considerations about the real greater good (even though there is some hint to it for Rise of Tiamat). If your players are more about character development, this will be hard work.
  2. Repetitiveness: The book suggest infiltration at a standard procedure. Even though it’s refreshing to not have all combat, it makes you wonder, if the cultists are actually somewhat dumb. – Here I plan to shift the feeling bit by bit, first by actual infiltration, the caravan is good as it is, later more of sneaking around undetected while having a lizardman friend (or simply charging the castle), etc.
  3. Railroading: To follow the storyline is not bad in itself, but since there are a lot of NPCs which says ‘Go here’, ‘Infiltrate this’ and similar, the players might actually feel railroaded. Especially since their decisions doesn’t change much at the first part of this campaign. – Hard to come by, but if you play out the NPCs with some feeling, it’s at least less obvious.
  4. Errors here and there: Since the adventure was written during the development process, there are wrong things written there. Like the fact, that a wizard should flee by casting invisibility and use the fly spell afterwards (which is impossible to combine due the concentration check; use a potion of flying instead). – You can handle it, but it’s still more work.
  5. Few DM-advice: DMs are practically almost on their own, only getting maps (which aren’t as accurate as you might think), stats (which shouldn’t be used in some cases, like the assassins), and very open-minded NPC-descriptions, which are spread around the whole book. Rezmir just couldn’t get her personality and personal goals written down on a single page, what a diva! – Only few sentences are better for me, since I flesh out NPCs about a minute before they enter the game. The more my players are interested, the more I make up details, which goes faster if you don’t need to remember/re-read the actual NPC descriptions. Pointers are enough for me, but even though: Couldn’t they simply make a NPC part to have it all organized?
  6. Hard start: If combat and charging is the best your players have to offer, then they better have some characters ready, to save Greenest, since there will be some causalities. For 1st level the first part is hard and I think even former Phandelver characters might get their ass kicked by too many enemies. – It fits the beginning of the story, even though I plan to soften it up a bit. More Potions of Healing, more chances to ambush, the opportunity to evade combats.
  7. Few Magic Items: The Magic Items are sparse and most of them seems to have no personality and the rest only a shade of character. – Since I have still the testplay packages, I can use these to make the items more likable. That most of them are at the end of HotDQ is no problem for me, since it’s kinda the best opportunity: When claiming the Hoard!
  8. Big Cities, no time there: You visit places like Waterdeep and nothing is there in for the characters? – I’ll add some mini-episodes between some points, so my players can level up, get a decent item at that time and finally have some sweet time in the iconic Forgotten Realms places.
  9. The spread source material: Like I said in my post Too unfocused, it’s kinda annoying to have all the needed material in different media. Wouldn’t it be better to insert even the named NPCs in the supplement-.pdf? Or all monsters into the book? Seriously.

As long as you’re a experienced DM you shouldn’t have problems in dealing with these problems. Since it’s the first official campaign in the new edition, there won’t be too few new DMs and I pity them, because this will be an overwhelming massacre. Everyone starts a beginner and even I was horrible at DMing first, I would mercilessly have made one mistake after another in my beginner phase. 😉

After seeing the problems, here are the things I actually like:

  1. The greatness of the quest: You’re actually trying to foil the plan to bring the Dragon Queen into the Realms, that’s friggin’ awesome. You start as a nobody and afterwards earned your place as one of the most legendary adventurers, since you just don’t do something like this more than once a lifetime!
  2. The classic: Evil cults, castles in swamps, dungeons and dragons, cloud giant castles, so many classic elements are interwoven into the story, that nostalgia is crying in joy.
  3. Balance of the pillars: The three pillars of adventuring/D&D (combat, exploration, social interaction) are pretty good balanced, since combat will only bring certain dead at times, you have to get through with social interaction, while exploration benefits from having information beforehand (social interaction) or to fight smartly (combat).
  4. Expandable: Since you’re pretty alone with some basic stats and means, you can easily step in and flesh things out, like prescripted events between certain NPCs (like Snapjaw and Pharblex), details about Talis (especially if a player has her as a childhood friend), etc. The openness of the adventure is an advantage in adapting it to your style without interfering the general flow.

I hope that Rise of Tiamat will bring more optional flair and finally the feeling for the players to make their own decisions (even though they actually won’t probably). If the next book is similar, I won’t be too mad, but after playing some real well-written adventures, I always look forward something I wouldn’t come up with on my own and brings some seriously good entertainment on the table. HotDQ is just decent in that regard, even though it might be the core-essence of a typical Dungeons & Dragons long-term campaign: A single enemy (the Cult of Dragons) which you have to fight with multiple times while fending off the allies and coax the rivals for your cause.

As long as the next part becomes more interesting and uses more stuff from this book, HotDQ might get a great first part, which actually enhances the climax of the story by using resources of the past. But somehow I just get the feeling it won’t…

I’ll try to make game reports when playing this thing and explain some decisions and own ideas I made up then. Maybe I might get some inspirations before and share them on my (up to now still daily [in my timezone]) post. 😉