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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hoard of the Dragon Queen - Raiders' Camp

We jumped into episode 2 of the adventure tonight at the store. Going in, I was a little concerned. This episode is short. And they are supposed to hit level 3 by the end of it.

The scenario goes like this: The heroes head to the enemy camp, encountering two bands of cultists along the way. Both encounters can be avoided entirely. Then they get to the enemy camp of 180+ enemies, where they must infiltrate it, learn as much as they can, and possibly rescue 8 prisoners and a captive monk.

This could easily take a single session. At least, that's how it looks on paper.

An entire table of new gamers showed up this week. They made characters. This means we're now up to 4 tables. Clearly 5th edition is doing well so far.

I was sad to see that Hack and Slash Guy didn't show up this week. He didn't show up at the Thursday game either. He is a great kid... I know his football team stuff was really eating a lot of time and I think we may not see him again. He may have mindlessly hacked at everything in sight, but he was fun to play D&D with.
The 7 year old girl (actually, she said she's in 4th grade so I think she must be 9 or 10) was back with her epic character Dark the Dragon Sorceress. She wrote her name on her little standee thing and put the drawing of the cute dragon with heart-horns on it.

This week she was kind of learning how the game worked. In the beginning, Dark was storming around, refusing to go on the adventure because she was "tired". When I explained that she'd be really bored sitting at the table while everyone else went, she joined them.

A lot of the players are very new, so there's a lot of little rules things being ironed out. One kid thought he used his DEX bonus for melee. He has an 8 DEX. This explained why he never hit anything, poor guy.

We finally got to do some Downtime. How odd... this adventure clearly states that the heroes should set out after the enemy force the very next day. But if you spend ten downtime days...? Do the days actually pass? I guess not. I guess it's an abstract thing.

It didn't matter, as none of them had much interest in downtime activities, anyway.

The adventurers set out after the Cult of the Dragon. They came upon stragglers, who were split into two small camps. The party's two rogues did a lot of sneaking, which was very fun and different. Ultimately this lead to a swift slaughter of all the enemies after some eavesdropping.

The eavesdropping paid off, as the heroes learned of the "rearguard" - a small band of cultists whose job was to take out anybody who tried to follow the cult.

The adventurers came upon an ambush point and decided to just circumvent it entirely. Dark wanted to go in alone, but her dad talked her out of it. I think there was 12 bad guys there who cause a rockslide that does 2d12 damage. Dark has 9 hit points!

The heroes got to the camp, put on some cult garb and walked right in. This is what the adventure wants the PCs to do. So far, so good. They looked around. They cleverly handed off a sack of loot to the cultists - a sack stolen from the stragglers they'd ambushed.

The cultists made a comment about dumping the loot with the rest of it in the hatchery.

I was hesitant to mention the hatchery. It's in the camp, but it's not supposed to be adventured in until episode three. In addition, there's a tent in the camp full of enemy leaders that the module pretty much tells you that the PCs can not enter.

The best way to handle these things is to not even dangle it in front of the PCs. It might feel a little cheap, but it's better to do it that way then to have to block the players out in a very blatant way.

The heroes rolls suddenly went south. A cultist recognized one of the thieves from Greenest. The heroes tried to talk their way out of it, but the dice just refused to cooperate.
A fight broke out, and quickly the adventurers were surrounded by 25 cultists. Our heroes were captured and brought before Frulam Mondath (who I couldn't find much info on in the moment.. somehow this had been missed in my preparation).

She decided to execute them. They were tied to posts next to the captured monk and left overnight. They'd be killed in the morning.

One new player explained that there was no need to worry - they couldn't die or there'd be no adventure. I got to tell him what a "TPK" was, and how it was most definitely a part of D&D. The adventure would go on, young fellow, but you'll be running a different character!

One they heard that, they frantically tried to escape their bonds. Each of them tried some roll. Dark tried to use her incredible strength to break her bonds, but rolled poorly. Luckily, one PC made - the paladin. He slipped free, and freed his friends.

A lone rogue crept out and stole back the party's gear. They geared up, climbed a wall, and got the heck out of the enemy camp.

They've pretty much gotten all the way through episode two. I had figured it wouldn't take long, but wow this barely filled a session.

This episode is one where you really need to "unpack" a lot prior to the session. If you sit down 45 minutes before game time and read these four pages, you're not going to have the time necessary to fill in a lot of blanks. This requires some work on your part. You will need to cook up some details of the camp, such as how many guards are on each watchtower, what the kobolds are doing, what the acolytes are doing, some NPC names for guards questioning the PCs, etc.

If you go into this cold, you may end up with a flat session as you scramble to flesh out the scenario on the spot.


Coffeemate said...

First, I jus wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoy reading these play-through posts. They offer a lot of insight, especially when an adventure’s written word doesn’t translate into gameplay. You seem to handle on-the-spot changes rather adroitly. The kids are lucky to have you as a DM.

Just in case you haven’t seen this, I thought it might be helpful to pass along:!#.VBGNaUuBkyo

It would seem that the adventure suffered through countless revisions while the rules were being finalized (although there’s also the possibility that some of the errors made it through by sheer editing sloppiness). Although, when you couple this with the spelling errors made on the maps, I think a picture is rather clear.

While it would be easy to sit and complain about any published adventure product, I just wanted to thank you for offering suggestions on how you handle running them when things don’t align. It helps me avoid the pitfalls and know how to run a a particular encounter or scenario.

I’m currently running the highly-acclaimed Madness at Gardmore Abbey, and I’ve discovered that the mega-adventure is beautifully conceived, but not as well thought out as the writers would believe. Many adjustments are needed just to make it work… so your posts inspire me to “own” my play through, making wholesale adjustments as necessary, and not simply rely on the written word.

Sean said...

Coffeemate: Thanks for the kind words! I checked out the link.. that will definitely come in handy. This is a cool adventure and IMO worth running. Yeah it takes a little prep work, but so do most adventures.

I ran Gardmore Abbey, I agree. It really became a drag as it went. The physical deck is my favorite part of that set. The whole deal with the tokens and encounter effects was really odd.