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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - The Council of Waterdeep

When I was preparing Rise of Tiamat, I originally skimmed chapter three and I thought it looked awful. It appeared to be a boring dungeon with a bunch of yuan-ti in it. I have always found yuan-ti to be pretty lame monsters. I disliked this so much that I planned on actually running the Sea of Moving Ice section first because I thought that the tomb would be a flat opening to Rise of Tiamat.

But then I thoroughly read the whole thing. It is an awesome dungeon! There's magic statues that ask questions and an insanely great boulder trap where the boulder is made of skeletons that swallows up PCs that fail their saves.

We had a lot to do today, and as always my group was on time or early!
Finishing Skyreach Castle

We started off by wrapping up Hoard. The heroes befriended Blagothkus and decided to let him keep Skyreach Castle.

I ruled that the red wizard Azbara Jos had escaped while the PCs had taken a long rest. They locked him in a room. He used a fireball to blow the door open, invisibly crept back to his room, and had his gargoyle fly him to freedom.

After a few days of eating delicious meals cooked by Blagothkus' 24 kobold chefs, a raven brought a message to the heroes. Their buddy Leosin the monk wanted them to return to Waterdeep to meet with a special faction council. Enclosed were two scrolls of teleport.

The Sounding of the Draakhorn

When the heroes arrived in Waterdeep, the draakhorn sounded for the first time. The draakhorn is a big part of this adventure. It's a magic horn that calls all chromatic dragons to fly to the well of dragons, where the cult will be summoning Tiamat. The horn's effect isn't necessarily immediate. Over the course of a few months, the heroes will spot dragons in the distance.

The Draakhorn
Our group has a baby black dragon. So when the horn sounded, he perked up and looked to the sky. The heroes asked "Sparky" to explain what was going on. He'd never talked before, but was able to indicate that something was calling him "home".

The Council

These council meetings are quite tricky to wrangle. The information is all over the place in the book. Basically, the factions (Harpers, Emerald Enclave, etc.) gather to discuss the cult of the dragon. Many members aren't certain if the cult is truly a threat.

The point of these council meetings is for the heroes to gain or lose favor with them. Throughout this adventure, I track the heroes deeds on a scorecard and this affects their scores with the various factions. At the end, if you've scored high enough with a certain faction, you gain the aid of their army in the final epic battle against the cult and their many dragons.

The detail on this is incredible
A nice way to help guide you in how to run the council meetings is by just looking at the scorecard and using those topics in the discussion at the meeting. You can also have factions make it clear how they feel about certain deeds.

Emphasizing the Factions

I had the heroes' factions meet with them separately at The Yawning Portal (a bar in Waterdeep) prior to the council meeting. My group is part of three factions:

Ontharr Frume
The Harpers: Remallia Haventree asked Dark if she would consider ransoming her baby dragon to the cult. Dark of course yelled out: "Never!" (Dark's player is a 4th grader who loves her dragon).

Order of the Gauntlet: Ontharr urged the heroes to kill the baby black dragon. He compared it to having a pet scorpion. "Eventually, it's going to sting you".

Zhentarim: Rian Nightshade met them in a back alley. She told the heroes that the council was full of idiots, and that one of her agents - Jamna Gleamsilver from Hoard episode 4 - as closing in on the white dragon mask.

The First Council Meeting

Then we had the actual council meeting, where Lord Neverember sipped wine and arrogantly oversaw the proceedings. The council was very unhappy that a baby black dragon was right there in the Lord's Palace.

I asked one PC to speak for the group. Dark immediately volunteered. I had her roll a charisma check to see how eloquent she was, and of course she rolled a 19.

Her character ran down what the heroes had done so far. The council stopped her to argue about the dragon and again to talk about Castle Skyreach. Connerad Brawnanvil of the Lord's Alliance was very angry that the place had been given to the giants.

I did a thing where Lord Neverember asked who had actually slain Rezmir. It was the party paladin, who had teleported past the rug of smothering and stabbed her in the back. The council held the paladin in awe and he is considered a hero now (I want to drive home the point to the players that their actions matter). The paladin is a member of the Order of the Gauntlet, so I had Ontharr Frume beam proudly and boast to the council. Lord Neverember asked him to come train his guards in Neverwinter (Neverember is a manipulative schemer, so I figure he just wants to buddy up to a "celebrity").

The council gave the PCs a writ, granting them investigative powers and access to the council's resources (I figure that's stuff like horses, mundane gear, and a place to sleep).

Sir Isteval
Then the council asked the heroes to go find Varram the White, who is apparently in the Serpent Hills. This is the hook for episode 3.

On the way out, Sir Isteval (yes, the NPC from Scourge of the Sword Coast is in this) pulled a PC aside. Isteval is part of the council, and he has a permanent limp from an injury he sustained in a fight with a green dragon. He urged the PC to kill the black dragon before it grew up. He showed the PC his wound from the green dragon and warned that black dragons were even worse.

So, I created a bunch of tension over Sparky, the black dragon. I did this primarily just because it felt like what the NPCs would do . I counteracted this with a new fun gimmick. Sparky is starting to make his own treasure hoard. He finds stuff and puts it in a sack that Dark carries. Dark has been casting greater invisibility on him a lot to keep him out of trouble, which is a perfect cover for him to steal stuff like cups and shiny pieces of metal.

Journey to the Serpent Hills

Our heroes traveled south (yep, back down the road they took on that long caravan journey in episode 4 of Hoard) to Boareskyr Bridge.
Along the way, I threw in one of the "additional encounters" meant to be spread throughout the book. I had a bunch of cultists shaking down a caravan.

A fight broke out. Their leader was a dragonsoul, a cultist who could fly in short bursts and had an orb that shot beams of acid three times a day.

He ended up in a tree shooting beams from his orb at the heroes. Dark spider-climbed onto a cart, jumped off of it onto the dragonsoul and knocked him to the ground.

The cultists were questioned and then killed.

The heroes headed to Boareskyr Bridge and the tent city there. They learned that Varram was in the Serpent Hills. The adventurers followed a trail in the hills. They encountered a pair of hill giants eating an antelope. The heroes didn't want to fight them, so they tricked the giants by asking them "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" The giants ended up fighting each other over the answer as the adventurers laughed and fled.

The Tomb of Diderius

They arrived at a tomb entrance, which is very Indiana Jones-y. I love this dungeon. The heroes saw signs of a camp made recently. The entrance was flanked by two statues that ask a question (which the heroes answered correctly).

Inside they came upon a hallway lined with statues of cowled wizards. The deal here is that the statues turn and look at you. If you look into the cowls, you have to make a saving throw or go insane for one minute.

Dark received a magic clue about the statues thanks to giving the correct answer back at the entrance. She ignored the clue and looked right into the cowls. The DC for the save was a 15. Of course, she made it. Everyone else followed her and didn't look at the cowls.

Then they came upon a room where they fought a manticore made of tiles. Honestly, the manticore wasn't challenging enough. Part of it was that the PCs were super-cautious and thus weren't surprised by the creature.

It ended up perched on a ledge 15 feet up, ready to breathe fire. Dark threw the gnome thief at it (she rolled a 19, her dice were on fire today). The gnome had a shovel and went to town on the "tilemera".

We had gotten exactly as far as I wanted them to. They will get to a room I am really excited about next time. So far Rise of Tiamat is fun, though it has been much more time-consuming to prepare.


Bronk said...

From AD&D through 3.5, Waterdeep was described as being supported by secret ancient epic magics... two mythals I think. One held the whole city up so it didn't collapse through ancient dwarven mines, Halaster's dungeon, and Skullport, but the other was a city wide 'antipathy' field called the 'Dragonshield' that repelled dragons. The field was controlled by an archmage in a special tower, who held a staff that could make exceptions for individual dragons. There was a whole society of good dragons called the 'Confluence' that were allowed to stay, and fought evil shape changers on behalf of the city.

Is the Confluence still around in later editions? If not, did anything mention what happened to them?

Sean said...

Bronk: Wow, I don't know much about Waterdeep so this is all news to me. Waterdeep is given almost no details at all in these books. I've been meaning to try to read up on Waterdeep in whatever is most recent, but I'm not really sure where to look.

Big Rich said...

The Spellplauge has changed a lot with "super magic" that protects towns because the Weave was unwoven when Mystra was killed. SO the Dragonshield and all that wonderful stuff is null and void.