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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Metallic Dragons, Arise!

This evening we played through an episode that I've been looking forward to for a long time. Tonight we did episode 6, a scenario where our heroes had to try to convince the leaders of the metallic dragons to join the council in the fight against the cult of the dragon.

The Watcher

When I got to the store, I learned of a wrinkle. We had... a watcher.

You've probably had this experience. A friend of a player is in town and doesn't want to play - they just want to watch. In my experience, the watcher almost always ends up as a distraction.That's mostly because watching D&D is really boring. I always try to get the watcher to play an NPC with simple stats, mostly just to keep them from being a problem.
If you remember last week, Dark the Dragon Sorceress made friends with a mezzoloth assassin. I had the watcher play him. This worked pretty well. The watcher was still a bit of a distraction, as he was young and had to be taught table etiquette.

This episode is super-short. It just lists the five dragons, who they are and what they want. It's up to our heroes to negotiate with them. The DM is left to "unpack" and flesh it out.

The Party  

  •     (Harper) Elf Sorcerer: Played by a 4th grader, she is Dark the Dragon Sorceress   
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: In real life, played by Dark's dad.
  •     (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well.

Our heroes flew on the back of the silver dragon Elia aka Otaaryliakkarnos. It's a two day journey. I had a pair of chromatic dragons attack, so that the adventurers could have a pretty epic battle on the back of a silver dragon. I used a red dragon (Thraxata from the first assassination attempt) and Arveiaturace, the insane white dragon mate of Arauthator. Dark and our paladin figured out who Arveiaturace was very quick. I was very impressed!

The battle was ok. I have learned now to always start dragon fights with frightening presence. Leading off with the breath weapon is deadly, but at this level the PCs have a lot of ways to mitigate the damage. They slew Arveiaturace and Elia killed Thraxata.

The Metallic Dragons

There's five dragons of different shades: gold, silver, bronze, copper and brass. I was worried that this open-ended scenario would bore the group, but they were quite engaged with it.

Obviously the first issue they had to overcome was the fact that the group has a baby black dragon with them. It actually says in the text that one of the dragons believes that all metallic dragons are made in the image of Bahamut and thus they must be good, which means that they believe that all chromatic dragons are in the image of Tiamat and therefore must be evil.

How did the heroes overcome this? Dark's dad asked Sparky, the baby dragon, to offer the metallic dragons his hoard. Sparky has been collecting stuff like beer coasters in a little sack. What a great idea. The metallic dragons were shocked to see a chromatic dragon do something so selfless. They decided to go ahead and meet with the heroes.

There was a nice bit of debate which never dragged. The heroes had to make some concessions in order to get the dragons to join the council. It went like this:

Gold Dragon: Was promised a share of Tiamat's hoard and an apology from the elves for the dracorage mythal (basically, it's a spell that the elves had used in the past to cause the dragons to periodically go insane and battle each other).
Brass Dragon: Was promised a share of Tiamat's hoard.
Silver Dragon: Was promised an apology from the dwarves for slaying a silver dragon during a "dragonmoot" (a dwarven dragon hunt).
Bronze Dragon: Was promised a share of Tiamat's hoard.
Copper Dragon: It turns out a PC had a dagger of venom stolen from her hoard. The PC, our gnome who likes trash, graciously gave it back along with some gold.

The metallic dragons were so impressed that they gave the PCs three arrows of dragon slaying.

Captive Cultist

I modified this "drop-in" encounter from page 7. Dwarves have captured a high-ranking cultist but are in peril. Our heroes are flying on the silver dragon and see a few dwarves being chased by an army of cultists. The heroes first had to convince Elia to help the dwarves (she doesn't like them). The dragon scattered the army while our heroes defended the dwarves from some ogres and a half-red dragon.

I felt like this didn't challenge the PCs enough.

Death at the Council 

This is another drop-in encounter that I modified. It is supposed to be an encounter where the heroes can follow a trail of clues to discover that a succubus agent of the cult is seducing and murdering council members.

The Yawning Portal
My group is a little young for seduction, so I overhauled this. I had an incubus secretly kill Leosin the monk and replace him. When the heroes returned to Waterdeep, "Leosin" takes them to the Yawning Portal bar for drinks. The idea was for him to charm a PC subtly and make him attack the others, then summon barbed devils to do the rest. It's another assassination attempt.

To try and throw the PCs off the scent in a meta-game way (after all, why do I have a poster map of a bar on the table and why are we playing out this innocent night out on the town unless there's an encounter?), I placed another group of adventurers in the bar, drunk. This way, the meta-game players might think the intent of this encounter is to have a barfight with rival adventurers and will be caught unaware when the subterfuge takes place.

For the other group, I used heroes from another DM's campaign, Australia's own Merric Blackman. The heroes:

Flint - Paladin
Mordacai - Fighter
Music - Tiefling bard
Ice - Ice sorceress (she casts ice spells. Dark immediately sensed she was a rival!)
Darius - Monk
Kai - Warlock

The heroes were drunk, and music was warbling loudly off key. The heroes took the bait and began to interact with them. "Leosin" charmed the gnome rogue and summoned the barbed devils with a consumable charm.

The PCs loved the bar fight that they had in Hoard of the Dragon Queen and were overjoyed to play through the sequel. Here's some of the highlights:
  • A barbed devil tried to slide the gnome down the bar, but Dark saved him and slid the devil down the bar instead.
  • A devil pummeled the mezzoloth with a stool, rolling a critical.
  • A devil used hurl flame with a shot glass to create an enhanced jet of fire.
  • A devil swung on a chandelier and dropkicked people. The paladin pulled him down..
  • Dark's dad and the fighter continued to drink, watching the battle, bemused. Dark's dad bet the fighter 10 gold that he could jump up on the chandelier, cut the chain, and drop-stab the devil. He did - the devil was killed.
  • A devil tossed the poor gnome into the bar wall lined with liquor. Then a devil used hurl flame to shatter the liquor, igniting it and causing a massive explosion. The gnome jumped into a trash can for safety, and like in the infamous Indiana Jones refrigerator scene, the can was hurtled across the bar and the gnome stepped out unharmed (his thief abilities pretty much staved off all of the damage).
  • As the place burned, the other elf rogue grabbed Music, the drunken tiefling bard, and carried her out to safety. He gave her a potion of healing. He asked me if she could join the party. I doubt that, but I'm sure we can do something cool. I doubt the other party would like the idea of this group "stealing" the bard.
That's where we left it. The heroes questioned the wearer of purple that they'd rescued from the dwarves. She told them all sorts of things, including some details about the blue dragon mask and a dimensional hedge maze, which we will get into next week.


Tommy Brownell said...

I am tempted to steal the "kill and replace Leosin" bit.

The group has a fair bit of respect for the guy, and one of the remaining PCs is tied into him pretty closely (and he recruited that one and one other to be Harpers), so I think it would cause them to swear even more vengeance if that happened.

Unknown said...

Shocked your players were able to beat an Ancient White Dragon and a Red of some type.

Unknown said...

Also guessing the Gold Dragon is not going to get an apology from the Elf leader given that they have done a few things he really does not like.

Anonymous said...

How did you describe the setting for the meeting with the dragons. Was it in a building or on the top of a mountain etc. I can imagine lots of exotic locations for such an epic meeting but the book is very sparse on details. Would love to know what fluff other DMs are using for this chapter.

Sean said...

Unknown: I had the silver dragon deal with the red dragon. The PCs fought just the white dragon. Additionally, because the group is made up mostly of kids, I softball it to a degree.

Unknown: Good point! What's funny is that almost the entire group is made up of elves and half-elves. The King really liked them at the start. I should mull over the appropriate reaction.

Anonymous: I just made it a shimmering crystal cave way high up on a mountain above the clouds. Maybe a garden with a magic bahamut statue or something. A temple to bahamut definitely seems like a good choice...

Anonymous said...

I'm preparing for my Rise of Tiamat session tomorrow, and I just read your article, and it's a good one! I'm inspired by your idea of having the PCs fight couple dragon in the back of the silver dragon, that would be epic for sure!

I also have some idea to insert mass combat encounter when they return from the Dragons Council, I feel that an event as massive as this one needs some epic mass combat encounter ;) I dunno if it'll be working though, haha

Also, the idea to murder Leosin is quite interesting, as this character is quite close to the PCs, certainly after I introduced him early in my Hoard of the Dragon Queen session. But I think I'll do this in my later session, especially toward the end of this adventure.

Thanks for the idea! This is a good article!

Sean said...

Anonymous: Be careful how you run the dragon fight. I mean, in theory it would be pretty easy to knock the heroes off the dragon's back. My players were barely able to stretch their suspension of disbelief on that one. If your group likes Leosin, maybe don't kill him, but put him in peril. It's hard to get NPCs that the group is actually connected to so you might want to keep him around. Thanks! I hope your session goes well!