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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hoard of the Dragon Queen - On the Road

Another session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen is in the books. We are deep into episode 4 now. There is quite a bit to say on a variety of topics...

We Are Going Too Fast....?

So get a load of this. There are three tables going in this store. My group is in Episode 4. The other two are in Episode 1. The store owner had someone inform me that he wants to meet with me and the other DM next week to discuss "getting on the same page".

Basically, he wants us all to keep the same pace. This way, players can jump between groups.

I don't really understand that. This isn't like the 4e Encounters sessions where it was just one encounter. In those, it was easy to start and stop in the same place as the other groups. In 5e, it is wild and loose.
Aside from that, these things are built so that a 1st level PC can jump in on the later chapters. They'll level pretty quick. Heck, the hobgoblins the PCs fought tonight only had 11 hit points!

So what I am guessing is going to happen is that I am going to have to stop running Hoard of the Dragon Queen until the other two groups catch up. This seems insane to me, but that looks like where we're headed. This is in spite of the fact that none of the players jump between groups.

Here is another amusing point. These other tables might take so long to catch up to episode 4 that our table will run through all of the Expeditions adventures. Then what do we do?!

If this is the way things work out, then I guess I will have my players make level one PCs and I will run them through the Expeditions adventures.

One cool thing here is that the 4th grader who plays Dark the Dragon Sorceress made Dark's sister and now she has a chance to play her. That should be fun. I am kind of wondering how my players will take this. I guess we'll see what happens next week.

All of this smacks of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" but I'll wait and see how this meeting goes.

Rumors of 5th Edition's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Last week we had low attendance - a total of 11 players. I took this to mean that our store's boom had subsided and was on the decline. I was wrong! We had 16 people this week, some of which were brand new. It is nice to see.

The Manticore
As I mentioned last week, I added in my own encounter to kind of spice up the dry opening of Episode 4. In the book, the PCs travel for 6 days to Elturel, meet with this quest-giving guy, take a boat for 3 days, and then begin the meat of the episode. That's quite a bit of time wih very little in the way of encounters.

So I decided that a manticore would harry our heroes during their 6 day journey to Elturel. It wants to eat their horses! Each day, it would fly overhead, fire spikes at the horses, then fly off when one died. Once the PCs left the horse behind, it would fly down and eat it.

This went pretty well. Our heroes were on their toes. In one instance where the Manticore was flying above them, Rules Guy used a Command spell on the Manticore, ordering it "Down". I had it come down, but at an angle away from the party. This ruffled his feathers a bit, but the spell description clearly states it is open to DM interpretation.

It all built up to a scene where the manticore was chasing a griffon that it had wounded. Rules Guy used Command to make the manticore "grovel", and then the adventurers pounced on the manticore and killed it.

The griffon landed and looked at our heroes, wounded. I wanted them to see that it appreciated what they had done. One of the party thieves approached it. He was wearing a griffon talon on a necklace - he'd taken it off a griffon that the manticore had killed the day prior.

The griffon was furious, screeched and flew off. The players didn't understand why the griffon was angry. Then they decided that it was because the thief didn't bow. Apparently this is something from Harry Potter (I've only seen the first two movies). I didn't tip my hand. Maybe this will come up in the future.

We Have a Dragon Baby
I may have broken more rules as I let the heroes keet one of the dragon eggs from the hatchery. According to the text on page 26, the egg hatches in a week if it's in a "suitable incubator". Dark as been all over this egg with blankets, sleeping on it, hiding it... sounds suitable to me! And thus it hatched!

This dragon will be useless for a long time as I don't want to unbalance the adventure. But I am thinking at some pivotal moment when the heroes need it, the dragon will breathe it's first acid breath.

Dark named it... Sparky.

Factions and Stuff

Ontharr Frume
Our heroes go to Elturel and meet this burly character named Ontharr Frume. Ontharr drinks with the PCs and then arm wrestles. Ontharr has the GALL to defeat Dark in arm wrestling. Then, to Dark's horror, her dad beats Ontharr.

There's only one thing to do here. Dark has to arm wrestle her dad. And of course she rolls a NATURAL 20! Dark breaks the table with the back of her dad's hand as her allies laugh and cheer.

Leosin the monk is a Harper and Ontharr is a member of the Order of the Gauntlet. Wizards of the Coast made a big deal about factions when this season started. Each player got a "faction folder". But factions seem to mean almost nothing at all in this adventure. I played it up as best I could. I had Leosin tell a PC Harper to keep their eyes peeled for another agent named Carlon to foreshadow an encounter later on in this episode.

The Caravan
This episode is about the heroes going on a 60 day wagon train. There's a bunch of encounters along the way. The adventure encourages us DMs to roll on a chart each day to see which encounter happens. That is crazy talk (particularly because there are some errors on the chart, including a reference to an encounter that is not in the book at all). I mapped it out in advance.

Most of the PCs are hired by a wagon master as guards. I ran a couple of the encounters. One is with a nosy halfling. Rules Guy shooed him away. I had Dark describe how she was hiding her baby dragon in the cart owned by the moon elf shipping wood from the Jungle of Chult.

Dark calmly explained to the moon elf that the thing wrapped in the blanket was a "shiny dazzling diamond". This amused me to no end. The moon elf loves animals, so I figure she'll assume it's some special pet and leave it be.

I wrapped up the session with a battle with hobgoblins near the Fields of the Dead. Make sure to use that one within the first 9 days of the journey, though I guess it doesn't matter all that much. The fight was a piece of cake.

A player's mom brought brownies, which was awesome. She watched us play and seemed quite amused by the game. She tried to give her kid some good advice (which he ignored). I may try to lure her into playing.

All in all, it was a very good session. I guess we will see next week as to whether we will "pause" the campaign for a while.