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Friday, October 31, 2014

Tyranny of Dragons - A Guide to Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat

This article contains notes and information for Dungeon Masters who are running the Tyranny of Dragons path for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. It features links, errata and advice on how to run things most effectively and information to make it easier for you to foreshadow the story and make it feel more fleshed out.

You can buy these adventures on amazon here:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen
The Rise of Tiamat
I put this guide in .pdf form, cleaned it up and added a few things here and there. It's in a print-friendly format. You can get it here at the DMs Guild.


Official Wizards of the Coast Stuff:
Errata and Extra Content:
  • Errata - There are a number of errors in the books that are cleared up in this link.
  • Maps: You can grab copies of the adventure maps (to print out or to get spoiler-free player versions) right from the artist Jared Blando. These are the Hoard maps. These are the Rise maps.
  • Council Scorecard/Cheat Sheet: This pdf from Kobold Press gives you the scorecard and a few pages that succinctly list major NPCs and entities.
  • Villains - This article on the D&D site has extra info on many major villains of the storyline.
  • The Dragon Masks - Jeremy Crawford gave out some extra details on each of the dragon masks.
  • Author's Advice - One of the authors, Steve Winter, writes about how to run these adventures.
  • List of Forgotten Realms Dragons - If you decide to add in a dragon in an assassin encounter or at the Well of Dragons, this is a great list to choose from.
Reviews and Guides:
My articles on Tyranny of Dragons:
This page is meant to aid DMs running the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. It contains notes on information you should know as you prepare each episode. Being able to foreshadow certain things will make your game come together nicely, but I understand that not everyone has time to read two hardcover books and prepare notes accordingly.

Look at the Errata:
The most important thing to check out is this list of clarifications by the author of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. There are a number of typos and misprints that can confuse you, particularly the encounter table in episode 4, which contains events that aren't actually in the book.


The backgrounds in Hoard of the Dragon Queen are good, but they do not link to Rise of Tiamat much at all. You might want to consider adding to or altering some of them.

Option 6: This can easily be changed to include Rise of Tiamat Wyrmspeakers like Neronvain for an elf PC, or Varram for a dwarf PC.

Option 10: This is awesome. The PC is a former gold dragon of Bahamut in mortal form as a punishment. There is a good chance this PC would at least be aware of the metallic dragons in episode 6 of Rise of Tiamat. It might be interesting to say that the PC knows "Elia" the silver dragon. And you definitely should think about incorporating Protanther, the gold dragon (Rise of Tiamat page 59). Protanther is a former "King of Justice" - royalty among gold dragons.

Having a PC want revenge on a dragon works out well. There are a number of dragons to choose from that the PCs face in this adventure:
  • Lennithon: Blue dragon, appears in Hoard episode 1 and then again in Rise episode 7.
  • Voaraghamanthar: Black dragon from the Mere of Dead Men, plays a minor role in Hoard Episode 6 (many people have expanded Voaraghamanthar's role)  
  • Glazhael the Cloudchaser: White dragon who lives in Skyreach Castle, is the big encounter in episode 8 of Hoard. 
  • Arauthator: White dragon of the Sea of Moving Ice is in Rise episode 2. He has a cool story involving his mate, the troubled dragon Arveiaturace.
  • Chuth: Green Dragon, raiding settlements in the Misty Forest in Rise episode 4.
Cylanestriel the Elf Ranger: She is a somewhat well-known hero that could be linked to a PC's background. She appears in The Rise of Tiamat in one of the drop-in encounters ("Fallen Hero" page 7 of Rise).  She is captured by the bad guys and escapes. She plays no major part in anything so you're free to use it how you like.

Elf PCs: Elf characters may want to say that they came from the Misty Forest, as it is featured in Episode 4 of Rise of Tiamat. The forest is being plagued by an evil green dragon called Chuth. King Melandrach rules it (and he joins the Council of Waterdeep in Rise). The King has two sons, Alagarthas and Neronvain (who has gone missing). Roguish types may want to worship Fenmarel Mestarine, elven god of outcasts. There's a small shrine to Fenmarel in Episode 4, and one of my players realized this god is perfect for his character.

Darkhold: If you look on the map of the region on page 4 of Hoard, you'll see a place called Darkhold. It's way down on the bottom right, very close to the Well of Dragons (home of the cult and the location of the finale in Rise of Tiamat). Darkhold is a castle owned by the Zhentarim. If you have any characters in your campaign in the Zhentarim faction, it would make sense for them to know abut Darkhold or even come from there. Seeing how close this place is to the Well of Dragons, there's a good chance your Zhentarim PCs might go there.

Who is Galvan?
On page 9 of The Rise of Tiamat, it is mentioned that the blue wyrmspeaker is named Galvan. The PCs will run into every other wyrmspeaker in this storyline, but not Galvan. It's odd because there is art of him and there is a small wizards article about him. Apparently he is linked to the red wizards.

Basically what you have here is an NPC to use however you like! Maybe you could link him to Lennithon. Or maybe he can harass your PCs from time to time as a recurring villain in the assassination attempts. Give him some spells and lightning powers and you're good to go.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen Notes

Episode 1:

Be Careful: The main issue that people seem to have with this episode is that it is too deadly. As written, your players go through a lot of battles with theoretically no rest time. A long rest is out of the question, as this whole thing takes place over a single evening. I'd suggest having the PCs save some clerics of Chauntea (or whatever god you like) among the rescued, who can use their healing magic on the heroes. Also, place some healing potions where it makes sense. 

The Blue Dragon Encounter is Tricky: In the battle with Lennithon the blue dragon, many DMs placed a ballista on the wall for the PCs to use to fire on Lennithon. This helps give the PCs incentive to actually engage the dragon. Otherwise they may feel (rightly) that they have no chance against it and will not even try to engage it.

Lennithon appears again in Xonthal's tower in Rise of Tiamat, so note any special scars or moments that occur. The dragon can seek revenge later if a PC shoots it in the eye.

The Duel: In the duel with the half-dragon Langdedrosa, it is not important if the PC wins and kills him. The half-dragon appears again in Episode 3 simply as a monster in a room.

That said, this is a very hard fight. Hoard co-author Steve Winter has basically said that the point of this encounter is for the PC to lose and to be humiliated so that the players truly hate the cult. Consider your players before choosing to run this. I just skipped it. If you do run it, you may want to warn your PCs as they size him up that he looks extremely tough and possibly unbeatable so that they know going in that defeat is likely. You may also want to consider having Langdedrosa giving the PC a scar - a permanent memento of their fateful encounter.

The problem with all this is that Langdedrosa is meant to be killed in episode 3. All this build-up for that?

Episode 2:

The Red Wizard: You may want to have Azbara Jos, the Red Wizard, be in the camp. It is mentioned later that he is here. He is a red wizard and a liason to the red wizards. He will later join the caravan in episode 4. It is noted in the author errata that Azbara hangs out in Rezmir's command tent.

The Leader Tent: The adventure wants you to make it impossible to affect the tent of the leaders which is where Rezmir, Frulam, Langdedrosa and Azbara Jos are. You may just want to not even call attention to it to avoid an awkward situation, if that matters to you. Does it matter if the PCs (somehow) kill these people? Let's see:
  • Rezmir: She is the big leader (one of the five Wyrmspeakers), and plays into chapter 6 and chapter 8. She is so powerful that I don't think your PCs can take her down. The PCs might get clever and steal one of her items, like the sword Hazirawn or even the black dragon mask.
  • Frulam Mondath: She is a wearer of purple. She is meant to be killed in Chapter 3. It's not the end of the world if she dies here.
  • Langdedrosa: He is just a dude in Chapter 3, no big deal if he dies now.
  • Azbara Jos: This guy shows up in many future chapters, he's ultimately meant to die in chapter 8. He works for a guy named Rath Modar, a red wizard who wants to use Tiamat for his own nefarious ends.
The Hatchery is Right There: The caves lead to the Hatchery, which is detailed in episode 3. You may want to make sure you are familiar with episode 3 before running this episode, as there is a fair chance your PCs will try to sneak in there. There are guards, but any savvy team can get by that. Episode 2 is extremely short, depending on how your players handle it.

Free That Monk Prisoner: The text notes that Leosin will want to stay a prisoner in the camp. You may want to ignore this. The adventure assumes that he is rescued, and it might be a bit difficult or awkward to work around his absence.

Episode 3:

The Dragon Eggs: The PCs may want to keep a dragon egg (there's 3 total, each containing a black dragon). You should decide whether you want to allow that. The adventure states that if the PCs can keep the egg in warm conditions, it will hatch in a week. In my game, the PCs kept one. I ruled that for now the baby dragon can't fly, breathe acid, or do much of anything. The way they treat it will determine whether it grows up to become evil. Remember that if you are running an Adventurers' League game, this may not be legal. You may want to be clear up front that while you are allowing the dragon at your table, other tables probably won't.

In Rise of Tiamat, there is a paragraph describing how the factions feel about the dragon eggs. I posted an image of it here.

Where the eggs came from is never answered. There is a black dragon in the Mere of Dead Men named Voaraghamanthar who is discussed in episode 6. Perhaps he is the father.

The Roper: That roper in the hatchery is very tough! You may want to make it super-obvious that it just wants food. Maybe have it shoot a tentacle into a PCs' backpack to snatch some delicious rations. The roper feels like one fight too many in this dungeon, which will be tough enough without it.

The Harpers: If there are any Harpers in the party, you may want to have Leosin mention to them to keep an eye out for a fellow Harper named Carlon Amofel. He has a tattoo with the Harper symbol hidden in it. In episode 4, the heroes will encounter him buried up to his neck in the road.

Episode 4:
Rolls At the Start of the Trip: Don't forget to have the PCs roll charisma checks at the start of the trip as detailed on page 37 in the "Recognized!" section. The person who rolls the lowest will eventually be recognized by a cultist. Don't forget to have your PCs try out for a wagon boss. They are really fun and add quite a bit to the trip. Pick your favorite NPCs from the list and run with it!

The Cultists Are Not Detailed At All: Speaking of cultists, you might want to use this cultist generator here.

Two Cultists That Become Important: Also, for some reason a few cultists that are on this trip aren't detailed until episode five. This may be to ensure that they survive the journey. You might want to include them now, as it doesn't really make sense otherwise. One is female, and is somehow related or involved with the cultist murdered by Jamna late in this episode. She is a veteran, and she will want revenge on the PC who was blamed for the murder.

Another cultist NPC who is briefly mentioned in episode 5 is a thief named Larion Keenblade. By episode 5, he wants out of the cult altogether. Maybe he befriends your PCs during the trip in episode 4.

Outline: Speaking of the trip, the caravan stops off in many iconic locations along the way. What follows is my outline on what happens when. It's just how I ran it, feel free to take it or leave it. I had to eyeball the distance between locations in some cases. I have included links to information on each of the settlements in case you want to flesh them out.

Bad Eyesight: I originally ran this using a different route. I didn't notice the "Coast Way", so I used a very indirect route that involved taking the caravan all the way over to Scornubel. I have since updated this map and entry to illustrate the intended journey in the adventure.

The Schedule: The trip is 750 miles long, 15 miles per day. 60 days total. The caravan travels for 8 hours a day and camps at night. The wagons stop every 6 days to let the animals rest.

Baldur's Gate
Day 1: Everything Has a Price (I used Losvius Longnose for this)
Day 3: The caravan begins passing through the Fields of the Dead
Day 5: Animal Abuse
Day 6: Bane of the Mountains
Day 8: Stranded
Days 9-12: Lots of rain and thunder to set up the fungus...
Day 13: Fungus Humongous
Day 16: Trollclaw Ford
Day 20: Roadside Hospitality
Day 23: The Golden Stag
Day 28: Dragonspear (check out Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle)
Day 32: No Room at the Inn: The assassins are ridiculously powerful. This was an error in the adventure, due to the stats of assassins changing during the creation process. You might want to use different stats.
Day 38: Contraband
Day 43: Payback
Day 45: Adventuring Life
Day 47: Spider Woods
Day 49: Recognized! (refer to the lowest PC Charisma check rolled at the beginning of the trip)
Day 51: Gillian's Hill: This place is not on the Hoard map, but it is on the Scourge of the Sword Coast Map (which is way down in Rise episode 4 of this article). There's a shop called "Toreth's Treasures" and a sealed-off tomb with magical wards that you might be able to do something fun with.
Day 52: Daggerford (detailed in Scourge of the Sword Coast. This adventure takes place 5 to 10 years after that one.) You may want to mention Duke Maldwyn Daggerford and his magic blade Lawflame, just to refer to Scourge a bit. You could also have the heroes meet Sir Isteval, who is part of the Council in Rise of Tiamat. Azbara Jos and Jamna Gleamsilver sign on to the caravan.
Day 53: Unwanted Attention
Day 56: Who's Your Friend?
Day 58: Murder Most Foul
Day 60: Waterdeep

You'll want to place the hobgoblin encounter from "Stranded" within the first 14 days or so, as that is when the caravan will pass through the Fields of the Dead.

Episode 5:

When the heroes arrived in Waterdeep, I added in a meeting to introduce NPCs that become important in Rise of Tiamat. I had Carlon Amofel bring the heroes to The Yawning Portal (a famous bar in Waterdeep that has an entrance to the legendary dungeon Undermountain in it). Carlon introduced the heroes to:

Remallia Haventree: A moon elf harper who will represent the Harpers in the council at the start of Rise of Tiamat.

"Elia": A mysterious silver-haired woman, friend of Remallia. She is a silver dragon assuming human form. This is a good chance for her to take stock of the heroes. She will end up taking the heroes to meet with the metallic dragons in Rise of Tiamat.

This is it for Jamna Gleamsilver: Jamna has no further role in this storyline, so do whatever you want. You might want to link her to Rian Nightshade in The Rise of Tiamat, or actually you could make her the Zhent agent who steals the white dragon mask in Rise episode 3. It is noted that the Zhents communicate through winged snakes who carry scrolls to each other, so maybe you can work that in somehow.

Episode 6:

You Can Flesh out the Mere: You should read up on The Mere of Dead Men. Ed Greenwood wrote this great article which gives out a ton of detail on the mere and the dragon in the mere. I REALLY wish I had read it sooner. Here's an example:

"Twisted trees, vines, and thick vegetation cloak the mist-shrouded surface of the cold saltwater swamp. Its air is foul with rotting stenches, and its water is black and opaque. Visibility, given fogs and rolling topography, is rarely more than half a mile.

For flightless creatures, travel in the Mere is slow and dangerous. Its dark waters are deep enough to permit a flat-bottomed skiff to pass, but many small islands rise from the swamp islands tangled with strange vegetation. The overgrown bones of long-fallen creatures lie everywhere. Quicksand is rare but mud all too common. Given the thick growth and frequent need to wade (and flounder), skiff-borne travelers can cover about eight miles in 10 hours.

The Mere of Dead Men is known for its monstrous denizens. Travelers on the High Road skirting its eastern verges often travel for three days and nights without stopping, to avoid camping within reach of "dark, wet, clutching things raiding out of the swamp." Bobbing will-o'-wisps are common night sights from the road. Sword Coast lore speaks vividly of floating islands moving in the Mere, lizardfolk commanded by liches, a penanggalan of monstrous size, drowned ships swarming with sea zombies, gigantic darktentacles, yuan-ti slavers, temples to inhuman gods, giant leeches with bullywug riders, a huge will-o'-wisp that pulses with dark energy, and many other horrors. "

Floating islands! Bullywugs riding giant leeches! Sea Zombies!

A Castle Naerytar Map Handout is Extremely Helpful: You can pick up a players version of the castle map to print out here

Castle Naerytar Requires Careful Planning: When preparing Castle Naerytar - it is a lot to digest. The main gist of this episode is that there is a portal that the PCs will want to go through (it leads to the lodge in episode 7). The magic pass phrase for the portal is on the top floor of the castle. The cultists here have allied themselves with bullywugs and lizardfolk. The lizardfolk hate the brutish bullywugs, who killed their leader.

The adventure seems to want your heroes to pretend to be cultists and infiltrate the castle. It also suggests that your PCs convince the lizardfolk to turn on the bullywugs, so that the exploration of the castle is done while lizardfolk hack bullywugs to pieces. You are going to need to have a good handle on this place. Think in advance on how you will handle it if the PCs want to lead 100 lizardfolk in an assault on the castle!

I cooked up a couple of images which I think will make your preparation easier. This should help you figure out how the bad guys react... it also kind of paints a terrifying picture of what happens if the PCs just try to hack their way in (they are doomed).

Click on the image for a much larger version
I cut and pasted a couple room images to try and give a sense of which rooms I'm talking about.

Remember that the PCs are assumed by everyone to be cultists until they reveal otherwise.

6. Main Gate: In the errata it is noted that this is an error on the map. "5" is supposed to be the moat, and "6" is supposed to be the gate. But on the published map, "5" is at the gate and "6" is missing entirely. The gate doors hang on their hinges.

The portcullis is always up and won't lower more than a couple feet. In other words, the entrance is wide open and cant's be closed off by doors or portcullis.

1B. The Causeway: This is an area where our heroes can get slaughtered. The bullywugs up in 2A. can make range attacks while the monsters from 1C. and 1I. can swarm them. They could also use the...

1O. Archer's Gallery: This area has holes for archers to fire on the causeway. While it has gone unused in the keep, in the face of an assault you may decide to have your monsters use it to teach your PCs a lesson.

2A. Upper Barbican: The second floor has an open roof. The nine bullywugs can chuck rocks and use their drum to put the castle on alert. Remember, underneath this is 1A., where another ten bullywugs and d6 giant frogs lurk.

3U. Observatory: These gargoyles will not join a fight unless PCs entered the observatory. I put this on my map because it came up in my game. There's this magic telescope in here called the Farseer of Illusk. Rezmir uses it to spy on the black dragon in the swamp. If a PC peers through it, they can watch the dragon Voaraghamanthar and learn its' secret (discussed below).  Also keep in mind that if you do like I did and let the PCs visit the dragon, it's possible Rezmir will see this meeting through the device!

I brightened this image. It's easy to miss spotting what the observatory looks like if you go by the illustration in the book, which came out a bit dark in the printing. This came up in my game, as the PCs are thinking about climbing the castle walls at night and entering through the hole in the observatory.

The Black Dragon: The adventure tells us point blank that the PCs should not go face-to-face with the dragon Voaraghamanthar and notes that the PCs will likely encounter this dragon in The Rise of Tiamat. Voaraghamanthar is not used again in either book. It would make sense for him to be there, but it's up to you to work out the details..

In the course of Tyranny, the PCs will fight two white dragons, a green dragon and a blue dragon. I like the idea of the PCs fighting each type of the chromatic dragons over the course of this story. This means I'll likely place a red dragon in the final chapter in The Rise of Tiamat. And I am thinking that this black dragon (and its' secret buddy) can fight the heroes during chapter 6 in Rise, when the PCs are flying on the silver dragon. That sounds like an awesome fight, right? The PCs and a silver dragon vs. two black dragons!

In Rise, the chromatic dragons are flying to the Draakhorn throughout the adventure, so we can say that the black dragons are answering the call and happened to spot the silver dragon flying through the sky.

Major NPCs Are Here: Also in this dungeon is the main villain, Rezmir, and the red wizard Azbara Jos. The adventure tells us that the bad guys should escape, but that it is not the end of the world if they are slain. If your PCs do catch a glimpse of Rezmir, make sure to point out her cool sword (Hazirawn) and she might be wearing her onyx black dragon mask.

The Mask: The masks are what this adventure is all about. The black dragon mask is the only mask that the PCs have an actual chance of obtaining. Remember that the mask and sword both require attunement, which takes a short rest.

There are two other villains who are meant to be slain - the bullywug leader Pharblex Splattergoo (great name) and a snooty elf named Dralmorrer whose ultimate goal is for all non-elves to die. Dralmorrer is in charge of Castle Naerytar.

If Your PCs Are Defeated: You might decide that they are taken prisoner and placed in room 7 (page 60) in the dungeon to be questioned by Dralmorrer, Pharblex and maybe Azbara Jos.

The Basement Dungeon: This is one dull frog dungeon. There's a bunch of bullywugs and giant frogs, and that's about it.  The only interesting part is the trapped chest, where clay pots fall and cause hallucinogenic gas to spread. The gas causes every PC in the room to roll a die each round. An odd number means they jump into water and swim at full move. Even means they go nuts and attack. This lasts for 10 minutes.

Be careful - Adventurer's League discourages inter-party combat (which begs the question as to why this was placed here). You might want to change what the gas does to suit your group. I highly suggest using material from the toad temple in the DCC RPG adventure The Croaking Fane. Specifically, there's a trap/spell that causes a carnivorous tadpole swarm to explode out of the victim's body and attack!

Ramenos: Pharblex's fake religion is apparently a combination of ideas from Ghaunador, Shar and Ramenos. Ramenos is a sleeping frog god detailed in the AD&D 2e supplement Monster Mythology. You might want to check that out and run with it. He has a pretty detailed Wikipedia entry here.

Episode 7:

Clunky Start: This chapter kicks off in a very disorganized fashion. When the heroes first activate the portal, you'll want to read them the flavor on page 63 ("Through the Gate") and then flip to Area 1 on page 64 for a description of the portal stone. Note that it is specifically stated on page 71 that the perytons have a clear view of the portal. Your PCs might be very injured coming through the portal so you might want to say that the creatures are out hunting.

There's a Lot of Stuff Outside the Lodge: Be aware of all the things out there:
  • Three other portals 
  • A kennel that holds ambush drakes 
  • Perytons on the roof of the lodge
  • A patrol of two trolls and three ambush drakes. 
Your heroes will likely need a rest, so they may want to go out in the woods to camp. The perytons might be spotted flying around, or the 4-armed troll named Trepsin may decide to go out hunting. Your poor PCs might get attacked while resting... if this concerns you, maybe have them stumble on a secret little cave behind a waterfall or something which would be perfect for resting in safely.

The Empty Wyvern Stable: Area 3 is an empty stable that held wyverns. You should provide clues so the PCs know there were wyverns here. Let them say "man how cool would that have been if we could have stolen their wyvern mounts?" In the next chapter, the PCs will have the opportunity to do exactly that. This will be a nice tease for later.

The Portals: There's also some discussion about three other portals located here. Each goes to a different place! The PCs will need to figure out how to activate them, but Talis can certainly help them with that.

This could be fun or a disaster, depending on what your PCs do. You might want to just get rid of these portals completely if you are worried your heroes will insist on activating one and going through. If you are OK with that, definitely plan out what happens if they use one.

I am thinking of changing where they go to, to link to Rise of Tiamat, but I am not sure if that would cause problems. As written, the portals go to:
  • The distant north, where Talis visits white dragons (seems like this could be changed to the Sea of Moving Ice in Rise of Tiamat)
  • A heavily-guarded chamber in Thay (easily compatible with the material in Chapter 8 of Rise of Tiamat)
  • The desert of Mulhorand, near a blue dragon lair (maybe this could lead to Xonthal's tower in Rise? It's in the hedge maze where the blue dragon Lennithon is lurking)
The question is whether making these changes will somehow ruin Rise of Tiamat. I'll find out as we go. But considering the fact that the portals can already take a PC to places that are completely undetailed, by linking them to Rise of Tiamat at least you have material to draw from!

The Magic Tapestry in Room 6: Expect your PCs to take this thing. If hung on a wall, you can walk through it and appear in a random location within 5 miles. Parnast is 5 miles away, so this could be a convenient way for the heroes to go there if things fall off the rails (they could appear in a forest and see a huge ice castle not far in the distance). Remember - it's a one-way trip!

Fighting Talis: Get a load of this. If a fight breaks out, she calls for help. Our heroes could potentially have to fight: Talis, a dragonclaw, 2 veterans, 2 gargoyles, a helmed horror, 24 kobolds (!), as well as Trepsin and his 6 ambush drakes. If you're not the TPK type, you can have the heroes taken prisoner and thrown down in room 9. You could do a Metal Gear Solid-style torture/interrogation scene, maybe with Talis using inflict wounds on our poor PC.

Place Notes in Room 18: As suggested at the end of the chapter, you might want to place notes in Talis' room about the flying castle in nearby Parnast as well as probably some fan-fiction about the white dragon Glazhael the Cloudchaser. 

Episode 8:

Parnast: There is not much going on in Parnast. The people are scared and some of the villagers are cult spies. There's one sympathetic NPC - Gundalin the Wheelwright. He'll whisper information to the PCs if given the opportunity.

The Castle is on the Ground: You have a tricky situation here. The adventure wants the castle in the air, but starts it on the ground. If your heroes approach the castle, they'll have to deal with 6 ogres on battlements who will quickly call on Rezmir and her drakes. You could end up in a scenario where the heroes slay Rezmir a bit early. If it is night time, they'll also have to contend with the vampire Sandesyl.

Flying in on Wyverns: If the castle takes off, the PCs can fly on the wyverns (though there are only two of them - and only two medium-sized PCs will fit on each of them). You may want to say there are three or four wyverns in the stable. Remember that if the PCs don't have a banner like the one in room 15 of the hunting lodge, they will be considered enemies when approaching the castle on the wyverns.

Sneaking in: The adventure also clearly likes the option of the PCs sneaking in while the castle is on the ground. There's cultists who bring supply carts full of treasure chests into the cave each hour or two during the day. The PCs could disguise themselves as cultists (though they'll need to learn the password, but that's not too difficult). Or they could hide somehow in crates. The stuff is brought to the kitchen, and then is meant to be carried down to room 25 - the lair of the white dragon! Lots of awesome potential there.
Glazhael the Cloudchaser: The white dragon's lair is really odd. The dragon hangs from the ceiling. As far as I can see, there is no exact ceiling height given. The heroes might enter the area through room 25, which is an adjoining room that is higher up. Basically, the PCs will be on a ledge with a clear view of the dragon hanging on the ceiling. The dragon is dumb, and the adventure says that it can be lured into a tunnel so the PCs can melee it. It flees once reduced to 40 hit points.

What Happens to the Castle Matters: What happens to Skyreach Castle really matters in The Rise of Tiamat. It is powered by the spirit of Blagothkus' wife, and Blagothkus steers it. The heroes have a few options:
  • Kill Blagothkus: If this happens, his spirit takes over the castle and crashes it into The Spine of the World.
  • Befriend Blagothkus: The giant has this odd plan of bringing Tiamat to the world to unite the giants to kill her. If the PCs talk him out of this, the giants can become faction allies in The Rise of Tiamat.
Keeping the Castle: The PCs may want to keep the castle. If they try to make it their home, remember that in the beginning of The Rise of Tiamat, the Draakhorn sounds. This sends all chromatic dragons into the sky, to fly towards the cult's home. That means that there will be all these evil dragons in the air, flying around. They will spot this castle and most likely investigate.

Additionally, having the castle will cause the PCs to miss a pretty cool section of Rise episode 2 in the Sea of Moving Ice, where the heroes sail a ship through the sea in search of another white dragon's lair.

Also, in The Rise of Tiamat on page 11 it is explained that if the PCs keep the castle, a frost giant named Harshnag comes to the council to demand the citadel's return so he can use it to rally the giants against the dragons.

If You Are Going to Run Frozen Castle: If you are going to run the "bonus adventure", Frozen Castle, you are probably going to want to make sure the castle crashes in the Spine of the World. That adventure accounts for the possibility that Glazhael and Blagothkus (?) survive.

The Rise of Tiamat

Episode 1:

The Draakhorn
The Draakhorn: Our heroes are requested to meet with a council in Waterdeep to discuss the Cult of the Dragon. When the PCs arrive in Waterdeep, the Draakhorn sounds. Remember, if your PCs hatched a dragon from the hatchery like mine did, your little baby dragon will feel drawn to answer the call, which could make for all sorts of interesting possibilities.

Meeting the Council: I am thinking of making a little precursor moment before the council meets, where the PCs split up and meet with their respective factions. This way, the PCs can buddy up with their faction NPCs and get a sense of what their faction's goals are.

The section on factions is fairly massive. Here is a concise outline:

Harpers: Secret band of heroes
  • Remallia Haventree: A moon elf whose husband, a Masked Lord of Waterdeep, is killed by the cult "off-camera" (see page 20). She wants revenge, and is one of the major council NPCs.
  • Leosin Erlanthar: The monk our heroes met way back in chapter 2 of Hoard.
Order of the Gauntlet: Holy warriors
  • Ontharr Frume: Friendly, hot-tempered paladin
Emerald Enclave: Nature lovers
  • Delaan Winterhound: A ranger with a winter wolf that patrols outside the city
Lords' Alliance: Leaders and nobles from many different cities.
Laeral Silverhand
  • Lady Laeral Silverhand: (Waterdeep) Has great arcane power. She is one of The Seven Sisters.
  • Lord Dagult Neverember: (Neverwinter) Manipulative, ends up at odds with Silverhand.
  • Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil: (Mithral Hall) Dwarf who doesn't want to commit troops.
  • Marshall Ulder Ravengard: (Baldur's Gate) Leads the Flaming Fist, likes the PCs.
  • King Melendrach: (Misty Forest) Very cautious until certain events unfold.
  • Taern Hornblade: (Silverymoon) Silverymoon has wards against dragons, so he feels less threatened by the cult.
  • Sir Isteval: (Daggerford) The NPC from Scourge of the Sword coast. He has a cane made of green dragon bone.
Zhentarim: Shady mercenaries who want to secretly rule the world.
  • Rian Nightshade: She wants the wyrmspeakers dead.
Get Your Council Scorecard Out: In the council meetings, you track the PCs' accomplishments and how the various factions feel about them. Make sure to read up on how the scorecard works on page 23. Basically, a "+" means plus one point to the final total. "+/+" means plus two points to the final total.

The First Meeting Goes Like This:
Lord Dagult Neverember
  1. Lord Neverember runs down what we know so far, holding his wine glass. Remember that he will lose Waterdeep to Lady Silverhand the second meeting and will not be happy about it.
  2. The council asks the PCs to speak of their adventures and what they know about the cult.
  3. The factions discuss the dragon hatchery from episode 3 in Hoard and what should be/should have been done with the dragon eggs.
  4. The council gives the PCs a writ, giving them "emergency investigative powers" but also gives the council "oversight" over their activities.
  5. A noble named Dala Silmerhelve has a lot to say, and for some reason her boxed texts are spread all over a series of pages. She talks about the Draakhorn and Maccath the Crimson. Use the flavor text on pages 20, 24 and 25.
  6. Leosin has located Varram the White, wearer of the white dragon mask.
Episode 3 is First: The adventure gives us a bit of leeway as to which scenario to tackle first. Going by the outline on page 6, it seems like the adventure wants our heroes to tackle Varram in chapter 3 first.

I was originally thinking of running The Sea of Moving Ice first, but the more I read of episode 3, the more I like it.

Episode 2: The Sea of Moving Ice

Frostskimmer's journey

Frostskimmer and the 40 Guards: Your PCs sail the sea on a boat searching for the dragon's iceberg lair. There's likely to be some encounters: 5 merrow, a few sea trolls (permitting me to use one of my favorite minis - the Pathfinder Sea Troll!) and a few squids. Think about the fact that you have 40 guards on the ship with an AC of 16, 11 hit points and a +3 to hit. Wouldn't they slaughter any of these monsters? Do you want to say they are all cowards, or that they are doing essential ship duties that prohibit them from fighting right away? Remember that according to the DMG, if NPCs join your PCs in a battle, they get an equal share of the XP.

Falling in the Water: The cold water is bad news! Don't forget! DC 12 CON save, fail means the PC is on the exhaustion track (which is a neat little table in the PH on page 291).

The Dungeon Floor is Icy: The slippery ice gimmick adds a lot to the dungeon, especially the upward and downward sloping that is all over the map. PCs will actually be glad they have climbers kits. Prepare yourself for a night full of people saying the word: "crampon".

Maccath the Crimson: Our mission is to snatch this wizard, Maccath the Crimson. She's found fairly early in the dungeon. She wants the PCs to steal some books for her down below before leaving, but your PCs might just knock her out, charm her, or whatever. The adventure says that if the PCs snatch her and sail away on the boat, the dragon flies after them and that the PCs are pretty much sitting ducks on that boat against the dragon with it's breath weapon that does 54 cold damage! Plan for the various outcomes. Maybe foreshadow the doom by having the PCs pass by a ship sunk by the dragon or something.

Arauthator's mate, Arveiaturace
Arauthator: The dragon has appeared in other products. The adventure alludes to the fact that it can cast spells, but does not give the dragon any spellcasting abilities. The mighty Ed Greenwood has a great write-up on Arauthator here. I think you should consider using Arauthator's spells. At the very least, it will help differentiate this white dragon from the one the heroes fought at the end of Hoard. Arauthator's spells:
  • Frost Vortex: A snowflake that explodes into a cold vortex, doing fireball-type damage.
  • Icemelt: A spell that makes tunnels and rooms out of ice with no melting or runoff.
  • Wingbind: A net of force that targets one creature and prevents them from flying.
The Battle: The adventure says that the white dragon flees once it is dropped to 100 hit points. If your group is given the arrows of dragon slaying, those alone will do a good bit of damage. I would recommend using lair actions here as your PCs are a bit stronger and have just come off the experience of fighting a white dragon at the end of Hoard and they will likely be much better prepared this time around.

Frozen Castle: If you are going to run Frozen Castle, you might want to run it right after this chapter. The crashed castle is right here in the Spine of the World. The heroes need to be 10th or 11th level.
Episode 3: Death to the Wyrmspeakers (Varram)

The Trip from Waterdeep: Yep, we're headed back down that caravan road again. You're looking at a few weeks of travel. Boareskyr Bridge is down by Soubar on your map. Take a look at page 181 in the Player's Handbook. PCs traveling at a normal pace can cover 24 miles a day. We're looking at about 2-3 weeks to go from Waterdeep to Boareskyr. Then it's a few days from Boareskyr to the Serpent Hills.

Power of the Cult: We'd better start cycling in the bonus encounters from page 6, right? Why not? I am going to have this one occur on the journey, where a bunch of cultists are hassling a caravan or something. I am thinking that maybe on the way back, if the PCs stop in the tent town at Boareskyr Bridge, I might run the first cultist assassin encounter from episode 5.

The Statues: The statues are awesome but the presentation is a little scattered.
  • Left Colossus: Face smashed, balance in right hand, left hand up in warning.
  • Right Colossus: Young human male, left side of face cracked off, left hand holds a shepherd's crook, right hand up in warning.
The Carved Relief Scenes: The adventure says to make up some cool carvings in the walls that Diderius saw in his divination pool. Here's some scenes from old adventures I am using:
  • A massive lightning hand reaches down from the clouds to pluck a pillar from a desert (this is a scene from an old Al Qadim adventure)
  • A mile-long manta-ray ship with a city on it's back flying through space (this is The Spelljammer)
  • A massive statue of a demon lord buried under a lake, a dungeon built inside it (This is the setting of Monte Cook's "Demon God's Fane" adventure.
The Ghost in Room 9

When roleplaying the ghost encounter, it is helpful to have a couple of her powers handy. When they first encounter her and they say something that makes her wail in torment, maybe unleash this:

Horrifying Visage: All in 60 feet make a WIS save or be frightened for one minute (can't move closer, disadvantage on attack rolls and skill checks) and if they roll bad they may age d4x10 years!

If she wants someone to feel her pain, use:

Possession: One creature makes a CHA save or they are possessed. The possession lasts until the ghost chooses to end it, or the body drops to 0 hit points.

Your heroes will find some scrolls in this place. I find scrolls to be a little confusing. The rules are hard to find in the DMG. There are two types of scrolls:
  • Scrolls of Protection (DMG page 199): Anyone can use these. It gives that character a personal barrier of protection against a certain type of monster for an hour. The monster can try to break through it with a DC 15 CHA check.
  • Spell Scrolls (DMG page 200): The general rules for scrolls are in the DMG index, but this entry is not. You can cast a spell off of a scroll if it is on your spell list and of a level you can cast. You can try to cast a spell off of a scroll that is higher level than you can cast, but you have to make an INT (arcana) check. Succeed or fail, the scroll is destroyed.
No White Dragon Mask

The heroes came here searching for Varram and his White Dragon Mask. Unfortunately, there is no chance of getting the mask. Varram lost it (stolen by the Zhentarim?). As far as I can tell, the cult got it back. Your PCs will have to figure out what to do with Varram. Kill him? Take him captive? He claims to know about cult spies in the council (maybe you can tie this in with the succubus encounter on page 7, "Death at the Council").

Episode 5: The Cult Strikes Back (Encounter One)

I have placed the first of these three encounters here. The initial assassination attempt will take place as the PCs journey home from the Serpent Hills. The heroes come back from the Tomb of Diderius to Boareskyr Bridge and I've cooked up an encounter that I am sharing here just as an example of what you can do, or as inspiration for you to make your own.

These encounters in the book are incredibly vague. Basically, the module tells you to do whatever you want and gives a list of possible monsters that the cult would send after the heroes. It suggests everything from minor cultists to a young blue dragon.

A DM was kind enough to allow me to post his map of this place. This thing is awesome. It is really big... you can save it and use the giant version. Check it out:

Short Version: The heroes party in Bolo's Tenstide Inn. The cultists put some explosive barrels in there. They signal a red dragon, who flies over Boareskyr and breathes fire on Bolo's, igniting the barrels and creating a massive explosion that kills the PCs.

Long Version: The heroes return to Bolo's Tentside Inn at Boareskyr Bridge. The citizens end up listening to the PCs' stories, buying them drinks, playing cards with them and sharing their tales of woe. I figure that many citizens whose homes were destroyed by the cult have ended up living in this tent city. Makes sense, right? Here's three NPCs and their sob stories:
  • Cirnac Nirthau of Iriabor: Halfling Merchant whose home was destroyed during the cult raids by the blue dragon Lennithon. It breathed lightning on his home and the whole place collapsed.
  • Old Man Jarlew of Easting: He says that during the attacks, a woman in purple robes with short black hair (Frulam Mondath) used magic to freeze him in place (hold person). Then, kobolds gleefully stole everything off his person and pushed him over.
  • Javessla of Berdusk: Her husband was captain of the guard. He was slain by a "blue dragon man" in one-on-one combat (Langdedrossa in another one of his duels).
The idea here is to make the PCs feel they are in the middle of something big that is affecting the entire world. Also, to get the PCs to like them so that when the danger is apparent, the heroes might want to save these people from the dragon.

As the villagers try to buy the PCs drinks and swap stories, there is a delivery. A few barrels of alcohol has arrived. The owner haggles the price with the delivery guy (who is actually a cultist in disguise). A PC could help haggle with a charisma check. The delivery dude is impressed by the hero and will give a generous discount. The owner is thrilled and thanks the PCs immensely.

Here's the deal: Those barrels are full of oil, or elemental fire, or some other flammable concoction. The cultists have been lurking at Boareskyr incognito, waiting for the PCs to return. They deliver these barrels and go outside toward the river and fire some flaming arrows high in the sky. This alerts the red dragon in the distance that it is time.

The dragon, Thraxata the Flame Fiend, flies down and breathes fire on the tent, igniting the explosives and possibly killing everyone.

The key here is to give the PCs time and clues to notice that something's not right. Maybe the barrels smell funny. Maybe the PCs notice the flaming arrows. Maybe they hear the beating of the dragon's wings as it flies down to the tent. But there should probably be a slow motion run-from-the-explosion moment happening here.

The heroes can then battle the young red dragon, who will flee when it's hit points drop to around 40. Boareskyr Bridge is guarded by paladins, so they will come to the aid of the PCs probably within a minute. But that's ten rounds of combat.

Using Forgotten Realms Dragons

I chose Thraxata the Flame Fiend because she is an official entity, but as far as I can tell she's barely been detailed. That gives me the freedom to use her as I like without disrupting any canon.

Check out this huge list of Forgotten Realms dragons. You can pick out ones you like to use in this adventure.

Episode 4: Death to the Wyrmspeakers (Neronvain)

The journey from Waterdeep to the Misty Forest
The Journey: The Misty Forest is not actually labelled on the map in Hoard. I am using a map from Scourge of the Sword Coast here, which makes it clear that the Misty Forest is near Daggerford. From what I can guesstimate, it's around 180 miles from Waterdeep to the forest. If your PCs travel 24 miles per day, it's about a week-long journey. Shorter if you decide to have teleportation circles involved. I don't see why Lady Laeral Silverhand wouldn't use her great magic to speed our PCs along. She could teleport them to Daggerford, and then Duke Maldwyn can give them some horses.

Alagarthas: King Melandrach has two sons, Neronvain (the bad guy in this episode) and Alagarthas. Alagarthas appears in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. He is described in that adventure as being unhappy that the elves live only in the forest, and that he wants to spread the elves into civilized lands. He's a pretty testy fellow.

The Trip to Neronvain's Lair: Along the way to the lair, a druid will test the PCs to see if they are worthy of her aid. She has an "awakened tree" lie on her and she calls for help, claiming the tree fell on her. My players smelled a trap and left her there!

If the PCs help her, she gives them garlands that protect the heroes from Chuth's spies. All of the animals near Chuth's lairs are his spies. Without the garlands, the animals will go and warn Chuth that they are coming. So, you might want to have the animals in the forests act strangely and keep in mind your PCs may have the ability to talk to the animals.

Chuth: Chuth, "The Emerald Assassin" is in the D&D Next adventure Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. In that adventure, the dragon can turn invisible and likes to eat elves. The PCs fight it in the rain. It's invisible, but with all the water running off of it, it can be seen. It tries to kill or snatch an elf, and then fly off. It hunts elves of royal blood for sport. It can cast feather fall, shield, invisibility (twice per day).

In The Rise of Tiamat, if the PCs don't have the garlands, Chuth swoops out of the waterfall, breathes on the party, then goes back behind the waterfall to see what they do (its blindsight allows it to see the PCs through the waterfall). I ended up just having an epic dragon fight outside the lair, and it was awesome.

Episode 5: The Cult Strikes Back (Encounter Two)

The book again gives a number of broad suggestions and a list of monsters. The idea here is that the cult assassins try to take out the PCs in a public place. One scenario involves the heroes being in a building when a black dragon tears the roof off and attacks! Pretty cool.

I decided instead to use the yugoloths in the description. My PCs were in Waterdeep, doing a lot of shopping. Leosin (the monk harper) and Ontharr Frume (of the Order of the Gauntlet) were with them, talking about what the heroes had learned from their latest mission. I also had Elia, the silver dragon in human form, watching from a crowd.

A cultist disguised as a beggar approached the heroes, begged for money, then used a "red wizard consumable charm" to summon four mezzoloths and one nycaloth. The adventure says that the yugoloths are mercenaries and can be bought off. My idea was to have a chaotic, fun fight in the Waterdeep marketplace, with NPCs helping out.

Episode 6: Metallic Dragons, Arise!

The Journey to the Nether Mountains: The silver dragon Elia flies our heroes to meet with dragon leaders. The heroes will have to convince/cajole the dragons into joining the council of Waterdeep. Remember, Elia is a member of the council herself, so the PCs behavior could impact her decision.

Ardeep Forest: I started reading up on the locations that the PCs will fly near during this trip, and it's like this bottomless pit of realmslore. The more you read, the more there is to read. The heroes fly close to Ardeep Forest, a magic place protected by The Ladystone. The Ladystone is a magic device that protects the forest from invaders. This obviously screams out for a scenario where the cult is trying to raid the forest and the stone is taxed to the limit and our heroes need to save it.

Dragon Fight: Somehow, all of our heroes fit on Elia's back. She must be bigger than normal. My plan is to have our heroes flying along, when two chromatic dragons swoop toward her and attack! I just like the idea of having a combat where the PCs are fighting a dragon while they are on the back of a silver dragon high in the air. I am going to use Chuth (he got away in episode 4) and Arveiaturace, the mate of Arauthator, because my players thought she sounded really cool. Elia will battle Chuth, while our heroes will deal with Arveiaturace.

Rest on the Star Mounts: The trip takes two days, so I figure the heroes can safely rest on a cave high up in the Star Mounts, which is about halfway to the Nether Mountains. I will have Elia's ally Aerosclugh protect them while they sleep.

The Meeting With the Dragons: This is another of those scenarios in the adventure where you need to do a lot of "unpacking". The whole thing is very loose. The PCs must convince the dragons to join up with the council. The dragons want certain concessions, things that will make the council of Waterdeep very upset.

The Dracorage Mythal: There's one in particular that I didn't know anything about. A dragon wants the elves to apologize for the Dracorage Mythal. What the heck is that? According to the forgotten realms wikia, this was a 250,000 mile zone that, when a certain star was in the right alignment, caused dragons to become violent for ten days. From what I can tell, the Dracorage was created so that the dragons would fight each other and keep them from working together to rule the world. There are a ton of details on all of this on this page on the D&D site.

The Third Council of Waterdeep

This meeting goes down like this:
  • Zhent Rian Nightshade is now sitting next to Lord Neverember. Council doesn't like it.
  • If Neronvain is dead, King Melandrach is full of "cold fury".
  • There are piles of repercussions to the concessions that may have been made to the metallic dragons. Connerad Brawnanvil and King Melandrach in particular may be outraged.
  • Allocate the dragons (see below).
  • Mission - go to Xonthal's tower to extract a cult defector and his dragon mask. Be sure to use the flavor text from page 63 here! Iskander has sent a note to the Council.
  • Mission - go to Thay to maybe recruit some Red Wizards. Red Wizard Nyh Illmych (fun name to say out loud) wants the PCs to come to Thay (see page 75 for details).
Allocating the Dragons

There is a paragraph on page 20 that says the PCs should decide what to do with the metallic dragons at their disposal. But the book does not say how many dragons they have, or what types they are.

I decided to give the PCs five metallic dragons - one of each color. Simple enough to start with, right? The PCs will have to figure out which factions to help out. Each dragon can protect a 100 mile radius area that they are assigned to. The needs/wants goes like this:
  • Lords' Alliance: Each member wants a dragon for his/her city.
  • Harpers: Want a dragon for intelligence gathering (scouting out the Well of Dragons?)
  • Order of the Gauntlet: Want a dragon to guard Elturel.
  • Emerald Enclave: Want a dragon to protect an ancient treant known as The Grandfather Tree.
Episode 7: Xonthal's Tower

The tower is in the Greypeak Mountains to the east. It is actually very close to Parnast. It looks like it is around 500 miles from Waterdeep.

The Hedge Maze: As the PCs enter the maze, be sure to read them the flavor on page 64, where Iskander shouts to them from the tower. It's easy to forget, and it is very important.

Flying: Basically, if the PCs try to fly or climb over the walls, they enter thick, impassable brambles. If the PCs somehow "cheat" to get to the tower, it has no entrances - just smooth impassable stone.

The Sundial: This maze is all about the Sundial. The PCs must figure out which of the eight paths to take on five separate occasions. The sundial offers a different clue with its shadow each time. You should probably print out a map of the sundial area, or draw one. This area can be very frustrating for the players, as the solution doesn't really make a lot of sense. You might want to have an NPC sidekick around to steer the PCs when if they start to get bogged down.

The Monsters are a Bit Weak: Taking a wrong path leads to an encounter area. The only way to get back to a sundial is to find a hidden gem in the area. Some of these areas are very cool. The monsters weren't much of a challenge for my PCs. You might want to use two gorgons instead of one. You also might want to overhaul the Carnivorous Garden, as it is a bit of a drag. Area 6 is particularly easy.. the animated armor is no match for your high-level PCs. You might want to change it to a trap area.

The Tower

How do you get in? The tower is a little confusing. There's a teleport circle at the base of the tower that the PCs use to get inside.

Using the Teleport Circles: Getting from area to area in the tower requires the use of a teleport circle and a wall panel with buttons. You might want to draw the panel on a piece of paper. All of the symbols are easy to draw and it should only take you a couple minutes to do.

The deal here is that the PCs need to get the hourglass key off of Jorgen Pawl. They can touch the key to the hourglass button on the panel. That will take hem to the dungeon level, where Iskander is (spoiler alert: He's dead and his mask turns out to be a fake. Not cool.)

Cosmic Hallway: Read up on this one carefully, as your PCs will likely love it and experiment with it quite a bit. It is a very cool area.

Taraz the Fair: This fire genie is tricky to run. He just wants to be free. PCs may haggle for wishes. You may want to invoke the clause that all fire genie wishes later come under review from the Grand Caliph of the City of Brass as a way for Taraz to help the PCs understand why he can't just throw around wishes willy-nilly.

You may want to expand on the concept of Taraz playing chess, too. My PCs were quite eager to play him in chess (and even let him win). They seemed to like the idea that Taraz needed to win a chess game to be free, so maybe you could do something with that.

The Return of Lennithon: When the PCs finish the tower, they see the blue dragon from Hoard episode 1 attacking the village. He wants the blue dragon mask. Remember that discovering that the mask is a fake will take a while, so the PCs shouldn't know it isn't real.

Episode 8: Mission to Thay

This chapter is ridiculously short. Basically, the heroes go there, have a meal, have a short meeting, and go to sleep. Some of the PCs have dreams that they may not remember (it's a tough save with disadvantage). If they do remember, they had a dream they were interrogated by the red wizards. Remember that this doesn't work on elves. Most of my party was elves, so it was pretty amusing.

This is a Good Area for Information: I used this episode to give the PCs details on Severin, the big bad guy running the Cult of the Dragon. You might also want to detail the blue wyrmspeaker Galvan if you decide to use him, as he has links to the Red Wizards. They can also provide piles of details on Rath Modar if he is still running around in your game. Basically, Rath is trying to buddy up to Tiamat in the hopes that she'll overthrow Szass Tam and install him as the new leader of the Red Wizards.

The Fourth Council of Waterdeep

  • Rian Nightshade, the Zhentarim, pulls the PCs aside and tries to get the hourglass key from Xonthal's Tower. She offers money.
  • The other factions ask for the key shortly thereafter. The PCs get to decide what to do with it, if anything.
  • The heroes get to tell the council whether they've made an alliance with the Red Wizards.
  • And now it is time to tally up your council scorecard! It is pretty easy to get almost all of the factions to join up in the fight against the cult. Check out page 86 for a rundown of the factions and what they offer.
Episode 9: Tiamat's Return

This episode details Tiamat's Temple and the Well of Dragons. The bulk of this episode details getting through the caldera to the temple as a massive battle rages. The dungeon, in my opinion, is very bland. There's a lot of fights with dragonsouls and guard drakes.

I ditched the dungeon. I kept the material on the Draakhorn and the treasure (both on age 82) and placed them elsewhere.

I ran a bunch of encounters outside, in the middle of the epic was with the cult. I had my PCs face cultists, Naergoth Bladelord (page 81), a dragon, a pit fiend and Rath Modar (who was by the Draakhorn). Each round I'd have something chaotic happen, like a chromatic dragon flying down to breathe on the PCs, or Leosin the Monk running up and kidney-punching a bad guy, or a frost giant ally pummeling a dragon, whatever.
The Temple: Tiamat's hell temple is in the center of the caldera. Inside, there's about eleven red wizards enacting the ritual to summon her. Some red wizards are floating 50 feet in the air. Severin is floating even higher up.

There are notes on battling Tiamat as the ritual is disrupted on page 87. Tiamat slowly emerges from the "whorl" of swirling energy in the center of the place as the temple collapses in "ash and bone".

Tiamat's Stats: There's been quite a bit of talk online about Tiamat's stats and whether she is too powerful for any party to handle. The adventure provides notes on de-powering her. The idea is that as the PCs shut down five different altars, Tiamat becomes weaker.
I ran my own version of this encounter, with 5 altars, red wizards, Severin and Galvan. A note on Severin: Use hellish chains! It is very effective in preventing a PC from getting to an altar and raises the tension considerably. Once the PCs shut down the five altars, Tiamat tries to push through the portal as it begins to fade. The PCs must do a certain amount of damage to prevent her from coming through.

In my Tiamat fight, she was still too deadly. Here's some notes:
  • I gave her 315 hit points (once she was at 0 HP, she was sent back to hell). This felt like just the right amount.
  • She had +14 to hit. You could get away with using her max static damage I think.
  • I gave her 3 legendary actions instead of 5, as a single breath weapon utterly decimated my party.
  • Tiamat is interesting, as she is scarier when it is not her turn! She can do so much at the end of other people's turns.
Finishing Up: There's a few notes on the aftermath. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! You finished a massive campaign, it is time to bask in the afterglow and.. err... start working on the next one. Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

The Store I go to will start the adventure next week. It seems that There wont be any chances of me acquiring any magic Items for this one.

I enjoyed your post nonetheless keep them coming.

Sean said...

Anonymous: Thanks! Yeah this does not have many magic items. From what I understand, the Expeditions adventures have many more. Hoard is a lot of fun, though, and there are some cool items to be had, but you don't get them until you're around 6th level.

Anonymous said...

Excellent wrap up and ideas - will use your material (esp for EP4) heavily for home game.

Well done! Keep it up!

Sean said...

Anonymous: Thanks! I will be updating this regularly as I run more... I am reading about Rezmir right now and if it really matters if she dies in Chapter 6

Anonymous said...

Gotta say a very nice and useful writeup!
Bookmarked for use when I start my campaign up.
Thank you :)

Sean said...

Sven: Thanks! I should have Hoard finished in a few days and then I can start working on Rise of Tiamat.

JP said...

Wow and thanks for all your hard work on this. This will be a great addition to my campagin.

And like other posters the Chapter 4 stuff will be invaluable to my table

JustGhant said...

This is absolutely fantastic, thanks!

Sean said...

Neal: You are welcome! I should be able to finish notes on Hoard by the end of this weekend.

Anonymous said...

My question is what is location 6 in Parnast? Any idea? Is it the smithy?

tallen said...

Noooo!!! I thought this was done. xD
Ah well. These notes are going to be SUPER helpful when me and my group starts playing ToD.
What are the odds that by the end of the game I can give out the Dragon Masks? Having a party of 5 people, it seems AWESOME to have each one of us in a DM.

Sean said...

oregonpinkrose: I'm not sure what 6 is... I'll have to look into it.

tallen: At the end, the masks are all joined into a super-mask. I'm not sure if it is destroyed or not in the final ritual. Seeing how it is statted out, I assume that means the PCs can get their hands on it and disassemble it. That seems like a cool idea to have a party the each has a mask.

tallen said...

Would be awesome though. Each of the Party members being legendary heroes having the nickname of the associated Dragon Mask. Just a little Epic Immortality Boon and bam! Legendary party of 5 heroes, each representing a Dragon. I can see enough adventures involving that there alone.

Anonymous said...

Just ran bandit camp yesterday and we had a blast! PCs befriended a talkative merc and thus infiltrated the camp. I had 2 named merc groups alomg with a bunch of smaller groups.
One PC got the main 2 groups brawling and befriended some of the northern mercs grunts.
Our bard befriended lost of people during the celebrations and kept people from noticing the rogue sneaking up to Leosin. Pretending to be drunk and peeing on poor Leosin, they managed to warn him they intended to free him and escape and even smuggled him an (additional) dagger.
The bard charmed a merc and managed to convince him to go uo near the leader tent and bang a drum screaming: the eggs, the Eggs! (merc failed save and bard succeded a persuation roll at disadvantage), at the same time Nerg the merc the befriended early started singing loudly outside the "entertainment "tents being tricked by the bard he would get free entertainment that way.
At that time some tents also started burning causing even more chaos.
This made it easy for the sneaky rogue to approach Leosin with a healing potion and skillfully escape up the cliff wall!

Anonymous said...

Wow, your insight is very much appreciated, and that's an understatement. There's a lot of work and effort there. I'm used to buying adventures cause of time constraints in preparing game day. These books are no laughing matter in the extent of info and it's chaotic appearance. Good job & many thanks for taking the time for sharing all this.


Unknown said...

Pardon me, sir, but would you be willing to share the chaotic table you have for the final battle? My group of PCs shall ne going through that adventure next week, and it sounds fun to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a TON!!
We finished chapter 5 of Hoard last night, and I had the impression that my PC's haven't quite got the picture of whats happening, so I came looking for some help.
Your article is EXACTLY what I was looking for!
A couple minor tweaks and we're right back on track!
Thanks again!!

Please excuse the anonymous comment, I'm at work and don't want to use my work Google account.

PC Suppliers said...

Nice Blog Post !

Steve82 said...

Super informative website and kudos, you are a heck of a DM! Bought and used multiple of your works and really helped designing my campaigns so far. Was wondering, how would you implement Rise of Tiamat as a follow up campaign to storm kings thunder? Would love to hear your thoughts :) (I don't care too much about the time line with my group, so changing dates will be the easiest part).

Unknown said...

Just about to finish HOTDQ.
I've really enjoyed it thanks in part to suggestions from this blog.
Thank you!
One of the things that bugged me and that I tweaked was the lack of prisoners/sacrifices that players should encounter along the way. At the start we have the Cult taking captives who will eventually be sacrificed for Tiamat's sake. But we never see more captives again. Like Castle Naerytar should have a bunch of captives in in, as well as Skyreach Castle. So I added some in and gave the players a bunch of innocent lives to save as well.

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Mrrockitt said...

Wow, some fantastic info on here! Thanks for all your work putting it all together. Will come in very handy as my players set off on the caravan from Baldur's Gate in HotDQ tonight!

Unknown said...

Thank you! Hoard of the Dragon Queen The Hoard of the Dragon Queen is my favorite 5e module.

The Ambivalents said...

This is an awesome write up. Lots of good stuff in here I’ll be using or tweaking in Rise of Tiamat. My players are just finishing up hoard, in Skyreach Castle. I’ll share a couple of thing I did in Hoard. 1: I started the players at 2nd level. This is balanced out later when I got rid of chapters 4 and 5 and homebrewed that section. I placed Naerytar in the Wood of Sharp Teeth not far from Greenest and Elturel. Sent the players to a small town of Gullykin on the southern edge of the wood. Here they dealt with an ancient elven crypt and some shadows, and a banshee. They also discovered the tunnel running underground from the inn, to the woods (Carnath Roadhouse). I did away with the bullywugs and lizard men because they were weak. The cult instead is in league with the werewolves of the Wood of Sharpteeth. The were wolves are rivals of the Urishani tribe of hobgoblins (see chapter 4). The PCs link up with the Urishani and attack the castle, Rezmir , Dralmorrer, Azbara, and the two werewolves Rolf and Mona (F3 and W3 these two ran the inn) all flee via the portal killing the prisoners held underground because they couldn’t take them with. This all culminates with Lennithon appearing and attacking the castle/PCs enraged at the loss of her eggs! (Chapter 3 the PCs smashed the eggs). Epic fight the PCs rolled super hot including multiple critical hits one of which killed Lennithon as she was fleeing. We ran everything after that pretty much by the book. The PCs snuck into Skyreach. I’ve reskinned the vampire Shandrisil Morgia to be way overpowered, but wants the PCs to succeed against Severin so she quietly help them a bit in the castle before slipping away. She’s taken a slightly romantic interest in our middle aged human bard Basil the professor (Indiana Jones) I’ll be bringing her back in rise of Tiamat as an unlikely ally. Her story is that she “loved living so much she was willing to ‘die’ to live forever” she’ll appear again here and there to finally fight beside the PCs at the Well of Dragons

But from here to there I’ll be using what I’ve read here to make the second half of the campaign epic.

Thanks to anyone who reads this. Have fun this is a great campaign if you make it your own.


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