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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - How to Run Storm King's Thunder

If you bought Storm King's Thunder (you can buy it right here) and you are having a hard time figuring out how to run it, this one's for you. I am going to do my best to explain how to prepare and run this adventure.

New DMs: If you are new to being a dungeon master, it is important to remember that you can do whatever you want with this book. The authors are expecting you to change things to suit your style. There is no "wrong" way to run this.

Also, if you're new, don't get stressed out over running this thing. Being a DM is hard and nobody is expecting you to be the greatest DM in the world. The important thing is to always keep things "fun" and to try your best to be fair. If you have time, watch some Dice, Camera, Action to see how Chris Perkins runs his games. He wrote this adventure.

If the group comes up with a clever plan, let them be clever! It's important to find the right "difficulty setting" for your game. You'll probably do a lot of tweaking. That's what we do behind the DM screen, we fiddle with knobs.

The best thing of all about this adventure is that chapter one is pretty straight forward. All you have to do is read it and take some notes, then let your group go nuts. That chapter alone should take you a few sessions and will give you time to find your footing.

I made a guide to this adventure. You can get a pdf of it on the DMs Guild site here:

The Structure

I am going to give you my approach to how I would run this adventure. My way isn't "right" or "better" than anyone else. I am doing this so you can see how you can take this adventure apart and then put it back together to form the adventure you want.

Let's do a quick, basic outline.

1. Nightstone: The group goes through chapter 1. That's very straightforward. The villagers need help.

2. Pick One of Three Locations: Chapter 2 is trickier. The group will have to pick a hook. If there is one place you want to run, just give the group that one hook. For example, I like Bryn Shander. So I would have the group be asked to go tell Markham his sister is dead.

3. Zephyros: Now we fly in the cloud castle to Bryn Shander.

4. Bryn Shander: In Bryn Shander, we go through the frost giant attack.

5. Sort Out Chapter 3: Then we get to the most complicated part of planning this thing out. Chapter 3 is wide open. Ultimately, the group is meant to meet Harshnag (page 118). How and when that happens is completely up to you! Remember, if you like another of the chapter 2 locations, there's nothing stopping you from using it now.

6A. Winging It: If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of DM, then just let the group go where they want and when it feels like it is time, plop in Harshnag.

6B. Planning: If you are like me and you like to prepare, I suggest that you go through chapter 3 and find all the things that you want to use. Then look at the map on pages 74-75 and see where all these places are in relation to each other. Then just connect the dots - make a reason for the group to go from one place to the next. I have already broken down this chapter into quick little blurbs in my Guide to Storm King's Thunder.

7. The Oracle: Once the group meets Harshnag, then they are off to the Eye (page 121). The group will be asked to go to all those burial mounds in chapter 3. I don't like those, so in my version I changed it. Some people online have said they didn't like the idea of desecrating holy sites, so consider your group before you run this as written.

8. Iymrith: The group gets the artifacts and returns to the oracle. They learn that they need a conch. On the way out, Iymrith attacks and Harshnag makes a heroic sacrifice.

9. Find the Conch: In the book, every giant lord has a conch. The heroes will need to go steal a conch from a giant lord. I liked a lot of these areas, so in my version I changed things a little so I can use Svardborg, Ironslag and the Cloud Giant castle in my campaign.

10. Use the Conch: It takes the group to Maelstrom (page 201). There, the heroes hopefully expose Iymrith and get a clue to Hekaton's whereabouts.

11. King Hekaton: The group tracks down Hekaton and saves him!

12. Final Battle: The adventurers team up with Hekaton to take down Iymrith. As written, there's a bunch of NPC giants with the group. That seems a little unwieldy, so think about if you really want to take these NPCs along.


Once that is done, I suggest that you go back through your neat little outline and place clues and ideas. A lot of stuff in this adventure feels kind of out of the blue. I think it's a good idea to let the characters hear about some of these things in advance so it doesn't feel so random. Here's some topics to consider foreshadowing:
  • The Golden Goose Token: I think it would be fun to have the group gamble on The Grand Dame (page 216) during chapter 3. You can watch the group light up when Serissa shows them the token in chapter 10.
  • Iymrith: I think the group should hear legends of Iymrith before they meet her so it's more awe-inspiring and epic when they face her. 
  • The Wyrmskull Throne: Serissa gets paralyzed when the Korolnor Scepter is taken from her (pages 209-210). This might feel very bizarre and random to the group. I suggest having the group learn about the Wyrmskull Throne and how it interacts with the scepter beforehand.
  • Slarkrethel and the Cult: If you can, let the group hear tales of the legendary kraken and maybe hear word of the cult that worships Slarkrethel. This is tricky because this organization is kind of a surprise villain and you don't want to show your hand. I think if you present this detail among a sea of other details, it won't stick out. So I'd say you should present legends and rumors of two other shadowy organizations in prior sessions first to get the group used to this sort of presentation. That way, your inclusion of a mention of the Kraken Society won't stick out.
  • Felgolos: If you are going to use the Cloud Giant castle, you might want to have the group meet Felgolos early on so they'll care when they find out he is being tortured.
  • Harshnag and the Gray Hands: Harshnag was a member of the Gray Hands, now known today as Force Grey. The group should hear about their exploits, so when they meet Harshnag they know who he is.
Remember that your plans are not set in stone. Who knows what weird choices the group will make? Just adjust your outline as you go and indulge the players as much as you can.


Once you start rearranging things, you might get worried about when to level your group. Chapter 3 is so huge that the adventurers could gain quite a few levels. I don't think you need to worry about the group getting too powerful. The giants are really tough. Worst case, just add in another giant to each encounter.

As an example, fighting those 4 ambassadors in Maelstrom seems like a tough encounter for a group of almost any level.

I don't think you need to be concerned if your group ends up at 13th level or whatever.

Deluxe Outline

This would be my plan for the campaign going in. As we played, it would probably change once I saw what interested the players and which NPCs were popular.

What you want to do here is make a skeleton outline like the one above, then go back through it and place in various elements you want to include in your game.

After some thought, here are things I want to make sure I do in this campaign:
  • I want to do some quick, stylized intros right off the bat to introduce the heroes and give them some background links to various things that are important to this adventure.
  • I want to use the white dragon Arveiaturace, as I think she is cool.
  • I want to use Felgolos the bronze dragon (he ends up getting caught and tortured by the cloud giant in chapter 8).
  • I want to build up the legend of Iymrith so the final battle will feel big.
  • I want to make sure Harshnag is foreshadowed a bit so it feels really cool that he is with the group for a stretch.
  • I assume at least one player will want a winged cat, so I'll plan accordingly.
  • We should think about encounters with giants that are too powerful for the heroes.
Before We Start: I'd ask the players to go through the magic item charts in the DMG and pick three items that they want from each chart and write them all down. This adventure is LOADED with rolls on the charts and I want to make sure the group gets items they are excited about and can use.

Pet: See if anyone wants a tressym (winged cat) familiar.

Giant Items: Cook up some more mundane items like those on the chart on page 18. When you roll on this chart a billion times, you're bound to end up repeating dull results quite a bit.

When we first sit down to play, I'd run each player through a very quick scenario. It wouldn't be fully rolled out. There would probably be one roll or choice. Each of these should take just two minutes. We want to get it done as fast as possible so the group is excited rather than bored.

King of the Giants: When one character was a kid, let's say they were in a boat, fishing out in the water on the Sword Coast. Suddenly, a giant rises from the depths and explodes through the kid's little boat. Have them make a Dex check. Fail: Unconscious. Succeed: Cool maneuver.

The giants are Queen Neri and Princess Serissa. Neri likes the small folk and wanted to show the Princess around a bit. Crashing through the little boat was an accident.

The giants apologize and patch up the hero. Serissa takes a liking to the character and asks them to come back to this beach in a week. For the rest of the summer, The character hangs out with the giants. The character can tell them about small folk customs. The giants will teach the character the giant language.

As summer is winding down, one of their meetings is interrupted by King Hekaton. The King is appalled that his wife and kid are talking to a small one. He takes them back to Maelstrom and they never return.

The Gray Hands: So from what I can tell, Harshnag the Frost Giant was a member of an adventuring group called The Gray Hands. This scenario might be good for an elf, because I'm not sure how long ago the Gray Hands were around. It looks like it was around 100 years ago.

The Grey Hands were going to make an expedition into Undermountain, and they needed a torchbearer. That's our hero.

The torchbearer has to go first in the dungeon. The hero will need to make a perception check. Fail: Fall in a pit trap. Succeed: Dodge it and earn the respect of the Gray Hands. Either way, a bunch of cultists and a mindflayer pop out of a side door and ambush the group. The hero may not realize this, but they are members of the Kraken Society up to some nefarious scheme.

Harshnag protects the hero from cultists. There's a moment where the hero will need to stop a cultist from throwing a dagger in Harshnag's eye. If the hero fails, Harshnag loses an eye. If the hero succeeds, he doesn't. Either way, Harshnag doesn't hold a grudge.

The Gray Hands end up being sent on another mission and the hero never gets to work with them again.

Hand of Stone: I want the group linked to the Harpers if possible because I most definitely want to use Moongleam Tower in chapter 4 and on.  I'd ask a player if they want to have a hand made of stone, permanently balled into a fist. It can do damage like a mace or something.

Not too long ago, the hero tagged along with a harper on an adventure. It was either Beldora or Thwip Ironbottom (page 40). They ended up stumbling right into Iymrith's lair through a sinkhole and were captured by her gargoyles. Now, the pair are shackled to a wall. They watch in horror as the dragon uses her magic to turn an orc into a gargoyle.

Iymrith plays a cruel prank on the hero. She makes the hero pick who's next - the hero or the harper NPC. Either way, Iymrith intends on doing the hero next. She starts the process. The hero's hand turns to stone - but then they are interrupted. More Harpers burst in to the room - Zaldar Floshin and Arrow (page 220), Daviana Yalrannis (page 82) and Artus Cimber (page 42).

Show off all the crazy crap that the ring of winter can do. Go out of your way to have Artus utter some memorable turn of phrase, maybe a Forgotten Realms swear like "Dark and Empty" or "Blood of the Lady!" That's for chapter 2 - we're going to use that as a clue for the heroes to discover the son of Artus Cimber. Give the hero a chance to snatch an item or get a shot in on Iymrith. Something to give Iymrith cause to despise the hero.

The Mad Dragon: I love Arveiaturace and I want to use her in this. The hero is up in the frozen north, hunting. The adventurer comes to a clearing and sees a white dragon with the corpse of a wizard sitting on a saddle on her back.

The white dragon is weeping and talking aloud to her master. Her master's ring fell off into the snow and she can't find it. Play up how sad and pathetic she is. The hero spots it nearby in the snow - the wizard's whole rotten hand fell off! The ring is on the hand.

The hero has a choice: Help Arveiaturace find the ring, steal the ring, or just run away. If the hero helps her, she is overjoyed and tells the hero that her master is pleased. Maybe she gives the hero a gift, like a magic item or something. If the adventurer doesn't help, she will notice the hero and chase them off. She will never find the hand and when the group encounters her in the adventure, the wizard corpse is still missing the hand.

If possible, have the character notice a gleam in the eye of the corpse. We're going to reveal that Arveiaturace has some kind of magical link to this corpse. Maybe it really does talk to her in some way.

Slave: Our hero is a slave of the yakfolk. The hero and the moon elf princess Halani Meliamne (page 173) are cleaning clay vessels. Halani drops and breaks one accidentally. One of Kartha-Keya's wives, Nahala, is enraged. The hero knows a whipping - or worse - is about to take place. Nahala asks who did this. The hero has a chance to take the beating for her, a noble act that Halani will never forget.

Whatever the hero's choice, the beating doesn't take place. A fire giant shows up and says that Cinderhild (page 182 - she's the spoiled Princess) wants the hero down in Ironslag.

The adventurer is brought to her. She dismisses her hobgoblin handmaidens. She wants to hear everything that the adventurer knows about the outside world. She gets excited, and decides that both of them are going to sneak out through the adamantine doors on page 183. Have her use the pass phrase.. if the player thinks to make a note of it, good for them!

The hero and Cinderhild creep out but it is noticed quickly that she is missing. The duke releases his hell hounds to track her down. We can do a thing from The Fugitive where the hero can jump into a waterfall to escape the hounds and win their freedom. Make a Dex check: Fail: The hero nearly drowns and from now on suffers from a fear of water (which they will have to overcome in Chapter 10 and 11!) Success: Stuck the landing!


Let's have it where the heroes don't know each other. The heroes are each coming to Nightstone for a different reason, drawing from their background and the list of hooks on page 19. Some of them are coming through the woods, others are on the trail. All of them hear a cry.

Kella Darkhope (page 25) is in the guise of a monk, being attacked by four goblins. Her arm is singed very badly from the lightning breath weapon of Felgolos. In my version of the adventure, she was heading to Nightstone in a Zhentarim caravan. That caravan was annihilated by Felgolos the bronze dragon. She was the only survivor. She's been hiding here waiting for help to arrive. She decided to creep out into the woods to find some berries but it turns out the woods are just as dangerous as the village.

This battle isn't meant to be dangerous, it's just a chance for the players to show off what their characters can do and to meet each other.

From here we can go through the whole Nightstone adventure. Once it is done, but before the group can rest, run "seven snakes" (page 27). The Zhentarim are here and they want to take this place over!

We're going to change it. Felgolos the bronze dragon shows up and attacks the Zhentarim - preferably once the group is about to fight them.

Felgolos has this weird luck thing going on. When he first shows up, I'd have him crash into the church (area 5) and accidentally send the steeple flying at a random person (PC or Zhent). Felgolos fights along the heroes. I like the idea of giving him a luck aura. When the group fights alongside him, their critical hits and misses are enhanced. I'd probably dig up some cool charts or modify the Critical Hit Deck, which was mega popular in my 4e campaigns.

Once the Zhents are dealt with, Felgolos can assume the form of a halfling and make friends with the heroes. He should talk to them about the giants and point out that the giants are everywhere wreaking havoc. He should also point out that all dragons are potential allies, even chromatic dragons.

If you want, run the orc encounter, too. Felgolos can help with that and he will keep watch while the group rests.  

Once they've rested, Felgolos takes leave of them. He assures them he'll be watching them from afar.


I don't really like the hooks to send the group to the different areas. I want the group to go to Bryn Shander. I'd have Felgolos tell the group to go and talk to his friend Duvessa Shane (page 248), ruler of Bryn Shander. She will know what to do about this giant menace. Additionally, the group can take the quest to tell Markham that his sister, Semile, is dead (see page 32).

Soon after, Zephyros shows up. He takes the group to Bryn Shander. For the encounters on that trip, I'd change Operation "Orb Strike" on page 37. I'd use Felgolos instead of the silver dragon. I don't want to confuse the players by introducing too many dragon NPCs, and I really want the group to feel like they know Felgolos so that when they find out he is captured down the line, they will be outraged.

I'd change this so that Felgolos crashes into the castle due to an unlucky gust of wind and maybe one of the heroes or NPCs almost falls off. I think I might also have it where Felgolos spots a Zhentarim caravan and asks the heroes if they want to go blow it up with him. Felgolos flies away once this is resolved. He promises to try to keep tabs on the group and help them when he can.

Bryn Shander

This whole "players control the NPCs" thing is awkward. I think I'd concoct a scenario where the group gets to meet each of them as they enter and explore Bryn Shander.

The cloud giant drops the group off at Bryn Shander in the frozen north. The heroes can go in town and look for Markham and Duvessa.

The group walks around and hears a familiar voice say "Blood of the Lady!" or whatever quote you used in the prologue with Artus Cimber. That character will think that Artus Cimber is here. But he's not. It's his son, Sirac of Suzail. Sirac is doing church stuff and nervously says he doesn't know who Artus is. If pressed, he admits it but asks the characters to keep it under their hat.

Sir Baric (page 249) approaches the group, wondering if one of them is "The Weevil" in disguise. Maybe he's on his horse, Henry. After grilling the group, he realizes he's been rude and apologizes, and explains that this Weevil guy is causing a lot of problems. As a token of apology, he offers the group a yeti-skin coat made "from the finest yeti!" He always keeps one in a saddlebag just in case there's a gale-force wind.

If a hero puts it on, I'd have everyone compliment them on their yeti cloak and give some stupid fact about yetis from MM page 306, like: "My cousin Bort said that the voices of loved ones killed in avalanches and blizzards sound out in the wails of the yetis, crying warnings of ill omen."

I just think the yeti-skin coats are funny.

As this goes on, a PC notices someone is watching them. It's a hooded figure in an alley. This person will try and slip into the shadows, but the group can catch up to her. It's Beldora (page 249). If she was in the prologue, she'll recognize the character. If not, she'll try to lie her way out of it and keep it secret that she's a Harper. She likes to lie, according to her fault.

The group should notice she has some weird gear - a modified crossbow, boots with weird spiked soles, metal claws on her wrists, and lots of thin rope. If they press her, she will admit that she plans on hunting giants. She wants to fire a crossbow bolt with a rope line attached to it into a giant. Then she'll use a mechanism built into the crossbow to reel herself in at tremendous speed, launching herself onto the giant's body. She can use the claws and boots to grip the giant, climb around and stab it in vital places.

I am thinking that for the early levels of this campaign, killing a giant should be a little like Shadow of the Colossus and/or Attack on Titan. Defeating a giant could be a major project involving a lot of cool maneuvers.

I am going to say that Beldora has never actually tried this before, and when she does try, she has a hard time with it. If the group likes it, they can use her gear and perfect the technique. They can become known as expert giant hunters over time.

The group finds Markham (page 248) and they can tell him that his sister is dead. The guy buries his emotions and gets stoic. The group notices Augrek (page 248) watching, concerned. She has a thing for Markham. She tries to console him but is rebuffed with extreme prejudice.

Duvessa comes over and asks the heroes about the giants. She's concerned that the giants are all over the place, causing problems.

Then we do the whole frost giant attack thing.

Chapter 3 Sorted Out

Once that is resolved, We'll deal out some quests. I'm not even going to give out the quests from Augrek or Barick. The group will basically have three places to go:
  1. Explore This Area: Go around Icewind Dale and check out the giant activity.
  2. Hundelstone: Say hi to Thwip Ironbottom.
  3. Waterdeep: For the Duvessa quest and the Sirac Quest.
So now we enter the wild world of chapter 3...

Icewind Dale: Technically, we're already in Icewind Dale. The group is asked to check around the area for frost giant activity. You can read more about the whole "Ten Towns" area here. Here's how this search goes:
  • Destruction: The group finds a caravan smashed. All of the people are dead. Two giants attacked them - they were here looking for the ring of winter.
  • Yeti: The group spots a yeti with an especially spectacular coat of fur! If they want, they can hunt it and sell it for a hefty sum as long as they don't do too much damage to the fur.
  • Dragon Fight: The heroes are tramping along in the snow when they walk smack dab in the middle of a battle between Arveiaturace and a frost giant. This encounter will be partly about just surviving the chaos - an avalanche, the ice beneath them breaks, stray breath weapon. They have the option of helping Arveiaturace, or running, whatever. If possible, have Arveiaturace tell a character to use a certain spell they have memorized. How does she know? Her master told her. Again, we want to play up the idea that there is some kind of weird magic going on with the corpse. She will eventually kill the giant and the group won't have the opportunity to question it. Make sure to narrate the big ise rune (page 125) on the giant's belt. We want to foreshadow those runes for the encounter in area 6 of chapter 4.
  • Another Giant: A huge storm hits. The group needs to find shelter. Of course, this would be the time when the other giant finds them. Let's give this giant the weighted net power from page 246. It wants to question the group about the ring of winter and then kill them. The group is going to have to defeat this giant or escape. The giant will definitely mention Storvald and how he will plunge the world into an ice age, and how he travels in a ship with 20 frost giants.
Then the group can go back to Bryn Shander and tell Markham, whose eyebrows will rocket straight into the sky as a result of this alarming news.

Waterdeep: The trip to Waterdeep should be a pain in the groin. We want to impress upon the group how dangerous travel is now. That way, they will truly appreciate the harper portals and the airship when they get them.

This trip looks like it is about 600 miles! You'll really need to be wary of pacing. These kind of trips can drag down a campaign, as some sessions might feel like "filler" to the players.

Long Journey to Waterdeep

PH page 182 says that the group can travel 24 miles per day, whether on foot or horse. The group might want to take a boat once they get to Fireshear or Luskan. On PH page 158, we can see that ships travel between 2-4 mph depending on the vessel. They can travel 24 hours per day, so that's between 48 to 96 miles per day!

If the group decides to take a ship, you can use one of the ships on page 220. I'd probably use either the Kelpie's Kiss or the Ravenous. Honestly it would be hard to avoid a disastrous encounter with a massive boat full of frost giants.

Detour to Fireshear? Fireshear has the griffons, but I think I would remove that whole idea. For right now, I want the group to get a feel for the dangers of traveling on foot/horse.

Bryn Shander to Hundelstone: This should take a full day. If you look at the map on pages 74-75, you can see that Klauthen Vale is nearby. I want to set up Klauth the red dragon, so we better do it now.

The heroes are making their way down the road, when an airship (page 132) drops out of the sky. It's piloted by the cult of the dragon. They hover 100 feet up and tease/question the group. I think I'd have Delsephine do the talking and play her as a little sassy. Basically I'd give the group a chance to either be jerks to her or be flirty and go from there. Down the line, the group will be working with her so let's establish the dynamic now for future fun.

A frost giant shows up, and the group can team up with the cult to take it down. Klauth himself shows up and hopefully he is impressed with the group. He can use his wands to wipe out the frost giant, if necessary. Klauth asks the group what they know about the giants and he can add that he believes that the ordning has been shattered and that this has the giants scrambling to re-order their hierarchy.

Hundelstone: While the heroes stay here for the night, Thwip Ironbottom will keep an eye on them and see if they are Harper material. I think he should use the expression: "By the clocks of Neverwinter!" if possible. Apparently that's a realms saying, according to the forgotten realms wikia. They can complete the Beldora quest and maybe get a clockwork dog.

The trip to Luskan will take 3 or 4 days. When they cross that river on the map, I'd have some ogre huckers (page 50) launch goblins at the group. I just like the idea of heroes walking along and suddenly goblins are falling out of the sky right at them.

Camping in Ruins: I also want to have a scary encounter where the group may want to hide from the giants. Let's say that it is getting dark and the group spots a stone area partially overgrown with vines that people have obviously used for camping quite often. The group doesn't know it, but these are Ostorian ruins. There is a giant building with an opening that once held a door that is ideal for resting in. The walls contain carvings that are clues to the history of the giants and the ordning. There are also clues that there is a secret stash of treasure here. Maybe there are carvings in the walls of all the different giant runes (shown on page 125).

Let's say that there is actually a secret compartment in here with ancient magic items in it:
  • A potion of giant size (page 236).
  • The orb of the stein rune (page 235).
That night, cloud giants show up. They are looking for the trove of dragon magic! We'll give them the fling and wind aura powers from page 245. To display that some cloud giants are good and some are evil, let's have one of each. The group will need to do some serious hiding as the cloud giants scour the ruins. They can overhear them talking about Countess Sansuri and whether or not she is mad. They are going to read the carvings on the walls and they realize that there is a treasure trove here. They will end up going right into the building.

One giant is nice, the other is a bully. The bully doesn't want to kill the adventurers, but he might want to see how far he can fling the ones who give him lip. If a hero uses the potion of giant size and beats up the bully, he'll apologize. The other one is happy to see the bully get what is coming to him, but won't let the group kill him.

Luskan: (page 98) The group gets here after the frost giants attacked it. There's dead frost giants floating in the water and burning ships in the harbor.

Luskan to Port Llast will take about three days.

During this trip, let's do the horse-drawn wagon encounter (page 71). I'd have the guys get loud and drunk, and have a hill giant show up. The group could offer the giant some food or attack it. The giant will have a crude tattoo of the Haug rune and can say that Chief Guh wants to marry him so he is getting as far away from her as he possibly can.

Port Llast: (page 104) This place is being attacked and plundered by frost giants! Yikes. The group can actually sneak on their ship and steal some loot. They could also make their way through the fog and take down some giants. This might be a time for Felgolos to show up and help the group beat up some giants.

If possible, once it's all over, have some old fisherman tell the group the legend of Slarkrethel, a spellcasting kraken. He hopes to catch the kraken on his line someday.

Neverwinter: All right, it's time to let the group use that Harper Tower. This travel stuff will get old quick. While in Neverwinter, the group can impress Sandyse Thunderquill (page 118). Let's have a big bar fight, where Sandyse and the heroes are on the same side. Maybe she's being harassed and the group comes to her aid. Maybe she wins a drinking contest and the drunk sore loser tries to beat her up.

Let's use the Fallen Tower Tavern, that looks like a cool place. This bar is a neutral ground where orcs and citizens both visit as customers. Spirits of the dead swirl around in here - an aftereffect of the Spellplague.

The point of all of this is that Sandyse is impressed and decides to bring the group to the Harper Tower, using her teleportation circle.

Moongleam Tower: Here, the group can meet the Moonlord Davianna Yalrannis (page 82) and Krowen Valharrow (page 60). Make sure that Krowen rambles about the sequester spell and how he wants it to hide his treasures. This is done to foreshadow the piles and piles of sequestered treasure in Iymrith's lair on page 229.

The Harpers can teleport the group to Waterdeep.

Waterdeep: We have two quests to deal with:
  1. Find the loot from the wrecked ship.
  2. Talk to Lord Roaringhorn about the Ring of Winter.
Additionally, the people of Waterdeep are more than a little alarmed about the cloud giant castle that is hovering over the city.

At Lord Roaringhorn's party, I think it would be cool if an NPC from the Acquisitions Inc. game was here. He's a goofy wizard named Flabbergast and he has a cat named Mr. Snibly. I think you should have it where Flabbergast has two sips of a drink and he gets very drunk. He'll slip out of the party.

Once the group deals with Roaringhorn, have Mr. Snibly urgently try to get the group to follow it. The cat leads the group to a dark street. Flabbergast is standing there, drunk, waiting for something. The cloud giant castle is directly overhead.

Here's what happened. Flabbergast has a bag of beans (see DMG page 153), and he knows that sometimes a giant beanstalk comes out of a bean when you plant it. There are a lot of possible random effects that can happen. He found a patch of dirt here and he drunkenly planted ALL OF THE BEANS AT ONCE.

Right then, all of the effects go off:
  • A bulette (MM page 34)burrows up and attacks.
  • 8 shriekers appear.
  • A fruit tree grows, with fruit that has powers of magic potions. Let's have some be water breathing (DMG page 188), as they'll need those for chapter 10. We could do one invisibility, one invulnerability and one vitality (all on DMG page 188).
  • d4+8 pink toads appear. Touching them turns them into a monster of the DM's choice. I am thinking rust monsters! MM page 262.
  • A beanstalk grows and rises all the way up to the castle.
Some guards might show up to help out. Remember that the guards in Waterdeep all wear helmets that magically modify their voices so they all sound the same.

Flabbergast is wasted so he's got the poisoned condition. Once this situation is dealt with, the group can go up and see what the deal is with the cloud giants. This is detailed on page 113. They're cartographers, so no real danger up there.

This should get the attention of Laeral Silverhand, ruler of Waterdeep. She will want to meet with the group and see what they've learned. She will ask the adventurers to seek out a legendary adventurer - Harshnag the frost giant. She says that the group can find him near Yartar. The Hand of Yartar (page 115) should know where he is.

The group can use the Harper teleport network to go right to Yartar.

The Gambling Ship

In Yartar, the Hand says they can arrange a meeting with Harshnag in a day or two.

Someone else is in Yartar - Felgolos! He's in his halfling form. There are Zhentarim up to no good on a gambling ship called The Grand Dame (page 216). This place is extremely important in chapter 11. I want to use it now so that when the group sees the token in chapter 10 they immediately recognize it.

Felgolos wants the group's help. He'll offer them loot if necessary. Lord Drylund is not on board! He's off doing Kraken Society stuff! We don't want to short-circuit the plot.

A bunch of Zhentarim scoundrels are on board, and they are going to rob Pow Ming. Remember, if the group cheats at a game, Pow Ming will use detect thoughts on them.

Felgolos's weird luck kicks in and he hits a massive jackpot. Pow Ming thinks he must be cheating. Then, Felgolor's bad luck kicks in. He drinks a weird, exotic fruit drink. It turns out he is allergic to it. He starts throwing up over the side and accidentally assumes his dragon form. All he can do is vomit. He's a prime target for these Zhentarim scoundrels, who utterly hate him for all the attacks he's made against them.

People panic/dive overboard/faint and the Zhentarim attack. It is up to the group to stop the Zhentarim now in what should be a ridiculous, chaotic battle.

Once all of that is resolved, Felgolos will need a night to shake off the allergic reaction. Then the next day he can take flight and find Harshnag, who is wandering the Dessarin Hills to the south.

The group can meet up with the giant. Harshnag wants to take the group to see the Oracle. That brings us to Chapter 4.

The Oracle

To save time, let's have Felgolos use his Frame Teleport spell from older editions:

(lvl 6) Frame Teleport: You can link two wooden frames (mirrors, windows, etc) and pass through them. This portal lasts a few rounds.

They can pass through a window frame in Yartar and appear in Mirabar. From there, the group will have to travel deep into the Spine of the World mountains. This trip is detailed on page 121.

Felgolos will bid the group adieu - he's got Zhentarim to mess with. The group doesn't know it, but he's about to be captured and tortured by the cloud giant Sansuri.

We could stick an encounter in on the way to the Eye. We could do "Battlefield" (page 69), the one with dead giants and barbarians. Maybe some of them have become undead. Zombie giants! That might be fun.

We should also use this time to try to get the group to like Harshnag. See page 120 for how to run Harshnag. He could do stuff like:
  • Tell them amusing stories about the Gray Hands.
  • Work out cool battle maneuvers with characters. Maybe he throws them at a giant or something.
  • He can explain the giant runes and how there are rune magic items.
  • He can talk about the wyrmskull throne (page 237). We specifically want to mention the korolnor scepter, how it is linked to the throne and how you can get paralyzed on the throne. That way the group understands what is going on when Serissa is paralyzed in chapter 10.
  • He can show off Gurt's Greataxe (page 234). Remember, it glows when it is in really cold places like this one.
Then we get to The Eye of the All Father on page 121.

Alterations: I don't like the whole burial mound thing, so I'm going to remove it. I'm going to say that only one giant lord has a conch. The rest were lost or destroyed or whatever.

So when the group communes with the oracle, instead of sending them to the burial mounds, he will demand that the group retrieves giant artifacts that Storvald has hoarded at Svardborg.

The items:
  • The boulder on page 103.
  • The ring on page 105.
Waiting outside is Klauth's gift: The airship! Page 134. The way the group treated the Cult of the Dragon earlier in the campaign will obviously come into play now.


The group can go to Svardborg now (page 155). We're going to make a couple of changes to that chapter. We're going to put the giant artifacts in area 1G. We're also going to put the severed head of Arveiaturace's dead master there, too!

Apparently, the giants fought her recently and cut off the head of the corpse. So.. the group gets to room 1G, they get the stuff, and then the ship full of 20 giants shows up. They see the severed head and they've been clued in that it is possible that there's some kind of magic to this dead thing. Arveiaturace can be contacted through it!

So, as the group tries to survive this insanity, Arveiaturace can show up, tee off on the giants and help the group get through this thing. 

Now the group has the items and can head back to the Eye. They're flying on the airship and they hear terrible cries - it's Felgolos being tortured! The castle of the cloud giants (page 187) is just a mile away.

The group can go save him if they like. He will be forever in their debt. He's hurt bad, and will need to go off to rest for a while. 

Then we fly back to the Eye, hand over the artifacts, and the Oracle tells the group to get the conch from Duke Zalto at Ironslag (page 201).

On the way out, the group has the encounter with Iymrith. Harshnag holds her off and the group can escape.

Now that  the group has the conch, they can teleport to Maelstrom when they're ready. 

The Rest

We play through that stuff. Serissa has a clue - the token with the golden goose on it. The group will know exactly where it's from - The Grand Dame in Yartar!

They fly there on their airship and go through that whole boat encounter (page 216). This time, Lord Drylund is on board. The adventurers can learn from Drylund that Hekaton is being held prisoner on The Morkoth, a ship that can't be scried. Then Drylund dies, killed psychically by Slarkrethel.

The group can take the airship to go try to find the Morkoth. Along the way, maybe we could throw in the manticore encounter on page 135.

The group finds the ship and has that whole epic battle (page 221). If the group likes Felgolos, maybe have him show up at a convenient time for a dramatic assist.

Once Hekaton is saved, the group can use the conch to go back to Maelstrom.

Iymrith: There, the group can set things right and prepare for the final assault on Iymrith's lair. I say replace two of those storm giant NPCs with Felgolos and Harshnag.

Then we go through chapter 12! The final battle with Iymrith.

So there you go. I hope something in here gave you some ideas. Good luck!


Aaron Good said...

I really liked the section on foreshadowing. It's a great resource to have a list of things that you should be adding in earlier in the adventure!

Sean said...

Aaron Good: Thank you! That kind of thing is easy to forget, so I made sure to talk about it as much as possible.

Zingbob Co said...

Hey Sean! This is great, super big help, but I was wondering: Do you have any recommendations for what to do with Felegos if you have a Zhent member? I was thinking of setting the Zhent member on a secret mission to persuade Felegos to stop taking down Zhent caravans. Any ideas based on this? I really would like to run your constant returning of Felegos, but I'm a bit unsure how to solve this quandary without limiting player options.

Sean said...

Zingbob Co: Yeah that is pretty tricky. I guess you could do a thing where the PC is trying to convince Felgolos to stop. Or actually the best bet is just to trade outh the Zhentarim. So we could say that Felgolos hates one of the elemental cults, like the fire cult from Princes of the Apocalypse. So we can just reskin some of the Zhentarim and make them cultists.

It kind of depends on your player. If they're flexible, you could run it like Felgolos is trying to turn the character to his point of view. Meanwhile the P is trying to convince Felgolos that the Zhentarim do good things. Maybe there is a splinter faction inside the Zhentarim that is really evil and even the character wants them wiped out. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Hey Sean, love all the guides! They are a very helpful resource every time. Any idea if this will be a pdf per chance? :)

Sean said...

Joe Crase: Thank you! I just put the pdf up on the DMs Guild:

Reese Laundry said...

I picked up the Guide on DMG - a beast at 60 pgs, but haven't had much chance to read through it. Is it a combination of this "How to Run" post and the other Guide post then?

Sean said...

Reese Laundry: It is indeed a combination. Thanks!

Reese Laundry said...

Gteat, thanks for clarifying. Looking forward to digging in deeper.

Reese Laundry said...
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Chaosvii7 said...

Do you have any suggestions for making Chief Guh and her dungeon more interesting? My group says they intend to engage all of the giant lords (and some extra ones I'm throwing in), but Guh just seems like she has nothing going for her besides that she managed to beat all the other women in her tribe(clan? village?) out and took it over. Moreover, I'm not a big fan of the "so gluttonous they can't do anything because they're morbidly obese" trope she's emulating, it makes her feel like too helpless of a character to me and, quite frankly, plays upon my own insecurities quite well (the being helpless part, not the really fat thing).

Sean said...

Reese Laundry: I hope it is useful. Thanks!

Chaosvii7: Hmm. Alternate schemes. How about:

Dragon Genocide: Maybe Guh thinks the most impressive thing is to do is to kill dragons. That actually might be really cool. The hill giants are assaulting dragon lairs, killing them and stealing their treasure. They are dumb, so they are easily tricked out of the loot, I'd imagine. You'd have dragons uprooted, being a real problem for towns that never had to worry about dragons before. The hill giants might be armed with stolen magic items and the heroes might get to team up with a dragon or two to take down the hill giants. What would be really nutty is if the group teamed up with both a chromatic and a metallic dragon, who try to get along until the hill giants are dealt with.

Magic Runes: The giant runes aren't really fleshed out in the book. We could say that somebody, perhaps the ghost of a giant, decided to teach guh how to make rune tattoos that give giants special powers. We can use some of the runes on page 7 like the death rune, the war rune and the dragon rune. We could say that these magic runes each give a hill giant a special power that they can barely control. Maybe the dragon rune lets them turn into a dragon, the death rune lets them fire off a deadly beam of energy, and the war rune gives the giant the power to telekinetically send huge boulders in the air to crash down on towns like a meteor. Guh is the only one who can make these rune tattoos (which only work on giants), so killing her will end the threat.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

So the idea about Felogos was brilliant! My group was slowly working their way through the town dispatching goblins without breaking a sweat till they got to the guard tower on the east edge where a single goblin was playing with her shiny amulet. I played it like a Golum type event. So the warlock was like "I've got this one!" and she walks up and tries to steal the amulet from the goblin. Goblin makes a dex save to keep the amulet, draws her sword and swipes! Critical Hit! Not only a critical but a max damage critical! Warlock drops like a stone.

So now we're 3 characters - no healers! - and a downed warlock. They decide to head back to the inn to take a rest. Well, I decide this is the perfect time to introduce the Zhent team. So as they are dragging warlock across the square the Zhent's roll up since the players left the drawbridge down and unguarded. They block the players path to the inn, but in doing so leave the bandits all in a tiny line.

As written this would be a slaughter, instead I introduce Felogos at this point with a lightning breath flyby which utterly destroys the entire Zhent team who had kindly stood in perfect alignment. The players loved this save-from-certain-doom and really enjoyed the roleplay with the dragon, who turned into a halfling for the discussion then tried to fly away with a big ol' bag of freshly made "steak" sandwiches (our wizard is a bit of a chef - don't ask, and don't go into the barn...) in his teeth while flapping his arms to fly. With an embarrassed grin he turned into a dragon and flew away. The players LOVED the dragon and have a great time with further encounters I'm sure. They said things like "ok, that dragon was cool, hope we see him again!" This will really setup the captured scene later to be super powerful. Thanks for such a great hint.

Sean said...

Anonymous: Wow, awesome! It is really cool to hear that idea play out. Now they should get really pissed when they find out he's being tortured. Sounds like you are running a great campaign. Did your warlock live?

Unknown said...

I love this guide! It will help alot but there is still one area that the original adventure is short in & the guide also doesn't cover. The attack on Bryn Shander. Yes it says it's tough & the party has to be clever but the adventure gives no advice/clues etc on exactly what the party can do. There's no advice on things they could use in the town, any equipment or people to help. Yes they are given some NPCs but no advice on how to use them. It's very much a "you are on your own, DM" moment in the book. I'm running it tonight & I am pretty sure my party is going to die, knowing them PLEASE HELP.

Sean said...

Jefferson Dunlap: I emailed you a response, it was probably too late. Was that you who asked Chris Perkins about this on twitter? His response was pretty illuminating. He said that the encounter is not meant to be scaled and that the group would need to "hit and run" to survive. Your group really needs to know that in advance, as they may be under the impression that everything in the adventure is scaled to their power level.

Tyler said...

Thanks for providing yet another invaluable guide. I will be buying it from DM's Guild so i can keep showing my support. I have all your guides so far. Your top 5 DM section is what keeps me going on those days i just dont have the motivation and each time i read it i get super pumped to continue my homebrew creation and continue to hone my skills through the published books. Yours is the best site by far. Cheers.


Sean said...

Tyler: Awesome, thank you! When you say top 5 DM section, do you mean the '5 greatest DMs in the world'? I am really glad it helps, being a DM can be a real rollercoaster. Don't give up! DMs are a rare commodity and you are needed. For some reason, very few people want to DM. Thanks!

SkullAndScimitar said...

Thank you so much for this and your Guide to Storm King's Thunder. I'm going to run it pretty soon and you can't imagine how valuable it is to read through someone else's ideas for this adventure. I was overwhelmed by all the locations, NPCs and potential events but I think now I'm a bit more confident.
What you do is great!

Sean said...

SkullAndScimitar: Awesome, thanks! I'm glad it was of use. It's definitely an intimidating book to try to tackle.

Unknown said...

Hi, Sean!
New reader here. I want to say thank you for your phenomenal job. Your articles on D&D lore helps to save time and they are full of interesting pieces. And your reports on sessions are inspirational.

Currently i'm running SKT for one player. Yes, it's weird, and may sound lonely. But what's you gonna do if the only regular player you've got is your girlfriend?). And i wan't to say thank you for this guide! It gave me so much inspiration and interesting ideas to play with. I like the foreshadowing part, and Felgolos. Damn! It was a longtime dream for my girlfrind to have a dragon friend in D&D, but i didn't know how to wrap this up!

p.s. sorry for my English i'm not native ^^

Sean said...

Max Z.: Solo games are awesome! It's like a movie... you can get a ton done, you are very comfortable and not self-conscious at all, you can really dig in and do some serious role-playing. One of the best campaigns I ever ran was a solo game. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Sean: You are right! As soon as I started to think about player's character as of book or movie hero, and realized that fights should be more tactical and epic (cover, landscape, most monsters are one-shot minions, etc. ) everything falls into place.
Who knows maybe one day I will start my blog and share my thought on running 1-on-1 d&d compaigns.

Unknown said...

Hi Sean, I've found this guide and your overview of SKT to be really useful, so thanks a lot for all of the effort you've put in!

I'm about to start running this next month (first time DMing a full campaign ever) and am very excited about using the prologues you suggested for each character, but I have six players, so I was wondering if you had any ideas for a sixth prologue? The one character I haven't assigned a backstory to is a Tiefling Bard if that helps, but it doesn't have to be that specific. My initial thought was that it could have something to do with Klauth, but am not sure if that is getting a bit old at this point with two other back stories also involving dragons, so any input you have would be very much appreciated. :)

Sylien said...

You, my good friend, are a saint. I'm gonna be running this adventure this summer, power running it in fact, 2 times a week for 4 weeks, and we wanna get as far as possible. This guide is gonna be very valuable to me!

Unknown said...

So I've been running this game for about 5 sessions now. I feel like as a DM I need to be doing more fun and more foreshadowing. I am trying to get the group into Yarter to run the Kraken's Gamble DMs Guild module for foreshadowing. What I REALLY love though is what you did with Felegos. I'd love to integrate him into my campaign. However I didn't use him when the CotD visited Zephyros's tower. How could I insert him in a clever way now? The group is currently chasing the fire giants Okssort and Ildmane from Triboar and have tracked them into the Evermoors for a show down. I think I will stick your ruined tower as a campsite in the Evermoors, but again, trying to figure out how to stick Felegos into the mix? Or perhaps I swap him out for the Silver in the Zephyros's tower encounter? Thanks for everything you do. I hate that sometimes I forget to come back to this article because it is, so damn good.

Sean said...

Brian Engel: Maybe you could have the group stumble on a fire giant bullying Felgelos, who is injured. The group could save and befriend him. Or, they get into a tight spot and he saves them? Thank you, I am really glad this is useful. I hope it goes well!

SkyDK said...

Hello Sean,

Great work!

I have faced another challenge in my campaign.

Part of the challenge is that I didn't read your blog first, so I hadn't done any foreshadowing.

Second part of the challenge is that my group of players have ALL decided to be the quirky NPC you'd pick up in CRPG (so they're all not the hero you need, and definitely not the one you deserve). This leads to part 3 of the challenge:

During their interactions with the oracle, the characters managed to learn just about nothing at all except the very next step. Hence when they made it to Maelstrom (after some nifty gimmicks in Svardborg), they were entirely clueless to the dynamics of most things.

So far, I managed to have them a bit on track by having the high WIS characters pick up on some tells and some kinda shady behaviour. They've also managed to chase Iymruth out, but they don't have an inkling, a shade, the faintest notion of an idea of what Iymruth is (besides a treacherous storm giant). Do you - or any of your reads - have some cool ideas on how to tie these pieces together?

My current proposal is to have them realign with a former character that can feed them some intel. It just feels a little too Deux Ex Machina.

AT_Teddy said...

Hi Sean! Just want to say I love your work. My only problem is that once the heroes get to Duvessa Shane she doesn't know what to do about the giants either. Despite Felgolos telling them that she would know what to do. I was hoping I could give her more information to give the party so at least it doesn't feel like a dead end or a useless endeavor. Or magic items. But I'm not sure what Duvessa would know.