Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Hoard of the Dragon Queen Episode One, Part One
Steve as Gatt (Gnome Rogue & Spy)
Alex as Mablung Raventree (Half-Elf Wild Mage & Noble)
Lee as Gesh (Dragonborn Fighter & Acolyte)
Jacob as Willen aka Mockingbird aka Father Benjamin (Human Thief* & Charlatan)
Vinnie as Joggi Hvolner (Dwarf Monk & Outlander)
In the character creation session, we came up with the backstory of the cast. The Sword Coast is suffering raids from dragon-worshipping cultists who are disorganised and stealing things rather than pursuing any agenda that the players know of.
Gatt is the indentured servant of the Raventree family, acting as a servant to Mablung and directing him towards a town he has had prophetic dreams of in flames. Mablung is looking for his mentor’s daughter Talis who is in the area. Joggi and Gesh have been on their respective pilgrimages which were affected by the cultist raids, joined forces and then met Legit Priest(™) Father Benjamin. The only one who knew his true identity was Gatt, who ran some cons with him in the past. The group stuck together while travelling to the Greenfields region, so that they would be able to work together and deal with any cultists.
The evening was beautiful with a full moon, a clear sky and… thunder? The group started looking for signs of lightning in the empty sky not noticing a hoard of fleeing animals running towards them. Gatt hid up a tree and Gesh only noticed the event when a deer banged into his armour, shook the stars from its eyes and then carried on fleeing. The first rolls of the group were to avoid the attack of the animals, something most of them managed to get past. Realisation started to dawn on them (the Intelligence stat was not a priority for most of the group) that the animals were fleeing from their destination; the town of Greenest. Lightning struck across the sky, but it was acting weird, jutting up and over the trees. Not just that, but they started to hear the noise of screaming.
Greenest was in flames when they entered the edge of town (Point A on the map). Buildings were being set light to by cultists and mercenaries. Townsfolk were fleeing, mainly uphill towards a massive keep which seemed to be protected from the very next thing they saw; a massive blue dragon. The dragon was circling the town, lightning-breath ripping into buildings, instantly frying anyone who caught a stray strand of electricity.
The blue dragon of course gave the group a moment to wonder if going near the town was worth it or if they should flee and pretend they were never there. Their fear-based paralysis was stopped when the gang saw a couple defending their children from horrible dog-sized reptiles. A flying dragon-dog dive-bombed the father and left him to bleed out on the floor. Morals and hero complexes finally kicked into gear and the characters charged into combat. Gesh was a defence-based fighter and found a spot between the mother and the dragon-dogs. She was holding her own, but using a broken spear as a weapon, so it was only a matter of time until she died.
Mablung started shooting bolts of fire at the flying dragon-dogs, while the grounded ones were blocked from their attacks by the party. The characters hadn’t experienced these creatures before, being that they were a more thematic replacement for kobolds. That made it great when the flying dragon-dogs started spitting acid at the party. Mablung took the flak from them, drawing attention with the flame bolts. One of the children was hit and the group weren’t going to stand for any of those shenanigans. Gatt shoved one of the children into the mud and took his place in the melee. “Father Benjamin” grabbed one of the children and ran away from the fight, earning Inspiration for his background. This was a man dressed as a priest abducting a child and hiding in a bush with him so he ended up hiding from both town guards and cultists alike. From where he was stood, he could see that there were tons more cultists and dragon-dogs than the ones the group initially saw. This town was in utter chaos and falling fast.
The other party members managed to fend off the remaining dragon-dogs and the mother of the children, Linan Swift, explained that they were looking to hide in the keep. It, the mill and the temple to Chauntea were the only safe places. The group tried to sneak through the streets to get there and most of them made it there. Gatt and Mablung were distracted by some cultists smashing apart a tavern. Mablung attempted to cast a spell to send the cultists to sleep and stop their looting. Mablung’s wild mage nature surged up, teleporting him and Gatt to another dimension** for six seconds, during which time the rest of the party declared them dead and left.
Joggi and Gesh made it to the keep shortly before Father Benjamin and the child he rescued. The trio were let in by Escobert the Red, a dwarf with a set of giant keys strapped to his back. He was the castellan of the keep, while Governor Tarbraw Nighthill was acting as a kind of makeshift general, full of minor wounds, enthusiasm and foul language. Nighthill showed off the defences of the keep; people with bows on the battlements, small shelters for the few times the blue dragon’s lightning got over the wall and a lot of scared villagers. The characters had appeared competent to the governor (somehow), so he asked that they head to the basement of the keep and try to force open the old, rusted hidden entrance to the keep. It used to be used to get people in and out of the keep back in the long, long ago, when they were besieged. Now the dragon was attacking and cultists were at the door, they needed to find ways in and out of the keep without getting attacked. Apparently the secret exit came out in the river somewhere, so it would be good to open it up and continue the rescue efforts through there. Stuck in a keep with little better to do, the players agreed to help out. I had found a way to get them back together and back on track!
Joggi, Gesh and Father Benjamin asked for supplies from Escobert but only received a couple of options of healing for their troubles, the keep’s weapons were mainly being used against the giant dragon and the mass of hooded figures who were outside the gates. They were escorted by a pair of guards into the basement of the keep’s main tower and into a tunnel secured by a pair of rusted gates, leading into a secret exit by the river. The first door was rusty but a doddle to open… until it woke swarms of rats which attacked them. The problem with rat swarms, as we learnt in fourth edition, is that they’re so chaotic they take half damage from any normal attacks as trying to hit a bunch of rats in one go is fairly tricky. Really what the group needed was some kind of ‘area of effect’ spell which would take out a bunch of them together. Rats are a cowardly, superstitious lot and fled just as Gatt and Mablung were entering the other end of the secret passage. Gatt jumped out of the way and Mablung (being the only character prepared for swarms) shot them with bolts of fire.
The group were reunited! They knew that Governor Nighthill had other missions for them like securing the sally port and trying to fend off the big blue dragon (both mini-quests in the adventure). However the group were now outside and having seen the massive pylons the cultists were erecting, they decided that they needed to sneak through the hundred or so cultists and do something about them (not anything covered by the adventure). Players being players, this was exactly the direction they decided to go. The first challenge was to not die at the hands of a hundred cultists.
They spotted some stragglers and decided to sneak up on them and kill them in ways which didn’t ruin the cult robes they were in. The townsfolk were let inside and the group got the attention of the group of enemies; six cultists and two mercenaries. They were quickly dispatched without alerting the rest of the cult or staining the purple robes with too much blood.
The characters could not infiltrate the cult. Even the ‘Fixing the Hoard’ documents*** would not help. The group had let two of the in-book missions fail because they saw a larger mission at hand in the plot which was far off the railroad of the adventure. There was no more time in the evening, so I’d have a chance to prepare before the next session and the players could level up their characters and get ready for the next fight!
TO BE CONTINUED
* At some point, I forget when, Jacob realised that he and Steve had made very different rogues, but there was still some crossover between them, as well as a distinct lack of healing. He reskinned himself as a bard part-way through the session.
** Out of game, there was a LOT of conversation about what on earth the, “teleported to the Astral Plane” result meant. It was the first time I opened the Dungeon Master’s Guide as it had a guide to the many dimensions of the D&D universe. The Astral Plane details said how long it takes to get through and the wild surge table had another. We had a bit of Calm, Reasoned Debate(™) about how long the characters would be away. I still believed it would be the 24 hours the DMG stated while Alex believed the Wild Surge table took precedence as that was their way of getting to the realm. We settled with the result mentioned above.
*** You may notice in the initial photos of this campaign that my booklets are titled, “Horde of the Dragon Queen.” Yes, I know that’s wrong NOW. I wasn’t paying attention when I was writing them. I am the most observant Dungeon Master. They get corrected from Episode Four onwards. In my defence there is both a hoard and a horde in this adventure.
Notice: This is an entirely subjective experience both of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and of the session. Readers; if you think the sections I love or hate of this campaign are wrong, you’re welcome to your opinion as I am to mine. Maybe post your own account, I didn’t see many online and varying campaign reports could be interesting. My lovely players, this is how I remembered it all from behind my screen and from my half-legible notes.