Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
“Angry Dwarven Pooing”
Hoard Of The Dragon Queen Episode One, Part Three
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 aka Pastor Solomon (Human Bard & Charlatan)
Vinnie as Joggi Hvolner (Dwarf Monk & Outlander)
The group were attempting to save the town of Greenest from an invasion of dragon cultists. They were a bunch of jerks more concerned with robbing than any serious cult behaviour, but they were armed with an adult blue dragon, which was nothing to sniff at.
They saved a bunch of people and tried to stop the attacks on a temple of the nature goddess, Chauntea. They drove back most of the force, then hid in a ruined house for a short rest (Position A on the very small map below).
There were a few weeks between sessions which is always a shame as momentum gets lost, but it gave me some time to prepare. There was nothing in the book about what to do with the dragon, who by this point had served his purpose and wasn’t necessary to the one scene which was left to play through in this episode. I originally expected one episode per session and clocking in at three sessions for episode one, I was proved very wrong.
I came up with an idea of what to do with the dragon and one of the other hooks, to tighten the focus of the episode.
The group were resting, doing very little because you can’t do much when you take a short rest. They were keeping an eye on the doors or taking part in some mild looting. Normally I set the scene when we start the session, but if the players have a good way to establish what happens then sometimes it’s good to let them take the lead. Vinnie started us off with a sudden cut from the, “Previously…” segment we kick things off with to Joggi pissed off, taking a crap in the corner of the house. None of the characters were happy about having to hide in the house, but Joggi least of all as he’d been needing to go to the loo for a while and holding it in while they were mid-fight. Being a dwarf he had a good constitution, but just meant everything had built up.
I had a few fixed events which needed to happen while they rested. This was not one of them.
The first thing the characters saw (apart from Joggi) was the blue dragon landing on the temple to Chauntea, digging its’ talons into the roof and plucking the building out of the ground. It took off to the south, taking the temple with it and the two remaining real clerics in the town. “Father Benjamin” doesn’t count.
The next event during the characters’ short rest was what would bring us to the endgame for this episode. Dragon-dogs found the house and a bunch of them clambered up to the windows. One was dispatched easily, but all the rest opened their mouths and in unison the voice of this army’s general echoed through the streets. His name was Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, a typically D&D name, one which would get constantly mocked by the players. He said that he had accomplished all he needed to, but he’d heard of ‘heroes’ interfering with his peoples’ plans. He wanted to face the strongest of them in one-on-one combat. He had hostages and in five minutes he would start killing one a minute until they faced him. The best of their number would go to the village green where an arena was built. If anyone else joined that combatant, then the 200 or so soldiers he had with him would rain death down on them and the hostages.
The adventure makes this a tense moment, the fixes make it more than that. It’s stated blatantly and I just plain told them it:
Fight him fairly and you will die.
Leave him and the town will die.
Behind my screen I had an alarm clock which I set for five minutes and let tick away loudly in the background. The group started planning infiltration of the enemy army; Willen could cast buffs on Gesh (the only real choice of combatant) while the others would quietly free the hostages. As they were part way through planning, Gesh walked onto the battlefield/village green. He feared the time limit would run out and went into battle to fight fairly… the fool.
In the adventure, Langdedrosa is a villain who recurs in a later episode and there’s a clumsy bit of advice that if he dies here then there should be another dragonborn general with his stats… maybe a brother or something. The fix said to just let him die if he dies here, so I went in expecting that to happen.
The group were forced into action too quickly by Langdedrosa and Gesh’s fight. Gatt managed to kill one or two cultists stealthily, but that was about it in the six seconds the fight lasted.
Lee and I rolled initiative for Gesh and Langdedrosa. I hadn’t really studied Langdedrosa’s stat block too thoroughly before but that guy gets two attacks, he has electric breath… he can have a fighter’s surge ability. He’s like a palette-swapped, much better version of Gesh. All it took was one whack from Langdedrosa and Gesh was on the floor, dying. One hit. That was a bit big, a bit scary. Here’s how we represented it on the table:
And here’s what happened up close.
For the players it was probably a little sobering, a little horrifying. For me it was great as it meant he’d live until later on and could annoy the players into wanting to kill him. I dialled up how much of an arse he was, making him go full ‘heel’. He mocked the body on the floor, the audience and the other adventurers, dropped the mic and left. Gesh slowly bled on the floor while the other adventurers tended his wounds and let the cultists leave. Even after a rest they weren’t up to a massive battle.
We left combat, entered ‘dramatic time ‘and I asked the players how they were helping the town’s relief efforts. Gatt wasn’t specifically hindering other people, which was about as good as Gatt could do. Willen (still as Father Benjamin) was ordering bucket brigades around. Joggi was finding medicinal herbs, Mablung was distributing medicine and Gesh was helping people stay calm through prayer. Mechanically I had them solve this as a group skill check. These require half the group to make successful skill checks and their description of what they’re doing dictates which skill they use (like my beloved Dungeon World and the use of ability scores there). They did a good job of helping out and with all their missions saved over half of the townsfolk, so it was time to chill out a bit, help the townsfolk and look for clues about what to do next.
In scouring the ruins of the temple, the players found a monk called Nesim, whose friend Leosin apparently predicted this whole dragon attack thing. He was kidnapped when the temple was abducted, leaving only a big hole and the catacombs which Nesim hid in. Mablung asked about whether Leosin knew his childhood friend and fellow studier of dragons, Talis. Apparently he did, but Nesim didn’t know anything more than that, he would need to rescue Leosin to find out more. Mablung also found some of his old friend Talis’ things in one of the rooms of The Wonky Keg, the inn which Mablung and Gatt protected when they had their interdimensional blip.
Willen switched identities from Father Benjamin to Pastor Solomon, a cleric of Tyr. He went to the mill to check out the state of things there. The head of the mill, Hugon, explained that his hirelings kept away enemies as he was the wealthiest man in town and had a lot of precious things worth guarding. He had the mill… he also had a suspiciously large collection of bad centaur art.
I Googled ‘bad centaur art’ and I am not putting anything I found on there. Ugh. Pastor Solomon persuaded Hugon to lend a large amount of money to the rebuilding of the town and he even donated some of his centaur paintings. Now Willen had seven paintings worth 400 gold pieces which he added to his own inventory just in case he could find an art dealer with really bad taste.
As the group had run their way through Episode One, I decided to start them on the set up for number two. Governor Nighthill saw that the army travelled to the south, so he hired the characters to scout for the camp and rescue Leosin. He wanted the other priests rescued, but mainly Leosin as word was he knew all about this dragon cult. The group agreed, but had Father Benjamin’s name on the contract swiftly changed to Pastor Solomon, saying that the father had died in the fight. Once they had left town, Joggi asked what happened to Father Benjamin and why Pastor Solomonhad replaced him. That was when Willen and Gatt explained the whole false identity thing. Gesh said they both shared the same scent and that descended into a debate about whether dragonborn have senses which are any better than humans. I think we settled on them not having a better sense of smell, but they’re an uncommon race and Gesh insisted that he could smell the similarity between Solomon and Benjamin.
Joggi let a lot off anger out, yelling at Willen, calling him an, “incandescent cock-gobbet” for impersonating a man of the cloth. As a group they managed to find the trail of the army without rolling, after all we were talking about at least 250 cultists and dragon-dogs. While wandering, they also saw signs of something else… the temple which had been abducted by the blue dragon earlier in the session, so hopefully Leosin would be there and the quest would be easily completed. Of course life is not easy, so instead of any captive clerics, there were eight dragon-dogs sniffing around and four cultists chilling out. They weren’t the competent kind of cultists, they were simply told to sit there and kill stragglers who came by. One of the dragon-dogs was ripping up tapestries, one was counting a collection of teeth, they were generally being unpleasant. The player characters easily ambushed them, Mablung made the cultists sleep while the others ran around the ruined church, slaughtering dragon-dogs. The fight was over quickly and when Gatt looted the dragon-dogs, he found a little bag full of human fingers which had been fashioned into a fake beard.
With the temple liberated and prisoners to interrogate, we decided to end the session for the night. People levelled up and next session we would be officially in Episode Two of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen.
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.