Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Death at Two and a Half Feet!
Hoard Of The Dragon Queen Episode Seven
Steve as Gatt (Gnome Rogue & Spy)
Alex as Mablung Raventree (Half-Elf Wild Mage & Noble)
Lee as Gesh (Dragonborn Fighter & Acolyte)
Jacob as Willen Kingsley aka Mockingbird aka “vaguely an elf” (Human Bard & Charlatan)
Vinnie as Joggi Hvolner (Dwarf Monk & Outlander)
Tony the Weasel (Gatt’s familiar, a compulsive liar)
The party were tracking down the Cult of the Dragon who were transporting stolen treasure across the Sword Coast. They walked through a teleporter and ended up on a mountainside.
The group levelled up before we began. Gesh had an ability score bump and increased his intelligence in order to assist with spellcasting. Somehow this meant that he was the smartest person in the party. This is admittedly not saying much as Gatt was the smartest person in the group before. We would not see Gesh’s smarts in action, outside of the spellcasting.
Back to the mountain. They were quite a way up The Greyfall Mountains, uncertain of their location and stood in a circle of standing stones. To their left were some thick woods, behind them was a massive slope and ahead was a hunting lodge, about 100-ish feet away.
A pair of trolls walked out of the trees with some scraggy-looking guard drakes on leads. Just as players were about to talk about remaining reasonable and trying to talk to the people, Gesh yelled at them and they unleashed the drakes. Again, smartest person in the party. Yep. I admit I don’t know how much of this was Lee’s confidence in nothing being able to hit his AC or not. It’s something which was becoming increasingly apparent as the levels were racking up.
Gatt hid from the redneck trolls while Gesh waited to take on the drakes. Joggi bounced off a troll then swept that a drake, knocking it prone. A drake bit Mockingbird whose newly-unlocked hellish rebuke burnt the beast. Gatt jumped up at a troll, cutting its’ tongue and arm off. To Gatt’s horror, the arm got up and started to wander off.
Gesh firebolted a drake and ran at a troll, swinging his hammer at it. Mablung rolled what seemed like a million d20’s with his scorching ray, against a drake, then after the most impressive fireball-based firework display fired his crossbow and missed pathetically.
Joggi grabbed the mouth of a troll and tried to rip it open. This would be his first mistake. Gatt carried on slicing at the troll, trying not to remove a part but he was just that deadly. He tore a leg of the troll off and it started hopping away as Gesh downed the other troll with his hammer. The thing which veteran D&D players may remember is that trolls need to be killed with acid or fire, otherwise they regenerate. The troll on the floor started pulling itself back together and playing possum.
Gatt went to help Mockingbird, only to be ambushed by the several arm of the troll, running around with its’ fingers, the limb itself raised up like a scorpion’s tail. It was nearly the size of the tiny gnome and the pair started running around the standing stones, Gatt’s attempts at hiding proving useless against a body part which didn’t even have eyes.
Joggi attempted to stick his broom in the mouth of the troll, failed, then launched a flurry of attacks at it, knocking the monster prone while he was directly underneath it. Mockingbird rolled his second death save and got a result of a ‘1’. Normally when you’re knocked down you roll a d20 and if the result’s high enough you’re fine, if it’s low you’re not. Three positive checks and you’re stable. Three negative and you’re dead. He had one check and the natural one on the dice adds two instead of one. That roll meant Mockingbird had his second and third checks in one go. Oh. Mockingbird was dead.
The remaining troll was beaten down by Gesh’s damaged hammer but they were still in their initiative order. At first the players assumed this was because of the stray limbs, but then the trolls started to rise. Their vengeance was horrifying and short-lived as D&D player memories came back, leading Gesh and Mablung to burn the trolls into crispy pieces. Meanwhile, Joggi was failing to grapple the stray troll leg and Gatt was slicing pieces off the arm leaving it just a single hand trying to throttle the little gnome. Gatt finally stabbed it and the hand was a massive ham, overplaying its’ death scene (which of course had to be acted out at the table).
The leg was getting away and Gesh hit it with his hammer, just in time to see what the players dubbed, “The Megatroll” in the distance with six drakes on chains in its’ four arms.
When I was making my index of monsters for the session, I was surprised that an awesome four-armed giant troll would end up being just a normal troll with extra hit points and attacks. Sadly for me that meant it would probably just sponge damage and slow down combat. Mablung threw a fireball that way while Joggi was feeding the downed leg into one of the many fires the group had started.
The hunting lodge was scorched, as was The Megatroll and his hounds. As the players were getting ready for the fight to carry on (apart from Mockingbird who was still dead) there was a shout of, “Stop!”
Whoever it was at the lodge recognised Mablung. On closer inspection it was Talis. You remember Talis? The reason why Mablung was at Greenest originally. She was here, she was in white armour and somehow had sway over The Megatroll. She invited the characters and the corpse inside for tea. Gatt hid, not trusting this plan at all.
They asked about what to do with the body of Mockingbird and were told to drag it inside, she would see what she could do. Out of game, Jacob was perusing the PHB for new character builds to create, but this was the penultimate episode of the game which would be over in 1-2 more sessions (in theory) and his backstory was about to actually interact with the party. I decided that as Talis was a cleric, she would have a resurrection scroll to hand.
Gatt had a bit of a sneak around the lodge’s upstairs and a room with a haunted suit of armour which he just about managed to not trigger. He joined the others in a lovely room with a thick rug, some cozy chairs and one of Talis’ minions delivering tea.
I’ll tell you two things now; what Talis’ deal was and what the group were told. I’m saying this knowing some of the group are reading, but the campaign’s over so it’s too late.
The story Talis told them: She was infiltrating the Cult of the Dragon for Leosin, Ontharr and the Harpers. She was out of contact because she’d ended up promoted into places where all eyes were on her. Varram, a speaker of the white head of Tiamat, was her immediate superior and needed to be taken down. He and others were likely at Skyreach Castle. You see the hoard actually travels. The treasure the player characters were tracking and Rezmir (the boss of that faction of the cult, the speaker of the black head) appeared in the standing stones and travelled down the mountain to get to the castle which would be taking off for a massive cult get together.
The real story: Talis was researching the Cult of the Dragon, got a bit too interested and defected to them. She would feed a small amount of information to Leosin, mainly to keep from appearing too suspicious and to help her own cause (which is why she had all the crazy notes and was difficult for Mablung to track down). She was turned down for the role of speaker of the white in place of Varram, who sadly does not appear in this book. She wants him gone and she wants to discredit the other speakers to make herself seem more useful.
This information never came out because the need of the party and of Talis were kind of aligned and while it would have been an interesting revelation in theory, it ultimately wouldn’t have served anything. The dramatic reveal would have added at least one long-ish fight and created a dead end plot-wise. Also Talis was not an idiot.
She explained that the flying castle was parked by a Cult of the Dragon-aligned village lower down the mountain. It would take off in about 12 hours so the group would need to have Mockingbird resurrected, figure out how to get down the mountain and rest up for eight hours to regain their magic.
The resurrection freaked Mockingbird out, as I guess it would anyone. Jacob asked to look at the DMG and found a random madness table, rolled on it and decided that his character was convinced he was actually Mablung. His elf cultist disguise was getting pretty manky having been in a humid swamp for hours, up a hill, dead and resting in the soggy grass and mud until he was brought back to life.
With a strict time limit and a need to have a bit of a rest, Alex decided to math out the problem. They needed eight hours to get all their abilities back and heal up. I had mentioned offhand that it would take four hours to travel down the mountainside. Alex took these figures, the rough land speed that they would have been as a party who mainly travel at 30 feet a round. They would have to time everything precisely to get there and rest fully. As players in a D&D game they must have assumed that wasn’t going to happen so Alex suggested twinning his ‘fly’ spell and worked out that he could get them down the mountainside in a matter of minutes.
Here’s the maths:
This went unchecked as I realised that stopping Alex when he’s in the flow of this kind of thing just leads to bad times. Internally I was worrying that they’d try to fly everywhere as a solution to having any kind of risk of drama by travelling on the roads in the future. Willen was merrily saying that he could do exactly what Mablung could. They tried to work out who could carry who given that the fly spell could only work on so many people. Then, once the dust had cleared and the maths was done, Alex realised his calculations were for nought, something had gone wrong and the fly spell would have only worked for a sixth of the journey. This was all far enough above my head that Alex, if you’re reading this, could you speak up in the comments as I had genuinely no idea what was going on at that point in the game.
Talis couldn’t get out of joining them on this part of the expedition, if only because she was the one whose stabled wyverns the group would be taking to the castle. The group flew a sixth of the way and Gatt was insulted by several gnome-intolerant animals when he was grilling them for information. Soon enough though, they were in the village of Parnast, looking at the intimidating spires of Skyreach Castle in the distance. All this chatter about being able to rest up before getting there turned out to be waffle over nothing, as they levelled up which we’d determined would bring them back to full hit points and abilities (the ‘Borderlands rule’).
Would the heroes be able to infiltrate the castle?
Would they rescue the hoard of the dragon queen?
Would the players remember that’s what they’re there for?
Would Willen get his memory back or would Mablung murder him first?
Find out next time, on the grand finale of, “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.