Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Fabulous Crocodile Hat
Hoard Of The Dragon Queen Episode Six, Part Four
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 Dawnspear, an Elven Cultist (Human Bard & Charlatan)
Vinnie as Joggi Hvolner (Dwarf Monk & Outlander)
Liftron the Magnificent (RIP)
Tony the Weasel (Gatt’s familiar, a compulsive liar)
The group led a lizardfolk revolution while chasing down the stolen treasure of several towns which is to be used as the hoard of a five-headed dragon god. They lost their favourite NPC, Liftron the Magnificent and rested to regenerate their health and abilities while the enemies got away.
Given the nature of Mockingbird as a conman who is always disguised as someone else, I try to keep track of who he’s impersonating each session. Last time I didn’t get a name, just, “Generic Elven Cultist”. He was given a name when I asked this time, “Dawnspear”.
Steve suggested the standard DM nightmare, namely sending an army of lizardfolk down into the dungeon rather than dealing with it themselves. This is the eternal thing of when players are big enough, why don’t they just hire a hundred guards to swarm a dungeon. Or flood it with ‘create water’ spells. Or dig the dungeon out like a massive Minecraft game. It wouldn’t make for a fun story and it wouldn’t make for a challenging game. In this case the reason behind it was that the lizardfolk had their own agenda. They didn’t really see beyond the Mere of Dead Men and had conquered Castle Naerytar. They had their own wives and children to go back to in their village. Their war was won and the group had acquired a lot of gold over the last few months, but they placed no real value in it.
Without any other help, Gatt wandered ahead before the rest of the players could explore the dungeon. He wasn’t any good at tracking where the cultists went but played in the water for a bit until he found a gem. And another. I didn’t lay this trap, but it was perfect Gatt-bait. The gems led through a little hole through the wall, just under the water so Gatt had to swim. He made it through to the other side and saw a creature which was also enamoured with the gems; a grey ooze. It was collecting all the shinies and either dissolving or suffocating any obstructions to them. Gatt was enveloped and started to scream.
The rest of the group realised Gatt had gone which was normally a bad sign. They followed his tracks down into the dungeon and heard the screams. Mablung cast haste on Joggi who stripped off and dived into the water. Gesh joined him and they freed their buddy at the cost of Gesh’s weapon and Gatt’s armour. Each contact with the ooze splashed acidic goo on the pair and any metal items started to dissolve. Gesh was distraught at getting his attuned hammer all melty and damaged. It would do two less damage each time it hit now, until such a time as they would get it repaired (campaign end spoilers; it never did). Gatt’s studded leather armour was similarly-affected, just becoming leather armour with holes in as the studs had all melted.
They scooped up the many gems and started to look at the trail.
Here’s another time where I take the storyteller hat off and don my GM hat instead. The dungeon was oddly laid out. If the group went in a linear path they could clear the massive dungeon in four rooms. That’s a big if. I bet they’d do it in seven. There were tracks which led up to the teleporter but it was obscured a bit by magical fog and players being players, they often see a plot and run the other way.
Somehow, they didn’t this time. They walked through into a room with a big cliff and a crane to lift stolen loot up. Magical fog was billowing out from beyond the top of the cliff and there was a rough ladder up the side of it. Gatt failed to find traps, had a short PTSD attack from the fish hook poison curtain and didn’t trust the crane. Instead he clambered up on Gesh’s shoulders and rode him to the top. Joggi jumped up like the world’s fattest gummi bear and the others used the ladder as they didn’t have anything to prove.
Once they were up they saw three ways to go and could hear the distant ribbets of frogs echoing through a vast chamber. One direction was where the mist was coming from. One went into the dark with the sounds of chanting. The third went into a giant underground pool with the frog noises. They decided not to investigate those, but instead they split the party (woo!) as Joggi followed the mist and Gesh wandered into the dark with Gatt still on his shoulders.
There’s been a lot of debate about dragonborn and what they’re capable of, whether they have tails. One thing which should be pointed out at this point when Gesh was wandering down a set of stairs into a room of dark chanting; dragonborn don’t have night vision. Gatt served as his eyes which is a terrifying prospect for anyone with the wisdom and intelligence scores to realise all of the horrors Gatt had done in the past 12 sessions.
Down the stairs was an altar being prayed to by ten bullywugs and their master; the awfully-named Pharblex Splattergoo. Gatt was pointing this out, then he saw this hat…
It was love at first sight. Not with Gatt and Pharblex, but with Gatt and the fabulous crocodile hat.
At this point in the other room, Joggi found the teleporter out of the sungeon, which was belching out all of the magical mists.
Gatt jumped at Pharblex, aiming to steal the hat, but the bullywug cultist managed to skewer the gnome on the end of a barbed pole which he’d coated in poison. The Gatt-kebab was then bitten into by Pharblex, who was pretty pleased to have something to snack on. It looked pretty dire, but only for a second. Gesh waded in and have I told you how unhittable his armour class is? It’s insane. Basically one dragonborn going up against ten people who could only hit him on a 20 and would only do a handful of damage. Not very exciting and really something that could take forever to run (by run I mean ‘crunch the numbers until 0 is hit’). Luckily the fire breath attack and burning hands of Gesh massacred them before it could become a mathematical yawnfest. I will say on the part of the bullywugs, I know they were evil oppressors and all that, but these ones were praying to their god for salvation because their camp had been destroyed by the lizardfolk rebellion and they were cornered in a dungeon without the magical word to escape. The poor blighters.
Pharblex tried creating any kind of opening to get out or to at least distract Gesh, but even that didn’t go anywhere. I failed a poison spray attack, a thunder wave and an attack, then he was his with a scorching ray, a burning hands and a thrown axe. It was pretty rough.
Once the fight was over and Gatt was back up on his feet, he claimed the sweet hat as his own, even if it wasn’t won in the best way.
They attempted to loot the room and Mockingbird walked into the private bedchambers of Pharblex. There was a bed and a big, rotten chest. He saw it was trapped and used mage hand to open it from a few feet away. The trap sadly was not that simple; a compartment in the ceiling opened up and fragile pots of poisonous dust covered everything in the room. He made a saving throw and wandered out, still coated in the dust. Gatt and Joggi were the nearest people and when Mockingbird went to show them the spellbooks he’d found, they inhaled the dust. Vinnie boasted about the legendary dwarven constitution for a hot second before failing his saving throw against the poison. Gatt had even less of a chance and the pair immediately went mad.
Gatt saw everyone around him as bullywugs and Mockingbird was wearing his new hat. He immediately went for the attack. Joggi’s hallucinations had a quite different effect and he stripped off (as is Joggi’s response to any stressful situation) and tried to immerse himself in water. We did some quick maths and figured out that the hallucinogens demanded he immerse himself for 10 minutes and with his constitution score he could manage about three minutes holding his breath. He would actually drown himself. Not just that but the biggest body of water was that giant room with all the ribbetting.
Mablung realised that they knew there was going to be a ‘gnome problem’ in the future, but had hoped it wouldn’t be yet. Gesh tried to grab Gatt who popped out of his grip, then Mablung cast a sleep spell which knocked both Mockingbird and Gatt out. He and Gesh chained them up, unsure of who started the fight. Next was the dwarf who was merrily drowning himself. He was dredged out by Gesh while Mablung fireballed a couple of giant frogs who were descending on the party. They got the message. Joggi was tied up with the others so he could detox.
Gatt dreamed of flying through the air towards a castle in the sky, then woke and was immediately punched unconscious by Mablung who, unlike Gesh, knew better than to let a hallucinating psychopath remain conscious. Joggi wrestled his way out of his bonds and Mablung cast an illusion of a puddle for Joggi to drown himself in. The pair spent the next few minutes with Joggi face-planting the ground and Mablung casting a new illusion just to make sure that he kept away from the frog-laden pool of death.
Eventually the poison wore off and the group realised which way they should go to carry on the story. All but Mockingbird. The unspeakable idols in the bullywug church were oddly familiar to him. The small icon he had on his person from the start of the campaign was identical to them. Maybe his grandfather was a worshipper of the god that Pharblex was into. Out of game we knew that he wanted some kind of eldritch background so that he could multiclass into warlock at some point. When he saw the horror that Pharblex was into it was decided that his grandfather stopped the dragons with Ramenos a weird god of decay. He wouldn’t stop reading the books and didn’t want to go on. It took a lot of cajoling to get him on board with the plot and once he was brought to the portal room, he said the code word and Gatt jumped through. Then Mablung and the others followed. Willen was alone in the misty room, lit only by the glow of the portal now.
“He’s got my money,” Willen realised, as Mablung had gone with all of the party’s kitty. He followed and saw a circle of standing stones on a cold mountaintop. In the distance was a hunting lodge.
Would it spell his doom? Yes it would, as it turned out, but read on to the next article to find out why.
Just as a postscript, I felt like this dungeon was larger and less threatening than it needed to be. For a party who were fifth level, they had a simple challenge rating three creature (Pharblex) who was threatening if I didn’t roll so badly, and everything else was challenge rating 1/4 or 1/2, which is tiny. Flooding the group with a bunch of things which can’t really hit or do much damage meant that more than ever, Joggi and Gatt were the only ones really in any danger. Thank Ramenos that the group attacks dispersed or killed all the weenie creatures as it would just become a futile exercise in maths.
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.