Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
“Half-Orc Patrick Swayze”
Hoard Of The Dragon Queen Episode Five
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 Lenet the Loquacious (Human Bard & Charlatan)
Vinnie as Joggi Hvolner (Dwarf Monk & Outlander)
Jamna Gleamsilver (Gnome Murderhobo)
Liftron the Magnificent (Human lifter of all things)
Tony the Weasel (Gatt’s familiar, a compulsive liar)
The adventurers have been pretending to be caravan guards, spying on the Cult of the Dragon, who are transporting stolen goods from all over the Sword Coast to the Mere of Dead Men. After several weeks of travel, a lot of blood, vomit and stag-headed eagle attacks, they have arrived at a road house which overlooks the mere.
We rewound a moment, just so I could describe the ramshackle roadhouse, the road itself which had fallen into disrepair and over time, a moody sky looming over them like an oppressive grey ceiling and a massive dip which went to the Mere of Dead Men. The mere itself was a labyrinth of swampy land, rocky outcroppings and strange lights. It didn’t look appealing, but it was their destination. The cult pulled into the road house and the players followed. The owner of the road house was Bog Luck, a burly guy who of course had to be the half-orc equivalent of Patrick Swayze and therefore not to be messed with. The road house was large and miserable, but for the people in the caravan it worked as some shelter for the night.
There were two floors of tiny rooms with no locks on them, “because the cold would break the locks,” according to Bog Luck. The far end had stables and store rooms, including a private safe which of course had the gnome thieves excited. Above the locked storage room was a public kitchen where people could relax. Relaxing was not anything on the players’ minds. Bog Luck mentioned that any fighting would have to be strictly outside and moderated so Willen started scheming about how to start a rigged fight. Mablung and Gatt nosed around and one thing which stood out to Mablung was the sword at Bog Luck’s side. It bore the dragon sigils the weapons the cultists they fought back in Greenest had. This was enemy territory.
Joggi and Gesh tried out the kitchen which had, “mead” for a copper (which included the quotation marks whenever people talked about it), some mutton and some unspecified meat (like the “mead” that was the official description). Joggi asked if there was any good booze hidden away and the bartender, Gristle Pete, said that there were two kegs of dwarven ale in the strong room. The pair started chatting about ale like proper ale-wankers do and went off to check out the contents of the barrels.
And where were the NPCs? Well, Liftron was helping to park the carts and Jamna was in the kitchen where she was getting some foul glares from a cultist who bore a grudge against her. The cultist, Irarum, had a friend who was murdered by Jamna back in episode eight and finally recognised her here. Gesh tried defending Jamna by scaring Irarum but that only angered the other cultists. The kitchen guards told the group to settle this outside in a one-on-one fight between Irarum and Gesh, who’s interpretation of ‘taking it outside’ was to hurl Irarum out of the window.
During this time, Gatt and Mablung were busy playing some high fantasy board game. Chess? Dice? Some kind of chess dice hybrid? Whatever. Joggi managed to get rid of Gristle Pete and checked out the strong room, where he found a secret door which led to a tunnel going in the direction of the Mere of Dead Men. Jacob offered to get in the drinks, earning himself Inspiration, while Vinnie took on the role of Irarum in the fight against Gesh.
After planning things with the fight so that people would all have stuff to do, Gatt did what he does best. He jumped onto Irarum and started attacking her, ruining the integrity of the fight. He was put in his place and the combatants were told to go back to their corner and chill out before they gave it another go.
Willen ‘coincidentally’ found his way into the strong room for entirely no thief-based reasons at all and saw Joggi going down the hole and the miles long tunnel. He let Joggi go ahead after casting invisibility on him. Rather than getting the rest of the group together, Vinnie decided that Joggi would run ahead for an hour and then back, just to see what was there. I resisted banging my head against all of my notes as he decided to follow the plot alone while the others were faffing in the road house. At least Willen knew where Joggi was.
At this point, cultists appeared, ready to lug some of the looted treasure into the tunnel and summoning Joggi back. After a failed attempt to pretend to be the conscience of the cultists and repeated slamming of the strong room door into the faces of the cultists, one cultist was flung into the tunnel by Joggi, breaking his neck. The other cultist was choked out by Joggi while Mockingbird hid.
Back at the road house, Gatt was trying to convince Gesh to moon Irarum. Given the last time the two had private time together, Gesh murdered two prisoners, somehow baring his dragonborn arse to an enemy to provoke her into fighting seemed like a step too far. Mablung decided to try and undo any potential harm which the pair could do by buying rounds of, “mead” for everyone.
Joggi woke up the cultist he’d knocked out. He’d gagged him with his loincloth. Despite the horror of that, the cultist was successfully interrogated and explained that some lizardfolk would be coming to lug all of the treasure down to the Mere of Dead Men, where it would be taken by them to Castle Naerytar.
Gatt had moved on once a fight didn’t look like it would happen, so he found his way to the stables and supply rooms where there might be good candidates for his sticky fingers. He arrived in the strong room along with Liftron, leaving only three people left in the road house, busily planning to roundhouse kick a cultist for no good reason.
The group in the strong room tried to hide (Liftron is not Hidetron, after all) and when the lizardfolk came into view, Gatt dived down, killed one of them and hid immediately. The lizardfolk panicked and Mockingbird disguised himself as a cultist, calming the situation down and explaining that they were all there to help carry all the treasure to the castle. Mablung noticed Jamna and Gatt were missing, so he excused himself and decided to, “look after the bananas” as his cover story. He went into the store room, bringing Gesh with him. They saw Jamna raiding a cart and Gesh tried to explain to her about the wrongs of theft. She let the words stop and carried on stealing, just a bit more subtly. Gatt found them, explained that there were lizards, made little good sense, so he dragged them (as much as a gnome can drag a dragonborn) into the strong room.
The group travelled with the lizardfolk through the massive tunnel, carrying the stolen treasure with them. Eventually they reached sunlight. Murky, murky sunlight. The mere was as miserable as it looked from afar. Scrubby, pointed plantlife, unstable ground almost everywhere and haunting lights in the distance. This was the place the lizardfolk called home. In the distance, a black dragon flew across the landscape, a worrying sight for any low-level adventuring party.
Joggi found himself slipping up repeatedly while trying to keep cover, mis-gendering Tiamat and proving he had no knowledge of religion, despite being a monk. The lizardfolk stopped at a camp for the night. By camp, I mean four of crappy lean-tos on the largest/only patch of solid ground. Rest was uneasy and cramped, but the group had started to build a rapport with the lizardfolk.
As they paddled through the water in little boats, the group were warned not to look too deeply in the water. They were passing Holk House, a former holy place which was now ruined and submerged. Under the water they could make out bodies, proper Dead Marshes style.
A little insight from the group and they started to realise that the lizardfolk were disgruntled workers of some local bullywugs (giant frog people). Their spokesman was Snapjaw, who had a primitive grasp of the common tongue. The leader of the bullywugs, Pharblex Splattergoo (I kid you not), killed the leader of the lizardfolk to demoralise them. He also sided with some flouncy elf-man who was working for the dragons. The bullywugs were tasked with guarding Castle Naerytar and lugging any stolen treasure there from the road house tunnel. Lazy buggers that the bullywugs were, they outsourced to the lizardfolk. In return, the lizardfolk get weapons as they don’t know how to forge. Pharblex believes that bringing Tiamat back will mean she grants him all of the world (the Mere of Dead Men, but they didn’t know any better). The elf… no one’s sure, but Snapjaw was pretty sure he is part of some kind of elf Nazi cult as well as the Cult of the Dragon.
The party hit upon a plan to use the disgruntled lizardfolk as a way to storm the castle, especially when they heard that there were probably about 80 or so of them. For the first time in a while they seemed confident, aware of their surroundings and what they were doing. The boats slowed as they entered the shadow of the gigantic, rotten structure known at Castle Naerytar.
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.