The Tyranny of Dragons @ WalkdenD&D

DMing -The Hoarde 3
Old Tunnel

This is an obvious starting point for the free-from missions. However, there is an inherent problem with the setup of this episode which revolves around the need to establish a credible way to leave a besieged keep.

To keep the tension high you need to play up the idea that that characters can’t now slip in and out of the keep at will. They are in effect trapped.

The existence of the old tunnel overcomes this, allowing a useful means of slipping in and out under the cloak of darkness.

However, the need in the adventure guide for a succesful DC10 Dexterity check means they can fail this mission and make everyones life difficult later on. Rogue lite parties will have a big issue here. As DM and Party you will then need to invent a range of escape methods. Rope ladders, diversion etc which will can be fun , but also take a lot of play time, without actually moving the drama forwards.. Its worth bearing in mind as the DM what you want to have been resolved by the end of the Episode.

You want the PCs to know

  • The antagonists are called the Cult of the Dragon.
  • They are attacking many communities to collect treasure.
  • They are shipping this to a camp nearby.

Other considerations like the Cult identifying the PCs as enemies or the Half-Dragon fight are side issues and bonus material.

It’s hard to do this from the keep, so frequent trips outside are needed.

From a DMing point of view try to arrange for them not to fail. One of the advantages of non-affiliated play is you can adapt the material to suit you, which is what I did here.

I had the players make a series of DC10 Dexterity (Steath) checks. Each player made four checks as they progressed along the dark tunnel. I use this as a good oppourtunity to play up the inematic aspects of creeping along a dark, damp and narrow tunnel. Lots of desriptions of scratching ti the walls, particularly when 2 or more playes failed their checks. However there was no immidiate consequence other than playing up a builting tension and sense of dread. However, I tracked each failures.

As part of the set up during the conversation with Escobert, I’d also set up a portculis trap at the door. Escobert had given them verbal instructions for disarming the trap which he last used as a “Wee Laddy” (200 years ago).

As the players approached the door I laid down a stretch of narrow set of 2×8 dungeon tiles. (Not needed but my players like using them). The length was determined by the number of missed stealth checks. I used 10 ft of tunnel (2 squares) per failed attempt. The rogue heavy group failed just 6 roles giving them a final stretch of 60 feet or 15 squares.

When they got to that point from the trapped door I sprung the Rat Swarms. I played up the fact that the rats seemed to strech back as far as the player could see, and kind of encouraged a chase. I used a timer to advance the hoarde every ten seconds as the players tried to remember what the instruction where, and sort out there turns. The rogues flew through this very quickly, and escaped with minimal damage.

The trap involved a narrow mesh portculis which stopped the rats advancing any further. But the group will still need to find a way past the Swarm on the way back up the tunnel

The rogue lite party did not do so well, with 11 failures leaving them with a daunting 110 foot chase. I bumped the swarm speed to 35 feet so It became clear that the party would be overwhelmed unless they faced off. I also played up the narrowness of the tunnel to force only two players to engage the swarms, and stop them like a cork, while the rest raced for the door. They ultimately worked out a way to switch attackers and destroy the swarm. They took more damage but they now have a clear way into the keep.

Played right this is a real highlight mission. Try to punish PC’s who fail the dexterity checks with some damage rather than a total fail. Climbing down rope ladders to get out of the keep is a possibility but it stretch credibility a bit. Avoid this by adapting the mission to suit. I use the milestone XP technique so I seldom worry about totting up xp earned.

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DMing -The Hoarde 2
Session 2 :- Managing the Missions

Okay, deep breath, this is where the adventuring in 5e begins. You have 6 Missions to get through. Some form natural pairs

  • Old Tunnel & Prisoners
  • Dragon Attack & The Sally Port
  • Save the Mill & Sanctuary

However, you can mix and match as a story telling device.

The PCs will meet the Governor fairly quickly once in the keep. He is on the battlements and this gives obvious opertunities to lauch, Prisoners, Dragon Attack, and Sanctuary from the outset.

The Save the Mill, is a trap for the PCs and needs to be held back until the players have drawn the bad guys attention but again this can be launched by the Govenor.

The Castellan can be used to launch both Old Tunnel and The Sally Point

I choose to offer up the Prisoners, Sanctuary and* Old Tunnel* as a first set of missions and left the teams to do as they pleased. I also choose to spice up the tunnel by setting a simple two gate trap to keep the guys on their toes.

While harrying the players is fun, I again urge you to reward smart rolepay and Ideas. 1 team used their two rogues to persuade an officer that he was needed in the town square then abducted him enroute, while another simple fought a group with a cultists to capture.

Follow that the groups were left with a choice of going on to the chapel or returning to the keep. Which provide a convenient end of session point.

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DMing -The Hoarde
Getting to the Keep- Advice

Session 1 Advice

In running this session, remember getting to the keep is the dramatic climax of the session. Combat is much quicker in 5e, but the still take time. Most of these early fights don’t last more than 2 or 3 rounds. Since the Monsters are more numerous than the PC’s you may need to device strategies to keep players in the game. (Get them to roll for you, preroll to speed up etc)

Although quicker you still will have limits if play time is restricted. We usually only get 2 hours max, due to the young age of our players, but, as a DM, you can help stretch the number of encounters by* encouraging* and rewarding roleplay solutions to encounters.

Try to play up the confusion. Villagers are being driven out of their homes but aside from a few evil kobolds the rest of the raiders are happy if the stay out of the way. Also the raiders are not a cohesive force. The mixture of genuine cultist, mercs, and kobolds allows players to play up to this. Players who actively use the confusion to gain advantage should be given it. No one expect anyone other than uniform town guard to be armed and dangerous, so player can use this to move easily until the gather too many town folk.

The designated initial mission, can be ditched or alterered if your players are already motivated to get to the keep, or think up a odd strategy. In one case They came across them in a house they had sheltered in, in another they used the river throughout and it became apparant I didn’t need it.

In our adventures the players are guards working for the Governers Cousin, who has offered them a finacial reward to make sure his cousin is safe. The rescue of town folk is not part of that contract. I also use the milestone leveling system.

Remember how weak 1st level PCs are. in 5e. Try not to target low AC characters too much. We all hate to massage die rolls, but it might need to happen if you run too many combats prior to getting to the keep( and beyond). If kobolds form part of the attacking party, you can always have some detach and set off for reinforcements, giving the party a chance to turn the tide, while keeping true to the lore of the enemies.

Most of your players will quite rightly focus on the dragon. Everyone knows a dragon that size is a deadly foe that out-matches everyone, but you may need to point this out to newbies, and the odd old hand. They meta-gamed by arguing that a real dragon is patently too high a level and this must either be an illusion of some ‘fake’ creature. You can either state the reality via perception checking (DC5 to spot it is real) or better yet have the dragon destroy a party of villagers right in front of the PC’s

Try to use the Dragon as an encourager to get the guys heading for the keep. If they are taking refuge in a building have the Dragon toast the neighbouring house to get them moving. Most o

I used the Dragon as a great dramatic device as the heroes and villagers headed for the keep doors. I asked for dexterity based Saving Throws as the Dragon attacked and they dive for cover inside the gatehouse, to wrack up the tension. If a PC misses, either have any NPC’s in the group take the hit instead or have a guard jump out and save the fledgling heroes at his own expense. Nothing like guilt to provided a heroic motivation.

As ist sessions go this is pretty spectacular. A full adult dragon and a burning town, joined by a mystery and

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Mix and Match
Missing Players

Due to a few missing players we threw the Red and Blue teams together for a scratch encounter in Greenest. DM Stephen took charge and the guys and gal had a great time.

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The teams settle to the task

The RED and BLUE teams continue their weekly sessions, while the Green and Yellow teams meet every fortnight. 5e combat is really quick and the action rattles along.. All the player are aged 11-16 and are loving a good old traditional RPG. Hope to have some session info in the next few days. Also running a short D&D session for work mates as part of an in house team building exercise

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Walkden up and running
Red Blue Green and Yellow Teams are in play

All the teams have now got underway. We have 4 teams playing through the adventure. The first seesion was admin heavy, but we all completed an initial combat sessions.

The Story so far…

The adventurers have arrived in Greenest and faced a band of Kobolds. They must now head for the keep…

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Record Sign Up
Groups nearly full

The take up for the new season at Walkden has been amazing. We have fill both tables for the Monday sessions and are near capacity for the Thursday sessions as well. Should be a great year.

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Tyranny of Dragons
The Story so far...

For years, the evil Cult of the Dragon has devoted itself to creating undead dragons in a vain attempt to fulfill an ancient prophecy. However, the cultists were misguided. They misunderstood. But now, under new leadership, the cult believes that the prophecy does not speak of undead dragons, but of a dragon empire that’s been extinct for 25,000 years. Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons, has languished in the Nine Hells for millennia. The cult believes that the time of her return is at hand.

The cult has a new face and a new mission. It seeks to free Tiamat from the Nine Hells and bring her into the Forgotten Realms. To accomplish its goal, the cult needs five ancient dragon masks and the support of evil dragons everywhere. The cult leaders—each one a “dragon whisperer”—have reached out to the evil dragons of the Sword Coast and earned their allegiance.

Meanwhile, evil dragons in partnership with the cult seek to amass a treasure hoard worthy of their dark queen, not by plundering their own hoards (of course) but by stealing money from cities, caravans, good-aligned dragons, merchant ships, and other sources. Their ravenous hunt for treasure throws the Sword Coast into upheaval. Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate—no city is safe from their depredations.

The situation is dire. However, the Sword Coast is far from defenseless. Powerful factions are ready to rise up and put an end to the tyranny of dragons. Adventurers throughout the Realms must join forces to face Tiamat, destroy the Cult of the Dragon, and prevent the rise of a new dragon empire. In their hands, the future lies.

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