D&D Encounters: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Episode 1: Session 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 21, 2014

hoard-of-the-dragon-queen-cover-2Hoard of the Dragon Queen marks season 19 of D&D Encounters and it’s the first to use the new 5e D&D rules. The adventure is available in two formats. The first version is the complete adventure bound in a beautiful hardcover book that you can purchase. It brings characters from level 1 to level 7 as they play through seven chapters (each called an episode). The second version of the adventure is available as a free PDF download for DMs running this as part of the public play Adventurers League program at their FLGS. The PDF only covers the episodes 1-3. The PDF also has additional notes for how to tweak and adjust things for public play.

We had a fantastic turn out at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto. Our attendance during the past few season was about 20 players each week. For Hoard of the Dragon Queen week 1 we had five DMs and 29 players. This was the best turnout we’ve ever had for D&D Encounters and five of our regulars were absent. It looks like we’ll need to recruit another DM fast or we may have to turn people away.

It was interesting to note that almost every player present had their own copy of the 5e Players Handbook. We’ve been telling our group that if they wanted to play a race or class not available in the free D&D Basic Rules PDF that they had to have their own copy of the PHB with them during game play. It looks like that won’t be an issue.

I ran a party of six at my table. The party consisted of a Dragonborn Fighter, Elf Rogue, Drow Warlock, Halfling Ranger, and two Tiefling Bards. Although two of the players at my table were new to D&D Encounters they’d both played previous editions of D&D and a lot of WoW so they caught on really quickly.

Factions

A new element introduced to public play for 5e D&D is the addition of factions. These are secretive organizations working towards specific goals in the Forgotten Realms. Some work openly, some covertly; some are champions for good, others less so. Characters are encouraged to join one of the five factions and as they complete adventures they earn renown within their faction. Renown doesn’t have any mechanical benefits to a character’s numbers, it’s just something to help guide the role-playing.

One important perk of joining a faction is that if your PC dies during an adventure their faction will have the PCs brought back to life at no charge. This benefit is in place until the PC reaches level 4.

For more on factions see our Faction Pack preview.

Episode 1: Greenest in Flames

The adventure begins with the PCs travelling to the sleepy town of Greenest. It’s late in the day and as the party approaches the town they see columns of black smoke rising from the buildings. In the sky a Dragon swoops down, attacks the keep, and flies off. On the ground the townsfolk try to save their town and avoid attacks from Kobolds and Human aggressors. The heroes naturally run headlong into danger hoping to help those in need.

When the PCs reach the edge of town they recognize the regalia worn by the Human attackers – they are members of the Cult of the Dragons. Without hesitation the PCs attack the first group of Kobolds and Cultists they come across. The foes posed little difficulty as the PCs caught them unaware and unready for attacks from adventurers. The heroes decided to take the Cultists robes from three of their victims and done them as disguises.

As the heroes press onward they saw the destruction first hand. The attackers had set building aflame and looted anything and everything they could get their hands on. Yet despite the Dragon’s relentless pounding of the keep, the fortress stood strong and secure. The townsfolk were trying to reach the safety of the keep before it was too late.

Seek the Keep

Suddenly five Human villagers dashed out from around a building. A father led his three children while their mother, clearly a woman with combat training, tried to fend of eight Kobolds by herself. She commands her family to keep running for the keep while she buys them time and holds off the Kobolds.

When the woman saw the PCs she looked upon them with growing fear since some of them wore the cultists robes. The Kobolds believed the PCs were their allies and it boosted their confidence. Using ranged attacks the party began killing the Kobolds, letting their actions speak for themselves. Once the eight monsters were killed they explained they were heroes here to help. With the family in tow, the growing party headed towards the keep.

Along the way they were best upon by more Cultists and more Kobolds. The PCs made sure that the townsfolk were not put in harm’s way and took the brunt of the attacks. But they gave as good as they got and defeated all comers.

With the keep in sight the group made a valiant sprint for the doors. Between them and safety were more Kobolds. The PCs decided to kill the imposing Kobolds rather than try to outrun them. The Fighter took a nasty crit for his trouble but the party finally made it into the keep. Behind them the guards closed and barred the gates.

The scene inside the keep was somewhat chaotic as the Dragon continued to attack. The Governor of Greenest, a Human in his sixties named Nighthill, thanked the heroes for their assistance. The side of his face and head were bandaged and his right arm was in a sling. He’d been wounded since the fighting started and wasn’t stopped to rest or receive more than cursory first aid.

Despite just meeting the PCs, Nighthill was desperate for help so he pleased with them for their continued aid. The town’s mill was the lifeblood of the community. If it were to be destroyed the town would be devastated. He asked the PCs to go to the mill and secure it. Nighthill would send reinforcements within the hour, but the PCs would need to secure the mill and hold it until then.

The PCs agreed to help however they could. He also told them he needed information. This attack makes no sense, Greenest isn’t rich nor are they located anywhere of strategic importance. Why was the Dragon attacking? If the heroes could capture a cult leader, some lieutenant perhaps, and bring him back to the keep for interrogation Nighthill would be grateful.

The Old Tunnel

A Dwarf with fiery red hair and a bushy red approached Nighthill and the PCs. He introduced himself as Escobert the Red, the master of the keep and the man in charge of its defense. Beneath the keep is an old tunnel that leads to the river. Its purpose is to allow the keep to draw fresh water in the event of a siege. The heroes could use it to get outside and get to the mill undetected.

The tunnel had never been used as the keep had never been under siege before. It’s been years since anyone was even down there. Escobert gave the PCs a key to the gate that blocked the tunnel’s exit, showed them to the entrance in the cellar and bid them good luck.

The tunnel was pitch black. Four of the six PCs had darkvision so the group decided not to use torches to light their way. Unfortunately they walked right into a giant swarm of Rats. They rodents engulfed the Rogue in the front and she fell unconscious. The Bards healed her and tried to avoid the Rats themselves.

The Ranger quickly lit a torch once the fighting began. The Fighter swiped at the swarm but his blows did far less damage than he expected. The Warlock had the most success blasting the Rats turn after turn. The Ranger pulled out a flask of oil and poured it on the Rats. He then ignited the oil burning the last of the Rats.

When the danger had subsided the party extinguished the torch and move onward. Despite being rusty, the Rogue had no trouble using the key to open the lock. The Ranger applied the last of his oil to the gates hinges allowing them to open silently. As the party slipped outside they spotted another swarm of Rats which they easily avoided.

On the riverbanks heading towards the party were two Cultists and six Kobolds, half on each side. The party attacked the group on the same side of the river that they were on, drawing them closer. As the Cultist ran ahead he unknowingly stepped into the Rat swarm and was engulfed. His three Kobold allies swam around the Rats to get closer to the PCs.

The foes on the opposite bank fired at the party with amazing accuracy, hitting with almost every attack. The party returned fire dropping the Kobold’s easily but had a tougher time of the Cultist. The swimming Kobolds tangled with the three closest PCs yet despite another devastating crit, they did relatively little damage.

The Cultist on the other side of the river saw his seven allies drop quickly and knew he should run. He almost got away but the Warlock managed to blast him before he could get too far. The PCs threw all the bodies into the Rat swarm and then headed towards the mill.

Thoughts

The pre-game marshalling took longer than expected but once the players were all seated and the parties formed things ran pretty smoothly. Three of our DMs and three of our players had just returned from GenCon so that familiarity with the 5e rules and the factions made things a lot easier.

The combat in 5e is usually quite fast, but it can be deadly. The players realized that multiple attacks against one PC or a untimely crit could spell death. They resorted to ranged attacks whenever possible so the monsters they did face posed them less danger.

I liked that the PCs are thrust right into the action from the outset. There is a chance to do some role-playing, but first they have to fight to help save the town. My only real criticism of the adventure so far is that it doesn’t really provide a good reason for the PCs to be heading to Greenest. It’s not a huge issue, we just hand waved it and said that the party knew each other and had adventured together before. This just happened to be where they were headed next. Still it would have been nice to have a reason for the PCs to be heading here in the first place.

How did things go during your first week? What were the numbers like at your FLGS? Did anyone have to turn people away?

Additional Resources

Download the D&D 5e Basic Rules for free from the Wizards of the Coast website.

Looking for pre-generated characters? You can download five Pre-Generated Characters (5e) that were provided with the D&D Starter Set in one convenient PDF.

Recounting Encounters Podcast

Listen to Derek Myers, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (from 20ft Radius) recount our weekly experience at D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective tables and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.

Note: New episodes of Recounting Encounters will be available in our D&D Encounters Archive and on iTunes every Wednesday. Now DMs can listen before they play.

Actual Play Podcasts

Each week we record our D&D Encounters session and make it available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.


Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sp1d3y August 21, 2014 at 10:53 am

Nice summary, thanks for posting it! It seems everything went smoothly with your groups. In our case, we used some of the suggested Bonds provided in Appendix A of the adventure to give us a reason for going to Greenest.

My character had the “I have a weird apocalyptic dream every 5 nights” compelling him to go to Greenest. Another character simply had infiltrated the Cult and was on his way to quit it when he met our party. That provided some tense RP moments in the beginning.

Overall, I think the gameplay is bound to gain traction as the story progresses! Good luck (and wish some for us too…please!!! :) )

2 Joe August 21, 2014 at 11:31 am

We had a blast last night at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA. Record numbers, too. We had 4 full tables of 6-7 each. Exciting times.

At my table, I had mostly 4e players, with one brand new kid who’d never played any RPG (tabletop or video game) before, but had read lots of fantasy. He grabbed pregen dwarf wizard I had done up for the store, and immediately grabbed the story seeds in the background & ran with them.

I wanted the party to know each other, so I started them at a tavern in nearby Iriabor, where they’d all just gotten off a caravan guard duty tour, and were all having a mid-afternoon meal after sleeping late (the caravan got in after midnight). We did a quick around the table introduction, and even if characters weren’t talkative, I asked the players to describe in what ways their character was silent, what nonverbal cues they might be sending, and at the very least what they looked like. Suddenly, a halfling woman (named “Mary Thon”) came running in, exhausted but asking for help for Greenest, a nearby town that was under attack from “men in robes, small lizard people, and something big inside storm clouds.”

I told a character with the Soldier background that Greenest was about 2 hours away if they “quick marched”, but they decided they could get there faster. Our new player had the Noble background, and he found the local rich guy (“Scrooge Warbucks”) to see if they could borrow some horses, old chap. Some persuasion checks later, they were on their way on horses, which halved the time.

I threw a random encounter at them mid-journey. 3 black bears were crossing the road as the horses almost galloped into them. Everyone made Animal Handling checks, and those that got below a 10 were thrown from their horses (2 players). One of those two, a warlock, immediately rolled & fired an eldritch blast at a bear, which meant that combat was unavoidable. While it only took just over 1 round to dispatch the bears, one of them downed that same warlock with it’s first multi-attack, doing 5 & 7 damage to her 10 HP. The druid got her up & moving again quickly, but this did nicely illustrate the extra-deadliness of 5E, so folks were more willing to make smart choices to avoid combat after that.

Arriving at town, they saw that the heavy storm clouds above made it almost as dark as night, though burning houses kept the lighting at normal levels. They realized that the keep was probably the place to go, and set out trying to get there. They ran into a family of humans running from some kobolds, and another combat ensued, with the paladin running over to defend the humans while everyone else took out the ring of kobolds. This was the only time I needed any kind of map, and I managed it with vague representations on a white board.

Our high-tech battle map last night. #dnd #dndencounters #hoardofthedragonqueen pic.twitter.com/TAiAldjoPd— Joe Lastowski (@JoeLastowski) August 21, 2014

We ended with the party getting to the keep, where they briefly met with the Governor. Not sure if they’ll choose to take an hour-long short rest, but I told them to think about it and decide at the start of next week’s session.

Overall, I was very happy with the way things went. Every table seemed to have fun, even though lots of folks were learning the new system still. Plenty of DM hand-waving if a rule wasn’t specifically spelled-out for a situation, but that actually made things go smoother & faster. I’m still a 4E lover, but I think 5E will definitely work for Encounters.

3 Dan August 21, 2014 at 11:36 am

This week, my flgs had 3 tables of around 5-6. Many of our recent additions are not able to make it any more because of either going to things like band camp or they are returning to college, so our worry of needing a 4th table is lessened.
My party was made up of elves: a High (moon) Elf rogue, a wood elf ranger, a wood elf wizard, a half elf bard, and myself, a half elf sorcerer. This could end very badly if we are not careful, considering the fact that none of us are built for melee.

Our DM decided that we could afford to sacrifice some time in the first week to better get to know the players, our motivations, and our play styles. This was new to me. Considering the nature of encounters, every DM I have had in the past has just gotten to know us as we progressed. I am interested in seeing how this effects the overall gameplay.

We did manage to get to the adventure, but only to the setup of the first skirmish with the raiders and the family. We set the scene, and left it on a cliff hanger.

As for tie-ins, there are a list of bonds and I think a trait or two just for this season that help give each player motive. Some have friends they need to find, promises to keep, or a hatred of dragons that drive us. Personally, my character has been plagued with nightmares of a coming apocalypse, and my visions led me to greenest. While the DM was getting to know us as players, he also looked over our characters, and decided which ones fit us best (discussing it first of course).

All-in-all, I feel like this season will be vastly different from the previous one that everyone seemed to despise so much.

4 Justin August 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I was playing as a player this week and had a lot of fun (since I was out of town for work and not able to DM for my group). The location I was at had 4 tables (2 with 7 people and 2 with 8 people). Our table consisted of:
Hill Dwarf Life Cleric (Soldier – Healer – Harper) – A friend of Ontharr Frume, investigating Dragon activity near Greenest, also friends with the Paladin.
Mountain Dwarf Paladin (Noble – Order of the Gauntlet) – A friend of Ontharr Frume, investigating Dragon activity near Greenest, also friends with the Life Cleric.
Mountain Dwarf War Cleric (Soldier – Healer – Lord’s Alliance) (me) – Was sent to Greenest because of Cult activity. Sent to protect the citizens.
Half-Elf Bard (Criminal – Spy – Harper) – Childhood friend was captured by cultists. Investigations lead him to Greenest.
Half-Elf Druid (Outlander – Emerald Enclave) – Having dreams of dragons. They are leading him to Greenest
Wood Elf Monk (Acolyte – Order of the Gauntlet) – Also having dreams and is on a quest to protect the land
Gnome Mage (Sage – Harper) – Searching for lost knowledge

We each gave our background and a little backstory to say why we were there. It was nice to see everyone think of something about their character instead of just stats. So the story begins.

Cresting a hill we see a Dragon attacking Greenest. The MD Cleric yells out to the group that they citizens have to be saved and hurries toward the town. The others follow and even though they want to sneak into the town the MD Cleric heads for the largest group of kobolds. The Paladin yells out for them to surrender and the 14 kobolds and 2 flying kobolds turn on them and away from the citizens.

This fight was fast and bloody. The winner of the match was the Mage that with his thunderwave was able to kill off 7 kobolds (they were still grouped up when he attacked. Bad news was even with 3 Heavy Armored people we still took a ton of damage (Paladin and Clerics were all 18 AC). It seemed that when the kobolds were next to each other they were feeding off each others attacks and striking with amazing accuracy. We need to keep them from being next to each other. The Druid took the most and was taken down 2 times but healed back up to 1 hp both times.

We then helped the group of citizens to the Keep and then went back out to get more. Each time the DM had us roll Stealth and even with 3 people with Disadvantage we were able to succeed 3 times. While we were leading the 3rd group of citizens back we all failed the Stealth roll (everyone was under 10) and ran into a group of humans and kobolds. We quickly ran into them and protected the citizens. Both Clerics, and Monk all fell in the battle but were able to be saved with Lay on Hands from the Paladin and a nat 20 on a death save for the Monk. At this point we had used most of our spells and were hurting badly.

We make it back to the Keep and talk to the leader of the keep. We learn much of what was happening and the MD Cleric pledges himself in defense of the town. The Harpers all request money and the Order of the Gauntlet also decided to protect the citizens with the Emerald Enclave. We take a short rest and everyone uses up their Hit Dice to heal up some. While resting the leader of the keep receives a message that the Mill that is the lifeline of the town is being attacked. He also asks us to bring back some prisoners so we can get more information on why they are attacking. We get prepared and head out again going though the town.

Again with some amazing Stealth Rolls (we were on fire when rolling stealth even with Disadvantage), we make it to the Mill quietly. We see a group trying to light the mill on fire and move quietly toward them. The Bard and the HD Cleric both notice that the cultist are not trying very hard to light the Mill on fire and seem to be acting (thanks to the Bard’s performance check). The MD Cleric (rolling a nat 20 on Init) yells out to knock out the leader. He runs into one cultist and with another nat 20 does 19 damage killing him with one blow. The monk follows up and does the same to another cultist. The bard mocks the leader and discourages him while the other cultist attack. They miss and we push our assault and the MD Cleric smacks the leader in the head knocking him out (non-lethal). After we tie up the leader we go to check on the Mill. The MD Cleric goes in first searching for more enemies but seeing nothing. He moves over to the office to check inside. The Druid and the HD Cleric also head in looking around but it is the Druid that catches the movement and sudden attack by 10 humans cultist.

The heavy armor of the cleric protect them but the druid is hit hard going to 3 hp. The cultist surround the 3 in the Mill and it looks back. Again the Clerics and the Druid roll great initiative and go first. The druid uses Thunderwave but fails to hit anyone just damaging them slightly. The HD Cleric hits one and bloodies it while the MD Cleric misses but casts healing word to heal up the Druid.

The monk finds a different way in and come into contact with 2 more cultist. He quick kills one but the other keeps dodging his attacks. The Bard quickly sees what is going on and casts sleep causing 3 of the cultist to collapse. The others quickly enter into the battle and take out the cultist as they batter against the strong armor and shields of the group. We survive the ambush and now have 4 prisoners. We quickly checked out the rest of the Mill….

Good place to stop. Now I am not sure about the rest of everyone but we are running out of everything. 0 spells left for the group, everyone down to about 5-8 hp, Paladin has 3 hp left to heal and no one has HD. Not sure how we will keep going with almost nothing left.

5 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm

@Justin
The PCs can take a short rest (1 hour of in-game time) but things happen in the town whether they rest or not. So the farther you can push your group before resting the better. The adventure does expect the party to take a short rest during episode 1.

6 Justin August 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

@Ameron
Thank Ameron. Yea I can see a short rest the only problem is that we have used up most of our abilities and Hit Dice. We will just have to be lucker next week. How many weeks is episode 1?

7 Fire Brand August 21, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Ameron – Since this is the first 5e Encounters and I haven’t played but have the PHB I have a lot of fundamental easy Q’s. If anyone else wants to answer that’d be nice too. I’m addressing what I read of Ameron’s game for now. Some of these are general Q’s:

1) Why did you require players to actually have a PHB if they wanted to generate a PHB class? What if they borrowed it from a friend or they used it used it together? Did they actually have to show up with the book as proof? Seems too strict. Especially for the first Encounters.

2) How often did you need to reference the PHB rules. How often were they unclear even when they created character’s. Some people, even expeirenced players on other forums think there are some vague rules.

3) Does it seems ‘easier’ to learn, play, and run as WotC’s wants it to be?

4) Does it feel ‘looser’ than other editions especially 4e’s structure?

5) Did you run out of Faction Packs for the players? I’d be bumbed if I built a Warlock and the Zhentarim pack wasn’t avaiable. (Thanks for the advanced pics and info!)

6) Did player’s PC classes have to stick to those suggested factions?

7) It doesn’t sound like Backgrounds, Inspiration points, or Factions came into play at all in your game whether RPG or mechanically.

8) Did the players/PC’s introduce themselves using their backgrounds?

9) It seems like the DM might benefit with a copies of their character sheets to know backgrounds for inspiration points, passive checks, and maybe skills(?)

10) Would a new DM probably be lost even if they prepared by reading the PHB and Hoard of the Dragon Queen book? (I also ask because it sounds like it could be a problem if you need new DM’s and the player’s are experienced?)

11) Even though combat goes faster than 4e is it less interesting? Does something feel lacking? (I read here in a previous Encounter’s with the Yeti the 5e table wasn’t as fun vs the 4e table is why I ask. Maybe that particular combat benefited from being more tactical.)

12) Did anyone miss or thought they required the use of minis and a playmat/tiles? (It doesn’t sound like it so far)

13) Did they get kind of bored fighting just kobolds, cultists multiple times?

14) Or was it more interesting because it’s a challenge that 5e PC’s have fewer HP’s and no healing surges than 4e?

15) Was the party balanced or did they wish they had a Cleric and Wizard instead of two bards? (Were the bards inspirational. They’re annoying to me lol)

16) It sounds like even though they had 6 PC’s you didn’t adjust the number of opponents(?)

17) Did the NPC’s fight? If so did you control them?

18) How much easier or more difficult was it to run as a DM compared to 4e Encounters so far?

19) I’ve read on other forums that TPK’s were easy to come by. How did yours survive even vs. crits without a rest?

20) Were the player’s 5e expectations met when they finished the session?

21) I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. Thanks for making them available.

22) As always it’s nice to read how different groups and DM’s ran it and how it played out (hey it’s D&D the best RPG! : )

Thanks for answering anything you can!

8 DM Marcus August 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Thanks for posting these game summaries. I am about a week behind in the game I am running at our FLGS so this can really help me avoid any potential land mines or pit falls. We created characters this past Wed so we’ll be on the road to Greenest next week.
Any quick tips you wish you’d known that you’d like to share?

9 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 22, 2014 at 8:33 am

@Fire Brand

Wow. That’s a lot of questions. I’ll do my best to answer them all. Readers, please feel free to expand on any answer if you have something to add.

1) Why did you require players to actually have a PHB if they wanted to generate a PHB class? What if they borrowed it from a friend or they used it used it together? Did they actually have to show up with the book as proof? Seems too strict. Especially for the first Encounters.

If you can’t afford the PHB then you can use the free D&D 5e Basic Rules. There are plenty of good options available in there. For those who have the means and by the book, they have additional options. It’s a reward for making the purchase, supporting your FLGS and helping to grow the hobby.

We had a lot of problems during the playtest with people who didn’t have the materials in front of them during play. It slowed things down and caused confusion. Players didn’t know what their spells did and didn’t know their special class abilities. We also play at our FLGS for free every week and there hasn’t really been anything D&D to purchase for almost a year. We want to show the store some love by encouraging the players to purchase the book from the store.

2) How often did you need to reference the PHB rules. How often were they unclear even when they created characters. Some people, even experienced players on other forums think there are some vague rules.

We only used the PHB during the first session to confirm spell descriptions.

3) Does it seems ‘easier’ to learn, play, and run as WotC’s wants it to be?

It is really easy. New players are picking it up quickly.

4) Does it feel ‘looser’ than other editions especially 4e’s structure?

I wouldn’t say looser, just simpler. To me loose implies no rules exist so you make stuff up. I’ve found that the rules cover everything I expect them to but give the DM and players flexibility.

5) Did you run out of Faction Packs for the players? I’d be bumbed if I built a Warlock and the Zhentarim pack wasn’t available. (Thanks for the advanced pics and info!)

We didn’t hand them out yet. We asked that each table have 1 representative from each faction. If 2 players wanted to be Harpers they’d have to play at different tables.

6) Did player’s PC classes have to stick to those suggested factions?

I’m not sure what you’re asking. Players can choose any faction regardless of race and class.

7) It doesn’t sound like Backgrounds, Inspiration points, or Factions came into play at all in your game whether RPG or mechanically.

They did not during the first session. I plan to include them in week 2.

8) Did the players/PCs introduce themselves using their backgrounds?

Not at my table, but they did at other tables.

9) It seems like the DM might benefit with a copies of their character sheets to know backgrounds for inspiration points, passive checks, and maybe skills(?)

Some DMs like to have that at their fingertips. I’m good with the players just telling me what they have ad I can work that into the game as appropriate.

10) Would a new DM probably be lost even if they prepared by reading the PHB and Hoard of the Dragon Queen book? (I also ask because it sounds like it could be a problem if you need new DM’s and the players are experienced?)

I think a new DM would find things easy to run with minimal experience or prep, unlike the last few seasons of D&D Encounters.

11) Even though combat goes faster than 4e is it less interesting? Does something feel lacking? (I read here in a previous Encounter’s with the Yeti the 5e table wasn’t as fun vs the 4e table is why I ask. Maybe that particular combat benefited from being more tactical.)

I didn’t find it less interesting. Faster combat usually means more combat which the players tend to want.

12) Did anyone miss or thought they required the use of minis and a playmat/tiles? (It doesn’t sound like it so far)

We used minis but did not use a by-the-book grid. I’ve found that during public play a lot of players want to see something on the table during combat, even if it’s not exactly to scale.

13) Did they get kind of bored fighting just kobolds, cultists multiple times?

The session only lasted 90 minutes so I don’t think there was enough time to get bored. They were able to devise better tactics by fighting the same creatures multiple times.

14) Or was it more interesting because it’s a challenge that 5e PC’s have fewer HP’s and no healing surges than 4e?

Fewer hit point did make combat more lethal.

15) Was the party balanced or did they wish they had a Cleric and Wizard instead of two bards? (Were the bards inspirational. They’re annoying to me lol)

They had no issues without a Cleric or Wizard (so far).

16) It sounds like even though they had 6 PC’s you didn’t adjust the number of opponents(?)

I did not. A crit will kill most PCs at level 1 so I didn’t make any adjustment. When they hit level 2 I will tweak for more players.

17) Did the NPC’s fight? If so did you control them?

They did. And I did.

18) How much easier or more difficult was it to run as a DM compared to 4e Encounters so far?

It was about the same. No easier no more difficult.

19) I’ve read on other forums that TPK’s were easy to come by. How did yours survive even vs. crits without a rest?

They’re not done episode 1 yet. They will need a short rest before it’s over and may have 1 or more PCs die if they aren’t careful or if my DM dice get hot.

20) Were the player’s 5e expectations met when they finished the session?

I believe so, but it’s only 1 session. It’s hard to tell for sure.

21) I haven’t listened to the podcast yet. Thanks for making them available.

You’re welcome. Many of the questions you’ve asked were covered in out Recounting Encounters podcast.

22) As always it’s nice to read how different groups and DM’s ran it and how it played out (hey it’s D&D the best RPG! : )

That’s a big part of why I keep posting the weekly sessions. Glad you find them entertaining. Please keep reading and keep commenting.

Thanks for answering anything you can!

10 Vobekhan August 22, 2014 at 4:21 pm

We have been running the first couple of chapters of Lost Mine of Phandelver before starting HotDQ. I have amended the not in the Redbands lair to read “…maps in their possession are delivered to me with haste at the camp near Greenest.”
We have two full tables this season with another possible 3 players that may be joining us soon. My table are only playing every other week (due to most of them being wargamers with other commitments) so we play for 4 hours a time.
I think we should finish Lost Mine chapter 2 next session and will then move on to HotDQ, really looking forward to it as I had the opportunity to playtest it and had a blast.

11 Don Cee August 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

We had a record crowd in Nashville at Encounters this week. We had 4 tables with 7 players each at the Game Keep. We are out of room, so, thankfully, the Game Cave and Roll the Dice are also offering the new Encounters seasons and can accommodate more players in the Greater Nashville area. We had a mix of our regular players (around 15) and 14 new players on Wednesday night. Everyone had a character created already and we didnt have to use any pregens! I have been building the Greater Nashville gaming community since 2010 and my Meetup Group has helped to increase awareness and “advertise” D&D for this area. We are over 800 members now. The dues are paid by the games stores that are sponsors. You should have a Meetup group for your store/area.

12 Bronzethumb August 23, 2014 at 10:48 am

Ah… I was curious how people were “supposed” to deal with things in this first session. Our party bard actually convinced the dragon to pack it in and leave, and there was a distinct sense of the DM thinking “well, bugger, now what do I do?”

13 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 23, 2014 at 7:52 pm

@Bronzethumb
There are 8 encounters in the episode. Dealing with the dragon was just one of them. Your DM can run these encounters in any order they want to. Your party still has work to do so don’t think you can take your long rest yet. ;)

14 Fire Brand August 25, 2014 at 8:50 pm

@Ameron

Thank you for answering! You do a remarkable job in documenting the proceedings. I started to listen to the podcast recap. I get too easily distracted. It’s easier to post some Q’s since 5e is new. Concise answers work fine. I’ll pick up numbering where I left off:

23) Did your table have any issue identifying distance (Ranges) between combatants for spells or other ranged attacks since you didn’t use a grid?

24) If combat rounds are 6 sec in the game world. Then it’s 10 rounds per minute(!?) Does a spell with a duration of 1 min basically last the entire “encounter” and then some?

25) Here’s why I ask about faction packs tied to Classes. The WotC Class suggestions in the WotC official Player’s Guide ADVLeague_PlayerGuide_TODv1.pdf. Two examples:

25a) The Zhentarim is an unscrupulous shadow network that seeks to expand its influence and power throughout Faerûn. The organization is ambitious, opportunistic, and meritocratic. Rogues and Warlocks of neutral and/or evil alignments are commonly drawn to the Zhentarim.

25b) The Harpers is a scattered network of spellcasters and spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power. The organization is benevolent, knowledgeable, and secretive. Bards and wizards of good alignments are commonly drawn to the Harpers.

I guess an Archfey or Old One’s Warlock could work for Harpers but a Fiend Pact wouldn’t be a great idea. The term ‘Spies’ leaves any class open. Some more than others.

But that’s what I was getting at.

25c) I personally would want to play a faction. But it should be notes: “Factions are an important part of the D&D Adventurers League experience, but characters don’t have to become a member of a faction right away, or at all. Belonging to a faction sometimes means having responsibilities, but it also carries with it support and rewards for service.

26) It sounds like a spell caster needs spell descriptions in front of them ala 4e power cards even at low levels. I know there’s at least one person online that has a generator and a third party is making spell cards. In lieu of that I bet players will have to scan or photocopy to print spells or stickie note the PHB.

27) I heard that a HotDQ DM could swap humanoid races out for human cultists ie. Dwarf, Half-Orc, Elf etc. to give it more flavor. But use the Cultist Stats. That would add interest and possible roleplay between PC races that match up.

28) There’s are basic 5e gameplay observations I’ll be curious to see how they play out (from reading not playing yet):
1) How much backgrounds and Inspiration comes into play for a particular adventure between PC-to-PC, PC-to-NPC, PC-to-Monsters, and PC-to-Villian the way WotC would like it to. It sounds like it can create more gameplay variety and like you said and I was getting at ‘flexibilty’.
2) All my other concerns are related to PC toughness and durablity (hey feats : )
2a) Low PC HP’s and DM Crits as you say can kill a character and very easily TPK and how much that can suck the life out of having fun. Or up the ante on tension.
2b) Rests longer than the 4e mechanic. And in tandem with that no second wind (apart from a fighter feature) or healing surges replaced with less Hit Dice.
2c) How often PC’s get in a full 1 hour ‘short’ rest and 8hr ‘long’ rest to recover without any interrupting attacks or action in the middle of the night.
2d) How much a party will really wish they had a really good healer like a Cleric.
2e) If 3rd level is when PC’s start to feel more ‘powerful’ and less worried about ‘death’.

15 Fire Brand August 25, 2014 at 8:53 pm

@ Justin-

Great write up. I like the way you mention their Backgrounds and Factions up front.

16 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 26, 2014 at 8:43 am

@Fire Brand

I’ve answered where you’ve asked direct questions.

Did your table have any issue identifying distance (Ranges) between combatants for spells or other ranged attacks since you didn’t use a grid?

No. we just used our best judgement. I wasn’t too concerned about 5-10 feet here and there. We did what was best for the story and the pacing.

If combat rounds are 6 sec in the game world. Then it’s 10 rounds per minute(!?) Does a spell with a duration of 1 min basically last the entire “encounter” and then some?

That’s correct. Remember that if a PC casts a spell that requires concentration he has to make a concentration check every time he takes damage or the spell ends.

How much backgrounds and Inspiration comes into play for a particular adventure between PC-to-PC, PC-to-NPC, PC-to-Monsters, and PC-to-Villain the way WotC would like it to. It sounds like it can create more gameplay variety and like you said and I was getting at ‘flexibility’.

This really comes down to the DM and the players. For story-heavy groups this will come into play a lot. For combat-heavy groups less so.

17 Fire Brand August 26, 2014 at 5:24 pm

@ Ameron-

Excellent answers. Very helpful. I also listened to the recap podcast.

Regarding Factions since it’s such a big part of HotDQ Encounters. This is what I’m getting at. It’ll be interesting to see what combos of a player’s (and between player’s) PC Class Archetypes, Domains, Origins, Patrons, Arcane Traditions etc. PC Alignments, and Backgrounds work well, not as well, or not at all with certain Faction’s Goals, Beliefs, Member Traits overall M.O.

Or what a DM will not allow or discourage beyond WotC recommendations. Although the guidelines do leave some loopholes or disclaimers for creatively playing almost anything because of 5e flexibilty.

“The code is more what you’d call ”guidelines“ than actual rules.” -Capt Barbossa PotC :

For anyone wondering I’m referencing the free ADVLeague_PlayerGuide_TODv1.pdf http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/events/adventurers-league-resources

18 Tony F August 27, 2014 at 11:31 pm

My crew is starting a week behind and I ran the Intro and Seek the Keep tonight. I just sat down to total up the XP they earned and I’m a bit confused. I had 5 players at my table. I went a little bit off script, but they rescued Lilan, her husband, and their 3 kids (5 NPCs saved x 50 xp = 250 xp) and they defeated three separate cultist groups: 3 guards & 1 acolyte (125 xp), 8 kobolds (200 xp), and 6 kobolds & 3 cultists (225 xp). That totals 800 xp or 160xp / character.

So here’s where I’m confused. The “Designing D&D Encounters Sessions” call-out box on page 10 both states that it should take 5-6 sessions to complete Episode 1, but the max xp for the episode is 300. My players are over half way to the cap after only one session. Am I misinterpreting or miscalculating something here or do the PCs earn significantly less xp in the future missions for this episode?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: