D&D Encounters: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Episode 2, Session 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 25, 2014

hoard-of-the-dragon-queen-cover-2The PCs thought they’d tricked a Cultist into vouching for them and fast-tracking them to membership in the Cult of Dragons, instead they were put in irons and forced into servitude. However, they escaped and now wander the camp in search of the missing Monk, Leosin Erlanthar.

Our sessions at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto continue to draw huge numbers. We had over 30 players this week. All five DMs had their hands full with tables at maximum capacity. My party of seven has shown remarkable stability and consistency week to week. The only change to the group this week was the return of a player who’d been off subbing in for an ill DM last week.

My table had the following PCs this week: Halfling Rogue (1), Tiefling Bard (2), Drow Sorcerer (2), Tiefling Warlock (2), Elf Rogue (3), Dragonborn Fighter (3), Halfling Ranger (3).

During the last session the party split into two groups. The Dragonborn Fighter had ingratiated himself with the Half-Dragon, Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, and was given a task to prove his loyalty. The rest of the party was captured, but escaped easily after killing three guards.

Freeing Leosin

leosinThe PCs noticed a lone prisoner bound to an X-shaped stake in an open area near the leader’s tent and the cave mouth. They believed this could be the missing Monk so they slowly moved towards him. When they got close they could see the prisoner was badly beaten and currently unconscious. They debated what to do before finally using a Healer’s Kit and a Medicine check to revive him.

As they asked him questions he believed he was again being interrogated by Cultists since some of the PCs still wore Cultist robes. When the PCs finally realized this they clearly stated that they were from Greenest and that Nesim Waladra, Leosin’s ally, had sent them here to rescue him. Leosin said he let himself get captured so he could learn more about the Dragon Cult. He’d already learned more in the last day than he’d discovered in the past few months from afar. He told the PCs to leave him.

They were ready to do as he asked when one of the PCs asked him if he realized he was supposed to be executed in the morning. This was new news to him. Now he was ready to be freed. The heroes cut him loose but he was badly injured and couldn’t walk without aid. The Bard used magic to heal his wounds.

As the PCs were ready to leave with Leosin, the Rogue (now and Arcane Trickster) cast an illusion of Leosin on the stake to make it look like he was still there. Unfortunately the spell only last 1 minute so they didn’t get very far before it disappeared. As the group headed away from the area where Leosin was bound they saw a Cultist and a Kobold heading towards them. The Kobold had weapons drawn.

Making Friends with Cultists

The Dragonborn Fighter cleaned the Cultist’s blood off his great sword and then quickly made his way back to Langdedrosa’s tent to report that he’d completed the task the Half-Dragon had given him. The Cultists guarding the tent allowed him to enter. Inside Langdedrosa was talking to six Kobolds dressed in dark leather armor and all equipped with fine looking weapons.

The Fighter said he’d done as he was asked, not wanting to give too many details in front of the Kobolds. Langdedrosa was impressed and told the Kobolds to expect great things from this Dragonborn. The Kobolds immediately reacted positively towards the Fighter.

Spotting the party’s gear still sitting off to one side of the tent, the Fighter decided to again ask what was to become of his allies. He vouched for their abilities and loyalty to the Dragon Cult. Langdedrosa agreed to give them another chance in the morning after the execution of the special prisoner currently bound in the clearing. The Half-Dragon told one of the Kobolds to escort the Fighter to a tent so he could get some rest.

As the Dragonborn and Kobold started heading towards the tents the Kobold noticed a group of Cultists near the special prisoner. When they cut him down and then an illusionary copy appeared the Kobold knew something was amiss. He told the Dragonborn to be ready for combat and to follow his lead. The two approached the party.

As the two groups got closer to each other the Fighter realized these were his allies. He let the Kobold get a step ahead of him and then stabbed him in the back with his great sword, killing him with one swift stab. The party saw this and at first weren’t sure what had happened, until a few of the PCs got close enough to recognize their ally.

Together Again, For Now

The party moved the Kobold’s body out of sight and tried to hide near some tents. I made it clear that the camp was still active and that the missing prisoner might be noticed at any second if someone walked by. The players took about 10-15 minutes of real time to talk about what they should do next. Some wanted to just leave with Leosin, quickly and quietly, whereas some wanted to retrieve their gear before leaving.

As the players argued and tried to come up with a plan they liked I finally told them that Cultist were moving towards the stake where Leosin was supposed to be bound. The players continued arguing. So I had them roll initiative to accentuate the urgency. That didn’t help. Finally the Ranger and Sorcerer said they were escorting Leosin out of camp and they left. The rest of the party was set on getting their weapons back so they kept plotting and planning the best way to do that.

Battling the Half-Dragon

half-dragonCultists realized the special prisoner was missing. An alarm was raised in the camp. Cultists who were sleeping were rudely awakened. They grabbed torches and lanterns to as they got organized and took stock of the situation. The PCs hiding near some tents finally realized they needed to do something, so they headed towards Langdedrosa’s tent.

The plan was for the Fighter to enter the tent and draw Langdedrosa’s attention while the PCs cut through the tent flaps, retrieve their stuff and fight Cultists only if discovered. Step one worked easily enough. The guards admitted the Fighter without issue. Once inside the Fighter told Langdedrosa that the special prisoner had escaped and offered to help however he could. Only three Kobolds remained in the tent and Langdedrosa sent them out to find out what was going on.

A few minutes later they returned confirming that Leosin had escaped. They also learned that the Fighter’s allies had escaped, killing three guards in the process. Langdedrosa eyed the Fighter suspiciously and asked him to give up his weapons, which he did. He then told the Kobolds to find the Kobold who’d escorted the Fighter out earlier that night.

By now the PCs outside had seen Kobolds come and go a couple of times. They also realized they’d be spotted soon if they didn’t act, so they did. The Rogue cut an opening in the tent large enough to enter through. At this point we rolled initiative. Langdedrosa rolled a 20. His two guards outside the tent rolled 19. The rest of the party rolled poorly.

Langdedrosa began by blasting the Rogue with Lightning Breath. She saved but still took 9 damage (it could have been so much worse as the damage roll is 4d10). He then called to his guards who rushed in. One took on the Fighter while one ran towards the newly cut entrance to the tent to engage the other PCs.

Round 1 went pretty good for the PCs, but in round 2 Langdedrosa dropped the Bard and a Cultist Guard dropped the Halfling Rogue. By then the Fighter had retrieved his weapons and was going toe-to-toe with Langdedrosa. The remaining PCs spread their attacks on the guards finally dropping both of them. The three Kobolds joined the combat in the fourth round firing sling bullets as they closed the distance. But when the Warlock’s blast dropped Langdedrosa the Kobolds fled.

The PCs tended to their fallen allies, both of whom had two strikes on their death saves. They then grabbed their gear, threw the unconscious PCs over their shoulders and ran. As they moved through the camp they were challenged a few times, but the Dragonborn Fighter was able to use Deception and Intimidate to get by unmolested. The only time the PCs failed these checks was just as they were leaving the camp, but the three conscious PCs easily killed the two Cultists who tried to stop them.

Once out of the camp they met up with the other PCs and Leosin. The group made some Survival checks and Stealth checks to avoid detection from any Cultists who may try to follow them. It wasn’t hard for the party to find a cave in which they could safely take a short rest. After an hour their unconscious allies woke up and the party made their way back to Greenest without incident.

Back in Greenest

By the time the party finally returned it was morning. When they met with Governor Nighthill they told him what they’d learned and Leosin filled in the blanks. When the PCs were asked about prisoners they said they’d found some but didn’t free them. This did not go over well with the Governor. The PCs then asked for their 250 gp reward which Governor Nighthill reluctantly paid as promised.

He said that if prisoners are still alive they needed to be rescued so a force would have to return to the Cultists’ camp. This group should also try to get into the guarded cave to destroy the Dragon eggs and try to recover some of the missing loot. He told the PCs it would take another day or two to get the town’s militia ready for such an assault and he expected the PCs to lead the way.

End of Episode 2.

Thoughts

After freeing Leosin there wasn’t really that much more for the party to do besides leave. I had a few ideas on how to throw in some combat, but when they decided to go back to Langdedrosa’s tent to recover their items I thought this would make for a great climax to the episode.

I made it clear to the player running the Dragonborn that his PC could easily stay with the cult undercover if he wanted to stay, but he wasn’t really interested so I didn’t push it.

When the two PCs escorted Leosin out of camp I wanted to make sure the players were still involved. So during the combat I gave them the Guards and Kobolds to run. I often do this to keep everyone immersed in the game when their character isn’t present. It also speeds things up since I roll less dice and make fewer decisions on the monsters’ turn.

Most of the XP earned this Episode is awarded for completing specific tasks rather than just combat. Freeing Leosin was worth 250 XP per character, putting a dummy or another corpse in his place was 50 XP per character, avoiding detection in the camp was 100 XP per character, not having the alarm raised was another 100 XP per character, and each prisoner rescued was worth 25 XP. Since my group wasn’t as stealthy as they could have been and didn’t free any prisoners I was glad they faced off with Langdedrosa as he was worth 1,100 XP. They still earned their maximum 600 XP over three sessions, but it was close. Many other groups at our FLGS didn’t come anywhere close to getting 600 XP this episode.

For groups that have completed Episode 2 did your party earn the max XP? How many groups left Leosin do his own fate? Did your party rescue prisoners? Did any other parties face off with the Half-Dragon?

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.

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1 GreenDestiny September 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm

After all the effort and information the governor got, he still reluctantly paid 250gp. Governor Nighthill is a d!ck (LOL), the PCs are not his personal guard/slave. Does the PCs have any personal interest/benefit for the town? Oh wait does this make my alignment evil/neutral? 😮

2 monsterenvy September 26, 2014 at 12:50 am

Cyanwrath was dropped but did he die?

3 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

@monsterenvy
They made sure he was dead, going as far as attacking his unconscious body to ensure 3 failed death saves. However, there may be more Half-Dragons lurking about the camp or even in the cave. We’ll see. 🙂

4 Ameron (Derek Myers) September 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

@GreenDestiny
He was reluctant to pay because of the casual way the PCs said they didn’t free the prisoners, and then in the very next breath asked for payment.

5 Atromar September 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm

@Ameron

When it comes to random fights that you threw in, such as the battle with Cyanwrath, do you come up with any special gear or treasure to find on them? Or was the group more worried with getting out alive after the encounter?

6 Fire Brand September 27, 2014 at 1:07 am

Another great write-up! Is there ever going to be any use of Factions? Or PC backgrounds, personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws that WotC is trying to make a big deal about in 5e and Encounters?

7 Ginger of GMG October 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Thank you! Great podcast!

Ginger

8 Joe October 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

We just ran this session this week (10/15).

We began with my table all on wooden x-es, waiting for nightfall to try & escape (they got captured at the end of last session). Before going to bed, the priestess Frulam Mondath announced that they’d execute 5 of the “high-value” prisoners (the PCs & the monk) at dawn(one for each of tiamat’s heads), though exactly which 5 would be determined by some chaotic method befitting Tiamat’s ideology (probably blinding a distempered forest creature & seeing which 5 it lashed out at first).

There was some cool shenanigans about waiting for guards to turn their backs and torches going dark thanks to the Tiefling’s innate Thaumaturgy lowering the flames. At one point I even drew a question mark over the head of the guards on our white board after someone failed a Stealth check, and all the Metal Gear Solid and Thief players got a good laugh. They rescued the monk as well, though his leg was badly broken, so he spent most of his energy doing a monkey-style crawl to move at regular speed.

I had all 3 cult “leaders” present in the camp (Rezmir isn’t technically supposed to be there, as written, but I had missed that, as well as another detail I’ll get to later), so I drew it out with the PCs in the middle, 2 guard groups a short distance away on either side, 4-5 torches nearby, 3 leader tents sort of equidistant around the party, and a smaller tent where their weapons & gear were.

The party went for their gear first. I decided that since I didn’t want to have totally unarmored PCs, they would be at -1 AC for having hastily put on their armor in a round or two (instead of the several minutes it’d normally take), but otherwise still got the benefits of the armor. They took out some guards pretty quickly (human guards were not good in the dark, and all the PCs had Darkvision).

However, one of the guards also escaped & ran to the nearest leader tent… which happened to be Rezmir’s. This was maybe 80 ft away, but as they took out the rest of the guards, they saw Rezmir, annoyed, emerge from the tent. Because I’d seen Rezmir’s stats from when they’re SUPPOSED to fight him near the end of the HC adventure, I didn’t want a TPK, so Rezmir summoned 2 Spined Devils (CR2… thank you Mike Shea for the monsters-by-challenge-rating chart I pasted in the back of my Monster Manual) to deal with them.

The spined devils were, in fact, a reasonable foe to throw at the party, but two party members… an archer and a dwarven melee fighter, decided to take on Rezmir as well. This was despite the fact that Rezmir was in the OPPOSITE direction from where the exit of the camp was. I decided Rezmir was not wearing the mask yet, and also decreased the caustic bolt & acid breath damage by 1 die each… yet even showing a disengaged & uninterested (though still clearly deadly) Rezmir, those 2 PCs pressed onward. Eventually I had Rezmir draw the sword, Hazirawn, which had a palpable feel of power. I told the dwarf (who’d just charged at & hit Rezmir) that he could feel the sword itself looking at him and wanting to hurt him. This was enough to convince him to leave, and the archer (who’d been dropped by long-range acid damage) got a few HP from the Paladin’s lay-on-hands and also decided to flee. Rezmir did a villainous laugh at them as they fled, because he had no real need for them. The morning sacrifice was Mondath’s thing, anyway.

It wasn’t till afterwards that I realized that Rezmir is actually a female character. The art & miniature both looked male to me, so that’s how I’d been describing the character. I plan to get around this by saying that the sword Hazirawn is a powerful male sentient force, and while Rezmir possesses it, that energy eclipses her own identity in many ways. I planted the seed for this by having the dwarf make an Insight check as he ran, realizing after the fact that he wasn’t really sure if the half dragon was wielding the sword, or if the sword was wielding the half-dragon.

My party was very pleased with the session, though they failed to rescue any other prisoners besides the monk. They also got no treasure for themselves, but they all agreed it made sense (actually, somebody did try to steal some supplies from Rezmir’s tent… so he ended up with a jar labeled “Human eyeballs – Left”. Got to keep things interesting). I’m excited to see what Chapter 3 will bring to our tables.

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