So far the party I’m running has defeated Kobolds who were attacking the good townsfolk of Greenest, escorted the locals safely to the keep, cleared out the old tunnel, saved the mill, captured prisoners, and had their fare share of random encounters with Dragon Cultists and more Kobolds along the way. Between the last session and this one they took a short rest, so now they’re ready to push on and drive the remaining attackers out of Greenest, including the Blue Dragon.
We had another phenomenal week in terms of participants at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto. There were 34 players and 5 DMs. Our streak of initiating new players to 5e D&D continued as we had four newbies this week. All of them had played some D&D before so that helped them catch on quickly. By the end of this week’s session three of the five tables completed Episode 1 while the other two tables expect to complete it next week.
Six of the seven players at my table had earned more than the requisite 300 XP to level up. So everyone but our newest player did so. Two of the players decided to completely rework their characters (which is allowed). So when we finally got started the party consisted of the following PCs: Tiefling Bard, Halfling Ranger, Elf Rogue, Dragonborn Fighter, Drow Sorcerer (reworked from Warlock), Elf Rogue (reworked from Bard), and Human Paladin (our new player).
During the last session the PCs captured two cult Lieutenants and an Acolyte. While the PCs took their short rest they observed the interrogation by Governor Nighthill’s chief interrogator. The prisoners eventually revealed that the reason they were attacking Greenest was to collect loot for the great hoard that will usher in the reign of the Queen of Dragons. They also revealed that the cult is guarding a clutch of Dragon eggs back at their camp.
Afterward the PCs met with Governor Nighthill to discus the next steps in the siege and then afterwards. Nighthill believes that if the damned Blue Dragon would stop attacking that the cultists, especially the Kobolds, would give up and leave Greenest. He asked the PCs to go on the wall and bolster his forces. Hopefully they can figure out a way to get the Dragon to stop attacking even if it means shooting the wyrm out of the sky.
At that moment cries erupted from the gate. Kobolds managed to break through the first door of the sally port. The PCs knew they’d be needed on the ground to help shore up defenses. The Ranger and two Rogues headed up to the wall to face off against the Dragon while the rest of the PCs went to the gate to try and push back the Kobolds.
Although these are separate missions, I ran them simultaneously. I did a complete cycle of the initiative for the group at the sally port and the attacking monsters, and then I switched to the group on the wall and let them do a complete run of the initiative along with the Dragon. I felt this was a better way to do it then completing one group’s encounter while the others sat and did nothing, and then vice versa.
Each week I’ve made a point of describing how the Blue Dragon was attacking the keep. At first he was dive bombing the keep every 5 minutes or so as soon as his lightning breath recharged. As the night went on the attacks became less frequent happening about every 10 minutes or so. As they spread out the Dragon’s precisions got worse. He didn’t really seem to care where the lightning struck, as long as it hit something. By the time the PCs got to the wall the Dragon’s attacks were getting predictable so the archers could hide and avoid the brunt of the lightning.
The heroes decided to use this pattern to shoot back and try to convince the Dragon to just fly away. Unfortunately they had a hard time getting over the Dragon Fear. The Ranger made his save on the first try (natural 20), but the Rogues kept failing. I ruled that as long as they were frightened any attacks were at disadvantage. This made it tough for them to get advantage and the accompanying sneak dice when they hit.
The encounter was actually kind of boring (I blame poor design). The adventure clearly stated that if the Dragon attacked the PCs directly they’d die. So basically the PCs could shoot at the Dragon but I had to come up with an excuse for why they weren’t getting any retaliation from the beast. I tried to use narrative to make it sound cool and menacing, but I don’t think I succeeded as well as I’d hoped.
Eventually the PCs managed to score a few shots on the Dragon so I said it changed it’s attack pattern and did come after them. I allowed them to hide behind cover to avoid damage. Once they all saved against the fear (both Rogues saved in the same round) they managed to get enough damage to convince the Dragon to fly off and not return. Victory!
As a side note, two of the other tables at my FLGS had PCs that spoke Draconic on the wall for this mission and they managed to talk to the Dragon and convince it to stop attacking. I don’t think many groups will try this avenue, but I think it would make for a better encounter.
The Sally Port
First of all I had to look up what a sally port was. Best I could find was that the medieval sally port is like an airlock on a submarine. There are two sets of doors. You open the first doors, send it your troops, close the doors behind them, then open the second set of doors and let them rush in. By always keeping one set of doors closed, attackers are less likely to break into the keep if the smash through the first set of doors.
The Kobolds used a battering ram to get through the first set of doors and were setting up a secure force at the second set of doors denying the defenders a chance to come in and fix the exterior doors. The PCs decided to rush the Kobolds and push them out. Once successful they’d close the broken doors and try to repair them or barricade them if that was not possible.
The few remaining defenders inside the keep agreed to close the doors behind the PCs as soon as they were through. They didn’t want any Kobolds sneaking past them and getting inside. On the count of three they opened the doors and let the PCs rush in.
In the space between the doors were two Kobolds, one Winged Kobold, and one Ambush Drake. Outside the PCs could see many Kobolds and Cultist running about try to gather themselves for some kind of assault. Three Kobold slingers saw the PCs and shot at them from a safe distance while their friends attacked up close.
For this encounter my dice were red hot. I rolled five 20s and two 19s on my first eight attacks. Slings have never been so deadly. The PCs managed to drop the two close Kobolds in the first round but the Winged Kobold and the Drake proved more difficult. After my fantastic rolls the PCs were getting ready to retreat, but they realized if they did they might not have this chance again.
The Sorcerer managed to drop a slinger with magic, but the other kept attacking and hitting. One of the Acolyte Cultists moved up and cast spells back at the Sorcerer. The PCs realized they would be killed if they didn’t get the doors closed so the Fighter risked an opportunity attack from the Drake (which missed) and managed to get one of the broken doors closed providing some cover. That was when things started going right for the PCs.
The fighting went on for a few more rounds and eventually the PCs managed to get both doors closed. The Paladin and Fighter held the doors closed while the Bard and Sorcerer called for the guards to open the inner door and help them secure the sally port. Supplies brought into the keep during the siege were just inside the doors so the heroes managed to get some barrels and crates into the sally port to reinforce the doors and ensure they couldn’t be opened.
Once the doors were secured the Sorcerer cast mending over and over again until the doors were completely repaired. The crisis was over and the PCs lived though it. However, the Paladin and Fighter both took heavy damage.
Once the PCs regrouped and both teams came together to swap tales and determine next steps, a loud voice echoed from outside the keep. The PCs ran up to the wall to witness what was happening. A group of Kobolds led by a huge Half-Dragon man approached the keep. They had prisoners and were using them as shields.
“Defenders of Greenest!” he called out. “This has been a successful night, and I am feeling generous. Do you see these four pitiful, useless prisoners? We have no need for them, so I will trade them back to you. Send out your best warrior to fight me, and you can have these four in exchange.”
One of the guards on the wall recognized the prisoners. It was his sister and her kids. The guard immediately volunteered to go and fight the Half-Dragon. Governor Nighthill looked to the PCs, hoping one of them would step forward. The party’s Dragonborn Fighter wanted to go but was below half his maximum hit points. The Halfling Ranger immediately stepped up. As a Folk Hero he knew he had to do this even though he might die. The Paladin also stepped forward saying that this was her duty.
Neither PC backed down so the players had to role-play it out and come up with a solution. The Rogue stepped in and suggested they draw straws. Her true motive was to hold the straws and ensure the Ranger would get to fight. Eventually the character agreed to draw straws. The Rogue used Slight of Hand to fix the contest. The Paladin had no clue, the Ranger saw the cheat but said nothing.
The Ranger left the keep and advanced towards the Half-Dragon. He literally laughed at the “Champion” the people chose. But he held true to his honour and released the three kids. He agreed to release the woman when the fighting was over, regardless of the outcome.
The Ranger won initiative and managed to score a hit and wound the Half-Dragon. The Half-Dragon also scored a hit but did almost minimal damage with his greatsword. The Ranger realized he was outmatched so he decided to try and taunt and embarrass the Half-Dragon by dodging rather than attacking. It worked at first. The Half-Dragon missed. Then he told the Ranger to stay still and fight as he released his lightning breath on him. That hurt.
The Ranger kept on dodging and managed to stay on his feet for a couple more rounds until the Half-Dragon recharged his breath weapon and shocked him again. That dropped the Ranger. The Half-Dragon stepped up to his unconscious body and stabbed him once for good measure before he turned and left with the rest of the Kobolds.
The PCs rushed out to heal their fallen ally. He awoke to cheers and admiration from all the people of Greenest. The folk hero who first scared off the Blue Dragon and then faced the Half-Dragon champion to save four people he’d never met.
So ends Episode 1. The PCs got a long rest and next week we pick up with Episode 2.
Although this week’s session didn’t have as many combatants as previous week’s I think it still worked pretty well. The Dragon flyby encounter was a bit dumb in my opinion but we managed. I decided to skip the one remaining mission because I knew we wouldn’t finish the episode this week if we didn’t. Knowing that six of seven PCs were essentially not earning XP this week since they’d hit the 300 XP cap I wanted to wrap up episode 1 and move on to episode 2 as quickly as possible.
The battle against the Half-Dragon champion was a lot of fun even though only one PC participated. Even the players who were just watching were having a lot of fun. It’s nice when the story gets everyone so involved that they are happy to just watch it unfold.
One thing that came up this week was the rule for hiding in 5e, specifically regarding when the Rogue can hide and attack with advantage. We talk about this in great length at the end of this week’s Recounting Encounters podcast and I’m still not sure we’ve landed on the correct answer. I’ll be writing separate blog post on hiding in 5e next week so list to the podcast, read the post on Monday and weigh in to help us get it right.
Did you group finish episode 1 this week? How did your representative do against the Half-Dragon? We’ve had two PCs die at our FLGS in the first three weeks. Have any PCs died at your FLGS? Were you one of them?
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Recounting Encounters Podcast
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