The party defeated the half-Dragon and his five fanatical Barbarian underlings in the Dragon Shrine during the last session. Most of the PCs were pretty banged up so they took another short rest before advancing to the Dragon Hatchery this week. Fortunately none of the creatures still inside the caverns stumbled upon the PCs while they rested so after an hour it was down the stairs into the bowels of the cave.
We ran four table this week at Hairy Tarantula North in Toronto. Three groups are nearing the end of Episode 3 while the fourth table has already moved on to Episode 4. Our usual fifth which has also already moved onto Episode 4 decided to play on a different night beginning this week. It’s good for us because it frees up some space and it’s good for them because they’re now on a night where there’s nothing else going on at our FLGS giving them free run of the place.
This week I had seven players at my table, six of my regulars and one brand new player. The new players had a lot of experience with D&D 2e and 3e, but none with 5e. The table rounded out as follows: Elf Rogue / Arcane Trickster (4), Dragonborn Fighter (4), Halfling Rogue / Assassin (3), Tiefling Bard (3), Tiefling Warlock (3), Elf Ranger (3), Human Fighter (1).
The Bard and Elf Rogue quietly proceeded down into the humid room while the rest of the party waited in the Dragon Shrine (#9). The large, warm chamber was dark, but both PCs had darkvision so that wasn’t a problem. The southern half of the chamber dropped 15 feet to reveal a large pit. At the far end of the room was another area that looked like a pit, but the PCs couldn’t see it from their vantage point.
They spotted a wooden staircase descending into the pit. It was surrounded by a cage, much like the one they’d seen in a previous chamber. As they moved along the ledge they eventually spotted three Guard Drakes guarding three large Dragon eggs. They’d found their prize; time to get the party.
Suddenly two Kobolds appeared from the other recessed area of the room and threw glue pots at the PCs. Both heroes failed their Dex saves and were stuck. Two more Kobolds then threw fire pots and lit the glue afire, burning the accelerant and the PCs. The PCs at the top of the stairs heard the commotion and ran down to assist their allies.
Four frightened Kobolds proved no match for seven PCs and the fight was over before it began. However, as the last Kobold fell the Ranger, Bard and Dragonborn Fighter all heard in their minds a telepathic request to “feed me!”
The Ranger looked down at the dead Kobold adjacent to him, and decided to roll it into the pit. Before the body hit the floor, a long rope-like tentacle lashed out from one of the stalagmites and grabbed the body. The appendage then brought the body towards the stalagmite’s now open mouth. This was not a normal stalagmite, before the party was a huge monster called a Roper.
The PCs knew they had to destroy the Dragon eggs but they were certainly hesitant to get close to the Roper. Those with ranged weapons and ranged spells shot at the Guard Drakes who’d cleverly positioned themselves in front of the Dragon eggs. After a round of shooting at the Guard Drakes and mostly missing, the Roper again telepathically demanded to be fed and lashed out at the closest PCs, grappling the Dragonborn Fighter and the Warlock. The Ranger was among the closest PCs but was noticeably not attacked by the Roper.
The Ranger, Bard, and Elf Rogue all caught on quickly and tossed the remaining three Kobold bodies into the pit for the Roper. However, the Roper had choicer morsels in it’s grasp and bit down on the Fighter hard. The Fighter and Warlock fought back as best they could. The Halfling Rogue and Human Fighter continued to focus ranged attacks on the Guard Drakes, dropping one.
The grappled PCs managed to escape the Roper but they had difficulty overcoming the monster’s 20 AC. After the PCs managed to score a couple of hits on the Roper it said it would stop attacking if the PCs continued to feed it. The Elf Rogue offered the dead Barbarians rotting in the Dragon Shrine. The Roper agreed and the PCs worked together to quickly bring the bodies down the stairs and throw them into the pit.
With the Roper temporarily satisfied, the PCs focused all the attention on the Guard Drakes. The Guard Drakes moved into melee with the nearby Warlock and Fighter in the pit, but they didn’t last long. Eventually the combined forces of seven PCs using focused fire dropped them. The PC then smashed the eggs and left the Roper’s domain.
Dragon Shrine (#9)
Back in the shrine the PCs searched the room again. This time they discovered that the relief carving of Tiamat was on a hinge. Behind the false wall was a chute that led upwards. Hanging from some unseen exit above, was a rope ladder.
Mondath’s Chamber (#11)
The Elf Rogue easily climbed the ladder until she reached the top of the chute. It was covered by a large rug. There was no subtle way to escape the chute so she pulled the rug aside to climb out. Unfortunately two guards were stationed in the room waiting for just this happenstance. One fired a crossbow and the other ran down the passage to the next room, sounding the alarm as he went.
The Guard won initiative, shot again, and then ran into an alcove to get cover. The Rogue called down to her allies and then got out of the hole. The Guard took another quick shot as the PCs emerged from the chute and ducked back out of sight again. The PCs rushed the lone Guard and killed him.
The Halfling Rogue searched the alcove once he realized this was someone’s private chambers. On the desk he found maps, notes, and bad poetry about Dragons. The rest of the party moved down the passage to the next room. They could hear the sounds of Guards forming a defensive line so they knew they’d face tough resistance.
Guard Barracks (#12)
The Ranger was the first PC down the hall so he took the brunt of the Guards’ crossbow bolts. The rest of the party barrelled into the room and stayed grouped around the passage from which they’d just come. Before the party were four Guards, a Dragonclaw Guard, and two Acolytes.
The Elf Rogue cast Sleep into the room before any of the PCs got too far ahead, and managed to get two of the Guards. The two other Guards each spent their next action waking up their slumbering comrades. As quickly as the PCs dropped the first few Guards, new ones came pouring into the room to bolster the enemy’s ranks.
For the next three rounds it was a barrage of blades, spells, and sneak dice. The Ranger and Halfling Rogue both fell unconscious as a second Dragonclaw Guard and the Dragon cult leader, Mondath, joined the fight.
The party shifted their focus to Mondath but they couldn’t hit her. It was the Fighter who landed the first hit, and it was a crit. He took out more than half Mondath’s hit points with one swing. She decided to unleash her biggest spell, Inflict Wounds. It connected and the Fighter took 35 damage, enough to drop him. Behinds the enemy lines the Acolytes were busy healing Mondath and the other Guards who were near death.
Things looked grim for team heroes until the Ranger rolled a 20 on his death save and got right back into the fight. The party realized that they might survive longer if they just took care of the pesky Guards. So with a change to the tactics the Guards and Acolytes started dropping fast.
When there were only two Guards and Mondath remaining, the Dragon cult leader realized she was likely going to lose to these adventurers. She risked three opportunity attacks to dash away. Two missed, but the Ranger scored a crit. It didn’t drop her, but it hurt her pretty badly. The Guards disengaged and moved to block the path behind Mondath.
By the time the PCs got through the Guards, Mondath had healed herself and covered a lot of ground. The Elf Rogue tried to catch up but fell victim to a Hold Person spell. When the other heroes arrived Mondath had escaped.
Treasure Storage (#13)
The only remaining room in the cavern was an abandoned treasure room. The Dragon cult managed to remove all the valuables they’d stolen from Greenest and the surrounding communities.
The heroes had accomplished all they could so they left the camp and returned to Greenest.
Returning to Greenest
When the arrived back in town the locals were thrilled to learn that the Dragon Cult was gone and that so many of their members had been killed. The few items the PCs recovered were returned to the rightful owners. Governor Nighthill thanked the party for all they’d done. They spent the night in town before heading north to Elturel to meet up with Leosin and claim the reward he’d promised.
So ends Episode 3, and so ends D&D Encounters: Hoard of the Dragon Queen. But the adventure isn’t over. If groups want to continue on with the Tyranny of Dragons storyline they can purchase the Hoard of the Dragon Queen hardcover adventure and keep on playing as part of their home game. Good luck and good adventuring!
Note: Next week I’ll be posting a Report Card article with my thoughts on Episodes 1-3 as a season of D&D Encounters. Today I’ll just be talking about this week’s session.
This ended up being a long session, running almost 3 hours, but the whole group just wanted to finish this week. The encounter with the Roper didn’t really go as well as I’d hoped, but I tried. I felt that having such a powerful monster in the dungeon was a bad idea; it felt inappropriate for the room. The players didn’t really pick up on the idea that they should try to talk their way past it, and when they realized how tough a combatant it was they got discouraged and angry. I finally had to have the Roper say flat out, feed me and I won’t fight you, before they stopped swinging. After that there was little need to roll dice, we just narrated the rest of the events from the Dragon Hatchery.
After completing the encounters in the Dragon Shrine and the Dragon Hatchery what remained was really flat and lack-lustre. I had to do some quick thinking to reorganize the few monsters and NPCs left in the cavern to try and make the final encounter feel grand enough to be the final encounter. If I’d run it as written it would have seemed so lame and anticlimactic.
We ended up completing Episode 3 in just four sessions. All told, it was about 10 hours of play. When I tallied up all the XP the PCs earned over the four sessions they ended up with about 1,500 XP each, not quite the 1,800 XP maximum. I think this was largely because we had to divide the XP seven ways and I didn’t add too many additional monsters to account for the bigger group.
Has your group finished Episode 3? How did your finale go? Did you find it a bit of a letdown after completing the Shrine and Hatchery? What did your DM do to spice things up? Did any PCs die in the finale at your table?
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