D&D Encounters, Tyranny of Dragons, part 6

Super late post, but I ended up volunteering my time to judge the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set at FalCon 2014, and was rather indisposed from last Friday to Sunday. Speaking of which, I need to remember to update my LinkedIn profile.

Add to that some of the shenanigans going on at work, and I was rather busy. Still am, but I’m squeezing in time to get a quick post in. I’ll probably forgo putting links in and what not.

But I digress…

Previously on Tyranny of Dragons,the party were trying to leave the camp of the Cult of the Dragon. Anders, Icarium, and Gabrielli managed to meet up at the entrance of the camp. Meanwhile, Bindlethorp, Tarvik, and Xavier had climbed out of the camp with Leosin, a half-elf monk who ended up saving Xavier’s ‘obsidian order’ arse from certain doom when Xavier proved to be rather poor at climbing walls. And Vladimir had apparently joined the Cult of the Dragon!

Our big damn heroes for last week included:

A patrol ended up leaving the camp from the entrance, looking for the intruders and Leosin. This patrol happened to have Vladimir with them, and they proceeded down the path the party came from, which in turn, was the path the entire Cult of the Dragon came down. Everyone got that? Good. Thankfully, as an occasionally good DM, I had just barely enough foresight to ask the player for Vladimir last week what his intentions were. Even though he showed up late (which is par for the course due to class,) I knew how I was going to run him.

A second patrol eventually emerged to patrol around the perimeter of the valley that overlooks the camp. Somehow, some way, the party ended up together again, and proceeded down the path where Vladimir’s patrol had headed. Seeing the patrol heading back towards them, everyone hid in the bushes to the sides of the path and got a surprise round in. Vladimir revealed his true colors by waiting for a bit…

…before beheading one of the cult guards. In a rather simple fight, the party emerges victorious and escort Leosin back to Greenest, where the Mayor, Escobert, and many of the villagers who had taken a liking to the party was waiting for them.

And at this time, the players had come to the end of episode 2. Everyone in the party attained level 3. And there was much rejoicing.

About four days later, Leosin, fully recovered from his wounds, asked a favor of the party; to return to the cult camp and to monitor their actions; are they planning another large raid, have they marched off already, etc. For their efforts, Leosin offered each party member 150 gold pieces each. Surprisingly, no one really haggled to up the reward, which honestly surprised me. What some party members did try to do was haggle the price of healing potions with the local, town trading posts (which they failed to do.) In any event, the party agrees to this job, and Leosin asks them to report to him at Elturel, a town north of Greenest, as that is where the half-elf monk is headed to meet up with a paladin named Ontharr Frume.

So the party heads off to the camp, only to discover much of the camp deserted. At the entrance to the camp, they do find faint tracks heading in a westerly direction. The huts in the first area of the camp where the kobolds stayed were all burned to ashes, and they see two solitary figures who give them no resistance. After some initial conversation, they find out these are hunters hired to provide antelope meat to cultists staying in the cave. As that is all they’re paid to do, they make no effort to guard the camp, and let the party go as they please. In the area previously used to house prisoners, they find the body of a dead girl. There is nothing else left in the camp besides assorted trash; cracked pottery, rusted cutlery, soiled clothing, cheap cookware, etc. Even the largest tent in the camp is empty, with no signs of life.

Entering the cave, and using stealth to their advantage, the party dispatches two cultists rather easily, and find themselves with some choices. At the southernmost area of the first cavern is a tunnel leading west, while to the east are natural stone steps leading down to another cavern with quite a bit of fungi around.

Electing to head down the western tunnel, they quickly find a fork in the road. They first head to the right, emerging into a room with overturned boxes, broken items, and a single cultist sleeping soundly, surrounded by several bottles of wine, including one clutched in his hand. In a hilarious moment, Icarium elects to hold his bladed weapon about 5 inches from his throat while punching him awake. Jerking awake, the cultist’s throat is immediately slashed by the razor sharp edge next to his throat. The party manages to stabilize the guard with a healer’s kit. Between being intoxicated and severe blood loss, despite Anders insistence using his super-telepathy, they get no meaningful information from the cultist, though they do find some scattered gold coins in the room.

Backtracking to the fork in the road, this time the party heads east to another chamber, where they find a large room that appear to serve as barracks, as they encounter seven guards and eight cultists. Despite the advantage in numbers, one guard and three of the cultists retreat to a passage to the east. Fisticuffs ensue, and the party emerges victorious in another rather easy battle. That is where the session ended.

In a sad moment, Vladimir has left the group for greener pastures. Well, not really; due to class, his player can only arrive around 7:30 most Wednesdays. Coincidentally, a fourth D&D Encounters table started, and their start time is 7:30. It makes perfect sense for him to be at that table, so the good, old switcheroo was made. Replacing him is…no one, at the moment. So the party is now reduced to six, which is honestly not that big a deal. That, to me, illustrates the flexibility of D&D Encounters, but it also plays havoc with the story at times. If a player can’t make it, I guess he / she was kept in a pokeball? If a player changes tables, then I guess we just had some Doctor Who-ish alternate reality timey-wimey shenanigans, where Vladimir was never there, and yet he..was? Time travel makes my head hurt.

What will happen…well, tomorrow night since this post is so late? Will the party pursue the enemies that ran away? Or perhaps backtrack to the cavern with the fungi? Or do something unexpected like split the party? Whatever they do, I’m sure it’ll be brilliant.

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D&D Encounters, Tyranny of Dragons, part 5

Previously on Tyranny of Dragons, the party was asked by the leadership of Greenest to infiltrate the Cult of the Dragon, find there base of operations, their short and long-term plans, etc. After some minor squabbles with stragglers and a Rearguard, the party find the enemy camp. After some initial reconnaissance by Anders, Icarium, and Xavier, the entire party prepare themselves into the Valley of Death. Don’t ask me what I was trying to reference there; according to Wikipedia, it can mean many things. I was just trying to be witty, which means I probably failed. Oh well, I tried.

Our big damn heroes for this week include:

So this is what the camp looks like from overhead:

Camping with the Cult of the Dragon...sounds like a bad song / movie title.

Camping with the Cult of the Dragon…sounds like a bad song / movie title.

Thanks to their initial reconnaissance, the party knows some things, including:

  • The Level 1 area is made up of primarily kobolds; they appear to be mostly segregated from the rest of the cult, treated like disgust, etc.
  • The area marked 1 was notable as that’s the area where prisoners were seen performing hard labor.
  • The area marked 2 has the largest, most ornate tent in the area and is guarded by four robed figures and four ambush drakes.
  • The area marked 3 has a half-elf resembling the description the party was given of a Leosin Erlanthar. A student of Leosin’s had asked them to be on the lookout for his master in the previous play session. He is tied to a stake, looking tortured and worse for wear.
  • The area marked 4 has a well-guarded cave entrance. A very well guarded cave entrance.
  • The square things on the map are guard towers, about twenty feet in height. Kobolds appear to man the tower at the camp entrance.

As an aside, this blog post will probably be short and sweet, primarily because…well, when the group infiltrated the camp as a whole, for whatever reason, they chose not to stick together. Some of this was due to circumstances outside of their control, but some of this was by choice, which made tracking everyone’s movements and actions rather nightmarish. Truth be told, I’ll probably either forget details here and there, remember events incorrectly, or both. Par for the course really. To top that all off, I feel pretty bad about it all. Because the group essentially split into four, I kept switching between groups, but what that really meant is that at any one time, three of the four groups were probably bored out of their skull. One of my goals as a DM is for my players to have fun. I tried my best, but I suspect I had more failures than successes last night. Where are my fudge dice?

Anywho, let’s begin with how things started. As nightfall came, the characters notice more of the Cult putting on their robes, getting more organized, less celebration, etc. Before the characters could enter the camp in their stolen robes, disguising themselves as low-level initiates, a patrol happens to pass by. Most of the characters are able to utilize stealth to hide in the bushes, but three fail, and one of the party members, Vladimir, hadn’t put on his robe yet. One of the guards gave him a bit of a hard time, but Vladimir “sexily” put on his robe, and made an impressive enough Charisma check to get the guard off his back. At least the session started out amusingly enough.

So the group enters, still together at this point. The kobolds in the guard tower at the entrance give the group a hard time, but Gabrielli and Xavier speak up for the group, so they both roll Deception checks with advantage. Gabrielli is wildly successful, but Xavier rolls a 1 and a 2. To top that all off, Xavier was being rather belligerent. While that’s par for the course with these kobolds and other cultists, these are the guards to the entrance of the camp. So five kobolds lead Xavier away; Xavier resists letting himself be tied up, and gets a slingshot to the back of his head for his efforts. Gabrielli at this time decides it’s time for a distraction, so thinking the guard tower is empty at this point, she casts fire bolt at the upper platform. What happens next is a blood-curdling scream, as a kobold she couldn’t see dies and the upper part of the guard tower is now on fire. The kobolds leading Xavier away swear and run back, and it is at this time that the group, for whatever reason, went their separate ways…

Xavier and Bindlethorp: Xavier and Bindlethorp manage to stealth away at this point, and more or less help each other out. They make their way to Leosin, having witnessed Icarium punch the helpless monk in the gut. Making their way to the monk, they find the monk very much alive, conscious, and annoyed that they’re there. Revealing that he has a plan of escape already, the dynamic duo eventually find themselves called to duty as initiates, working a weapon detail, inspecting weapons. As rogues, they both try to pocket hand crossbows; Bindlethorp is wildly successful, Xavier is not, but he does not suffer stern repercussions as they continue their subterfuge.

Icarium and Anders: It’s notable that while these two started out separately, they did end up near each other and start working together. Once Gabrielli starts her fire-y distraction, the two sell the incompetence of koblds to other Cult members with ease. Icarium decided to start a conversation with the first tiefling he saw; somehow, their conversation ended up with them going up to the tied up Leosin and punching him in the gut, before going to a tent to wash dishes. Hey, Cult initiates are expected to do these mundane tasks. Anywho, Anders also started a conversation with another cultist, and ended up in the same tent as Icarium, peeling potatoes.

Gabrielli: After her fiery distraction, Gabrielli ends up in a conversation with a slightly higher ranking cultist who was running weapon drills. Gabrielli keeps her cover and ends up participating in the weapon drills; despite her lack of proficiency in scimitars, she does roll high enough on her Dexterity check to make herself look capable, if not proficient.

Vladimir and Tarvik: Vladimir elects to find the first dwarf he sees and ends up conversing with a dwarf initiate sharpening weapons. As Vladimir is also skilled in forgery (of the weapon kind; not the documentation kind,) he joins in. However, his ambition eventually leads to capture, as the dwarf eventually recognizes Vladimir as the person who engaged the blue half-dragon Langdedrosa Cyanwrath back in Greenest at the end of the Cult’s raid. Captured, Vladimir immediately claims to want to join the Cult of the Dragon, angry at the Greenest villagers for being weaklings, cowards, and cheap to boot. Vladimir is brought to a tent to be interrogated by Frulam Mondath, one of the higher-ranking people in the Cult.

Meanwhile, watching all of this is Tarvik. For inexplicable reasons, he decides to grab some cooked antelope meat and goes into Vladimir’s tent. When Mondath and Langdedrosa arrive, they kick Tarvik out. Langdedrosa confirms that Vladimir is the dwarf he fought, and vouches for his combat skills. Vladimir did fight rather well when he engaged the half-dragon in mortal combat, and has earned his respect as a rival. This, combined with Vladimir selling his dislike of Greenest (or is he telling the truth?) has Mondath accepting Vladimir into the Cult of the Dragon.

Back to Icarium and Anders: Anders feigns injury, cutting himself with his potato knife, and Icarium immediately escorts him out to get his ‘wound’ treated. While outside, Icarium uses his minor illusion to disguise himself as a generic human, and Anders uses his mental communication to great effect. They also make their way to Leosin; the half-elf seems annoyed, informing the two that he has a plan to escape and that a patrol walks by like clockwork every ten minutes, and that they should go hide now. The two comply.

Back to Tarvik: I honestly don’t quite remember all the details, but I think Tarvik kept snooping outside the tent Vladimir was being interrogated him. This suspicious behavior, plus some poor dice rolling, had him recognized as being from Greenest, and tied to a stake right next to Leosin to be executed in the morning. Realizing that he is massively outnumbered, Tarvik does not resist. Leosin, when he gets a chance, whispers his plan to escape somewhere around three-in-the-morning, using a knife in his boot to cut his ropes, than scaling the cliff walls.

Back to Gabrielli: Claiming to need to go to the bathroom, Gabrielli manages to get away from the weapons drill, blending into the crowd, she notices her friend Tarvik being tied to a stake and facepalms.

She immediately walks into a tent, and coincidentally (she chose how high / low rolls wisely) finds eight prisoners shackled together by a single, locked chain. It is clear that the prisoners have been mistreated and are malnourished, and most are unconscious save for a single child sobbing way. Gabrielli begins conversing with the child; the child in turn is terrified and wakes his father. Gabrielli manages to convince the father (and the stirring prisoners) she wishes to help, giving her rations to the prisoners, which they hungrily accept. Before she leaves, a young girl tugs her robes, asking if she has anything to drink. Gabrielli complies with her waterskin, and leaves to either find her companions or thieves’ tools or something that can aid her.

Back to Vladimir: Vladimir’s first duty as a member of the Cult of the Dragon is to inspect weapons, and bring the report to the leader of the patrol going around the camp. Upon entering the tent, he begins conversing with two cult members, explaining his new role in the organization. While the two enemies (or are they allies now?) are distracted…

Back to Xavier and Bindlethorp: These two decide to take advantage of the situation, and with a quick surprise attack, kill these two cult initiates rather easily. Amazingly, no blood gets on Vladimir’s robes. The two rogues hide the bodies as best they can, re-positioning weapon racks as necessary, before leaving to use their stealth skills to their advantage, hiding with relative ease.

Back to Vladimir: Vladimir takes the report and brings it to the honor guard by Mondath’s tent. They in turn tell him to hand it to the patrol leader, and instruct him to stand by Leosin. The patrol should be by in a few minutes. Noticing his former dwarven comrade is also now tied to a stake next to Leosin, he stands by the half-elf monk. Leosin is annoyed by these turn of events and tries to get Vladimir to go away, to no avail. The patrol eventually comes by, gets the report and before he knows it, Vladimir joins the patrol in their…patrolling.

Back to Gabrielli: Through sheer luck (i.e. I asked the player to pick high or low; high was selected, and I rolled high), Gabrielli bumps into an incompetent guard who happens to have the key to the shackles to the prisoners. However, the key is bent out of shape, and the guard was sent to get it fixed, but he has no clue how. So she manages to convince him to give the key to her (Charisma FTW!) and actually brings the key to the tied-to-a-stake Tarvik and gets him to cast Mending on the key. However, now that she has the key, she realizes looking at the cliffs that they are well over 100 foot climbs, and does not think the prisoners can climb it in their current condition. Also, making runs from their position to the entrance would be suicide, and it’s doubtful these prisoners are skilled in stealth. She goes back to the prisoners and relays all this information to them, and gives them the choice of trying to gain their freedom. In their current predicament, the prisoners decide against it, feeling certain death awaited if they tried. Gabrielli leaves them to their fate.

The Clock Strikes 3:00 AM: At about this time, Leosin uses the knife in his boot to free himself and the two begin scaling the nearest wall. Leosin is rather successful in his climbing, while Tarvik struggles a bit, but not too badly. However, the guard tower overlooking this area of the camp (not manned by kobolds) do notice that Leosin and Tarvik are no longer where they’re supposed to be and sound an alarm. To top that all off…

Back to Xavier and Bindlethorp: Our two rogues decide, perhaps inspired by the half-elf monk’s resourcefulness, to follow suit, and climb up after them, though interestingly enough, climbing is not as strong a suit for them to play as stealth. Bindlethorp is rather successful in his climbing. However, Xavier is another matter. He can’t seem to climb higher than twenty feet up this over-one-hundred foot rocky cliffs, despite the abundance of hand-and-foot holds. I guess climbing wasn’t a popular activity where he grew up. Whether it be mercy or stupidity, Leosin climbs back down to save Xavier’s arse and the two scramble to safety.

Back to Icarium, Anders, and Gabrielli: These three make their way to the entrance of the camp amidst the confusion and chaos rather easily, the sorceress meeting up with the other spellcasters in the brushes outside the camp. However…

Back to Vladimir: Everyone in the camp knows there are intruders. Vladimir’s patrol immediately volunteers to look for the intruders outside the camp, and make preparations to do so immediately.

What will happen next time? Will the party finally get back together and no longer be split? Has Vladimir truly abandoned his comrades? Will full heart-and-mind, has the Dwarven fighter truly joined the Cult of the Dragon? Will the DM retain his sanity from having to run so many split parties? Whatever happens, somehow, someway, I’m sure it’ll be brilliant.

Some Streams of Consciousness on Doctor Who

Lately, I’ve been watching more Doctor Who than I should. That is, past episodes of the show. Heck, I would have an episode running in another tab as background noise while I do work, so “watching” might not be the most accurate term. But then during a lunch break today, I got to wondering why, then a ton of different thoughts all entered my brain at once and I thought: Better write this down. Though I should warn any prospective readers that this post might be rather…jumpy, very ‘train of thought / flow of consciousness-like.’ In other words, rather disorganized. Sorry! 🙂

When I was a kid, I never got into Doctor Who. I’m not afraid to admit that the opening title sequence scared me when I was four or five years old. At that time,Tom Baker was playing the fourth Doctor (aka “teeth and curls”), and for that opening, all I’d see was a bunch of stars, then the Doctor’s giant face appear in the center of the TV, which would then come flying towards the screen.I’m pretty sure I thought that giant face would emerge from the TV and chase me around, so I fled the room in fear. But I digress; the only reason I mention it is that my oldest brother at that time was into Doctor Who, and Tom Baker was his Doctor.

As a quick aside, another thing that scared me as a kid: Bill Bixby transforming into Lou Ferrigno in the live Incredible Hulk show; I could watch David Banner or the Hulk, but whenever he transformed, I had to leave the room for a moment.

Back to Doctor Who, the thing about fandom, the show, and thirteen portrayals of the Doctor (if you include the War Doctor, and no, this post is not a debate on the numbering of the Doctors,) one question often asked is: ‘Who’s your Doctor?’ I got into the show with the modern era, and interestingly enough, not with David Tennant, but with Matt Smith. I’m not sure what prompted me to watch the first episode of series 5 where Matt Smith took over. It’s not like I ever even heard of Matt Smith (no offense Matt Smith.) But from that first episode I was hooked. The writing, music, acting and story were just…perfect for me. And it helps that I think the writers took care to try and make it a good “jumping on” point for new fans. So anyways, Matt Smith is my Doctor. And I miss him in the role, and find myself watching a bunch of my favorite episodes / specials with him as the Doctor.

Peter Capaldi recently took over from Matt Smith. He’s doing a terrific job, and the show is still enjoyable for me. The Robin Hood episode was fun, the Dalek episode was illuminating, and the latest episode “Listen” was shocking in a good way (Interesting that I talked about some childhood fears earlier, and this episode basically was about fear…no, I didn’t plan it this way.) While the sample size is rather small, I actually think Capaldi’s first episode was the weakest thus far. That’s not to say his first episode was bad; it was fine for what it was, and the appearance of the Pasternoster Gang is always awesome. As another quick aside, BBC, just start a separate series starring Vastra, Jenny, and Strax already. It can fill the void The Sarah Jane Adventures left, and it’ll probably be a license to print money. Seriously, not hard to figure this out BBC. You’re welcome.

Back to Capaldi’s first episode, I recently told a prospective fan not to start with the current series airing right now, but to start with either the beginning of the modern era, which aligns more with our modern sensibilities, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, or Matt Smith with series five as either ones are good “jumping on” points in my opinion. Personally, I think Capaldi spent too much time in a post-regenerative haze. Granted, regeneration is a lottery, and how long it can have the Doctor acting addled and confused appears to be random (from a meta perspective, whoever wrote it, but eh, whatever), but as an episode, for prospective new fans, the Doctor is just all over the place in his behavior and actions, and while entertaining, it’s just not a good place to start watching Doctor Who. Compare that to Matt Smith’s first outing (writing-wise), and he was basically being the Doctor, helping Amelia Pond out, within ten minutes. The episode even mixes in some humor, with the newly regenerated Doctor desperately trying to find something he likes to eat.

So how about some of my favorite moments from Matt Smith’s tenure of Doctor Who? They’ll probably make more sense if you’re already a fan. But if not, though you’ll miss the context, they’re still powerful, moving scenes, and maybe there will be just enough to make you go think: ‘I should go check this show out.’ So here we go, just a couple of my favorite scenes from Doctor Who, in no particular order:

  • Doctor’s Rings of Akhaten Speech from ‘The Rings of Akhaten

Beautiful music? Check. Epic speech? Check. Doctor being heroic / self-sacrificing? Check. I’m fighting back tears whenever I watch this moment. Manly tears, of course. This wasn’t a popular episode for many fans. There were things I hated too, like the Doctor’s screwdriver being able to control / lift stone doors. Even if I can buy they were controlled by machinery underneath the stone, it was just one of those ‘Is there anything the sonic screwdriver cannot do?’ moments. But for me, the music makes the episode. It’s a very musically charged episode with lots of touching moments and an epic speech. At the very least, I can say I love this scene and a couple of other scenes from this episode. Maybe not the entire episode as a whole, but it doesn’t diminish this scene. Also, did anyone check out Matt Smith’s tear as he gave his speech?

  • Thirteen Doctors Saving Galifrey from ‘Day of the Doctor’

Powerful music? Check. Thirteen Doctor’s being heroic / self-sacrificing? Check. I just loved this climactic moment to this special. Sure, it’s somewhat fanboyish, but suitably epic. As an aside, the scene previous to this one where the Doctor reveals that he may have forgotten who he was, finding himself not sure what to do until he receives some prodding from his companion Clara; the companions aren’t just our ticket, our link to the alien time traveler. Various Doctor’s have said it repeatedly in more or less the same words: they represent the best of him, which is why he likes traveling with humans. He also reveals that the name he chose was a promise. The promise? ‘Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.’ His decision to alter his own history was a perfect lead-in into this scene. Unfortunately, I can’t find out it on YouTube, or I would have listed them back-to-back. Grrr.

  • Eleventh Regenerates to the Twelfth from ‘Time of the Doctor’

As a whole, I wasn’t crazy about ‘Time of the Doctor.’ Disappointment is too strong a word; there were some great scenes, but his Superman-esque / Dragonball Z-esque regeneration powers near the end were just…not very Doctor Who-y to me. It seemed like something out of Japanese anime, or a Superhero movie. Considering I love both, I would think I love it here, but I don’t. Still, I’m judging scenes, and Matt Smith’s final scene as the Doctor was very moving. Music was perfect, and he gave a great speech that really touched me.

“It all just disappears doesn’t it, everything you are gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now, he’s a’coming’…But times change, and so must I…We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day, I swear. I will always remember, when the Doctor was me.”

I know what these words mean to me. I’ll let you, the reader, decide what these words mean to you.

  • P.S. Unshot scene from Series 7, an epilogue of sorts to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’

The final appearance of Amy and Rory was heart-wrenching, and yet the most tear-inducing scene wasn’t even filmed. Still, the BBC released their storyboards for this planned scene, with Rory narrating what happened to him and Amy to his father in a letter. The music is perfect, and everything about it is tragic and beautiful and moving and powerful. A part of me wonders if the storyboards alone somehow make it more touching…because for an unshot scene, it’s just fantastic. All the scenes I listed above, I fought back tears, but this one made me cry. Manly tears, of course.

There’s so many more scenes, so many great moments, but this post will go on forever if I don’t stop now. I think I’ll just end this post with these words: I think the reason I enjoy Doctor Who is that for me, it’s thoughtful, emotionally engaging entertainment / art. What more can you ask for?

D&D Encounters, Tyranny of Dragons, part 4

Previously on Tyranny of Dragons, the party arrived in Greenest to find it besieged by strange, robed figures, kobolds, and a blue dragon. Acting heroically, the group aid the town as best they could, repelling various attacks by these raiders. By early morning, in exchange for the lives of four hostages, a half-dragon named named Langdedrosa Cyanwrath engages in mortal combat with Vladimir. Despite his best efforts, Vladimir is defeated, but lives to breath another day. The Cult of the Dragon leave Greenest, allowing our heroes time to recuperate from their ordeal.

Our big damn heroes for this week include:

The villagers of Greenest get about repairing the damage to the town and trying to establish a sense of normalcy. For their efforts in repeatedly helping the town, the party are treated like heroes; ‘Heroes of Greenest,’ in all but official name, and given free food and lodging. Escobert the Red, the dwarven castellan of the keep, visits the heroes with fine dwarven ale, and insists that the group should adopt a name of some sort. After some failed attempts, he also shares that the Governor would like to see them as soon as possible. Escorting his friends to Governor Nighthill, the party are offered a difficult assignment: acquiring information. That is, he would like to know the location of the enemy camp, how many raiders there are, their leaders, the motivation behind these attacks, and where they plan to strike next. For their efforts, each character will be paid 250 gold pieces each, and any gear or supplies the characters need will be furnished by the town. Some haggling ensues, but the terms don’t really change all that much.

Before they could leave, a young man named Nesim Waladra asks the party to be on the lookout for his master, a half-elf monk named Leosin Erlanthar. They are from the town of Berdusk, and came to Greenest to investigate these cultist attacks. Fearing his master has been captured, or worse, he asks the party to be on the lookout for Leosin; some party members are more receptive to his plea than others.

After gathering supplies, the party finally leaves Greenest, following the fairly obvious path the cult left behind. The rolling grassland southeast of the town is obviously trampled and flattened. After following that path for a bit, they happen upon a a wisp of smoke several miles away. The party investigates, with Xavier and Bindlethorp employing their stealth for maximum effect. They happen upon a group of eight kobolds and four cultists, cooking what appears to be their lunch and arguing. The party immediately springs into action, attacking while their enemies appear to be distracted. Icarium displays quite a bit of bravado, who runs into the middle of their makeshift camp to cast a spell (and eventually goes down since he’s the closest enemy they can stab at.) The party does prevail rather easily in the end, and loot their prey, not that they had much to begin with: 28 silver pieces, though they also find a large sack from the kobolds containing silver dishes, candlesticks, and religious carvings to Chauntea. Some of the party think to return the latter to the Greenest sanctuary when they get a chance.

Continuing on the trail, the group eventually happens upon an area where the trail winds through a gap between two rocky outcrops. Only one person notices someone at the top of the outcrop before boulders come down at them. The boulders manage to do their damage and another battle ensues, this time with against a guard, six cultists, and two acolytes, split into two battle groups at the top of the two rocky outcrops. This battle is quite a bit longer, and Icarium falls again. At one point in the battle, Xavier (who employed stealth to get the drop on one group of enemies) athletically leaped across one outcrop to another, though barely sticking the landing. Perhaps inspired, enraged, or a little of both, three of the cultists attempt to do the same, and fail miserably, one of them falling to their doom, the other two injured by their daredevilry. Once again, the party prevails, and they notice that these raiders are dressed in black leather tunics with flared black mantles, distinctly different from the previous raiders they fought. Naturally, they take these uniforms to go along with the robes they already acquired, though they are disappointed that this group of enemies had zero wealth to speak of.

Continuing on the path, the party eventually come upon a grassy hollow of a rocky plateau, roughly horseshoe shaped. Kind of like a valley, with naturally formed walls of rock extending all around, save for the descending, sloping entrance to the area. There are numerous tents clustered together throughout, a guard tower near the entrance, another guard tower to the northeast, a significantly tent to the east, and a cave entrance to the east as well. They also notice that many of the raiders in this area (close to 200 figures) seem to be taking it easy, celebrating their successful pillaging of Greenest perhaps.

Brandishing their newly acquired black robes, Anders, Icarium, and Xavier immediately try to enter the camp for reconnaissance purposes, while Bindlethorp, Gabrielli, Tarvik, and Vladimir stay behind. Splitting the party, for the win! That always works out well. Just ask Wil Wheaton! (Incidentally, the above video is NSFW! Swears galore, but it is funny. It’s party eight if the third podcast series Penny Arcade did with Wil Wheaton. Yes, they split the party. No, it did not end well. You can find all the old audio podcasts here (prior to them becoming video podcasts, though you’ll have to click on the ‘See More Podcasts’ button at the bottom of the page a lot to get to the earliest ones.)

But I digress…

They infiltration group is able to find out some information, such a:

  • A salute the cultists say: “Praise Tiamat’s Glory!” while extending their right hand, five fingers outstretched.
  • At least some of the Cult is made up of mercenaries
  • The area  where prisoners are being used for manual labor
  • A monk matching Leosin’s description, tie to a stake, seemingly tortured and unconcious
  • Hunter’s bringing in antelope; some of this meat appears to be transported to the cave to the east

Eventually, whispers about the ‘rearguard’ not checking in reach the infiltration unit’s ears. They try to push their luck, but as the rearguard wore the black robes that they have, they are rather unlucky, though things could have gone worse. Thanks to some smooth talking / deception, they find themselves transporting cooked antelope and drink back to the rearguard members in the forest (that the party conveniently / inconveniently killed already.) They exit the camp and share their information with their hiding party members.

And that concludes last night’s beginning to episode two of The Hoard of the Dragon Queen. What will happen next week? Will the party rescue Leosin any any prisoners? Will the party attempt to fight their way through close to two-hundred cultists? Will they be captured and tortured to death? Whatever may happen, I am confident that it’ll be brilliant. And possibly foolish.

D&D Encounters, Tyranny of Dragons, part 3

Previously on Tyranny of Dragons, the party arrived in Greenest to find it besieged by strange, robed figures, kobolds, and a blue dragon. Acting heroically, the group aid the town as best they could, repelling various attacks by these raiders. But not without loss; the human ranger Selwyn sacrificed his life, knocking the party aside from the blue dragon’s lightning breath and taking the full force of the ferocious attack. The surviving party members manage to drive the blue dragon away, and gain some new party members in the process. Asked to save Greenest villagers trapped in the local Sanctuary, a temple to Chantea, the party find themselves hiding by a nearby riverbank, observing one group trying using a battering ram on the front door, another group trying to get through the back door, and a third group patrolling the nearby area.

Our big damn heroes for this week include:

But, this is not the group we start off with. For whatever reason, only Anders, Gabrielli, Icarium, and Tarvik are at the riverbed. Vladimir and Xavier maybe stayed at the keep momentarily to enjoy a drink or two, or maybe they were giving Stephen a job interview?

In any event, after some discussion, the group decides to try and deceive the patrolling enemy force, which also happens to be the largest enemy force of the three they scouted earlier, including three robed figures, ten kobolds, and two ambush drakes. Wearing robes they procured from an earlier battle, Icarium and Gabrielli attempt to deceive the group. Icarium barely fails the deception check, but Gabrielli is successful. Except for one problem:

Cultist: “Who are you? And who is this fool? A Greenest villager?”

Gabrielli: “No, we’re members of the Cult of the Dragon.”

Cultist (looking more closely at Gabrielli): “Is that…a beard made out of feathers?! You are no member of the Cult of the Dragon. Attack these fools!”

For the sake of context, Gabrielli is a sorceress with a wild magic bloodline; whenever she casts a spell of 1st level or higher, she rolls on a ‘Wild Magic Surge’ table. The very first play session, a magic unicorn appeared. Last play session, she grew a long beard made of feathers that remained until she sneezed. The player hadn’t told me she sneezed at any point, so I assumed the beard was still present. Continuity, people, continuity. 😉

Naturally, battle ensued and before anyone knew it, Icarium and Gabrielli went down to multiple kobold attacks. Tarvik was doing okay, but Anders was pretty sure that things would go south really fast unless they could get out of there fast. Anders happens to be a warlock whose patron is “The Great Old One” (basically Cthulu,) which gives him a nifty ability called ‘Awakened Mind.’ It’s essentially telepathy, but what’s neat about it is that the creature doesn’t have to share a language with the telepath to understand him / her, though the creature does have to understand a language. Anders uses his Awakened Mind ability on one of the cultists, convincing him that the will of the Dragon Queen is for not to slay these foes. Thanks to an inspired deception roll, the cultist acquiesces and ceases hostilities, though he does get his kobolds to loot the downed tiefling and human noble. The enemies march away to resume their patrol.

Tarvik heals Icarium and Gabrielli as best he could, but he’s tapped out of any healing magic at this point, and the two magic-users look rather bloodied. Coincidentally, Vladimir, Xavier, and newcomer Stephen Colbert arrive. Perfect timing!

Noticing the front doors are looking bad at this point, the party acts more quickly this time, electing to take out the enemy group at the rear of the sanctuary. A much smaller force awaits them, and with so much smoke obscuring the back area, they pretty much surprise them and take them out in about twenty seconds. Stephen Colbert is especially effective, beheading his enemies with relative ease.

Entering through the back door, they find close to fifty villagers filling up the sanctuary, most of them terrified. Gabrielli atttempst to persuade the villagers to listen to her, and is successful in doing so. She also gains the aid of a local half-elf priest of Chantea, Eadyan Falconmoon; moved by the human noble’s speech, he vouches for the party. They quickly agree to have Gabrielli and Falconmoon escort the villagers back to the secret tunnel entrance which leads to the keep. Then the front doors break down and battle ensues. Before she leaves, Gabrielli casts a sleep spell, which puts three kobolds and five villagers to sleep. Unknown to her, these five villagers meet their doom from various kobolds. The remaining party members manage to counter the frontal assault, taking out this enemy force, and return to the keep not too worse for wear.

It’s almost 4:00 in the morning by the time the party returns to the keep. There, they join up with Gabrielli as well as Escobert the Red (keep castellan) and Governor Nighthill (Governor of Greenest.) Then a figure appears at the front of the keep, with sixteen kobolds, as well as four prisoners. This figure appears to be humanoid in shape, seven feet tall, with blue scales for skin. It is in fact, a half-dragon named Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, and he challenges Greenest’s “best warrior” to mortal combat for the lives of their four prisoners, three children and a woman.

Even though the half-dragon serves an evil cult, he is actually an honorable creature. Everything about his demeanor and body language indicate that he’s telling the truth as far as Nighthill and the party can tell. Governor Nighthill pleads with the party for help. Vladimir accepts the challenge; armed with two healing potions, he emerges from the keep to engage the half-dragon, while the party debates on what to do. There is some disagreement over whether to use ranged weaponry or not, but in the end they don’t interfere, and Vladimir does actually put up quite a good fight against a foe more powerful then himself. Alas, Langdedrosa does win in the end, though it looks like he’s had more fun than he’s had in ages. He acknowledges his rival with a kick to his fallen carcass (which automatically confers a failure on one of Vladimir’s death saves), releases the prisoners, and leaves with his kobold minions. Some of the local priests emerge from the front door, and immediately apply the second healing potion Vladimir had on his person (he used the first during battle; if memory serves me correctly, he rolled a ‘1’ when trying to determine how effective the healing potion was. Was probably made with spoiled milk, or something.)

At this point, it looks like the raiders are taking their leave. Relieved with having survived the night, the Governor offers the party immediate aid, beds, food and drink as it looks like they could use a long rest. Amusingly, the human noble asks for a separate room, which the Governor agrees to.

And we come to the end of episode one of The Hoard of the Dragon Queen. What dangers await the party next time? I have no idea, but whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be brilliant.