In Search of... Hoard of the Dragon Queen

RetCon Redux
(Or Fixing this Damn Mess)

Episode 0 – An Ominous Beginning There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.

Now let what is past be prologue…

Each of you slumps back against the nearest wall with a sigh
of relief as the cheers go up from the beleaguered defenders . The aches and pains seem to seep into your
bones as you think of those lost, and the smell of death settles in around you.

You are granted a few moments of respite before the voice of
Governor Nighthill rings out from below calling for discipline, “Hold on men,
we may have driven off that blasted dragon, but our town is aflame and these accursed
raiders are still assaulting and killing our people! Now is the not the time for jubilation, now
is the time to steel ourselves for the hard work that remains ere the light of
day finds us without a village to protect!”

Suddenly there is a cry from the tower, an oddly sweet and acrid
smell, a flash, and then as you lose consciousness, the last thing you hear is
the sound of thunder, at once both near at hand, and yet somehow quite distant,
receding into darkness…

You awake with a start, face down on a hard wooden surface,
the smell of much spilled ale heavy about you.
What happened to the keep, the burning town, the dragon, THE
DRAGON! As you raise your groggy head
you are startled to see you are in a tavern you know well, the Winsome Wench,
in the city of Iriabor. All around you are
unconscious tavern goers, serving maids, and staff. The last thing you recall was laughing and
drinking after a hard day on the road… You
see only a handful of others beginning to rise, including one fellow who is literally
picking himself off the floor as if he had collapsed mid-stride. Everyone else in the tavern appears to be
either deep asleep, or possibly dead.

Though the faces of those who are stirring seem vaguely
familiar, you’re not entirely sure who they might be… but you know them… or
wait, do you? They were with you in the
keep at Greenest, but wait, you’ve never been to Greenest… or have you? As you shake the cobwebs from your head and
look about the room while trying to wake the others at your table, you realize
there is one figure who doesn’t appear to be waking from the stupor you feel
muddling your head. How you missed him
when you first looked around you can’t figure…

The figure stands leaning upon an ornate spear in front of the door
to the place, poised like some dark harbinger of forlorn hope before a cemetery
gate. Clad in dull black leather with shining studs,
and with an even blacker cloak settled about his shoulders, its cowl shuttering
his features from the light, his unseen gaze passes across the room with a
palpable aura of power, silently regarding you, observing, measuring, waiting…
Suddenly a deep voice issues forth from behind the shadows that mask
his visage, with a low almost echoing rumble as if he were speaking to you from
the end of a long tunnel, “You are the hands… come now with me or all you have
seen shall come to pass, exactly as you remember it.”

With that and nothing more he turns, and with a gesture the
door opens before him and he passes beyond it, into the still and silent darkness of
night.

We’ll start next week with you all with your normal package based starting equipment, level 1, at full health, with the same spells you had memorized last session, and deciding whether to follow the figure out the door or not…

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Moments of Transition

Episode 1 – Greenest in Flames The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

The party arrived at Greenest just after dark to find, not the safe haven they had hoped for, but a village besieged. Dark shapes flew above the town and several buildings were already aflame. They could hear screams and guttural voices on the wind, and dark shapes could be moving through the streets, some running, others… hunting.

As they entered Greenest the party stumbled into a group of 6 cultists coming out of some homes with bloody blades and bags of loot. The paladin Gorstag and Mar the priest moved to engage them while Elin, Snowfox, and Snake provided covering fire. After a brief battle the cultists lay dead in the streets, but the party did not come away unscathed. Mar healed Gorstag’s severe wounds and they moved further into town, more carefully this time.

(Hmm, this is not quite a deadly encounter for the party, but still quite hard, pretty nasty for a random encounter.)

As they moved from the shadows of one building towards another, they were surprised as a badly injured man carrying two toddlers ran across the street in front of them, followed by a third child. A woman with a shield and a broken spear came behind them and turned the way she had come, blocking the street. From the alley she had just vacated poured 8 kobolds who took up positions surrounding the woman. The party attempted to intervene, but not before the kobolds had cut the woman down were they able to act. Another pitched battle ensued and after several rounds the kobolds were vanquished. Conversing with the man, Cath, the party agreed to help bring him and his family to the safety of the keep. Mar used his last healing spell on Snake and Gorstag laid hands upon his own wounds. The party was already low on resources so the safety of the keep was sounding pretty inviting at this point.

(Ok, the party is only at the first encounter and they are already nearly out of resources. Not too surprising given the way 5E is balanced. 8 kobolds is just barely a deadly encounter for the party and it showed.)

The party was able to work their way around 2 of the 3 remaining mandatory encounters before reaching the keep, however that left most of them wounded and needing a short rest. (Mission 1 completed.)

After resting the party decides to undertake the first mission, finding a way to secretly leave the keep and smuggle in more villagers. They run into a couple of rat swarms in the tunnel on the way out and Snowfox goes down under the vicious assault of one of them.

(Ok, 2 rat swarms is supposedly an easy encounter, but at this level one lucky hit and a party member can be down and out.)

After another short rest to allow Snowfox to recover, the party exits the tunnel where they run into a cultist patrol looking for villages taking refuge in the bushes along the stream bed. Elin takes shelter in the stream (it’s up to his neck being a gnome) and blasts away. The other mix in the fray and the cultists and their kobold allies are defeated. Sadly, Snowfox goes down again hit by a lucky sling stone from a kobold, and Gorstag is heavily wounded. The party is too beat up to look for more villagers so they retreat back into the keep. When they get back they learn the castellan was mortally wounded in an attack on the Sally Port (the mission they missed by resting in the middle of the other mission). Most of the party takes to the battlements while Elin takes a rest and Snowfox continues to nap.

(WOW, why did they even bother to have so many missions, no way a party can take this kind of punishment at first level. I took pity on the poor Snowfox and added a healer at the keep with a healing kit so he could get back into the adventure. So far the party has faced 2 Deadly encounters (one of which they avoided), 4 Hard encounters (1 of which they avoided), and 1 Easy encounter. The design here is not very good… and it’s not about to get better.)

The dragon attacks the keep at this point… (An ADULT BLUE DRAGON!!! vs. 1ST LEVEL CHARACTERS!!! Granted the module warns me to have the dragon attacks NPCs for a few rounds before it attacks the party…and they only have to deal out a fraction of its HP in order to make it leave, BUT STILL!) As expected the dragon wreaks havoc on NPCs for a few rounds while the party takes shots at it at long range. (trying to hit AC 19 with Disadvantage!) Elin does nail it with a Magic Missile which causes the dragon to use its Frightful Presence (now almost everyone has disadvantage regardless of range). The dragon’s breath blasts apart a merlon near Elin and the resulting rockfall knocks him out. (Last warning shot before someone gets a breath weapon to the face, at this point the party has done 15 points to the dragon on 1 magic missile spell and 2 lucky hits) Snake is hit by the breath weapon after wounding the dragon again and despite making his saving throw is vaporized. (sorcerer with 8 hp takes 68 pt breath weapon and saves for half) More attacks on NPCs follow for many rounds before another lucky hit finally drives off the dragon.

(Ok, now this was ludicrous. Unless the party was all ranged specialists, how are they supposed to accomplish this? It was silly. At this point we ended the night with at least 1 player threatening to rage-quit (not that I blame him) and others just drained. This module needs more work before it can really be played than B1 – In Search of the Unknown

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