Dungeons & Dragons has returned with a 5th edition of the classic fantasy RPG. TGN’s Enrico Nardini shares his adventures and experiences in this newest rendition of the Forgotten Realms.
Spoiler Alert! This article contains spoilers for Chapter 2 of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign. If you are planning on running or playing in these adventures and you wish to remain surprised, you will want to play through that chapter first and then return here to read this article.
Chapter 2 held considerably more promise for me. The encounters seemed more balanced, there were fewer of them, and the final encounter in the dragon cult’s camp is designed around roleplaying, social encounters, and exploration. Variety is always welcome. There were some nicely varied (if poorly balanced) combat encounters in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 held promise of interesting social interaction.
The player characters (PC) had a bit of downtime between chapters, allowing them to lick their wounds and bury poor Toby on the grounds of the shrine he died protecting. In the aftermath, the PCs were approached by Govenar Nighthill who offered a generous reward if the party would pursue Cyanwrath’s forces on an intelligence mission. The party readily agreed. The threat to Faerun was too great to ignore (the promise of revenge and reward certainly helped motivate them as well).
Preparations went well, but as they made their leave, the PCs were approached by a Nesim Walandra, a monk from nearby Berdusk. He and his fellow monks pursued the half-dragon’s forces to Greenest with the intention of investigating the dragon cult. One of their number, Leosin Erlanthar, disappeared during the raid. Nesim asked the characters to find Leosin, their resident dragon cult expert.
Silk Merchant Sweet Talk
Did I mention the merchant? One of our party members, Sullaric (charismatic elf fighter) is a merchant from a silk trading guild. The adventurers had tracked the raiders many miles. Spotting cooling fires in the distance, the party advanced to find a motley band of cultists and kobolds squabbling over some looted hens. The party debated their next actions vigorously – there was a desire to slay the rearguard (so they thought) immediately, but Sullaric was convinced that he could get valuable information if they allowed him to converse with them.
Sullaric planned to pass himself off as a true believer who had been granted a prophetic dream of a 5-headed dragon that was leading him to to the dragon cult. His excellent roleplaying combined with some clever cantrip work from hidden, supporting party members allowed him to win their confidence. This was one of those moments where “going with the flow” and saying yes were important to keep in mind. There aren’t any guidelines for this in the adventure; you have to let it play out and respond accordingly. I used the information that would have been provided to the party from an interrogation to formulate my cultist’s responses. Unfortunately, he didn’t ask them one important question…
Guarding Your Rear
The party failed to discover a critical detail. Though it was clear that this rabble was not a rearguard, the conversation had not touched on the actual rearguard that was waiting to ambush any pursuers. And, ambush pursuers it did! Boulders from on high carrened into the Sudiemon (the party cleric) nearly killing him before the true battle had even begun. The enemy had picked an ideal spot to set up their rearguard. From the top of the ravine, they were able to rain death upon the party.
This battle almost brought about the second death in the campaign. The already badly wounded cleric channeled negative energy, killing a dragon cult soldier. But, swift reprisal came from his compatriots, who cut him down where he stood.
5E utilizes a Death Save mechanic. The Death Save is all about the hands of fate. Only abilities and features that effect saving throws factor into the Death Save – things like a PC’s Constitution score (which I instinctually think of as a factor) or Profiencies with a save are irrelevant. Roll a d20. A score of 10 or higher is a success and anything else is a failure (1 and 20 are worth 2 failures or successes respectively). Succeed at three saves and you stablize; fail three saves and you die.
The battle raged throughout the rocky terrain. The PCs brought the pain in melee and ranged combat. As the party was finally bringing the battle under control, Suidemon would have to attempt his 5th and final Death Save. That’s right; he had 2 successes and 2 failures. It was an incredibly tense moment, but before he had to let the d20 fly, the brave paladin rushed to his aid (incurring a reaction attack in the process) and using her laying on hands healing ability, stabilized him. It was a real nail biter!
The party “turned the corner” on the combat, whittling down their opponents’ numbers and creating favorable 2-on-1 combats. We ended the session there, but more danger lies ahead. There is still a war camp of Tiamet devotees to infiltrate.
Here’s to a new year of adventure!
Are you playing D&D 5th Edition? Tell us about your campaign. Leave a comment below!