Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Dragon Hatchery

Played August 8th, 2016
Thaemin: 888
Ront: 1,361
Arvensis: 1,094
Robyn: 1,051

After witnessing Cyanwrath’s humiliating defeat, the party absconds back to Baldur’s Gate to meet with Governor Nighthill as he prepares to move the Greenest refugees back into their town to begin rebuilding. He thanks them for their service, pays them their due (1250 GP), and sends a messenger to Elturel to warn them of the impending attack. The party stays the night in Baldur’s Gate and takes advantage of the city’s vast marketplaces to stock up on supplies. Robyn exchanges leather armor for a breastplate, Thaemin swaps his chainmail for splint, and Ront buys scale armor and a longbow. Those who don’t have bedrolls and mess kits buy some, in case of further wilderness adventures. In the morning, everyone returns to Greenest, where Leosin is waiting for them. He’d discovered a cave at the edge of the camp. The cultists had begun loading up a wagon full of loot and eggs from the cavern. Unable to safely get any closer, he retreated for reinforcements, and is hoping the party might help again. They agree to take a closer look.

I like chapters 2 and 3 individually, but I’m not a big fan of how they have basically the same hook back to back. In fairness to Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter (authors of the adventure), I have no idea how to solve this without either scrapping one of the chapters or opening up new, equally troublesome plot holes.

Upon their return, they find the camp deserted. A few pieces of permanent infrastructure, like the foundry they used to melt down pots and pans into ingots of iron, have been left behind. The hunters and a dozen or two kobolds remain where the camp used to be. The party is spotted while sneaking in, but the hunters don’t seem to care much at all, and the kobolds keep a wide berth and scurry for cover whenever the party draws near.

The party enters the cavern, and soon settles into a standard procedure for sweeping rooms. Robyn Hood goes ahead of the rest of the group, checking for ambushes and traps and trying to stay out of sight. The rest of the group waits in the last room, usually no more than 30 feet back and ready to come to her aid if she should fall under attack. Using this method, she spots a pair of dragonborn ready to ambush the group just past the entrance, retreats to regroup with the others, and they attack the two. It’s a fairly quick and easy fight. With the same method, they take a barracks full of red masked cultists unawares (some of them not actually in their masks, being off-duty). Half the cultists attempt flee down the corridor while the others stand and fight, but before they can even split up most of them have been consumed by gouts of fiendish flame from Arvensis’ hands and Ront’s brutal greatsword. The survivors stagger down the hall and the party charges after before they can regroup.

The remnants of the guard retreat into a room with an actual bed, a writing desk, and a chest, along with Frulam Mondath, the leader of the camp’s red cult and a powerful cleric.

I mean, she has cleric spells. She also has a halberd, a multiattack, and eight hit dice. I dunno if she’s even supposed to have a specific class.

The remaining cultists regroup around her and prepare to make a stand. Mondath taps her halberd against the floor and shrieking, fiendish spirits come flying out of it, swirling around her in a small swarm that extends over a dozen feet in all directions. The howling, swooping creatures carve through the entire party, chilling the blood in their veins and stealing the life from their flesh. Arvensis lets loose another blast of flame before retreating outside the range, Robyn steps back out of the swarm and lets loose her arrows on Mondath. As Robyn’s arrow draws near, it splits into a volley of thorns, cutting up Mondath and the cultists nearby her. Mondath grits her teeth and keeps up her fiendish assault while healing the cultists Ront is contending with, Thaemin fully occupied trying to keep everyone healed.

With his allies in the way, Arvensis can’t safely unleash cones of fire, so instead he assails Mondath with sickly green rays. She vomits and staggers, but bolsters herself with healing and continues her assault. Robyn’s next shot finally breaks her concentration, and instead Mondath gestures to Ront and paralyzes him in place. Her cultists descend on Thaemin. “I’ve come too far and sacrificed too much!” she shouts, struggling to keep herself standing under the relentless attacks of Robyn and Arvensis. “Tiamat will rise! And I will be at her side!” If the frontline would just die already the troublesome ones in the back wouldn’t be hard to pull down…

But today is not Mondath’s lucky day. Ront breaks free of the paralysis and runs her through, and the party mops up her remaining guards shortly thereafter.

The party ransacks her quarters and the barracks. The barracks are full of all manner of odds and ends which Robyn Hood sorts into valuable and junk, and Mondath’s chamber holds her impressive regalia, a black and purple robe embroidered with prayers to Tiamat in draconic. Her dead guards’ scabbards are covered with intricate red stitching in draconic designs.

Arvensis concerns himself with the pile of papers and books on the writing desk. Old correspondence discusses a plan of attack on Elturel. The red and black cults will attack the town simultaneously from two different sides. The red will pretend to be defeated and fall back, and when citizens fleeing the black attack come pouring out through that gate, the blue cult will ambush them, cut them to pieces, and regroup with the black cult to pierce the defenses left open for evacuation. Some discussion goes back and forth about whether the attack on Elturel can succeed with only two of the three cults, while the third attacks the small town of Thistledown elsewhere in the Greenfields. Mondath’s side of this conversation isn’t present, but from context it seems the conversation is essentially:

Cyanwrath: “I can split my forces and handle the attack on the far gate and the ambush of the refugees! We blues don’t need numbers to succeed, when we have raw power. Let the reds go and attack Thistledown.”

Mondath (probably): “You couldn’t possibly make a credible attack on one of Elturel’s gates with only half your forces! I could, though. My reds should attack the gate while Cyanwrath and his blues go attack Thistledown.”

Rezmir: “You’re both idiots and if you don’t stick to the plan I’m going to flay you alive.”

There’s occasional gaps in the correspondence where they reference meetings that happened in person, but not in enough detail to make out what’s going on. One such gap happens in the most recent writings, when all discussion of Elturel suddenly ceases and now everyone is discussing how to move a wagon train to Beregost and then up the Coast Way. It’s not entirely clear, but it seems like they’re not planning to attack Beregost, and you can’t get anywhere north of Beregost without passing through Baldur’s Gate (Baldur’s Gate has made sure of that). They don’t have nearly enough forces to sack a city as massive and well-fortified as Baldur’s Gate, so what could they be planning? Do they have allies there? Are they still planning to attack Elturel? Thaemin begins to wish he’d had the presence of mind to order Mondath be taken alive. Her powerful magic had put him to the mindset of getting rid of her as fast and thoroughly as possible. Alas. Other than this, the writing is mostly bad poetry about dragons.

During further exploration, they find the abandoned treasure room where the hoard was kept, with a single napping cultist and a crate that broke open while they were hauling the hoard out. Not all of the coins were picked up. The single cultist doesn’t put up much of a fight (despite Ront’s and Thaemin’s damnable luck), and they set about interrogating him. Thaemin and Arvensis know from their time in the camp that the red dragon cultists have a sub-culture obsessed with blood and violence, so Arvensis decides to try and outcreep the creep. Ront empties a water flask on him, and as the cultist wakes up, Arvensis begins toying with his athame. “You’re a fan of cutting. We have that in common. Want me to show you my art?” Arvensis asks, pressing his blade against the cultist’s skin.

“Yeah, man, do it,” the cultist enthuses. Ront punches him. “Okay, I’ll talk, I’ll talk!” Ront shrugs off Arvensis’ withering glare.

The cultist isn’t privvy to much information. No one’s said a word about the attack on Elturel in the past 24 hours, it’s all been about packing up to head towards Beregost, the entire army. At the very least, the attack on Elturel must be delayed, then, which is good, it gives the party time to more carefully plan their attack on the dungeon. The cultist also knows the layout of the dungeon, including the position of the hatchery behind the shrine that Cyanwrath is guarding.

While ransacking Mondath’s room, Robyn Hood had discovered a hidden chute leading to an unknown room some thirty feet down. Sneaking ahead through there, she discovers a shrine to Tiamat, a statue of her, especially her black head, to one side, a mosaic of dragons of all colors burning the world away across the walls and floor, and in the center of the room, a raised dais with an altar made from five ouroboros dragon heads, each eating its own neck, one in each color. Atop the dais stand Langdedrosa Cyanwrath and two blue mask cultists with heavy battleaxes. Robyn retreats back up the chute and confers with the party, who all agree that now is an excellent time to leave.

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