Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: There And Back Again

Played August 9th, 2016
Thaemin: 1,214
Ront: 1,686
Arvensis: 1,419
Robyn: 1,375

The party retreats to one of the hidden caves that surround the abandoned camp outside the hatchery, and there take a short rest, planning their approach. Cyanwrath will likely be interested in a rematch with Ront. If Ront wins, the rest of the team can hopefully overwhelm the remaining defenses on the hatchery. Even if he loses, he will hopefully do enough damage on the way down for the rest of the team to bring down Cyanwrath. Hopefully the rest of Cyanwrath’s team will break after that? Or at least be weak enough for Thaemin to hold the line while Robyn and Arvensis bring them down.

When they arrive back at the hatchery, they find that Cyanwrath has pulled kobolds from elsewhere in the dungeon to reinforce the shrine, a half-dozen of them, some winged. Ront steps forward to confront Cyanwrath. “Hm, so it’s you who’s been causing Rezmir so much trouble? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Cyanwrath says. “You’ve done me a favor killing Mondath, so I’ll offer you this in exchange. Leave here now, and I won’t harm you.”

“Can we take the eggs first?” Robyn asks.

“No,” Cyanwrath says. Robyn puts on her best pouty face.

“We’ve sworn to collect those eggs and keep them out of the hands of those who would use them for further destruction. We can’t back down from that,” Thaemin says.

“I respect that,” Cyanwrath responds, and readies himself for the fight.

“Wait,” Thaemin says, “why serve Rezmir at all? She’s beaten you down and taken your sword.”

“I don’t serve Rezmir. I defend the hatchery,” Cyanwrath says. Ront steps forward, silently hefting his greatsword for a duel. Ront says nothing. Here is the man who slaughtered a third of his home, and burnt down what little he had built. Honor cannot wash away the stain of Cyanwrath’s evil. Only blood can do that. This is his fate, the destiny meted out to him by his orcish blood, to fight and to die in battle.

The two join in battle. Cyanwrath’s skill with a blade gives him an upper hand, a blinding rush of savage strikes, but Ront’s passion, his unbridled fury, gives him the grit to power through it and return the blows. They clash, Ront takes a blow to his thigh and slices across Cyanwrath’s arm, they break away, consider one another for a moment, and rejoin the fight. Both are bloody and breathing hard when finally Ront goes down.

No sooner has the duel ended than Arvensis steps forward and bathes the battlefield in flame. Kobolds are sent scurrying for cover and the heat is too much for Cyanwrath to withstand, battered as he is. The berserkers charge forward to confront Thaemin, who cannot stand up to their savage attacks for long, particularly not with a savage, splint-splitting blow that the enemies open up both the battle and Thaemin with. The front line crumples, Robyn dodges an attack, Arvensis’ throat is cut open with one fell blow, and rather than try to fight the two mostly healthy berserkers herself, Robyn grabs Arvensis and bolts.

Ordinarily Robyn would have been pursued and attacked by the berserkers here, but as a wood elf, she’s got a 35 foot move speed, so even though she burned her standard to disengage, the berserkers would still have to take a dash action to catch up with her, at which point she could do the same thing again.

Robyn returns to Baldur’s Gate to get Arvensis rezzed. Again. Meanwhile, all three of Ront, Thaemin, and Cyanwrath pull through and stabilize. The former two get tied up and left in Mondath’s old room, where the latter finds them an hour later, after he’s taken a short rest of his own. “So, why didn’t you kill us?” Thaemin asks.

You have proven to be a worthy foe,” Cyanwrath says, gesturing to Ront. “We were very evenly matched, and I respect that. Plus, the both of you killed Mondath for me, and you didn’t take the favor I offered. So now we’re even. And we have a common enemy.”

“Rezmir?” Thaemin asks.

“You’ve given her an awful lot of trouble. She’s abandoned her attack on Elturel after you sprung our prisoners and focused on moving the hoard to safety. You did it all with a force significantly smaller than hers. I can beat Rezmir,” Thaemin quietly ignores the fact that he’s been reliably informed this is not the case, “but I need her alone. You can make that happen.”

“What about the eggs?” Thaemin asks.

“You need them out of the cult’s hands. I need them kept safe. We can find some place safe to keep them out of the cult’s hands,” Cyanwrath says.

“What about when they hatch?” Thaemin asks, “they’ll be a threat to everyone around them.”

“When they grow up, in a hundred years. How about we cross that bridge when we come to it?” Cyanwrath says.

“And the cult? Beyond just Rezmir? Will the alliance end when she is dead?” Thaemin asks.

“Not sure,” Cyanwrath says. “The cult has only really been around a few years. Before that, it was dedicated to worshiping dracoliches. Dark perversions of the draconic form. There was never a proper purge. Most of the cultists are holdovers from the dracolich era, and I have…serious concerns about the leadership’s tolerance for those who so readily abandon one cause for another when the winds change. I’d rather work with someone firmly committed to ideals I disagree with than someone whose goals shift like sand under my feet.”

“What’s the plan to get the eggs out, then?” Thaemin asks.

“You ‘escape,’ regroup with your friends, I’ll meet you at the entrance, and then we murder everything,” Cyanwrath says.

Thaemin and Ront slip free and depart. Back at Baldur’s Gate, Robyn hauls a cart down an alleyway and up to a familiar door. “Surprise!” she says to the man in the entrance room, pulling off the tarp to reveal Arvensis’ corpse.

Do successive Raise Dead spells make the penalty worse, or just reset it back to -4? This is ambiguous in the rules. I had it reset back to -4. Even after the long rest the group takes in the immediate aftermath of this, Thaemin isn’t quite back to full yet, but his -1 will be a lot less painful than the -3 Arvensis is going to be lugging into this dungeon.

So far as recruiting Cyanwrath goes, we worked this by dumping my DM XP on a new dragonborn Fighter and adding him to the party. This means that Cyanwrath’s stats got shuffled around in a couple of weird ways. His attributes and HP got slightly worse, his breath attack was downgraded (although I’d be running him as having a focus on glorious melee anyway), and he picked up some Fighter abilities he didn’t use to have, particularly the fighting style. He gets to keep his splint armor, because that’s one of the bonus item options for the DM’s Guild in season four.

I’ve discussed in the past how uncomfortable I am skirting through grey areas in League rules to run a home game whose characters my brother can bring to conventions and stores, so I’ll just mention that this still bugs me and leave it at that.

The party regroups and prepares for a final storming of the dungeon. They meet up with Cyanwrath again, and go over the layout of the dungeon in detail. “Ever since we vacated the common room all the bats that used to live there came back, and then the stirges that hunted them came back. Every now and again they drain a kobold,” Cyanwrath shrugs, “they learned to get sneaky in there, so problem solved. Common room leads to a meat locker and two barracks, one for the kobolds, one’s abandoned. Next to the kobold barracks is this drake nursery, we take people from villages and make them drink dragon blood, and then we crack open a dragon egg and grab one of the larval dragons, there’s about two or three dozen in a young egg, so we take the dragon larva and have it burrow into the victim’s-”

“Yeah, okay, I get the picture,” Thaemin says.

“Right, just thought you might want to do something about that before we leave,” Cyanwrath says, “I mean, personally I think it’s kinda funny.”

The party sweeps through the dungeon. The clumsier party members end up triggering the stirge swarm, but they’re easily popped, so Arvensis solves the problem with a burst of flame that covers most of the room, and the survivors are easily picked off. After clearing out the kobold guards, the drakes in the nursery are killed at range, where they’re helpless to respond. The berserkers in the shrine are initially confused, but ultimately more loyal to the cult than to Cyanwrath. They’re not so tough without kobold backup dancers or their champion.

It’s in the hatchery itself that the party faces its only real challenge left in the dungeon. The roper. Its tentacles lash out to grab onto the party and soon find purchase on Ront, dragging him in closer to begin munching. Even through his rage the barbarian is wounded by the creature’s clamping jaws, but he manages to free himself quickly enough. Arvensis targets the beast with a hail of burning missiles, so numerous that even against the beast’s thick hide, some find purchase.  Thaemin focuses on keeping Ront and himself free of the beast’s grasping tentacles, while Robyn sneaks in to steal the egg and bolt out of range before the roper detects her. Once she has it, Ront and Thaemin begin their retreat while Arvensis continues his hail of scorching death (the roper is mildly perturbed), but the front line can’t make it out without Thaemin being grabbed and dragged in for another bite. Cyanwrath and Ront return to hack Thaemin free, and Robyn, safely out of range with the egg, draws her bow, narrows her focus with arcane precision on the roper, and lets fly an arrow. The roper is struck directly in its eye and reels back. Cyanwrath cuts Thaemin free, and all of them flee the creature’s grip, but are constantly caught pinballing back and forth, reeled in, then released, then reeled in again.

Arvensis’ constant spell barrage has taken its toll on him. He has teleported about the hatchery, grown an additional five feet and hunched over, the horns on his head growing from nubs to three foot curved gore-worthy weapons, and his physiology has become extremely unstable inside of his rapidly shifting form. His repeated brushes with death have awakened some repressed corner of his demonic heritage, and it is now wreaking havoc with every spell cast.

Meaning, we finally remembered to start using the Wild Magic Surge table to restore Tides of Chaos. Arvensis was supposed to be like this from the start.

Having run out his most powerful spells, Arvensis falls back on the pale green ray of sickness. The ray does not find purchase on the roper’s scaly hide, however everyone turns invisible. Taking advantage of their brief bout of invisibility, Ront frees Thaemin, who bolts for safety while the roper gropes around. It’s positive there was just barely someone here, where the Hell did they go? Cyanwrath and Robyn take a few final shots which, with the advantage of their invisibility, strike home in the creature’s mouth. It spasms, wriggles a bit, and then dies.

And that is the story of how a crit from an archer Ranger with Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer going, along with a lucky wild magic surge, led to us killing the out-of-depth roper in the dragon hatchery. ‘Course, my brother could’ve just kited it to death the way he did the drakes. I’m kind of glad he didn’t, but only because we won. A roper wouldn’t have left room for death saves or raising. Those things eat people. I pointed this out to him in the aftermath, hopefully he’ll think more about ways to safely dispatch powerful enemies in the future, because if this campaign has established anything so far, it’s that they are not playing with kid gloves.

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