Let’s Play Horde of the Dragon Queen: Battle of Naerytar

Played September 17th, 2016

The party approaches Castle Naerytar with their new lizardfolk allies. The crumbling walls are surrounded by water, scalable by Robyn, the lizardfolk, and perhaps Arvensis, but all of the more heavily armored party members would have to leave their protection behind. Seeing no subtle route in, Thaemin and Cyanwrath agree that they’ve got a lizardfolk army so they may as well use it. Arvensis is not a fan of such an obvious route of attack, but he has no alternatives to suggest.

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Let’s Play Horde of the Dragon Queen: To Castle Naerytar

Played September 10th, 2016

Cyanwrath is briefly taken aside by Jamna Gleamsilver for a job offer from the Zhentarim, whom she’s been working for. She’s noticed that Robyn was curiously absent while everyone else was either in the crowd or in the fight, and has guessed that Cyanwrath was intentionally diverting the cult and the guards from the strongroom. Having seen both his combat prowess and his skill for subtlety, Jamna offers him a spot in her messed up extended family of spies, assassins, and extortionists. After mulling it over for a few minutes, he accepts.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Construction Ahead

Played August 27th, 2016
Arvensis: 4477

Cyanwrath: 6723
Robyn: 4265
Ront: 6072
Thaemin: 4078

The cult caravans halt for only a day in Waterdeep, and during that day the party spends their gains, ill-gotten and otherwise, hands off the black dragon hatchlings to a woman named Elia, who Arvensis’ academic contacts put the party in touch with. She spends most of her time in the wild speaking with metallic dragons, who have accepted her as sort of an honorary hatchling dragon due to her friendship with Otaarylliakkarnos, whom Cyanwrath immediately shortens to “Otie.” Most of the party soon follows suit, because seriously that is way too long a name. Elia promises to get the hatchlings to Otie, and assures Cyanwrath that Otie will raise these as though they were her own brood and do all in her power to make them good and true creatures. Cyanwrath is mostly just glad that they’re going to live, at least until young adulthood, which is several decades away and in any case a dragon’s life to young adulthood is about as long as Cyanwrath’s entire life will be, so even if they go evil and Otie ends up killing them, they can hardly complain. And hey, there’s three of them, maybe they’ll end up killing Otie and carve out a few fiefdoms for dragonkind, or better still, maybe they turn Otie to the dark side. Tall order for hatchlings, but hey, he can dream. After a very definitely not tearful shut up Thaemin farewell to the hatchlings, Cyanwrath rejoins the party as part of the caravan heading out to Neverwinter.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: To Waterdeep

Played August 26th, 2016
Thaemin: 4,078
Ront: 6,072
Arvensis: 4,477
Robyn: 4,265

Cyanwrath: 6,723

Not long after setting out from the shadow of Dragonspear Castle, a glorious golden stag with horns of platinum is sighted. Arvensis recalls a legend about this creature, and it’s said that if you catch it, it will grant you a wish, but no one has ever been able to catch it. What’s not explained by the legend is how anyone ever knew about the wish granting powers if it’s never been caught. In any case, Lai Agnesstun, the dwarf merchant, Oyn Evermoor, one of the cult wagon leaders, and Samardag the Hoper decide to chase after it. Evermoor plans to wish for the dawning of a new age (he’s vague on the details), Samardag isn’t sure what he’s wishing for but by golly wouldn’t it be spectacular, and Agnesstun doesn’t believe in any of this wishing nonsense, but that pelt sure would fetch a good price in Waterdeep. Ront and Thaemin join their employer Samardag. The stag, not keen on being hunted, bolts into the Misty Forest.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Road Trip

Played August 18th, 2016
Thaemin: 3,199
Ront: 5,194
Arvensis: 3,757
Robyn: 3,600

Cyanwrath: 6,004

After Robyn Hood and Cyanwrath finish drinking their woes away, they take the barge down to Baldur’s Gate. By the time they’ve arrived, all three of their eggs have hatched, and it’ll be a long journey to Waterdeep to find Arvensis’ contact, a draconic scholar who can deliver the hatchlings into the care of a metallic dragon willing to at least attempt to raise them properly (and kill them as young adults, after they’ve had a fair shake but before they’ve reached their full destructive potential, if raising them Good fails). They ship to Baldur’s Gate where Robyn Hood’s criminal associate Wyll Scarlet keeps an eye on everyone coming to and from Baldur’s Gate. Baldur’s Gate has worked hard to make it impossible to ship goods up the Sword Coast without passing through the city, refusing the construction of any major roads through their hinterlands that might prevent the city’s porters from being paid lucrative amounts to take goods from wagons at the south gate to wagons at the north, so there’s no way the Dragon Cult will get their hoard through the city without Wyll’s friends in the porters’ guilds from noticing.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Worst Festival Ever

Played August 14th, 2016

The following day, Thaemin meets Frume at the gate as instructed, where Frume and his most nimble squire are preparing a horse race. Frume invites Thaemin to join, and Thaemin agrees. Ront and Cyanwrath join the race as well, each hoping to beat the other, and Robyn decides hey, why not. The flag is waved and each of the riders urges their mount on.

Frume bolts right out the gate and leaves everyone else in the dust as they race across the bridge and through the streets of the city. Frume quite easily maintains his lead as they begin to tear down the main road of the city towards the castle at its heart, while Thaemin and Ront battle for second place, and a dozen feet behind Cyanwrath and the squire are similarly neck and neck. Robyn’s bucked from her horse early on, and while she swiftly remounts, she is left far behind. The race turns from the castle into narrowest, most twisted streets of the city as the track loops around towards the gate. Ront pulls ahead of Thaemin, and the squire pulls ahead of Cyanwrath alongside Thaemin. Frume is over the finish line well ahead of everyone else, Ront pulls into second, and Thaemin slips behind to place fourth behind the squire. Cyanwrath thought he was angry when the squire managed to pull ahead, but dear gods he is furious when Robyn comes from behind to leave him in last place.

The racers each rolled Animal Handling, then Athletics, then Animal Handling, then Acrobatics, and then Animal Handling again. Each roll represented one leg of the race. After each leg, the rolls were totaled to determine who was in the lead. I’m still finangling with my chase rules, so rather than bust those out, I went with this straightforward system instead.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: To Elturel

Played on August 14th, 2016
Thaemin: 2,909
Ront: 3,326
Arvensis: 3,267
Robyn: 3,310
Cyanwrath: 5,264

The party recovers the eggs and returns to Greenest. Leosin has already left by the time they return, but he left a message behind with Escobert the Red, requesting the party meet up with him at Elturel, capital of Elturgard, which lies further down the trade route between Baldur’s Gate and Cormyr from the Greenfields (including Greenest). With the roundabout route the cultists are taking, and with their being weighed down by wagons and traveling on foot rather than by horse and by river, the party has a strong lead on them, so the party decides to oblige.

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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.

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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. Continue reading

Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Raider’s Camp

Played July 24th, 2016
Thaemin: 113
Ront: 503
Arvensis: 406
Robyn: 331

But Arvensis died, so how can he have gained any XP? When my older brother introduced 5e to his wife back in June (she played along with myself, my younger brother, and my sister, who were all introduced to the game before the Curse of Strahd season began and the DM rewards program was introduced), he gained 1,000 XP from the DM’s Guild. Technically he gained it retroactively when I roped him into this little bit of rules manipulation. So I texted him to transfer ownership of the character to him (which it never says you can’t do) and give Arvensis back the 406 XP he missed from having died partway through this adventure. Then he gave ownership back to my younger brother.

Similarly, the rules for death state that using faction charity forfeits XP and rewards for the session, not for the whole episode, so by waiting to depict the aftermath and hand out quest rewards until the next session, Arvensis (and Thaemin) can get quest rewards. Side note: I really feel like I shouldn’t have to twist League rules into pretzels like this to set my brother up with characters he can use at stores and conventions. There’s quite a few limitations that make sense for the Adventurer’s League, like fixing everyone to the same XP schedule, restrictions on magic items and non-core chargen options, banning most of the optional rules from the DMG to keep play experiences consistent, and so on. There’s also a bunch of limitations that seem to be wholly pointless barriers to entry. Are these some kind of ill-conceived attempt to prevent gaming a system that relies on individual self-reporting to begin with?

This here is one of the less baffling decisions and more of a grey area. I think it’s a good idea to give low-level characters, who haven’t had a chance to build wealth, a free raise dead, and I don’t think the danger of adventuring without a revivification contingency plan is any less clear without losing any XP over it beyond what you would’ve lost if you were high enough level to pay for it yourself. Particularly considering that Raise Dead comes with some serious penalties of its own (Thaemin certainly felt them in the next adventure, especially since he didn’t get as many rest opportunities as the rest of the group). Mainly, though, my issue is that smacking a brand new player with a setback as strong as this makes it seriously difficult to older cousin them into the hobby. Why are Adventurer’s League rules making it harder to older cousin people into the hobby?

Lore fanatics may have been nagged by the distance between Greenest and Baldur’s Gate. The refugees get here after just a day’s travel, but Greenest is much further out from Baldur’s Gate than that. The problem here is that the 5e map of the Sword Coast I was using didn’t have Greenest on it. I thought Greenest had no specific location on the Sword Coast (not yet, anyway), and was a trade town made for Hoard of the Dragon Queen, so there wouldn’t be any big issue sticking it near enough to Baldur’s Gate that I could feature the landmark city heavily early on and help get my brother acquainted with the geography of the Sword Coast. Turns out Greenest totally does have a specific location and it’s way further away than that. Oops.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Greenest Is Still On Fire

Played July 22nd, 2016
Thaemin: 113
Ront: 97
Arvensis: 0
Robyn: 0

After heavy casualties, the enemy has been repelled, but they’re already regrouping. It seems clear that the raiders will eventually overwhelm the keep. Those refugees in the courtyard who are of fighting age have been armed with spears from the armory for a last minute defense, but Governor Nighthill, now sporting a gash running from his ear to his neck and one arm in a sling, asks Ront and an unlikely ally to help secure an escape route. Arvensis Cotula, having already retrieved his life’s work and secured it in the castle, has offered his services in seeing the village and its inhabitants through to safety. Governor Nighthill doesn’t trust the tiefling at all, but as he explains to the equally skeptical Ront, “I trust him more than the kobolds who are already attacking us.”

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Greenest in Flames

Played July 20th, 2016
Thaemin: 0
Ront: 0
Arvensis: 0
Robyn: 0

Thaemin is in a general store restocking for the temple when a cottage outside bursts into flame. A quick examination of his surroundings reveals a blue dragon flying circles around the outskirts of town, breathing lightning down. Caravans that have come through both gates have begun to attack the town, pulling off the waterproof tarps covering the wagons to reveal swarms of kobolds.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Introduction and Characters

Last Christmas, my older brother got my younger brother the D&D 5e Starter Set. We’ve been running sessions of the Lost Mines of Phandelver with my older brother as GM whenever we all get together, but as my older brother has inconveniently decided to go to Yale’s law school, these get togethers are few and far between. To fill in the gaps, I recently started GMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen for him.

I made a few efforts to find other players, but ultimately abandoned all of them. When you try to gather up new players, a large chunk of the people you’re looking at are people who are looking for a group because they aren’t welcome at other game tables. The ones who aren’t are unlikely to especially want the same style and tone of game as you do, although running a store-bought campaign does alleviate this. On top of this, you have to consider the prodigious attrition rates of your average pick-up group and on top of that, the incredibly difficult scheduling associated with getting 4 players and a DM to show up at the same time. Every new person added to the group makes this harder. With just two people, you can plausibly get together 3+ times a week. With a full group of five, you’re lucky to get one or two.

I decided to run for just my little brother. The standard D&D solution for duet campaigns is to power up the PC, but 5e’s bounded accuracy harshes that mellow like whoa. Instead, we created a complete party and he’ll run all of them, like this was a Gold Box game. Occasionally I take control of one of the party members for the sake of roleplay within the party, usually so that noble Thaemin or good-hearted Ront (usually played by my brother) can have a conversation with cynical Arvensis or sardonic Robyn (usually played by me). As a happy side-effect, since no free XP has been given out and we’re running a published adventure, all characters are completely rules-legal for use with the Adventurer’s League any time we want to head down to a hobby store or to a convention or whatever (note from the future: preserving this happy side effect would end up taking a lot more effort than I thought it would).

So here’s the party:

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