Thursday, November 12, 2015

using HotDQ with Freebooters on the Frontier
Hoard of the Dragon Queen (HotDQ)

When I was running Hoard of the Dragon Queen last week, it was a spur of the moment decision to take the book down and start an adventure with the village raid in the first chapter. I was a little familiar with the book and thought I could wing it pretty easily but soon I noticed that the monsters and enemies described in the book didn't have stats, because those are in the online supplement for some reason, and at the time I didn't have that so I just made up the stats the best I could.

This adventure is not written very well at all. Hoard of the Dragon Queen is organized like a railroad adventure, which I thought I could ignore, but now that I'm reading the later chapters I see that the whole thing is just a series of setpieces. Here is a list of chapter summaries with a little information about how they're linked:
Chapter 1, the PCs help defend a village from being attacked by the Cult of the Dragon.
Chapter 2, the PCs are supposed to track and infiltrate the Cult's encampment to free a druid NPC.
Chapter 3, the druid NPC asks the PCs to return to the campsite where they are supposed to destroy the dragon hatchery nearby.
Chapter 4, one piece of evidence in the dragon hatchery is meant to compel the PCs to travel for 2 months to Waterdeep (this chapter is nothing but lots and LOTS of side quests with lots and LOTS of NPCs).
Chapter 5, tracking the cultists to, through, and beyond Waterdeep leads to a laborers' roadhouse where the PCs are supposed to find out what the cultists are doing without letting the cultists know they're being followed and watched. This whole chapter is weird anyway, the cultists go from marauding raiders to sneaky smugglers and I'm having a hard time understanding why they need to smuggle anything if they already have a strong presence in the roadhouse and the nearby castle.
Chapter 6, infiltrate a castle where the Cult is in charge. I'm not really sure what the connection is here because there is nothing directly linking any of the previous chapters to this one. It starts with the words "The tunnel from the roadhouse..." but the tunnel that is described is buried in the adventure text before the description of the roadhouse, and the tunnel is never described ever again! Not even in the room where the tunnel can be found.
Chapter 7, some villains are supposed to get away from the castle in chapter 6 and lead the PCs to a hunting lodge where more cultists live.
Chapter 8, the PCs are supposed to interrogate one of the cultists to find out where the last castle they're need to invade is.

So, we've got a bunch of side quests when on the road, a camp, a cave with a dragon hatchery, two castles, and a roadhouse. I can work with that.
The first three chapters I'm going to run pretty much as presented in the book, but I'm going to add some ideas used by Zak Smith and Courtney Campbell...

inspirational reference material
the Jade Fang of Tiamat
the Pale Eye of Tiamat
the Cobalt Claw of Tiamat
the Red Hand of Tiamat
the Black Wing of Tiamat
Courtney Campbell's invaluable notes

...the last few chapters are side quests and locations. If the PCs manage to investigate the dragon hatchery then I'll pepper some clues in the warrens there suggesting that the Cult is far-reaching and has an already-established smuggling business, and see where that takes me.

Finally, here is my evolving document of notes for running Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Character Creation
Ask players...
...who their characters' favorite person in town is? make those NPCs targets of the cult, for either obvious or secret reasons
...what their characters know of the Cult of the Dragon? incorporate answers into some aspect of the cult
...where they live in town? place major landmarks in the village near their homes
...how long their characters have been friends? establish clear displays of friendship and camaraderie

Deities in this world:
Pogon - god of roads, patron of travelers & nomads
Metzger -
- goddess of comfort & hearth, patron of whores
- goddess of tricks, patron of thieves
- goddess of life
- god of death

Chapter 1: Galapagos in Flames (my players renamed Greenest as Galapagos, so I renamed the Mayor)
Mayor Green is a coward, a drunk, and swears alot:
"By Metzger's tits!"
"Under Pogon's flacid cock!"
"Where is that orcsucker?!"

The cultists raiding Galapagos wear green robes and use kobolds as support troops, they're part of the Jade Fang of Tiamat. However, several kobolds are commanded by Cyanwrath, a blue-scaled dragonkin, he of the Cobalt Claw of Tiamat. Cyanwrath brought the kobolds as fodder for the Green Fang. When the Jade Fang cultists are done raiding Galapagos, Cyanwrath is meant to travel back with them to the Cobalt Claw's campsite in the northwest.

I took the missions from the chapter and used them as individual challenges to bring into the game as they felt appropriate. These were notes that I wrote as we played and before our second session.

The Mill is on fire!
Cyanwrath is commanding these kobolds and appears out of the smoke after two missed rolls

The Old Tunnel
Mayor Green will shout at the PCs to find his Castellan, who has the keys to a secret underground chamber beneath the keep
the Thief could pick the lock (10+), but on a 7-9 kobolds (1d10) and an ambush drake have broken into the chamber as well
searching for the Castellan means finding where he's hiding,
if the Magic-user uses magic she'll find his dead body (10+) - behind the brothel, stabbed in the back while trying to get inside
if anyone uses Perceive: "where is the Castellan hiding?" - "probably the brothel, he's a known lech and fornicator"
if anyone uses Establish: 7+, he's at the brothel

Sanctuary
6-dot countdown for the battering ram to break down the door
- battering ram crew is 4 jade fang cultists and 4 kobolds, battering ram countdown can't fill up if they are engaged
- mob of 15 kobolds, missed roll will bring them circling around the temple
- rear mob setting fire to temple is 8 kobolds (+1ongoing to any attacks made against this group)

Lennithon, the blue dragon
HP 12, Armor 4 - if Lennithon drops to 8 HP, he flees the battle
miss three rolls in a row and the dragon swoops down and destroys something
if anybody attempts to flee Galapagos during the raid, they will have to face Lennithon

in the aftermath of the raid Mayor Green will offer to pay 50 gold to anyone who will journey to Cold Cliff Keep and warn them of the raiders' approach
an additional 20 gold to anyone who follows the raiders trail and reports back
- where they're headed
- how many are with them
- who their leaders are
- where/when they plan to strike next
the Mayor will buy provisions for characters who agree to follow the raiders

during the first session Cyanwrath confronted the Magic-user at the mill and the Magic-user disarmed him before he was soundly defeated, the Fighter *punched* a cultist so hard that he killed them, the Thief spent a lot of time sneaking around and stealing from cultists/kobolds
during the second session the Thief tried to rescue Mortimer, a herbalist NPC, from being kidnapped and got subdued by kobolds; the Fighter punched a Jade Fang cultist so hard that he died, then the Fighter tried to get the Castellan to open the keep by setting the brothel on fire, he was rewarded by being stabbed to death by kobolds; the Magic-User used her spells to kill kobolds, disarm Cyanwrath, and then escaped Galapagos when the fighting went poorly, she was killed by the dragon who circled overhead


Chapter 2: Raiders Camp
following the raiders will only require a SCOUT AHEAD roll, 10+ result nets knowledge of a group of stragglers (4 Jade cultists, 8 kobolds)

the MUD FLATS of VYTHURIA
• wet hills
• muddy sinkholes
• large rock slabs poking through the mud
• patches of matted, dead grass
• acrid smell as muddy tracks fill with water
• small creaks and ponds of brackish water
DISCOVERIES
Horseshoe Plateau, perilous, evil
a single piece of curved rock that forms a wide plateau and in the center is dry dirt where the raiders of the Dragon Cults camp
when you approach the raiders' camp openly roll+CHA, on a 10+ the raiders welcome you assuming you are new initiates, on a 7-9 the raiders are cautious and question you, on a miss somebody recognizes one of you from Galapagos and they open fire with bows and spells
the Thief Circle, legendary
a muddy sinkhole surrounded by the dried out desiccated remains of 20 thieves, anybody may attempt to establish what they know of tales about the Thief Circle:
a thieves' guild fell to bickering and petty grandstanding, and in the night one of the members attempted to run off with the guild's most sacred treasure, he was hunted down by members of the guild but in recovering the treasure they fell into fighting one another, only one emerged victorious but the treasure was destroyed in the competition and now marks the site where one thief rose above all others through brute force
when a Thief steps into the sinkhole as if it were solid ground roll+LUC, on a hit they recover all burned ability scores (excluding Luck), on a 10+ they may take the Mercenary move (if they're eligible), on a miss they fall within the sinkhole and should be considered dead unless somebody ventures down into the sinkhole (60 foot fall) and checks the body per BITE THE DUST
DANGERS
the Rearguard, 6 Jade cultists, 2 Cobalt cultists, 1 guard drake
the Rearguard is actively preventing anyone from tracking the raiders' camp - the stragglers know about the Rearguard

the Raiders' Camp
Grim Portents

• having laid her eggs, the dragon Lennithon flies off
• prisoners in the camp are taken to the cave as food for the hatchlings
• the raiders vacate the caves, leaving the prisoners to be herded by Frulam Mondath and the kobolds
• the raiders begin to pack up, preparing to march on another town (Cold Cliff Keep?) with the Cobalt Berserkers
Impending Doom: the raiders disperse, some marching eastward to pillage and some traveling southward to set up their smuggling ring

the Dragon Hatchery
Grim Portents

• the fires are lit
• the prisoners are stripped of their clothing
• Frulam Mondath casts a spell to locate intruders
• the kobolds sweep the tunnels looking for for intruders
Impending Doom: the dragon eggs hatch and the prisoners are devoured

Jade Fang
Cobalt Claw cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, shortsword 1d6
Instinct: to steal power, to defame rivals
always wears green robes, bossy, arrogant, prefers to let subordinates do the heavy lifting
moves = call for reinforcements, set something aflame, coat weapon in poison (+stun)

Cobalt Claw Cultist
Cobalt Claw cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, spear 1d8 throw reach, sound alarm, take enemy by surprise, cast snake summoning spell

Pale Eye
Pale Eye cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, staff 1d4, turn ethereal, summon self from future for aid, cast curse upon enemy

Red Hand
Red Hand cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, battleaxe 1d10 reach two-handed, destroy object with magical fire, turn opponent's attack against their ally, reflect magic upon wielder

Black Wing
Black Wing cultist, HP 5, Armor 1, longsword 1d8, regenerate wound (1d8), instill fear, inspire follower to turn against leader
Instinct: to force compliance, to sow fear
wears black or purple robes, silent, patient, prefers grand displays of power
moves = cast a spell, destroy equipment/cover/part of a building

Frulam Mondath, HP 9, Armor 2, halberd 1d10 reach two-handed, regenerate wounds, cast paralysis upon enemy, attack twice

Rezmir, HP 11, Armor 2, greatsword 1d10 close reach two-handed, acid breath (1d8), cast a spell (listed below), wears the Black Dragon mask
Repulsion target must make a save with WIS at -1, 10+ no effect, 7-9 -1ongoing vs Rezmir, 6- cannot move closer or attack Rezmir
Extreme Bellow deafens and panics those who hear it, target must make a save with INT, 10+ no effect, 7-9 deafened for encounter, 6- deafened and terrified (must make a save with INT in order to act around Rezmir or flee)
Zero Content any writing not dedicated to Tiamat burns in Rezmir's presence
Mortification any who look upon Rezmir must save with CHA, 10+ no effect, 7-9 +1xp for committing reckless acts, 6- stab yourself with your own weapon
Impetigo acts like a disease, make a save with CON to resist, 10+ no effect, 7-9 burn 1 Dexterity, 6- your shadow attacks you (same stats as PC, but no armor)

other monsters
Dragon-dogs, HP 5, Armor 0, bite 1d8
poison = make a save to avoid being coated in slippery toxic sweat (7-9: -1forward) or succumb (miss: 1d4 dmg & -1forward & stuck wiping it off)
their dark scales secrete a slime and sometimes globules of this poisonous sweat drips off of them as they pounce onto opponents or run circles around them
moves = tackle to ground (also covers target in poison), pull prey to the ground, drive opponent into a corner

Ambush Drake, HP 6, Armor 1, bite 1d6, tail 1d8, surprise enemy (roll damage twice and take better result), attack two opponents at once

Guard Drake, HP 6, Armor 1, bite 1d6, tail 1d8, wrap tail around enemy's neck, attack two opponents at once

Cobalt Berserker, HP 9, Armor 1, greataxe 1d10 reach two-handed, unleash electricity (battleaxe blasts everyone for 1d6 1P), spit venom (-1forward)

Ropers and Troglodytes are in the DW rulebook, but I made the Roper tougher
Roper, HP 13, Armor 3, surprise prey, climb to ceiling, restrain in tendril (then) bite 1d8+2

magic items
Black Dragon Mask powers are in effect while being worn
cannot be harmed by acid; if Charisma is 13+ then +1 armor; can see in the dark; speak and understand Draconic; can breathe underwater