Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Recap: Unlikely Heroes

I was going to put up cool pictures of dragons and stuff, but then I found this wonderful world.
We didn't have a Storm King's Thunder game this week because Cody and a bunch of folks from the video game company were at PAX East promoting our Kickstarter. Which, by the way, got funded, so hopefully I'll be writing more about writing music here on the blog soon. Symphonic Sundays? Maybe. Needs work.

Anyway, since so many of my regular players were out of town, I decided to run a single-session version of an idea I picked up from Goblinpunch, specifically: The Dragon Hole. The article is pretty sweet, it basically describes a dungeon where a bunch of 1st level PCs head into a huge hole in the ground to fight a dragon. Which ends up being six dragons.

Arnold over at Goblinpunch thought that the Dragon Hole would end up with 50-60 rooms. I decided to cut it down to a single dragon and 10 rooms for my session.

Oh, and I (perhaps foolishly) let my players use any race or class published for 5e by WotC.

Unlikely Heroes

Some of these have to be intentional.
Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Will: Auger, Warforged Cleric of the Forge, literally worships his creator, wants to plate mail everything
Shannon: Daria Starbeex, Aaracokra Wizard, a narcoleptic owl who chases knowledge and shiny things
Megan: Lydia Langdon, Changeling Artificer, a gunsmith from the distant future of Fantasy Victorian England
Cait: Caitlinda Belcherra, Human Awakened Mystic, this should sum it up
Makayla: Javala Naas, Elven Storm Sorceress, basically a Jedi who serves the "Knights of the Order"

Starting out strong. Yep, I said literally any race or class in the Core Books, Volo's Guide, Unearthed Arcana, and any of the module supplements. I dug my own grave here.

The adventure began when the characters, all patrons of Caitlinda's artisanal beef sandwich restaurant, decide to help her discover the reason her shipments of beef have stopped coming in. They form a group and travel to the small hamlet of Gendam Village.

Upon arrival, they immediately get thrown out of the local tavern without gaining nearly any useful information. Auger tried to give the building a tin roof and falls through into the bar. Lydia wants to mess with the bartender and completely un-stealthily tries to steal his spare clothing. Daria falls asleep on the counter.

Fortunately, Javala and Caitlinda manage to get the name and home location of the town's elder. They make their way to the home of Elder Rhaeg, who greets them at the door. The obviously blind man leads them in, gives them some more unhelpful information, accidentally serves them cleaning supplies instead of dinner, and pushes them out the door without a map.

By now the heroes know that some monster has been taking the local cattle. Unfortunately they have no idea where the monster lives. Javala, being the only one allowed back in the bar, talks to some superstitious old men. They give her some basic directions but refuse to say the name of the monster. Meanwhile, Lydia and Auger ruin one of the tavern's windows trying to pick up some gossip.
Right? There's no way.
Here's a fun DM tip: If you really want to practice wrangling unruly players, just let them make whatever character they want and set them loose on an unsuspecting village. My normal "gentle steering towards the plot" became pretty close to railroading at this point.

After thinking about what they had done, the characters headed down the Wagon Trail into the mountains. They had been told that the monster's lair was unmissable. All they would have to do is follow the trail and they would find it.

Well, they found it. A giant, active volcano, with a huge obsidian dragon skull situated halfway up the mountain, leading inwards. Lava flowed down the sides, forming a path leading up to the entrance that was littered with bodies. Each of them looked to be powerful adventurers, clad in once-magical armor and wielding once-powerful weapons. If Auger could cry, he would have.

The characters were initially hesitant to enter the dragon's lair and find out what was happening to the cows. They were even more dubious when Caitlinda had a vision that there was a portal to the elemental plane of fire in the mountain, creating the lava. And they were even more indecisive when they realized that only an Ancient Red Dragon could create such a thing.

Fortunately, they all had a moment talking to their conscience, which reminded them that they had picked ideals such as "Charity", "Generosity", and "Knowledge". In the end, Daria was the one who wandered sleepily into the mouth of the dragon and dragged the rest of the group with her.

Whew. Hard part done. Now all they have to do is figure out how to kill a dragon. Taking clues from The Dragon Hole, I placed quite a few different ways throughout the dungeon. If they take some time and explore, they just might succeed.
Its eyes are dark mirrors, reflecting the blackness of your own soul
Passing into the Dragon's Lair, they were immediately beset upon by Kobold guards. The guards were fortunately too stupid to alert the dragon, but Lydia's Thunder Cannon might as well have. The heroes were victorious, and Caitlinda pulled out her First Aid kit to patch up their wounds.

The group explored a few different rooms. They came across a chamber that was surprisingly cold, and had been sealed off by a Fire Shield spell. Javala and Daria used their Mage Hands to retrieve a small vial of frozen liquid, and after brushing some Brown Mold off of it they discovered that it was deadly poison. It seems that a previous group of adventurers had thought to poison the dragon.

The next room they found was a large amphitheater, surrounding a pool of lava. They killed the lone Kobold here, and discovered a book stashed in the Kobold-sized pulpit: a manual on Necromancy. Daria took an immediate interest, and discovered a spell that could easily kill a dragon! Provided they had a dragon bone. And 10 precious gems. And black ink, which they would have to use to draw a sigil on the Dragon. Oh, and there was a good chance the spell would fail if cast incorrectly.

Only having the black ink in their possession, the group checked out another room. This one was a dark series of tunnels, which Caitlinda discovered (using her mysterious psychic powers) contained many baby Kobolds. The tunnels were structurally unsound, though, and the group tried to convince the children to come out to safety. The baby Kobolds refused, saying that even though the tunnels were unsafe, this was the only place the Dragon wouldn't dare go, since the force of the Dragon would collapse the mountain down on it and kill it. Caitlinda swore she would save the babies.

They went to the last room on the first level of the dungeon, which happened to be the Dragon's armory. Legendary weapons covered the walls, each and every one of them melted, scorched, broken, and cleft. Auger was miserable. Javala lamented that they were just here for the cows.
Auger: nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
This room also contained a door to the cold chamber (also sealed), as well as a hole in the center looking down at the Dragon's chamber. Which of course contained the Dragon's hoard. Daria was hypnotized by all the shiny, but the group convinced her that there had to be a safer way to get 10 precious gems.

The party headed down to the lower levels of the dungeon, fighting some more Kobolds along the way. Auger was the best tank, but the Kobold-sized tunnels gave him a severe combat disadvantage. Lydia used her Thunder Cannon to take out most of the Kobolds, which the group worried would bring the dragon right to them.

Finally, they reached the long tunnel leading to the Dragon's chamber. Javala, who had been feeling a mysterious calling the entire time she had been in the dungeon, suddenly saw a Kobold head peek out of a nook in the wall. She called out to the Kobold, and her mysterious calling turned out to be true: this was a Kobold who wanted to escape the evil of the Dragon!

Valkor the Kobold Sorcerer revealed that his magic powers had awakened in him and made him realize that he shouldn't just be blindly serving the Dragon, Gryvyd the Devourer, any longer. He showed them the bones of the cows that had been stolen and eaten, and told them that the dragon was deadly and insane. The group pretty much had that figured out by now.

Valkor decided to give the group a Robe of Useful Items in exchange for getting him and the baby Kobolds out alive. The only way that could really happen, though, is to kill the dragon. Valkor had stolen a gem from the Dragon's hoard, and the Dragon's supernatural power would alert the beast if the gem ever left the lair.

So now they've pretty much got all the information they could get from the dungeon. They started to formulate a plan, which I hoped would involve them talking to the Dragon himself. I had tons of backstory and personality written out...
I'm not even... what is... who!?
Javala realized that Valkor must have been the one who had sealed the cold room with Fire Shield, and asked him why. Auger, who had heard of Brown Mold in his time with his Dwarven creators, told the group about its dangers and how it absorbed heat.

The group, lead by Javala's reasoning, came up with a plan. They could funnel the Brown Mold through the Armory and down into the Dragon's chamber, where it should consume the Dragon. Valkor wouldn't be able to seal every exit to the chamber, but he could do enough that the group should be able to collect the Kobold babies and make their escape.

Caitlinda spoke to the babies as the "Earth-Mother" and convinced them to come out. Valkor created his runes, and lead the babies out of the lair. The group prepared to unleash the mold.

Suddenly, they heard a booming voice from below. "A piece of my hoard has been stolen from me! You'll never escape, thief!" Javala quickly cut the Mold seal open and the group fled for their lives.

They rushed out of the lair, Brown Mold covering every surface as they did. They reached the entrance and pulled out some shields they had taken from the armory, and began to slide down the mountain.

At the top of the volcano, the Brown Mold reached the portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire. There was a huge explosion as the portal pushed the Mold away and closed, sending rocks flying down onto the group. Lydia was nearly crushed, but they made it to the bottom just in time.

They watched as the humongous form of Gryvyd the Devourer spiraled into the air, coated in Brown Mold. All his attacks and tricks only made it cover him more. He twisted, spiraled, and plummeted downwards into the wreckage of his lair. They had done it!

Valkor and the babies were safe at the bottom of the mountain. The group saw them off and returned to the village with the good news.
"Yay" - the peasantry
That was the end of the night's adventure, but within a few years...

Auger, who was always very honest and forthcoming, was hailed as the Dragonslayer across the world. His smithing was suddenly in high demand, and he took on many, many apprentices. He was showered with gifts and praise, despite him being very truthful about the manner in which the dragon was killed.

Daria opened up her own café, where she served potions enchanted to keep people awake. It was a huge hit, and soon "Starbeex" cafés where popular throughout the country. Using her newfound wakefulness, she discovered how to destroy Brown Mold and lead the group back to reclaim the treasure from Gryvyd's hoard.

Caitlinda's restaurants became famous as well, and her reputation as a fortune teller grew alongside it, until she came up with the idea of serving fortunes along with food. Thus, Fortune Cookies were invented.

Javala donated her share of the gold back to the Knights of the Order, who now hailed her as the true Chosen One of legend. The faction spread throughout the country, becoming a great force for good among the people.

And Lydia disappeared, determined to fix history in her own way. Being a changeling, rumors flew about her, and though many of them were untrue, they all featured her trusty Thunder Cannon, the gun that slew the beast.
Grvyvd the Devourer: this year's hottest trend?
Overall, this adventure was great. I loved finding alternate ways to kill a dragon, and the players seemed to be really invested in the exploration. Which makes sense, since exploration was really the only way to beat their foe.

They also became really invested in their characters. I'm not sure if it was the freedom I allowed them (I'm usually much more restrictive) or the fact that they had a good time in-game, but every player was grilling me about making this more than a one-shot. I'm not sure how they could top killing a dragon, though. Killing an angel? A God? The Tarrasque?

Also, I wanted to throw a special shout-out to Makayla. This was her first game of D&D, and not only did she play well, but it was her plan that finally killed the dragon. I blame her love for Zelda games. She's playing Breath of the Wild on YouTube right now and she was telling me about storming a fortress that was way over her level, mere hours before we did the same thing in-game.

Makayla will be joining a couple of my regulars and another player (who isn't new to D&D but will be new to the blog) for a new campaign starting next week. I've taken my time off monthly games for too long! We'll be playing the absolutely fantastic Maze of the Blue Medusa. I'm not sure if there will be a recap, since our first session will just be making characters and setting up motivations, but I'm very excited to explore this dungeon with the group.

Thanks for reading!

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