Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Recap: Mt. Draco

Still can't beat Skyrim for Dragons and Mountains.
Another month, another session of Dragonborn Quest! This ended up being one of my favorite sessions so far, not just for the campaign but for all the games I've run. I think I hit a lot of good emotional notes within the confines of a short but intense game.

It's exciting when you finish up a session and the players all start talking about their characters and what they want to do next session, instead of immediately switching to non-gaming conversation. Nothing wrong with taking a break from gaming, but I love it when I can get players invested in the game!

This story is part 7 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Previous Campaign | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 |

Dragonborn Quest: Mt. Draco

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Will: Daardendrian Kreev, Red Dragonborn Bard, former prince, back to set things right
Megan: Daardendrian Zovira, Red Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's aunt, champion of the clan
Bria: Druuga Faelynn, Silver Dragonborn Bard, avenged her sister, now to fix the isle...
Michelle: Nerithya Finzerwin, Half-Drow Rogue, ex-cultist looking for a new purpose to her life
Matt: Myastan Faerbor, White Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's friend and owner of the legendary Axe of the Elders
NPC: Svihios Torrin, a clanless young Gold Dragonborn who is eager to go on adventures and become a hero
NPC: Oddmund, Nerithya's Shield Guardian, has a smiling face painted on his head
Other traveling companions: Tofras the Smiter (War Priest of Bahamut) Cheskapen the mysterious monk (???)

When we last left our heroes, they had defended a lizardfolk shamaness and a clutch of copper dragonborn eggs from the Dragonborn Death Knight Favnir. However, before they could slay him, he had cut down the leader of the Copper Dragonborn, Aquorel Drachedandion.

Two of their companions, Kreev's sister Dalyassa and Faelynn's friend Ariann, decided to stay behind and help the Copper Dragonborn escape the island. After all, even though Favnir was dead, the black Dragonborn clan of Z'ildroth was still hunting them.

The Lizardfolk Shamaness returned the favor by telling them that there was information they needed to know is a wizard's tower on Mt. Draco, and the legendary Dragon that guarded its peak was not there at the moment. In fact, they had met her - in the guise of a wandering monk named Chevnyl. Nerithya had traded stones with the friendly traveler, even as Faelynn suspected her true nature.

The party left the dark reaches of the swamplands and began to climb Mount Draco. As they climbed, they were able to see much of the island, including clan Delmirev's pirate ships and the mines where Kreev and Zovira's family was likely working.

One night, as they made their ascent, Faerbor was visited with a strange dream. He was at home, as a child, surrounded by his friends and family. However, there was one White Dragonborn who was out of place.
Let me Axe you a question
The stranger introduced himself as Cestovat, a champion of the clan from over 1000 years ago. Faerbor had finally surpassed his cousin Faergrax (the current clan champion) in strength, and thus was eligible to undergo the Trials of the Axe of the Elders. He had to attain three great victories, each with a penalty to his power. If he won, he would become the clan's champion. If he failed, he would die, and the Axe would return to Faergrax.

However, the most potent part of the Trial was that, if he succeeded, his soul would be bound to the Axe, just like Faergrax's already was. When Faergrax died, his soul would be absorbed into the Axe and increase its power. Faerbor realized that this was why his clan opposed raising old champions from the dead - not because it was dishonorable, but because they couldn't.

The first trial began immediately, despite Faerbor's hesitation. It was the Trial of Strength - forget all you know, and rely only upon your own power (in game terms, his proficiency bonus was reduced to 0). The next morning, he informed his companions of the trials (but not the soul-binding part).

As the group climbed, they discovered a stream of water running down from the mountain, and hundreds of small chunks of bone and flesh scattered everywhere. They suspected it might be the dragon's prey, until a frozen Blackwing soldier tumbled down from the mountain and shattered. Ice breath was a sign of a silver dragon - they were getting close.

The top of the mountain was shrouded in fog and clouds, so much so that they barely noticed the pure white stone castle before they walked into it. Nerithya, with her sharp eyes, was the only one who didn't actually hit the wall.

Moving to the entrance of the castle, they found dozens of frozen Blackwing soldiers, encased in ice except for their feet. Faelynn figured out that there must be some sort of Cone of Cold effect, since it looked like the ice was forming at an angle. In front of them stood a massive pure white door, flanked by two white stone dragon sculptures.

Don't worry, we'll get to the real dragon soon...
Zovira made a move to open the door, and the dragons turned to look at her. They spoke in turn. The right one said:
If you wish to pass
You mustn't think fast
Follow our lyrics, our wordplay
Do it right and you will win
Do it wrong and you will chill
Turn our madrigal upon us!
And the left one replied:
Test me, vexed nemeses!
Seek betterment, exert the self!
We behest thee, reflect me
Then free these speeches, else freeze!

The characters realized this was some sort of riddle, and got to work deciphering it. Zovira tried to say one head's message to the other, and was blasted with a Cone of Cold. Fortunately, her Ring of Warmth protected her from most of the damage.

Faerbor, used to spells and incantations, realized that the left head only used the vowel "e", and the right head never did. Kreev then put together that they had to get the heads to break their own rule while only saying words that followed the rule.

The right head was easy enough, they managed to get it to say "ice". But the left head proved more difficult, and they were very nearly blasted again before they managed to figure out a way to make it say "castle". Slowly, the great doors opened, revealing white stone corridors shrouded by fog.

Faelynn recognized this as a Guards and Wards spell, and they didn't have enough magic to dispel it. However, Nerithya was adept at sneaking around confusing places from her time in the magical Cult of Kam, and she guided them with little trouble to an area that was not warded.

The room was labeled "Gods of Dragonkind", and had three shrines: A large shrine to Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon God of Justice, a large shrine to Chronepsis, the Dragon God of Fate, and a small shrine to Tiamat, the Evil Dragon God. Tofras, a Cleric of Bahamut, knelt before the shrine.

Suddenly, the group heard the massive white stone doors open again, and huge footsteps moving through the castle. Then, a small Silver Dragonborn monk head popped around the corner. It was Chevnyl!
Birds running into the walls is a real issue
The players were not at all worried to be facing down a legendary ancient dragon - she had already proved to be very friendly. However, they were hesitant to ask about the wizard's tower directly, worrying that there was a reason Chevnyl was guarding it so closely. So, as Chevnyl began to take them on a tour of her castle/museum, they began to work on convincing her to show them the truth.

(In order to facilitate this long-form discussion, I used the Angry GM's InterACTION! system. I made sure to use every trick he mentioned, even though a couple of them didn't come up. The players had a blast! Each "round" of debate was hotly discussed, and I got some of the best interaction role-playing I've seen in my games so far.)

The castle was divided up into various rooms containing history of the island and its people. They saw a magic heart of a Chaos sorcerer who had been born long ago on the island (not that one, though), historical information about the Dragonborn clans, their artifacts, and their leaders, and information on prominent locations and events in the island's history.

On the tour, they learned many important pieces of information. They learned about the dragons who the oldest Dragonborn clans were named after, and they saw the frozen corpse of Nemmonis Frowarum, a White clan leader who was purported to have the strength of a True White Dragon. They also saw his sword, a massive slab of stone named Mountaincrusher. They met Nimogglefer, a Kobold historian of the isle, learned more about the Castle of the Ruling Clan (including a secret passage in!), and learned about the history of the island before the Dragonborn arrived: it was infested by evil but cleared by paladins of Bahamut.

All the while, the characters pushed harder and harder for Chevnyl to tell them about the secrets she held here. They had to convince her that it wasn't just enough to record history, but she was duty-bound to use it to help save the people of the island. After several heartfelt speeches from Faelynn, Kreev, and even Zovira, Chevnyl relented, and lead them through a secret passage into the wizard's tower.

Chevnyl, ever the historian, gave them a guided tour of the tower. It once belonged to a wizard named Avubafarihm, who had been slain by the Paladins of Bahamut. Chevnyl had used a Gentle Repose-like spell to preserve the tower as she had found it.

The passed through the living quarters and down into Avubafarihm's trophy room. Here, they say pieces and parts of nearly every dragon that the oldest Dragonborn clans were named after. Avubafarihm had gained his riches by adventuring and hunting dragons, particularly young ones. Chevnyl was quite upset to talk about this, and the party hurried down deeper into the tower.
Also, tons of icky stuff.
On the next level, they found a library, most of the books burnt badly from the Paladin's attack. A few books were still preserved, though: a book of Ritual Spells, a book of Unusual Necromancy, and a book about using magic to brainwash and train an army. Chevnyl told them that Avubafarihm had been in the process of creating an army before he was killed. She also said there was one more level, but she refused to go down further - it was too painful. Chevnyl, Torrin, Tofras, and Cheskapen stayed above while the rest of the party ventured downwards.

The final level was a laboratory, with a large model skeleton of a humanoid with a dragon's head and wings. Lining the walls were sarcophagus-like containers built for creatures of the same shape and stature. There was a darkened room which contained hundreds of egg pedestals the right size for Dragonborn eggs, which had been broken out of from the inside. Finally, they found Avubafarihm's diary.

The diary told of his days as a wizard in Gwenland, a country long, long ago. He had a dream of combining Dragons and Humans into a single race, and began hunting dragons to obtain parts for them. He then fled to the then-unnamed island, atop Mt. Draco, and began building his army, which he called Draconians (yes, they're a race in Eberron. I'm adopting them into my campaign world!).

Fortunately for the world, one of his adventuring companions, a Paladin of Bahamut named Arrakas, realized what he was up to and built Fort Platinum, the castle which would eventually become the Castle of the Ruling Clan. There was a great battle, which ended with Avubafarihm being slain.

The diary gave a bit more insight than that, however. The characters learned some strange pieces of information:
  • He had something called the Sun Amulet, which gave him the power to give the Draconians wings and brainwash them. He noted that without it, he wouldn't be able to do either.
  • Avubafarihm had never obtained a Silver Dragon to make his Draconians with. However, by combining the essence of other Dragons, he was able to synthesize a Silver Draconian.
  • However, even though he had obtained a Gold Dragon, he was never able to create Gold Draconians. At least until right before his death - he had just created a young Gold Draconian and hadn't even had time to give it wings or brainwash it. (this was an easter egg for Will, since he played this exact Gold Draconian in my first Evil Campaign)
  • The Draconians could reproduce, grew to full size in a short time (like Dragonborn) and had been in the eggs in the Hatchery when Avubafarihm was attacked.

The group puzzled about the meaning of this information for a bit before realizing the truth of the situation, and why Chevnyl had been so hesitant to let them down here.

The Dragonborn, their entire race and clans, had been crafted by Avubafarihm.

Pictured: a lie, a fabrication
After his death, the eggs in his hatchery, which he had hidden from the paladins, hatched. Without the "Sun Amulet", they were wingless and free-willed, and had climbed to the surface. Along the way, they had found the dragon trophies of Avubafarihm, and named their clans after their fallen progenitors.

They also realized that Z'ildroth Salothzar, the totalitarian ruler of the island, during his travels, had come across this Sun Amulet, and was using it to gain power. As far as they knew, he had no idea it could be used to brainwash Dragonborn or give them wings. But he was certainly gaining power - the last time they had seen him, he had grown twice the size of a normal Dragonborn and had gained terrible powers.

The group realized they had to act before Salothzar realized what he was wielding. Not only that, but Chevnyl had informed them that the Dragonborn Death Knight Favnir would return from the grave within a week, at the location he died: right in the middle of the Dovuaka City Council room.

They rushed back upstairs to collect their companions, but nobody was anywhere to be found. They looked through the rooms, but didn't find anyone until they arrived back at the front gate, where Chevnyl stood in their way. Behind her, traveling down the mountain, was Torrin, Tofras, and Cheskapen.

The party was confused. Zovira was furious. Chevnyl explained as best she could: Cheskapen, their mysterious companions, was a Couatl, a messenger straight from Bahamut. He had told her to keep the heroes locked up in this castle, while he took Tofras and Torrin for some unknown purpose. The players tried to press Chevnyl to know what Cheskapen could have said to cause such a change of heart, but she refused to say. She transformed into her full Ancient Silver Dragon form, heartbroken but making it clear they couldn't leave.

Faelynn summoned all of her magical might and began to cast her most powerful spell: Teleport. Chevnyl cast a half-hearted Counterspell, but it was too late. The party slowly faded from existence, leaving the weeping Silver Dragon alone once more.

They reappeared in Faelynn's home, the Prisma School of the Arts. People seemed shocked to see them, but Faelynn's uncle realized what was happening. The group told him they had a lot to discuss, and he told everyone in the area that they should forget what they had seen.

The heroes began to plan their next move, hoping to stave of the destruction of their race before it was too late.
He's coming, he's coming, he's coming...
Whew! We stopped there for the night. I really enjoyed this game. I got to finally drop some revelations about Dragonborn in Ahneria that I've been sitting on for a while now. I actually like the idea that there's a campaign going on that just works to define a particular culture or race. I'm currently playing in one about the elves! Kinda. When we get back to it.

Also, it looks like December is going to be a tough month to schedule a game in, so I don't expect another Dragonborn Quest until 2018. However, I definitely will be working on playing a game every weekend that I can, so these Monday Recaps can keep going! Hopefully, I can even get a week or two ahead and make it all the way through the holidays.

Thanks for reading!

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