Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Episode 3

The third episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen closes off the initial section of the adventure. The group return to the camp to discover what the cultists are up to and discover that they’ve mostly left. So, the plan changes to dealing with the eggs and cultists left behind.

It’s at this point that Leosin, the half-elf monk that the group may have rescued in the last episode, becomes important. Leosin provides the direction for the rest of the adventure and, from what I can see, is an important contact in Rise of Tiamat as well.

The conversation with Leosin at the beginning of this episode needs to impress on the players the following points:

  • Leosin has been following the current activities of the cult for some time. He’s as close to an expert on the Cult as anyone is these days.
  • Leosin was unable to get into the cave. It would be really good if the characters could investigate, but they shouldn’t foolishly endanger themselves.
  • The party’s primary purpose is to discover what the cult are planning to do next. Are they planning another raid?
  • Leosin is about to travel to the city of Eltural. The party should follow him there after they complete their mission.
  • If Leosin isn’t in Eltural, they should find the paladin Onthar Frume

And then it’s off to the camp again!

Hunters and Cultists

There are two types of people still living in the camp; mercenaries (hunters) and cultists. The mercenaries couldn’t care less about what happens to the cultists: they’re just there to gather food. So, they could be an excellent source of information about the state of the camp. Of course, that assumes that the players even run into them, as they spend most of the time out of the camp – leaving in the morning to go hunting, then returning at night. Or even staying out a few days before returning.

As the DM, you have the option of having your group run into the hunters or avoid them entirely. This is mostly a decision you should make based on your group’s playstyle. If your players prefer information gathering and role-playing, then you should have the hunters appear. If the group is mostly interested in combat and dungeon-delving, then just having the hunters be absent and allowing the group to proceed to the cave may be preferable.

Into the Cave

This is the first dungeon delve of the adventure, and it is set in a setting where there are intelligent denizens. This means that that the cultists should react to the actions of the players. To properly implement this, you need to know what the cultists are actually doing!

The kobolds are guarding the dragon eggs. The cultists, under Frulam Mondath and Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, are guarding the kobolds and the eggs.

Mondath, as the leader, is spending time in her chamber, writing bad poetry about dragons and reading notes on the cultist’s plans.

Cyanwrath is in the shrine to Tiamat, and is likely exercising or praying.

How the cultists react will determine when the party are spotted.

Spotted in the Entrance Chamber

The guards in the entrance chamber try to set up an ambush if they know the party is coming. If they realise they’re outmatched, they’ll likely try to summon reinforcements from the barracks (area 12). Even if they’re unable to do that, there’s a chance (12+ on d20, see the description of Area 12) that the guards come anyway. In this case, some of the guards move to protect Mondath whilst the others move to engage the characters.

Spotted in the Kobold Caverns

If a group of kobolds comes across the party in areas 3-7, they are likely to attempt to warn the remainder of their fellows as well as Cyanwrath in the shrine. Cyanwrath could well send a kobold up the ladder to warn Mondath, while very likely hunting down the intruders himself with his bodyguard (the berserkers in area 9). This could go quite badly for the characters; they may need to retreat.

Kobolds do move between various areas (per the random encounter table), so they are the most likely source of information on the party’s actions; they’ll be reporting to Cyanwrath and Mondath if possible.

Reactions of Cyanwrath and Mondath

Determining how the two leaders react is key to this section. I see Cyanwrath as spoiling for a fight, although he’s likely to want to fight “honourably” with a single character, as per his appearance in the first episode, and will react badly to this expectation not being met. Mondath is much more cunning, and is likely to lead ambushes of the characters if they permit.

If the group fight Cyanwrath first, it is quite likely that Mondath will still be unaware of the players as Cyanwrath is arrogant enough to not alert his commander.

If the group fight Mondath first in her chamber, Cyanwrath might hear the combat and move to reinforce – although likely will take the longer route to the battle rather than climbing the shaft, which would put him as a disadvantage. Instead, Cyanwrath will attempt to return to the entrance chamber and then surprise the group from behind.

Resting in the Caverns

My group needed a short rest after defeating Cyanwrath. As the group had cleared out most of the kobolds, I ruled that due to where they retreated (the ambush drake cave) they were able to get an hour without being disturbed. However, for most groups, resting in the caves is unlikely to be possible without the kobolds finding them first. Even if the kobolds don’t come across them directly, they’ll likely come across the bodies the party has left in their wake, or a guard change at the entrance will alert the complex. At this point, the cultists will attempt to trap and kill the party.

Leaving the Caverns then Returning

There is little chance of the cultists or kobolds rebuilding their forces after the party’s first assault, but they will be alert for another incursion. The kobolds are likely to have made more traps (given enough time), and the remaining kobolds and cultists will ambush the party if they can.

Dragon Eggs!

It is extremely likely that you have players who want to hatch the eggs themselves and raise the dragons. In a lot of D&D campaigns, this would be fine and allow some really enjoyable games. Unfortunately, the pace of Hoard of the Dragon Queen is not conducive for dragon-breeding. (It’s also likely that anyone in Greenest would take a very dim view of dragon eggs being brought into the ruined town). Ultimately, it’s up to you how you handle this, but I advise against allowing dragon breeding for the purposes of this adventure.

What’s the point of all of this, anyway?

The characters need to learn the following:

  • The cultists have abandoned their long-held camp. It’s worth noting (and alerting the players to) that the camp has been used for quite a number of raids before Greenest. Leosin’s capture and escape made Rezmir nervous, and he gave orders for the camp to be abandoned. Both Mondath and Cyanwrath would know that, although they’re not likely to inform the players of their own free wills.
  • The treasure taken from Greenest and on the other raids has been carted away. Its destination is Naerytar, and it will be taken first west to Beregost before heading north along the Trade Way.

There’s also a bit of foreshadowing here: the volcano known as the Well of Dragons shown in the shrine will become important later – at the conclusion of Rise of Tiamat!

Errata and Clarifications

Area 10a. Ropers in the Monster Manual are unable to speak, although they have been able to in previous editions. You should treat this roper as a variant that can speak Common.

Area 11. The description should include the key to the chest in the Dragon Shrine (area 9) – likely on Mondath’s person.

Area 12. The numbers of guards is incorrect; it states that four keep watch in area 1 although only two are present (also, there are no dragonclaws here). There’s no problem with running this as written, just replacing the mention of the area 1 guards with the correct number (two).

Rewards. Originally there were more than 2 dragon eggs; delete the XP entry “For destroying or taking only two dragon eggs” as it is now superfluous.

Other Thoughts

You might find the writings on the blogs of Sly Flourish or Hack & Slash interesting as well when preparing for this adventure.

Articles in the “Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen” series: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6

7 comments

  1. ilpalazzo64

    I ran this just a couple of weeks ago and I found that Cyanwrath’s Berserkers were quite a handful for my PCs. Although the Warlock’s Pseudodragon’s sting effect really helped when they downed Mondath with almost no effort.

    Like

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