Having thoroughly scouted most of the castle last session, the group now prepared to cause as much trouble for the cult as they did. Between sessions, I allowed some retooling of the characters, in particular with their spell lists, as the group was finding that some of their spells were proving far less effective than they needed to be. The most relevant change was that the group now had the knock spell, which allowed them access to the last of the towers – the control tower, which had the magical devices that allowed the steering of the castle.
The knock spell in 5E is actually quite loud, which meant that all the ogres in the upper courtyard heard the spell and came to investigate, which, of course, led to a battle. Various fire magic spells got thrown around by Ice (Danielle’s Sorcerer), which made me quite aware of how poor the spell selection is for ice-using sorcerers in the game at present. Once all the ogres were dead, the group were able to properly explore the tower, where they found all the devices used to control the tower. More importantly, they discovered the ghost of Blagothkus’s wife.
This allowed me to point out that the cloud giant ruler of the flying castle was not actually happy with the cult, and so, when he came marching up to the tower with the rest of his ogres, the party were able (aided by some excellent Charisma checks) to persuade him that they weren’t cultists after all and that he’d be able to regain his castle if they teamed up with him.
(As for the dead ogres, no-one really cared about them).
Before they took on the cultists, the group returned to the vampire’s tower, defeated the vampire spawn guarding her coffin, and staked her. I ruled that she was still sleeping as it was day – I like to reward good planning, and this was the reward for all the scouting the group had done in the last session.
And then it was time to take out the cultists. Running big, complicated battles was not what I wanted to do here, especially as I’ve not been using miniatures in recent weeks. Instead, I simplified it to being the two Red Wizards, the leader of the cult and a couple of wyverns against the player characters and Blagothkus.
The players didn’t immediately scatter, which was a bit of a problem as it allowed one of the Red Wizards to launch a fireball at them, which almost killed Ice (she was 2 hit points away from instant death!) Jesse’s bard quickly revived her, but the spell-casters in the group found the resulting combat quite difficult, as the Red Wizards both had counterspells prepared, and with a lot of spell slots, most spells the players tried to cast were just countered. It gives a very, very different feel to 5E spell combat than in previous editions of D&D!
The major bonus for the group was having Blagothkus on their side. He was able to reach the Red Wizards and start taking them down, with Michael and Tim’s characters likewise causing problems.
As the Red Wizards fell, and Rezmir likewise, the wyverns began to enter the combat. They were particularly tricky to fight, as they spent a lot of time aloft and the group have quite a few characters without missile weapons. One of the twins eventually jumped onto the back of the wyvern (I think it was Michael), and was able to kill it. Unfortunately, this happened when it was still aloft, and he was dropped to zero hit points by the fall. Jesse treated his wounds, and the battle was done.
I hadn’t used Rezmir to her full extent by any means; and her more powerful items were not apparent in this battle. I wonder what had happened to them…
At this point, the group realised that Ice had wandered off sometime towards the end of the battle. A loud roar from a very large, angry white dragon in the caverns below gave the group some idea where she might have gone!
And this ended the penultimate session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.