I’ve begun running Hoard of the Dragon Queen again for another group in our Wednesday D&D Encounters sessions. My original idea was to just run the first section before Princes of the Apocalypse came out and then start that, but we’ve been enjoying Hoard so much we’ve just kept going.
We finished chapter 5 today, so we’re actually progressing quickly towards the end of the adventure – although both chapter 6 and 8 are pretty big ones. The group has one or two players who have played Hoard before, and four or five players who haven’t played it – and, in fact, haven’t played much D&D at all. The players who have played it before generally sit back and let the new players make the choice of what to do, but really engage in the role-playing.
It’s a really strong table for role-playing, led by Brian, one of the new players. His character, Clayton the Honest (or Clayton the Thief, depending on who he’s talking to) is a joy to DM, often taking the spot light and discussing matters over with the other players. He’s aided by Sarah, who actually DMed all of Hoard/Princes at one of our other tables previously. Sarah is a really, really good role-player (she’s playing a paladin/bard of Sune, who hates not living in luxury…) and the interaction between her and Brian is a wonderful. Often I can sit back and just watch them role-play, with the other players chipping in as they like – inspired by the strong role-playing to role-play more themselves.
Having run it before, I’ve got a much better idea of the flow and structure of the adventure; I’m also more aware of the rough spots that I need to adjust, and of the information I need to give out to the players. The fact is that I really, really like the adventure. It has a lot of opportunities for the players to take control of the situation and advance the plot – often in surprising ways. There’s a kitchen/mess area in one area that I never used the first time; the players got the information another way. This time, we did a lot of role-playing in that area… which ended up with one of the cultists calling Clayton out as “Clayton the Coward”. (That had two of the players wanting to give me Inspiration! Haven’t seen that before!) The adventure has a lot of information about the motivations of the NPCs; the trick is to bring that to life, and I feel I’m doing that even better this time.
Some adventures are static affairs, with the DM just reading the boxed text for one room after another. This one isn’t, at least not when you’re really familiar with it. The NPCs move around, the monsters react to the actions of the players. This group is about to enter an area with several competing factions. What then? With Clayton the Honest leading the way, I’m sure it will be extremely entertaining.
I love this game. There are always new things to discover. And when you play with good people like these ones… the game is magical!