I won’t lie, the previous game did not go in any shape or form the way I planned and the result was 2 KO’d characters, 1 dead wolf and 1 dead character (first in our so far 18 months long campaign) as a result of fighting a young blue dragon named Electrax Stormwing.
However, it provided me with a fantastic challenge: Make next game completely from scratch as nothing I had in mind would fit! Super exciting challenge.
I went into planning mode on this with the following brief in mind:
- Practically, the first encounter in the previous game was a drag. Waaay too long so I needed better control of the maths behind the encounters.
- Only a single character remained standing, but she was a Dragonborn with a blue dragon lineage. Perfect for calming a Blue Dragon.
- The Dragonborn actually has a background story about a claw relic that was lost to her village.
- Two characters KO’d.
- One character dead so needed to introduce new character.
I rely on using Challenge Ratings, but have modified it as my players are too effective. However, that led me to the very loong and dull encounter in the last game so I asked around on various DM forums and got some advice.
I made this simple spreadsheet to help me calculate rounds it would take to kill baddies (or indeed vice versa). Not perfect so very keen in hearing any tips you have on this.
Don’t split the party!
I started this game with not 2, but 3 different starting positions:
- The Dragonborn who surrendered, started in a cage in the Dragon’s lair.
- The Ranger and Barbarian who got knocked out, started with no equipment in a prison cell guarded by Kobolds with a few Goblin prisoners as neighbours.
- The new character, a Tiefling Rouge named Valkyria, coming to ask the now late Lady Alfein to be her mentor, starts at the entrance to the caves having tracked the party.
This is what the tabled looked like: Three different rooms and encounters to be initiated at the same time.
Managing three converging storylines
the three encounter were different in nature:
- The entrance is about traps and surprise attacks.
- The prison is about solution solving without equipment and without alerting the guards.
- The main lair is about staying alive by not pissing the dragon off and if possible, escape!
I ran this in rounds, even the social encounter (The dragon encounter I used the Skills Challenge system from D&D4e) and I aimed to give each player roughly 1-3 rounds before moving over.
That meant players got time to think about their next move and even in combat I tried to leave that particular room on a cliff hanger where possible.
But in order to keep things neat, I will keep each room separate.
Our new joiner, the inexperienced Rogue Valkyria, confidently walked towards the two Kobold guards… and was caught in the bear trap followed by a direct hit from the Kobold Mama (Kobold Inventor) with green slime!
After some fighting with the Kobolds (and scrapping of the slime), Valyria emerged with her confidence shaken and some scars to show.
To avoid future ambush, she made herself invisible before leaving the room. A good thing as she emerged in the Dragon’s Lair, which she quickly left and ended up in the Prison Room.
The Prison Room
As the Ranger and Barbarian woke up, they realised all their equipment was gone and they found themselves in a small cell with some jay as bed and an iron drain.
Outside was two bored (and increasingly drunk) Kobolds guarding them with a bolt thrower with further 3 Kobold Dragonshields patrolling (the wolf on the photo I replaced with a Bat Swarm to give the Ranger a new pet to play with rather than a straight wolf replacement)
Through the drain the couple started communicating and negotiating with some Goblins in an adjacent cell and this resulted in a rope, A Great Axe, A short Sword, a Dagger being passed through the drainage. Furthermore the Ranger found a box with 3 firebugs in gutter.
Using the firebug, they set fire to the hay and by some clever acting (🔥 help help help 🔥) they got the Kobolds to open the door and ambushed them after which they dispatched of the Dragonshields with the help of the Bat Swarm and the still invisible Rouge who made her entrance to the party by lobbing the head of a Kobold Dragonshield, which shook our Dwarf Barbarian to his core.
After short intros, the trio headed to the Dragon’s Lair…
The Dragon’s Lair
The Dragonborn Sorcerer found herself in a cage pulled high up in the Dragon’s Lair.
Through conversation (and some offhand magic), she tried to distract the dragon, while her Pseudodragon investigated the lair itself.
It found the Talon of Elduin Voltar. This artifact was lost to the Dragonborn’s village a long time ago and it is carved from the claw of Elduin Voltar, the origin dragon of the Dragonborn’s lineage, a blue dragon, who turned to the Shadowfell to gain power and in doing so became a Shadow Dragon.
Through some dramatic events, the Dragonborn Sorcerer manage to lower the cage and the Talon magically replaced her two middle fingers on her left hand, leaving her with a large protruding talon replacing the two fingers. More importantly that meant that all her future lightning-based attacks (magical or breath) will now be Necrotic going forward. On top of that, a single humanoid creature killed by her necrotic breath becomes a Shadow under her control.
The Goblins from the prison showed up and distracted the Dragon long enough for the Dragonborn Sorcerer to escape the cage and run for the entrance. However, the Dragon realised this and swiped her back with its tail.
Having no way out, the Dragonborn Sorcerer spent her Sorcery points in making two Lightning Bolt attacks (now counts as Necrotic) and did some serious damage to the Dragon, at which point the rest of the party showed up… with the Bolt Thrower in tow, and finished the dragon!
So much cool roleplay, problem solving and combat tactics in this game. Electrax and her minions never stood a chance!