Rise of Tiamat Review Part 3

This next part is written in a non-linear fashion.  It begins with hunting Varram, then there’s a Council of Waterdeep, then the next section, but they are presented as together.  This is because both sections together gives the PCs enough XP to level up.  I guess writing it this way saves pages?

Anyways, Varram holds the White Dragon Mask, one of 5 needed to summon Tiamat.  But what the PCs don’t know is that Varram lost his goddamn mask to a Zhentarim thief.  Varram is now going to an ancient wizard’s tomb with a divination pool that he thinks will show him the mask which he wants to recover before Severin the Cult leader finds out.  He is on his own without backup and the Harpers suggest this is a perfect time to grab him.

This is a cool little dungeon.  Plenty of opportunities for good RP.  The dungeon is actually quite welcoming for the players who show respect and humility and an appreciation for knowledge.  So your intimidate-mancer looney tunes player might hate it.  The first part is standard but well written.  After the players find the divination pool the players then find a second level to the tomb, where a group of Yuan-Ti have kidnapped Varram.  If the PCs cut their way to him, the Yuan-Ti is willing to let Varram go if the PCs will leave.  The Yuan-Ti say that Varram’s soul has been removed and will be returned when they leave.  This is a lie, he’s unconscious because the Yuan-TI beat the shit out of him.   I like it when NPCs just straight up lie to the players.  If the players refuse, they kill Varram but he can be healed and I would encourage DMs to be lenient as far as saving his life.

This is the part where the compliments stop.  After recovering Varram, he tells the players what he saw in the divination pool.  He saw that the White Dragon Mask is back at the Well of Dragons with Severin.  Motherfucker, what was the point of this?  This was a goddamn shaggy dog story.  The Harpers send you after the white dragon mask when there is no white dragon mask.  I guess I’d really pissed at that since, these things are supposedly the key to freeing Tiamat.  But the real win here is capturing Varram who sings like a canary.  Letting him die would just feel like a fuck you to the players if you ask me.  If he dies this episode has no point.

This is where it gets complicated again.  This adventure begins with the first council of Elrond Waterdeep as Episode 1, but every other council is referred to in Episode 1.  It would help immensely if these Council sessions appeared in the book where they do chronologically in the adventure. The second proper episode/chapter of this adventure is going after Arauthator the white dragon.  Going after Varram is Episode 3 which is actually written together.  Then there is the Second Vatican Waterdeep Council which is part of Episode 1.  This second council provides the hooks for Episode 4 and Episode 6.  Are you confused yet?

The Council scenes are where you want to give the PCs info on how they’re doing but these first two acts are pretty binary.  The PCs either succeed or they don’t.  Either they brought back Maccath and Varram or they didn’t.  The Emerald Enclave stands out as being against capturing Varram which is just bizarre, The Order of the Gauntlet is against allying with the Arcane Brotherhood.  Both of these sound like things that could be easily RPed away.

The next council has two hooks, I’ll go through them as presented in the book.  The next episode is actually the second half of the chapter with Varram and revolves around the Elves at the council.  The elves are represented at Council by King Melandrach who represents the elves of the High Forest and the Misty Forest.  I spent ten minutes trying to figure out where the Misty Forest is.  It’s not on the map in Hoard of the Dragon Queen.  I believe it’s the tiny forest next to Daggerford on the map.  The point is, if you have the King of X in the adventure, put X on the fucking map.

The Cult is attacking elf villages in the woods and their leader appears to be riding a green dragon.  What you need to get across to the players is that although the elves are too proud to admit it, they need the help of some bonafide dragonslayers to hunt this bitch down.  This is largely the same hook that the players encountered in Greenest.  The Cult, led by a wyrmspeaker and a dragon, were raiding villages to acquire treasure for the cult.  With the gold acquired, the cult activity dropped off.  Only one village had survivors, and that is where the players are sent.  The stakes you need to make clear are, if the dragon isn’t stopped, the elves and the enclave might not be able to support the council.

Upon arriving at the elf village in the forest there are a series of roleplaying opportunities.  I can’t call them encounters, because they can only end one way.  Bottom line, there is a traitor in the village giving information in exchange for leaving this village alone.  If the players don’t find this out, there’s no adventure.  This is followed by a bizarre encounter with a druid.  Basically it’s a test of character.  The PCs have to lift a heavy tree off a druid which they can, no skill check, and if they do the druid gives them some magic boon to help against the dragon.  Since there is no chance for failure unless your players are assholes, this serves very little purpose.

One thing I want to highlight in the dungeon is, one room has a statue to some benevolent forest goddess.  At this statue, the players can gain “Water breathing, bless, or other beneficial spells.”  No dude, you wrote the published adventure, tell me what spells the statue gives.  Other than that, there really isn’t much to say about this dungeon.  The encounter with the dragon completely overshadows any ultimately meaningless fights with random elves or ettins,  At this point your party should be level 9.  This Dragon is CR 15, fighting in its lair.  It’s going to beat the christ out of them.  If the players try to go at a straight up fight they will die end of story.

Because of this I want to bring up a weird sidebar that suggests maybe the Green Dragon and the wyrmspeaker, Neronvain, are out of the cave when the players arrive.  It even says that going head on to this dungeon is suicide.  I’m not sure I understand this sidebar, its one thing if the players say they wait until the dragon leaves, but the problem is this adventure has no information about the green dragon or the wyrmspeaker other than that they’re the antagonists in this section of the adventure.  Which is weird because Neronvain is revealed to be the son of King Melandarch.  It doesn’t really affect anything, its just kinda there.  But there is no other information about him or the dragon’s character.  We understood so much more about the two white dragons that this one.  And like the previous act, the Green Dragon Mask is at the Well of Dragons.

The 5th Episode of this adventure is made up of three assaults by the Cult of the Dragon against the PCs.  It’s three random encounters, you could cut it if you wanted.  I don’t have anything more to say.

The 6th Episode is solely a roleplaying event, but not really.  The party is swept off to meet with a council of metallic dragons.  Each dragon wants something specific to earn its vote to support the council.  These are concessions from the existing factions.  For example, a Gold Dragon wants an apology for some goddamn slight hundreds of goddamn years ago that none of the players had anything to do with.  The players can promise to get it, but doing so would negatively impact the support of the Elves on the council.  Sooo its not really roleplaying, its more like gaming the system of support to figure out who is expendable and who isn’t.

  • The gold dragon wants an apology from the elves.
  • The brass dragon wants the dragon masks returned to them after the adventure.
  • The silver dragon wants an apology from the dwarves.
  • The bronze dragon automatically supports the players so no need to care.
  • The copper dragon wants one of the parties’ magic items which belonged to her.

The reality however is that if the players get the support of the metallic dragons, everyone gets a big boost in support.  The Elves take a -2 penalty if forced to apologize but a +2 for getting their support so fuck it.  Honestly the players would be best off sending one player with a high charisma modifier rather than starting from an unfriendly position due to having a dwarf or elf in the party.  If you don’t start with an unfriendly dragon, all you need to do offer one dragon a share of the hoard and the Brass Dragon the dragon masks bam episode over.