The Rise of Tiamat – Session 10

Xonthal’s Tower, Mount Hlim. 1489 DR.

Beneath the tower, the adventurers were soon attacked by a number of elementals – earth and fire elementals – which attacked as soon as they came into the chamber. Music and Mordechai, both tieflings, scorned the scorching touch of the fire elementals, with the doughty eldritch knight engaging all three of the elementals and swinging about lustily.

When naught remained but scorch marks and scattered rocks, the adventurers discovered a path of bloody footprints leading onwards, down a corridor lit by dim glowglobes. Several doors led off the corridor, and – although the footprints did not lead there – the group were curious enough to investigate.

The first room was obviously a wizard’s laboratory, with worktables covered by equipment and notes. However, it’s most unusual feature was a great standing whirlwind in the centre of the room, ten feet across and stretching from floor to ceiling. Within the whirlwind, several sparkling gems could be seen, whirling about.

Ice immediately declared that she wanted one, and so the group attempted to grab one. Unfortunately, the attempt was not successful – those thing were moving fast! – and one of the gems flew out of the whirlwind, uncaught, and shattered on the floor, releasing what was stored inside – a water elemental! Mordechai suffered a few good hits from it before they brought it down.

Ice still wanted a gem, so the group attempted again, this time Mordechai using a mage hand spell to attempt to catch one. It was no more successful than before, and another water elemental appeared to face them. After the battle was done, and Music had healed the eldritch knight, Ice still wanted a gem, but Darius bundled the protesting halfling out of the door as the adventurers searched for safer challenges.

Steps led down to an amazing sight: a walkway stretching over infinite space, with stars all around sparkling in unfamiliar constellations. Meteors streaked above and below the path, and doors leading to nothing the group could see led off the pathway.

The path was not all that safe, as the group discovered when some of the meteors swept down on them. Most of the group ducked successfully, although Ice had to be recovered from where she hung on the side of the path!

The path forked, both directions leading to chambers of some kind. The group turned right, and found themselves at the doorway of a brightly lit chamber. Within it, a red-skinned creature wearing armour of flame, bronze and volcanic stone sat, cross-legged, contemplating a chessboard. It looked up with some delight upon noticing the adventurers, and greeted them with joy. It explained that it was a noble efreeti from the City of Brass, trapped here by the cruel Xonthal. A line of salt across the archway kept it trapped – if the adventurers would just break it, it could retrieve Iskander for them, who had been lost when he fell of the walkway.

The adventurers were sceptical, and declined his offer, instead deciding to check the other chamber than trust the efreeti. It raged at them as they left, but they paid it no further heed.

The final chamber proved that the efreeti was lying, as there, crumpled on the floor, was Iskander, dead of many wounds. By him lay the Blue Dragon Mask. Nothing could be done for him here, so the adventurers gathered his corpse and the mask and left the tower.

Their departure was not unhindered. A great blue dragon swooped down from above, demanding the mask. The adventurers shouted back their denials at the dragon, and began to fling spells and missiles at it, but failed to properly scatter. The dragon let loose a massive lightning bolt at the adventurers. After the blast, Ice lay on the ground, unmoving, although the rest of the group were still hale.

The battle was hard, but the eldritch blasts from the warlock when coupled with his hex spell proved too much for the dragon, which was slain when attempting to flee. Ice was dead, and so the group began to travel towards Baldur’s Gate, seeking a priest who could return her to life…

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Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen – episode 7

The seventh episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen sees the characters reach the stronghold of Talis the White, a disaffected member of the Cult of the Dragon. It details the hunting lodge in which she is staying, and has the potential to be one of the shortest episodes in the adventure.

Seriously. I’ve run two groups through this chapter, and seen another group take it on. Only in one case did the group do any significant exploration of the hunting lodge. The other two groups ended up going straight to Talis and negotiating with her; the most amusing was the group who climbed up the exterior wall of the lodge… and entered her chamber immediately. Fifteen minutes. Over.

However, despite the short amount of time that might be spent on this episode, it is key to the working of the story. Because this is where the plans of the cult get properly exposed.

Or perhaps they don’t. All the groups I’ve seen have been more than happy to talk to Talis and work with her, but what happens when you get a group of players who enjoy war-war more than jaw-jaw? The adventure doesn’t fall in a heap because of it, but it’s likely the first council meeting in The Rise of Tiamat will be quite a surprise to them as they discover what they’ve actually been working against.

Talis is potentially the childhood-friend of some of the PCs, if you’re using the bonds from the appendix, which gives a lovely frisson of the path not taken; this is a good one to bring out in the role-playing, if you can manage it.

As written, Talis is furious at Rezmir because she believes she should be the bearer of the white dragonmask. For my own game, I changed this to make Talis one of the traditionalists who believe the Cult would be better off raising dead dragons. This allowed me to explain the schism within the cult, which also gave the players a better understanding of why the cult had changed direction. However, if you use the original plan, make sure to mention the dwarf Varram the White, who will turn up in The Rise of Tiamat.

There aren’t that many combatants in the lodge, so combats will tend not to bring reinforcements from other areas (the one exception being a fight in Talis’s chambers, with the barracks right next door). One of the most dangerous combatants, the four-armed troll, Trepsin, may not even be seen by the characters – the kennel where he lives is out behind the manor; both my groups didn’t do a reconnaissance around the manor before entering it!

Storywise, this chapter is all about giving information to the players: letting them know about the cloud giant’s castle, giving them the pass phrase to sneak aboard, and giving them background on what the cult is up to. Once that’s dealt with, it’s on to the final episode!

Articles in the “Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen” series: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7

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The Rise of Tiamat, session 9

Xonthal’s Tower, Mount Hlim.

The adventurers could see the tower, but they were getting no closer to it, having been returning to the glade where a sundial with three shadows stood again and again and again. They headed off once more, taking a path they’d taken before, no closer to finding the solution.

This time they ended up in an area of giant mushrooms and fungi, where a giant caterpillar sat upon one of the mushrooms, smoking a hookah.

(You should recognise the caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In fact, I lifted this entire encounter from Gary Gygax’s Alice-inspired adventure of Dungeonland, which I adore and have run on a number of occasions).

The adventurers, particularly Mordechai and Ice, were delighted when he began to speak, asking them what brought them to his glade, and blowing smoke rings in their direction. Ice jumped to catch one, and discovered it turned into a jewelled necklace that settled around her throat. Unfortunately, Mordechai was less fortunate – his smoke ring turned into a necklace of strangulation, and as he went down choking, the caterpillar attacked, breathing lightning at the party! It raked them with its claws, and soon the battle was fully joined. Music dispelled the magic of the necklace to restore Mordechai, and the doughty fighter returned to the fray, engaging the caterpillar – really a behir – head-on, whilst Kai the Warlock send eldritch blasts at it from afar, and Darius the monk ran forward, struck it, then disengaged and ran back.

The adventurers took significant damage from its breath weapon, but when all fighting together, they were a powerful force. Soon the caterpillar was dead, and they retrieve a shining jewel from within its hookah. The group continued on… and returned to the sundial of three shadows.

Astonishingly, they finally solved the problem of the sundial, leaving by the path from which they entered the glade. The group found themselves come to a fourth sundial, this one showing four shadows, which spun and disappeared into the central point.

This one they solved quite quickly, with Ice jumping onto the sundial itself, and being teleported to the fifth sundial, with the others following.

The final sundial had eight shadows. A couple of wrong solutions were tried, with the group fighting giant chess pieces in the meantime, before the solution was found and the group finally reached the Tower. It stood before them, silent. No sign could be seen of Iskander.

And so they entered the tower.

The chamber they entered was large, with no discernible exits, but with two balconies overlooking the chamber. A dead cultist lay on the floor before them, killed by a dagger blow to the heart. And behind them was a panel with several unusual symbols on it. Ice and Music quickly discerned that it was the controller for a teleporter, which was the way to move between levels of the tower. Darius, climbing to the balconies, confirmed that teleporters also existed on the two balconies.

Cautiously, they activated the teleporter, and they came to a room where several cultists were examining the bones of a dragon on the floor. Mordechai raced towards them, engaging them in combat, slaying one instantly. Unfortunately, one of the cultists ran past them and engaged the teleporter again, leaving Mordechai alone in the chamber… except for four angry cultists!

The others found themselves in a chamber with several angry cult mages!

The cultists left with Mordechai discovered that the eldritch knight was quite a handful even on his own, and were soon slain. A few moments later, his companions reappeared, slightly scorched, to report there were fewer cult mages to deal with!

The adventurers continued to explore the tower, finding a few cultists but no sign of Iskander or the dragon mask.

Eventually, they discovered the path to the dungeons…

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, D&D Adventurers League, Session Report, Tyranny of Dragons | Leave a comment

Attacks, the Attack Action and Extra Attacks

I’ve seen a bit of confusion about exactly how many attacks a character can make on his or her turn, as well as how some spells or abilities interact with the attack action. This article will attempt to clarify those matters.

The most important thing to know is this:

The Attack action allows you to make an attack, but not all attacks require the Attack action.

Or:

Attack Actions and Attacks are not the same thing!

The Attack action

In its basic form, the Attack action allows you to make one attack (generally a weapon attack) against an enemy. Per the rules on movement, you can move before or after attack, or move both before and after the attack.

There are a few abilities that require the Attack action to use:

  • Extra Attack allows you to make one additional attack when you take the Attack action. (You may also move between the two attacks). Fighters gain the ability to gain two or three additional attacks at higher levels, so a 20th level fighter is able to make 4 attacks when they take the Attack action.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting can only be used when you take the Attack action. You may use your bonus action to attack with your off-hand weapon.
  • Flurry of Blows can only be used when you take the Attack action. You may use your bonus action and spend ki points to have additional attacks.

The Cast a Spell action

The attack action is not the only way you can attack. If you cast Eldritch Blast, you make a ranged spell attack against a creature. This is an attack, but you’ve used the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action to do so. As a result, abilities such as Extra Attack and Flurry of Blows won’t trigger. Shocking Grasp gives you a melee spell attack against a creature. Once again, you’ve used Cast a Spell, not Attack, so extra attack doesn’t apply.

Spells that require the Attack action

Not all spells work that way, however. If you cast Shilleagh, which takes a bonus action, you don’t immediately attack. Instead, it modifies how you attack – for the duration of the spell, instead of using your Strength as the modifier for your attacks, you use your spellcasting ability score (normally Wisdom for druids). Similarly Magic Stone allows you or others to throw the enchanted pebbles using your spellcasting attack bonus rather than their regular attack bonus. However, the actual attacking is done by taking the Attack action, and so can be modified by Extra Attack, Flurry of Blows and other such abilities. (Magic stone is from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion. Its wording is a little obscure, but that’s how it works.)

As an Action/Use your action

Another wrinkle are the spells which have an ongoing effect. Vampiric Touch is one such spell – it allows you to make a melee spell attack when you cast it (so you get an attack as part of the Cast a Spell action as above), but the spell persists for up to a minute. Its text reads “Until the spell ends, you can make the attack again on each of your turns as an action” (emphasis mine). Is this an attack action? No, it isn’t. It’s a brand new type of action you get to use. Call it “Vampiric Touch action” if you like, but these new actions allow you to attack, but they don’t use the Attack action. The trick to identifying them is that they read “as an action” or “use your action” to describe how they work. A few require the use of your bonus action instead.

Attack Terminology

Just as a side note, all attacks are described in terms such as ranged spell attack or melee weapon attack. Each word means something.

The first word is either ranged or melee. Ranged attacks suffer disadvantage if you’re adjacent to an opponent, melee attacks do not. Melee attacks also can be against any creature within your reach (generally 5 feet), while ranged attacks can be made against any creature within the stated range of the attack. In some cases, an attack form has two ranges; attacks at the longer range suffer disadvantage.

The second word (if present) generally indicates what modifiers you uses for the attack. Spell attacks use your spellcasting ability modifier, while weapon attacks use Strength (melee weapon) or Dexterity (ranged weapon). There are exceptions to this depending on the spell or type of weapon. Incidentally, unarmed combat is generally still considered a weapon attack – the weapon being your fists or feet!

The third word indicates that it is an attack roll, one of the three types of d20 roll in D&D. (The others are saving throw and ability check.) Attack rolls are different because a natural 1 is an automatic miss, while a natural 20 is an automatic hit and a critical hit. Both saving throws and ability checks don’t have special things happen on 1s or 20s.

Action Surge

One of the special cases is the fighter ability Action Surge. This allows you to take one additional action during your turn. If you use this to take the Attack action, you get as many attacks as you would if you took it for your first action. So, a 20th level fighter can get 8 attacks in a turn – four from the first Attack action and four from the second Attack action. You could then use your bonus action to attack with your off-hand weapon (Two-Weapon Fighting). Note that Action Surge does not give you an additional bonus action or move; only an additional action.

Haste

Another special case is the spell Haste. It allows an affected character to take an additional action each turn (not all actions are allowed). However, if you took the Attack action, you can only gain one additional attack with it – the Extra Attacks you might have don’t count.

Interestingly, this doesn’t stop you using Flurry of Blows or Two-Weapon Fighting, as both are part of bonus actions. You could use your first action to cast a spell, then your additional action from haste to make a single weapon attack with the Attack Action, then use your bonus action to make an off-hand attack with Two-Weapon Fighting since you’ve used the Attack Action during the turn.

Conclusion

Most of the rules and power descriptions in the new edition of D&D use quite specific wording, but because the terms can be quite similar, it’s easy to get confused. “Attack action”, “As an action” and “Attack” mean three separate things, as do “When you make an attack” and “When you take the Attack action”. As long as you keep the differences in mind, you should be fine. And feel free to ask questions if you get confused!

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Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen – Episode 6

Castle Naerytar is a good example of an adventure locale that will challenge DMs and their players. It’s at this point that Hoard moves into the territory where a DM can make or break the adventure. Better be prepared!

What’s going on here from a story perspective? The adventurers are continuing their investigations into where the treasure looted from the Sword Coast is being taken. They’ve discovered the cultists funnelling it from the work camp in Episode 5, and now they’re discovering the next link in the chain: a magic portal in a somewhat-abandoned castle. That’s what they care about. Unfortunately, it’s not like the cultists are just going to show them where the portal is!

The adventurers’ job is made easier by the existence of a number of competing factions:

There are the lizardfolk, who want nothing to do with the place. Initially, they were seduced by promises of Rezmir that the cult would make them great again, but the menial work they’ve been doing has frustrated them utterly. What they’d really like to happen is the destruction of the bullywugs. The players can gain insight into this conflict from Snapjaw. He’s a tremendously important way of giving the players information.

The bullywugs, on the other hand, are pretty happy with how life is going. Their leader, Pharblex, wants to get rid of Dralmorrer Borngray, the Cult of the Dragon leader in the castle. Primarily their roles is as antagonists, although it is possible the adventurers might gain their aid if an alliance is made against Borngray.

The Cult of the Dragon are mostly happy: they’re moving treasure from one place to the next. However, Borngray, their leader, hates the swamp. He also hates humans. There’s not going to be much the adventurers can offer him except their deaths. The interesting thing here is that Borngray likes the lizardfolk and not the bullywugs, so there is the slight possibility the adventurers could make use of that.

Making a frontal assault on the Castle without allies is unlikely to go well. All the factions are likely to band together, which means about 40 lizardfolk, 50 bullywugs, 16 cultists, 8 dragonclaws, and 7 dragonwings will be arrayed against the party, in addition to the faction leaders. For a group of 5th-level characters, this is unlikely to go well. If for some reason your players want to take this route, it’s likely to be quite entertaining for you. Personally, I’d have the cultists drive them off (assuming the players actually retreat when things go badly), then have Snapjaw approach them and suggest an alliance…

Sneaking inside the Castle will likely go well at first – both the lizardfolk and bullywugs are quite happy to accept that the adventurers are cultists – and once inside the cultists’ section of the castle, there aren’t many lizardfolk and bullywugs around to alert the others. The cultists that are there can be dealt with, but what happens if they raise the alarm?

This is where your skills as a DM will come in. You need to have the monsters react to the actions of the party. Will the lizardfolk see this as an opportunity to overthrow the bullywugs? Will the bullywugs see it as an opportunity to get rid of Borngray?

There’s a lot of information in the adventure to guide you as to the reactions of each of the groups. You can choose which to emphasise, aided by the decisions of your players. It’s quite possible for the party to spend a lot of time with the lizardfolk at first, getting them ready for rebellion, so the lizardfolk deal with the bullywugs whilst the party deal with the cultists.

Once fighting begins, the bullywugs want to preserve their position, the lizardfolk want to be free, and the cultists want to make sure their treasure is safe. Try to communicate this to the players somehow – perhaps through conversations between their opponents.

The major NPCs, Rezmir and Abzara Jos, begin the adventure in the Castle, but slip away once trouble starts. In fact, my group never ran into the cult leader or the Red Wizard. I had them slip off beforehand because they were needed for the final section in Skyreach Castle. You really don’t have to do the same. It’s not a bad idea to have Rezmir spotted from afar so the party are reminded on her importance to the plot, and also confirming that they’re on the right path.

One of the really interesting parts of this adventure is the black dragon Voaraghamanthar, who doesn’t do anything at all in relation to the characters, but whose presence in the Mere of Dead Men informs the reactions of the factions. Here’s an article on the black dragon by Ed Greenwood (written in 1999). His inclusion here is a nod to the rich details of the Forgotten Realms.

Retreat and Return

A group of adventurers should always be ready to abandon an expedition if things go badly. If the party need to retreat and recuperate, then I’d allow them. The question then is what happens in the castle? Here’s how I’d handle it:

Rezmir and Abzara Jos will get to Skyreach Castle as quickly as possible, giving Borngray instructions to find the adventurers.

Borngray sends the lizardfolk to find the adventurers, keeping the bullywugs behind to guard the castle. The remaining cultists prepare for an attack, but if one doesn’t come within a day or two, relax their guard and go back to sorting treasure.

The lizardfolk don’t search that hard, and I’d probably have Snapjaw catching up with the adventurers to offer an alliance (or to discuss what went wrong if the alliance was already in place).

Errata and Clarifications

The map omits a number for the moat (should be 5) and has the gate marked as 5 (should be 6).

Abzara Jos is normally found in areas 1V and 1W. (1V: Guest Rooms should actually read 1V, 1W: Guest Rooms).

Pharblex’s sanctum (area 12 in the caves) has a chest with nothing in it. Originally, the text read: “Pharblex retires to this chamber to study two spellbooks that he stole from Dalmarror Borngray’s library (area 2N). These are valuable arcane resources, and Borngray and Rezmir would be furious if they learned the books were missing. One belonged to a 7th-level wizard and contains spells up to level 4. The other was written by a 9th-level wizard and contains spells up to level 5. Being arcane spells, the magic is beyond Pharblex’s ability to learn or cast; his lust for power is great enough to keep him puzzling over the text and hoping for a breakthrough.”

The number of tower spectres (3E) is unclear (either 3 or 6). Steve Winter says, “The tower chamber as originally written contained three specters, but unless you’re crafty with them, PCs might destroy three very quickly. I recommend using as many as you think will make a good fight for your characters, and describe that number of dead bodies in the room. Remember, however, that this fight can be considerably more difficult than straight numbers imply. Characters are confined to a small tower chamber and a very treacherous set of narrow stairs above an offal pit with an otyugh in it, while the specters can phase up and down through the floor and roof and in and out through the walls. If they chose to, the specters could simply hover outside the tower, waiting for characters to pick their way back down the stairs, with the specters clawing at them through the walls all the way down. If I were running it, the specters would wait in their corpses until everyone is preoccupied in the upper room, then they’d drift unnoticed down through the floor and attack with surprise by clawing up at PCs through the floorboards. There’s plenty in that situation for the DM to have fun with.”

Steve Winter on running Castle Naerytar:

“The situation in episode 6 is entirely open-ended. We didn’t want to script NPCs’ locations or motions. Guidance is given in certain cases; where nothing is said, it’s up to the DM. When Rezmir is at the castle, she’s in charge, and she could be anywhere the person in charge might go: in the library, in her chambers, in the Great Hall supervising the sorting of loot, outside the castle dealing with bullywugs or lizardfolk, in her office consulting with Borngray and Jos, in the dungeon watching loot being transported to the Lodge, in the courtyard watching lizardfolk at drill. As SiC, Borngray has most of the same options. The castle is meant to be a site in motion, not a store window display where everything and everyone is frozen in place until PCs come to attack them.

“Rezmir is definitely at the castle when characters arrive, but she might not be around for long. She evacuates immediately if an attack develops. She leaves within a day or two if characters drag things out.

“Until castle denizens become aware of the characters’ presence, they go about their normal routine. Once they become aware of non-Cult infiltrators in the area, they’ll react in whatever manner the DM thinks is most appropriate and most exciting for the players. There are too many possibilities for us to enumerate all of them. That’s one of the facets of D&D that makes it so brilliant; there’s a human brain behind the screen, constantly reacting to the changing situation and intelligently guiding NPCs by weighing far more factors than any remote author or programmer can account for.

“So my guidance is, internalize the personalities of the principal NPCs and the factions, look at the developing situation from their viewpoints, and have the NPCs do what it makes most sense for them to do.” (original post)

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

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Play Advice, Tyranny of Dragons | 7 Comments

D&D 5E Spellcasting in Combat – Clarifications and Restrictions

There are a number of special rules attached to D&D 5E spell-casting that may not immediately be apparent when reading through the Player’s Handbook. This article looks at a few of those things.

Somatic Components

Most spells have a somatic component, which is to say, they require hand movements. The rules in 5E state that you need one hand free to cast these spells.

If you’re wielding a two-handed weapon then it’s pretty easy to just hold the weapon in one hand as your other hand casts the spell. What then if you’re wielding a weapon and a shield? Can you then cast a spell requiring a somatic component? The answer is: it requires some juggling.

You are allowed one free manipulation of an object each turn. This means you can sheathe your weapon or draw your weapon for free – but you can’t both sheathe a weapon and draw a spell-casting focus. If you sheathe a weapon, it then takes you an action to draw a wand. This sharply limits what you can do. In general, dropping an object doesn’t count as your free action (The Sage), so you could drop your sword at your feet and draw your wand, but it’s still clumsy.

Eldritch Knights and Clerics are most likely to be affected by this. However, assuming the spell doesn’t require the focus to cast, it’s very easy to take up the following pattern: Round 1: Sheathe weapon, cast spell with free hand. Round 2: Draw weapon, attack with it. That retains the limit of one item manipulation per turn while allowing alternating between weapon and spell-casting.

Keeping strictly to this rule also works against casters, Eldritch Knights in particular, casting the shield spell as a reaction in the middle of combat when already wielding a weapon and a shield.

Interestingly, if the spell requires a material component, your “free hand” can hold your spell-casting focus (The Sage). However, if it doesn’t, you still need a hand free! (The Sage).

A cleric or paladin who inscribes their shield with their holy symbol can use their shield as their spell focus; this was a surprise to me, but it’s an option given in the Player’s Handbook (page 151, Holy Symbol). It still doesn’t allow them to cast Somatic spells with no Material components with a weapon in one hand and the shield in the other, though.

The solution to all of this? Take the War Caster feat – it allows you to cast spells that need somatic components even when both your hands are holding a weapon and shield.

Number of Spells per Turn

How many spells can you cast in a turn? If you can cast one as a bonus action, then the answer is generally “two”, but there are a couple of considerations.

The major one is this: If you cast a spell with the casting time of a bonus action, then the only other spell you can cast this turn is a cantrip with the casting time of 1 action (PHB pg 202). You are not allowed to cast (say) healing word and cure wounds in the same turn.

This rule also applies when a sorcerer uses their metamagic ability to Quicken Spell: the spell becomes 1 bonus action in casting time, and so you are limited to only casting a cantrip in the remainder of the turn. (Source: Jeremy Crawford, “The Sage”)

What about Action Surge?

A particularly odd interaction comes from a character using the fighter’s Action Surge ability to cast spells. In this case, you can cast two spells that require an action, because neither is a bonus action! However, if you cast a spell that takes a bonus action, your other two spells must be cantrips! (Source: Jeremy Crawford, “The Sage”)

Concentration

In the earliest editions of D&D, casting a spell took a long time, and if you were struck before casting the spell, you lost the spell.

In 3E and 5E, casting a spell doesn’t take that long, but being struck while concentrating on an ongoing spell might cause it to be lost. The rules for this are pretty easy and you probably know them already: make a Constitution saving throw when you take damage; the DC is 10 or half the damage you took, whichever is higher.

Once again, the War Caster feat makes all of this a lot easier, as you now have advantage on those saving throws.

It is, however, worth pointing out the other parts of casting spells that requires concentration:

  • Spells that take more than one action to cast require concentration to actually cast, meaning you can’t maintain another concentration spell when casting them, and you could lose the spell if you’re damage in the meantime. The good news is that you don’t lose the spell slot if you don’t successfully cast the spell.
  • If you ready a spell to cast when some trigger occurs, this also requires concentration. Note that you can only ready spells that have a casting time of 1 action, and they use your reaction to cast. Once again, you can lose the spell if you take damage in the meantime.
  • The Mage Slayer feat means that when its possessor damages a spell-caster, they have disadvantage on their Constitution saving throw.

So, that’s a few items of interest I’ve noticed when playing the new edition of D&D.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Design | 4 Comments

The Rise of Tiamat, sessions 7 & 8

And the adventurers killed the Green Wyrmspeaker, his great blue dragon having fled and abandoned him. Unfortunately, the Green Dragonmask was not present. His journal revealed that it had been taken to the Well of Dragons… to join the Draakhorn.

And that was the 7th session of The Rise of Tiamat.

Session 7 was very unusual – I didn’t run it! Due to cancellations on another of our tables, I was needed to run a session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen for another group, and Tim – who normally plays the warlock at our table – ran my table instead. Unfortunately, it leaves a gap in these reports. From what I gather, the party entered the caves and dealt with the initial waves of cultists therein, freeing a number of elves. They then confronted the Green Dragonspeaker, who turned out to be none other than Neronvain, the exiled son of King Melendrach. He fought them and lost. The fight against the green dragon proved inconclusive, the dragon fleeing before it could be slain, and the party returned to Waterdeep victorious. And now for Session 8!

Waterdeep. The City of Splendours. Year of the Warrior Princess (1489 DR).

Once again, the Council of Waterdeep was in session, and the adventurers were in attendance. They reported to the council on what had occurred in their trips to the Dragon Council and the Misty Forest. King Melandrach was particularly unimpressed that the group had killed his son, and furious that they had forced him to apologise to the dragons – something he would do, if reluctantly. Likewise, Connerad Brawnanvil of the dwarves was furious with the adventurers for forcing him to apologise as well – the feuds between dragons and dwarves are legendary. Despite this, Laeral, Open Lord of Waterdeep, calmed down the council.

The discussion turned to where best to employ the dragons the alliance had netted them. Once again, the adventurers were called in to mediate. The cult had been attacking the lands around more and more over the previous weeks, and a fast response force was needed to protect them. In the end, forces of dragons were assigned to Waterdeep, the Harpers, Connerad Brawnanvil’s dwarves, Taern Hornblade and Sir Isteval.

Now discussion turned to future plans. Emissaries of the Red Wizards of Thay had arrived, informing the council that the Red Wizards aiding the Cult of the Dragon were exiles and opening the possibility of an alliance, but the adventurers would have to travel to Thay to conduct the diplomacy. This was instantly rejected, with many of the adventurers remembering the invasion of the Sword Coast by the Red Wizards a few years ago, and wanting nothing to do with them.

Instead they chose to travel to the Tower of Xonthal. One of the members of the Cult was planning to defect and he wished to meet them there. As an additional reward, he knew where the Blue Dragonmask was being kept – all he required was the adventurers to take it and rescue him.

Unfortunately for the adventurers, the Tower of Xonthal was not the easiest place to get into. It was surrounded by a great, magical maze, which shifted and turned around them, confusing any sense of direction.

The adventurers cautiously entered the maze, and soon came to a sundial in a clearing the shadow of which ignored the sun and instead pointed towards a pathway leading to the tower. The adventurers cautiously followed it, the path twisting around until they came back to the clearing. But this time, two shadows could be seen on the sundial!

They tried following one path, then the other. The first time they came to a great pool, in which lived great crustaceans that attempted to grab them – something that Ice discovered as she stood on the edge of the pool and tried to recover a gem that hung above it with a mage hand spell. The gem was caught, and so was Ice! Her companions saved her, and the halfling breathed a sigh of relief. The second path led a pasture of two cyclopes, whom engaged the adventurers in a game of “Throw the Boulder” – whoever could throw a 500 pound rock further would win the contest! This time, it was Ice who saved the day, using her newly mastered telekinesis spell to throw the boulder the length of the field. The cyclopses granted her a topaz, and the party left the pasture.

However, both times the group returned to the sundial. They attempted going forward again, only to end up in a carnivorous garden with many great flowers attempted to grasp and eat the adventurers. However, Ice still had her telekinesis spell in effect, and was able to seize each of the blossoms and rip them from the plants. The flowers turned into gems, and the adventurers moved on – only to return once more to the sundial, with the two shadows still pointing the same ways.

Finally, they attempted a path to which the shadows did not point. This worked… to an extent. They returned to the sundial, but this time it had three shadows – one pointing to the path they’d come from, the others to the front-left and front-right paths.

More challenges awaited them as they tried the pathways: animated suits of armour attacked, then rose and attacked again when defeated. A gorgon chased them through a proper hedgemaze, and a dao raised walls of stone and attempted to poison them. They defeated each of the challenges in turn, but they kept returning to the sundial of three shadows…

…and, I’m afraid, that is where we ended the session! More soon!

Yes, I’m writing this several weeks after the session. We finished The Rise of Tiamat a few days ago. I expect I’ll be able to finish these reports before we start Princes of the Apocalypse in May.

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