The second session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen saw another seven players turn up, which gave us a group of 42 people. This was somewhat challenging, both in terms of space and finding enough Dungeon Master’s, and was complicated further with a few late arrivals. Eventually, we moved Ben onto a table of new players while Sarah took over the DMing at her table. So, six tables handling 36 players. The numbers weren’t spread around evenly, and I made sure Lee and I had the bigger tables so that we could use our miniatures as well as handle more players; I had seven players on my own table.
Going into the session, it was quite obvious that if the players just went after every encounter, their resources would soon be depleted. I’d been investigating the Player’s Handbook a little more over the last week, so I was now aware of the potential of the Healer feat; for these first level characters, it would allow a healer’s kit to restore 1d6+5 hit points once each during the evening. Thus, the keep gained a doctor with the feat, and the ability to survive the adventure went up just a little bit.
That said, I’ll probably throw in just a little more healing in the next session, because things are going to get tough before the end of the cult attack!
We picked up the session where the last ended; the characters had been talking to the Protector of the town, and now they were looking up to see a huge, blue dragon flying down towards them. The castellan of the keep, a red-haired dwarf, was organising archers onto the keep’s walls to attempt to drive the thing off, and the players looked at each other and decided that defending the keep was a good idea.
Meanwhile, Jesse’s character was unconscious from the end of last session. No-one had time to heal him, so he sat out of this encounter. I don’t think he was unhappy about that, because the dragon was pretty scary. As it approached the walls, it launched a massive bolt of electricity which slew several of the archers and injured others, before turning away and beginning to circle before approaching again. At this point, the group began to realise how poor their ranged options were. Lewis and Ricky were both playing rangers, and they were the most effective at ranged combat; Lewis was rolling poorly, but Ricky was rolling really well – even with disadvantage for long range he was hitting consistently. The dragon was not amused by the effective shots; the town archers were not effective.
Danielle’s character called out insults to the dragon in its language, and suggested it leave. Lewis, whose ranger had the favoured enemy of dragons, could see that the dragon was having second thoughts about the entire affair. Meanwhile, Josh escorted the Protector to a more secure location in the keep. Eventually, Danielle’s urgings proved too attractive to the dragon, as it was struck for a third time by the party’s archers, and it flew away to somewhere more congenial. Below, the group could see members of the attacking force shouting at the dragon, urging it to return, but it ignored them and disappeared out of sight.
The group were now offered a place to rest for an hour, which they took; the keep’s doctor attending to their wounds.
While they were resting, kobolds and cultists smashed the old sally port door, forcing their way into the keep. The initial attack was repulsed, but the castellan rushed to the players, hoping to gain their aid in reclaiming and repairing the door. The group came to the sally port to discover a group of seven kobolds guarding it, aided by an acolyte and an ambush drake. The acolyte cast bless on some of the kobolds and the drake, but was soon cut down by the group’s archers. The kobolds went down hard after Michael started cleaving one after another (he was a Great Weapon Master), but they still got a few hits in. The Ambush Drake was fairly easily dealt with, and it rolled so poorly for initiative that most of its kobold friends were slain by the time it started attacking.
The group then secured the sally port door, and a local hedge wizard began casting mending spells on the door to repair it. Ricky set a trap outside the door, and the group then fought off about six cultists and six kobolds led by a cultist guard – they had enough range to see the attackers approaching, so their missile fire cut down a lot of them, and the melee fighters were able to slay the few attackers that reached the door.
Reporting back to the Protector, the group saw a figure in purple robes being escorted by a number of guards who seemed to be one of the leaders of the attack. The Protector mentioned how much he wanted good intelligence – capturing one of the leaders of the attack, or even one of the common soldier – would allow them to learn so much more. The group volunteered to capture someone, and obtained a couple of nets to aid them in their quest.
They soon found one of the lesser priests being escorted by six guards. The party’s attempt to ambush them was unsuccessful, and then their ranged attacks killed the lesser priest outright. At the moment he went down, the archers turned to each other. “Weren’t we meant to capture him?” “Oops!”
The guards were trickier to deal with, although Ricky managed to entangle two of them in nets – his night of rolling really well continued. By the end of the fight, two of the party were unconscious and, although stable, only one of them would be able to be healed by the keep doctor. The resources of the party were being stretched to the limit. It was now 2 am.
The group returned to the keep, with the keep guards hauling up the party by ropes (which needed to be tied to the prisoners and the unconscious player characters). Once back safely, they interrogated their captives and learnt that the attackers were members of the Cult of the Dragon, seeking treasure to place before the Queen of Dragons when she returned to the realm. One of the captives attempted to intimidate the group by informing them that the cult had several dragon eggs at their camp, which would hatch into more dragons to terrorise the realms; the players were not particularly impressed.
By this stage, we’d been playing for almost two hours and our session came to a close. I expect my table will finish up Episode 1 of the season next session.
I’m very grateful to our DMs for running the sessions: Ben, Sarah, Dave, Josh and Lee. Sarah took up the role when expecting to play, and Josh battled through illness to DM his group. There are going to be weeks coming up when a DM or two can’t make it, which I really don’t look forward to. However, it seemed that everyone enjoyed this session and I hope this season of Encounters manages to continue entertaining everyone.