This session began with our heroes having been sent to the raiders’ camp to find out who they were, how many there were, what their plans were and – if they could be bothered – to rescue a monk who had been captured by the raiders. At the end of the last session, the group destroyed the raiders’ rear guard, and then convinced the one survivor that they wanted to join the cult! So many things could go wrong this session…
The astonishing thing is that they didn’t. The group romped through the camp, convincing all they met they were genuine and learning a number of key facts about the cultists. And they rescued the monk – although not any of the other prisoners, unfortunately.
How did they do it? A large part of it was just good role-playing and play from the group. I also dislike upsetting the plans of the players when what they’re doing seems sensible (and they’re rolling well). Uncomfortable moments? Absolutely, but not to destroy the party’s accomplishments! It’s tremendously difficult doing investigative work in a role-playing situation, especially with players who are unfamiliar with the format, so I tend to work with the players and not against them.
Upon entering the camp, which was somewhat in disarray with all the raiders terribly tired from the last night’s attack on Greenest, they were introduced to one of the lesser officers who was happy to see them, especially with Josh saying all the right things about how wonderful Tiamat was! They got orders to find themselves a hut and it was explained to them that they’d have to prove themselves before they were properly initiated into the cult. How could they prove themselves? By bringing back lots of treasure for the cult’s hoard!
Loot was on a lot of the cultists’ minds, as the group discovered as they moved around the camp. (Oh, and sleep!) They discovered where the half-elf monk was being held, and considered rescuing him. He was in bad shape, and the group were given a nasty scare when some guards in uniform came by and asked them what they were doing; they managed to barely talk their way out of it, and decided to come back later in the early evening to rescue him, when it wouldn’t be quite so obvious what they were doing.
The group observed some of the leaders of the cult, and spent a lot of time talking to tired cultists about what was going on; they learnt the identities of the leaders, as well as where all the treasure taken from Greenest and other towns the cultists had raided was being kept… in the cave at one end of the canyon they were sheltering in! The group was very curious about the cave, but they could see it was very well guarded; a mystery for another time.
Eventually, night fell and the group rescued the monk. They found the way out more challenging than the way in, as now all the guard posts were manned. The group disguised the monk as a cultist and explained that they were going out on patrol. The guards checked them over, and I called for Deception checks. This was where I expected they’d have to fight their way out, but the lowest result from the group was a 17! Five players, no-one rolled low. How could I argue with that? They slipped out of the camp and made their way back to Greenest.
(We only had six players for this session, with Lewis unable to attend; however, for the infiltration, Floyd’s ranger stayed outside the camp waiting for a signal in case the group got into trouble… which they didn’t!)
The group then spent a little time in Greenest resting and resupplying. After a couple of days, Leosin, the monk they’d rescued, came by to visit them. He told them that he’d been following the depredations of the cultists over the past few months, and he was now returning to his superiors in Elturel to tell them what was going on. However, he really wanted to know what the cultists were guarding in the cave – the players had heard rumours of dragon eggs and treasure – and confirmation was needed. By waving a lot of money in front of the players (and appealing to their sense of right and wrong), he hired them to check out the cave and meet him in Elturel afterwards.
The group found the camp deserted – the cultists had abandoned it for some reason. Although the camp was deserted, a few cultists remained guarding the cave. Rather than being sneaky about it, the group just walked straight up to the cave and attacked them, with high initiative rolls going the party’s way, they were able to get rid of the first lot of guards easily enough.
Advancing further into the cave, one of the party fell into a patch of violet fungi, which proved surprisingly nasty. The cave was turning out to be an entire system of caves – and quite a big one, at that! (It was big enough that the noises the party were making weren’t carrying to any cultists left there, or so the party hoped!)
With the fungi dealt with, the group discovered a great flock of bats covering the ceiling of the next gallery. While most of the group wanted to sneak through quietly, one player wanted to use a light spell to startle them, and was prepared to cast it regardless of what the rest of the group wanted. I pointed out to the group that disruptive play wasn’t a good idea, and so no light spell was cast. Instead, the group all rolled really badly for their stealth checks, and the bats (and the stirges hiding amongst the bats) were disturbed – the bats flying everywhere being a nuisance, and the stirges attempting to make a meal of the party!
It wasn’t all that difficult for the party to deal with the stirges, although they took further damage in the process, and they were slightly surprised to discover that still no cultists were coming after them! What were they doing?
That was all we had time for this evening, so we ended the session there. Our next session will find the group continuing through the cave, looking for treasure and dragon eggs!
For those wondering, each of my sessions runs at about 90-100 minutes; we have a two-hour block of time set aside for Encounters, but I’m generally late starting my table’s session due to my duties organising the sessions. I run combats pretty quickly and, though there is role-playing, it rarely takes up a large amount of time. Thus, we’re going through Hoard of the Dragon Queen a lot faster than most groups would take it. Episode 2 of the adventure was meant to take 2-3 sessions, it took us a little more than one session!
That said, we’ll be continuing through the entire Tyranny of Dragons storyline with this group, so finishing up the three episodes that are properly part of the Encounters season won’t be that much of a problem.