Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen – Episode 5

The fifth episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the closest the adventure gets to an investigation scenario. The mystery – What has happened to the treasure? – is not especially challenging, but it can provide a nice break from the long road trip that has just concluded.

But first, Waterdeep!

Waterdeep, City of Splendours

Hoard of the Dragon Queen doesn’t give all that much information about Waterdeep as the caravan rolls into it; it isn’t long before the group will be travelling on, after all. However, Waterdeep is one of the most detailed and historied places in the Forgotten Realms. The city proper holds over 130,000 people, and about 1,000,000 people live within its territory. It is ruled by a secret group known as the Lords of Waterdeep, masked figures whose true identities are hidden. One member of the Lords does not hide their identity – the “Open Lord”, who is currently Lord Dagult Neverember. Lord Neverember’s attention has been greatly diverted by his rebuilding of the ruined city of Neverwinter, and there is grumbling on the streets that the Open Lord cares more for the ruined city than his own home.

Waterdeep is known by adventurers far and wide for the great dungeon that lies beneath its streets: Undermountain. Built by the Mad Archmage, it contains many deadly monsters, tricks and traps… but also a lot of treasure, which keeps drawing more fools heroes to its depths. The most common access point is The Yawning Portal inn, where a large pit descends into Undermountain (and many of the patrons are old adventurers who made their names down in the dungeon).

However, most of all, Waterdeep is a city built on trade. The trade is dominated by the city’s guilds (47 of them, at last count), and naval and land trade comes in and out of the city on a regular basis. However, with the destruction visited on Neverwinter, trade with the lands north of Waterdeep, the Savage Frontier, is less common than it once was.

Above all, emphasize how big and bustling this city is. It’s probably the biggest city in Faerûn – and by some margin.

The High Road Charter Company

Neverwinter is a city about 240 miles along the coast to the north of Waterdeep. It was ruined by the explosion of a volcano, but Lord Neverember is now rebuilding it. To do this, he needs to rebuild the road from Waterdeep to Neverwinter, and, because the lands around the road are very dangerous, mercenaries are needed to protect the building materials. The cultists have contacts within the workers, and so manage to add their wagon to the caravan with ease.

If you’re using factions in the game, members of the Lords Alliance would have contacts in the city that would be able to track the cultists and get them into the mercenaries guarding the caravan. Likewise, the Zhentarim – who in this incarnation, run very much like the Mob – also have fingers everywhere, and if the players aren’t members, Janma should be able to use her contacts. Or the players could just handle everything themselves. I took advantage of this opportunity to bring up the factions again, as this is their last opportunity to shine.

Note that Neverwinter is just north of the location of the starter set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandalin, so we’re quite close to that adventure. This actually is the point where a group that has completed Lost Mine can join into Hoard of the Dragon Queen – they are contacted by members of the factions, told about the cultists and their treasure, and sent to the work camp to find out what happened to it! (They’re the right level and everything!)

The Work Camp

Some characters may have the background that reveals that Bog Luck is a cultist, which slightly changes the dynamic of this section. That’s fine: it’s not like it’s a big secret, it just means that the investigation scenario might turn very quickly into an interrogation scenario!

However, the adventurers can’t just ignore the rule of law here. Although the Savage Frontier is quite a lawless place, the other labourers and guards will take a very dim view to the party just attacking the cultists or Bog Luck. And, if your party do get sword-happy, they still need to find the treasure’s destination. This isn’t the final destination!

It’s possible that this particular load of treasure is stopped here, if the adventurers are very quick with their investigation. In my campaign, the group befriended Ardred Briferhew on the trip to the work camp, and so had the mercenaries on their side when it came to the confrontation with Bog Luck. I ruled that the lizardfolk had already moved out most of the treasure, as the adventure doesn’t really allow for it being liberated here. If it is, use the DMG to create a hoard for the second tier (lvl 5-10), with no magic items – but, it’s likely that the guards and everyone else at the camp will want a share, and it’s going to be a bit tricky to transport…

The adventure gives quite a few guidelines to run the investigation. Exactly how much weight you give to it depends on how much your players like role-playing and investigating.

The adventure presumes all of the treasure is taken by the lizardfolk to Castle Naerytar, with the party following behind.

Key Points

The characters reach Waterdeep and the caravan disbands.

They join a new caravan going north to rebuild the road to Neverember.

At the work camp, they discover the secret route the cultists are using to transport the treasure (using lizardfolk), and continue along that route.

Errors and Clarifications

The trapdoor in the work camp has two DCs to discover – it should be DC 10 Wisdom (Perception), not DC 15.

The area at the upper left of level 1 should be a room with a door, and is area 7 (Ardred Briferhew’s room).

Area 3 (the warehouse) is missing a door in the open space between it and the courtyard in its north wall.

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

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