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Saturday, 28 January 2017

5e D&D - The Chronicles of the Backbiters: Origins and the Cult of the Dragon

Last entry I introduced our D&D group - the Backbiters...I haven't told you why they got that name. It didn't come out straight away, but really it comes from a bit of a house ruling on critical failures.

I allow my group to do chancy stuff - firing at enemies engaged or obscured by other characters - I impose an AC penalty depending on the amount of cover I judge them to get dependent on what's in the way. It's cinematic to have the Rogue fire at an enemy between the legs of a fighter, or the Warlock to get an Eldritch Blast off against someone through a crowd. 

With all the opportunity for glory, however, comes the opportunity for failure. Critical failures in our group mean either dropping your currently equipped weapon, or (if in combat or doing something risky as above) possibly hitting one of your friends...

This has created some very fun moments - including Sirethnis (who specialises in dual-weapon fighting) throwing first one of her weapons down in front of a foe, then the other....then reaching for another and throwing that down as well (three critical failures in as many rolls!). It's led to a lot of arrows ending up in the backs of fighters, and a fair few spells going awry too - including a Witch Bolt that after a critical failure could have hit Darrien the I had the roll made...critical success! There are many examples - probably many more than should be statistically the point that the party is almost as dangerous to itself as my minions are...hence the Backbiters. At least they heal each other afterwards.

Anyway, a couple of pivotal figures I needed in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen were Frulam Mondath and Landregosa Cyanwrath (which is a great name, by the way!). These two characters needed setting up at the start of the campaign, and they would end up chasing Frulam half way across the Sword Coast! Anyway, one of the figures I had was holding a polearm and had a tabbard, so I figured they'd do...Frulam didn't look very female anyway!

Landregosa on the other hand was more difficult. In the end I took an old Warhammer Chaos warrior and replaced the head with that of a Lizardman, using green stuff to bridge the gaps. After a new sword, he just needed a paint job to be able to harass the characters, and beat Sirethnis in 1-2-1 combat at the end of Episode 1, just to cement her hatred of the Cult!

After Greenest I needed some scenery - rock formations mostly - for the party's tracking of the Cult back to their camp. Once more, Thingiverse proved a great source here, and I managed to print off enough rock bits to cover their approach to the Raiders Camp.

The Backbiters got to the Raiders Camp after clearing up the stragglers and (thanks to successfully interrogating three cultists) doing a dual -talking their way/sneaking past- the rearguard (the party split, with one group going directly through pretending to be cultist stragglers, the others sneaking around the outskirts). This also developed the Druid Thor as being a bit of an odd one - the party was really split with what to do with the three cultists they captured - kill them or let them go....whilst they argued Thor burned their shoes and let them go, deciding for the party!

The Backbiters did well at the Raider's Camp, extracting information and rescuing Leosin, and getting him back to Greenest after a whole session's worth of bargaining, roleplaying and various hilarity (we will never mention what happened with the two female dwarf characters as they posed as cultists in the "Emerald Excess of Tiamat" tent....!). Let's leave it at the point of Constitution tests were required....Anyway, I also managed to obtain quite a nice Monk figure to represent Leosin, seeing as he would be popping up at various points throughout the Tyranny of Dragons adventures.

They then dawdled about a bit deciding what to do and healing etc, so the cult was long gone when they returned - further confirmed by Othrod communing with a bird who scoped out some of the empty camp for him. This took our adventurers to the cave system, and their first real underground adventure since the small cave in their first "Test" outing. I printed a whole bunch of mushrooms for their expected path into the caves...

One of the great appeals of D&D for me is that people are always capable of surprising you, which the party did here. I expected them to go off through the mushroom forest and into the caves that way, but instead they ended up fighting the main human cultist force with Frulam Mondath. The Dragonclaws took a good few chunks out of the party, and Frulam managed to cast Hold Person on Othrod in the entrance to her chamber, making it easy for the Dragonclaws to defend it. She cast Spiritual Weapon and had a few swipes before deciding the party was too much, and escaping to the Dragon Temple cave.

The party paused a little before pursuing, meaning Frulam could alert Landregosa and his beserkers whilst she went to get the kobolds to cut off their retreat. Sirethnis and Othrod pushed a dead Dragonclaw down the escape chute, further warning Landregosa of their arrival - the beserkers watched and waited. The main party tanks then went down the chute, and were confined to a 5-foot wide corridor, meaning they couldn't really bring force to bear on the cult leader and his cronies. As the lead beserker was whittled away, so were the fighters - so when Landregosa stepped up behind him and unleashed his breath weapon, it was pretty devastating. Sirethnis was healed and hit back down again a couple of times, and Othrod managed to drag her back with Lander, despite being on only a couple of HP.

Being in no condition or mood to fight the blue half-dragon, they decided to shove the desk over the hole, and run for it. The timing of this was perfect, as at that moment the Guard Drakes and kobolds of Frulam arrived, trapping them. They fought out of the chambers, only to have Frulam Callm Emotions on many of the party, whilst kobolds got ready to attack. Despite this, the party managed to battle out, just escaping with little in the way of spells or HP left between them. They'd dealt the local members Cult a bit of a blow, but had been beaten and forced away in return.

The party managed to find another safe cave nearby to get a long rest in - during their long rest I determined that Frulam would ride out with half the kobolds and a couple of beserkers to warn Rezmir of the adventurers. Landregosa would stay behind with the remaining forces to protect the dragon eggs from harm. This meant I had to adjust the forces and descriptions in the cave system for the next session, but that was fine - all in a day's work for a DM!

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