On Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Episode I Remix: Part I

People have already covered at length the problems with Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I'm going to run it, which means, I'm going to fix it. I'm not going to do it alone -- I'm going to blatantly steal from +Daniel Davis, writer of Detect Magic, +Bryce Lynch, writer of tenfootpole and premier reviewer, and pretty much anyone else who comes up with a half-good idea. It's for my home campaign, you should do this too.

I'm also going to talk about what's wrong design wise, why it's wrong, and what I'm doing to fix it. I'm not saying these are the right things to do -- I'm saying what I'm going to do for my campaign. I'm going to leverage as much of the Realms-lore as I can to make my job easier.

An Announcement

On the list of things I would absolutely not want to do; Write an adventure without a complete ruleset, monster manual, or guide that is to be the premier adventure of a new game, having Dragons showcased, not as just another creature you fight, but as majestic powerful god-like beings, that's for 1st level characters, working in all five factions of organized play, that has to work equally as well for 2 hour D&D encounter sessions as well as home games and meets the needs of new Dungeon Masters as their first campaign but keeps people who have been playing for 30 years happy on a super-tight deadline, in a world with 30 years of written history without being able to work with or contact the creator of that world, as work for hire for a division of a company that consistently under-performs in the eyes of their corporate leaders is waaaayyyyyyyy up near the top of the list. 

Man, my heart goes out to them. 

Let's fix the hell out of this thing. 

The Premise


" In episode 1, characters are entirely swept along by events. They start in a town under attack by raiders—a situation that demands rapid action. Throughout the course of a long night, they are assigned missions by the town’s leader to rescue villagers who are surrounded in isolated buildings, to capture prisoners for questioning, to seal a breach in the keep’s defenses, to drive away a blue dragon, and so forth. Characters could branch off on their own, but there’s no reason to. The keep’s commander is a capable leader, he knows the town, his plans are tactically sound, and the things he asks characters to do probably are what they’d wind up doing if they struck out on their own anyway.The episode is structured this way to make it easy for first-time players and DMs to pick up. In the big picture, players have a minimum of choice, in that their characters are mostly following orders. They have leeway in how they follow those orders, because each mission leads them into a situation where they need to assess risks, choose a course of action, and probably win a short combat. New players (including players who are old hands at D&D but new to the 5th Edition) will learn the system in easy bites. " -Tiamat Tuesdays: Tiers of Tiamat

Fixing Episode I

The episode starts with a half-page illustration and a quarter-page of Dungeon Master facing information that can't be accessed by the players. This information needs to be related in-play to the characters by the Non-Player Characters to be of any interest. 

The character hooks provided are acceptable, with some creativity evident.

You get thrown into a city under siege, attacked by a dragon and dragon cultists. This adventure is very hard for starting first level characters -- I'm personally running it straight after Phandelver, and you would not be remiss starting the players at level 3. Level one characters will have a high mortality rate. However the keep provides an opportunity to have other adventurers "step-up" in the event of a player fatality. 

Before we get into specifics of improving this adventure, I'd like to say I'm very pleased with the fact that there are very deadly threats in this adventure. I don't consider TPK's or unbeatable opponents a problem, nor do I have any issue with the players failing at the tasks that are set before them. 

General Features

Of note is that the town is in dim light, which means players (and opponents without scent or other sensory features) have disadvantage on perception checks. This is by design: Disadvantage imposes a penalty of -5 on passive perception checks, meaning that players will usually have the option of avoiding fights. This is how 1st level characters should avoid dying. 

Important People

Govern Tarbaw Nighthill: 60 years of age. Wounded->(Broken Right arm, bleeding from face). Adding the trait of "Swears Dramatically" and the personality of calm and pontificating. Short list of swears:
  • "By the shadows of Mask's ass!"
  • "By the black hand of Bane!
  • "What in the ass of the abyss are/is. . . "
  • "I'll be smacked with the c*&k of Tempus!"
  • "By the hairy pair of Moradian. . ."
  • "Great stinking balls of Tempus!"
  • "By Mystara's ice-cold brass tits!"
  • Explitives
    • "Tymora's Tits!
    • "Orcsucker!"
    • "Smoke and ashes!"
He says these in a completely calm conversational tone (calm) and goes on about the greatness of the players and his plan and the need for their help (Pontificating)

Castellan Escobert the Red Red Haired Shield Dwarf. His noted Iron Ring is eight inches in circumference and nearly three feet tall, worn on his back. The Keys are also consipicuously large and stubby. Adding the trait of "Charismatic, well liked, severe drug problem". He's addicted to traveler's dust, having bright red in his eyes. While talking with the players, he pulls out a few grains and doses himself.

Wandering Encounters

Encounter Table is very plain. Using the Pendragon hack noted by +Zak Sabbath, roll 1d4 on the table for each encounter. The next encounter is rolled from where the last one left off. (So, if you roll a 2 for the first one, you're at two. If your next roll is a 4, you look at entry 6 on the table). 

Encounters marked as unique with ( ) are crossed off if killed. If they are rolled as reinforcements, treat them as more opponents, and don't eliminate the encounter. Unmodified Passive Perception values are noted for characters using stealth to bypass encounters. Remember that disadvantage apples to these passive perception values.

Check on this table when called for (once for every 2 failed stealth checks) and during combat. If the average player level is less than 3, roll every fourth round of combat. If the average player level is 3 or 4, roll every third round. If the average player level is 5+, roll every even round. If not using stealth, have 1 encounter per party member on the way to the destination.

The other thing is Kobolds, cultists, guards, and townsfolk are super boring! Let's look at some more stuff +Zak Sabbath did for the blue head dragon worshipers for the Cult of Tiamat: The Cobalt Claw of Tiamat. The cultists are about electricity, mechanical grafts and amplifications, lightning, storms, mutations, vandalism, and the destruction of order.

See after the table for (newish) monster descriptions.

Encounter Table
  1. A lightning bolt from the surrounding storm strikes near the characters! There is a 1 in 6 chance of it striking near a randomly determined character. If so, the PC takes 4d6 damage and is knocked prone. On a successful DC 10 Dexterity Save they take 1/2 damage and remain standing. Characters in metal medium or heavy armor save at disadvantage. 
  2. ( ) 2 Dragon-Dogs eating a small child (PP 8)
  3. ( ) 1-6 Townsfolk Hiding (or running through the combat).
  4. 2 Cultists and 4 hired mercenaries (with stats as Guard from Supplement) committing vandalism (PP 12)
  5. 5 Dragon-Dogs rushing to take down 1-4 townsfolk. (PP 8)
  6. ( ) 3 Dragon-Dogs & an Ambush Drake (as Supplement) breaking into a house. (PP 14)
  7. 1-6 Townsfolk Hiding (or running through the combat).
  8. A 10 foot radius (if in combat) or 40 foot radius (if out of combat) corrupting blue cloud rolls in. Anyone within the cloud must make a DC 10 Constitution Saving throw or take 1d4 damage and lose their action from coughing and choking. (they can still move and take bonus actions/reactions), it moves at 20 feet a round using grenade scatter.
  9. 6 Cobalt Cultists chanting while walking through towns. (PP 10)
  10. 1d4 Townsfolk crying, with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  11. ( ) An Armored Thrall Wizard, Directing 3 Dragon-Dogs to loot a structure.  (PP 10)
  12. ( ) 4 hired mercenaries raping and torturing 2 townsfolk, under the direction of a Cultist. (PP 12, checks made at disadvantage)
  13. ( ) An Armored Thrall Wizard and 2 Dragon-Dogs fighting 2 town soldiers. (PP 10)
  14. Lennithon Flies overhead! He knocks over a stone building and debris rains down on the players. DC 10 Dexterity check or take 1d6 damage from falling debris.
  15. 1d4 Keep Defenders (as Guard from Supplement) trying to figure out how to bypass a second encounter roll.
  16. ( ) 4 Cobalt Cultists looting the bodies of townsfolk and then moving them to a pile of about 40 bodies. (PP 10)
  17. 2 Cobalt Cultists and 3 Dragon-Dogs looting treasure from a house. (PP 10)
  18. A Cobalt Cultist, 2 Dragon-Dogs and an Ambush Drake looking for something to do (PP 14)
  19. 4 Cobalt Cultists/Guards hiding and drinking (PP 12, checks made at disadvantage)
  20. 1-6 Townsfolk Hiding (or running through the combat).
  21. An Armored Thrall Wizard and 4 Cultists breaking and smashing structures (PP 10)
  22. ( ) An Armored Thrall Wizard leading a wagon filled with treasure pulled by an ambush drake, with 2 Cobalt Cultists and 2 Dragon-Dogs as escorts. (PP 10)
  23. ( ) 2d4 Keep Defenders (as Guard from Supplement) fighting 2 Dragon Dogs. (PP 8)
  24. ( ) 1d6 Townsfolk Hiding (or running through the combat).
  25. ( ) A pack of 14 Hunting Dogs (as Mastiff in PHB) chasing 3 Cobalt Cultists (PP 10)
Armored Thrall Wizard: These heinous nude creatures have heavy metals bolted into their skin, and have their eyes as often or not replaced with telescoping lenses.
AC 15, HD 1d8+1 (9), Speed 20, -2/+1/+1' | +3/0/-3'
Darkvision PP 10, Common, Chondathan, Draconic, CR 1 (200 XP)
Cobalt Theft: Dropping an opponent to 0 hit points gains 5 temporary hit points.
Chain +1/1d4+1 10 foot reach
Eldritch Blast +3/1d10 (120 feet)

Cobalt Cultist: as supplement, except they attack with Lightning Rods that are +3/1d4 bludgeoning +2 Lightning damage, that attack with advantage against metal armored opponents.  Cobalt cultists are human or dragonborn. Many have metal bolted on their bodies or deformities.

Dragon-Dogs: Quadrupedal Dinosaur like reptiles, with an arched back, and long legs. From the side they appear triangle shaped. Their heads extend on long necks from the upper middle of their front back. They can stand on two legs, using their claws to set devious traps and manipulate tools. When they do so, their serpentine long necks swivel to either side of their body. They can spit caustic acid. (Reskinned Kobolds)
AC 12, HD 2d6-2 (5), Speed 30, -2'/+2'/-1' | -1/-2'/-1;
Darkvision, PP 8, Common, Draconic, CR 1/8 (25 XP)
Pack Tactics (Adv on attack rolls if allies in combat)
Dagger +4/1d4+2
Acid Spit +4/1d4+2 (30/120)

Reading the statline. The stats are split Strength/Dexterity/Constitution | Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma. The bonuses are listed. The stats that are odd numbers are indicated by a ' symbol following the bonuses. Characters and monsters that are Proficient at their saves are indicated with a * preceding the stat.

Part Episode I Remix Part II coming tomorrow


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On the Hack & Slash Compendium Volume I

Hey!

You know all those backgrounds I wrote? I collected them in a Pay What You Want .pdf, and affordable hard copy!

Hack & Slash Compendium I at RPGnow at Pay What You Want (Including 0$)!
Hack & Slash Compendium I at Lulu in affordable print! (4.99$)


  • 62+ Pages of content!
  • d30 Table of Backgrounds! (Including the ones from the PHB)
  • Hotlinked .pdf!
  • New illustration of the Quantum Ogre
  • Public domain illustrations for the backgrounds!
  • A Guide for New Dungeon Masters!
  • The Scene in Adventure Design!
  • Avoiding the Deadly Difference!
  • Objective Design, Player Types
  • The complete Quantum Ogre series!
  • 17 backgrounds (19 for Patreons)
  • Costs 0$ for a limited time! Affordable print copy available. 


The price of Pay What You Want and 4.99$ for the print copy are for a limited time only.

Soon, they will return to their standard prices, which are higher than free!

But wait! There's more!

Patreons of my blog can get the .pdf, now and always for free. Not Pay What You Want. Not Watermarked. Totally 100% free. It's here at this link. (You can only see that link if you're a Patreon!) They can also, now and forever, get a print copy at cost.

Also: The Patreon edition has 2 extra backgrounds I wrote: Outlaw and Physician.

This is the first of many collections, which is made possible by the support given to me by my Patreons. Their support is why I was able to write these backgrounds, provide the .pdf to you, as well as spend next week talking about my improvements to Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This print on demand zine exists because of the patreon goal that was reached.

If you like the blog, consider joining the supporters and becoming a Patreon, a great group of people making gaming content available!


On 5e Backgrounds: Carney

Carney
You live and travel with a circus or carnival. Running away to join the carnival is the last refuge of the most desperate. Today, even the desperate consider it a poor option.

Skill Proficiency: Pick any one
Languages: Pick any 2, plus Kizzarny
Equipment: Common Clothes, Traveler's Clothes, Costume Clothes, Ball Bearings, Bell, Book, Candle, Flask, Hooded lantern, 10 foo pole, Sack, Iron Spikes

Specialty: There are many different jobs that workers can do for a circus or carnival. Each of the following contains a random effect, that should only be allowed if the specialty is randomly determined.

  1. Strongman (+1 Strength)
  2. Master of Ceremonies (+1 Charisma)
  3. Animal Trainer (Proficiency in Handle Animal)
  4. Jointee/Jointy (Runs the games: Proficiency in Slight of Hand)
  5. Mentalist (Choose 1 Wizard Cantrip)
  6. Monkey Boy/Girl (-1 Charisma, especially hirsute)
  7. Novelty Act (giant wrestler, midget, "hillbilly," hairy beast, grotesque or deformed person, or a trained animal - Yes, actually a talking dog/elephant/bear, choose appropriate modifiers with your DM) 
  8. Posing Show (Proficiency in performance)

Feature:

After years in the carnival you've developed a variety of contacts of dubious morality. In each town or village, you can roll on the following table to gain a contact.

  1. Fence
  2. Apothecarist/Druggist/Pharmacist
  3. Thieve's guild member
  4. Corrupt Bureaucrat 

Suggested Characteristics

You didn't run away to join the carnival because things were going well. You're willing to take risks and have little to lose

d8 Personality

  1. Drug users, criminals and immigrants are the only people worth getting to know, they are honest not fake.
  2. Any work I can avoid doing is good work.
  3. It's not that I need the money, I just like taking advantage of people.
  4. I like to make people laugh.
  5. I'm only gathering information because I eventually plan to write a book.
  6. As long as I can stay on the road, I don't have to worry about getting all caught up in anything.
  7. I know not to break Kaefabe, I just don't trust anyone enough to ever break it. Everyone's a con.
  8. Easy come, easy go.


d6 Ideal

  1. Exploitation: The only good person is a mark.(Evil)
  2. Freedom: The open road is the only road for me.(Chaotic)
  3. Family: The carnival is my family. (Lawful)
  4. Competence: Never be the mark. (Unaligned): 
  5. Enigmatic:: There's a special magic to traveling the land and bringing wonder to folk. (Good)
  6. Experience: I'm going to finally see the elephant!(Unaligned)


d6 Bond


  1. You have a brother that is looking for you.
  2. You have more than one life-partner, and they don't know about each other, nor the lover you travel with.
  3. I travel with a small coterie of lifetime companions.
  4. I bring news to various small towns and villages.
  5. I perform with my brothers and sisters, all of whom share a certain special trait (dwarfism, etc.)
  6. I love the animals I train, and would do anything for them, including steal them from the circus.


d6 Flaw


  1. If I have an opportunity to take money, even from a friend or companion, I can't pass it up.
  2. I ripped off the people I traveled with, and they are out and after me. 
  3. I don't really like being obligated, as soon as someone cares for me, it'll be time to be moving on
  4. I got out of town in a possum belly (cab underneath a wagon) and the person I slept with to let me ride there has developed an unhealthy attachment.
  5. I committed one crime too many and am a wanted man
  6. Due to an error, one of my fellow workers died, and now anytime anyone depends on me I freeze up. 

OSR Package
Running a B/X game? Give these advantages instead of proficiency and features. You can alos give these bonuses if running a 5e game using 3d6 for character generation.
  • +1 to any statistic

Like these backgrounds I wrote? I collected them in a Pay What You Want .pdf, and affordable hard copy!

Hack & Slash Compendium I at RPGnow at Pay What You Want (Including 0$)!
Hack & Slash Compendium I at Lulu in affordable print! (4.99$)



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On 5e Backgrounds:Gladiator

Gladiator
Once you fought against other men and beasts for the entertainment of the people. No longer. Now you fight for a different cause.

Skill Proficiency: Strength (Athletics) OR Dexterity (Acrobatics); Charisma (Performance)
Languages: Pick any two.
Equipment: Any weapon, 1d100 coins, Traveler's outfit, Strips of cloth.

Specialty: Your background before becoming a gladiator varied:

  1. Captured slave
  2. Criminal
  3. Politician seeking warrior pedigree
  4. Ex-soldier
  5. Desperate man
  6. Thrill seeking upper-class patrician

Feature:

As a gladiator, you were considered a hero and had many adoring fans. In any settlement of 500 people or more, there are 1d4 people who have heard of your accomplishments and fame per 500 people. In any settlement of 1,000 people or more, one of each of those is a very big fan and will accommodate whatever your wishes are. This can result in free services, housing, or other more esoteric requests depending on the fan.

Suggested Characteristics

No stranger to combat and death, you take such things very seriously. If you achieved any degree of fame, you have a talent for showmanship, but realize that being alive is more important than being impressive.

d8 Personality
  1. By Jupiter's low-hanging c*&k, I love to put a colorful fist full of words that fall from my mouth like s&*t from ass into a knotted ear!
  2. I'm just a simple gladiator trying to make his way against the whim of the gods, the politicians, the miscreants. So often you can't tell one from the other.
  3. There is no greater thing than standing victorious in the arena.
  4. Death comes to us all. Press me again, and you shall find yours.
  5. There is always a choice.
  6. I am beset by misfortune, one again gods spread the cheeks to ram c&*k in f*#&ing ass!
  7. I was sprung from my mother with sword in hand. The ways of battle are second nature, passed down from father to son.
  8. You had me at whores!


d6 Ideal
  1. Freedom: Those who seek to place heel on the throat of Liberty will fall to the cry of Freedom. (Chaotic)
  2. Ceremony: The dead must be honored and this is why I must fight. (Lawful)
  3. Wealth: Show me the money! (Unaligned)
  4. Victory: Winning is the only thing that matters. (Evil)
  5. Equality: In the arena, none of us are slaves. (Good)
  6. Vengeance: Blood demands blood. (Evil)


d6 Bond
  1. I have an endorsement deal with a popular guild, and am bound by contract to certain terms.
  2. I gave my word, blood and honor, to return to my wife. The gods themselves will not keep me from returning.
  3. My gladiators are my brothers and I live for them. Either to increase their rights or to protect their lives.
  4. I still have a close relationship with the Ludis that trained me.With the owners, trainers, and gladiators -- I represent them publicly. 
  5. You cannot stay long in one place, you are bound to wanderlust, traveling in whatever direction and desire wills your feet.
  6. Your trainer is the only person you wish to please.
d6 Flaw
  1. I was once a slave and for some reason, never managed to get that cleared up before I took off.
  2. I killed my patron and led a slave uprising, and now there are a group of people who want me dead for what they see as very good reasons.
  3. I have a wound that never healed correctly, that acts up at inopportune times.
  4. I am extremely popular with members of the opposite sex, and frequently run into problems caused by my sexual mystique.
  5. Freedom is not a stick of wood to be presented as a bone to obedient dog. It is a thing all men deserve. I will not tolerate slavery.
  6. For some reason, the odds never seem to favor you.

OSR Package
Running a B/X game? Give these advantages instead of proficiency and features. You can alos give these bonuses if running a 5e game using 3d6 for character generation.
  • +1 to hit.


Like these backgrounds I wrote? I collected them in a Pay What You Want .pdf, and affordable hard copy!

Hack & Slash Compendium I at RPGnow at Pay What You Want (Including 0$)!
Hack & Slash Compendium I at Lulu in affordable print! (4.99$)


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On 5e Backgrounds: Fisherman

Fisherman
The sea is your mother, the sea is your life. You aren't a sailor. You're a fisherman. You have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with the sea

Skill Proficiency:  Intelligence (Nature); Wisdom (Survival);
Tool Proficiency: Water Vehicle
Languages: Pick One
Equipment: Fishing line, Fishing pole, Net, Traveler's clothes, Dapper fishing hat, Tacklebox, Can of worms

Specialty: You can either select or roll for the type of fisherman you are, and the type of fish you catch

  1. Wild Drift Net fishing
  2. Flyfishing
  3. Whaling
  4. Mermaid hunter
  5. Sea monster/Giant squid hunter
  6. Subsistence fisherman
  7. Noodling
  8. Spear hunting

Feature:

Anytime you are near a source of water, you have advantage on survival checks to find food. Also, you can generate 2d10 silver pieces a day in fish to sell. Your knowledge of fishing allows you to blend in and acquire information from fishermen in various different cities and places regardless of any negative biases the population may hold towards you

Suggested Characteristics

Spending more time alone on the sea than with people has changed your nature. You are used to knowing that your survival is in your hands against a force much larger and more powerful then you could ever fathom.

d8 Personality

  1. I don't much like people.
  2. I know that I'm out of control of my life, which really allows me to enjoy dangerous situations. 
  3. I like being outdoors, wearing fashionable hats, and being prepared. I'm a bit of an outdoorsman nut!
  4. I know how to provide for myself. I don't need any support from the crown.
  5. People are disturbed by how much I like fish. I like them. . . a lot. *Creepy Grin*
  6. I love the sea, it's the only place I feel content.
  7. I know the sea is ever active, so I seek to learn to sail in high winds.
  8. You can't tame the sea by just sitting and looking at it.


d6 Ideal

  1. Calm: I am content when I'm in the elements (Unaligned)
  2. Risk: I love the chaos of the sea. (Chaos)
  3. Greed: The sea holds many mysteries I wish to unlock. (Evil)
  4. Competence: I wish to master the sea, as a measure of my skill. (Lawful)
  5. Exploration: To see a new vista is the opportunity of the water. (Good)
  6. Balance: The sea is a measure of the balance of nature (Unaligned/Neutral)

d6 Bond

  1. Once, I saw a mermaid, and now I pine for her.
  2. I met a magic talking fish, who said I should seek him out again someday.
  3. I built my boat myself.
  4. My fishing rod was given to me by my father
  5. I learned to fish from my grandfather who is still quite young and spry. 
  6. I have a partner I fish with.

d6 Flaw

  1. I don't much concern myself with the short term. The sea destroys all things in time. 
  2. I made a bargain for immortality with evil fish people.
  3. I'm addicted to fishing and liable to avoid obligations to go. 
  4. I often smell of dirt, worms, and fish.
  5. I have a pet fish. This is not as convenient as it sounds.
  6. I am secretly a cursed water creature, either a fish poloymorphed into a human or a mermaid given legs, or some other sea creature cursed to walk the land. 


OSR Package
Running a B/X game? Give these advantages instead of proficiency and features. You can alos give these bonuses if running a 5e game using 3d6 for character generation.
  • +1 Dex, +1 Con


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On the Forgotten Realms in 5th Edition

If you're running the Lost Mine of Phandelver, and you'd like to know a little bit about the Forgotten Realms, I've been doing some of my own research on what's changed and what you need to know about the area. This might be of interest to people that are looking to integrate their campaigns with material coming out later with a minimum of conflict.

Before I get into that, I'd like to say I've always had a pretty negative opinion of the Forgotten Realms. I've read some of the books and found characters like Elminster Aumar and Drizzt Do'Urden repugnant and put me off the whole idea of running a campaign where there are these super characters running around.

I'm actually impressed. I've never run a campaign world of someone else's before. The campaign materials for the Forgotten Realms are super helpful and really really well put together. There's a useful wiki.

When I start a campaign, there's so much to do. Design a calendar, work up cultures, setting, history, etc. The game materials I've been using have given me the actual things I need. If I didn't have them I would need to do work to create them. The campaign and game materials don't spend any time making things happen that I have to trip over. The map is big, areas that are interesting or historical are marked, and the rest is left as empty for me to fill. If I need to know something, I just look it up. It's pretty nice!

It's a pretty nice setting after you kill off every super NPC dead, dead, dead.

There's that whole "Fiction of the Forgotten Realms" thing that you can throw right out a window. Once you do that, you've got a pretty awesome setting. They can go anywhere, because I can just look and see what's there! And there is plenty of room to put whatever I want there.

Here are the current cannon facts I've been using about the Phandlever campaign which takes place on the Northern Sword Coast. Spoilers.

Background:
4th edition, per Mike Mearls happens around 5 to 10 years before the start of 5th edition. 4th Edition "Current Year" took place in DR 1479, with the latest current year given in the books as being DR 1486. Mount Hotenow erupted in 1451, and Phandelver mentions it's been 30 years from the eruption. Phandelver probably takes place in 1481. I'm setting my campaign in 1486.

The Eruption of Mount Hotenow is probably the thing that effects the area of Phandelver the most.

  • Neverwinter is a ruin struggling being put back together by a Waterdeep noble
  • Neverwinter is under siege by Zombies and Aboleths and Ashmadai demons and Theyans and the returned Netherese
  • Thundertree a "logging" community that collected fallen timber and shipped it downriver to Neverwinter is a ruin. 
  • Luskan in the north, once a pirate city is now in ruins and run by gangs in a state of total anarchy. 
  • Conyberry has been sacked by barbarians and is nothing but ruins. 
  • Old Owl well and the surroundings has Orcs from the many-arrows tribe scouting hundreds of miles from their territory.
  • Neverwinter wood was unaffected by the mountains eruption and only Druids and Uthgardt Barbarians live there.
  • Helm's Hold (not on the map, but a few miles South-East of Neverwinter) used to hold victims of the spell-plague. I can't imagine it's in good shape.

There's a lot of missing information on how the realms have changed. 4e advanced the timeline 100 years and had a spell-plague that devastated the realms and changed a great many things. R. A. Salvatore and Ed Greenwood made a plan to correct it called the Sundering. Here's a quick summary of many of the changes caused by the Sundering, bringing the realms back to a 2e/3e state that is more popular with fans.


  • Old Gods have returned. Mask, Lathander, and Helm are back. Helm and Lathander only have chosen, not avatars. Mystra, the original one, was apparently hanging out being a bear in a cave. Eleminster died, only not really, and somehow fixed the weave.
  • Those chosen by the gods are all over the place, because the gods are trying to get in positions of leverage before AO rewrites the tablets of fate tying everyone down in a new order.
  • Abeir is leaving. The world of Abeir had merged back with world of Toril during the events of 4e. This is being undone. That means Dragonborn are gone, but I imagine that there are still a few hiding somewhere. Probably also means that other areas are coming back (Maztica).
  • Spellplague ended. Fixed. Victims healed. Plaguelands gone.
  • War time is war! Everyone is kung-fu fighting! The drama between returned Netheril and Sembia is somewhat resolved and the world is still here. 
  • The Underchasm has been filed.
  • Netheril is down. No more motes. No more flying cities. I read that Elminster knocked one of them out of the sky? The shades and Netheril are still around, but no longer a world shattering power.
  • Magic works like it used to.

What this basically means, is you are PRETTY OK using 1/2/3e forgotten realms sources for a lot of things!

Races in the Northern Sword Coast:
  • Shield Dwarves are Mountain Dwarves
  • Sun Elves and Moon Elves are High Elves
  • Wood Elves and Wild Elves are Wood Elves
  • Halflings are Lightfoot halflings (and very rare that far north)
  • Humans are either Illuskan or Tethyrian.
    • Illuskans are tall people with pale skin and light hair. The Illuskans towards the northeastern part of the region have dark hair due to their Netherese ancestry. 
    • Tethyrians are Olive to light skinned with brown or blond hair. They look much like Western Europeans, though their culture is more focused on mercantile ventures than military ones. 
  • Forest Gnomes, Rock Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Half-Orcs are rare but around.
I was uncertain about the status of the Sundering and how many actual dragonborn will remain, so for now I'm disallowing Teiflings and Dragonborn (though Forgotten Realms has a long history of races with extra-planar traits). Also Dragonborn are bulls*&t.

Languages Spoken in the Northern Sword Coast:

  • Common, which is pidgin Chondathan
  • Chondathan, the most common language in the west
  • Illuskan, The speech of the northern barbarians and native peoples
  • Daraktan is orc speech
  • Elven
  • Shantan is the norther shield dwarf dialect of dwarven
  • Bothii is a language spoken by the Uthgardt Barbarian Tribes
These other languages also are around but more more rare. 
  • Kurit is the dialect of the arctic dwarves who live north of the spine of the world
  • Uluik is the language of the ten towns and the hunters north of the spine
  • The north central glacial barbarians speak Reghedjic
  • Ghukliak is the language of goblins
  • Jotunhaug is a dialect of hill and mountain giant
  • Sylvan is the language of the fey
  • Yipyak is the language of kobolds and dragon servitors
  • Gnim is the gnomish language of research and acedemia
  • Ruathlek is a secret illusionist script.
These are ancient languages
  • Aragrakh, The ancient forgotten language of dragons
  • Primordia, The ancient language of Abier
  • Imaskari, Long dead human script
  • Hamarfae, Long dead elven script
The most common gods worshiped in the north are listed below:

Auril: Winter, Neutral Evil, Nature / Tempest
Deneir: Writing, Neutral Good, Life
Moradin: Dwarf / Creation, Lawful Good, Knowledge
Eldath: Peace, Neutral Good, Life / Nature
Lurue: Talking Beasts, Chaotic Good, Nature
Mielikki: Forests, Neutral Good, Nature
Milil: Poetry / Song, Neutral Good, Light
Mystra: Magic, Neutral Good, Knowledge
Oghma: Knowledge, Neutral, Knowledge
Shar: Darkness / Loss, Neutral Evil, Death / Trickery
Tempus: War, Neutral, War
Talos: Storms, Chaotic Evil, Tempest
Silvanus: Wild Nature, Neutral, Nature
Shiallia: Fertility, Neutral Good, Nature
Uthgar: Totem Spirits, Varies, Varies
Tymora: Luck, Chaotic Good, Trickery






On 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons versus Pathfinder

This fight is not nearly as entertaining as the actual case!
Which one should you play? What is going to be more fun for you at the table? Which starter set should you buy?

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Two enter, one shall leave!!

"Sanctuary is the best cleric spell. . . .

The [5th edition Dungeons & Dragons] win button: 
1) find cleric
2) find chokepoint
3) cast sanctuary 
4) stay in chokepoint using dodge
5) burn down mobs from range
6) loot, repeat

The ogre had to make a DC 13 Wis save to even attack me (and ogres have a penalty to Wis saves), and EVEN THEN he had to hit AC 18 with disadvantage to damage me, and EVEN THEN I can keep myself healed up with healing word, which is a bonus action spell.

Someone in my group put the ogre's to hit chance in this situation at 10.1%." - Daniel Davis

This elephant is both prone and non-hostile
Is this how to run the spell?

What does the text say?
Moving Around Other Creatures"You can move through a nonhostile creature's space. . . . Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can't willingly end your move in its space." Page 191, 5th Edition Players Handbook.
Sanctuary "You ward a creature within range against attack. Until the spell ends, any creature who targets the warded creature with an attack or a harmful spell must first make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature must choose a new target or lose the attack or spell. This spell doesn't protect the warded creature from area effects, such as the explosion o f a fireball. If the warded creature makes an attack or casts a spellthat affects an enemy creature, this spell ends."
So is the Cleric taking the dodge action hostile? Does he prevent creatures from moving through his space?

Let's look up where 5th edition defines hostile.

It doesn't.

It's slightly more complicated than that. Does hostile mean your allies, as some abilities seem to imply? Others like Charisma abilities seem designed to work on non-hostile creatures, meaning those who aren't part of your party but aren't attacking you. The word hostile is used dozens of times in the book. Some examples:

"It’s rare for a gnome to be hostile or malicious unless he or she has suffered a grievous injury." -- Page37 
"Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then." -- Page 48 
"As an action, you present your holy symbol, and any magical darkness within 30 feet of you is dispelled. Additionally, each hostile creature within 30 feet of you must make a Constitution saving throw." Page 61 
"If the beast dies, you can obtain another one by spending 8 hours magically bonding with another beast that isn't hostile to you, either the same type of beast as before or a different one." -- Page 93 
"In general terms, an NPC’s attitude toward you is described as friendly, indifferent, or hostile. Friendly NPCs are predisposed to help you, and hostile ones are inclined to get in your way. It’s easier to get what you want from a friendly NPC, of course." -- Page 185 
"Low furniture, rubble, undergrowth, steep stairs, snow, and shallow bogs are examples of difficult terrain. The space of another creature, whether hostile or not, also counts as difficult terrain." -- Page 190

You know who decides what hostile means in each of those cases? 

You. You do. 

That's Pathfinder versus Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. In Pathfinder, you'd find where it defined hostile, or failing that, ask for clarification of the meaning in the rule forums. In 5th edition, they don't bother to define it, because you with the other adults at your table can come to an agreement and consensus about what the word hostile means when it is used. Not defining all these corner-cases ("What happens if I use sanctuary to block a chokepoint?") is the design aesthetic of 5th edition. It's a deliberate design choice.

So as to "should I play 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons or should I play Pathfinder", the only real question you have to ask yourself is do you want to play in a game where you can appeal to an external authority for a ruling or one that expects you and your friends to be the final authority on how the rules work?

Any meaning, implied or otherwise in that statement is left as an exercise of the reader.

Hack & Slash 
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