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

Continuing our exploration of Episode II of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

You know what the real problem with exploring the camp is?

Exploring the Camp

So, let's say you are at your day job. Assume that your day job is a lot more chaotic then it normally is and you see different people all the time. 

Who in your office is talking about the mission statement of the company? How likely are two random employees going to be having that conversation?

You know what you're talking about? That jerkface on floor three. How other people could do their job better. That person who keeps just forwarding e-mails without changing the request text. How HR isn't doing their job. That guy who broke up with his girlfriend and is sleeping his way through the employee roster. What the new boss is going to be like. Where you are getting a drink after work. That persons new haircut. Why that person got fired.

I'd go on, but someone from work might read this someday.

You are going to be talking about absolutely everything but what this list in the book gives you. 

So today, we are going to talk about factions in the camp, what they know, and what they are talking about. 


30 minute dragon-dog sketch by me.
The Dragon-Dogs travel in packs, and are disturbingly like snakes, crawling all over each other when they talk to someone as a group. 

They have poor boundaries of personal space.

Here is what the dragon-dogs talk about:
  • Fresh meat is delicious! 'Pink worm filth suitable only for food'—meat is delectable. Huge fatty sacks on the female 'pink worm filth suitable only for food' are the best!
  • Dragons are the best!
  • Everything is terrible but Tiamat is coming and we will be the favored people over all the people.
  • Tiamat is like the best god, because she's five awesome gods. HAIL TIAMAT!
  • No, no, every egg can be favored by a certain head based on birth order and surface color.
  • I like to take things apart. We all like to take things apart. We can put them back together to hurt people and that's the best!
  • If dragons breath on your eggs, your eggs will be blessed and grow to be strong like dragons.
  • Did you see how wonderful Lennithon was? I've never been near something so awesome.
  • How does it feel knowing that your kind will be flesh eating parts for us?
  • Dragons are far superior to 'pink worm filth suitable only for food'. How does that make you feel 'pink work filth only suitable for food'?

Red Dragon Cultists (The Red Hand of Tiamat)

  • Use the Cultist Generator
  • Are blue or white dragon cultists the worst cultists?
  • No, the blood of children tastes different, somehow more pure then the blood of adults.
  • Hey, recruit, come here! Have you be through your cutting? (Hazing, there is no cutting initiates have to go through, but the cultist will certainly cut the player character if they are allowed to).
  • How did you get stuck here working for Cyanwrath and these impure blues?
  • It's like some sort of energy builds up. Murdering all those people last night was a release, but it's not nearly enough you know? Like scalping someone and then watching them die. That's satisfying in a whole different way.
  • Blood is inside you and me and everyone. That's the crazy part about it! And it's such a great lubricant. It's like She thought of everything! HAIL TIAMAT!
  • It wouldn't be nearly as bad working with those blue freaks if there weren't all these damned mercenaries around. 
  • Why are we keeping that stupid monk alive? Rezmir should just flay him alive and let his screams lead Tiamat into this world.
  • Hey! You! Have you been marked yet? If you want to join the reds, I've got your opportunity right here! (Offers the characters an opportunity to torture and kill an innocent townsperson).
  • The hunters are just killing this food, you know? And if it doesn't die when they bring it down, they just cut the jugular, wasting the blood and killing it in seconds. I don't understand what's wrong with people, you know? It could suffer so much more before I turn it into shit—we could even be keeping it alive while we eat it. It's just, I don't understand! It doesn't make any sense to me.
  • I get that we're collecting treasure for the Dragon Queen, but why can't we have some to spend in the towns before we sack them?
  • I just think Awan is so brutal, you know. It kind of makes me wonder if he's showing off, or what?

Blue Dragon Cultists (The Cobalt Claw of Tiamat)

  • Use the Cultist Generator
  • Yeah, you know, what brought me here is that I've never felt that what I am is represented by what I am, you know? I'm just driven by some force to make things the way I think they should be.
  • What's really frustrating is that you can't screw your way into a new form. If you want to crossbreed with someone you're already here, you know? You either got to mutate or, you know, wait till Tiamat gets back.
  • Frulam Mondath wears the purple, and she's the right one to do it. Anyone who can inspire the loyalty of Langedrosa Cyanwrath is someone I'm willing to follow, black wing of Tiamat or no.
  • This constant raiding communities suits the red and black, but what are they doing for us? How many creatures are we capturing to bring glory to tiamat? It's all piles of treasure. 
  • I don't think the reds really have their heart in the ritual chanting. It's the best part!
  • Working with Lennithon was a great honor.
  • I wouldn't say anything to Frulam, but I got the impression that Lennithon was less than enthusiastic to be helping.
  • Come sing with me! 
  • I'll tell you what. The best sex I ever had was with a doppleganger. This cult, what they are trying to do, it's a beautiful thing man.
  • There aren't enough prisoners any more to experiment on, even after Greenest. All the ones that are left we're just going to feed to the hatchlings. 

Black Dragon Cultists (The Black Wing of Tiamat)

  • Use the Cultist Generator
  • All hail the great work! HAIL TIAMAT!
  • Come, we must form the spiritual temple. (Rounds characters up to perform ritual)
  • Come, let us meditate on the coming terror and the heinous fate that will befall us once her majesties returns.
  • Don't let those guys know, but I'm only here because these guys are more laid back than those other ones. Want to come do some Dreammist?
  • We have the twelve Frost Giants of hate on our side. The ancient enemies of dragons have joined our holy cause! Can their be any doubt to our worth?
  • Rezmith leads us, as the black should. Though it has been months since he has been here. 
  • We should spend less time gathering the energies of suffering for the black temple, and more time recruiting these mercenaries to our cause! Every falcon we give them is one that slips from the claw of the queen.
  • Aye, the half-elf monk lives. It's by the order of Rezmir. She wants something from him, though I don't know what and I wouldn't want to be him.
  • Greenest was our most profitable venture yet! 


  • *Weeping*
  • *lying dead*
  • Don't talk to me, you'll get me killed!
  • Don't hurt me sir!
  • They will work us till we die, and feed us to whatever monsters are in those caves. All the sooner if you keep speaking to me.
  • Take me from here! I'm a rich noble from Waterdeep! I'll pay you. *lashed by the guards*
  • *Interrupted by their attempt to talk by mercenaries assaulting the prisoners.*
  • Tell them I praise Tiamat. I want to join! It's not too late! Let me join!
  • The only way into that cave for me is as a corpse.


  • *Quiet stare*
  • I don't want any part of your sick cult.
  • Uh, I'd be interested maybe in talking some more about your majesties? 
  • Nods
  • Points
  • Shakes head
  • Scowl
  • Taciturn answers

Mercenary companies

There are several different mercenary groups, including ones active in the area, such as the Blacktalons, The order of the Blue boar, and other less well known mercenary companies.

The Blacktalons are a large and well armed group. They wear armor painted black, but badly battleworn, with a spalsh of white across the chest. 
  • I don't much care, as long as we get paid.
  • You with the Blue Boars?
  • There's no better way to make money!
  • The only thing that bothers me about this job is that we're making a name for that cult, not the Blacktalons.
  • They don't let anyone in the caves back there. Probably raising dragons or some non-sense. Who cares? It'll be a score of ten-years before they even become a problem.
  • I wouldn't recommend joining the cult. Not likely they'll be successful in their plan. Though the profit from the raid should be enough to pay for our services. 
Blue Boar
A group of veteran mercenaries that charge a high price for their services. Their badge is a grizzled razorback boar, rampant on a red, russet, or silver field. Their uniform is a dark blue shirt with gold buttons, stiff collar, dark blue trousers and black calf-high boots.
  • Why are you talking to me?!
  • You can't afford what it would cost for me to answer that question.
  • I hope your skill with arms is good enough to back up being stupid enough to bother me!
  • With what they took from the last raid, they should be able to afford us.
  • I don't care what they have in that cave and you shouldn't either. 

Leosin Erlanthar and Other Strangeness

There are other points of contention in Episode II. First, Leosin doesn't want to leave. The players are told to rescue him, and when they reach him he doesn't want to leave because, and I quote "He doesn't want to take the risk".

Do we want to present our non-player characters as idiots?

Now, doing an extraction of an unwilling target is a great plot hook. It's super fun in play. But only when it's something reasonable, e.g. I don't want to leave because Sader-Krupp is keeping my daughter alive from her degenerative bone disorder.

What possible reason does he have for staying? "Yes, I've learned everything I can, and any day I'm going to be tortured and killed, and I know I'm currently heavily wounded, exhausted, and crucified on this x-bar thing, but you know, I think I'm going to stay!"

The other problem with this is that he escapes regardless of player action. How heroic if the players can't get to him. He shows up anyway. What's weird really really weird, is that "He refuses to talk about it later." What? Why? I have thought about this, and can come up with no good reason he'd just be like "NOPE." when asked how he escaped.

It makes me think he had a really really interesting method of escape.

I think it's also important that if the character's don't rescue him that he dies. Why not? He doesn't seem important in the rest of the adventure and I doubt he'll be critical in the following book.

Unassailable Tent

The other point of contention is the unassailable tent.

The large ten (sic) at area 2 is set apart from the others by an open space. It is reserved for Rezmir, Frulam Mondath, and Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. An honor guard of four guards and four guard drakes. . . keeps watch around the tent day and night. They don't sleep at their posts, they don't fall for tricks, and they don't listen to stories and pleas. Their job is to keep everyone away from their leaders' tent, and they are fanatical about it. Only acolytes and adepts the guards know by sight and by voice are allowed to approach.

Right, I get it you know? But this leaves the impression that the characters can't get in the tent. Hogwash. Second (or third) level characters could come up with a plan, and science forbid your party be level 5 or 6.

Having this in the module is good backup when you call bullshit about the astounding competence the guards have, but it by no means the players shouldn't be able to get into the tent. The only question is what's in the tent?

For my campaign, at any given moment there's a 50% chance of each of the important people to be in the tent, as well as treasure, maps, notes, documents and more. Good luck surviving that fight. I'd assume basic precautions, such as an alarm spell, prepared defenses against invisibility (flour, dispel magic, etc.) and other normal preventative tricks. At night crossing the boundary will set off an audible alarm, as the spell.

Not that the players can't defeat those defenses also. . .


The other other point of contention is the nursery.

Again. It's off limits. It's got guards. What player character in the world is going to be stopped by this? If they approach they get turned away. If they fight the guards, there's like 100 dudes around. If they kill them stealthly or sneak in, there's a timer before the camp is on high alert.

Let the players enter the nursery if they can. Flip right to chapter three and start exploring, keeping in mind that there's guards all over the place. If they can get in and get some treasure out, more power to them.


The part I don't understand is the need to make people do things or present things in such a way that makes a Dungeon Master interpret it as an excuse to say no. 

Doing the things the adventure tells you you can't do (i.e. get into the tent, nursery, etc.) are stupid. There are literally hundreds of guards around. There is no way an adventuring group can fight that many people. 

If you let the players know that there's risk, and the players know that they can die and there isn't any kind of plot armor protecting them, then there is no reason not to attempt or let them do stupid things. Who knows? Maybe they have a good plan and can pull it off. A few paragraphs added describing how to handle those situations when (not if) the players attempt them, would go a long way towards people feeling like this adventure was more free rather than such a series on rails. 

Hack & Slash 
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  1. Awesome work here! Looking ahead to our upcoming campaign with this module and like the premise, loath the execution. Your work here is making me look forward to running things rather than dreading it!

  2. Great writeup! Im running this part of the campaign this weekend and the conversation points given above will definitely help add flavor!

  3. Thanks so, so much for your work on this. I hope you continue. Can't wait to see what you do with the ridiculous caravan section. (They can list all the NPCs they want, it doesn't change how likely it is that all the PCs are recognized by then.. And then what, campaign over?)

  4. What if Leosin is like fatalistically depressed. He's learned too much about the coming of Tiamat, Cyanwrath convinced him of his doom and now he's given up and resigned to die on the cross seeing as its his 33rd birthday n all...

  5. Daren: Brilliant. Leosin looks at the PCs with hollow eyes. "Leave me be. I would rather see darkness unending than Tiamat unleashed." The players then get a *fantastic* moral choice: Do they value Leosin's life or his autonomy? Why, in the adventure as written, is this dude so heroic and the PCs are treated like errand-boys? Don't we want them to feel like fucking HEROES? I've already written this into the margins in my copy of HotDQ. Thanks a million.

  6. After my players failed attempt to flee Leosin, they were followed into the woods outside of camp by a party of mercenaries, so I used Pathfinder Chase Cards with DnD Next adjusted skills / DCs as an impromptu pursuit. I allowed them either one movement and attack per round, or one movement with no skill check, or two movements and one skill check, or three movements and two skill checks. Any two consecutive failures meant they fell down. Half way through (card 7 of 15), I had them all make perception checks and told each successful PC they heard yells and horns coming from a different direction and then wrote a large 5 on the map (no explanation). They understood this to mean five rounds to escape before who knows what, so each round they rushed to kill the remaining pursuers and get out of the danger zone. The scenario went really well!

    Thanks for all of your posts on HotDQ. Awesome ideas and food for thought!

  7. Maybe Leosin is a shadow monk who plans to use his shadow step ability to escape at just the right time

  8. Maybe Leosin is a shadow monk who plans to use his shadow jump abiloty to escape at the right time

  9. Fantastic. I'm running this in an hour and I was desperate to add flavour and spice to the camp exploration. This is perfect.


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