On Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Episode 8

Guido Kuip
More of Guido's Evocative Artwork!
This (final) section is made up of two distinct parts, with a bit of a rough transition between them. First, there's the village of Parnast and then the final confrontation in the cloud castle.

Episode 8 is the big, cinematic finish. We couldn’t close the adventure without high drama and life-or-death combat against major foes in a setting that players will remember for years. Some people will be surprised to hear that it isn’t a foray into a dragon’s lair. In fact, it’s about as far from that setting as it’s possible to be. -Steve Winter, Tiamat Tuesday


Another victim of page count and pacing, the idea of Parnast is evocative. It's a cultist controlled and influenced town that the characters must infiltrate to find access to the castle. 

Of course you can see the docked castle as soon as you enter town, and can access it by walking right up to it. 

In about 5 half-page columns, the text attempts to account for any one of a half-dozen situations at this point. The way that this situation is handled depends heavily on the outcome of the previous chapter, which is, as I think it should be. 

Here's an overview of the options:
  • Character avoid the lodge and enter town OR enter the lodge and fight Talis.
    • Characters enter town, see the castle, and try to track down Rezmir.
      • Character's take too long and the castle leaves
        • They use wyvern's to catch the castle
        • OR they fail to use the wyverns (or the wyvern's can't carry the whole party)
    • Characters enter the town, see the castle and storm it.
  • Characters enter the lodge and ally with Talis
    • Character's avoid the town and approach the castle to gain entry.
Initially, I found the single failure point of "Make a skill check to ride the wyverns" really bothered me. It turns out this isn't quite as big a deal as it seems. First, almost all of the options the character's have allow them to access the castle without needing the wyverns. Its on the ground when they walk in the town. They have to choose not to walk right up to it for a period of at least an hour, since that's how long it takes. Secondly, even if the castle leaves, it's likely the highest wisdom in the group is at least +3, and a check made with advantage (from aid another) versus a DC of 15 is certainly possible, although you can fail. And if you do fail, then you fail.

I had no idea when I read it what Rise of Tiamat would say. And it is a perfectly acceptable outcome for the players to just lose the castle if they let it take off and can't ride the wyverns. And complains of "I paid for the module, so the characters should get to play it" do not override how many points of failure the characters must hit to fail to get aboard the castle.

Note that there are other, non-explicit options for players to get aboard the castle. Rezmir doesn't know that he's been followed, and the castle is docked to allow treasure to be placed aboard. The characters can disguise themselves as cultists and attempt to get aboard the castle with the treasure. The adventure notes both these things, including that the castle is shrouded in mist, allowing the characters to approach without being seen. There is also the chance that a number of powerful people (Rezmir, et. al.) die early if the characters assault the front gate of the castle and win.

Skyreach Castle

I don't have a great deal to say about the interior of the castle, for the same reason most people don't. It's good.

Some notes are given about the importance of the crashed castle (if it crashes) and how it is dealt with in Rise of Tiamat, but that part was cut from the book. I'm tracking down information about it and will post it here. 

Both the cloud giants may have their spirits be in control of the castle. I believe it is much more entertaining to have a giant translucent face manifest representing their spirit and taunt the characters as it slams the castle into the ground, if indeed that is what happens. 

A dumb white dragon is indeed entertaining, best if he mis-uses words. 
  • I'm going to bisect you into a million pieces!
  • I'm going to decimate you all! (decimate means to destroy or remove one-tenth of something).
  • I am disinterested in anything you have to say (means "not biased").
  • You are exacerbating my patience (in lieu of exasperate).
  • I could create a nice derangement of your corpses! (arrangement).
  • Or I could comprehend you as prisoners. (apprehend).
  • Irregardless, (which is at best, means "in regard to" and at worst isn't a word).
  • That is a mute point. (moot is often frequently incorrectly used. It's a word meaning "something that requires further discussion" either due to complexity and time, or the need for more people to discuss it, which is something that happens at a moot).
  • For all intensive purposes (intents and purposes).
Watch as your players consider whether or not they should correct the dragon!

The hoard is very lackluster. Thousands of coins and a handful of magic items. Only one gem type. How have they been collecting treasure from all over the sword coast (or world even) and only come up with one type of gemstone in this haul?

If you don't have a favorite generator of your own, This one over at the donjon can generate a very random, interesting hoard that is likely filled up with loot that seems reasonable. I've found that these settings generate a very "realistic" hoard, or at least one more interesting than coins and a few gems and magic items.
  • 4 hoards
    • 4 x level 6, triple coins & valuables, standard items
    • 2 x level 9, triple coins & valuables, standard items
    • 1 x level 13, double coins & valuables, 50% items
    • 1 x level 18, standard coins & valuables, no items
      • This is more than the amount of treasure listed in the book (4-8x more) to more closely get a gold piece value equal to what's in the book, have only 2x level 6 and 1x level nine.
  • Check Generate more random numbers of coins
  • Trade 70% of coins for miscellaneous salvage
  • Check both gems and art objects
  • Check magic items
  • Check combine individual hoards into one hoard. 
The outcome of what happens with the giants and the castle is important in Rise of Tiamat. And losing or missing the castle is a perfectly acceptable way to have this adventure end. It only gets more difficult as Rise of Tiamat begins, and having this book with the possibility of failure, without it preventing the start of Rise of Tiamat good design. 

This concludes the first draft of Hoard of the Dragon Queen Remix by Hack & Slash. I'll be updating these original articles as I play through the adventure myself, and will be posting a central update/index/errata page after the start of the new year.

2014 is finished. 2015 begins. We are in the rise of a new golden age of gaming! I look forward to sharing it with you in the coming year.

Hack & Slash 
FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupport


  1. i tried the Donjon treasure generator, as well as another one called RK's D&D treasure generator. the Donjon RNG tends to swing heavily towards potions, scrolls, and wands. the RK one works in extremes (you either get common potions, which is lowbie garbage, or obscene amounts of Very Rare, Legendary, and Magic Artifacts). i think i may have to trot out the DMG charts and do it by hand in order to do a hoard that my players will enjoy, but won't break my campaign.

    1. PS: the treasure in the starter box leaned towards magic user loot, which has resulted in at least one player complaining that the DM is padding the loot for his wizard character (not true, but with wizard mini-bosses in at least 3 locations, i can see where that would seem to be the case). *side note: DM is running a character because the group was initially small, and had no casters or healers*

    2. You know, I think that if you're not comfortable with the magic items it produces, just unchecking the box and using it to generate coinage, art objects, and goods could make a good representation of the Hoard.

  2. I greatly look forward to a better segue way for Skyreach castle into RoT.

  3. Would be better without the few /r/badlinguistics stuff, but thanks.

  4. I actually found some of the art for the cut chapters. Cut art was of a Frost Giant King by the look of it and a map of what looks to be a giant camp area complete with a crashed skyreach castle.

    Galvan the blue the guy who has art on the very first page of the book also had his chapter cut from the book. Still at least he got art.

  5. Fighting an adult white dragon at level 7 seems like it could be pretty nasty. It also undermines the Sea of Moving Ice chapter of Rise of Tiamat. (oh? Another white dragon? Yawn.) I'm thinking about having Glazhael run when he reaches half hit points and flee to the Sea of Moving Ice, replacing the other white dragon from that episode.

    1. I'm so happy I found this site doing some research into RoT. My party is about to enter the lodge and I was looking for some advice on the transition to the flying castle. My fear was they might not get a rest between rushing all over. I was trying to find some ways to slow down so they'd be proper prepared for the assault on the castle.

      Jerry, I had the same reservations on the two white dragon fights back to back, and the fight in RoT is waaaay more interseting and fun. I think having this dragon flee to be the same dragon in RoT is a great idea. Consider it stolen. :-)

  6. "Rezmir doesn't know that he's been followed, and the castle is docked to allow treasure to be placed aboard"

    It should be noted that, of course, Rezmir is a she.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...