2 players couldn’t make it to todays session, so I had their characters stay behind to help defend and fortify the keep. However, we had a friend join us with the full intention of just hanging out. He played a Warlock in the LMoP campaign but didn’t have the time to commit to playing a character for HotDQ. He hung out for a while, commenting and joking and having a good time until I asked him if he felt like ‘being the AI’ for the Kobolds. It turned out to be great fun, and also a huge challenge for the party because he was a heck of a lot more bloodthirsty than I tend to be as a DM.
Locked doors and broken locks tend to not be much of an issue for this party, as we have a Rogue who is proficient in lockpicking and an Artificer who has the Mending cantrip. I handled the Swarms of Rats a little differently from a typicial single unit.
The primary differences between a Swarm of Rats and a single Rat is the Swarm has HP of 24 while the single Rat has 1 HP, and the Swarm does 1d20+2d6, or half of 1d20+1d6 piercing damage if below half hp, while a single rat does 1d20+1 piercing damage. I changed things up a bit mechanically to reflect this as I thought was appropriate. Considering the differences, I calculated 1 swarm to be 24 rats, and each successful hit on the swarm killed 1 rat, unless there was some sort of AoE damage. The Ranger smartly asked if he can use his Hordebreaker ability on a single swarm, and I allowed that since it made sense.
As the Swarm attacked the party members, I had described the attacks as the Swarm climbing up their legs and into their clothing, and the attack damage as not just rat bites but “Biting and clawing all over your body”. The party was particularly worried about having the rats that were climbing all over them being tagetted by their fellow party members due to this party’s unbelievably high track record of Critical Fails and friendly fire. The Cleric used Prestidigitation to cause minor earth tremors in an attempt to scare the rats away, and it worked on 1 of the swarms, putting them in a ‘frightened’ state. When half the rats in the swarm were killed, they began to try to run away, taking any Attacks fo Opportunity as needed. Barely a handful escaped.
Kobolds outside hidden door
The Rogue snuck out the door from the Old Tunnel first just in time to see 4 townspeople running to hide in the reeds to the West of the door and a group of Kobolds appearing to be trying to find them coming from the East. This is when I asked our friend if he wanted to control a few baddies while he was hanging out. He just asked what weapons the Kobolds had and the range and made full use of their slings and Pack Tactics.
The party dispatched of the first group in 2 short rounds when another group of Kobolds came from the North, above the hidden door into the Old Tunnels. From here, they had 1/2 cover from the environment and got a few good hits off with their slings. The ‘AI’, as I’ll call him, noted that the Kobolds wouldn’t have really known what was going on here when they crested the hill and just shot at the closest targets, killing 1 of the townspeople.
After the encounter, the party told the rescued townspeople to go through the tunnels into the keep, then heard chanting and screaming to the East and decided to head towards the Sanctuary.
Street encounter: 8 Cultists
I threw a small, random encounter at the party as they made their way through the streets. I used the Cultist stat block and simply increased the count to 8, and added the complexity of more townspeople to save. This turns the encounter into more of a tactical one, as the Cultists will murder a townsperson quickly if they can.
This was the grand finale for the night, and almost resulted in some player deaths if not for the Bard’s quick thinking.
I did make some modifications to the groups by increasing the number of kobolds to what I thought would be a challenge, adding an Ambush Drake or two where needed, but the biggest change was upgrading the Cultists. From the previous encounter with Cultists, I quickly realized that numbers aren’t really a challenge. That’s what kobolds are there for. So, instead of having them just go up against Cultists (CR 1/8), they went up against Cult Fanatics (CR 2) and a melee cultist using the Bandit Captain (CR 2) stat block. This provided much more of a challenge as they didn’t drop in one hit, and showed the players that they should not have any preconcieved notions of what they’re up against.
The party was feeling pretty good about themselves at this point and did not hesitate to initiate combat. They waited for Group B to round the corner out of sight and then they began their attack on Group A, which took down their resources heavily. Although they were able to defeat in 3 rounds, they were hurting and wanted to retreat to try to hide and try for a short rest. Three Kobolds from Group A were running away to try to call for reinforcements as the Artificer jumped up onto the wall surrounding the temple and killed 2 with his gun, and then jumped down onto the roof of a nearby house to begin to run away. 3 of the other party members decided, comically, to join him on the roof. This was a hilarious miscommunication, and as they were arguing about “why are you all on this roof”, 3 Assault Drakes from Group B sprinted around the corner and jumped up onto the roof. Roll initiative.
It is always fun for me, as a DM, to watch the moment of dispair linger as the players flip through the PHB and their notes to try to find something – anything – they can do to get them out of this situation. At this point, they were close to dying, but were determined to take one of the Cult Leaders (a buffed up Cultist) as prisoner for interrogation at the keep. What they ended up doing was brilliant, as the Bard (who was on the roof), positioned himself in such a way and cast Thunderwave, knocking the Assault Drakes off the roof, and to their deaths as they failed the saving throw and took falling damage. They retreated and were able to hide as they all used their actions to dash away from the remaining Group B.
This is where we decided to wrap it up. They ended up making it back to the hidden entrance safely after outrunning the Kobolds, and turned the prisoner over to Castellan who wants group to return to Temple ASAP.
He presented 2 options:
- Go back to the temple now. Castellan will bring a Cleric to heal group for Prayer of Healing at 3rd level (3d8+4) and give them 2 Potions of Healing each.
- Short Rest and Castellan will send whatever soldiers he can to the Temple, but he was very unhappy about presenting this as a choice as the Keep is still under massive attack and needs all of the soldiers here.
Will the party boldly return to the temple in time to save the townspeople inside? Will they hang out at the keep for an hour while they try to replenish HP and spell slots like total wimps?! Find out next time on DMing Horde of the Dragon Queen – Session 3!!!