by Mike Shea on 2 February 2015
This article continues our journey through the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Here you will find tips and tricks for running your own version of this epic adventure. In this particular article we will be covering Episode 5: the Carnath Roadhouse.
You can read all of our Hoard of the Dragon Queen articles here:
As before, this article is packed full of spoilers so if you plan on playing through the adventure before running it, stop reading and come back when you're ready for the juicy tasty spoilers.
Like previous chapters, it helps us to outline exactly what we need to do in order to make sure the threads of the adventure hang together. This late in the adventure, different groups may have made different choices and the butterfly effect of those choices may put your game in a very different place than others. Thus, it helps to know what the core string is to keep your campaign from going too far off the rails. Here are the main things that have to happen in this adventure:
Thank the Lady of Luck, we're off the road! At the beginning of this episode, the PCs enter Waterdeep, the City of Splendors. The last chapter had the PCs journey past the Forgotten Realms landmarks of Baldur's Gate, Dragonspear Castle, and Daggerford. This chapter gives us a great to showcase the biggest city in the Forgotten Realms, Waterdeep. The adventure itself, however, is thin on the details of the City of Splendors. If you want to give your players some time in the city, consider picking up the PDF of Waterdeep, City of Splendors from D&D Classics. This book has tons of useful detail on the city and gives you a chance to see some interesting places such as the Virgin Square and the Yawning Portal.
Give the PCs a well-deserved rest in Waterdeep. Let them stock up on some provisions and, if you have the time, you can play off of some of the PCs' backstories here. Give Waterdeep the texture it deserves.
In Rise of Tiamat, the PCs will get involved in political debates between the major forces of the Sword Coast. There's no reason, however, that we can't begin introducing these council meetings now.
This is early enough in the Cult of the Dragon's plots that the major rulers of the Sword Coast, such as Lord Neverember or whoever is ruling Baldur's Gate after Murder in Baldur's Gate, won't yet take notice. They're already dealing with other major threats, such as the Red Wizards of Thay and the remnants of the Cult of Bhaal, to deal personally in another cult, even if it will turn into a disaster later.
That doesn't mean others aren't interested and now is a good time to introduce them. For example, the PCs can meet up with their old friend Laeosin Erlanthar who made it to the city after a long boat journey from Baldur's Gate. It's possible Ontharr Frume has arrived as well or he may be on route. You might also introduce Lady Laeral Silverhand who represents the Lords Alliance and Delaan Winterhound who represents the Emerald Enclave. With his direct knowledge of the dangers of the Cult of the Dragon, Erlanthar establishes his "Council Quiet". This group of influential citizens of the Sword Coast see the coming danger of the Cult of the Dragon and wish to hear the PC's first-hand accounts. They can also help clarify the PC's goals should they have strayed too far from their important matters.
The PCs can also be voting members of the Council Quiet. During their first meeting, Jemna Gleamsilver invites herself and the first vote the PCs must make is whether or not to let the Zhentarim's agent join the Council Quiet. Jemna comes with information on the Wyrmspeakers, putting a name to two of the five the PCs have yet to encounter: Galvan the Blue and Severin the Red. Jemna knows of these two because one of Galvan's trusted aides is in fact a Zhentarim spy (this isn't in the adventure, I'm making it up). Jemna will only give up this information if the PCs invite her, and thus the Zhentarim, to the Council Quiet.
From here, the Council gives the PCs the following missions:
If the PCs don't already know it, this is a good time for one of the members of the Council Quiet to let them know that the next stop for the Cult's hoard is the Carnath Roadhouse.
For great fun, set the official meeting room of the Council Quiet in the Yawning Portal tavern. This way, while they plot to save the Sword Coast, the PCs can admire and even bet upon other adventuring groups who head into the depths of the Undermountain.
The Carnath Roadhouse is another ten-day away from Waterdeep, give or take, but feel free to hand-wave the travel. After traveling for two months from Baldur's Gate to Waterdeep, most players will be sick of road travel and you may be sick of talking about road travel. Skip ahead to the Mere of Dead Men where things get interesting again.
There's a long history of the Mere of Dead Men. Ed Greenwood wrote a fantastic article about the Mere entitled Wyrms of the North: Voaraghamanthar, "the Black Death". Voaraghamanthar plays a bit part in the Mere but has only a small part in the adventure. That's something we can fix.
Before we do, however, we can include an encounter or two that gets players used to the nastiness that comes out of a magically created swamp fueled by the ashes of the dead god Myrkul. What better way than an attack of zombies, ogre zombies, or ghouls! As the PCs travel up the high road, they might come to a section where the swamp already ate into the road. As they try to cross, these nasty beasts rise out of the fetid water and attack. The appearance of these nasty beasts can show off some of the ancient history of the swamp, appearing as either members of the Phalorm empire or their orcish attackers. This is a good chance to use history checks to tell a little bit about the history of the swamp.
We'll also use the history of the swamp and the dragon Voaraghamanthar in the next episode as the PCs travel through the Mere of Dead Men to Castle Naerytar.
Finally the PCs arrive at the Roadhouse. It's a good time to ensure the PCs remember their goal: to track the hoard and use it to find Rezmir. The Roadhouse itself is a bit of a sandbox so it might help you to streamline it and offer some potential options if your players don't seem to have ideas about what to do. Other than that, go with their ideas and have fun with it.
Above all, the PCs must find out how the hoard is traveling into the swamp and that they must hunt it down.
Once the PCs discover that the hoard is on its way into the Mere of Dead Men, in they go. In our look at the next episode, we'll look at some interesting things we can add to the swamp and help them navigate the intricate politics of the beasts that live within it as they head to Castle Naerytar.