The Rise of Tiamat – The Conclusion of the Tyranny of Dragons Campaign
Note: For those of you that pretend that you don’t read anything online about adventures you’re playing, this is the “required” alert that this post contains spoilers. So be prepared to take notes. If you are the only person left in the universe that actually avoids information about adventures you’re an active player in, I’m going to talk about the content of the adventure so leave now.
It’s been a while since my last post but I completed my Tyranny of Dragons campaign last night. What a ride it was. This campaign started out as a “public play” group but by the end, it felt more like a “home” campaign in many ways. Regular players and a lot of added content will do that. Here’s a synopsis of each chapter and some highlights.
To start, I had a group of seven players. The party consisted of two clerics, a bard, a sorcerer, wizard, monk and a paladin.
Episode 1: Council of Waterdeep
This chapter I merged into the next episode as who wants to spend three and a half hours in what basically amounts to a meeting. Not this DM. So I introduced all the important parties at the meeting where after some discussion, they “deputized” the group and sent them on their first mission; the rescue of Maccath. This chapter is clearly necessary for building story and background but I’m more interested in action than debate and exposition so I blew through this chapter in about an hour. I made up some character standees to give the players a visual of each councilor and that seemed helpful in keeping all the names straight. It’s a huge information dump session.
Episode 2: The Sea of Moving Ice
Heading right out from the council, the group took to ship and the search for Oyaviggaton, where Maccath had last been seen. Finding the glacier after some brief encounters on the ice, the group interacted with the villagers, found the ice caves, and encountered the White Dragon, Arauthator. That was a nice battle, and the group was better prepared for their second dragon encounter. The dragon was dispatched and Maccath rescued. Maccath ended up becoming a recurring NPC as the campaign unfolded too.
Episode 3 and 4: Death to the Wyrmspeakers
Returning to Waterdeep, the council directed the party to hunt down the wyrmspeaker; Varram the White. The party traveled south, where the effects of the dragon cult’s raids were becoming apparent everywhere they went. The book provides several adventure hooks to use and I opted to adapt “Devilish Demands” for my uses. The group encountered a pavilion, attended by white-robed women that served a lord of high-bearing. Volmer he named himself and he sought out the group’s alliance. The PCs were able to deduce the true nature of Volmer and diplomatically avoided any further entanglements and departed.
When the group arrived at Boareskyr they were ambushed as per Episode 5: The Cult Strikes Back outlines. The battle took place in a crowded tavern and I made sure to include all those innocents in the battle.
The search for Varram the White led them up into the Serpent Hills and the Tomb of Diderius. I enjoyed these sessions quite a bit as dungeon crawls are what I love most. The tomb had a great balance of traps, puzzles and encounters. Give me more content like this! Varram was captured but upon exiting the tomb, the group was ambushed again. This time with a stronger force that included a black dragon. The party was victorious and off they went.
Just for a point of reference. I’d say that it took about 6, 3.5 hours sessions to get this far into the book.
Moving right along, The group journeyed back to Waterdeep, dropped Varram off and headed off to The Misty Forest to deal with Neronvain. This took 2.5 sessions I believe. The village, some forest encounters, including one with a gargantuan spider that I added and a full dwarven forge set piece with the green dragon. I went ahead and boosted the encounter difficulty with the dragon as the party had already dealt with 3 adult dragons, rather handily. For this one, I made the green dragon an Ancient. It was something I debated heavily prior to, but in the end, it’s a decision that worked out great. It made for a much more intense fight which the PCs won.
To be fair, I boosted the amount of magic items the players received from what the book suggests. Attunement rules are used and I like them quite a bit. It keeps things in check. Personally, I found that the book was far too skimpy with handing out magic items for my taste. It gets a little stale when players have completed a battle, loot the corpses and find…nothing other than coins. I don’t regret it at all.
Episode 6: Metallic Dragons, Arise
Again, another meeting-type chapter. For the story, it makes complete sense, but there’s no way I was spending more than an hour here. I used dragon minis as standees…metallic dragons got shortchanged in the mini department…none available of a respectable size!
Episode 7: Xonthal’s Tower
Loved this chapter. The maze was loads of fun, even though the players never figured out how to navigate it correctly. The encounters in them were great. but I found the actual tower itself to be a letdown as written so I threw in Xonthal himself as a lich, down in the Time Chamber. On top of that, after finishing up the tower, the characters looked out from the tower to witness an Ancient blue dragon destroying the village. That made for yet another dragon battle of note.
Episode 8: Mission to Thay
This chapter left me uninspired and I blew through it in about an hour. It certainly has potential to be something much more if you’re willing to put the time into it. I think I was dealing with some burn-out and work-stress at the time and didn’t have the desire or mental energy to build it up into anything. Having said that, if you have time, this chapter could lead into lots of undead goodness if you’re willing to do some work.
Episode 9: Tiamat’s Return
This is another chapter that is wide-open to DM interpretation. I glossed over the “war” outside narratively but there is opportunity here for lots of combat and encounters if you so desire. My thoughts were that time was of the essence and if I subjected the PCs to too many fights, they would have reached the ritual chamber with nothing in the tank. The idea of taking a long rest inside the Well of Dragons didn’t sit with me logically so it was a straight on assault for them.
I stripped down a lot of the exploration options for the Well of Dragons, only giving them a single entrance to use and paring out most of the chambers that didn’t amount to much of note. The sacrificial chamber was included and that involved 5 dragons of varying sizes to deal with. The Draakhorn chamber and a number of wandering guards. sprinkled in here and there for good measure.
When the team reached the summoning chamber, I had put out an enormous chessex mat that helped immensely with scale and determining range. Suffice it to say, the group didn’t succeed in stopping the ritual. Tiamat arrived and even with my skipping an attack or two, it was clear she was going to eat the party.
The mood darkened around the table and I ended the session with the group defeated. It was a bitter ending for the table after having so much success but I wasn’t done with them yet.
Episode 10: The Tomb of Horrors & The Orb of Time
The following week I described to the group how a year had passed and in that year, Tiamat had made the Sword Coast into a literal hell on earth. The party had been resurrected and presented with a plan to correct this great evil. Tomes that the group took from Xonthal’s tower spoke of a great wizard that also studied time; Acererak. Maccath deduced that Acererak had an artifiact named the Orb of Time that the PCs could use to return to the Summoning Chamber and try again to halt the ritual, therefore stopping Tiamat from entering the realms.
A magic rewind button. Clearly Tiamat was not something the PCs could kill, so this was my best solution. The party were sent off and entered my 5th edition conversion of the Tomb of Horrors. I won’t get into it here but they succeeded and armed with the knowledge of hindsight, they stopped the summoning ritual in 4 rounds. The good guys won.
Some thoughts. Overall the story-line is great and the adventure was quite memorable. Anyone running a home campaign could really run wild with this and add in all sorts of additional content.