Monday, September 1, 2014

Kobolds or, Episode 1 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen (D&D 5e)



I am on vacation, but I still ran the first episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This isn't about that. This is about reading the first episode (I have a rule about not talking about something someone else made without playing or running it first. My notes are too long and copious and also I left some of them at someone's house. +Bryce Lynch  is doing fun stuff though, look Bryce up on G+.).

"wearer of purple" is what the cultist call their leaders. They wear purple. 

One antagonist is a "half-black dragon". She is hated by a rival, "Talis the White".

Two major allies are named, "Leosin Erlanthar" and, "Onthar Frume", both of which roughly translate to, "this is where fantasy tropes go to die."

There are "dragon masks" that have to be combined into a single mask in order to raise the evil god (guess which one). Rather than require some kind of surgical grafting on of multiple faces onto a single host and the resulting multi-faced failed horrors along the way that would need helping or putting down, the masks probably just all sort of mush together into a single glowy thing, like when the planeteers put their rings together to summon captain planet.

good things: there is some general consideration paid to the sensual elements of each area, the maps are easy to read (EXCEPT LIKE THE FIRST ONE, WHY IS EVERYTHING LIKE DARKBROWNGREEN)

Episode 1
An important trade center is under attack by mercenaries and kobolds. The town has no walls but is a center of trade. We should rob this place blind and make a new home with the money, and the new home will have walls, and then we will invite everyone from the old town to come live in our new town and they won't stay mad at us, because walls make better neighbors than no walls and bandits forever.

A sky blue dragonperson (ahem, half-blue dragon) challenges one person to a fight but doesn't cheat,  because he has a, "deep sense of honor about one-on-one combat," which seems sort of like saying, "Barry can always be trusted to watch the children, he has a deep sense of honor about cooking with locally sourced ingredients."

[pretend this is a sidebar]
In a story, facts accrue and the readers come to conclusions. Reversals can happen at key moments to heighten the tension and prolong interest. Having a series of encounters that tell the players, "these guys seems like sneaky, terrible assholes," followed with, "if you fail to trust the boss asshole, and maybe even if you try to hedge your bets because, hey, this guy looks tough and all his friends are untrustworthy, it turns out you probably get some innocents killed and you should have probably trusted him," that seems like a shitty "gotcha". Or maybe it's meant to kick off a dark adventure where no one is clearly good or clearly evil and there is no ideal solution... but no, that's not what HotDQ is (yes, Hot Dairy Queen).
[the sidebar is over]

The town does its best to save any hero that fails to win the fight with Sky Blue and if Sky Blue is defeated, he's rushed off and healed. So, you know, no player's character dies and we get to set up a (dramatic!) encounter in Episode 3. 

[pretend this is a sidebar]
And, throughout this Episode (mostly throughout the whole book) mercenaries and kobolds stand around, waiting to be foiled. Another thing they do: running and dancing away (to be encountered later, when it is more "dramatic" [there is an obsession with deferring things for drama's sake, and no advice as to what would be most dramatic]). Or else they are standing around, waiting for heroes. It's like you walked into a crowded room and only as you appear do people start moving, speaking, does the sound kick in. What is this strange simulacrum of life? How did we fall into this nightmare?
[the sidebar is over]

What we learn about kobolds: They are small and they like dragons. They comport themselves menacingly.

When Paizo released Rise of the Runelords they reimagined goblins with Wayne Reynolds, and Goblins lit themselves on fire by mistake, drowned in half-full barrels, feared and hated horses (horses are kind of like their dragons) and one eats a man's face off (is eating it, through a hole in the wall, when you find it). They roast limbs for fun, carry molten tongs and try to shove adventurers into a furnace. There are optional feral goblin babies to kill (or to try to raise). They have a song (it is lame), and a druid that moves through their bramble walls as if the brambles were no obstacle at all, and a chief that rides a giant gecko. There will be a man encased in glass, an aasimar becoming a demon, a barghest, seduction, romance, betrayal, two patricides, a boat hunt, family squabbles, rangers giving reports about goblin activity, flirting, grave robbing, lost mega weapon-type defense systems, ancient temples and fonts of evil power, demons, a mutant goblin and an imp that imagines itself queen. That's in 60 pages or so (the first of six chapters). Half the length of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. fuck.

attribution: FFXII
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