Red Hand of Doom one-shot: Chill!

The level seven heroes for this session

Sir Luth Starag, fighter/Battle Master, duelist style; Luth is a strapping 6′ sporting luxuriant dark whiskers. He has learned a little cunning over the years, and carries himself with the bold mien of a knight of Brindol. He wields Dispenser, a sacred longsword with great powers against fiends and undead.
Dany Sacreddust, cleric/Life Domain; Dany is slim but powerful, with classic Teulon blonde good looks. Now that the Dark Lord has released her from service, Dany uses her Life domain disciplines. She wields a mace.
Grimefoot, druid/Spores circle; Grime is just… weird. He bears a spear and shield for battle and talks to his little darlings that encrust his scrawny frame. A little plot from which to grow more babies is his goal.
Churdo Murdo, paladin/Oath of Vengeance, duelist style; Murdo’s massive teeth, jaw, and brow ridge are evidence of orcish ancestry. He is very impressive, almost regal in bearing. His skin is a deep tan, and he wears his black hair tied back. His preferred weapon is a glaive.

Player knowledge supplied by Lord Jarmaath’s agents

The dragon cults hatched dragons, and raised them in secret. Now the first of these are on the cusp of aging from young dragon to full grown. Their instincts are kicking in and they can no longer be restrained from establishing lairs. Rumor has grown into near-certainty that a white dragon is about to mount its attacks from beyond the Giantshields.

Basic intel-gathering in and around Brindol

Murdo fails utterly, but the other three compile very useful further information.

DC8: Several weeks ago, Rythin, a young white dragon, left the cult hideout in the Dragonfang mountains where he was hatched and raised, and moved to the Great Claw Ranges peak, named Jyd Summit. Jyd Summit can be reached by traversing the Giantshields northeast of Brindol, or by venturing up the old north road next to the Blackfens, then venturing due east.

DC10: Rthyin was accompanied by a troop of guards to protect him. Rumor has it that a renegade Inquisitor led them. Exactly how the lair could be approached is unknown: dwarf scouts from the Giantshields braved the traverse, but have not returned.

DC13+: Jyd Summit was mined in ancient times, and the lair is most likely the largest old mine. Jyd features a number of cols and hanging valleys, so it should be possible to approach from around one flank and find a side-shaft in. At this time of year the old shafts will be treacherous but not ice-filled.

Prep and travel: We move as briskly through this as possible, since a dragon boss-fight is going to take about two hours. Luth proposes using his status to organize mounts and servitors. With the aid of a d6 (1 perfect, 2 good) they add:

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Sam Samepace: an ally rather than a servant, Sam will handle the rangering side of travel. A ranger also knows about exotic components.
Jed: A bold Hunter who can handle animals and stripping exotic kills down.
Eli: Luth’s new equerry.
Anders: Luth’s varlet.

Adding sumpter ponies to the eight mounts needed, the caravan travels rapidly to the Old North Road.

Social victory over Kestrel Blueleaf

Luth knows Kestrel from his very first adventure down by the Alshon. The team score 3 of 4 DC20+ Persuasions. This allows them to swing accurately along the trail between the Giantshield and Great Claw ranges.

Survival/Nature based ascent challenges

The party leaves its mounts and servitors below Jyd’s peak and begins choosing various ascents for the final push.

They are definitely going to be hit by events! From the original Dimgaard adventure this is based on (Icy Foreshadowing) I have 4 hazards, and from another wilderness source I have two less-natural.

High success:

  • Everyone loses a HD as they make camp in an area affected by Choke Frost
  • Luth (alone) takes 11 bludeoning from a rockfall as they probe one possible mine-shaft
  • As they move into the remaining shaft, Grimes, scouting ahead, is surrounded by Cloudspore – but the deadly purple spores don’t bother him in the least!
  • Blast of Cold: the shaft acts as a venturi and as airs are disturbed, everyone takes a few points of cold damage. No-one suffers an exhaustion level.

Nary a pause

Some of the spells the party are equipped with should really be cast before entering a lair. I drop a wee hint but no-one picks it up.

The bones rise

This complex is the lair of the hagspawn inquisitor, Uthal Deathcaller. He has accepted Tiamat’s favor in place of his previous coven, but retains powers over undead. The bones of Rythin’s original honor guard, their mounts, some hardy mountain beasts, and some dwarf scouts have become Skeletal Beasts. These are sourced from yet another 3rd-party source. Their key attribute, other than being undead, is that each is an amalgam of various bits, and have more than one attack.

The original number present has been reduced by the 3 high successes the party has achieved during the adventure so far!

Since Uthal is cautious, and the party has been clever, this is the first time he becomes aware of invaders.

Using a d6 for squares distant I lay out the initial few undead. They attack!

Terrain: icy circular-section shaft. Agile or athletic adventurers can run up one side and down, skateboard style, to maneuver.

The adventurers eke their power out like Scotchmen eking out a bank holiday. Dany chooses to use her healing and her Spiritual Weapon. Luth crushes bone with Dispenser, Murdo wields his glaive clumsily, and Grimes skedaddles back, casts Shillelagh, and returns for the last few.

The accursed skeletal creatures, even though they are attacking by twos, give some stiff scratches and stabs before they are all dealt with.

Uthal and WIS SVs

By this time the inquisitor has made his way to cover the shaft. He throws up Darkness and hammers Luth with a powerful Necrotic Blast! Then he picks out Grimes as the least-armored, and begins sniping. But as a crossbow marksman, he sucks.

He charges, smashes Luth heavily with a flail, then blinks back into his Darkness.

The party falls back a little and re-preps to meet this much more deadly threat. Then advances.

Luth and the long way back

As they turn the first bend, the shaft skirts an old vertical shaft.

“Run!” Uthal commands and Luth rushes forward, performs the Wile E Coyote stare, and falls.

With a fine Athletics check he arrests his descent 120′ feet down and takes only 60′ falling damage. He grimly transfers his shield to back, and uses handaxe and sword to begin clambering.

The party now have only the natural light that comes faintly to them. And no way to dispel the Darkness.

Comedy of a coward

Grimes rushes into the Darkness and sweeps the Shillelagh around like a drunk on St Patrick’s Day. Murdo advances by sound, and sweeps his glaive mightily, chopping into Grimes. But the inquisitor is beginning to feel cramped, and retreats.

He downs the first of the three Greater Healing has has, and regains all lost health.

This gives the trio a breathing space.

Piton all the way

Peering down the shaft they can see the glimmer of bright light. Murdo and Dany hammer three pitons into the rock and pay rope down. By the time Luth has clambered 40′ he can grab the rope and clamber up quickly.

Uthal is beginning to run out of spells. He charges Grimes, deals massive damage, and falls back again. Grimes pumps some SPPOORRES into Uthal, and begins healing himself.

Rythin recharge!

With Luth back, Dany thinks about getting some major healing done. But her Prayer of Healing needed to be cast some time back. She makes do with lesser effects, and the four heroes, mostly battered, head on into the main chamber to attack Uthal.

Adara and her ice dragon by Marc Simonetti  Concept art of "The Ice Dragon" children's book by George R.R. Martin

From above, on a low icy ledge, Rythin lays down the first breath attack, then pulls back to let Uthal fight.

Uthal does his best but, low on spells, can manage only one further Necrotic Blast before the party cut him down!

“Rise, my pretties!” Grimes cackles. The spores activate and a fungus-zombie now serves Grimes!

Murdo grabs and drinks the healing potion Uthal let fall, and Grimes has his zombie hand him the last one.

Rythin recharges with his first attempt and swoops off the ledge and up onto a stone pillar directly above the entire party! It sways dangerously. The dragon breath sweeps the party again!

Even half damage is 24, and Luth once again falls in love with his Shield Master feat, as he is able to avoid all damage a number of times.

Grimes casts Earthbind and the dragon can no longer fly. It clambers down easily as Luth begins climbing up, and crawls swiftly back up to its ledge.

Intervening boulders, all icy, permit ascent by normal-size people. Luth and Murdo begin working their way up, Luth to the fore. Murdo charges and deals Smite damage: the dragon is bloodied at last! Dany and Grimes stay prudently back out of breath range.

Rythin’s last stand

Wayne Reynolds

Trapped, the dragon ice-blasts and retreats a second then a third time! Each time it takes some Reaction Attack damage. Up its ledge it retreat, until the only option is to stand and fight.

Before it can take to him with claws and teeth, Luth charges and deals 22 damage. Grimes has clambered up to where he can see Rythin, and casts Blight! the dragon dies horribly!

Sadly this is no long-standing lair. There is a single lair-warming (or should that be lair-chilling) gift from Uthal to Rythin, then just the coin and gear of the inquisitor and dead guards or scouts.

The party send out for those skilled in dismantling dragons for useful bits.

Victory!

Loot: Luckstone, 50 gold coin, 170 silver coin, 1000 copper coin

DM Notes

It was a mild kick getting to use one of the two dragon adventures (white and blue) I decided not to run, back in season six to seven. For season seven, we skipped right to the more enjoyable “kidnap the archpriest” arc. The three players remaining from that time recall it as a highlight of the entire campaign!

Coming to the finale of Icy Foreshadowing and reading the “if the party win” is a total let-down. All of those adventures are supposed to relate to one another, but the writer never bothers to leverage any one adventure with or from another. His best suggestion is ‘roll on the donjon treasure generator!’ It sure reminded me why I dumped the original content.

For my version of the challenge, I used the “young adult” white dragon build from Monster Manual Expanded to create a more mature Rythin, and the Inquisitor NPC from the same, adding on some extra powers from the original hagspawn, to scale Uthal Deathcaller down a bit. The site of the boss-fight is Uthal’s lair, and he gets legendary resistance from it, whereas Rythin does not.

Next session we expect to return to the Tiamat’s Fane chapter of Red Hand of Doom! Stay Tuned!

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