Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Seven truths of the world

The World is Old: This current age of man rises on the ruins of older civilizations. Ruins are everywhere.

The World is Dangerous: Bandits and Pirates prey on the trade lanes. Cults work against the established order. Beasts and monstrosities are common in less-traveled areas. Villages need defense at all times, and City-states only support the villages that send them food or other goods.

Humankind is resilient: This is the age of man, rapidly re-populating fertile regions and establishing market towns all along trade lanes. Other kindred work in company with man or are viewed as enemies.

The gods are real: But the Great Gods act through secondary forces (Temples or Orders) rather than intervening directly. Demigods and Pact-offering powers typically act through their chosen followers.

Magic is real: Wizards and Sorcerers do not depend on prime movers such as gods for their arcane power.

Rulers are not alone: Certain reasonably well-known Orders or Sects actively work to secure or advance civilization. They buttress the rule and order established by City-states, but they make their own judgment on rulers.

Living memory dictates most diplomacy: City-states tend to stick with the diplomatic arrangements and hegemonic order they have known. The idea of cynically dropping one ally in favor of another is not unknown, but it would be very unusual.

Sword Coast environs for Tier One

Tier One adventures begin in the border area of the independent realm named Elturgard:

Sometimes called the Kingdom of Two Suns, Elturgard encompasses Elturel, Triel, Scornubel, Soubar, and Berdusk. It also claims and protects many small villages and farms strung along the roads and rivers in the Western Heartlands.

Aedyn Graymantle

This realm, which (like 10th Century England) features a religious/administrative capital Elturel and a separate and larger trade city Scornubel, lies south-east of Baldur’s Gate. The adventure begins in the village of Greenest, and progresses, by way of several excursions, out of Elturgard. The realm is primarily fertile and settled. Although not mentioned by name, many villages and hamlets are to be found spread across the land and clustered thickly along the roads and rivers. Adventurers are seldom more than a day away from some settlement.

The climate for Elturgard is equivalent to present-day inland Northern California – Oregon. Winters can be cold, and is the time normal travel halts and commoners stay out of the fields. During most of the year fields, orchards, fishing-holes and hunting preserves are actively worked. Although few commoners travel far, each settlement trades in some way with a market town.

The chief means of east-west travel is the River Chiontha, which serves both Elturel and Scornubel. Its south tributary serves Berdusk.

The Trade Way could be considered to have its southern terminus at Scornubel. It is well ordered and maintained as far north as the Trielta region, then is more of a seasonal track until well north of the Winding Water crossing, Boareskyr Bridge. The Way wends below the High Moor just east, eventually to Daggerford – where a trader may take to water along the east-west Delimbyr – then on to Waterdeep. At the period the campaign takes place, Elturgard is making some efforts to connect all these together a little better.

Companions of Elturgard: an order of paladins of gods such as Tyr, Torm, Helm, and Amaunator. Elturgard keeps a strong detachment of Companions at Fort Tamal, Boareskyr Bridge.

Hellriders: Elturgard’s professional armed force, obedient to the Resolute Oath to uphold justice. They garrison official strongholds.

Quick thumbnail definitions of human-dominant settlements

Lodge – one dedicated building for a noble or similar, with ancillary buildings

Hamlet – lacks a temple or common shrine

Village – has a temple or common shrine, lacks a guild hall

Town – has at least a guild hall

Market town – a regular market-day with rules of business is established

Fortress town – has a stronghold garrisoned by the nearest ruler

Cathedral town/city – replaces a secular ruler’s abode with a cathedral and priory/abbey (or something more sinister)

Trade city – markets are permanent, and caravans assemble and disperse all year

City-state – The great City-states Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate can be referenced online

Backgrounds problematic for the campaign

5e backgrounds can be very specific, too specific for easy use within the campaign. Moreover, I would like every player to share character creation and know at least one other character, which means that “secret agenda” backgrounds can be hard to work with. The backgrounds NOT welcome are:

  • All setting- or world-specific backgrounds outside of the Sword Coast
  • Faceless
  • Hermit
  • Knight, except Knight of the Gauntlet based in Elturgard, or Knight of the Order of Tye, or any Elturgard Order
  • Noble, except Backwoods (Impoverished) Noble
  • Pirate
  • Uthgard barbarian (High Moors offers your basic barbarian)

Backgrounds linked to Classes

The Order of the Gauntlet is an overtly- active agency for civilization. Characters with a focus on finding evil and punching it in its ugly face may be welcomed by this order.

The Harpers society is tightly connected to the plot, but is secretive. If you choose to focus on infiltration or disguise, this society is for you. If you have a personal connection to Leosin, the half-elf, you might consider being an intern in the society.

The Emerald Order is also interested in the plot. If your character loves the wilds or preserves nature, you should adopt a background that fits with this Order.

Kindreds NOT suited to HotDQ

The PHB playable races are all notionally on offer. They are Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling. For the campaign the following changes or restrictions apply:

Dragonborn: They are rare in my version of the Sword Coast. NPCs of long and good standing may appear in some settlements but not as PCs.

Drow: At this particular juncture of the spheres and times the drow are directing all of their energies elsewhere.

Tiefling: There are no tieflings and never have been.

Other playable races: No.


If the course of adventures takes the characters to the coast, and a half-orc is with them, expect prejudice. Half-orcs are prime recruits for the Storm cult of Talos.

Orcs are openly blamed for pretty much all wars across time by Elves, who wrote most of the histories. They are viewed as Evil.

Other “evil” races: Elturgard fears serpentfolk and says they are evil. Pretty much everyone says bugbears, bullywugs, gnolls, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres and trolls are evil, and you’ll be hard put to find any good word for lizardfolk or most giants.

Sources accepted

Unless specifically forbidden:


Sub-class choices

Everything in PHB SCAG or XGTE is OK unless specified, but if not PHB, assume you will have to do all changes manually, as I do not own this content on Roll20.

Warlock patrons NOT welcome for HotDQ

The Great Old One: As the campaign can run up to Tier Three, this patron is problematic.

Other non-PHB patrons: Assume you will have to do all changes manually, as I do not own this content on Roll20.