That Went Better Than Expected
There was the briefest of pauses as the party considered whether or not Mends-Nets, the formerly diseased Ice Hunter who was quarantined in the ice caverns below the village, was a dragon in disguise or not. They quickly opted for “not”, and moved on, finding the kobold’s trash heap in an adjacent cavern, and then deciding that their best bet was to rappel down the pit that the bard had fallen into last week (our time…about 15 minutes prior their time).
The cavern beneath the first layer of the berg was the same as before: massively open, sparkling in the rare light of whale oil lanterns, and supported by pillars of ice. The party quickly descended from the platform they had landed on, and moved west where the cavern opened wider. This passageway turned out to be bisected by a tall but incomplete ice shelf that created a northern and southern passage. The group opted to take the southern passage, but clambered up to the first tier of the bifurcating ice-mass to gain a tactical advantage against potential adversaries.
This decision paid off as they reached the end of the island of ice: the white dragon Aramantahruruhdfdorereduh was at home in his lair, resting peacefully amidst an OK-sized treasure hoard (most of which was buried in the icy floor and walls).
Retreating a bit, the party considered their strategy. This was a Dragon-with-a-capital-D (although no one wanted to bring that up) and running screaming into battle wasn’t going to be the best option. Plans were laid, spells were prepared, and positions were taken.
Getting the drop on a resting Dragon turned out to be as good a strategy as any, since the combined might of five seasoned adventurers who got Advantage and saw the Dragon rolling a paltry 4 for his initiative on the second round turned out to be dangerous for white wurm. The creature literally didn’t know what hit him: before he understood what was going on the first round of attacks dealt him almost 100 points of damage, while the top of the initiative order dealt at least another 50 on round two.
By the time he got his wits about him, Arahnnthenhtnededser decided that defending this particular lair wasn’t worth the grief he was getting. He rolled like a lazy seal into a pool of icy water and out to the Sea of Moving Ice, presumably flipping the adventurers the bird on his way out.
+ + +
The party is becoming frighteningly efficient.
They seemed to have glommed onto the idea of killing the dragon, when their goal was technically to find (or find out about) Maccath the Crimson. Maybe they thought that where the dragon was, Maccath might be, but all actions for the past two sessions have been focused on tracking down the dragon for the purpose of kicking it’s ass. But I’m trying to be more “go with the flow” and less “let’s ram the letter of the module down their throats” kind of DM, so if they want to kill a dragon, they can kill a dragon!
In keeping with recent trends, the party managed to skirt potential disaster through careful application of situational analysis. The cavern that was divided by the ice-island had two magical traps at their most narrow points, neither of which would hurt the party, but both of which would make things mighty inconvenient for them, and would also instantly warn the dragon of their presence. By taking the high-ground, they inadvertently worked their way past those traps and were able to surprise the wurm in its lair. I was both happy — from a tactical point of view — and sad — from a maniacal DM point of view — that it worked out well for them.
It was kind of funny that the party put in a whole lot of discussion about how best to approach the dragon, and as the DM I applaud the seriousness with which they approached this. However, having five characters and knowing that if they managed to land 75% or more of their attacks, the fact that they had Advantage and that the dragon ended up dead last in the Initiative order meant that they would tear through this thing like wet tissue paper. The dragon’s strategy was to run when it was brought below 100HP and beset by at least three enemies, so the wurm decided to Fuck This Shit and get the hell out of Dodge. Of course, saying this does not mean that the party should assume superiority going forward. This is Chapter 1 (technically, it’s 2 or 3, but you know what I mean) so it’s more of a “get into the swing of things” kind of encounter than anything else.
A few issues of note, though: The party still needs to work on their focus. A few times over the past few sessions people have been talking over one another. We like to have fun, and part of the fun is goofing around, but in a two hour window, now with five people, time is at more of a premium than ever. Some people talk more, some people talk less, but it’s an ongoing consideration that we all need to work on so that no one becomes exasperated with his or her experience.
Another issue is that the Rise of Tiamat module in Fantasy Grounds is letting us down. I had to scramble a few times to look up information that the module mentioned, but didn’t provide. For example, the treasure in the dragon’s lair was priced out in terms of GP and SP, and gems were mentioned, but there was nothing specific about what kind of gems, except their oddly ordered value (200gp, 400gp, 600gp, and 800gp). It also said that the DM could offer magic items if desired. I felt this was a good idea because A) the ranger specifically went Detect Magic on the cavern, B) both RoT and HotDQ have been suspiciously magic-item-lite, and C) the circumstances that the party has not yet uncovered practically demand that there be magic items. So I rolled on the DM Guide tables, and it spewed a whole lot of text into the chat window, sowing confusion (mine) as I tried to collect that info into a Parcel for the party to work with. I dislike administrative tasks — although I know it’s part of the DM’s job — and as much as I love FG I felt that last night I was really fighting the system. We also tried to get effects applied. The waladin’s Hex and the ranger’s Hunter’s Mark worked well for application but not for execution, but the druid’s Stoneskin had no applicable effect defined, and I didn’t have time to research how to build one. What’s the point of automation if only auotmates 50% of the things, 50% of the time?