What’s down that corridor?

“Well why don’t you go down there and find out?” comes the reply. So happily the squishy tiefling warlock strolls casually down the corridor, and at the end, 13 cultists. A good initiative roll and smart choice in spell blocked off the threat for a moment and that was it for the session.

I’ve been running Tyranny of Dragons D&D 5E campaign for some friends in my local game store. We’ve been playing 3.5 in someone else’s homebrew world and they need a few weeks off to prep so I offered to run a quick one shot in 5E which ended up being a 3(?) week dungeon crawl, apparently five rooms was way too many. So now we play alternating weeks and I’ve been thinking of keeping track of what happens in each session somewhere, here is as good as anywhere.

So today obviously started with the fallout of poking a hornet’s nest, we’re just starting the Dragon Hatchery dungeon in Chapter 3 and because of a large amount of role play in Greenest we only just managed the first encounter in the previous session. We were down two players to start, and one of those was the closest to a tank, the fighter, Silk, but he had graciously allowed someone to run his character. I had not scaled the fight from the prescribed numbers which are meant to be for a party of four players, but so far the numbers in the book have seemed pretty good for seven. The layout of the dungeon lent itself to bottle-necking the enemies so I can see four strategic players being able to pull it off.

Right, onto the actual session. Play started with the warlock backing down the corridor he’d just blocked off with Cloud of Daggers and conveying to the party that maybe that wasn’t a great idea. The player’s arranged themselves to allow two enemies out of the 5ft wide corridor and the rouge prepared an action to use his fire breath weapon (a homebrew we’d worked out from his fire eater background). Then the daggers dropped and the cultist forces charged out of their guard barracks and down the corridor, the first four cultists were all caught in the fire breath and most failed their Dexterity saves. Then I forgot it was still my turn.

The players were able to take a lot of attacks against the cultists including a very nasty death domain cleric (why I allowed that… well encouraged it) with ‘Toll the Dead’ and the Reaper class feature which allows it to be twinned to a second target, a nasty 1d12 if the creature is already damaged. Luckily for me the one of the two dragonclaws at the front was tanky enough to survive the round and have their own nasty traits. ‘Pack Tactics’ gives the dragonclaw advantage on attacks when an ally is within 5ft of the opponent, and then ‘Fanatic Advantage’ giving them an extra 2d6 damage on any attack that lands with advantage. Unluckily the obvious target of the fighter has an AC of 20 with a combination of mage armour and a shield, of course the first attack missed, the first of two. The second attack landed some significant damage, a natural 20 on the advantage roll so 4d6 of damage. Now that I think of it you double all dice on a critical, so should that have been 6d6 damage? Either way, one die gave me a 1, but the others gave a 6, 5 and 4.

The cultists, a little more sheepishly, had approached down the corridor but the rogue had spent the time to “recharge” his fire breath, taking a mouthful of lantern oil. He only caught 2 cultists in the blast, the third had been taken out by another player and the fourth square hadn’t been moved back into. The remaining turns there consisted of the rouge, fighter and paladin taking swings at the cultists as they funnelled out of the corridor.

To keep things interesting though, a contingent of the cultists had fallen back to alert their boss and then that group had taken a second path through the dungeon to swing around and flank the party. I gave them the opportunity a round before they arrived to make perception checks to hear them approaching but of the people able to make the checks only one player got anywhere near the DC and so I gave them the sound of footfalls echoing through the chamber behind them.

Next round the cultists appeared, running on a different initiative to the first group, but they had picked up the cleric Frulam Mondath and an extra dragonclaw for good measure. The group came in behind the warlock and two cultists were able to get in range to attack. Frulam was not in a good position to cast anything offensive so I chose to cast spirit guardians (technically I decided this mid way between this and their next turn).

The next round had the rogue and paladin taking out the last of the cultists in the corridor while the fighter pulled back to help the warlock out. The warlock made an attempt to eldritch blast even though I told him he’d be rolling with disadvantage, his first roll was good, his second wasn’t, and then moved back 5ft to only suffer one attack of opportunity, but this really only led to the cultists having more space to attack the party. The death domain cleric cast Spiritual weapon to try and trigger concentration checks on Mondath but missed with the attack. The other cleric in the party (Life Domain) cast Sanctuary on herself and Aid on the party and made to retreat from the approaching combatants.

Mondath responded with her own Spiritual Weapon and along with two of the cultists made to surround the party and attack the Life domain cleric however she had cast sanctuary on herself to evade such attacks. The additional dragonclaw went in to attack the fighter and the cultists stepped in to attack the warlock again. This backfired somewhat in that the Warlock instead of using eldritch blast (and with some convincing) cast Arms of Hadar attacking the four cultists surrounding him and the fighter but also the fighter and rouge were in the attack radius. All but one of the cultists failed their saving throw and so did the rogue. Given the opportunity with most of the cultists unable to react the warlock fell back away from the front line and the rogue took his place.

Given that the battle was not going so well for the cultists, the ones in the tunnel had been finished off and the ones who had come around to flank were not doing so well Mondath cast a mass healing word on her forces and directed her spiritual weapon to attack. The party still dealt significant damage on the cultist and in the next round Mondath made her attempt to escape, she cast Command on the Death domain cleric trying to stop his spiritual weapon from attacking her and on it’s failure sanctuary on herself which did succeed and she made a bolt for the cave entrance.

The next (and last) round of combat consisted of both the clerics making attempts to stop Mondath from escaping, The Life cleric cast Sacred Flame and the Death cleric attempted to cast hold person, they both threw in their initiative tokens to inflict disadvantage on the saving throws but on all four rolls Mondath managed to escape their attempts and bolt for the exit, but not before using her spiritual weapon one last time to no effect.

The combat over, the party investigated the chambers the cultists had come from to discover the personal quarters of Mondath, the guard barracks and an emptied treasure room. After some coaxing the rouge made some proper search checks and found the secret tunnel the cultists had used to flank them, a few stray copper pieces and some broken and discarded goods left in the treasure room. I had the warlock’s patron speak to him to get him to search the treasure room himself and of course he rolled no better than the rogue, anyway I had him find a single gem that glinted with an unnatural flash, something connected to his patron’s goals.

The party decided to attempt a long rest and we left the session there, whether that will work or not we’ll have to see.