As I hinted in the installment of Tiamat Tuesday on July 8, episodes 5–8 of Hoard of the Dragon Queen are more open-ended than episodes 1–4. The second half of the adventure isn’t a sandbox; characters still have a mystery to unravel and an evil plot to stop. They will, however, face dilemmas that have no by-the-book solutions. The usual methods for shutting down an evil cult won’t work against the Cult of the Dragon. There is no single high priest whose assassination will cause the organization to crumble. The cult’s crucial magic relics are so well-hidden and so misunderstood by outsiders that characters can’t even locate them, let alone destroy them. The cult is too big, too organized, and too dispersed to be knocked out by any single blow or even a combination of blows. Killing this beast will take a thousand cuts, and they must be well-placed ones.
To say Ahjvar the assassin leads a rough life is an understatement. You would think that being an assassin was a tough job, but try being an assassin who doesn’t die. Then try being an assassin who can’t die but wants to—not my idea of a good time. Even further, imagine being good enough at killing people that you have a title like Leopard. Ahjvar, the Leopard, is given an offer from the goddess Catairanach. She wants him to kill a prophet known as the Voice of Marakand. If he kills this prophet, his curse will be lifted and he can die like everyone else.
Like all good assassins, Ahjvar has a problem dealing with people—except his trusty sidekick Ghu, who is much more than he seems. Additionally in this book, a Northron wanderer arrives in Marakand with her demon lover and a magical sword on a mission to bring justice to seven devils that played escape from Alcatraz—only they escaped from hell. Confused yet? I was!
School necromancy; Level cleric 4, sorcerer/wizard 5, witch 4
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (bone dust)
Range 25 ft.
Area cone-shaped burst
Saving Throw no; Spell Resistance yes
You exhale a breath of the driest air, instantly drawing water from flesh and bone. Each target in the burst takes 1d4 Strength damage as muscle, flesh, and bone become dry and brittle. This spell targets living creatures only.
So, your shiny object expert decides that it’s a good idea to pry that gemstone out of place. But, what’s behind that gemstone? Surely something unusual. If you want to roll randomly for one, use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.
For the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, the story told in Tyranny of Dragons is spread across two separate adventure products: Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat. Hoard begins with fledgling, level 1 characters and follows them to level 7 or 8. Rise picks up right where Hoard leaves off and continues on to level 14 or 15. But while these form one continuous story, they are very, very different adventures, and not only because of the difference in tiers—although that plays into it.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen gets characters through the first experience tier and well into the second. The Player’s Handbook states “In the second tier (levels 5-10), characters come into their own,” and that’s certainly the case in Hoard. Each episode in the adventure corresponds roughly to a level: characters should be level 1 when they play episode 1, level 2 when they play episode 2, and so on.