MARVELOUS MAGICAL ITEMS
The Glimmering Bow appears to be an unstrung composite longbow made of strong, polished wood weighing about 3 pounds. When it is picked up, the person holding the bow immediately feels that the bow is enchanted, however the user must attune herself to the bow before fully understanding its properties. Attunement is accomplished by spending a short rest concentrating on the bow and must be uninterrupted. Casting an Identify spell on the bow will reveal its properties to the caster. The bow grants a +2 to hit and damage rolls. Simply drawing your fingers in the air near the bow causes it to be strung by a glimmering purple arrow. The arrow is composed of magical arcane energy similar to that of a Magic Missile spell. The arrows inflict 2d6 points of Force damage. When the bow is drawn, the arrow sheds light equal to a standard torch. As the user progresses in strength and ability so does the bow. At Level 4, the bow will create two arrows instead of one and at 8th the bow creates 3 Force arrows. Attack and damage rolls remain at +2 for each arrow, and the attacks can be directed at different opponents if the user wishes. The bow is worth 22.600 gold and radiates an aura of 6th level magic.
DuBois Area Fantasy Photoshoot is a group of people from DuBois and surrounding areas who gather together for free costumed photoshoots and lots of fun!
While in the employ of Lord Dagult Neverember, the Company traveled from the city of Neverwinter to Phandalin to deliver a precious relic to one of the newly formed churches. Now they are headed South towards the town of Greenest. On the way, they discovered the Karst Caves, a base of operations of the Black Spider whom is an agent of the legendary Cult of the Dragon! Quite on accident, the Company was transported to a War Council meeting where the Cult of the Dragon has revealed their plans for conquering the Sword Coast. During the meeting, the Black Spider threatened to reveal their deception, and the Company responded with violence …
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!”
- Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
- Vrae’ree Everhurden, 2nd Level Drow Elf Wizard
- Fo, 3rd Level Human Monk [Faction: Lord's Alliance]
- Tharivol, 1st Level High Elf Fighter
- Deiter, 2nd Level Human Fighter (Noble)
The Company infiltrated a War Council meeting of the Cult of the Dragon, discovering many of their secrets. The meeting was being lead by a Half-Dragon named LANGDEDROSA CYANWRATH. Discussion revealed that the newest leader of the Cult of the Dragon is a Calishite man named SEVERIN SILRAJIN. This new leader has broken away fom the traditional teachings of the Cult and has decided to interpret religious texts in his own perspective. He believes that true power lies within the living dragons of the Reams, not Dracoliches. SEVERIN has dedicated the Cult to venerating TIAMAT, THE DARK QUEEN and seeking to complete an ancient ritual that will finally undo the spell that banished TIAMAT to the Nine Hells so long ago.
Tiamat has smiled on SEVERIN, revealing to him the existence of ancient artifacts known simply as THE DRAGON MASKS. There are five, each colored in representation of the Chromatic children of TIAMAT. These ancient masks allows their wears to commune with Dragonkind including Dragons, Drakes, Wyvern, Dragonborn, and Kolbolds – to only name a few. More importantly though, the wearer of each Mask becomes a WYRMSPEAKER able to influence and sway the thoughts of Dragons. SEVERIN claims that when all five of the Dragon Masks are brought together and assembled, the masked join to form the single MASK OF THE DRAGON QUEEN. By using the assembled mask, SEVERIN will be able to tear open a rift to the Nine Hells and release TIAMAT into the Realms.
The Cult has managed to keep its plots a secret. Many know of the Cult’s increased activity but few know the purpose behind it. Besides drawing together the various Cult cells throughout the Sword Coast, SEVERIN has also used his influence to forge alliances with several powerful criminal organizations throughout the Realms. These include such groups as THE RED WIZARDS OF THAY, and THE CHURCH OF BANE.
LANGDEDROSA CYANWRATH explained that although the Cult has operated in small cells which vary in size, it is time for the Cult to come together and focus their attention on SEVERIN’s orders. Any cells that are not willing to comply as to be considered splinter factions and will be eliminated. The Half-Dragon continued by saying that at this time the Cult has already found most of the Dragon Masks. While SEVERIN works to obtain them all, the Cult cells here in the Sword Coast are to focus on smuggling a vast treasure hoard worthy of thr DARK QUEEN North towards the WELL OF DRAGONS. While the treasure is being transported, the main trade routes between Neverwinter and Candlekeep must be controlled. Loss of the HOARD OF THE DRAGON QUEEN will mean major set backs to the Cult. The organization has been working to gather these vast amounts of treasure for several years awaiting the opportunity to release TIAMAT from her prison.
The Black Spider is a renegade Drow named NEZZNAR. He joined the Cult of the Dragon after being recruited by a man named FAVRIC. Nezznar encountered the Dragon Cultists accidentally while leading raids against wagons and caravans on the Triboar Trail and High Road. The Black Spider saw the power and resources of the Cult of the Dragon as a means to an end. NEZZNAR would help to guard and maintain one of the Cult’s DRAGON HATCHERIES located in the KARST CAVES while he continued to search for the fabled FORGE OF SPELLS.
Becoming a lieutenant in the Cult of the Dragon was useful for NEZZNAR. It put him into contact with KING GROL of CRAGMAW CASTLE who placed several CRAGMAW GOBLINS at his disposal for raiding on the trade routes. The Black Spider made sure that 10% of the loot was constantly carried to CRAGMAW CASTLE while the remaining 90% was added to the treasurey within the Cult’s complex in the KARST CAVES. NEZZNAR was also in contact with several of the other DRAGON HATCHERIES in the surrounding area hidden underground between Neverwinter and Candlekeep. When his soldiers weren’t raiding on the routes or transporting treasure, he had them searching the vast KARST CAVERNS looking for entrances to the WAVE ECHO CAVES. The Black Spider knew that somewhere in the WAVE ECHO CAVES was an ancient temple of DUMATHOIN which contained the legendary FORGE OF SPELLS.
When NEZZNAR encountered the Company in the KARST CAVES, it was purely by accident. He was exploring another set of Dwarven secret passages that crisscrossed throughout the cavern networks. He recognized the Company as wearing regalia of the Cult of the Dragon, but he was unsure of their purpose within the caves. NEZZNAR feared that this was one of the rumored “splinter factions” who were still loyal to SAMMASTER rather than SEVERIN.
NEZZNAR used his spells to interact with the strangers. He cloaked himself in an Obsuring Mist and spoke with them. But this proved only to further confirm his fears. Casting Suggestion to weaken them seemed only to affect one of the Humans. Using Misty Step, he took a position where he could better assert himself. But this led only to combat. He attempted to escape using Invisibility, but the Moon Elf with them had too keen of senses to be fooled. As a last resort, he called cast Darkness and then used his magical staff to slip away. He was already late to the War Council meeting. He would report these traitors to the Council, and in doing so prove himself to be a valuable resources. Of course, he would need help from the Cult’s clerics first … he was severely wounded.
Damn that Dark Elf and his Company… thought the Black Spider … I will have my revenge. I swear it by Lady Lolth.
Fo and Tharivol launched themselves into the air thirty feet above Vrae’ree, brandishing their weapons. Deiter lifted a javelin and launched it mightily at the Black Spider. Vrae’ree watched the actions of his companions and felt a sickening in his stomach. This was going wrong. Horribly terribly wrong.
“This is death…” whispered Vrae’ree. “We cannot survive.”
The javelin flew through the air, striking Nezzar the Black Spider in the chest. The Drow stumbled backwards, crying out in pain as he clutched at his chest. He fell backwards on the to the ground near the table. Vrae’ree watched in shocked awe as the leaders at the table all recoiled, retreating from the platform as several black-clad guards rushed the stage.
Tharivol landed roughly and was grabbed by two Dragonclaw guards. He shrugged off one, but the second overpowered him. He was forced to the ground, and held there in a hammerlock. Fo on the other hand landed gracefully and tumbled away from the oncoming Dragonclaw thugs.
“No,” shouted Vrae’ree. “You fools! This is not the time for bloodshed or petty revenge!” The Dark Elf waved his hands in there air, watching the War Council meeting erupt into chaos. He looked over to see Cyanwrath stomping angrily towards the stage. He seemed to have the angry air of an annoyed Father watching his young children fight among themselves needlessly.
“Stop these childish games!” boomed Cyanwrath. “Now is not the time for challenges or duels!” He stomped up on to the platform in the middle of the battle and raised his oversized Bastard Sword. He growled, his golden eyes gleeming brightly. “Stop!”
There was a flash of lightning, and suddenly the Company found themselves in a different location. They were unable to move, entrhalled by some kind of magic. They were no longer in the huge meeting chamber, but now they stood in some kind of Shrine to Tiamat. The chamber had cleared been reshaped and rformed from its original form. The floor and walls were smooth like glass, the stalagmites and stalactites polished into gleaming columns. Every surface glistened with moisture, and the air was warm. The flat walls of the chamber were engraved with abstract carvings of different kinds of Dragons. In the Northwest corner of the chamber stood a monstrous scrimshaw carving of a five headed dragon emerging from an erupting volcano. In front of the statue was a large wooden chest filled with gems and silver coins.
Langdedrosa Cyanwrath sat on a throne flanked by two large men dressed in the traditional black leather armor of the Cult. Both men were nearly seven feet tall. It was possible that both men could have been barbarians from the Far North. Although Cyanwrath seemed to be relaxing, the two guards appeared to be coiled and ready to strike.
Looking around, Fo realized that the throne Cyanwrath was sitting on was decorated to resemble Tiamat. However, usually the Red Dragon head would be in the center of the throne. However, this one epresented the Black Dragon head at the center of the throne. Fo found this interesting. What could it mean?
Vrae’ree observed that the carvings on the walls overrepresented Black Dragons for some reason. Nearly half of the Dragon ingravings on the walls are those of Black Dragons, and nearly every one had small holed drilled into their mouths. What could be the purpose of this detail?
Tharivol noticed that the chamber was certainly a shrine to Tiamat. He recognized the goddess from folktales from his youth. He remembered learning about how the Dark Queen was banished to the Nine Hells long ago by Elven Wizards. She remains there, and cannot return unless the Elven magic is undone. Could the Cult of the Dragon really undo such ancient and powerful magic?
Deiter studied the carvings, and realized that the intricate patterns appear to be some kind of language. He peered closer, drawing on his knowledge of Draconian writings during his childhood studies at the Castle. He can to the realization that the markings were a poem of some kind, possibly a spell that was protecting this shrine. What exactly was the true purpose of this paticular shrine?
All of them noticed at the same time that NEZNARR, the Black Spider, was laying unconscious on the floor in the center of the shrine. He was still bleeding freely from his wounds. Given enough time, the Drow would simply die from blood loss. Already his deep black skin was beginning to pale.
The Company suddenly felt that they were released and able to move again. Cynawrath greeted them and explained that he had grown weary of the squabbling at the War Council meeting. Cyanwrath explained to them that although he had reason to bring action against The Black Spider, that now was not the time to do so. The Cult’s plan was entering the second phase, and everything must continue as it is. During the conversation, Cyanwrath demanded that they remove their masks while they spoke with him. When they did, Cyanwrath seemed to recognize Fo.
“I remember you from Greenest,” said the Half-Dragon with a toothy grin. “You are the Sorcerer who assisted us in setting fire to the Mill. What is your name again?
Fo hesitated. He glanced at his companions and then back at Cyanwrath. “Fu,” said Fo. “My name is Fu.”
Cyanwrath laughed. “Yes!” He slapped his knee. “Fu, that is right.” He leaned back into his chair. “You did well at the siege of Greenest. We were able to raze the town and take the salves we needed without much effort at all.” He paused. “Yes, you did well for us.”
Everyone stood silent for a moment, not sure what to make of this new information. One, it appeared that Fo might have been assisting the Cult in Greenest. Second, it seemed that Greenest had been sacked. This was yet another bit of distressing news for them all. Most of them had personal business to conduct in Greenest. Family and friend were there … and now may be slaves of the Cult … for worse … simple dead.
“I do not trust this Drow,” said Cyanwrath finally. “But he serves a purpose and must be allowed to live … for the time being.”
Fo and Vrae’ree both argued that the Black Spider should be executed for his failure to the Cult. Fo suggested that Vrae’ree be promoted to a position to oversee the Black Spider’s operations, but in the end Cyanwrath made it clear that there would be no changes in operations at this time.
“However,” commented Cyanwrath as he sat forward. “I do have a mission that you can do that is very important.”
Cyanwrath continued to explain to them that The Mere of Dead Men has become a very important location for the Cult of the Dragon. At the edge of the swamp lies CASTLE NAERYTAR where one of the Cult leaders, REZMIR, has decided to use as a base of operations because the castle contains not only a Pool of Radiance but also an ancient portal called THE FARSEER OF ILLUSK.
Cyanwrath sighed. “REZMIR is a trusted sister within the Cult. However, she is focused more on the portal than the operations of the Castle. I fear that she has instead put some of her minions in charge of overseeing transport of the treasure. Since most of the soldiers in that area are subjugated Lizardfolk and Bullywugs, I fear that REZMIR may have made NAERYTR a weak link within our chain.”
Cyanwrath continued. “I would like you to go to CASTLE NAERTYR and ensure that all is well. No not interfere in the operations unless it is clear that things are being delayed or threatened. There is an Orc named BOG LUCK and a Bullywug Shaman named PHARBLEX SPATTERGOO that you will need to make contact with when you arrive.”
The Company explained that they would need provisions and supplies for the mission. Cyanwrath agreed, and instructed one of the large guards to lead them to the treasury to obtain what they needed. He also supplied them with a fist-sized ruby that would transport them to wherever they needed to go next before starting their mission. And at the request of Vrae’ree, they were also given a small scroll with a seal that would identify them as agents of Cyanwrath and the Cult of the Dragon.
Tharivol walked with his companions towards the treasury. “What have we gotten ourselves into?” he thought. “And how long can this ruse last?”
… to be continued …
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While in the employ of Lord Dagult Neverember, the Company traveled from the city of Neverwinter south towards Waterdeep. Their first stop was at Phandalin to deliver a precious relic to one of the newly formed churches. Now they are on the High Road heading South. Ultimately, they intend to end their journey in the far South at Greenest. On the way, they discovered the Karst Caves, a base of operations for bandits who have been raiding the trade routes between Neverwinter and Waterdeep. They have decided to clear out the caves, depriving the enemy of supplies and resources. However, the enemy is aware of their presence…
“If quick, I survive.
If not quick, I am lost.
This is “death.”
― Sun Tzu
- Vrae’ree Everhurden, 2nd Level Drow Elf Wizard
- Fo, 3rd Level Human Monk [Faction: Lord's Alliance]
- Therivol, 1st Level High Elf Fighter
- Deiter, 2nd Level Human Fighter (Noble)
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The Company was just recovering from their encounter with The Black Spider when they heard something approaching from the South. The noise was an odd flip-flopping sound. The Company spread out. Fo moved forward with Therivol, both readying themselves just at the bend in the tunnel for whatever might be approaching. Vrae’ree stepped back, and prepared to call forth magic. Deiter withdrew an arrow, notching it into place and preparing to fire. All of them expected the worst.
At that moment, something or someone attempted to make a telepathic link with the Company. Deiter forced whatever it was from his mind, but the others succumbed. Everyone except Deiter could see an image in their mind’s eye of a large concave cathedral with several ledges overlooking a central large platform. The cathedral was filled with hundreds of humans, all wearing garb and regalia of several different villainous organizations throughout Faerûn.
At the same time, everyone expect Deiter was also aware that whatever was making the telepathic link was the creäture flip-flopping towards them up the tunnel. They heard broken Common in their mind saying, “You late. Master send for you.” At this moment, a strange creature rounded the corner and stopped when they saw the Company. It was a monster standing maybe six feet tall, but hunched over as it walked. It’s feet were webbed like a frog’s causing the odd flopping noise as it walked. It’s crooked back was covered in dangerous looking spikes, and it’s wide head featured a large, green eye. It’s maw was filled with tiny, sharp teeth and its hands ended in terrible claws.
“A Nothic,” said Vrae’ree in surprise. “A monster of the Underdark. Wizards use them to carry out mystical tasks. It’s gaze can rot flesh from the body. It is a deadly beast indeed.”
Deiter scowled. “Shall I kill it?”
Therivol shook his head at the noble. “It means us no harm.”
The Nothic seemed to ignore what the Dark Elf said, and raised it’s clawed hands up in a peaceful gesture. They heard the voice in their minds again. “Away your weapons. Follow to the Master.” With that said, the creature started plodding down the hallway back the way it came.
Fo smiled dubiously, glancing at his companions. Clearly, whatever it was that this monster was referring to as “The Master” was aware of their presence in the Karst Caves. He whispered softly, “Our disguises.”
Therivol nodded in agreement. “It would seem that the Black Spider reported our presence and believes we are a part of the Cult.”
Deiter relaxed slightly, unnocking his arrow and lowering his bow. “I don’t trust it.”
Vrae’ree strode forward confidently, gesturing for his companions to be quiet. He spoke a little louder than needed with a smile. “Come along. We are late enough as it is!” He hoped that his fellow adventurers would understand that he was falling into character as the leader again as he had claimed to the Black Spider. “Let’s not waste any more time!”
Everyone except Deiter followed Vrae’ree’s lead. Deiter didn’t budge. “This is a trap. It’s a bad situation. I don’t trust that thing.”
Fo clapped the nobleman on the shoulder, whispering softly. “Then stay here, friend. Maybe you will find some more Kobolds in the dark.”
Deiter watched the others walk down the corridor following the Nothic. He watched the hunched, olive-green skinned humanoid as a magical doorway composed of crackling purple and black energy appeared in front of it. The monster peered back at the Company with its single, enormous emerald eye. Then the thing stepped through the doorway and disappeared.
“No,” breathed Deiter. But he watched as each of his companions stepped through the magical portal. He sighed, and walked forward into the magical doorway. Stepping through, he found himself within a huge underground meeting hall. It was an enormous concave cathedral with ledges all around the sides at ten foot intervals. These ledges were occupied by hundreds of humans all wearing the regalia of different criminal organizations in the Realms. Deiter saw that the bottom two ledges were filled with Wearers of Purple, high ranking memebrs of the Cult of the Dragon. Higher up he saw representatives of the Cragmaw Goblin tribe, Thundertree Kobold clans, Red Wizards of Thay, Asmodai priests from Neverwinter, Netherese wizards, and even a few People of the Black Blood. Overwhelmingly there were twice as many Dragonclaws on the ledges dressed in their black leather armor, cloaks, and masks.
A hundred or so feet down the cavern ended in a wide floor that served as a huge platform. Standing on the platform was a giant creature that appeared to be half man and half dragon. It was speaking loudly in a booming voice. Behind the half-dragon-man was a large table where several humanoids sat. There was an odd assortment of various humanoids. This appeared to be some sort of gathering for the Cult of the Dragon. And they had wandered smack dab into the middle of it!
Deiter looked to his companions. The rest of the Company seemed to be taking in the spectacle as well. As the fact that they had literally walked into the headquarters of the enemy began to settle into their minds, they all noticed that the Nothic they had followed was joining with three others of its kind who clung to the walls surrounding the large alcove doorway that lead into the cathedral. They all exchanged glances, knowing that one stray thought could cause the Nothics to realize the deception at hand, and send them into a murderous rage.
They could hear that the loud booming voice addressing the group was speaking in Draconic. However, as they listened they felt the Nothics penetrate their minds again, translating what they heard into his native language. They would have to be very careful to contain their thoughts as much as possible.
Vrae’ree Everhurden strode forward past the Nothics and through the alcove. He saw two large men on the other side dressed in Dragonclaw armor. The first masked man gestured for Vrae’ree to stop, and the second pointed to a ledge down the stairs that was perhaps thirty feet above the main platform on the ground. “There is room for you there,” the cultist whispered and started walking in that direction to escort them. Before Vrae’ree could follow, the other man clapped him on the shoulder and pulled him to the side. As the others follow the first cultist down the stairs, he asked Vrae’ree: “Which of you is your leader?”
Vrae’ree hesitated. He considered claiming that the Black Spider was their leader. Then he realized that the cultist was asking which one of the Company was the leader. It made sense of course. The “Master” had them transported here because he mistakenly thought they were members of a rival sect of Dragon Cultists who raided the Karst Caves. Fo and Therivol were wearing the regalia of Dragonclaws, and the others were dressed in the garb of the Wild Elves that had attacked them on the High Road. Their disguises has accidentally landed them into the midst of the enemy, and the enemy assumed they were allies.
“I am the leader,” Vrae’ree said. “Of course.” He sneered at the Dragonclaw allowing his purple Drow eyes to shimmer. Drow eyes are usually bright red, but some are known to have different colored, commonly much paler, eyes such as blue, lilac, pink or silver. Sometimes their eyes are even green which would implicate that this particular Drow has some surface elven blood in their veins. However, purple eyes are usually a tell of something more interesting,some sort of anomaly or heritage that is not that of pure Drow.
The Dragonclaw nodded. “Well then, brother, follow me.” He turned and started walking down the stairs. “You will join the other leaders at the table.” Vrae’ree glanced helplessly at his companions who were now being ushered on to the ledge to observe the meeting. He pulled the hood of his robes up, and followed the cultist down to the platform where Langdedrosa Cyanwrath continued to speak in a loud, booming voice.
Vrae’ree sat down at the table, and glanced around. He noticed right away that the Black Spider was at the other end of the table. The Drow appeared to now be in good health, and was sneering at him angrily with a look that could kill. Vrae’ree met his gaze and sneered back, causing the rival Drow to look away in disgust.
Next to the Black Spider sat a Goblin. It’s teeth were carved into sharp points. This was the right hand of King Grol of the Cragmaw Goblins who harass and raid caravans along the Triboar Trail. The Goblin was larger and uglier than most of its kind, and wore a talisman that was marked with a sumbol of Maglubiyet. The third leader was a young woman with short black hair. Her name was Frulam Mondath, and she was charged with the rear guard of the caravan smuggling the Hoard of the Dragon Queen towards the North. She seemed displeased, and sat scowling. She was dressed in purple robes, and armor signifying that she was an officer in the Cult of the Dragon. The fourth was a rotund, bald gnome wearing loose-fitting brown robes. His cheeks were flushed red and he had a jovial smile plastered on his fat face. He openly wore a large medallion around his neck marked with the symbol of Urdlen.
Vrae’ree continued to look around him, trying to settle in and take stock of the other leaders. He took care to keep an air of importance and to try to look like he belonged at the table. He noticed that the fifth member of the table was a handsome, golden-haired Elf that seemed out-of-place among these devilish characters. He wore a silver circlet in his shimmering hair and gossamer robes of the brightest azure along with a royal blue cloak trimmed in silver. Next to him sat a brown-skinned bald man dressed in gold and red robes. His forehead was marked with intricate tattoos and it was immediately clear that he was a high-ranking member of the Red Wizards. Vrae’ree sighed. This wouldn’t be easy.
Meanwhile, Fo was listening closely to what Langdedrosa Cyanwrath was speaking about to the crowd. It was clear that they had accidentally stumbled into a War Council for the Cult of the Dragon! Fo knew that these meetings were usually held to decide on a course of action, usually in the midst of a battle. Under normal circumstances, decisions are made by a commanding officer, optionally communicated and coordinated by staff officers, and then implemented by subordinate officers. But Fo knew that Councils of War are typically held when matters of great importance must be decided, consensus must be reached with subordinates, or when the commanding officer is unsure of his or her position. Apparently this Cyanwrath had brought together several leaders from across the Sword Coast for a vote. Fo grinned broadly under his mask. He must report this information to the Lord’s Alliance.
Langdedrosa Cyanwrath was explaining that for years, the evil Cult of the Dragon has devoted itself to creating undead dragons in a vain attempt to fulfill an ancient prophecy. However, the cultists were misguided. They misunderstood. But now, under new leadership, the cult believes that the prophecy does not speak of undead dragons, but of a dragon empire that’s been extinct for 25,000 years. Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons, has languished in the Nine Hells for millennia. The cult believes that the time of her return is at hand.
He described that the Sword Coast was ripe for the picking. With the Sundering in full swing, the land is in chaos and turmoil. Neverwinter struggles to maintain its security from enemies within and without. Lord Protector Anivar Daoran, is dead, and the city of Phlan is in disorder. Waterdeep is under siege by Drow streaming out of the portals of Undermountain. The city of Iriaebor is cut off from the Western Heartlands, ruled by foul creatures who serve Ghaunadaur, The Elder Elemental Eye. Baldur’s Gate is fully under the control of the Church of Bane. Pwyll Greatshout has been bought off to along for Cult activities to go unmolested within Daggerford while Dragonspear Castle is under the full control of the Cult at this time. And most recently, the town of Greenest was razed to the ground. The Cult is in control of the major trade routes and cities within the Sword Coast.
And best of all, added the half-Dragon with a monstrous smile, Lady Lolth remains in control of the Weave and has revealed the location of several Pools of Radiance that the cult will be able to use to tear open a rift to the Nine Hells. One of these is located in Phlan and is already being harnessed by a cabal of spellcasters. Another lies in the North near Ten Towns and Icewind Dale.
The half-dragon continued to explain the current state of affairs with the Cult of the Dragon’s activities. The Cult searches for the five ancient Dragon Masks needed in a ritual to raise Tiamat’s temple from the Nine Hells. The cult leaders believe that the Red Dragon Mask is buried in Icewind Dale. The cult’s supreme leader, Severin, has set out to retrieve the mask while his most trusted subordinate, Galvan, has contacted a Red Wizard name Rath Modar, living in exile nearby in Luskan. Rath’s magic will prove useful to help the cult hide its activities.
The cult has also reached out to its dragon allies in the North. An ancient white dragon keeps the people of Ten Towns holed up in their settlements, while red dragons harry the barbarian and orc tribes on the slopes of the Spine of the World and lash out at nearby settlements and wayward caravans.
At this, the crowd cheered. Their voices echoes throughout the cavern, threatening to deafen the Company as they watched and listened somewhat dumbfounded. Fo exchanged glances with his comrades. All of this seemed overwhelming and impossible.
The cult has a new face and a new mission. It seeks to free Tiamat from the Nine Hells and bring her into the Forgotten Realms. To carry out its goal, the cult needs five ancient dragon masks and the support of evil dragons everywhere. The cult leaders—each one a “dragon whisperer”—have reached out to the evil dragons of the Sword Coast and earned their allegiance.
Meanwhile, evil dragons in partnership with the cult seek to amass a treasure hoard worthy of their dark queen, not by plundering their own hoards but by stealing money from cities, caravans, good-aligned dragons, merchant ships, and other sources. Their ravenous hunt for treasure throws the Sword Coast into upheaval. Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate—no city is safe from their depredations.
He also described their adversaries in this plot to control the Sword Coast region. The Harpers are a scattered network of spellcasters and spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power. The Order of the Gauntlet is composed of faithful and vigilant seekers of justice who protect others from the depredations of evildoers. The Emerald Enclave is a widespread group of wilderness survivalists who keep the natural order while rooting out unnatural threats. The Lords’ Alliance is a loose coalition of established political powers concerned with mutual security and prosperity. And the Zhentarim is an unscrupulous shadow network that seeks to expand its influence and power throughout Faerûn. He reminded them that none of these organizations can be trusted.
Finally, the Half-Dragon speaker turns to face the table of leaders. “And now, I turn the meeting over to our various Masters. I thank you all for coming to the Council meeting. I know that many could not attend, but it is good to see our allies joining us in making further plans to crush the Sword Coast below the Dark Queen’s talons!” Again, the crowd cheered, and Cyanwrath gestured to the Black Spider. Then, the Half-Dragon departed from the stage and walked away to a secondary chamber nearby.
The Drow Elf stood up, and adjusted his robes. His red eyes flashed with hate, and he turned to point an accusing finger at Vrae’ree. “My first order of business is that of revealing a traitor in our midst!” He took a few steps towards Vrae’ree and then turned to face the crowd. “This Dark Elf raided my domain and slayed many of my soldiers! They stole from the hatchery and even went so far as to attack and wound me personally! He and his cell are traitors to our cause, and should be executed immediately!”
The crowd exploded into murmurs and discord. Several shouted for Vrae’ree’s blood. Others called out that the Black Spider was a weakling. Fo glanced around, and nodded to his companions. Now was the perfect opportunity to launch an attack at the Black Spider before the Drow could say too much and show their deception.
Meanwhile, Vrae’ree waved his hands and argued with the Black Spider. “Now is the time to put our differences to the side,” he shouted. “We cannot help that you attacked us when we entered your lair! You were the aggressors and we merely defended ourselves!”
Fo and Therivol launched themselves into the air thirty feet above Vrae’ree, brandishing their weapons. Deiter lifted a javelin and launched it mightily at the Black Spider. Vrae’ree watched the actions of his companions and felt a sickening in his stomach. This was going wrong. Horribly terribly wrong.
“This is death…” whispered Vrae’ree. “We cannot survive.”
“Wealth abounds; it is simply awaiting the hand bold and strong enough to take it!”
- Gary Gygax, AD&D DMG, 1979
Treasure hunting is a big part of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Every player wants his or her character to nab an awesome magical item to use during the game. Could you imagine Conan not seeking out gems and gold to squander on wine and women? Raistlin without his Staff of Magius? Fafhrd without a bag of gems on his belt? Or even Drizzt without his cunning scimitars? What’s the fun in that?!
However, as Dungeon Masters we cannot simply hand out treasure without considering the logic of the game itself. We must remember that our playing characters work within a milieu of a game based on advancement and achievement. Even as the playing characters gain treasure and magical items they also achieve new levels of ability and power. Balance should be the key. An experienced Dungeon Master must consider the proper placement of monetary treasure within the campaign setting. One must seek to entertain the players and empower the playing characters without ruining the game milieu.
Common sense seems to tell the arbiter of the campaign that the underlying precept of the game of Dungeons & Dragons is advancement in strength from weak to strong. Therefore, the availability of treasure should advance as well depending on the principle of adventuring and success thereat to reward the players for excellent participation and the playing characters for resounding achievement. Therefore, the Dungeon Master should also consider the merit and relative strength of the playing characters and the party when rewarding treasure. So first and foremost we must consider the placement of modest treasures which are appropriate for the beginning stages of the campaign.
Keep in mind that not all monsters will have treasure, and some of them will have trifling amount compared to more dangerous creatures like a dragon or beholder. When considering what treasures to award the playing characters, use some logic. Take the time to consider why the creature has the item in question at all. Why has it not been stolen by a rival monster or abandoned due to disuse. The bulk of treasures awarded for weak, low-level monsters will depend on the campaign that you are devising as the Dungeon Master. But often, these caches will simply contain trinkets, copper and silver coins, and perhaps a few gold pieces here and there.
Assign the treasure to each monster with wisdom. A Slime or Jelly would have a magical sword for completely a different reason than a Bugbear. A band of Bandits might only have a few coins between them due to partying and celebrating in the local tavern. And that nest of Giant Spider had nothing useful except for a few bones and scraps of filthy rags. However, the Giant Centipede made its home in the skeletal remains of several of its victims. These remains hold a few treasures unwittingly hidden within the nests of the creature. There, on a rotting finger, is a gleaming ring and a silver bracelet with a ruby. You see, unintelligent creatures have no need for treasure and would be as likely to abandon them as to hoard them. However, intelligent monsters may either hoard them, use them, or sell them for their own benefit. And then there are the other monsters that may gather treasure simply because they are drawn to shiny objects. They may store the treasure simply by instinct rather than a desire to retain wealth. And naturally some monsters will be so unfortunate to have nothing at all of value within the lair or on their person despite their desire to obtain wealth.
The awarding of treasure should be done with the understanding that players will delve into the Player’s Handbook and other resources to find awesome things for their characters to use on the next adventure. Depending on the playing character’s lifestyle choice, local economy, and ability to fence items of interest, it may be possible for them to amass a decent amount of magical items before even reaching 5th level if the Dungeon Master is not careful. Advancement too fast or possession of improper items too early in a campaign may destroy it. On the other hand, I have had experiences where it has been fun to introduce Artifacts into the hands of low-level playing characters. For example, having The Rod of Seven Parts introduced to First Level characters may prove for a very interesting campaign. It simply takes a little planning ahead by the Campaign Manager to decide what will work and what will not work within the milieu of the ongoing campaign.
For example, I am currently running a campaign for five players using the 5th edition rules. These players are using characters ranging from Level One to Level Three at this point. I decided to use the method on page 13 of the player’s Handbook where ability scores are not generated randomly by using dice, but instead simply assigned using 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. This produced what most of my players considered “weak” characters, especially with the 8 being a below average stat that awards a -1 to most rolls. However, even in using these supposedly “weak” stats for the playing characters, most of the characters ended up with at least a +5 bonus to hit with their weapons. This +5 bonus may not seem like much at first, but it is a factor that must be considered by the Dungeon Master before handing out magical weapons.
Also, keep in mind that a party of playing characters could be rewarded with a huge stash of treasure but be unable to gather and transport it all. Consider the vast wealth contained in Smaug’s hoard during the Hobbit. No party could hope to lug all that treasure out of the dragon’s den. Another example might be the treasure room from National Treasure. The Dungeon Master could describe the vast amount of glittering treasures within the trove and then allow the playing characters the ability to remove a few choice, portable items. The entire trove would be difficult to transport. Even the most clever of playing characters will be hard pressed to come up with a way to garner the entire hoard without outside assistance. And who is trustworthy enough to employ in gathering up such a huge amount of treasure?
Keep in mind that such a collection of goodies would likely be the glint in the eye of another monster just waiting for the opportunity to sweep in and take it all for itself. And even if the playing characters decide that a few will wait at the den to guard the treasure while they return to town to secure help in transporting their new wealth, who knows what danger may befall the now reduced party? Perhaps their friends will return to find the guards dead, ravaged by a rival creature that has now taken control of the trove. The process of driving off, slaying, or outwitting the new monster will start yet another dangerous expedition.
In the likely event that your generosity gets the best of you, keep in mind that the playing characters themselves may become the target of devious folk looking to steal what someone else has acquired through hard work. Maybe there is a René Emile Belloq out there just waiting for the party to return to town. Or maybe the merchant who gave his services to help transport the treasure from the monster’s lair to the town is a thief himself. What better way to make a living them to hire yourself out as a caravan merchant and then simply slit the throats of the newest band of adventurer’s who did all the dirty work. Word often travels fast, and if the playing characters have managed to obtain a vast amount of treasure, they will have to defend themselves from others like themselves. Local rulers may depend taxes or a share of the wealth. All in all this is a reasonable abstraction of their actions to generate further adventures and encounters.
Although there is no quick and fast rule to how a Dungeon Master should assign treasure in his or her campaign, there is a sensible logic that may be used carefully. With some thought, and planning the playing characters can be empowered with cool magical items, and the players can be satisfied with rewards for the deeds of their heroes. The judge of the campaign must simply balance the treasure with the danger involved in each adventure or session, advancing the game in a balanced and exciting manner.
I will end my thoughts with another example from my recent campaigns in the Forgotten Realms. This example focuses on an Ettin and how the playing characters might be presented with a reasonable amount of treasure for the danger of having hunted and defeated a giant creature. However, not all the treasure will be available for the playing characters to take with them. They must make wise choices to take some of the treasure and abandon the rest, or maybe bury it for retrieval later in the campaign.
A large and particular vile Ettin has taken up residence in a small cave network south of the village of Phandalin. This Ettin has amassed a small trove of treasure containing about 2000 gold. This is measured in an assortment of goods, coins, and weapons stolen from folks traveling through the region. It is likely that a band of four or five adventurers ranging from Levels One to Three could easily assault the Ettin’s lair and murder him outright. However, it would not be as easy for them to transport the Ettin’s 2000 gold in treasure. If the Ettin simply had a large gem worth 2000 gold, a playing character could stuff it in his pouch and merrily be on his way. But instead we have a collection of trade goods, coins, and weapons to deal with in the lair. Looking around they would find several iron chests, crates, and other heavy vessels containing various coinage. Perhaps this adds up to half of the treasure, leaving another 1000 gold worth of treasure to describe to the players. Therefore, with further searching, they find that one of the boxes containing coins is finely crafted and worth 100 gold on its own. They also discover a beautiful silver necklace worth perhaps 350 gold pieces! Among the assorted weapons, some of the martial characters manage to discover provisions and food of high quality that would cost another 100 gold at the market. One of the characters finds that the Ettin was using a Giant-Sized Fur cape for a blanket on it’s bug-infested cot. Although the cape is probably worth 200 gold, it is infested with bed bugs and not worth salvaging at all! The remaining 250 gold is found by the party’s monk. He uncovers a two-handed sword with a azure gem in the pommel. Just grasping the sword makes the monk feel powerful and ready to enter battle. The sword is magical, but worth only 250 gold on the open market due to the many notches on its blade.
Although I awarded the players with a total of 2000 gold pieces in treasure for their playing characters, they were only able to claim some of the items for there own based on weight, size, and condition. Even though the Ettin was defeated, the characters must leave some of the treasure behind. If they simply leave the treasure in the lair, it will be found and claimed by other monsters in the region. And even if the playing characters take the time to bury the treasure before leaving, the sound of battle and digging may entice other creatures to investigate. Or maybe the smell of blood lures some other beastie from the darkness of the caves. Or maybe the Ettin has been terrorizing some Goblins in the surrounding area who watched the playing characters enter the cave, and now plan to ambush them to steal the treasure! The possibilities are endless.
The key overall is to use common sense and logic to make the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons a fun one for you and your players alike.