Prepping and running “Hoard of the Dragon Queen,”, the first part of Tyranny of Dragons took a bit of work on my part. The campaign itself has been reviewed elsewhere on the web, so I’m not really going to comment on the actual module itself, just what I did to make things workable for me, broken across a few parts by book chapter.
Whew, D&D 5e character creation is far more straightforward than, say, Pathfinder. However as GM you still have to do a bit of work. As the PCs are unlikely to be in Greenest (but see the Hoard of the Dragon Queen Backgrounds below) it’s a good idea to work out why a group of 1st level characters may be travelling together. For this reason the first session was pure character generation and getting the group to interface (we were in a pub so it helped!). I decided to use the 4d6 (drop the lowest) method as the points-buy system just leads to “cookie-cutter” PCs.
I created a bunch of character sheet templates in form-fillable PDF format, based on the Wizards official sheet. They’re very useful for pulling a character down for a quick build if needed. You can download them here. This helped us get started pretty quickly and brainstorming into the why and wherefores of the characters.
Factions in Hoard of the Dragon Queen
The various factions mentioned in Hoard of the Dragon Queen are initially little more than a character back story tool, if you’re not planning an D&D Adventurers League game. They do provide some interesting colour though and possible plot hooks later. You can find out more at the D&D factions page. I left it up to the players to declare their allegiances or not.
There’s quite a few ideas for why the PCs may be in Greenest given at the back of the book. I gave them to my PCs as a “lucky dip”, but you may want to allocate them to specific characters if so inclined. They’re worth a look as some are very interesting as back story, as well as some of the traits.
I also decided against running an D&D AL (“Adventurers League”) game, as I’d like to have a bit more freedom and so did the players. I also created some variant backgrounds for the PCs, as did one on my players, Alex. Here’s the variants we came up with:
Courtier, Variant Noble
You were either born to power or have risen to a position of small political power at the court or political arena of your choice. You may not have the ear of the rich and powerful but you aspire to it. Instead of the Skill Proficiencies for Noble you instead choose to replace History with either Intimidation or Insight.
Failed Paladin, Variant Soldier Rank
From an early age, you always wanted to be a Paladin. You trained hard, were properly respectful of the Gods and when the time came, you were found wanting. For whatever reason you were not elevated to the status of a Paladin. Since then you try and make up for it by training harder than the others, and retaining your Faith (or not!). You are able to access Temple Precincts where your holy symbol is recognised. Possession: You carry a holy symbol and/or prayer book as well as the basic soldier kit.
Expelled Acolyte, Variant Acolyte
You were never that attentive during lessons at the Temple and if there was any trouble you were always the prime suspect. It was a matter of time until you got kicked out or ran away. Instead of the Skill Proficiencies for Acolyte you can choose to replace Insight with Deception.
Radical, Variant Sage
The Truth is out there. Everyone’s hides it but secret organisations run everything – the Harpers, Zhentarim, you name it.. You’re convinced they’re behind everything. Instead of the Arcana Skill Proficiency, you can replace it with that of Investigation
Inventor (created by Alex)
You always were handy with tools and you liked taking things apart and putting them back together. You made a living as a tinkerer, but always spent your time on thinking of and creating new ideas.
Skill Proficiency: Intelligence (Investigation); Wisdom (Perception)
Tool Proficiency: Tinker’s Tools, Jeweler’s Tools
Equipment: Abacus, Backpack, Bedroll, Traveller’s Clothes, Iron Pot, Various bits of metal (bearings, small gears, etc)
Feature: You have a tiny animal companion that you have constructed. It is in all ways like a normal animal, except you built it from gears, pipes, steam, and fabric. Occasionally it works.
Suggested Characteristics: There was always something more to understand about the world and how it worked. Inventors love taking things apart and putting them back together again. They have a natural curiosity and exuberance about the world.
- I want to know what that is over there! And how this works! And how that happened!
- I know many secrets that I mustn’t tell, but I talk about them all the time, I just can’t tell them.
- I know that if I present myself in the latest fashions and present myself as a modern avant garde personality, people will take my inventions seriously.
- There’s no point to going out if you’re not having fun. Other people never seem to appreciate my jokes as much as I do.
- I don’t have a screw loose, but I might lose a screw. For my toast. I understand and they don’t.
- I’ll be rich, independently wealthy! Someday. I just need some investors.
- There’s only one way to test an invention, and that’s in the field during live fire. There’s nothing more invigorating than that!
- I don’t say much, ideas I keep to myself can’t be taken.
- Empowerment: I want to make the world a better place with my inventions. (Good)
- Order: There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. (Lawful)
- Change: I want to change the world with my inventions. (Chaos)
- Stingy: I don’t want to share my secrets with anyone. My inventions are for me. (Unaligned)
- Tyrant: Once I’m powerful, I’ll be able to rule everyone who wronged me. (Evil)
- Liar: Well, if it helps you get the job done, you’ll say what needs saying. (Evil/Unaligned)
- I know of a famous inventor out there that I’ll find someday.
- I once made an invention I carry, but I don’t know how to do it again. I’m afraid if I take it apart I won’t be able to figure out how to put it together again (Work with your DM to invent the device).
- I know that those people want their money, but they just don’t understand the difficulties with getting things done on time.
- One of my companions is your sibling or relative who’s looking out for me.
- I have a small child or baby in your charge.
- I’ve got an idea for the kind of laboratory I’m going to need, and so I’m travelling around looking for all the most important kinds of equipment. I’ve heard there’s a Forge of some kind near Phandelver. . .
- Only the results are important. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
- You just borrowed all that money/that energy source/that device. I’m going to return it when I’m done with it.
- I’ll betray my closest friends for success and fame.
- I’m actually really lazy and don’t like doing the work required to be a successful inventor, instead I exploit people at every turn.
- I have deviant and illegal tendencies.
- Someone stole one of your inventions and has been using it in the commission of crimes. And now they are hunting you for it.
Common & Local Knowledge
It’s not mentioned anywhere in the book but as GM, you need a little bit of background in the Forgotten Realms to bring them to life – fortunately, http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/ is a great resource for the GM and players. If it helps, there’s a map I scanned on the ORC Wiki here. I’d also make sure that your players have a working knowledge of the other factions – be they the Harpers, the Zhentarim or Red Wizards of Thay. Remember that the Sword Coast is also where the Baldur’s Gate series of PC games was set. Also, the year is 1489DR – your players will ask about this, and you’ll have to hunt around for it!
Ultimately, if your players aren’t all Realms aficionados, don’t go overboard. Keep a light touch – don’t bombard new players with too much setting information. Let them find things out for themselves.