The cultists have set up their camp in the hollow of a rocky plateau that’s shaped roughly like a horseshoe. The lower portion of the plateau rises gently from the surrounding land, but it quickly steepens and ascends to a height of 150 feet above the landscape. Boulders form jumbled heaps at the bases of the cliffs. The level shelves and top of the plateau are covered in long grass, and brush and scrubby trees grow in patches.
For the first day following the raid, the cultists are both elated with the outcome and exhausted. Rezmir doesn’t expect a serious challenge from the town, and slower members of the raiding party and walking wounded straggle into camp all through the day after the raid. The situation at the camp is confused and security is lax. Most of these raiders are mercenaries and bandits, and not even the dedicated cultists wear recognizable uniforms on raids. No one challenges latecomers for passwords or security signals. Put simply, the raiders are confident that no enemies followed them this far. Characters can walk straight into the camp without having their identities seriously challenged. In fact, the bolder they are, the more likely they are to blend right in.
Players may be tempted to have characters seek cover and observe during the day and not attempt to enter the camp until nightfall. This can work, too, but sneaking around in the dark is more likely to attract suspicion than simply walking in as if they belong in the camp.
The chief risk is that someone might recognize the characters from the fighting at Greenest. Have each character make a DC 5 Charisma check. Success means no one remembers the character’s face, but failure means that at some time (not necessarily immediately, but when recognition would be the most dramatic), someone in the camp recognizes the character. If characters are wearing Cult of the Dragon regalia taken from the rearguard, the characters have disadvantage on this roll because no one returning to camp at this time should be in uniform. The character who faced Cyanwrath one-on-one, however, has a -4 penalty to the roll. If that character ever comes face-to-face with the half-dragon, recognition is automatic.
As the day wears on and the commotion winds down, the camp becomes calmer and better organized. Guards resume their normal routines. If characters haven’t entered the camp before sundown of the first day, they find it more difficult, since there’s very little traffic in and out of the camp on a normal day. They’ll need a good story and a successful DC 10 Charisma (Deception) check to walk past a guard station of five guards. This check can be made only once for the group; they can’t talk their way out of a failure. After the initial opportunity to enter the camp has passed, characters need to resort to stealth or subterfuge to get in. For example, characters scaling the plateau from the east could use brush for cover right up to where the cliff overlooks the camp. From there, they could observe or climb down the rocks under cover of darkness.
The whole camp goes on alert if the bodies of murdered human sentries or cultists are discovered. One dead kobold won’t cause much alarm, but many dead kobolds will. If the camp goes on alert, every character must make a DC 15 Charisma check. A failure means the character has been spotted as a stranger and an infiltrator. Someone raises the hue and cry, which quickly draws a crowd. A roll of 10 or lower means someone has recognized the character from the fight in Greenest. The characters have a chance to get away if they immediately go on the attack and begin cutting their way out of camp, but if they delay or spin tales, a crowd of cultists that outnumbers them five to one surrounds them.
If characters try to estimate numbers in the camp, they count roughly one hundred kobolds and a mix of bandits, guards, and cultists totaling about eighty—effectively an unlimited supply if characters get the idea of fighting them all.
If caught, characters are disarmed, their hands are tied, and they are brought before Frulam Mondath for judgment. One by one, she asks them who they are, where they came from, and what they’re doing in her camp.
- If anyone was recognized from the fighting in Greenest, it doesn’t matter what the characters say. Mondath sentences all of them to be executed on the morrow, after spending the night tied to posts alongside the monk Leosin. Characters have one night to escape this fate. They might wriggle out of their bonds, bribe or charm a cultist to set them free, or come up with a clever use for a cantrip. If all else fails, Leosin reveals that he has a hidden knife with which they can cut themselves free.
- If characters admit they came from Greenest and are enemies of the cult, the effect is the same as if they’d been recognized.
- If characters lie to Mondath—claiming they are new recruits and this is all a mistake, for example, or that they are studying the cult before deciding whether to join—then compare their Charisma (Deception) checks to Mondath’s Wisdom check to determine whether she believes them. You can allow advantage or disadvantage on the roll when someone’s lies are especially plausible or implausible. Match die rolls individually for every character. Those who Mondath believes are set free, but watched and stopped if they try to leave the camp. Those who Mondath does not believe are sentenced to die as above.
Exploring the Camp
Characters can learn much from poking around in the camp. If the characters pose as cult members, they can speak to other cultists and question them (carefully) about the cult’s plans and long-term goals. Most cultists should be treated as indifferent when determining reactions or trying to gain a favor. Kobolds are less helpful and should be considered hostile when characters make Charisma checks to gauge their reaction.
Characters can learn the following information through observation and questioning. They need to be careful, however, not to attract attention for asking too many questions or poking their noses into things that are none of their business. Any time they come off as “too nosy,” feel free to call for another Charisma check to see whether someone recognizes them from Greenest.
- This is a camp of the Cult of the Dragon—praise Tiamat’s glory! (Some cultists extend their right hand with fingers outstretched to represent the five heads of Tiamat when they praise her glory. Others curl back two fingers, to show that Tiamat’s strength is hidden. This is not mandatory, but adepts and hard-core cultists look favorably on those who do it sincerely.)
- Not everyone here is a full-fledged member of the cult. Many are new initiates working toward full acceptance, and many others are simple mercenaries, hired to flesh out the camp’s strength during raids or if it should come under attack.
- The kobolds are here because their worshipful attitude toward dragons makes them easy for Rezmir and other high-ranking cultists to manipulate, but they are not well liked or trusted by the other races.
- Hunters who bring in antelope and other large game from the grasslands feed the camp. The cultists and their allies eat most of it, but some is stored in the cave to feed the hatchlings.
- The cult has been ranging far and wide on small raids to collect treasure. Greenest was the closest target to the camp, the biggest of all the towns they’ve attacked, and the most profitable—praise Tiamat’s glory!
- Prisoners are used for manual labor. In the past, a few have “converted” and become loyal members of the cult, but most die eventually of overwork and undernourishment. Then they are fed to the drakes or taken into the cave to feed the hatchlings.
- The cave at the back of the camp (area 4) is off-limits to all but those who’ve been cleared by Mondath and Rezmir, which includes a handful of guards and kobolds. It’s known around camp as “the nursery,” and it’s an open secret that Rezmir plans to hatch a clutch of dragon eggs there.
- The half-black dragon Rezmir came to the area a few months ago, and she set up the camp. Mondath handles everyday operations.
- The half-blue dragon Cyanwrath is Mondath’s right hand and is seldom far from her side. He has a rigid sense of honor, but you don’t want to make him angry.
- The mother of dragons—praise Tiamat’s glory—shall return, and when that day comes, all the nations of the world shall tremble before her majesty!
- The monk is of special interest to Rezmir. Why else would she keep the creature alive that way? What Rezmir hopes to learn from him is anyone’s guess, but you wouldn’t want to be in that half-elf’s skin—or what’s left of it—when the questioning gets serious.
- The plunder from nearby settlements is stored in the cave. No one but Rezmir knows how much is there altogether, but it must be a big pile by now.
Aside from being recognized, the chief risk of spending time in the cultist camp is getting roped into a work detail. Characters might be selected by an officer to spend a few hours helping with food preparation, standing guard in a tower, practicing weapon drill, or even cleaning up after animals (a job usually reserved for prisoners, but currently the number of prisoners in the camp is low).
The monk is tied to a stake at the back of the camp (area 3). He has been severely beaten, and he has been denied food and water in an effort to break his spirit. Rezmir knows from informants across the Sword Coast that Leosin has been researching the cult’s history and recent activity. The wyrmspeaker wants to know how much Leosin has learned and with whom he shared his information. Rezmir considered it an amazing stroke of luck that Leosin was captured during the raid.
In fact, it wasn’t luck at all, at least not for Rezmir. Leosin had studied their previous attacks and concluded that the time was right for the cult to strike a bigger target, and he knew that Greenest was prosperous yet poorly defended, making it the most likely next target. So, when he deemed the time was just about right, he visited the town with the intent of staying until something happened. His observations paid off, and Leosin separated from his people during the night and fell in with the raiders when they retreated, hoping to learn more about the cult's plans and the location of their camp. Rezmir spotted him after the sun came up, and the monk was quickly overpowered and captured.
That portion of Leosin’s scheme has worked reasonably well. He now knows most of the information listed above under “Exploring the Camp.” Unfortunately for him, captivity has been more brutal than he expected, and although his mind and will are still strong, he’s in a very poor physical state.
Despite the danger, Leosin isn’t entirely happy about being rescued if characters come to set him free. He believes he can learn more, and he’s willing to take the risk. He’s too weak to resist, however, so characters can easily take him away against his will if that’s what they want to do. He can move without aid at a speed of 20 feet and fights as a commoner with disadvantage on attack rolls. If characters don’t bring him out of the camp, Leosin breaks away on his own. He refuses to talk about it later.
If characters are captured and imprisoned alongside Leosin and their attempts to escape fall through, he reveals that he has a small knife hidden in his boot. They can use it to cut their bonds. Leosin’s absence is noticed within five minutes if he is taken away, and an alarm goes up throughout the camp. Rigging up a dummy in his place delays the discovery by twenty minutes. Tying up a dead or unconscious cult ist (preferably a half-elf) in his place assures the intruders a two-hour head start before the escape is noticed.
Award standard XP for defeated foes. This episode does not involve many fights, but it does present many challenges, and characters should be rewarded for overcoming them. The awards listed below are just recommendations; adjust them and add to them as you see fit. Characters can reach 3rd level if they act prudently and capitalize on all the opportunities the camp offers, but it’s not essential that they do.
- If you are using the milestone experience rule, the characters reach 3rd level when they complete this episode.
- For getting into and out of the cultists’ camp without causing an alarm or being caught: 100 XP per character.
- For getting into and out of the cultists’ camp without stirring any suspicion: an additional 100 XP per character.
- For rescuing Leosin: 250 XP per character.
- For leaving a dummy or decoy in Leosin’s place: an additional 50 XP per character.
- For rescuing other prisoners: 25 XP for each prisoner brought out of the camp alive.
- For each piece of information listed under “Exploring the Camp” that characters learn on their own (not from Leosin): 25 XP per character.
When the characters arrive safely back at Greenest— presumably with Leosin in tow—he can fill them in on any details they missed during their investigation of the cult’s camp. The monks who accompanied him are delighted to see him alive, and the families of any other released prisoners are equally grateful for the return of their loved ones. Governor Nighthill pays the characters their promised 250 gp each and publicly praises their courage and daring.
Boulders. The boulders are difficult terrain and provide three-quarters cover.
Brush. The brush around the site grows to a height of 4 to 6 feet. It is tough and dense, making it difficult terrain and providing three-quarters cover to targets sheltering among it.
Caves. The steep sides of the plateau are dotted with shallow caves. Boulders or brush conveniently conceals many of the cave mouths. Characters who need to take a long rest can easily find a secure cave in which to hide.
Guard Towers. The cultists have built two guard towers at the camp, one at the entrance to the hollow and one atop the plateau. These towers are 20 feet high and made from rough timbers lashed together with rope. They are large enough for a few lookouts. The tower at the mouth of the hollow is manned by kobolds, while warriors man the one above. The guards have horns to blow when they must sound an alarm.
Prisoners. The cultists’ prisoners are kept at area 1. Currently, only eight prisoners are in the camp, not counting Leosin. During the day, they are put to work under guard by four dragonclaws (see appendix B). At night, they are shackled to a post in their hut to prevent escape. The shackles are secured by a single chain and lock that can be opened with a key carried by one of the guards or with thieves’ tools and a successful DC 10 Dexterity check. The chain can be broken with a successful DC 20 Strength check. Five of the prisoners are from Greenest, and the other three are from earlier raids against hamlets and small farming villages to the south and east. There were more prisoners at one time, but many have died from overwork and mistreatment. If a situation develops where released prisoners must fight, use commoner stats for them.
Slopes. The sides of the plateau rise sharply, while the floor of the hollow slopes up gradually toward the east. A long ladder is lashed to the cliff so guards can reach the upper guard tower. The cliffs have handholds and footholds for climbing, so no die roll is needed under normal circumstances. If characters are in a hurry, a successful DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check is needed to make the climb without falling. If characters are concerned about keeping quiet, then a successful DC 10 Dexterity (Stealth) check ensures that no rocks break loose and rattle down.
Tents. The raiders live in circular huts made from closely spaced wooden or bone poles covered in hide, mud, and sod. Huts vary in diameter from 10 feet to 25 feet, and in height from 5 feet to 10 feet. (Symbols on the map represent clusters of tents.) Those in the mouth of the hollow (level 1 on the map) are crudely built and decorated with animal skulls. These are occupied by kobolds. Cultists occupy the huts on level 2, which are sturdier, cleaner, and decorated with painted designs representing dragons. A few tents on level 2 are set aside for prisoners.
The large ten at area 2 is set apart from the others by an open space. It is reserved for Rezmir, Frulam Mondath, and Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. An honor guard of four guards and four guard drakes (appendix B) keeps watch around this tent day and night. They don’t sleep at their posts, they don’t fall for tricks, and they don’t listen to stories or pleas. Their job is to keep everyone away from their leaders’ tent, and they are fanatical about it. Only acolytes and adepts the guards know by sight and by voice are allowed to approach.
- Plot type
- D&D session
- Parent Plot
- Episode 2: The Raider Camp
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