This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within a DnD 5e campaign.
Our four protagonists, Madred, a dwarven fighter from clan Ironfist, “Sorrow”, a young tiefling sorcerer with infernal heritage, Gilda, a human barbarian who has already fought in a war and Kriv, a male dragonborn ranger who has recently awoken from hibernation have received a task from the rich Merchant Lord Drazan. They are on a quest to retrieve a jewel called the Titan´s Heart from a ruined temple in the desert. To this end, he has handed them a cylindrical object, a key of sorts.
The group begins their adventure as part of a caravan, on a journey from Monsa Kut to Razal Kut. However, they will not be with the caravan for the whole journey, on the tenth day, the caravan leader Urgond, a dragonborn, informs them that they are now as near to the temple as the caravan will go.
Amidst the caravan folk, a few other hikers stand out: A female dwarf, armed to the teeth and occasionally communing with a tame hawk and a group of thugs, four humans and half-orcs. This group in particular evokes distrust in the group, as they take to keen an interest in them, never leaving them out of their eyes.
Madred tries to engage in conversation with her fellow dwarf, but her opposite is very brusque and rude, if not outright hostile, and does not share much about herself.
While she sets up magical wards to protect against the foul creatures of the night, Urgond asks them to reconsider their trip to the temple, because there are rumours that it is an evil place. Apparently, an effort to rebuild and re-purpose it as a trading post has already failed, the settlers who went there were never seen again.
However, the group remains firm in their decision to go there, but devises a ruse to shake off the other, suspicious travelers from their track.
They pretend to stay with the caravan until they reach the Camwata oasis, where the caravan will rest for several days, but in actuality, they sneak away in the middle of the night, with sleep magic taking care of the thug watching them.
The next day, they notice the dwarf´s hawk following and watching them from the sky. Their attempt to ambush her fails due to the presence of the hawk, so they confront her directly. There is a brief standoff and an argument whether they should kill her outright (mostly brought forth by Kriv), and the decision to take her with them, under watch, is made. She reveals herself to be Argil, a clan-less dwarf, which greatly upsets Madred, as the clan is the center of a dwarfs life.
The ruined temple
By noon of the following day, the group approaches their target. The temple is built upon a low plateau, and from their raised vantage point upon a dune, three approaches to the ruins present themselves:
A ramp which slopes up to plateau´s western flank, however, that side is occupied by a large number of kobolds who seem to be engaged in some kind of excavation; Occasionally, carts filled with rubble emerge from cavern-like entrances to the rock formation and are loaded off outside. Luckily, the kobolds do not notice the group yet.
In the middle of the structure, a rocky path can be climbed up to reach the top, and in the east, a temple-like entrance of worked stone presents itself. This last approach is the one the group agrees on.
As they enter the stone edifice they find themselves in a square chamber with entrances on each side, one of which is collapsed, completely blocked by rubble.
The floor of the chamber is covered with what seem to be pieces of plate armor, and two bodies, apparently slain by bladed weapons. It is obvious to the group that these two have been killed by a trap, their corpses lying upon on a pressure plate hidden within the stone tiles of the floor.
After a brief investigation, they decide to depart via the left-hand corridor, which soon takes a right angle and leads up a set of stairs into the remains of a long ceremonial hall. Statues and pillars line the left wall of the tunnel, but a huge section of the floor is missing, revealing a chasm below, from which a clamor of tiny voices and the clanging of metal on stone can be heard.
Sorrow takes a vigilant look over the edge, only to be greeted by the sight of hundreds of kobolds, engaged in some kind of mining operation, transporting debris out of a tunnel leading further into the depths. With her darkvision, she also observes a beast, bear-sized with large spiraling horns, jailed in an iron cage.
She quickly recedes from the fissure without being seen or heard, and the group elects to venture back, to explore the opposite corridor.
On the other side, a similar ceremonial hall is found, tough this one withstood the test of time better than the left one. The floor is intact, and there are also Statues and Pillars lined up along the left wall. The right one, however, looks distinctly different. Instead of bricks and stone blocks, this one is composed of huge curved pillars, emerging from the floor and disappearing in the ceiling. Between them, the northern sky is visible. Kriv and Madred deduce that these arches are not made of stone, but rather seem to be grown of ivory or bone.
Slowly and methodically the protagonists traverse this hallway, avoiding several of the pressure plates they had seen in the entrance hall. Near the set of pillars and statue, a problem presents itself tough: A loose boulder has fallen from the ceiling and smashed right onto the last of the pressure plates. Luckily, they spot the glint of blue in the last statue, a suit of armor, complete with sword and shield.
From a distance, Kriv fires an arrow into the eye of the statue, and sure enough, it begins trudging towards them, raising it´s enormous blade. A slew of projectiles and spells brings it down, just before it can take it´s first swing at Madred. Fortunate, as she might have been pushed onto one of the pressure plates the group had averted previously.
As they sift through the broken remains of the construct, they notice that Argil used the brief skirmish to get away from them.
Without tarrying any longer, they advance through the passageway at the far end of the hall, into a curving corridor. A faint breeze seems to pass them, and they begin to suspect that the name Titan´s grave could perhaps be taken literally…
They arrive at an intersection, with two more corridors similar to the one they emerged from, and on the opposite side a larger one, from which daylight can be seen. The group briefly inspects this exit, only to find that it leads to the kobold encampment they had seen earlier. Instead, they venture downwards into the center corridor, which soon leads into a circular chamber with a pillar reaching up into the darkness.
Gilda, Madred, Sorrow and Kriv take great care in exploring this room, certain that there has to be anything apart from the two entrances, the one they came from and another which leads deeper into the complex. But neither Madred´s expertise in stone masonry nor any of the other´s investigations reveal the purpose of this chamber.
Abruptly, they are torn from their ruminations by screeching kobold voices from the upper entrance, and they decide to flee into the opposite tunnel, rather than risking a fight with what might be dozens of kobolds. This tunnel abruptly ends above the excavation site. The group manages to come to a stop before anyone falls below, but in the process make enough noise to alarm the digging creatures below as well.
With groups of the little critters behind and below them, quick decisions need to be made. They begin edging along the side of the chasm, without knowing what awaits them at the end of the ledge. Before all of them can cross the sill, a trio of winged kobolds flutter towards them, but a well-timed spell from Sorrow takes care of this situation. Falling asleep in mid-flight is not particularly healthy to these three and it buys the group enough time to arrive on the other side.
Still above the excavation site, they find themselves standing in front of another tunnel, leading yet deeper into the darkness.
In an effort to shake off their footslogging pursuers, Madred bashes the remains of the ledge. This leaves the chasing kobolds behind, but also the only known way out of the temple…
As they reach the lower end of this tunnel, it opens up into a rough sphere of a chamber, at the center of which stands a pedestal with the object they were sent to retrieve, the titan´s heart. Before they can admire it however, a jagged red energy arc flashes up from it, hitting Kriv square in the chest!
It does not seem to do anything to anyone else, so Gilda and Sorrow carefully examine it and quickly replace it with a boulder of similar size, in case there is some weight-based trap in place here.
It is a roughly melon-sized rock-like object with a ruby-like texture and it slowly pulses with crimson light from within. As Gilda takes hold of it, she has a brief impression of some kind of energy emanating from it, as if it is pushing straight into the ground.
As Kriv moves about the chamber he apparently gets too near to the stone again and gets struck with a scarlet energy beam again. As it only appears to be affecting him and nobody else, he takes care to stay as far from the item as he can, and heals himself.
Apart from the tunnel they came from, there are two more openings that lead away from the room. One, however quickly ends in another cave-in, which does not look like it will be easy to remove, so they take the second path, which leads them to a barricade made of wood. Through this barricade, more kobolds can be seen, workers, by the looks of it, transporting rubble and debris away from the dig site.
It appears that the heroes have reached the ground floor of this digging operation and they decide to risk breaking through the barrier and fighting their way out of the complex through these kobolds. Gilda breaks the rampart easily and they quickly make their way upwards, into the direction in which they think the exit might be. Before they get very far, a group of kobolds armed with spears assaults them, but the group makes quick work of them, especially as the stone becomes active again, blasting multiple of the creeps with vermilion lightning.
Quickly, they continue up the fissure, and after a brief walk, they see the caged beast ahead, as well as another group of kobolds. Sorrow however, spots the ledge from which she observed the beast earlier and suggests climbing up, to get back into familiar territory. Just as they begin their ascent, Kriv hears the kobolds converse in his native language, draconic. Apparently they are about to release the creature from it´s cage to attack the group. Luckily, the climb is not too hard and they aid each other to get back up to the ruined ceremonial hall.
With haste, they flee the temple before more kobolds can arrive, only taking care to not step on any trapped floor plates on their way out. They cross the square hall where they first entered the temple and run out into the scorching afternoon sun.
Just as they begin heading east towards the oasis, thinking themselves safe, a huge winged being bursts out of the top of the temple, dragon-like in aspect and shape, but with a dark shimmer, as if it was merely a shadow. As it passes over them a burst of energy erupts out of the crystal, hitting the dragon in the chest. It´s soaring flight turns into an uncontrolled gliding descent, and it vanishes behind the dunes to the east…
This was my first time DMing Dungeons & Dragons, and it was very fun. It´s been a few weeks since then, so here are some brief notes:
- I got to utter the phrase “hundreds of kobolds!”
- Successful test of the “tension pool” mechanic from the Angry GM, and it was as good as advertised.
- This was the first session in which I managed to stay within a reasonable timeframe, which is good.
- This was initially supposed to become a one-shot, but during planning I noticed that I really liked the idea of a desert campaign, so I softened up the encounters a bit (a bit too much in fact) and built the temple in a way which gives the players multiple paths in as well as out.
- I notice that I really like building location-based adventures. Designing the temple was really fun. The two sketches above are not the final version of the dungeon, because it was too hard to put into a 2D representation. It does exist in a very detailed version in my head, which was enough to hold the session. I only showed the actual maps to the players afterwards.
- Second session in the campaign has already been played, I´ll probably write a report on that as well.
- Dnd 5th edition seems to be a solid system, it makes it rather easy to do ad-hoc skill checks and rulings. I like it so far.
- The players seemed to enjoy it, so I guess mission is accomplished.