Ok, I’ve just run my first sess ion of HDQ for a new group. I’ve run it before for relatively new players, but this time I’ve got experienced players, playing really immersive characters. Before the game started, they worked out their party as a group. They all went for dwarves, from the Bjargulf (“Stonewolf”) Clan (a self made mercenary band that one of the players wrote about 10 pages of backhistory for, including 5 fully generated NPCs).

I’ll introduce you to the group.

  • Vignar “Yfirmaðrinn” Jarynsonnr; Dwarven Fighter; Background: Soldier (Officer)
  • Hjalmar “Hargodhi” Bjornsonnr; Dwarven Life Cleric; Background: Acolyte (Hargodhi of Moradin)
  • Olafr “Jotunblut” Olafsonnr; Dwarven Ranger; Background: Outlander (Hunter)
  • Fyann “Fyrstimogrinn” Urdsonnr; Dwarven Wild Magic Sorceror; Background: Noble (Heir to the Seat of the Bjargulf Clan)
  • Jurgen “Fallamaðrinn” Brynsonnr; Dwarven Rogue; Background: Guild Artisan (Alchemist)

They had joined a caravan from Waterdeep, carrying military supplies down to Amn. Upon reaching Greenest, the caravan came under attack from the dragon. I usually start off this way as the whole “you start with a lot, only to have it taken away from you” classic beginning scene. The dragon scared most of the caravan away with its Frightful Presence, including Jurgen, Vignar, and Olafr. Fyann and Hjalmar, however, passed their saves. When the dragon flew over, it let out its breath weapon down the row of wagons, setting the first four of them on fire, and destroying many more.

Before play, I had decided that (incase any of the party were stupid enough to try anything), the dragon had already taken a modicum amount of damage from potshots and ballista shots throughout the night. It started play with 170 out of its usual 225. From crossbow bolts, arrows, and a lucky shot with a ballista, I felt that was fair.

Fyann casts Magic Missile at the dragon, dealing 10 damage, but rolls a 1 for his Wild Magic Surge. A following roll of 34 means that the next damaging spell he casts in the next minute is maximised. Hjalmar, upon seeing the wagons on fire, casts Create Water to make it rain; extinguishing the flames. I decided to try and ward them off fighting the dragon by attacking them with it. The dragon swooped down and clawed at Hjalmar, hitting once for 19 damage; dropping him into his grace period. It then flew back up 60ft. Fyann’s next attack was a Chromatic Orb… and he critical hit for a maximised 48 Thunder damage, stunning the dragon for 1 round (not by cannon, but after taking that much concussive damage, it’s pretty lenient). The dragon falls to the ground, taking 23 falling damage. Hjalmar rolls a 4, and falls further into his grace period. Jurgen passes his Frightful presence saving throw.

Jurgen joins the fight, and is next up to act at the top of the round. Seeing the dragon is stunned, he fires his bow at it, hitting with a Sneak Attack for 13 damage. The dragon is still stunned until the end of Fyann’s action. Fyann doesn’t have any spell slots left, but hits the dragons for 4 damage with a Firebolt only because he remembered at the last second that he had advantage to attack. Hjalmar rolls an 11; one all. Olafr passes his saving throw and joins the frey.

Round 3. Jurgen spends his inspiration to Sneak Attack the dragon, critting for another 24 damage. Olafr also fires his bow, hitting for 8 damage. Dragon breath recharge roll… 4. Damn! The dragon takes flight again, and tail swipes Fyann for 16 damage, dropping him into his grace period.

My players are starting to mutter among themselves at this point. “Could we actually kill the thing?”, “This is crazy! Could we really do it?”, “It’s either that, or TPK”.

40HP left.

Fyann rolls a 15 for his Save vs. Death. Hjalmar rolls a 2. 2 to Death, 1 to Cake. Vignar once again fails his save and continues to run off towards the apparant safety of the town.

Olafr gives some inspiring words to Jurgen, and expends a point of inspiration on his behalf. Jurgen rolls a 1, and a 15, which ends up hitting with an unnatural 20, doing another 17 damage. Archery specced Olafr easily hits it for 8. The dragon CCBs Jurgen, hitting three times, dropping him into his grace period with 2 marks towards death. Fyann fails his save. Hjalmar rolls a natural 20. Vignar runs away some more. Wisdom’s not such a dump stat now, is it!?

Jurgen gains one Light Side Point. Olafr misses. The dragon CCBs Olafr and he falls. If they TPK here, I’ll let them restart with the same characters and we’ll do LMoP. The players look very anxious and all of a sudden, the room falls silent and serious. The guy that plays Jurgen is hiding behind a cushion on the couch, not wanting to look. Most of the others are sat right on the edges of their seats, eyes glued on the space on the floor designated for rolling dice.

Hjalmar rouses from unconsciousness, sees his friends all bleeding or running away, charges the dragon and casts Inflict Wounds. 27 damage.

The dragon slumps to his side and falls over dead.

The house erupts. Banging on the wall from next door reminds us all that it’s 3AM, and they probably shouldn’t be jumping around shouting and cheering.

I’m sat behind my DM screen, still in shock, double and triple checking that he rolled three 9s, and there weren’t any 6s.

The HDQ book says there is a limit of 300XP each for the entire of the first chapter. They’ve just earned 3000XP each, and they’re not even inside the town yet! I can’t not give them credit, but how should I play this from now on in? Do I give them the XP, and hope that the curve catches up with them? Play it by the book and only give 300 apiece? Not only that, but they saved most of their supplies on the caravan, which is enough arms and armour to start a small militia. The dragon was supposed to destroy all that stuff!

To tell the truth, by half way through the battle, I was actually rooting for the party. They did really well as a team, and the roleplay was Epic. And I capitalised that for emphasis. We stopped the game early so that I could work out how to handle this.