The Courting of Fire

DDEX1-05, “The Courting of Fire”, is the fifth adventure in the Adventurer’s League Tyranny of Dragons Campaign Path.

We started this module on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 and finished it on Thursday, 3 May 2018. Players present were Elinor, Sonya, Meghan, Nick and Warwick.

Official Blurb

An exiled cultist and his kobold minions are spotted searching long-forgotten ruins in the Dragonspine Mountains. Rumours say he looks for a precious gift to give to a fearsome dragon that dwells there. What he hopes to attain with his gift is unknown, but can’t be good for the citizens of Phlan. An adventure for 1st-4th level characters.

Synopsis of Play

Grumash the Unreliable has been broken out of his prison at Stojanow Gate by the Welcomers, and the Black Fist responds by stepping up vigilance throughout the city. Part of this involves the construction of a new watch tower in Gnometown, overseen by the brutish Derek. Tensions rise between Gnometown and the Black Fist. Elisande takes a dislike to Derek too, after he kicks down a play-castle she is building.

Meanwhile, two scribes, Tibeem and Spernik, employed at Mantor's Library are discovered to be impostors sent by the Cult of the Dragon. Tibeem is killed by the Black Fist but Spernik escapes Phlan, taking the original versions of several rare texts with him. The Lord Sage, in collaboration with the Black Fist, offers a reward for the return of Spernik and the stolen books.

The party spoke with Knight Lieutenant Cron Bolver at the Stojanow Gate, both about the missing scribes, and about Black Fist operations in Gnometown. Bolver offered no concrete help but gave the party authority to investigate the scribes.

Investigations led the party to believe Spernik was heading for the Temple of the Scale in the Dragonspine Mountains, a site once used by a corrupted druidic order (the Circle of the Scale) to worship dragons. At the Temple, the party fought through a troop of kobolds employed by Spernik, along with zombies animated from the remains of the original druids. They captured Spernik, who revealed he was seeking a red dragon scale thought to be taken from Tiamat herself, in order to gift it to the red dragon Scorlworyx to earn its favour for the chromatic schism of the Cult of the Dragon.

The party investigated further, and found the resting place of the scale. However, it was guarded by Scalebinder Skovac, a wight who led the Circle of the Scale in life. He warned the party against attempting to take the scale, and the party agreed, being content to leave with Spernik as their prisoner, and seeking the aid of the Harpers to seal the site up to prevent others questing after the scale.

Back in Phlan, with the aid of the Lord Sage the party demanded Spernik be given a public trial, rather than summary execution, to which the Black Fist grudgingly agreed. In Gnometown, however, tensions continued to rise…

Behind the GM’s Screen

The official blurb for this module, which would have been turned in long before the adventure was actually written, suggests a somewhat different adventure, without the substantial investigation component in Phlan and with more focus on Spernik’s motives. I suspect that the module writer was reminded of the 5th Edition “Pillars of Play” which require that D&D gameplay feature investigation and social components equally balanced with combat, and the adventure was rewritten to have more talking and investigating at the start.

Tibeem and Spernik both previously appeared in Secrets of Sokol Keep, along with the third Cult traitor, where they were named NPCs in the Laughing Goblin who players could chat to.

Cockburn's Grocery, visited during the investigation stage of this adventure, dates back to Phlan’s earliest appearances in D&D, where it was run by its founder, Ian Cockburn. Today it’s still in business, but the proprietor is one Tad Staslep.

The Scribe’s Quarter of Phlan, including Mantor’s Library, has come a long way since the days of Ruined Phlan. Back then, it was a nesting place for gnolls!

The Temple of the Scale has a couple of areas you didn’t visit - which is fine, as there was no reason to! A kitchen at the end of the living quarters is home to three gray oozes, which aren’t terribly dangerous but have the annoying ability to corrode your weapons and armour. The room with the pool of water also held two lacedons (water ghouls) which would have attacked if you’d come closer. Finally, the living quarters themselves, which you saw but didn’t investigate thoroughly, held old druid robes from the original Circle. Wearing them would have given you advantage in the first round of combat against Scalebinder Skovac, as the undead druids would momentarily mistake you for their allies.

The detailed pillars in the first room of the Temple had actual gemstones set in the eyes of the dragons, which could have been removed and sold if the pillars had been more closely investigated.

Had you retrieved the scale, you would have found it glowed with magic but been unable to find any specific way to activate that magic. It could have been sold as an art object for 300 gp, or the Lord Sage would have bought it off you for 150 gp with a promise to report back if he discovered what it did. Scalebinder Skovac wore an amulet worth 50 gp which could have been looted, had you fought him.