**Caution this post contains spoilers for STK!**

When I was a child, I had no one to play Dungeons and Dragons with, it being the 80’s and the game not being popular here in the United Kingdom. Now as a father in my 40’s, I have been finally able to play as a dungeon master myself, directing the campaigns of my own children. There is something truly magical in playing DND with kids. Their wide eyes, their laughs, their emotions upon a hero in danger – it really brings the story to life.

There follows the campaign we have played all through the 2020 lockdown. It has helped us all resist the mental anguish of the COVID virus, recover from the infection itself and be a beacon of bright enjoyment for all. Truly the great value of this magical game cannot be overstated when played with attentive and imaginative children.

So, I present the chronicle of my son, my daughter and my wife playing their first campaign after the starter set, Storm King’s Thunder!

The piplins!

“Hey, you. You’re finally awake.”

The forests of the north

Deep within the forests, who’s depth and tremendous growth is born of ages, and who’s tops obscure the base of the mountain, a single rough trail winds around and up towards a tower perched on an outcrop high to one side.

Making their way slowly up this slim thread are three horse-drawn carts, each full of colourful characters of various classes and races, and each making the pilgrimage up to Dragon’s Bane tower. The call has gone out for adventurers and the taverns and flophouses of Waterdeep, Neverwinter, and seemingly every town along the route, have answered.

The journey is a long one.

The second cart bumps heavily against a fallen log, and you wake with a yawn. The sun is breaking between the trees, dappling light across the cart, and creating some spots of warmth against the increasing cold of the mountainside. Opposite you sits a man sporting a beard that speaks of many summers. He notices your waking movement and speaks,

“Hey, you. You’re finally awake.”

You nod and take out your water skin to take a draft. The man watches you, and you notice him attending the water cascade into your mouth.

“Do you want some?” You say. He nods eagerly, and you pass the skin, which he takes quaffs from thirstily.

“Thank you,” he says, passing it back, “I’m Ralof”.

“Your welcome,” you say in response.

He relaxes back and rests his arm on the cart’s side. “Tell me, why are you going to join the Dragon’s Bane?”

“Oh, I er, I need to speak to them,” you say not wanting to explain your true purpose, “I don’t know I’m for joining. We’ll see. I don’t know that much about them”. You pause, “how about you?”

He raises an eyebrow, smiles and takes out a pipe, which he lights with a small series of puffs. “I met them once in a bar”, he says. The pipe catches alight and he places it in his mouth. I’m a bard by trade, a humble storyteller for some tossed coin, and I’ve chronicled their entire story”. The cart bumps along for a few seconds.

“Well, it is a long journey,” you eventually volunteer, “Pray, tell me the tale”.

He smiles with the pipe in his mouth and sits up excitedly.

“Great!” he said, “Now, to start – you know who the Dragon’s Bane is, right?”

“Not really.”

Basho, the humble Dungeon Master

Diamond Adventure, High elf wizard

“Three they are, although others join them in battle as required. First is the lady Diamond Adventure of the Elven realm. Tall and imperious, she was the chief librarian to the elven court and spent an innumerable number of years with her head in books. Eventually, she grew bored.”

“Boredom doesn’t come easy to elves,” you comment.

“Indeed, but that is the story she tells. Having gained the knowledge of countless magical books she fashioned herself as a wizard and left looking for the adventure her chosen human name suggests”.

“An elven female of high birth,” you say, “sounds like a real handful”.

He nods,

“She has a sharp tongue and imperious attitude, yes. As well as a penchant for fireballs”.

“Who’s next?”

“The bear man. Bearsuo. A magical human child from some dark forest village, taken from his parents by a Druid circle of moon worshipers. He was raised to take advantage of his dual animal and human nature. Through their rituals, he eventually found the ability to transform himself into a great beast at will. The druids for their part, and recognising his incredible connection to the spirits of nature, believed he was destined for greatness, and so they sent him out to find it”.

“He turns into a bear?”

“Into many things, and as his power has grown his favourite form is an ancient giant lizard called a Tyrannosaurus”.

“That sounds truly terrifying.”

“Indeed; but, he remains a child of the forest and has a hearty friendliness that puts all good people at ease”.

“Quite a duo”.

“I have not finished, for their ranger comes last, and she is not to be trifled with”.

Bearsuo, Human Druid

Elvia, Woodelf Ranger/Monsterhunter

“Another shapeshifter?”

“No, no, she is a woodland elf, styled Elvia. Thrown out of her enclave for some unknown infraction. Her ability is tracking through the wild. Her nature is pure change, unknowable. One second a lady of great beauty; but, the next flashes the bright hawk eyes and she lets fly arrows”.

“An archer…”

“Of unerring accuracy and skill and woe betide her enemies. She particularly favours the slaughter of dragons for some reason lost to her history.”

“Not the easiest quarry, granted”.

“Indeed; but, her hatred of them has grown to such an extent that she has become a master monster hunter, and she can track them anywhere and use her abilities to brew lethal poisons”.

“Huh,” you scoff lightly, “she sounds delightful.”

“Well, she is most comely and friendly to ordinary folk. Just don’t cross her if you value your eyes”.

“So, she is the Dragon’s Bane?”

“Oh no, the story is much more involved”, he says waving his hands.

You turn your palms upwards, “so, tell me.”

Ralof taps out his pipe and settles down, his eyes raised in the recollection of the tale.

“It started last winter. The trio was resting in the town of Phandalin, which gets cut off from its outer villages by the snows blocking up the passes. I heard tell they spent the time helping train a new cadre of guards. Some business of a white dragon they had slain after it attacked the town. By all accounts, their actions saved the entire outpost.”

“I heard of this, so they are the Hero’s of Ice Spire Peak?”

“Yes indeed, and once the snows started to melt, the townsfolk asked them to accompany a messenger down to the village of Nightstone and reopen the lines of communication.”

“Nightstone, home of the massacre…”

“Yes, it was our trio who discovered the remnants of the giant’s attack; but, before that, they uncovered that the messenger was an imposter, indeed and agent of the Black Network.”

“Zhentarim!” You say, and you both reflexively spit over the side of the cart.

“The brigand escaped into the forests. Eventually, they arrived at Nightstone to see that the Giant’s destruction of the tower had enabled a local skeeve of Goblins to send their Orc and Ogre hordes to slaughter and take prisoners to their cave”.

“For slaving?” You say, cocking your head.

The man shakes his in response,

“For food.”

You shudder at the thought.

He continues, “As they arrive in the ruined town, a fight ensued against the orc horde, where they killed the Orc captain, destroyed the agents of the Black Network and freed the remaining trapped guards in the tower”.

“Enough adventure for anyone,” you say.

Nightstone

Repulsing the orc attack

Zephyros’ tower

“Ha! This was but the first step for this trio,” he exclaims slapping his knee. “You see, they found out that the Lady of Nightstone has been murdered in the giant attack. They were paid to take this news to Triboar and inform the Harper agents running that town of the giant threat. But; before leaving, lady Elvia tracked the orc’s retreating forces, and the team assaulted the cave-dwelling, killing the Goblin chief, his wizard guard and freeing the uneaten villagers”.

“Most impressive”.

“Indeed, such so that a cloud giant wizard monitoring the situation sought them out immediately, and approached them directly outside the cave”.

“To attack?”

“No, no. He is the court wizard of the storm giants known as Zephyros. He took them aboard his flying castle tower and explained the cause of the giant troubles”.

“The ordning…”

“Indeed, the death of the storm giant queen and disappearance of the giant king, Hekaton, had led to a fracturing of the hierarchy of the giants and many blamed us, the little folk, for his loss”.

“So, that’s the reason for the attacks…”

“Yes. Complete disarray as the giants fought amongst each other to raise their power and take over the top position in the hierarchy. Upending the recent memory of peaceful domination by the Storm giants”.

“He asked for help? From adventures? Surely his means are massively higher than theirs?”

“I believe that was his initial thoughts; but, his flying castle was attacked during the night, and the trio helped him defend it, slaying yet another dragon”.

“Their speciality”.

“You have no idea, listen. Their actions, lawful good-aligned and intelligent that they were, convinced the wizard that these folk could investigate the disappearance in places where his presence would cause endless battle and alarm. He trained them in the giant tongue, passed along some spells to Diamond Adventure and dropped them off near Triboar with the promise of quest rewards”.

“Triboar. So, they were there when? -”

“Yes. Indeed they organised the defences of the town and led the battle, commanding each a contingent of local warriors”.

“So when the fire giants attacked, they were ready? That’s why Triboar still stands?”

“Yes, Indeed they managed to kill both the fire giant raiders and all their orc companions”.

“Incredible. What were the Giant’s even after?”

“Apparently they were sent by the fire giant lord to retrieve a fragment of an ancient giant weapon lost to the ages, known as Vollundrood. It was buried near the tower”.

“I see. And the town was saved?”

“Yes; but, they didn’t know what the fragment was for, so the Harper agent suggested that the fragment could be explained by the Lord of Zymorven Hall, and so she teleported them to the nearest Harper transportation node in Everlund”.

The defense of Triboar, the final stand

A fire giant

The frozen north

“That’s near the Hall…”

“Somewhat near, yes. Once they arrived and were admitted, they found a local problem needing attention while the Lord researched the item. He bid them rescue his wayward son from a prison in the nearby town of Yartar.

“Yartar is a town of bandits and cutthroats,” you mention.

He waved his hand in the air, “Well, it was. The trio challenged the bandit leaders and all their criminal network in open combat. They destroyed them all, freed the son and returned him unharmed to his father”.

“And he explained the role of the fragment?”

“Indeed, and he explained how they might be able to find the rest of the weapon and, since there were so few places that could forge such a device, where the fire giants may be located, he sent them to the dwarven citadel of Felbarr to update the king of the dwarves that someone was trying to reforge Vollundrood”.

“A famous dwarf bane, used by the giants of old to storm the Citadel,” you point out, “valuable information indeed”.

“Quite, so they started along the path to the mountains, the other side of the very mountain we ascend presently.” And he motioned the mountain dominating the skyline above your heads, lost in cloud.

“What did the king say? The dwarves are hearty people; but, trust very slowly. I cannot imagine that he believed them”.

“They didn’t arrive alone. For on the journey they passed through a forest, were assaulted and captured for slavery by hill giants”.

“But, hill giants don’t keep slaves, they kill and eat their prey”.

“Trapped within steel sages in the giant’s camp, the trio discovered that the hill giants had camped near a dark cave that went deep”.

“How deep?”

“To the Underdark itself. Miles down. A horror had arisen all those floors to prey on those who camp near and bewitched the giants to enslave for the horror’s eldrich plans of domination”.

“Ye’ gods! What manner of dark terror had surfaced, which could pull off the feat of bewitching giants?”

The man leant forward and whispered, “An Illithid”.

“The mind flayer!?” You gasp, “Lord, save us…”

“Prey it no mind as the trio escaped, destroyed the squid faced fiend and forced a retreat of the giants”.

“An incredible feat in itself”.

Escaping the Mind Flayer

Hill giants attack

The Paladin of the Dwarven Kings

Harshnag, the frost giant hero

“Yes, and as they tracked the fleeing giants, they encountered another adventuring team who had already engaged the remnants. So, our hero’s joined in battle with them. The team was led by a group of riders led by the paladin champion of the dwarf king himself, Ilan, and together he fought alongside the mighty frost giant Harshnag”.

“What a stroke of luck”.

“Not luck, my friend,” he said a finger raised, “it was fate. For these five would form a group able to change the fate of the entire realm”.

“What happened next?”

“They travelled to the citadel, and the paladin spoke on their behalf to the King, convincing him that the story they wove was true. For his part, the king immediately understood where the fire giant king was holed up if he were reforming the weapon.”

“Where?”

“The lost dwarven forge itself; Ironslag. The king bid them find the forge and clear out the fire giants, in exchange he promised to build them a keep of their own and equip 100 men at arms”.

“Is that the keep to which we ride?”

“Indeed. But the journey to obtain this treasure was troublesome indeed. For the frost giant suggested the location could only be obtained from the oracle of his people, high in the mountains of the frost giants and frozen over to avoid all eyes which do not know of its existence”.

“A frost giant oracle? Our heroes travel to the most wonderful places!”

“As yet, you have heard nothing!” He smiles happily.

You take out a morsel of food and start biting into a bar of hardtack.

“Prey continue,” you say, passing him a slice.

“After a long journey, they reached the ice-covered and windswept peak, and sure enough, through a mighty crevasse they come into the giant-sized entrance hall of the Eye of the All-Father”.

“Surely invisible to anyone who doesn’t know of its location…”

“So, you would think; but, perhaps not from the air as the team discover another party raiding the doors led by a dragon rider, who had spied the entrance from above”.

“A fight ensued?”

“A short one as our group dropped parts of the roof on their heads, slaughtering the unwelcome intruders. Some defensive apparatus that Diamond’s high intelligence determined the operation of. Regardless, inside they found a giant puzzle, which was solved equally quickly, opening the magical portal to the Oracle”.

The Eye of the All-father

A battle on the steps of the Eye

The Oracle speaks!

The Evil blue dragon appears

“So, they got to ask the very Gods of the giants three questions? Amazing!”

“Yes; but, where you or I would enrich ourselves with the answer to the nearest location of treasure troves, this group’s noble calling led them to ask about what had happened to king Hekaton and where they may find Ironslag”.

“The location was revealed?”

“Not directly, in order to achieve this, the Oracle required an artefact buried in an ancient mound in the low lands, a location that the frost giant marked upon their map”.

“How could they travel all that way? It would take a month to travel that distance?”

“Thinking upon this the group was surprised and accosted by a titan of evil, the Doom of the Desert herself, the ancient blue dragon Iymrith”.

“Of all, evils!” You exclaim.

“Yes, indeed the trio would have surely been devoured had not the frost giant attacked because of some past enmity lost to us. His blows drew the ire of the dragon, and the trio was forced to choose between staying and dying along with him or fleeing and leaving him behind. Between the blows, he insisted they do so”.

“A most difficult choice for lawful good Diamond Adventure no doubt.”

“I hear she was dragged out just in time for the frost giant to drop the roof on himself and the dragon. Burying them both, seemingly forever”.

“Ancient dragons can teleport” you point out.

“Yes, although our trio didn’t know if she got the spell off in time, such was the battle”.

“So, our trio were trapped high in the frost mountains? How did they escape”.

“It appeared that the Doom of the Desert’s foray into frost mountains to consult the Oracle had not gone unnoticed by the other great wyrms of the mountains. For none other than Klauth had noticed their bravery and sent his airship to be at their call for the duration”.

“Manned by his cultists?”

“Yes, and to test the trio, he sent a dark storm along with his visage to challenge their intelligence and alignment with cunning riddles.”

“They answered well?”

“They did, yes, and he sent some treasure in the form of a white dragon spirit that spilled out once it had been defeated”.

You shake your head,

“Old snarl playing games with the adventurous…”

“Yes, he is not to be trusted; but, our team had no choice, and they picked up the Paladin Ilan and headed to the nearest marked mound. Delving within, they found many undead shamblers and some evil puzzle rooms guarding the artefact. Leading to a hideous giant spider queen, which Ilan thankfully assisted in destroying”.

“A Paladin is most useful when the undead are awoken,” you comment.

“Yes, and he bid the adventures to visit Neverwinter and get the artefact appraised while he led an expedition to dig a path down to the buried Oracle”.

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