Rise of Takhisis

Rise of Takhisis

Conversion notes to run Rise of Tiamat in the Dragonlance Setting

By Cameron Lloyd

The Tyranny of Dragons adventure path, with it’s two books – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat – fit thematically into the Dragonlance setting perfectly. The idea of an extremist cult of dragon worshippers gathering an army to summon a dragon queen and conquer the world, and heroes trotting across the continent following leads, immediately brings to mind the idea of a next Dragon War and a new generation of heroes. DM’s and players looking to run an epic Dragonlance campaign would do well to look to these modules.

After running players at my table up to level 7 with homebrewed content, I decided to run the Rise of Tiamat module.

In the following, I will give information on how I have decided to run Rise of Tiamat as a ‘Rise of Takhisis’, and thoughts and ideas of how other DM’s might adapt the Tyranny of Dragons path to their own table

Spoiler Warning!

The following includes details from the campaign module books. If you are not a DM, and want to enjoy some of the surprises this campaign path presents, stop reading now. I will try to keep things more general so that if a player peaks at this, the game will be minimally spoiled.

Adjusting the Cult of the Dragon Queen

We need to make some minor adjustments to the Cult of the Dragon. This is no longer a Forgotten Realms organization that used to turn dragons into dracoliches. We should make them fit the history of Dragonlance.

These are true believers of Takhisis. They believe even the Knights of Neraka have gone soft. That people still revere Takhisis, but put nation and ethnicity first. They believe that Takhisis is greater than any nation.

So, they are a decentralized organization. Their faith comes first. They have believers and contacts in all nations. They believe in serving Takhisis first, and that by doing so, they will be granted power, riches, and eternal life when Takhisis finally conquers and rules all people

Adjusting the followers and ranks

We can keep the normal ranks of Claw, Wing, Talon, Fang, Soul, Wyrmspeaker. I might add “Scale” as the rank and file cultists who are not soldiers.

Wings and up, we should see a lot of Draconians in the order. This also explains the limited-flight capabilities of Dragonwings. That level has a lot of draconians in it, particularly Kapaks, with limited flight.

No more half-dragons. They feel very Forgotten Realms to me, not Dragonlance. Instead, we will replace them with Draconians. If they are high ranking members, make them Bozak, Sivak, or Aurak based on their abilities. I made Rezmir a Bozak.

Well of Dragons? No. Temple of Takhisis.

We do not have a dragon graveyard. Dragons do not die of old age. Instead, we take the Dragonlance lore that the Great Temple of Takhisis regularly rises and falls. This is where she regularly tries to form a gate between the Abyss and Krynn.

Instead, the Cult has used the power of the Dragon Masks to raise the Temple of Takhisis again.

But where to put it? There are many options. To keep things simple to fit with the module, it really just needs to be in the caldera of a dormant volcano. That gives us any number of locations to put it. We could even raise Istar from the sea. Near Neraka seems like an obvious thematic choice.

I have decided to place it in the north of the Khalkist mountains. Sort of between Taman Busuk, Estwilde, and Teyr. Most likely at the Mouth of Truth. This seems like a good name for a caldera.

Why here? Well… it’s not in any nation, which fits with this new Cult. It is central to the continent and a good place to build and launch an army from. It will be very difficult to assault and will genuinely mean that the PC’s will have to pull together a strong army and make alliances with forces they almost certainly will have tension with.

I’m going to assume the Cult quickly takes Kalaman and control Kalaman bay. I’m going to also assume that an assault on the high ground will only be successful if they are able to attack from multiple fronts.

The land assault from the west is easily open to Solamnia. Fine. North, South, and East are complicated though.

From the North would require a naval assault to land forces. That means they would need a great navy. The minotaurs have the best navy. This means the PC’s would benefit greatly from an alliance with the Minotaurs. If not that, finding a way to prevent Kothas from allying with the cult and bringing its navy against the assault.

East is Haekel’s Causeway, controlled by Teyr. The Draconians are not going to let another nation’s army pass through their territory freely. The best option is to get them on your side. But again, the PC’s should at least want to keep them neutral.

South is Neraka. There’s no way they’re getting free passage over those mountains. But under them…? It’s possible the dwarves of Thoradin know passages that would bypass the valley of Neraka. But to do that, they’d need to deal with problems caused by the deep dwarves.

Cult-Allied Nations

The Knights of Neraka, particularly the Knights of the Thorn, will fill the role played by the Red Wizards of Thay in RoT. Neraka will quickly fall in line with the Cult, but there will still be individuals of power within that resist the cult’s plans.

Blode and the Ogrelands will quickly fall in step with the cult as well. They just like killing and conquering. Ogres aren’t much for national pride.

The Council of…?

We need an analog for Waterdeep to serve as the central hub for this module. Where do meetings occur to bring factions together and talk everyone into action? Really this comes to who you want as your factions and where do you want the adventure to be centralized.

You could easily choose Palanthas as an analog to Waterdeep. But if it’s run by the Knights of Solamnia, that doesn’t leave as much room for complex politicking with morally gray powers. If it’s run by the Knights of Neraka… doesn’t leave as much room for complex politicking with morally gray powers…

You could place it somewhere in Abanasinia or Schallsea. There is definitely some fun to be had there.

For my money… I’m going to place things in Khuri-Khan.

Why Khuri-Khan?

This is all about who you want your political powers to be at the table, and where would they be willing to sit down together. Eastern Ansalon just has so much more complex powers that I think would be willing to sit down together to avoid mutual destruction, but who the PC’s are going to have to work HARD to get to work together: Khur, Kothas, Teyr, Nordmaar, Thoradin, Flotsam, the Legion of Steel. The Knights of Solamnia do not have a center of power, but certainly have representative Knights they can send that far out. The conflict between the exiled Silvanesti Elves and the Minotaurs can be a major conflict.

Khur also makes sense because it is big and powerful enough to attract attention, but not so powerful that representatives from other powers are going to feel like they don’t have a say. The Khurish people are also pretty likely to want to reach out to other nations and be like, “Hey, you know how every time a Dragon Army rises, we’re the first ones to get run over? Can we try to do something a little different this time?”

Unlike in the core module, meetings don’t always have to be in the same city. Later sessions could easily be in Robann or North Keep. For a first meeting though, it’s a cool city, and a great jumping off point for the heroes to go to either Icereach or The Desolation.

The Great Council – The Enemy of my Enemy is not always my Friend

Although the overarching plot and scene locations will remain the same, we have now set up to massively change the themes of the campaign. Ansalon is a continent of war. There are many powers constantly fighting with and against each other for power. This is not the Council of Waterdeep where most of the parties are some variation of Good, or the sort of ‘Neutral’ that is really heroic, with only the Zhentarim being “evil”, but in a very pragmatic and mercenary way. A bunch of people who are all ready to fight alongside each other.

We now have a bunch of disparate factions many of whom do not get along. They have sent representatives out of a mutual sense of self preservation. They want to feel out what sort of alliance will be formed to stand against this rising enemy. It is up to the PC’s to forge this alliance, and it is almost certain that bringing in certain groups will alienate others. Council meetings will be genuinely tense and hazardous affairs, not just tallying a scorecard while getting new adventure seeds.

It thrusts the politics into a situation similar to the lead-up to World War One. Lots of expanding powers with rising tensions. Everyone knows a war is inevitable and is waiting for an inciting incident. Except the Cult of the Dragon Queen launches goes into action before this, and everyone realizes the cult poses an existential threat to everyone that no one can defeat on their own. It would seem obvious to form an alliance to stop the Cult, but if one nation commits forces and depletes resources to fighting the Cult but their neighbor doesn’t, they open themselves up to being wiped out anyway. It puts everyone in a giant game of political chicken.

This gives a reason for the players to be central. In the module, the member organizations ought to all be ready to work together for common defense. In this Great Council of Khuri-Khan, very few of them want to work together, and the ones that do, have the least military might to muster. It will take a charismatic and neutral group doing great deeds that people can rally around – a group of heroes – to forge an alliance out of these factions.

Chapter Log:

How I started the path: a prelude into Rise of Tiamat

I ran players on a homebrewed campaign up to 7th level. I decided to run Rise of Tiamat from there forward. However I do not like the device of “You receive a random summons to a secret council meeting. There they summarize events of another adventuring party.” The PC’s should be the heroes who do epic things, so I needed a way to slide them naturally into the climactic end of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I decided to insert them in Episode 6: Castle Naerytar. I hooked them and got them to the castle by having them chase an escaped villain from another adventure. He had a captive that they were tasked with recovering. He ran away to a keep he thought was empty, but turned out to be occupied by the Cult of the Dragon Queen.

If you do not have a convenient escaping villain, have the Cult attack the town the players are in with numbers too great for them to defeat on their own. The cult takes prisoners and treasure and transports them back to the castle.

From there, I ran a stripped down version of the castle. The goal is just to establish that the cult is a threat, and hurry the PC’s along towards Skyreach. I dropped the conflict between the lizard men and bullywugs. The guards were all cultists. I filled the lizardman tower with kobold servants instead. I got rid of some superfluous encounters like the gargoyles and spectres. The caverns under the castle were simplified with only the teleportation circle and a side chamber. I also placed a dragon nest in the top of the kobold tower, but the dragon was away helping with a raid. This way, if the PC’s clear out the keep a bit too easily and are wasting their time moving forward, the dragon can show up and hurry them along.

Under the castle I placed the clutch of dragon eggs that would normally have appeared earlier in the adventure, but with an important twist. They are now metallic dragon eggs (I chose silver, but any color is fine). This is Dragonlance! The cult has the secrets of how to make draconians. If the players know the lore, it is foreboding. If they don’t, it raises a bunch of questions and foreshadows future events. Metallic dragon eggs also make for a better complication in RoT, when dealing with the Metallic Dragons.

From there, you can run Episodes 7 and 8 basically as written. I decided to take the vampire out of Skyreach castle, but I did make the crumbling tower where the cultists are keeping the prisoners that they plan to sacrifice.

The First Council Meeting: Welcome to Khuri Khan

Having dealt with the castle, the players receive a summons from a contact to meet him in Khuri-Khan. The town they left before heading off to Castle Naerytar has been attacked and razed by the cult. Factions have gathered in Khuri-Khan to discuss.

Leading into the first council, I had a couple of men show up to escort the PC’s to the council. Turns out they were hired to waylay the characters and prevent them from showing up and reporting. These are poor mercenaries hired with zero interest in fighting the PC’s. They just run them around through the city and attempt to lock them in a basement or warehouse somewhere.

We finally get to the council itself. Introduce the representatives. Each primary is introduced by their second (if the second is sufficiently junior) or by a herald (if they are of roughly equal station). The seconds go up to a gallery overlooking the council table.

Use this opportunity for the PC’s to see some of the interaction between faction reps. Some ideas include:

The minotaur general, Kavas de Dexos, walks up to the Knight of the Rose, Lady Olivia. The two size each other up examining the medals and ribbons each wears. Kavas then salutes Lady Olivia with the oath of the Empire, “Est soluras oth Mithas,” and she responds by soluting him in turn with the oath of the Knights, “Est soluras oth Mithas.” Characters can tell that this is a case where they are speaking different languages with a common root and the words of the oat are the same. It should be apparent that these two are not friendly, but have a sort of “I look forward to battling against you someday,” sort of warriors’ respect.

The Knight of the Rose, Lady Olivia, keeps glancing over and glaring at the Sivak Draconian. She does not seem pleased with his presence. If questioned after the meeting, she tells a story of how horrific fighting Sivaks is. The worst enemy ever. When you finish a battle and literally all the dead bodies are your people. Looking down into your own dead eyes. Then fighting side by side with people you think are your allies, even cutting down enemies, only to have them turn into Draconians, attack you, and break your line at the worst instant as you attempt to brace against an attacking wave.

The Elven representatives constantly glare angrily at the Minotaurs.

The Draconian representative sees how uncomfortable his presence makes several of the other representatives. Probably goes out of his way to select a seat right next to the Nordmaari rep just to mess with them.

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