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Best of Tyranny of Dragons

Empi tries to paint

I started this blog as a documentation of my painting experiences in 2013, and almost all miniatures posted were used in my Tyranny of Dragons campaign. The campaign was my first 5th Edition D&D campaign after a several year long hiatus on TRPGs, and my first real foray into miniature painting. It’s time for a look back at the campaign, before I start posting more pictures for the next one.

We started in 2014 with seven players and me as the Dungeon Master with The Hoard of the Dragon Queen (HotDQ) adventure. It’s the first of two consecutive adventure paths in the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. Since October 2019, both are now available in one hardcover edition. The campaign is truly epic, as players have to avert the return of the goddess Tiamat to the world, where she would enslave the whole continent.

Here are the player characters and their miniatures:

The campaign in numbers

  • session length

    5 hrs

  • duration

    2.5 yrs

  • # of sessions


  • sessions/month


  • sessions to lvl up


  • # sessions/lvl

  • fastest level up


  • slowest level up


  • most player deaths


  • most XP at once


  • highest CR (Tiamat)


  • true dragons killed by PCs


  • magic items worn by PCs


The story and the miniatures

Hoard of the Dragon Queen (level 1 – 8)

While the first adventure has its problems, feels railroaded, and is now considered as one of the least favorite adventures of D&D 5th edition players, it was the only available official adventure at the time. And my group had fun with it. I included lots of additional stuff in each episode.

Episode 1 - Greenest in Flames(level 1, session 1 - 3)

Episode 1 - Greenest in Flames
(level 1, session 1 - 3)

The adventure begins with a village in flames, because an adult blue dragon is attacking it. The players are expected to rush in to help and face the first Dragon Cultists, including Cyanwrath Langedrosa, an evil blue half-dragon paladin.

Episode 2 - The Raider's Camp(level 2, session 4 - 6)

Episode 2 - The Raider's Camp
(level 2, session 4 - 6)

After the raid, the players follow the retreating cultists back to their camp in the hills and infiltrate the camp to free the captive monk Leosin. He knows the reason behind the raid. The cultists are divided into different sects within the Cult of the Dragon, depending on a type of dragon. There are The Cobalt Claw, The Pale Eye, The Red Hand of Tiamat, and The Jade Fang cultists.

Episode 3 - The Dragon Hatchery(level 3, session 5 - 10)

Episode 3 - The Dragon Hatchery
(level 3, session 5 - 10)

There’s a well guarded cave in the camp, where the cultists hatch dragon eggs. The players meet Frulam Mondath, the leader of the camp. But she escapes. And we have the first player death, as Vinaya the rogue is killed by a roper.

Episode 4 - On the Road(level 4, session 11 - 20)

Episode 4 - On the Road
(level 4, session 11 - 20)

After a trip to Elturel to raise Vinaya from the dead, the adventurers follow Frulam to Baldur’s Gate. The cultists travel incognito and hide by joining caravans, so the heroes also join a large caravan heading north to Waterdeep. They meet the Red Wizard Azbara Jos, who is working for the Dragon Cult and Jamna Silvergleam, a Zhentarim agent also tracking the Cult. On the way up north, there are lots of encounters with the local wildlife, like an owlbear, and bandits.

Episode 5 - Mere of Dead Men(level 5, session 21 - 22)

Episode 5 - Mere of Dead Men
(level 5, session 21 - 22)

The party leaves the caravan and follows the cultists from a roadhouse deep into the swamps. They encounter lizard people and help them to start a revolution against their Dragon Cult oppressors and a huge colony of bullywugs. They fight a mighty hydra and finally find the hidden base of the Cultists.

Episode 6 - Castle Naerytar(level 6, session 23 - 26)

Episode 6 - Castle Naerytar
(level 6, session 23 - 26)

Deep within the swamps, the cultists work with bullywugs in an old castle ruin to gather plundered resources from all over the Sword Coast. Apparently, this is just one base of many involved in these raids.  The cultists here are led by an elf named Balmorrer Borngrey and the bullywug shaman Pharblex Spattergoo. They use a magic portal deep within the ruins to transport their collected spoils out of the swamp.

Episode 7 - Parnast Hunting Lodge(level 7, session 27 - 29)

Episode 7 - Parnast Hunting Lodge
(level 7, session 27 - 29)

The portal leads to a hunting lodge in the mountains several hundred miles away. After facing Trepsin, a giant mutated troll and Talis the White Wyrmspeaker, the trail leads into the village of Parnast, where the Cultists deliver all resources to a flying Cloud Giant castle.

Episode 8 - Skyreach Castle(level 7, session 30 - 34)

Episode 8 - Skyreach Castle
(level 7, session 30 - 34)

After defeating Rezmir, the Black Wyrmspeaker – a black half-dragon wielding a very powerful sword – and the young white dragon Glazhael, the heroes come into possession of the flying Cloud Giants’ Castle which they could now control. It would become their base of operations and host their future army against the Cult of the Dragon.

We finished HotDQ after 10 months and 34 sessions in July 2015.

I created a huge battlemap for Skyreach Castle. It was very well-received on the DMsguild and got thousands of downloads with a “pay what you want” price model (Electrum Best Seller). Because of the Skyreach Castle Battlemap, I can now get any item I want from the DMsguild with store credit. I am very grateful for that!

The digital battlemap of Skyreach Castle projected on the gaming table

Rise of Tiamat (level 8 – 17)

Episode 9 - Against the Giants(level 8, session 35 - 39)

Episode 9 - Against the Giants
(level 8, session 35 - 39)

We played a conversion from the older module Against the Giants before starting the second adventure Rise of Tiamat. The party was investigating the claims of the cloud giant Blagothkus on Skyreach Castle, that his daughter was kidnapped and he was forced into helping the Cult of the Dragon. The investigation led to the strongholds of a Hill Giant tribe, where she was imprisoned.

Episode 10 - Council of Waterdeep(level 9, session 40 - 41)

Episode 10 - Council of Waterdeep
(level 9, session 40 - 41)

The second adventure changed the railroaded structure and offered players missions to choose from. They were now an elite group and rallied allies against the evil Cult of the Dragon and undertook missions to weaken the cult. I used props and maps heavily here and let players choose what they wanted to prioritize. I added a lot of stuff to the adventure here with lots of side quests and additional factions, as I wanted my players to be high level when they finally face the Cult and stop the Tiamat ritual. Alester, the party cleric had to face the slightly corrupted church of Lathander in Waterdeep.

Episode 11 - The Tomb of Diderius(level 9, session 42 - 45)

Episode 11 - The Tomb of Diderius
(level 9, session 42 - 45)

Varram the White was investigating the Tomb of an old Sage in the desert, but got captured by Yuan-Ti. The heroes rescued him and brought him to Waterdeep for questioning, but not after battling zombies and mummies in the tomb and finding the secret base of the Yuan-Ti first.

Episode 12 - The Sea of Moving Ice(level 10, session 46 - 51)

Episode 12 - The Sea of Moving Ice
(level 10, session 46 - 51)

The tiefling wizard MacCath, an expert on dragon lore was missing and last seen on an expedition to the lair of an ancient white dragon. The party sailed north to Luskan and on to the Sea of Moving Ice to find the dragon. They encountered ice trolls, ice toads, an oni, yetis and a Rhemoraz on their search. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any painted miniatures ready for that.  Finally, the adventurers found MacCath in the lair of Arauthator amidst hordes of kobolds and freed her by defeating the evil wyrm. 

Episode 13 - Metallic Dragons, Arise(level 11, session 52 - 53)

Episode 13 - Metallic Dragons, Arise
(level 11, session 52 - 53)

The heroes meet with the council of metallic dragons to rally them to their cause against the evil dragon cultists to prevent the return of Tiamat. This mission required diplomacy and heavily featured the backstory of Hakran, the dwarven warlock who was a copper dragon once. He was reincarnated as a dwarf as a punishment for old crimes and had to prove himself worthy to the dragons.

Episode 14 - The Misty forest(level 11, sessions 54 - 61)

Episode 14 - The Misty forest
(level 11, sessions 54 - 61)

The wood elven prince Alagarthas was missing. It was suspected that he joined the Dragon Cult a while ago and now works with a powerful green dragon. Chuth, the Emerald Assassin and Alagarthas’ alter ego, Neronvain the green wyrmspeaker were both defeated and the cultist’s resources plundered.

Episode 15 - The Cult strikes back(level 12, session 62 - 63)

Episode 15 - The Cult strikes back
(level 12, session 62 - 63)

Back home in Waterdeep, the party was ambushed by a powerful assassin squad sent by the cult. It included two red dragons! The heroes prevailed. But not without losses, though. Asgrim died defending the others. But he could be raised from the dead to fight on for his god Tempus!

Episode 16 - Expedition in Gauntlgrym(level 12, session 64 - 67)

Episode 16 - Expedition in Gauntlgrym
(level 12, session 64 - 67)

The heroes petitioned the dwarven king Bruennor Battlehammer to join the alliance the heroes were forging. Fire giants attacked the fortress, and the party followed them and stumbled upon clues to a large library in the Underdark, where they finally found more information on the ritual the cult is planning.

Episode 17  - Mission to Thay(level 13, session 68 - 73)

Episode 17 - Mission to Thay
(level 13, session 68 - 73)

The council of Waterdeep sent the heroes to recruit the Red Wizards of Thay to join the alliance – or at least help them against the rogue Red Wizards who have allied with the Dragon cultists. I used the Doomvault mega dungeon from the Dead in Thay adventure here. We had quite some fun bashing monsters for a while, before getting back to the story. This included succubi, hordes of undead, a flesh golem, stone golems, and a mithril golem.

Episode 18 – Xonthal’s Tower(level 14, session 74 - 76)

Episode 18 – Xonthal’s Tower
(level 14, session 74 - 76)

Scouts reported that the blue Wyrmspeaker Galvan has been tracked down. The heroes were dispatched to capture him, so that he cannot aid in the ritual to summon Tiamat. They followed the clues to an old (extradimensional) wizard’s tower and explored it. However, Galvan managed to summon a small army of abishai (dragon devils sent from Tiamat to bolster the cult’s army) and Lennithon, the blue dragon from Greenest. Prothander, the leader of the council of metallic dragons came to the rescue of the adventurers, and together they managed to kill Lennithon, but Galvan escapes. They also meet Amyria, a deva paladina sent from Bahamut to help the alliance fight Tiamat.

Episode 19 - Return to the Mere of Dead Men(level 15, session 77 - 79)

Episode 19 - Return to the Mere of Dead Men
(level 15, session 77 - 79)

After the players learned about Tiamat having hidden her divine essence in five dragons, they set out to find and defeat as many of these dragons as possible to weaken Tiamat. One of them was Ebondeath, who became a dracolich some two hundred years ago and was destroyed by adventurers. They travel back to the Mere of Dead Men into the mausoleum of the dracolich. There, they interrupted the Cult’s closed ally, the Red Wizard Rath Modar, in acquiring the divine essence and managed to destroy it.

Episode 20 - Preparation for War(level 15, session 80 - 82)

Episode 20 - Preparation for War
(level 15, session 80 - 82)

One of the PCs, Asgrim, was dead (again). This time, a disintegration ray killed him. The party brought his ashes to the Tower of Storms in Amn to resurrect him. The heroes then set out to visit the Elemental plane of fire to charge the breath weapon of their new clockwork dragon B.E.T.S.I. They later also helped Hakran, the archfey warlock, to fight for his patron in the Frostfell plane. At the end, the party was back together with lots of allies and new, deadly equipment.

Episode 21 -  Attack on the Well of Dragons(level 16, session 82 - 85)

Episode 21 - Attack on the Well of Dragons
(level 16, session 82 - 85)

In September 2016, with level 16 and after over 80 game sessions, they gathered all their allies and marched on the Well of Dragons to fight the evil Cult and to stop the summoning of Tiamat. It felt like playing the Lord of the Rings, as armies of orcs, elves, and human factions clashed and my players infiltrated the citadel where the ritual was taking place. They overcame legions of cultists including Naergoth Bladelord, the death knight commander of the citadel, their orc vassals and abishai minions. Then, reached Severin, the Leader of the Cult.

Episode 22 - Tiamat's Return(level 17, session 86 - 88)

Episode 22 - Tiamat's Return
(level 17, session 86 - 88)

In the citadel, they faced Severin, the head of the Cult at level 17 and prevented the successful summoning of Tiamat. Of course not before Tiamat would start phasing into our world and defeating her before she was at full strength. It was glorious!

I used maps showing the various quests and hooks like in any good video game.

The invasion of the Well of Dragons by the allied forces of the Sword Coast

We finished RoT 15 months and 55 sessions after HotDQ in November 2016.

After their victory, my players wanted to continue to level 20. So, I adapted the 4th edition adventure Scales of War and took the high level parts I liked and created a new threat for my players to face.

Scales of War (level 18 – 20)

Episode 23 - The Rise of the Lich(level 18, session 89 - 91)

Episode 23 - The Rise of the Lich
(level 18, session 89 - 91)

One year had passed since Tiamat was defeated. A lich named Vurkas and his aide, a death knight named Garonn, have since awoken in the mausoleum of Ebondeath in the Mere of Dead Men, because the players opened the tomb and destroyed the magic barriers preventing the undead to leave. The party infiltrated the tomb again and destroyed Vurkas and his phylactery for good.

Episode 24 - The Legacy of Io(level 19, session 92 - 95)

Episode 24 - The Legacy of Io
(level 19, session 92 - 95)

Bahamut is dead. Unbeknownst to the adventurers, Tiamat and Bahamut fought their war in the heavenly planes, since Tiamat could not conquer the material world. Bahamut sacrificed himself to banish away Tiamat for centuries to come. Amyria, the deva paladin from Xonthal’s tower, carried within her a divine spark of the good dragon god’s essence that could rebirth Bahamut. The heroes had to find and break several magic seals of the gods in the astral planar city of Hestevar. They had to destroy the seals to allow for a rebirth of Bahamut, but a mighty mithril dragon named Dakranad tried to do the same thing to become the new god of dragons himself.

Episode 25 - Those once loyal(level 20, session 96 - 99)

Episode 25 - Those once loyal
(level 20, session 96 - 99)

After dealing with the seals, the party finally travelled to Celestia to the Soul Forge of the dwarven kings to get a divine spark to use with the essence in Amyria. However, their opponent Dakranad was faster and already got the spark for himself. Now, there was no other way than for Amyria to sacrifice herself to get the divine essence out of her body. The party climbed the mount Celestia to reach the Bridge of Al Sihal. By crossing this bridge in the highest of the heavens, mortals ascend to godhood.

In the final confrontation of the campaign, they were caught between fighting the mithril dragon Dakranad, the arch-devil Dispater who also wanted the divine spark for himself and the mighty Solar, guarding the bridge from all trespassers. They tried to get Amyria to the bridge, but she died before reaching it. Elena, the party’s fighter, took the essence, and ran. She sacrificed herself to carry it over the bridge while the Solar was distracted fighting the mithril dragon, and she became the vessel for Bahamut’s rebirth.

We finished Scales of War 3 months and 10 sessions after RoT in Spring 2017.

The epilogue

I had more material ready to let the players visit the City of Brass in the Elemental Plane of Fire or the prison of Tiamat in Avernus at level 20. But ultimately, the rebirth of Bahamut was the most epic conclusion I could think of for our 2.5 year-long campaign after 99 sessions in April 2017.

But what became of our heroes?

Asgrim Fuxfell (cleric/paladin)

Asgrim Fuxfell (cleric/paladin)

The mighty Paladin of Tempus went on to lead a legion of the remaining army to hunt down further Cult of the Dragons leaders. Together with the assassin Vinaya, he spent years recovering treasure stolen by the cultists and giving it back to the communities where it was stolen from. He was on death’s door to the afterlife several times, but was sent back by Tempus to fight on. It is unknown, if Asgrim returned home to his barbarian kin in the north or if he still fights as a champion of his god – on this world, or the heavenly planes.

Vinaya (rogue assassin)

Vinaya (rogue assassin)

In the beginning, Vinaya was cursed by a supernatural power and was linked to Asgrim. Both of them had to trade places, and only one could be on the material plane at the same time. Eventually, she could break this curse and manifest again as herself. This experience changed her physique, as she now was more demonic tiefling than human. Vinaya mastered her new powers and became a master assassin during the Dragon Crisis. She continued to apply her trade and joined Asgrim once again in hunting down the remnants of the Dragon Cult. She was last seen in Calimshan deep in the South, but she left no trace to follow from there.

Elena von Greifenfels (fighter)

Elena von Greifenfels (fighter)

Elena von Greifenfels, the noble knight from near Waterdeep was an expert fighter. Instead of persuing the divine magic of her order, she devoted herself to physical and martial perfection. As a battlemaster, she was essential in during the Dragon Crisis and wielded the mighty greatsword Haziwran. It took some time before Elena mastered the evil sword, bent it to her will and she cleansed it from its evil. By then, she was nearly unstoppable. Elena found a good friend in the deva paladina Amyria and completed her divine mission for her. By making the ultimate sacrifice, Elena was the new vessel for Bahamut’s rebirth. She died, so Bahamut could live again.

The Red Raven (warlock)

The Red Raven (warlock)

The enigmatic warlock was eager to learn everything he could about the strange magic of the Far Realm. After accepting a pact with a great old entity from beyond the stars, he was tasked to secure this knowledge and prevent it to fall into the wrong hands. After the Dragon Crisis, the half-elf only known as The Red Raven gathered a small following himself and created a coven of apprentices in Waterdeep. This circle of warlocks dedicated itself to dig up the lost lore of the Far Realm, the Abolethic Society and the Illithid, specifically in the Underdark and in Skullport near Waterdeep. The Red Raven still heads this coven today and works in the shadows, sometimes working with his old allies from the Alliance – such as The Blackstaff. His true motivation is only known to himself.

Hakran Steamhammer (warlock)

Hakran Steamhammer (warlock)

When the young shield dwarf Hakran stumbled into a pact with the Winter Price Cyramore, a mighty arch fey, his adventure began. Soon, he found out his true destiny – he is a dwarf now, but his soul is that of a dragon. On his travels during the Dragon Crisis, Hakran found another mentor in the Copper Dragon Aaronarra. At the Council of Metallic Dragons, Hakran proved himself worthy in the face of Prothander, the Dragon King of Justice. The Champions of the Sword Coast were essential in the rebirth of Bahamut, and the dragon god pardoned the warlock. He would be a dragon again in his next life, if he so chooses. So after the Dragon Crisis, Hakran embraced the life as an adventuring dragon-soul, furthering the cause of the Winter Prince and of dragons all around Faerûn.

Lafisar (druid)

Lafisar (druid)

The wood elf Lafisar was an exceptionally talented druid from the circle of the land to begin with. During his travels, he got to know the lands and beasts beyond the elven forests. He returned home several times during the Dragon Crisis and got the recognition of his fellow druids. He was appointed arch-druid when he finally came back for good and became the leader of his circle. Until this day, he watches vigilantly and protects the forest realm against dangers from outside and inside.

Alester the Distant Light (cleric)

Alester the Distant Light (cleric)

Before the call of adventure, Alester was an aging travelling priest. He despised the twisting of words of the holy texts by the clergy of Lathander in his hometown or Iraebor and found similar problems in the highest temple of his god in Waterdeep. Alester’s wisdom and teachings were heard by many during the Dragon Crisis, as he found supporters from other like-minded clerics. Finally, he confronted the church in Waterdeep and reformed their practices. He was elected High Radiance of the Spires of the Morning, as the head of the church. But this was not was Alester wanted, so he turned it down. After the Dragon Crisis, Alester smiled, as he knew the faith of Lathander was strong, and the leaders were on the right track again. He continued to travel the lands, and was not seen for quite some time.

Wow, you really got this far down the page? Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the campaign 🙂 

campaign, HOTDQ, RoT

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