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Much like in this question, my players have just finished Curse of Strahd and are about to embark on Rise of Tiamat.

Rise is the second part of a two-part series, and allows that the players may not have played through Hoard of the Dragon Queen first.

In "Starting the Adventure", we read

If you didn’t play Hoard of the Dragon Queen, a separate group of heroes assaulted Skyreach Castle and bravely gave their lives to crash the fortress. The characters are then invited to the council simply because of their reputation as powerful adventurers, and because the council expects to need their services.

And in "Follow-Up: Hoard of the Dragon Queen" we read

Once introductions are made, Dagult Neverember summarizes the situation if the adventurers did not play through Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This includes the plan to summon Tiamat, increased dragon raids led by the cult, the treasure collection system, the crash or capture of Skyreach Castle, and the importance of the wyrmspeakers and dragon masks to the cult.

While I could read all of HotDQ and prepare that summary for my players, it would be great if someone else had already done that work for me. Google-searching finds a lot of reviews of the adventure, but what I am really after is not a "how good is this module" review (most of them), or even a "this is what actually happens in HotDQ / summary for DMs". Rather, I would get the most utility out of a player-facing summary, a "this is what your characters might have learned if they had played through the adventure."

If anyone knows of such a link I would greatly appreciate it.

If anyone is actually interested a writing such a summary for me (gosh, thanks!) as an answer to this question, it would be even better to have it from the perspective of the Lord's Alliance (specifically Dwarven Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil), the Order of the Gauntlet (and/or Sir Isteval), and the Harpers, since these are the factions I believe my players will gravitate toward.

My players are more interested in combat challenges than NPC interaction, so I doubt I will be giving them much of this in the voice of the Council Members. Rather it will likely be a summary narration, "Over the course of a long afternoon's meeting, you learn that..."

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    \$\begingroup\$ Probability not from the councils point of view but I could provide something based on my own experience as a player where we went and what we did / learned. Is that still within your interest? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Jun 1 at 10:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TobiasF. very much so, yes \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 1 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Insofar as you want to to know the council members'/factions' perspectives of the various events, have you consulted the "council scorecard" in the appendices of Rise of Tiamat (or Tyranny of Dragons, which compiles both HotDQ and RoT together in a single book)? It reflects the various attitudes of the factions and council members to the party's actions over the course of the adventures. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 1 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I have looked at that. It provides a good summary on what the different factions would think of the possible outcomes of different parts of HotDQ. I am more interested in what I should assume did happen (along the lines of RoT suggestion that the skycastle was crashed), and which faction might have been closest to that event and so would be reporting it to the Council, as well as the 'spin' they would put on it (although the last part could be informed by the scorecard) \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 1 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see. In that sense, you want to know what the "canon" outcomes are? I'm not sure if there is a single assumed-to-be-canon outcome for most of those specific events; they're left up to player choice in HotDQ, and probably just sort of handwaved if the group didn't play through that before RoT. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 2 at 22:56
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This answer is based on my personal experience playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen:

The story begins in Greenest, where the party happened to travel together with no particular goal in mind. As they get a view of the village, it is in utter chaos, homes burning, people fleeing, almost like the apocalypse has begun. Above the village, an Adult Blue Dragon is flying in circles, while cultists from the Cult of the Dragon raid the village with kobolds under their commands, grabbing anything that looks remotely valuable. The party tries their best to reach the keep (castle) in Greenest, rescuing a few innocent villagers in the process. When the group arrives in the castle, the dragon uses its breath to fry some guards on the walls; it flies off after being attacked a bit, possibly out of boredom or disinterest.

The next day, the party is asked by the governor of Greenest to locate the cultists' camp, where a monk by the name of Leosin is held hostage; he is holding vital information about the cult and their plans. One way or another, the party manages to free and save Leosin. They return to the castle of Greenest, and the Governor and Leosin are extremely thankful. After a quick briefing, the party was told to return to the camp and check what can be found in the caves located there. There are a number of large eggs (possibly dragon eggs) to be found, as well as one of the leaders of the cult, who tries their best to flee if cornered in a fight. The party then learns about the plans left behind by the cult, which state that the treasure is to be transported by carts hidden among a normal caravan on a trading route to Waterdeep.

While traveling with the caravan (which takes about 2 months), they learn that with the cultists is a powerful Red Wizard of Thay. Once in Waterdeep, some investigation by the party reveals that the goods are being sent north to a roadhouse used to maintain the road between Waterdeep and Neverwinter. Once there, more investigation leads to finding a hidden tunnel where lizardfolk are transporting the treasure a few days of travel away to the castle in the Mere of Dead Men. When they fight the lizardfolk, one surrenders (if it is clear that the party is winning) and begs them to help him overthrow the cult in the castle, so that the lizardfolk may no longer be abused by the bullywugs (frogmen).

The group enters the castle in the guise of cultists, and learns over some time that there is a portal in the basement where only high-level cultists are allowed to go. However the party decides to go about it, they eventually reach the teleportation circle in the basement. (Options to do so include being sneaky, tricking people, or pushing the already tense situation so much that the lizardfolk attempt a coup, which the party can aid.) Once they teleport that way, they find a lodge led by a higher-ranking member of the cult who wants the party to tell the higher-ups that all the treasure came from her; she sends the party to the nearby village of Parnast, to get onto the flying castle that will soon depart.

The party learns that they are not allowed aboard the castle, and must find a way to get on it anyways. Once there, they can explore what it has to offer. At some point, they may face off against the owner of the castle, whose death will cause the castle, which is flying high through the air, to turn and crash into the mountainside, spilling all the gold and treasure it held. The castle also houses a white dragon to protect the hoards, which attacks the player characters if they dare to enter its lair.

As far as my knowledge goes, that is a rough summary of what happens in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Note that my group crashed the castle rather fast, so I'm unsure what we have missed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt The Governor of Greenest, I will edit that in \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Jun 1 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Greenest, where the party happened to travel together with no particular goal in mind" - This isn't necessarily quite true, in that some of the suggested character hooks in "Appendix A: Backgrounds" do give you a reason to go there (e.g. Leosin asking you to meet him there, apocalyptic dreams compelling you to go there, Ontharr asking you to go there seeking rumors of increased dragon activity, various hooks relating to the cult leading you there, etc.). If what you mean is that the party doesn't necessarily share the same reason for going there, you should clarify the phrasing accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 1 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, as for the ending of HotDQ, it is actually possible for the party to persuade the owner of the castle to rebel against the cult (though the party may need to get rid of the other cult forces aboard the castle - and the white dragon - before he takes the castle anywhere else). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 1 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast feel free to edit that in then, this is mostly recreated from my memory, some parts might be missing because of that :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Jun 1 at 21:58
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The Council Meeting Serves a Number of Different Purposes

In addition to (1) providing new players with a summary of what was important in the previous module, the first Council Meeting serves as (2) an introduction to the various factions involved in the story. Unless your group really likes conversing with NPC's or already has significant background knowledge of organizations within the Forgotten Realms setting, the sheer number of possible interactions is going to be overwhelming, since this is the first scene. Rise of Tiamat lists five factions present at the first Council Meeting and ten named NPCs that are likely to speak at some point. On the other hand, for much of the adventure as a whole, the PCs will be far from Waterdeep and the Council meetings, and will thus have few chances to interact with these NPCs again. Therefore, the NPCs that get the most 'onstage time' at the first Council meeting should be those the DM sees as being the ones that are likely to be sources of continued interaction with the party; either because they are already important in the backstories or adventure hooks of the PC's, or because those are the factions to which the PC's will likely gravitate or with which they will interact most. There are a number of different factions and NPCs who can legitimately summarize the events of Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the PC's, but by choosing the ones the party is likely to re-encounter, the DM can do double duty with them.

Another use of of the HotDQ summary is (3) to have the players appreciate the perspectives of the different factions; as someone is relating an account of what the previous heroes did, the different factions can express their approval or disapproval, signaling to players what the factions are like.

Finally, the reaction of the Council delegates as a whole can be used (4) to guide new players in the playstyle and genre expectations of the DM. By describing the first set of heroes as clever (or too clever), sneaky (or cowardly), bold (or foolhardy), powerful (or incautious), etc, and having the NPC's present react to those descriptions, the GM can preview for the players what actions are likely to meet with what consequences in the upcoming adventure.

From Rise of Tiamat

Once introductions are made, Dagult Neverember summarizes the situation if the adventurers did not play through Hoard of the Dragon Queen. This includes the plan to summon Tiamat, increased dragon raids led by the cult, the treasure collection system, the crash or capture of Skyreach Castle, and the importance of the wyrmspeakers and dragon masks to the cult.

For what follows, each episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen is summarized with what the previous heroes did, what is important that the current players learn, and who at the council could narrate the information.

Episodes 1 and 2: Greenest in Flames / The Raider's Camp

The heroes happened upon the town of Greenest at the time of a cultist attack. The cultist army included a blue dragon [increased dragon raids led by the cult] as well as numerous foot troops. The cultists largely ignored the keep in favor of looting the town [the treasure collection system]. The heroes snuck into the cultists' camp and rescued a Harpers' agent.

The Lord's Alliance: As the civil leader of the town, Governor Nighthill is likely a member of the Lord's Alliance. Lord Dagult could narrate this part of the tale, as reported to him by the governor.

The Harpers / The Order of the Gauntlet The monk Leosin Erlanthar is a member of the Harpers but is a comrade and confidant of Ontharr Frume, the lead delegate of the Order of the Gauntlet. Either Ontharr (for the Order of the Gauntlet) or Lady Remelia Haventree (for the Harpers) could narrate this part of the tale, as described to them by Leosin. [Note that Leosin plays a role in Rise of Tiamat but does not actually attend the Council meeting. He also is described as having researched dragon lore extensively. These two things indicate that the Harpers don't want to draw attention to him as an asset, so likely the story would be related as what was learned 'from a Harper agent' rather than specifically naming him.]

Episode 3: The Dragon Hatchery

After the cultist army withdrew, the heroes investigated their campsite and found underground chambers for breeding drakes, and one with dragon eggs [increased dragon raids led by the cult]

This episode can be recounted by any of the same people as Episodes 1 and 2

Options: The heroes were presented with the option of recovering or destroying three black dragon eggs. Strictly speaking, a DM starting with RoT would not have to specify what happened to them. However, announcing one of the options (as what did happen) at the Council meeting will allow the DM to then describe how the different factions react to the news (guided by the the Council Scorecard included in RoT).

Episodes 4 and 5 On the Road / Construction Ahead

The cultists disguised their looted treasure as a merchant caravan [the treasure collection system]. The heroes traveled to Elturel, then Baldur's Gate, where they joined the caravan in disguise. En route to Waterdeep they learned that the cultists are being aided by the Red Wizards of Thay. From Waterdeep they set out ostensibly for Neverwinter.

Since the heroes met Leosin and Ontharr in Elturell, the first part of this section could be narrated by The Harpers or the Gauntlet as in Episodes 1-3, but they would not necessarily know any details about the trip to Waterdeep. Since Lord Dagult is also Lord Protector of Neverwinter, he would reasonably be watching over any caravans headed that way and would be the most logical member of the Council to have interacted with the heroes at this point.

In the caravan with the heroes was an agent of the Zhentarim. Note that RoT as written does not call for the Zhentarim to be noticed until the second Council meeting, but if a DM wanted to introduce this faction at the first Council meeting, then having their delegate relate this section of the story, especially the discovery of the Red Wizard, would be the natural place to do so.

Episode 6: Castle Naerytar

The heroes follow the loot off the caravan trail, through the Mere of Dead Men, and to the ruins of Castle Naerytar, where the cult is served by a black dragon [increased dragon raids led by the cult]. The treasure is then carried through a magical teleportation portal [the treasure collection system].

It is not immediately clear from this point of the story forward how the heroes would have gotten word back to the Council of their doings, especially if the DM is assuming that they died in the crash of the Skycastle. The DM could posit that they made contact with an Emerald Enclave agent in the mere if they wish to spotlight this faction.

At this point the heroes would be fifth level, so the DM could also assume that they were provided with a sending spell or scrolls by Dagult in Waterdeep.

Episode 7: Hunting Lodge

The heroes followed the treasure through the magical portal to a safehouse near Parnast. They learned that the highest ranking members of the cult are called wyrmspeakers, and that each of the five has one of the dragon masks [the importance of the wyrmspeakers and dragon masks to the cult]. They also learned that the ultimate goal of the cult is the summoning of Tiamat from the Hells through a magical ritual [the plan to summon Tiamat]

Again, absent magical communication, it is unclear how the now-deceased characters would have conveyed this information back to the Council.

Episode 8: Castle in the Clouds

The heroes followed the treasure aboard a flying castle provided by an uneasy alliance that the cultists have with Giantkind. The castle was defended by a white dragon [increased dragon raids led by the cult]. Rather than allow the castle to be used to transport the treasure to the location of the summoning ritual, the heroes gave their lives to crash the castle and kill everyone aboard [the treasure collection system, the crash or capture of Skyreach Castle].

Again, absent magical communication, it is unclear how the now-deceased characters would have conveyed this information back to the Council.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I was hoping for something that would help me prep for last week's session. When a player canceled for that, I had the time to get HotDQ, skim it, and write the answer that I would have liked to have received in time for today's session. I appreciate your recognition. I do think it will help those in a similar situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 8 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thats quite a nice summary I have to say, you did a good job :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Jun 21 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another user has expressed appreciation for your summary, just commenting a link to it here in case you missed it. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I have enough rep to see the deleted post, so the link was not necessary - but I would not have known to even look without your comment in my inbox. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Oct 22 at 5:14

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