Falling: the Adventure

I’ve been running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat adventure sequence with my local shop for the last few months and this week I got to run the most amazing table…

A little backstory and context: we’re running the campaign as a huge group adventure for those appropriate parts, and break out to individual tables for most regular adventures. We’re on the final episode of the storyline, where the party assaults the final stronghold. Since we’re doing it as a 40+ PC group of 15th level characters, our DM team decided to split the group into tables based on the kind of assault they wanted to plan. I got a table of players who had decided to HALO jump into the caldera of the volcano.

So that’s what we did.

After a little bit of exposition, and goofiness, the party strapped themselves to the belly of a friendly metallic dragon and flew to altitude. At this point we had enough of a diversion set up that there were maybe 20 dragons flying guard duty above the 1 sq. mile mouth of the volcano. Then they jumped.

So here’s what I did. I put a d12 down on the table and said, okay. Here’s the countdown to when you need to chug your feather fall potion in order to land safely. I’m going to roll a d6 on each of your turns and if it comes up your number (I had 6 players) you’re about to hit a dragon on the way down. You can make an appropriate athletics/acrobatics/dexterity save (DC12) to avoid the dragon, but each round you’re falling incurs a penalty equal to the number showing on the d12 (This is simply a repurposing the 13th Age escalation die). Starting at round 9, I rolled 2d6 to see if their number came up.

All but one player tried hard to stick to the stealth aspect of the mission, doing their best to avoid mid-air combat. He took a hardline on RP’ing his (drunken oafish) character despite the circumstance; forcing himself into troublesome situations and throwing himself at the consequences. While a lot of my table thought that this polluted the stealth aspect of the mission, it also added a whole lot of flavor and really vital interest to what might have otherwise been a really dull exercise in dice rolling.

This scene ended up being approximately half of our allotted play time. It was incredibly tense as players traded inspiration dice, miscellaneous abilities, and hoped like hell to hit the ever-increasing DC numbers. And the players couldn’t stop talking about the session afterwards; one even cited it as one of his two best sessions of the season. In an adventure where they fell for about an hour and a half.