DM’s resources for Chapter 3: Avernus out now (and a free map!)

Just a quick update to let you know that our DM’s resources for Chapter 3 of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus have been published on the DM’s Guild! It’s our biggest DM’s resources yet, covering more than 70 pages in the campaign book. The download includes:

  • Running Chapter 3. An overview of Chapter 3, including a thorough look at the chapter’s pacing with advice on how to handle travel, encounters, rests and much more.
  • Fort Knucklebone. Thoughts and ideas that will help you improve the various encounters at Fort Knucklebone and make the party’s stay at Mad Maggie’s even more memorable.
  • Quest for the Sword. A brief look at the Quest for the Sword, including ideas on how you can change the structure to give your players more options and agency, advice on how to handle Haruman’s Hill and the Hellwasp Nest, as well as a new monster: the Hellwasp Queen!
  • Path of Demons and Path of Devils. A complete walkthrough of the two paths to the Bleeding Citadel, offering ideas on how to run, enhance or even remove various encounters to better fit your campaign.
  • Avernus Cheatsheet. A one-page cheetsheet invaluable to any traveler in Avernus, giving you abbreviated rules for traveling in Avernus, as well as lists of devils, warlords and a complete rundown of the Nine Hells and their rulers.
  • Monster Stat Blocks. Monster stat blocks covering every foe in the chapter, neatly arranged together on pages, so you don’t have to flip through several books when running encounters.
  • 7 Encounter Maps. Fully colored and in both DM’s and player versions, these seven maps showing the plains of Avernus, Bel’s Forge, Crypt of the Hellriders, the Bone Brambles, the Hellwasp Nest, a Styx Watchtower and a Wrecked Flying Fortress are primed for digital tabletop.

With the amount of work put into these DM’s resources, we’re happy we can continue to set a low price of just 3.99$ at launch (although we can’t say for sure that the price won’t increase later). But! We know that not everyone has the dollars to spare, so here’s one of the battlemaps (Crypt of the Hellriders in both DM’s and player versions!) from the download for the low cost of FREE! Hope you enjoy – and have fun in hell!

Ghosts of Saltmarsh in the Forgotten Realms (free maps!)

In our last blogpost, we discussed making WotC’s newest adventure series Ghosts of Saltmarsh into a full campaign. It’s a topic that deserves more attention – and a more detailed look – but before we get further into that, I wanted to take a detour and talk about putting Ghosts of Saltmarsh in the Forgotten Realms.

We’ve just published DM’s Resources for Danger at Dunwater, our second installment of DM’s Resources for Ghosts of Saltmarsh. In it – spoilers ahead! – the players begin exploring the region around Saltmarsh, as they are sent to investigate a lizardfolk lair in the nearby marshes. Since we’ve moved the campaign to the Forgotten Realms, a new map was needed – which also got me thinking about Forgotten Realms in general.

Sword Coast map with Saltmarsh included. Original map by Mike Schley.

Hate it or love it, Forgotten Realms has so far been the primary campaign setting for 5th edition D&D. And while I understand the criticisms that Forgotten Realms is sometimes met with – mostly that it’s a pretty generic, medieval-style setting, inspired heavily by the tropes in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth – I can’t help but love it anyway.

Perhaps it’s because the Avatar-novels was what got me into D&D to begin with – and the fact that I’ve since read nearly all the Forgotten Realms-novels. Or maybe it’s because the setting is generic, allowing me to decide which quirky and unique elements to introduce when I want to give a campaign a particular flavor. It’s probably a combination of both – using a world with a rich and Google-able lore, that is simultaneously easy to understand because it is built on old traditions, seems to be the perfect fit for me.

I can’t say too much about Greyhawk, because I’ve never played a game set in it, but as far as I can tell, it’s a pretty generic setting as well. So for me, it simply becomes a choice between a setting I know and understand, and one that I don’t. That’s an easy enough choice for me – so we’re moving to the Forgotten Realms!

Overall, moving Ghosts of Saltmarsh to the Forgotten Realms is remarkably easy. I’ve gone into more depth with this in our first DM’s Resources for The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, but to quickly summarize, most of the work is done by simply changing the three primary factions.

  • The Traditionalists remain as they are; local people who are wary of outsiders.
  • The Loyalists are instead members of the Lord’s Alliance, called upon by Saltmarsh to protect the town when giants were rampaging the North (during the events of Storm King’s Thunder) and who are now working to make a proper harbor city out of the backwater town (bringing with them unwanted taxes and laws against smuggling).
  • The Scarlet Brotherhood are the Zhentarim, eager to reap the profits of Saltmarsh’ growth, by taking control of the Town Council.

Here and there you’ll have to change some minor stuff (such as replacing the Sea Princes with the pirate-controlled city of Luskan, when they’re mentioned), but simply changing the factions will get you far. But there’s one thing we still need – maps! Luckily, Mike Schley (check out his amazing work here: has made some huge maps for the Sword Coast, where we can easily fit Saltmarsh in.

A Mere of Dead Men-map showing Saltmarsh and surrounding adventure locations.

Inspired by redditor /u/murganis, who’s made his own maps, showing Saltmarsh in the Forgotten Realms, and the suggestions given in the Ghosts of Saltmarsh book, I’ve added Saltmarsh to Mike Schley’s maps. These are featured in both a larger Sword Coast-version, as well as a Mere of Dead Men-version, that shows the adventure sites described in chapter 2, 3, and 6. These maps are, off course, completely free, as they are only remakes of maps provided for free to the community by Mike Schley and WotC. You’ll find a full-size gallery with all versions at the bottom of the post.

For maps showing the insides of the adventure locations – the Haunted House and the Sea Ghost, as well as the Lizardfolk Lair – check out our DM’s Resources for The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and Danger at Dunwater respectively. And stay tuned for the next post, where we’ll talk more about making a proper campaign out of Ghosts of Saltmarsh!

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – Old Tower

After a brief hiatus, here’s another encounter map for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It’s the map for Encounter 7 of Chapter 4: Dragon Season. Old Tower is the setting for up to four different encounters, depending on what season you’re playing through. 

Credit to Mike Schley’s Schleyscapes for some of the objects used in this map. 

Find the rest of our free maps for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist here and our other resources for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist at the DM’s Guild.


DM’s Version
Player’s Version

Suffocating in 5th edition

This blog isn’t about how I am litterally drowning in 5th edition books, as I prepare sessions for my weekly group or write new content for the DM’s Guild, although it very well could be. No, this is the first in a series of blogs where I go over some of the rules of 5th edition D&D, and give ideas on how to improve (or at least change) them, to inject more realism and tension into your D&D game. Well, let’s not waste words:


When deciding what happens when a character is deprived of breathable air, the Player’s Handbook prescribes that:

A creature can hold its breath for a number of minutes equal to 1 + its Constitution modifier (minimum of 30 seconds). When a creature runs out of breath, it can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum 1 round). At the start of its next turn, it drops to 0 hit points and is dying.

These rules have one thing overwhelmingly in their favor, which is very much at the core of 5th edition game design: simplicity. Unfortunately, this simplicity comes at the cost of two other very important things.

First off, these rules are not exactly realistic. As for total time, it isn’t too far off. An above-average healthy person (12 Constitution) would do 2 minutes and a few seconds with these rules – which in my opinion is a bit high, but not unbelievable at all. Likewise, an unhealthy person (8 Constitution) would do 36 seconds, which seems fair, and an enormeously healthy person (2o Constitution) would do 6½ minutes, which is still quite shy of the 22 minutes world record.

The problem lies not with the total time, but with the fact that no consideration is made for what you are doing, while trying to hold your breath. You don’t have to be too much of a scientist to know that swimming quick laps or having swordfights might make you run out of oxygen faster than lying calmly at the bottom of a pool.

This becomes the crux of the second problem: suffocation is a very small threat in actual play, at least as a tool for building tension during a combat encounter. Most encounters last less than 10 rounds, and I would say that non-boss encounters probably average around 3-5 rounds. To short a time for even the wizard who dumped his Constitution score to feel particularly threatened. Sure, you can conjure up situations where suffocation comes into play, but it’s very likely to be in a non-combat situation, and that might diffuse the tension a bit.

So, we want a set of rules that can both enhance realism, especially in regards to underwater (or anywhere else you might be oxygen-deprived) activities, as well as something that can build tension during an encounter.

The New Rules

I propose the following rules for suffocation:

  • You have ‘breath points’ equal to your Constitution modifier x 10 (minimum of 5).
  • At the start of your turn, you lose 1 breath point if you don’t have access to air, or regain an amount of breath points equal to 5 + your Constitution modifier if you have access to air.
  • Each time you take an action, bonus action or reaction, you lose 1 breath point.
  • When you suffer a critical hit, you must make a Constitution saving throw to keep holding your breath. The DC equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever is higher. If you fail, you lose all your breath points.
  • When you would lose a breath point, but have 0 breath points, you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or drop to 0 hit points and start dying at the start of your next turn. The DC of this saving throw increases by 1 each consecutive time it is made without access to breathable air.

Okay, let’s examine these rules.

First off, characters that don’t have a negative Constitution modifier have a full minute of breathing time less. This may or may not be more realistic, but it certainly helps in making suffocation a factor during a combat encounter.

Secondly, dashing, fighting, casting spells and all that jazz decreases the amount of time you have left before you suffocate. This is certainly more realistic. Additionally, going to the surface for a quick breath of air will replenish some, but not all, of your expended oxygen.

Third, a critical hit might very well ruin your day. This puts some excitement into that underwater fight, because any blow can be the one that knocks the air out of your lungs, and now you’re really in trouble.

Fourth, more variance is created with continually forcing Constitution saving throws that increase in DC the longer they go on. A character can potentially keep their breath for whole extra minutes with a good Constitution saving throw. This means that the cap of 6½ minutes becomes anywhere between 5 minutes and (realistically) about 7 or 8 minutes. While this means your character can suddenly run out of air when doing something, or simply starting its turn, you don’t fall unconscious until the start of your next turn, which gives you a round of free-spending of breath points in that frantic break for the surface.

Using the new rules

Breath points are like hit points, except that you don’t measure or keep track of them, until you need to. So the second a character jumps into that pool, or is trapped in that air-sealed chamber, or the magical garrote closes around her neck, write down the character’s breath points next to their hit points, and begin counting down as they start turns and take actions, bonus actions or reactions. If you trust them, encourage your players to tally their own breath points.


Bob the Barbarian has a Constitution modifier of +2. So when the dungeon is flooded, he starts with 20 breath points (2 minutes of air). He must preserve his oxygen, while fighting the kuo-toa that have captured his friend, so that they can both escape.

Round 1. At the start of his first turn, Bob loses 1 breath point. He then rages as a bonus action and makes an attack, losing 2 additional breath points in the process. Bob is at 17 breath points.

Round 2-6. On his following turns, knowing that he should really preserve his breath, he doesn’t spend his bonus action, but only moves and attacks, losing a total of 2 breath points each round. He also makes a single opportunity attack after one of the rounds, so at the end of round 6, Bob is at 6 breath points.

Round 7. Seeing that his companion is drowning, Bob picks up the pace. He loses 1 breath point at the start of his turn, then dashes in, attacks the kuo-toa priestess and makes a frenzy attack as a bonus action. Bob is at 2 breath points by the end of his turn.

Round 8. Bob loses 1 breath point, and now has only 1 left. The situation is dire. Knowing that he won’t be able to defeat the remaining kuo-toa, Bob instead grabs his unconscious friend as an action, and thus loses his last breath point. He starts for the surface.

Round 9 and onwards. With the surface still a 100 feet above him, kuo-toa closing in, and his dying friend in his arms, Bob must now break for the surface before he fails a Constitution saving throw. That’s tension.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, these rules are obviously more complex than the standard ones, but I feel they bring a lot to the table, in the right circumstance. Suffocation happens pretty rarely, and it’s very rare that it needs to be an actual issue how long a character can hold its breath, even with these rules. But for that one special encounter, these rules can really elevate the tension and excitement, creating memorable scenarios and epic last-second-escapes.

I’ve recently published an adventure for Storm King’s Thunder called Kraken’s Gamble, where these rules for suffocation make an appearance in the final battle. If you’re DM’ing Storm King’s Thunder, it might be something for you.

Either way, if you have any comments, criticisms or cool ideas, be sure to leave a comment below, and happy playing!

Structure in Storm King’s Thunder 2

This post is the second of two posts dedicated to running the Wizards of the Coast official campaign Storm King’s Thunder. The first post covered the structure as the campaign book outlines it, and gave suggestions to how you can run the campaign in a short and concise manner. This post aims to do the opposite, and instead showing you how to make Storm King’s Thunder a sprawling campaign that utilizes more of the source material.

Let’s Do Everything

The Storm King’s Thunder has just over 200 pages detailing the campaign story, and also presenting various Sword Coast locations and possible sidequests. However, a majority of these pages won’t ever be used, if you follow the intended structure of the adventure.

The campaign book suggests that your party visits one of the towns in Chapter 2 (Bryn Shander, Goldenfields or Triboar) and only one of the giant strongholds in Chapter 5-9 (Grudd Haug, Deadstone Cleft, Svardborg, Ironslag or Lyn Armaal). Granted, the campaign book does allow for the fact that your party might stumble upon any of these locations on their travels, or play through the giants’ strongholds after defeating Iymrith.

But, if you would like to ensure that your players try out more of the content in the campaign book – and there’s some really great content in there – you can very easily achieve that with only a little work. Below I’ll attempt to give you a strategy for including as much as possible of Storm King’s Thunder’s cool content, while still adhering to the campaign books overall premise.

Chapter 1

First off, if you want your party to experience more of the giant attacks, you must give them reasons to go to more than one of the three towns, all the way back in Chapter 1. The easy way to do it, is to have Morak Ur’gray give the party all of his quests (see STK page 32). But, if we’re being honest, these quests are kinda lame, and your party would be prone to forget all about the other two quests, as soon as they find more interesting storylines in whichever town they choose to travel to.

Another plan could be to mix up the quests a little, and perhaps make them more rumors, than actual quests. This way you can also sprinkle these in later in the campaign, if you’ve already passed Chapter 1, and still send your party towards more giant attacks. An example of how you can do this in in Chapter 1:

  • While interrogating or speaking to a goblin, one of them let it slips that its brother Birbok is working for some hill giants up north by Goldenfields, and that ‘hehee, dey attak de Goldy-town not long ago, dem real strong’.
  • After being rescued, Morak Ur’gray tells the party that his cousin, Ghelryn Foehammer (see STK page 255), always talk about a giant-hunting adventurer up by Triboar named Urgala Meltimer (see STK page 254), who might know how to ‘give these here giants a proper talkin’ to, if ye follow what I’m saying?’.
  • If Daphne Featherstone (Lady Velrosa Nandar’s lady-in-waiting) survives, she tells the party that Lady Velrosa’s childhood friend from Waterdeep, Duvessa Shane (see STK page 248), recently wrote about frost giants rampaging up by Bryn Shander in the north.

You can make these hooks more questlike, if you want, or put these rumors forth later in the campaign. The specifics of when and how aren’t really that important, as long as providing these hooks a) give your players a greater feeling of self-determination, b) plant the seed for the party being involved in several of the giant attacks. Be aware that not all parties respond well to having multiple ‘vague’ choices, and that this might cause your party to simply go about it linearly – going to Goldenfields first and then to Triboar, before finishing of in Bryn Shander – which is a shame, if you like Bryn Shander a lot more than Goldenfields.

Chapter 2

By the end of Chapter 2, the party should be 6th-level, and have up to six different quests delivered to them from the NPCs of the town they helped defending. For the purpose of visiting as many giant strongholds as possible before the campaign ends, you can choose to highlight a few of these quests:

  • Bryn Shander – Duvessa Shane’s quest (see STK page 43) could lead to the frost giant stronghold Svardborg, if you want it to. It seems like a fun quest, provided you put some effort into fleshing it out.
  • Goldenfields – Miros Xelbrins rather mundane quest (see STK page 52) will give the characters possession of a ring, that can in turn lead them to the Old Tower (see STK page 116), which in turn leads them to the hill giant stronghold Grudd Haug.
  • Triboar – Ghelryn Foehammer’s suggestion (see STK page 62) to go to Citadel Felbarr (see STK page 79), can lead the characters’ straight to Ironslag, the fire giant stronghold.

In addition to this, its also a possibility that the characters capture one of the attacking monsters, and simply get it to show them the way to the appropriate giant stronghold. However you go about it, its quite possible for your party to go straight for a giant stronghold, after finishing the defense of a town. If you also have the party visit more than one of these three towns, you can have the party follow a pattern of defending/visiting a town, and then infiltrating a giant stronghold.

Chapter 3

If you’re already in Chapter 3, or your players don’t bite during Chapter 2, don’t fret. There’s plenty of locations in the Savage Frontier, where the party can find their way to a giant stronghold:

  • Beliard (suggested encounter leads to Old Tower – Old tower leads to Grudd Haug)
  • Citadel Adbar (suggested encounter leads to Ironslag)
  • Citadel Felbarr (suggested encounter leads to Ironslag)
  • Daggerford (the party can follow giants back to Deadstone Cleft)
  • Evermoors (the party can spot Lyn Armaal)
  • Grayvale (suggested encounter leads to Deadstone Cleft)
  • Orlbar (suggested encounter leads to Deadstone Cleft)
  • Uluvin (the party can follow giants back to Grudd Haug)

You can steer your characters towards any of these locations, with the many means at your disposal. It could be rumors in any random inn about ‘fire giants disrupting trade up by the dwarven citadels in the north’ or ‘people’s seen some giant castle floating above the Evermoors!’. Additionally, many of the suggested encounters attached to these locations can very easily be moved to other locations, so if you’ve set your eyes on a giant stronghold that you want your characters to visit, it shouldn’t be too hard to move around some encounters so that your party will at least have the chance to find the stronghold.

Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 your party is supposed to ransack a bunch of Uthgardht burial mounds, so that they can obtain learn the knowledge of a giant stronghold, where they can in turn find a conch of teleportation, that will take them to the Maelstrom (Chapter 10).

An alternative way to do this, if you still would like your party to visit more giant strongholds, is have the conch be broken and divided between 2-5 of the giant lords – or be an entirely different device, that is naturally split into pieces. This way, you get to choose which giant strongholds you want your party to visit and simply tell they need to go to three of them (or whichever number you choose).

Or, maybe the oracle already have the power to teleport the party to the Maelstrom, but won’t do it before the party has proven themselves. It simply tells them they where all the giants strongholds are, and lets them choose which ones to visit, and then it decides when the party have succesfully proven themselves.


Expanding the campaign to include more giant attacks and giant strongholds isn’t entirely without issues.

First problem arises if your players are only level 6 when they head into the first giant stronghold, and therefore might not be the appropriate level for the challenge. I can’t tell you what exactly you need to do to mitigate this, but as long as you’re aware of the issue, you should be fine. Hopefully you’ve had a lot of sessions to gauge the strength of your players, and can take measures to ensure it doesn’t end in a TPK, such as reducing the number of monsters (giants in particular), and allowing for more short or long rests.

Another issue arises if your characters sack so many strongholds that they actually get ahead in level. Obviously you can stifle this by sticking to milestone experience, and simply not award them extra experience for clearing strongholds. You can also just have them level ahead, since most of the challenges in the later portion of the campaign are actually quite hard, and often factor in that your party has NPC help (which you can then just not give them).

Thirdly, as the campaign is written, each giant lord or lady is in possession of a conch of teleportation. Luckily, this one is easily fixed: only one of the giants actually have the conch.

Lastly, as you might notice above, its most likely that your players will find Grudd Haug, Ironslag or Deadstone Cleft. That’s okay, since you can have the oracle point them towards one or both of Lyn Armaal and Svardborg, when the party gets to Chapter 4.

My Sample Campaign

Okay, so that’s a lot of words, but how would all this look in actual play. I’ll give an example based on the Storm King’s Thunder campaign that I’m running myself:

  • In Nightstone the party are given clues about hill giant problems by Goldenfields, a giant-expert in Triboar (Urgala Meltimer) and frost giants by Bryn Shander.
  • The party heads immediately for Goldenfields, where they follow the hill giants track back to Grudd Haug after repelling their attack.
  • After clearing Grudd Haug, they finish Zi Liang’s quest in Waterdeep, and then head for Triboar.
  • Too late to defend Triboar from the fire giant raid, they follow the fire giants’ tracks towards Ironslag, passing by Zymorven Hall and Yartar on the way to finish Urgala Meltimer’s quest.
  • They succesfully defeat the fire giants at Ironslag, and obtain the dark elves’ Iron Flask (see STK page 186). Intent on returning the flask to Gauntlgrym (for a hefty reward) they travel westward. They meet Harshnag on the road, and he shows them to the Temple of the All-Father.
  • When they arrive at the temple, the oracle pushes them towards Lyn Armaal, because Countess Sansuri is the only one who has a conch of teleportation.

This way, my party will have gone through two of the towns in Chapter 2 (although only defending one of them), and visiting three of the giant strongholds. It also makes the walking around part of Chapter 3 feel more goal-oriented, than just randomly walking around.

I hope this post has been helpful to you, and given you a better idea on how to run Storm King’s Thunder. I’ll be posting more about the campaign in later posts, so don’t go too far. Remember, you can read the first post here.

Also, I’ve created some content for Storm King’s Thunder over at the DM’s Guild, such as in-depth tips, resources and maps helpful in running A Great Upheaval, Goldenfields and Triboar, or even a full adventure to run during Chapter 3.

Structure in Storm King’s Thunder 1

This post is the first of two posts dedicated to the structure of the Wizards of the Coast official campaign Storm King’s Thunder. In the post below I’ll go over some of the structural challenges that one might meet while running the adventure, and outline an approach for keeping a strict narrative structure.

Official Structure

Before we put on our big boy pants and start off on our own, let’s take a look at how the campaign is meant to go.


On page 17 of the Storm King’s Thunder campaign book is a beautifully crafted Adventure Flowchart. However, while it is handy to get the quick gist of the adventure, a lot of the structure in the middle of the campaign isn’t so linear in reality. From the end of Chapter 2 and through to Chapter 4 what the adventurers do, and where they go, is entirely up to you and them. You must choose from a multitude of paths and put some in front of them, and then they choose which road to travel and how they go about it. This guide seeks to help you get a firm grasp on how to handle and steer the plot in these vital middle stages of the campaign.

First, let us quickly recap the campaign as it seems it is intended to be structured:

Chapter 1. The adventurers rescue the citizens of Nightstone and are sent to Bryn Shander, Goldenfields or Triboar.

Chapter 2. The adventurers defend a city from giant invaders and are presented with an array of quests.

Chapter 3. The adventurers travel to a multitude of different locations on the Sword Coast until they meet a giant named Harshnag.

Chapter 4. The adventurers and Harshnag visit a giant temple where they are tasked with finding ancient relics, so they can learn the location of a giant stronghold.

Chapter 5-9. The party attacks a giant stronghold and obtain a magical conch of teleportation.

Chapter 10. The party uses the conch of teleportation to go to the Maelstrom, where they get involved in court intrigue.

Chapter 11. The party attempts to rescue King Hekaton.

Chapter 12. The party attacks the dragon Iymrith in her desert lair.

Contrary to what the Adventure Flowchart might indicate, the campaign can wildly differ from this structure, depending on you and your players’ choices. So, if you want to make sure that your campaign follows this streamlined structure, you’ll have to make some changes along the way. On the other hand, if you’re slightly disappointed with only getting to use one of three cities in Chapter 2 and only one of the giants’ strongholds in Chapter 5-9, you’ll instead need to take steps to ensure that your party doesn’t just breeze through the campaign.

First, let’s take a look at how we can keep the campaign ‘on track’, with the purpose of making your job simpler, ensuring that the campaign motivations and goals are clearly apparent, and that futile sidequesting is kept to a minimum.

The Straight and Narrow

If the idea of your party travelling around the ‘Savage Frontier’ while finishing random quests and visiting obscure places isn’t particularly appealing to you, and you prefer to keep the campaign concise and to the point, this blueprint might be for you. Remember, just because you take control of the campaign, it doesn’t mean that your players can’t or shouldn’t be allowed to improvise or go off on tangents – it just provides them with a clearly visible path towards the campaign’s overarching goal.

The first major decision you will have to make, is which quest Morak Ur’gray gives the party near the end of Chapter 1 (see STK page 32). This quest will, to some extent, decide how the rest of the campaign unfolds.

For the straightest path to the campaign objective – restoring the Ordning and defeating Iymrith – I suggest that you have Morak send your party to Goldenfields. Goldenfields is both the closest quest objective to Nightstone, the quest (informing Miros of the death of his parents and delivering their tressym to him) is reasonable, and you can add in a reward (a 100 gp from the Xelbrin estate) to get the party motivated.

But why will Goldenfields keep the structure neat? Because Goldenfields is where Naxene Drathkala is (see STK page 47). She is a Lords’ Alliance operative who’ve studied the ancient history of giants and dragons. Speaking with her, the party can find important plot exposition that will expand upon what Zephyros might’ve already explained to them about the giants running amoc, further cementing the party’s involvement with the main plot.

More importantly, Naxene’s quest (given out after Goldenfields has been succesfully defended) is to seek out a dragon expert in Waterdeep, who will in turn send the party to visit ‘Old Gnawbone’ in Kryptgarden Forest (see STK page 52 and 95). Old Gnawbone is an ancient green dragon, who uses crystal balls to spy on everything and everyone. She can tell the party two important pieces of information: 1) The location of the Temple of the All-Father, where the party must go to learn how to stop the giant threat and 2) that they should look out for a frost giant named Harshnag (see STk page 118).

Going from there, you can put Harshnag anywhere between Kryptgarden and the Temple of the All-Father. Basically anywhere on the Long Road will work fine. You can even place him in a settlement such as Triboar, Longsaddle, Xanthar’s Keep or Mirabar – or have these places abound with rumors of where the fabled ‘lone giant with a dragonskull helmet’ is. If you like the whole story about the ‘Weevil’, you can also have Harshnag be somehow involved in the hunt for the Weevil at Xantharl’s Keep (see STK page 114), if you just make sure that your party recognizes him, and that he doesn’t villify himself too much trying to catch the criminal. This puts an interesting spin on Harshnag, instead of him just showing up at random.

However you go about introducing Harshnag, your party will quickly afterwards find themselves at the Temple of the All-Father, ready to embark on the Oracle’s relic-quests. This means you’ve gone from Chapter 1 to 4 following a structure that looks something like this:

  1. The party saves Nightstone and is sent to Goldenfields by Morak Ur’gray, to inform Miros Xelbrin of his parents’ demise, for a reward of 100 gold pieces. The party is level 4.
  2. Zephyros picks up the party on the road, tells them that something called ‘the Ordning’ has been broken, and that he thinks they can put it back together. On the way to Goldenfields, the Howling Hatred cultists board the tower. The party is level 5.
  3. The party arrives in Goldenfields, where they get to speak with Miros and Naxene, before the settlement is attacked during the night by goblinoids and giants. After the attackers have been defeated, Naxene tells them of her idea of gaining assistance from a dragon, and asks them to visit Chazlauth in Waterdeep. Zi Liang also gives her quest (which, incidentally, also takes the party to Waterdeep) and maybe Oren does too. See STK page 51-53 for Goldenfields’ quests. The party is level 6.
  4. The party goes to Waterdeep. Here they might encounter a cloud giant castle above the city (see STK page 112). They speak to Chazlauth and are send to Kryptgarden Forest.
  5. In Kryptgarden Forest the party speaks to Old Gnawbone, who tells them about Harshnag and the Oracle (see page 95). The party sets off towards the Valley of Khedrun and the temple.
  6. Following the Long Road, the party arrives in Triboar to find that the town was attacked by fire giants. The townspeople tell the party that a frost giant with a dragonskull helmet helped defend the city, and saved numerous of the city’s inhabitants. He went north, but can’t have gotten far.
  7. The party finds Harshnag further north on the Long Road (maybe in an encounter with some wild beasts, bandits or even a dragon) and he helps them get to the Temple of the All-Father. The party is level 7.

By using this blueprint, or something close to it, you ensure that your party are very clearly aware of the goal of the campaign, and that they have a path to follow at all times, to accomplish that goal, even if they sometimes veer from it to finish sidequests.

Next time I’ll go over how to do the opposite of what we’ve done here, when I detail how to go about including as much of the interesting content in Storm King’s Thunder before moving on to the later stages of the campaign.

If you’re interested, I’ve created some content for Storm King’s Thunder over at the DM’s Guild, such as in-depth tips, resources and maps helpful in running A Great Upheaval, Goldenfields and Triboar, or even a full adventure for Chapter 3.

Have fun!