Infiltrating a dragon cult

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Next adventure, it's possible (if not likely) the PCs will go after the dragon cult which just used the Orb of Red Dragonkind to send a red dragon to assault the King's castle. We are almost done with the fight with the dragon, and then it's up to the group what to do next. I've got something prepared (a rough Dragon Mountain conversion) if they go after the dragon's lair. But I dont have much about the dragon cult except they've got numbers (50+ cultists, 10 mages, wyverns, redspawn krenshar, flame snakes, ambush drakes, a dracimeraa, and a dracyohydra...which is a tenuous "ally"), an equal number of innocent non-combatants, and a fortified position on a mountainside overlooking a lake (they occupy a ruined fortress with a dungeon carved into the mountainside whose lower levels are sunken in the lake).

My group probably won't go for a direct assault because of the overwhelming force of the cult and the risk to the misguided innocent cultists. I'm thinking they will go for some kind of infiltration mission, and I know one PC would be interested in pulling off a heist type mission (say, to steal the Orb). Typically this group adopts multiple strategies according to PC strengths. For example, it is unlikely they would *all* try going undercover, though it's certainly possible *some* might while others try a stealth approach, others a decoy, and others to undermine the leadership. 

So how would handle a mission to infiltrate the dragon cult? Would you use a skill challenge structure?
Not sure if it would help, but there's lots of info in the FR setting about the Cult of the Dragon, and the module HS1: The Slaying Stone has a bit about handling infiltration and stuff.

A bit of advice: depending on the nature of your players, they may try the 'front door' approach, aka rush headlong into the fray to engage their enemies, despite overwhelming odds- be prepared with a Plan B in case they decide to go that route. Should that happen, aside from your predicted infiltration idea, give them several chances to rectify the situation, either by escape, diplomacy, or simplified combat (such as by bottlenecking enemies in a corridor or something similar).
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58115148 wrote:
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63797881 wrote:
The standard d4 is somewhat (SOMEWHAT) rounded on the top, the older models are even flat. The Lego is shaped in such a way that in an emergency, you can use one as a makeshift surgical knife.
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57457938 wrote:
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63797881 wrote:
82733368 wrote:
28.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character (Monk or otherwise) does not require my character to be completely shitfaced, no matter what the name (and fun interpretation) implies.
29.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character does not require ME to be completely tanked, no matter how "in-character" I want to be..
Not sure if it would help, but there's lots of info in the FR setting about the Cult of the Dragon, and the module HS1: The Slaying Stone has a bit about handling infiltration and stuff.

A bit of advice: depending on the nature of your players, they may try the 'front door' approach, aka rush headlong into the fray to engage their enemies, despite overwhelming odds- be prepared with a Plan B in case they decide to go that route. Should that happen, aside from your predicted infiltration idea, give them several chances to rectify the situation, either by escape, diplomacy, or simplified combat (such as by bottlenecking enemies in a corridor or something similar).


Yep, I'm a seasoned enough DM to know better than to prepare only one solution to a problem. ;) Ive got a bunch of enemy stats, maps, and an understanding of their tactics - that has been the easy part.

It's the multi-pronged infiltration possibility that is a challenge for me to design.

I don't have Slaying Stone...is there an infiltration skill challenge in there? 
So how would handle a mission to infiltrate the dragon cult? Would you use a skill challenge structure?

Yes, I'd probably use a skill challenges structure, just to help me pace things. For exactly how the heist would work, I'd turn it around to the players, and ask them about their expectations and what they think would be cool.

Consider this, though: whether or not a heist is successful, isn't always the point. If the plans for the heist sound cool and plausible, consider just letting them happen, with maybe a few rolls to see how well they happen. It might be advisable for them to get in and perform the infiltration more or less successfully, rather than risk a few bum rolls shutting the whole thing down. My group recently infiltrated a drow enclave, and we talked a little about what that would involved, but then got right to the scene around which everything hinged: whether they could actually get their hands on the McGuffin.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy



I don't have Slaying Stone...is there an infiltration skill challenge in there? 



There's a couple different skill challenges IIRC; check out Amazon, you can find it pretty cheap.
RIP George! 4-21-11 RIP Abie! 1-2-13
Funny Forum Quotes
[quote author=82733368 post=532127449]
58115148 wrote:
"You notice a large piece of mold clinging to your toothbrush. What do you do?" "I cast Fireball." "I run like hell!
63797881 wrote:
The standard d4 is somewhat (SOMEWHAT) rounded on the top, the older models are even flat. The Lego is shaped in such a way that in an emergency, you can use one as a makeshift surgical knife.
147742801 wrote:
57457938 wrote:
My wife asked me if her pants made her look fat. What do you think I said?
Wife: Do these pants make me look fat? RedSiegfried: I just killed a bunch of orc women and children.
63797881 wrote:
82733368 wrote:
28.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character (Monk or otherwise) does not require my character to be completely shitfaced, no matter what the name (and fun interpretation) implies.
29.) Making a "Drunken Master" style character does not require ME to be completely tanked, no matter how "in-character" I want to be..


Consider this, though: whether or not a heist is successful, isn't always the point. If the plans for the heist sound cool and plausible, consider just letting them happen, with maybe a few rolls to see how well they happen. It might be advisable for them to get in and perform the infiltration more or less successfully, rather than risk a few bum rolls shutting the whole thing down. My group recently infiltrated a drow enclave, and we talked a little about what that would involved, but then got right to the scene around which everything hinged: whether they could actually get their hands on the McGuffin.


But isn't the point of a heist (usually) to steal something successfully? To hand the PCs victory on a silver platter here would be a disservice to them, and it would miss out on a great opportunity for an interesting challenge.

Anyhow, I'm trying to come up with a convincing depiction of a dragon cult that isn't just a bunch of bat-guano insane people. What I know so far is that the current leader, Lavonte, was originally an agent of a magocracy who infiltrated the cult with the mission to manipulate the cult against the magocracy's neighbors. However, *something* changed and Lavonte became a believer and eventually replaced the cult's old leader. Now he has the Orb of Red Dragonkind and has used it (or perhaps only threatened to use it) to send the red dragon Kaldwarag (an ally/object of worship of the cult) against the king's castle. So obviously this cult leader is a co,pled figure, and I'm having a hard time figuring him out. What would his capabilities be? How could he justify his reverence for dragons and yet use the orb? 
But isn't the point of a heist (usually) to steal something successfully? To hand the PCs victory on a silver platter here would be a disservice to them, and it would miss out on a great opportunity for an interesting challenge.

The key there is "interesting." Starting off a heist and getting noticed at the front door is not interesting. Walking through each step of what you've already planned might be interesting, but planning it was probably the most interesting part of that, though some complications should arise.

What maybe wasn't clear from my post is that my players did not succeed in their heist. In fact, for the sake of pacing the adventure, we all agreed that they would not succeed, but that success would be measured in terms of finding out who else was after the McGuffin and what they would have to do next to obtain it for themselves (or, more likely, to have another interesting near miss.)

My advice overall is not to take the heist entirely literally and to perhaps think of it more like a movie. In the new Ocean's 11, much of the actual heist took place as it was being described to the audience. It would not have been interesting for the two brothers to be caught sneaking the acrobat into the vault, but the complications that arose after he was in the vault were interesting.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy