Title: Whispers of the Dracolich
Decades after the events of the “Tyranny of Dragons,” the Cult of the Dragon remains a fractured and dangerous organization. While some factions continue their pursuit of power through the creation of dracoliches, others have turned their focus to more nefarious schemes. One such faction, led by a cunning half-dragon necromancer, has set its sights on resurrecting Shargrailar the Dark, an ancient dracolich whose reign of terror was halted centuries ago.
To achieve this goal, the faction seeks the Draconic Phylactery, a powerful artifact rumored to bind the soul of a dracolich, and Shargrailar’s remains, hidden deep within a secret vault. Concerned about the potential devastation this resurrection could cause, a secretive organization (such as the Harpers or the Zhentarim) recruits a group of adventurers to infiltrate the Cult of the Dragon, uncover their plans, and put an end to the threat of Shargrailar the Dark once and for all.
- Personal Vendetta: One of the player characters has a personal vendetta against the Cult of the Dragon, either due to a past encounter or because the cult has harmed someone they care about. They are eager to infiltrate the cult and take revenge on those responsible for their suffering.
- A Missing Friend: A close friend or family member of one of the player characters has gone missing, and their last known whereabouts were in the company of cultists. The player is determined to find their loved one and uncover the truth behind their disappearance.
- The Scholar’s Request: A respected scholar or sage, perhaps a former mentor or teacher of one of the player characters, has discovered troubling information about the Cult of the Dragon’s plans. They enlist the players’ help to infiltrate the cult and gather more information, appealing to the characters’ sense of duty or intellectual curiosity.
- A Debt to Pay: One or more player characters owe a debt of gratitude or service to the organization recruiting them for this mission (e.g., the Harpers or the Zhentarim). They are bound by honor, obligation, or even magical means to fulfill this debt and embark on the dangerous quest to infiltrate the Cult of the Dragon.
- An Artifact’s Allure: The player characters learn of the Draconic Phylactery’s existence and the immense power it wields. They are drawn to the artifact, seeking to claim it for themselves, prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, or unlock its secrets for the greater good.
These hooks can be tailored to the player characters’ backgrounds, motivations, and relationships, ensuring that each adventurer has a personal stake in the outcome of the campaign and a reason to become embroiled in the dangerous world of the Cult of the Dragon.
In the aftermath of the “Tyranny of Dragons” events, the Cult of the Dragon has fractured into several factions, each vying for power and control. The players are tasked with infiltrating the cult to gather information and dismantle its operations. However, as they delve deeper into the cult’s secrets, they uncover a hidden plot to resurrect Shargrailar the Dark, an ancient and powerful dracolich that threatens the world’s balance.
Act I: Seeds of Deception
The players are hired by a secretive organization (such as the Harpers or the Zhentarim) to infiltrate a local cell of the Cult of the Dragon. They must gain the trust of the cultists and learn about their activities and objectives.
The players uncover a plot to obtain a powerful artifact known as the “Draconic Phylactery,” which is rumored to be capable of binding the soul of a dracolich.
The players must track down the artifact before the cultists do, venturing into ancient ruins and battling rival factions who also seek the powerful relic.
- Harlan Blackthorn: A charismatic and secretive member of the Harpers (or another suitable organization), Harlan is the players’ primary contact and the one who recruits them for the mission. He provides valuable information, advice, and resources throughout Act I. Despite his enigmatic demeanor, Harlan genuinely cares about the players’ success and safety.
- Raelis Silvertongue: A charming and resourceful halfling rogue, Raelis is a fellow infiltrator who has already gained the trust of the local cult cell. She befriends the players and offers her assistance, sharing information and tactics. Raelis is quick-witted, confident, and a skilled liar, making her a valuable ally in maintaining the players’ cover.
- Fenthir Stormshadow: A cold and calculating high elf necromancer, Fenthir is one of the local cult cell’s leaders. He is highly suspicious of newcomers, so the players must work hard to earn his trust. Fenthir is ruthless in his pursuit of power, and his sinister experiments could serve as a subplot or adventure hook within Act I.
- Mara Grimwood: A human cleric of Tiamat, Mara is a devoted member of the cult and one of Fenthir’s most trusted lieutenants. She is responsible for overseeing the initiation rituals for new members and often leads cult activities. Although she is fiercely loyal to the Cult of the Dragon, Mara may be swayed by the players if they can appeal to her sense of morality or convince her that the resurrection of Shargrailar is a threat to Tiamat’s interests.
- Grunthar Ironfist: A grizzled and battle-hardened dwarf fighter, Grunthar is a veteran member of the cult who has become disillusioned with its leadership. He is initially wary of the players but may eventually come to see them as potential allies in his efforts to reform the cult from within. Grunthar can provide valuable information and assistance to the players if they manage to earn his trust.
- Talia Swiftshadow: A tiefling bard and spy, Talia is a member of the rival cult faction that opposes the resurrection of Shargrailar. She approaches the players with a proposition to work together against their common enemy. Talia is cunning, manipulative, and not entirely trustworthy, but her knowledge of the cult’s inner workings and her network of contacts could prove invaluable to the players’ mission.
Act II: The Shadow of the Dracolich
The players discover that the artifact is part of a greater ritual to resurrect Shargrailar the Dark. They learn that the cult requires the bones of the ancient dracolich, which are hidden in a secret vault guarded by powerful magic and deadly traps.
The players must race against time to find the vault and prevent the cult from obtaining the remains. Along the way, they encounter allies and enemies, including members of other factions within the Cult of the Dragon and perhaps a rogue metallic dragon who wants to stop the cult’s plans.
As they reach the vault, they must overcome its guardians and secure the remains of Shargrailar. However, they discover that a powerful lieutenant of the cult, a half-dragon necromancer, has already begun the ritual to resurrect the dracolich.
Act III: The Dracolich’s Wrath
The players must disrupt the necromancer’s ritual and destroy the Draconic Phylactery. They must face the half-dragon necromancer and his undead minions in a climactic battle.
Although the ritual is disrupted, the players discover that Shargrailar’s spirit has partially returned, wreaking havoc on the region and raising an undead army.
In a final confrontation, the players must band together with their allies, including the rogue metallic dragon, to put an end to Shargrailar’s rampage and restore peace to the land.
Throughout the campaign, players will be faced with moral dilemmas and intrigue, as they must decide who to trust and how far they will go to achieve their goals. They will have the opportunity to shape the future of the Cult of the Dragon and determine whether the organization will rise again or crumble into obscurity.
Act I: Seeds of Deception
A Sinister Gathering:
The players are summoned to a secret meeting by their patron (a Harper agent, a Zhentarim spy, or another suitable organization). They are informed about the splintered Cult of the Dragon and the growing threat it poses. The players are tasked with infiltrating a local cell of the cult to gather information and disrupt their activities. To aid them, they receive a forged letter of introduction from a minor cult leader who was recently captured or killed.
The players arrive at the local cell’s meeting place, a seemingly ordinary tavern with a hidden underground chamber. They must use the letter of introduction to convince the cultists of their loyalty. If successful, they are invited to participate in an initiation ritual, which could involve a dangerous test, a blood oath, or a sacrifice to demonstrate their commitment to the cult.
Once initiated, the players are given minor tasks and missions by the cult cell’s leaders. These assignments may include stealing valuable items, recruiting new members, or eliminating enemies of the cult. As the players complete these tasks, they gain the trust of the cultists and access to more sensitive information. During this time, they must maintain their cover and avoid arousing suspicion.
Unearthing the Plot:
Through their growing influence within the cult, the players learn about the search for the “Draconic Phylactery.” They discover that one faction within the splintered cult believes the artifact is the key to resurrecting Shargrailar the Dark. The players must gather as much information as possible about the phylactery, its location, and the cultists involved in the search.
The Rival Faction:
As the players investigate the cult’s activities, they encounter members of a rival faction within the Cult of the Dragon. This faction is opposed to the resurrection of Shargrailar and seeks to control the Draconic Phylactery for its own purposes. The players must navigate the complex web of intrigue and decide whether to cooperate with the rival faction, undermine their efforts, or exploit the situation to further their own goals.
Race to the Ruins:
With the information they’ve gathered, the players learn the location of the ancient ruins where the Draconic Phylactery is believed to be hidden. They must race against time and the competing factions to reach the artifact first. Along the way, they may face environmental hazards, hostile creatures, and treacherous terrain as they delve into the depths of the forgotten ruins.
At the end of Act I, the players should have successfully infiltrated the cult, learned about the plot to resurrect Shargrailar, and discovered the location of the Draconic Phylactery. The seeds of deception have been sown, and the stage is set for the players to venture forth into Act II: The Shadow of the Dracolich.
- Initiation Ritual: As the players infiltrate the local cult cell, they are required to participate in an initiation ritual. This ritual may involve a test of loyalty, such as participating in a dark sacrifice or committing an act of theft or vandalism against an innocent target. The players must navigate the situation carefully to maintain their cover without compromising their morals.
- Ambush on the Road: While the players are traveling to or from the cult’s hideout, they are ambushed by a group of bandits, enemy spies, or rival cultists. This encounter tests the players’ combat abilities and teamwork, as well as providing an opportunity to gather information about other forces operating in the region.
- Secret Meeting: The players learn of a clandestine meeting between Fenthir Stormshadow and an unknown individual. They must stealthily observe the meeting, using their skills in stealth and deception to remain undetected. The information they gather during this encounter could provide valuable clues about the cult’s plans and alliances.
- Uncovering the Rival Faction: While investigating the cult’s activities, the players encounter Talia Swiftshadow and her faction of rival cultists. The players must decide whether to ally with this faction, infiltrate them to gather information, or eliminate them as potential threats. This encounter allows the players to explore the complexities of the Cult of the Dragon’s internal politics.
- The Necromancer’s Laboratory: The players discover Fenthir Stormshadow’s hidden laboratory, filled with arcane experiments and undead creatures. They must navigate the lab, avoiding or dealing with the necromancer’s dangerous creations, to gather evidence of the cult’s plans. This encounter provides a mix of combat, puzzle-solving, and exploration.
- Confrontation with Mara Grimwood: As the players’ investigation progresses, they come into conflict with Mara Grimwood, the human cleric of Tiamat. This encounter could take the form of a heated debate, a trial of faith, or even combat if the players’ cover has been compromised. Successfully navigating this encounter could lead to Mara becoming an ally or a source of information about the cult’s inner workings.
- The Plot Unveiled: The players discover the cult’s plan to resurrect Shargrailar the Dark and obtain the Draconic Phylactery. This revelation could come from a hidden document, a captured cultist, or an eavesdropped conversation. With this knowledge in hand, the players must decide how to proceed and prepare for the challenges ahead in Act II: The Shadow of the Dracolich.
- Cultist Training Ground: While exploring the cult’s hideout, the players stumble upon a training ground where cultists are honing their combat skills under the watchful eye of Grunthar Ironfist. To maintain their cover, the players must participate in a series of sparring matches against cultists of various classes and levels. This encounter provides an opportunity for the players to assess their opponents’ abilities and learn about the cult’s combat tactics.
Description: The training ground is a large, open chamber with sand-covered floors and weapon racks lining the walls. A few wooden dummies and training apparatuses are scattered throughout the space. The air is filled with the sounds of clashing steel and the grunts of exertion as cultists practice their skills.
- The Unwilling Undead: Fenthir Stormshadow has recently created a group of undead creatures from the corpses of fallen cultists. These undead minions, still retaining fragments of their former memories, are resisting the necromancer’s control. The players must defeat the undead to protect themselves and the cult’s hideout.
Description: The encounter takes place in a dimly lit corridor adorned with the cult’s dark symbols. The undead, dressed in tattered cultist robes, display a mixture of fear, confusion, and aggression as they lurch towards the players.
- The Beast in the Basement: The cult has captured a dangerous creature, such as a wyvern, a chimera, or a young dragon, and is keeping it in the basement of their hideout for use in future rituals. The creature escapes from its confinement, and the players must subdue or defeat it to prevent it from causing widespread destruction.
Description: The basement is a dark, damp chamber filled with debris and the remnants of failed experiments. The scent of blood and fear permeates the air as the players confront the enraged beast amidst the chaos of its rampage.
- Assassins in the Night: The rival cult faction, seeking to disrupt the players’ infiltration, sends a group of assassins to eliminate them. The players must defend themselves against these skilled killers while trying not to reveal their true allegiances to the cult.
Description: The encounter occurs in a shadowy corner of the cult’s hideout or the players’ sleeping quarters. The assassins strike from the shadows, using stealth and surprise to their advantage. The players must rely on their wits and combat abilities to fend off the attackers and protect their cover.
- A Test of Faith: Mara Grimwood challenges the players to prove their devotion to the cult by facing off against a group of summoned fiends, such as imps, quasits, or even a more powerful devil or demon. The players must defeat the fiends in combat to earn Mara’s trust and maintain their cover.
Description: This encounter takes place in a ritual chamber decorated with infernal symbols and lit by flickering, otherworldly flames. As the fiends materialize from the shadows, the players must stand their ground and demonstrate their prowess in battle.
These combat encounters provide a variety of challenges for the players, testing their combat skills, teamwork, and ability to think on their feet. Successfully navigating these encounters will help the players maintain their cover and gather valuable information about the cult’s activities and plans.
Act II: The Shadow of the Dracolich
The Guardian’s Riddle:
Upon reaching the entrance to the ancient ruins, the players encounter a magical guardian, such as a golem or a sphinx. To gain access, they must solve a complex riddle or series of riddles related to dragons, dracoliches, or the history of the Cult of the Dragon. Failure may result in combat or other consequences, while success allows the players to proceed further into the ruins.
The Forsaken Crypts:
The ruins are a labyrinth of abandoned crypts and chambers, once used by an ancient civilization that worshiped dragons. The players must navigate these dark corridors, facing traps, undead creatures, and other remnants of the past. They may also discover clues to the history of Shargrailar the Dark and the cult’s connection to the ancient civilization.
The Phylactery’s Secret:
The players locate the chamber housing the Draconic Phylactery, but they find that it is protected by a powerful warding magic. To dispel the wards, the players must decipher cryptic inscriptions on the walls, which reveal the phylactery’s dark origins and the hidden cost of using its power. This revelation may lead the players to question the motives of their patron organization, the rival cult faction, or even their own goals.
Ambushed by Rivals:
As the players obtain the Draconic Phylactery, they are ambushed by members of the rival cult faction or another group seeking the artifact. The players must fend off the attackers and decide whether to destroy the phylactery, keep it for themselves, or hand it over to their patron organization. The consequences of their decision will ripple throughout the rest of the campaign.
The Cult’s Machinations:
With the Draconic Phylactery in hand, the players learn more about the cult’s plans to resurrect Shargrailar the Dark. They discover that the cult requires the bones of the ancient dracolich, which are hidden in a secret vault guarded by powerful magic and deadly traps. The players must race against time to find the vault and prevent the cult from obtaining the remains.
A Metallic Ally:
During their search for the secret vault, the players encounter a rogue metallic dragon who has been secretly opposing the Cult of the Dragon. The dragon, disillusioned with the metallic dragon’s council inaction, has been working independently to stop the cult’s plans. The players can choose to ally with the dragon, gaining valuable insight and assistance in their quest to thwart the cult’s plot. However, this alliance may also attract unwanted attention from powerful enemies.
At the end of Act II, the players should have acquired the Draconic Phylactery, discovered the location of Shargrailar’s remains, and potentially formed an alliance with a rogue metallic dragon. As they prepare to confront the cult’s powerful lieutenant and disrupt the resurrection ritual, the stage is set for the thrilling conclusion in Act III: The Dracolich’s Wrath.
Act III: The Dracolich’s Wrath
The Hidden Vault:
The players locate the entrance to the secret vault, hidden in a remote mountain range or deep within a sprawling underground complex. They must overcome natural hazards and environmental challenges, such as treacherous cliffs, narrow passageways, or scalding geothermal vents, to gain access to the vault.
The Labyrinth of Bones:
Within the vault, the players find a vast, maze-like structure filled with the remains of countless dragons. As they navigate the labyrinth, they encounter guardians created from the very bones they seek, such as animated dragon skeletons or draconic constructs. The players must use their wits and combat prowess to overcome these formidable adversaries and locate Shargrailar’s remains.
The Necromancer’s Ambition:
As the players secure Shargrailar’s bones, they discover that the cult’s powerful lieutenant, a half-dragon necromancer, has already begun the ritual to resurrect the dracolich. The necromancer has used the Draconic Phylactery (either stolen from the players or obtained through other means) to bind Shargrailar’s spirit, allowing the dracolich to partially manifest in the physical world.
The Battle of Wills:
To disrupt the necromancer’s ritual, the players must engage in a battle of wills against the partially manifested spirit of Shargrailar. This contest may involve arcane duels, psychic combat, or other challenges that test the players’ mental fortitude and magical prowess. If the players are successful, they weaken Shargrailar’s hold on the material plane and buy themselves precious time to confront the necromancer.
The Final Confrontation:
The players face off against the half-dragon necromancer and his undead minions in a climactic battle. The necromancer wields dark magic, bolstered by the Draconic Phylactery’s power, and commands a legion of skeletal dragons, wraiths, and other undead abominations. During the battle, the players must find a way to destroy the Draconic Phylactery, severing Shargrailar’s connection to the material plane and weakening the necromancer’s forces.
The Dracolich’s Demise:
With the phylactery destroyed and the necromancer defeated, the players face the weakened spirit of Shargrailar the Dark. The rogue metallic dragon ally (if the players have forged an alliance) may assist in this final confrontation. The players must use their combined strength, skill, and magic to banish Shargrailar’s spirit, ensuring the dracolich cannot return to threaten the world again.
In the aftermath of their victory, the players must deal with the consequences of their actions throughout the campaign. They may have earned the gratitude of powerful allies, made dangerous enemies, or altered the balance of power within the Cult of the Dragon. Their decisions and actions during the campaign will shape the future of the cult and the world, setting the stage for new adventures and challenges to come.
At the end of Act III, the players should have successfully thwarted the cult’s plot to resurrect Shargrailar the Dark and destroyed the Draconic Phylactery. With the dracolich’s spirit banished, the world is safe once more from the threat of undead dragon domination. However, the Cult of the Dragon’s machinations continue, leaving the door open for future adventures and encounters with the sinister organization.