DM story advice needed. help me have this make sense.


Advice


Background: The heroes (Players) are currently in their city (kingdom building) north of this event. To the south there are 2 tribes fighting over land, the good tribe and the evil tribe. The evil tribe has a red dragon (powerful one) on their side (leading them or just helping out not sure). the good tribe had a pair of silver dragons helping them out, but they have disappeared (one is injured, the other has to protect the injured one). The silver dragons are not strong enough to face the red dragon head on, but have been playing cat and mouse to the point that the red can't interfere in the battles between the warring clans.

Now with the silver dragons missing the good tribe has been getting beaten back severely by the evil tribe. They come to the heroes who are rumored to be dragon slayers (they killed a black dragon, but not nearly as strong as the red) to see if they can help.

The idea is that the heroes will search out and find the silver dragons and get them back into action. Afterwards they can do something else to help turn the tide of the battle removing the main threat of the evil tribe and eventual assault on the red dragon.

So, where I need help:
1) Why are the tribes fighting. Fighting for holy ground is what I've come up with so far, but maybe someone has a better reason.
2) How has the good tribe not been completely wiped out now that the red dragon is unchallenged? I figure it will take about 2 weeks travel to get to and from the city. Maybe he only comes out at night?
3) Where are the silver dragons, and how will the players find this out?


What makes one tribe good and the other evil?

Addressing questions:
1) Civilizations usually fight over resources. Same with tribes. Maybe the land is only big enough for one of them. Or maybe one tribe was pushed into the land by a third, larger, tribe, just over the horizon.

2) It takes time to wipe out a people - even for a dragon. How long have the silver dragons been gone? If the "good tribe" is laying low in wetlands or a rainy forest (which can be hard to search, and harder to burn out), it could take a dragon years to hunt them down. What generally happened in the real world is the men of the warrior class would be killed off and the tribe would be declared "destroyed" and everyone else (about 99% of the people) would accept a new set of overlords and get on with their lives. Possibly, the dragon and the "evil tribe" don't want to simply burn the land to ash - after all that would wipe out the food supply, and the "evil tribe" needs that land, due to a population boom.

3) The silver dragons are dead. However, by talking to the good tribe's oracle (after the first fight or two), the oracle reveals that the silvers had once told him that they had a mentor. In their glacial mountaintop cave - which has been taken over by frost giants and white dragons (dungeon crawl) - is the information the players will need to go and find the ancient gold dragon who was the silver dragon's mentor. This gold is difficult to reach (another plane of existance, perhaps, but requiring a quest to find). The gold cannot come himself, but is willing to rally a number of younger good dragons (each with CR's about equal to the PC's level) to act as mounts and companions for the party during the grand conclusion fight.


A question I'd ask is what kind of injury does the Silver Dragon have that is keeping him out of action? Starting at Young Adult, Silvers can cast Cure Moderate 5 times a day. between two of them, that's 10d8+ 50 HP every day, so HP damage won't keep them down for long. Adults can Dispel Magic. Mature Adults can cast Restoration.

Or are the Silvers hiding more out of fear at this point, having realized how easily the red could kill one of them?

Another thing to consider: Silver Dragons can polymorph 3/day. Maybe the party meets one of them in disguise, while they are in town looking for healing herbs or shopping for something that can help them defeat the red dragon.

Silver Crusade

I'd take the following approaches.

The 'Holy Land' issue is more because the 'evil tribe' aims to utilize the 'good tribe's' land for insidious purposes (evil ritual, power for the red dragon) personally, I'd prefer it be something obscenely petty like the red dragon demanding a throne worthy of him on top of like the centerpiece of the holy ground (like a fancy tomb or something). There aren't enough petty villains these days.

The personalities of the dragons should matter asm uch as any NPC in this case.

I'd take it this way.

The silvers are tired of being treated as weapons in a Mutually Assured Destructive pact between the two warring tribes, and are hiding as a man and wife amongst their number (they can assume human form) and therefore need to be located and convinced to resume their aid.

The red dragon hasn't attacked because he doesn't know what happened to the silvers and presumes its a trick designed to lure him in and then crush him, so he's pushing for his minions to be more active so he can feel the situation out before committing himself.

Keep in mind, two silvers of comparable age are a genuine threat against a red, unless the red is really older then them. He's as vulnerable against them as they are against him, and their speed and maneuverability is better (silvers are like fighter jets up to like military cargo jets as they get older, reds are like airborne dump trucks the older they get).

Dark Archive

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Rylar wrote:

So, where I need help:

1) Why are the tribes fighting. Fighting for holy ground is what I've come up with so far, but maybe someone has a better reason.

The tribes used to be a single tribe that split over an ancient dispute (long since forgotten) and, over the generations have more or less been 'good neighbors,' frequently swapping extra sons and daughters amongst each other (in 'raids' that are purely ceremonial, with the young couples-to-be arranging for the intended to be 'kidnapped' away to their new tribe by their lover), so that any given family of one tribe probably has relatives in the other, but they have gotten dragged conflict by their dragon allies, who are using them to settle their own scores. The silver dragons honestly believe that they are going to better the lives of the tribe they've allied with, even if their progressive ideas will as surely destroy the tribes nomadic way of life as the red dragon's encouragement of cruelty and savagery.

The red dragon is using his allies, pure and simple, and encouraging the worst sorts of behavior among them, so that they are effectively evil and brutish, although not so far gone that they can't be redeemed in another generation or so, if the dragon's influence is removed and his hand-chosen leaders (chosen for their brutishness) are sent packing or eliminated.

Quote:
2) How has the good tribe not been completely wiped out now that the red dragon is unchallenged? I figure it will take about 2 weeks travel to get to and from the city. Maybe he only comes out at night?

The good tribe has a few adepts and a cleric/shaman/druid, or herbal alchemist, able to produce spells, potions and scrolls of resist fire and / or protection from fire, as well as a limited supply of arrows of dragon slaying, and / or someone able to place the bane (dragons) property on a weapon or weapons temporarily. When the red dragon shows it's face, the good tribesmen scatter, so that no more than one or two can be caught in a single breath weapon, while the most accurate archers are protected by spell or potion, or attack from concealment, and let fly a single arrow of bane (dragons).

The damage is never enough to seriously threaten the red, but it infuriates him, and he has no idea how many of these arrows they have (and since they are divided among a half dozen archers, spread out over the field of engagement, and often with some sort of cover or magical protection from his breath, he only gets to kill one or two per engagement, and they have already fired the one arrow each carries!).

The red yearns to incinerate these fools with their stinging arrows, but they are, for the moment, too clever, and too lucky.

There could also be a pique factor. Perhaps one of the Tribe Evil leaders said something ill-considered about how they would have won by now if the dragon would just nut up and go roast them all, and after the dragon explained to that fool what GDIAF means, he's having an epic pout because one of the help called him out like that.

Quote:
3) Where are the silver dragons, and how will the players find this out?

A local mesa or butte, high above the plains with a good view of the surrounding lands, but out of reach of all but the best and bravest climbers of the various tribesmen. Preferably with some sort of cave or overhang, to provide them with a bottleneck / protection against the red's approach (maybe even an opening too small for him to fit into, if he's larger and lacks their ability to alter form to a smaller size!).

Silver dragons are much more likely to have healing / curative magic than the red dragon (who is most likely receiving healing magic from adepts or other divine spellcasters in the evil tribe, such as a cleric of Dahak, flame mystery oracle, kobold alchemist or dragon shaman that either came with him, was attracted by his presence, or has been inspired from among the locals by his presence). So, whatever affliction is keeping them down, it probably should be something more than simple hit point damage, such as a nasty bestow curse effect placed on one of them by the red (can't turn off SR, making curing / buffs problematic?), a blindness spell, or a negative energy level (perhaps an evil cleric of the evil tribe seized control of a wight and sent it on a suicide mission to attack the dragon?), or a nasty poison being introduced into a meal being offered up by Tribe Good (although dragons generally have awesome Fort saves, and one of the silvers, or one of their tribe good allies spellcasters, most likely has access to lesser restoration, at least, even if neutralize poison is out of their range).

If the latter sort of event, a surprise attack by Tribe Evil struck the dragons while they were encamped with Tribe Good, the silvers might no longer feel safe with their 'allies,' and have retreated to a mountain cave, feeling that their allies are untrustworthy, or incapable of protecting them (or just make great 'cover' for enemy infiltrators to strike at them).

Mummy Rot (core p. 557 or Bestiary p. 210) might be a suitable thing to keep a silver dragon out of action. The dragon is very likely to make any given daily save, but without *both* remove disease *and* remove curse, it's incurable and will continue daily. The PCs may have just the spellcasting ability to help the dragons break the effect, but have to find the dragons (who are feeling a bit vulnerable and untrusting, as the attack occurred in the middle of 'Tribe Good') and convince them that they are allies and not yet more attackers from Tribe Evil. For this to be viable, Tribe Good can't have a cleric type capable of casting 3rd level spells, since that would put the cure in their hands (and the silvers themselves might have one, say, remove disease, but not the other, or be juvenile and not yet have access to any 3rd level spells). Depending on the party's level (or class composition) they themselves might have to go find a scroll of remove curse or remove disease (perhaps from the burial mound of a local chieftain)!

At the end of the day, the silvers can be re-recruited, but the final battle prove costly enough that even a 'victory' leads to the silvers having to step aside, as the shattered tribes need to re-unite (each having lost too many of their own numbers to thrive in these harsh lands) and the silvers, unhelpful reminders of this dragon-war with humans as footsoldiers, would only make that more difficult.

The Exchange

Rylar wrote:
1) Why are the tribes fighting. Fighting for holy ground is what I've come up with so far, but maybe someone has a better reason.

Because the dragons told them to? Dragons are big, powerful, critters who live a long time: could be that the dragons are using the tribes as proxies in an ongoing conflict. The silvers may justify doing that by claiming to be guiding the good tribals, not directly interfering, but helping them on a path to greatness. The red is probably more on 'might makes right' side of things: I'm the big dog - you're either with me, or against me.

Rylar wrote:
2) How has the good tribe not been completely wiped out now that the red dragon is unchallenged? I figure it will take about 2 weeks travel to get to and from the city. Maybe he only comes out at night?

Why would he bother? He's a long-lived being: he could just go to sleep for a century or something and, from his point of view, problem solved. No reason he'd feel the need to wipe out 'mere humanoids' if they can't threaten him... but he'd still happily have his minions bully them, 'cos that's just business as usual.

Rylar wrote:

3) Where are the silver dragons, and how will the players find this out?

Maybe, instead of 'injured' as such, one of the silvers (a mated pair) has been captured by the red, who's happily doing unspeakable things to him/her/it? The other silver can't risk a direct assault, as that'd just prompt the red to cut his losses and execute his captive, but some subtle manipulation of a band of worthy adventurers who don't appear to have any connection with the silver? Sounds like a plan.

I agree with revaar that the polymorph thing could be the way to go: have the free silver approach them in the disguise of a classic 'patron' type: maybe a distraught father who's 'daughter' has been kidnapped by the red dragon? When the PCs go to the rescue, maybe the captive silver is polymorphed (maybe a permanent magical effect?) into a human(oid) form, so they don't necessarily twig what's really happening to begin with. They get to sneak into the enemy camp, rescue the 'girl', and flee from the red dragon (who seems awfully upset about this one particular missing captive). Then she could try to steer them onto a side-quest to help her undo the permanent polymorph - that would set up a climax where the PCs can team with the two silvers and the good guy tribe against the red and the bad guy tribe in an epic battle scene.


1) The red dragon got to this area first, took control of the local tribe, and turned them into his personal slaves.

2) The silvers came along later, and decided to free the tribe, because they object to that kind of thing as LG creatures. But they lacked the power to simply kill or drive off the red. So, they used their Polymorph ability to infiltrate the tribe and foment a rebellion, with the idea that if the humans helped them, together they could all dispose of the red.

3) Unfortunately, their efforts only divided the tribe into two factions. Some remained loyal to the red, while others joined the silvers. This is the origin of the two tribes. They were originally one tribe; but now they have a civil war going.

4) The red actually stands a fair chance of defeating the two silvers in a straight-up fight. BUT, he's vastly enjoying this delicious little war. He savors the spectacle of siblings killing each other, the agony of the wounded, the general mayhem. So he has not gone out of his way to force a confrontation with the silvers. He has attended the battles primarily to keep the silvers from killing off his loyalists, as he'd much rather the humans killed one another for his enjoyment. He's doing all he can to prolong this conflict.

5) The leaders of the loyalist tribe realize the red doesn't care whether they live or die. They are loyal to the red; he is their tribal totem, the reason they are a feared power in the region. They want to keep him because they fear that without him, they might get wiped out by neighboring tribes who are not currently involved in the conflict. But at the same time, they realize that the civil war will kill them just as surely.

6) Therefore, the leaders of the loyalists have taken steps to disable the silvers. Specifically, they prayed to some dark deity or other and asked for the silvers to be cursed with a condition similar to lycanthropy: forced into an animal form and turned vicious, so that the silvers would destroy their own forces. A bitter irony that a SILVER dragon would fall to such a fate, no?

7) And their prayers were answered! But due to the whimsy of the deity, or perhaps due to the intervention of some good-aligned deity, the curse only affected ONE of the silvers. ONE of them transformed into a ravenous beast and set about devouring the rebel tribe. The OTHER silver managed to capture and contain her partner, but not before he savaged several important leaders of the rebel tribe, including their warchief.

8) Ever since, the remaining silver has been using illusion magic to make it appear as though there are still two effective silvers. (You'll have to customize her spells-known list a little for this). The rebel tribe has been severely weakened by the loss of their warchief. They lack the military leadership they had before. Also, because the silver has to concentrate to maintain her illusions, she cannot engage in battle as she once did. She has been swooping low over the opposing forces, to try and cow them with her frightful presence, but if she lets the illusion go in order to engage in combat, their weakness will be revealed and the rebels will be destroyed.

Enter the PCs. They have several sub-goals:

1) Find a cure for the cursed silver. This might involve petitioning an appropriate deity, tracking down cure reagents, or it could be as simple as a Remove Curse spell (that the remaining silver does not have).

2) Provide military leadership to the tribe, to help them win their battles. I envision combat encounters centered on destroying key resources of the loyalist tribe, social encounters to try and recruit disaffected loyalists as double agents to sabotage the loyalist tribe's defenses, and so on.

3) Face the red dragon directly in combat, with the aid of the silvers and a backdrop of loyalist and rebel tribespeople in pitched battle all around. This should be the crowning encounter of the adventure. Give the red dragon class levels if necessary to make him a serious threat. If possible, arrange for one or both of the silvers to die valiantly in the course of the combat, with dramatic fanfare of their noble sacrifice.

4) Lastly, force any remaining loyalists to surrender and reconcile with the rebels. Or alternately, wipe them out if they insist on following their cruel master to the grave.

End result: the end to the conflict, and a severely weakened tribe who really needs an alliance to secure their borders against hostile neighbors -- such as, for example, becoming a vassal state (or a province) of the PC's kingdom.


1. To my mind, it's easy enough to make the dragons themselves "holy" figures in the minds of their respective people. The fact that one is good and one is evil and both are godlike in the minds of their followers should give them enough philosophical impetus to fight.

2. Maybe the "reds" don't know one of the silvers is out of commission yet. The threat of full scale war might be enough of a deterrent at the moment. The thrust of the plot could revolve around keeping these sorts of things secret until the silver is healed or some other assistance can be gained or preparations can be made.

3. Perhaps this closely guarded secret is kept by the high priest of the "silvers," who has to keep up appearances and is slowly losing ground/losing control.

The Exchange

One idea you may want to think about is giving the red a half-dragon offspring as his right-claw man/leader of the evil tribe. If the dragon's been ruling the tribe for a while, then this guy (or gal) could be the latest in a series of such leaders. You could even give the generic tribal mooks the Skill Focus (Perception) and Eldritch Heritage (red dragon) Feats as their default level 1 and 3 Feats, to represent that they've been under the thumb of the red (and his offspring) for generations. Combining that with the 'split tribe' ideas people have mentioned up-thread, the 'good' tribe could be members of the 'oppressed majority' who don't have any red dragon blood, who've managed to split off from the main tribe.


1. They are fighting because a prophecy saysthat the Restless dragons of the region will not know peace until one of the tribes is destroyed or they marry and produce an heir, the Dragon Lord.

2. The good tribe can retreat into a labyrinth of under ground cairns protected from evil dragons by the Wyvern Stone whose full might can only be wielded by the Dragon Lord.

3. Drawn by the mysterious call of the Wyvern Stone, the dragons have retreated into a remote part of the labyrinth that has become encircled by a tribe of level appropriate denizens of the under dark.


Remember back in the day when dragons used to sleep a lot? Me too! The delay could simply be because the red dragon is sleeping at the moment, his minions waiting for orders. The nice thing about such a simple mechanism like this is that you can have the dragon awaken at the most opportune time to create dramatic tension. Meanwhile, more convoluted reasons will need to be adjusted in convoluted ways as the plot unfolds -- for example the PCs decide to take a 2-week detour, slowing the timeline, or find an unexpected way to cover a great distance quickly, speeding it.

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