Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

It’s been a little bit since we did a more standard D&D campaign or at least talked about a more standard idea. This one is going to fall into that more standard style of game that might be an easier sell for some new players getting to the table.

In the lands of Demythsteria there were rumors of an ancient evil. But they’d been always just that, rumors. An ancient ruler, Empress Esmeralda De’Valiran, who ruled with an iron fist and took everything and anything that she wanted without concern who is stepped on. But that was all just a fairytale, right? Something made up to keep kids in their bed or out of trouble.

Then, one day, there was a change, Mount Kalav, where Esmeralda De’Valiran was said to have to made her throne erupted raining down fire on the land. They say that you could hear the voice across all the lands, a seductive voice, a powerful voice, a voice that brought terror and desire to everyone’s hearts. It simply said, “My children, return.”

It’s been 100 years to the day since that fateful day, and while no one knows precisely what happened that day, the lands have fallen into chaos. Peace that had been kept for centuries between nations is now an all out war. People are searching for new gods, for any form of hope that they can find. But times are bad, and lava still flows, poisoning the lands from Mount Kalav.

So, in this game, obviously, Esmeralda De’Valiran is back and the players are going to end up facing off against her. But I’d have them start smaller than that, give them a false lead or something else to focus on. I think that cults are generally a solid way to start. Cultists aren’t that strong in D&D, at least out of the Monster Manual, and you can always beef them up over time. Make it so that your high priest or priestess is much stronger and have that be a mid point of the campaign showdown, something that lets slip that the cultists while definitely bringing on another end to the world are doing this to stop what they consider even a larger threat to humanity. Put the players on the path of Esmeralda De’Valiran.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

I like the idea that Esmeralda De’Valiran is an Ancient Red Dragon, the Crimson Scales, but also that the Crimson Scale was something that she used in her past life. She’d been banished away somewhere, somehow, and now the players either have to defeat her, but that is going to be difficult because the lava. The fact that she’s going to be sitting at the top of extremely dangerous terrain that will be full of little and big monsters that love fire is going to be tough enough. Add in facing and Ancient Red Dragon, that is going to be almost impossible, except, the Crimson Scale is going to be something that they can use to their advantage.

For me, there are two things you could do with the Crimson Scale. Firstly, it could be something that they could tempt her off of the mountain with if they find it. Make it a massive scale the the players are going to be able to destroy, but something immensely important to to her, create lore around it and how it works. Now the players will be fighting an Ancient Red Dragon outside of it’s lair. Or you can make it something the players can take with them to her. If they can take it to her, now it’s something that they can use in battle. It’s a powerful artifact of some sort. Something that was her downfall the first time and could be it again. If she can somehow be judged by her own scale, it means that her powers wain and fade to some extent, but it is something that needs to be kept up. So the fight will be easier, but the players will be down one PC. And make it interesting for the PC, make it a mind battle where that’s where some of Esmeralda’s power is being pulled away to, and make it her polymorphed human form that they are battling in there and a form that the player recognizes. Make it someone who they worked with to stop the cultists.

Overall, more of a standard game, but I feel like it would have some bigger and more epic moments in it. I like the idea of the final battle coming after a slog, not something that takes too long, but maybe a couple of sessions fighting up the mountain, creating cinematic moments and bleeding the players of their resources to face off against Esmeralda De’Valiran. And if you do the mind battle, really build it up, I’d pull from the mirror world stuff in Doctor Strange so that it feels real and feels physical, but make it mental.

So, as I wrap up, would you want to play in a game like this? What things interest you, what don’t? Would you run a game like this?

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