How to Prepare Umbrage Hill Quest – Dragon of Icespire Peak

Umbrage Hill is a simple quest, which allows your players to choose between combat and conversation. 

If you or your players are new to Dungeons and Dragons, you might expect to fight your way out of every situation. That’s because the typical answer to most fantasy games is to kill your enemy; D&D is different. Umbrage Hill is the perfect example of how combat could be halted if the players use their knowledge or skills wisely.  

Connecting The Quest To The Players And Phandalin

The campaign suggests using a quest board to hand out adventures. In our article “Setting Up Phandalin,” we said that although this process is an easy method, it can feel a little boring. Instead, we suggested making the campaign feel more personal to the players; that way, they have a genuine reason to help out the town and not leave them to their own devices.

The original quest asked the players to find Adabra Gwynn and bring her back to Phandalin, where she would be safe (page 10 of the adventure book).

However, I felt that this type of request should come from a lover, “Come back and be safe.” But then why wouldn’t the lover find their partner themselves? Ah, maybe an ex-lover.

In “Setting Up Phandalin,” I suggested that maybe Linene the Smith is worried about Ababra’s safety, as she lives alone. But Linene cannot ask her to come back home due to their quarrel. This gives the players a human connection to link the healer to Phandalin. It also drops with a dash of a love story to provide the town with some history. 

If the players don’t naturally arrive at the Lionshield Coster (page 9), you can make the quest come to them. Maybe Linene is drinking in the tavern, and Toblen tells the PCs (player characters) that she only does this when she’s anxious. Here the players have a story-like beginning to a new quest without feeling railroaded.

Developing this story-like entrance just means adding a “cut screen” moment before the players enter the Lionshielf Coster or as they enter the Tavern.

For example:

You walk into the Tavern and see Toblin cleaning down some tables. Sitting in the shadows is a stocky-looking woman. With one hand cradling her head and the other hugging her ale, you can sense a sadness surrounding her.

If the players go over, you can add in some dialogue for the PCs to bounce off of.

“Toblin said you helped him, so I hoped you could help me too” Linene tries to focus on you, but you notice her eyes are dropping a little. “Ababra doesn’t know about that Dragon flying around. She’s all alone and too stubborn to listen to me. I need her to come back. To be safe, I mean….” A slight redness colors her cheeks. “Look, if I give you 25gp, will you bring her back here, so she’s safe? Just don’t tell her I sent you.”

The players could then dive deeper into this star-crossed lover storyline, or they could accept this drunkard’s money and run. Either way, the quest is theirs now, and the history of this village is developing.

What To Expect At Umbrage Hill

The map to Umbrage Hill is small. The makers have tried to add history to the land, but as I said with my “Dwarven Excavation” guide, these historical additions are fun but unnecessary. And to new DMs (Dungeon Masters), it will just add confusion.

The unnecessary history in Umbrage Hill is the lost feud of dwarven clans. At the top of the hill, you’ll notice rocks that are acting as tombstones from this long-forgotten battle. And under U.2, you’ll see a stone house fallen to ruins. These shapes will make excellent hiding spots and cover advantages if a battle commences, but other than that, you don’t need to add a ton of history or story to them.

If any players ask, you can say that Cryovain knocked down the stone walls, putting the dragon straight into the story, or that Ababra built around an old and forgotten building.

Arriving at Umbrage Hill

When you arrive at the quest destination, you’re meant to find a Manticore clawing at the windmill’s front door as a woman leans out the window, asking for your help.

The quest tells the DM that if the players try to talk to the Manticore, give him 25 gp in treasure, or offer him meat, the monster will fly away. But the entrance doesn’t suggest to the players that this is an option. 

So I suggest changing it up a bit. 

After a couple hours of walking, you notice a small windmill in the distance. Its blades slowly move in the wind as it sits atop a grassy hill. A wooden fence hugs the landscape around the building.

As the blades move, you notice something large between the wooden material and the wall.

You get closer still and start to see the figure’s shape. A large body of a lion, but with the wings of a dragon. Its main has spikes as long as your arm, and they trail down to the beast’s tail.

You are close enough, now, to hear the faint scratch of claw on wood.

“Don’t be scared, human. I’m only hungry.” The deep voice of the creature travels through the wind, and its steady tone holds a hint of sadistic intent.

The window on the second door flies open. “You there! Help me!” You see a young human woman waving a cloth in your direction. 

The beast hears her too and moves away from the door. In the light, you see its skinny frame with its bones visible through its skin.

It doesn’t speak, but you notice its expression holds a hint of apprehension. 

What do you do?

This intro is much longer than the suggested piece, but here the players can see the creature is hungry, ready to kill, but obviously malnourished. They also learn that the Manticore can speak. This opens up the encounter to the players, allowing them to think about the possible ways that they could help Ababra and maybe even the Manticore.

Just adding a little bit of detail will give your players ideas of how to go forward. I suggest playing the Manticore as scared but willing to fight. At this point, it is outnumbered and will want to live another day, use that to create this monster’s story.

The stats for the Manticore can be found on page 60 of the adventure book or page 213 of the Monster Manual.

Ababra’s Choice To Stay

The adventure book suggests that Ababra would rather stay at her windmill and brace the troubles that Cryovain will bring. She will even offer a written note as proof of the conversation. 

This is another fantastic way for the players to get involved with roleplay and social interaction. Will they try to trick her into coming back, persuade her by breaking their promise to Linene and explaining she is worried about her, or would they respect her decision?

There are so many things that the players could do, all of which could have a butterfly effect throughout the game.

For example, if they persuade Ababra to go back to Phandalin, maybe she will set up a herbal shop in town, allowing the players to receive potions more easily. Or if she stays, perhaps Cryovain could visit the windmill too, while the players are elsewhere, causing a new “damsel in distress” quest to appear.

Make a note of how your players deal with this situation and adapt the campaign to fit the changes.

Letting The Manticore Live

If the PCs decide to let the Manticore live, the adventure book suggests that he comes back every now and then to get more food or treasure from Ababra. 

We can be a little more creative than that. Maybe the Manticore comes back and settles near Ababra, creating an unlikely alliance between humans and monsters. Or perhaps the players notice their new friend dead on the road in the lead up to Cryovain’s big fight. This character could have been popping up every now and then for fun moments in the story, and just when everything is going too well, the players see a frostbite wound on their friend’s leg. Cryovain was clearly the culprit.

Depending on how the interaction went, make a note of how the Manticore will feel about these adventures, then create an extra storyline that could pop up later in the campaign. These moments can create amazing connections for the players later on, so have fun with the domino effect taking place.

Treasure

The only official treasure mentioned in this quest is a handful of Potions of Healing. These are super valuable items, but it doesn’t make sense to only have three in the whole campaign.

Depending on how the story goes, it would make sense for Ababra to make friends with the PCs after this quest. It also makes sense for her to make these potions for a living. I suggest that every time a quest has been completed, Ababra will have finished brewing one potion. She can then sell the positions for 25gp (a discounted price for saving her). This keeps the game from becoming too easy while also helping your players through tough spots. 

Learning The NPCs

As there are only two Non-Player Characters in this quest, it shouldn’t be hard to understand their motives. 

Ababra Gwynn

Depending on why the players have come to Umbrage Hill, you should develop Ababra’s backstory based on the information you have already given out.

With my suggestion, Ababra and Linene were ex-lovers who fell out, causing Ababra to start a new life in Umbrage Hill. So the question is, why did they fall out, and is the relationship mendable? 

For my players, I gave them all a love triangle and said that Halia from the Miner Exchange successfully seduced Ababra as a ruse to get her herbal shop and take over the small town’s real estate. Linene found out and dumped her true love, while Ababra ran away in shame.

The players persuaded Ababra to return to Phandalin, where Linene and Ababra mended their trust. 

Whatever stories you have already started, try to build a backstory for them, so you can answer any questions your players throw at you. Then try to reply as the NPC would. 

The adventuring book suggests that Ababra has commoner stats, but we can play around with the flavor of her weapon. If for some reason, Ababra joins in the battle, you could turn her “club” into a chair. If the Manticore makes it into the windmill, she could pick up the chair and try to smash it over his head.

Just replace the storytelling aspect while keeping the club’s stats.

Manticore

The Manticore has moved from his lands in the rocky mountains to a landscape filled with trees. His wings are not as useful in such an area, which should tell any intelligent character that something is wrong.

The adventure book suggests that the Manticore is trying to find food and a new home since Cryovain the dragon displaced him. In all honesty, his backstory doesn’t need to be much bigger than that.

It reminds the players about Cryovain and shows how the dragon needs to be stopped, as the ecosystem cannot handle the new threat.

Remember the Manicore’s stats too. He is at his most powerful when using the multi-attack, but because the creature can fly and has a ranged tail spike attack, it makes sense for the beast to fly up to the top of the windmill and fire his missiles when no one can catch him.

If you do use the tail spike, however, you need to count how many spikes get used up, as the Manticore can only grow so many in a day.

Remembering Cryovain

Although Cryovain is only the catalyst to this quest, we cannot forget that without him, the Manticore would not have attacked our lovely herbalist. Dripping the details of the dragon into the storyline will remind the players who the real enemy is. You only need to mention him once or twice for the players to pick up on this worry.

Summary

Umbrage Hill is a wonderful quest for first-time players and first-time DMs. You only have two NPCs to worry about, both of which can have detailed storylines that you can easily follow without getting confused.

The quest itself can be completed by the player’s choices. If they are a group that loves to battle, then the fight will be epic. If they are a group that wants to be diplomatic, then they can talk to this magical beast. Most importantly, the players will have complete control over how this quest plays out, and it will give the DM a lot of options for the future of the campaign.

My advice is to make notes throughout the session, so you can pick up on anything the NPCs might do in the session or in the future.

And remember, have fun!

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How to Prepare Dwarven Excavation Quest – Dragon of Icespire Peak

Like everything in Dragon of Icespire Peak, there is a lot of lore, history, and backstory to each area on the map. 

Most of the time, these added details would be great information for Dungeons Masters (DMs) who are used to making massive worlds or even those who have played a campaign near Phandalin before. 

But the majority of people picking up Dragon of Icespire Peak are new Dungeon Masters, so all of the extra detail just overcomplicates their game.

I aim to strip back the Dwarven Excavation content and leave you with a realistic guide to make this session epic for you and your friends!

What to Expect in the Dwarven Excavation

Here is a brief overview of the Dwarven Excavation quest. The parties’ one aim is to warn the dwarfs mining in this area that a white dragon has been spotted. After doing this, the players can go back to Phandalin and collect their 50gp.

You can find this information on page 10 of the adventure book.

Grateful for the warning, the dwarf offers the party a quest of their own. If the players can clear the mine of monsters, then the miners will give them some sending stones. This is what we call a “plot hook,” although it is a weak one as there isn’t a lot of plot involved. 

Still, the players don’t have any magical items yet, so this small addition to their bag will feel like a gold mine (pun intended).

The Sending Stones can be found on page 199 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide or in the packet of magic items handouts. 

If the players accept this quest, they will enter a dark cave searching for beasts. It’s only when they reach the middle that they find one or two Ochre Jellies. They are lost souls of the priests that used to live here, turned into unfeeling and hungry monsters. They can be found on page 61 of your adventure book or page 243 of the Monster Manual.

Once the monsters are defeated, there are no other threats in the cave. However, there is a hidden room with a glowing gem being held by a sketchy statue. If a player gets greedy and reaches for the gem, they risk receiving 22 piercing damage as the booby trap is set off. 

Lastly, as the players leave the mine feeling triumphant, they see Orcs stampeding into the clearing, and another battle begins.

Stripping away all of the empty rooms and (interesting, but never mentioned again) backstory, this is the essence of the quest. 

If you have a warlock player or a dwarven player, it might be interesting to weave Abbathor  (the dwarven god of greed) into the story, as this was the god prayed to by previous civilizations in the mine. 

However, Abbathor is never mentioned again in the campaign, so it would be easy to cut him out if you cannot find a connection. Remember that you are under no obligation to create a connection either. All you need to do is mold the story to match your vision.

Connecting Stories and Knowing Your Players 

In our previous article, “Setting Up Phandalin For Your First Session,” we suggested giving the quest to your players through the retired-miner-turned-tavern-owner Toblen.

If you used this suggestion or created your own mini-history to connect Phandalin and the dwarven mines, be sure to carry on this story. There are two Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in this quest, and they are called Dazlyn and Norbus. 

Dazlyn is meant to be forthright and honest, but Norbus is gruff and cautious. You can edit these descriptions depending on the backstory you have created to get the players here. They are only there to help you create believable and playable characters. 

When the players reach E3, “Courtyard and Temple Facade,” they are meant to meet these NPCs. The dwarves thank the player characters (PCs) and offer their quest, however, depending on your party, this might seem a little boring.

Hopefully, by this point, you will already know what your players will enjoy. If they like to roleplay, then you can use this entrance to make Norbus suspicious.

“White Dragon! What lies! These clean folk are after that legendary gem. I can smells it!”

The players could then roll persuasion to convince the dwarfs, and at the same time, learn about the tempting treasures within. If you use this method, you may want to create a more interesting item than a 100gp gem. Maybe it is cursed, and the PC who holds it becomes obsessed with getting more money even if it ends in pain. Who knows, have fun with it!

If your players are still new and not confident enough to roleplay, you might prefer more of a damsel in distress attitude. Maybe they hear a call for help and rush to the dwarf’s rescue. As they arrive, one dwarf is whacking their pickaxe against the Jelly, while the other is slowly being digested. 

Thrown straight into battle, the players have to kill their enemy before the dwarf dies. This makes the combat dynamic, includes a scary time element, and lets you play around with roleplay without it being core to the game.

If you have no idea what your players will find fun, create the scene to be fun for you. You are a player in this game too, so use your own entertainment as a guide and see how your friends react. 

Next time, it will be easier to see what they enjoyed.

Learn the NPCs and the Monsters

In this quest, there are only two NPCs and two monster types. This means you don’t have to focus on a whole village and what they all want, instead you can put some time and love into the characters in front of you.

Monsters

When it comes to the Orcs and the Ochre Jellys, you don’t need to give them backstories or names (unless you want to!). Instead, all you need to do is know their aim and know their attacks.

We will go into more detail about the Orcs later, but their main goal is to settle somewhere, and they are willing to die for their course.

The Ochre Jellies were once living dwarfs, but they were attacked by their god and turned into these hungry and ugly beasts. It’s unlikely that your players will have a way to communicate with the jellies, so you don’t need to understand their motives other than “attack.” The fun thing about Ochre Jellies comes from their movement. They cannot move fast, but they can climb walls without issue and squeeze through gaps as small as 1-inch without worry. 

When it comes to battle, remember the quirky and unique moves that each of your monsters have, and be sure to bring them to the table. Even if spider climbing up a wall gives a player an opportunity attack, the move will still be memorable!

Non Player Characters

The dwarves are given commoner stats, which you can find on page 55 of the adventure book or page 345 of the Monster Manual.

This stat sheet says that commoners only have a club for attacking, but let’s consider a real miner. They would likely have a pickaxe, at least! Just because the stat sheet says, one thing doesn’t mean you cannot add some flare to it.

I suggested earlier that a damsel in distress could consist of a dwarf being swallowed by a Jelly while another attacks with their pickaxe. In that scenario, I recommend keeping the mechanics of a club but adding some imagination to their weapon description. This way, you haven’t changed the details to become complicated, and you haven’t overpowered the NPCs.

Of course, there is more to an encounter than battling, and the NPCs will have their history. You don’t need to write a whole plot about these characters, but make them memorable in your head, so when the players talk to them, you can create a response consistent with their character.

I suggest making a character sheet for any NPC, with their attitude, goals, dislikes, and likes. This way, you have a quick reference for improvised conversation.  

Loot

If anyone dies, it’s always fun for the players to loot the bodies and try to find treasure. For the Dwarven Miners, they could find alcohol, small gems worth 10gp, and some pickaxes. For Ochre Jelly, they could find poison that could be filtered into empty bottles.

The Orcs, however, could be more interesting as the player can find armor and weapons. Orcs wear hide armor and carry Greatclubs along with Javelins. These could be added to your player’s inventory and increase their fighting power. These items can be found on pages 41 and 42 of your Essentials Kit Rulebook or pages 145 and 149 of the Player’s Handbook.

Break Down Each Area Of The Map

In the official guide to the Dwarven Excavation quest, there are 13 sections, including the arrival and the Orc attack. 

Temple Features

There is a helpful little guide on page 22 about the temple’s features, including its doors, ceilings, difficult terrain, and light. I suggest printing this part out and having it in view, as there will be many times when light and terrain becomes a problem during the game. These are easy features to forget but are an intricate part of the atmosphere building and difficulty challenge. 

Remember that difficult terrain takes twice as long for a character to go through (30 ft of movement turns into 15 ft, etc.), and having no light will make your characters effectively blind. This means that they will automatically fail any check which uses sight and will be disadvantaged when attacking, while their enemies will have advantage to attack them (if they can see).

Even if your players have darkvision, they will be disadvantaged on checks that rely on sight. 

Because of this, you should make a pre-worded description for every room the PCs enter, so both you and them are reminded of their limitations. If a character is blinded from the darkness, consider giving them the condition card found in the pack as an additional reminder.

Going Through The Rooms

I’m not normally a fan of maps with useless rooms, as the DM is forced to make it important somehow, or the players become bored by constantly seeing useless information. However, this map doesn’t have too many dead spaces, and because the Ochre Jellies can wiggle through 1-inch spaces, they can use these dead rooms as escape ways to run away from the party. 

You can even use the strange shapes in the Ruined Settlement (E2) as cover when the Orcs attack.

My only suggestion is to add more detail to the rooms. The priest’s room in E8, for example, could have jeweled silver daggers or blood-red leather armor for the players to find. If the players don’t go rummaging, then they won’t lose out on important items, but if they snoop around, they could find some worthy treasure. 

No matter what you do, be familiar with the rooms and understand how they could be used by your players or by the monsters. Read each section one at a time, and then go over them with a pen and paper to create your own descriptions and changes.

Change Abbathor to Talos

Earlier I said to ignore the history of this place, as it never comes up again in the campaign. If you really want a god in this temple, as you know your players will get interested in the history, then I suggest using Talos, the evil god of storms. 

If anyone investigates the rocks, you can suggest high levels of sea salt, despite being far away from the sea; almost as though previous landscapes would put this temple closer to the sea edge.

Talos shows up in at least four other quests as the Half-Orc anchorites constantly try to summon him or work on his behalf. This temple could be an abandoned worshipping site, which was left behind as the sea levels changed.

Swapping Abbathor to Talos will give you a recurring evil god that feels connected to the story. 

Getting Battle Ready

Unfortunately, the beginners kit doesn’t come with a battle map for every quest, so I suggest buying a reusable battle map that can be wiped away and recreated as the players destroy the temple within.

If someone uses a spell that knocks down a pillar, for example, then you’ll need to re-make this map as the ceiling collapses. 

The only problem with this method is allowing your players to run all around the mine while only having a limited battle map size. Although I would normally suggest using one massive and wipeable surface, for a map like this, you may prefer to use reusable battle blocks. Click this link to understand what I mean. You can add in more corridors as your players discover secret doors. These battle blocks create a more versatile and moveable map.

Avoid Player Disappointment

The one thing that every Dungeon Master hates is disappointing their players. If the Ochre Jelly encounter proved deadly, you need to give your players a break before letting them face the Orcs.

Encourage them to take a short rest at least, or even allow them a long rest in the creepy, moldy priest chambers. If they don’t take a rest (because they didn’t know they could), your players will feel ambushed as the Orcs come to attack. 

The tiny paragraph about the attack on page 23 suggests you go into a fight without explanation. This will feel like an unnecessary attack to your players, so instead, I recommend adding in a little bit of dialogue to show why the Orcs are fighting. 

If a player knows the language “Giant,” you could have the leading Orc give a speech while a timid one mumbles something only that player can understand.

“A cave!” The Orc says with a gaping smile that shows off his long, deep tusks. “Humanoid vermin, be off with you. This is our new home!” He raises his great club and charges before anyone gets the chance to run.

Point out your giant-speaking player, and tell them they notice this interaction too:

A smaller Orc raises his ax, but his enthusiasm is lesser than his friends. “Another fight? I’m too exhausted. Why won’t you let us be!” He mumbles in Giant, but with a huff, joins his comrades. 

If you don’t have a player character who can speak giant, you can still have this interaction through common.

When you add this level of information to your players before the attack begins, give them enough space to attempt to speak before the Orcs reach them. If the charge happens when they are over 40ft away, the monsters have to use the dash action to get into melee range. This gives the players one turn each to interact without attacking and get more information. 

Although Orcs have javelins, their low intelligence makes it easy to imagine them running into melee combat and not staying in ranged distance.

However you manage this element of attack, remember that the Orcs are searching for a new home after the white dragon displaced them. This can be a great way to weave Cryovain and his negative effects into the story. 

It will be easy to let this quest fall into a “dungeon grind,” especially at a low level. A “dungeon grind” is when the players experience battle after battle without any change. Even those who love battles still need a balance with puzzles, social interaction, and downright silliness.

You should decide whether this additional attack will be enjoyable and informative or if your players need a break from fighting. If you figure it’s the latter, you should abandon this extra fight.

Summary

There isn’t a lot going on in this quest, which is perfect for a new DM and new Players. There is a little bit of social interaction, a little bit of battle, and a little bit of investigation. I really like this quest and only felt the need to edit a bit of it.

When I played it through with my party, we had a Dwarf Wizard, so when they stole the gem, I made Abbathor talk to her in her sleep. Our campaign had two plots from then, stop the dragon and release the evil god. 

I highly recommend cutting out all the Abbathor stuff, unless you think your players will be interested in this back story. He doesn’t come up again in the campaign, so you won’t be missing out on information. If you want to add in an important god, add in Talos instead.

Whatever you do, make reminders about the light and difficult terrain either through pre-written entrances for each room or with a sticky note on your DM screen.

And remember to have fun!


Feature Image CC: David Calabrese

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