DM Screen 12 – Waking the Dragon

One of the trickiest parts about running League is dealing with players’ expectations. Most of the time, the players will already know lots about the characters they run into, which means that, under normal circumstances, it can be very difficult to surprise them. If I introduce them to a man named Iago, who professes to be honest and loyal to their cause, they’re going to see his inevitable betrayal coming a mile away.

But this foreknowledge works both ways. When players *think* that they know something, they may end up making assumptions, skipping over the usual critical thinking that they might use if they were evaluating a brand-new character or situation. This chapter shows how this can be used: when the League heard about a woman calling herself the Mother of Dragons who had arrived from a far-off place and was gathering together the wildlings, they didn’t think to second-guess the fact that this might not be Daenerys Targaryen after all.

When you exit the tunnel cutting through the Wall, the world becomes a very different place. While the lands north of Winterfell were cold and harsh, the land north of the Wall is almost a different planet. This is not a place where life can thrive, even in isolated pockets, such as in northern Westeros—this is a place of cruel predation, where life can only survive by being as cruel and merciless as winter itself. The sense of an ever-present hostility is undeniable, as is the feeling of being watched.

The League begins to move away from the Wall, into forests of black trees, which eventually giving way to hillier, rockier areas—and all covered in snow and ice. Upon glimpsing this desolation, Nico and Dante suddenly feel a sense of déjà vu so strong it’s like a physical blow, as their minds’ eyes once more glimpse the dark shape in the snow calling out to them, drawing them closer.

Hours pass as the heroes follow the map through this inhospitable landscape, and the sun sinks slowly beneath the horizon, painting the landscape in deep blue shadows. Not long after, the League hears the sound of cries for help coming from somewhere nearby. Investigation reveals a pair of figures—one a stooped figure wearing a heavy robe and carrying a staff with dangling fetishes, the other tall and muscular, wearing rough hide armor and carrying a spear—running through the snow and ice away from a group of silhouettes moving across the blue-white landscape. Most of these silhouettes are on foot and staggering, as though tired or disoriented, their arms stretched out before them. They are dressed in tattered scraps of clothing and their eyes gleam like blue stars, visible even at this distance. Behind this group of staggering creatures ride a pair of humanoids. They ride horses, although on closer inspection it is clear that these are but the corpses of horses—one has large sections of its body where its flesh has been consumed by rot or fallen off from frostbite, the other has intestines dangling visibly below its belly. The two riders themselves have the same shining blue eyes of those that run before them, but they carry themselves with a grace and precision which is not only beyond the clumsy figures staggering before them, but seems to be somehow alien and inhuman. They wear metal armor and hold greatswords which gleam strangely in the moonlight.

Wights (8)
F: Ty
A: Pr
S: Rm
E: Rm
R: Fb
I: Fb
P: Fb

Health: 70

Unholy Scent: Animals must make a Psyche check to approach a wight
Vulnerability: Double damage from fire

Others (2)
F: Rm
A: Rm
S: Rm
E: In
R: Gd
I: Ex
P: Rm

Health: 130         Karma: 60

Body Armor: Gd
Crystalline Sword: Str+10 damage; living targets hit by it must make an Endurance check or be paralyzed by cold; instantly destroys nonmagical objects it hits

One of my favorite aspects of Song of Ice and Fire is the Others and their wights—they’re such a wonderfully otherworldly contrast to the petty political squabbling that occurs elsewhere in the story. Obviously they’re not as much of a threat to the League as they would be to, say, Jaime Lannister or Jon Snow, but I wanted to capture the feeling of fighting something that was somehow inhuman and alien, and of course foreshadow the coming war with the White Walkers.

The robed wildling is Mother Mole, a small woman whose precise age is impossible to tell but appears to be ancient. Her fur-lined hide robes and cloak seem too thin for this intense cold, but she doesn’t seem overly bothered by it. Her twisted staff dangles with strange carvings made of bone and wood, and the League notices that one such object is the black and red Targaryen flag.

She was heading back to the encampment of the Children of the Dragon (what these wildlings have come to call themselves) after meeting with the Mother of Dragons herself, where she dwells in her cave in the Frostfangs. Mother Mole had a vision earlier in the day that a group of warriors from a distant land would be coming north; she had gone to tell the Mother, who was interested in meeting with these warriors when they arrived. When Mother Mole and her retinue were heading back to the encampment, they were caught off-guard when the wights, led by the two White Walkers, emerged from the night and cut down her guards one by one.

Mother Mole can lead them back to her peoples’ encampment if they wish—she trusts them enough after saving her—or she could direct them toward the cave where the Mother of Dragons spends her time. She is not personally worried for her own safety now—she has foreseen that she survives the night, and doesn’t fear walking back to the camp now (it was some of the younger and more foolish men of the Children of the Dragon who insisted on accompanying her).

If they travel to the wildling village: It isn’t long before they spot first one, then many, plumes of smoke rising from cook fires up ahead. Coming over a rocky, icy ridge, the heroes spot the sprawling campgrounds of the followers of Daenerys Targaryen: a massive collection of yurts and tents, most capped with the black and red flag depicting a three-headed dragon. Thousands of wildlings move amidst these meager dwellings with an eager, ferocious energy. Suddenly, a distant thunderclap erupts from a cloudless sky, and the League looks up to see what can only be a dragon winging through the sky. Though distant, the creature’s size is immediately recognizable, and the League realizes that the thunderclap they heard was the beating of the dragon’s wings. The sight of the creature sends the wildlings in the camp into a raucous cheer as it angles its way toward a cave at the top of a towering peak reaching up from the landscape like a curved claw.

I was planning on improvising some interactions with wildlings if the League took this route. Instead, they decided to adventure up to the Frostfangs.

If they travel to the cave: The climb up to the cave in the Frostfangs isn’t easy, and the heroes will have to either make checks or come up with a way to make the climb easier—this could include looking for the path that the Children of the Dragon use. Depending on how they decide to make the climb, they may need to leave their horses behind.

As they climb, at some point they are greeted by the sound of a distant thunderclap, followed a few seconds later by another, then a few seconds later by a third, each subsequent one sounding louder and closer. Looking up, they can see the shape of a massive winged creature flying amongst the low gray clouds. It arcs overhead, each beat of its wings letting loose another distant boom, until it eventually circles the peak of the claw-like mountain the heroes seek to climb, and disappears, seemingly entering into the mountain itself through some sort of entrance at the top.

When the heroes do make it to the top, they see that the cave is much larger than it appeared from the foot of the mountain—two dozen men could walk through the entrance shoulder to shoulder without brushing the walls, and the stone ceiling stretches at least 30 feet up. Steam rolls from the entrance into the frigid air, and the interior of the cave is significantly warmer than the surrounding area. As the heroes make their way through the cavernous entrance, they are eventually greeted by the sight of several mounds of treasure: precious metal coins of at least half a dozen different countries; precious gems; sculptures; works of art; even the occasional weapon or suit of armor, all strewn about this one chamber. One of the more striking pieces is a towering mirror close to 20 feet tall which tapers to a point at the top, although its dark surface doesn’t quite reflect the contents of the room.

The roof of the cave is open to the arctic air—it appears as though this was the way by which the dragon entered… yet there is no sign of the dragon itself.

At a dramatically appropriate time, heroes can make an Intuition (Perception) check to notice a figure watching them from the shadows, at which point the figure steps forward. Her facial features suggest very advanced age, but she stands with a powerful, regal bearing that suggests no weakness. Her outfit is equal parts dark purple dress, robe, and armor plating, and her long white hair has been shaped to resemble horns or antlers. Her eyes are a striking yellow—almost like those of a raven. This, of course, is Flemeth.

She will take their questions patiently, though she will follow up each with a question of her own. She is curious to know who they are, how they came by their unusual talents, and then where they are from. If they attempt to conceal their real origins, she becomes quite candid with them, openly revealing that she is from a different world and it is quite obvious that they are, too. She is also interested in hearing if any of them have dreamt of a dark shape in the snow—though she pointedly looks at Dante and Nico when she does so.

She will freely admit to having accepted the mantle of the Mother of Dragons—“once those who currently follow me saw some of my capabilities, they made certain assumptions as to my identity which it has been more convenient for me not to contradict.”

If asked about her own origins, she explains that she found herself unexpectedly pulled into this world recently, and almost immediately began to experience visions of a dark shape in the snow which called out to her. She realized that this shape in her visions was the source of the undead, and she immediately began to gather together a force which would be capable of marching on them. Even so, she realizes that time is against her as the undead army grows more numerous and marches ever further south.

If the League asks about the Stone of Grace, she initially does not know to what they’re referring. Once they describe it, a look of recognition dawns on her face. “Ah yes, I suspected that bauble might have some magic in it.” She turns and digs through one of the piles of treasure, eventually emerging with a perfect emerald sphere roughly the size of a golf ball. She’s not willing to give it freely, however—she proposes that they join her and her wildlings in their march on the undead, after which point she will give it to them. Of course, the alternative would be that they could try to take the Stone from her by force, which she points out with an equal amount of malice and barely-restrained delight.

Flemeth (Human form)
F: Ex
A: Gd
S: In
E: ShX
R: Am
I: Am
P: Un

Health: 220         Karma: 200

Magic: Effects up to Mn

Flemeth (Dragon form)
F: Rm
A: Gd
S: Am
E: ShY
R: Am
I: Am
P: Un

Health: 390         Karma: 200

Body Armor: Gd
Fire Breath: Mn damage

In the end, the League decided to go along with her. They returned to the camp of the wildlings, introduced themselves, and began to prepare for their attack on the forces of the undead.

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