This post is the second of two posts dedicated to running the Wizards of the Coast official campaign Storm King’s Thunder. The first post covered the structure as the campaign book outlines it, and gave suggestions to how you can run the campaign in a short and concise manner. This post aims to do the opposite, and instead showing you how to make Storm King’s Thunder a sprawling campaign that utilizes more of the source material.
Let’s Do Everything
The Storm King’s Thunder has just over 200 pages detailing the campaign story, and also presenting various Sword Coast locations and possible sidequests. However, a majority of these pages won’t ever be used, if you follow the intended structure of the adventure.
The campaign book suggests that your party visits one of the towns in Chapter 2 (Bryn Shander, Goldenfields or Triboar) and only one of the giant strongholds in Chapter 5-9 (Grudd Haug, Deadstone Cleft, Svardborg, Ironslag or Lyn Armaal). Granted, the campaign book does allow for the fact that your party might stumble upon any of these locations on their travels, or play through the giants’ strongholds after defeating Iymrith.
But, if you would like to ensure that your players try out more of the content in the campaign book – and there’s some really great content in there – you can very easily achieve that with only a little work. Below I’ll attempt to give you a strategy for including as much as possible of Storm King’s Thunder’s cool content, while still adhering to the campaign books overall premise.
First off, if you want your party to experience more of the giant attacks, you must give them reasons to go to more than one of the three towns, all the way back in Chapter 1. The easy way to do it, is to have Morak Ur’gray give the party all of his quests (see STK page 32). But, if we’re being honest, these quests are kinda lame, and your party would be prone to forget all about the other two quests, as soon as they find more interesting storylines in whichever town they choose to travel to.
Another plan could be to mix up the quests a little, and perhaps make them more rumors, than actual quests. This way you can also sprinkle these in later in the campaign, if you’ve already passed Chapter 1, and still send your party towards more giant attacks. An example of how you can do this in in Chapter 1:
- While interrogating or speaking to a goblin, one of them let it slips that its brother Birbok is working for some hill giants up north by Goldenfields, and that ‘hehee, dey attak de Goldy-town not long ago, dem real strong’.
- After being rescued, Morak Ur’gray tells the party that his cousin, Ghelryn Foehammer (see STK page 255), always talk about a giant-hunting adventurer up by Triboar named Urgala Meltimer (see STK page 254), who might know how to ‘give these here giants a proper talkin’ to, if ye follow what I’m saying?’.
- If Daphne Featherstone (Lady Velrosa Nandar’s lady-in-waiting) survives, she tells the party that Lady Velrosa’s childhood friend from Waterdeep, Duvessa Shane (see STK page 248), recently wrote about frost giants rampaging up by Bryn Shander in the north.
You can make these hooks more questlike, if you want, or put these rumors forth later in the campaign. The specifics of when and how aren’t really that important, as long as providing these hooks a) give your players a greater feeling of self-determination, b) plant the seed for the party being involved in several of the giant attacks. Be aware that not all parties respond well to having multiple ‘vague’ choices, and that this might cause your party to simply go about it linearly – going to Goldenfields first and then to Triboar, before finishing of in Bryn Shander – which is a shame, if you like Bryn Shander a lot more than Goldenfields.
By the end of Chapter 2, the party should be 6th-level, and have up to six different quests delivered to them from the NPCs of the town they helped defending. For the purpose of visiting as many giant strongholds as possible before the campaign ends, you can choose to highlight a few of these quests:
- Bryn Shander – Duvessa Shane’s quest (see STK page 43) could lead to the frost giant stronghold Svardborg, if you want it to. It seems like a fun quest, provided you put some effort into fleshing it out.
- Goldenfields – Miros Xelbrins rather mundane quest (see STK page 52) will give the characters possession of a ring, that can in turn lead them to the Old Tower (see STK page 116), which in turn leads them to the hill giant stronghold Grudd Haug.
- Triboar – Ghelryn Foehammer’s suggestion (see STK page 62) to go to Citadel Felbarr (see STK page 79), can lead the characters’ straight to Ironslag, the fire giant stronghold.
In addition to this, its also a possibility that the characters capture one of the attacking monsters, and simply get it to show them the way to the appropriate giant stronghold. However you go about it, its quite possible for your party to go straight for a giant stronghold, after finishing the defense of a town. If you also have the party visit more than one of these three towns, you can have the party follow a pattern of defending/visiting a town, and then infiltrating a giant stronghold.
If you’re already in Chapter 3, or your players don’t bite during Chapter 2, don’t fret. There’s plenty of locations in the Savage Frontier, where the party can find their way to a giant stronghold:
- Beliard (suggested encounter leads to Old Tower – Old tower leads to Grudd Haug)
- Citadel Adbar (suggested encounter leads to Ironslag)
- Citadel Felbarr (suggested encounter leads to Ironslag)
- Daggerford (the party can follow giants back to Deadstone Cleft)
- Evermoors (the party can spot Lyn Armaal)
- Grayvale (suggested encounter leads to Deadstone Cleft)
- Orlbar (suggested encounter leads to Deadstone Cleft)
- Uluvin (the party can follow giants back to Grudd Haug)
You can steer your characters towards any of these locations, with the many means at your disposal. It could be rumors in any random inn about ‘fire giants disrupting trade up by the dwarven citadels in the north’ or ‘people’s seen some giant castle floating above the Evermoors!’. Additionally, many of the suggested encounters attached to these locations can very easily be moved to other locations, so if you’ve set your eyes on a giant stronghold that you want your characters to visit, it shouldn’t be too hard to move around some encounters so that your party will at least have the chance to find the stronghold.
In Chapter 4 your party is supposed to ransack a bunch of Uthgardht burial mounds, so that they can obtain learn the knowledge of a giant stronghold, where they can in turn find a conch of teleportation, that will take them to the Maelstrom (Chapter 10).
An alternative way to do this, if you still would like your party to visit more giant strongholds, is have the conch be broken and divided between 2-5 of the giant lords – or be an entirely different device, that is naturally split into pieces. This way, you get to choose which giant strongholds you want your party to visit and simply tell they need to go to three of them (or whichever number you choose).
Or, maybe the oracle already have the power to teleport the party to the Maelstrom, but won’t do it before the party has proven themselves. It simply tells them they where all the giants strongholds are, and lets them choose which ones to visit, and then it decides when the party have succesfully proven themselves.
Expanding the campaign to include more giant attacks and giant strongholds isn’t entirely without issues.
First problem arises if your players are only level 6 when they head into the first giant stronghold, and therefore might not be the appropriate level for the challenge. I can’t tell you what exactly you need to do to mitigate this, but as long as you’re aware of the issue, you should be fine. Hopefully you’ve had a lot of sessions to gauge the strength of your players, and can take measures to ensure it doesn’t end in a TPK, such as reducing the number of monsters (giants in particular), and allowing for more short or long rests.
Another issue arises if your characters sack so many strongholds that they actually get ahead in level. Obviously you can stifle this by sticking to milestone experience, and simply not award them extra experience for clearing strongholds. You can also just have them level ahead, since most of the challenges in the later portion of the campaign are actually quite hard, and often factor in that your party has NPC help (which you can then just not give them).
Thirdly, as the campaign is written, each giant lord or lady is in possession of a conch of teleportation. Luckily, this one is easily fixed: only one of the giants actually have the conch.
Lastly, as you might notice above, its most likely that your players will find Grudd Haug, Ironslag or Deadstone Cleft. That’s okay, since you can have the oracle point them towards one or both of Lyn Armaal and Svardborg, when the party gets to Chapter 4.
My Sample Campaign
Okay, so that’s a lot of words, but how would all this look in actual play. I’ll give an example based on the Storm King’s Thunder campaign that I’m running myself:
- In Nightstone the party are given clues about hill giant problems by Goldenfields, a giant-expert in Triboar (Urgala Meltimer) and frost giants by Bryn Shander.
- The party heads immediately for Goldenfields, where they follow the hill giants track back to Grudd Haug after repelling their attack.
- After clearing Grudd Haug, they finish Zi Liang’s quest in Waterdeep, and then head for Triboar.
- Too late to defend Triboar from the fire giant raid, they follow the fire giants’ tracks towards Ironslag, passing by Zymorven Hall and Yartar on the way to finish Urgala Meltimer’s quest.
- They succesfully defeat the fire giants at Ironslag, and obtain the dark elves’ Iron Flask (see STK page 186). Intent on returning the flask to Gauntlgrym (for a hefty reward) they travel westward. They meet Harshnag on the road, and he shows them to the Temple of the All-Father.
- When they arrive at the temple, the oracle pushes them towards Lyn Armaal, because Countess Sansuri is the only one who has a conch of teleportation.
This way, my party will have gone through two of the towns in Chapter 2 (although only defending one of them), and visiting three of the giant strongholds. It also makes the walking around part of Chapter 3 feel more goal-oriented, than just randomly walking around.
I hope this post has been helpful to you, and given you a better idea on how to run Storm King’s Thunder. I’ll be posting more about the campaign in later posts, so don’t go too far. Remember, you can read the first post here.
Also, I’ve created some content for Storm King’s Thunder over at the DM’s Guild, such as in-depth tips, resources and maps helpful in running A Great Upheaval, Goldenfields and Triboar, or even a full adventure to run during Chapter 3.