A century before Storm King’s Thunder, the ancient green dragon Elaacrimalicros destroyed the Aarakocra villages in the Star Mounts of the High Forest. He made a lair in the Star Mounts and enslaved dwarves to mine gems on his behalf.
The Aarakocra survivors were scattered widely, going to Cormyr, to Kir Sabal in Chult, and to the nearby Lost Peaks in the High Forest. The survivors in the Lost Peaks formed a Nest of Retribution, biding time to reclaim their lost homeland.
One of the players in my Storm King’s Thunder game is an Aarakocra from the High Forest on the Sword Coast of Faerûn. The party saved Triboar, dealt with the Kraken’s Gamble in Yartar (see the Storm King’s Thunder Complete DM’s Bundle) and continued on the quest that take them through Calling Horns to Noanar’s Hold, which is right next to the High Forest and the Star Mounts. This is a great time to send them against the Lair of Elaacrimalicros, which is a handy module on Dungeon Masters Guild.
Modifying the Lair of Elaacrimalicros
I like the core structure of the Lair of Elaacrimalicros, but I also want to refine it and make it fit my campaign. In the module, the Aarakora Nest of Retribution has allied itself with elements from the Plane of Air. As written, the party has to escort an amulet that will unleash the elementals and slay the dragon. What I want to change is the introduction, the encounters en route, and the final confrontation — everything except for the plot structure.
As the party leaves Calling Horns on their way to Noanar’s Hold, they see a speck on the horizon. The speck gets closer and they realize it is an aged Aarakocra:
I am Avorlah. [Party member], child, you have done well. We sent you on a pilgrimage to gather allies and if my eyes do not deceive you have brought three strong ones. We Aarakocra cannot stand alone if we hope to prevail against the green beast.
I have for you your birthright, your uncle Wuorlah’s [awesome weapon from Armaments of Legacy]. Wuorlah made it himself when Elaacrimalicros the Green Wyrm first came to the Star Mounts, but it served us ill. We were driven into exile across the face of Toril.
The Nest of Retribution is ready to make our move against the green wyrm. Will you rise to your legacy and stand with us?
If so, go see Kleckikki in Noanar’s Hold. He will explain our mission.
Kleckikki’s mission is explained in the module as published.
In Noanar’s Hold, I also added an agent from Wyrms of the Realm: Klauth who offers to buy dragon eggs for safe “disposal” — the red dragon Klauth wants to eat all the dragon eggs on the Sword Coast — and provides a portable hole. She’s from Baldur’s Gate, which gives her a broad French accent in my interpretation of Forgotten Realms.
The Lair of Elaacrimalicros module gives a full page of random encounters, but none of them are plot relevant. I liked pitting the unicorn against some random monsters, but a horde of CR 1/8 plant monsters proved tedious to run.
For unrelated reason, I wanted my party to fight some monks, so I turned the dragon’s evil dwarf miner thralls into evil dwarf monks. Someone’s helpfully created some monk NPCs. I swear by donjon’s 5e Encounter Size Calculator for balancing combat.
For thematic reasons, it could make sense for the party to face some undead Aarakocra on their way through razed Aarakocra villages. There’s a neat Aarakocra necromancer in Ruins of Matolo: Discovery. I didn’t see any Aarakocra zombie statblocks I liked, so I used the 5e Statblock Generator to mash up the Greater Zombie (Yawning Portal p.237) with the Aarakocra (MM p.12).
There are several aspects of the lair that I think are worth modifying. The message from a mysterious villain in the dining hall (room 14) is a great opportunity to introduce either Iymrith or Slarkrethel as the big bads:
“We will supply two dozen firebirds and a launcher for dealing with your expected aarakocra incursion in two months, as well as a dimensional anchor for the pesky air elementals.” – Iymrith
Less importantly, I think it’s worthwhile to:
- Alter the suggested magical items to suit your party
- Nerf the designed-to-kill aspect of the Fiery Death Trap.
- Change the DCs to match a typical range for 5e.
- Remove anything that requires repeated rolls to achieve one action.
I’ve redrawn the map for the lair using the Deepnight RPG Map Editor for aesthetic reasons.
The Big Battle
The module does not have a final battle as written. The characters unleash some air elementals and skedaddle. I understand that an Ancient Green Dragon (CR 22) is not a level-appropriate combat encounter for Level 6 characters, but at the same time fully delegating the liberation of your ancestral homeland to a Deus Ex Machina is a little anti-climactic.
I want my players to help their elemental allies, which means actually deciding how many allies there should be. There need to be enough air elementals to mortally wound the dragon, but not quite enough to kill him without help. I arrived at this number:
– 1x CR7 Air Elemental Myrmidon (Mordenkainen’s p.202)
– 2x CR5 Air Elemental (Monster Manual p.124)
With four players and Kleckikki, that pits 7 against the dragon. Add or subtract Air Elementals if you have fewer or more players, or if the party has spent too many resources along the way.
If the party unleash the air elementals and watch while the elementals fight the dragon without helping, leave the dragon with 75hp.