What magic college could I have gone to before Hoard of the Dragon Queen?

I’m joining a running campaign of HotDQ where they just finished a chapter (I don’t know which, but the DM says everyone’s level 4) and I’m looking for a lore-friendly magic college to be part of. I’m playing as a level 4 Tiefling Sorcerer who meets up with the party while investing and dealing with reports of "strange happenings"in the area.

What magic colleges (or universities whatever) are in the forgotten realms that my character can be a part of?

How to make a dragon hoard?

Disclaimer: This question is tagged dnd-5e, since consideration of the value of money or the magic item system might be relevant. I do, however, doubt that an answer based primarily on these would provide a satisfying solution to the problem at hand.

Clarification in magic items: I do not consider it necessary to use problematic amounts of magic items. While there might be a few, my concerns are about monetary value of money and nonmagic objects.

1. Situation and context

In the adventure I am currently running, the party sets out to kill a dragon. For a proper dragon hunt an impressive hoard is in order. It does not have to be a hoard like in The Hobbit, but it needs to be significant.

Now, the problem is that this amount of money owned by the players will have consequences, even if money in 5e is arguably not inherently valuable, as discussed before. I do have a character that can use heavy armor and is keen on a plate armor. I do not mind them getting one, but that is 1,500 gp, so even with this and a good stockpile of potions we are looking at a couple thousand gp that can be easily used. The simple fact of the players having money is not the main problem, however, I think that I and the players can come up with interesting uses and that it will not run over my encounter balance since there is no buying magic items. I am way more concerned about creep: If I have myself a nice dragon hoard, the next quest reward will be quite stale unless it is also really impressive which would create a vicious cycle.

It was already discussed here how to resolve the problem after the fact (see 17 million gp and The magic arsenal) but I want to avoid it proactively.

2. Solutions considered

There are a few putative solutions that immediately come to mind:

  • Use a small amount of money: However, if I make sure that the amount of money will not cause problems, it does not make for a nice dragon hoard any more.
  • Use worthless or disappearing money: This is quite easily done (The Hobbit already provides dragon sickness), but it will rob the players of a reward which I would like to avoid. My players are usually quite understanding when I express concerns of balance and similar, so I suppose I could get away with it, but this does rub me the wrong way. Making it so that the characters cannot carry away the money would fall in this realm.
  • Complications that eat away money: I can introduce any number of complications that eat away money after, such as taxes, old currency (exchange comes at a loss), goblins who will raid the place as soon as the dragon is dead… However these would have to walk a very fine line between two potential issues. On the one side they might not resolve anything because they are not efficient enough. One the other hand , they might be too efficient and rob the players. All in all, not very satisfactory even if the players are given opportunity to take countermeasures. If I make 100% sure they work, I still robbed the players. Anything less and it will probably end like the in the questions cited above.

3. The Question

How can I make an impressive dragon hoard given that a) a small amount of money will make it seem like it’s not a real hoard, b) large amounts of money will probably overshadow future rewards, and c) any measures I came up with until now, that take away money later will either fail or rob the players of their reward?

Appendix: Further considerations

What I am looking for: Since any solution based on setting the amount of money and / or changing it later will probably create at least one of the three problems named, I suppose that a valid solution will probably discuss how to shift focus concerning the reward away from the money. However, if the solution came easy to me, I would not be asking. I do suspect that official 5e material does not offer a solution, and that a solution would be applicable to other systems, so solutions from earlier editions, other games, or homebrew are welcome so long as they take into account the basic assumptions of my question.

What I am not looking for: Any of the following does not – on its own – make for a complete answer:

  • “There is no problem because money in 5e is not worth anything, really.”
  • “Just give them lots of money. It will probably not create problems and if it does you already found suggestions for fixing it.”
  • “I have x random idea on how to make all the money be fake or unusable.”
  • “I have y random idea on reducing the final amount of money.” So have I, vide infra.
  • “Just do another adventure or use a dragon without a hoard1.”

Of course, if you have a valid answer, I’m happy to read the frame challenge or x random idea you included with it.

Assorted information: This is the first adventure in an assorted-adventures style campaign that I run simultaneously for two groups of four and five players, respectively. The characters are currently level 5. The campaign is located in my homebrew 5e setting. I do not allow purchasing magic items.

1: Imagine killing a broke dragon with, let’s say, 16 gp. This would be a lot like the situation from Stephen King’s It (p. 306) where a mother has her missing son declared dead to access his savings of 16 $ .

Is playing a specialist Enchanter with a hoard of possessed enemies viable?

I’m aware that the typical advice for playing a Focused Specialist Enchanter is “just play a Beguiler instead”. Regardless, I’ve still been reading up on it. It seems like the theory for such a build is:

  • If the enemy isn’t immune to Mind-Affecting stuff and doesn’t have a high will save, hit it with any good Enchantment spell and add it to your thrall.
  • If the enemy isn’t immune to Mind-Affecting stuff and does have a high will save, either delay it with battlefield control or with your thrall and either spam a good Enchantment spell until it’s in your thrall or use normal Wizard spells until you’ve killed it.
  • If the enemy is immune to Mind-Affecting stuff, fight it like a normal Wizard would and throw your thrall at it until it dies.

Assuming that I’ve got this right, and assuming that it would be played as described (e.g. as opposed to just playing a normal Wizard build that happens to be lacking a few spell slots), is this actually viable? I’ve got the following concerns:

  • At low levels, you either won’t have a thrall or it’ll be useless.
  • As levels increase, permanent immunity to Mind-Affecting goes from rare to commonplace to mandatory.
  • There’s plenty of ways to remove possession. A single skilled Cleric could end you just by spamming Protection From X, a first level spell!

Basically, I’m worried that these builds are often unable to make a meaningful contribution. Are my worried well founded?

Note: For balance purposes, assume a party of tier 1/2 classes without any significant optimization.

If I am hit after I am reduced to 0 HP during this duel in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, do I take 1 or 2 death save failures?

We’re playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen. During the brutal first episode, there is a duel that can take place (p. 12; spoilers in the link).

When the player loses the duel, the other participant…

strikes one more time [and] inflicts one death roll failure on a character.

When this happened, the player marked off two death failures on their sheet. I asked them why. Here are the relevant parts of the PHB.

The section titled “Dropping to 0 Hit Points” states:

If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and fails to kill you, you fall unconscious. This unconsciousness ends if you regain any hit points.

And later:

If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.

Lastly, the Unconscious condition description says:

Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.

In conclusion, any melee attack made within 5 feet of me is an automatic crit. So does that mean if a bandit is being rude, and stabs me again with his puny dagger – I have a 50% chance of dying come my turn (save for help)?

Am I right in assuming that this is hand-waved in this adventure as it specifically states “one death roll failure”?