D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 8 – An ‘Arrowing Experience

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Last session was pretty emotional; it was Joe’s last one with us as his new job will conflict with our normal Monday evenings, and it was time to say goodbye to Bosun Barry Arrers… would he die gloriously retaking his old hometown of Thundertree, or would his efforts be in vain?

In Attendance: Loki Fastfoot (Darryl), Bosun Barry Arrers (Joe), Grimdark Stonelock (Trev), Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost (Liam)

dungeons-dragons_L155And obviously myself, the DM.

Although Sildar and Gundren were eager for the group to make a move on the Forge of Spells, there was one last thing they needed to do before that; take back the town of Thundertree, which had been evacuated decades ago following a volcanic eruption, zombies, mutant plant monsters, blah blah. Also, Loki’s aunt had asked him to track down Reidoth the druid who was last known to be in Thundertree, plus there were promises of treasure from Mirna, whose family had owned a shop in the town and had hidden their valuables in the cellar. They loaded up Mr Redbrand, and they were set to go! But before that, we had a laugh piling on the cliches for Barry. Elsa approached him as they were about to head off.


“Barry, don’t go! I have a bad feeling about this!”

2884773-Jeremy-Renner-as-Hawkeye-in-The-Avengers-jeremy-renner-32910680-3200-2000“Elsa, it’s fine! Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I do this sort of thing quite regularly.”

wench“Just promise me that when you’ve finished, you’ll settle down and run The Barrel Room with me! Also… I’m carrying your child!”


“In that case, I’ll do this one last job! Then we can get married and everything will be perfect and lovely forever!”


“And we’re going to go on that fishing trip when you get back, right Uncle Barry?”


“We sure are Timmy, we sure are!”

So off they toddle to Thundertree.


Upon arrival to the town, Reidoth the druid spots them from his lookout, and recognising Loki, he approaches them and warns them of the dangers to the town. Aside from the zombies and some giant spiders, there’s also some cultists… and a dragon. A young one, but still… dragon. I’d decided to take the twig blights out of the Thundertree adventure; these monsters are annoying pests who would pose no threat to the heroes and would only slow down play if included.

Reidoth also mentions that he’s seen a strange one-eyed creature around the ruins of the town, but he’s given it a wide berth. Yeah, guess who’s back after escaping the Redbrand lair…


“Hello friends.”

Reidoth informs the heroes that the cultists are on the far side of the town, and the dragon has taken the old wizard’s tower as its lair. The group circles back round the town and approaches from the east side.

Upon arriving in the town square, Barry points out the grand statue of the legendary folk hero Palien, spear raised to the sky in triumph.


“That’ll be me up there one day.”

Oh, how cruel those words are in hindsight.

They break into the old barracks (the northern-most building) and easily dispatch the zombies inside. The zombie’s undead fortitude ability makes them tough to put down permanently with conventional weapons, but Grimdark’s sacred flame spell saves the day.

They then head south to the large farmhouse. Grimdark and Mouse head to the south door, while Barry and Loki take the north. Hoping to charm his way into the midst of the cultists, Barry knocks on the door and professes his urge to join the cult. He’s told to fuck off. Mouse immediately goes to Plan B, and uses thunderwave to smash down the back door (killing two cultists and KO’ing a third with the flying door), then steps inside and incinerates the rest with burning hands. Well, shit.

They question the remaining cultist, and he says that they were going to approach the dragon in the tower and offer tribute, because they’re the Cult of the Dragon and that’s sort of their whole deal. What they were going to do after that is kinda up in the air.

1. Make alliance with dragon.

2. ???

3. Profit!

Barry has the amazing/terrible (delete where appropriate) idea of masquerading as one of the cultists to try and trick the dragon. As he’s tugging on a set of dragon cosplay robes, the nothic shows up at the door. It remembers the group as the ones who gave it food and shinies, and they immediately start throwing silver coins to it to appease it. After a quick round of negotiation with their old acquaintance, they persuade it to help them in the fight against the dragon in return for the entire hoard.


“Oooo, lots of shinies for me! Fine, I help you. Call when you have need!”   And off it scampers.

Finished with the cultists (stopping to grab the tribute of diamonds and the potion of flight that the leader had), the gang take a quick detour to wreck the shit out of some giant spiders and find Mirna’s family treasure, before they decide to head towards the tower.

Barry, in his borrowed dragon cultist costume, swigs the potion of flight and takes to the air. The others hide in the undergrowth near the tower.


“Dragon! Show yourself, mighty one, so that I may offer you riches!”

Sure enough, the young green dragon Venomfang stirs from his slumber and flies to the top of the wrecked tower.



“Amusing. The mammals can fly, when they have a mind for it. I accept your riches, silly little flying monkey.”

Barry throws the dragon the diamonds, and it adds them to the hoard.


“Now that you have taken my riches, perhaps you could leave this town?”


“Hmm. No. No, I don’t think so. I’m rather fond of it here. Now off with you, little flying money, before I lose my temper.”


“Yeah… well… ummm… fuck your face!”  *fires bow*

And so we have a dragon fight!

This fight was amazing. They called on their nothic buddy who scampered in to pelt the dragon with its rotting gaze ability, Grimdark had his spiritual weapon flying around, Mouse was throwing out an almost endless salvo of magic missiles, and Loki was going all Matrix-style with his dual hand crossbows. On top of that, Barry was flying around and taking pot shots while Venomfang chased him in the air, trying to grab him with his jaws or claws, or blast him with his poisonous breath (I tweaked this down to 7d6 damage rather than the absurd 14d6 stated in the book; I wanted a fight, not a TPK!).

Grimdark and Loki rushed up the tower stairs so they could get closer to the dragon to chop it up. Barry lured Venomfang over, then doubled back and grabbed onto it, and starting stabbing it with his trident, Tested. Then Loki jumped on as well, and suddenly Venomfang had two heroes riding him! He managed to dislodge Loki, then took a swipe at Grimdark, who went flying onto the cottage roof, down to 0 HP. Barry broke off to stabilise the dying dwarf while Loki, Mouse and the nothic continued to bombard the dragon, whittling away its HP. However, Venomfang fought back, and sent the nothic tumbling down off the tower into its hoard. The nothic, mesmerised by all the gold, was out of the fight, despite the shouts from its “friends”.

Barry shouted to Mouse or Loki to get a healing potion down Grimdark’s throat, but the halfling was once again participating in a spot of dragon riding. With a shrug and no doubt a rueful shake of his head, Barry took to the skies again, trident and shield in hand. Mouse broke from cover and sprinted to the tower, getting halfway up the staircase. Unfortunately, Venomfang was also there, and recognising Mouse as the one who’d been pelting him with magic missiles, chomped the elf. A critical hit was a one-hit KO, and now there were two of the company down. Venomfang was wounded too, and enraged; common sense would’ve been to fly off and fight another day, but these mammals had hurt him badly, and now he had only murder on the mind.

The dragon knocked Loki off, and the halfling fell, but managed to grab the side of the tower. Venomfang, still with Barry on its back stabbing away, rose higher and higher into the air. Barry’s potion of flight had worn off, but he kept passing his saving throws to hang on, and kept plunging Tested over and over again into the dragon’s back, drawing roars of pain from it.

We put down the rulebooks and the dice, and got the wine out. Barry’s final act of heroism was approaching.

Venomfang managed to grab Barry in one of its claws, and held him in front of its face.


“You worm! You insect! After I have destroyed you and your pathetic friends, I will rain your torn corpses down upon the towns and villages of this land so that none may doubt my power! They will fear me! They will wail and plead for mercy, and I will show none, and it is all your doing! Now… die!”

With that, the dragon flung Barry to the earth. But Bosun Barry Arrers had one last shot left.

2884773-Jeremy-Renner-as-Hawkeye-in-The-Avengers-jeremy-renner-32910680-3200-2000“You first.”

As he fell, he hurled Tested, that stupid trident that he’d bought on a whim with the earnings of his first real adventuring job. Despite not being as trustworthy as his bow, and nowhere as glamorous as Talon, it was still his favoured weapon.

Tested flew straight and true, and went into Venomfang’s gaping, bleeding maw, and out the other side, taking fragments of bone and brain with it. The dragon ceased its tirade, and fell to the ground like a ton of bricks.

As for Barry? He landed right where he’d always wanted to be, in a manner of speaking.

Barry Bosun Arrers died, impaled, on the ascendant spear of the his childhood hero Palien.

His friends recovered from their wounds, and recovered his body. They slew the nothic in a moment of cold, righteous fury. If it had continued to fight rather than succumb to its greed, Barry may still have been alive. Loki took a fang from the dead dragon and an ear from the nothic (we all cope with loss in different ways after all), and Mouse took stock of the dragon’s hoard while Grimdark said last rites over Barry’s body. Reidoth the druid approached them, and said he’d seen the whole thing. He said that he’d let the others of his order know of Barry’s great sacrifice.

They laid Barry to rest in a small clearing not far from Thundertree, burying him with his bow. Talon would go to his unborn child. Tested would rest – along with the skull of the dragon Venomfang – above the hearth of their pub, now renamed Barry’s Barrel Room.

By this point, the wine bottle was nearly empty, and we felt that we’d said a fine farewell not only to Barry Arrers, but also to our good friend and gaming partner Joe.

The journey back to Phandalin passed uneventfully. As they arrived back in town, Elsa ran to them, tear-streaked. While the group had been away, Sildar, Gundren and Iarno had all been murdered, the map to Wave Echo Cave was missing, and the elven barmaid Aelya was nowhere to be found.

As they took stock of the news, she asked the question they’d all been dreading.


“Where’s Barry?”

Completed Quests: Seek out Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Mirna’s family heirloom in Thundertree.

Ongoing Quests: Go to Wave Echo Cave, find the Forge of Spells, get vengeance for your friends, and kill the Black Spider.

Ears Collected: Nothic

Dragons Killed: 1

Heroes Slain: 1

Excuse me I have something in my eye.

- Gareth


Magic: the Gathering – Low Standards

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Let’s just take a break from all this D&D malarkey to talk about another one of Wizards of the Coast’s franchises; their long-running cardboard crack, Magic: the Gathering!

I’ve recently mentioned that I’d been losing interest in Magic; I hadn’t played it properly for ages, or made new decks… it was kind of just withering on the vine, and this certainly wasn’t helped by my utterly god-awful time at the Khans of Tarkir pre-release, a day so completely without joy or satisfaction that I couldn’t even bring myself to write a tongue-in-cheek, oh-look-at-me-I’m-not-good-at-this-but-oh-well post; it was fucking atrocious, and put me in a shitty mood for a few weeks.

So when my friend Adam proposed a day of playing Magic, I was tentative. But then as I was browsing various MtG forums, I came across a budget Standard thread in which players were posting decks whose contents topped out at the $20 mark. And you know what? When you strip away all the fetchlands and planeswalkers and competitive Pro-Tour netdecking bullshit, and you’re given some constraints – in this case funds – you can be pretty creative and make some fun decks!

So that’s what Adam and I did. We set ourselves the “Low Standards” challenge, and started making decks whose contents added up to £15 or less, going by prices on Magic Madhouse. I made three decks (with four more in the works) and after a lot of games yesterday, I can absolutely 100% confirm that they were great fun to play!

Outlasting Heroes (Green-White +1/+1 counter shenanigans)


Funny thing is that most of this deck’s budget went into the Phalanx Leader, aka Old Spice Spartan. This was just a great straight-forward Heroic deck; cast buff spells, get counters, get further benefits from the various Abzan “lords”. I must say, I never thought much of Reap What Is Sown, but after yesterday… Jesus, that thing’s brutal. I can just see myself tweaking this deck as we get more Abzan stuff as the Khans block progresses.

Sultai Munchies  (Blue-Green-Black walls/sacrifice)


Not gonna lie; I saw this deck idea on the forum thread and loved it so much that it was pretty much my whole reason for proposing the “Low Standards” challenge, because I wanted to build it so much! I’ve made a few of own tweaks, such as the Edicts (glorious in a deck where you’re eating your own guys) and Reapers of the Wild (a card that I am quickly becoming incredibly fond of). To be honest I could’ve made the deck dual-colour as most of the key pieces are black and green, but I do love me some tri-colour…

Temur Monsters  (Red-Green-Blue fatties)


More tri-colour, and in my favourite combination! I love red-blue, blue-green and red-green all separately, so I was an absolute shoe-in for the Temur Frontier! I really wanted to do a deck with some of the cool monstrosity and tribute creatures from Theros, and this deck seemed a perfect excuse for that. It honestly surprises me that great creatures like Ember Swallower and Nessian Wilds Ravager command prices as low as 50p! But what do I know? I guess I’d prefer to play for fun rather than treat the game as an elitist dick-measuring contest.

£120 for four bits of cardboard. Hahahaha fuck off.

£120 for a playset. I’d rather have *literally* anything else that money could buy.

Hopefully our Low Standards games will become a regular occurrence; I’m already threatening Adam with promises of blue-black constellation-control and some kind of red-blue prowess thing. And minotaurs. Absolutely minotaurs. I’m also trying to pitch the idea of “Low Standard 2013″ where we make decks for Innistrad-M13-Return to Ravnica Standard, aka The Absolute Best Combination Ever.

I can safely say that I’ve bitten by the Magic bug again, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

- Gareth

D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 7 – Broken Glass

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Right, let’s get back on track. The group went to Cragmaw Castle, pretty much wiped out the Cragmaw gang, and rescued Gundren and we managed to get together to continue their wacky genocidal adventures. Except for Darryl. Damn you parents’ evening!

Well, Thundertree could wait. Iarno Albrek, aka Glasstaff, had escaped them weeks ago, and they were ready to track him down.

In Attendance: Bosun Barry Arrers (Joe), Grimdark Stonelock (Trev), Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost (Liam)


And obviously myself, the DM.

I should mention that this session is not one found in the starter set’s adventure book; this was all brand-new home brewed content.

The adventure started with Sildar approaching the group and asking to speak to them in private. That morning, he’d found a message left for him on his desk. The message was anonymous, but said that Iarno had been seen in Leilon, a town a day’s travel to the south (Leilon is yet *another* ruin according to the map, but I wanted an urban setting that wasn’t Neverwinter). Sildar was suspicious though as he had no idea who could’ve delivered the letter, and who could’ve known that they were looking for Iarno. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to waste the opportunity, and asked Barry, Grimdark and Mouse to go and check out Leilon. Loki opted to stay behind in the town to keep an eye on things, just in case their mysterious messenger decided to appear again. Mmm, convenient explanation for player absence.

So the trio loaded up Mr. Redbrand and headed south. They arrived in Leilon at dusk the next evening, and immediately made for the local inn to make inquiries about mysterious wizardy-looking men carrying around glass quarterstaffs. Iarno Albrek was known to the innkeeper, who knew him as “a proper gentleman and patron of the arts, and good friends with the mayor.” However the innkeeper couldn’t say if he’d seen Iarno in town.

Meanwhile, Grimdark had spotted a couple of soldiers from his old mercenary outfit, the Mintarns. He flashed his insignia, and they told him that they were in town on a job. Grimdark pressed them for details on the job, but unwilling to talk to their technically-suspended colleague, the mercs told him that they’d best direct any questions to their commander, Sergeant Pyke.

Eats lightning and craps thunder.

Eats lightning and craps thunder.

So by now, the trio pretty much suspect that Iarno has hired the Mintarns for some reason. With the unpleasant thought that they may soon be tangling with a squad of mercenaries, the three go to bed.

The next morning, the three first pay a visit to the mayor’s office. The mayor isn’t around, but the secretary is happy to tell them that Iarno Albrek is a respected and well-known member of the community, and makes frequent donations to the local museum. The group then go to said museum, and get a little bit more information from the curator, but the end result is basically the same; that no-one has seen Iarno for at least three months. While in the museum, Barry also notices a painting titled “Thundertree Resplendent”, a nice picture of his forsaken hometown, and immediately begins mentally hanging it somewhere in The Barrel Room. If only they had a thief with them to help acquire it! Oh well…

Finally, the group go to the town green, and find a dozen Mintarns doing laps. Grimdark approaches the one bellowing orders, and unsurprisingly finds out that he’s Sergeant Pyke. Pyke is friendly enough to his fellow sergeant, but remains tight-lipped about the job that he and his men have been hired for. All he says is that the client had hired Pyke and his squad at very short notice and at three times the normal cost.

With that avenue exhausted, the trio leave and start discussing the pros and cons of fighting twelve hardened mercenaries; at one point they consider abandoning the task entirely, given the inevitable crapstorm that they’re probably walking into. As they’re talking, a street urchin approaches them and tells them that Iarno will be in the garden at the Church of Oghma at eighth chime that evening, before scarpering off.



Well, at least they can sort of prepare for it. They go to the Church of Oghma, and Mouse ingratiates himself with the clergy there while Grimdark and Barry scope out the area. The garden is just an open space, with a high stone wall around it. On the north and east sides, two-story townhouses have balconies that overlook the garden. Sniff sniff, I smell snipers.

While Grimdark and Barry work on a plan, Mouse spends some time browsing the books in the church, and I finally throw Liam a bone and let him scribe down invisibility in his spellbook. Eager to use his new spell, Mouse suggests using the spell to hide Grimdark in the garden to await Iarno’s arrival, while Barry stakes out one of the balconies.

As it comes to seven, Mouse casts invisibility on Grimdark, who plans to stand very patiently in the garden. Barry parkours up to one of the balconies, and Mouse hides in plain sight amongst the clergy.

As Barry gets set up on the balcony, he hears a door opening in the room behind him. He ducks back just as two men in black cloaks and carrying crossbows open the doors and come out onto the balcony. A bodged Stealth roll to slide back into the room reveals him however!

Deathcult-Rogue*arms crossbow* “Who are you?”


“I’m… err… one of the Mintarns?”

Yep, another one of those infamous Barry Arrer bluffs. Well, it’s worked twice before…

Joe rolls decently on his Deception check for once, and the crossbowmen are convinced. I let him become proficient in Deception on the spot; it only seems fair. The crossbowmen tell him to get “downstairs with the others” and to “wait for the signal”. Barry leaves the balcony and the bedroom adjoining it and closes the door behind him, but only fakes going down the stairs; instead he waits just outside the door so he can overhear the crossbowmen’s conversation and get the drop on them if needs be.

Meanwhile, Grimdark has seen the whole thing. He’s also seen two more crossbowmen set up on the other balcony, but he can’t act as he can’t risk breaking his invisibility. Mouse is inside, reading.

Eventually, at eighth bell, Iarno shows up, walking into the garden with six hired thugs as bodyguard. The clery seem alarmed, but Iarno reassures them that everything is alright, and he’s just meeting a friend. Up on the balcony, Barry has heard the crossbowmen talking about waiting until “you can get them all”. It’s at this point that they realise that this all an elaborate set-up; the crossbowmen and the Mintarns have no doubt been hired by the Black Spider to kill Barry, Grimdark, Mouse, and Iarno all in one go and tie up all the loose ends!

Barry takes this as his chance to rush the crossbowmen from behind. He knocks both of them off the balcony, and the screams get everyone’s attention. Then it’s on. Grimdark drops his invisibility, yells a warning to Iarno about assassins, and summons his spiritual weapon up on the other balcony to attack the crossbowmen. Iarno and his henchmen are confused, and Iarno asks if the dwarf is his “contact that the letter mentioned.”  Grimdark quickly explains that they’ve all been tricked, enemy of my enemy, etc.

That’s when Pyke and the Mintarns show up, and the Massacre of Leilon truly gets going.

Six Mintarns, headed by Pyke, come in through the church’s main entrance, and the other six burst into the garden and immediately engage Iarno’s hired thugs. Barry and one of the crossbowmen on the other balcony trade a few shots, while the other crossbowmen lands a hit on Iarno. Mouse throws down a web that traps Pyke and three of the Mintarns in the church’s entrance; the others wiggle free and head round the other way.

It’s mayhem in the garden; Mintarns and Iarno’s henchmen are going back and forth, with the Mintarns quickly getting the advantage due to their numbers and superior training and equipment. Grimdark blesses Iarno’s henchmen to help them out, then with a heavy heart lays into the Mintarns. Iarno makes an escape from the garden, pausing to throw a panicked fire bolt at Barry. Barry is less than amused, and quickly lashes a rope to an arrow…

Meanwhile Mouse unleashes a burning hands at the mercenaries trapped in the sticky, flammable webbing. This goes less than spectacular as he rolls triple 1 for damage, giving them a bad case of sunburn and freeing them from the webs. Whoops.

elf mage“Not the face!” *flees*

Barry ties the other end of the rope to the balcony, and fires at Iarno. He hits, and the rope effectively anchors Iarno to the balcony, stopping him dead. Barry then makes a slightly-too-rapid descent and takes damage, and before he gets a chance to pounce on Iarno, one of the mage’s hired goons crits him with a shortbow, and he takes more damage.


*draws Talon* “Okay, so this is getting to be bullshit now.”


“Why won’t you die!?”

By now, Grimdark’s spiritual weapon has taken care of the crossbowmen on the balcony, and he’s fighting the Mintarns practically alone. Just like Mouse, who is dealing with an angry and barbecued Pyke and another Mintarn. Pyke lands a solid blow, and puts Mouse down to single-digit HP. The response? A second burning hands, followed by some more running away!

Barry gets his murder on by charging the henchman who injured him, and kills him in one hit with Talon. He then action surges, rampages into another, and drops him as well. That’s why you don’t mess with Barry. Seeing that Grimdark and his magic floating sword have got the situation under control, he runs back to Iarno and rugby tackles him to the ground.




At this point, Mouse is in trouble. Luckily, he dodges another attack from Pyke, and fires off a third burning hands. Grimdark rushes to the rescue, and knocks Pyke unconscious with a solid smack with his warhammer. “We can question him later,” Grimdark explains calmly while forcing a healing potion down the elf’s throat.

There’s only a few Mintarns left, and Mouse staggers out into the blood soaked garden and finishes off another with a magic missile. The two remaining Mintarns decide that they like living more than being paid, and run for it.

The town guard is surely on the way, so the trio grab Iarno and the unconscious Pyke, and hightail it out of town. Barry wonders if there’s time to make a detour and take the painting of Thundertree, but sadly that isn’t the case.

Once they’re out of town, Iarno calms down and explains that he was looking to escape the Black Spider’s retribution for losing the grip on Phandalin. He becomes a model prisoner and willingly submits himself to any justice that Sildar or the group will mete out. Pyke regains consciousness, and confirms that the client was “an elf in a black cloak” who hired him and his squad to eliminate Iarno and “the others” who were lured to the garden; he hadn’t known it would be the guys he’d spoken to earlier that day. Pyke insists it was nothing personal, “just business”. He figures that the client won’t be too happy with the botched job, and offers his services to the group. They decide to take him on as a bouncer for The Barrel Room and promise to pay him well. Pyke seems content with that.

Upon return to Phandalin, Iarno is thrown into prison until Sildar can summon members of his guild to come and transport the treacherous wizard back to Neverwinter to face trial. He also advises that nothing eventful happened while they were gone (although their apprentice wizard/magic chef from Neverwinter has arrived in town, a young dwarf mage called Helga), but they still haven’t worked out who could’ve delivered the note that lured them to Leilon. Hmm, the plot thickens…

Level Up! More HP! Everyone’s stats go up, and Grimdark and Mouse get more spells. Loki just did lots of crunches instead of killing people I guess.

Completed Quests: Track down Glasstaff/Iarno.

Ongoing Quests: Seek out Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Mirna’s family heirloom in Thundertree.

Ears Collected: None!

Pub Staff Roster : Elsa (head barmaid/assistant manager), Mirna (barmaid), Aelya (barmaid), Pyke (security), Helga (catering), and Droop the goblin (janitor/stablehand).

All in all, an amusing adventure on the side before we get to very un-amusing expedition to Thundertree…


“I have a bad feeling about this…”

- Gareth





D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Interlude – Unknown Heroes

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You know that D&D session that I said was going to happen this week? Yeaaaah. Darryl and Liam couldn’t make it. Instead Trev, Joe and I had a blast playing Cryptozoic’s DC Heroes deckbuilding game Crisis expansion, so it all worked out in the end.

We’ve also found out that Joe will be unavailable for a while as he starts a new job. Rather than bring the whole thing crashing to a halt, he’s instead requested that in his final session that Barry has a heroic death, then Trev, Liam and Darryl can continue on and avenge his name. Seeing as that last session will be in Thundertree, a death shouldn’t be too hard to arrange…

"Heroic" may be trickier though...

Oh, you said “heroic”? I thought you said “horrific”. No, I’m not changing it.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I picked up the new PHB and had a good flick through, checking out class features and spells and whatnot. And, as I inevitably do, I’ve come up with concepts for characters that I would love to use in a game, but unfortunately never will, as I am doomed to eternally DM! Still, I thought it would be fun to share these concepts with you, dear readers.

I’m a big fan of atypical characters. The stereotypical dwarf fighter, halfling rogue, elf wizard, etc, are boring to me. I like weird background/race/class combinations. Although the actual game mechanics are terrible for a tabletop RPG, the career system in Iron Kingdoms RPG was a big draw for me as you make characters with interesting class combinations, like alchemist/investigator, sorcerer/duellist, or gunmage/spy; combinations that oozed personality.

The last time I played D&D – back when Heroes of the Feywild had just been released, and I was getting a barely-satisfactory fix from Encounters sessions at a gaming store – my character was Zagrim Brickbeard, a dwarf illusionist, who was great fun to use. Unfortunately Zaggy didn’t fit into the “OPTIMISE OR GTFO” mindset that dominated 4th edition (and especially 4th edition Encounters), but he lives on as a fond memory. At least he got to be a memory, unlike the following, who will never feel the sweet joy of a natural 20.




Mountain dwarf Barbarian (sailor background)

I mentioned a while ago when reminiscing about Warhammer Fantasy’s Dogs of War that Long Drong’s Slayer Pirates were pretty damn cool, and they serve as the inspiration for Cap’n Torgun; a crazy dwarf pirate.

Unlike normal barbarians who usually use two-handed weapons, Torgun would exclusively use big dirty cutlasses, or a mace (his peg leg). Maybe a brace of hand crossbows too, if the DM would let me re-fluff them as dwarven-made flintlock pistol. His rage would represent his reaction to any insult (real or imagined) towards his ship Dirty Serpent, or his credibility as a sailor. As he gains levels, I’d probably take frenzied barbarian as an archetype; it fits his personality better than the totem warrior. Of course, if I had a generous DM that would let me homebrew a sea serpent or shark as a totem animal…

Personality Trait : Foul-mouthed… you orc-banging queefguzzler.

Ideal : Respect. Any shipmate or landlubber can earn me respect, but that’s the key word; “earn”.

Bond : G’yarr, I’ll always remember me first ship, the Thirsty Serpent, which was wrecked by a sea monster (which I slew).

Flaw : Me pride, ‘twil be the death of me one day. G’yarr.




Half-orc Cleric (folk hero background)

Aruk nearly made it into a game once; it was a forum-based play-by-post game, which I pretty much bailed on instantly when I realised that I didn’t have the time to properly commit to it.

Aruk was essentially a civil rights leader for half-orcs; his backstory was that he was raised in the slums of a city where the nobles treated half-orcs as slave labour. Aruk was then taken under the wing of an elderly half-orc and discovered the teachings of the obscure goddess Hnae-Hnesha, She of Sundered Chains, a goddess of freedom and equality. Aruk became an evangelist, and fearing an uprising, the nobility sent in soldiers to massacre the half-orcs. Aruk proceeded to kick ass – because oh yeah, he’s a fucking half-orc – and escaped the city with over a hundred of his kindred.

More of a talker than a fighter, I’d give Aruk the Knowledge domain, and give him spells focusing on diplomacy and healing.

Defining Event : I stood up to tyrants so that my people’s children would no longer be born into slavery.

Personality Trait : Dedication. When I set my mind to something, it gets done.

Ideal : Freedom. I will not rest until every tyrant who seeks to toy with the lives of others is overthrown.

Bond : I am adorned with the tattoos of my goddess, the sacred broken chain motif. I cannot fail her.

Flaw : The nobility of my city will stop at nothing to kill me, which puts those closest to me at risk.





Wood elf Druid (criminal background)

Is it just me, or would a druid not make an excellent burglar or spy? They can turn into sneaky animals like cats, birds and mice, or they can speak with these animals and get them to perform acts of thievery or surveillance for them. Why pick a lock when you can turn into a spider and scuttle underneath the door? Why bother with grappling hooks and escape ropes when you can turn into a bird and fly away with your loot? And you aren’t going to alarm guards if you’ve taken the form of a house cat; they’d likely just shoo you away rather than stab you for trying to steal Lord Edwyr’s signet ring.

All these thoughts made me think of Cylena – obviously an homage to Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. At first I thought she’d be Circle of the Moon, but Circle of the Land gives her access to the Grassland spells; namely invisibility and pass without trace. You know, those spells that would be massively useful to a thief or spy.

Criminal Specialty : Burglar.

Personality Trait : Slow to trust. People lie. Animals don’t.

Ideal : Charity. I’d give everything I steal to those who need it; I don’t need it. However…

Bond : I’m paying off an old debt. Who to? Like I’d tell you.

Flaw : I’ll run if things look bad. Cats may have nine lives, but I don’t.




Stout halfling Fighter (guild artisan background)

Oh sure, everyone laughs at the idea of a halfling fighter. But think of Sam from Lord of the Rings. You know, that halfling who stabs the shit out of the demon-mother-queen of spiders and then fucking solos Cirith Ungol. Yeah.

What’s Tad’s story? Well, he was the head chef at the best tavern in his hometown; and to halflings, head chefs are like the Pope. One day, Tad’s niece went missing. He led the search for her, and found her just before bandits did some Bad Things to her. Tad went to town with his meat cleaver, and saved his niece. After that incident, he reassessed his life and decided to make the trip to the big city, where he could settle down, open his own restaurant, and maybe find a little bit of adventure on the way.

So, standard fighter. Probably would take the Champion archetype, though I sort of like the idea of going Battlemaster and fluffing all his maneuvers as very unorthodox attacks with cooking implements.

Guild Business: Cook/baker.

Personality Trait : A bit of a perfectionist. You wouldn’t ask an painter to rush a portrait, don’t ask me to half-arse this bulette terrine with mandrake and crownleaf jus!

Ideal : Community. Good food helps bring people together! The world needs more good food and I’m willing to provide.

Bond : My ma and pa, and my sister and her little ‘uns mean the world to me.

Flaw : I’ve never been a violent sort before… now I can’t help but go looking for a fight.


Oh anime, you scamp.

Anime + nuns = what did you expect?

Human Warlock (acolyte background)

Oh, poor Sister Sabrina Sable! Not only were you cursed with an extravagantly alliterative name, but gosh darn it, you’ve gone and made friends with a cosmic abomination!

I like the idea of a devout follower of Standard-D&D-Judaeo-Christian-God-expy who has been “gifted” with the powers of a warlock and sees themself as “tainted” or “unclean”. Warlocks have never sat well with me in terms of fluff; their 5th ed mechanics are amazing, but I can never imagine other adventurers willing to buddy up with that guy who sold his soul to a demon for some rad-as-fuck laser eye-beams. I’m a big Warhammer 40k fan, so I’ve always liked the idea of sanctioned psykers, who have amazing powers but are kept under lock and key and who have to undergo rigorous mental and physical testing to ensure they don’t go snooker-loopy.

Sister Sable would definitely see her powers as a curse and try and keep them in check while being a good church-goer. Lots of moping and praying for guidance. But if the Mother Superior keeps insisting that she go out on these missions, then what’s she to do? Ideally, this would be a character I’d run if another player was happy to play a character who would be like an appointed bodyguard. Oh, and she’s definitely got Pact of the Tome (cunningly disguised as a holy text) and has the Great Old One as a patron. Always bet on Cthulhu.

Personality Trait : Sheltered and naive. I’ve never really left the convent. Everything is so scary! 0_0

Ideal : Charity. We should always help those in need! ^_^

Bond : The Mother Superior and my warden have kept my secret. No one else in the order can know… >_<





Human Wizard (entertainer background)

Mr Vormund (“call me Callendy, please, I insist!”) is one of the most friendly, charming, and polite wizards you’ll ever meet. He doesn’t much care for thecolleges of arcane academia; no, for him, his hall of magic is the stage! Specifically, the stage of his travelling show, Comedia Penumbra! A skilled practitioner of the magical arts, Callendy serves as ringmaster, and uses his various cantrips for breathtaking light shows (and you simply haven’t lived until you’ve tasted his prestidigitation-flavoured candy floss). The performers of Comedia Penumbra are the best though; their daring acrobatic feats are death-defying!

Or at least they would be, if the performers were alive. You see, Callendy is a necromancer. A very good one, in fact. His three undead performers – Sacchi, Firenze, and Rocanto –  aren’t shambling, mindless, rotting corpses, but the carefully preserved and animated bodies of three willing volunteers whose dying wish was to be in the circus. At Callendy’s command, they tumble, walk the high wire, and engage in physical slapstick. It’s all just a jolly good laugh, and boo to those stuffy clerics who says it’s an “affront to the gods”.

Entertainer Routine: Circus ringmaster.

Personality Trait : The thing is not to take yourself too seriously; then no one can get into a tiff with you, wot?

Ideal : People. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the smiles on the faces of my audience.

Bond : I’d do anything to keep Sacchi, Firenze and Rocanto safe; without them, Comedia Penumbra wouldn’t exist!

Flaw : I say, she’s rather stunning, isn’t she? I… I think I’m in love!




Tiefling Ranger (sage background)

I had a few ideas for a tiefling character; before I thought of Sister Sable, I was going to make a tiefling warlock called “Nothing-New”, who was aware that he was a stereotype, but I thought that was a bit of pretentious. Instead I went with tiefling Indiana Jones.

Treasure is a ranger who loves to explore and find new things and places, hence her “virtue” name (she has long since abandoned her Infernal name). While out in the wilds, she hopes to stumble upon some mysterious ruins, or an old tomb. She’s incredibly well-read, so if she found something, she would know what it was… it’s that she just can’t find anything! She keeps meaning to go further afield, but her duties to patrolling the borders of the kingdom keep her stuck where she is. She has a trained hawk called Turath, after the ancient tiefling empire. Naturally, lots of “normal” people are wary of her, afraid of her fiendish heritage, but she’s found a few firm friends in the libraries and academies, where she spends most of her time when she’s not outdoors.

Personality Trait : There’s nothing I love more than a good mystery. It would be boring to know everything!

Ideal : Self-Improvement. I don’t want to find something for the glory or riches; I just want to better myself.

Bond : I’ve been researching the location of an ancient tiefling temple for years; it’s my goal to find it.

Flaw : I’m painfully shy and awkward in social situations. Can you blame me?


Phew! That took ages! Still, I hope it was an enjoyable read, and maybe inspires you to come up with your own interesting D&D characters!

- Gareth

D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Interlude – Some Musings, Part 2


Sigh… still no D&D game this week. Thankfully we’re back on track next week, so in the meantime I may as well finish off my musings on what I think about D&D 5th edition. In Part 1 I talked about the stuff I like, but 5th is not perfect, and here’s my reasons why…

Spellcasting : This is actually a mixed bag, because although there’s a lot about 5th’s spell system that I like – such as at-will cantrips and casting low-level spells using higher-level spell slots to increase their power -, there’s equally a lot I’m not keen about.

The first of these is that the ritual mechanic is a mess, a clumsy and rushed attempt to force the square-shaped peg of the ritual mechanic from 4th into the round-shaped hole of traditional 3rd edition Vancian casting. Some spells can be cast as rituals, but they take longer to cast without taking up a spell slot. Part of me wonders “why bother”? I can understand so that there’s the option so that wizards don’t have to expend precious spell slots on boring stuff like identify or comprehend languages, but part of me just thinks that these could’ve just been implemented as class features or feats or whatever. Regarding rituals, I would’ve preferred either a) not having the mechanic at all, or b) doing it like 4th, where every non-combat utility spell is a ritual. Rather one of those than the weird bastard hybrid we currently have. 

Components – aka that thing that everyone immediately houserules out – are still a thing. Aaaaargh. Expensive components for spells like raise dead or augury I can tolerate, but it’s the stupid stuff like bat guano for fireball or a bit of leather for mage armour I hate. I’d find it hard to take a wizard seriously if he’s fumbling around in his pockets for coal dust and iron filings and doll’s house furniture.

The other issue I have that’s becoming more and more pronounced as we play through Phandelver; the cleric/wizard spell system makes no goddamn sense to me. Not the Vancian style of casting, that’s alright, I guess (and I use the term “alright” *very* generously), but the actual means of acquiring and preparing spells. Like in 3rd, wizards have spellbooks that contain all the spells they know and can prepare – the idea being that a wizard can’t prepare everything he knows, and he can’t cast everything he prepares – , whereas clerics choose from a list every day when they prepare spells. So far, so good. Except it’s not.

As of right now, Liam’s elf wizard’s spellbook contains 10 spells, and he can’t learn anymore until he levels up or copies spells down from scrolls (and all the scrolls that have been found are spells of too-high a level, or are cleric spells). However, Trev’s dwarf cleric has free pick from all level 1 and level 2 cleric spells, which comes to 17. So a cleric has more choice of spells that a student of the arcane. Hrm.

Yes, you could argue that the wizard spell list is more varied, with zappy and utility spells alike, whereas the cleric spells are pretty much just healing and buffs, but it still rubs me the wrong way. I would’ve personally done away the “prepare” stage for a wizard and just give them free reign on whatever’s in their spellbook, while clerics would still prepare their spells in the traditional way.

And on the subject of traditional…

Old School for the sake of Old School : Not gonna lie, I utterly cringed when I saw electrum pieces mentioned in the Phandelver book. Why? Because they’re dumb. What’s the problem with just copper, silver and gold? The only reason electrum pieces were chucked in was to appeal to whiny AD&D grognards.

I picked up the Player’s Handbook yesterday and I’ve had a quick flick through, and while I think it’s overall very good, there’s still some stuff in this new edition that reeks of 80’s and 90’s D&D. Stonecunning on dwarfs. Gnomes speaking with badgers and moles. Spell components, as mentioned above. A whole load of goofy “classic” spells (the main offender being Leomund’s tiny hut, because nothing says “mastery of the arcane” like creating a bus shelter, right?). Alignment. FUCKING Alignment, and the disaster-scale shitstorm that entails. I don’t know, I just thought that D&D had moved on past some of this; I realise that the franchise has a lot of history and traditions that a lot of people are fond of, and don’t want to have quietly retconned out because hurrdurr change is bad, but there’s a limit people. Owlbears and modrons are just dumb, can we just admit that at least?

Thankfully a lot of old stupid stuff has gone the way of the dodo; paladins falling, fighters requiring 10 million feats to be useful, and so on, so there’s hope yet.

Saving Throws : So you may know that Fortitude, Reflex and Will are no longer are thing, which confuses me. Now saving throws are tied to ability scores, so instead of a Fortitude save, you’d take either a Strength or Constitution save, depending what the circumstances are… and as to what those circumstances actually *are* is quite vague. Just going through Lost Mine and looking at some stuff, I simply can’t see the “fluff” behind, say, a Strength saving throw, or an Intelligence saving throw. From what I can gather, Charisma saving throws seem to be to resist compulsion effects, but the same could be said for Wisdom saving throws. There just doesn’t seem to be much consistency to it.

I would’ve just gone ahead and kept Fortitude, Reflex and Will, and like in 4th, have the highest modifier from a pair of ability scores (Strength/Constitution for Fortitude for example) apply. So many times doing Lost Mine I’ve called for a Reflex save; maybe I’m a creature of habit, but asking for a “Dexterity saving throw” just doesn’t sound right, and nowhere near as evocative as “Reflex”.

Money for Nothing : This is really only a minor quibble really, but again it’s something that’s come up when playing Lost Mine; my players basically have nothing to spend their money on! The game casually tosses them 100 gold for doing a mission, but what do they do with that when they’ve already got good gear, and they’re in a frontier town where there’s no luxury goods? Lucky for them that they bought the pub, otherwise they would’ve just had cash sitting around gathering dust! The economy in D&D just feels a bit busted; a stay at an aristocratic inn with an equally aristocratic meal costs 6 gp per day. That’s chump change!

I know a lot of DMs like to run “grittier” games where silver is the main currency, with gold being their campaign setting’s platinum equivalent, and I might use that idea myself if I run another D&D game.

Best-Forgotten Realms : This is a really personal quibble, but I hate the fact that Forgotten Realms is the “default” setting. I’m one of those freaks who actually liked 4th edition’s “Points of Light” and Nentir Vale setting, because it seemed fresh and different, and was purposefully left with a lot of “blank areas” so a DM could, you know, come up with their own stuff. I hate Forgotten Realms. Hate it, hate it, hate it. It’s a boring cliched Tolkienesque rip-off of the worst type. Fuck Forgotten Realms and everything associated with it.

If you think Drizzt Do'Urden is cool, congratulations! You're a moron.

“HURRR maybe in the next book Drizzt can be half-demon because that would be SO COOL!” – RA Salvatore

Aside from these minor issues, I still think that 5th is really good, and I still think it’s a massive improvement over both 3rd and 4th. After Lost Mine is finished, I’m looking forward to running some more games with the system (suitably tweaked of course). I have Spellslinger staring at me from my bookshelf, and then there’s always that Far East campaign I’ve wanted to do…

Next week we’ll be back on track as our heroes take a trip to Thundertree!

- Gareth

D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Interlude – Some Musings, Part 1

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We didn’t have a D&D session this week due to our massive geek-boner for the Game of Thrones board game (which is SO FUCKING GOOD AAAAARGH HOUSE GREYJOY FTW) and we won’t be having one next week either due to a general fustercluck of schedule clashes, so I thought that this may be a perfect time for me to reflect upon the actual rules of the latest edition of the World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, and let you, my lovely gorgeous readers (all three of you) exactly what I think of them!

Now, 5th edition. Hoboy. From what I can piece together from the general white noise of the Internet, 5th has generally been well received. There are some who don’t like it, which is fine. I mean, some people enjoy a bit of coprophagy, which is fine too as long as I don’t have to kiss them. Am I equating people who don’t like 5th edition with people who enjoy a hot turd sandwich? Hyperbole? Me? On the Internet!? Perish the thought.

Alright alright, let’s dial it back. Some people don’t like 5th. Some people have done fucking 2 hour video rants about how they don’t like 5th. Cool. Good for them. They have some good points. I mean, 5th is like any other game, it’s not perfect. No game is (although Game of Thrones was pretty excellent NNNNGH WHY AM I NOT PLAYING IT NOOOOWWWW). I’m not some 5th fanboy, singing its praises from the rooftops; there’s still a lot of quibbles I have with it, but Jesus Christ, it’s not 4th edition.

D&D: The Boardgame (includes optional roleplaying if you're some n00b scrub who's into that shit)

D&D: The Boardgame (includes some roleplaying if you’re some n00b scrub who’s into that shit)

Okay, okay, now to be fair, 4th was alright in its ways. I could do a whole other post on the virtues and flaws of 4th, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re talking about 5th, which actually shares a few elements with 4th. And with 3rd. And apparently with 1st and AD&D, but I wouldn’t know about that. My pre-3rd edition D&D knowledge can be summed up as “THAC0″, “elves are a class, not a race”, and “fuck Tomb of Horrors, seriously fuck that nonsense”.

"I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 672! Guess now! Haha, it was Pisces! Your character and your next three characters instantly die. BEST MODULE EVAH!" - Gygax, 1978

“I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 672! Guess now! Haha, it was Pisces! Your character and your next three characters instantly die. BEST MODULE EVAH!” – Gygax, 1978

So what do I think is good about 5th, and what is not so good?

Advantage/Disadvantage, and the Death of Maths : This, I think, is probably my favourite thing, so I’m mentioning it first. Advantage and disadvantage gets rid of nearly all the tedious maths that dominated 3rd and 4th. Nothing grinds a game to a halt like the following;

“I’m flanking! +2 to hit with my melee attack! Oh, and I’m in range of the bard’s song, that’s another +1! Ah, but the necrotic aura of this monster gives me a -2 modifier. But I’ve got a magic weapon, that’s +1! And I’m bloodied, so my class feature gives me another +1! And my target’s undead, so I have another +1 from my feat!”

“You forgot that it’s dark. You have another -2 for that.”

“Oh yeah. So… umm… +2, then +1, but then -2, and another -2, but +1…”


Advantage and disadvantage do away with that nonsense. If you’re in a position where you have an advantage (outnumbering, sneak attack, hitting a prone or restrained target), you roll 2d20 and use the highest result. If you’re in a position where you’re disadvantaged (poisoned, dazed, prone, etc), you roll 2d20 and use the lowest result. You either have advantage or disadvantage, or you don’t. There’s no stacking, so you can’t have three instances of advantage for example; it’s either yes or no. A/D usually applies to attack rolls, but it’s also used for saving throws and ability/skill checks. It speeds up play, cuts down on tedious grindy maths, and can easily be implemented on the fly. It’s my favourite mechanic of the new D&D.

Proficiencies : I hated Base Attack Bonus in 3rd edition. And skill points. Oh god, the bean-counting of skill points. 4th edition I feel had it right with skill training; you’re either trained in a skill (and get a bonus) or you’re not (and get nothing). A bit simplistic maybe, but I prefer that to the fiddly alternative.

In D&D 5th, every character has a proficiency bonus. This starts off at +2, then increases as you level up, and from what I understand, all classes level up the proficiency bonus at the same rate. Basically, your proficiency bonus gets applied to everything you’re proficient with and that would require a d20 roll, so attack rolls, saving throws, and skills. I’ve yet to pick up the Player’s Handbook, but I’d be willing to bet there’s some class features and feats that let you add your proficiency bonus to other things as well, like AC or initiative or damage rolls. Some classes – for example, the thief – let you double your proficiency bonus for certain rolls (in the thief’s case, Stealth and lockpicking). It’s a decent mechanic, and I like it. Again, anything to cut down on fiddly book-keeping.

Another thing I really like is tool proficiency. These are things like thieves’ tools, crafting gear, vehicles, and even stuff like playing cards. In previous editions, use of these items would’ve been covered by skills that weren’t as popular compared to more useful stuff like Perception,  Stealth, Insight, etc. It basically means that the rogue doesn’t have to waste one of his precious skill selections of Disable Device or whatever, as he already knows how to use thieves’s tools; the same goes for a wizard with an alchemy set. Good stuff.

Hit Die : Healing surges were a decent idea in 4th; if you needed to heal, but no-one wanted to play a cleric, you could do so. During a rest, you’d expend one or more healing surges, and recover a certain amount of HP. You only got a certain amount of surges a day, and it typically wasn’t as good as being healed by a specific spell, but it was something. Hit Die are that in 5th (though I loathe the archaic term “Hit Die”; I would’ve preferred something like “Resolve”). Every level increases your HD by one. During a short rest, you can roll any number of HD to recover that much health, but you don’t get back the HD you expend until you take a long rest. It takes the pressure off the cleric, cuts down on the need for healing potions, and eliminates the much maligned “5-minute workday” (though to be honest if a DM lets players get away with the 5-minute workday bullshit, they’re just as bad as the rest of their assclown group).

Fight Smart or Die Young : D&D is lethal again! Characters don’t have the high HP and absurd defences of 4th, so even a fairly experienced character is at risk if outnumbered or caught off-guard. During my Phandelver games, my group puts a lot of thought into tactics and contigency plans. When I’ve run D&D 4th (designed to be far more tactical), my group at the time had no plan other than “hurr durr hit it with sword”, because they could count on their high HP, high defences, and copious amounts of healing to brute-force their way through pretty much any encounter. I’ve read so many accounts of that first encounter in Phandelver nearly TPK’ing a new group, and that’s just some goblin archers! Some people don’t like that. I love it, because I’d rather have my players feel threatened by what they’re fighting. If they’re invincible, then what’s the point? How can a hero be heroic if there’s no true adversity to overcome?

Backgrounds : One of my favourite things about d20 Modern was Occupations; basically what a character did before they did this adventuring lark, or what they do inbetween games. Backgrounds are now a thing in 5th, giving extra flavour and non-mechanical perks to characters. It’s only a little thing but I adore it.

Classy Classes : Fighters aren’t shit anymore! Yay! Fighting styles are awesome, second wind is great, action surge is brilliant. Clerics and wizards have big flashy spells and nice basic at-will cantrips, yay! No more days of Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, every class seems perfectly viable and balanced… so far. The Fighter is now actually good at *gasp* fighting, and is the only class to now get multiple attacks per turn. The Wizard is still a walking Swiss army knife of blasting, control, and utility, but definitely seems to have been toned down. Rogues have lots of fancy bells and whistles, and Clerics… well, they’re still Clerics, but that’s not a bad thing. The new “Archetype” mechanic is great, essentially acting as a “sub-class/prestige class” mechanic; a Rogue may be a Thief, Assassin, or Arcane Trickster, and each will have different tactics and class features. Combined with backgrounds, it’s now very easy to have truly unique and memorable characters; what’s the story behind the Battlemaster Fighter with an Acolyte background, or the Circle of the Moon Druid with a Noble background?

To Grid or Not To Grid? : You couldn’t play 4th without a gridded battlemap. Fact. You can play 5th with a map or not, it’s your call. Some like “theatre of the mind”, and don’t use any kind of map or models at all. I’m going for the middle ground, and in future games I’ll be aiming for the abstract-but-visual representation used in FFG RPGs like Edge of the Empire or the Warhammer Fantasy RPG. I’m just glad we’re done with that “blast 5″ and “burst 3 within 10″ kind of crap.

So there’s a lot I like. I haven’t covered everything, but that’s the main stuff. Of course, like I said, 5th isn’t perfect, and I’ll discuss the quibbles I have during my next Interlude.

- Gareth


D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 6 – Castle Crashers

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After doing some jobs on the side (and buying a pub), the group have made the decision to go and rescue Gundren Rockseeker… hopefully he’s not dead!

In Attendance: Loki Fastfoot (Darryl), Bosun Barry Arrers (Joe), Grimdark Stonelock (Trev), Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost (Liam)


And obviously myself, the DM.

While the group and their hired help are in the middle of fixing up The Barrel Room, Sildar approaches them and delicately suggests that they may want to consider rescuing Gundren Rockseeker. You know, that guy with the map to that lost mine that contains a forge of untold arcane power who was kidnapped by agents of a mysterious moustache-twirling supervillain? Sildar suggests that Gundren may have been taken to the main Cragmaw hideout, which lies deep in the northern forest.

Thankfully, the group have a guide! They ask Droop their goblin stablehand/barman/janitor to lead them to Cragmaw Castle, and off they go into the wild! Thankfully Droop is only about half as useless as he actually looks, and he eventually leads them to the old ruined castle.  Just once I’d like to have a location in this campaign that isn’t dilapidated and falling apart!


The group approach from the south. Rather than blunder in through the main gates, they get Loki to go for the side door. He easily unlocks it and has a quick peek in. Inside, the castle is dingy and messy. Loki hears commotion from the room to the left (with the two tables), but he spikes the door firmly shut and ushers the others in.

The group then sneak through as best as they can, listening at doors and working out a plan. They leave Droop at the door, armed with Barry’s trident and instructions to stab the shit out of anything that tries to run.

Loki looks in the chapel, and immediately scarpers when he notices something slithering in the rafters. They spike the door and resolve to come back to that one later. They also discover the hidden entrance in the north wall, and make note of it as a possible escape route if things start going pear-shaped.

One botched attempt to get the drop on a room of a hobgoblins later, the situation has become so pear-shaped that Magners could make cider out of it. The group quickly discover that hobgoblins are tough customers, with high AC and a nasty ability to do extra damage to creatures that they have advantage against.


The plasma rifles and jet-gliders seemed a bit much though.

Loki takes a few heavy hits and has to fall back. Grimdark holds the line; his AC is so absurdly high that the hobs can’t get a hit on him. Of course, he can’t hit them either, so it’s a bit of a stalemate.

Naturally, all this fighting causes a bit of a commotion, and King Grol, the bugbear king, comes blundering out of his chambers, along with an angry, hungry wolf. At the same time, the goblin cooking staff in the dining hall finally break down the spiked door, and charge our heroes with an array of plates, cutlery, salad tongs, and damp dishcloths.


“Mouse! Crowd control!”

elf mage

“Oh god oh god oh god oh god…”

Mouse throws down a web and fills the corridor immediately outside Grol’s chamber with white sticky goo. One of the hobs and the wolf are immediately snared, and are now basically out of the fight. Grol, who is not an idiot, goes back inside his chamber, and comes back holding a bruised, battered dwarf; Gundren!


“Surrender, or I kills da stunty!”



“Magic ghost sword, motherfucker!”

Grimdark (who has finally managed to overcome the hob he was fighting) casts spiritual weapon, which he summons right next to understandably surprised Grol. The summoned weapon starts hacking away, and Grol is forced to drop Gundren to protect himself, but eventually he’s driven back by the relentless sword and hides in his bathroom.

Meanwhile Barry and Loki have been steadily chewing their way through the goblin caterers, including the head chef. Loki’s not looking wonderful, and has already downed a healing potion.

And then the door to the chapel is blown off its hinges, and a goblin shaman, his three buddies and his pet grick join the fight! The normal goblins, cultists of the goblin god Magaluf Maqluba Maglubiyet go straight for the wounded Loki, while the grick slithers forward to chomp on Barry’s face. Loki deals with the goblins fighting him with some fancy hand crossbow-fu, and a tried-and-trusted rapier to the sternum. Barry gets chewed up a little by the grick, but – with some help from Mouse’s magic missile – he manages to take it apart with Talon, though he uses his action surge to do so. Funny thing is that I didn’t realise until after the game that the grick has resistance to all non-magical damage, so Barry really was the ideal one to fight it!

Grimdark has dealt with everything that was trapped in the web, and storms into Grol’s room to protect his cousin. Grol is still hiding in his bathroom as the spiritual weapon hacks at the door.

And then goblin archers run in behind the shaman. They’d been watching the front entrance, but the huge ruckus has brought them running. Barry takes a few arrows from them and a fire bolt from the shaman. The shaman’s then gone, hightailing it out of there as quick as his little green legs will take him, just before Mouse conquers his fear of goblins by torching all three of the archers with a single burning hands. Who would’ve thought that therapy could be so flammable?

Grol finally charges out of his bathroom to stop Grimdark, but meets an undignified end; he misses his attack against Grimdark, then the spiritual weapon hacks a chunk out of him, and Grimdark finishes him off with inflict wounds.

With Grol’s death, the sprawling fight comes to a close; the group have fended off pretty much the entire Cragmaw gang, and all that remains is to make sure than Gundren is okay! Sure enough he’s alive but badly beaten; imagine if they’d saved him a week earlier, rather than taking road trips to go and talk to banshees and stuff!

"Hate you all... so *much*..."

“They cut off my thumbs, but thank god you know about Bowgentle’s spellbook, right? BECAUSE WHO NEEDS THUMBS, HUH?”

They find the map to the Lost Mine of Phandelver hidden in Grol’s chamber; Gundren says that the tricksy bugbear was trying to cut  a deal with the Black Spider, rather than just handing it over. Well, it seems to have worked out alright! As they explore the bedchamber, they also find an elf woman hiding behind some crates in the back. She’s dressed in rags, and says her name is Aelya; she was serving Grol as his personal slave (and we really don’t need to explore or hypothesis any unpleasant implications of that, now do we?), and begs the heroes to take her with them back to Phandalin. They’re suspicious, but in the end they agree.

They do a final sweep of the castle, finding a little bit of loot, the highlight being a cask of fine Dwarven brandy; a perfect special menu item for The Barrel Room! Mouse completes his personal quest to reconsecrate the ruined altar of Oghma, which had been defiled by the Cragmaws. And, because they still apparently never learn anything, they open the door to the large circular chamber to the south. Good thing there’s nothing there!

Apart from the angry, hungry owlbear.

Forty years and five editions later, it still begs the question "why an owl?"

Forty years and five editions later, it still begs the question “why an owl?”

The fight is brief; the owlbear charges, mauls Grimdark a bit (who by this point has healed to full HP), and then the party gang up on the beast and whittle it down to single digit HP in one round. The owlbear then escapes and runs off into the wild. After exploring its den, the groups finds a little more loot, but nothing too amazing. With that done, they leave the castle and make their way back to Phandalin.

Gundren gets set up in Stonehill Inn and alternates between resting and discussing the next move with Sildar. The group give Aelya some money so that she can get some decent clothes and lodgings, and also offer her a job at The Barrel Room when it opens. Aelya thanks them, and goes on her way. The group breaks open the cask of Dwarven brandy to celebrate their good fortune and their survival of another perilous adventure!

Completed Quests: Locate Cragmaw Castle and save Gundren Rockseeker

Ongoing Quests: Track down Glasstaff/Iarno, seek out Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Mirna’s family heirloom in Thundertree.

Ears Collected: Hobgoblin.

We’re approaching the end of the campaign now, and the Forge of Spells is calling. However, Barry won’t be satisfied until his old hometown of Thundertree is reclaimed from the monsters that inhabit it, and there’s still the little matter of tracking down Glasstaff…


- Gareth

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