D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 4 – Seeing Red

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Following on from last time, our heroes have infiltrated the hideout of the nefarious Redbrands, and are currently exploring every nook and cranny for loot and unstabbed enemies.

Progress!

Progress!

After Loki opens the double angel doors at the end of the trapped corridor, he sees that they’re heading into the old Tresender family tomb (hint: it’s the room with the coffins), in which stand three skeletons! Loki immediately scrambles back and Grimdark gets ready to turn undead, but the skeletons don’t react. Loki edges in, ready to leg it if even one bone rattles wrong, but the skeletons let him walk past with no problem. The group are all a bit concerned about this, sensing an imminent trap, but little do they know that they’re fine as long as they keep wearing their stolen Redbrand cloaks, which the skeletons are “programmed” to let through.

Loki listens at the door in the top-right corner of the tomb, and hears generic bad guy talk, and some scared whimpering. Looks like they’ve found some prisoners. This will require some cunning tactics and ingenuity to ensure that the guards are disabled without risk of harm to the…

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*kicks down the door*  “Oi! Come get me, you fucking bumders!”

Well… yes, that could work too.

One of the Redbrands, his fragile sense of sexual identity threatened, immediately gives chase. Loki leads him through the skeletons and right into the path of an arrow, a ray of frost, and a thrown handaxe. Problem solved.

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“You really used to work with these idiots?”

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“I don’t want to talk about it.”

The group head to the prison and the remaining Redbrand immediately surrenders. The three hostages (a woman and her two children) are set free, and reveal that they’re the family of Thel Drendar (who unfortunately is one of the corpses being munched on by the nothic). The group take the Redbrand’s cloak off of him, and they take turns ferrying Mirna and her kids through the skeleton room and to the main front door so that they can escape to the town, but not before Mirna tells them about a lost family heirloom that they can find in Silent Hill Thundertree and have as payment for saving her.

With the townsfolk safe, the heroes leave the Redbrand member, sans red cloak, trapped in the room with no safe way to get past the skeletons. Along with the guy with the broken ankle at the bottom of the pit, that’s two Redbrands they’ve left to die slow, lingering deaths. Yay heroism!

They check the door in the top left corner, and find it leads to an armoury. Their initial joy is dampened when they find out that what they already have is better than what’s in the storeroom; some spears, crossbows, and shortswords. Yawn.

 

“Glasstaff isn’t here! We should head back to the central cavern and continue our search.”

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“And what about the room full of bugbears? Remember what happened last time when you fought just one?”

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“Agreed. We need a plan.”

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“Fire?”

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“Fire.”

Meriadoc-Brandybuck-meriadoc-brandybuck-11947180-960-406*tears of joy*

They head back to the central cavern (throwing more silver coins to keep the nothic happy) and explore the barrel room to the north. There they find nothing useful… apart from thirty beaver pelts!

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“Well, that’s our kindling.”

They lay out the beaver pelts across the cavern floor, and drown them in oil. The plan is to lure the bugbears out onto the oil-soaked pelts, then have Mouse it with a burning hands; their classic one-two combo. They then trek back to the armoury, grab some lengths of wood and everything with a pointy end, and then Barry uses his carpentry skills to knock them all together into a crude barricade and place it so that the bugbears only have one way to go; onto the pelts.

Later to be referred to as "Exhibit A".

Later to be referred to as “Exhibit A”.

With their PRO SKILLZ TRAP set up, they need to lure the bugbears into it; however will they do that?

Oh take a wild guess.

Loki runs back with the three bugbears in hot pursuit. He makes it across the bridge just as the first bugbear lurches into view and onto the pelt. Unknown to me, Joe and Liam have decided to forgo the burning hands plan and have devised an alternative that preserves some of Mouse’s precious spell points; instead Mouse uses prestidigitation to ignite an oil-soaked rag that Barry’s tied around an arrow, and boom, instant fire arrow. I allowed this because a) one of the uses of prestidigitation is to “ignite or snuff out a candle, torch or small campfire”, so really any small, flammable object should be fair game, and b) I’m not a dick DM who stomps down on cool and creative ideas that my players have.

One fire arrow later, the pelts are ablaze, and the bugbears are boxed in by the fire and barricade. One is just outright cremated there and then. The other two take a bit of damage, and because they’re not stupid, they retreat back down the stairs and (presumably) into the common room to come round the other way.

When they don’t reappear, the group assumes (correctly) that the two remaining bugbears have scampered off to warn Glasstaff about their visitors. Loki sneaks ahead, through the room north of the common room (which is full of alchemical gubbins) and to the room beyond, where he peeks round the door and sees the two bugbears speaking to a chubby gentleman in mage’s robes carrying a glass staff. Hmm, wonder who that could be?

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I know Glasstaff is described as having a beard, but screw it, Varys is cool and I got some *pretty* graphic results when I Googled “bald bearded man”.

*to the bugbears* “You have to keep me safe! Now go out there and deal with them!”

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“Grrr… fine. You’re lucky the Spider wants you alive, or I’d smash you n-”  *sniff sniff*  “I smell halfling.”

Meriadoc-Brandybuck-meriadoc-brandybuck-11947180-960-406“Ummm… bumders?”

So for the third time, Loki runs away, chased by enemies. The bugbears rush after him while Glasstaff makes his escape. There’s a final scrap in the cavern, and the group easily manage to deal with the two bugbears. The nothic seems happy too, as it immediately starts snacking on one of the dead Chewbacca wannabes.

Barry stays in the cavern just in case Glasstaff comes through there whilst escaping, while Loki, Grimdark and Mouse rush the room. It’s apparent however that Glasstaff has managed to get away (I fudged it by changing his escape route to open out into a seperate tunnel that led out of the mansion because we were getting fairly tired at this point). They find an empty bottle, and Mouse identifies it as an invisibility potion, so there’s definitely no way they’ll find Glasstaff, even if they do catch up with him. Thankfully he was in such a rush he’s left most of his stuff, so sweet looting ensues.

While going through Glasstaff’s stuff, they find a letter that says the following…

“Lord Albrek, my spies in Neverwinter tell me that strangers are due to arrive in Phandalin. They could be working for the dwarves. Capture them if you can, kill them if you must, but don’t allow them to upset our plans. See that any dwarven maps in their possession are delivered to me with haste. I’m counting on you Iarno. Don’t disappoint me. The Black Spider.”

Oh snap, Sildar’s friend Iarno is Glasstaff! And he’s helping the Black Spider who’s clearly looking for Wave Echo Cave and the Forge of Spells! Well, at least the Redbrands have been stopped.

After looting Albrek’s room and his little alchemy lab, the group have a bit of a dilemma in what to do about the nothic. In the end, they just tell it the truth; Glasstaff is gone, and they don’t know where, or if he’ll be coming back. The nothic is happy about this, and takes this as it’s chance to escape, as Glasstaff was the only one who had the clout to keep it in the cavern. It scampers off outside, where it’ll no doubt show up in a future adventure, because although I’m not a dick DM, I am a DM who’s occasionally a bit of a dick. Yes, they’re different things!

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“THE SONG IS RED IN MY MOUTH. HE WILL APPEAR AMONG US TO THE SOUND OF OPENING GRAVES AND ROTTING SKIES. PANDAS!”

As the nothic leaves, Barry notices something exceptionally shiny in the nothic’s stash at the bottom of the chasm. He easily retrieves it, and finds that it’s a magic sword; Talon, the sword of a knight who died fighting orcs, etc etc. It’s just a +1 longsword, but it’s the group’s first magic item, and that’s something special.

They also backtrack to the room that the bugbears were in, and find a timid goblin; it’s the one they captured back in Episode 1, when they got ambushed on the road! Turns out his name is Droop, and after the group let him go, he came to the Redbrands, claiming he had information on the “newcomers that scragged Klarg”. Turns out that Droop’s information was rubbish, so the bugbears just kept him around so they had something to bully. Droop is incredibly grateful to the group, and goes all Dobby the house-elf on them, swearing ancient, oxymoronic goblin vows of servitude and loyalty. So now they have access to a potential spy…

So with a magic sword and a new goblin buddy, the group head back into town to deliver the good news, some well-earned drinks, and to plan their next move…

Level Up! More HP! Barry gets improved critical, Loki gets a load of stuff from his thief archetype, and Grimdark and Mouse get more spells. I also let Loki become proficient in History, as the little guy has been consistently nailing those checks.

Completed Quests: Eliminate the Redbrands, find Thel Dendrar’s wife and children, find Sildar’s friend Iarno Albrek.

Ongoing Quests: Locate Cragmaw Castle and save Gundren Rockseeker, track down Glasstaff/Iarno, find out why there are undead at Old Owl Mine, seek out Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Mirna’s family heirloom in Thundertree, find Agatha the banshee and ask her about the mage Bowgentle’s spellbook, deal with the orc raiders on the Triboar Trail.

Ears Collected: None! Darryl misses out the chance for a nothic ear… this time…

Loot: TONS. Notably Talon (a +1 longsword), some rare alchemical ingredients, some spell scrolls, a load of gold coins and jewels, and a jewelled ear-ring that Barry intends to give to Elsa the barmaid in an attempt to woo her.

Number of “Fuck YES you guys are the best group I have ever DM’d for!” moments: So many. “I’m Mr Redbrand”, shoving a guy into water and then electrocuting him, bargaining with the nothic, using a captive Redbrand to trigger traps, “Bumder!”, a MacGuyver-esque trap of beaver pelts and improvised barricades…

The adventure continues in Episode 5! Just a short one next Monday I think…

- Gareth

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 3 – Redbrand Hideout

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Our heroes arrived in Phandelver and shook up the local crime gang for information; now they’re off to put a stop to the Redbrand’s ruthless ways for good! Monday was a loooong session, so I’ll split this up into two posts I think. More traffic for me!

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

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And obviously myself, the DM.

After straight-up murdering a load of Redbrands in the Sleeping Giant tavern, our heroes know that the gang has a hideout in the cellars below the old Tresendar Manor. Carp, Loki’s nephew, has told them about a secret passageway into the cellars that the Redbrands sometimes use for smuggling in goods. They could be badass and kick down the front door, or they could be smart. They choose smart.

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Under cover of night, they sneak into the tunnel (Grimdark wisely casting bless in advance), and come out into the massive cavern in the middle of the map. The stink of rotting flesh immediately suggests that this is A Very Bad Place. What further cements this is the insane cackling and the voices in their heads.

Joe rolls well enough for Barry to spot the nothic that lives in the cavern. Nothics are insane, psychic cannibals whose one eye gives them some bizarre powers.

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*Exactly* like this.

So out pops the nothic, and immediately it starts demanding food and “shinies”. It guards the cavern, and while it would love to munch on the Redbrands, it’s kept in line by the gang’s leader, Glasstaff. The Redbrands feed it with the bodies of people they’ve killed.

The group are all wearing stolen Redbrand cloaks, but the nothic instantly knows that they’re in disguise. Rather than raise the alarm, it’s intrigued by them, and keeps asking for food and shiny things. The guys are apprehensive about fighting it – an insane psychic monster with “bizarre powers” might as well have “Hit here for TPK” tattooed on its forehead – so they appease it by giving it silver coins and some rations, which Mouse flavours with his prestidigitation spell so that they’re more to the nothic’s taste.

The creature is satisfied, and mentions that the Redbrands have some captives locked away in another room (who are fortunately not on the menu), and that some “big hairy things” have recently arrived to keep an eye on the Redbrand’s operations. So, yeah, bugbears. Because that whole business with Klarg went well.

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Oh, wait. Yeah, no. No, it didn’t. At all.

The group leaves the cavern and heads east to scout the place out. They hear the bugbears guffawing and bullying someone in the south-most room, and a raucous gambling game going on in the larger common room. They decide to leave the bugbears alone for now, and deal with the Redbrands in the common room.

A plan is hatched; Barry (as the only human and therefore the one most likely to pull off the bluff of being a new recruit) will go in, pass himself off as one of the gang, get them distracted, and them the other three will burst in from either side of the room and kill ‘em all. I’m only now just realising that the whole “pretend to be a Redbran” seems redundant when they already had the element of surprise on their side, but hey ho…

Barry waltzes in and interrupts the drunken card game in progress.

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“Who da fuck are you?”

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“I’m… errr… Mr Redbrand…?”

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“Sigh. Roll Deception Joe.”

(2)

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“Shiiiiiit.”

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“Yeah, that’s not great. You rolled low and it’s an opposed check versus their Insight.”

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(readies his signal whistle to summon the others)

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(rolls)

(1)

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*drunken cheers* “Alright mate! Sit down and ‘ave a pint!”

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Who would’ve thought that drunken thugs were incredibly – almost offensively – gullible?

So they accept “Mr Redbrand” into their little group, and the game continues, though a scuffle seems imminent. Barry stirs the pot by making suggestions of cheating and foul play, and it doesn’t take long for fisticuffs to kick off; at that point the other three burst in and cause all sorts of merry hell. It’s over very quickly; Mouse blasts them all with a burning hands, and Loki and Grimdark scrag two. The other two give up almost immediately.

They get tied up and interrogated, but they don’t know much else. Well, okay, never mind.

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“What are we going to do with them?”

You can just leave these guys here tied up, right? Right?

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“Let’s feed them to the nothic!”

Wait, what?

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“Yeah, fuck these guys!”

That’s pretty twisted you guys…

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OFFER THE FLESH IN THE HOUSE OF BROKEN STARS.

Grimdark is the only one who decides to have no part of it, but he doesn’t exactly stop them either; after all, he wants to stop the Redbrands just as much as any of them. And at the end of the day, there’s definitely some karmic justice in condemning the Redbrands to the same fate as some of their victims.

They manhandle the two survivors to the nothic’s cavern to keep the creature on side, and they get a front row seat as the nothic goes all Ark of the Covenant and blasts the two Redbrands with its rotting gaze, reducing them to stinky sludge.

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“Yeaaah, let’s not fight that thing, like, ever.”

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THE MURDER BIRDS CALL! THEY ARE THE SIZE OF CLOUDS REFLECTED ON THE RIVER BUT HAVE NO SHADOW. I NEED SCISSORS. 61!

They throw Mike more coins and decide to go and explore the rest of the hideout before tackling the bugbears and Glasstaff. Grimdark’s stonecunning easily lets them discover the secret door that leads from the cavern into the “lobby” with the cistern, and some more listening at doors reveals the presence of Redbrands in the barracks. They leave that and head north into the long, obviously-trapped corridor. At the end of the corridor is a set of old bronze double doors, carved with weeping angels.

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Not these ones. Holy shit, can you imagine though?

They decide to grab a barrel from the other room and roll it along the corridor, hopefully triggering any traps without any risk to them. As Barry rolls the barrel into the corridor, one of the Redbrands comes out of the barracks.

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“What are you doing?”

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“Umm… moving this barrel?”

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“Where to?”

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“Umm… the barrel room…?”

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“Sigh. Roll Deception Joe.”

(6)

“Well it’s opposed versus Insight, so here goes…”

(rolls)

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“Huh. Didn’t know we had a barrel room. Well, see ya.” (goes back inside)

Bosun Barry Arrers everyone, master of disguise and espionage!

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But in all seriousness, HOLY SHIT GLASSTAFF YOU NEED TO STOP HIRING STUPID PEOPLE.

Anyway they roll the barrel down the corridor, and they notice the slight dip in the floor as it does. However, no trap triggers.

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“Hmm, maybe it wasn’t heavy enough. Let’s force one of those Redbrand guys to trigger it!”

I’m starting to think there was a very good reason why Loki was kicked out of the gang.

The group set up another ambush; Barry will wander into the barracks, while Loki, Grimdark and Mouse will set up outside. Barry strolls in and settles down on the one of the bunks, ready to backstab his new friends. Then Mouse opens the door with mage hand, and Grimdark throws a sacred flame into the room, which achieves precisely nothing.

“Why have you forsaken me Lord!?”

The Redbrands rush out; the first one crashes into Grimdark, who holds the line. The second one however gets pounced on by Loki, and tumbles into the cistern. The last one gets an unexpected trident in the back, courtesy of Barry.

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“Et tu, Barry?”  :-(

The rest of the fight is brutally quick. Mouse uses shocking grasp to electrocute the shit out of the Redbrand that’s flapping around in the water, Grimdark smashes another, and Loki – although he gets hit and loses a good chunk of HP – ganks the other with his usual murderous efficiency.

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“That guy in the water is still alive.”

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“Looks like we got something to trigger that trap!”

They go back to the corridor and force the wet, electrocuted Redbrand to trigger the concealed pit trap. He goes tumbling in and breaks his ankle. Ignoring him, the group listen at the bronze door and hear nothing from the room within. With Mouse and Barry covering him, Loki opens the door and sees…

To be continued…

- Gareth

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Interim: Character Development

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We didn’t have a D&D session this week due to the Bank Holiday weekend and most of us being unavailable, but the gang is all set to break down the door of the Redbrands hideout this coming Monday!

That’s not to say we haven’t been doing D&D related stuff in the meantime; in fact, after the events of last session,  Joe, Trev, Darryl and Liam have all picked up a bit of character development for their dudes. This is the great thing about pen-and-paper RPGs, in my opinion; a few unexpected in-game events such as a bodged skill check or lucky break can add real depth and personality to a character, even if it’s just a pre-generated character that came with a starter set.

So what are these developments?

  • Bosun “Barry” Arrers is now head-over-heels for Elsa, the flirty barmaid from the Stonehill Inn with whom he shared a brief and unsatisfactory night of copulation. Now he’s willing to do anything to impress her and win back her affections. That’s his problem; he falls in love too quickly. Barry, stop doing this to yourself! You can’t let yourself get hurt again!
  • Loki Fastfoot is now getting a reputation as a budding historian. The two History checks he’s been asked to make have resulted in natural 20’s. Clearly there’s more to this simple-looking halfling thief than meets the eye. And being back in Phandalin and have run-ins with his old gang is surely going to stir up some mixed feelings…
  • Grimdark Stonelock is struggling with a feeling of inadequacy; his spells never seem to work and he has difficulty fighting even the simplest of opponents. As for his so-called “friends”? They only keep him around so that he can heal them up when they’ve finished getting all the glory. Maybe he’s not as in tune with the gods as he thinks? Maybe they don’t have faith in him. Perhaps a few more drinks will make things seem better…
  • And finally, Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost. Fresh out of the temple and nervously taking his first few steps out of his comfort zone, and what happens? He gets kidnapped and beaten by goblin bandits. He would’ve been killed and probably eaten if his friends hadn’t found him. Mouse was so traumatised that he now has a genuine fear of goblins, and is frightened of them until he can overcome his phobia (which will probably involve a fireball or three).

All cheery stuff, as you can see.

- Gareth

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 2 – Job Seekers

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So after defeating the Cragmaw gang and saving Carick and Sildar, our heroes continue on to Phandalin!

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

And obviously myself, the DM.

After heading back to the wagon (and loading it up with some crates marked with a blue lion symbol, found in Klarg’s chamber), the gang head into Phandalin with no further drama. Their little goblin friend ran off though. Oh well, it’s not as if he’ll show up again!

They arrive in the late evening, and Sildar, battered and bloody from being a wolf’s chew toy, advises that they get rooms at the local inn. They do so, and dutifully speak to every one in the tavern with a floating yellow exclamation mark over their head; Phandalin is just that kind of town. Think Wild West frontier town, except with a big “next dungeon” sign pointing to the old abandoned-but-yeah-obviously-not-abandoned ruined manor house on the outskirts of town.

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WANTED: Armed strangers interested in repetitive errands.

After exhausting their options with the locals, Sildar (who has paid for their rooms and drinks as a show of thanks for being rescued) explains what the “something big” that Gundren mentioned is. He asks if any of the group have heard of the Forge of Spells. A quick round of stunningly successful History checks (one of which is Darryl’s second natural 20 on a History check, thereby proving that Loki is an incredibly well-read thief) shows that, yes Sildar, of course they know about the Forge of Spells, Christ.

But for all of you at home, the Forge of Spells is an enchanted forge found deep in Phandelver Mine, in the long-lost Wave Echo Cave. Hundreds of years ago, dwarfs, gnomes and human wizards all came together to create the forge, then some orcs showed up and ruined everything, yadda yadda yadda. Fast forward a few centuries, and the Rockseeker brothers have obtained a map for Wave Echo Cave and are planning an expedition to find and rekindle the forge. Sildar wants to re-open Phandelver Mine, as he thinks it’ll bring a new age of prosperity to the area.

Of course, this is all a bit of a problem when Gundren has been kidnapped by the Cragmaw goblins, who are working for a mysterious figure called “The Black Spider”. Without his map, they’ll never find Wave Echo Cave! The group all turn in for the night; Barry uses his rustic hospitality ability to woo the barmaid into a night of adequate coitus (it was a poor roll on his Athletics check), Loki sneaks out to go and “visit” his aunt (and rolls even worse on his Athletics check).

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“I knew I should’ve learned Proficiency: Reverse Cowgirl.”

Meanwhile Grimdark sleeps off several tankards of ale because hurr hurr dwarfs hurr hurr, and Carick sits quietly in the inn’s main room, with the thousand-yard stare of someone who only narrowly escaped being eaten/gangbanged by goblin bandits a few hours ago. Silly Carick! You’re not meant to develop PTSD until level 4!

The next morning, the group drop off the wagon to the general store and get paid, then return the stolen goods to the Lionshield Coster, and also get rewarded. Now what to do with all that reward money?

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“They’ve got 30% off chainmail!” *squeal* “And two for one on scimitars! OMG!”

First they hit the general store, and buy blankets, signal whistles, a grappling hook, some flasks of oil, and iron spikes. Next up is the armoury, where equipment gets shuffled around, sold, and bought; Carick gives Loki his shortsword (allowing the little psycho to dual-wield) and gets a quarterstaff, Loki and Barry both get shields, and Trev gets a battleaxe for Grimdark for reasons I still can’t quite fathom when he has a perfectly good/functionally identical warhammer. Joe replaces his lacklustre greatsword with a rapier, far more fitting for the high-Dexterity Barry. He also gets a trident, because, fuck, why not?

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The trident is named “Tested”. Trident Tested.

AAAAAARGH.

What follows is a session of “hunt the quest-givers”, as the group go round town, following their character’s plot hooks or the gossip they got from the people in the tavern the previous night. Let’s just say that they’ve got plenty to keep them occupied over the next few sessions (ongoing quests summarised below, because aaaaaargh).

The most pressing concern is that a local gang of thugs called the Redbrands – Loki’s old gang – are causing all sorts of merry hell in town, and terrorising the locals. Time to be big god-damn heroes then!

The locals point the group to the other tavern in town, the Sleeping Giant. It’s a rundown place where the Redbrands hang out and drink. Since the group still don’t know where the Redbrands hideout is (but it’s obviously in that big ruined manor), they decide to shake down some of the Redbrands for information. This goes about as well as expected.

Eight dead Redbrands later, our heroes have the answers they want, and have nearly burned down the tavern. Oh Carick, you and your burning hands in enclosed spaces, you scamp! To be fair, he tried a charm person spell first, but the Redbrands weren’t in the mood to be buddies.

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“Declined my Facebook friend request? BURN MOTHERFUCKER.”

The last surviving Redbrand is thrown in jail, and the session ends as the group make their way towards the Redbrand hideout, in the basement of Tresendar Manor…

Completed Quests: Deliver the wagon of goods to Phandalin, get Sildar to explain what this “something big” matter is

Ongoing Quests: (deep breath) Eliminate the Redbrands and their leader “Glasstaff”, find out why there are undead at Old Owl Mine, track down Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Agatha the banshee and ask her about the mage Bowgentle’s spellbook, find Thel Dendrar’s wife and children, deal with the orc raiders on the Triboar Trail, find Sildar’s friend Iarno Albrek, locate Cragmaw Castle and wipe out the Cragmaw goblins.

Ears Collected: Human

Women Bedded: 2

Women Satisfied: 0

Star of the Night: Loki. Seriously, the group combat tactics have now evolved to “Cast bless and then take hits for the little guy so that he can turn everything into mincemeat.”  Sneak attack + dual wielding = brutal damage output. God help us all when he has enough cash for a pair of hand crossbows…

The adventure continues in Episode 3!

- Gareth

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 1 – Goblin Arrows

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Alright, let’s get this show properly on the road! My group has taken their first tentative steps on the prepublished path towards the Lost Mine of Phandelver! If you haven’t done so, get to know the cast!

In Attendance: Loki Fastfoot (Darryl), Bosun Barry Arrers (Joe), Grimdark Stonelock (Trev)

And obviously myself, the DM.

Unfortunately, Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost (Liam) wasn’t available this first session, but he found a way into the adventure.

The Lost Mine starts off with the PC’s escorting a wagon full of supplies to the rough-and-tumble frontier town of Phandalin, where all of them have background and quest hooks (Loki’s old bandit gang and sexy aunt, the ruins of Barry’s hometown, etc). Their employer, Gundren Rockseeker (Grimdark’s cousin) has ridden ahead with an old human soldier called Sildar Hallwinter, with vague mentions of “finding something big”, and needing to “get things ready”. Whatever it was, it was decided that Mouse’s arcane know-how would prove useful, so they took the elf with them.

Loki drove the cart, while Barry rode shotgun (longbow?). Grimdark chilled out in the back of the wagon, making sure that the ale was safe.

"Hic."

“Hic.”

After a day or so on the Triboar Trail from Neverwinter, the gang came across some dead horses in the road, pierced with arrows. They recognised the horses as belonging to Gundren, Sildar and Mouse! Barry and Loki immediately went on the alert, notching arrows to bowstrings. Grimdark however went all “Gimli-in-Mines-of-Moria” and ran out into the open, bawling for his cousin.

Sigh.

So of course they get ambushed by goblins. Two of them rush Grimdark, while two more take pot-shots at Loki and Barry. A shameful display of archery follows, resulting in some narrow misses and wasted arrows. Meanwhile Grimdark quite happily smashes the shit out of the two goblins that are trying to arrange a union between their cutlasses and his face.

Tired of this archery nonsense, Loki charges one of the remaining goblins and stabs it in the throat. Seeing this, the last goblin throws down its weapons and surrenders, because holy shit, that whole ambush plan went south really quick, didn’t it? The group interrogates the goblin to find out what happened (Loki takes some time out to collect a goblin ear for his collection), and the little dude is all too happy to tell them where the hideout of the Cragmaw gang is, and how many of his buddies are currently un-murdered. He also tells them that Gundren has been taken to some guy called King Grol, holed up in a place Cragmaw Castle. Sildar and Mouse are back at the hideout, in the “eating cave”.

So, the plan seems simple; go rescue Sildar and Mouse, wreck the shit of these Cragmaw bandits, then go save Gundren! After getting all this information, Loki seems quite prepared to kill their prisoner.

"Hic."

 “Wait! He may be useful! He can show us the way!”

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“Yeah. We might as well get some more use out of him.”

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“Fine. But I still think we should cut off one of his ears, at least.”

"Hic."

“Let’s just tie him up.”

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“We should gag him as well, so that he can’t shout out and alert his friends.”

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“Good idea!” (checks character sheet for suitable item to use as a gag) “I cram my pouch in his mouth!”

>_<

Well… umm… I guess that would stop him talking, but this hardly seems like an appropriate time.

Our heroes hide the wagon of supplies, and with their tied-up goblin in the lead, they advance up the old woodland trail towards the Cragmaw hideout. Their new little friend helpfully points out the traps on the path, which they easily disarm and avoid. Finally, they leave the trail, and find themselves in front of the cave…

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Some sneakiness is called for, so Loki advances towards the cave mouth to see if there’s any sentries which he can eliminate. A fine plan in theory. In practice, he rolls a 2 on his Stealth check, so he may as well have been shouting “OH BOY I SURE AM BEING VERY SNEAKY!” at the top of his voice. His uncharacteristic blundering alerts the two goblin sentries hidden in the bushes, and we have another throwdown. Once again, Grimdark wades in and caves in a goblin face with his hammer. Loki gets a cutlass in the ribs, but Barry avenges him with a well-placed shot.

Grimdark burns one of his precious spell slots on a cure wounds to keep Loki in the green.

"Hic."

“You’re dumb, you know that? Dumb and clumsy. You’re lucky I’m here to keep you from dropping dead every few minutes.”

They advance into the cave, taking a brief detour into the cavern on the right hand side to courageously execute some wolves that are chained up in the goblin “kennels”. Their goblin guide is visibly saddened at this; after all, rabid flea-bitten wolves are basically the closest thing goblins have to puppies and friends.

The group are wary of lighting torches for fear of announcing their presence, so Grimdark takes the lead, his natural darkvision an enormous benefit. They veer left at the stream, and head up a sloping tunnel. They can see the ambient glow of a large fire from the cavern to the left (the big stomach shaped one of the far left on the above map). A quick peek around the corner reveals this to be the goblin barracks. Up on a higher rock shelf, five goblins are talking, eating, and taking turns beating two prisoners; Mouse and Sildar!

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“Time to go Assassin’s Creed on these guys!”

Loki sneaks up and positions himself at the foot of the natural rock steps, and hides, sword ready. Barry draws back and gets ready. Grimdark uses thaumaturgy to cause the campfire to suddenly burn bright blue, which startles all the goblins and gets their attention. Before they’ve realised it, Barry has put down two of them with arrows. The remaining goblins rush down the stairs; one of them gets ganked as Loki drags him over and slits his throat, and Grimdark bashes the fourth.  The last one manages to get in close enough to hit Barry with his club, but it’s too little too late, and a bloodthirsty halfling introduces Mr Sword to Miss Throat. It’s over in less than three rounds of combat (about 20 seconds in real-time), and it’s a pretty slick bit of work.

They free Mouse and Sildar. Because I’m only willing to run one DMPC, Mouse takes their goblin guide friend and goes to wait for them outside the cave. Sildar grabs a dead goblin’s sword and comes with them. “These wankers beat the shit out of me,” he growls, “Time to repay the favour.”

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“That elf totally deserved it though.”

They follow the tunnel around, and over the rickety rope bridge, dispatching a few more goblins on the way. Unfortunately, one gets away, and runs screaming into a large chamber, which they follow him into. Inside the chamber is Klarg, the bugbear leader of the Cragmaw gang, and his angry, hungry wolf.

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“KLARG SMASH YOU!”

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“Bitch, all I see is another ear for my necklace.”

See, they were all pumped up and overconfident after curb-stomping their way through goblins, so you could forgive them for their bravado.

I mean, you could.

I couldn’t.

Klarg charges, and after one swing of his maul, Grimdark is down to 3 HP. Sildar launches himself at the bugbear and grapples with him, and then Klarg’s wolf decides to grapple with Sildar.

"Hic."

“Good work Sildar! Distract the wolf with your juicy hips!”

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“I’m not sure about th- OH GOD MY JUICY HIPS!”

Sildar gets chomped up and drops, and starts dying. Oh dear. Meanwhile, Loki and Barry have put together a plan; since the halfling is clearly unable to go a few hours without setting fire to something, he throws a flask of oil at Klarg, soaking the bugbear. Barry then bodyslams Klarg into the campfire, and suddenly that cavern is full of the smell of burning hair. Klarg rolls around screaming and burning, while one of his goblin lackeys tries to put him out. Grimdark is squaring off against a goblin he can’t seem to hit. With no time to draw his sword, Barry smacks the wolf with his bow. The wolf responds by critting Barry. Lucky for Joe I’m a nice DM and let him use his second wind ability at the last minute to stay on his feet. Everyone gets one freebie, that’s my rule.

Loki pounces on the burning Klarg and stabs him while he’s on the ground.

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“Got him!”

Hahahahaha no. You got him down to half HP.

And now he’s not on fire anymore.

And now he’s standing up and OH GOD OH GOD you’ve really pissed him off now!

Loki beats a hasty retreat, hurling another flask of oil into the fire to make it flare up and create a temporary wall of fire between Klarg and himself. And his allies, I guess. At this point, Sildar has made his third successful death saving throw, and stabilises.

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“At least I’m not dying any more!”

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“KLARG SMASH!”

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Whhhyyyyy.”

Barry finishes off the wolf, but Grimdark gets knocked down to 0 HP. Oh dear, oh dear.

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“I feel like we made some mistakes in approaching this situation somewhat recklessly.”

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(has escaped)

At this point, I’m a few rounds of combat away from pulling the “and then Mouse shows up and kills everything with magic” card, but then a last, desperate plan is hatched! Barry and Loki run back to the rickety rope bridge, and after some taunting, Klarg pursues them. That’s when they go all Temple of Doom on him, and cut the bridge! Klarg fails his saving throw to grab onto something, and he falls 20 feet onto hard rock, doing exactly enough damage to finish him off!

With the last of the enemies dead, Loki and Barry get Grimdark and Sildar back on their feet, and indulge in that most noble of adventuring pastimes, looting! They find cash and healing potions in the chests and crates in Klarg’s chamber, and laden with booty, they leave the cave, meet up with Mouse, and resume their wagon ride into Phandalin…

Level Up! More HP! Barry gets action surge, Loki gets cunning action, Grimdark gets more spells and channel divinity, and Mouse gets more spells, evocation savant and sculpt spells.

Completed Quests: Saved Mouse and Sildar from the Cragmaw gang

Ongoing Quests: Deliver the wagon of goods to Phandalin, find and rescue Gundren, get Sildar to explain what this “something big” matter is

Ears Collected: Goblin, wolf, bugbear

Times Grimdark KO’d: 1

Number of “Fuck YES you guys are the best group I have ever DM’d for!” moments: 3 (“I cram my pouch in his mouth”, and two great and cinematic uses of the environmental features)

The adventure continues in Episode 2!

- Gareth

 

 

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Interim: House Rules

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Tonight has seen another chapter written in the book of heroic deeds, as our motley crew of heroes have vanquished the evil Cragmaw goblin bandits and their villainous leader, Klarg. A full write up of tonight’s event is in the process, but in the meantime I thought I’d go over the house rules that I’m implementing for the group as we go through the adventure.

Critical Hits

Critical hits do maximum damage, instead of granting double dice for rolling damage. Simpler and quicker when playing, and guarantees a shit-ton of damage. One of my preferred rules from 4th edition.

Team Initiative

This is a rule I’ve lifted from Fantasy Flight’s Edge of the Empire game, and helps get around the fact that there’s no “Delay” action in 5e. When there’s a combat and the PC’s determine initiative, their rolls determine their “initiative slots”. Any one of the PCs can use one of their available initiative slots during a round.

Example: In tonight’s game, Darryl (Loki, the rogue) got a 22 for initiative, Joe (Bosun Arrers) got 14, and Trev (Grimdark) got 4, while the goblins they’re fighting get 10. We go in initiative order as normal, but Joe, Darryl or Trev could act on 22, even though Darryl was the one to get that result. Trev goes first to do some urgent healing, then Darryl takes his turn on count 14. The goblins act, and then finally Joe acts on count 5. On the next round, Joe then chooses to act first on count 22.

I really like the mechanic from EotE, as it makes combat more, leads to less instances where players are sitting around waiting for their turn, and allows the players to concoct some cool strategies.

Inspiration = 10 point swing

Inspiration is an awesome mechanic from 5th edition, and encourages players to come up with cool ideas and roleplay their characters. However the inspiration mechanic is a little lacklustre; you can expend inspiration to get advantage on a check. Meh. I feel that it should be a bit more swingy that than. So… Inspiration can be spent before the PC makes an attack roll, saving throw or skill check, or before an enemy makes an attack roll against them; doing so means that the PC gets a +10 bonus to his attack/save/skill check, or that the attacking enemy has a -10 penalty to their attack roll. Potentially overpowered? Well, it still doesn’t guarantee success (or failure on the enemy’s part), but it’s obviously a huge swing. However if it allows players to do awesome, memorable things or survive against overwhelming odds, and encourages them to work towards earning inspiration again, then I don’t really have no problem with it.

Outnumbering

Very simple one. If a creature has more enemies adjacent to it than it has allies (the classic example being a fighter flanked by two goblins), then that creature is Outnumbered. Melee attacks against an Outnumbered creature have advantage. Actual positioning of the outnumbering creatures doesn’t matter; the important thing is that the outnumbered creature is having to divide their attention between two (or more) attackers. Creatures that are dazed, restrained, or otherwise suffering some kind of condition that means they’re disadvantaged on attack rolls don’t count towards Outnumbering.

Hit Dice Rerolls

When rolling to recover HP after a short rest after expending Hit Dice, a player can reroll 1s, because that shit sucks. Healing from other sources (such as a cure wounds spell or a healing potion) doesn’t benefit from this. Also, players can reroll 1s when their character levels up and they increase their max HP. If the reroll is also a 1… well, I helped you as much as I could.

Fairly simple changes, but effective. Outnumbering has already played a very big part in combat tactics, and the team initiative led to some very cool plays tonight. Like I said, more story time coming up soon!

Spoiler; they set fire to stuff again.

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Some halflings just want to watch the world burn.

- Gareth

D&D – Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 0: The Heist

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It’s RPG storytime here again at Mr Triceratopping! I’ve recently gotten my sweaty mitts on the new D&D 5th edition starter set, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”, and I am absolutely in love with the new ruleset, and the published adventure itself is great. I managed to convince some friends – most of them D&D newbies – to join me round the table, roll dice, and have a good time as we work out way through the campaign. We’re using the pre-made characters too, because, y’know, there’s nice character sheets for them and everything…

So, who are our players?

The Cast

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Loki Fastfoot, played by Darryl. A halfling thief with a troubled past and a heart of gold and oh who I am kidding, he’ll betray everyone and slit their throats in their sleep the second that they find something shiny. Likes to collect the ears of his enemies, especially if they’re a species he hasn’t killed yet. Has a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” relationship with his aunt.

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Barry Arrers, played by Joe. A human fighter who specialises in archery (and woodwork). Has stigmata (which may just be a birthmark) and is convinced that he is the son of a god, or a god himself. A seafaring man, he prefers to be referred to as Bosun Arrers. What is this, PUNgeons and Dragons? AHAHAHAHAHAHA okay.

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Carick “Mouse” Silverfrost, played by Liam. An elf wizard who is basically a complete coward. The nickname is the compromise that was reached when Liam wanted to call his character Dangermouse and I enacted my first DM veto. Will do anything to anyone if there’s even the slightest chance to learn something about something.

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And finally, Grimdark Stonelock, played by Trev. A dwarf cleric. Will heal you, but will be angry that you were stupid enough to get hit in the first place. Used to be a mercenary but is currently on “temporary” suspension following “an incident”. Not actually that bothered about the whole “worshipping the gods” business. He still gets healing spells and magic laser eyes, so he must be doing something right. Yes, that is his name.

And I’m DM’ing because apparently I have masochistic impulses.

Unfortunately due to conflicting schedules, we didn’t have a full table for the full session, so my plan was to run a few “prequel” games before we got to the main published adventure, so that everyone would have a chance to learn the rules of the game and see what their character could do, etc. Unfortunately Joe couldn’t make the session I’d planned for him and Trev, but Liam and Darryl were around for their adventure, “The Heist”! And then Trev showed up and I had to shoehorn Grimdark in! Thanks buddy.

So, our tissue-thin plot for the first game was thus; Loki likes money, and had heard from his criminal contacts that there’s this old bookshop in a nice part of the city, and the owner is loaded and keeps all his cash in a safe in the basement. He manages to convince Mouse to come along because, y’know, stealing’s bad, but it wouldn’t hurt to just look at all those books of arcane lore… Grimdark, as a gruff father-figure, would go along because he wants to make sure the idiots don’t get in trouble, and hey, y’know, even holy men need gold, right?

The guys plan how they’re going to break in, and off they go. Loki easily picks the lock to the basement entrance (it’s a big loading bay door affair, like for pubs where they lower barrels in), and Grimdark leaps down into the pitch dark basement. One fluffed Acrobatics check results in a twisted ankle though. Off to a good start lads. Grimdark casts a light spell to brighten the place up, and Loki and Mouse follow him, finding a basement full of bookshelves and crates. A bit of digging round finds two odd things; first are some blobs of weird-smelling slime in one of the crates which they can’t identify, and the second is a book that Mouse recognises as a rare and proscribed book which is about combining alchemy with necromantic magic for less-than-wholesome purposes. Hmm, very suspicious…

I mean, he takes the book with him, obviously.

While investigating, they discover that one of the bookcases near the wall is on rollers, and can be moved aside, revealing a secret door! Gasp! Grimdark used a detect magic spell to see what was beyond, and discovered that there was a necromantic aura and a faint tang of illusion. What follows is a lot of fannying around as the poor little princesses decide who’s going to open the door and go in first. Finally Loki gets tired of it and just kicks the door open, revealing a room with a desk, a lot of alchemy materials, and OH SHIT a load of naked dead people on slabs. Clearly the bookstore owner is up to some bad stuff.

Grimdark confirms that the bodies aren’t giving off any “gonna reanimate and bite your face” vibe; the necromantic aura is actually coming off some of the horrible looking alchemical concoctions, while the whiff of illusion is centred on a painting of a grumpy-looking old guy above the desk. Despite this, Loki suggests decapitating the bodies, “just in case”. Grimdark forbids it, and says some last rites over the dead bodies (who have been stitched together from lots of different body parts), while Mouse checks out of the potions, finding some jars of the slime they found in the crates; this time they’re able to correctly identify it as a kind of embalming fluid.

On a whim, Darryl asks me if his character knows anything about the old guy in the painting. “Oh sure, roll History.”  (expects a low score) “Oh. 20. Huh.”  (shiiiiiiit) “Ummm… yeah, you know that this guy was an evil necro-alchemist a few decades ago and was executed for doing bad stuff. It’s even more super-suspicious to find a painting of him here in this basement, and it basically confirms that the bookshop owner is up to no good and it probably trying to emulate his work.”  Oh unexpected natural 20s, how I love you!

Mouse uses mage hand to lift the painting off the wall, revealing blank stone behind, but Grimdark’s detect magic is still revealing a fruity aroma of illusion. Loki touches the wall, and no surprises, it’s a fake! In the concealed space is a normal metal lockbox which, when opened, is full of gold coins and some strange old documents. Little does he know that he’s tripped a silent alarm…

They leave the secret room and go back into the main basement, when suddenly all the lights come on! Loki manages to dive behind some crates and hide, but Grimdark in his clunky chainmail just makes a noise and falls over, while Liam fluffs his Stealth check so badly I tell him that Carick basically just shrieks like a scared little girl.

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Ahh, elves. Fuck em.

The basement door opens, and in comes the obviously-evil bookstore owner, who asks (and quite rightly) why a dwarf and an elf are in his basement (Darryl’s suggestion of “making out” is considered and swiftly dismissed). What follows is possibly the most excruciating attempt to bluff ever.

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“Oh, thank goodness you’re here! We were just walking past and heard a noise and came to check it out!”

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“I see. So why is that elf stealing my book?”

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“Umm… this is my copy?”

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“There’s only one copy in existence.”

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“Enough about that my good man, the thieves are probably getting away! We must make haste!”

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“Anyway I’m a big fan of your work so really we’re on the same side!”

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“Did you go into my secret room?”

elf mage

“No!”

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“So why were you coming out through the door when I switched on the lights?”

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“Ummm…”

elf mage

*blank stare*

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“BORED NOW.”  (jumps out of cover and fires an arrow which misses)

So now we have a fight! Initiative gets rolled, all that stuff. Mouse nails the bookshop owner/evil wizard with a ray of frost, doing a grand total of 1 damage. Just another 21 like that and we can go home! Next Loki fires another arrow, which the bookshop owner responds to by throwing up a shield. The bookshop owner makes a run for the secret room and his zombie army; he’s slower than usual due to having icy robes, but compensates with a misty step spell. Grimdark follows him, and sees that he’s got his hand on a big creepy Frankenstein-esque switch. The dwarf cleric goes for a command spell!

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“Hey. Hey. Hey!”

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“What?”

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“Stop it.”

palpatine“Okay.”

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“Really?”

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“Lol no jk passed my saving throw.”

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“FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUU-“

 

Loki, like a true thief, doesn’t want a fight, so he’s ready to run. Mouse doesn’t listen, and instead go afters Grimdark and spams the bookshop owner with magic missile, doing some more damage. It’s not enough to stop the man from pulling the switch and waking four of his zombies up. Oh dear…

Grimdark blasts one with a sacred flame, but the others mob him and attack him. Two can’t get through his high AC, but another gets a critical and chomps him for maximum damage (I houserule that critical hits do maximum damage instead of rolling twice as many dice), nearly dropping him to 0 HP. Oh unexpected natural 20s, how I love you!

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“I said we should’ve decapitated them! But oh noooo, that’s a stupid idea! Let’s just pray for them instead!”

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“OH GOD MY FACE.”

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*weeping*

And then a plan comes together. Mouse still has a spell slot left, and has burning hands prepared. Loki has a flask of oil. The zombies and the bookstore owner are in an enclosed space. You can see where this is going.

Through the magic of readied actions, the group set up their Grand Strategy. Grimdark will hold off the zombies in the doorway to the secret room, and disengage. Then, Loki will throw the oil flask at the space which Grimdark vacated. Then Mouse will bring the heat, blasting the zombies, igniting the oil, and generally causing all kinds of merry havoc.

It all goes splendidly. Grimdark limps away, the oil lands perfectly and the flask shatters, spraying flammable goop everywhere, and Mouse lets fly with a burning hands, torching the zombies and causing a small but fierce wall fire as the oil is ignited. Oh, and all that furniture, those alchemical concoctions and books… they’re just more fuel. The bookshop owner screams, the zombies flail around, and our heroes slam the door closed (freezing it shut with a clever use of ray of frost, though it’ll melt soon enough), roll back the bookcase, and run off with their ill-gotten gains, leaving an old man to die, trapped in a burning room. To be fair, he was a bit of a dick.

Later that night, when Grimdark has patched himself up, the three of them are about to share the loot when they are approached by an grizzled old mercenary called Sildar Hallwinter, who works for Grimdark’s cousin Gundren Rockseeker. He’s heard that they’re tough and resourceful people, and he has a job for them. Nothing major, just an easy job escorting a merchant caravan to a little town called Phandelin…

- Gareth

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