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.

 

CAP’N TORGUN KRAKENSMASHER

longdrong

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.

 

ARUK GOLGO

Katapeshi_half_orc

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.

 

 

CYLENA

new-catwoman-featurette-from-the-dark-knight-rises-watch-now-122058-470-75

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.

 

TAD TINBOTTLE

halfling-chef

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.

SISTER SABLE

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… >_<

Flaw : I HEAR THE SONG OF ENDING IN MY DREAMS, HE WILL RISE CLAD IN THE DUST OF DEAD STARS IA IA IA FHTAGN … I mean, umm, I guess I’m a bit hard on myself….

 

CALLENDY VORMUND

gent

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!

 

TREASURE

4e_tiefling

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

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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…”

AAAARGH.

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)

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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!

castle

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.

hobgoblin

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.

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“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!

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“Surrender, or I kills da stunty!”

"Hic."

 

“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

D&D Lost Mine of Phandelver Episode 5 – Loose Ends

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So after their victory over the Redbrand gang, the group return to the town, lauded as heroes!

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.

Naturally the townsfolk are overjoyed that the Redbrands have been dealt with, and our heroes have a merry night in the Stonehill Inn. Barry gets back in the barmaid Elsa’s good books by acting the dashing hero, showering her with shiny gifts, and nailing his Charisma check to woo her (rolling a 19 on his sexual Athletics check later is just icing on the cake). Sildar  is shocked that his friend Iarno had gone bad, and asks that the group track him down. Then he and Grimdark talk business, and agree that the rescue of Gundren from the Cragmaw goblins needs to take priority; the longer Gundren is held captive, the higher the chance that the mysterious Black Spider will find Wave Echo Cave and the Forge of Spells! There’s no time to waste!

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“Let’s do some of those side missions!”

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“Yay, more XP!”

Or… yeah, you could do that. To be fair, the last session was pretty intense, so a relaxed “filler” episode was needed for everyone to just poddle through, use their new loot and spells, and cross off some of the jobs in their quest book.

In the morning, the group spend some of their hard earned money. Loki exchanges his shortbow for dual hand crossbows, because fuck yeah. Barry, the new proud owner of Talon, gives the little guy his rapier to replace one of his short swords. Grimdark swaps out his chainmail for splint armour, the heaviest armour they can afford, officially making him the group tank. As preparation for their road trip down the Triboar Trail, they also buy a load of rations, tents, and a donkey. Barry names the donkey Elsa (he wisely does this out of earshot of his beloved barmaid).

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What a great ass.

Meanwhile, they give Droop, their little goblin friend, a tent so that he can live on the outskirts of town, and leave him some food. The little guy really wants to go with them, but they tell him to stay put and not cause any trouble while they’re gone.

They set off down the Triboar Trail, and their journey is uneventful apart from one night when a trio of wolves make the worst and last mistakes of their lives. You know what ends an encounter really quickly? Sleep, followed by three coup de graces. Liam’s been so obsessed with setting fire to stuff, he’s only now just realised that a spell that can instantly knock a load of weak creatures unconscious with no saving throws allowed is pretty damn amazing.

elf mage

“I could *always* do this!?”

After three days down the Trail, they reach the old ruined town of Conyberry, where the banshee Agatha haunts. They easily find her, give her the old silver comb, and get the information about Bowgentle’s spellbook that Sister Garaele wanted. Easy enough, only two jobs to go!

A half day’s journey south brings them to Old Owl Well, another crumbling ruin. Jeez, Sildar wasn’t kidding about this area needing a firm kick in the economy. It’s worse than Bexhill.

At Old Owl Well, the group sees that there’s a large colourful tent set up. They also detect a strange chemical whiff. They know that there’s been reports of undead here, so they approach with caution. Well, they try. One botched Stealth roll brings a dozen zombies out of the old watchtower. I decided to take some liberties here and describe them like the Returned from M:tG’s Theros block; gold masks, and generally less decompose-y than your regular zombies.

Basically the only cool thing to come out of Theros block.

Apart from chimeras, the only cool thing to come out of Theros block.

Out of the tent comes a tattooed wizard in red robes. Grimdark and Mouse identify him as a Red Wizard of Thay, a land to the east where animating the dead has the same kind of moral consequences as making a cup of tea. The red wizard is not hostile (just a bit racist), and bids his army to hold back while he talks with the group. Apparently he’s looking for Agatha the banshee as well, and after a bit of umming and aaahing, they tell him where he can find her. He’s grateful, calls off his zombies, assures the group that he doesn’t intend any harm to the locals, and gives them 100 gold for their help! This is proving to be a profitable road trip!

Another half day further south into the rugged foothills finally brings them to Wyvern Tor, which is – you guessed it – another ruin! They set about looking for the orc raider camp, and eventually find it; a cave at the bottom of a hill. There’s a lookout posted, which Mouse sends to slumberland with with his new favourite spell.

After killing the sleeping guard, the group peek into the cave and see a bunch of orc warriors, along with a bigger, boss orc and an ogre.

Now all we need is the swordfighting cat and an aggressive gingerbread man and we've got a very different game.

Now all we need is a swordfighting cat and an aggressive gingerbread man and we’ve got a very different game.

The plan is to go all 300 on the orcs; Grimdark and Loki will stand at the cave entrance and let the orcs come to them, so that they can fight them two at a time, while Barry and Mouse provide ranged support. A good plan, in theory.

They cut off the dead lookout’s head, and Mouse uses mage hand to roll it into the cave to get the attention of the orcs. The boss, Brughor Axe-Biter, sends out two of his warriors to investigate. One of the orcs gets ganked by Loki, but the other survives, and things quickly escalate. Axe-Biter barrels forward, and his first attack on Grimdark is a critical that sends the dwarf reeling back. The other orcs storm out, and the heroes quickly realise that orcs are fast; they have an ability called aggression which lets them make a move towards an enemy they can see as a bonus action, meaning they cover a lot of ground in a pant-messingly short time.

The group starts taking hits; Grimdark gets hit by another critical, Loki gets smacked around, and Mouse gets taken down to half HP. Barry gets hit, but uses second wind to stay in the fight. They give as good as they get though; Loki is sneak attacking left and right, Grimdark is alternating between healing and wrecking shit with inflict wounds, and Mouse is throwing around burning hands and magic missiles. Barry stays at the back with his bow for a few turns, then draws Talon and gets stuck in. It looks hairy for a while, but the orcs start going down, and the ogre fluffs his few attack rolls and starts getting ganged up on and picked apart. Hilariously, the killing blow actually comes from Mouse; out of spells, he shrieks like a teenage girl, charges the ogre (down to 1 HP), and baseball-bat-swings his quarterstaff into its face.

i cast fist

Muscle Wizard approves.

In the orc’s stash, they find a few coins and some vials of perfume. More presents to Elsa from Barry then!

Their side missions complete, the group return to Phandalin, and it’s then that they have an idea that I love them for. Pooling their money together, along with the various gems they found in the Redbrand hideout, they approach the owner of the Sleeping Giant, the tavern that the gang used to frequent. With the Redbrands gone, the Sleeping Giant hasn’t seen any business for a week. The owner is therefore more than happy to accept the group’s offer to buy the tavern.

Yep, my players are now pub landlords.

They hire some help to spruce the place up (Barry is already a dab hand with carpentry tools), then they hire Mirna (the woman they rescued from the Redbrand hideout) and Elsa as bar staff. In a staggering display of nepotism, Elsa is also given “managerial privileges”, and will run the place when the group are off adventuring. The donkey, now wisely renamed “Mr Redbrand” (he has one of the Redbrand cloaks tied round his neck as a fetching scarf) is given a little stall round the back, and Droop the goblin is taken on a stable hand and given a room and a bed all of his own. Plans are made to send word to Neverwinter and hire an apprentice wizard who knows prestidigitation so that they can serve up food and drink that tastes amazing, and maybe even run a drycleaning business on the side. The townspeople of Phandalin love this; except, perhaps, for the owner of the Stonehill Inn, who is worried about competing with a place run by adventurers and that literally serves magical food. The name of this wonderful pub? The Barrel Room.

Fucking. Love. My players.

Completed Quests: Find out why there are undead at Old Owl Mine, find Agatha the banshee and ask her about the mage Bowgentle’s spellbook, deal with the orc raiders on the Triboar Trail.

Ongoing Quests: Locate Cragmaw Castle and save Gundren Rockseeker, track down Glasstaff/Iarno, seek out Reidoth the druid in the ruined town of Thundertree, find Mirna’s family heirloom in Thundertree.

Ears Collected: Orc, ogre.

Pubs Bought: 1

 

As good as these entrepreneurial exploits are, it really is past time to go and rescue Gundren… and they’ll do that in the next episode!

- Gareth

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…

Meriadoc-Brandybuck-meriadoc-brandybuck-11947180-960-406

*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.”

elf mage

“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?

varys

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!”

RacePortBugbear

“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

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