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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here! We were just walking past and heard a noise and came to check it out!”
“I see. So why is that elf stealing my book?”
“Umm… this is my copy?”
“There’s only one copy in existence.”
“Enough about that my good man, the thieves are probably getting away! We must make haste!”
“Anyway I’m a big fan of your work so really we’re on the same side!”
“Did you go into my secret room?”
“So why were you coming out through the door when I switched on the lights?”
“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!
“Hey. Hey. Hey!”
“Lol no jk passed my saving throw.”
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!
“I said we should’ve decapitated them! But oh noooo, that’s a stupid idea! Let’s just pray for them instead!”
“OH GOD MY FACE.”
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…