Posts Tagged With: Lost Mine of Phandelver

Lol, missing Game Logs…

So, well, yes, clearly I haven’t written up a Game Log in forever…

I keep meaning to, but I keep failing miserably and then keep falling behind. We just finished the 29th session of the current campaign I think I need to grant a very broad overview of what has happened.

The party managed to survive the Shadowlands mostly unscarred – though the gnomes were hit hard. Fonkin was brought to the brink of death by the strange magics and creatures of the Shadowlands and transformed into a Shade while his henchman and cousin  Wren died. From the cold lands of Shadow the party followed another gate to the sweltering heat of the Jungles of Ith, where they found gates home but were also able to return quickly enough to thwart the Vanguard and prevent the Reborn King from fully manifesting. In the process Ilda was almost lost (but managed to invoke her Ancestors successfully) and Rhys went missing though divinations suggest that he is not dead.

After all of this the party took a much needed break, resting up after their travails and travels – and capitalizing on the tales of their adventures, strange dress, and potent magic. This included Dorje Jarvic travelling off to train as a Warrior Monk and Lord Devon and his wife finally starting to rebuild the Tresendar hunting lodge in Phandalin. In turn, Ilda was given a series of visions as to the location of Wave Echo Cave by her Ancestors and the party decided to investigate – especially given their early failures with the Rockseeker brothers as well as their concern over the “Forge of Spells” falling into the wrong hands. There they found another group of adventurers, with legal documents asserting their right to explore the cave, and they were shocked when Dhagri was seemingly convinced to join the other group by a powerful Khazan after they had retreated to Diamond Lake

Doing their best to readjust after the loss the party added a couple of new members (despite some misgivings on some folks parts). And under the prompting of the strange tome of Misset al’Namat, they party sought out the Whispering Cairn that they had heard about during their earlier visit to Diamond Lake. Currently deep inside, they think they may have found the entrance to the true tomb of one of long lost Wind Dukes.

So, all in all, the group completed the modules Barrow of the Forgotten King (2nd level characters), The Sinister Spire (5th level characters), and Fortress of the Yuan-Ti (7th level characters). They have mostly completed the starter module Lost Mine of Phandelver (1st-5th characters), and have made excellent inroads into the first installment of the Age of Worms adventure path, The Whispering Cairn (1st-3rd level characters).

This has the brought the core of the group into solidly 7th to 8th level, though there are also a smattering of lower level characters. We’re still liking 5e (clearly) though we switched to non-XP advancement awhile back and transitioned to achievement/story based leveling. It actually seems like a better fit for the system. I’m still underwhelmed with the 5e sensibilities when it comes to magic item placement – so I’m happily ignoring it. The party is also clearly coming into their own, power-wise – preventing the Reborn King showed just how powerful they were. They also, in this latest scrape with the other group of adventurers in Wave Echo Cave, learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of a couple of powerful spell-casters backed by a powerful warrior.



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5E Adventures So Far…

So, given the announcement of the coming Out of the Abyss adventure from the Rage of Demons storyline I thought it was time to look back at the first handful of adventures for 5E. To be clear, I have only played one of the adventures at this point – Lost Mine of Phandelver, and that is where I’m going to start, looking at them in order of release.

Lost Mine of Phandelver was great, to my old 1E senses it actually felt pretty much like a old module. I loved the box set, I love the semi-sandbox feel to the mini-campaign, and all of my players have enjoyed it as well also. Given how the adventure has run we may actually skip the final dungeon and move onto the next adventure instead. Overall I think it was well balanced, and my biggest complaint is not with the module but with two pieces of 5E design philosophy, namely low magic/treasure and creature blocks for characters and NPCs instead of character class stats. Neither of these ruins the module for me as the first is easy enough to fix and the second isn’t that hard to correct ether for these level characters. Four Very Solid Dragons.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is, well, a mess. As many other have pointed out the very first encounter is almost a triumph of poor design. The rest of the module is a similarly poorly design quagmire of assumptions about what groups know about the Forgotten Realms – and DM’s with a “beginners knowledge” would be at a real disadvantage trying to run this adventure. Even DM’s who know a fair amount are stuck with having to reference old material, use wikipages, and just generally depend on far more than they should for a supposedly self-contained adventure. One Wannabe Dragon.

The Rise of Tiamat is better than it’s predecessor, but not by much. The flaws of the previous adventure actually revealed a methodology for handling a “hidden pillar’ of the 5E gaming experience – Factions. The thing I liked about this adventure was the treatment and tracking of various Faction goals and strength. The problem with the adventure is that ultimately it is bland and unexciting and reads like “roll-playing” rather than role-playing. Sad really, because it is clearly the exact opposite of what WOTC was attempting. Two Sad Dragons.

Ultimately I can’t see running either of these adventures, not do I even see stealing much in the way of ideas. I’ve handed these out on permanent loan to a friend of mine merely in return for a PDF of the pages that have the magic items (unfortunately rather lackluster) and Tiamat’s stats – and I’m really not that impressed.

Princes of the Apocalypse was much better than the previous pair of adventures. I really like how WOTC handled the “Players Guide” supplement, and unlike Queen/Tiamat I didn’t feel like I was hosed for money. The set-up of discrete adventure areas reminded me of older modules, rather than the “hardcover campaign.”  While I can’t exactly see running this adventure series, I can see liberally stealing bits and bobs for ideas – I loved the concept art for the elemental temples and immediately incorporated them as iconic concepts for the Kirks of the En Khoda Theos Kirk. The magical items were also interesting, and the stats for the Elemental Princes of Evil were lower powered than I expected, but fun to read and worthwhile. Ultimately I found the NPC’s and monsters much more interesting and worthwhile in Princes – certainly as compared to the other Rise/Queen. I give this a Four Worthy Dragons and a Noble Pseudodragon for the Player’s Handout.

Ultimately I’d really love a return of the old module-style adventures, far more limited in scope but easy to use as drop-in adventures in a larger, DM-generated campaign. Failing that I’d rather see boxed sets with good map sets than hardcovers – and failing that the folios from 4E seem to be ok. I picked one or two up at a used bookstore for dirt cheap and was not unpleased.

Personally I think this could be done in a eZine, PDF format pretty easily and with good quality – basically a return of Dungeon. We’ll see how the Dragon app works and hope for the best.


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Session #12 – From Phandalin to Kingsholm

So we played yesterday, and while we didn’t have any combat there were a decent of developments and things moved along pretty well. Also, the day saw Jarvic, Dhagri, and Rhys all go up a level from accumulated experience.

The party made their way back to Phandalin to return Gundren’s body to Sildar Hallwinter, even sans head there is the small chance he could be Resurrected and at the very least his body could be returned to his clan if his brothers don’t return to claim it. They also hoped to be able to dispose of the collection of loot that they had accumulated and was at this point starting to significantly weigh them down.

On the way back they ran into a patrol of Duke Blackadder’s soldiers led by a Lieutenant who seemed quite familiar with the Tresendar family and lands, who had a quite a time trying to figure out what to do with the group. The one mounted knightly-looking fellow was a henchman of the walking elf sorceress, the younger brother of the local Baron was walking around dressed like a commoner, and there was also a dwarf, two gnomes (one of whom was at least a member of the Cartel in good standing), and even a half-goblin that the Tresendar was willing to vouch for! Eventually the patrol just decided to move on and report the presence of the rather large  adventuring company or mercenary band or whatever it is to higher authorities.

Upon returning to Phandalin, they met with Sildar (and Garaele Half-Elven, the local Druidess), filling them in on what had happened since they were last in Phandalin – omitting the encounter with the Maiden of Storms and the prophecy of the oncoming Age of Worms. Meeting with Linene Graywind of the Lionshields Merchant House and Halia Thornton of the Miner’s Exchange they were more than able to exchange their loot for script.

Except for Dhagri Khazann, who doesn’t trust “paper money” and loaded up with gold instead.

After some discussion, the party decided that they needed to go to Kingsholm, the nearest actual city (which many of them had actually come originally). It’s actually a pretty small city, the seat of Duke Blackadder, himself a rather minor Duke, but it’s closest thing to actual “real civilization” within a month’s travel. As a relative whole, the party realized that they need to get their guild memberships in order, probably get some sort of charter for an adventuring company. The encounter with the Duke’s patrol convinced them that their days of running “under the radar” were done – and especially since they were likely to get lots of attention from the “Powers That Be” when they get to Kingsholm and reveal the prophecy.

They spent a day in Phandalin, then started on the road to Kingsholm, where they were introduced to a whole new level of “Powers That Be” – because they had the distinction of being the first players to meet the Necromancer in something like fifteen years. He’s actually a former player character from the Padawan Campaign who went bad in the search for power and has been lurking around behind the scenes as an NPC ever since.

His arrival announced itself with the death of the small creatures and the silence of the grave and his presence brought with cold and mist that surrounded the whole campsite. A tall man, dressed in the blackest black, with ivory-pale skin, and bearing the wand and kris of a wizard. He came, knowing of the Maiden of Storms, and inquired as to Her prophecy, also seeming to know who had been present for Her warning of the Age of Worms. Seized for a moment Jarvi was suffused with a radiant light, lifted by the winds, and the Maiden of Storms repeated Her warning to the Necromancer. There was more, the Necromancer plucked the troubling memories of the writing from Jarvic’s mind, warning him that there were “thing man was not meant to know, that can be a very a cancer upon both the mind and soul.” He also warned the group that they were now part of the larger world, that would be attracting the attention of powerful forces –  “if they hadn’t already done so” he said with a smile both wry and grim.

The Necromancer also managed to spark a memory for Gwyneth when he mentioned the Wormgod, of her fighting a gaunt human with blazing red eyes with  sockets full of writhing green worms and skeletal, clawed hands of bare bone. He suggested that it was time for her to return home, where more of her memories might return. Lastly, Rhys asked how they might contact the Necromancer again if they needed to (after no one else asked the question) – after which the Necromancer drew him close and whispered something in his ear – Words of Power that shook Rhys to his core, revealing his mortality both to himself and everyone watching.

And then the Necromancer left.

The remainder of the trip to Kingsholm  was uneventful.



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Session #11 – Cragmaw Castle (Part 2)

Disagreements about experience points aside, everyone continues to enjoy 5E greatly. This session was proof of that again – everyone did their thing, and the bad guys all fell down. I think everyone felt pretty effective, and most everyone was able to use class features and weapons alike.

So, strangely enough, “nothing much” happened this session – by which I mean that the party survived the assault by the remainder of the goblins. Despite some relatively clever maneuvering by the goblins who took advantage of the layout of the western half of the ruins, the ultimately superior firepower (in the persons of Gwyneth, Ilda, and Jarvic) and just general superior prowess in combat (everyone else) was more than enough to prevail.

The group was essentially split, inside and just outside of the kitchens, Rhys being caught in a ceiling trap this session rather than falling into a pit trap – while Gwyneth finally started to unleash “the big guns” by way of a Lightning Bolt – when some archers tried to pin down the party – and discovered how much of a mistake that was. The party had a very bad moment when the goblin shaman attacked them (Inflict Wounds is pretty nasty!), but it was essentially at the end of the fight and the party quickly marshalled themselves and killed them in short order (along with the beast that inhabited the goblin shrine).

Taking some time to recover, the group decided to rest for a short period, while the rogues investigated rest of the keep – discovering the recently decapitated body of a badly beaten dwarf* in what was obviously the goblin chief’s quarters. While the party is unsure, it appears to be the body of their former employer, Gundren Rockseer – they decided to preserve the body and return it to Sildar to do with as he wished.

In fact, after a short discussion, that was the decision of the party – to return to Phandalin and then, assuming that Sildar was in agreement, find Wave Echo Cave with the help of the druid Reidoth. The revelations of the coming “Age or Worms” suggest that the group needs to resolve this local matter quickly so that they can attend to whatever that coming threat is.

Plus, at the very least, Gwyneth has decided that she absolutely has to return home in order to get some decent new clothes…





*Yes, for my players, this is a change from merely having his throat slit. After spending some time reviewing the Players Handbook this was actually the most logical method of killing the dwarf (under the circumstances) in such a way as to make reviving him as difficult as possible.

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Session #10 – Cragmaw Castle (Part 1)

We finally picked up the game again after having to skip a session due to multiple and various illnesses – and the campaign really saw some interesting developments. Unlike the previous session, which saw the party encounter some wandering Hill Trolls (and doing an amazing job of killing them), the continued trip to Cragmaw Castle (now revealed after some reflection by the various party members to be the Citadel of Seven Towers, an ancient ruin dating back to the White Empire) saw little in the way of events – save one.

While on watch one night, Gwyneth (and her alone) found herself “caught outside of time” and facing a knight clad in somewhat antique, ornate grey armor. The knight challenged, she accepted, and the two faced off – fighting dearly for a handful of exchanges until Gwyneth, close to death, managed to strike the final blow only to have the knight disappear into mist – and leaving her with the Blessing of the Cold Flame.

The next morning there was some discussion of this event as Gwyneth revealed what had occurred, but given that nothing much could be done or investigated, the party pressed on to Cragmaw Castle – carefully following the gnomes, Fonkin and Wren, along with Rhys as they scouted along ahead, looking for ambushes. Finding none, the party eventually came upon the lair of the Cragmaw goblins…

And, with the keen-eyed gnomes and half-elf scouting, promptly found a hidden entrance though the north side of the ruins. Working carefully, the party entered and slowly scouted out the center section of the lair – until Rhys “discovered” another pit while Fonkin and Wren avoided the collapsing floor. The sound of crashing rock (and swearing Rhys) alerted nearby goblins who quickly attacked the party from a variety of directions.

Fundamentally the party made short work of the goblins, with a minimum of wounds taken in return. After a short pause when there were no more goblin attacks, Gwyneth, Jarvic, Ilda, and Fonkin took a rope down to investigate the oubliette that Rhys had found himself in. It was an unexpected and eerie chamber – circular with layers of writing on the walls and the huddled scrap of rags that remained of the former occupant.

Obscuring a deeper level was a grate in the center of the floor made of woven bands of cold iron, silver, and orikalkium – all inscribed with runes that the meaning of which could not be determined in the time that was spent there. Floating in midair at the cardinal points, connected to the floor in a similar manner, were four great crystals filled with Wind, Flame, Sea, and Stone and as the party attempted to understand what they had found there was a great blast of radiance and silent thunderous winds as a cloaked and shrouded female figure manifested, floating above the grate.

The party stood revealed, in the radiance that shone forth from the figure – Jarvic with the sigils and aspect of his status as a Dorje of the Great Dragon of the Air, Gwyneth with sorcerous runes and a nimbus of grey flame, Fonkin overshadowed by his Archfey Patron, the Prince of Fools, and Rhys with eldritch runes and a nimbus of grey flame that was striking similar to Gwyneths – of the group it was only Ilda who betrayed no higher allegiance, merely the runics notes of a bard floating about her.

Speaking to Jarvic, the entity (most likely the “Maiden of Storms” – a known servant and ally of the Great Dragon of the Air as well as a member of the Celestial Court) warned him directly of a coming “Age of Worms” and instructed him to seek the “Whispering Cairn” in order to stave off this threat. Disappearing, the Maiden of Storms left the group, reeling in her absence, trying to decide what to do.

And that’s where we left it – with the party having just returned to the room above and all coming together.



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Session #9 – Travelling to Cragmaw Castle

So this session saw the addition of a couple we’ve known for a few years now as players. DGP created Jarvic, a human Dorje (cleric) of the En Khoda Theos Kirk, serving Great Dragon of the Air. He was fine in understanding that once Princes of the Apocalypse came out I might tweak the nature of the “Air Domain” I was creating on the fly here for him, but overall seemed pretty happy with his character and how it turned out (even if the stats were mostly very average). KS created Dagri, a Khazan (Half-Goblin) Barbarian after rolling two 18’s in her stats – ending up with a Strength of 20 and a Constitution of 19 for her 1st level character!

As an aside, names for the henchmen were also determined – Wrenn Tosscobble for Fonkin’s cousin the rogue, and Aneirin for the High Elf paladin that was now determined to protect and take care of Gwyneth.

So the party gathered themselves together to get ready to ravel to Cragmaw Castle and rescue their former employer Gundren Rockseer, discussed various rumors that they had come across while in Diamond Lake – the most troubling of which was that the mayor might very well be planning on attacking and wiping out a nearby “Twilight Monastery” with the help of his brother (a local mage), the sheriff, and some hired mercenaries. Devin was greatly troubled with this possibility and only agreed to leave without investigating further when the party agreed to return, post-rescue, and find out what was going on. He also sent a letter off via Navigator to his brother, informing of his fears and suspicions.

With that, the party set off, now nine-strong, travelling back across the hills, to assault Cragmaw Castle and rescue Gundren!

The first two days of travel went by without any trouble. But as they were relaxing at the end of the second day after dinner a group of four hill trolls stumbled across them and decided to attack. Now, neither side achieved surprise, and it was, for all intents, a stand up battle. Now, in my 1e game, hill trolls are somewhat nasty pieces of work – basically an Hill Giants with some bonuses. So, I treated these hill trolls the same – Hill Giants with the same bonuses. In three rounds they were all dead (the last being slain in a flurry of opportunity attacks when trying to flee) after some admittedly excellent rolls by the party. I can’t say that they trolls even rolled that badly, but the party was able to layer them with Disadvantage, plus give themselves Advantage, and over all the trolls only hit twice, and never even managed to drop anyone – even the 1st level characters.

It was really pretty amazing – Dagri critted one of the trolls at a crucial moment and killed it, and then also struck the killing blow on the last one as it fled. Rhys killed one that the melee fighters had been pounding on, while Gwyneth blasted one and slew it. I’m actually going to have to rethink trolls a bit in 5e I think, they are not nearly as scary as they should have been. They did have a nice flavor of having to be beaten upon greatly and I liked that, but they still went down a bit too easily for a group of this level. I also have to say that the party synergized roles and abilities very well, that is clearly what their success was due to, not “wimpy trolls”. I just have to rebalance them for a new edition and new mechanics.

Now, all that said, I still gave the group XP for five CR5 creatures – and this came out to 900 XP for everyone (half that for the henchmen). Jarvic and Dagri jumped to 3rd level in one fight, the henchmen both made it to 2nd level, and Gwyneth, Ilda, and Devin each made it to 4th level!

Dagri continued with amazing rolls, and rolled up maximum HP for both levels!

Everyone had fun, the new players enjoyed themselves immensely, and we’re all looking forward to the next game session – though MS (Devin) and MR (Fonkin & Wren) are going to miss. MS flies back in from Minsk the day before and will be dead-on-arrival, while MR has a prior engagement he can’t get out of.



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Session #8 – Detour to Diamond Lake

So yesterday was the 8th session of the 5e D&D game – and it’s now starting to branch out into the “larger world” outside of Phandalin. After the small amount of recovery they needed from attack of the forest drake Venomfang outside of the ruins of Thundertree, the party decided that they needed to resupply and perhaps hire some mercenaries for the assault on Cragmaw Castle. Short of returning to the City this means that the nearby town of Diamond Lake was the optimal spot for this sort of thing.

So off the party went, taking the old royal road (now long without repair or upkeep since the fall of Thundertree) to Diamond Lake – a large mining town four days travel east that was profiting quite handily from the Tresendar’s mismanagement of their affairs. The travel was marked by the party stumbling over the lair of a Owlbear, which they dispatched after a short but particularly bloody battle that nearly saw the end of Fonkin until Devin dispatched the beast with a rapier thrust to the eye. The party was also attacked late one night by a small group of hobgoblins, nearly seeing the end of Gwyneth and Rhys both at the ends of their spears.

After a harder journey than they expected, the party arrived in Diamond Lake – a “hive of scum and villainy” if there was ever was one. After some discussion, the party ended up staying a week, while they recovered and decided what to do. While Devin continues to be focused on cleaning his families lands of bandits and goblins, the state of Thundertree with it’s undead and corrupted plants was quite a shock. Reluctantly he agreed to put off the attempt to cleanse the ruins.

After discussing the pricing, duties, and expectations of mercenaries there was the decision not to hire any as they likely couldn’t afford the sorts of mercenaries that they really wanted. Gwyneth and Fonkin both decided to look for henchmen rather than the party looking to hire mercenaries – or rather, as that was the metagame, they created secondary characters to use as henchmen and instead their characters were sought out for a couple of excellent reasons. Gwyneth was found, by an as yet unnamed High Elf Paladin, and Fonkin stumbled across a down-on-their luck and similarly unnamed cousin with skills as a Rogue. The two of them, as well as Ilda, stayed at the remarkably comfortable and agreeable Coachman’s Inn – Ilda arranging (as usual) to provide entertainment in exchange for a break on her stay (and keeping an ear to the ground for rumors and information).

Devin made a point of calling upon and staying with the Mayor, Lanod Neff, for the week and discovered just how venal and corrupt the man was and the true price of his family’s choices. Meanwhile Rhys was utterly unable to resist staying at the Emporium for the full week – and yet somehow managing to make as much money gambling as he spent on wine, women, and song. Between the two of them they were able to see the best and worst of Diamond Lake, which were found in the same place more often than not.

Lastly, Fonkin and Rhys both made enough experience from the session to barely push themselves over the edge to 4th level. While this “merely” granted Fonkin a stat advancement, it was meant that Rhys had finally reached 3rd level as fighter and took the Eldritch Knight archtype.

That’s all for now!


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Session #7 – The Ruins of Thundertree -SPOILERS

After their day and night of rest (which saw no additional encounters) the party continued down the old road to the ruins of Thundertree. The next two days of travel went almost completely without incident – but the incident that did occur was troubling to the party…

On the last day of travel, Devin (of all people!) was able to catch a glimpse of some figures watching them from afar. As the party milled about trying to decide what to do, and then sending Clint (Fonkin’s “assistant”) to scout over in that direction, they were flanked and then ambush from both sides by a small group of six Khazan (Half-Goblin) Redcaps.

A bit of explanation (again – maybe I should just write Goblins up and link?). In my game world I generally have “just” Goblins when it comes to that type of humanoid race. That said, I have Goblin Boggarts (small, immature Goblins – based on Goblins), Hobgoblins (larger, more mature and experienced Goblins – based on Orcs), Black Goblins (very large, sterile mules used as shock troops – some of which survive long enough to be consider Hobgoblins as well – based on Bugbears), and then there are the Redcaps (based on roughly Hobgoblins) who are the elite hunters and warriors.

Yes, ok, there are a some other humanoid races as well – but not in the same way that the plethora of evil humanoids dominates the canon D&D landscape.

In any case, the initial ambush went very well for the Redcaps – they hit everyone with arrows, dropping the Gwyneth (with two arrows in her). Unfortunately for them the party rallied quite quickly – Fonkin Slept the entire group on one side, and Ilda used Shatter on the other, and they were quickly dealt with by Rhys charging in with throwing daggers and shortswords. The use of a Healing Word by Ilda on Gwyneth quickly revived her, and searching the bodies revealed a “bounty” for Gwyneth marked by the drawing of a black spider. They also discovered that Redcaps have a fair amount of money on them, and even some magic (for all the good that it did them) – a Ring of Mind Shielding, a Ring of Jumping, and a D’lanni Stone of Misty Step. But the presence of a group of Khazan Redcaps, plus the bounty for Gwyneth, left the group with a number of misgivings. After a short rest, discussion, and use of their Healing Kits, the party then continued on to Thundertree looking for the druid that was supposed to help them find either Cragmaw Castle, Wave Echo Cave, or both.

Finally arriving in Thundertree as the shadows grew long, the party was first put off a bit by the sign warning of “plant monsters AND zombies” but decided to hole up in the high ground with the ruined tower and attached cottage….

…but barely made it into town, before the complete silence and lack of animal sounds freaked them out so badly that they decided to camp outside of town instead. Retreating they set up camp, decided on watches, and settled in for the night.

Only to have, a couple of hours into the first watch, two zombies wander into the camp and attack Devin (who was on watch with Clint). While the party roused relatively quickly after Devin yelled for everyone that they were under attack by zombies, the zombies proved relatively hard to put down – requiring a critical hit in one case, and a blown save in the other.

I have to say that I was quite happy with the new “Undead Fortitude” feature, very cool flavor that captures zombies pretty well.

As the party huddled up afterwards, making sure everyone was ok, and taking care of the bit of healing that was needed again, they were interrupted by a deeply sibilant  voice from the darkness inquiring as to their business in “my lands” (Devin thought, and then thought better of challenging that assertion), and if they were there to “pay tribute like the others” – quickly scanning the darkness reveals a large serpentine form, sixty or so feet from the camp.

Note: Forest Drakes in my game world can’t fly.

Ilda that Bard quickly engaged the creature in a dialogue (who was hoping to get the party to “deal with” the druid in some way, or at very least get close enough to use it’s breath weapon), looking for the opportunity to make a deal for their lives (and possibly the opportunity to return later for revenge) – all of which was cut short when Gwyneth unleashed the Fireball from her recently acquired D’Lanni Stone, having decided that she was wasn’t handing over all of her possessions to a Forest Drake, and the terms being discussed were untenable in any case and not likely to get better. Venomfang, the drake, failed it’s save and took the full brunt of an excellent damage roll – and then combat was engaged.

Evidently, the Fireball had shaken the drake badly. It rolled a horrible initiative (going last), and also missed Rhys who dived into the shadows and successfully stealthed into position for throwing daggers. Hitting with both (which also meant Backstab damage), the drake was stung badly, and while missed by the crossbow bolt from Devin, and unaffected by the Sleep spell from Fonkin, was further hurt by Scorching Bolts from Gwyneth, Clint shooting with his tiny longbow, and a Shatter spell from Ilda. It charged into the party, intending to make one pass as it ran away due to it’s wounds.

Unfortunately, it missed Devin, and while it hit Fonkin with a claw, it’s bite at Gwyneth was neatly turned aside by a Shield spell. The second round started with the party unloading on it again to the best of their abilities, striking true for the most part and bringing it nigh unto death, and with Ilda succeeding with a Dissonant Whispers that caused it to immediately flee in fear (which was lucky because it was certain to use it’s breath weapon on it’s next attack) – and then Gwyneth slew it with a barrage of pushed Magic Missiles.

There you go, toughest monster in the module, slain in two rounds (plus an initiating attack) by five third level adventurers who used nothing that wasn’t part of the module.

In any case, the druid they were looking for, Reidoth, showed up rather quickly – drawn by the sound and fury of the battle as Venomfang had been drawn by the noise of the battle with the zombies. Helping them that night, and then helping them recover the drake’s hoard – Reidoth agreed to both tell them how to find Cragmaw Castle as well as guide them to Wave Echo Cave when the time came.

And that is where we called it!

Some more observations:

  • As with everything else, I am sure to tweak undead (especially the lesser undead) at least a little bit. But I really like the flavor that Undead Fortitude gives them. It’s a very pleasant “OMG it won’t go down!” flavor that had the players had.
  • I suppose that it is not fair, but OMG – why, why, why are canon D&D dragons always so underpowered?
  • Bards rock! I may think of my 1E  bards fondly, but these bards kick some serious ass.
  • What is going to happen when the party (especially Gwyneth the Sorceress) hit’s 5th level? Third level spells are pretty spectacular when it comes to damage production.
  • Ho-hum, another underwhelming treasure hoard. BORING!
  • While I’ve started tracking Renown, I’m not quite sure what to do about organizations. I’ll figure something out, but it is about time to start handing out those “entry level positions” – sounds like the political game starts early in 5E.
  • Also giving Sanity and Honor a whirl – no use for Sanity yet, but the scores for Honor (equal to Charisma) we all agree are off. Have to figure something out.



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About those Points of Darkness

So, three years ago I wrote about Points of Light and Points of Darkness as campaign styles. In running Lost Mine of Phandelver I’ve realized just how present I find the issue in the Starter Set as written (and, by assumption, within the 5E Forgotten Realms setting).

Many people have made the observation of how LMoP is set up like a Western – frontier mining town, bullying bandits, lost treasure mines, hostile natives, people to rescue from said hostile natives, etc. But there are problems in translating a “wild west” setting to both a somewhat generic fantasy Europe as well as the Forgotten Realms.

For one, just as simple size comparison, think about “Ye Merry Old England” and the time and trouble it took to travel around, as well as the concept of distance in that setting. Now understand that England is about the size of Illinois. On a standard hexmap sheet with each hex set at 30 miles (ala the old Greyhawk scale), it covers less than a quarter of a page.

The issues of scale between Europe and the societies that developed there and America simply cannot be understated. To this day I have had friends come visit from Europe who simply don’t get the sheer size and scope of the United States/North America until they get here. They fly into NYC and then talk about catching a train out to Chicago while they are in the States to have dinner (like you reasonably could, and do, in Great Britain)  and having to explain to them that that would be like taking the train to Berlin for dinner (from London). That the driving distance from New York to Chicago is roughly the longest distance between two points in the whole of the United Kingdom…

But I digress.

In LMOP I am supposed to believe that Thundertree is a day’s journey from Neverwinter (vying with Waterdeep for the status of the “New York” of the Forgotten Realms), maybe two if we want to be a stickler on terrain difficulty, and is still in the shape that it is. Similarly, that Phandalin, clearly three days from Neverwinter but is a hardscabble frontier town, and that this wonderful Forge of Spells was utterly and completely lost after the goblins trashed the countryside.

This makes no sense.

Just to support the population of Neverwinter (be it 20,000 or 5,000 inhabitants) the whole area would have to be cultivated – certainly based on the setting map provided. It’s the only non-forested areas around. A decent rule of thumb for modern agriculture in the United States is to assume 1 acre of land can feed one person for a year. There are 640 acres per square mile, so figure… lets say 8 square miles if it’s 5000 people in Neverwinter or 32 square miles of solid crops if it is 20,000 inhabitants.

Except of course that this doesn’t cover the food needed for all the people growing the food itself (same, 1 acre per person), nor does it cover space needed for grazing livestock (a very complicated question but, again, modern systems could safely call it 4 acres per cow, or 6ish sheep), nor does it cover the amount of land needed for proper crop rotation (either double it or increase it by a third), or…

About now is where I plug Pendragon for having the absolutely best domain level game out there in my opinion. Detailed where it is fun, abstracted where you need it to be. In that system (which is essentially supported in spirit if not the exact numbers by all my other research on this over the years) every town (or city) will have three, yes three, people living in small villages and hamlets around it for every one person living in that town (and manor). It’s also worth noting that a “small town” is between 120-360 people in size. A large town taps out at 1440 people, after which you are talking about small cities (which are no larger than 2400 people at most) and in a days travel you’d probably pass through a handful of these towns, plus their associated villages – and all of the knights and men-at-arms protecting them!

For another take on this, with equally as “that’s not what the Forgotten Realms looks like” numbers there is Medieval Demographics Made Easy by S. John Ross as well (and free!). In either case, there are still large amounts of “wasted space” simply because, well, that is what population density looked like.

The problem with making this a “Points of Light” setting is that the “wasted land” is “wasted” for a reason – it simply won’t support more people (that means goblins too!). Yes, it dangerous because of wolves and bears (and some level of fantasy analogues), even the odd bandit gang (or humanoid band) – but it’s mostly dangerous because of the lack of food, medical care if injured, and foul weather. Not to mention the risk of simply getting lost -it’s not romantic, or particularly heroic, but it has a fair sight  more verisimilitude.

I am kind of lost in my rant. I guess that I’m saying that if you want “Points of Light” then you really have to question your base assumptions on how urban populations are supported. Similarly, the “Sea of Darkness” isn’t there because of hordes of monsters it’s because it pretty much won’t support a population. Alternately, if it can for some reason support all those monsters, then civilization needs to be capable of protecting itself (certainly not the case in Phandalin).

Oh well, it’s late and I should get to bed.



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Session #6 – On the Road to Thundertree

So, we picked up the party at Phandalin as they “relaxed” in town for a couple of days, waiting for Gundren Rockseer’s brothers to arrive back in town. While waiting they also debated what the party also debated what to do next – as well as divvyed up treasure. After some discussion, the party decided to, as fairly as possible, simply allocate the treasure to the party member who would do best with it. So Gwyneth got the Glasstaff and the D’lanni Stone of Fireball, Fonkin the D’lanni Stone of Charm Person, Rhys the +1 Longsword “Talon”, Devin the Monstrance of the Perehelion (1xL2) and a Potion of Healing, and Ilda received the other Potion of Healing.

The party had settled for the most part on hunting out the goblins near Wyvern Tor under the assumption that they would know where Cragmaw Castle was, in order to rescue Gundren Rockseer. Devin was quite perplexed because he wasn’t aware of any “Cragmaw Castle” on his family’s lands and was quite concerned about what this might portend. The group also began to understand why Devin’s brother had sent him off to “wrangle” the family’s country lands – he is earnest, noble, and  equally idealistic.

At the last moment though, the group decided to seek out a Druid in Thundertree who it had been mentioned to them as likely knowing where both Cragmaw Castle and Wave Echo Cave were. They were possibly aided in this by Mirna, the woman they had rescued from the Redbrands with her daughter, let them know that there was a hidden necklace in her family’s old shop that they were welcome to – if they could avoid the “ash zombies” that had destroyed the town.

The party quickly decided that “Ash zombies” was about as helpful as “Eye Monster” when it came to figuring out what the heck non-adventurers were talking about.

So after a short period making sure they were properly equipped, and deciding that they were tired of waiting for the two other Rockseer brothers, the party headed north, following the old road to Thundertree.

About half-way though the first day of travel (it is planned three days to get to the ruins of  Thundertree) the party encountered an Ogre – who was lucky enough to see Fonkin and exclaimed “I luvs me some Gnome pudding!” and added “With crunchies!” after Fonkin tried to Charm him with his pearly whites. Unluckily for the Ogre, this party very quickly outmatched it and it never even managed a hit on any of the characters. I made the on-the-spot decision that an Ogre carried most of it’s DMG style treasure hoard on it’s person (no great bunches of coins, just magic and gems) and the party ended up with a pile of fine amber nuggets, a Truesteel Rapier, a Armlet of the Adder (aka Staff of the Adder), and a +1 Rod of the Pact Keeper. Devin ended up with the Rapier, and Fonkin with the Rod and Armlet.

They travelled the rest of the day before setting up camp at an old merchant waysite, and then tucked it in for the night  – realizing that they might need to get more members of the party who didn’t need a long rest to “be at full” (aka Fighters and Rogues). As a result, first watch was Gwyneth and Devin, while second watch was Rhys (and Lockheed) and Clint of the East Woods, Fonkin’s “associate” (aka familiar).

The party was woken a couple of hours before dawn by the sight and sound of Rhys being mobbed by five charnel-smelling , snarling, yipping, and baying,dog-faced humanoids. Against all odds, the party managed to slay all five ghouls without anyone dying. Fonkin used his Fae Presence to inspire Fear in the ghouls, and while Lockheed and Devin were both Paralyzed by the ghoul’s claws, both survived the attack without dropping to zero HP. Taking a series of deep breaths, they burned the bodies, and did their best to rest up and keep alert until dawn.

The next morning the party tracked the ghouls back to the  to the barrow that they had come from. This sparked a pretty lively discussion around the propriety of grave-robbing after they entered and found some significant treasure and grave goods. Ilda (the dwarf) was horrified/disgusted by the concept, Devin was just generally uncomfortable with the notion, while Fonkin was fine with the idea – and Gwyneth was just plain confused as to what made this different from looting bodies?

Rhys was the one who finally made the most compelling argument – that I while it was certainly just for the party to be rewarded for slaying the ghouls by taking the magic items and small objects d’art found within, they would be wise to avoid “dragon sickness” and scatter the coins that had lain under such a shadow of evil above ground for the sun to cleanse and allow any who passed to take what they desired. This would show the gods that the act wasn’t done out of greed for coin and plunder, but for the greater good.

While Ilda still refused any of the treasure, the party did allocate out the three magical items they found in the barrow. Devin received a Truesteel Chainmail Hauberk, Gwyneth a Circlet of Blasting, and Rhys a Periapt of Wound Closure. They have resolved that Ilda certainly deserves the next couple of magic items if she can use them. The party also decided to rest for an additional day before continuing.

And that is where we called it!

Some Notes-

  • What amazingly “bad” luck when it came to random encounters!
  • Who cares? The ogre was a pushover, and the ghouls were initially scary but a DC10 Con check is very underwhelming to avoid to Paralysis.
  • Random treasure generation was as good of luck as the wandering monsters should have been bad – which is fine, it will make up for the generally crummy treasure of the module as written.
  • Everyone remains very positive on 5E.
  • OMG! The spellcasters continue to prove their worth in combat. It really makes me question the “bounded accuracy” need for the reduced Dexterity AC bonus for Medium and Heavy Armor. I’ve dropped it for Devin, we’ll see how it goes.




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