Saturday, September 30, 2017

Returning to Phandalin

Image result for 5th edition D&DThis summer, after a careful look around our Friendly Local Games Stores, I knew that I wanted to offer a 5th edition D&D game in our after school club.  Despite my own preference for older editions, I figured that once my students head off to high school and college, some familiarity with 5e will make it easy for them to jump into any pickup games they encounter.  Also, should some of them be bitten by the bug and decide to teach themselves the full game, 5e can be purchased retail in five different local shops and bookstores.

Though I've run something like 70 sessions of 5e before, some aspects of the system just don't stick with me and I've constantly got to review some bits to stay on track: 

  • spells prepared vs spell slots
  • short rest vs long rest
  • reaction vs bonus action
  • 5e spell descriptions vs their 40-year-old analogs
  • some conditions (e.g. "poisoned")
Image result for lost mines of phandelverTo that end I ran my older kid through Lost Mines of Phandelver at home to help me brush up some.  Her quartet of adventurers made swift progress, hitting a few side quests but mainly focusing on locating the Forge of Spells, rescuing various NPCs, and thwarting the Black Spider.  

In fact, perhaps because she cut her teeth on B/X D&D, she was adept at avoiding unnecessary combat and focusing on recon, speed, and stealth to achieve her objectives.  She wasn't willing to risk a confrontation with the adventure's final guardian and so, after a brief but polite conversation, she withdrew, leaving the Forge unplundered.

As the school year kicked into gear, this gave me an idea: except for a bugbear boss, rogue wizard "Iarno the Glasstaff," and the Black Spider, all of the named villains made it through to the end of the adventure unscathed.  Instead of rewinding and starting Lost Mines over again, why not just pick up with my new group of players from where we left off?

I started session one with the group, a company of free swords hired by the Lords' Alliance and Sildar Hallwinter (the new townmaster of Phandalin), acting to support the two surviving Rockseeker brothers.  

Having at long last discovered its location, the pair of dwarves had all but beggared themselves in order to purchase a charter to reopen Phandelver Mine.  This meant that they had scarce resources left to hire laborers, provisions, and equipment.  

But wait!  

The Redbrand gang had left a considerable stock of supplies in their hideout when they were chased out of the ruins of Tressander Manor ... somebody just needed to trek up there and haul them out.  

And rumors that the manor was haunted?  Bah.  Probably just cooked up by the Redbrands to keep the townies away.

Image result for ghoul

Drop a furtive ghoul into the northern hallways (gnawing at the bones of slain brigands) and  and voila!  Instant memorable, creepy, first encounter.  
It became even more memorable when, once the ghoul had brought down the party's cleric and was dragging him off by the ankles, another emerged from the cistern behind them!

One PC fled, two went down, death checks were passed, and thanks to the presence of two rogues in the party (rogues seem to be the new fighters), both ghouls were vanquished.

Image result for nothicSession Two: after his arrest, rebel wizard Iarno Glasstaff had spilled the beans to avoid the gibbet.  Among the information he shared was the fact that he had built a lab under the old manor ... in fact, his books and papers were still there as far as he knew.  

Harid, the party's wizard, might profit by getting his hands on some of those books and notes.  Iarno had said something about a creature he called "mad eye," ... but that was probably just to keep profiteers from looting his lab.

The group tangled with the Nothic, and defeated it (just barely), making a third plunge under the manor's ruins to find Iarno's lab.  His old familiar (re-skinned as something much more along the lines of Brown Jenkin) made things interesting, but they got back out with a bit of swag.


Overall I'm feeling good about the plan to simply continue the storyline ... following some threads out and fleshing out others (e.g. orc raiders planning revenge for the defeat of their chief's son or necromancer finds something of interest in the ruins of Old Owl Well).

Because of the novice experience level of my players and the increased mechanical complexity of 5e, however, I'm finding that the pace of the game is much, much slower than what I had anticipated, however.  With 5-6 players at the table, I'm really only getting a couple of encounters in for each 90+ minute chunk of play.

Will that pace hold their interest for the longer term?

Will it hold mine?

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