Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!

My players were all very organized this week, and did the brunt of the level up work before we got together for our Sunday evening session. All we had to do was roll for Hit Points and go over any and all new abilities. Level three grants an advanced path for most Player Characters. It’s a cool difference in fifth edition that helps cut down on the insane amount of multi-classing that took place in previous editions. For example, a rogue can become an Arcane Trickster, letting them earn some magic spells without having to multiclass as a wizard or sorcerer.

Kalinaar became an Oath of Vengeance Paladin (continuing with the Judge Dredd concept), Miri learned the Path of the Elements to gain some powerful new attacks, and Kethra took the aforementioned Arcane Trickster specialty to gain some magic versatility. Oh and Talus got access to level two spells.

This was an interesting session. For the first time since the PCs were ambushed by goblins, they’re given a choice of where to go and what to do. Technically they could’ve done this upon reaching Phandalin (thus skipping the Redbrand Hideout), but they correctly decided to help the town out of its primary problem before tackling on the myriad of quests they received from the townsfolk. I’m glad they did, as the Redbrand Hideout is definitively designed to be a balanced level two dungeon, while these other areas are definitely made for level three PCs.

Now when I play RPGs, I always like tackling side quests first, saving the main story for last. Of course in video games you’re rarely under any kind of real time constraint. Here in a tabletop format, it’s ultimately up to me. The PCs are very aware that their employer – Gundren Rockseeker – has been captured, and the more time that passes, the more likely they won’t recover him alive.

They decided they needed to follow the the trail of how to recover him – find Cragmaw Castle, the hidden base the goblin tribe operates out of. Their only lead is a druid named Reidoth who lives in the ruined town of Thundertree. Off we went!

d&dI went over overland travel at this point. Though we’re on our seventh session, we’re only just now really traveling on a map for more than a day. PCs on a normal pace can travel six hexes (25 miles) per day. I roll once for a possible random encounter during the day, and again at night. I also provide a helpful map of the region along with a little token to represent the party as they travel.

At night I use a few house rules to give the PCs some options. Up to one PC can forage, and with a successful WIS (Survival) check, can negate the ration expenditure that a Long Rest can incur (DC depends on region, forest is relatively easy).

Up to two guards can also be designated during the Long Rest, and I roll to first determine which shift a possible encounter could take place. Everyone still gets the benefit of the Long Rest no matter what, which may end up being a bit broken since the PCs can fire off many of their abilities with impunity knowing they’ll recover afterward. Such is the awkwardness of random encounters in D&D.

In this session it took two days of travel to reach Thundertree to the North. Since they just reached the hex before the town during their second day of travel, I gave them the option of entering the ruins at night, or camping outside and going in during the day. They opted to camp, which meant another chance for an encounter. This time I rolled one! This is kind of exciting as a DM as this is all on the fly. Thankfully I had a campfire map prepared for just an occasion. I make a hidden d12 roll to determine what kind of creature or creatures wander into their camp, then roll to see how many.

campfire wolf encounterUnfortunately I rolled a boring pack of wolves, and rolled the least amount possible (3 out of a possible 6). It was a small, depserate pack looking for some easy food around the lifeless area that surrounds Thundertree. Kethra was keeping watch at the time, which allowed her to warn the others, though the wolves’ stealth check won out. All three rushed her, but she wisely cast her newly acquired Shield spell to buff her AC, keeping them all at bay.

It’s become tradition that I roll abysmally for Initiative, so after the initial surprise round everyone woke up and snapped to action (Kalinaar was without his heavy armor, but it didn’t matter in the end). The wolves were quickly dealt with after everyone fired Magic Missiles and Water Whips, knowing they were about to receive a Long Rest. I suppose the worst thing a random encounter can do is chip away at Hit Die (which recover slower) and drop someone to zero to force a possible Lasting Injury (which I use from the Dungeon Master’s Guide).

I had the PCs approach Thundertree from the Southwest, which had Reidoth’s little hideout to the left and a ruined farmhouse on the right. The PCs were cautious. We were all brand new to the Dynamic Lighting system in Roll20. After nearly 400 hours logged I finally became a subscriber – big thanks to my players for chipping in!

Kethra and Talus listened at the door to the druid’s, where the druid gave off the eerie sounds of shuffling and muttering. Kalinaar explored the farmhouse, which quickly woke up the startled Twig Blights. They immediately surrounded him, while others escaped to the South.

Thundertree Twig Blights

Twig Blights have very little HP and a weak attack, but they often come in large groups, affording me lots of attack rolls. This was a group of eight, which quickly turned into none because I rolled a freaking one for Initiative (two with their Dex bonus). Argh! After their initial surprise round, in which one barely scratched Kalinaar, the PCs quickly took care of business. Miri charged in to stab and punch, Talus unleashed a volley of Magic Missiles, and Kalinaar breathed fire all over the vulnerable plant creatures. Even Kethra got in as they tried to retreat to the South.

Line of sight became an interesting issue as Talus could only see two of them from outside the building, and had to have Kalinaar yell out how many there were in total. Dynamic Lighting is going to be a fun tool to play around with.

The noisy combat drew the druid out of his makeshift home, and he quickly warmed up to the adventurers. I played Reidoth like a helpful, friendly old man. He revealed that he does know where Cragmaw Castle is, but he wants the PCs to help with a task first: cleanse Thundertree of its evil.

To do so the PCs must destroy all the plants and zombies in the area within a single day while Reidoth prepares a special cleansing ritual. The PCs quickly agreed and received some nice buffs from their new druid ally, whom I armed with some helpful spells. We left off as the PCs continue Northward, slightly anxious after Reidoth warned them of the recent dragon inhabitant.

Watch our sessions live on my YouTube channel every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central. Subscribe and catch up on previous episodes!