D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 9 Recap

The party clears out the Eastern half of Thundertree, meets some cultists, and decides how to handle the resident dragon.

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

Thundertree part two!

As I anticipated this session was much like last week’s. The PCs explored the Eastern half of the ruined town, going building to building and fighting more twig blights and ash zombies. Dare I say it might have gotten a tad repetitive, and I should’ve found a way to spice up a few of the battles and scenarios.

This was a war of attrition, as the PCs couldn’t take a Long Rest during the druid’s cleansing ritual. They took their second Short Rest after a small zombie fight, then found themselves nearly overwhelmed by the half dozen zombies in the barracks to the North.

I also finally hit a string of good rolls with another twig blight ambush, scoring high rolls for surprise and initiative, as well as nailing most of my attacks during the first round. The Paladin was forced to drink a potion, and both he and the monk had to use their final hit dice during the Short Rest.

The overall combat felt very well balanced. Nobody died but two of them came close, and the party definitely needed to trudge back to Reidoth the druid in desperate need of a Long Rest. First, however, I had them meet with the cultists in the Southeast. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 9 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 8 Recap

The party cleaves a path through the Western half of Thundertree’s denizens of blights, zombies, and giant spiders.

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

Time for another session of pure hack and slashery! The dungeons included in “Lost Mine of Phandelver” are lengthy enough that they often take us two to three sessions to get through (our sessions are aprox. 2-3 hours). It was no different here as the party took out the entire Western half of Thundertree – four combat encounters.

We had yet to explore the concept of an outdoor dungeon, so Thundertree was a fun change of place. It’s a bit trickier from a DM point of view, however, as the PCs have more freedom of movement. I am also still new to using Dynamic Lighting in Roll20, being a recent subscriber. I ended up using a combination of Dynamic Lighting with buildings and trees along with Fog of War to hide areas in the distance until the party got closer.

It worked pretty well, and my players delighted at being able to suss out line of sight by themselves, as well as communicating to each other number of foes inside a building.

The party trekked North, following the Locate Plants spell cast by Reidoth. The druid had tasked them with cleansing Thundertree of its zombie and plant life in a single day while he cast a ritual. I managed an extraordinary stealth check on the half dozen Twig Blights hiding in some ruined cottages, despite Kalinaar rolling 20 (non-crit) for Perception. I got off lots of furious little swipes in my surprise round, then was quickly cut down by a barrage of blows from the PCs. By the time it was my turn again, I had only a single Blight left. Having hordes of little guys is a neat change of pace and has the sinister side effect of making my players a bit too cocky. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 8 Recap”

Review – Sword Coast Legends [Pixelkin]

Limited options and connectivity issues sour the online cooperative and DM experiences, despite a well-crafted single-player campaign.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

review

Despite Dungeons and Dragons‘ recent renaissance, we’ve yet to receive a proper, officially licensed D&D video game since Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2006. The ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s were replete with fantastic D&D-style role-playing games that helped define the genre in video games. So, developer N-Space had a lot to live up to with Sword Coast Legends. Though it had high potential, the current offering is a disappointing example of oversimplification.

Sword Coast Legends’ main selling point is the ability for one player to act as a live Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master runs randomized dungeon modules or a custom-created campaign for up to four players. It’s an intriguing concept. It’s frankly astonishing that we haven’t seen a D&D game attempt before.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 7 Recap

We reach 3rd level and travel North to the haunted ruins of Thundertree.

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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. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 7 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 6 Recap

We finally clear out the rest of the Redbrand Hideout in one epic battle involving a very bloody hallway.

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

Three weeks. It took three weeks to get through our second ever dungeon, the Redbrand Hideout. Averaging about 2.5 hours per week means this campaign will end up taking several months to get through, which is far, far longer than the relatively bite-sized Shadowrun modules we were running previously.

It’s still a ton of fun, but I do find myself needing to gently remind my players of important events, characters, and information they they’d been given weeks ago. I created a pseudo-journal system and quest log within Roll20 to help alleviate this issue, and now how I just say “check your quests!” whenever my players wonder what just happened or what they need to be doing.

Anyway, on to the session! This week began right after the PCs dealt with the terrifying Nothic that had made its home in the middle of the dungeon. The PCs had several paths available and must’ve been feeling pretty confident after slaying the Nothic. They decided to split up and explore, which is always a terrible, terrible idea. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 6 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 5 Recap

More than just Redbrands lurk in their hideout as the PCs battle a horrific subterranean terror.

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

 

It wasn’t until this week’s session that I realized a big part of role-playing that I had missed in Shadowrun – monsters.

I’ve always enjoyed dipping my toes into dramatic voice acting, and I feel like my skills and range have steadily improved over the last few years thanks to reading to my young daughter nearly every day. In Shadowrun most of the foes and NPCs were gangsters, mobsters, businessmen, hackers, etc. I had fun with some unique accents and speech patterns, but nothing too crazy.

Dungeons & Dragons, however, has actual monsters. Demons, fiends, aberrations, undead – lots of fun opportunities for creepy whispers and foul mutterings.

“Lost Mine of Phandelver” includes a rather unique creature called a Nothic – an insane, twisted former mage with clawed hands and a single eye. It feeds on flesh and communicates telepathically – a wonderful excuse to unnerve my players as it steels into their minds, searches for their secrets and their past while gibbering about rending, tearing, GNAWING, biting, feeeediiiing. It was a lot of fun, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 5 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 4 Recap

The heroes explore the rest of Phandalin, gather quests, and begin their excursion into the underground Redbrand base.

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

 

With this week’s session our heroes finished visiting the various important NPCs in Phandalin, then struck out to Tresendar Manor and cleared the first two rooms of Rebrands in the underground cellar.

Every RPG group is different. Some prefer nonstop combat and min-maxing their characters, squeezing every ounce of power out of the rules. Others are in it for the story, and enjoy role-playing their characters, exploring the world, and talking with NPCs. My group, like most, is somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more on the video game side of the experience. By that I mean they like solving problems, getting direction/quests from NPCs, and tackling dungeons, defeating monsters, and acquiring loot.

Knowing this I set up the town of Phandalin very much like a video game by pointing out all the notable NPCs that had relevant information or a quest available. A floating yellow exclamation point, if you will. This worked really well as the PCs were able to go around and visit each location, have a quick dialogue scene, gain a quest, and move on to the next one. In a single hour we were able to tackle the Lionshield Coster, Woodworker (which I custom added as a crime scene based on built-in events), Miner Exchange, Alderleaf Farm, Edermath Orchard, and Sleeping Giant Taphouse. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 4 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 3 Recap

We reach level 2 and the frontier town of Phandalin, where our heroes learn of a threatening mercenary guild called the Redbrands.

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

Note: Session 3 was held on Saturday, October 3rd, as one of our players would be out of town on Sunday.

 

If last week’s session was a combat-heavy dungeon crawl, this week’s was almost entirely made up of role-playing, socializing, and info dumping. We did end on a brief combat encounter at the end, but mostly it was a chance to the PCs to let their hair (or scales) down a bit in the town of Phandalin. It also gave me a chance to flex my voice acting capabilities, which are hopefully improving with every week (doing various voices when reading to my daughter does wonders).

The heroes had cleared out the goblins from their cavernous hideout, rescuing Sildar from his captive fate. Sildar Hallwinter was a hired bodyguard for dwarven explorer Gundren Rockseeker – the same dwarf who tasked our heroes with bringing the supply wagon to Phandalin. Their escort mission has now turned into a rescue mission, though their only lead is a place called Cragmaw Castle. Sildar mentioned he’d overheard the name several times as the goblin tribe’s base of operations in the area.

Everyone traveled to Phandlin in the hopes to find Cragmaw Castle (and also to rest off some grievous wounds). They turned in the supply wagon to Barthen’s Provisions and heard about the town’s woes with a group of mercenaries called the Redbrands. The PCs received some general goings-on in the town, then agreed to make their way to the Inn for more information and a hot meal. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 3 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 2 Recap

The adventurers successfully clear out the goblin-infested caves of the Cragmaw tribe, and reach level 2.

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

Session 1 Recap

 

 

Our sophomore session resumed our first dungeon crawl in the goblin-infested caves, the Cragmaw Hideout. We spent the entire session inside the dungeon, so this recap will be far more tactical and combat-related and less plot/role-playing than others.

The players were given multiple paths and options, though scouting ahead would prove tricky as only one of them (Kethra, a half-elf) actually had darkvision. Thanks to some hilariously horrendous rolls on Initiative on my part – and a well-timed and powerful dragonbreath attack from Kalinaar, they were able to handle all the goblin foes quite handily.

The caves have a few nifty traps and elements in play – namely a stream that can turn into a raging river if one of the goblins spots the adventurers. Kethra the rogue spotted the goblin standing watch on the bridge, and with a single sneak attack was able to snipe it in one hit. She then scrambled up the walls and scouted around every angle, while the others continued on the Northern path.

Since they were already in the cavern by the time the goblins in the Twin Pools Cave area spotted them, it was pointless to spring the river trap. One of the goblins is scripted to leave and warn Klarg, their bugbear leader, but I had all of them stick around for a single round to fight off the sudden threat of the players. It was prove fatal, as a combination of Miri’s two monk attacks, Kalinaar’s sword and Kethra’s bow made short work of them (poor Talus still can’t hit anything with his cantrips – except for illusions).

Kethra stealthed her way into the Southern chamber – the boss chamber containing the hulking bugbear, his pet wolf, and a pair of goblins. Kethra’s stealth check beat out everyone except the wolf, who’s enhanced senses sniffed her out. Instead of trying to get off a surprise attack, she retreated to the previous room with the others, and Klarg sent everyone out to attack.

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Unfortunately for me I rolled absolutely terribly for initiative for the goblins, wolf, and bugbear (all under 5). It was a trend that would continue throughout the night, giving my players a huge advantage in every fight even without stealth and surprise. It was probably for the best as level 1 characters are notoriously weak, and the bugbear alone can easily drop a low level player character in a single hit from his morningstar – which he did!

First, however, Kalinaar used his fire breath attack at the entrance to Klarg’s chamber, perfectly bathing all four enemies in fire. Only the bugbear made his saving throw, leaving both goblins dead and the wolf about half-injured – from a single attack! Stupid dragonborn. After that it was cleanup duty on the wolf, and soon I only had Klarg left.

Klarg is scripted in the adventure to retreat if his wolf dies, which totally happened before he even had a chance to act. I had him run toward the chimney/fissure/escape hatch on the West end (which the players were debating on trying to go up earlier in the session). Miri was in his way and she had just killed the wolf, so he lashed out with his mace, connecting with a solid 12 damage and dropping her instantly.

Kalinaar bellowed a challenge and followed Klarg down the fissure, both successfully making their Athletics checks to avoid falling – though it would take him until the following round to actually take the fleeing Klarg down. It might not seem heroic but dealing justice to every evil creature is definitely in line with Kalinaar’s philosophy. Too bad the player already had a point of inspiration from the beginning of our last session!

The players were able to stabilize Miri, and with Klarg’s stash of treasure they found some potions of healing they could use to get her on her feet. At this point they’d already had 2 Short Rests, both after the first two battles at the end of our previous session, so it was surprising that those much more difficult combat encounters didn’t require a rest at all. Stupid dragonbreath + my awful initiative rolls!

They’d defeated the boss but still hadn’t located their employer Gundren Rockseeker. A final path remained in the Western half of the caves, which Kethra explored ahead (darkvision plus a great stealth bonus is a very useful combo).

d&dA horde of goblins surrounded a campfire in the final room, where a boss goblin stood on a ledge along with a human captive – Sildar Hallwinter, Gundren’s bodyguard. Finally we had a chance for a bit of role-playing and dialogue – though two goblins would die before I’d get a chance given my awful initiative rolls. There was also a funny moment when Talus used his Minor Illusion cantrip to conjure a “sexy goblin” among the pack, distracting half of them for the first round of combat.

The goblin leader, Yeemik, wanted to depose Klarg as leader of this band of Cragmaws. The players had already dispatched of Klarg, though Yeemik wasn’t yet aware of that, and demanded to see the head. Kalinaar had dramatically cut off the head and thrown it into the fire back in Klarg’s chamber, so Talus offered to go retrieve it.

Kalinaar kept Yeemik talking, so I had Sildar slowly worm his way closer to his goblin captor, and attempt to communicate to the others through meaningful glances at grunts. When Talus returned with the head, he used Mage Hand to float it toward him. I timed it that when Yeemik grabbed the head, Sildar tackled his legs, forcing a Dex saving throw from Yeemik. He failed, and fell into the cavern below, taking damage and re-initiating combat for everyone.

Yeemik was focused-fired and went down quick. though the remaining two goblins got in some deep wounds, including bringing down Kalinaar with a particularly deadly strike. Talus pulled off a sleep spell to give everyone some breathing room, and everyone performed some decidedly un-heroic murder of the remaining sleeping goblins.

By the end of this third combat encounter we’d gone a little over our allotted time and had to end it there. The heroes had earned enough experience to get to level 2, and a now rescued Sildar can hopefully give them some answers.

We didn’t make it quite as far as I expected, but the players’ slow and cautious approach definitely paid off as they scouted each encounter and planned accordingly (mostly). I was pleased that we completed all of Cragmaw Hideout, and the level up gives everyone a chance to look over their characters’ new abilities and be prepared to raise them to level 2 at the beginning of our next session. Yay no more super squishy level 1 characters!

Next time: Answers (and possibly more questions) from Sildar, and onward to Phandalin!

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

 

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 1 Recap

Our new adventurers begin their journey as supply wagon escorts when they’re ambushed by goblins, and track them back to their hideout.

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

 

Finally, our first official session of Dungeons & Dragons! We were all very excited to get started after weeks of planning. Already I felt much more confident with the rules and setting than I ever did with Shadowrun. We spent a good chunk of time at the beginning introducing our characters and setting the stage for our adventure, but my players still made it about as far as I anticipated they would in our normal 2-2.5 hour session time. If you haven’t already, be sure to read this blog post introducing everyone’s unique characters. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 1 Recap”