D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 4 Recap

Our heroes leveled up to 5 and left Red Larch to follow one of their leads – some shallow graves near the mysterious white tower in the hills.

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

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

The aftermath of the scandalous town elder – secret cult revelation lead to some fun role-playing. Our heroes then leveled up to 5 and left Red Larch to follow one of their leads – some shallow graves near the mysterious white tower in the hills.

I’m never quite sure how a purely role-playing section is going to pan out. My players feel most comfortable rooting through dungeons and killing bad guys. Occasionally some big dialogue sessions can occur, and the enjoyment level seems to fluctuate depending on the mood of the table and the players’ interest levels in the NPCs and plot.

In this case my players got to be the triumphant heroes, having defeated Larrakh and exposed Red Larch’s town elders as a creepy, murderous cult. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 4 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 3 Recap

A giant sinkhole opens up in the middle of Red Larch, spurring our heroes into action and revealing a mysterious dungeon beneath town.

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

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

The town of Red Larch received a real kick in the teeth when a giant sinkhole appeared in the middle of town. The sinkhole opened a path into a hidden underground dungeon. The micro-dungeon teased some magic stones, and lead our heroes to their first real taste of Elemental Evil.

The Player Characters had nearly explored the entirety of Red Larch last week. At least the sections that were relevant to our adventure. I teased a bit more information in the form of a whistle-blowing employee at the wagon-repair shop. The PCs headed over to the tavern to seek him out.

When describing places in town, I specifically mention any important NPCs. I picture them as hotspots in an Adventure game or Exclamation Points in an RPG. My players like having the guidance and direction, and it helps cut down on time.

The local tavern – The Helm at Highsun – contained a half-orc fighter, an old shepherd, and our anxious halfling. The halfling spilled the beans on his boss Wulver, telling the party about a possible secret cellar entrance he’s seen the town elders use. The half-orc confirmed that the missing delegation had been in Beliard. I also had her aggressively come on to Talus, to the humorous delight of everyone. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 3 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 2 Recap

The Road to Red Larch, part 2. The heroes fend off a bandit robbery on the road, then learn about the missing delegation in town.

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

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse” 

Our party finally makes it to Red Larch. The main adventure hook of the missing delegation begins, as well as hints and teases to troubles around the area, and within the town itself.

Dungeons are easy. Towns full of NPCs are hard. In terms of pure DM prepwork. Sure, I don’t have to align grids or create monster sheets or roll for hit points. Instead I have to perfectly layer in the story hooks, quests, and information available to the players. I can’t say too much so they have an opportunity to investigate on their own. But I have to say enough to get them invested and on the right track. It’s a tricky balance, and “Princes of the Apocalypse” is particularly open-ended when it comes to following leads and deciding where to go.

Red Larch is the Phandalin of this adventure. It’s a fleshed out town full of dozens of NPCs, business, and locations. For our previous adventure I highlighted which NPCs had information or a quest for our heroes – not unlike the floating yellow exclamation point that many RPGs use. I did a smiliar thing here, using a player map version of Red Larch and only annotating the important areas.

Since we’re starting at level 4, I’m omitting most of the newbie stuff, which also eliminates a good chunk of the NPCs. I know my players, and I know they are not interested in wandering around town striking up conversations with random people. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy role-playing, but they enjoy having a bit of guidance – me presenting them with a situation, rather than they exploring and seeking one out. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 2 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 1 Recap

Part 1 of the party’s journey from Phandalin to Red Larch, where they meet Cragmaw riders, cursed skulls, and ominous weather.

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

After the events of our previous campaign “The Lost Mine of Phandelver,” the party receives a job to escort a wagon East to Red Larch. On the way they encounter a retaliatory strike by some Cragmaw Hobgoblins, experience strange weather patterns, and suffer fitful nightmares of elemental forces destroying the world.

If you want to learn about our cast of heroes, see this post from before our first adventure, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver.”

The logical next step after “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” was to select another official published adventure for our new campaign. I really enjoy having everything already organized and planned out, and especially official maps of dungeons. Since Phandelver only brought our heroes to level 4, I wanted to continue their journey. Out of all the official campaigns released thus far, “Princes of the Apocalypse” made the most sense to adapt it as a sequel to the events around Phandalin. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 1 Recap”

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

We recap our four month long intro campaign to D&D Fifth Edition, and each player reveals their favorite moment.

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

We recapped our four-month long campaign in about two hours.

The final Epilogue & Recap session is something we’ve been doing since our Shadowrun tabletop days. First, it gives me a chance to elicit feedback from my players on elements of the game they liked or didn’t like. It helps me as a DM tailor the gameplay, story, and structure more towards everyone’s liking.

Second it offers a way to pull the curtain back on events and let everyone see the How’s and Why’s of the adventure. In this case I even went through all the dungeons and turned off fog of war and dynamic lighting. We all poured over the dungeon maps together for fun, and discussed how they tackled various situations.

And finally it simply gives me another week to prepare for our next adventure! In this case we’ll be transitioning from “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” right into “Princes of the Apocalypse.” “Princes of the Apocalypse” was published in Spring of 2015, and takes place directly to the East of Phandalin in the Dessarin Valley. It even includes specific plot hooks to get the players to travel East as they uncover, well, evil. I very much enjoy utilizing the official published adventures, thanks in large part to not having to make any maps, and only having to convert them into Roll20. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Epilogue & Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 18 Recap

A final showdown with the Black Spider, meeting the leader of the Undead, and finding the Forge of Spells brings Wave Echo Cave and our four-month long campaign to a close.

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

A final showdown with the Black Spider, meeting the leader of the Undead, and finding the Forge of Spells brings Wave Echo Cave and our four-month long campaign to a close.

First the party had to deal with the flameskull. Though the guardian undead lay defeated, they learned it would rise again in an hour. Without the proper spells or tools to prevent its rejuvenation, the party had to go into D&D: Mythbusters mode involving the nearby smelter.

I don’t exactly have the extended lore or concrete details regarding flameskull regeneration other than if it’s destroyed the pieces will reform. However, I imagine if you can trap it in an effective manner, it would still be trapped. The flameskull has access to powerful fire magic, but that does it little good when its melted into liquid metal!

I was impressed with the way the party came together to work the smelter and agree on how to deal with the flameskull. It was a great act of improvising a solution, and I definitely allowed it to work – later teasing that the creature was banging against the inside of the smelter in impotent rage.

The task dealt with, the PCs retreated to the nearby barracks for a Short Rest. They planned on continuing East and dealing with the flameskull’s master, presumably another powerful undead. But the Black Spider wasn’t idly sitting by. One of the advantages with having a live DM is you can make a dungeon a truly living, breathing thing that reacts to the party’s actions. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 18 Recap”

2015: My Year In Gaming

I recap a full year’s worth of gaming in 2015, including new games and my backlog progress.

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I should really cut down on all these annual blog posts. The holidays are busy enough, and in 2015 I expanded my Top Ten list into ten separate posts, followed by my full Game of the Year awards and Most Anticipated Games of 2016 lists.

It’s all done in self-indulgent fun. My annual Year In Gaming post is probably the most navel-gazing thing I write on here. Part journal entries and part gaming calendar, I recap what I played on a month-to-month basis, and what really stood out.

2015 was the first full year of being a part-time freelance writer, and most of that was spent writing about video games. I maintained my blog both here and on Game Informer, appeared on podcasts, and can now say I’ve been published on Playboy. I also played lots of great games!

2015 backloggery

Though not as many as last year. I mentioned in my last recap of Rogue’s Adventures that I generally have less game time these days.

Since I enjoy recording my play times and my game library, it has helped me cut down on buying new games – which is painfully easy when you primarily play on PC thanks to rampant Steam sales. I played less games in 2015 but overall my “Progress Index” improved this year, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Progress Index is how Backloggery.com measures your finished-to-unfinished games ratio. Currently I maintain a Beaten ratio of about 63%, which has held fairly steady all year.

On to the monthly breakdown! Continue reading “2015: My Year In Gaming”