D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 12 Recap

The party takes on a band of orcs and their giant ogre ally in the mountainous crag of Wyvern Tor.

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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!

Important Programming Note: Due to a player on vacation, our session next week will be on Monday, December 14. Thus, look for the video and recap on Tuesday the 15th!

 

We come to the last leg of our side quest sojourn in the mountainous crag of Wyvern Tor. A band of orcs have taken up residence inside a roomy cave, harassing travelers along the Triboar Trail. The townmaster of Phandalin had put up a 100gp reward for their elimination, and my players were eager to kill some orcs.

Given the sheer overwhelming number of foes in their last battle, they opted for a much more cautious approach.  Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 12 Recap”

D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 10 Recap

The party battles a dragon and survives, then travels across the Neverwinter Wood to speak with an Elvish banshee.

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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!

Dragon fight!

Our adventure, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver,” includes a rather powerful, and optional, foe – a young green dragon. Even a young dragon is a nearly insurmountable obstacle for a party of 3rd or 4th level heroes. I think that Wizards of the Coast felt compelled to include at least one dragon in their starter adventure, possibly as an example that some foes might just be too strong to tackle.

My players were not overly fond of having a super powerful enemy on the board, however. Since they’d left the cultists in Thundertree alive I devised a role-playing scene between the cultists, dragon, and players to try and make the encounter a bit more interesting (the adventure gives me nothing for the dragon other than a name).

To add some tense flavoring I had the cultists and dragon speak draconic, which only the party’s dragonborn could understand. I whispered the translations to him, and I grew worried that I was leaving everyone else out. They said they enjoyed the tension and were constantly “waiting for the bomb to drop.”

Kalinaar the paladin had his own speech alongside Favric, the cultist leader. The cultists had acted friendly and waved the PCs into the dragon’s tower, only to offer them as further reward to the dragon in exchange for his allegiance. I had both Favric and Kalinaar roll Persuasion checks, and Favric won. The cultists fled the building and the dragon attacked the PCs, starting with his devastating acid breath. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 10 Recap”

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 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”

Introducing our Dungeons & Dragons Characters

Each of my players introduces their unique characters as we begin our new D&D campaign.

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As I mentioned last week in the final recap of our Shadowrun role-playing campaign, we’re moving on to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for our next online role-playing excursion.

I’m really excited to dive back into D&D, and the Fifth Edition ruleset feels nicely refined and intuitive. We spent our session last Sunday building our characters and learning the rules and character sheets for Roll20, and we’re ready to introduce them. Below I’ve included a picture, character sheet, and a brief backstory written by their respective players.

We officially begin our first campaign, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” this Sunday. Like Shadowrun our sessions will be broadcast live beginning at 9:30pm Central time. Unlike Shadowrun we’ll be broadcasting to my YouTube channel rather than twitch. Be sure to subscribe! Continue reading “Introducing our Dungeons & Dragons Characters”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Epilogue & Recap

I recap our third Shadowrun adventure, “The Bodyguards,” from rock concert chaos to stealth infiltration at a mansion.

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Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 5 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 6 Report

When my friends and I first became interested in rekindling our online role-playing sessions from last year, I immediately suggested Shadowrun. The decidedly 80stastic cyberpunk-meets-fantasy world is just incredibly cool, and I was really digging the tactical RPGs being released from Harebrained Schemes.

Instead of diving into some pre-generated adventures to help us get started and familiarized with the world, I opted to jump write in with writing our own missions. My initial idea was the players working security at a magical rock concert, and having to prevent a chaotic kidnapping. I thought it might’ve been a bit too much to pull of originally, so I shelved it until our third mission.

“The Bodyguards” ended up lasting us six total sessions, with two shorter 1 hr weeks and one final, very lengthy 3.5 hour session. It consisted of four tactical maps in Roll20, three of which were quite large. I was incredibly excited to grow this adventure seed into a full-blown mission, though it ultimately ended up with mixed results.

BentonI encourage my players to create at least a bare-bones backstory for their characters, and I enjoy incorporating elements from their past into current adventures. In our previous mission, for example, Mauta nearly ran in to an old co-worker and boss she worked for at Ares before she went off the grid, which could’ve led to some interesting role-playing opportunities or combat (Mauta decided to avoid him entirely).

This time around I used an estranged brother of Ursev, our benevolent troll shaman as the quest-giver. This gave some personal motivation for one of our players and opened up some more meaningful dialogue.

The brother, Benton, offered the players the job as temp security guards for a One Night Only show for indie rock singer Lana Grace. He needed to double security, but wouldn’t divulge why. The players accepted the legitimate job and were given a chance to buy supplies as well as scout the gigantic converted warehouse location I’d built in Roll20 [Session 1 Report].

The night of the concert proved to be one of the single most enjoyable sessions I’ve had doing these online role-playing sessions. I had the major event planned with a strike team of kidnappers attacking and trying to abduct the singer. But first I wanted to explore the random events and situations that can crop up at a concert that the players would have to deal with.

There was very little actual combat, other than a surprise vampire that had a backstage pass. Players had to screen the backstage passers, confront a ticket scalper, deal with a drug dealer, help an unconscious fan and deal with the inevitable streaker on stage. It was a ton of fun, from Ursev crushing both tickets and drugs in his hands and scaring people off to Mauta spotting all the trouble from up in the catwalks. It still came down to me doing things and players reacting to them, but everyone enjoyed the structure and format [Session 2 Report].

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Finally Lana Grace took the stage, and I played my hand. The singer had some magical talents which helped distract everyone. Further complications arose when one of the magically-gifted attackers cast an illusion, causing a dragon to appear on stage and attack everyone. My players annoyingly resisted most of the illusions, and were able to handily defeat the kidnappers [Session 3 Report].

Shadowrun doesn’t operate with traditional levels, so when crafting my own adventures from scratch I find it difficult to balance encounters. I’d rather err on the side of easy to make things go faster and make the players feel more heroic, but by now my players have pretty much cleaved through everything I’ve thrown at them. During our epilogue session, I revealed that the story could’ve branched depending on if Lana had been captured or not, and the players admitted that losing that fight and having to rescue Lana would’ve been the far more compelling outcome.

This was not the end of the adventure – I had a whole follow-up planned. The kidnappers were sent by Lana Grace’s parents, who were involved with the Yakuza and wanted her returned. She just wanted to be free of them, and hired the runners to infiltrate their mansion and steal some blackmail-able evidence. This was our first real chance for a big stealth mission, and I was inspired by games like Deus Ex and Dishonored in creating a giant area filled with guards and opportunities. Unfortunately it kinda fell apart at the end.

First my players had to get inside, and I was quite impressed with their plan to mind control (a way too easy and borderline broken spell) one of the more agreeable kidnappers, using him to set up a return trip to the mansion. Falkirk dressed up as one of the strike team assassins while Mauta pretended to be the captured and unconscious Lana. This lead to an interesting splitting up of the party when they got through the gates. Saren stayed in the guardhouse downloading the floor plans, Mauta was taken to an upstairs bedroom, while the rest were able to just drive into the garage – after a little nudging from myself.

I also used this opportunity to introduce a new player – a law enforcement officer that was staked outside the villa. Referring to herself as Ms. Johnson, she offered to pay the runners if they brought the evidence to her – giving my players a dilemma they would face later on [Session 4 Report].

Inside the split-party situation proved tense and fun at first as everyone scrambled to poke around. Unfortunately they didn’t really have a game plan, nor even really worked together other than stumbling around the house spotting guards [Session 5 Report].

We discussed the issues at length during this Epilogue & Recap episode. A major problem is our reliance on Roll20 – I build everything on the tactical grid, so my players naturally just respond to whatever they see. Instead of asking me more questions or trying to think outside the box, for example, they see the main set of stairs and focus on that. After becoming frustrated with their options, they decided to sneak attack the guard in the foyer. It did not go well, and we rolled for initiative.

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I honestly wasn’t sure my players would be able to survive a full-on assault, and that’s quickly what this turned into as more guards responded to the alarm. The guards were quite strong for random minion NPCs, rolling 10 dice on their assault rifles and 8 for defense. I also had a souped-up augmented boss that leapt down from the 2nd story and nearly killed Ursev with two blows. Two edge points later and my boss lie dead instead – another Shadowrun system that feels super cheap to me.

At least this time the players wouldn’t get through unscathed. Both Mauta and Falkirk took heavy amounts of damage, and Ursev definitely would’ve died had he not used an Edge point. Saren did have a funny and tense moment as she was outside the mansion by a car, only to be attacked by a patrolling guard dog. She tried to hack the car but the powerful, custom-engineered dog broke through the windows, and she had her hands full.

After a very long but tense combat sequence the players turned the foyer of the mansion into a bloodbath. They went upstairs and confronted the parents, and their exhaustion and bloodied appearance led them to get exactly what they came for. They decided to blow of Ms. Johnson and head straight for Lana – but not before some delicious deliberating that I enjoyed hearing. These actions could definitely have consequences for them in the next adventure [Session 6 Report].

We definitely learned that the team prefers shock and awe tactics to stealth, though they also enjoyed the larger focus on fun role-playing moments versus heavy combat. In fact the whole mission was extremely light on combat having only two real encounters, though the last one was a doozy.

I thought “The Bodyguards” went pretty well but I also hit peak reliance on Roll20’s visual aides by using these giant custom-built maps. Ultimately I think it was detrimental as we relied on them far too much. Basically I’ve turned tabletop role-playing into a tactical wargame, and that’s not at all what I was going for. Future maps will be used sparingly. I’m also going to be using a pre-generated mission for our next adventure, “Splintered State.” That will be our final Shadowrun mission for the time being, as we plan on trying out a new RPG system in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition – Coming Soon!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 5 Report

The runners split up to stealthily infiltrate a Yakuza-infested two-story mansion.

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Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report

Building elaborate maps within Roll20 isn’t necessarily my forte, and I constantly worried this last week if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. The concert hall was a very large area full of multiple events transpiring, but that was only the first part of the adventure. After my players got their second mission to steal some blackmail evidence from a mansion, I had to actually build the two-story mansion.

Thankfully I found a pretty great resource at eplans.com, where I could download a lovely palatial floor plan to use as the basis for my map. After that it was a matter of filling in the various rooms using Roll20’s art, as well as creating a large circular driveway outside.

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Since the players were tasked with a stealthy infiltration, it was difficult to know how they’d approach the map, and I needed to have all two stories filled out and ready to go by the time we started our session Sunday evening.

I enjoyed the players’ plan to get inside – disguising as the sole surviving member of the kidnappers, and pretending another to be the captured singer. The party split up in some really interesting ways. Saran stayed back at the gated community entrance to get inside the guard house and download information. The rest of the crew met up with a Yakuza crime boss outside the house who took Mauta – whom they thought was the unconscious singer, inside to an upstairs bedroom.

I was playing hardball as the crime boss but surprisingly my players weren’t really rising to the social bait, instead opting to play it safe and willing to turn around and try another method. I softened up by letting their captured and mind-controlled NPC ally speak up with a suggestion to get them into the garage (we need gas!). Thus Falkirk and Ursev began in the downstairs garage.

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This lead to a somewhat stressful and haphazard ordeal as everyone wanted to do things at once, and I had to switch between three different scenes in Roll20. Saran knocked out the guard and got the floor plan info (which I quickly created handouts for, but only he had access to), Mauta escaped the bedroom and began snooping around the upstairs balcony. Ursev used Clairvoyance to look into the surrounding rooms, while Falkirk acted uncharacteristically bold and began searching room to room.

Thus far nobody has met up with a guard yet and been found out, and their reconnaissance has been pretty effective. That said they’re also kind of terrible at formulating a plan and working together. The team’s dysfunction has become a bit of a running joke, and I’m becoming more inclined that maybe I do need to railroad them through the missions as I’d done before. Giving them a large map and letting them explore has proved interesting but it’s clear they are used to reacting to events I put in place, rather than being proactive at the task at hand.

Next week we should be able to return to a full length session. This mission is taking far longer than I anticipated thanks to two weeks of half-length sessions, but if anything it’s given me more time to prepare and that’s never a bad thing. I anticipate my players should be able to complete the adventure next week, unless things go absolutely upside down and they have to fight their way out of the complex. Which could always happen….

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.