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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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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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”

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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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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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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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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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”