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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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 – “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!

 

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 2 Report

Our second session of “Road Rage” concludes the initial hostage encounter from last week and moves onto the highway as our players defend their cargo from a troll biker gang.

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

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report

We picked up right at the conclusion of our very long first session last week as the encounter with the gang at Jay-T’s had just ended. Two of them lay dead (well one was technically stabilized), with the third surrendering, and the fourth still handcuffed to the truck outside. My players were curious as to why this gang was here, what they were doing, and who they were working for. Unfortunately for them the two people most willing to talk to them lay dead or unconscious, so even with successful social tests they weren’t given much information.

My players spent quite a bit of time talking with their captives (and new NPC allies), asking questions, and deciding what to do with them. This whole first scene ended up lasting much longer than I anticipated but provided a lot of neat opportunities for combat, planning, and social skills. They asked one of their NPC allies what they should do next, and through her I suggested they call their Fixer and give him an update on the situation. They agreed to Jeremiah Redd’s suggestion to leave them tied up to be picked up later and get on with the mission.

Sadly right when we were about to go live with this week’s session, our decker player got called in to help deliver a baby. The curse of being a doctor! For the first time we had to roll with an MIA player. We had his character get a sudden call and have to leave, and I’ll leave it up to him on what that situation was. We’ll also need to write him into the next session, which could prove interesting considering the team ran into a biker gang during their highway escort mission!

i-5 route mapI left it entirely up to the players in how they wanted to situate themselves for the road trip. They had to travel North on I-5 for a little over 10 miles to downtown Seattle – yay for Google Maps! The armored truck would be driven by NPC Crank, whom they had just saved in the hostage situation and was a returning NPC from the first adventure that they had essentially captured and turned over to Redd. Crank had joined up with the Redd Scars and it was a fun opportunity to reward the players for their mercy and leniency by having him join them here – and in fact is probably a big reason that the players actively tried to recruit their new captured foes into Redd’s gang as well!

The armored truck could technically fit all of them, but they decided to utilize the modified pick-up truck they’d taken from the end of the last adventure as a secondary vehicle to help defend the truck should the need arise. Mauta the ex-special forces street samurai offered to drive while Falkirk the elf adept/Face rode with her. Our troll shaman opted to hide in the back of the armored truck amongst the crates, thinking he needed to avoid the port authority guards, while using clairvoyance on top of the truck to keep an eye out.

I gave the players a couple minutes to simply socialize with each other and offer a bit of downtime for the first leg of the journey. It ended up as a chance for Mauta to reveal that she had some connection to the buyer, though she remained mysterious and wouldn’t go into specific details. I definitely like the idea of incorporating my players’ backstories and pre-established contacts into the adventure whenever I can. It was a fun chance for role-playing and I try to give my players moments of levity in between the craziness.

Craziness, of course, will happen. This ain’t no peaceful cyberpunk world. A few minutes into the journey a half dozen members of the troll biker gang The Spikes roared up onto the on-ramp in an attempt to hi-jack the truck. I may have been a bit overeager to jump into a chase combat scenario on only our second ever Shadowrun adventure. As it is I do what I usually do and simplified much of the rules to suit our needs and keep everything fun and flowing.

road rage scene 2 highway

Drivers had to perform a driving test during their first initial pass (or autopilot takes over) but could use that test to perform a chase action such as ramming or cutting-off. The biker gang closed in on the vehicles and the players definitely felt their deckers’ absence, both another available gun and someone that could potentially stop a vehicle electronically.

Falkirk was able to take the closest biker down after two shots with his taser. He was getting crazy high, 5 hit rolls all night! Ironically filling up the stun monitor track via a taser will still probably lead to an opponent’s death when they’re rocketing down a highway on a motorcycle! Mauta and Crank both drove the vehicles and attempted to cut-off nearby bikers. Mauta came close, causing an opponent to swerve and get out of the way but he was able to avoid a crash. Ursev spent a dramatic, John Woo-type moment throwing open the doors of the truck and blasting a ball lightning at two bikers…for all of 2 hits, which both of them were able to dodge. Hey at least it “looked” cool!

We had to call it a night after the first combat turn was up. Combat in any RPG lasts awhile as you keep track of lots of things going on, but I’m glad we at least made it to the end of the turn so we can start with fresh new Initiative rolls for next week. We’re definitely going a lot slower in this adventure than I expected, even with the extra long session we did last week. Most likely Saran the decker will come roaring up at the beginning of this next round, and well see just where this encounter takes our heroes.

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

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 2 Report

Our first Shadowrun 5E role-playing adventure continues with tense negotiations and a bombing investigation.

Note that since my players will read these I have to avoid spoilers and background information while the current mission is still in session. Look for our epilogue episode and write-up for more in-depth analysis and feedback.

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

Read the Session 1 Report

Our sophomore session for our very first Shadowrun adventure picked up during the briefest of down times. My players were attempting to question their new captive and get the DocWagon vehicle started when they were accosted by a roving band of Halloweeners. This was set up as a semi-randomized battle with three main outcomes – 1) the players fight off the gangers, 2) the players talk them down or negotiate or, 3) the players drive away.

Given the aggressive tendencies of my players I predicted we would go with outcome 1, but when the players decided to try and drive away (which would’ve been a very difficult Pilot Ground Craft test), I had the lead ganger grow impatient with his knocking, ripping the rear doors off the vehicle and having everyone roll for initiative (I rolled an astonishing 8 success for his test to open the doors).

The elf adept, who also acts as the group’s face with superior social skills, acted first thanks to his crazy high initiative score, and he immediately decided to bargain with the lead ganger. This actually segued us into outcome 2, and the elf quickly negotiated for their release. The Halloweeners wanted the fancy vehicle, so after a successful negotiation test, I allowed them to trade the vehicle for their lives. To my surprise the players accepted, gingerly stepping out of the vehicle and practically waving goodbye as they strode down the path with their NPC captive, avoiding an entire battle.

Shadowrun Now Without a Whimper Scene 3

Without their vehicle and stranded in a bad neighborhood my contingency plan kicked in, and I had an NPC we previously met in the bar roll up in an armored truck to help out her boss. Jeremiah Redd was still being protected by the runners through this grand mess and he finally got a chance to give the actual mission to this new rag-tag team: investigate the now destroyed bar and figure out who was behind the bombing.

The investigation allowed me to reuse the previous scene pf the half-destroyed bar, which was wonderfully helpful to cut down on building and crafting in Roll20. Also I spent a lot of time building that scene and was damn proud of it!

I layered in a bunch of clues that the players could’ve found throughout the bar and tried to leave this section much more open. They approached cautiously, which I had warned them about, though I had no intention of including any combat in this scene. Up till now the entire adventure had been a series of crazy events and I wanted to give them some down time and use investigation skills and inference rather than social and combat skills. They also got a fun chance to actually talk to each other and formally meet each other’s characters.

A combination of Perception, Demolitions, and Hacking skills lead to the rear alleyway, a barely functioning security camera, and a blown out car registered to a Jay-T’s Automotive. The players did the right thing in calling up Redd once they collected some evidence, though I had Sue-Z pick up the comm and had a fun bit of mysterious role-playing.

Shadowrun Now Without a Whimper Scene 4

At this point the players made it a bit farther than I expected them to this session, mainly as they had avoided a potentially lengthy combat sequence earlier! They made it to Jay-T’s, a set that had numerous entrances with an emphasis on a stealthy approach.

Disappointingly, the runners immediately went for the front door and disabled the lock and alarm using a combination of Locksmith and Hacking. The elf adept stealthed his way inside with 2 hits on 9 dice, but I rolled a killer 3 hits on only 4 dice on the nearby video camera on the opposed Perception check. Feeling bad I gave the player a chance to do one action before the camera swiveled over and spotted him. He dove into the room behind a shelf but rolled only 1 success, and the camera spotted him, tripping the alarm and activating a pair of roto drones.

Combat in Shadowrun has a lot of annoying complexities. Tons of environmental and range modifiers come into play, as well as melee attacks, cyberdeck hacking, spells, etc. It’s overwhelming and we’re all definitely still learning, so any combat sequence takes us quite awhile. I’m sure we played things wrong (indeed some times realizing on the next round) but the Roll20 character sheets help kept the pace flowing for the most part.

The drones were all offense and no defense and that was definitely reflected in the brutal and fast combat sequence. One drone did some significant stun damage to both the elf and the troll while the other was dispatched in an Edge-boosted roll from the Street Samurai’s rifle. In a funny moment the elf had his revenge by killing the other done with his knife.

I was very thankful that I wrote down a bunch of notes as drone stats are slightly different than metahuman foes. I was able to use a character sheet for the roto-drones with all the appropriate programs and stats which helped immensely. Even then I was scrambling to figure out what their defense was versus the decker’s hacking attempts.

Although the runners were in the middle of a hostile environment, one that was now aware of their presence, we had to take a break there as we’d gone past our normal cut-off time of midnight. We had to look up a lot more rules in this session, particularly pertaining to combat modifiers and Matrix hacking. I need to get more familiar with how deckers operate and also which rules we actually want to use as I’m pretty sure we weren’t playing the decker correctly in terms of hacking into the Matrix and using the VR Initiative.

The adventure should wrap up next week, and depending on time we may just do the epilogue and recap portion as part of that session.