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”

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 3 Report

All hell breaks loose when the runners meet-up with an important contact at the zoo.

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

Working off an official published adventure has been an interesting experience. It’s incredibly handy in a lot of ways, with lots of pre-made stat blocks for all the NPCs, hefty amounts of colorful descriptions, and even suggestions for how to tweak the challenge level of various encounters. Even then I can’t help but modify and change things to suit my needs. I can’t get into spoiler-y stuff just yet, but the recap episode should be especially fascinating.

In last night’s session the players had a clear objective in front of them – meet FBI Agent Seth Dietrich at the zoo. He offered to buy back his commlink for a cool 100,000 nuyen. While the pay was certainly nice, my players were much more interested in getting some answers to this confusing mystery.

Having a clear focus of where to go and what to do greatly motivates my players into tackling the objective in some fun ways. In this case they wanted to scope out the zoo location the day before the meet, and check to see if they’d be able to smuggle weapons in. I may have made them a tad paranoid – not only is the world of Shadowrun generally violent, but this adventure has been especially action-packed as the players have been attacked left and right.

In fact on their way to the zoo they noticed a car following them, and opted to pull over and ready their weapons. It proved to be a solid move as they made short work of the crazy cyborg Night Hunters that poured out of the car to attack them. A combination of Ursev’s ball lightning centered on the car and a barrage of bullets put most of the them down. I did the rest by rolling a 0 on a leaping charge attack from a very wounded attacker. I had him sail past his target and splatter on the sidewalk. Hey, as long as it’s fun I don’t mind failing miserably with my NPCs, and I’ll always play it up.

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At the zoo it was fun describing the various para-animals that inhabited the enclosures. Falkirk did a great job scouting out the areas and finding a hiding spot for their weapons that they tossed over the wall.

They next day they waltzed in through the entrance. Well, all but Saran the decker who really wanted to hack into the extensive security in order to bring his gun inside. He had failed at this task the previous day, also for no reason other than wanting to walk in with all his gear. His team mates balked at this and finally talked him down, where he went back to the car. I don’t think the decker role suits the player very well, but that’s also on me as someone who’s still not totally on board with how decking (or rigging) work in the obtuse Shadowrun rules.

Inside, the other three retrieved their weapons and met Dietrich in the reptile tunnel, next to the basilisk exhibit. Unfortunately while Dietrich’s body was there, his mind was not. It was currently occupied by someone named Jake Armitage (whom you may recognize from the old 16-bit Shadowrun game or the recent Shadowrun Returns).

Armitage was just as confused as the players as to his situation, alluding to the title of the adventure as well as the confusion surrounding the missing commlink. Like any good mystery it led to more questions than answers – especially when an unseen sniper tore a hole through Armitage/Dietrich’s throat at the height of their confusion.

shadowrun basilisk exhibit

All hell broke loose in the zoo – what you thought this was going to be easy? A pair of highly skilled assassins opened fire on both sides of the players as the basilisks burst through the glass. Falkirk and Ursev were sitting ducks, but Mauta actually got the jump on one of the assassins by being nonchalant at one end of the tunnel.

There were only two assassins but they were both more powerful than any of the PCs (skill and armor wise, at least). The players were also slightly under-equipped since they couldn’t smuggle in Ursev’s battle axe or Mauta’s sniper rifle. Thankfully for them the assassins didn’t want to stick around with UCAS Military Police converging on the location. They left the runners after a single round (though not before doing some significant damage) to deal with the basilisks.

My players have proven heroic in the past so I played up the screaming and crying of the crowd during the chaos, and had one basilisk attack a group of huddled school children in a corner. My players responded immediately with charging melee attacks and Mauta’s deadly shots, making fairly short work of the overgrown lizards – though not without a briefly enjoyable scare as one of them partially petrified Falkirk.

Saran was able to watch the video feeds and then shut down one of the assassins’ cyberware and weapons, further hastening their retreat. Unfortunately he really didn’t have anything to do for the round or two where only the basilisks remained – a bad design on my part. It speaks to our ineptitude at thinking of things a decker/hacker can do, most of which isn’t written in the adventure.

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The players were able to blend in with the chaotic, surging crowd leaving the zoo, and escaped with relative ease. Mauta managed to grab the pouch of credsticks and a 2nd commlink that Dietrich had on him – something I specifically mentioned to the players during the conversation and hoped they’d remembered about. Maybe they’ll find some answers in this commlink.

They also have several pending messages from some contacts and unknown parties, no doubt pertaining to this hot potato of a commlink they have in their possession that everyone wants to get their hands on. This was one of our more enjoyable sessions with lots of laughter, jokes, and fun heroic moments in combat. Tune in next week!

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

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report

The runners fend off a sudden kidnapping strike force in the middle of a psychedelic concert performance.

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

If last week’s seemingly random events surrounding a rock concert resulted in hilarious shenanigans, this week was much more focused and down to business. The role-playing and fun random characters were neat distractions but I still had to move the story forward, and for that I had to unleash a squad of stealthy hit-men into the venue.

The players’ main job as temp security guards were to protect the star attraction – indie singer Lana Grace. Unfortunately for them her talents extended to both her musical ability as well as some latent magical skills that resulted in the players entering a euphoric high while she performed.

During the performance my anti-runner team got into place, and all hell broke loose once they hit her with a tranq dart from the catwalks. A pair emerged onto the catwalks to grab her and fend off the players. Another cast an illusory spell on a dragon statue on stage making it seemingly spring to life and panic the crowd below, and another set off a bomb in the backstage bathrooms to cement their getaway. Roll for initiative!

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They didn’t get too far. I had written outcomes for the two possibilities of Lana getting kidnapped or being rescued, and the runners made fairly short work of the foes. Thus far I feel like I may be babying my players a bit as most encounters have felt like a piece of cake from my point of view, with little to no damage being sustained by the players.

In this case the kidnapping team were loaded with nonlethal rounds and were mainly trying to snatch and grab, so they were more interested in running than fighting. They were also unprepared for the players being there at all, so while they were equipped to handle some resistance, the players took them down fairly easily.

Even a fairly small combat encounter can take awhile in Shadowrun, and this one got a bit annoying as all but one of them went down quickly, while the last one was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned and mainly just tried to flee – not terribly climatic! More exciting was Falkirk tazing one on a catwalk then having to roll Gymnastics to catch the falling unconscious Lana!

After the break the players got a surprising explanation from Lana herself after she came to, and her unfortunate past and parents’ ties with the Yakuza. At this point I was running out of material that I had prepared so I kind of sped things along. The adventure ends up becoming a Two in One. The initial job offer of working security for one show is technically over, but now the players have been hired by Lana herself to retrieve some blackmail-worthy evidence on her parents to use as leverage.

To do so they’ll need to get into her parent’s well-guarded mansion for their own smash-and-grab scenario. I was delighted to find my players already discussing different tactics on how to get in – including using their captured adversaries to gain access. Looking forward to it!

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

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 3 Report

Our adventures continue as our players fend off a troll biker gang in a high-speed chase, then flee to some abandoned tunnels and run into even more danger.

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

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report

A lot can go wrong with video capturing and live streaming. I suppose I’ve been lucky thus far to run into a minimum of issues. Unfortunately fate reared its ugly head during last night’s session: my streaming program Open Broadcaster Software crashed multiple times and ended up corrupting over half the recorded video. Ironically I was disconnected at one point, which forced a reconnect and seemed to fix my issue, leaving us with at least some video – a good 45 minutes worth in fact. Thus the above video represents the second half of our adventure last night, with the first half (most of the highway battle) lost to to the ether.

But you can always read about it here! Our third session in the “Road Rage” adventure picked up right in the middle of the exciting highway chase combat scene that had unfolded at the end of last week’s session. My players had to fend off half a dozen troll bikers with mounted AK’s and zero interest in talking.

I had our missing player from last week roll Initiative along with the rest, and a forced Pilot Ground Craft test put him right in the thick of the battle on a stolen motorcycle. The combat reached some much more interesting outcomes as one of the troll bikers leapt from his bike onto the armored truck to set a demolition charge, while another succeeded in a Cut-Off chase maneuver, forcing my NPC truck driver, Crank, to make an emergency test. He failed and slammed into a car in front of him, spinning that poor car into the guardrail, doing further damage to the truck and losing speed.

The players continued to take shots at the trolls and were slowly gaining some ground. After all the heavy attacks on the truck, a panicked Crank suggested they need to get off the highway and flee to the abandoned tunnels to escape the gang. At that point the gang was reduced to only two trolls, and as I anticipated the players were reticent to suddenly change course. That’s when more troll gangers appeared on the opposite side of the highway, read to cross over at the next median break and join the fray.

shadowrun troll biker

I definitely wanted to create a tense action-packed atmosphere, and make the situation dangerous and dire enough to warrant the players essentially fleeing the battlefield despite their steady progress. The players themselves had taken hardly any damage but both vehicles had taken a toll, and I emphasized the danger of the damaged truck continuing at these speeds.

The players agreed, and fled to the nearby tunnels using a GM-directed ‘cutscene’. The tunnels were almost the antithesis of the highway – slow and spooky. Light and visibility suddenly became a big factor, and I quickly found that my players grew frustrated with the overbearing Fog of War. Considering I can use the GM layer to hide creatures and objects, it was probably a bit much.

The way forward was blocked by a broken down truck, and it was a fun opportunity for the players to divvy up what they wanted to do – some kept watch, some helped move the truck, and others explored the dark corners of the tunnel. I made sure to constantly ask what everyone was doing, as an attack was imminent.

Road Rage Scene 3 tunnel

The session ended just as a lone ghoul approached from the edge of the tunnel, while another pair of players stumbled upon a pair of them in a dark hole. Going straight from one non-negotiable combat scenario to another may prove a bit too much, but I’m hoping they provide such varying experiences as to remain enjoyable as our players continue their hard-fought journey.

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

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 3 Report

The thrilling conclusion to our first Shadowrun adventure ends with a showdown in the automotive garage.

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
Read the Session 2 Report

Last week we had to end our session at a tense moment. The players’ stealthy infiltration into Jay-T’s Automotive repair shop and garage had failed, and they’d managed to dispatch the two roto-drones that attacked them in response, though not without taking some damage.

The immediate combat encounter had ended, though the feeling of adrenaline pumping action when you’ve been found out had dissipated in the week in between sessions. We have relatively shorter sessions for most tabletop roleplaying gatherings at about two and a half hours and the players needed some gentle nudging to get them back on track with the severity and immediacy of the situation (one of them was actually trying to go off and loot the store).

I found it rather humorous that although they’d been caught by the security camera and fought drones, the players continued to act cautiously and stealthily. While the decker was trying to loot the store (something I’d have to remind them to do when they were leaving) I had their target flee to his nearby car in the garage. The elf was looking through the door’s window at the time and caught him. He attempted to sneak out and engage him in conversation, which definitely seems like the standard modus operandi for our sneaky-social elf adept/face.

A successful dice roll got Jay-T to listen briefly, but he was definitely in fight or flight mode, and not yet interested in negotiating or talking. I really enjoyed the banter that my curt responses elicited from the players as they tried to surmise if he was the guilty party in the bombing, and/or if he’d just turned traitor or if he was blackmailed.

Jay-T, in his modified, weapon-mounted Toyota Gopher truck could be considered the boss battle of the adventure. I was worried I might have overwhelmed myself by including a getaway car and all kinds of unique rules for this final moment. I had given myself as much information and statistics as I could regarding the vehicle and its parts, and that definitely came in handy. The players reacted cleverly, knowing they didn’t want the vehicle to leave the garage.

Not With a Whimper Scene 5

Up until this point I’d been rolling fairly spectacularly. The previous drone fight saw the drones dodging attacks and laying on the hurt, and most of the players were forced to use Edge to take them down. Even simple tests like the elf sneaking with 9 dice and me rolling 4 dice on a perception test and beating him were happening more often than not. My luck finally ran out during this boss battle in a rather epic way: Our first ever critical glitch.

Jay-T’s truck was just starting up, and I used his first initiative pass to fire his rear mounted grenade launcher at the doorway, where most of the players were gathered. I needed to get 3 hits to hit the spot, otherwise scatter rules apply. I missed, and one of my players helpfully pointed out that I’d also glitched, rolling 1’s for half my rolls. Miss + Glitch = Critical Glitch! What should’ve been a horrifying attack instead ended with the mounted weapon sputtering, smoking, and crashing down off its mounts into the bed of the truck. Jay-T cursed inside.

With no drone support in the garage the players could all surround the truck and attempt to disable it before Jay-T could escape into the car yard. The troll shaman cast a ball lightning at the truck, though its armor absorbed half the damage. The street sam sprayed the truck and its hefty armor negated all the damage. The decker jacked into the matrix and began putting marks on the vehicle. The adept thought a bit outside the box, and smashed the window of the truck on an impressive 4 success roll versus the glass’ armor and structure rating, breaking the window on the passenger’s side.

This could’ve lead to all kinds of interesting possibilities, but it was the street sam’s turn next, and she decided to take advantage of the now clear path to take a shot at Jay-T himself. I admit that while the players were all deciding on increasingly dangerous and risky ways to capture him alive, I did mention that just attacking him and doing damage could put him down without killing him. Probably.

The street samurai picked up on this, shouldered her high-powered hunting rifle, and shot Jay-T right through the car window. I allowed him a defense test but with a negative modifier, as he was a sitting duck inside the not-yet moving vehicle. He took the full brunt of the attack, and with a 12DV and -4AP, it ended up doing 10 damage after resistance, putting him at 0 physical health. His head slammed against the steering wheel, horn blaring. The fight was over after a single combat turn.

We took a break and came back to the players investigating Jay-T’s office and computer while also using First Aid and Healing spells to stabilize him. I didn’t let them actually revive him (Shadowrun has pretty strict healing rules) but they could at least save his life for the time being, but unable to question him. I did have contingencies for a dead (or might as well be dead) or escaped Jay-T in his computer. The decker was able to hack into his emails and messaging and I teased some information on who he might’ve been involved with.  Without being able to talk to Jay-T directly, however their ultimate resolution would be limited.

Jeremiah ReddThey called up Redd and met at a safe spot to hand over Jay-T’s bloody body. Redd was concerned but satisfied that he was left alive, and the players had been nothing but straightforward and helpful to him throughout the adventure, earning his trust (Loyalty +1 as a contact) as well as their promised payment for investigating the bombing. I also doled out the karma rewards which I’d broken down into steps for completing various tasks, like aiding bombing victims and tracing the car bomb back to Jay-T’s Automotive.

Thus our very first Shadowrun mission concluded! “Not With a Whimper” was something I put together myself, wanting to involve street gangs and get the players involved with a reliable ally and fixer (quest giver) for future missions. I was very satisfied with how the players generally stuck to my script, and pleasantly surprised at some of the crazier tactics they used to handle the various situations.

Stay tuned next week for our full Epilogue and Recap breakdown episode where I recount the entire run as my players give their feedback, comments, and concerns. I will lift the veil somewhat in the hopes of improving the experience and learning what worked and what didn’t. After that we’ll move onto our next adventure!