Thursday, August 21, 2014

Where is Glasstaff? The 5e adventure continues.

This week the search for the Lost Mine of Phandelver was continued. Josh wasn't able to make it but +Daniel McEntee returned. He joined +Tim Shorts+Chris C., and +Joshua Macy in their adventures around the mining village of Phandelver.

The Ongoing Story
We last left the party at their victory over the Troll Skull Goblins at their hideout. Now they are ready to return to Phandalin and enjoy their hard one spoils.

The Roster
  • Ara (Joshua Macy) - an Elven wizard dwelling in human lands in order to return to his people's lost cities that lies in ruins within Dearthwood. 
  • Keyar Nailo (Dan McEntee) - an High Elven Archer seeking to keep the elven refuge of Losthain safe.
  • Sidwin the Sharp (Tim) - a native of the City-State, the human rogue senses opportunity in Phandelver and positioned himself to be hired as one of the caravan guards. 
  • Vognur (Chris) - a warrior armed and ready to take his place in the world and to pursue the mystery of the box left to him by his family.
The Hirelings
  • Lanar - a down on his luck miner who was hired as a torchbearer by the party.
  • Martha - with her debt to a unpleasant mano0r.
The Majestic Wilderlands
I elected to set the game within my Majestic Wilderlands. I am more familiar with the setting and by taking the original adventure apart and reassembling allows me to master the adventure better. On the map below each small hex is one league and takes one hour to walk. Each large hex is 5 leagues.

The Game

The party returned from the goblin hideout (G) to Phandalin without incident. Along the way they chatted with Sildar Hallwinter and learned the following.

  • He was travelling here with Gundren Rockseer when they were both captured.
  • Gundren was sent to the Troll Skull "castle" along with all their gear including a map to Wind Echo Cave, the site of the Rockseer mine. 
  • There are three brothers, all Rockseers, that are involved.
  • Klarg, the orc leader of the goblins, had orders from somebody called the Black Spider to waylay them. 
  • The Rockseer are involved with Iarno Albrek, a magistrate recently sent by the Overlord from City State to take charge of Phandalin.
  • Sildar is Iarno's man at arms and hasn't heard from him in several months. Decided to come with Gundren to see what happened. 

With the time near sunset they decided to turn in at the Stonehill Inn. Sildar bade them goodnight and told the party that they can find him staying with Townmaster Harbin at the village hall. That they should come and see him in the morning to decide what to do about finding Gundren.

(Party at the Stonehill Inn at A)

During dinner the party learned of the death of Thel Dendrar a local woodcarver along with his wife and two children were missing. Thel was murdered by Redbrands while they looted his cottage. Outraged Ara and Vognur talked to the farmers and learned that his wife and children were likely taken to be sold in the slave pits of the City State of the Invincible Overlord.  Also the party learned that Pip,, the innkeeper's son, had a friend, Carp Alderleaf, who saw the bandits emerging from a secret tunnel. As dinner was winding down, Vognur spoke to the innkeeper Toblen, and assured him that the group will do something about this. Only keep between the two of them to minimize the chance that the Redbrands will overhear something. Vognur also graciously refused the return of the money the party spent on room and board. With that the group retired for the night.

All that is except for Sidwin the Sharp. The thieves of the Brotherhood of the Lion are many things but being slavers is not one of them. As Sidwin went out to "stretch" his leg and made his way over to the Sleeping Giant. A known hangout of the Redbrands, he stealthed his way to a window and overheard four of them drinking and talking about the murder of Thel and the loot they found. The rogue also took note of Grista, the tavern's proprietor, a dwarven lady that looked as mean as her clientele.

(Sidwin travelling to the Sleeping Giant via the dotted line to B)

However luck wasn't with Sidwin as he walked over a pile of rotten firewood when attempting to leave. It was just enough noise to cause one of the Redbrands to investigate. Caught in the open with nowhere to hide Sidwin played dumb and drunk.

Luckily his wit and fast tongue allowed him to join the Redbrands in a game of craps. Luckily while he did well, one Redbrand did better, the best outcome for a newcomer in a gang of thugs. Sidwin also learned that the leader of the Redbrand was a mage named Glasstaff. By the middle of the night with nearly all the ale gone, Sidwin was trying to leave. But Grista was having none of that. She insisted that Sidwin enjoy her tavern's hospitality with a tossed bedroll and heavy crossbow pointing at his groin.

Unlike the humans of the party, the elves only need a four hour trance to refresh themselves. Returning to full awareness after midnight Ara and Keyar noticed Sidwin missing. It was decided that Keyar would do a sweep of the sleeping village to find Sidwin. After two hours, following the dashed line to B, Keyar peered into the window of Sleeping Giant and found Sidwin sleeping along with the Redbrands.

Returning to Ara they decided to wait until an hour before sunrise and wake Vognur to attempt a rescue. There was some discussion on whether Sidwin had abandoned the party to join the Redbrands. In the end was decide it made no difference to what needs to happen. Vognur was awakening and in the gloom of the pre-dawn twilight, the warrior readied himself.

The three crept through the gloom and positioned themselves around the Sleeping Giant. Ara acted first and let loose with a sleep spell. Taking care to position it so it wouldn't impact them. One of the Redbrand was effect and to everybody surprise Grista and her crossbow came tumbling down the stair. However the remaining Redbrands were still sleeping off their ale and all five were dispatched. Sidwin explained what was up and the party resolved that the time to strike was now.

The group returned to the inn, where with innkeeper Toblen permission they had Pip fetch his friend Carp. From Carp they learned that the tunnel was in the forest south of the ruined manor. (point C). Everybody readied their gear and prepared to leave. During this Lanar was waken and also geared. Matilda stayed at the Inn and took charge of cleaning and mending what they didn't take with them.

Arriving at the tunnel entrance in the party found a long narrow tunnel leading into the earth. With Keyar in front leading with his preternatural elven sight the ventured downward.

After several hundred years the tunnel opened up into a large open space. With everybody hanging back in the tunnel. Keyar ventured out. (To point A) From behind the stone column a horrid man sized creature stepped out.

Almost immediately the Ranger was drawn to the monster's strange singular eye. As it filled his vision the elf felt his spirit come under attack! As necrotic energy filled his awareness Keyar remembered the forest vaults of his home, the threads of life he could feel throughout the streams and trails. Wrapping the memories of winter beauty around like armor the monster's hold was broken!

As the ranger raised his longbow, he focused on the creature's aura and placed his hunter' mark. Alas the arrow ricocheted off of the creature hide. However the rest of the party galvanized into action. Between Sidwin's bow and rapier, Ara spells, and Vognur's blade the four downed the Nothic screamed his death knell and fell to the ground.

From as distance the party heard "Brak nathag ock besarg ot mandan Nothic.". Fortunately Ara was able to understand this as it was goblin. "Go check and see what the nothic is up too". After this a plaintive voice replied "But why me?" followed by a bellow and somebody opening the door.

Note: Understand after this point it all one continuous stream of combat.  The lull after the Nothic death was the last lull for a long, long time.

The party positioned themselves around the lower hallway. (along the line pointing to B) The door cracked open and out stepped a Troll Skull goblin! On the edge of Phandalin no less! The Keyar focused his Hunter's mark on the unsuspecting humanoid and killed him with a single arrow shot.

A second later, an orc steps halfway out and stooped to examined the fallen goblin. When he turned to look up the stair, he saw the flash of Keyar's second arrow and slumpped against the door jam with an arrow in his shoulder. Vognur rushed forward and slashed the large orc across the arm. Unfortunately Sidwin missed his shot while Ara kept watch toward the large cavern.

(Note that we are using Roll20's dynamic lighting, I will show you what this was like further on. However understand each player only saw the limits of their own vision. During all this they kept yelling at Lanar to move up with the torch as this was the only light source for Vognur and Sidwin.)

(All this action was centered around B)

Vognur struck again at the orc stabbing it through the meat of the orc's thigh. The warrior noticed through the open doorway that two other large orcs were scrambling to put on their gear. Sidwin moves down the stairs and lunges at the orc but the rapier's points slides uselessly off the armor. Sidwin then uses the shifting shadows to hide in the corridor (Tim rolls a nat 20 so there is no question about this)

Aided by his Hunter's Mark Keyar scores a perfect hit (another nat 20!) and the orc collapses dead. The remaining orcs rushes out and the first feel feels the bite of winter as Ara successfully aims a Ray of Frost spell. The orcs fights the party but to no avail. The last orc desperately grapples Vognur only to be cut down by a well aimed sword thrust.

This how it looked from Vognur's point of view. 

During the fight with the last of the orcs, Sidwin hears people scrambling from chairs and readying themselves. Taking notices of the door behind him (the one south of D) He makes the rest of the party aware of the situation.

The party slams open the door and rushes into the room (point D) Unfortunately two Redbrands were waiting in ambush and hacked into the party as they rushed through with Vognur bearing the brunt of their blows.  As an unpleasant surprise they proved to be far more capable fighters then as the thugs they first appeared to be.

Ara hearing the sounds of doors opening decides to go back and up the stairs and keep watch. A move that proved wise later.

Vognur, Keyar and Sidwin battled the two Redbrands around the room downing both of them. Unfortunately Glasstaff choose to make his appearance. (Standing at point E) Framed by the two doorways Vognur made a perfect target and he was felled by a volley of magic missiles.

The dice that downed Vognur. 
I decided to christen my newly arrived magic missile dice

During this a third Redbrand make it way through another hallway and into the cavern. Ara and the Redbrand spotted each other at the same time and the mage retreated down the stairs into the lower hallway (point A) yelling at Lanar to follow him. Lanar ran as fast as legs could  pump but the Redbrand was quick. In a vicious cycle of swings, the thug cut down Lanar and gave Ara a vicious slash across the chest.

Keyar was the first to react to the appearance of Glasstaff and focused the Hunter's mark on the mage. But the well aimed arrow shot was foiled by the shimmering globe of magic energy that sprung from Glasstaff's staff.  In a single fluid motion, Sidwin lunged his rapier at Glasstaff. The magical shield was no match for Sidwin's skill as the rapier slipped through the mage's liver.

Seeing the Sidwin and Glasstaff dueling, Kaydar kneeled beside the bleeding warrior and the cool white light of healing restored Vognur to conscious and his health. The wizard unleashed another volley of magic missile which marked Sidwin with multiple puncture wounds. (Go magic missile dice!)

With nothing between him and the Rogue, Ara unleashed his most potent spell sleep. The looking of triumph on the Redbrand's face quickly turned into deep slumber as the thug collapsed onto the stairs.

Stunned by the display of the wizard's power, Sidwin elects to run into the open doorway to the east. (The room and door to the east of E). Seizing the opportunity,  Glasstaff stuck out with his staff but failed to hit. Seeing Vognur getting up and Keyar readying his bow, Glasstaff chose to run away through the upper hallway. (The path to point I). After stumbling in the dark hallway, Sidwin lets Keyar lead and the two give chase. Vognur decides to grab the torch in the wizards room. (point E). In the mean time Ara is disparately trying to stop Lanar's bleeding before he dies.

The situation after Keyar and Sidwin start chasing the Wizard
From Vognur point of View.

This is what it looks like from my end.

With the glow from the upper storeroom to guide him (point I) Sidwin leaps! across the chasm and runs down Glasstaff desperately trying to open a secret door. (also point I). However Sidwin's rapier blows was not to be as it completely missed the wizard. Once again a well placed shot by Keyar was foiled by the wizard summoning another shimmering shield from his staff. With a sneer at Sidwin, the wizard lets loose another volley which downs the mighty rogue. Then slips through the now opened secret door.

Ara and Vognur see Keyar gives chase to the wizard as the elven ranger also slips through the door. Unfortunately Keyar is brought up short when he spies three skeletons rises from their crypts in the subsequent room. (point H). He could only curse his frustration as the wizards slips through the double door to the east.  Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. He slams the door on the skeletons and spikes it shut. He returns to the party as Vognur skillfully bandages the multiple punctures wounds on Sidwin.

And the adventures continues...

In two weeks.

Wow, this is was simply the most awesome DnD fight I refereed since a ADnD first adventure in my first year of college.

Now some specifics.

I am sorry but unless stealth is involved or a one round kill there is no way that the party isn't going to rouse the rest of the western half of the dungeon if they fight the Nothic. This happened for this group and the J Squad at Gold Star Anime. Now the awareness of everybody in the western half didn't happen all at once. I was rolling perception checks particularly for the Redbrands. Despite managing to blow a total of eight rolls while playing their card game they still managed to put together a credible defense and warn Glasstaff.

So far the dungeons are small. Really small which contribute to the effect I mention above

OK this part may not come off clear. It about initiative. I had everybody roll initiative and divided the groups into those that went before the monster and those went after. With four players most were in all one group. Then I resolved initiative in order of who is closest to combat. This cut down a lot of "I am waiting for X to do something before going.". Which happens a lot in dungeons with 5' corridors.

DnD 5e is really growing on me. Like Tim of Gothridge Manor, I think the healing mechanisms are too generous but... well I have to admit if you are going to have this type of mechanic this is the way to do it. Note that the party hasn't touched their hit dice healing. They simply have had time too.

I did get one thing wrong, attack of opportunity only occurs when you exit your opponent reach. So Sidwin could have run around without drawing opportunity attacks. A six second combat round is pretty abstract so I can buy this. In my Sword and Wizardry games I always allow a 5 foot step with out any type of opportunity attack. I just chalk it up as part of the dancing around that occur in real life combat. However you still need to be aware when two opponents are standing side by side.

Ranger having Cure Wounds is awesome. I know Dan thinks so. As a fan of the Dunedain Rangers I think it cool as well. Glad to see this in place over the concept of the Ranger as woodsy guy, two weapons fighter of other recent editions. Also the party doesn't quite suffer from the lack of a cleric. Yeah having a cleric would be very helpful but there is just enough surges, potions, and hit dices that a cleric-less group can keep going. For a little while at least.

The players were great. The only frustration is the lack of PHBs particularly for Dan. But as I understand they are winging their way from Amazon and other stores as we speak

There is only one bad point and that is the choice of skills. Perception seems to be the "tic" skills of DnD 5e. We fumbled around with Insight and Investigation as well. I will read them over again before I make my final impression.

Roll20's Dynamic lighting is awesome. Tim did really fumbled around and lost some movement tying to figure out where Glasstaff went. I never seen that in tabletop before. Also I was able to speed it up by checking Update only on Drop.

Magic Missile dice have a happy feel.

Magic Missile was Glasstaff "tic" spell. Blew two of them through his 2nd level spells slots and two through his first level. The spell slot system is outstanding. It not like the involved decisions of DnD 4e or GURPS, but there are tactics involved in deciding to use what spells where.

Damn I hope Wizards doesn't flake out about third party publishing I want to write for this.

That all for now the next adventure post will be in two weeks.


Bernt Bergum said...

What program is used by the DM?

Jarrett Perdue said...

As a classic version DM, when I'm just managing hit points, I know how to describe a hit from an enemy (I can see how close to dead that makes the PC). With the 5th edition fighter's Second Wind, Hit Dice for recovery during Short Rests, and full healing after Long Rests I don't feel so confident about how to narrate enemy hits anymore. I plan to start a 5th ed. campaign next month. Any advice?

Chris C. said...

Executing actions in order of who is closest to combat was a really nice tool, Rob. I thought it worked quite well.

Rob Conley said...

+Brent Bergum - Roll20 at

+Jarrett Perdue - Tone down the physical injury, up the fatigue flavor. Since the beginning Hit Points represented Fatigue and Injury but injury is what got emphasized. Now with 5e it is both.

Thiles Targon said...

What does tic skill or tic spell mean.