Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Great Escape of 5e

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

The Ongoing Story
We last left the party inside the Redbrand Hideout debating over whether to take a short rest to recuperate or run down Glasstaff. In addition the murdered woodcraver's family hasn't been located yet.

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.
  • Squirrel (Josh)  - by all appearance a no-account street rat, but his cunning intelligence and a chance encounter with the possessions of a unlucky mage has allowed him to master arcane powers.  
  • 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.

Thoughts on the Session
 +Chris C.  has a post with thoughts on the party splitting up.

The Game

Having waken up from his long night's rest at the Stonehill Inn, Squirrel learned that the party has entered the hideout of the Redbrands through a secret tunnel in the forest south of the ruined manor. The elf mage wasted no time in throwing his gear together and rushing out to join the rest of the party.

As Squirrel made his way through the tunnel, Ara, Keyar, and Vognur debated whether to take a short rest. (point A). The group decided that with the woodcraver's family yet to be found and the mage still running around that it would be best not to take a short rest and continuing exploring. Stepping out into the cavern area, Keyar decided it would be best to climb down into the chasm. Ara went ahead to the wizard's quarters to see what could be found. Vognur stayed at top to guard.

Squirrel meanwhile was stealthly moving from the tunnel and checking out the body of the wierd creatures that was slain along with dead bodies of Redbrand Ruffians. (point B)

Recognizing his companions, the elf mage revealed himself to Vognur and Keyar. Continuing his investigation Keyar found the murdered remains of the woodcraver along with a old wooden chest. (point C) At this point Vognur heads to the Wizards Quarter to see what Ara was up too.
Rob Note: I have what I feel is a very effective technique to get the players to act naturally out of combat. It starts with me going round robin around the table asking each player individually what they are doing. Unless the group has a strong leadership, more often and not it results in the group milling around doing whatever catches the individual players eye. After a minute or two of interacting with a player there generally comes a pause point where I can move on to the next player. The general effect is to keep everybody involved but in this particular case it had some unpleasant consequences in-game. 
While Keyar and Squirrel were wrestling the chest up to the chasm, Ara was systemically searching the Wizard's quarters. (various point Cs) Along with valuable alchemical components, the elf wizard found an interesting letter written in a elvish hand.
Keyar carefully opened the chest. Lying on a pile of coins was a strange and beautiful swords with a hilt in the shape of a bird of prey with the wings outstretched. Inscribed on its blade was the runes for Talon. Taking hold of the blade, Keyar could feel it magical nature. In addition over a thousand silver pennies were found along with a scroll, and two healing potions.

Keyar gathered the treasure and Squirrel headed down the quarter. Keyar soon joined Vognur standing in the hallway just outside of the Wizard's quarter. (various point Ds). Ara gave the alchemical equipment another look over and determined that Glasstaff was making invisibility potions. Squirrel investigated the room to the south and found the table with the remains of a card game and a poker pot amounting to several hundred silver.

By this time Glasstaff and the remaining Redbrands have regrouped and reorganized. Collecting Redbrands from other areas of the hideout, the wizard decided on a counter attack. The gang moved to the cavern (point E). There was Glasstaff and seven ruffians. Knowing about the rigged southeren bridge (point G) Glasstaff had two of the ruffians leap across the chasm to the otherside. They easily made the jump and made their way to the south hallway (point F). Unfortunately they ran into Squirrel investigating the slain bodies of orcs and ruffians from last session's fight.
Rob Note: What actually happened is that I was tracking time while the party was search and executing moves and actions for Glasstaff and the ruffians. I just rolls for the ruffians jump and placing the two in their final position when Josh announced he was moving to explore while simultaneously moving his token to the southern hallway. Because I was using the LoS feature of Roll 20 he didn't see anything until he dropped his token. His next words were. Hey Rob, do I see those? I replied "Yup, roll initiative." Both sides were effectively surprised. 
While both sides were surprised at the encounter, the ruffians were quicker to recover. The one closest to the mage launched a vicious strike, cutting open the elf upper arm and then on the backhand swing driving the point of his sword into the elf's belly. Squirrel immediately collapsed to the floor.

Squirrel's screams alerted the rest of the group along with Glassstaff and the remaining Ruffians. Their cover blown the ruffians in the southern hallway bolted to the Cavern and attempted to leap the chasm. One made it, the other tripped and fell head first into the chasm. The fall didn't kill him but left the Redbrand battered and bruised.

Hearing his friends' cries Vognur quaffs a healing potion and rushes into the southern corridor (point F)  Seeing Vognur explode out of the southern hallway, Glasstaff shouted for two of men to head to the armory (point H).

Vognur continued his charge right across the southern bridge which promptly broke underneath. Glasstaff having rigged it to collapse as precaution against invaders. Vognur feel 20 feet to land in front of the Redbrand below. The Redbrand missed his blow as the warrior thrusts straight through the ruffian's chest. Keyar runs out of the northern corridor and shoots at the Ruffians. Unfortunately the shoot was wide and bounces harmlessly off the cavern walls.

As this point Glasstaff steps up and unleashes a full volley of magic missiles on Vognur who collapses onto the chasm floor.  In the meantime Ara comes across Squirrel and attempts to bandages him. With the fallen mage's lifeblood pouring through his hands there was nothing he could do to save him.

Seeing Vognur fall, Keyar scrambles down to the chasm floor and successfully administers a healing potion to the warrior. Vognur tries to scramble up the chasm to charge Glasstaff while Keyar scrambles up to use the cavern as cover. But a vicious attack by a ruffian downs the warrior again. Keyar's plans are defeated by the arrival of the two Redbrands from the armory (point H) armed with Light Crossbows. They quickly overwhelm the elf and the ranger falls. Ara attempt to use what magic he has left after seeing his friends fall. But Glasstaff's final volley of magic missles convinces the elven mage that he had no alternative but to surrender.

Ara was quickly bound and gagged by the four surviving ruffians. Strangely, Glasstaff ordered Ara not to be harmed and administers first aid to save the elven ranger. When reminded of Vognur values as a gladitor slave, Glasstaff allowed the fighter to save. The party's torchbearer Lanar was also captured.

The party was taken to the cells (point I). Keyar, Vognur, and Lanar thrown in with the woodcarver's wife, Minar and her two children Nilsa and Nars. Ara was left in the southern cell bound and gagged. The ruffians locked the outer door and slightly later the sounded of spikes being driven into the crypt doors could be heard.

After several hours, Keyar and Vognur came too, some what rested but stripped of everything but their underclothes. Quickly taking stock their situation, Keyar revealed that he some magic powers of his own. He used Mage's hand to free Ara. Unfortunately the wizards had little in the way of any spells useful to the situation. However after a quick discussion the Ranger and Warrior determined that the cell door was just old enough to be pried loose. After several tries both cell doors were wrenched free.

In a minor miracle none of the Redbrands came to investigate. Investigation of the outer door (point J) showed it be locked. But with some brute force and judicious use of Ara's Ray of Frost the lock was shattered.  However thanks to Keyar exploration from last session the party knew there were some undead skeletons out in the crypt.

A plan was devises where Area opens the door, steps out into the crypt then retreats. Vognur and Keyar will pick up a cell door and hold it against the open doorway as a barrier. Ara will then use his cantrip to take out the skeletons one by one.

The plan was put into actions and despite the determined effort of the first skeleton it was quickly killed. Ara revealed that he still had more than just cantrips in him and unleashed Burning Hands severely damaging the remaining skeletons. However he got too close to the doorway and a skeleton managed to pushed his way into the room landing a vicious slice of his sword on Ara.
Rob Note: Although the monster stats said shortsword and short bows, the room description clearly indicates the skeletons rises with only swords in their hands. 
However Vognur and Keyar pushed with all their might and managed to barricade the doorway again. Ara's Ray of Frost managed to finished off remaining two skeletons.

Emerging into the crypt they find both the northern door and the southern door to have been spiked shut.
Rob Note: The redbrands are down to a depleted mage and four ruffians one of them injured. They simply don't have the manpower to effectly guard their prisoners. Glasstaff elected to so what he can to shut the group into the cells and hole up elsewhere. What he didn't count is Keyar having magic spells nor the party being able rip the cell doors off.
Keyar searched the crypt and found a platinum ring worth 500 sp. After discussing their options the party elected to open the southern door. (point K). Using a cell door as a battering door they busted down the double doors. In fact one of the door flew far and wide enough to activate the hidden pit trap down the hallway (Rob Note: Chris rolled a natural 20 for Vognur's Athletics check.)

Making their way to Manor's celler (point L) they quickly investigated the surrounded area. They found a backpack with the discarded remains of a healing potion. After finding the secret door in the southwest corner the group determined this is where Glasstaff regrouped.

Despite their desire for revenge, the group thought that discretion was the better part of valor and left the manor via the cellar stairways.

I need to stop refereeing 5e. Oh there is nothing wrong with the group, the game, or the campaign. But I am rolling hot, so hot that it is draining the luck out of the rest of my life. Namely due the fact that in the space of one week I went from two well operating cars to zero. The first lost on the way to the airport with a busted front axle gear. My wife and I decided to scrap it due it having over 200,000 miles on it. Then on the way way home, I rolled a natural 1 and the left rear tire shredded all over the highway. Like Kelly Anne, my wife, rolls a natural 20 and manages to get the van safely to the side of the highway. In fact she did so well that the rim remained undamaged and ultimately only needed a new tire put on. And kudos to +Daniel McEntee for going above the call of friendship to fetch us and take us home after the tow.

As for 5e, now that I am five session in already, I have to say this is an awesome edition. The way that characters and monsters are stated makes it very easy to master them both in terms of roleplaying and combat. More importantly they work the way I prefer them to work. You think of action as if you are there and rules seamlessly translate that into specific die rolls and details.

For example at first glance you still got the D&D funkiness with hit points. But they really emphasize that hit points represent fatigue and experience as well. And more I used he whole hit point/healing system, I can go "Yeah I see what they are getting at.".

So with Squirrel's death +Rhandom A is making up a new character. From our discussion it looks like one of the first pieces of a Majestic Wilderlands supplement for 5e will emerge. We see how it works out for next week and share some details.


Chris C. said...

"Rob Note: I have what I feel is a very effective technique to get the players to act naturally out of combat. It starts with me going round robin around the table asking each player individually what they are doing. Unless the group has a strong leadership, more often and not it results in the group milling around doing whatever catches the individual players eye. After a minute or two of interacting with a player there generally comes a pause point where I can move on to the next player. The general effect is to keep everybody involved but in this particular case it had some unpleasant consequences in-game."

It's funny you mention that, because after the game it actually occurred to me that we allowed ourselves to be caught up in this (with the "unpleasant consequences"). I think at the very least what we as a group (even if we don't have an actual leader) is to simply remind ourselves to not go milling about individually but to at least have someone say, "OK, let's do all each of these things in sequence, together as a group." Instead of splitting up and doing it all separately and simultaneously.

Peter D said...

Thanks for the extensive writeup, and yes, I would give you money for a 5e Majestic Wilderlands supplement.

Unknown said...

A note about both Rob's style as well as the lighting mechanics. The rest of the party, having been there previously knew generally the layout, for me it was all initially exploring. I only could see my character on the screen because of the lighting and when I was moving my character around, I was actually trying to find the rest of the group. until I saw this writeup, I didn't really understand the layout of the dungeon. While some might whine about this, I feel that it's very much representative of the confusion of combat and exploration.