Note: If you think you’ll ever play the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set adventure “The Lost Mines of Phandelver” stop reading now, because I’ll be spoiling things. Not that any two playthroughs will be the same.
Four strangers rode in a cart heading down the Triboar trail towards the remote town of Phandalin. They had been hired by the dwarf Gundren Rockseeker to escort supplies in a note that was equally mysterious and excited. Gundren had found something big, but wouldn’t say what.
Turning a bend in the road they saw two horses dead in the road, arrows sticking out of their haunches. The cart stopped and Quoras Swift, a halfling, crept up to investigate. He recognized the horses as belonging to Gundren and his bodyguard, Sildar Hallwinter.
Then the goblins leapt from the bushes.
Finally: a RPG
I’ll be honest: I had always planned to continue the nerdery I started with Risk Legacy and transform it into a regular RPG playing group. The details — who would play, what we’d play, whether it would be podcasted or not — shifted, and ultimately got put on the backburner, but the desire burned within me. It had burned for literally two decades, back from when I listened to my dad tell me stories of dungeon mastering in his youth. The crime boss with the amulet that negated all magic, dispatched after two hours of discussion with one well-rolled critical hit. The diminutive creature shouting “You shall not pass!” that grew larger as they hit it. Fighting the cast of Sesame Street. I’ve wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons for as long as I can remember.
It took Phil walking up to me at Bidwell and saying “RPGs!” for something to finally happen. Yes. The time had come. I assembled a fellowship: my twin advisors of beer and games Alex Placito and Justin Frost, then newcomers (Mecha)Phil Kneitinger and Cally Alessi. We debated what to play: I had the Pathfinder Core Handbook and Advanced Player’s Guide as well as a frankly ridiculous amount of Fate material. Phil pushed for D&D and its newly-released 5th edition. Curiosity got the better of me, as did my desire to play not only “a roleplaying game” but Dungeons and freaking Dragons.
Phil played Clant Borton, a human archer wearing purple and gray with a totally coincidental resemblance to Clint Barton, Hawkeye1. He was born in the nearby town of Thundertree but was forced to leave when a volcano erupted. The town, now in ruins, is home to a dragon that he hopes to drive off.
Cally took on Rizzo (the wizzo), an elf wizard who had left her life of study to travel. She heard goblins had defiled a shrine to her goddess, Oghma, in a castle they had taken over, and hoped to set it right.
Justin created Dolomite, a dwarf cleric who would do what was right and take no nonsense about it. Word had reached him that Phandalin was overrun with the Redbrand Ruffians, a bandit gang, and he wants to see them gone.
Alex became Quoras Swift, a halfling rogue and former member of the Redbrands. He had been driven out by a mysterious man named Glasstaff and was back for revenge.
Unlike past games I decided not to write down detailed notes of what beer we had and what everyone thought about it. Honestly, it took me out of the games being played, and as a first time dungeon master I needed to be on top of everything. We had quite a selection, however, which I’ll enumerate below:
- Ninkasi Oktoberfest
- Founder’s Dark Penance
- Uinta King’s Peak
- Elysian Space Dust
- Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
- Stone Saison
- Professor Fritz Briem 13th Century Grut Bier
- The Publica House Ale
- Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale
- Mead that I made in 2008
- A growler of APESwet (Alex/Eric Cascade wet hopped harvest pale ale)
We now resume the action already in progress
I had warned the group that 5th edition was no joke, which they quickly learned. Quoras missed an attack against one of the four goblins, and on the goblin’s turn it rolled a critical hit, reducing him to zero hit points. He wasn’t dead, not yet, but he certainly was mostly dead, and incapacitated to boot. Clant nailed a goblin square in the chest, slaying it, but then another archer rolled a critical on him, reducing him to zero as well.
Those dice Alex gave me last year seemed to be loaded.
Rizzo and Dolomite helped turn things around, with Rizzo putting most of the goblins to sleep with a flick of her wrist and a magic word and Dolomite stabilizing and then healing Clant. The party’s fighter, Clant murdered the rest of the goblins save for one, who ran off into the woods. They discovered a well-worn trail in the woods but decided to head into Phandalin first so that Quoras, who had come literally one die roll from permanent death, could rest.
Roadhouse (but with less defenestration)
The party headed to an inn, described as a roadhouse. They asked if anyone looked like Patrick Swayze, so I rolled a d4 and discovered that three people looked like him, in fact. Quoras managed to beg a free room from the owner, who mentioned the trouble with the Redbrands, now lead by Quoras’ enemy Glasstaff. His wife chimed in with a story of the gang murdering a man in plain sight and then abducting his family.
They delivered the supplies they had brought to the local merchant, earning some gold, and then went to bed. Rizzo, being an elf and therefore only needing four hours of meditation, visited the local shrine where Sister Garaele asked for her help in getting information from Agatha, a local banshee. Rizzo returned to the inn, woke everyone up and tried to convince them to help her out. Quoras and Dolomite were focused on the Redbrand threat but agreed to go along once Rizzo promised her help.
“It’s not a ghost, it’s a banshee! Don’t be racist.”
They crept through the woods until they came upon a crude dwelling made of branches. Rizzo tried to see inside but could only make out a few furnishings with no sign of movement. Quoras, who had had his fill of being ambushed and didn’t really care one way or another about Rizzo’s banshee, hid in a tree.
Rizzo approached. Nothing happened. She peeked around the corner of the door. No one there. She tentatively held an arm inside. No response. Finally she slowly eased inside.
With a whirl of noise and light the banshee appeared, asking in a raspy voice exactly what it is Rizzo wanted. Rizzo offered a jeweled comb given to her by Sister Garaele in exchange for information about the location of a specific spellbook. Pleased with the offering, Agatha told her. They then stood around awkwardly for a bit, unsure of how to make small talk with a banshee. “Are… we done here?” Rizzo asked. “Sure, yeah, I’m good,” Agatha replied.
Roadhouse II: Last Call
With the potions of healing Garaele had given them as a reward in hand, the group marched to the Sleeping Giant, which had been pointed out to them as the watering hole of choice for the Redbrands.
Four bandits lounged on the porch. Dolomite challenged them to a game of skill, slipping his dice to Rizzo so he could claim they were “neutral” and therefore un-loaded. The Redbrands lost their wager, and in their rage flipped the table and drew their weapons.
Between a combination of excellent rolls, good teamwork and a second use of Rizzo’s sleep spell the Redbrands were slaughtered, the final member stabbed in the back as he tried to get away. The townmaster showed up, aghast at what they had done: the Redbrands were a menace, yes, but the party had just provoked them! He bemoaned this in addition to the orc threat outside of town. They got information about these orcs, and Rizzo managed to fast talk her way into doubling their reward2.
They concocted a plan: enlist the Redbrands’ help in fighting the Orcs, thus weakening both sides. Maybe Quoras would even be able to catch Glasstaff off guard! They opened the doors of the Sleeping Giant…
To be continued.