Oh, it was a close one today. The party used a spell to get assistance from other beings and ended up interpreting their response in a very unexpected way.
I had everyone come in this weekend for the adventure as the next meet I would be unavailable for. The party began to explore Thalivar, the lost wizard’s tower. I had a few ‘ghostly’ things occur, but I was really trying to get them to come back that night, or at least, hang around for most of the day to get the big nasties to come out.
They found a couple of skeletons and correctly deduced that one was the late wizard. This is where it started to head off the rails. In order to try and figure out why the wizard was haunting the tower, they cast a spell to ask “other beings”. I gave them a sensation of being confused and lost (the wizard didn’t realise he was dead and was confused why the tower was damaged) and that he was stuck somewhere (he was stuck as a ghost).
Of course, this was interpreted that Thalivar had been caught up in the explosion of his magical device and transported to a different plane. My vigourous wave off hand waving was not well communicated over the audio only comms we were using and the party latched on to this theory.
And here I was worried they were about to head off on an adventure to another plane in order to rescue a wizard who wasn’t there. Who was dead and his skeleton buried under a pile of rubble in the tower. But there were two things in my favour – there wasn’t long to go in the session, so I could delay to give me time over the week to create this branch. And two, they were still keen on the idea of burying the skeletons.
The party approached the town priest, seeking advice on the bodies, laying to rest etc. Here’s my chance to steer them back to the “plan”. Together with the priest they decided to get some workmen to dig graves, while they collect the bones of the two bodies. Then the priest will say some last rites, and the bodies will be buried. Hopefully that would clear the ghost.
It worked. Of course, there is still a small doubt in at least one character’s mind that perhaps he’s not dead, just trapped in another plane.
The mysterious disappearing dark skinned woman doesn’t help.
As a last little scenario before the session ended they did a little shopping in the Peculiarites Shoppe. A couple of fun interactions there. Including the reveal that the dark sinned woman is actually one of the heroes of the town from long ago.
Overall it seemed like a good session. I will get them out into the marsh next time. And into some combat again as we’ve now managed two sessions without combat.It may also distract them from pursuing this planar adventure.
Then it will be off to Phandalin with the goats before the last act begins. After that it will be on to another module – Sleeping Dragon.
Hilfander’s journey continues. The pocket dimensions ended up in a final space, apparently carved within a passing comet. Here, a magical crown of mystical power over the fey creatures was the goal. Most of the party agreed that taking the crown was a bad idea, and we would leave it, guard the entrance so no one else could, and then the comet, and the danger, would be passed.
There were some guardians here, but after defeating them, we helped ourselves to a small part of the treasure within. Hilfander picked a +1 longbow. We headed back out.
Outside, the dryad, now recovered, was waiting. However some insight from us, and it was clearly not actually a dryad, but the sea hag from previously. Out for power and out for revenge. It became clear that one of our party, a rather self-centered rogue, had pilfered the crown on his way out. The hag could tell, and was quite excited by the opportunity to kill us and grab the crown. A battle ensued, with success by the companions against the hag.
After her defeat, some extremely powerful fey arrived to take back the crown. We could do little, even if we had wanted to. They did let us keep the stolen magical weapons.
The party moved on, and was soon hired by agent to investigate some problems at a local farm. On arrival we discovered a well run little farm, with strange holes developing across the property. These were quite large, several feet across.
Suddenly, something leapt from the hole, grabbed the farmer and disappeared back down underground. The party gave chase and found itself in a warren of ankheg tunnels.
Several fights with ankheg occurred as we hurried to rescue the farmer. Hilfander’s work with the bow proved significant and we did rescue the farmer, mostly unharmed. We returned him to the surface, before accepting a task to clear out underground.
Again, Hilfander’s bow, this time married to his improved dexterity and his Gloom Stalker training again proved significant.
I’m enjoying Hilfander. He’s becoming sort of a dwarven Legolas, though more suited to underground and the darkness. Fun to play, though I wish his spells had more direct impact. Perhaps I am using them wrong or trying to be a wizard/warlock type. At level 4 he’s +9 to hit with the bow, sometimes gets a second attack and with 16AC (in leather). I am thinking about Sharpshooter the next point I get a feat choice.
And it is certainly a lot less effort to be a player than a DM. This second adventure is proving a little frustrating as the DM is quite slow moving and still learning Roll 20. But it is only his third session in Roll 20. I need to cut him some slack especially if you think it wasn’t that long ago it was me in those shoes.
The group ended the last session just as the last Water Weird dissipated back into water. So we tidied up after that long string of battles from the previous session. They collected themselves, rescued a pair of very distraught children and returned to the townsfolk to let them know that the town was cleared and safe to return to. For now at least.
I had a plan for this session, hopefully leading the group into the next couple of incidents around the village. But, as GM you need to be able to improvise and the session almost went off track very quickly, but some surreptitious rolls and ad-libs kept it on track.
After the long day of fighting, they spent the afternoon and night recovering in a building provided by the Council. In the morning they met with the council and settled on an agreement to support the town for the next few months and to investigate where these undead and cultists were coming from and why. The town provided them some immediate reward, an ongoing retainer and access to repairs and provisions for their stay.
The only clue they had were the lightning embosed symbols found on the cultist. Merrygold, the local priest had taken them away for research and provided that they represented the Storm God, Talos, but could offer nothing else.
The party headed to the port to see if the fishers had anything.
My intention was to have them recuperate in the town for a few days. After that, it would seem appropriate to launch into “Missing Patrol”, but understand that they might investigate the Tower, and so lead them into that adventure, either before or after. I didn’t think Missing Patrol made much sense the next morning – the town wouldn’t have set up patrols again and the townsfolk might not think to seek aid from the adventurers.
The fishers had little, but suggested that the invaders came from the south across the water. At this point I couldn’t find any information on where they had come from. Later on I found that they had come from a place north along the coast. They looked about, becoming interested in the islands and peered southward at the Mere of Dead Men stretching out across the water.
Searching the islands, they discovered the statues and after the rumours from the fisherfolk decided to return after dark. Then they turned back to town, with a plan to head south and search the marsh. I was really worried here as I didn’t want them in the marsh just yet. But I didn’t want to force them to stay in town.
They spent the afternoon following along the High Road as it wound alongside the Mere. I threw in some random rolls to keep them guessing and at one point some strange, non-human tracks (foreshadowing the lizard folk). But they decided the marshland would need a bit more prep before they explored too deeply. The gnome wizard especially was unhappy at the mess his boots were in.
After returning to town, they went out to the Idol Island for the night. Most decided to stay up, so there was only a single character asleep to get the “prophetic dreams”, so I gave him the “storms gathering over Leilon” and made it a warning, but positive dream. I also had the priest describe the statues to be the ‘Swords of Leilon’. This gave them the opportunity to learn about these folk, which would help with the story of the Tower, the Planar Beacon and the women on the hill later.
The next day they rested mostly, recovering from having spent the night awake. They took their info to the council and learnt of the wizard working to restore the tower. This set them up nicely to investigate the tower the next day.
They walked up the hill, coming across the workers hurrying away in fear. This encounter only seemed to further excite the gnome and he rushed up the hill ahead of the others.
He spied the dark skinned woman at the crest, and gave chase as she went around the back of the building. The rest of the party went the other way, only to meet the gnome and no woman. Suspense!
They called out and the wizard came out. He was furious that the workers had fled, but clearly believed their story. And the session ended with the party agreeing to investigate the ghost, and hopefully remove it, so the work can continue.
In the end, I was really happy how the session turned out. I think our first session without any combat and the players seemed to enjoy the role play as they began to investigate. They haven’t made much progress and have done nothing about the undead threat, not even realising that the two are seperate. They will get more of that when they head to Phandalin.It certainly got well back on track after my first alarm when the party was about to head straight into the Mere at the start of the session.
I’ve started creating the town for them as well. There’s an eatery which I can turn into the Tavern later (ready for Sleeping Dragon module). The fishermen and Merrygold have been helpful and so they become more accepted within the town. They have connections within the town and are starting to get to know the place. Pretty soon they will be as warmly welcomed here as they are in Phandalin
I do wish that D&D would organise these modules in level order before alphabetical. I was all set to send them to Phandalin, before further reading made it clear that it was for later. I’ve since noticed that several modules seem to be organised like that. Storm Kings has a progression chart, which is something I had to work out for Storm Lord’s. Something I might not have noticed at first. It’s certainly something I will keep in mind if I work through Sleeping Dragon and Divine Contention.
From a playing perspective, the next hiccup is going to be that my Sunday Morning time isn’t going to work soon when all the schools go back. My youngest has some tutoring and with the new schedule I will be dropping her off at the time I’m supposed to the starting. I’m sure we can figure something out.
The session picked up just at the end of the battle from the last session, with the last of the attackers having just been felled. As the party picked itself up, a couple of things occurred:
They found some sigils on the victims, metal discs with 3 lightning bolts engraved on them. They had no idea what this meant. The priest From Leilon helped them, mentioning The Storm King.
The council asked them to head into town to investigate where these attackers had come from.
An acolyte ran over to tell the council that at least 2 children had been left in the town.
The party headed into town, the paladin at least, not needing further motivation than the missing children. In fact, he’d charged off as soon as it had been mentioned.
They discovered a group by the water, carrying out a summoning ceremony. Before they could get properly into range, they were spotted and engaged.
The battle went well, though they did not get through unscathed. However, as they had not rested from the previous fight, they started to find themselves running short on spells (especially), and the damage piled up on top of what they already had suffered. This started to put them under pressure.
From my perspective, I was a little deflated when they cast counterspell, knocking back the priest’s Call Lightningthat she was going to open devastatingly with! Nothing she could do in response to that and she ended up having to slink away under the cover of a darkness spell.
The party fought well, knocking over the priest and her 5 berserker guardians. It did use up almost all of their available spell slots.
No time for a rest though, for as the priests fell, the water bubbled and a Water Elemental and 2 Water Weirds appeared. This fight actually didn’t go too badly for them, though it was long. They were helped when one of the Weirds, unable to attack the party on land, headed away to peruse some fishermen. One of the party slowly ground that one down while staying at range, reducing the number of opponents the rest faced.
And the session finished with the last one dissolving back into water. We will kick it off next time with the post battle tidy up.
As players, there were lots of positive comments. While I have struggled to push this group, I was expecting this series of running battles to challenge them in ways that the other combats had not. I had expected them to start running low on options and resources, and this is exactly what happened. And the players enjoyed it (and so did I).
Getting on top of the prep helped a lot this time. Something to keep in mind for the next step between modules. I’ve been reading up, sorting out my hooks for the next couple of episodes in this module. I think I will go above the recommended numbers for my creatures. Otherwise they just get smashed and there is little challenge to the party. I have also been looking at playing them smarter too, using better tactics. Enemy just charging straight in makes sense for zombies and such, but for mid-level fighters and others it makes no sense. Especially against this experienced group with things like fireballs and spell shaping.
The party enjoyed several relaxing days in Phandalin, enjoying the chance to rest, recuperate and resupply. The town was continually grateful, with the group having saved the town from goblins, orcs, the Redbrands and a dragon.
Then, one afternoon, a messanger from Neverwinter arrived. Carrying an invitation from one of the Neverwinter Lords, he asked the party for help in the nearby town of Leilon. Leilon is along th coast, a little south of where the trail to Phandalin branches of the High Road.
The party set out, making it about ¾ of the way before dark (they had set out late due to wellwishers in Phandalin). As night fell they approached the Wayside Inn, a place recommended by the proprietor of the Stonehill.
To their dismay, they found it set upon by zombies and wraiths. A fight ensued.
Here I messed up as a DM. I wasn’t as familiar with the creatures and missed the fact that zombies can reanimate and that wraiths take half damage from non-magical, non-silvered weapons. The battle would have been a lot more tense had I realised that. Next time!
They defeated the undead and were welcomed into the tavern, meeting most of the staff and guests.
The following day they set out towards Leilon, only to find the townsfolk gathered in panic in a field a little away from the town. Something had spooked them.
Again, I missed a little of the flavour here, missing a lot of the council’s conversation which would have added to the colour of the situation.
But never mind, because they were quickly set upon by knights and archers on watery horses, attacking from the direction of the town.
Look I really hadn’t expected them to get this far in the session, so I really hadn’t read up on what happens and again, missed that the archers had multiple attacks.
The townsfolk scattered and the party engaged the attackers. A townsfolk was killed by a miss from one of the archers, but their tight formation lent itself to a fireball assault. And the battle was quickly over.
And we had to stop there.
I’m enjoying the party, and this adventure none have played. It’s the expansions from the Icespire adventure. If you buy the Starter Kit you gain access to these through D&D Beyond for free.
But I am feeling both a little underprepared (fixing that for this next session) and that I’m not really challenging the party. Partly that has been my ongoing problem with my monsters just not hitting the party (almost totally due to my ongoing dice roll fails). So instead of hurting them, the monsters (and this has been true from session 1) stand there flailing away and not hitting anything while the party pounds away. And of course, they are experienced players, using their skills effectively.
We’ll see what happens next as they will not have time to prepare for the next two combats. How will they cope when all their spells are spent?
One of the crew from my Phandelver group has moved a couple of modules he’s written into Roll20. He needed some playtesters, so I happily volunteered. With all of the kids after school activities still off, I have some free time in the evenings.
So I got to make a character and actually play it (rather than just fluffing about on D&D Beyond). I decided I wanted to make a dwarven ranger. I ended up with some nice rolls, with good strength and dex bonuses. Perfect for my ranger.
And so Hilfander was born. He’s spent many years living with his Grandfather, trying to keep an unused Clan mine clear of nasties. Sadly after the death of his Grandfather, he wasn’t able to keep on top of the threats and eventually was forced from the mine. He’s left to wander in shame and also to skill up to take it back at some point.
Our first session saw us come across a small town being hassled by a drunken medusa. This eventually led us to a run in with a hag. Hilfander is developing into a ranged attacker, using his longbow to support the party. He’s now level 2, and has +7 to hit with his bow, so it’s quite effective with 1d8+3 damage. And no one has said anything about the bow being taller than him. Keen for a magical bow.
In the next session we rushed to help a dying dryad, who told of a terrible evil trying to capture a magical crown. We’ve set out to get to the crown first and use it against the evil. Hilfander is not convinced it’s the right idea, but supports the party. He’s pretty sure that we should just guard the location for the next 7 days or so, then after that it’s not a concern for almost 3000 years.
This has led us to an interesting set of puzzles and pocket dimensions (I think That’s what they might be, we’re not actually sure of the mechanics) where again, Hilfander’s bow, and his dwarven constitution have proved worthwhile.
It’s only a short story, so it’s expected to finish up this last session. I hope to get a chance to see Hilfander continue in his story later. It sounds like one of the group is going to kick off with a Dungeon of the Mad Mage, which I would love to join in, but am not sure of my commitments coming up.
Where did we last leave our intrepid Phandelver party? Sadly our scribe seems to have lost interest some and there are no further updates from him. You’ll have to make do with my brief notes.
So the party headed into the mountains in pursuit of the dragon. Searching the hills they found several clues, including a frozen orc carcass. By this stage, they were pretty certain it was a white dragon, and the dragonborn was looking forward to the scrap.
They eventually found themselves following a trail up to an abandoned keep, high in the mountains. Made up of two buildings, you needed to enter the gatehouse building, before crossing a bridge to the main keep. A pretty good design I thought. Drop the bridge and then attackers have to scale cliffs to the main building.
Inside the gatehouse they came across a group of brigands, whom they fought until the last two surrendered. The party let these leave and continued onwards.
Most of the keep turned out to be empty, though a small flock of stirges had moved into one room. Most other rooms had been ransacked and defiled by the orcs who had lived here. Before the dragon of course.
The dragon was found on the rooftop, and a fight ensued. They won it over quite easily as they managed some lucky casts of Hypnotic Pattern which kept the dragon incapacitated for each of its turns. This let the party pound on the dragon without taking almost any damage. This was helped by the initiative order. They would cast it, then the dragon would miss their turn, only for each of the damage dealers to take their turn, and then it would be recast, just in time for the dragon’s turn. I think the dragon managed about 1 round of actual combat (where it nearly killed one character with a breath attack).
Unfortunately as the dragon had only recently taken up residence, there was not a lot of treasure.
Finishing the episode, they travelled back to town carrying a dragon head (now mounted in the Stonehill Inn common room) and with the intent to take ownership of the keep.
Well, time for a bit of an update here. Our scribe has been slack the last few sessions, so I don’t have their entertaining missives to include. Hopefully soon.
Well our intrepid bunch finally found time to head to the mines. The group had returned from Cragmaw with Gundren and the map, much to the joy of Sildar. A rest in Phandalin and they headed to the mines.
Again, they spent their time going left at every junction. Remind me to tell Wizards of the Coast to put some bosses on the lower right of a map occasionally – then my group won’t find them 4 rooms into the dungeon. This happened with Glasstaff and happened again here.
After a brief encounter with a skeleton, they came across the boss. Well, Gundren’s brother, Nundren first. A fight with some spiders and then they killed The Black Spider, only to find it was a doppelgänger. A chase ensued with the enemy rousing the guards and another fight was joined. A well aimed crossbow killed the BS right at the start of this combat but the bugbears fought until death.
So this left the rest of the mine to explore.
Which they did. Alston was almost killed, nearly my first player kill, during a fight with a flaming skull. They killed it and in a race against time, managed to douse it with holy water just seconds from it reawakening.
Sadly, one of the players left us during this part. He’s found another group local to him and can’t commit as many days as he needed to play all the groups.
So the Furious Five fought on, clearing the dungeon and returning to enjoy their rest in Phandalin.
Only rumours of a dragon abound.
And then an orc band tried to raid for supplies as it passed through.
A well timed fireball put that to an end.
A surviving orc gave them some clue as to where they might find the dragon as well. What will they do?
I’m now linking it to the end of the “Dragon of Icespire Peak” module. This came in the new Essentials Kit and isn’t something any of us have played through before. From the finish of that, I plan to move into the other 3 included modules, starting with “Sleeping Dragons Wake.”
Part way through I also subscribed to Roll20 and I have to recommend the Dynamic Lighting function. It certainly adds to the experience on the maps.
Well the Ninja has been out and about. I’ve put almost 16,000km on her this year and sees me in to the 3rd service since I picked her up, only about this time last year. I really enjoy the bike, and have been slowly tinkering to clean her up and set her up for me (like the awesome top box). I have been to Canberra twice and Newcastle once, but apart from work or commutes, there has been little in the way of fun only rides. Still she suits me well, is much better for what I do than the Daytona.
The Daytona is missed, but would likely have seen a fraction of the kms this year. I hear that almost without being ridden the new owner has sold it to a person down in Melbourne. Hopefully they will use her more.
I also rode a VFR during the year and was totally disappointed. I guess I’m now a 100kW or more rider.
I would certainly love a 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 to replace this one, but I’m happy for now.
Well I have one in High School now. A few hiccups at first, learning lessons about being responsible and planning your assignments but she seems to have settled in well, making good friends and doing well. The other is in Year 5 in 2020, which means High School too in 2022!
Well of course, there is the recently posted completion of BattleTech. Yay. I did enjoy that.
My degree is finished. I am waiting for the official results from the school, but to the best of my information, I’ve passed. I am now a fully qualified but not completely registered Primary School Teacher. Huh. That’s a bit different. (and the lack of study in no small way has contributed to the completion of Battletech!)
About Other Stuff
Dungeons and Dragons flashed back into my life. After a 30 year hiatus, suddenly I find myself Dungeon Master once a fortnight and ad hoc DM’ing for my daughter through an adventure. I am enjoying the distraction and my players seem to be enjoying my management. The accessibility and the ease of the current rules do help that.
And I think that’s a good summary of my year.
I am not sure where 2020 and especially 2021 will take me. I intend to slowly transition from my current employment into teaching through part time (at work) mixed with casual (at teaching) to ease into it. With the plan to switch completely in 2022. Let’s see what happens.
As for the girls one, that has sadly sat on the side a little with my own time pressures and their school term starting back up again.
However, they are in the middle of some minor tasks around the campaign. They’ve visited the Hag, neither group thought to ask it a different question. The girls have also visited the traveling mage and provided feedback to the town. Lastly they found their way to Thundertree village and started looking about. They’re not too keen on engaging the spiders or the dragon (unlike another bunch I know!)
However both groups now know where Cragmaw Castle is, and the “not my girls group” now have someone to guide them to the mine, both groups are soon to head into the final chapter of this adventure. Exciting times….