Adventure Review: Glitterdoom

Goodman Games has leapt into the D&D 5E adventure market with their OGL adventure Glitterdoom by Michael Curtis. The adventure is available in print and pdf forms; this review is of the PDF.

Glitterdoom is a short adventure for 4-6 3rd level adventurers that the author suggests can be completed in a single session. It is set in an abandoned dwarven mine, lost to a goblin raid several centuries ago. Now, a dwarf is attempting to recover the mine and hires the adventurers to clear out the holdfast – where a number of unusual creatures now lair under the effect of an ancient curse.

The balance of the adventure is problematic. The first encounter is apparently against four Challenge Rating 3 monsters. For a party of four 3rd level characters, this is insanely difficult. Although the “Stoneghosts” don’t deal that much damage, their resistance to non-magical weapons and most spell damage types makes them very hard to kill.

(Wizards rates a “Deadly” encounter for four PCs as being about 1,600 XP equivalent; this encounter has a 5,600 XP equivalent.)

The next combat is against a CR 4 monster. The final combat is against a CR 5 monster and three CR 3 monsters. It seems that Michael Curtis really hates player characters!

The monster stats are obviously written from before the DM Basic Rules supplement came out, as there are a number of inconsistencies with official monsters; these inconsistencies should not prove much of a problem with running the adventure, however. The biggest problem comes from the assignment of challenge ratings; some seem quite inaccurate. A monster with AC 13, HP 24, vulnerability slashing and dealing 5 damage per turn (if it hits) does not make a CR 3 monster.

This, of course, explains part of the “difficulty” of the encounters; a lot of the Challenge Ratings are wrong and thus the monsters are weaker than their rating indicates.

The adventure itself is a fairly standard dungeon crawl consisting of 13 areas. There’s a good amount of description in the test, making the exploration of the area an interesting experience. The monsters in the dungeon take advantage of various traps and tricks to make things very difficult for the players.

The adventure is nicely presented, although the shading on the map on the dungeon obscures the grid in my pdf copy. The artwork is fine, with one or two pieces that are very nice, others that I found disappointing.

The adventure features three new monsters, a unique magic item, a new dwarven subrace, and a new background – the Refugee. The new type of dwarf, the Sojourner, is underwhelming (+1 Intelligence and doesn’t become lost easily), but the Refugee is well-done; an excellent addition to the game.

The biggest problem the adventure has is this: it’s very short. With a cover price of $10 ($7 for the pdf), this seems an awful lot for a 16-page adventure which will be over in one session. (Note that it is incorrectly listed as a 32-page adventure on DriveThruRpg).

Ultimately, it is an entertaining dungeon crawl, but has a few problems with balance and value-for-money.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Review | Leave a comment

Ruffians of the Lost Mine – (Friday session 2)

I’m a bit late on writing this, so the details of the session are a bit fuzzy in my mind. However, I’ve now run two sessions of Lost Mine of Phandelver for my experienced Friday-night group. In the first session, they rescued Sildar and dealt with the goblins. This session, they ran into the Redbrand Ruffians. They didn’t like the Ruffians, and the Ruffians didn’t like them, either! Mayhem ensued.

Everyone was able to turn up to this session, so we had a table of six players; Rich playing a rogue and Adam playing a wizard were able to make it this time. I expect, now the Player’s Handbook is out, that a few characters might get modified by the next session!

Upon arriving in-town, the group made their way to the inn on Sildar’s suggestion; a few of them made sure that their wagon made it to the Trading Post, and the rest of the goods looted by the goblins were deposited with the Coster.

It didn’t take them long to learn about the trouble the town were having with the group of ruffians known as the Redbrands; it seemed that everyone in town wanted to let them know about the threat. Greg’s cleric of Tymora visited the local cleric of Tymora, and learnt about her wish to recover a spell-book that only a banshee knew about. Greg promised to aid her, just after he and his friends dealt with the Redbrands.

The group made their way down to the local watering hole that the ruffians frequented, and insulted them a lot. When the Redbrands attacked, attempting to defend their honour (well, what little remained of it), the ruffians learnt exactly how bad an idea it was to fight newly-arrived adventurers! From there, it was up to the ruined mansion to search for signs of the other ruffians.

Descending to the cellar, the players were able to confront the ruffians in the barracks off the main storage hall and defeat them. They were rightly suspicious of the dust-covered passage leading to old, old doors, but unlike my other group were aware enough to find the secret door that led into the main stronghold of the ruffians.

The way was not clear, however. A nothic spotted them and did some small amount of damage in the combat that ensued, before it fell to their prowess. The nothic didn’t really talk to them that much, though. (I ran this session before I ran the nothic for the other group, so I was less developed in my approach to the monster). The group explored around the various passages that led from the cavern, eventually opting to go down some stairs and discover a wizard’s laboratory, which kept them quite amused for some time. In the meantime, the leader of the ruffians – aware of their presence through his spying familiar – gathered up his stuff and ran for it.

Thus, he was no longer there when the group entered his chamber. They could see the open secret door he’d escaped through, but the Glasstaff was nowhere to be seen. His papers revealed that his actual name was Iarno Dethek, the wizard that Sildar had come to town to find. The party will deal with that next session, I guess!

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Tyranny of Dragons

In just a couple of days, our players in Ballarat are going to begin on the Tyranny of Dragons campaign through the D&D Encounters program. It’s going to be a fascinating journey, made more so by the fact that most of the players are likely to continue past Encounters as we continue running through to 15th level. This could be a journey of about a year or more.

I’m tremendously excited about this (as a few of my friends have noticed). I’ve been going through my miniatures and working out which ones I need for the first few sessions of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. You can see what I’ve gathered here:

Incidentally, the Player’s Handbook managed to arrive on the release day in Ballarat (which is better than a few other places in Australia and New Zealand). Good Games Ballarat got in 24 copies, all of which were presold. They got in another 8 copies yesterday, of which 4 have now vanished… and the distributor is now out of Player’s Handbooks. It will be a wait before we get more. And the PHB reached #1 on Amazon!

I’ve been doing my research before running Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Of particular interest to DMs are the series of articles by Kobold Press under the banner of “Tiamat Tuesday” and the Tome Show recording of their presentation at GenCon is really, really interesting. If you’re going to DM this adventure, you should avail yourselves of those resources.

Here’s one thing you should absolutely know before starting to run Hoard:

Episode 1 is really, really dangerous!

I mean, there’s every chance of several TPKs – that’s Total Party Kills – in this section of the adventure. There’s a theory that some people have come up with that it’s because of Organised Play: those playing D&D Encounters will reset HP and rests and powers between sessions. Thus it isn’t as deadly for them, and it was written with that in mind. Based on what I’ve read and heard, this is just not the case. There are two basic reasons that Episode 1 is really difficult.

The first is that Steve Winter and Wolfgang Baur were working with playtest versions of the monsters. So, if a monster got tougher after the version they used in the adventure, then the encounters also got tougher. (They mentioned one monster became significantly tougher – so all the play-testers were wondering why it was included! That’s the reason… monster stats were fluid). So, while an encounter with 6 cultists and 6 kobolds may have been fine in one version of the rules, in the final version of the rules it’s quite a bit more dangerous. So you’ve got that to consider.

The second is rather more important: This is meant to be tough. It goes a lot back to the Old School method of players needing to pick their battles carefully (and, if they die, well they haven’t spent that long with the characters anyway, so it’s not that great a loss). It also emphasises exactly how dangerous the opponents really are. The players are meant to feel overwhelmed. Things are going to keep coming at them, early in the adventure, and surviving is its own victory.

The biggest piece of advice I took away from the articles and interviews is this: the adventure is only a guide to what may occur. A lot of 4E adventures (and adventures throughout the history of D&D) have been very prescriptive, trying to cover every eventuality to make the DM’s job as simple as possible. This is not the way Hoard of the Dragon Queen works. It is far better considered a toolbox, or a rough plan that the DM can spindle, fold and mutilate to best serve the needs of his or her group.

Steel Wind talks about how his DM ran the first section of the adventure in this post on EN World. This is absolutely what a DM should do with Hoard of the Dragon Queen! The adventure can be run “as-is”, but it works best when the DM modifies it, adds stuff, removes material, and makes it their own.

This is also true for DMs running it as part of the D&D Encounters season. To quote Mike Mearls on the Adventurers League:

The Adventurers League specifically gives DMs permission to adjust the story, the threat posed by monsters, and anything else in the adventure. The only things you need to stick to are the treasure rewards, primarily to keep things fair between players. Especially if you’re DMing for the same group of players, you can add in NPCs, plot lines, allies, and anything else you want.

As the DMs at GenCon can tell you, the only rule to follow is to run a good game. The adventure is there as a tool to that end.

I know that in the past many organized play programs for RPGs emphasized that the DM needed to follow the module as written, but that’s not the case for Adventurers League.

So, if you’re going to be playing or DMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen over the next few months, I hope you have a great time with it. I’ll be posting reports on our progress with the adventure. I’ll try and identify any problems or alterations we make to make it run better… and we’ll see if a TPK comes along in the first few sessions.

The dragons are coming!

Posted in Adventurers League, D&D, D&D 5E, D&D Encounters, Tyranny of Dragons | Leave a comment

The Lost Mine of Phandelver – Session 3

I was joined by seven players for this session of the Starter Set adventure. Djoran, Ben and Brian joined Tait, Jesse, Josh and Josh to make up the group for the adventure. This gave the group a combination of level 1 and 2 characters as they spent the majority of the session further investigating and fighting the Redbrand Ruffians.

The last session had ended with the group rescuing Sildar, friend of Gundren, from the goblins. This session began with the group still in the goblin caves with Sildar; I needed to make sure they knew about him. It was particularly important to emphasise that the goblins had taken Gundren off to Cragmaw Castle, although none of the group nor Sildar knew exactly where the castle was.

The other plot thread I introduced was that of Iarno, the missing wizard. Sildar had come to Phandalin to search for him; both are members of the Lords Alliance and Sildar was worried that Iarno had never sent a report back!

The group escorted Sildar back to town. The warrior had only one thing on his mind: having a bath! While he bathed, the group began to gather information on the Redbrand Ruffians, who had been causing more trouble in town. Asking around the patrons in the inn, they learnt of a family whose father had been slain and the rest vanished, that a young boy had possibly found a secret tunnel into their lair, and that the Redbrands were bothering everyone in town except for the Miner’s Exchange and its leader, Halia.

Also of note was news of the local cleric of Tymora, Sister Garaele, who had recently gone on a trip and returned rather tired and harried. This was considered worthy of investigation, and so she got a visit from a number of the group. Although the expectation that she would have had problems with the Redbrands, this turned out not to be the case, although she was unhappy with their activities in town. Instead, it seemed that she’d being trying to recover a spellbook – a local banshee being the last one to see the spellbook – but the banshee wouldn’t even appear to her. The group accepted a commission from her to find the spellbook, although she quite understood that they needed to deal with the Redbrands first.

The group then proceeded to the Miner’s Exchange where they spoke with Halia Thornton, the guildmaster there. She was happy to find out the players were wanting to do something about the Redbrands, and offered them gold to eliminate the Redbrand’s leader, Glasstaff, and bring any correspondence he had to her. The group were very happy to accept the offer – money for something they were going to do anyway? Excellent!

The next step was to find a way into the hideout. Their previous investigation of the Tresendar Manor’s cellars had reached a dead end, so they followed up the rumour of a young boy having found a secret tunnel. The boy, it turned out, was a halfling, which meant he was just shorter than Milo (Tait). (Milo was particularly short, 2’6″, and his height tends to get brought up a lot during the game, much to the amusement of all). The group charmed the boy’s mother and the boy was able to lead them to a well-concealed passage leading under the manor. They thoughtfully escorted the boy back to his mother before heading down the tunnel.

It should be noted that there are actually three halfling rogues in the group at present – Reid (Jesse), Milo (Tait) and Tullen (Brian). The three of them chose to scout down the tunnel in advance of the rest of the group, although Reid – taking a cue from one of his personality traits – forgot to do so, meaning that only Milo and Tullen reached the end of the tunnel, coming out in to a large cavern bisected lengthways by a 20′ deep chasm. It was also the lair of a nothic, who telepathically communicated its desire to the rogues to have fresh meat. Would they be able to provide any?

Tullen reported back to the party what they found. He was a little unclear on what the monster was.

“I’m pretty sure it’s a tarrasque!”

The rest of the group soon caught up and began to negotiate with the nothic. It wasn’t very amenable to the idea of it letting them go past and return with meat (the bodies of the Ruffians, no doubt), but the party didn’t really grasp this idea and continued to insist. Reid tried to sneak around behind the Nothic, but its superior vision allowed it to see right through his plan and it attacked. The rest of the group gleefully joined in, but they were quite surprised when a second nothic joined in! (The adventure only has one, but it’s also written for four players instead of seven. I adjust monster numbers to try and keep things a challenge).

The battle took five rounds, with Jesse being knocked unconscious at one point and Pharn (Ben) needing to cast spare the dying to save him. The nothics proved far more dangerous with their claws than with their rotting gaze attack, which was always resisted by the group.

Looking around, the group found the nothics’ treasure down in the chasm, which included a beautiful magical longsword, once owned by a knight of the Tresendar family. Vjrn (Josh) claimed that sword, as Gaston (Josh) preferred his axe. (This was the first time I’d given out a magic item certificate as part of the Adventurers League program). They also discovered that one of the bridges across the chasm was unsafe by the simple expedient of trying to cross it and having Reid, Gaston and Vjrn plummet into the bottom of the chasm! After that, a short rest was in order.

Returning to their exploration, they discovered a store room full of looted goods, before they found one of the main barracks of the Redbrands. The seven Redbrands in residence were all quite drunk and happily gaming away; they were quite surprised when the party set upon them! Because they were drunk, they had disadvantage on all their attacks (the poisoned status), and the players were almost unhurt in the fight – except for Gaston, who suffered one round of the ruffians landing blow after blow on him.

One of the Redbrands was captured and then interrogated. He revealed the location of their leader, the Glasstaff, and so the group went to deal with him. Bursting into his lair, they discovered him trying to escape, but by weight of numbers they were able to subdue him and knock him unconscious.

Correspondence revealed him to be the missing wizard, Iarno Dethek, who Sildar had been looking for (although I’m not sure if any the group really caught that fact, despite my reiterating it). The group also took his staff – a staff of defence – and returned with their captive to Phandalin.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Lost Mine of Phandelver, Session Report | Leave a comment

Being Stealthy in Dungeons & Dragons 5E

052014_0235_DD5ERelease1.jpgI’ve found the rules for Stealth in the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons rather hard to follow. It doesn’t help that I haven’t seen the Player’s Handbook yet, but it seems that it basically just is the rules from the Basic D&D game, so there is little further clarity there. I rather hope Stealth gets a section in the Dungeon Master’s Guide!

It doesn’t help that there are some usage of terms I didn’t expect. The lightfoot halfling says “You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you.” Based on how the terminology worked in previous editions I would have thought that was “you have cover” rather than “you are obscured”, so I’m also trying to grasp the slightly different way they have of phrasing things.

In any case, here’s an explanation of how Stealth and Hiding work in 5E, per the rules that we’ve been given.

You may Hide only when opponents can’t see you.

This comes from Chapter 7 of the Basic Rules (Using Ability Scores, sidebar Hiding). In general, this means that you must have Total Cover or be Heavily Obscured. Note that some characters, like the lightfoot halfling, have abilities that make it easier to hide.

It takes an action to Hide (Chapter 9: Combat), although some characters (like Rogues) can do so as a bonus action.

You make a Hide check by making a Dexterity (Stealth) check which is opposed by the Passive Perception of the opponents. You need to roll higher than their Passive Perception, as a tie indicates the situation remains the same as before the check. (Chapter 7: Using Ability Scores, Ability Checks, Contests)

Once hidden, you may move slowly and still not be seen, as long as you aren’t in the open.

There’s a couple of rules coming into play here. The first is from Chapter 8: Adventuring (Activity While Travelling), which states that a party can move at a slow pace and try to surprise or sneak past opponents as long as they’re not in the open. I interpret this as a character moving at two-thirds of normal speed whilst behind some form of cover or if obscured in any way. (Moving at half-speed was typical in 3E and 4E; alternatively the DM might use no penalty at all).

Meanwhile, the section on Hiding in Chapter 7: Using Ability Scores indicates that in combat, you’ll usually be seen if you approach a creature, but the DM may rule that if it’s distracted you can remain hidden. I believe this is a rule that modifies the rule for being in the open – you can remain hidden as long as you have cover or obscurement, but if you approach it in the open, you can remain hidden if it’s distracted (thus, looking the other way).

You gain Advantage when you attack when hidden

This is from “Unseen Attackers and Targets” in Chapter 9: Combat. This may also enable a thief’s sneak attack.

You lose your hidden status once you attack

This is also spelt out in the “Unseen Attackers and Targets” section. You actually give away your location when the attack hits or misses, so you’ll still have advantage on the attack – it’s only after the attack resolves that you lose your hidden status. (So your attack can’t be interrupted by someone readying an action; although they could attack you before you move or hide again).

Characters attacking you when you’re hidden have Disadvantage

Not only that, but if someone can’t see you or hear you, they have to nominate where they’re attacking – if they attack the wrong location, they automatically miss (and probably don’t even discover you’re not there!)

It’s possible to be invisible (or totally concealed) but not hidden – in this case, the opponent knows what your location is. If you’re hidden, the opponents don’t know where you are.

I would rule that if an attack hits you when you’re hidden, you lose the hidden status – the opponents have worked out where you are!

You can spend an action to Search for hidden opponents

This is one of the Actions in Combat (Chapter 9: Combat). The DM will choose whether a Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check is required. The roll needs to beat the Dexterity (Stealth) check made by the opponent when they first became hidden. As before, a tie means that the check failed and the opponent remained hidden. If there are several hidden opponents, I’d say one check could find them all.

I would also say that if successful, you could alert your friends to the hidden character’s location; thus they lose their hidden status against your allies as well.

Note also that if you’re trying to find someone using sight in a lightly obscured area, you have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks, and automatically fail those checks in heavily obscured areas! Normally, you’d use your hearing to locate the target instead, so this rule wouldn’t apply, but against totally soundless creatures like ghosts, the DM may use the penalty.

What Hidden actually means and the difference from Invisible

Being Hidden means opponents do not know your location or perhaps even that you’re there. You have advantage on attacks against them, and they have disadvantage on attacks against you, and they even need to nominate where they think you are… if you get it wrong, they fail automatically!

When you are Invisible, opponents do know your location (although you can spend an action to Hide and become Hidden), so they can attack you – albeit with disadvantage.

The chief bonus of being Invisible is that when hidden you can move in the open without opponents seeing you, although you’ll still lose your hidden status if you make noise or attack.

Surprise

In the first round of combat, individual combatants are surprised if they failed to see any of the opposing side. This requires all the opponents to be hidden and their Dexterity (Stealth) checks to beat the Passive Perception of the combatant. If a combatant spots even one opponent, they are not surprised.

Surprise means a combatant can’t move or take actions during their first turn of the combat, nor may they take reactions until that turn ends. (See Chapter 9: Combat: Surprise).

Note that you have to be hidden (or hidden and moving stealthily) to surprise opponents – which means your speed will be lower than usual. Everyone in the group must make Stealth checks, which are opposed by the Passive Perceptions of the opponents.

You also gain the benefits of being hidden on your initial attack, unless you have to move and stop being hidden before attacking – so moving in the open or moving at a normal speed or faster.

The DM’s Judgement also applies

All of these rules and suggestions are subject to the DM’s adjudication. The glory of D&D is that it is a game with a Dungeon Master, and there are times when the DM can decide an exception to the basic rules applies; this seems particularly applicable to the Stealth rules.

Conclusion

Well, that’s what I’ve been able to tease out of the Basic Rules on Stealth, Hiding and Surprise. Let me know if I’ve missed anything! I hope you find the summary useful.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Design, Play Advice | 4 Comments

A busy few days

I’m currently fighting a cold that was creeping up on me through the past few days, so my ability to write is somewhat curtailed by my need for sleep.

It’s been a pretty hectic last few days, though. On Thursday, I played Power Grid and Strasbourg with my friends at Goodgames Ballarat – I won neither game, but both were very enjoyable. Then my car’s timing belt broke just as I was leaving to go home. 10 pm in Ballarat, needing to travel 30 km. This wasn’t good. I eventually took a fairly expensive taxi ride home. (Though worth it!)

On Friday, I spent the first part of the day getting rid of my old car – which was very, very old – then the second part of the day obtaining a new car. The people at Ballarat Toyota were very happy and by the end of the game, I was driving off in a brand new car. (I’ve been meaning to get one for the past six months; I was just forced into it by the breakdown).

Friday evening we played the second session of Lost Mine of Phandelver with my regular group. Everyone attended, and I’ll write a report on what happened as soon as I feel better.

Saturday afternoon I’d hoped to play some board games, but Goodgames was very busy due to both a Yu-Gi-Oh! Sneak peak and a Magic game day happening at the same time. Sigh. So, instead, I spent the afternoon revising my manuscript of Secrets of Neverwinter, the adventure I’ve written for this “gap” of D&D Encounters.

Then came D&D Encounters, and we had 31 players taking part. Five tables, most with five players + DM and one with six players + DM. Lee had a lot of fun with the Nothic prisoner I’d put in the adventure, who was pleading with the group (telepathically) to let it go. The session went fairly long – partly due a later start because of us waiting for the card tournaments to finish and partly because there seemed to be quite a bit of material in the adventure. It’s hard judging length when there are substantial role-playing segments!

So we were fairly late in getting to post-Encounters fun. Four tables stuck around, so we had one table of Rifts, one of D&D 5E, and two playing AD&D including my own. And I finally found a place in the campaign to stick Rob Kuntz’s Prisoners of the Maze series. That gave us 22 players in the post-Encounters games, including two players who weren’t in Encounters.

This coming week, we’ll finish off Secrets of Neverwinter, play some 5E, and possibly even get in a game of Fiasco.

It looks like we’ll continue running through all of Tyranny of Dragons; possibly the entire series in the Encounters spot (although we may have some extra-long sessions, depending on how people are enjoying it and how the DMs who run other games afterwards feel. The experienced players really want a shot at going through the entire thing.

We’ll likely still have a table of low-level games running even after we move out of the regular “encounters” levels. It may be a refuge to those who don’t like a particular story, as well as being the place to introduce new players.

Posted in D&D Adventurers League, D&D Encounters, Life | Leave a comment

Sneaking through the Lost Mine (Friday session 1)

I’m currently running two groups through Lost Mine of Phandelver, the adventure included in the D&D Starter Set. The first group are people from my FLGS who play D&D Encounters with me every Saturday evening. I’m running it as an Adventurers League adventure, so characters are keeping track of their XP and treasure on the log sheets, using point-buy for creating their characters, and working within slightly stricter restrictions than the other group, who are just playing it as veterans of my Friday night home games.

Well, most are veterans. This time around we have Glen joining us, who has played a lot of board games and D&D Encounters with me over the past year. He’s joining Greg, Martin, Rich, Adam and Paul as we play through the adventure to fill in the gap between my 4E campaign finishing and my next 5E campaign starting up (once the Player’s Handbook has actually been released). Greg and Adam have played D&D with me for the better part of 13 years, Martin for about 10 years, Rich for the past 7 years, and Paul is another “newcomer” – he’s played in the Friday sessions for a little over a year, although he’s played D&D Encounters with me for three years or thereabouts! And despite Glen and Paul being relative newcomers to my table, they’ve played a lot of D&D in their lives. This is a table of experienced players!

Unfortunately, both Adam and Rich weren’t able to join us for the first session due to transport woes. They’ll join us this Friday and I’m looking forward to the characters they come up with.

We began the session with character creation. The character that really drew my attention was Greg’s cleric. Greg created a wood elf cleric with the criminal background, and placed his highest (rolled) ability score into Dexterity, although his Wisdom wasn’t far behind. The group didn’t (yet) have a thief, as that is what Rich will be playing, but the criminal background gives Greg most of the thief skills the party will need. In addition, Greg’s character was wielding a long bow. I raved about this a bit on EN World, but it’s worth reiterating how awesome I found this. Both 4E and AD&D “out of the box” don’t allow clerics to wield bows with any real effectiveness (very late in the piece, a few options were given for 4E), but 5E was, with just the basic rules, allowing a really distinctive and fun character.

I insisted players roll their backgrounds and personality traits randomly – I’ll allow selection once we get to the long-term campaign – so there will be some unusual combinations of traits when we get to the role-playing. This first session was just exploring and fighting, though, so we didn’t really see the characters’ personalities come out. However, the next session involves a lot of role-playing, which Greg and Adam will probably sabotage in their special – but amusing – way.

One of the rules I’m struggling with in 5E at present – and I’m not alone – is stealth. Exactly how does it work and what does it do? There are two aspects to this:

  • What are the requirements for becoming (and staying) hidden?
  • When you are stealthy enough to surprise the monsters, what happens? Do you get advantage on your first attacks?

The playtest and interim rules are much clearer on this matter. Here’s the appropriate text from the Interim rules from Dead in Thay:

There are two ways you can hide. If a creature can’t possibly see you, you need only to avoid making noise to avoid detection. If a creature might see you, you need to keep behind cover or stay in heavily obscured areas to remain hidden.

And

A lightly obscured area typically contains dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage. Some monsters and characters have special abilities that enable them to try to hide even in areas that are only lightly obscured.

And the rules from Basic D&D:

You can’t hide from a creature that can see you.

Given some of the rules in Basic D&D, it seems likely that you can only hide if you are heavily obscured, but some races and classes have the ability to hide when lightly obscured. There’s an oddity with the Halfling who can hide when “obscured” when behind larger creatures, although generally we’d refer to this as a form of cover. We really need more clarification on how the rules should work; I guess we’ll see if the Player’s Handbook has more information in a few days.

There’s a lot of stealth and general sneakiness going on in the early part of this adventure. The group is initially ambushed by goblins (my group were able to negate the ambush and turn the tables on the goblins) and then they sneaked into the goblins’ cave. So, they get surprise but are they hidden? My rulings flip-flopped around quite a bit; I’m still trying to find a happy medium.

Unlike my other group, this one hadn’t taken so much damage from the goblin ambush that they couldn’t chase after them. After negotiating the traps left by the goblins, they dealt with the goblins near the cave’s entrance pretty effectively, and then headed into the caves. The wolves could not be pacified, and so were killed, and then the group noticed the chimney and the garbage beneath it. “Let’s go up!” they said. And, unlike my other group, they also said, “We climb silently!”

Given that some of the group were wearing heavy armour, I expected this to go poorly. It didn’t. Everyone aced their rolls, allowing them to completely surprise the bugbear leader and his minions. Which meant that in a few short rounds, they were all dead and the party was mostly unscathed. Then they group repeated this process for the remainder of the goblins in the lair. This made it quite a different experience than that experienced by my Saturday group and by other groups around the world. If you surprise the goblins, then they are a lot less scary. Combats might last to the second round, but it was rare for the goblins to get even one attack!

In the final chamber the group were able to rescue Sildar, the companion of Gundren who had been kidnapped along with him. Sildar was appreciative of the party’s help and offered them a reward to escort him to Phandalin (where they were going anyway – free money!). He also filled them in on what was going on: Gundren and his brothers had found a map to the lost mine of Wave Echo Cave, which once had held a powerful magical forge. Gundren – and the map – had been taken away to Cragmaw Castle by the goblins. Where was Cragmaw Castle? No idea, but there might be someone in town who knew. Sildar really wanted to meet up with a wizard acquaintance of his own in the village, who was also a member of the Lords Alliance, but had dropped out of contact a few weeks ago.

It wasn’t really that late, but at this point the group had finished Episode 1 and – with a heavy role-playing section in front of them with some plot-important information to convey – I felt it was best if we stopped for the night. This Friday we’ll take up the adventure again and we’ll see how the group does in Phandalin.

It’s a very interesting experience running the adventure for two groups; both are going to take very different pathsthrough this adventure, I feel. As it happens, Rich will be playing in both groups, so I’ll try to discover how playing the adventure again changes his appreciation of it.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Lost Mine of Phandelver, Session Report | 1 Comment