What to play after finishing the D&D Starter Set

It is fair to say that the D&D Starter Set adventure, “The Lost Mine of Phandalin”, is a good adventure. I’m currently running it for the third time, and my players are doing things my other groups haven’t done. It’s a really good introduction to the game, and just by being a fantastic adventure. There’s a lot in it for experienced players as well as new players.

In Lost Mine of Phandalin, you agree to escort a caravan of supplies to the mining town of Phandalin at the request of Gundren Rockseeker, a local dwarf. Things don’t quite go as planned – and the player characters will find themselves drawn into a number of events revolving around the small town of Phandelver and the legendary Lost Mine. Along the way, you get to meet (and possibly befriend and work for) members of the five major factions that support adventurers, as well as proving yourself as skilled (or lucky) adventurers.

The adventure will advance characters from 1st level to 5th level. What do you do next? Well, why not try one of the other published adventures? However, what happens if you want to use your characters from Lost Mine in the new adventure? That’s fine: each of the adventures has a point that allows new characters to enter it. It’s not always explicitly stated, however. So, here’s how I’d integrate characters who’ve finished playing the Starter Set into the published adventures.

Tyranny of Dragons – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat

The Tyranny of Dragons story has two adventures; Hoard of the Dragon Queen is levels 1-7, The Rise of Tiamat concludes the story with levels 8-15. The beginning of Hoard of the Dragon Queen sees the characters aiding the small town of Greenest in the south of the Sword Coast against a sudden attack by the Cult of the Dragon, who burn the place down to the grounds and take as much loot as they can carry. The characters are then asked to investigate the Cult’s camp, where they discover the treasure is being shipped up the Sword Coast.

At this point, the five factions (Harpers, Order of the Gauntlet, Emerald Enclave, Zhentarim and Lord’s Alliance) are now really paying attention to what the Cult is doing. The Cult is beginning to attack towns all over the Sword Coast. So, they begin sending out agents to discover what’s going on. The characters are some of those agents. In the adventure, they’re asked to investigate by agents of the Harpers and the Order, but it wouldn’t be hard to adjust things so they’re asked by their own factions to investigate. The fourth episode of the adventure sees the PCs following a Cult’s treasure caravan up the Sword Coast until it reaches a work camp near Neverwinter (on the edge of the Mere of Dead Men). The characters should be about 4th or 5th level moving into Chapter 5.

This is where characters from Lost Mine should be introduced. Players who have adventured through Lost Mine will have gained a number of contacts with the factions, most likely with the Lord’s Alliance (Sildar Hallwinter), but with other factions as well depending on their actions (check page 15 of Lost Mine, it’s got a list of the important NPCs and which ones are the faction contacts). Have those contacts inform the players that the Cult of the Dragon has been attacking towns all over the Sword Coast and shipping their treasure to secret locations. One of the treasure caravans is about to arrive at the work camp, so could they go there and investigate where it’s going – after all, it’s only a couple of days travel away!

From this point, you can play through the rest of Hoard as written, and then continue through Rise as well.

Elemental Evil – Princes of the Apocalypse

This story has only one published adventure. Unusually, it’s for levels 3-15! It’s also very much a sandbox adventure, where the characters can potentially wander into quite dangerous parts of the adventure by mistake. More than one adventuring party has suffered major casualties while playing this adventure!

Although the main adventure is levels 3-15, material is provided for levels 1-2 in a chapter of side treks. In this chapter, the characters begin in the town of Red Larch, and get introduced to a number of odd things happening about the town – especially the discovery that a number of important townsfolk have been doing things not necessarily in the public interest!

For those players starting out at level 3, there are a number of potential adventure hooks, but the trigger for the main storyline is a trade delegation from Mirabar disappearing in the Sumber Hills. The players have been sent by their factions to investigate…

All of which means that you really don’t need to adapt Princes very much to play it after Lost Mine. The major problem – that the characters are level 5 instead of level 3 – is negated by the sandbox aspect of the adventure. Yes, there will be a couple of locations that the party will find easy, but that’s part of this style of adventure. (They’ll probably end up in one of the high-level sections too early, anyway!) Once again the faction members in Phandalin are the main entry point to the story. The trade delegation going missing means that agents of the factions need to investigate, especially due to all the other reported weirdness in the Sumber Hills, and so the party are asked to investigate.

If you know that you’ll be going from Lost Mine into Princes, you may want to include some of the backgrounds and motivations from Princes into the player character backgrounds as they begin Lost Mine – yes, they’re doing this job for Gundren at the moment, but once they’re finished with it, they know they’ll be travelling to the Sumber Hills to discover what’s going on. However, even if you just finish Lost Mine and then decided to go into Princes, you can adapt some of the motivations to hook the players into the story, in addition to the request from the factions.

Rage of Demons – Out of the Abyss

Again, this is only one book, but it’s for levels 1-15. I’m writing this with it only a few days from being released, but I do have the opening section (the portion for D&D Encounters) and have read Chris Perkin’s notes on the story. So, I know enough to comment on how to move from Lost Mine to this adventure.

The beginning of Out of the Abyss begins with the characters prisoners of the drow! Obviously, this will not lead to a fulfilling and happy life (or a particularly long one), so the characters need to escape. And that’s the start of the adventure. The players need to escape the drow, and make their way back to the surface. That journey will get them to around level 5. They’ll get hints on the journey up that things are even weirder than they suspected in the Underdark, but eventually they’ll emerge to the surface. Where? Oh, in the north of the Sword Coast, not too far from Phandalin and Neverwinter.

And sometime soon after that point, King Bruenor Battlehammer will summon them, inform them that things are now Really Really Bad in the Underdark, and having heard of their exploits, he thinks they’re just the people to save the situation. Well, one of the situations, because there are probably other parts of the storyline which characters in the novels (Drizzt) and computer games and D&D Expeditions adventures are dealing with… And so they head back underground to deal with the rest of the adventure.

So, to move from Lost Mine into Out of the Abyss just requires King Bruenor to summon the characters after hearing of their exploits helping Gundren Rockseeker and finding the Lost Mine, and tell them of the dreadful trouble down below and send them to face it!

It should be noted that Rage is likely more of a sandbox adventure with a less-defined story path. Characters can explore the Underdark and end up in a lot of trouble! The notes in the Encounters portion indicate that the players can stay in the Underdark longer than just levels 1-5. Bruenor is designed for use around 7th level, but using him a couple of levels earlier and inserting some of the previous sections as encounters on the way down will aid the group have enough experience when they face the hard stuff. (More as I learn it!)

D&D Expeditions

You can also use your Lost Mine characters to play any of the D&D Expeditions games that take place in local game stores and conventions around the world (and there’s also people doing so in online games these days). There’s just one thing you need to make sure you do when playing Lost Mine: keep a valid D&D Adventurers League Log of the XP, gold and magic items you gain. You’ll find full details on how to do this in the D&D Adventurers League Players’ Guide. You can find the guide, log sheets and other resources on the Wizards website.

Note that the Expeditions have limits on what level characters can play them: tiers of levels 1-4, 5-10 or 11-16 at present. So, make sure you have a character of the proper level. (A character at level 4 or 10 can spend downtime and gold to immediately advance to the next level, which is useful when you’re just short of having a character at the proper tier.

There’s a lot of adventuring opportunities out there. So, if you’ve started with the Starter Set, there’s no reason not to just continue with those characters into any adventure that interests you. There are others made by other publishers. Or you could always write your own adventures!

And don’t forget that in November the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide will come out with new options for your characters and information for the DM on the setting of these adventures!

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Elemental Evil, Play Advice, Rage of Demons, Tyranny of Dragons | Leave a comment

An Introduction to the Forgotten Realms: Gods of Hillsfar and Elventree

The third season of the D&D Adventurers League is just starting. The D&D Expeditions games this year are set around the city-state of Hillsfar, a port city on the Moonsea. The official DDAL page has a great article about the State of Hillsfar, but I thought I’d go into a little more detail about the gods that are worshipped in the city and the nearby town of Elventree. This is particularly important if you take the Acolyte background, which will allow you access to some free spellcasting at these temples.

Lliira, Our Lady of Joy

If you’re looking for a good time drinking, laughing and relaxing after a hard day’s work, Lliira is the goddess for you. Lliira would like everyone to be happy, and she thinks entertainment, drink and good company are the way to a better world. All of which means that the House of Happiness in Hillsfar tends to be very well attended after a long day, with a lot of song and laughter coming from within. Most temples in Faerûn don’t appear to be the local festhall, but that’s what the House of Happiness is. It helps that Hillsfar has a fantastic (and extensive) brewing industry. Reports that the House of Happiness buys most of it are probably only slighly exaggerated.

As a result, it’s a little unusual for adventurers to worship Lliira. However, every so often people have to fight to keep the dream of joyfulness alive, and there are those amongst her worshippers who take that charge seriously – although they might not seem to be taking it seriously. Wearing a feather hat and being underestimated by the villain? (And bringing a little joy into other people’s lives?) Yeah, that’s a good place for a worshipper of Lliira to be.

You might find worshippers of Lliira in the Order of the Gauntlet or the Harpers, but it’s hard to imagine many of them ending up in the Zhentarim, Emerald Enclave or Lords’ Alliance. Bards are quite likely to follow Lliira, but most characters who enjoy having fun after a long day’s adventure will probably appreciate what the Lliirans have to offer. Her love of the dance means that a few rogues and monks (and those trained in acrobatics) may follow her – although the traditional (lawful) view of monks isn’t a great fit. The drunken master? Much more likely!

Lliira is Chaotic Good. About a hundred years ago, her mortal lover was slain by worshippers of Loviatar, the Lady of Pain, so some of her worshippers still seek to cause trouble for (or kill) any worshipper of that goddess they come across.

“I’m glad you’re happy.” “I’m happy you’re glad.” – two unnamed Lliiran worshippers.

Chauntea, Goddess of Agriculture

Farmers across the world worship Chauntea, whose blessings allow the crops to grow. In Hillsfar, her clerics gain a portion of the crops grown in payment for their blessings. And they brew mead, which is really well appreciated. (For those unfamiliar with the drink, mead is made by fermenting honey with water, so there is apparently also a very large number of beekeepers around Hillsfar. Or possibly a small number of keepers of giant bees… this is Faerûn, after all!)

As Chauntea is the goddess of agriculture – Lawful Good, of course – she’s very important to maintaining civilisation. You can’t maintain civilisation without a stable food source. The clerics of Chauntea generally only concern themselves with the day-to-day matters of caring for farmers and their crops, preferring to nurture rather than engage in open conflict, but they will rise when the people and the land are threatened.

Due to her links to civilisation, you may find worshippers of Chauntea in the Order of the Gauntlet or the Lord’s Alliance. It’s more unusual for them to belong to the Emerald Enclave, although I could see it happening – she’s a bit too civilised for the Emerald Enclave. The Zhentarim are too mercenary to worry about Chauntea. Harpers? Seems unlikely, but possible.

In Hillsfar, the Chaunteans also operate a large orphanage; it is possible that your character might come from that orphanage and be more inclined to worship Chauntea as a result.

Tempus, Lord of Battles

I’ve written about Tempus in my article on Gods of Neutrality. In Hillsfar, the followers of Tempus are numerous throughout the soldiers who protect the city, and amongst those who fight in the arena. It would be much better entertainment if non-humans were enslaved and forced to fight to the death there, and so there is real tension there. The Chaotic Neutral nature of Tempus means he supports individual liberty, something the slavery of the non-humans directly contradicts.

However, it’s unlikely that his followers would ever be organised enough to properly do something. I might be surprised, however.

Disparage No Foe and Respect All” is carved above the doors to his temple. His followers may be found amongst the Zhentarim and the Lords’ Alliance, for the most part.

Mielikki, the Forest Queen

Mielikki does not have a great presence within Hillsfar, but the nearby town of Elventree is a different matter, as it contains a temple to the nature goddess. Mielikki and Chauntea tend not to have too much to do with each other, though as they’re both Good goddesses, they are kindly towards people. I’ve written more on Mielikki in my Gods of Good article.

In Elventree, her servants are very concerned with the discrimination against non-humans found in Hillsfar. Many of her followers in this region are aligned with the Harpers, and are likely covertly working in and around Hillsfar to better the plight of non-humans trapped within the city, whilst also dealing with threats found in the nearby wilderness – her followers who are members of the Emerald Enclave would be tending towards those activities.

Her temple in Elventree is known as the Hall of the Unicorn.

Mystra, Goddess of Magic

Another of the extremely important goddesses of Faerûn, with more written about her here, Mystra seeks to promote magic. The hatred of non-humans – especially elves – is troubling, but different followers of Mystra would approach it in different ways. At least, Hillsfar isn’t Mulmaster with its actual persecution and execution of magic-users!

The Cairn of Mysteries, its high priest known as the Sentinel, is the place to worship Mystra in Elventree; it’s a shrine rather than a temple, but although the description of the Acolyte feature in the Harried in Hillsfar adventure doesn’t indicate devotees of Mystra can get free spell-casting, it seems likely from the State of Hillsfar description.

Selûne, Our Lady of Silver

In Faerûn, worshipping the moon takes on special significance in a world where lycanthropes and other creatures that are affected by the moon’s phases exist. Selûne is also worshipped by female spell-casters, navigators, sailors and an order of monks. The legends of the goddess say that she and the dark goddess Shar created the world, and have ceaselessly struggled over it since then. More women than men worship Selûne, and she is beloved by female magic-users; it’s said that she was once the goddess of light and magic, and her fight with Shar gave rise to Mystryl, the first goddess of Magic (who bequeathed her power to her successor, Mystra).

Selûne is Chaotic Good.

Elventree has a small shrine to Selûne, the Silver Shadow Cave, and spell-casting services can be acquired there.

Selûne’s worshippers oppose evil forces, especially evil lycanthropes and worshippers of Malar. Worshippers of Selûne are most likely to be members of the Harpers, although the Order of the Gauntlet or Emerald Enclave are also possible. A few might be members of the Lord’s Alliance.

Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden

In ages past, the elves were wracked with conflict. In the end, those that followed evil were banished to the dark places beneath the world, where they were claimed by the demoness Lolth, and forever lost to darkness. Thus were the drow born. However, there are those amongst the elven gods that believe the drow can be redeemed. Eilistraee is chief amongst those. She loves beauty and peace, but is angered that so many drow remain lost to evil.

(That account of the beginning of the drow isn’t strictly accurate in terms of Realms lore, it’s just shorter than the true story. Lolth isn’t “just” a demoness in the Realms…)

Eilistraee is the patron of those drow who have broken free and now attempt to live on the surface or otherwise try to redeem their brethren. She’s not particularly well known to surface-dwellers (and most elves would rubbish the idea of the drow ever being redeemed), but the Harpers are aware of her and her followers, and try to aid them where they can. A shrine to Eilistraee lies near Elventree, the Dancing Stone, and it is normally attended by a priestess of Eilistraee.

Eilistraee is Chaotic Good.

Other Shrines in Hillsfar and Elventree

Unstaffed shrines to Umberlee (the Bitch Queen, goddess of oceans), Malar (the Beast Lord, god of bloodlust) and Torm (the True, god of duty) can be found in Hillsfar.

Small (likely unstaffed) shrines to Chauntea, Silvanus (neutral god of the Forests), Eldath (guardian of groves), Corellon Larethian (chief god of the elves) and Rillifane Rallthal (elven god of the woodlands) can be found in Elventree.

Members of other religions will pass through the area, possibly even including your characters! However, those are the chief deities worshipped in Hillsfar and Elventree.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, D&D Adventurers League, Play Advice, Rage of Demons | 4 Comments

Creating a Rage of Demons character

It’s time for the next season of the D&D Adventurers League to begin. So, it’s a good time to review the guidelines for creating a legal character to play in the program. This character will be able to be played in any adventure of the D&D Epics, D&D Encounters or D&D Expeditions lines.

All of these guidelines can be found in the D&D Adventurers League Player’s Guide – Out of the Abyss. That is the primary source; this is simply an interpretation of what’s in the guide. This version of the Player’s Guide is in effect from July 23, 2015 to March 15, 2016. After that, you’ll have to look for a new set of guidelines.

Character sheets, Log Sheets, Basic Rules and suchlike can be found on the D&D Adventurers League Resources page.

Story Origin

All characters must have a story origin that indicates which rules sources you can use for your character. The new story origin is “Rage of Demons”, but you may choose any of the three origins for your character.

Rage of Demons: D&D Basic Rules, D&D Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual Appendix A (Beasts only), and Appendix A of Out of the Abyss. Hillsfar Bonds & Backgrounds.

Elemental Evil: D&D Basic Rules, D&D Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual Appendix A (Beasts only), Appendix A and B of Princes of the Apocalypse, and Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (all rules except aarakocra – you can’t play an aarakocra in DDAL). Mulmaster Bonds & Backgrounds.

Tyranny of Dragons: D&D Basic Rules, D&D Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual Appendix A (Beasts only), Appendix A of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Note that only the Elemental Evil origin currently gives a large number of additional rules options. There is no issue with using that origin for a character playing Rage of Demons adventures –characters of any origin can play any D&D Adventurers League adventure.

Some certification may lift some of the limitations or provide additional options.

Beginning Level and Experience

All characters begin at Level 1 and have 0 Experience Points.

Some D&D Expeditions games require a character of higher levels. You won’t be able to play those adventures until your character has reached those levels – but there are lots of other adventures you can play!

You can gain experience points by playing adventures. You can also gain experience points for your characters by running adventures! Talk to your local organiser about helping out!

Equipment

Characters start with equipment determined by your class and background. You do not roll for starting wealth.

In the first edition of the Player’s Guide during the Tyranny season, characters could start with maximum gold and select their own equipment. This is no longer the case: all new characters just start with the background and class equipment packages listed in the Player’s Handbook or Basic Rules.

Ability Scores

Players do not roll their character’s ability scores. They may use a default array (such as 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) or use the point-buy system described in the rules.

Alignment

Players may choose any non-evil alignment for their character. Members of the Zhentarim or Lords’ Alliance may choose to be Lawful Evil. No-one can be Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil.

Faction

It is generally recommended you choose a faction for your character. The five factions are:

  • The Harpers – A scattered network of spellcasters and spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power.
  • The Order of the Gauntlet – Faithful and vigilant seekers of justice who protect others from the depredations of evil doers.
  • The Emerald Enclave – A widespread group of wilderness survivalists who preserve the natural order by rooting out unnatural threats.
  • The Lord’s Alliance – A loose coalition of established political powers concerned with mutual security and prosperity.
  • The Zhentarim – An unscrupulous shadow network that seeks to expand its influence and power throughout Faerûn.

You may find your faction sending you on special or secret missions during adventures!

Races

Humans may use the variant human traits from the Player’s Handbook. All races in the Player’s Handbook are legal; you have additional options if you have the Elemental Evil background: Goliaths, Deep Gnomes and Genasi, which can be found in the Player’s Companion. (Aarakocra, despite being in the Player’s Companion, may not be used).

Deities

Most characters in the Forgotten Realms follow a deity. Choose one from the Forgotten Realms or Non-human Deity list in the Player’s Handbook. Here’s an overview of the gods commonly worshipped around Hillsfar and Elventree for if you’re playing the D&D Expeditions games. Note that you still have to worship a deity in the PHB appendix – other gods that are described in those articles are not yet available.

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

At present, this book is not legal as a source for D&D Adventurers League characters. It hasn’t been released yet! It won’t automatically become legal when it is released, either. It’ll be legal only if there is an update to the D&D Adventurers League Player’s Guide.

Will it be legal for characters this season? At present, the answer is no, but it may change after it is released.

Creating a character for Out of the Abyss

The main storyline adventure this season is Out of the Abyss. It is likely to be featured in many stores’ D&D Encounters play every Wednesday. When creating a character for that adventure, you may want to take the Rage of Demons story origins and use the special Bonds in Appendix A of Out of the Abyss. That will help give your character the right motivations to be involved in the story. However, there’s nothing stopping you from using another Story Origin if it works better for your character.

Creating a character for D&D Expeditions

The adventures in this season of D&D Expeditions revolve around the city-state of Hillsfar on the Moonsea. A number of variant backgrounds and bonds are now available for them (they can only be used with the Rage of Demons story origin). Find them here!

Creating a character for D&D Encounters

D&D Encounters is the play program that runs in stores every Wednesday. Consult with your local store to find out what adventure they’re running. Many will be using the complimentary portion of Out of the Abyss, but they might also be playing Lost Mine of Phandelver, a D&D Expeditions adventure or still playing through Princes of the Apocalypse.

Pregenerated Characters

I have a selection of pregenerated characters on my main Rage of Demons page. The D&D Adventurers League campaign staff will soon be releasing more!

What adventures can I play with my character?

If you have a D&D Adventurers League character, you can play it in any D&D AL adventure. Just make sure you keep an up-to-date log sheet of any and all experience points and gold you gain!

At present, legal adventures (and where you can play them) are as follows:

  • The Lost Mine of Phandelver (Starter Set) – in store, home, or online (streamed)
  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen – in store, home, or online (streamed)
  • The Rise of Tiamat – in store, home, or online (streamed)
  • Princes of the Apocalypse – in store, home, or online (streamed)
  • Out of the Abyss – in store, home, or online (streamed)
  • D&D Epics – conventions only
  • D&D Expeditions – any season – in store or conventions (and online/streamed)
  • DDEX03-01 Harried in Hillsfar – in store, home, or online (streamed)

You can find a list of the D&D Expeditions adventures on my individual season pages.

Your character can move between the adventures as you like (although it’s strongly recommended you finish one adventure with your character before starting a new adventure).

If you’re interested in online play, here’s the official facebook group: D&D Adventurers League Online Play.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, D&D Adventurers League, D&D Encounters, Play Advice, Rage of Demons | Leave a comment

Princes of the Apocalypse, session 13

The Stoneheart Monastery. The Sumber Hills. 24th Kythorn. 591 DR.

The adventures had found a number of prisoners, one whom they recognised as the dwarf Bruldenthar. He was the delegate that the monks had demonstrated as being there of his own free will – he’d insisted that he was seeking enlightenment in the mines. This was certainly no longer the case, as he pleaded with the group for release. Using keys they’d previously found on the bodies of some of the cultists, the prisoners were soon freed, and a more badly-treated lot of people it would be harder to imagine. Food had been rare over the last tenday; the efforts of the adventurers in attacking the cultists had unfortunately also meant the prisoners had been neglected. The adventurers tended to them, and soon they were restored enough to converse.

Bruldenthar informed the group that the delegation had been ambushed south of Beliard by Earth cultists (those of the monastery), and had been ferried over the water by pirates. However, their captors had then been attacked themselves by raiders on giant vultures (almost certainly Feathergale Knights, based on their descriptions), who had flown off with the delegate Deseyna Norvael while the remainder had been retained by the earth cultists. Bruldenthar’s companion Rhundorth and Teresiel had been taken below – he’d not seen them again. He also spoke of the brainwashing he’d received that had led to the strange interview of a few days past, which had deflected the attention of the party. Although some of the adventurers were eager to progress below the temple, escorting the prisoners safely home took priority, and so, after using the remaining stores in the monastery to give everyone a good meal, the adventurers returned to Red Larch, where the good folk of the town tended to those rescued.

However, before the party could deal with the Feathergale Knights, another issue needed to be dealt with: orcs had begun to enter the valley in great numbers and had been raiding settlements on the eastern side of the valley. Kaylessa, the innkeeper and mayor of Red Larch, let the adventurers know about the news. She’d been contacted by the Waterbaron of Yartar, and been asked to send the adventurers that way. Thumbalina was likewise contacted by a member of the Emerald Enclave and told about the orc movements. And so the journey to the other side of the vale began.

It was fairly uneventful, except for a short tussle with ogres which went badly for the ogres. They also met some pilgrims going to the dwarven shrine in the Vale, whom they warned of the local bandit activity, while assuring them that the priests were still in residence.

Finding the orc raiders didn’t prove to be that difficult – all they had to do was follow the smoke! They soon came across a burning farm with one survivor, the farm’s owner, and he told a tale of the orcs taking a number of his workers – and his wife – as slaves! Obviously, they needed to be rescued.

Thankfully, the orcs weren’t that far away and were still preparing to rejoin the main force. Their captives were still alive and looking somewhat fraught (as you would after being captured by orcs!) The orcs didn’t have a good watch out, so the adventurers were able to surprise them, and the battle was short and sweet. The farmer was reunited with his family, but they weren’t safe yet: there were still a lot of orcs about. The adventurers chose to escort the farmers to where they’d been planning to go previously before being surprised by the orcs: a nearby steading where all the local farmers were gathering for defence. There, they’d face the attack together.

Players & Characters

  • Michael is playing Krovis Thorn, LN human Paladin. (Soldier, Lord’s Alliance)
  • Jesse is playing Jandar, CN human Fighter. (Criminal, Zhentarim)
  • Josh is playing Ivan, CN water genasi Bard. (Pirate, Lord’s Alliance)
  • Danielle is playing Thumbalina, CN dwarf Barbarian. (Outlander, Emerald Enclave)
  • Mikey is playing Diablo, CN dragonborn Warlock. (Sage, Lord’s Alliance)
  • Noah is playing Gimble, CN gnome Rogue. (Criminal, Zhentarim)

(Not entirely sure of the levels of the PCs for this session, my notes are a bit scanty for this session and the next couple – apologies for that!)

DM Notes

This session was pretty significant: it represented the first real success of the party (freeing the first prisoner of the cult) and also the first side-quest I’ve sent them on to break up the regular storyline. Which gets them out of the dungeon-crawling that forms a very large part of this adventure.

It also represents the point at which the structure of Princes of the Apocalypse wanders into some real problems.

The fact is that Princes has a very strong central goal for the players: Find the prisoners. Any side-quest I then introduce then just delays the party accomplishing that goal. At this point, the group is well aware of where they have to go next (Feathergale Spire), and so the request for the group to deal with the orcs (essentially “save the farmers”) need to be balanced against their existing goal (“save the delegates”). Surely there should be others who can save the farmers while the group continue on their hunt for the delegates? Well, not in D&D-land, it seems. Let me make clear that I have no problem with the actual side-quest. It’s a great little adventure and was a lot of fun to run and play. It’s just that, structurally, it doesn’t fit in the ongoing story.

This probably worries me more than my players. Ultimately, it was my decision to side-line the main quest for this one. I can sort of justify it – “the delegates may already be dead; it’s been weeks, while the threat to the farmers is known and immediate” – but the justification may be hollow.

Coming up, there’s also the problem of the players wandering into sections of the adventure that may be just too difficult for them. I’m not really a fan of players needing to gain XP in a holding pattern until they’re good enough to continue on with the story.

How will I deal with this in future sessions? Your guess is as good as mine!

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, D&D Adventurers League, Elemental Evil, Session Report | 3 Comments

5E Adventure Review: Night of the Mad Kobold

Night of the Mad Kobold is the first adventure in a short series that is currently in the process of looking for funding through Kickstarter. Written by “Weird Dave” Olson, this adventure evokes an old-school feel through its choice of layout and artwork, although the actual adventure style is more modern. It serves as an introduction to the Wrath of the Kobolds trilogy.

As with many of the adventures I’ve reviewed, this one would benefit from better editing. It’s by no means dreadful, but there are just enough errors and awkwardly phrased passages to draw my attention.

The situation has a kobold setting bombs in a city. The players need to find the kobold and defuse the bombs before they cause even more havoc. It is a really good idea for an adventure.

I am rather less than thrilled with how the adventure opens, however. The adventurers are in a tavern, waiting for the story to start. They talk to each other. They share rumours they may have heard. They might talk to the gnomish captain of the guard, who is drinking in the tavern. They may meet his distraught wife. Then the first explosion occurs, and the story starts.

ARGH!

I’ve seen a lot of adventure beginnings like this one, beginnings that ease the players into the adventure and give them a chance to utterly avoid it. (That the party end up investigating rather than the city watch does have an explanation, even if I don’t think it’s a good one). And I hate them with a passion. Just begin the adventure!

It also sets up a gotcha moment. Did you pay attention to how the gnome acted with his wife? No? Well, there goes a potential thread in the investigation.

Investigations in role-playing games are tricky things to get right, and this adventure manages to make a few mistakes in how it presents the investigation. When the author includes a sidebar giving suggestions to get back on track when they kill the only lead (and he’s only provided one lead), you know there are problems. If you want to write a good investigation, use lots and lots of redundancy. Don’t rely on the PCs not killing someone who attacks them. Don’t make the giving out of rumours at the beginning of the adventure optional. Just give the blasted things to the players and let them use them during the adventure!

(I love randomly distributing rumours, but they work best as part of providing hooks into a sandbox environment, not as the chief information you need for a focused adventure!)

There are good things in this adventure. The NPCs are well described. The use of a time track to work out where the PCs are compared to the mad kobold is fantastic, although I’m confused as to why he seems to be revisiting bomb sites when he set up the bombs earlier (per what they learn from the sole informant). I have no doubt that good DMs can use this adventure very successfully, but I feel that it could have been better constructed.

In short: good concept, lacklustre execution.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Review | 2 Comments

Princes of the Apocalypse, session 12

The Stoneheart Monastery. The Sumber Hills. 24th Kythorn. 591 DR.

The adventurers had been charged by the Feathergale Knights to discover the evil lurking in the Stoneheart Monastery, and so they delved once more into its depths, first making sure they’d explored all of the upper level before going into the dungeons. The kitchens, dining hall and guest chambers proved deserted with nothing of value – even the guards on the gate had disappeared by now.

Taking the stairs down from the central shrine and turning the opposite way from which the priest had gone brought them to a crypt, which was guarded by ten zombies. The adventurers dealt with them pretty easily, the slow-moving zombies proving no match for the superior fighting power of the party. (And to think, zombies had inflicted great wounds on the party a couple of months ago…) The group contemplated a set of stairs leading up, only to realise it probably led to the lich above, someone they had no wish to face again.

Heading south, the group found themselves in the mines, where they stumbled on a party of duergar, set there as guards by Qarbo and not yet relieved of their duties (due, no doubt, to the priest now being dead). The duergar were not in the mood to fight to the death, and after a few were slain by the adventurers, they fled as quickly as they could to safer locales. The adventurers, somewhat cautious after their previous encounters, did not pursue.

The deeper mines were dangerous, with grick lurking in unexpected corners. These many-tentacled beasts could attack with surprise from behind, so the group were soon very much on their toes after the first encounter with the aberrations. Cries for help led the adventurers to a cell where several prisoners were being kept, including the pair the group had questioned before (and insisted they were seeking enlightenment).

Unfortunately, before the adventurers could question the prisoners, more grick attacked, surprising the group from behind (despite the prior warnings – they were all distracted by the prisoners!) Once the grick were dead, healing spells were expended and the prisoners freed…

DM Notes

Not that much to say about this session; the group basically mopping up the remnants of the Stoneheart Monastery. The main decisions to make were in how much the monastery had been abandoned by the cult. In the end, I ruled that the prisoners had been forgotten in the chaos, likewise the duergar guards. At this point, the group could go down to the very dangerous level below or return home… they’ll likely do the latter, seeing as they have the freed prisoners to escort home!

Posted in D&D 5E, D&D Adventurers League, Elemental Evil | 1 Comment

5E Adventure Review: The Raven’s Call

There aren’t many people who have written more adventures or contributed more to adventure creation than Wolfgang Baur. His company, Kobold Press, was the one selected to write the two Tyranny of Dragons adventures, which Wolfgang co-wrote with Steve Winter. Now he has released The Raven’s Call, a conversion of a previously released Pathfinder adventure (conversion by Dan Dillon) for his company’s Midgard setting.

The adventure concerns a bandit raid on a village. Things are made more interesting by the bandits actually being in possession of the village when the party comes upon them, and acting in intelligent ways (such as using hostages).

Did I say village? That may be too kind a description for this settlement, which consists of a mere nine buildings according to the map.

What makes this adventure challenging is the large number of opponents; most may be low-level threats, but enough of them in 5E will definitely wear down the party. A few higher-level threats mean the party can’t take anything for granted. To run the adventure successfully, the DM needs to track what the monsters are doing, and have them react to the party’s actions: counterattacking, moving to defend vulnerable areas and the like.

Wolfgang gives quite a bit of useful information on what might happen when the players attempt certain actions (sneaking in, attacking in force, etc.) and there are a number of interesting NPCs for the players to interact with. There’s no set path for the players; it just gives the tools to the DM with which to judge the action.

There are a few editing errors and the writing doesn’t always work for me stylistically, but for the most part the adventure is well written.

The adventure comes with six pre-generated characters (of level 3), which are pretty complete: you’ll likely not need to reference the PHB as they list all features, traits and spell descriptions.

The Raven’s Call is an interesting adventure, which provides a few situations for the players that they’ve unlikely to have experienced before, but it very much relies on the DM to run it well; the tools are there, but it requires someone to choose the right pieces to include. If you’re not afraid to do a little work, you’ll find The Raven’s Call to be worth your time.

Posted in D&D, D&D 5E, Review | 1 Comment