Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lost Mine of Phandelver Chapter 3 – Orcs!

Lost Mine of Phandelver Chapter 3 – Orcs!

Hey, everyone! We're back, albeit for a short update on the third session of the ever truly epic campaign of D&D 5th edition – The Lost Mines of Phandelver. When we left the heroes, they had shattered the iron grip of the Redbands and released the small town of Phandalin for its troublesome oppression. In a desperate search for their ally, Gundren Rockseeker, the heroes had managed to discern the location of Castle Crawmaw where the dwarf, if the saying was true, was held prisoner. Having just slain the leader of the Redbrands, the renegade wizard known as Glass Staff, the heroes were about to explore the remaining part of the hideout.

The heroes were still Delvin the dwarven warrior, Father Fireforge the dwarven cleric of Oghma, Barian the elven wizard, and Professor Grim, the academic human rogue. All of them were third level.
As usual, GM comments are in blue.

Leaving no stone unturned

Having slain Glass Staff and his thugs, the heroes decided to head out for the remaining corridor, which eventually led them to a basement landing in which rested a large cistern and some old barrels. The calm water lulling them into a safe feeling, they began investigating the room, for now ignoring the door and the stairs leading up. They were, anyway, quite certain that they had now found the main entrance to the compound, which would hopefully lead them back outside once they were done. Delvin took a swim in the cistern and found an old leather sack with a strongbox inside.
Isildur using 5th. ed. swim rules
 (This actually had me wonder about another of those little details D&D 5th seems to flush; swimming in armor apparently has little to no effect, meaning we're back at the game in which full plate swimmers are a perfectly viable thing. Ah well, it worked so well in a chain mail during The Two Tower...)

The party battered it up, not thinking about the amount of noise they made, so they were soon jumped by the door opening up and two Redbrands firing arrows at them from across the room. They then retreated back into cover and before the party had time to formulate a strategy, Professor Grim moved up and hurled a bunch of marbles across the entrance. (Why, we were never really sure)
Seeing how the Redbrands were perfectly fine with staying at a distance, making ranged attacks at the heroes, the good guys had to make their move across the ad hoc barricade of the ruffians and dangerous floor of marbles. This sadly meant that the poor Barian suffered the misfortune of bad balance and was hurled to the floor in best comic relief style.

The professor likely had some idea with those marbles...
 Eventually, Delvin and the nimble professor made their way across and killed the troublemakers, rejoicing and finally breaking open the lock box for some gold and a potion of invisibility.

Taking no prisoners but the prisoners
They discovered a hidden door in the cistern-room and journeyed north, behind of which they found two additional doors. Behind one of them they heard the low sound of dice being hurled and some rattling of chains. (I did take some liberties in this dungeon design, I made the crypt-part kind of like a side area because I still found it to be extremely weird and out of context that a random burial chamber with animated skeletons would be part of an aspiring hive of scum and villainry. So here, it was sort of an area the cloaks were afraid of and had more or less just sealed off). Things went as things went, and the heroes kicked down the door with some good stealth checks, blowing down the ruffians before they had much time to act.

They found the woodworker's wife and children chained up in there, and reassured them everything would be okay, that they just had to check one more room before escorting them out. (One time in my campaign world, NPC's will evolve to recognize adventurers saying this as 'Get the hell out of here!!') - the crying woman was ever thankful and told them that while she couldn't pay them anything worth value, she'd recommend checking out the old herbalist store if they would ever visit the ruined town of Thundertree. There they would find a lost emerald necklace, lost by her family when it fled ages ago. So the heroes thanked her and set out to explore the remaining door, which sadly meant almost falling into another trap.

The last door was old and barred up, so it took some energy gaining entrance. On the other side was a small burial chamber with sarcophagi that practically screamed of nothing to be disturbed. Of course the heroes brashly marched into the room and beheld three skeletons animate from their slumber and shamble towards them.

 (This room is quite trivial at best, since at this time the heroes will have plenty of power against the ordinary skellies. So I decided to throw in a wrench and add a little extra challenge. Usually, the wraith is reserved for Phandelver Mine itself, but I thought a little early confrontation couldn't harm, am I right? I ought to add that I have a very hard time sticking fiercely to an adventure as it's written – I need to make improvements and play around with the system, especially if it's new. The heroes had, with only minor exceptions, been doing really well in encounters up till now, and at this time, WotC hadn't released the official encounter building guide, so hey!)

This was also the first opportunity to test out the new Turn Undead-rules, regarding channeling. It worked quite well, sending all three skeletons running at the first attempt (this ability has become a powerhouse, as far as I see it, against the minor undead who often have very bad will saves, and since it pretty much hurls them out of the fight for as long as the party wishes, all the more glory to an ability that was more or less meh for a long time in Pathfinder)

As the third skeleton fell, an eerie laughter echoed A dark shade appeared before them and hungered for the magical life power they possessed. In blind rage it set upon them, going for the poor wizard Barian and scored a critical hit, pretty much one-shotting him. He luckily made his CON save, and it disappeared into the wall. (There are some serious grey areas regarding to incorporeal monsters, I believe, seeing how extremely mobile they've become by the new system. As such, there is no formal statement about what they can see if they stay inside a wall and occasionally glimpse out to attack. Compared to Pathfinder, they are also able to end their turn in solid material now, meaning they take some minor damage. This really made me wonder about the possibilities of, say, having an incorporeal monster pretty much remain in the floor and reach up to attack during its turns; would it have cover? Would it strike blindly with disadvantage? It borders the line of cheesing, but since players, afaik, can also achieve this effect, it may be something that ought to be discussed in groups.)

Fighting incorporeal monsters, pretty much in a nutshell...

The wife and kids started screaming when they saw the Wraith and ran away, yelling. The rest of the party mobilized and got out their one and only magical weapon to take the fight to the wraith. Delvin and the Professor delivered some nasty cuts, which were apparently enough that the apparition didn't manage to hit anything for two turns in a row. Poor Barian, however, failed his first death save and on the subsequent turn rolled a natural one. Meaning, you guessed it;

The party eventually downed the wraith through a lot of healing and good rolling, and with big grief returned to town with the dead wizard. The townspeople were cheering and happy, rejoicing and celebrating once news reached their ears. They even prepared for a great welcoming committee, flags and everything as the party marched into tow, but sadly Father Fireforge was in a very foul mood and told them all to shut up and move aside.
Which kind of put a damper on the otherwise great atmosphere...

Life (and death) of the party!

The heroes went to the Shrine of Luck, hoping Sister Garaele would be able to help them restoring their slain companion to life, meanwhile addressing Sildar Hallwinter, who weren't exactly pleased to hear they had slain Glass Staff instead of taking him into custody. Eventually he gave up and asked for all the former wizard's belongings, including his staff, which were to be returned to the alliance. It took some sweet talking by Delvin to convince the lord, but eventually he acquiesced and allowed them to keep the item till Gundren was found. (This isn't part of the adventure, but no harm in letting the heroes work a bit for their overpowered items, right?)

Sister Garaele offered to help the heroes for a meager sum of 500 gold, placing the dead elf in the small shrine and started chanting to the goddess to bless him with luck in this life once more. Which was kind of ironic, seeing how it was pure bad luck that killed him off in the first place...

(Now, I know a lot of you out there are screaming at me with errata, pointing out that Sister Garaele is nowhere near capable of such a feat as raising the dead. And you're right, not as it's written in the adventure. But allow me to sum it up like this; I play D&D once a week, and while this can be considered much by several standards, we only game for about five hours. And one thing I obviously don't want to spend time on, is narrating how the party returns all the way to Neverwinter to achieve what might as well be done on the spot. Another thing I really hate, is the party waiting for someone to roll up a new character, especially since he has so few options available and would likely make a wizard very similar to this one. I understand that this system makes Sister Garaele much more powerful than intended, but if this is something that bothers people, one could simply assume she has a scroll hidden somewhere. Or, to put it short, death is a punishment, a setback, not a game-stopper. Feel free to disagree.)

Barian returned to life, not so thankfully and made some rather sinister remarks to his party how he would never return the favor to them and thus wandered off. The heroes decided it was a night to celebrate at the Stonehill Inn, which resulted in a grand night of drinking between the dwarves, the professor seducing the tavern owner's daughter and Barian going to bed with a headache of resurrection sickness (which in D&D 5th has been reduced to a -4 penalty to all rolls, reduced by 1 for each long rest. Much more forgiving, indeed).

Drinking contests; now, I simply used the old reliable system for a DC 5 CON check, which progressively scaled for each drink, allowing the sturdy dwarves an advantage on their saves all along. As it should be. Not all that shit with dwarves going under before the elves, no way. 

And thus, the brave heroes went to bed.

Let's hunt some orc!

The heroes set out the next day; now aware of the location of Cragmaw Castle. However, being curious and severely attention-challenged (they're my players after all, who spent half a year in Skull and Shackles simply side questing) they thought it wise to grind and explore the local area a bit, before heading off to storm the castle. They contemplated on whether to go an confront the spirit, Agatha, for the book for Sister Garaele, or hunt down the orcs not far from Old Owl Well and Wyvern Tor. The heroes decided to settle to the latter.

The lair of the orcs was located within a small forest placed close to the rocky cliffs, some days' journey east of Phandalin. As the heroes approached it, they noticed a lone orc being on watch duty. It hadn't spotted them yet. So Barian hurled a sleep spell at it, unfortunately not rolling high enough to tranquilize it, meaning the orc rolled an 18 on it's perception check and yelled for an alarm.
Soon after, the hills were alive and swarming with orcs. And, a thundering, crashing sound as an obese ogre came crushing out of the cave with a loud roar of “ME SMASH!”

(This encounter is deadly at its full brunt. The ogre can hit like truck and orcs have become extremely mobile, thanks to their free move action towards the nearest target. Don't be surprised if this encounter truly tests your heroes!)

The brave adventurer in his natural environment
 The orcs advanced swiftly on the heroes, and the professor ran and hid amidst the trees, while Barian took cover, leaving the two dwarves to fend for themselves. It wasn't a bad plan, though, as soon after a Web spell between the trees caught three orcs and the ogre, leaving them struggling for two turns, while the professor jumped out from his hideout and stabbed two of the orcs to death. While both Delvin and Fireforge came dangerously close to the dreaded 0 hit points (Father Fireforge ending up at 1...) the heroes were victorious and collapsed with battle fatigue, inspecting the sinister orc cave before them...

And what they found in there will be revealed in the next chapter “Dovahkiins and Owlbears


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