Monday, August 25, 2014

Lost Mine of Phandelver Chapter 4 – Dovahkiins and Owlbears

Lost Mine of Phandelver Chapter 4 – Dovahkiins and Owlbears

Greetings and salutations; welcome to another round of heroic deeds and misfortune as we proceed to the fourth chapter of "Lost Mine of Phandelver" along with the introduction of the newest addition to the group. It's a sad fact, that all good things must come to an end, an recently we had to say goodbye to one of our veteran players, whose time had come to move on in Life (namely to Greenland, which leaves surprisingly little room for gaming). But it's a great fact that all things come to an end, just to leave room for what is new, which in this case turned out to be Jakob, our newest player and prospect, who entered the group on a trial and rolled up Oxyzeron; the dragonborn warlock of the Fey. So the adventure went on along with Delvin, the dwarven fighter, Professor Grim, the human rogue, Barian the elven wizard and Father Fireforge, the dwarven cleric.

The heroes were level 3. As always, GM-comments are in blue.

Tipping the scales...

When we left the heroes, they had mercilessly slaughtered the orcs, some miles east of the small mining town of Phandalin. Making sure no greenskin would survive, they set out to explore the cave and exterminate whatever stragglers. They were surprised to find a lone goblin, busy torturing and keeping a strange, scaly beast busy, hanging in a wicker cage from the ceiling. The professor and Barian immediately recognized this as a dragonborn; a mighty being born from a love-mixture between a human and a green dragon, who was now watching the small goblin with loathe. Quickly establishing their common hate for the green menace, the heroes broke the creature out from the cage and established a warm and fluffy bond by butchering the green, little critter.

The beast introduced itself as Oxyzeron, apprentice of Reidoth – the druid of Thundertree. The heroes had heard of this noble person in Phandalin (they actually remembered this by their own; I suppose miracles do happen) and Oxyzeron explained that he'd been sent out to slay the greenskins by his master, about a month ago. Sadly, he failed in this task and had been kept prisoner ever since, now owing his life to the heroes. They decided to join forces on this task, and the dragonborn swore to escort them on their remaining tasks, provided they would later return to Thundertree with news to his master.

(I know, I know, I could've come up with something more creative, but this seemed to work, and besides; we wanted to play this adventure and not deviate too much from the central plot. I know I already made a few modifications as it was, and this time I just wanted him to join the party as quickly as possible. I've watched a couple of streams and sessions of other GM's, who have waited more than an hour to introduce a new player into the group, even though he's right there at the table, just because they had a very specific plan for his or her entry. I believe that's about the absolute drudge.)


The heroes took a long rest throughout the afternoon and set out towards their next destination; the resting place of the spirit Agatha, hoping to flatter her and acquire her magical tome for the priestess Garaele in Phandalin.

As they were marching through the forest, along a wide river, they were watching the stars and listening to the gentle stream. The professor and Barian had been asking questions to their newest companions about his origin and the powers of the fey. They quickly deduced from his information that he possessed the powers of warlock, but before their inquiry continued, they heard the strange, high-pitched sound of “Ulululu” from somewhere nearby...

The professor recognized this sound. It was the sound of two owlbears going through rut.
The party quickly made formation to investigate, and it didn't take them long to notice that the beasts were trying to sneak up on them through the bushes. (Owlbears and stealth, I'm not sure why I even tried...) So it made for little surprise, as the beasts savagely tore through the briars and hurled themselves at the party.

As the battle broke out, the heroes went well on the initiative, and bloodied one of the owlbears. It hooted loudly and started bashing skulls around it, inflicting severe pain with a follow-up from its companion, sending Father Fireforge down for the count. The remaining dwarf, Delvin roared at the monstrosities and taunted their attention. Deflecting their blows with his shield, Barian faerie fired them and soon after a couple of sneak attacks and eldritch blasts, the beasts went down without a fuss. 

(I sort of think this was a logical continuation of the bad dice luck all my baddies had during this entire adventure. For some reason, the minions would roll really well, and often crits, but whenever something big came around, I was kind of lucky to roll a 12 or above on the dice. On another note; it's not possible to meet two owlbears in this setup, as per written in the adventure. Which brings me to another strange point in D&D 5th edition – why did it even include random encounters? It seems like something that was absolutely just shoehorned in for no apparent reason rather than XP-grinding. Back in the days it was a powerful tool of sorts to slowly tear at the group's resources, but seeing that so many features recharge in 5th – I kind of fail to see the point. The heroes regain all hit points, spells and even some magical charges for every day. If I could suggest anything, it would instead be a table with some minor, interesting encounters. Someone at a D&D site I read made a similar suggestion. For example; the party finds an abandoned child near the road. They encounter a merchant whose wagon is busted, who is in secret escorting illegal goods. A random piece of equipment is stolen during the night and the thief rests nearby or is discovered in the act. They meet a mad preacher of a dark / strange religion on the road, can he help them or will they challenge him? - These are just ideas from the top of my head, along with the horny owlbears. It could be kind of interesting to expand upon this notion.)

Wanting little to do with the till-now-enarmorous beasts, the heroes continued their trek and a couple of hours later found the old trail, leading further into the darker part of the forest.

That banshee is a real screamer...

The heroes encountered a small clearing in the forest, containing ruins that witnessed of a grand structure that once stood here. There, in the clearing, they noticed a ghostly spirit hovering above the ground, with long, white hair gently wavering in an ethereal breeze. Father Fireforge recognized this creature as a banshee.
(I love how 5th edition entirely breaks with one of the oldest conventions, and remakes the usually terrifying banshee into a lowly CR 4 monster. The reaction on people's faces, when they are confronted with such a creature at a low level is priceless and certainly something that will put some humility on the table. Notice, however, that Lost Mine doesn't include any stats for banshees, so unless you have the expanded notes from Wizards, the heroes aren't really supposed to fight her.)

Players ruling that undead-diplomacy-shit!
 The heroes bowed and introduced themselves to the spirit. Agatha greeted them and asked for their purpose with a sneer, so they quickly presented her the gift and made their case. They showed her great politeness and flattery, and with an advantage persuasion, the banshee saw their point of view and agreed to answer them one question. (I really hoped someone would reply 'What, any question?' just to let her say 'Yes' and disappear, but ah well... The heroes can actually ask for a lot of things and learn about various locations, if they don't give a damn about the old tome).

Asking for the tome, the banshee thought for some while, but then remembered and told them that a red wizard had taken it from her and journeyed south. With that in mind, the heroes immediately set out to deal with him. 
(This is likely where I deviated the most from the original adventure. As written, the heroes simply get an answer from Agatha, stating that the tome is long gone and the priestess will be all happy about that. But it seems like such a...stupid dead end. So I decided to let the wizard have it, to tie endings a bit more together).

Red wizard needs food

They arrived late at night at the old ruins, in which stood only a half tower that had long ago nearly collapsed to the ground. There, in the midst, was a small tent with a lantern apparently lit. Not knowing how to approach, Delvin drank a potion of invisibility and set out with a sneak, nearing the tent and saw a red wizard with a tattooed face, concentrating on his books. One of them was an old leathery tome, very similar to the one they were hunting. On his way back, Delvin couldn't help but notice an old, mummified hand sticking out from the ground – it certainly didn't bode well.

They decided to make short work of it, and all sneak up to the tent and knock him out through the linen. (One of my players came up with the interesting question; if a wizard is all covered up in a fallen tent, do you have line of sight to him?) Sadly, the stealth rolls weren't all that great at the time, and both Oxyzeron and Father Fireforge accidentally kicked loose some rubble that made a lot of noise. Before they knew, a commanding shout echoed through the night, and moans and grasping hands rose from the ground. The zombies were upon them.

(I LOVE ZOMBIES IN 5th! They are so much fun, especially to low level adventurers who don't have the required damage bursts or radiant artillery to deal with their resilience.)

12 zombies surrounded them and the heroes gathered up in defensive formation. At the same time, the red wizard emerged from his tent and screamed at them for interrupting his sanctum.
The heroes started slashing some rotten flesh, but the time to shine was from Father Fireforge, who boldly raised his holy symbol and invoked the power of Oghma; commanding the restless dead to flee. Nine out of 12 zombies turned tail and ran. (Again, turn undead is no feature to be trifled with!)

Clerics - Good as ever.
Being no further use to the wizard, he decided to lighten things up a bit and hurled a fireball at the group (Yes, another deviation, originally this mage is much weaker in the written adventure. I decided to test out the true potential of a level 5 spell caster, and what an effect!) - blowing up rotting flesh and adventurers alike, the wizard taunted them and laughed with manic glee, before Delvin made a direct charge at him, followed closely by the professor. The wizard sneered and unleashed a lightning bolt at Delvin, Fireforge and Oxyzeron, who'd foolishly lined themselves up for a perfect zap. The cleric and the dragonborn went down for the count, and just as the wizard was about to turn his attention to the remaining dwarf, a critical hit planted the fighter's axe right between his eyes. With a sigh, he dropped dead.

The heroes searched the wizard's tent and found the old tome along with a magical ring of protection +1. Inspecting the tome even closer, they realized that reading it would grant whoever did so a permanent stat-increase! (Again, this was my initiative. As said, the tome isn't even there in the original story. I may have overdone it a bit, however, with the power of the tome, but that's that. I'm not even sure tomes will exist in 5th, seeing how the stats all have a hard cap).

They decided to head back to Phandalin, and after some days they arrived back at the small town. People were once again greeting their heroes, and they made way for the shrine to bargain with sister Garaele; thinking that they had earned their just reward more than enough. Not knowing whether to read the tome or to hold up their end of the bargain, the heroes attempted to haggle with the harper priestess, who admitted the tome was indeed worth a lot. She couldn't, however, pay them much gold besides whatever she had in the coffins along with a necklace. She even offered them a membership of the Harpers, which the heroes refused. In the end, the priestess scowled them and said they could do whatever they wanted, but it would put them in a bad standing with the shrine. Giving in to such a threat, the heroes handed over the tome and went on their way towards the ruined city of Thundertree, hoping to find Reidoth and whatever information he could divulge.

To be continued in “Storming the castle!”

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