I’ve talked a little here about my extremely limited play schedule (every other weekend), and how my group has been trying to alternate games on our alternate weekends. That means if everything goes as planned we will have about one adventure a month for a given campaign. Since everything rarely goes as planned, there is often a longer gap between adventures. On top of that, one of my already-too-few players may have a scheduling conflict that’s going to keep him away from the table for an extended period of time, so I’m not even sure when our next session of the Phandelver campaign will be. So that’s just a little bit of background on why I find myself writing some session notes for a module that a lot of people probably finished a month or more ago, and why there may not be any more session notes for this game for awhile. Hopefully that won’t be the case, since we may have recruited another player who was going to expand the group but could now just keep it from collapsing if one of the other players has to bow out.
Anyway, without further adieu, here is what we did last game.
For starters, we actually made it to Phandelver! Of course we made it there without the mining supplies that we were contracted to deliver and with one of our employers possibly dead at the hands of goblins or God-knows-what, but lets not sweat the details. Shortly after arriving in town, we learned that missing mining supplies was just one of a long list of problems that the folks of Phandelver were dealing with. One of the first things we learned about was how some brigands known as “The Red Brands” were causing all sorts of trouble for the folks of Phandelver. You know, doing things like carting people off in the night and shaking down local businesses for cash. This really didn’t sit well with our folk hero, Dirk Fletcherson, who of course vowed to put a stop to this lawlessness. You’d think everyone in town would be happy about this, but our one surviving employer and the proprietor of the mining exchange seemed pretty put out that we were not making the retrieval of those mining supplies a priority. Our minds were made up though. We just didn’t feel right about leaving the town to be preyed upon by these Red Brands while we were off working for the man (Technically it was a woman who ran the mining exchange, but you know).
Before heading off to deliver justice to the Red Brands Anastrianna, the elven wizard and devoted follower of Oghma the Binder, followed up on some visions that the back of her character sheet had informed me about. She was to seek out a priestess of Tymora in Phandelver, who would somehow be able to assist her with her goal of reconsecrating a defiled temple to Oghma that was somewhere in Cragmaw Castle. Rather than offering straightforward assistance or advice, the priestess of Tymora instead tasked Anastrianna with retrieving a book of spells from a banshee. It was suggested that perhaps trading the banshee a valuable comb or similar trinket in exchange for the book could be a viable course of action. Finding old spell books is right up Anastrianna’s alley, and she trusted that this must be part of Oghma’s plan for her so she agreed to this undertaking immediately. Elsewhere, other members of the party learned from an old half-elf who owned the local orchard that there was an even greater problem involving undead. It seemed like investigating this issue would dovetail nicely with Anastrianna’s new goal, but the Red Brands were still the main priority. Our adventuring plate got full in a hurry in Phandelver, with lots of issues competing for our attention. These folks were desperate for some proactive hero-types to come along and intervene on their behalf, but for now they would just have to settle for our group of adventurers.
On the way out of town, heading in the direction of a manor house that was believed to be the base of Red Brand operations, we happened to be accosted by a small group of Red Brands. Things quickly escalated to violence, with the Red Brands showing great confidence despite being outnumbered by the group of capable looking folks they had just picked a fight with. There were four Red Brands and five members of our party (we’re playing the pre-generated characters out of the box) and we made rather short work of the brigands. It was at about this time that Nillocke, our halfling thief, decided to impart some information on us that would have been useful to know hours ago (it pays to read the back of those pre-generated character sheets, folks!). It turns out that he use to be a Red Brand!
With four cloaks from some freshly dispatched Red Brands and a five member party including one former member of the Red Brands, a plan that was slightly better than charging the manor house and throwing our hit points and armor classes at the occupants emerged. Four of us donned the red cloaks, and we made it look as if we had tied up Nillocke and were returning with him as a prisoner. This plan worked really well, and like true murder hobos we were able to get the jump on the unsuspecting Red Brands who were guarding the other prisoners and dispatch them before they had a chance to realize what was happening. After surprising the human guards and taking them out, we were able to turn at leisure on the skeletons in the area, who we assume didn’t attack us immediately because of our red cloaks. We released the prisoners, “tied” Nillocke up again, and used the same trick to get the jump on some other Red Brands who were lounging in a barracks area in the manor house cellar. Two of these Red Brands took the lead in escorting us towards the cells where we could drop off our “prisoner” while a couple of others followed behind. We got to a long corridor and heroically shot those unsuspecting Red Brands in front of us in the backs and then waited to pounce on the others who were bringing up the rear. Those other guys must have been wise to our scheme or something though, because they never showed up. We decided to quickly try and push further into the Red Brand lair, heading in a different direction than we suspected those other guys went in the hopes that we could use our prisoner ruse at least one more time to surprise and murder some more brigands. And that’s where the adventure ended.
There was a lot of exposition and hanging out in town this session, which is fine and necessary, but I still wish we would have made it a little further into the dungeons beneath the Red Brand manor house before we had to wrap things up. Also, I felt like maybe a little too much information was thrown at us in town. At times it felt a bit like we were in a MMORPG, running from quest-giver to quest-giver to pick up another side quest or piece of information. This is only our dungeon master’s third shot at running a game though, and sometimes the dissemination of that sort of stuff can be tricky for a new DM, especially when there is a lot of information. Aside from this minor quibble I feel like our fledgling dungeon master did a fine job and that overall we had a good game session that I can’t wait to get back to. I will leave the questions surrounding the moral ambiguity of tricking some fellow humans, albeit “bad” ones, before surprising, attacking, and killing them, for someone else to ponder for the time being.