This is the time of year when I would rather hide under the blankets and wait for spring rather than attempt anything productive. Week after week I’ve told myself “I’ll write something tomorrow,” and the longer I’ve went without writing anything the easier it has become. I’ve still been playing, and the session notes have been piling up unpublished. So this will be a sort of “highlight reel” of session notes rather than a blow-by-blow account of what occurred. I’ll try to stay focused on what I liked or didn’t like about the session, our group, and the adventure itself during these games.
Session #4 – Red Brands and a Glass Staff
Out of the three sessions we’ve played since my last update, this was by far the most productive in terms of adventure progress. We continue our assault on the manor house that the red brands had appropriated, taking on a nothic and some bugbears before facing off with ole Glass Staff himself. We encountered him alone in his chambers, so the final battle was a bit anti-climactic; there’s only so much a lone wizard can do against a party of adventurers when he starts the encounter about 15 feet away from them. So Glass Staff ended up drinking an invisibility potion and trying to escape almost immediately. This is where the new rules for the sleep spell really came in handy since we’d already wounded him pretty good. My wizard was able to cast the spell in the general area where we knew the villain was and then listen for a thud as he went down for a snooze.
After this session I had a discussion with our neophyte dungeon master about static and dynamic dungeons, and gave him a few pointers on changing up encounters to reflect changes within the dungeon. For instance: that last battle probably would have been a much more satisfying experience for Glass Staff – and a much more deadly one for the group – if perhaps we would have encountered him with those bugbears we had taken on earlier. Finding the right balance in these sort of situations can be tricky. In fact, I’ll talk in another post about how I probably should have ran an encounter differently in my Temple of Elemental Evil game.
Session #5 – An Interrogation and a Gross Character Development Oversight
This adventure opened with the party returning to town victorious over the Red Brands, and carting Glass Staff himself in for questioning. We learned very little from Glass Staff before handing him over to the Lord’s Alliance. We decided though that we needed to travel to Wyvern Tor and deal with the orcs and goblins in that were ambushing travellers to Phandelver coming to town via the Southern route, whilst convincing the town master to send some militia from Phandelver to make sure the goblin menace along the Northern route had been sufficiently dealt with (our party had dealt those goblins quite a blow during our first couple of sessions, but we had also left a handful of goblins still in the caves). We devised a scheme to pose as merchants, with Dirk the archer and Annastriana the wizard hiding under a tarp in the back of a donkey cart. We fought an ogre while camping and had a strange encounter with a Red Wizard of Thay at the old Owl Well. I’m not quite sure what happened there, but the wizard had a lot of zombies and didn’t seem to want to fight us, so we rode on by.
The big thing that happened during this session was that our halfling thief decided to tell us that the NPC whose farm we had stayed at during our bout with the Red Brands was his aunt. He didn’t bring this up while we were at her farm though. It was afterwards, when Dirk, folk hero that he is, decided to take some money to the widow who had put our party up. Nillocke, the thief, said at that point that he should probably do something like that too, on account of her being his aunt. Aside from myself all of the players are very new, so the game kind of stopped here for a moment so we could have a bit of a discussion about roleplaying. Why hadn’t this player said anything when we first showed up at the farm?By the same token, why hadn’t the aunt mentioned this relationship? This revealed the first big gaff of our new DM – he hadn’t bothered to read the backgrounds of the pre-generated characters! This hadn’t mattered much before we had started interacting with the NPCs in town, but now it was a big deal. Not only did the other players need to do a better job of acting on the information on their character sheets, but the DM needed to be able to act on this information as well. I really hope everyone does a better job with this in the future. Part of the point of playing an introductory adventure and using the pre-generated characters is to take advantage of those stepping stones that encourage roleplaying.
Session #6 – A New Player Joins the Group!
The biggest thing that happened in session #6 was that our group got a new player, bringing the number to four plus a dungeon master. This still leaves our group a player shy when it comes to the number of pre-generated characters, but four is better than three no matter what. Especially since this new player has lots of gaming experience. he took over the role of Marcus the noble and immediately breathed new life into the character and the group. I’m quite pleased with this new addition so far and really hope he sticks around. After filling the new player in on our adventures so far, we found ourselves revisiting the events at the owl well. Should we go back and fight this wizard and his ash zombies? The encounter happened pretty fast and we were a little beat up from our recent ogre encounter so when the wizard seemed like he might be able to kick our asses but was content to let us pass we thought it best not to pick a fight. Marcus almost had us convinced to turn back and fight the Red Wizard, but we ultimately decided that we owed it to our employer to rescue him from the goblins as soon as possible, and thought that maybe either an extra hand (our rescued employer) or some more experience might help us to defeat this wizard and his zombies. I think we made the right choice. Something tells me that this wizard and his zombies would have kicked our asses. Here’s to hoping that choice doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass later. After deciding not to return to the owl well, we pressed on towards Wyvern Tor where we defeated some ambushing goblins before wrapping up the session. This gave everyone enough experience to reach level 3, and beat us up just enough that we thought it best to retreat from the pass, make camp, rest up, and level up.
And there we are, all caught up! I’m thrilled that we have another experienced player at the table, and I think he will really help me bring the other two players out of their shells a little more. I’m hoping that over the next couple of sessions we’ll be able to connect a few more dots and get a better idea of the big picture surrounding Phandelver. I also hope that we can spend more time playing and getting more accomplished in our coming sessions. It can be frustrating to get almost nothing plot-forwarding accomplished during a session when our play schedule is so limited. I’d love to get started on “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” before I cash in my 401K.