This weekend past, I sat down with my partner and a friend to run through the opening act of the D&D Starter Set, Lost Mine of Phandelver.
I’ve never run a published campaign before, my partner (J.) has never played an rpg before and our friend (L.) has a few sessions under his belt so in our respective spheres, none of us are experts.
To compensate for only have two players, I added a DMPC two levels above them to the group and I plan on adding some minor magical items later into the campaign to make up for the lack of a fourth damage source.
Over the course of the weekend, we played through the first chapter of the campaign and made great headway into the second chapter.
J. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger
L. – Ara’tak – Aarakocra Druid (Moon (at the end of the game))
DM – Torvak – Goliath Cleric (Life)
Play began with the two PCs being asked to meet Gundren Rockseeker in Neverwinter for a job offer. N’idera was introduced as an enigmatic sort but their initial meeting with Gundren went well. He and Sildar explained they had need of guards for a supply wagon leaving Neverwinter for Phandalin in a few days’ time. The PCs were happy enough to provide this service and agreed to meet each other again a few days later. They were also told that a third guard would meet them there.
A few days passed and they arrived at the wagon. They examined its contents to satisfy the indentured half-elf who needed to fill out the requisite paperwork for the merchant selling to Gundren and Barthen (of Barthen’s Provisions in Phandalin). Seeing all was well, they set off for the frontier. The third guard introduced himself as Torvak ‘Stonefist’ Drantil-Agasto, a Goliath healer wandering the lowlands. Enamoured by his tattoos, they asked for more information.
Torvak explained that as a youth, he killed a young drake with a stone and was honoured for it.
[DM’s Note: This was to a) set up his credentials as a character capable of fighting and b) to introduce him to the PCs. He also has a broken arm he refuses to heal to highlight his purpose as a meat-shield and healer.]
From there, the adventure continued as written. The PCs spotted the dead horses and one of the Goblin archers (a low Stealth check can be blamed for that). N’idera, her suspicions aroused, focused on the thickets along the side of the road and spotted two other Goblins, one archer and one swords-goblin.
The fight was brief, brutal and a helluva failed ambush. It ended when the last of the Goblins fled and was captured.
[DM’s Note: The Aarakocra ability to fly provides a LOT of mobility. DM’s should factor that in if they have Aarakocra in their own campaigns.]
The Goblin was tied up to hang from a tree, questioned about where he came from and then *ahem* piñata-ed.
[J.’s one-liner was ‘You shouldn’t have killed the horses’.]
The party rested overnight and, in the morning, disguised the cart as best they could through the use of Druidcraft and practical camouflage. They set off swiftly, Torvak clinking slightly in his scale with a shield strapped to his broken arm. The Goblin traps were spotted and avoided, the snare was disarmed and collected.
They made good time, honouring Mielikki when they encountered some weather-worn statues bearing her symbol, and found the entrance to the Cragmaw hideout.
N’idera decided to scout ahead and discovered the Goblin guards in their blind. Much the same as the failed ambush. N’idera’s first strike was a deadly one and Ara’tak brought death from above, severely wounding the other Goblin as he dropped from the sky.
The guards dealt with, they moved into the hideout. They found the ‘kennels’ and released the wolves, after calming them by feeding them a dead Goblin guard. There was a brief discussion about using the chimney to get further into the cave but, in the end, they decided to explore it fully before being funnelled into who-knows-where.
A Goblin standing watch on a bridge over the stream was dispatched unconventionally. N’idera shot out the bridge support with a fire arrow and dropped him into the river. This gave them a ladder to climb into the passage on the other side. The Goblin forgotten, they climbed up and scouted out the main sleeping quarters.
Using Create Water to douse the cooking fire and create a temporary mist, the PCs moved against the bulk of the Goblins. N’idera bypassed the guards and climbed the ledge to find Yeemik beating Sildar to a pulp. She promptly began going to town on him.
Meanwhile, Torvak and Ara’tak were having a slightly worse time of things. Ara’tak running ahead, was quickly swarmed by Goblins and knocked to the floor. Torvak healed him, only for another round to see him dropped again. Meanwhile, N’idera was busy whittling Yeemik down until he died and she returned to the main combat, peppering the Goblins from the ledge. With her help, and Sildar’s rather shaky sword/throwing arm, the fight was ended.
[DM’s Note: This fight showed me it might be worth lowering enemy numbers to deal with a smaller party. All the encounters are scaled for 4 PCs and having less makes it very easy to swarm and overwhelm PCs, especially at low levels. I tweaked a later encounter’s geography to deal with this.]
After some use of Torvak’s healing ability, the party moved on. With a mostly restored and re-armed Sildar, they found the penultimate chamber. Making good use of N’idera’s high Stealth score and Ara’tak’s magic, they lured three of the four Goblins into an ambush. The fourth, a REALLY soggy Goblin, was killed as he ran to alert Klarg, shot from behind just before he reached the top step.
The fight against Klarg himself was tough. After Ara’tak’s magic caused an acrid smoke to flare from the fire and distract the wolf, the PCs were able to get a few hits in before the bugbear raged from one assailant to the other until only Torvak remained standing in mêlée with him. N’idera, on the other side of the cavern where she had fought off a Goblin, found only one target left and did what she proved she was good at doing; she exterminated the goblinoid menace.
A quick investigation turned up Klarg’s treasure chest and the items from the Lionshield Coster. The goblins dealt with, they returned to the cart and continued their journey to Phandalin.
Arriving after sunset, they awoke Barthen and delivered the goods to him for the agreed payment, finding out that the Rockseeker brothers should have re-provisioned days ago in the process, before retiring for the night at the inn.
Ara’tak left the inn early and was able to watch Sister Garaele limping into the Shrine of Luck, a chapel of Tymora. He followed her in and she explained about Agatha and her mission to ask Agatha about a spellbook.
N’idera, meanwhile, overheard the barmaid and the innkeeper’s wife discussing the disappearance of Thel Dendrar’s family and how Daran Edermath, the Orchardkeeper, might be able to use his former adventuring skills to find them.
They both agreed that they should do what they can to help and began by entering the Lionshield Coster to inform Linene Graywind that they had found her lost items (she paid them and was very grateful), and to buy new weapons and armour. Ara’tak decided to upgrade his ranged capabilities and bought a sling after realising that mêlée probably isn’t always the best place to be.
Linene also warned them about the Redbrands loitering in town.
From there, they hiked up to the Orchard to talk to Edermath about the missing family. He revealed that he is a former adventurer but is no longer capable of doing what he did in his youth. He told them that he suspects the Redbrands, who have a base under the ruined manor, took them in retribution for Dendrar standing up to them. As they were about to leave, he also told them about an undead problem at Old Owl’s Well. This piqued N’idera’s interest greatly.
It was as they were heading for the Sleeping Giant taphouse that they found Sildar, who paid them their dues for escorting him to Phandalin. He also asked them for help finding where the Cragmaw’s have their base and to keep an eye out for Iarno Albrek (he furnished them with a description). They also noticed the bounty poster for Orcs at Wyvern Tor.
After Sildar bade them farewell, they continued to the Sleeping Giant where, well, pain happened. The ruffians were subdued, painfully, and questions were asked of the lone survivor before he was tied to a tree and the town was told where to find him. The PCs, thinking ahead, stole Redbrand cloaks and set off for the base under Tresendar Manor after Ara’tak pilfered the Redbrand chest in the bunkroom of the Sleeping Giant. In it, he found a map of the town with what seemed like a list of targeted businesses and locals scrawled upon it.
Overall, I felt the session went well. The Revised Ranger rules proved what an improvement they are over the original class and my players used their heads to compensate for their small group size. I didn’t have to fudge dice rolls or make poor decisions for NPCs once. Their emphasis on smart scouting and positioning, as well as clever use of available magic and geographical resources made for some good, engaging gameplay.