Category Archives: Actual Play

Cats of Neverwinter

As I mentioned last week, I’ve started livestreaming my weekly D&D prep (along with some explanation of why I do what I do) over on Twitch and then archiving the streams on YouTube. Hopefully, if you check it out, it’s helpful, inspirational, or both and, if you do like it, consider following/subscribing.

Anyway, this week, my DM ran a one-shot scenario of Cats of Catthulhu to bring a change of pace to our D&D campaign. I wrote up my notes and those are what you’re going to see below. It’s a cool system and well worth checking out!

Feel free to leave any thoughts or questions below.


The metal tag on her leather around her neck read “Bella”, but that was not the name in her heart, nor was it in a language she understood. Sometimes, she pitied the poor, giant twofoots for their primitive scratches, so far removed from the elegance of an ear twitch or the small shake of a tail. She understood that whatever was written there was what the twofoots called her, because many of them looked at it and then made the same hooting noise as the others, but the name her kind had given her, the one, irrevocable truth of her being, was that she was Softest.

She lay in front of the Big, Red Crackle, enjoying its heat on her side, and watching the kitten play. It was so young it didn’t have a name yet, but the twofoots she looked after had brought it home recently and she had taken it upon herself to teach it their ways. She had already told it about the dread Wet Stuff on the Face, explained about the holy nature of the Wooden Floor on High and had tried explaining the world beyond the great Glass Doors but it had been distracted by a shadow on the fur-floor in front of it.

“Tell me more.” It said, sitting still once more. “Tell me about others like us.”

She blinked slowly and shifted position, smiling.

“Very well, little one. I shall tell you of the Night of the Bug, of the power of cats.” She closed her eyes, summoning the memory.

“It began, as many things do, with a Dreamer. This Dreamer was no bigger than you, but her destiny was upon her. Her twofoot, someone wearing materials not of this Everwarm City, had found her in the street and fed her, looking after her as our twofoots look after us. But one night, something was wrong.

This Dreamer, so small she had no name, woke from a Dream to find her twofoot on the stone-floor and a Wrong Smell in the air. I cannot describe this smell, my place is to guard the twofoots, to look after them, but Dreamers like this kitten… they can smell when a thing is Wrong. Alone, in a twofoot place, and not knowing what to do, she called for help.

I was nearby, as were a few others of our kind, and a kitten in need is a call none of us can ignore. We found her in a twofoot building smelling of food and the Loud Water,” she batted a paw idly in the direction of two clear drinking things half-full of a dark red liquid, “It was empty of twofoots who might have helped, so we climbed to the great Glass Doors and asked why was calling out for help.

She told us that her twofoot was asleep and that something was wrong. I’ve seen twofoots asleep many times and I knew this wasn’t a normal sleep, even for a twofoot, so I hunted for something that might help. I remembered a twofoot falling because she couldn’t breathe, and I remembered other things and I pawed and patted and sniffed and found the scent of blood in the material.

Another, I forget who, found a strange, green bug nearby. I have never seen its like and I never wish to, but it looked like it might have a single claw on its back and Huntingest, a local Scrapper, began to cut away at the two-foot’s material under my direction, searching for the blood. He found a small hole in the twofoot’s skin and I began to summon other twofoots to help. The others, Huntingest, the Dreamer, a Twofootologist I know as Watchingest and the famed, if disreputable, Catcrobat Leapingest, hid from the twofoots as they approached but they, the twofoots, seemed to realise something was wrong.

After some hooting, two of them left the room and we heard a buzzing noise in the hallway. I alerted the twofoots to this new bug, as is my duty, and Huntingest used the female who arrived as a post to climb and swat it out of the air. More buzzing came from downstairs so we, the Dreamer, Watchingest and I, hunted it and found a door to a room smelling of the Wet, and the Loud Water. A bug came from a hole in a golden metal thing and both Watchingest and I realised that we would need the Metal Sticks Which Open the Door to find where the bugs were coming from.

I tried to tell the twofoots, but a stupid one came blundering in and tried to take the Dreamer outside before it got stung and fell to the floor.

I will speak little of how we got the Metal Sticks Which Open the Door, because it involved transgressions against the Holy Wooden Floor on High, but we managed it and together the Dreamer, Huntingest and I pushed a three-legged wooden platform to the door into the Wet, Loud Water room for Watchingest to stand on as he pushed the Metal Sticks Which Open the Door into the hole and used their magic to open the door.

In the Wet, Loud Water room, we found a crow, its eyes unblinking and its feathers ruffled only by a green bug pushing its way free. The crow was in a cage.” She paused as the kitten cowered and smiled. “Be calm, little one, there is no cage here. We are free.” The kitten straightened and moved closer to her, looking warily around. She leaned down and licked the top of its head gently.

“It was in a cage but that proved to be no barrier for Leapingest who knocked it down and we tore it to pieces. Inside, where there should have been bones and blood and meat, there was only metal, eyes made of the drinking thing material and a red gem. Watchingest thought it might be a toy, so he started playing with it, but a bug came out of it as Huntingest finally killed the last one we had seen. We tried to destroy the gem with the three-legged thing but it was too tough and flew away so we put it on the floor, climbed on high and became one with the Great Pusher of Things to push a box of Loud Water onto the gem.

This cracked it, and the red light faded and no more bugs came. We knew we had saved the twofoots and took the Dreamer back her twofoot. She was sleeping as twofoots should and we said our goodbyes after giving the Dreamer her name.”

She fell silent as the kitten started playing with a piece of the fur-floor.

“If you are good tomorrow, and guard the twofoots well, I will take you to see Bravest.”

Handful of Dust: One Day and Twenty Years Later

The following is an in character session report delivered by my barbarian, Baptiste. The game he is from is a West Marches style game and so this probably won’t be a frequent feature on this site, but I hope it is at least mildly interesting.

Whilst I kept most of his way of speaking out of the text to improve accessibility, Baptiste has a Cajun accent if you’d care to read it thus.


The Fool’s Respite, four walls of hopes and dreams held together through a unique mix of stubbornness and despair, was the only place he could go when he returned to the Fort that evening. The wind, bitingly cold and threatening to topple him at every step, pushed him towards the battered wooden door and the sanctuary inside.

A few of the regulars, soldiers and other freelancers like him that he knew by sight, glanced up as he entered. Some looked back into their drinks immediately, their curiosity outweighed by their apprehension. The rest, their eyes wide and their mouths open, followed his swaggering progress towards the polished log that served as a bar. He still wore the cerise silk jacket, its brocade as pristine as the day it was sewn on, and he still carried the longsword with its ornate hilt, but apart from these obvious signs of wealth and foppery, they couldn’t believe it was him.

His hair, once a rich, golden brown was now sandy and greying at the temples. His face when he had left a few days before had been soft, his features still slightly blurred by youth, but now it was hard, a square jaw and sharp cheekbones covered in pale skin marred by a slight cut to the cheek and a dusting of stubble.

“My gods, Baptiste, what happened?” Elisa, the only barmaid who had been willing to look past his cocksure arrogance and get to know him, poured him a pint from the barrel behind the bar and pushed it towards his hand. As one, the chairs in the tavern creaked slightly as their occupants leaned closer. Baptiste raised the tankard, turned to face the crowd and downed a mouthful of the dark, bitter liquid. A barely suppressed grimace flashed over his face.

“Y’all want to know?” An easy smile drifted lazily onto his lips and a few of the nearby patrons looked away, intent on their own drinks. Most of the regulars, bored of being trapped inside by the biting wind, merely nodded. “Fine. I’ll tell ya.” He took another mouthful and pulled himself onto a stool at the bar. Elisa moved down the length of the log so she could watch his face better.

“As y’all know, I was in here a few days ago, helping Marek celebrate.” A knowing nod spread among the regulars. “I was due to head out beyond the fort the next day, so I shouldn’t have had has much to drink as I did, but a man’s got a right to drink his fill.” A murmur of assent flashed among those closest to him. “Reckon you’ll know the people I travelled with.” He paused and closed his eyes, his lips moving slightly as he recalled the names. “Fianna, Argavistus, Gwendolyn and Alister.” The names met with a mixed reaction and he waited for the crowd to fall quiet again.

“We headed out into the wilds, plannin’ on clearin’ the mines out so the Fort can start workin’ metal again, an’ sign postin’ the way for others. We found our way easy enough, followed a path Argavistus knew down a shallow valley towards the mines.” He paused, sipping the beer, “That’s where we found Baptiste’s Boulders. Two perfectly round boulders just layin’ in the middle of the path and it’s an adventurer’s right to name weird things they come across.

“So, we walked past the boulders and found the mine. Fianna knew the mine wouldn’t reach the other side of the hill, somethin’ ‘bout the air not movin’. While she was working that out, Agarvistus was poking around some faeces. He spent so long doin’ that I got bored and went in, figurin’ we’d either find the thing that made them or it’d find us. It was almost evening by this time so no-one was surprised when we found an empty bear den. It’d be huntin’, you see?

“We kept movin’, pushin’ deeper into the mine where we found something that seemed to eat the iron in the walls, and after we dealt with that, we found a dead dwarf, crushed by fallin’ rocks. I assume it was a dwarf, it had a map covered in ancient dwarven runes sewn into its clothes. Course, Fianna, a dwarf herself, wanted to lay it to rest so we set up camp and I went to sleep.” His knuckles whitened on the handle of his tankard and his eyes dropped to the floor.

“’magine my surprise when the mine got cold, wakin’ me up in time to see a gnome’s ghost walkin’ towards Alister. That’s how this happened.” He gestured to his hair and face. “Reckon I lost twenty years to the Shrieking Cold.” He fell silent and emptied the tankard in one long pull before slamming it onto the bar. “Didn’t sleep well after that, and I was happy when my watch came around.

“Breakfast, when we had it, was roast bear. I heard it returning during my watch and we tried to sneak up on it but,” He paused, looking around him, “dwarves in heavy armour with a lame leg aren’t the quietist travelling companions.” A laugh rippled through the bar. “But we managed to bring it down.” His left hand slid into his pocket, pulled out a bear claw and began toying with it. “It’s not the nicest bear I ever ate, that was in Albert’s in Rocquevin, but it filled us and gave us the strength we’d need to follow the dead dwarf’s map.

“From what we could make out, we knew we were lookin’ for a waterfall, probably stained red by the iron in the earth accordin’ to both Fianna and Alister. So, we retraced our steps, walking back towards the mountains where we found such a thing, a waterfall of red water falling in front of a fake wall. Fianna pushed, and the wall opened, revealin’ some sort of temple.” He met the eyes of those looking at him. “I pray you’ll never have to hear the wailing of the trapped souls we found in there, their essence holding an undead creature of great power at bay.” He shuddered.

“The thing almost took the life of Valor, one of the Fort’s guards, when he joined us earlier that day, but I managed to drag him out of danger in time. Thanks to the two clerics of smith gods we had with us, Fianna and Argavistus, my sword and Fianna’s hammer managed to wound the creature enough to undo whatever magic held it together and we sent it back where it came from, laying the trapped souls to rest and freeing an elemental thar was also being used to jail it.” Absently, he took the full tankard Elisa passed him. “If you go beyond the walls, you’ll find a new river rising.

“The frontier isn’t what I thought it’d be.” He said, raising the drink high. “So, here’s to us, the fools at the edge of the world, and to Gwendolyn Maple, a warmer heart you’d struggle to find.”

Honey as Black as Night

Earlier this week, I managed to talk one of my regular gaming groups into letting me run Grant Howitt’s Honey Heist for them again. Due to a few reasons, we were down a few players and, as we’re currently between campaigns, we thought it would be a great one session game to pass the time.

The crew consisted of Sir Bearington III (a name given to him by the generous pupils of Leavington Primary School), a gentleman thief formerly of London Zoo, Paddington, a honey badger with a singular talent for sudden violence and [unnamed], a grizzly bear with a mysterious past who acted as the brains of the group. Their task was to infiltrate HoneyCon (held this time on Shaded Seal Beach, a small fishing village on the coast) and steal a rare jar of Black Orchid Honey. This honey was rumoured to possess magical properties and, they were informed, was not to be sampled at all. Any other honey they could find was fair game, and they were told to steal as much of it as possible, whilst avoiding the laser grids and poisonous gas that would surely be protecting the Con’s honey supplies.

The heist began with a reconnoitre of the venue. Shaded Seal Beach, the bears discovered, had multiple escape routes, a decent sized beach (the location of many of the Con’s tents), and a lighthouse on a small island in the bay. From their position atop the cliffs overlooking the village, they noticed a fête on the village square, as well as a collection of boats tied to a jetty behind a fence at the north end of the beach. More importantly, they saw a tent on the beach whose doorway was flanked by banners, each depicting a strange pillar with a dot at the top of it. Sir Bearington III remembered a similar symbol from his time at the zoo and it was agreed they could probably exchange “paper money and clinky money for paper” to gain entry to the Con itself.

As bears, they weren’t in the habit of carrying money, so Sir Bearington III had to resort to picking a pocket but they had soon gained entrance to HoneyCon, and even managed to find directions to the main honey tent by looking at the helpful ticket seller for an awkwardly long amount of time.

This tent proved to be the first obstacle to their plan.

Surrounded by boxes of honey samples, Sir Bearington III and Paddington began to glut themselves, prompting several nearby visitors to commence tutting and tapping their feet in annoyance (two signs commonly held to be the most extreme forms of conveying displeasure among the British). In the meantime, [unnamed] tried to get to the boats but was stopped by security. After a brief ‘conversation’, he learned that the long sheds at the end of the jetty were where the convention sellers were storing their honey, and that the Black Orchid Honey was being held safely on the island in the bay. With this mission critical knowledge in hand, he returned to the main tent and had to resort to causing a panic to get his comrades to stop eating all the honey they could.

After a hurried discussion surrounded by confused security guards looking for the bears that had disappeared from the tent, they decided that Sir Bearington III, being a strong swimmer, would swim around the fence protecting the jetty and steal a boat for them to use.

Unfortunately, he didn’t know to untie the mooring first but, after some delay, he managed to pull one of the boats towards the other members of the crew where they realised it would only be big enough for Paddington (a quite diminutive fellow) and one other bear. Sir Bearington III opted to swim again and began pulling the boat towards the island while [unnamed] slapped the boat’s oars against the water’s surface in an imitation of something Sir Bearington III had witnessed once. They made it halfway across the bay before they noticed the armed guards standing on a jetty on the island and Sir Bearington III dove under the water to hide his approach and climbed partly onto the island, waiting for the other two to cause a distraction so he could explore without fear of discovery.

It was at this point that [unnamed] realised his efforts with the oars had been for naught and he couldn’t use them properly. Luckily, Paddington managed to figure out how they work well enough to propel them slowly through the water, with [unnamed] looking out for rocks that could damage their boat or stop their progress.

Their distraction, upon reaching the jetty, didn’t go as planned, but ended in a spray of blood as Paddington tore through three of the guards present ([unnamed] took care of the other). The sudden violence and the sound of gunshots, however, did attract enough attention to them that Sir Bearington III made his way up the back of the island whilst they commandeered the security force’s launch and (unknowingly) piloted it to where he had climbed onto land, whereupon they dragged it up onto the island.

As they distracted the guards, Sir Bearington III heard a man call for the largest building to be put into lockdown, found a building entirely full of honey and snooped around another where it looked like many of the guards now on the jetty had been relaxing. He finished his exploration as the other two bears appeared around the corner of the largest building (from which came the sound of a lot of bees) and they briefly attempted to gain entry before the man who called for the lockdown noticed them. [unnamed] thinking quickly, and wearing a hat belonging to one of the dead security guards, managed to persuade the scientist to open the door for them, whereupon Paddington exploded once more into unprovoked violence and the man’s head was reduced to a pulp. After dispatching him, they lured the other man in the building (whom Sir Bearington III had heard talking when he first came upon it) to a swift end and then mastered the electronic keycard which controlled the main door lock.

With their means of entry and exit secure, it was determined that Paddington would don a spare bee-keeper’s hat from the uniforms hanging on the hooks nearby and enter the next room to look for the Black Orchid Honey.

Not only did he find a jar of honey (coloured the deepest black) he also saw something land on the net in front of his nose; a bee wearing a top hat and lace, fingerless gloves, before the swarm declared that “YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE COME HERE!”

Spooked, he ran for the exit, throwing the honey to [unnamed] in his panic. [unnamed], unable to resist temptation, opened the jar and tasted some of the rare honey at roughly the same time that Sir Bearington III also dipped a claw into the it and sampled this rare foodstuff. Both were instantly affected by the honey’s strange power and turned into goths (or, as Sir Bearington III’s player insisted when Paddington asked they were suddenly wearing eye-liner, “I’m trying to be a panda. It’s a life choice, respect it.”), a change Paddington was too busy trying to escape to notice.

As they realised that their short, but incredibly violent, friend was in a hurry to leave, a four-armed woman comprised entirely of bees in tiny top-hats and veils pushed her way into the room. Sufficiently motivated, the three bears made their escape (Paddington manage to snag some the Black Orchid Honey for himself) and split up.

Sir Bearington III and Paddington ran towards the building full of honey where they began filling whatever bags they could find with as many jars of the stuff as they could carry before heading for the boat.

[unnamed], in the meantime, lead the woman towards the guards on the jetty where both parties immediately forgot about the strange person (not at all a bear) wearing a stolen hat and started attacking each other. He heard the gunfire stop as he made it back to the stolen security boat and helped Sir Bearington III and Paddington to load the honey into it. It was only when they got it into the water and turned the motor on that they realised it had been damaged as it was dragged over the ground and the boat began to turn in circles.

This was the least of their problems, however, as it was at that moment that the four-armed woman stormed over the hillside and began flying over the water towards them. Thinking quickly, [unnamed] used the damaged rotor blades to direct a huge amount of spray at her, knocking the swarm out of coherence and sending them flying back to their hives, hundred of tiny top hats and veils falling into the ocean.

With Sir Bearington III pushing the boat towards the setting sun, the three bears shared a feeling of relief. They had made it.

They had successfully completed their heist.

The Great Bee-trayal

In Honey Heist, a one-page RPG by Grant Howitt, found here, the players take the part of criminal bears pulling off the heist of the century to steal as much honey as possible from HoneyCon. The party I had the pleasure of guiding through the halls of this hallowed convention consisted of;

Iorek Byrnisson – a polar bear Hacker

Sir Arthur Bearington – a sunbear, one half of the Brains

Bjorn  – a sunbear and the group’s Muscle

Lan Xiongmao – a panda, the other half of the Brains

The party were given the following briefing by their unseen benefactor:

A newspaper clipping:

The Geistburg City Council is proud to announce, in conjunction with Arthur Richardson and Midas Events, the arrival of HoneyCon 2018! Events include; a mead brewing contest ($2000 grand prize), small pet show and competition, bee-keeping tutorials and demonstrations and a one-night performance from Queen Bee-yoncé herself.

Once exiled from the world of pop music, the Queen has returned and is set to take the world by storm with the release of her new album, Bee-hive Yourself. Book your ticket now to avoid disappointment.

For those conscious of security matters, the convention centre boasts a state of the art security system and an impenetrable vault, kindly provided by Securotech.

In a handwritten note:

Alright, listen up, bears.

We got a job.

Client wants us to bust into HoneyCon and steal as much of the good stuff as we can, as well as arranging a private viewing of Bee-yoncé’s comeback performance.

He’d like her unharmed and as calm as possible, but it’s a bear-eat-bear world out there, so I’ll be happy if she’s alive when you get back to base.

Arthur Richardson is a known weak point, the man craves money and influence. Lean on him if you want to.

Secureotech’s system is a series of hidden gas vents that spews out anaesthetic if the alarm is raised. The vents are only in the public areas, so try to avoid those once it hits the fan.

As for Geistburg, the place is creepy. Ain’t no two ways about it. You might see things that make you question your eyes , but keep ‘em on the prize and we’ll be richer for it.

Overpaw, out.

The game began with the party stealing a posh car to suit Arthur and Xiongmao’s status as bears of standing.

[GM Note: The rules include an optional hat table, Arthur was wearing a top hat and Xiongmao was wearing a crown]

Their first obstacle was the gate guard, a bored-looking man asking to see passes to permit entry. Arthur managed to persuade the man to let them in through growling and gesturing in a foppish manner.

After leaving the car, the party were denied entry to the main convention centre (an old plantation manor) because of their lack of passes. The party had determined, through the skill Sense Honey, that the largest honey stashes were in the house. One stash (the biggest) appeared to be underground, and another appeared to be at the back the house.

After a short conversation, it was decided that Iorek would hack into the security system and print them all-access passes. The closest computer on the network was in the gate guard’s hut and so he snuck in as Arthur and Xiongmao distracted the guard. His attempt at breaking into the system failed, shorting the network and causing a brownout. This attracted the attention of the guard who, unable to see in the dark hut, was able only to react to Bjorn’s feeble attempts at subduing him. He collapsed after Iorek swatted him with a paw and Bjorn stole his hat and radio.

There was some alarm as another guard turned up to investigate the source of the brownout, this one wearing a fancy badge in addition to his hat and radio, and soon enough George had been taken of.

“George” and “Robert” (Iorek and Bjorn posing as the guards) used the authority of their hats to get some passes from the next group of visitors under the pretext of accepting them as a method of entrance.

Using these passes, the party was able to enter the house and start looking around. They quickly found the locked security door leading into the kitchen and Arthur tried to break it down while “George” tried to get the access code over the radio. He was told that the code was written in a book in the main security office and was on his way there when Arthur tripped the alarm.

After a back and forth on the radio, the alarm was disabled and the party broke the door down as “George” went to get the code. They explored the kitchen and found a set of stairs leading downwards, probably to the largest stash of honey. They followed them and encountered a locked door with a keypad.

“George”, meanwhile, was on his way to the security office. Once there, he tore the page containing the vault access code from the notebook (when the officer nearby noticed, he explained that he was very clumsy) and attempted to copy the information from the page in his paw onto  a clean page in the book. He then returned to the kitchen and found a collection of warning signs (Wet Floor, Open Flame, Bears, and Danger of Electrocution) and set up the “Warning! Bears!” sign to stop people following them. He re-joined the party and found that the vault access code did not work on the door in front of them, so he hacked it open/broke it and opened the door to reveal a wine cellar.

After searching the cellar, including pulling one of the wine racks over to see if the wall was fake, the party gave up and left, just in time to hear a radio broadcast concerning a report of the sound of broken glass and a request for someone to check the door in the cellar. With that prompt, they managed to find the secret door hidden behind a wine-rack.

Using the vault access code, they opened the door to reveal a huge, steel hatch with three tumblers on it. Correctly guessing the code to be 833 (BEE), the bears managed to open the door and find the collection of finely aged honey within.

[GM Note: As I improvised the whole thing as we went along, when Arthur’s player suggested that was the code, I found it such an elegant solution that it worked. My original idea was they would try to crack each tumbler].

Seeing how much honey was in the vault, the party decided they would need a bigger car and Iorek left to steal a people-carrier from the car park whilst the others boxed up the honey with boxes from the wine cellar. As they finished, the security team watching the camera feeds alerted the supervisor to their activities and they deflected all suspicion, by telling her to alert the Secureotech facility in the city that they were moving the honey in response to a possible threat. With that done, they hid the people-carrier in the car park once more and proceeded to the second part of the heist – Bee-yoncé.

It was no difficult task to find the stage, and the entrance to the backstage area, nor was it difficult to convince the two bodyguards standing outside the door to let “Robert” and “George” (now played by Lan Xiongmao) in as part of a security check. With only six doors to choose from, “George” quickly found Bee-yoncé’s dressing room and opened the door to reveal a bee-sized replica of the building they were in, a glass box outfitted with speakers and a screen hooked up to a microscope, and another bodyguard.

It was around this time that Iorek removed his hat (revealing the fact that he is a bear to all nearby onlookers) and began to create a disturbance, terrifying the guards at the backstage door. Bee-yoncé immediately flew into the glass case, where the microscope turned on and revealed a queen bee in a tiara, and “George” convinced the bodyguard with them that he should go and help deal with the bear whilst they carried Bee-yoncé to safety. He agreed and handed the glass box over to them.

The three bears still disguised as people made their way back to the carpark where it was decided that “Robert” (still played by Bjorn) would drive the honey to their rendezvous while Arthur and “George” took care of Bee-yoncé. As the people-carrier was hidden further into the carpark, Arthur and Xiongmao left the Con first and drove to meet Iorek (swimmingly frantically through the bayou that surrounded the convention centre) at the rendezvous, unaware that Bjorn had been seduced by a life of crime and intended to take all the honey for himself.

As he drove past the rendezvous, and left them to realise his betrayal, the bee in the glass box flew up to a tiny microphone and said,

“I wonder if this ever happened to Bee-yoncé?”

Chapter Five: Speaking with the Dead

Last session saw the party return from Cragmaw Castle and start making their way through the list of side quests they have accumulated.


  1. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master)
  2. – Ara’tak – Aarakocra Druid (Moon)
  3. – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance)

DM – Torvak – Goliath Cleric (Life)

The party, with Vyerith in tow, returned to Phandalin and collected their reward for clearing out Cragmaw Castle. Whilst there, they sold what spare equipment they could and received the Gloves of Revelation from Gundren Rockseeker in return for escorting him to his base of operations.

[DM’s Note: The Gloves of Revelation are a magical item that allows the wearer to cast Identify once a day. The version of the spell that is cast allows only for obvious magical effects to be discovered. I gave this ability to my players because they have no party member capable of casting that spell and my plans for the campaign don’t really include reliable access to someone who can cast it.]

Sildar, relieved at the return of his friend, promised future rewards when his belongings finally arrive. Gundren, for his part, offered to accompany them to Wave Echo cave when they decide to go there.

N’idera, curious about her bow, used the Gloves to reveal its magical properties whilst the party decided, on the flip of a coin, to travel to Coneyberry and converse with Agatha.

By the time they reached Coneyberry, the Gloves had recharged and Sirath gave her the dagger from the hunting lodge to examine. The moment she touched it, vines erupted from the earth and wrapped around her, supporting N’idera’s body as she fell unconscious.

The Ranger appeared on the edge of a cliff and was asked a series of questions by two figures she realised were Malar and Gwaerom. She told them that she protects the wilds whilst Sasha hunts those who would harm them. The two gods were satisfied with this answer and she awoke, to see a blue glow around Sasha’s neck. Investigation revealed a small chain collar apparently growing there.

[DM’s Note: The dream vision was designed to allow N’idera’s player to choose the effects of her weapons by choosing a focus on hunting, or guarding. The answer she gave wasn’t one I predicted, but resulted in some cool character development and a flexible ‘loadout’ of magical weapons.]

Sirath realised the dagger would be better with N’idera and the party found Agatha’s lair. There they conversed politely with the banshee and obtained the information Sister Giraele required.

With that taken care of, the party decided to head towards Old Owl Well.

They approached it from behind and accidentally alerted the zombies working in the tower. Curious, but not hostile, Kostus emerged from his tent to investigate and was forced to shrug off the effects of Sirath’s Abjure Enemy. The party was hard-pressed to fend of the zombies but they succeeded, eventually, and were forced to incapacitate Kostus as he fled.

N’idera took him down, shooting him in the leg, and that was the point at which we ran out of time.

[DM’s Note: I use a rule that a ranged, non-magical attack can incapacitate an NPC but giving the players a round to stabilise said NPC, providing the attack is not a critical hit.]

Chapter Four: Clearing the Castle

After last session’s foray into a plotline of my own devising, we returned to the Lost Mine of Phandelver with an assault upon Cragmaw Castle.


  1. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master)
  2. – Ara’tak – Aarakocra Druid (Moon)
  3. – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance)

DM – Torvak – Goliath Cleric (Life)

Play began with the party re-uniting and interrogating the captured Halfling. He said he had been hired from his home to provide undead minions by a ‘tall, thin figure’. The party took possession of the key to his house in Waterdeep and turned him over to the authorities.

They took care of business with the Graywind’s (including telling them about the supplies they had to leave in the hunting lodge and selling a lot of the stuff they had been hoarding) and examined the scroll case they had found. Within was the land deed for the hunting lodge and land around it. With that taken care of, they examined their current goals and determined to clear out Cragmaw Castle (and thus eliminate the big threat in the local area) before tackling anything else.

[DM Note: I gave the party the map to the castle in the last session as a way of tying things together (the undead goblins were part of the Cragmaw tribe) and because the suggested method of them obtaining it (random encounter) doesn’t feel right to me.]

Instead of waiting to scout it out, Sirath (true to form) strode right in through the main doors. The watch-goblins alerted the waiting reinforcements, as they are supposed to, and combat was joined. The party made great use of their plentiful AoE effects and made short work of the large force that rushed them in the entrance hall of the ruined castle.

N’idera, after trapping two watch-goblins in their room, and Sirath began to explore. N’idra found a set of bloody chain-mail and an ornate longsword. Whilst they were doing this, Ara’tak decided to continue further into the castle and triggered a trap. Although he escaped unscathed, the sound of the ceiling falling in alerted more of the castle’s inhabitants.

The party (possessing two characters with a high Perception score) heard the sounds of surprise from the banquet hall to the south and, with some slight damage to their pride, vanquished the large number of goblins within. Both the goblin who fled, and one of the watch-goblins from the other guardroom were hunted down and slain. One goblin escaped with its life.

The party then checked out the northern rooms of the castle (after finding the Owlbear tower and the secret entrance) and beat both the Grick and the goblins in the chapel handily.

Unfortunately, due to Sirath’s magic use during the last battle, the rest of the castle was on high alert. The crash of her magic enraged the Owlbear which broke out of its tower in response to the painfully loud noise and went on a rampage as it escaped. Recognising this, the party moved carefully forwards.

[DM’s Note: Thunderous Smite REALLY puts its work in to alert the NPCs to the party’s progress.]

They found the signs of the Owlbear’s escape and entered the final room. The King of the Cragmaws proved a challenge but they overcame both him and his wolf in okay shape.

As N’idera checked on Gundren (who was held captive in the King’s chamber), Sirath opened the second door in the room (the first being the entrance).

Full disclosure, as a DM, I am unhappy with the stat block for Vyerith. I kept it the same, but interpreted the line about the extra damage occurring in the first round of combat as occurring in the first round of combat she takes part in, but only if she hasn’t been detected. Imagine my surprise when she rolled a natural 20 and downed Sirath instantly.

The fight was nasty but short and the party, initially distrustful of the drow they encountered, took her prisoner. N’idera, being a half-elf, remains distrustful but seems happy enough to keep an eye on her.

Whilst searching their new prisoner who explained that she was trader, N’idera found Gundren’s map to Wave Echo cave. Keeping that, but leaving her with everything else in the satchel she had ‘mysteriously’ acquired, the party set off back to Phandalin.

[DM’s Note: Vyerith is supposed to fight to the death if cornered, but the party put a lot of effort into talking her down and I don’t think DM’s should ignore the efforts of their players. Also, she ended up with the Cragmaw King’s satchel because the party didn’t have time to search the room and Vyerith snagged it while they weren’t paying full attention to her.]

Chapter Three: The Seeds Are Sown

I’ve been sitting on my notes for a few weeks now, so I figured it was time to type them up and post them.

Due to only having two players, this session gave me a chance to break from the published material and start laying the groundwork for my own campaign. I think it went well.


  1. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master)
  2. – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance)

The PCs were woken by a loud, insistent knocking on the doors of their rooms in the tavern. Sirath opened the door in her own unique fashion and stood in the doorway, looming over the 6 year old girl with her greataxe at the ready.

N’idera, sensing the potential for the situation to head south quickly, caught the girl’s attention and tried to calm her down. Having rushed from bed, this was the first opportunity for any members of the group to see her unnaturally white hair. She managed to calm the girl down and was told that Linene Graywind, the woman who runs the Lionshield Coster in Phandalin, needed their help and had sent her youngest to find them.

A few moments later, the party were following the little girl across town and found Linene staring blankly at a wall. Managing to calm her down and get her focus, the party learned that Linene’s husband and son (Roark and Rogir, respectively) had been ambushed as they returned from trading along the Triboar Trail. Her eldest child, Lucille, was missing. All she knew was that they had ridden hard to escape (one of the horses had almost been lamed) and that the only place they would have stopped for definite along the Trail was an old hunting lodge used by traders as a refuge during bad weather.

N’idea did what she could to help the Graywind men heal and she and Sirath bargained with Linene for the use of some horses. Torvak and Ara’tak remained behind to help where they could and both PCs set off, their sellable items stored in Linene’s safe. Whilst depositing their items, a small wolf with fur the same colour as N’idera’s hair jumped out of her bag.

Having been shown a map of the Trail, N’idera knew how long it would take to get to the hunting lodge so the party rode hard for the first few days and then slowed enough to notice a road off the Trail about a day before they reached their destination. N’idera scouted it out and found an abandoned quarry before they resumed their journey.

N’idera and her wolf, Sasha, managed to sneak up the lodge’s drive and got quite close to it before Sirath’s armour clinked loudly. N’idera saw the two goblin guards the moment they loosed arrows at Sirath as the dragonborn rounded the corner and came into view of the lodge. She felled one and then entered the crawlspace under the lodge as Sirath dashed around and came up behind the other guard.

It was then that Sirath tried to grab the goblin and felt its flesh give way under her hands. A brief scuffle later and it was evident that the goblins were, in fact, animated goblin corpses.

[DM Note: I ran these using the goblin stat block but with the undead keyword and half their speed.]

Sirath relayed this information and N’idera took a minute to focus on her connection to the primal energies of the world and sensed 10 undead nearby, as well as a larger force moving slowly towards Phandalin.

What followed was a lovely example of what happens when one PC (Sirath) tries to sneak, gives up on the idea and proceeds to stride through every room of the house.

The PCs started in the courtyard in the middle of the building, reached through the crawlspace. The 4 undead goblins (alerted by Sirath’s failure to move sneakily) ‘hiding’ there posed no threat and the PCs were quickly able to follow the obvious drag marks on the ground.

The first two rooms were empty, a bookshelf in one decorated with the Tresendar crest and stores in the other showing signs of age.

The next room had two hob-goblin corpses in it. Sirath, entering whilst N’idera was searching the stores for signs of ownership, caught sight of movement behind a crate and decided to move it. Two things happened; she found a fireplace and she dropped the crate. Loudly. Before she could investigate the fireplace, she was interrupted by the hob-goblin corpses animating behind her.

After that was taken care of, N’idera noticed what seemed like a button hidden in the carvings on the mantel piece and proceeded to discover a shaken, manacled Lucille hiding in the chimney. After calming her down, N’idera pressed the button but was unable to find where the muted click came from.

Sirath wasted no time in spotting the hidden alcove in the chimney and grabbed the oilcloth package hidden within.

[DM Note: With N’idera’s absurd Perception score, I was figuring on her noticing the items. It threw a spanner in the works when she didn’t. But hey, that’s how the dice roll.]

The rest of the house posed little problem to the PCs. Sirath walked noisily across a poorly maintained nightingale floor and alerted everything left in the house, before walking boldly through every door without regard for the consequences. Fortunately, the PCs proved more than equal to the undead in the house and they were quickly in the clear. They paused briefly in one of the last rooms to loot a scroll case and a few items from a secret compartment in the bottom of a chest.

As they began to stock the Lionshield cart pulled up in front of the lodge with what they could carry from the house, N’idera noticed some strange runes carved into the wooden porch and main doors of the lodge. She could sense the weakening necromantic energy emanating from magical symbols and began to destroy them.

As she did so, she had a vision of a phoenix rising from a sea of blood. Sirath, seeing what she was doing, joined in and accidentally destroyed the master rune of the ritual. She was saw the same thing and received the message ‘Netheril will rise again.’.

As she recovered from this, they noticed a swiftly killed (but definitely not undead) bugbear. The bugbear had a map pointing them towards Cragmaw Castle, as well the key to Lucille’s manacles. It was around this time that Sirath opened the package from the chimney to examine the bow (decorated with a charm to Malar) and dagger (whose pommel was carved in the shape of a pawprint inset with starmetal) within. She gave the bow to N’idera and didn’t tell her about the dagger.

Both PCs could tell there are some qualities to the items they don’t currently understand or know how to access.

[DM Note: My attitude to magical items is that an Arcana check can determine whether or not an item is likely to be magical (Detect Magic being the only way of determining if an item is definitely magical), but an Identify spell is required to learn what properties an item possesses. Attunement is enough to learn the basic properties of something, but plot related items need the Identify spell casting on them. At the same time, because they are plot related, their magical nature is likely to be more obvious.]

They realised that they could outpace the undead force moving towards Phandalin and headed for the quarry (which lay directly between the lodge and the town). N’idera’s ability to sense undead revealed that the large force was considerably smaller and they began to worry that most of it had split off, or sped up, from the few that she could still sense.

They planned their ambush well and dealt with the undead easily. From her position at the top of the quarry, N’idera was perfectly placed to find the Halfling cleric she accurately deduced was involved in controlling the undead.

The session ended as she clapped him in irons and they began the journey back to Phandalin.


Due to a few factors, these APs are probably always going to feel a bit rushed and note-like. I felt this bears pointing out now, rather than later.

Chapter Two: Pest Control

Recently, we got to play through the rest of the second chapter from the Lost Mine of Phandelver. We were joined by another player with no experience, which made the encounters easier.


  1. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master (at the end of the game))
  2. – Ara’tak – Aarakocra Druid (Moon)
  3. – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance (at the end of the game))

DM – Torvak – Goliath Cleric (Life)

Ara’tak, at the end of last session, found a map detailing the hidden entrance to the Redbrand hideout (they had also been told that one existed in the woods by an NPC). The back of the map had a message written on it in low quality invisible ink referencing a beast in a pit and ‘Old Netheril’. After entering the hideout, wearing some of the Redbrand’s cloaks and with a new ally in tow, they found the crevasse and began to explore.

They explored most of the cavern before Ara’tak noticed the Nothic and, using some pretty awesome RP and the ‘Old Netheril’ reference from the map, avoided the fight entirely. They found out that there were prisoners to the east and a magic user to the north-west.

(DM’s Note: My players reacted so well to this encounter that I have some plot ideas for continuing after we finish the adventure.)

What followed was a truly beautiful series of moments that could have gone sour but were recovered at the last minute as the party split up and began to explore, turning back from three possible encounters at the last moment. They wound up at the entrance to the hideout and Sirath pushed Ara’tak into the cistern. This had a two-fold effect; Ara’tak found the satchel hidden there, and the nearby guards realised they were no longer alone.

The fight was short, brutal and highlighted why Paladins with Thunderous Smite are monsters in mêlée combat. Ara’tak, once again, was downed but Torvak’s purpose as party healer prevented any lasting damage. They scouted the way out of the cellars through the ruined manor house and then ‘found’ the pit trap in the hallway.

The skeletons, as per the adventure rules, ignored the party when they began looting the coffins in the Tresendar crypt and the two guards in the cells next door had no chance to really do anything before they were downed.

A series of REALLY good rolls from M. saw his Paladin breaking the cells open (releasing the prisoners and collecting the Heirloom sidequest) as well as busting into the armoury.

With the entire east side of the dungeon explored, the party opted to go through a secret door that Ara’tak had found right at the beginning of the session and surprised Iarno himself in his quarters. The surprise round saw N’idera dashing past him to steal his staff, Ara’tak dousing him with another creative use of Create/Destroy Water and then Sirath letting loose with her lightning breath. By the time the round was over, Iarno was really low on health and opted to surrender. He had only a few moments to irritate the party with his superiority when answering their questions before Sirath tired of him and buried her axe in his breast bone. There were a few moments of intra-party tension after that before they started searching his room.

(DM’s Note: This was my first opportunity to introduce a magic item for the party to use to compensate for being smaller than expected and N’idera found it but is unsure what it is.)

The familiar in the next room spent a few minutes running from the wildshaped Druid before curling up on its dead master’s shoulder (where it met the same fate as Iarno) and the workshop was well and truly looted.

What followed was glorious. The ‘poisoned’ condition on the Redbrands in the penultimate room made for a lot of whiffed rolls that, for some reason, the players (with the exception of Ara’tak who went for a wide flank)seemed intent on matching. Thunderous Smite proved its worth again but alerted the nearby Bugbears.

Ara’tak discovered this fact and launched a surprise attack by using his last spell slot and then tactically withdrew to the crevasse. One of the bugbears followed him and the others continued towards the fight.

The fight, as to be expected with the party running low on resources, was tough but satisfying. The Nothic, lured by Ara’tak, killed the last Bugbear and dragged it away to eat. Thus satisfied, it had no problem with the PCs taking its hoard and leaving the hideout for Phandalin (where they turned Iarno’s body over for the reward), their pockets full of loot and their level bumped up to the 3.

My players are very keen to loot everything which means I can seed plot ideas and foreshadowing among treasure and personal items.

The interest with which they discussed the Nothic encounter after the game, and the positive feedback from it, gave me a few ideas about structuring encounters in the future and about possible plot-lines heading forwards.


Chapter One: The Road to Phandalin

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.