Thursday, May 11, 2017

D&D with the Kids: Lost Mine of Phandelver, Part 5 (Finally!)

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

As I've reported in previous columns (see links above), I've been running The Lost Mine of Phandelver for my children and a friend and his children. We had not been to play in several months due to scheduling issues, but were finally able to resume the adventure this past weekend.

This was a relatively short session, because we needed some time to review the adventure so far, and the plans they had made at the end of our last session. I also knew that the first of their short side quests would earn them enough XP to reach 3rd level, so we would need some time to advance their characters before we could go onto the next quest.

(Obligatory spoiler warning for "Lost Mine of Phandelver")

Last time, the party finished dealing with the threat of the Redbrand gang in Phandelver. They now have three side quests to pursue while they seek out the location of Cragmaw Castle: dealing with orc raiders near Wyvern Tor; investigating reports of undead near Old Owl Well; and searching Thundertree for a lost necklace. They plan to do these quests in that order, with a visit to the town of Conyberry on the way to Thundertree.

The party went to Wyvern Tor, and searched for the orc camp. Caboose, the gnome bard, was the best tracker, so led the way, and soon found orc tracks leading to a ravine. He spotted an orc sentry near a cave entrance, so the party withdrew a bit to plan their attack. They decided to have the bard cast dancing lights to try to draw the sentry away from his post. The orc didn't move, but the spell kept him distracted, so Sothleene, the human rogue, sneaked up to the orc and took him out with a single well-placed thrust with her rapier.

The stealthiest party member with darkvision was the Caboose, so the gnome led the way up to the cave entrance. Inside he saw seven orcs--and an ogre! After some quick whispered planning, the party launched their surprise attack. The human wizard, Gybrush, cast sleep, which unfortunately only took down one orc. Bahli, the dwarf cleric, cast bless on the party. Sothleene shot an arrow from the entrance, and the dragonborn barbarian, Starfright hurled a javelin. 

The ogre was the first resident of the cave to react, and moved to the entrance to engage the party. Before he could attack, though, Gybrush cast grease under him, and the giant fell prone. The orc leader moved up behind the ogre and tried to hurl a javelin past it, and some of the other orcs followed to do the same. The orcs landed a couple lucky shots, but their leader soon decided to withdraw to watch and wait, content for now to just egg on the ogre, Gog, to smash the intruders.

The fight proved challenging--and bloody. Starfright took the brunt of the giant's fury--she was knocked unconscious, healed by Bahli, then knocked out again. Eventually, the party's weapons and Gybrush's spells whittled down the giant, and it finally fell down dead.

At this point, the leader ordered the others to attack, despite the hazard still posed by grease spell. This kept most of them tangled up and unable to attack effectively. However, Bahli and Caboose both took hits that dropped them. Gybrush, who was down to cantrips at this point, dragged each of his fallen friends out of harm's way and stabilized them. Starfright, healed enough to fight again, stepped back into the fray in their place. 

Eventually, the party was able to take down the leader, at which point the four surviving orcs surrendered. The party accepted their plea, and even let them keep their weapons, as long as they left their treasure behind and promised to leave the region. The orcs gladly complied (for now, at least, as far as the party knows). The party searched the cave and found a chest of coins. 

We stopped there in order to allow the PCs to heal and receive their XP. They now have enough for 3rd level, so I spent some time with each player to take care of that bookkeeping. Three of the PCs (the bard, barbarian, and rogue) got to choose their subclasses at this time. The party now looks like this:
  • Bahli Kegstander, male hill dwarf cleric 3 (guild artisan background, war domain)
  • Caboose, male forest gnome bard 3 (entertainer background, college of lore)
  • Gybrush Threepwood, male human wizard 3 (sage background, conjuration school)
  • Sothleene, female human rogue 3 (charlatan background, arcane trickster), and her familiar, Sasha (fey cat)
  • Starfright, female dragonborn (black) barbarian 3 (outlander background, path of the totem warrior [wolf])

Other 5E Games

As I mentioned recently, I plan to start running Tales from the Yawning Portal for my wife and kids sometime soon. (We would have done that this weekend if Phandelver hadn't worked out.) Because of this, I am retitling this "D&D with the Kids" series to "Lost Mine of Phandelver," and will make each adventure in Yawning Portal into its own separately-numbered series. 

Character Sheets

Finally, I would like to recommend the ForgedAnvil D&D 5E Character Generator, available from the ENWorld downloads pages. I'm currently using this for the Phandelver game, and plan to use it for Yawning Portal as well. If you're familiar with HeroForge (for D&D v.3.5) or sCoreForge (for Pathfinder), this Excel-based character sheet works very much the same way. It allows you to enter character data and choose options from drop-down menus, then it does the math to calculate total hit points, armor class, skill modifiers, and other statistics. It also provides reference text for race, class, and background abilities, so that you don't have to keep flipping through your Player's Handbook to choose your next action.

5E is far less math-intensive than v.3.5 or Pathfinder, and has significantly fewer and less complex crunchy bits, so the ForgedAnvil sheet is likewise much simpler. This means that opening and saving the character sheet takes far less time than in HeroForge (which on older computers is prone to serious lag in processing and saving data, often crashing the worksheet). ForgedAnvil is also able to generate a spell reference sheet as part of the same worksheet, rather than requiring a separate SpellForge file.

According to the FAQ, ForgedAnvil only supports official WotC content, not any "Unearthed Arcana" or third-party material. There is some capability for customizing built in (for races, subclasses, deities, and spells), but I haven't yet needed to use that feature so don't know how difficult it is to implement.  

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