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September 21st, 2014

D&D Starter Set... Started

We started my slightly-customized version of The Lost Mine of Phandelver tonight, using the rules included in the box and the Basic Rules downloadable from the WotC website. The party consists of:

  • Gimlet A dwarven mercenary cleric who took to adventuring after being disillusioned by corruption in his mercenary company.

  • Mei A human archer who seeks to live up to the glory of her once-prominent family.

  • Morgo the Magic Master A human wizard convinced of his own amazingness... and who rolled high enough stats to back it up.

  • Tylow A halfling rogue who's loyal to his friends.


The first couple of hours of the session were mostly character generation and discussion of the 5e ruleset; once that was done, we jumped straight into the adventure. The characters were hired by their mutual friend Brannar Diamondheart to escort a wagon of supplies from the city of Argent to Welltide, a town being rebuilt after it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption decades ago. Brannar had some kind of a scheme in the offing, which he planned to let the group in on once they got to town, and rode off ahead with his friend Lord Sildar, a noble of Argent, and Sildar's man-at-arms.

Spoilers for 'Lost Mind of Phandelver' ahead.Collapse )

We wrapped up the session there; although the PCs are practically tapped for resources, Tylow was adamantly against retreating for a full rest while Brannar was still a captive somewhere in the cave. (Loyalty is his Ideal, after all.)

How did 5e do? So far, I liked it. Combat was definitely fast and straightforward, although that's true of just about any edition at 1st level. I can see what various reviews have said about the PCs being squishy at 1st level; nobody got one-punched, or even fell to 0 hp, but it was iffy in spots. Being a "mapless-friendly" game worked nicely for the rogue's sneakery, but I still ended up drawing out most of the combats at least on the players' map. It's just easier than trying to remember where everyone else relative to everyone else. I like the way roleplaying is "baked in" to the game as a fundamental pillar, without being too forced down the throats of people who don't get into it as much. Nobody earned inspiration during the course of the session, but I plan to award it to Tylow at the beginning of the next one for pushing on rather than retreating because of his loyalty Ideal.

Advantage and disadvantage worked really well. I did a lot more handwavy "You have proficiency? You can do this."-type rulings than I normally would. I also decided to try rolling my dice in the open, instead of behind the screen where it could be fudged, and there was some added entertainment value when the players saw a particularly weak roll on the part of their foes.

There are some quirky artifacts that I'm trying to puzzle out. Everyone who received the cleric's bless spell promptly forgot to use it, but given that hits or misses were mostly by super-wide margins, it didn't matter. Climbing is done with Strength (Athletics), but the rogue has a Str mod of -1 and no proficiency. Whoever heard of a rogue who can't climb? Stuff like that.

Next week: we'll see if they survive "just one more room." ;)

-The Gneech

[1] Elsa is basically a cross between Amiri, Pathfinder's iconic barbarian, and Jormungandr from Zettai Boei Leviatan, who I added to the story to provide some tanky backup should the party need it, and as my "PC" in the game, so to speak. She's durable and entertaining, but definitely not a mental giant. My plan was, if the PCs didn't invite her along after the opening encounter, for her to become a recurring character in Welltide later. But apparently they decided they liked the cut of her gib, so to speak. Or just recognized a player-character type when they saw it. Is there such a thing as "play-dar"?

[2] Goblin insults are apparently things like, "You smell like a bunch of pretty flowers!" and "Your ears are small and cute!" Who knew?

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