Last night's session was the first one where the PCs spent a significant amount of time actually in their newly-adopted hometown of Welltide ("Phandalin" in the Starter Set), getting to know some of the locals. The session was mostly a series of small roleplaying vignettes, including meeting Sister Garaele (steward of the local temple), Daran Edermath (former adventurer like you until he took an arrow to the knee, now apple orchard owner and best prospect for a mayor who could actually get anything done), and Tylow's Aunt Qelline, an adorable little old halfling lady who fed everyone until they were ready to pop and wouldn't let them go off adventuring until they all were wrapped up nice and warm in a scarf. (Elsa started referring to her as "Aunt Grandma" after this.)
After lunch (and Tylow slipping some gold surreptitiously into the kitchen drawer to support his auntie) the group split up to go off and do their own thing. Tylow and Mei asked around to see what the Redcloaks were up to; Gimlet, being a cleric, wandered around town looking for folk to minister to; and Morgo went back to the inn to write some letters to send his friends and family back in Argent.
Gimlet and Elsa found someone who badly needed ministering to: it was a local townie being roughed up by Redcloaks (well, presumably Redcloaks, they weren't actually wearing the former-constabulary uniform). When the pair stepped in to intervene, the Redcloaks decided to "teach them a lesson."
School was in session all right, but not the way the Redcloaks intended. Gimlet and Elsa quickly made short work of slaying two and capturing the other two, hauling them off to the Townsman's House to turn in to Lord Sildar, who had set up offices there as an official representative of the crown. ("Not the king, just the crown," as Mei put it in a snarky moment.)
Sildar was quite pleased. Between the farmhands the PCs had convinced Daran Edermath to send as support, and the two mercenaries Sildar had been able to hire on his own, his new constabulary force was growing rapidly, and having prisoners to interrogate about Redcloak activity could prove very useful. He sent for Sister Garaele, telling the PCs to go grab some dinner and come back to help with the interrogation.
Unfortunately, dinner was interrupted by the sound of a commotion outside the Inn, which the PCs (being PCs) ran out to investigate. Several Redcloaks, their faces covered by masks, were assaulting the Townsman's House, aided by a bugbear(!) and the mysterious and reclusive Glass-Staff himself, his own face covered by a mask. (Tylow: "So he does come out of his hole!") Glass-Staff used a spell scroll to blast the house with a fireball, setting it ablaze, while the Redcloaks fired flaming arrows at the roof and attacked anyone fleeing the building.
Obviously, this could not stand. The PCs engaged the criminals, aided by Brannar Diamondheart (who'd been eating dinner with them) and of course Lord Sildar, who was in the upper floor of the house shooting his crossbow at the Redcloaks below. The battle was short and vicious: Morgo blasted Glass-Staff with magic missiles, causing the wizard crimelord to flee; Tylow got in some impressive sneak attacks (including taking out the bugbear with an attack of opportunity); Gimlet made sure one of the Redcloaks was taken alive and rallied the townsfolk into making an impromptu fire brigade to make sure the fire didn't spread; Elsa took up the role of "meat shield" to protect Morgo; and Mei ran into the burning building to rescue Lord Sildar as the roof came crashing in on him.
Sadly, three of Lord Sildar's four new constables died in the attack– and Morgo's letters home went up in flames in the Townsman's House mailbox. The PCs came to the conclusion that there was no point in going on any expeditions to Wave Echo Cave, or to Coneyburr for the side job Sister Garaele gave them, until the Redcloak problem was dealt with. They worked up a plan to head to the Sleeping Giant Inn to arrest any known Redcloaks there first to thin the criminal band's numbers before making an assault on their main hideout under Tresendar Manor, which is where the next session will begin. Everyone gained enough XP to reach 3rd level, so we finished off the session with leveling up.
I'm still pleased with the speed and ease of 5E. I ran the entire "Redcloak assault on the Townsman's House" encounter off the cuff based on what Glass-Staff would do, just by grabbing the stat blocks of everyone involved, rather than planning it out with an XP budget or anything of that nature, and it worked well. The PCs got to kick butt and take names, but there was still a sense of danger during the whole encounter– whether it was danger to the PCs or to important NPCs. (Lord Sildar took something like half his points from being crushed by burning rafters.) If the dice had been crueler, or the party had not worked together so well, it could have easily been a lot uglier.
The module suggests treating the town like an old western, with Lord Sildar taking on the role of "the new marshal" cleaning up the place, and that aspect was quite strong in this session. Glass-Staff's assault on the Townsman's House had the feel of the murders of Morgan and Virgil Earp... I wonder if we won't see Morgo and Glass-Staff drawing wands in the main drag at high noon.
(Spoiler: We won't. ;P )
No game next weekend: my 45th berfday party instead! We're gonna have a party here at The Hobbit Hole, probably the last one before the sale goes through. I sent out several invites that didn't get RSVPs, or even acknowledgement of receipt, so if you're a local or even not-so-local friend who would expect to get an invite to such a thing and you haven't, chances are I sent you one and it got lost in the aether. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com about it!