Had our third session of evil D&D this weekend. Two of our players couldn’t make it so we turned our eyes on side and story quests for those available. We had our cleric (Dorf), our wizard (Hadarai), and our warrior (Woody). To begin, the gang made plans for a little bit of murder.
*Minor Spoilers for Lost Mines of Phandalin*
Our rogue has business at the Redbrand Manor but local hero tourists are using the courtyard as a base of operations. Behind the manor is a magical sentient rosebush that is defending the rear of the manor. So I steered the party toward Thundertree. Before leaving, the party made up flyers for a brownie bake-off to be held at their evil lair in a few days time. Their plan is to lead the adventurers and Redbrands out of the manor while they loot it (which is awesome). Also, they plan to set fire to the place while the heroes are in there and collect the insurance money (I honestly just… well… I’ll allow it).
Most of the members are undead and from the area. The wizard and warrior were residents of Thundertree before the calamity. Arriving in their hometown they made a beeline for the temple (a bonus dungeon I made based on a 4e adventure from the undead supplement). The wizard has a story quest to fix the local undead shrine to bring peace to the dead. There, they expertly avoided all combat along the way. Ochre Jelly? Feed them and charmed them. Zombies? Misdirection and stealth. Twig Blights? Gave them a wide berth (unknowingly). At the temple proper, they found the start of my super awesome amazing poem riddle. An open book with a coded cypher written out. They would have to go into the undercroft and find a copy of the poem that was mistranslated to discover the password.
Going into the crypts, the party discovered a company of goblins hard at work. They were trying to force their way through a near indestructible magical stone door that talks. The hobgoblin slavers and pack spiders turned on the party and a fair battle broke out. I accidently took the cleric down but he immediately saved to 1 hit point. The wizard was in good form however and torched the room. Afterwards, they took two of the goblins that survived and told them to return to their hideout in Phandalin (they need bartenders for the brownie bake-off). I need to think through my monster tactics better. I missed some big opportunities to make that fight a little better. Also, I really need to brush up on my battle story telling.
At this point, the party was supposed to make the demon door say its own name. The letters to his name were encoded in nearby crypts that each had a passage from the earlier poem. Instead, they threatened to take all the undead (his only friends and company) and destroy the entrance to the crypt leaving him forever alone. It was just too good of a role play moment and he popped open immediately. Inside, they discovered the crypt of the town’s founder and a dwarven door (which is unlike the rest of Thundertree [a human city]).
Hitting this ‘dead’-end/more important later spot, they turned their eyes on the Wizard’s Tower. Here they met the dragon who immediately ate the warrior in fear. Spitting him back out as a skeleton (the player’s desired race). The dragon apologized and asked what they needed. The adventurers had been given a quest by a necromancer to find a book on transmutation somewhere in Thundertree and they figured the wizard’s tower was likely. The dragon agreed to let them raid his lab as he couldn’t fit inside anymore and opened a secret hatch on the floor.
On seeing the party wizard, however, he freaked out and hid (which a 600-year-old dragon hiding was pretty great). Turns out the wizard and the dragon switched bodies during whatever the calamity was that kicked off this adventure. The wizard (lich) promises not to steal his body back.
Under the tower, I set the party on a rummaging adventure based on a module called Wizard in a Bottle. Turns out they were a little higher level than suggested and I didn’t level up the traps or monsters well to accommodate them. So they cake-walked through the monster, took some damage from a sonic trap, and found the book they needed. At this point the big bad, a wizard’s ghost trapped in a bottle, critically failed and threw himself off a shelf (eliminating a boss fight).
After leaving, they swung by the warrior’s old house. Wherein, they discovered a group of occultists trying to bribe the dragon to go to a special dragon temple near Neversummer. Thinking quick, the party offered their help in convincing the dragon to leave (so they could collect the reward). I was gonna force combat if the lich went back up until the occultist critically succeeded with no help from the party on his persuasion roll.
On the way back to town, I threw them the encounter with a group of orcks (orcs? orks? why not both!?). The orcks were hunting the goblins that the party needs to find (turns out the castle moves). Between what the orcks knew and a map that the party found, they figured out the walking castle problem. Here they made a deal with the war band to help them bring down. Lastly, they convinced the local necromancer (that wanted the book) that the dragon took the book with himself south (the opposite direction that the dragon went).
So the party cleared two bonus dungeons, avoided nearly all combat in Thundertree, drove off the dragon, got the occult to leave, “drove off” the orcks, and ran the necromancer out of town. Basically wiping the job board that I gave them. All that is left is a straight run for the last two regular dungeons before the final crawl.
The story developed in some very interesting ways during the session. There were some things that I had thought through four or five times that during the session I changed. Feeding off the wacky ideas the party came up with and playing off of their actions really fleshed out the adventure. For next time, I need to have more trap and monster encounters prepped. There were several times in this session where the dungeon was missing something that I just didn’t have ready. For the goblin castle and the manor, I want to have blade traps just in case or a gelatinous cube on standby. Something to give the players more chances at role playing.
For example, I added a pod of ochre jelly as an extra encounter. Instead of fighting them, the party role played leading them away from them. This was, for me, more interesting than an hour long fight. It helped that the wizard rolled pretty good for this as well.
This does lead to one sticky issue–how much experience to give everyone. Personally, I leveled them once over this adventure but the book’s suggested EXP would have put them up another level (more if I gave them the suggested dragon experience). In order to keep things balanced, I decided to hold off on giving as much EXP as I could have. At this rate, they’ll be between 5 and 6 at the final boss fight (which is about right for the adventure). Otherwise, they would have reached 7 or even 9. I feel a little dishonest doing it this way so I’ll give them more quest gold to make up for it. With the lair side missions, this should even things out.
Anyway, we made it a whole session without any butt related injuries. I’ll have to be more vigilant in offering the opportunities in the future!
Thanks for reading!