A few weekends back, we planned an early game of D&D for our fifth session of the evil campaign. We had a member that was picking family up from the airport, a member who got off work at 7:00 am, and a game day at COOP Aleworks that everyone else was going to. So we met up at 10:00 am at a player’s house closer to the metro. Things I learned: it’s never too early to start drinking, snacks are a must (even early in the morning), Taco Bell’s breakfast is amazing, and murder hobos are really motivated to leave no NPC standing.
So, it was a good game.
This week we doubled back to pick up the Red Manor adventure. I previously was a bad DM and tried to steer them away from it. I had written some storyline for our murder-ling with the manor and wanted to involve him with the dungeon. He had missed the weekend we were going to run through it so I made several impediments to their entrance for the dungeon. In the future, I really don’t want to run games that way. I’ll just take that time to rewrite the story elements in later for that character.
Anyway, we added a new player to the game. We brought a bard half-elf in. He was pretty pumped to play and he volunteered to play music (the party did not like my Smashmouth playlist that I would usually put on). He also really drummed up the roleplay which is great. I need to push myself harder to keep up the theatrical elements and I think he’ll help me with that.
To start, the party encountered a relative of Finn (our sweet murder-ling). She is a demon (the ‘murder’ side of the half in halfling) and she tells him that his cousin, Reggie, has been taken by the Redbrands. She says he used to sneak into the mansion and they have caught him. And tells him that Reg used a special rose spray to get through the sentient garden.
I figured this would make for a good introduction for our bard charlatan, who specializes in potions. However, the murderling mad a line for Shelia’s house and robbed the place. This actually turned into a bit of fun. The bard distracted the demon downstairs while the rogue broke into his cousin’s bedroom. Every obstacle I tried to squeeze was aced by very high rolls or great roleplay. For instance, one of the sleeping demon cousins started to wake up while the rogue was sneaking out. He rolled a natural critical to punch him asleep.
At the house, however, all they found was an empty bottle. So they took it to a nearby gardening supply store. The place was locked but the team improvised and broke in. I placed some alarms inside the store but they only served to keep the party from spending too much time inside. Armed with spray and sprayers, they made their way to the Red Manor.
At the fort, the bard and the rogue worked the crowds of tourist adventurers in the courtyard while the warrior and cleric made for the sewer entrance. The bard and rogue used slight of hand to misplace everyone’s belongings. This started a fight between the hero guilds/mercenaries. Behind the house, the team fought a gelatinous cube hiding in the sewer pipes. This wasn’t actually in the LMOP module–I just thought it’d be fun to toss in an iconic monster. Turns out this was the hardest fight of the session. However, the warrior and cleric managed fine and met with the bard and rogue.
Entering the Red Manor basement, the team made a straight line for the stairs heading back up to the house. In the module, there is nothing there but since I’ve added a few things, I improvised. I said there were some sleeping areas and a kitchen. The team responded by starting a fire. Outside the now full-blown riot was only escalating. The party seems bent on leaving nothing in Phandelver when they are done with it.
Heading back down, the party began making their way through the house. They found the crypts and were attacked by skeletons. In the book, it says that if the fight starts, it alerts the guards in the next room. So I had them enter the second round. My warrior (who is also a skeleton) at the time was on fire and choking the enemy skeleton. He turned to the guard and said, “This is a private. It doesn’t concern you!” Not only did he role/roll very well, the guard critically failed saving against being persuaded and ended up getting sick. So the fight went on without interruption.
After this point, the team took on disguises of the Redbrands and began silently murdering everyone else in the house. The bugbears? Burned to death by a murderling who locked the door behind him after starting a fire. The gambling human ruffians? Back stabbed several times in the middle of their game (cubicles and spreadsheets). The Nothic hiding under the bridge? Stabbed clean through. No one was safe.
About this time, I said the basement was getting hot. Real hot. Wood beams began to crumble through the roof releasing fire and embers into the chambers. The team hurried to the last area they hadn’t explored yet. Here they found Glassstaff’s laboratory. They also befriended a rat they found. They also found the wizard’s fabled glass staff. As they made this discovery, their magic map revealed that it was one of the magic keys they have been searching for.
So, now they will descend into the Thundertree temple and enter Wave Echo Cave proper. This next session should be interesting. The dungeon is a more traditional crawl. I want to let them explore as much as possible but because of the nature of the mission, they could accident their way to the end. I’m trying to be less of a train conductor and more of a gas station attendant (if that makes sense). I want this dungeon to be epic but I also want to let them take the lead and work their way through it.
That said, I’ve written some pretty fun tricks in to make the dungeon memorable. I don’t want to give it away but I think it’ll make the adventure pop. After this dungeon, we will have completed the Lost Mines of Phandelver. Originally we talked about moving on to another game like D6 Star Wars, Shadowrun, or Pathfinder afterward. I am not sure where the group is on those sentiments now, though. I haven’t played SW or SR in… 20 years? Oh geez… And I’ve never played PF (but did buy Frog God Games Humble Bundle so there’s that).
For me, I’m more concerned about whether they want to continue using pre-packaged adventures like LMoP or move to homebrewed open worlds. I am comfortable moving between settings, rulesets, and even playing instead of DMing–but deciding on the direction for the next campaign feels daunting. I really want to take a swing at an open world game but I find the pre-packaged games really easy to play from. For me, having the adventure and just adding flavor cuts lots of prep time. Also for me, building a world and letting the players guide their adventuring path sounds very romantic. I know I would do a little of both either way, but which way we’ll lean will be interesting. No matter what we decide, I’m excited to keep playing.
Which, speaking of, I’m considering starting a live play podcast with some of my players. I know we are all busy so it may be a little bit off in the future, but I think it’d be fun. My thought was to record a full session (about four hours worth of play) and break it into several episodes each time. That way, maybe, we could get ahead of posting dates. I really like the format for the Adventure Zone, Godsfall, and others where each episode is maybe only an hour long each. Before we do. however, I’d like to get a little more practice with audio recording/editing and get more comfortable with a rule set. I’d hate for the internet to have to correct me for being wrong dot com.
Any hoot, that’s all. We play again in two weeks. Before then, I’m testing out using Roll20. Hoping to have a fully grapgical map for the players to follow along with. I’ll keep you posted!