As we were wrapping up tour first time playing official 5th edition this Friday, a player mentioned this was one of the best nights we have had in our six year span of Friday night gaming. It was raucous, hilarious, fast paced, and it was indeed one of the best sessions ever.
Credit goes out to all the players first and foremost, because without their interest, engagement, and participation, none of it would be possible. The new, fifth edition of dungeons and dragons also played a part in the night’s success. The rules do a great job of evoking an atmosphere, laying out a simple mechanical resolution, and then getting out of the way. The designers have created a game that is better than the sum of its parts. The adventure itself, written by two of the most storied game designers in the industry, Steve Winter and Wolfgang Baur, provided the foundation for a great night of adventure.
Last week was character generation, and we ended that session with a brief description of the campaign set-up. The characters were staying in a small town on the edge of the desert called Greenest. I let them know that it was their town. They knew the people, had homes (they shared an old bunk house donated to the soldier John Smith by the Governess, for him to use while assembling a team to go after the cult of the dragon.) Each of the characters had a reason for being in the town, and many of the reasons dealt with a fear/hatred of dragons and/or the cult of the dragon. Guess what was about to show up…
As the party rounds the holy rock outcropping supplying Greenest with a natural-spring fed babbling brook, they see a sight of horror. A band of raiders has encircled the quaint hamlet with its waist-high walls of tumbled stones. Fierce horseman wielding flashing blades and torches ring the city as other bands enter on foot, terrorizing, capturing, and killing the innocent civilians as they make their ways through the outer edge of the tiny town. The stout stone keep in the center of town is a beacon of hope for the poor simple folk, and the party can see that the guardsmen are holding open the keep doors to allow people in for safety.
They also see a huge blue dragon perched atop the keep, idly munching on a cow. An archer appears from a window and takes aim at the dragon. A flash of blue lightning and the archer and window frame are gone, but the dragon launches itself into the air, to lazily circle over Greenest, 300 feet up, to let the raiders do their work.
The warlock is a psychic soldier in service of the crusades, and has recently been dispatched to Greenest; the bard has a girlfriend at the tavern; the gnome trickster owes the people of Greenest for adopting her, and calls the town home; the dragonborn monk is a hermit dedicated to looking after the holy shrine/freshwater spring outside town, and each of them knew that in the event of a raid, the keep was the safest place to be. Also present were the elven ranger, tracker of dragons and far from the forest, and the tiefling pirate, far from the sea and proficient in a water mount, or hippopotamus I suppose. They hid their mounts at the outcropping, and made their way into town, by way of the tavern.
They had to make a group stealth check to make it past the ring of horsemen, and as they approached they realized that while the horsemen burned and pillaged, bands of kobolds armed with daggers and sacks were entering each home and looting them, then handing the sacks to flying kobolds who were delivering the loot into wagons outside town. Suddenly a family of five comes rushing from behind a farmhouse, chased by kobolds and the heroes take action.
Of course during the course of the battle, the children were almost used as some sort of bait or trap, but that is a tradition with this group of murder hoboes. The best part of this battle was when the elven ranger decided to sneak behind a building to get the drop on the cultist. As she hid there, one of the raiders, who did not see her, ran around the same building to get to the children. he was a very bad man. So he ran right past the elf, and when I asked her if she would like to take an opportunity attack against him, as he ran obliviously past, she declined. She did no want to upset her chances of taking out the cultist, which she soon did. However, that was not in the best interest of the children, and thankfully one of the other characters came forward to slay the creeper before he got to the kids.
In the end the family was saved, and they continued on toward the keep. At the tavern they surprised a group of raiders, led by a cultist, who were about the raid the tavern and a bloody fight ensued. When it was over the party stood victorious and the tavern wench rushed out to thank them. I set her miniature down next to the dragonborn by mistake, instead of next to the bard whom she was dating. Instead of correcting it, I had her hug and kiss the dragonborn, so relieved was she to be saved. I asked the player if he wold like to use this opportunity to steal the bards girl away, an of course he accepted the challenge. I asked for a charisma roll and (ow!) he rolled a natural 1. He got a slap across the face because clearly the wench was not excited about a slithering 18 inch forked tongue. the bard did not even need to roll to retain his girl, as she ran back into his arms.
(That bit of randomness was my favorite moment of the night and I am retroactively bestowing an inspiration point on both the bard and the monk or the hilarious hijinx. It is for this type of “emergent gameplay” that I consider the height of gaming, and why we do what we do.)
During the rescue the inn-folk, the bard cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter on one of the raiders, whom they subsequently captured. The group made their way to the doors to the keep. There they found the governess, her silver-haired pony-tail flying, as she commanded the guards at the doors. They held back any encroaching raiders, while a second group of guardsmen forayed into town. The governess was pleased to see the adventurers, and asked them to rest, for she had a need for them when they were ready. Without even resting they agreed to head back into town and secure the mill for up to an hour, until a relief force arrives.
They made it to the mill, and decided to use deception. The bard wore the costume of the captured cultist, and with the soldier and the eldritch pirate, led the dragonborn around like he was a captured prisoner named Chewbacca. They met a cultist instructing two raiders to set the mill alight but strangely they notice the fires being set look unable to actually do much damage. The bard convinces the cultist they are sent to put the prisoner in a cage here at the mill. The cultist doesnt know about any cages so they send him inside to look for one, while the ranger and rogue sneak around to the back door.
Just then they hear a roar and the cultist comes running out of the door with an enormous dragonman chasing him. “What’s the mening of this?!” he bellows before catching sight of the gold dragonborn. To anyone other than dragonbon and half-dragons, there is o difference between the two races, but to the dragon men, the difference is everything. The blue half-dragon’s eyes narrow to slits as he looks the gold dragonborn up and down.
He then challenges him to a duel, which the monk accepts. The ranger an rogue discover the mill is full of kobolds. They prepare to sneak attack when given the signal. The two dragon people fight and the monk is felled in one round. Suddenly all hell breaks loose and the fight begins. The half dragon is incredibly powerful and he turns his breath weapon on the eldritch pirate, who is dealt 27 hp damage in one savage lightning strike.
Though most of the kodolds are dead, the warlock is down to 1 hp and decides to run. He is in a magical duel with a cultist who continues to fire blast after blast of sacred flame, but the warlock evades, going so far that he goes off the edge of the map to reappear on the other side. It was weird.
The party was desperate so they hatched a desperate plan. Call down the blue dragon circling overhead. Working together the ranger, whose favored enemy is the dragon, gives an excellent rendition of a dragon mating call, a series of low pitched chuffing. It was very effective, and the dragon swerved in his flight. Next the warlock and arcane trickster worked their illusions together to create the sight and smell of the dragon’s favorite food over the half dragon. It turns out the dragon favors turducken. The ploy was wildly successful, and not at all because the dm said why the hell not, and the dragon swooped down and with his claws he plucked the half dragon of the battlefield. The enemy was routed and the party was victorious.
I’m sure I left stuff out, but those are the highlights I remember from one of our greatest nights of gaming.