Archive for the ‘Games we Play’ Category

Saving the mill in Greenest

Saving the mill in Greenest

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.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

This week’s session was all about rolling up new characters. We never even got any playing done, other than a brief description of the starting location and setup at the very end of the night. Instead six of us, with two player’s handbooks, took our time to create a party of potential heroes. We also had bowls of vibrant “artisan salad” and plates of succulent “hot-n-naked pasta” for dinner. ‘Twas a good night of gaming and bodes well for the upcoming campaign.

Background Setting

The setting for this campaign is the same setting we have used for the last 5 or 6 campaigns, the world of D Erte, created when we started gaming in 2008. The world has been wracked by war, invasion, and apocalypse but now it has entered a period of relative calm. For the past few decades peace has settled over the civilized lands, and has led to a period of expansion. The great eastern wastes known as the Beastlands are now experiencing a crusade as armies of the western kingdoms attempt to expand their territory by driving out the savage monsters who dwell in that dry, barren rocky land.

Scholars had supposed the Beastlands extend forever, much as the Great Western Forest is expected to extend beyond time and distance into the realm of Faerie.However the trail-blazing warriors, scouts, and scholars instead found that the high plateaus gave way to a vast desert, and across that desert was an exotic civilization with valuable trade goods. In the twenty years of crusading and sporadic trading, the tiny village of Greenest has sprung up along the main route between the western kigndoms and the eastern New World. though the village is little more than a poor and dusty water-stop along a vast trade route, it sees much wealth pass along its one main street. The town lies along the border between the rocky wasteland and the lonely desert, and it boasts a shallow fresh stream, springing from a nearby rock formation to end in a deep, fetid pool a few miles away.

Having also purchased the first adventure for the new edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I wanted to integrate some (or most) of its elements into our game. However I prefer to use my own setting over published settings such as Forgotten Realms,and I am also unable to remain constrained to a published adventure. Knowing this about myself, I have attempted to create a hybrid campagin adventure using key elements of Hoard, but set in my own setting amidst a backdrop of another over-arching storyline. Ok enough about that, let’s get to the characters.

High Rollers

We rolled 4d6 and dropped the lowest, adding the three highest together six times in any order. One could discard the fll set and re-roll the six sets as often as one liked. This led to most people taking their first or second set. I wanted to be very lenient because even though I detest extremely high ability scores for starting characters, I have found it to be more important that the players are comfortable with their characters, and this usually means higher scores. So I made sure and said “if you are unhappy with your scores, re-roll!”

Personally I like to see at least one score below average, to give the character some character upon which to build, and a flaw, so to speak. The new edition has personality charts (attuned to backgrounds, which is a good idea) which may help in this respect,but still, one low score makes up for a lot of 18s and 19s.

Dragonborn monk

Moving around the table, our first up is James who rolled up a Gold Dragonborn monk. I have to admit I was a little surprised by this choice, because I assumed James was more a traditionalist. I like being surprised though, and I was doubly surprised to realize how perfectly that would mesh with one of the optional backgrounds in the Hoard of the Dragonborn: a reincarnated gold dragon of Bahamut sentenced to live as a puny demi-human and looking for a way back into the good graces of the gold dragon deity. What could be more perfect? He chose hermit as his background, and the holy shrine is the natural water spring that supplies Greenest with its fresh water.

Gnomish Arcane Trickster

Next up is my wife Lori, who was tempted by the avenger paladin (And who played an avenger in a long-running 4e campaign) but ultimately chose to become a forest gnome rogue, planning on specializing in arcane trickster. She likes being sneaky and small, but also doing major damage. Most of all she likes rolling 2d20 and taking the best. Her background was that a wandering wizard saved her after her family was slain by a dragon, and left her off with the good people of Greenest to raise her. He left her a purple silk handkerchief emblazoned with a B in gold thread.

Tiefling Eldritch Knight

Khar chose to become a tiefling fighter, an Elrtich knight. She is also a pirate according to her background, and something important has brought her inland, as far away from the sea as possible. I can’t remember what it was that brought her to Greenest. Originally it was a lost love, but we decided to re-roll, and she was right about that, but I cannot remember what her new bonds were. Hopefully she wrote it down.

Human Bard of Valor

Will chose human, and took a feat that made hm a crossbow specialist. He wields a hand crossbow and rapier, and his background is that he is a singer. Compare to spell singer series by Alan Dean Foster. (Great series, no seriously.) Will has a childhood friend who was captured by the Dragon Cult, for whom he is searching.

Human Warlock

Last up we have Joel who broke with wizard-or-ranger tradition to create a human warlock with a pact of the Great Olde Ones but stuck with tradition by naming his character John Smith. His background is a psychic soldier in a scout regiment, and he was sent to Greenest by an officer of the crusades to search for information about the Dragon Cult.

Half-elf Druid

FInally I the dm rolled up a character for an absent player – a half elf druid. She is named Sheela Labouf and wields a scimitar and wooden shield, or a sling for ranged attacks. She has animal friendship and cure wounds memorized, and her cantrips are druidcraft and produce flame, which she can hurl up to thirty feet as a little fireball attack. Her background is a folk hero, and she has protected people from dragon attacks in the past. She also has nightmares of Tiamat the queen of Dragons. She will start with a previously befriended animal companion, but I have yet to locate the appropriate stat blocks. The character is unique in that she has a high dexterity, but a low constitution. Her flaw is that she secretly loves the corruption of city life.

Everyone got a trinket or two, and most people chose the preselected equipment packs, though I suggested they roll for wealth and buy stuff out of the equipment section. Everyone also got a free mount due to their character having been established in Greenest prior to play.

The characters have been helping escort caravans into and out of town, making a few gold coins while going about their business. The governess of Greenest has given John Smith an old bunkhouse to use to gather a team and investigate rumors of a dragon cult. One day they are late getting home from escorting a large caravan and they smell smoke before they see the town below being raided. Enemy on horseback circle the village with torches throwing them onto thatch roofs. But truly chilling is the large blue dragon sitting atop the town’s only stone structure, the governess’ keep, munching on a cow and watching the destruction.

Summing up

Character creation was fun and offers lots of customization options to go with the great selection of iconic classes. It took us about two hours, but we had a shortage of books and an excess of hilarity to slow us down. Everyone seems happy with their character and are ready to start on a long journey. We have quite an eclectic party, and with all the dragonborn, tieflings, and warlocks, it is very reminiscent of a 4th edition party. However the party also seems uniquely suited to adventuring in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Good times ahead.

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OgreThis game report will be short as Dwarf Fortress has released a new update after a two plus year wait. The fort is calling me and I may have more Dwarf Stories to tell soon.

But tonight is about d&d. We had a smaller group this week, of four players. For dinner I prepared a fresh salad, which was delicious.The characters were wizard,rogue, cleric, and fighter (a perfect mix!) and the night began right after the villain Glasstaff was captured by being tackled around the knees by the party wizard.

They questioned him and realized the hideout was still full of bugbears he had hired, and that there were some kidnapped civilians needing rescue on the way out. This worked like a skill challenge, and a loss would have meant encountering the bugbears, but they made it out safely and with three rescued captives and three captured gang members.

A nght in town followed, and then they set out for Cragmaw castle. They were riding their new mounts, including a pair of riding horses, a pony for the dwarf, and a mastiff for the halfling. Whils en route, they encountered an ogre who chased them while throwing javelins, but his aim was off so he soon gave up the chase. He caught up with them hours later after they made camp qand a fight ensued, where the ogre took a swift demise. The game ended next morning at the entrance to the clearing that holds Cragmaw Castle. Good game.

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the opening scene of ET is imprinted on my brain as how dnd should look

the opening scene of ET is imprinted on my brain as how dnd should look

We completed section 2 of the 5e starter adventure and the characters gained another level this week, by defeating the Redbrand gang and capturing their leader, Glasstaff.

After defeating the nothic the week before, the adventurers followed one of the tunnels that lead to the gang’s underground common room. They kicked down the door and broke up a game of dice. The bandits were tough though, and their double short-sword attack proved to be deadly for anyone they teamed up against. 4 short sword attacks can knock out any one of the characters, and both the wizard and one of the hobbits nearly succumbed during this battle.

After questioning the lone surivor of that battle they learned the leader was across the hall, so they opened the door to reveal a wizard’s alchemical laboratory with a shelf full of arcane books. The wizard stumbled blindly in, arms out-stretched and nearly stumbled over the large rat scurrying across the room. One of the dwarves stepped up and flattened the rodent of ususal size with a single blow. They opened the next door and discovered the leader attempting to make an escape so they chased him through a secret door into a hallway and to a landing with another door at the top. The wizard stopped at the door while the party, minus the wizard, gathered at the landing to fire ranged weapons.

The enemy wizard took out a scroll and cast Fireball. 8d6 damage, totalling 26. Two of the six were dropped, two others were severely damaged, one warf claeric took no damage by rolling a natural 20 on her save,and the wizard did not pile into the landing. The next round the survivros attempted to take out the wizard with ranged weapons, but failed, so the party’s wizard did a double move through the landing and up the stairs to tackle the evil wizard and grab him around the legs.

The player had two choices, he could make a double move and get a melee spell at the top, but he would have to allow the enemy to cast a spell in retaliation as the character climbed the stairs, or he cold skip magic and go for a tackle. It was a strength vs dexterity check, which ended after a quite pathetic little scuffle rolling around at the top of a flight of stairs, with the good wizard on top, and the bad wizard surrendering.

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The town of Phandelver from D&D5 Starter Set

The town of Phandelver from D&D5 Starter Set

Tonight we had a good sized group of six playing, which included doubling up on the pre-gen wizard (for Dave) and we were sadly missing our second cleric and halfling, Jesus and Arya.Hopefully they will be back next week. Prior to the game I was inspired to use my various dungeon and game tiles to create the town of Phandelver for our heroes to explore.

The town is not an exact representation.Basically I just used what I had on hand o make a town-like set up, but there are some characteristics of Phandelver, such as the town green in the center, surrounded by the most prominent businesses, and the shrine to Tymora, made up of the standing stones tile. At the far end of town, you can ser the raised area upon which sits the ruins of the large estate. On the other end of town I took the liberty of including a narrow waterway that turns to swamp on the edge of town, and has a pair of brides crossing it.

But before we get to town, we had a few other housekeeopig chore to take care of. First on the agenda was to eat the delicious tacos supplied boy Dr. Khar, who plays the noble fighter Gruunhilde. They were delicious, and compared fvoribly to the healther veggie burger cooked by our humane and mindful player of the dwarf cleric. Good food all around. Dave, who was in the doghouse for missing so many weeks in a row (not to mention forming his own Wednesday night dnd group!) brought cookies and cool whip for dessert. A good combination. Thanks and you are forgiven for having pie and vodka parties without me.

Magenta Borealis by Chessex

Magenta Borealis by Chessex

One last thing of note, in honor of a new edition of the game I thought it was time to upgrade my dice. I found a perfect set of dice that look dark crimson unless light is shown through them, when they glow a purplish magenta color. They also have gold lettering and flecks of gold within them. They are among the most beautiful dice I have ever owned, and I am glad I picked them up. They seemed to roll ok too, I rolled at least one natural twenty.

So I announced we had a bit oh housekeeping to do – we left off last week right after the bugbear leader of the goblin ambushers became charmed by the wizard. I think the party thought they won and we would move on from there, but oh no, any time you have an evil charmed monster, it is a dicey situation. For one thing, the charm only lasts an hour, and the recipient of such charms always remembers being manipulated afterwards. They wanted to pump him for information and then slit his throat I am sure.

The problem was, Klarg treated the wizard as an old friend, but he was dismayed that his friend had fallen in with such a terrible group that included dwarves, the bugbears sworn enemy. What complicated matters even further was that they needed to find out where their boss, the DWARF Gundren, had been taken. The rest of the party hd outside in the hallway (guarded by Klar’g wolf) while the wizard questioned the bugbear alone in his chambers.

When the wizard slipped up and said that Gundren was his friend and employer, I had him roll a Charisma check. He rolled a natural 1. He has a -1 Charisma modifier. It was a zero. But this was a contest, so the bugbear only had to beat a zero on a d20 roll for a wisdom check to unearth the wizard’s secret love of dwarves. He rolled an 18. I don’t know when was the last time some one rolled a zero, maybe never. Needless to say, it ended in violence. The bugbear screamed in rage and after confirming that the wizard was indeed a dawrf-lover (he was) the bugbear attacked and amazingly missed every time, while the party eventually hacked off the wolves head and came to his rescue. In the middle of the battle the halfling rogue managed to calm everyone down, and agree to a cease-fire, then attempted to stab the bugbear in the back, and missed! They eventually took him down, and only learned the name of the place Gundren was taken- Cragmaw Castle. Fun times.

They collected the loot from the goblin ambushers, which amounted to twenty or so crates marked fr “Lionshield” and also Klarg’s personal stash of loot which didnt amount to much. (There are too many healing potions given out in this adventure.)

One other interesting note, is that when first entering the caves,v they found a group of wolves playing with a freshly severed arm. This turned out to be the arm of the retired officer Sildar, who was saved, and his arm re-attached, though the cleric needed to keep constant care over the arm for it to take. Sildar gave them some info on the ride into Phandelver, something about a wizard he was looking for who was meant to establish order in the outpost. He also said he thought Gundren had found the entrance to a legendary lost cave that had a magic item creation forge within, kn0own as the Wave Echo Cave.


They arrived in town as the sun as setting, and paid to have their ox cart looked after while they took rooms in the quaint inn. The next day they visited each main locale, turning in the stolen goods, the caravan goods, spaking to the mayor about takin care of an orc band on the east road. The priestess of Tymora asked them to take a jeweled comb as a gift to a banshee in a ruined tower in hopes of learning where a wizard’s spell book might be found. there were a few other quests given out, such as finding a druid in the abandoned town of Tree-something, where the ranger has family, and a personal quest to slay the dragon who resides there. Dragon?!?! The druid might know where Cragmaw castle lay.

A few of the townsfolk offered them entry into certain groups, such as the Harpers, and a few others, if they complete their quests for them. The last place on the list to visit was the Miner’s Exchange, which was down the street from a rough looking tavern known as the Sleeping Giant. Four ne-er-do-wells were lounging outside the tavern calling the group a bunch of puppies. When the proprietess of the Miners Exchange offered them 10 gold for the head of the local gang’s head, a fellow named Glasstaff, the party was ready to oblige. Thus began a street brawl against the original four members of the Redtails, plus four more who came charging out of the tavern.

Fighting the Shirt Tails in Fandango

Fighting the Shirt Tails in Fandango

The fight was quick and deadly with both sides using cover and concealment until it ended up a knock-down brawl in the center of the street. One wizard set a few of them on fire with his flaming hands (does not alight clothing or equipment, but mentions nothing about charred corpses) while the other wizard turned one into a quickly melting ice sculpture with his ray of frost. That particular wizard appears to think he is a chicken, even though it has been repeatedly pointed out that he is merely wearing a feathered cloak and orange tights. One of the thugs managed to run off with a shout that he would warn the boss.

After the fight, a crowd had formed and cheered on the group. A halfling child (quarterling) told them he knew of a secret entrance to the basement of the ruined manor house,where the gang had their headquarters, so the group immediately set out (after a short rest for second wind and regaining a spell slot.)

The halfling led them to a dank tunnel stretching 100 feet into the hillside. He declined the offer to lead the way stating he is just a kid! Sheesh!



The tunnel led the way to a large natural cavern partially worked. There was a chasm cutting across it, two bridges crossing the chasm, and two pillars holding up the high ceiling. It was totally dark, so only the dwarf and elves could see. The dwarf cast light on the nearest pillar, which revealed a dark shadow crouched behind it. The shadowy figure ran into the nearby corridor. the entire party gave chase and made it halfway across the nearest wooden bridge before it collapsed under their weight. The only one to avoid the fall was the dwarf at the edge, who leapt back onto solid footing.

At this point everyone thought they were dead. It was pretty funny. But then I let them know the chasm was only 20 feet deep and covered with jagged rocks. They took some damage, climbed out, and did battle with the strange creature known as a Nothic.The text in the monster section describes it as being a corrupted wizard, but the picture looks like a crazed reptilian beast with a single huge eye almost as big as its head. It can cause those it gazes at to have really bad stomach cramps. It umped in and out of the chasm but finally the group was able to slaughter the foul beast and found its treasure chest, which included a magic sword, Talon! the noble fighter claimed the blade and we ended there for the night. Great game!

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orc or pie or both

orc or pie or both

This week was our second time playing the newly released edition of dnd, as we make our way through the Starter Adventure with a big ol’ group composed of pregenerated characters. Three human fighters, two dwarf clerics, two hobbits, and a wizard made up the adventuring party, and they stomped the living daylights out of the goblin hide-out.

On the menu was the same as last week, with the addition of some fine pies, which casued a bit of internicine drama actually, which I shall briefly lay out for purposes of faithful recording and due diligence. Amongst the pies were a fresh-baked apple pie to die for, and my favorite flavor, key lime. When I was a kid we spent a year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we had a key lime tree in our yard which hooked me for life. I love how palm trees grow in the sand, but I digress. There may be others out there in this crazy place we call the city, who have the ambitions to exploit my social experiment (NEVER split the party!) and my right to pie for their own nefarious purposes, possibly to throw vodka-soaked parties. This week at least, my defenses held strong, and I won the pie. In the battle for hearts and minds and stomachs, pie is like a weapon of mass digestion.

Anyhow, I just hit publish instead of save, so I am going to edit and wrap this up real quick by saying that the party of 8 managed to escape a flood trap, slew the tribe of goblins, and charmed the hoblgoblin leader for complete victory. Along the way, they found and saved Stilgar, and may even have successfully re-attached his severed and gnawed arm, but it will require more divine intervention.

Great game so far. The battles are quick yet deadly. The mechanics seem for the most part to be intuitive and take a back seat to the role playing. The personality traits section continues to be my favorite new thing for this edition, and I need to push the players to make better use of it. Perhaps when they make their own characters they will be a little more invested in the bonds, flaws, and traits, although everyone is doing a great job of role playing the pre-gens, so I shouldn’t complain.

It was a great night of pie and elf games.

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In a great intertwining of destinies, this Friday saw the combination of the celebration of the birth of America combined with the birth of the new 5th edition of the worlds most unbelievable game, dungeons and dragons. What better way to celebrate than to invite friends and family over for a gathering of fun, food, and fiery explosions both mythic and real. On the menu were grilled dogs and burgers, a house specialty.

The new edition of the game fifth edition began its staggered publication schedule the day before, July 3, by releasing the “Starter Set,” containing a player booklet, a DM’s adventure, and 5 pre-generated characters for adventure from 1st to 5th level. It also contained a set of cool blue swirled dice, which I decided on the pot would go as a special prize to whomever “won” dnd that night.

The Starter Set offically comes out two weeks from now, but select game stores received an early shipment to promote brick-n-mortar sales. Good on them for that, and because it allowed me to get the game early. Game Cafe in Independence had one copy left when I called them around lunch time, so I rushed over to pick up my copy. Close call! They held it back for me, and it turns out another box of twenty had come in by the time I arrived, so there was probably never any shortage. It was a long wait that came down to the wire!

Our group has been waiting impatiently for the new edition for over two years. When 5th edition was announced, we were just finishing up a 2 year 4th Edition D&D campaign. I don’t know if “finishing up” is the correct term, but the 4e game ended shortly after the announcement. For the next two years we played various shorter 3-6 month campaigns, tried out a few different games, and playtested each new packet of the massive “D&D Next public playtest” as it was released. Now that time comes to an end as we ease our way into the new Edition — hopefully the last new edition before I die, and also hopefully a great enough version of the game to quell the edition warring which mars our hobby.


Besides the Starter Set, the Wizards of the Coast also released a completely free online pdf formatted “Basic Rulebook” which contains everything “Essential” needed to play the game. To me, it is a combination of ideas. The first idea is the original Basic D&D, which is a paired down version of the game, less complicated, with fewer rules, fewer options, and greater reliance on imagination and storytelling. The second idea is that of the “Essential” line of game books late in Fourth Editions run, where the creators attempted to re-invent the game in a more condensed, cheaper format. Ease of use and low cost are “Essential” components of the new fundamental “Basic” ruleset, in other words. Works for me!

There will be many more words written about the Starter Set and the Basic Rules, so this article is about playing the game, after only a few minutes of perusal but years of wait, instead of going to see fireworks. That’s right, at 10 pm a vote was held to decide if we keep playing or break up and check out the nearby fireworks display, and in one of my proudest moments of gaming, the enthusiastic result was to keep playing which we did until close to midnight.

Philanderin’ towards Phandelver

Someone had to make the joke. So the adventure starts out on the road, ambushed by goblins. Hilariously for this encounter I pulled out the poster map from the first encounter from the first adventure from Fourth Edition, where the party is ambushed on the road by kobolds. The map worked perfectly. Now, as I am an evil dm, I oftentimes feel the need to add my evil twists to the adventure. In this case, we had a party of six adventurers, doubling up on the halfling rogue, so I added two goblins, making it a 6 on 6 fight, instead of the 4 goblins the adventure recommended. In addition, since half the goblins were armed with short bows I had them up in the trees with 3/4 cover. These tweaks made the battle significantly harder.

The cleric and wizard began the encounter in the wagon leading the oxen, with the rest of the party walking along-side. Those two took two rounds worth of arrows before they even had a chance to react, the cleric by dropping to the ground to rescue one of the halfling rogues, and the wizard by hiding under the tarp. Unfortunately his shape under the tarp was still discernible and he took another feathered shaft in the rump while trying to hide like a thief.

The other rogue was a homicidal maniac and when all was said and done she (being my wife) had delivered the killing blow to 3 of the 6 gobbo’s. Both fighters acquitted themselves well, but had to contend with poor dice rolling for most of the battle. No treasure was mentioned so I gave each goblin 1d6 silver to be looted. The weapons and armor were poor quality. After investigating and resting for an hour, they had learned that the dead horses used to block the path during the ambush were the horses of their employer and his bodygaurd who had ridden ahead. They were dragged off into the woods by way of a “goblin trail.”

The goblin cave entrance

The goblin cave entrance

Here the folk hero fighter, played by one of our newest members, took the lead and using one of his flaws, he decided to forget about being careful and to push along the trail as fast as possible. This led to him being caught in a snare. Again, being the evil dm, I could not leave well enough alone. I described how the trial wound through a stand of trees with hideous long thorns all over their trunk. Just then the folk hero stepped into the snare and a tightly bent tree flung him into a thorny trunk, and he took a point of damage, before the rogue climbed up and carefully lowered him. By the book, anyone caught in the snare only takes damage if they are not carefully cut down. Too easy!

The folk hero decided to press on! He only slowed his pace a little bit, but it was not enough to spot the hidden pit! He took another 1d6 falling damage, and then stepped back from the point position. (I was going to make it spiked but at the last second was like “too much.”) For his efforts he was the only character to receive an inspiration point during the night of adventuring.

Just around the bend they saw a stream pouring out of a cave entrance. Here they were ambushed by two goblins with short bows and scimitars, who were carefully concealed behind thick briars. Even though there were only two of them, they caused quite a bit of damage before the cleric was able to leap the stream and start bashing in skulls with his great hammer. The other goblin was taken out by the folk hero, ho after damaging his bow, pulled out his sword and attacked. He missed, but used his inspiration point to give himself advantage, and his reroll struck, slicing the goblin in twain.

They pushed into the cave and at the first side passage, the rogues crept ahead and found a chamber with three growling wolves chained up. They were fighting for a scrap of meat, which turned out to be a freshly severed human arm. The adventurers had to get that arm, and the found a way to distract the wolves long enough to get it. It turned out to be the severed arm of the bodyguard of their boss. Uh oh.

They also leveled up after retrieving the arm. I think I might have leveled them up a little early, but they made it through 3 tough encounters and were pretty much spent. Besides it was a great way to end the night. Everyone had a super fun time and we are all totally stoked about the new edition. Oh and James, who played the folk hero fighter, was the winner, and walked away with the set of dice for his excellent role playing and for gaining and using his inspiration point. The homicidal hobbit came in second because child-like serial killers are scary.

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