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Archive for July 6th, 2014

dnd5e01

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.

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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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