Yesterday I should have seen me learning a new miniatures battle system based upon historical battles of WWII, but unfortunately that event had been postponed, so with the release of the new edition D&D Starter Set I decided to run a taster session for a few of my fellow Leicester All Scar members that had shown an interest.
Gary had played many 2e campaigns in the past with me and was looking forward to trying the new edition, however the fickle gods of rail travel conspired to delay his return from his holiday and he was unable to join us – this time.
Jon and Lee had both had previous experience playing in 3/3.5 games and several Warhammer Quest campaigns and both were willing to give it a go.
Patrick and Pete were veterans of 1e and remembered fondly campaigns set in Greyhawk, both found themselves in the store and at a loose end so joined in.
Our fifth player was a total surprise, a young man named Matthew who had come down to the store to play a game of 40K but his opponent was running very, very late so he decided to join in. When his opponent did turn up he told him he’d have to wait as he was enjoying the game and wanted to finish it first.
I had copied the pregenerated characters from the set and the players selected which ones they wanted so our heroic party consisted of :-
- Jon – Elf Wizard
- Lee – Human Archer
- Matthew – Dwarf Cleric
- Pete – Human Warrior
- Patrick – Halfling Rogue
We used the generic plot hook in the adventure and found our heroes on the road to Phandalin. They discovered a pair of dead horses where the path cut through a wooded area, both having several black fletched arrows sticking out of them. Matthew’s cleric recognised the equipment on one of the horses as that belonging to their employer (a fellow dwarf) that had hired them to bring his cart of mining equipment to him in Phandalin. As Lee found tracks leading off into the shrubs they noticed movement which turned out to be a goblin ambush!
Now Jon had the idea of firing his burning hands spell above the bushes in a kind of warning shot, the goblins however just thought his aim was bad and shot back with their bows, dropping the wizard into unconsciousness straight away as another pair of the little brutes emerged from the other side of the path to bother Matthew and Pete.
Once discovered the heroes quickly despatched three of the goblins and intimidated the fourth into surrendering. While they questioned him, Matthew used his clerical magic to revive Jon. The goblins had ambushed the dwarf and his bodyguard, the others had taken their prisoners back to their lair. Once they were happy that they had all they needed from the goblin they slit its throat.
moving the dead horses and goblins away so as not to attract predators they then secured their cart and set off following the trail Lee had spotted. The archer and rogue scouted ahead, easily avoiding and disabling a snare trap the goblins had left, the halfling wasnt quite so lucky with the goblins next surprise – and he fell into a concealed pit injuring a little more than his pride but being able to scramble out easily.
The trail led to a cave with a stream coming out of it. In a thicket beside the entrance Lee and Patrick spotted another pair of goblins but were able to surprise them, quickly and quietly disposing of them before waiting for their allies to catch up.
Entering the cave they followed the path beside the stream and found a set of rough stone steps leading off to their right, the smell of wet dog and low growls coming from the dark room beyond. The room contained a trio of mangy wolves chained to a stalagmite. Using animal handling and hacked off pieces of goblin meat they were able to pacify the wolves before continuing up the main tunnel.
As the tunnel began to bend they spotted a rubble strewn opening on the opposite side and tossed the halfling over, from their he noticed that a rope bridge crossed the tunnel beyond the bend and connected a tunnel that crossed higher up. The opening led upward and they reasoned (or hoped) it led to the other tunnel and so Lee’s archer also leapt over. Climbing up wards they reached the tunnel, discovering that it not only led to the bridge but the other direction led to a chamber that had several goblin voices within. Ignoring them for now they stealthily made their way towards the bridge, meanwhile Jon snuck up and tried to disable the goblin sentry on the bridge with a ray of frost (but only managed to make the rope bridge more slippery) as the archer and halfling fired their bows at him too – only one hit and the wounded goblin shouted up the main tunnel “Flood” (in goblin which Jon was able to translate).
Lee and Patrick rushed onto the bridge as banging noises could be heard in the distance, Lee grappled the goblin and threw his scrawny body over the edge, hitting the path beside Jon with a neck-snapping crunch. Ropes were secured and dropped for the dwarf, warrior and mage to scramble up – just in time as a torrent of water surged down the tunnel and would have swept them away.
This is where things got really interesting, as the heroes decided to split up – Lee and Patrick continued over the bridge while Jon, Matthew and Pete headed to the chamber with goblin voices.
The trio found half a dozen goblins, one slapping a human captive repeatedly, in the chamber beyond, lit dimly by cooking fire. The heroes charged in, concentrating on taking the goblin nearest the prisoner out first and were rewarded as their first volley sent him tumbling lifeless over the lip of the chamber into a lower level. The remaining goblins put up a bit more fight but were still overpowered and the heroes freed the captive who they recognised as Sildar Hallwinter, their employers bodyguard. He confirmed what they had learned from the goblin but added that Gundren Rockseeker had been taken to Cragmaw Castle and the goblin leader.
Meanwhile Lee and Patrick had sneaked up to find where the flood had come from but couldn’t see much in the dark, so they used a flask of oil as a molotov, hitting a goblin squarely and setting the wretched little beast alight. His two companions rushed to attack them with rusty blades. Unfortunately this was where the fickle dice gods turned against the heroes and favoured my rolls and both the archer and rogue were dropped unconscious, the goblins were extremely angered by the immolation of their friend (I think he owed them money) and proceeded to stab the heroes until they stopped twitching entirely.
Shortly the remaining heroes and Sildar came in search of their allies, seeing their corpses drove them to charge the goblins but before my dice luck ran out one of the goblins scored a critical on Matthew’s dwarf (who had been uninjured so far), taking the party’s healer out in a single blow. Pete and Jon (with Sildar’s assistance) were able to take the remaining goblins out and then investigated the final dark chamber.
It appeared to be deserted, with several crates and sacks piled against a wall, each stamped with a blue lions head though the heroes didn’t recognise its significance. Hidden beneath these was a chest, as they dragged it out to examine it a hulking figure detached from the shadows and only their trained reflexes as adventurers alerted them just in time. Still the hairy bugbear attacked with a strength and savagery that almost defeated them – almost.
Licking their wounds they recovered their cart and loaded the bodies of their fallen comrades on it before continuing onwards to Phandalin.
Well, a brutal session once the party split their forces (a DM’s favourite) but thankfully everyone took it in good fun and from what was said they had enjoyed it, Jon and Lee even expressed an interest in joining in with some of the Wednesday night Encounters sessions when they begin again in a couple of weeks. I think I’d call that a successful session.
Even using the basic rule set this had been great fun to run and I really can’t wait for the full books to hit the stores (and my bank balance).