Monday, August 25, 2014

"We'll buy all the pots!" Chapter 3 of the Lost Mine of Elder Flinch

Wherein we continue the Lost Mine of Phandelver using D&D Fifth Edition. The party explores the village of Flinch, meet some nice people, run afoul of some ruffians, and head to their secret base underneath the ruins of the old manor house.

Spoiler Warning! This is a prosaic retelling of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure included with the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set.

Our party consists of:
  • Varis, a Sylvan Shaman (Level 2 Wood Elf Druid)
  • Fitong, a Tribal Warrior of half-Human/half-Orcine parentage (Level 2 Half-Orc Barbarian)
  • Braxton Hicks, a Hillfolk Explorer and Trail Guide (Level 2 Halfling Ranger)
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan parentage (Level 1 Half-Elf Wizard)
Last week, the party had defeated the goblins hired by the Black Spider to waylay them in the Defile of Castragon and had just arrived in the small village of Flinch at the far end of the mountain pass.

Getting to Know Flinch
It was late in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset, when the party arrived in Flinch. The gate was wide open with no guard. People went about their chores, avoiding eye contact with the newcomers. The party entered under the appraising eye of a menacing looking individual in a red cloak. The mysterious observer lurked just inside the gate. He skulked away as soon as they entered.

They stopped outside the inn. Sildar told them he would go inside and secure lodging. They were free to go where they wished. 

The party visited a shop bearing a sign like those they found on boxes salvaged from the goblin's den. The shop housed Lion's Shield Coster, a local outpost of the trading guild of the same name. They returned the goods they rescued and received a reward. While there, they also sold their woolly ox and cart as well as the the goods they were hired to transport. The guild-master, a shrewd Kalmathi woman named Linani, paid them in scrip. She also warned the party about the Red Cloak gang, saying that she wanted to no trouble and preferred to stay out of their way. 

They then headed over to the Miner's Hall to sell some loot and cash in their scrip. There they met a devious gnome banker named Harra Thorntooth, protected inside a cage. She cashed in their scrip and purchased the jade statue they took from the bugbear's hoard. She offered to store their gold in her vault but they declined. Sensing that they were travelling mercenaries, she then took them aside and secretly offered them a bounty to kill or capture the leader of the Red Cloaks, a wizard named Glasstaff. They took the job.

Aline Joins the Party
After leaving the Miner's Hall, the party gathered around the town notice board to look for work and catch up on news. While reading notices and dividing gold, they met Aline, a wizard of half-human/half-Sylvan ancestry. After some chit-chat, the group offered Aline a job with a signing bonus of 10 gold coins. She accepted. A few Red Cloaks, loitering outside the nearby Worker's Hall, took notice of the transaction.

The party went to smithy to purchase weapons. There they met the young blacksmith Yurgh and his wife Gathe. Yurgh was a young journeyman, fresh out of his apprenticeship in Swallow. Gathe was learning pottery because the town needed a potter. Unfortunately, she wasn't very good. Clumsy Fitong accidentally broke a few he was handling. Feeling bad, Braxton declared, "We'll buy all the pots!" and over-paid for the lot.  

Having procured a new better axe for Fitong, the party entered Barthen's provisions and geared up, purchasing ropes, rations, and other sundries. 

Fitong Loses His Shit
Suitably equipped, the party marched to the rear gate with the intent to head up the hill to the ruins of the manor house. Two Red Cloaks blocked their way, noting they had seen the wealth being exchanged at the notoice board. They demanded that the party hand over the scratch. Two additional Red Cloaks began to amble up behind the party from the Worker's Hall.

Fitong sprang into action, rushing forward to the two at the gate. One of the rear Red Cloaks tried to grab Aline by the wrist, but was shocked by magical electricity for his trouble. Braxton fired an arrow at one of the Red Cloaks at the gate, pinning his wrist to the wall, while Fitong lost his shit and started chopping off heads!

A crowd began to gather and watch, shocked at the sudden escalation of violence. After all the Red Cloaks were dispatched, Fitong, still in a frothing frenzy, charged into the now empty Worker's Hall and started smashing up the place. He was eventually becalmed by his fellows.

The crowd, at first disgusted by the brutal killing of the Red Cloak, now clapped and cheered as the party exited the gate and marched up the muddy hill to the manor to eliminate the bullies that plagued the village.

The Ruined Manor House
Within the ruined compound of the manor of the old archon, the party found a set of stairs descending into the darkness. They explored the stairs and came upon a cellar and large cistern filled with water. Two Red Cloak sentries tried to sneak up on them in the darkened room but were instead spotted by Varis and soon dispatched. A third hid in the adjoining storeroom and set up an ambush behind some crates. His ambush was detected when he knocked over a box. The party, aware of the ambush, rushed in and the third ruffian was soon killed. Three red cloaks like the kind worn by the ruffians hung on a nearby wall. The party took the cloaks from their hooks and donned them. 

The only exit was a door to the north. Braxton determined that the door had been unused, so the party ignored it and instead searched the south west corner for a suspected secret door. It was Braxton that located the hidden passage.

"I Know Many Secrets!"
The party came upon a large natural cavern was torn asunder by an ancient catastrophe, leaving a deep crevasse. The crevasse emanated and unnatural cold. Two wooden bridges spanned the rift. One of the bridges was spotted as being unsafe and ignored. As they crossed to the other bridge, Varis began hearing hissing alien thoughts in his head.

"I know your secret! You're here to kill the wizard! I know many secrets!"
A Creepy Beastie
Fitong spotted a mysterious figure lurking behind a natural column on the other side of the rift. The party sprang into action! Varis magically turned himself into a bear. Everyone else rushed the figure, attacked, and quickly killed the strange one-eyed beast as it clawed and psychically lashed out at its assailants in futile self-defense. As the alien creature died, it fell backwards into a spatial rift that resembled burning edges of paper. 

The party explored further down a hallway. They found two doors, one left and one right. They opened the door to the left, Varis, still in the form of a bear, walked into the room while four Red Cloaks played games at a table. At the sight of the bear, the Red Cloaks immediately jumped up and attacked. A bloody battle ensued. At one point, Fitong went down and had to be magically healed. Ultimately, all four ruffians were defeated.

After the fight, the party retreated to a storage alcove located north of the natural cavern. There they rested for an hour before pressing on. 

Flight of the Wizard
The party returned to the corridor and took the door to the right. Within they found a wizard's laboratory and library. A rat scurried into hiding. The party took a few minutes to explore the library and examine the vials and alchemical apparatuses therein. 

The party prepared themselves and opened the door to the adjoining room. To their surprise, the found an empty bedroom. Looking around, Varis saw a secret door slowly closing. Still in bear form, he charged through the secret door and up the stairs. As the party followed behind, Aline noticed a letter on the desk signed with the mark of a black spider.

The bear burst into the natural cavern where a wizard with a glass staff was destroying the functioning bridge. He gave up and ran into the cellar with the cistern. The bear gave chase!

The bear that was Varis pursued the wizard Glasstaff into the cellar but found nothing! No wizard was to be found! Only a wet spot on the floor like something had been retrieved from inside the cistern. However, the bear used his keen sense of smell and located the wizard, hiding invisibly within the room but making his way towards the stairs. The bear lunged and clawed the wizard, turning him visible. The wizard screamed and shouted out a spell. There was a burst of mist and the wizard disappeared.

Varis the bear looked around for the wizard as rest of party caught up. He spotted more mist in hallway at top of stairs where the wizard has teleported. Varis gave chase up the stairs. 

Glasstaff the wizard had disappeared into the night. The party, having caught up with Varis, began their quest to track down Glasstaff the Wizard, leader of the Red Cloak Ruffians.

After Thoughts
We're still really enjoying the new edition. Woobee said that he likes it so much he's thinking about running again. He also bought his own Player's Handbook, which brings our group's total to three.

During the fight at the gate, Woobee (who plays Braxton Hicks) said, "I want to shoot an arrow, pinning one of the ruffians to the wall." Without hesitation, I said, "Sure! You forego damage and impart the 'restrained' condition until he spends an action to free himself." Woobee said, "Deal!"

Boom, instant archery maneuver. Everyone loved it. I'm really liking the little ways I can quickly improvise things like that.

For example, in the fight in the gaming den, Trevor (who plays Fitong) wanted to jump up on the table to gain capital-A Advantage vs. the ruffians. I said, "Sure, make an acrobatics check. If you fail, you don't fall down. If you succeed, you gain Advantage."

I didn't give any stakes for failure because I didn't want to punish my players for thinking creatively. There's a DM of the Rings comic that captures this sentiment perfectly. And whenever a player in my group wants to do something fun and imaginative, only to be shut down by rules or the GM, the player says, as passive-aggressively as they can, "Fine, I attack its foot like everyone else!"

I want to reward the awesome with incentives, not punish it with rules!

Anyway, my only complaints with the Lost Mine of Phandelver so far is that the Nothic went down too easily. Like a chump! The module suggested to make use of its "Know your secret" power, but how? Second level PCs don't have secrets yet!

Also, they make it easy for the wizard Glasstaff to escape, and even suggest having him come back later on, but my players, like most players, are LOATHE to ever let anyone get away! And I didn't want to drop plot immunity on them. Varis the bear has the wizard's scent and can out-run him. Oh, there will be a reckoning next week.