I ran Dungeons and Dragons yesterday. It was very exciting.
I had three players for the first session:

  • Gemma, playing Regina of Fairfield (Reggie), a Human Fighter Noble
  • Ken, playing Jovashed Jatiral (Jov),  a Human Rogue Charlatan
  • Matt, playing Vash Langdon, a Human Bard Noble

Here’s a picture of Jov that Ken drew

Jovashed Jatiral (Jov), by Ken Worsley

I gave him an Inspiration point for that. It’s pretty awesome.

We should be having a fourth player join us next session: Simon, playing a Cleric, Reverend Elijah Crane.

Which is good. The the only access to healing they currently have is Vash the Bard, who hasn’t really gone in for healing spells…

Pre-game Prep

It’s been awhile since I’ve run D&D, and a long time since I’ve run a game face to face for anyone that isn’t my 9yo son – I normally play over Google Hangouts and Roll20. I’ve been running games regularly, but the skillset for online games is a little different.

To account for this, and to give me the additional confidence that preparedness lends, I prepped up:

  • NPCs, as discussed in the last post
  • Setting and back story, again featured in my last post
  • Dry erase pens and grid map. I finally settled on a Pathfinder basic fold out grid with wilderness, town, dungeon and sea backgrounds. It was more expensive than I liked for what it is – two laminated light card sheets with folds – but it was the most versatile and available. If I find something better, I’ll invest in that.
  • Proto-miniatures. Actual D&D mini’s, or Pathfinder pawns, or other dedicated RPG mini’s are prohibitively expensive now. I used to have a utility collection of 3rd edition era mini’s and grids, which I stupidly left at a friend’s house with the words ‘yeah, I’m not using them, so do what you like with them’, which he took literally and passed onto a random passing nerd. Dammit. So, I can’t afford ‘real’ miniatures. Instead I’ve invested in a pack of 25 coloured pawns – 5 red, blue, white, black and green pawns, and in some spare chess pieces. I remain convinced that chess pieces are excellent mini substitutes, as they can be used to clearly show hostile and friendly intent (black and white) and have distinct roles. They’re also roughly the right size as well. 
  • Maps. I found a detailed map of the Dalelands, from DR 1472, that could be hung on the wall of manor’s great hall. I like inaccurate maps. You don’t need to put ‘here be dragons’, you just have to say “it’s out of date, that bridge may not be there anymore and who knows what’s there now…” and you create the same level of trepidation.
  • Books, rules and starter sets. The fact that Wizards of the Coast have decided to support 5e with the free Basic Rules and the Systems Reference Document is a boon. Depending on which character class and race you want to play, these two resources provide between ~70-90% of the rules needed. They’re missing some of the options and detail, but they’re a fantastic aid. Another surprising aid was the Starter Set. I didn’t use any of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, and no one used one of the pregenerated characters, but the Starter Set rules booklet is a really handy reference resource. I find myself referring to that as much as the Players Handbook for combat rules and skill uses.
  • Playlist. In a moment of excitement, I used my Google Play Music subscription to create a DnD playlist to provide background music during the session. I used Game of Thrones, Vikings, Dragon Age, Minecraft and Skyrim OSTs. They were ok. We didn’t have the sound up high, so the music didn’t intrude, but it was audible. 

    Actual Play

    So, what happened in the session?

    I started off by re-introducing Lord Devon Harding. The players had read the description of him, his family history, and were aware of the high level political situation of Featherdale and the Harding family. Having read a summary and seeing the character interact with their environment are two very different things, though.

    We opened in the great hall at Harding Manor, where Lord Devon was hearing disputes and complaints from the local populace.

    First up was a dispute between a diary farmer and innkeeper. The innkeeper had bought milk from the farmer and used it to start a lucrative cheese business (Featherdale Blue). The diary farmer felt he was entitled to a cut of the profits due to exclusivity of their milk supply. Lord Devon ruled in favour of the innkeeper, finding that the price paid for milk was fair, and the purchaser​ could do what he damn well pleased with the milk afterwards.

    Next up was a complaint from a local merchant, Bjornaer, who was accusing his wife of infidelity. She had confessed, he said, to a dalliance with a Sembian cloth merchant. The wife, Brianna, had a black eye and her arm was in a sling. When questioned by Lord Devon, she stated that she’d only confessed after her husband beat her, that a merchant had given her a good deal on some cloth, but that was it. Devon found in favour of Brianna, and ruled that Bjornaer was to sign over the house and farm to his wife, and live elsewhere for at least a year. After that year, Brianna was free to decide if she would take him back. He then charged his bannermen (the PCs) with enforcing this rule. 

    Finally, a group of shepherds requested the Lord’s aid in hunting and slaying a pack of wolves that had been taking sheep the last few weeks. One wolf, they claimed, had the power to breath cold fire (or ‘the opposite of fire’, as they put it). Devon agreed​ to hunt down these wolves, and was excited by the thought of a cold fire breathing wolf. He ordered Vash to capture the wolf alive, for study.

    The following day, the party and Lord Devon set out to find, kill and/or tame these wolves.

    After a few hours travel, at a bend in the road by a some ancient ruins, the party were ambushed by five enraged commoners: the diary farmer, Bjornaer the merchant, and three unnamed flunkies. Being skilled and experienced military tacticians, the commoners announced their presence by throwing a half brick at Lord Devon and shouting “that was a warning shot” when it missed.

    The commoners charged the party, first attacking Lord Devon, and failing due to his Plate Armour. 

    Vash the Bard cast Dissonant Whispers on the diary farmer, expecting him to run in terror. Instead, the diary farmer failed his will save, took 12 points of psychic damage and died instantly.

    Jov the Rogue shot at a commoner with his hand crossbow, rolled a 1, and did Lord Devon a respectable 5 points of piercing damage to the buttocks.

    Reggie killed one with her Glaive, before embedding the Glaive in a think branch above her head. She successfully intimidated the commoner, making him flee, before the branch fell on her head, doing 4 points of damage.

    Jov looted the bodies, and thanks to a good roll on the random treasure table, improbably found 3 platinum pieces on the diary farmer. 

    I didn’t take any pictures of the first combat, which I regret.

    Once the commoners were dealt with, the party took a short rest to regain hit points – Jov had also taken a crude club to the back – before forging ahead.
    They journeyed North again, and found an abandoned semi-henge in the foothills. Matt studied pre-history for his Archeology degree, and was adamant that the layout I’d built was not a true henge. 

    Thanks Matt, for that valuable contribution.

    Lord Devon decided that this was the perfect spot to wait for the wolves, and laid a slaughtered sheep carcass on the central stone.

    Devon and Reggie waited by the rock, Vash climbed onto entrance structure, and Jov hid (incredibly successfully) behind a tree.

    Then they waited.
    After some hours, a pack of wolves – three wolves and a dire wolf – started circling the henge (yes Matt, I said ‘henge’). They didn’t perform well enough on their stealth rolls, so were picked up by the party’s passive perception.

    Importantly, the Winter Wolf rolled well, and kept to the shadows.

    The first wave of wolves attacks​. Jov hides behind the tree, Vash is atop the gateway and Reggie and Devon are by the central rock. The white pawn is a sheep carcass, the black pawns are wolves, and the black knight is the dire wolf. Lord Devon is the white king

    The three wolves were taken down quickly. Vash cast Faerie Fire on them and the dire wolf, and threw lamp oil on the ground between them and the sheep carcass. Reggie and Devon hacked the wolves down easily, and Jov buried crossbow bolts in them.

    Vash overlooks the battle

    The dire wolf put up slightly more of a fight, but didn’t last much longer.

    Reggie and Lord Devon wait for the dire wolf to make its move

    Then the Winter Wolf entered the fray.

    It used its cold breath attack on Jov, and knocked him down to 0 hit points and moved to attack Devon and Reggie.

    Vash used Dissonant Whispers on it, forcing it to flee for a turn. Unwisely, Reggie ran in pursuit. Once the fear effect wore off, the Winter Wolf used its breath weapon on Reggie, and knocked her down to 0 hp as well.

    As this was a CR3 creature facing off against a party of 3 level 1 characters, I was lenient with the death and 0hp rules.

    Vash cast his last Dissonant Whispers on the Winter Wolf again and helped Jov onto the relative safety of the henge.

    The Winter Wolf then returned and killed Devon before running off with the sheep carcass

    Vash and a wounded Jov hide on top of the henge as the Winter Wolf (black king) makes off with the sheep carcass

    By this time, Gemma remembered that Reggie could use her Second Wind ability to regain hit points, and regained a massive 3hp. She crawled over to the dying Lord Devon and cradled his head in her arms as he gasped

    “Honour the Harding name. I hate Gnomes. Bury me in Cormyr!”

    Regina of Fairfield comforts the dying Lord Devon Harding

    I can’t quite remember why he said “I hate Gnomes”, but there was a reason.
    Once everyone had regrouped, and taken a long rest, they returned to Harding Manor with four wolf hides and the body of Lord Devon.

    Lady Matrice went into mourning, as the family Cleric administered the final rites and prepared the body for burial (this should be Simon’s character, Reverend Elijah Crane).

    Devon’s daughter, Greynora, took a more pragmatic approach. 

    She was the heir of Harding Manor, and at 11 years old, without a title or support, she had little choice other than be married off to a local noble. 

    This, she decided, would not do.

    She also had a duty to honour her father’s dying wish, racist remarks about Gnomes aside. He had served Cormyr as a Purple Dragon Knight, and had earned the right to a state burial within Suzail’s grand cenotaph. 

    Travel to Cormyr also removed her from the choice she was faced with in Featherdale. Greynora would lose her father’s manor and lands, but retain control of her own destiny.

    It was no choice, really.
    Greynora instructed her bannermen to accompany her and her mother to Suzail, and assist with the fulfillment of Devon’s dying wishes.

    She also asked Reggie to write to her family, the Fairfields​, and request that her brother in law, Daivyth Harding, oversee the lands in Greynora’s absence.
    Plans then turned to travel. 

    The party felt that they should avoid sea travel, the city of Ordulin in Sembia (and Sembia as a whole) and that they should avoid lengthy travel by road where possible.

    Which means that they opted to travel by riverboat to Highmoon, and from there over the Thunderpeak Mountains into Cormyr.
    I have advised the players that any attempt to travel by riverboat will result in an Apocalypse Now segment.

    They’re cool with this

    I’m not sure if that d20 is big, or very close