D&D 5E AL Season 5 without AL


Space Jam Confirmed
Hi. Sometime lurker, first time poster.

Next month, I will be starting a campaign arc as DM using the Season 5 Tiers 1 and 2 AL adventures.

I returned to D&D earlier this year after a 20+ year hiatus. I started up again as a DM in February 2017 with a group consisting of three completely new players and one who, like me, had not played since the 90s. We play once or twice per month, and are just wrapping up LMoP.

Once we finish LMoP, I'm going to transition them into AL Season 5. However, we won't be playing under official AL rules and I'm not logging the games or anything. I just like the adventures in this season and find them easy to use. So, for example, they'll probably hit level 5 before we finish the tier one adventures, but we'll be playing them anyway - I'll just make them a little harder when necessary.

In this thread, I'll share reports on how these adventures go, and also I'd really welcome any advice as it's my first time using AL material, and I'm still in my first year as a 5E DM.

The players (they're all 4th level):

Two Hits Millie - Female wood elf rogue (arcane trickster, Emerald Enclave)
Klegg - Male human fighter (champion, Order of the Gauntlet)
Black Wizma - Female high elf wizard (evoker, Harper)
Tordek Hornbrewer - Male human cleric (Life domain, Order of the Gauntlet)
Boiled Oysters Malloy - Male dwarf fighter (champion, Lords Alliance) - occasional drop-in player

I will be allowing them one use of the "rebuild before level 5" option after we finish LMoP but before we start Season 5, so we'll see if anybody wants to change anything.

The Campaign

Season 5 adventures were released in a staggered schedule, alternating between the tiers. We will be running the tier one adventures in order, and then moving on to the tier 2 ones.

The Adventures I'm Not Using

DDAL5-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard - This is the standard "5 one hour adventures for level 1 players" for this season. Most of these one-hour adventures look quite fun. Unfortunately, I'm not going to include them in my campaign. It's not because of the level issue; I could fix that. It's a story issue. This adventure is totally divorced from a storyline standpoint from the rest of the season. It begins with the party in Parnast, investigating nearby incidents of giant activity. Then DDAL5-02 the party...journeys across the Anauroch desert to arrive in Parnast for the first time. What happened there? Between having to re-work both the difficulty level and the continuity issues, it's easier just to skip this one.

DDAL5-06 Beneath the Fetid Chelimber - This is a straightforward if somewhat uninspired trek through the swamp. There's is nothing terribly wrong with it in and of itself, but unfortunately it only works as a set up for DDAL5-07, which is a hot mess.

DDAL5-07 Chelimber's Descent - A hot mess. I'm not going to belabor it; if you'd like you can read the reviews for it on DMSGuild; I'll just say that the reviews are correct.

DDAL5-06 & 07 can be safely skipped without really impacting the plot of the season. Literally the only important thing about them is that in Chelimber's Descent the party finds a book of rune magic. So that book just has to be placed somewhere else.

In order to fill the gap created by excluding the Chelimber adventures, I will be plugging in the one-shot "Into the Belly of the Beast" by Jeff C. Stevens (great swamp-based adventure available on DMSGuild). Again, not using AL rules, so adding this is fine. The rune book will be inserted into this adventure, and I will also put in faction assignments for the Harper and Emerald Enclave characters into this adventure, since their missions were jettisoned with the Chelimber stuff.

So the campaign will looks like this:

Session 1: DDAL5-02 The Black Road
Session 2: DDAL5-03 The Uninvited Guests
Session 3: Into the Belly of the Beast, Part 1
Session 4: Into the Belly of the Beast, Part 2
Session 5: DDAL5-10 Giant Diplomacy
Session 6: DDAL5-12 Bad Business in Parnast
Session 7: DDAL5-16 Parnast Under Siege (Mid-season finale)

Session 8: DDAL5-04 In Dire Need
Session 9: DDAL5-05 A Dish Best Served Cold
Session 10: DDAL5-11 Forgotten Traditions
Session 11: DDAL5-13 Jarl Rising
Session 12: DDAL5-17 Hartkiller’s Horn

I have another 3rd party one-shot, Bastion of the Frost Lord by M.T. Black, as a potential drop-in as it fits the campaign thematically. I may add it before “In Dire Need”.

Will provide updates as we go!
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I was planning to do something similar with a mish-mash of Season 1 and 2 Expeditions around the time Season 3 rolled out. I got inspired with a little world building and ended up running a homebrew campaign instead, but the idea still appeals to me. I was hoping to add original content to these modules such that the PCs would be presented with an opportunity to turn the dragon and elemental cultists against each other.

With the latitude to make changes to mechanics/narrative as a non-League game, you could easily integrate other seasons' modules into your lineup, as well. Could be good for side-questy stuff, or just a change of scenery. I'm not actually familiar with S5 Expeditions or Bastion of the Frost Lord, so I can't even begin to speculate how your story will develop, but I do look forward to your updates. Good luck!


That guy, who does that thing.
I'll disagree with you about Chelimber's Descent, but if you know your group is more into killing the monsters and taking their stuff, then sure, you'd be better off swapping that out for a more traditional module -- traps and puzzles aren't necessarily appreciated by all groups.

But given that your characters are already going to be 4th level by the time you introduce them to the Season 5 storyline, I think you're putting more Tier 1 mods in front of them than they strictly need to get to Tier 2 -- unless you're adjusting for the Tier 2 Season 5 mods being balanced for level 8 rather than level 6 characters and thus needing to be 'downshifted' for a party playing the series 'in order'.

My local (non-FLGS) group just finished the Tier 1 mods in Season 5; hopefully your group will have a better experience than ours -- we finished the Tier 1 mods with two players choosing to stop playing rather than move on to the Tier 2 mods, and then discovered, with a seriously weakened party, that the adventures were not geared for our power level. You shouldn't have as many problems with that, not running this as an AL game, but I'll be curious to see how it goes.



Space Jam Confirmed
But given that your characters are already going to be 4th level by the time you introduce them to the Season 5 storyline, I think you're putting more Tier 1 mods in front of them than they strictly need to get to Tier 2 -- unless you're adjusting for the Tier 2 Season 5 mods being balanced for level 8 rather than level 6 characters and thus needing to be 'downshifted' for a party playing the series 'in order'.

You're exactly right about my thinking there - most of the Season 5 Tier 2 mods are balanced for level 8 characters, but it seems unlikely given the XP on offer that my players will reach level 8 even by the last session.

I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience - did the players quit because of the quality of the adventures themselves? Something I should look out for?


That guy, who does that thing.
I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience - did the players quit because of the quality of the adventures themselves? Something I should look out for?

I doubt the adventures will cause your players to leave solely based on their quality, but if you've got existing issues with your players, it's possible something in them might make things worse. For example, while many will cite portability and replayability as key features of Adventurers League play, one of our players simply got tired of the fact that most of the other players seemed to have already run through the modules multiple times before our group got to them, spoiling a lot of his sense of discovery.

Your mileage may vary, of course.



Space Jam Confirmed
OK, we've wrapped up LMoP. Season 5 of AL without AL will start on Monday with The Black Road.

A few notes heading into session 1.

The characters are already on the Sword Coast, but fortunately they're mostly new players who have not seen a large-scale map of FR and won't notice anything amiss geographically when I tell them they need to cross the Anauroch Desert to get from Phandalin to Parnast.

They have some magic items from LMoP; we'll see how that affects play.

Two-Hits Millie (Female Wood Elf Arcane Trickster) - She has Boots of Striding & Springing and a Ring of Protection +1. Also has the Black Spider's Spider Staff, which I changed into a rod and nerfed a bit. It can't be used as a weapon, but it can cast Spider Climb or Web.

Black Wizma (Female High Elf Wizard) - Has a Cloak of Protection +1, Orb of the Warmage +1, and The Glassstaff (which I also nerfed. It grants a +1 AC and can cast Mage Armor once per long rest - no Shield spell). Oh, and she has a tressym familiar.

Klegg (Male Human Fighter) - Has Talon (+1 longsword) and Dragonguard (+1 breastplate, advantage on saves vs dragon breath weapon)

Tordeck Hornbrewer (Male Human Cleric) - Has Lightbringer (+1 mace, glows bright as a torch on command, extra 1d6 dmg to undead)

They finished LMoP VERY close to hitting level 5, so they will almost certainly do so after The Black Road.

I offered the "remake before level 5 option", but nobody bit. The fighter did say he intends to take a level in Sorcerer when they level up (Wild Mage) so that should add amusements.

I'm going to see how the CR balancing plays out as suggested for this one, since they are still Tier 1. They are higher than the suggested level, but there are only 4 of them, so the adventure suggests encounters should not be modified ("Average"). I kinda think they'll mop the floor, but I want to see how it goes as a learning experience.
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Space Jam Confirmed
I love the names some of your players have their characters! Does "Two-Hits Millie" live up to her moniker?

Yeah, Two Hits Millie dual wields short swords and prides herself on downing foes in one round by landing two hits. She very occasionally does this.

Black Wizma (first time player) is a criminal mage who tries to project an aura of being very gothic and intimidating, but at one point the party bumped into her old mentor and he revealed that back home growing up her nickname was actually Pink Wizma because she loved to wear pink clothes and bright ribbons and was considered a goody two shoes.

Tordeck Hornbrewer (the only experienced player, but all his experience was from 20 years ago) is the result of the player trying to give his character "the most D&D name I could think of."

Klegg (another first time player) I think named his character that because the character does not have a high intelligence score and it seemed like the name of a guy who hits stuff.
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Space Jam Confirmed

We started with a little epilogue for LMoP, a summary of their accomplishments and what the consequences of their actions or inactions (such as completely refusing to deal with the orcs at Wyvern Tor) turned out to be. Each player got a customized letter from their faction referring to past events and laying out hopes for the future. I introduced them to what the factions meant, and also the concepts of reputation and downtime, which we've not previously used. Klegg's player presented us with some refrigerator magnets he made to commemorate LMoP (each magnet has a map of a place we visited).

The Black Road is a really well-regarded AL adventure and it's easy to see why. The writing is very strong - the text boxes provide memorable specificity and evocative flavor without running too long, the encounters are varied and interesting, the pacing is hard to screw up, choices matter, and enemies and NPCs behave in a psychologically plausible manner.

Plenty of hand-outs with this one. Everybody gets a message from their faction. The Emerald Enclave message arrives in the form of a talking fennec fox, which delighted Millie. The desert environment is very well-described, and the players like their desert gear with face-masks and pitch under the eyes. Azam and especially Hsing the pseudo-dragon were well-received. I didn't dump a bunch of background plot on them from the get-go; they know nothing about the Ordning. The found a statue in Wave Echo Cave; they now need to escort that statue across the desert to the Shrine of Axes in Parnast.

First night caravan is ambushed by goblins and we test out how this CR situation is going to play out. Fight was easy, but not comically so. I also did a not-great job with enemy tactics. Party takes a shoot first, ask questions never approach and coup de graces five sleeping goblins without questioning any of them. Arcana checks reveal goblins were carrying a bag of giant toenails.

Friendly parlay with Zhentish mercs mid-wasteland reveals there's a hobgoblin toll booth up the road.

Great sequence with cloud castle causing a sandstorm. Players come up with some fun ways to save the caravan, including scrambling to daisy-chain the wagons together with rope and using mage hand to lead a panicked camel to safety by its reigns. They manage to save three out of four wagons and three out of four camels, but don't lift a finger to help the drivers, who are all killed except Azam. Klegg vows to find that flying castle one day and "get in there and f*ck them up." I threw in a mini-tornado which threatened to suck the characters into the air, resulting in Tordeck holding the wagon with one hand and Wizma's foot in the other as she nearly blew past him into oblivion. Everyone rolled really well on their checks here except Klegg who was blowing one thing after another.

Climax is hobgoblin check point and here is where being fourth level and having some solid magic items made this quite easy at the suggested CR level (hobgoblin captain & three hobgoblins). Another handout here: Bad Fruul's forces have a mammoth skull banner ("It's adorable" - Millie). Wizma used her familiar to successfully scout the tollbooth and learned that most of the "hobgoblins" were straw dummies. Invisibility and spider climb were then used to move the rogue and the fighter into strategically advantageous positions for a possible surprise attack. Tordeck and Wizma tried to sneak within bow range of the main gate, but Tordeck did get spotted and challenged. Rather than pay the 15gp, the players opted to attack (the Order of the Gauntlet players had it in for the humanoids after hearing that a caravan of pilgrims had been attacked previously). Surprise round for Millie and Klegg had the foes immediately back on their heels and two hobgoblins down from a sleep spell. Hobgoblin captain dueled Klegg atop the battlements and did put up a bit of a fight, but with his men taken out pretty quickly the party was soon able to swarm and overcome him. Again, this fight was not comically easy, but given the resources generally at the disposal of the average 4-member 4th level party, you'd have to go max difficulty, rather than "average" if you really wanted to do a tough fight here. Hobgoblin captain had a really sweet pair of Bracers of Archery with nice flavor description which Millie now owns. This time, players do interrogate a prisoner but the hobgoblin is pretty disciplined and won't spill much except that they work for a clever hill giant named Bad Fruul.

There is a whole bunch of potential content to use if the party opts to either pay the toll or sneak around the roadblock, but that didn't end up coming into play here.

Adventure concludes with party arriving in Parnast, statue intact, and meeting priestess Chandra Stol and entrepreneur Ragnar Redtooth, NPCs who will be recurring characters for the season along with Azam and Hsing. They'll get a more detailed look at Parnast next time, when we play Uninvited Guests.

Rating: A. The Black Road is a great adventure. If I have any criticism, it's that the recommended difficulty for the fights for fourth 4th level characters didn't really hold up, but I kinda new that going in and it was more on me to have fixed that if I wanted to.

Playing time: About 2 hours 30 at a leisurely pace.

DDAL5-03 The Uninvited Guests
Everybody leveled up, so they're now all level 5 and I really will have to enhance the fights moving forward. Klegg is now a Fighter 4, Sorcerer 1 and I'll need to come up with a story explanation for that next week.
Parnast kinda gets a more thorough description later in the season, even though characters are based there from next episode onward. In particular, there are a couple of sidequests (“Stables” from Bad Business in Parnast and Sinkhole from Parnast Under Siege) that there is no particular reason to delay, so I'll be making those accessible during 5-03, 5-10, 5-12, and 5-16.
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Space Jam Confirmed
Sounds fun!

What reason did you and Klegg arrive upon for his newfound sorcery?

He suggested that his hitherto unsuspected wild magic could be unlocked by an encounter with a magical being or creature from another plane who "activates" him somehow.

Next session, I plan for him to run afoul of one of the faerie creatures who appear in Unexpected Guests. Depending on his behavior towards them, the faeries might activate his wild magic either to teach him some manners or in a misguided attempt to do him a favor.
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Space Jam Confirmed

This was even more fun than THE BLACK ROAD.

The party spent some time exploring the small town of Parnast. Parnast was under recent occupation by the Cult of the Dragon, and the town is struggling to recover. The people are grateful for the arrival of the statues and other supplies, but it's unfortunate that the food wagon was lost since these folks are eating squirrels and chipmunks.

A few episodes from now (Bad Business in Parnast), this guy Tove Brandimen is supposed to show up. That will be a “guess who’s the traitor” adventure, and like many TV shows, the answer will be “You, the new guy who allegedly has been with us all along but has never appeared on the show before this episode.” So I introduced him as one of the townspeople here to at least put him on a level playing field with the other NPCs.

Tove explained that a flying castle had once occupied the spot that is now a large crater immediately southwest of town. He was concerned about a creature who now lived in a sinkhole at the bottom of the crater and has been preying on livestock. With a nat 20 on a Nature check, Millie used wilderness skills to determine that a chuul has moved into the sinkhole. I showed them a picture of a chuul from the Monster Manual, and they universally decided that they wanted nothing to do with it and had no interest in going down the sinkhole.

They visited Sylas the alchemist, Chandra Stol at the Shrine of Axes, and Calder the Halfling's Trading Post, and perused their services. Klegg cheated Sylas on a purchase! Tordeck bought some vials of a mysterious blue liquid which he identified as an antidote.

The town had no inn. Sleeping options were either converted stables (shunned by animals because the Cult of the Dragon has kept wyverns in there and the smell lingered) or camping with Azam the caravaneer and his three remaining camels in the ruins of Old Parnast, north of town. Party opted for the ruins.

The party attracted the attention of most of the townsfolk at the Golden Tankard, owned by Raggnar Redtooth. After a contentious discussion between Raggnar and Gundalin Cartwright, the party agreed to go on a hunt in Weathercote Woods to provide game for a feast. Gundalin's callow son Wallace volunteered to join in on the hunt, despite the protests of Raggnar's daughter Elspeth.

In Weathercote Woods, they encountered a debilitating blue mist. Klegg was suffering from its effects, but Tordeck was able to cure him with one of the blue potions.

They spotted a stag in the woods. Wallace tried to shoot it but missed. Prince Thornacious, a fairy, appeared and remonstrated with the party over trespassing and attempted stag-killing. Millie and Tordeck were able to talk him down and make peace with him. Thornacious somehow knew that Klegg had cheated Sylas. This worked out well, As a punishment, Thornacious pointed his tiny E.T. glowing finger at Klegg and unlocked Klegg's hidden wild magic powers. This triggered Klegg’s very first wild surge (butterflies and flowers) and gave him access to his sorcerer abilities. Thornacious then ordered everybody out of Weathercote Woods, but provided a satyr guide, Blassios, and four more blue curative potions.

Blassios led them to a more suitable hunting ground in the Lonely Moor, while criticizing all their feast-planning ideas. There, they spotted a family of giant boars. As they began to take them out, they were ambushed by a pair of gnolls. They were able to slay the boars and the gnolls. Blassios suggests that the gnolls likely served Gralm, a local ettin.

In my ongoing CR experiments, I ran this adventure on max combat difficulty, which seemed to work more or less perfectly for four level 5 PCs. So this fight had two giant boars, three regular boars (which I decided were juvenile giant boars, so the party murdered a giant boar family) and two gnolls who joined the fight in round two.

They returned triumphantly to Parnast with the boars, and the feast was soon underway. This is where the only major plot flaw in this adventure cropped up. The players were certain that more of Gralm’s forces would follow them back from the swamp and attack the town during the feast, which of course is exactly what is going to happen. They wanted to quickly drop off the boars and then immediately head back into the swamp to try to take out Gralm, or at least post sentries around the feast. To avoid complications, I had the raiding party arrive right on their heels and immediately attack, and also removed one of the four “villager in crisis” scenarios from the fight as a concession to the players all insisting they were on high alert, so the villagers would be at least somewhat prepared.

In any case, the town was attacked by a raiding party consisting of a gnoll pack lord, four gnolls, and two giant hyenas. During the fight, an old man got pushed into the fire, a keg fell on a child, and a milking cow wandered into the middle of the melee, but the party saved everybody (well, Blassios saved the cow) and good triumphed over evil.

They were rewarded by Ragnar Redtooth with 200gp for procuring the boars. In addition, Tordeck claimed a Brooch of Shielding from the body of the dead gnoll pack lord. They are now Protectors of Parnast, and all the townsfolk open their homes, so no more sleeping in the ruins. In addition, Blassios delivered a challenge on behalf of Prince Thornacious: the characters must befriend a giant, without using charm magic. If they can do so, they can use 5 downtime days to return to him for a special reward.

Rating: A. The players loved this. There are a deceptively large number of NPCs to introduce and individuate quickly, so this calls for a DM with decent RP skills who can keep track of a fairly large cast. NPCS are funny, situations are clever and varied, and the extra crisis situations add spice to the final fight.

Playing time: Three hours. I added a LITTLE bit of stuff, but honestly it could not have been more than 10 minutes’ worth. How you could get through this adventure in 2 hours as written I have no idea. I guess with a lower-level party the fights would have been shorter – the two giant boars, two giant hyenas, and the gnoll pack lord can absorb a lot of punishment before going down.

INTO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST, PART ONE (tentative for Nov 12)
This will be the first departure from Season 5 as we’re going to take a couple of sessions to run this one-shot from Jeff C. Stevens.

Side note: I’m DMing at this charity event (www.redmonkeytheater.org) for Extra Life on Saturday Nov 4th, and will be running at least some of the short adventures from DDAL05-01: Treasures of the Broken Horde (also not using AL rules). So I’ll include a report on that here (even though it won’t be with this party).


First Post
Nice write up thanks for the the work. Keep posting.
I am running the same modules with my friends, but we are much slower. In DDAL05-02 it took us 3 hours for 2 encounters (Goblins and Zhentarims). Lots in-party-in-game fun/conflicts. One party member almost lost an arm due to stealing.... etc.


Space Jam Confirmed
Nice write up thanks for the the work. Keep posting.
I am running the same modules with my friends, but we are much slower. In DDAL05-02 it took us 3 hours for 2 encounters (Goblins and Zhentarims). Lots in-party-in-game fun/conflicts. One party member almost lost an arm due to stealing.... etc.

Yeah, these players do a fairly moderate amount of role-playing but sometimes will make some unexpected moves. I was amused by the big "no thanks" they gave to the chuul side quest, although perhaps I should not have been. When visiting Thundertree in LMoP, this group opted to abort the whole mission as soon as they learned a dragon was in town. It's a perfectly valid response, but not what I had anticipated.

In general, Tordeck is altruistic and honorable. Wizma tends to be motivated either by self-interest or guilt. Klegg is an impulsive door-kicker. Millie is mainly into exploring and likes finding secrets and solving puzzles.
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Space Jam Confirmed
Addendum: Treasure of the Broken Hoard (DDAL5-01)

Ran this on Saturday afternoon as part of charity Extra Life event. This was my second session of the day, and I had all the newly-arriving players, so half the session was occupied with character creation. 8 players at my table, only three of whom had ever played before (and one of those had not since she was a kid).

Not sure if in retrospect I should have just given them all pre-gens. While most – especially new players - found character creation amusing and interesting, it left time to run only the first of the 5 1-hour mini adventures. I have noticed two things that most new players seem to love about 5E character creation: the personality notes (trait/ideal/bond/flaw) and the trinkets.

Saturday was my first experience DMing public games. I had large tables for both of my sessions (in my earlier session I ran King of the Cats by M.T. Black). I’m used to running for 4-5 players, although my second home group (not the one I’m running the Season 5 stuff for) has now grown to 6 players. Not news to anybody reading this, but this game is super popular right now, and there are not enough DMs to go around. I did my best to give every player at least one or two little “moments” outside combat, which can be a tricky feat in a one-hour story.

My takeaway was that the most problematic thing about an 8-player table is that the people who roll low on initiative can be waiting a while for their turn to come around. Fortunately, most of the players were good at acting decisively and quickly on their turns.

Players all level 1:
-Female mountain dwarf fighter (had played before in like middle school)
-Female lightfoot halfling rogue (first time player)
-Female wood elf rogue (first time)
-Male human monk (first time)
-Female high elf fighter (first time)
-Female forest gnome druid (regular player)
-Male human paladin (regular player)
-Male stout halfling wizard (first time)

So with this group I played Beneath the Hills, the first adventure in Treasure of the Broken Horde. Ran it pretty close to as written except de-emphasized Cult of the Dragon references, because they would mean nothing to these players.

A nice start to this one. Party has been hired by veteran dwarf explorer Veradda Store to help her recover cache of treasure hidden in Greypeak Mountains. They arrive at the designated rendezvous point only to find her battered corpse. Everybody finds something to do here: determining how she died, finding tracks, finding her expedition log and seeing that pages have been torn out, searching corpse and finding a backup copy of notes, giving her a proper dwarf burial. I had the backup notes in dwarven shorthand, so a couple of players who spoke dwarven could translate.

Party used notes and followed goblin, hill giant, and bear tracks to cavern. Sent the monk and the elf rogue inside to scout, but monk blew the stealth check and they got bushwhacked by a rear-guard of five goblins. Most of party charges in to help, with dwarf fighter hanging back to cover their rear and watch for more surprises. Some stabbing, shooting, dart-throwing, and one sleep spell later we had one unconscious monk, two dead goblins, and three goblins tied up.

I am always surprised at some players’ willingness to torture and murder prisoners, regardless of the players’ alignment. Somehow my inner policeman stops me from doing this, even in a game. I just don’t find it “fun”. But yeah, players revive the monk and then violently grill the goblins, learn that they are a rear-guard, more goblins and two hill giants are inside and haven’t been heard from since there was a cave-in. Players then murder their helpless prisoners.

Two hill giant feet protrude from a pile of rubble where a cave-in has occurred. Dwarf’s stonecunning reveals this is a natural cavern that has been modified, and the cave-in was triggered by a trap.

Halfling wizard picked the acolyte background and interprets nearly everything as a sign from god, including when a bird landed on Veradda Stor’s corpse and started to eat her. This cave-in is also an important omen.

Players proceed down only non-caved-in tunnel and are attacked by a swarm of tiny goblins cursed by a shrinking trap deeper in the caverns. The tiny goblins turn out the lamps but somebody gets off a light cantrip in short order. Female elf fighter loves this sequence and proceeds to skewer tiny goblins on her rapier and fling them into the wall.

Hammer-smashing from paladin and poison spray from druid finishes them off. Nat 20 Arcana check from wizard indicates the goblins almost certainly fell victim to a curse. When killed, corpses return to normal size.

Final encounter is with a hill giant who has been shrunk to goblin size trying to open a stone chest, and his pet bear, Blooddrinker, who is half the size of a housecat. On max difficulty this guy has 50+ hp so he gives them a bit of trouble as well as grandiose threats but outcome is never really in question. Druid quickly animal handles the tiny bear and dwarf eventually dispatches the hill giant with her greataxe.

I could see they were going to have a very easy time with this so I modified the encounter a little bit: shrinking curse was slowly wearing off, so the giant was doubling in size every two rounds (died at around 7 feet tall late in round 3) and I made the shrink trap still active on the area of floor around the chest, but the players figured this might be the case so avoided that area during the fight.

Wizard and rogues figured out and disrupted the trap, stone chest opened, cache of low-level treasure recovered. Tiny bear starts convulsing but with a 15 medicine check druid saves him and has a tiny bear for life. Hill giant had Veradda’s notes on him, indicating that there were more caches out there waiting to be found, but that would be another adventure for another day.

Playing time: One hour & 15 minutes.

Rating: B+, for this 20% of the adventure at least. Served its purpose perfectly and has some amusing features. A very solid starter mini-dungeon for new players.


Space Jam Confirmed

Scheduling change. It’s hard to find dates in November and December when everybody is around, and I’d really like to try to run the two parts of “Into the Belly of the Beast” as close together as possible.

The order of the next few adventures is somewhat fungible, so I’m shuffling things up a little. This Sunday, Nov 12, we will be running “DDAL05-10 Giant Diplomacy” with everybody present.

The next game after that will be on Sunday, Dec 3. If all the players are there, that will be Part One of “Into the Belly of the Beast”. There is a chance Tordeck won’t make that game, in which case we’ll run “DDAL05-12 Bad Business in Parnast” instead with just 3 players.

Then on Dec 17th we’ll have everybody back for EITHER Belly of the Beast Part 2 OR Part 1, depending on what happened on the 3rd.


Space Jam Confirmed
I kinda thought this might have been the weakest of the three AL05 adventures we’ve played so far, but I don’t think my players thought so. Two-Hits Millie’s player said she thought, “this one was really engaging.”

We start off in Parnast. It’s the morning after Gralm’s raiders attacked the feast and the town is picking up the pieces. Players meet with Raggnar Redtooth, Azam, and HSING at the Golden Tankard. They’re hired to travel to the Lonely Moor on a diplomatic mission to Gralm, to try to convince him to join forces with Parnast againt Bad Fruul or, failing that, to at least remain neutral in the conflict. Because they have the “Protectors of Parnast” story reward, Raggnar provides a potion of healing, a potion of greater healing, and directions to Gralm's territory. Azam mentions that one of his camels vanished last night and he fears the worst. “Oh, yeah, it’s probably that chuul again,” says Millie. And they still refuse to deal with it!

To reach Gralm’s encampment in the Lonely Moor, the party has to travel through “The Forgotten Forest”, which seems suspiciously similar to the “Weathercote Wood” we were in last episode. Are these supposed to be two different faerie forests next to Parnast? Whatever, this is Weathercote Wood again; we’ve already established it’s there and that it borders the moor, I’m not throwing a new forest in here for no reason. The players have enough names to learn.

In Weathercote Wood, they fought off an ambush by hobgoblins and goblins. CR balance was interesting in this one, because the default scale was for 5 4th-level characters, but it included options for scaling up. We had 4 5th-level characters, so I went with “Strong”. Two hobgoblin captains, two goblin bosses, and some goblins. The enemies spread out to try to surround the party and this was actually kind of a tough fight. Millie got KOed at one point. To add a complication to this encounter, the battlefield is littered with fey portals. The adventure doesn’t really provide a clear dynamic on how these should affect the fight, so I decided that anybody rolling a crit fail during the fight would stumble into a portal, and anybody landing a crit on an enemy had the option to knock that foe into a portal (the portals triggered a random d6 of wild magic effects if activated). This was pretty fun; for the next hour, Millie was shadowed by a cloud that rained meat and cheese on her.

They enlisted the aid of Oblivish, a whiny cursed sprite who had fallen out of favor with Prince Thornacious and was reluctantly serving Gralm.

On the way to Gralm's camp, they passed through a shortcut into the Feywild and solved some puzzles for a rainbow dog. The players seemed to really enjoy the dog but the tangram puzzle kind of fell flat. It’s probably a little too open-ended. The dog told them “make me a cat”. They made a cat which looked almost totally unlike the cat shown in the book, but whatever it was a cat.

They arrived at the encampment and began negotiations with Gralm. Tordeck handled negotiations here and made a really good case that Bad Fruul was bad news for Gralm. Gralm incidentally is an Ettin with one smart head and one stupid head, which was great for me to RP. Before making his decision, Gralm invited the party to participate in a series of contests against the ogre Grindle. Grindle of course had the voice and speech patterns of Randy Savage. This was Klegg’s time to shine, as he annihilated every challenge including a nat 20 on the Pig Ups. Tordeck sealed the deal by eating one more hot dog than the ogre could. Their efforts met with great success and Gralm agreed to an alliance if the party would bring him the heads of some local fey creatures whose music has been troubling him. This whole sequence was amazing.

Oblivish led them to their old satyr buddy Blassios and tried to convince the party to attack him, but Blassios and Klegg are buddies so instead they parlayed with him. Blassios commiserated with Klegg about his wild magic issues and gave him some advice on how to use his spells. He was able to point them towards some members of the Unseelie Court whom Prince Thornacious wanted dealt with, and whose heads would satisfy Gralm's request.

They ambushed the evil fey during a poker game, and returned with their heads to Gralm. This actually turned out to be the easier of the adventure’s two combats. Three evil Halfling wizards, two dryads, and some lions and black bears. The party got a surprise round and Wizma fireballed the poker table, killing a dryad and badly wounding the other one. She didn’t think the halflings were evil so she spell shaped around them, but soon enough she realized her mistake when I explained that one Halfling had an eyepatch and another had a black goatee. Millie webbed up one Halfling with her Spider Stick and Tordeck slowly and incompetently beat him to death with his mace Lightbringer. I’m sure that made him feel like a big man. One historical note about this fight: a halfling tried to hit Tordeck with a magic missle spell, and he was immune due to the Brooch of Shielding that he got last session; first documented instance of this item proving useful?

Blassios helpfully scooped up two dryad heads (one badly charred) and two halfling heads (one Halfling turned invisible and escaped when the web beating went down) and put them in a head bag.

Gralm signed the treaty of alliance with Parnast. Blassios gave Klegg a Ring of Jumping as a token of his esteem, and offered Satyr training (a story reward where Klegg can go on a vision quest with Blassios and come out with one free poison success save). A giant eagle gave Millie a necklace.

They also fulfilled Thornacious's challenge of befriending a giant (Gralm), and used their downtime to get his reward (advantage on all charisma checks vs good-aligned fey).

Raggnar rewarded them with 100gp upon return to Parnast with the treaty.

They all achieved the second tier of renown for their factions, and are now Greater Defenders of Parnast, and will receive a 10% discount on all goods and healing services in town.

They correctly pointed out that most of their options for how to use downtime are pretty crappy. I noted that Xanathar’s come out this month and maybe there will be some better options in there.

Playing time: A leisurely and enjoyable 3.5 hours. Again, no idea how you’d get through this in 2 hours. I really did not add much of anything.

Rating: A-. The players I think liked this one slightly more than I did, but there’s no denying it’s a fun adventure. The dog part almost, but not quite, works as written but a good DM could probably improve it. I didn’t realize the issues with that part until playing. Ogre contest sequence is just wonderful and I’m sure will be the highlight of any play-through of this one.

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That guy, who does that thing.
One historical note about this fight: a halfling tried to hit Tordeck with a magic missle spell, and he was immune due to the Brooch of Shielding that he got last session; first documented instance of this item proving useful?

Magic missile was an extremely popular spell in 2nd and 3rd editions, so much so that many minor magic items in the Realms published during that time period had "and you're immune to magic missiles" as an additional ability.

Now that 5e has buffed a number of alternate 1st level attack spells, magic missile doesn't have the prominence and ubiquity of prior editions, and thus the decline of the classic brooch of shielding as a magic item.

Good stuff, thanks for sharing!


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