D&D 5E Feldwar Session 3 Recap.


This is largely inspired by @Hriston talking about running a game for their kids here. I really enjoyed that thread and would like to eternalize my game sessions in writing as well. I would make a Matt Colville style campaign diary video, but as my dear mother always said, I have a face fit for radio, and a voice made for print. EDIT After finishing writing this I've realized I'm not a great writer either. This is probably way longer than it needs to be, and if anyone actually takes the time to read it, I hope you enjoy it.

If you're interested in reading my short novella about the story so far click here.
I'm a new DM, and I have a mostly new group. Randy the Halfling Wizard and Gazhan the half-Orc Paladin are more experienced players, who both started in the 5E era. Barb the Gnome Sorceress and Beans the Tabaxi Barbarian have both played a game or two prior to coming to my table, but are still both very green. Willy the Wood Elf Ranger is playing his first game with us. I'm running a mostly homebrew game, in a world of my own invention I've named Feldwar. I say mostly as I'm borrowing a lot of Forgotten Realms content to fill in games, like the pantheon for instance.

Randy is great. His player is a lot of fun and enjoys talking in character. She is playing him almost like David Attenborough. He's got a generic old man voice and he loves telling the party about the world. She's a great note taker as well, and is pretty engaged in the world.

Gazhan is my power gamer. His player started playing D&D in the last year or so and is hooked. They play in a few games a week, and they are great at helping with rules.

Barb is my girlfriend, and she had played in a single game prior to playing at my table. I think she's mostly playing as a way to engage in one of my hobbies, and to socialize with our group of shared friends. While she's not crazy about the game to the point of studying how to play, and how she wants her character to advance, she does a great job at being engaged at the table and is a good player. She's also taken up the mantle as the party treasurer, tracking all the loot.

Beans and Willy are a married couple, and while Beans' player has played a few games before she's still learning, and Willy is a TTRPG virgin. They're both great though. Beans loves the team aspect of the game, and working together to solve problems. Willy is a video gamer, and he brings his experience to the table in a way that's actually really helpful. He thinks of things very analytically and is almost like the leader of the party. He certainly does a good job at driving the plot.

In our first session I ran a very basic dungeon. Goblins kidnapped the Innkeeper's son and the party went and rescued him. I made up a really simple 5 room dungeon. It had a trap, a puzzle, a couple of encounters, and was practically made with a cookie cutter. I knew with this group there was a chance that this would just be a one shot. So I kept it simple. The gang had a good time and wanted more. So I dropped a hint about floating tower just a day's travel from the village that had seemingly popped up over night.

Session 2 starts with the party going to investigate the tower. There in a clearing in the woods they find a large, perfectly circular slab of malachite embedded into the ground. Hovering above it gently spinning in place is a tall tower, the door oddly staying in place while the tower appears to be turning behind it. They debate for a while about what to do. After a few minutes the ranger spots a small figure hiding in the brush on the edge of the clearing. They call out to it, and promise they're peaceful. Reluctantly a small, cycloptic homunculus, makes itself known. They question it for a few minutes to no avail. While it seems to understand them, it also appears to lack any sort of mouth or ability to speak back at them. They finally wish it well, and watch as it scurries up to the tower, and waits for a set of steps to grow up from the malachite slab which allows it access to the door, which it runs through and quickly closes behind it. They look at each other in disbelief. They hadn't thought to walk up to the tower. They make their way up and the same steps materialize for them. The party stands there for a moment before finally the Wizard gathers up the nerve to knock on the door.

A handsome drow opens the door and says he's not interested in any solicitations. He attempts to shut the door but the party begs his audience. After a short discussion he allows them into his tower and they make introductions. Imyrikk is my DM PC. He was a conjuration wizard I played back in the days of 3.5, (Though he originated as a Dark Elf Magician in EverQuest and would later live on as a Warlock in EQ2) and I figured what better way to make an NPC than to recycle an old character? I already know his attitude, his demeanor, and his motivations. I know this practice is generally frowned upon but it's a fun easter egg for myself.

Imyrikk and the party strike a bargain. His tower has a mind of it's own and teleports to new, random locations every few weeks. In addition to Iris, the cycloptic homunculus the party already met, he has another familiar, Ivan. Ivan had gone out to collect herbs and other alchemical reagents and has yet to return. It's been a couple of days, and Imyrikk is worried that his tower is due to disappear soon and he'd hate to leave poor Ivan behind. If the party goes and finds Ivan, and brings him home, Imyrikk will identify the magic wand they found in the dungeon previously, and even give them a healing potion or two.

The party travels to a nearby bog where they encounter a Yuan-ti Shaman who intends on cooking and eating poor Ivan. They do battle with her and rescue the one eyed lad. They also find a large diamond, and when the ranger picks it up visions of another magic gem flood his mind. He also discovers that he feels stronger while carrying the gem. They have no idea why but they are determined to go find the next gem. I have a loose idea of a plot that is essentially the love child of Deltora Quest, Dragon Ball Z, and a Djinn, that will hinge on their desire to keep chasing these macguffins. They ask around about the location they see in the vision and determine that is is likely located in a village a few days away.

And that's the story so far

If you're interested in a quick synopsis of the adventure click here:

The town of Wistel (Changed to Mapledale, in order to fit into my existing world map) is a halfling village known for it's amazing apples. People from all over come for these apples and are willing to pay quite a sum for them. An apple farmer in a nearby village is angry and jealous that people will happily pay twice as much for their apples, instead of buying his inferior ones. He seeks out the help of a mischievous wood drake to do something about it. (In my story I axed this bit and simply made the drake the whole antagonist, working by themself.) The wood drake goes and poisons the orchard in Mapledale and now the fruit grows in rotten, and the trees are beginning to wither.

The town gathers up all their money and sends a party of scouts out to seek the aid of a coven of druids a few days travel away. The druids give the halflings a potion to cure the trees, and sends them home. On the way they run into Brufnu, the giant who is a single dad of two teen giant girls, and is trying to woo them a new mom. He's currently trying to win the affection of a giantess who happens to be a good cook, and it just so happens that his favorite meal is stewed halfling. So he captures all but one of the scouting party and kicks the straggler like he's the game winning field goal. The survivor makes it home wounded, but alive and the party enters the scene as he's telling his tale. The goal is to go to Brufnu's home and rescue the captured halflings. Getting the potions back is also a goal, but comes second to saving the scouting party. All the while the Wood drake is going to be trying to twart the party's rescue mission, for no reason other than he's a bit of a dick.

Our story today includes our heroes Gazhan, the Half-Orc Paladin, Beans the Tabaxi Barbarian, Barb the Gnome sorceress, and Willy the Wood-Elf Ranger. Our Halfling Wizard Randy unfortunately had a family emergency and couldn't make it today. It was a real shame, not only because we all love Randy's player and enjoy her company at the table, but she's also the one who takes great notes and does a good job at recapping the story. We struggle to meet regularly (We played session 1 in September, session 2 in November, and session 3 tonight. We're hoping to get session 4 in the front half of March.) and without her the party struggled at the recap. I fed them what I felt were the most important parts but I tried to avoid giving them too much. I'm not sure if I should have given them a full flavored recap or not. I like the idea of the party doing it since it will help tell me what they find important, without interjecting what I think is important and possibly crossing wires.

So the party set out for the town of Mapledale. You guys may have seen my post a few weeks ago asking for advice here. I ran "Them Apples" by Chris Perkins from Dungeon #48. The elevator pitch for the story is that a small halfling village is well known for it's orchards and the apples they produce. I had the party encounter the Sheriff of Mapledale at the inn in town and overhear him lamenting about his scouting party being abducted by giants. After some roleplay they convince the Sheriff they can help, but they want assurance that the magical gem they're hunting for is here and that the town will trade it if they are able to return the scouts home safely. The Sheriff agrees, and shows them the gem as a good faith gesture.

Thus far in the campaign the party doesn't really have a villain to chase after, and I'm not sure how to integrate one. I have an idea for a larger, over-arching villain but they aren't ready for that yet. I originally wanted to sprinkle out a lot of breadcrumbs leading to the BBEG but with how infrequently we get to play I fear that won't work. I decided to inject a mercenary party called "The Midnight Company" into the game. This will give them an immediate villain that can be working on behalf of the larger villain. They meet the Midnight Company (Henceforth known as MC) at a little crossroads tavern halfway between Mapledale and the site of the Halflingnapping. I describe the gang as a large group of what appears to be some sort of militant squad. They're wearing matching black armor, adorned with matching insignias, and all hanging out together in the middle of the bar. They are a raucous group but don't appear to be causing any real trouble. The Paladin Gazhan asks if they would know of this group, and rolls a very strong history check. I let them know that due to their martial upbringing they are totally familiar with the MC and the fact that they have a reputation for doing anything, if the contract pays well enough. Willy the ranger, who is a very goal-oriented player sees this as an opportunity to gather some intel. He approaches and introduces himself. The party is met by Captain Tucker who is happy to entertain the party. The Captain is complimentary at first, but is quick to toss some digs at the party. He asks what sort of trouble the party is getting into as they all appear to know how to handle themselves in a tussle, and the party seems encouraged by this, and then he even offers to hire them. They're all excited thinking "Hey, we're real adventurers!" and then the Captain mentions they need stable hands and ditch diggers.. The party quickly soured on the MC after this. Willy mentions that they traveled from Mapledale and are looking for giants and asks if the MC knows anything of this or if they have any experience hunting giants.

The Captain pulls out a small ledger from his tunic and thumbs through some pages. He mentions that they haven't had a giant job in ages, and asks what the town is paying for it, and says he'll buy the contract from the party. Willy meekly replies something about being paid in Apples. They're (Rightfully) afraid to be totally forthcoming with this group. Tucker groans and slips his book away, his attitude quickly deflating. He says that the MC only works for cash, but that it's not a big deal. They actually happen to be going to Mapledale in the morning. He then suggests that if the party wants, they can give him some gold now, in exchange for dragging their corpses back to a healer after the MC inevitably has to go do the giant job "properly" later. The party doesn't find this as amusing as the MC goons do and opt to head to bed. Gazhan mentions not trusting these guys and being worried about what they're going to do in Mapledale, but doesn't push the issue.

The next day the party departs and makes their way to the the foot of a mountain range where they were told the halflings encountered the giant. Here they discover a grove of incredibly life-like statues. As they are inspecting them, and correctly pondering the idea that these might have been people turned to stone they hear a ruckus from up the hill. running straight for them is a young halfling gal, followed by three goblins, followed by two cockatrice!

This was fun because this is the first time I've ever played using a grid. So I had the grove drawn and laid out tokens for everyone. They quickly all took cover behind the statues and watched, trying to determine what was going on. Are the cockatrice pets of the goblins? This was quickly answered for them when one cockatrice attacked a goblin and paralyzed it, and then second grappled the frozen goblin and stabbed it with it's spiny tail, and turned it to stone. I don't know if this is how they really work in fiction, but I liked the idea of telegraphing to the party that it was a two-stage process, and that they really didn't want to get hit by one of these guys.

Beans the barbarian gets to go first in combat order and he makes a ranged attack at one of the cockatrice and hits, drawing it's ire. Barb the Sorceress ushers the halfling towards her and tries to draw her to safety.

I didn't get a chance to paralyze any of my players because the birds could not hit to save their lives. The goblins however did a little better. I don't remember if I read it here, or saw it in a video but I recently saw the idea to give goblin spell casters scrolls. It gives the party some fun potential loot, and also gives the goblins an excuse to have some slightly stronger fire power. It was also suggested to telegraph attacks this way, by describing the goblin attempting to read the scroll but unable to. I did exactly that. The tanks of the party and the two cockatrice all found themselves sharing a 2x2 section of the grid so I put my goblin wizard right next to them and described him whipping out a scroll and struggling to pronounce some really big words. The scroll starts to glow but doesn't do anything.. Not this turn anyway 😈

This had exactly the effect I wanted it to! The party is now debating on what to do. Beans correctly guesses that the goblin has some sort of AOE in his pocket and they should focus on him, but Willy is more concerned with the cockatrice. If someone gets paralyzed the could really be in trouble! I was practically giddy with excitement at this point. Now I understand why DMing is so much fun.

The tanks continue their focus on the birds and the the ranger and sorceress try to take out the goblin at range, but they fail! On it's next turn the goblin fires off Thunderwave and our tanks and one of the cockatrice make their saves, and the other one goes flying :/

The part ends up victorious and the opt to dispatch the last goblin instead of potentially questioning it, which shocked me a little. They are usually the types to be inquisitive but not this time it seems. It's a shame too, because the goblin could have told them that the halfling was the one that riled up the cockatrice, and led them to their camp. Now, if you're unfamiliar with 'Them Apple's' our antagonist here isn't actually a halfling, but instead a Green Wood Drake, who took the form of a halfling. She's poisoned the orchard in Mapledale, and the reason the scouting party went off looking for a cure in the first place, which put them in harms way with the giant. She thanks the party profusely and introduces herself. She says that she was in the scouting party and was able to escape. At this point I can visibly see the wheels turning in Gazhan's and Barb's heads, and I'm pretty sure they knew something was off. The sheriff told them who all was in the scouting party, but I don't think any of them had to fore-sight to write it down. They asked me if the Sheriff told them how many halflings were captured, and I said four. I decided I wasn't going to withhold information they didn't write down, but at the same time I wasn't going to offer it to them unless they asked. They were so close but couldn't quite connect the dots! Willy however is excited. The halfling, who we just called "Shoe" knew where the giants were! They had a guide now, so they shelved their suspicions and went for it.

DM's note.. I had changed/renamed a lot of things from the original adventure. For instance our Wood Drake, was now a Green Wrymling and I changed her name to Ishuza. It was a name I generated from one of the many generators available online.. I liked the name in my head, but at the actual table I could not, for the life of me actually pronounce it. So tip.. Practice saying all the names you come up with, so you don't end up with an antagonist named "Shoe"

Shoe leads the party the rest of the way to the cabin. Here is another spot where I made some big changes. In the original adventure the giant's house had one door, and no windows. Perkins describes it as being dark in many places, and in the areas where there is torch light there is a thick layer of smoke which makes it hard to breathe and see.

Now this is just something that makes no sense to me. I mean I think I understand why it's this way. This is essentially a 'dungeon'. You want to force the party to go room to room, and to have to manage their own light sources. However, in the fiction of it all, it's completely bogus. Giants may be primitive, but that doesn't mean they want to live in a smoke filled hot box.. Brufnu, the father giant is even described as being kind of an academic, as far as giants go. So I modified the house a lot. I drew out a new floorplan that was essentially a two bedroom ranch, with a front, and back door, and windows on the front, and both sides. I knew this would give the party more options as far as coming and going goes, but I considered that a good thing. I also added a cow pen to the rear of the house, after suggestions from the last thread I made. The party opted to sneak around the back, where they witnessed one of the giants pick up a calf and carry it back into the back door of the house under one arm. At this point Shoe suggested going down a chimney. The party actually mulled over the idea for a moment, but ultimately Willy the ranger, being the stealthy one of the party opted to climb in through the side window which lead right into the girls' bedroom. He gets a boost to the window and examines the room, but rolls poorly on his spot check. He doesn't notice the panther curled up under the covers of one of the beds. He gets a boost up to the window and climbs in. He begins to search the room and rolls a not great, but not terrible stealth check, so I rule that he wakes up the panther, but does so gently enough that it's not hostile. I mention it's wearing a collar and he correctly realizes that means it's a pet. The halflings of Mapledale offered the party provisions such as breads and dried meats for their journey, so he tries to win the panther's favor with some sausage, and rolls a great animal handling check. I tell him he's not able to control this panther or anything but it is not upset with his presence, and will allow him to continue to search the room, at least for the time being. Watching from the window the team was able to hold back Shoe while she eagerly attempted to get in and "Pet the kitty!" Willy eventually gets spooked and decides to climb back out and regroup with the team.

From what he found in the room he correctly guessed that they were dealing with at least two giants, and that they were younger. While he was on his stealth mission the rest of the party talked amongst themselves and came up with a great idea. They decided to set the cows in the back loose, and smack their rumps/toss some rocks at them to get them riled up and moving. I liked this plan so I said that they made a bit of a commotion and as they retreated and watched from the around the corner of the house, they witnessed the two Giants come out and start trying to rustle the cattle. They took this opportunity to break in through the front of the house and they made their way in.

This was another part that was a lot of fun. I had drawn out the entire house on my grid and covered the rooms with papers, so they slowly explored from the center out. The team opted to split and each check out half of the house. This was great. It was like Rainbow 6 or something. I had the giants come back into the house to look for rope/nets and others supplies to help wrangle up the cows and the party was able to hide from them. The tension was high while they ducked behind desks and chairs as the giants walked past.

The party finally finds the halflings in the pantry and then they struggled with analysis paralysis.. I said they scouts were all a little wounded and malnourished and would need help going through the kitchen window if that was the plan they wanted to go with. The debated setting up some sort of rope system, or trying to walk them all out the front door (Which funny enough I had decided in my head that their cow distraction was good enough, that if they had hurried and just went for the door they would have made it, but they continued to debate), or even confront and fight the giants. Shoe kept talking about how dumb the giants were, and how big and strong the party was, and she was certain they could take em! Barb mentioned a few times out of character that she was not a fan of Shoe.

After giving them a few chances to commit I felt that it was time to ratchet things up so I informed them that they heard the giants coming back into the house. They panicked, and shoved the halflings back into the pantry and prepared themselves for a brawl!

When the first giant entered the kitchen she screamed like she just saw a mouse and she grabs a broom and waves it infront of herself in defense. This caught the players off guard and they noticed we weren't straight into combat. So they try parlaying with the giant, and eventually her sister comes in. According to the Dungeon Master's guide Giant, Orcish, and Gnomish are all based off the Dwarvish script. So while they didn't share a language I liked that they were looking for options to resolve this peacefully, so I spoke to them in my best attempt at broken English to simulate that they were able to kind of pick apart the giant language and the giants were able to pick apart the gnomish/orcish.

They were able to determine that these giants didn't want to fight them either, but they really couldn't let them leave with the halflings or else they'd be in a lot of trouble with their dad's girlfriend. They mentioned she was mean, and she only comes around because she cooks well. The party came up with the idea of teaching them to cook in exchange for the halflings' lives. I almost shed a tear.

I know I'm getting really long in the tooth here, so I'll try to wrap up the ending. They make it out, and eventually piece together that the halfling scout party doesn't actually know Shoe. They confront her and it turns violent. A Wyrmling was a hard fight for four level 2s but they were able to take her out with only the Paladin going down. In the original adventure the drake was just able to transform at will. I wrote in that she had a pendant that gave her the ability to polymorph into either a halfling or a chipmunk once per day and they looted that. I think that's a fun magic item. I'm sure there's a way to abuse it, but it'll require some clever thinking to make use of it.

When they make it back to town however they find that it's been razed.. The town has been decimated, and the magical gem they were questing after is gone. They quickly and correctly guess that it was the Midnight Company, and a survivor is able to confirm the information. Now the party realizes they're not the only ones hunting for these gems, and they have competition. Next they want to go try and follow after the MC. I let them know that it'll be challenging.. These guys are stronger in number, better equipped, and on horseback so they have quite a lead on the party. I imagine our next adventure will be an investigation because they certainly aren't ready to fight the full force of the MC yet.. But I think I can send them after some individual members to give them an opportunity to learn more about the world, the gems and why they're valuable, and also about the enemies ahead.

The party leveled up to level 3, and I'm really enjoying DMing my first campaign so far. My biggest takeaways are

1) Playing on the grid is a lot of fun. I don't know why I never bothered before. The players said they really liked it too, and were talking about getting minis for their characters.
2) Having monsters telegraph big attacks is awesome. The party doesn't feel like they've been hit by a cheap shot when it goes off, and I bet they would have felt really smart if they had been able to prevent it.
3) Telegraphing secrets is also awesome. They knew in their hearts that both the mercenaries and Shoe were no good, and at the end Barb's player stood up and shouted "I knew we couldn't trust that bitch! (Side note about Barb. Her player is my girlfriend, who I think is mostly playing as a favor to me. I don't think she'd have chosen D&D as a hobby on her own, but she likes supporting the things I like, and she's friends with all the players, so it's also a social experience for her. After everyone left however, she mentioned she had a lot of fun and she liked how it wasn't just fighting the whole time. She was surprised to find that her Sorcerer was good at charisma and was able to intimidate/persuade when needed, and I think a few things clicked for her. We may win her over just yet.)
4) My party is very willing to embrace the railroad, and I don't think that's bad. I threw out a bunch of threads in the first session to try and give them options to sandbox, but they eagerly cling to what they perceive as the next "Story Mission" to put it into video game terms. I need to do my planning with this in mind.

I'm looking forward to what happens next.

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