D&D 5E Help! Getting My Group to Thundertree (Lost Mine of Phandelver)

jayoungr

Legend
I'm running a group through this adventure now, and as things are going, it looks like they will completely bypass the Ruins of Thundertree section. They're about ready to head to Cragmaw Castle, having learned its location from a captured goblin. Once they regain the map, they will logically go straight to Wave Echo Cave. While I'm sure the adventure plays out just fine like this, I'd like to get the group to Thundertree if I can.* Any suggestions on how I can convince the party to make such a long trip out of their way?

The group has not shown much interest in getting acquainted with the residents of Phandalin, so I've had to find other ways of getting the side quests to them. One thing that may help is that Sildar Hallwinter, on learning that Iarno Albrek has gone rogue, decided to take his place and installed himself as acting head of the Phandalin constabulary. He is attempting to train a city watch from local volunteers, and he deputized the party to help with threats that need immediate attention, such as the orcs and undead that were making the Triboar Trail unsafe. Iarno escaped from the Redbrand hideout, and Sildar really wants him found. So that's a possible hook, but I can't think of a good way to tie that to Thundertree, or a way to get the party back on Iarno's trail.

I thought of sending them to find the druid because the dwarf would need some healing after his ordeal in Cragmaw Castle (assuming they get him out alive). But the party paladin could probably heal his wounds, and if that wouldn't work, then why wouldn't they just fetch someone from Neverwinter?

As for the hooks in the module as written, the group doesn't need the druid to find Cragmaw Castle for them, as I mentioned above. I haven't used the Mirna's Heirloom side quest, but it seems like a pretty weak motivation for a very long trip. (And I wouldn't put it past the group to just keep the necklace!) The group is also not using the pregen characters. They are two snooty elves who feel that talking to humans is beneath them (in my defense, this trait has developed as play progresses) and a dour pair of Outlanders without much in the way of social skills.

So ... help? Any suggestions on how to steer my group in this direction? They could even go there after Wave Echo Cave if necessary, although I think that might be anticlimactic.


*My reasons, for anyone who's curious: the main one is that I'm running this adventure as a favor to someone in the group, and I think he'd like to experience the whole thing. He actually owns the set, so I'll need to return the adventure book to him when I'm done; this means I won't be able to just drop Thundertree into some other adventure later. But also, I think I can make Thundertree fun--I've got some ideas for adding to the setup as presented--and it is the first encounter with a dragon in the new edition, after all!
 

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delericho

Legend
Based on my read-through of the adventure, Thundertree was far and away the most dangerous encounter in the thing. As such, I would indeed recommend leaving it to last.

One simple (-ish) way to do that is to use the map that PCs find in Cragmaw - the adventure as written says to use it to point them to an adventure of your own design, but you could instead have it point to the dragon's lair and promise "great wealth", or use it to establish a connection between the kidnappers and the dragon cultists, or something like that.

Or there's the other classic - the PCs return to Phandulin and find the place recovering from an attack. The locals then ask them to go deal with the dragon. But that might be a cliche too far... :)
 

Nebulous

Legend
I'm running lost mine and the PCs just met the dragon in Thundertree last session. I think it is a super fun scenario, but i tweaked it some. I have it completely dark and smokey with falling ash, and used a picture of Ravenholm from Half Life 2 as an example. I removed the twig blights and there are only ash zombies and ash ghouls. The biggest changes were that the druid is a crazy ally of the green dragon, and the cultists stole the dragon's eggs as a bargaining chip. The PCs are now in the middle of this situation, because they don't know where Cragmaw Castle is or Wave Echo Cave, and only the druid does, so they need to him alive long enough to find out. Last session they ransacked his cottage, and I actually gave them a 50% chance to find a map marked with the information they needed, and they would have left Thundertree behind. Well, they failed the luck roll, and had to get the information out of the druid personally, but he won't help until the PCs help THEM get the dragon eggs back.

Anyway, in answer to your question............how do I get the PCs to Thundertree?

The FIRST thing that popped in my mind? The goblin lied to them. He didn't give them directions to Cragmaw. He gave them directions to Thundertree. They'll discover this once they get there, and still need the druid to steer them correctly. If this means changing the location of Thundertree on the map, so be it. They'll never know the difference.

This is the last recap

https://app.box.com/s/f3yk72bm3vw8ubftpfkt
 
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Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
I just finished running Lost Mine of Phandelver, and my players never went to Thundertree either. But, they have heard of it. So I'll come up with something for the location as the game continues.

I like the Ravenholm concept. I might use that.
 

The_Gneech

Explorer
Well, if they're really not interested, I would suggest letting 'em bypass it. If you really want to give them a reason to go there, maybe put the captured townsfolk from the Redbrand hideout into a dungeon cell in Cragmaw Castle? That would lead them to the necklace reward.

-TG :cool:
 

Lord Vangarel

First Post
My players went to Thundertree last in the adventure which is just as well because, as others have mentioned it's probably the toughest scenario in the whole adventure.

I would do as others above suggest and have the map point to Thundertree, or have some NPC's arrive in Phandalin who have been attacked on route from Neverwinter. The dragon is now threatening to cut off the north road with it predatory attacks!
 

jimmifett

Banned
Banned
The party was on the way to deal with Agatha, forgot they needed to buy a necklace, and used the Drui'd Find Object spell. Obviously well out of range, I said there was a particularly strong resonance with the object. A ring of clovers was used, with a slight bump in the vague direction they need to go, making sure that they do not know how far, only a direction.

They thought maybe it's in cragmaw, which they are currently assaulting, but a second Detect Object show it's not at cragmaw. After they are done here, perhaps they will finish tracking it down.
 

Simple, you have a big dangling loose end: Iarno.
The map is the key.

Gundren is currently captive in Cragmaw castle. Just have him not have perfect memory of how to get to Wave Echo Cave. He needs the map to get to Wave Echo Cave. Have the map be already picked up by none other than... Iarno. Maybe Iarno was right there with the Drow/Doppelganger taking part in the negotiations and they just finished, so he Misty Stepped out of there.

Where did Iarno go? to Thundertree to recruit some Cult of the Dragon followers before returning the map to Nezznar. Maybe those cultists are former Redbrands. Or come up with any other insane idea. Iarno is grasping for power, maybe a link to the dragon, druid, his former home, who knows. Maybe, just maybe, Iarno wants to doublecross Nezznar and simply sell the map to the dragon and leave for good. Now the party has to get that map back from the dragon, and if they fail, the druid might help them...

Gundren or the Drow/Doppelganger could have overheard where Iarno was going.

It's also the perfect gamist punishment. They let the wizard escape, well guess what, he made life more difficult, by taking the map to Thundertree.
 
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Nebulous

Legend
Iarno/Glasstaff escaped in our campaign too, stealing a horse and hightailing it from Phandalin toward the mines. The party tried to follow, but he had too far a head start, and they didn't have mounts. I'm glad actually it turned out like that. It was fun having his rat familiar spy on them while he made his escape. They realized later what had happened, but it was too late.
 

I'd go with jamesmanhattan's recommendation myself.

Whatever you do, don't send them to Thundertree until they are at least 4th level, unless you want a serious risk of a TPK.

I'm having characters just come out of Cragmaw Castle. They've talked to the druid in Thundertree for directions ((they had rough directions to the castle from interrogated goblins, but they insisted on asking everyone until they got precise directions; that's my fault for not making it clear that their directions were good enough, and the worst thing likely to happen is that they'd lose a day trying to find the place), but wisely decided to pass on the dragon (at least for now). My challenge will be to get them to do some of the sidequests before heading into Wave Echo Mine.

Here's what I'm planning. Gundren will lead them straight back to the mine, but the campsite will have been removed and the evidence of its former presence hidden. The opening to the mine will be hidden with brush and/or boulders. Tracks on the ground will be obscured, numerous, and difficult to follow. If they do follow tracks they will take a winding path to the Triboar Trail, where they will become untrackable (it's a road).

Gundren will tell the party that his brothers wouldn't have been stupid enough to go in the mine by themselves (that's why they hired the adventurers to accompany them in the first place!) and he won't be interested in going in either. Since the identity of the Black Spider is unknown to them and they don't have any leads, Gundren will be taking a trip to Neverwinter to ask around and perhaps use some divination magic. In the meantime, he'll tell the characters to report to Sildar, who as already established, wants them to assist in civilizing the area.

This gives them at least a tenday or so with nothing they are expected to do except for pursue side quests cleaning up the neighborhood. (They went straight from Redbrands to Cragmaw Castle, as they didn't want to leave their friend Gundren to die if he wasn't dead already).

Of course, they might decide to do anything. Maybe they'll ignore Gundren's advice and plow into Wave Echo Cave on their own. Maybe they'll decide to accompany him to Neverwinter so the noble in the group can buy a horse like she's wanted to. Maybe they'll head back to Thundertree, etc.

But at least I've made going straight to Wave Echo Cave not the obviously most compelling option, which, as written in the adventure, it really is.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Thanks for your suggestions, everyone! They were really helpful in getting my mind going along the right path. I just thought I'd report on how I ended up handling it.

I went with Iarno Albrek as the hook to get the party to Thundertree. I decided Iarno had stolen Gundren Rockseeker's map and gone to Thundertree looking to enlist Venomfang's help in taking over the mine operation from the Black Spider. So when the party rescued Gundren from Cragmaw Castle, they couldn't find his map. Gundren remembered seeing a wizard around the castle, and they also found a slip of paper with the words "Thundertree" and "Venomfang" on it. That gave them some investigation to roleplay, since they had to figure out what those words meant.

I'm posting a fuller writeup of how the session went in the Thundertree thread.

As a side note, the party was 4th level, but the twig blights and zombies were laughably easy for them. They negotiated with the dragon instead of fighting. I hope the mine will be more challenging for them.
 

The_Gneech

Explorer
If your players are anything like mine, they're not likely to have much trouble in the mines if they're 4th level. I've had to beef up everything to prevent a cakewalk. Fortunately, "add one or two more" to any given encounter usually does the trick.

-TG :cool:
 

jayoungr

Legend
If your players are anything like mine, they're not likely to have much trouble in the mines if they're 4th level. I've had to beef up everything to prevent a cakewalk. Fortunately, "add one or two more" to any given encounter usually does the trick.
Thanks for the tip. I think I'll go add a few monsters right away. I can always take them out again if it seems to be getting too tough. It would also help if I could roll decent initiative for a change; I don't think I rolled in the double digits for the entirety of Thundertree.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Sounds cool. We have our next Thundertree session tomorrow where I find out if they negotiate with Venomfang or not. I suspect they will, and set up a plan to betray the cultists. BUT...who knows! They might surprise me.
 

Well, my plan didn't work as well as expected. Despite the notes saying that Vyerith would fight to the death rather than being captured, the game allows the players to knock enemies unconscious with melee hits that knock them to 0 hp, so she got captured.

The party had turned into the night with the captives previously, so this session started with the interrogation in the morning. Vyerith had spend a lot of time reading the minds of the characters (while they were on watch and in the morning) so she knew their most recent experiences and goals. Since she didn't want to give away anything about the Black Spider, she had a plan.

She tried to get them to give her 100 gp and her freedom for information about the Black Spider. They were reluctant to pay that much, but the other captives (the king and the "priest) didn't know squat, so they kept up the interrogation, mixing and matching intimidation with some haggling. Vyerith's confidence is probably what helped her fool them, and she did a pretty good job. Since the party had just come from Thundertree, where all they did was talk to the druid a bit and then leave, she made up a convincing story (based on mind-read info) that the Black Spider was really the druid in Thundertree, and that there was actually no dragon--his real base was hidden under the tower and he sent people that direction to ambush them. She also made up some information that partly agreed with what the druid had told the party about the rest of the town and partly contradicted. There was more to her story, but it was all internally consistent and plausible. So far so good. They agreed to pay her 50 gp and release her, after they had verified her story. That would have given her time to plot her escape before she was caught in her lie.

Unfortunately, the agreement involved submitting to a zone of truth by the cleric the next day. :-S

She didn't get a good opportunity to attempt to escape during their travel that day, nor overnight, and in the morning found herself in a zone of truth intentionally failing her saving throw (or the cleric would have known--I *love* the way the spell works this edition). She tried to avoid giving away her fabrication by speaking only the truth without correcting lies she had already made (a pretty good attempt too--they asked her if she had been completely truthful, she said no, they asked her what she had lied about, and she told them about various irrelevent details she had fabricated--that sort of thing), but they eventually got down to the bottom of everything.

They characters had a lot of debate over the ethical and pragmatic considerations of what to do with her. The LN cleric felt she had honored her actual agreement and should be released, while some of the others didn't want to let her go. Under the zone of truth they asked her what she would do if they released her, and she said she would probably go to Neverwinter and take a ship to somewhere else far away. That was the truth, since she couldn't return to the Black Spider.

Eventually she did get set free with her 50 gp and her life, but that took up most of the session. Armed with the knowledge that the Black Spider had Gundren's brothers, they had no believable reason not to head straight to Wave Echo Cave, so they did.

I figure after they take out Wave Echo Cave I may buff up the rest of the optional side-quests a bit and let them go take them out, since I think the players are interested in do so, and the rewards offered are pretty good motivation.
 

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