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5E Lost Mine of Phandelver - comments and complaints after read-through (spoilers)

stevelabny

First Post
I've been liking what I've seen of 5E so far and was thinking at the very least, it would be a great introductory RPG. So, just in case, I delved into the Lost Mine. My comments are going to be a little all-over the place but are hopefully going to be rules-light and focus on the adventure. Also, I haven't played jack. This is just going by a read-through. Feel free to tell me that things play out differently in reality.

But first, WHY ARE ELECTRUM PIECES BACK? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?

Ahem.

A little background, I've been playing off and on since 1983 - started with Basic Red Box. Played/ran Basic and 1E stuff, barely any 2E, lots of 3E as player and DM - including the "official" WOTC adventures, nothing at all from 4E beyond the PHB. It is possible some of my complaints are callbacks to prior editions that I've just missed along the way and I'll be blaming 5E when the fault lies elsewhere.

The "plot hook" - you are all caravan guards - is eye-rollingly bad, but I think the Personal Goals on the back of the pre-generated characters make up for it and should add some fun. In general, I also think the personality/motivation additions to the character sheet are pretty nifty for encouraging roleplaying. One issue I have is that the cleric and rogue's personal goals both tie into the same subplot and that the rogue's goal probably needs a bit more information like who framed him and why. If one PC wants to go to Tumbletree and kill the dragon, one wants to go to Cragmaw Castle and consecrate the temple, one wants to civilize Phandelver, one wants revenge on the Redbrands, shouldnt the last person want to kill the Orcs at Wyvern Tor or find her family heirloom at the Mine?

I like the overall path of the adventure from ambush, maybe find the goblin lair or go to town and then come back, clear the lair and either proceed to the castle or back to town, pick up sidequests in town, do the side quests in any order and multiple sidequests will point to the mines, finish at the mines. I think it does a decent job of showing potential new DMs how to have multiple options for the PCs to explore, including some they may never bother with, and the possibility of doing some out of order. My personal preference would keep more of them closer to the town to provide an aura of safety, but I guess with full nightly healing that's not too much of an issue. It just seems odd to me that the Lost Mine is closer to town than all of the other locations.

I like the goblin cave being a figure-8 map and adding some verticality to the maps. I like that there's a way to sneak up on the boss that doubles as his escape route, and that his escape route goes through the wolves that PCs may have left behind.

My main problem is the cave, the hideout, the ruins of Tumbletree, Cragmaw Castle and the Lost Mine - combat, combat, combat, combat. Nothing but combat and a lot of it repetitious.

The town is pretty boring, and I hate to say, almost video-gameish. The NPCs have the most bland character traits, no real help for a DM playing them, and seem to exist to have question marks over their head to hand out the quests. This is probably exasperated by the bolded QUESTS and the NPC blurbs "this character has a quest for the party". Just one of those things where a minor presentation choice changes the entire feel.

The Redbrand hideout has a few nice traps, a few nice treasure hiding places and some possibilities. I don't know if I understand the Nothic as a choice for a "different" monster, or as something you can make a truce with,, but maybe that's just me?

We also get Droop, who seems to be this gen's Meepo. (Did 4E have a Meepo variant?) But I don't see Droop becoming a campaign-fixture at all. If the party misses Droop's secret door advice, and spends any time at all exploring Glassstaff's lab, the "boss" is most likely going to escape without any encounter.

The "sidequests" in chapter 3 are a bit of a mess, even though I approve of their existence in theory.

Agatha's Lair is a long way out of the way to get ONE question answered. Especially since its a 55% failure for the best pre-made without advantage or an auto-success if the PCs remember the quest that got them here.

Old Owl Well has another evil NPC for the party to try to make a truce with? Where are all the shades of gray good and neutral characters who you might actually be OK with letting survive and walk around? Most "heroic" PCs that I've played or played with will usually be willing to use diplomacy in many situations, but when dealing with nothics and evil necromancers that's probably not going to happen.

Cragmaw Castle has multiple ways in, and I bet the new everyone-has-spring-attack rules will make combats more fun, yet more dangerous as combatants move through locations during a battle and multiple encounters become one giant combat. The entranceway fight can easily wind up starting with 7 goblins and 4 hobgoblins and then lead into a trap or a lot more goblins, hobgoblins and a grick.
The quarters are tight enough that I can easily see this fight getting super-ugly if the PCs go in the front door and try to move out of being surrounded.

Its also a little tired that Sildar in the goblin cave, Gundren in the castle, and fake "Nunro" in the Mine all get used as a hostage negotiation. Did that really need to be done THREE TIMES in one adventure?

The orc camp at Wyvern Tor seems like a total after-thought. "Eh, we needed to cut this down to 64 pages and have monster stats and other basic rules info, so yeah, 6 orcs, an orc-leader and an ogre... make up your own cave rookie!" Since I feel they were almost trying to make combat areas a bit more dynamic overall, I'm surprised by this one. It really feels like a page count victim.

The ruins of Tumbletree are a mess. Too many buildings with nothing but twig blights and ash zombies. A random cultist encounter for more negotiating-with-evil hijinks, and a stat-less druid who can change into a squirrel and walk you all the way down to Wave Echo Cavern, but apparently has no other abilities that will help you fight twig blights or the dragon! The druid probably needs a "I lost all my abilities but one" disclaimer but in reality, he probably needs to be a functioning NPC to give the PCs any chance here.

If they PCs don't die of boredom searching all the empty buildings and repeatedly fighting the same monsters, there is a TPK awaiting them in the tower. Again, I haven't played it, but I don't see any way that the dragon isn't going to wipe out a bunch of 2nd or 3rd level characters. Using the challenge rating / experience point budget chart from the recent Legends & Lore article, this thing is pretty severely beyond the party's capabilities.

I'd like to make clear that I am a fan of "old-school" character death and save or dies and the like and for PCs learning what they can and can't handle and when to run. However, I always think it should come with some sort of warning that the PCs ignore, or some hideously bad rolling, or some way for the PCs to have out-thought it. This dragon pretty much comes with none of that. The druid warns the PCs to leave before they die, but then asks them to chase away the dragon before he will help them. The dragon tower doesn't have much of a way to get the drop on the dragon, or even split up enough so the entire party isn't sitting ducks for the breath weapon. And this is me assuming that even though he does poison damage, he doesn't actually give the poisoned condition. Having to take the dragon head-on is suicide, there's no text about his personality or any chance of diplomacy beyond "he doesn't want to give up his new home" , there's no NPC allies strong enough to help, and there's no posion-resistance or anti-dragon magic items in the adventure. I think it would still have a high chance of a TPK if the party goes back to it after completing the entire adventure. I don't get it. It is possible I am greatly underestimating the PCs chance of hitting an 18 AC enough to do the 68 points of damage necessary for the dragon to "give up" as written in the book. Maybe if they go all out for one or two rounds, they can get to 68 and the dragon will leave even though 1/2 of the party or more is knocked out on the floor and the others are bloody and battered.

I do like "Hew" the Axe, and the attempt to give magic weapons personality with Hew, Talon and Lightbringer but its too bad that by the time the PCs could hope to acquire it that all the twig blights will be dead.

The mine itself is a bit confusing. Mainly how Nezznar managed to show up long before the PCs, get to the back corner of the map and set up camp, but never found the Forge of Spells, or the right there in plain site "shortcut" from where he's digging for treasure to the room the forge is in. I'm also not sure why he didn't just bring more fodder with him (or summon them) to take care of the ghouls and the flameskull.

The flameskull has a more dangerous spell list than any evil wizard in the adventure. Which, by the way, is a great time to ask why there's multiple evil wizards an no evil anything else. Its just more fodder for "caster supremacy" debates. Nezznar's spell list in particular makes him less of a threat than his allies. As the "final boss" he probably needs to be a 5th level wizard to feel scary, but with 4 giant spiders, 2 bugbears and maybe a doppleganger at his side, he probably doesn't need to be buffed as this one could also get really TPK in a hurry. Especially if Glassstaff returns at just the right moment! Or if someone sets off the un-explained trap in the final room.

So adventure finished, and outside of some possible quick-thinking disguises/bluffs with red cloaks and some hard "oops, you weren't careful and now you're (almost) dead" lessons, there is nothing in the adventure that actually requires thought.

Where are the puzzles and riddles? Where are the mysteries and clues? Where are the hard decisions that matter and don't have an obvious choice? The rules look like they might be OK. But this adventure isn't making me excited to play it. I was really disappointed when I closed the book that had multiple locations and exactly 0 memorable NPCs and 0 puzzles or mysteries or anything to challenge the player.

That said, does anyone have any ideas how to fix it? I feel the "easiest" way is to actually add maps for Wyvern Tor, Agatha's Lair and Old Owl Well adding some of the things I expect and throw in some more one-use magic items - specifically ones that will help against the dragon. And then do everything you can to make that dragon seem frightening.

I'd love to hear more comments.
 

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Aluvial

Explorer
I've been liking what I've seen of 5E so far and was thinking at the very least, it would be a great introductory RPG. So, just in case, I delved into the Lost Mine. My comments are going to be a little all-over the place but are hopefully going to be rules-light and focus on the adventure. Also, I haven't played jack. This is just going by a read-through. Feel free to tell me that things play out differently in reality.

But first, WHY ARE ELECTRUM PIECES BACK? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?

Ahem.
I never got rid of them!
 

JeffB

Legend
IME, usually adventures or rules that "read" awful, turn out great at the tzble, and the stuff that reads awesome ends up being lackluster :)

That said, I agree with you on many points. 4th edition adventures, especially the very early ones are often condemned because of their combat encounter after combat encounter with little "roleplay" or "story" content. And for many adventures, that is true. But LMoP, is essentially the same thing. Combat after combat, only they add a teeny tiny amount of story content, which sadly is there justto move you along from one combat area to the next. I am not seeing the improvement.

Yes it is a starter adventure aimed at newbies. But they could of done a much better job with non combat encounters..puzzles, a mystery, weirdness or "fun house" dungeons, things that may not be integral to the overall plot, but can provide different classic D&D experiences. When in doubt writing adventures, ask yourself What Would Tom Moldvay Do? ;)


I will take a look at "Hoard", before I make any condemnations of my own, but most likely be converting something from a previous edition to try out the new rules.
 


jgsugden

Legend
This is an introduction to the game for new players, as well as an introduction to the edition for experienced players. Personally, I think it does a fine job of mixing the simple in with the opportunity for more. Take that first cave:

The PCs sneak up on some inattentive goblins and dispatch them before they can raise the alert. Then they have to figure out how to get past some guard beasts and have a chance to sneak up on the leader ... or they'll have to deal with a sentry that can send waves flooding them out of the cave. A wrong step results in a nastily large group of goblins attacking them all at once - or a good strategy can give them a series of easily overcome enemies.

Simple enough for newbies. Enough twists to create some fun for experienced players.

You can complain about anything, but this is fine work.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
I'm currently playing the adventure and loving it. We have spent about 6 hours of real time and have cleared Cragmaw Goblin cave. We are now in Phandalin interacting with npcs in town.

We had 1 death vs the bugbear but it was heroic and dramatic.

I tried not to read about parts of the adventure we haven't played yet but I did notice the scope of the mini-campaign. I'm impressed that the beginner set has included such a meaty adventure. With our group, focusing on story and roleplaying, it may take us over 40 hours to play through. That's great value.
 

Ceylin

First Post
I also don't understand this green dragon. I really can't see how the players survive it in any non-fudged fashion. They *may* be level 3 at that point, but the dragon can do some serious AE damage (42 / half on a save). Even its normal (3-attacks) are 15+7,11,11 damage on average with a +7 to hit. That will murder any PC.

I'm not sure how they can possibly complete this fight without a bunch of deaths.
 

Nemio

First Post
The dragon does retreat after taking half damage but I'm also wondering about this.
I think Mike Mearls himself said it's best not to take on the dragon but then why did they put it in there and even put the defeat of the Dragon as a personal goal for one of the PC's?

Too bad that it seems you can't deal with it in a diplomatic way.

And on a sidenote, why would a dragon even land to fight?
It can just fly around and do AoE damage.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
The dragon does retreat after taking half damage but I'm also wondering about this.
I think Mike Mearls himself said it's best not to take on the dragon but then why did they put it in there and even put the defeat of the Dragon as a personal goal for one of the PC's?

Too bad that it seems you can't deal with it in a diplomatic way.

And on a sidenote, why would a dragon even land to fight?
It can just fly around and do AoE damage.
I'm pretty sure they put it into the adventure to show how it isn't necessary to always have balanced encounters in D&D (harkening back to old school). They are combating criticism about CR bubbles wherein PCs would seem to always go to areas in the world where all the monsters were precisely calibrated to offer them a balanced challenge (mmo type instances set for character level).

For 5e, I think they want people to see how story will dictate what the PCs encounter rather than CR. Players should get better at evaluating encounters through PC knowledge and trial/error, and they should learn how to avoid some combats or how to extract themselves from situations when those situations turn sour.

Personally, I love that philosophy. To me, it makes the game world seem more organic and less contrived.
 

The dragon does retreat after taking half damage but I'm also wondering about this.
I think Mike Mearls himself said it's best not to take on the dragon but then why did they put it in there and even put the defeat of the Dragon as a personal goal for one of the PC's?
To teach players that this isn't a video game, and you're not supposed to be able to kill everything you encounter. Also to highlight how powerful dragons are and to introduce players to the iconic monsters that are the game's namesake.

Too bad that it seems you can't deal with it in a diplomatic way.
Why not? It just says the dragon is there and wants to make a lair, and if the players make a lot of noise it prepares for a fight. You can play it however you want.

And on a sidenote, why would a dragon even land to fight?
It can just fly around and do AoE damage.
It's a young dragon. It's entirely possible that it's never been challenged by adventurers before. Assuming the age categories from 3.x are reasonably close to 5e ages, this dragon is 16-25 years old, potentially younger than even the Humans. A dragon, known for it's arrogance, might well believe it's more than a match for a few curious fools.
 


stevelabny

First Post
I'm pretty sure they put it into the adventure to show how it isn't necessary to always have balanced encounters in D&D (harkening back to old school). They are combating criticism about CR bubbles wherein PCs would seem to always go to areas in the world where all the monsters were precisely calibrated to offer them a balanced challenge (mmo type instances set for character level).

For 5e, I think they want people to see how story will dictate what the PCs encounter rather than CR. Players should get better at evaluating encounters through PC knowledge and trial/error, and they should learn how to avoid some combats or how to extract themselves from situations when those situations turn sour.

Personally, I love that philosophy. To me, it makes the game world seem more organic and less contrived.
I like that philosophy in general. My problem here is specifically - the folk hero has "get rid of the dragon" as his personal goal. If we're giving inspiration as a game mechanic for players role-playing, the folk hero isn't going to want to NOT go after the dragon. The druid first tries to chase the party off before they get killed, then asks them to fight the dragon. So there's a wise, old NPC familiar with the situation that is thinking they have a chance to defeat it. I think these are meta-game pointers telling the PCs to try it. I think if the Starter Set DM is also a 1st timer, he won't realize what the PCs are getting into.

And if they walk into that room looking for a fight, the dragon will hover and breathe and have a decent chance of getting a TPK in round 1. No chance for the party to realize their error and run.

The encounter either needs more tactics to explain why the dragon doesn't breathe instantly and gives PCs time to re-assess and escape or information about what happens if you try diplomacy like some of the other boss fights or to have the nudges like the personal goal removed.

Without those changes, I think this encounter becomes a trap, and the exact type of thing that players who complained about older edition DMs would use as an example.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
I like that philosophy in general. My problem here is specifically - the folk hero has "get rid of the dragon" as his personal goal. If we're giving inspiration as a game mechanic for players role-playing, the folk hero isn't going to want to NOT go after the dragon. The druid first tries to chase the party off before they get killed, then asks them to fight the dragon. So there's a wise, old NPC familiar with the situation that is thinking they have a chance to defeat it. I think these are meta-game pointers telling the PCs to try it. I think if the Starter Set DM is also a 1st timer, he won't realize what the PCs are getting into.

And if they walk into that room looking for a fight, the dragon will hover and breathe and have a decent chance of getting a TPK in round 1. No chance for the party to realize their error and run.

The encounter either needs more tactics to explain why the dragon doesn't breathe instantly and gives PCs time to re-assess and escape or information about what happens if you try diplomacy like some of the other boss fights or to have the nudges like the personal goal removed.

Without those changes, I think this encounter becomes a trap, and the exact type of thing that players who complained about older edition DMs would use as an example.
I see your point. I guess the Fighter personal goal should have a caveat. His goal is to slay the dragon when he has become powerful enough.

Now that you mention it, when the player at our table introduced that Fighter as his PC and said that he was after a dragon, my character (the wizard) warned him that dragons were not to be trifled with.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Great analysis of the adventure!

Personally, I disagree on many things. For example, I love how the material is presented; what may seem bland and bare-bones to some seems clear and direct to me. The corny "caravan guard" opening hook is a classic homage, not a cop-ot. And I love all the encounter advice around negotiation and the monster morale system. The adventure structure is very good too.

I do agree about how grindy some of the dungeons are, notably Thundertree and portions of Cragmaw Castle. And yeah, Venomfan should be named Tipikay. More puzzles would have been nice.

Some things, like Nezzenar's behavior in Wave Echo Cave, seemed weird at first but maybe in play it wouldn't seem weird at all because of the player's limited perspective.

Overall I thought this was a pretty good adventure and a great starting point for new groups (aside from the green dragon).
 

Nemio

First Post
I see your point. I guess the Fighter personal goal should have a caveat. His goal is to slay the dragon when he has become powerful enough.

Now that you mention it, when the player at our table introduced that Fighter as his PC and said that he was after a dragon, my character (the wizard) warned him that dragons were not to be trifled with.
The remarks from stevelabny are my thoughts exactly.
What makes it worse are the flaws of the folkhero PC, so if they RP him correctly he will be too arrogant to believe failure is an option.

Not only that, the players themselves might think it is possible.
They will probably have the videogame reaction of "Well, if it's there then it means that we can beat it."
I know that they should change this feeling but waiting for a TPK and then saying "Well, now you've learned." isn't going to make for happy players I think.

The dragon will probably kill them in round one so they won't have an oppurtunity to flee.
And even if they could then I think it would be a big letdown for the player of the Folkhero PC to be the only one with a goal that he/she can't really accomplish.

Ugh, this one is going to give me a lot of headache I'm afraid.

Any tips for a new DM?
How do you let your players know in general that they shouldn't really fight a powerful monster (yet) ?
 

nerfherder

Explorer
Any tips for a new DM?
How do you let your players know in general that they shouldn't really fight a powerful monster (yet) ?
Ask them "Are you really sure your character wants to do that?" .

"Really?"

"OK - do your characters have wills?"
 

pukunui

Hero
The devs don't seem to think it's a problem. Didn't Greg Bilsland joke about how they were calling the noble fighter "the PC with a deathwish" during the Starter Set unboxing video?
 

KarinsDad

First Post
Any tips for a new DM?
How do you let your players know in general that they shouldn't really fight a powerful monster (yet) ?
I'm planning on halving its hit dice and halving its breath weapon damage (and making the save easier) and lowering it's claw/claw/bite attacks.

Then it's going to be a normal battle. A 6th level Dragon in 4E was large, so an 8 HD Dragon in 5E can also be large. Very little changes except the XP handed out.

Course, it's a Dragon. I rarely have my Dragons do melee. They do hit and run tactics, strafing the PCs with breath weapon, grabbing one and flying it 40 feet up in the air and dropping him, winging around the entire village so the the PC archers and spell casters lose track of it, etc. They always fight dirty.


It's also a Dragon. If PCs flatter it, give it some treasure, etc., they might be able to not fight it. Big if, but it's happened before in my games.
 
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The remarks from stevelabny are my thoughts exactly.
What makes it worse are the flaws of the folkhero PC, so if they RP him correctly he will be too arrogant to believe failure is an option.

Not only that, the players themselves might think it is possible.
They will probably have the videogame reaction of "Well, if it's there then it means that we can beat it."
I know that they should change this feeling but waiting for a TPK and then saying "Well, now you've learned." isn't going to make for happy players I think.

The dragon will probably kill them in round one so they won't have an oppurtunity to flee.
And even if they could then I think it would be a big letdown for the player of the Folkhero PC to be the only one with a goal that he/she can't really accomplish.

Ugh, this one is going to give me a lot of headache I'm afraid.

Any tips for a new DM?
How do you let your players know in general that they shouldn't really fight a powerful monster (yet) ?
It's a tricky one. Normally you don't funnel the PCs towards a fight with a powerful monster, particularly one that good RP dictates that they should fight! That's generally considered pretty bad DM'ing. Specifically it's "Gotcha!"-style DMing, which tends to make newer players think that:

A) The DM is a divot of the worst kind.

and/or

B) The game sucks.*

You'd drop hints about how powerful it was, show what it had done, make it clear that more powerful people had tried and failed to take it on, and make it very hard to get to it - perhaps putting "barely survivable"-type encounters in the way, to indicate that they should think twice.

Finally, if you aren't looking for a "Gotcha!"-style TPK ("Teach you to roleplay your characters correctly and not metagame, SUCKERS!" ;) - Great lesson there, WotC! :p ), you'd probably want to open with a very clear description of it's size/power, AND have it start talking before the PCs do.

I mean, Green Dragons love lying, love cross-questioning people, love deceit in general, and manipulating people, and don't really get off on direct fighting. It doesn't even have to make complete sense for them to do it - they enjoy the process of lying and manipulating, even if it doesn't get them anywhere. Hopefully they can lead the PCs down the garden path, then fly off, rather than getting into a fight. If the Fighter who is keen to kill them starts with them, you might have them laugh it off initially (it's not like he's going to seriously injure said dragon), and give his friends a chance to restrain him.

If you have done all that, and make it clear that the Dragon WILL eat them for breakfast, and they still want to fight, well, thems the breaks! If only certain PCs do, though, I'd kill them off and not the rest, and have the dragon be all "Let this be lesson to you and now, for saving you, you must do me this favour...".



* = Yeah, really, not a good lesson for the first adventure - but a fairly common one with WotC-produced first adventures - certainly KotS was enough to make me question whether 4E was any good! I eventually worked out that it was the adventure that blew goats, and that I was going to have to write my own if I wanted this to work, so I did!
 

The Hitcher

First Post
The remarks from stevelabny are my thoughts exactly.
What makes it worse are the flaws of the folkhero PC, so if they RP him correctly he will be too arrogant to believe failure is an option.

Not only that, the players themselves might think it is possible.
They will probably have the videogame reaction of "Well, if it's there then it means that we can beat it."
I know that they should change this feeling but waiting for a TPK and then saying "Well, now you've learned." isn't going to make for happy players I think.

The dragon will probably kill them in round one so they won't have an oppurtunity to flee.
And even if they could then I think it would be a big letdown for the player of the Folkhero PC to be the only one with a goal that he/she can't really accomplish.

Ugh, this one is going to give me a lot of headache I'm afraid.

Any tips for a new DM?
How do you let your players know in general that they shouldn't really fight a powerful monster (yet) ?
Seems like the most fun character to play, from my perspective. Nothing like a good doomed hero.

Here's how I'd handle it: when you're handing out the characters, say this:

"This guy really wants to take out a dragon, and is pretty deluded about the reality of that situation. Be warned: if you do meet a dragon, it will probably kill you. Anyone think this guy sounds fun to play?". Probably one of them will say they do. If not, don't use that character.

Or, as a total alternative: don't do any of the above. Keep the dragon on the hush hush, and let them walk into the trap. Assuming they get wiped (which they might not - stranger things have happened), then say:

"And now you know not to meddle with dragons. Anyone keen to reload your saved game?". Let them rewind the encounter and make a different choice. The Starter Set is supposed to be a learning experience. They've now learned their lesson, so where's the harm in undoing it?
 

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