D&D 5E Rhenny's New Mini-Playtest Campaign (August Package)

Rhenny

Adventurer
August 17, 2013 Session 1st level August Playtest of D&DNext

We played for about 2 ½ hours. This time I DMd for a 6 person group. I tried to run the game more like a real campaign instead of just a rush to have the PCs get in as many combats as possible so I set up the campaign and let the players explain a little about their own characters. Briefly, here’s what we started with:

Squeak, the Halfling rogue thief. She used to be a messenger for a small clan of Halflings near Travensburg, but now she is ready to explore and plunder.

Erkas, the Dwarven Druid, a guide, who lives in a small home just outside the village. His warlike Dwarven blood seems to be at odds with his affinity for nature.

Nalcon, the Human Lightbringer Cleric, a noble on horseback who came from Freehold, the big city 15 miles to the south of Travensburg. He is lawful and likes to keep clean literally. He is an effeminate highborn who has left Freehold to prove to his family that he is made from sterner stuff.

Fid, the Dwarven Fighter, a blacksmith for Travensburg who has decided to try his luck adventuring instead of shopkeeping.

Kleeeg, the Human Barbarian of the North, a mysterious guide who appeared from the frozen northlands. Wrapped in skins and studded leather armor, he wields a great axe with ease.

Fawnsworth, the Forest Gnome Mage, an ex-Jester who was run out of the Snow Lynx Clan – one too many offensive jokes about the Gnome king. He studies to become an illusionist and likes to perform street magic for anyone who will watch.

This adventure is a highly modified version Unearthing the Past by Jesse Decker

As the group assembled on the road that goes through Travensburg…the one and only road, they saw the Regent of the town himself posting a notice on a wall. A food wagon was supposed to arrive yesterday, but it didn’t. The winter has been horrible and the village is nearly out of food. As Alexi Traven, the Regent, finished posting the sign asking for help, he turned to speak to those gathered around him. Since the Halfling was just to his left, he spoke with her and asked for help from the group who looked to him like the adventuring type. After speaking for a short while, the group learned that Traven sent out the two Johnson boys to go check on the wagon’s arrival yesterday, but they never returned. The group decided to check it out.

The adventurers walked out of town and followed the wagon path to the east. As they traveled, the Fawnsworth the Gnome and Nalcon, the noble on horseback, took the rear and chatted gleefully. The two Dwarves kept to the front with the Barbarian and the rogue in between. They traveled for a few hours and then Erkas felt uneasy, as if they were being watched. Before the stragglers (mainly Fawnsworth the Gnome) were attacked by 4 emaciated wolves, Erkas and Keeeg shouted out. Fid, moving quickly positioned himself in front of Fawnsworth and readied his longsword and shield for the wolves attack. Erkas threw some fire seeds at one of the wolves, singeing one a bit, while Fawnsworth fired a frozen ray at the wounded wolf, grazing it slightly. Then, 3 of the wolves bounded towards Fid, attempting to gang attack the sturdy Dwarf. The wolves bit into him and did some damage (9 points out of 12), but Fid hacked at one cutting it down. As the other wolves pulled and ripped at Fid, Squeak fired an arrow and hit one solidly and Kleeeg brought his great axe down on the beast ending its life with a neat slice through its shoulder blade. The injured Dwarf called to the cleric asking for some healing. Nalcon, keeping his horse safe from harm, responded with a healing word, soothing some but not all of the horrible wounds. As the party fought with the wolves, Nalcon decided that they looked hungry, so he took some of his horse’s feed and threw it over their heads. The wolves looked at it with interest. Most of the group decided to watch the wolves and ready actions to defend themselves if the wolves attacked, but Squeak, fired another arrow at one of the wolves injuring it badly. Then, Fawnsworth stepped forth and took out a food ration and tried to communicate with the wolves. The wolves were so hungry, they were transfixed by the horse feed and the rations, so they withdrew so that they could eat and save themselves. Out of harms way, winded and still wounded from the attack, Fid ushered his strength and was able to move on.

A few hours later, the group crested a small hill and saw the wagon about 40’ ahead of them. 4 green cloaked humanoids were trying to pull the horse and wagon to the south. It was stuck, and blood soaked the ground all around the wagon. This was the food wagon that was supposed to arrive in Travensburg, and there were a number of dead bodies in the snow…undoubtedly the wagon drivers and the Johnson boys. One cloaked figure pointed at the adventurers and alerted the others. Kleeg’s keen eyes could tell that one of the cloaked figures on the other side of the horse carried a staff, while the 3 closest to them had shortswords and daggers. As the two groups fought, it was clear that these were Orcs, but the one in the back was a human mage who moved behind the wagon and wounded Erkas with a frosty bolt. The others moved around and tried to take down the orcs, but they withstood a few attacks. Erkas casted entangle and restrained 2 of the Orcs, and eventually the group took a few of the Orcs down. Realizing that he was in danger, the mage started to run to the south. Nalcon’s holy flame played around the remaining Orc, and it went down, unconscious, not dead. Nalcon wanted to take the vile creature alive. The others tried to pursue the mage, but the mage was escaping. Kleeg could see the mage through the trees and snow, but his bowshot did not hit the mark. The others lost sight of the mage, so Erkas ran after him and summoned forth another entangle spell in an area where he thought the mage would be. Luckily, they heard a yelp; the mage was restrained. Nalcon on horseback galloped closer and told the mage to place himself on the ground and surrender so that they could capture and bring him back for a trial. The mage acquiesced.

The group tried to find out more about the mage, but he just said he was a lone hungry mage with some Orcs, just bandits…thugs. The group didn’t buy it, but the mage would not say more. He insisted that they bring him and the living Orc to Travensburg for trial. The group was perplexed…why would he so willingly go back with them? They could not get the mage to speak more so they tied him and the Orc up and pulled the wagon out of the mucky snow. They also took the bodies of the dead humans and made it back to Travensburg before nightfall.

In Travensburg, they spoke with the Alexi Traven and Miles Wellhorn, the Captain of the Guards. All the while, the group suspected that someone in the town may be in cahoots with the mage they had captured. Traven was horrified at what had happened. He called for the Johnson family with heavy heart. Then he said that these vile criminals would pay. The captain of the guards was bold and said clearly that he did not recognize the mage. With that, the mage seemed to shudder, more frightened now. To get to the bottom of this whole affair, Fid examined some of the prisoner’s belongings. Then he went to the merchant in town and spoke with him. He found that one of the guards actually bought that very staff from the merchant a few weeks back. With this knowledge, Fid returned and told the others. They asked if they could speak with the guards and Fid took each one in private and questioned them. One guard, Johan, was sweating more than usual. Ultimately he broke down and said that he bought the staff for someone. He didn’t know who he was, but he got paid. Then when Fid brought Johan face to face with the mage, Johan verified that the mage was the guy. He had unknowingly aided the criminal, and he felt horrible shame. He told them he’d accept any punishment, but he never knew that this mage, Marsam Tembler it turned out to be, was a threat. With that, Marsam also spoke out, "My brother is out in the wilderness...he won't stand for this. He and his forces will rise against this village." Then Fid broke his kneecaps with a warhammer blow and Erkas used Shillelagh to smash Marsam's face, breaking teeth and crumpling him to the ground. Alexi Traven was shocked to hear of this threat, so he turned to the adventurers and asked them to find the brother and his forces before they endangered the village. The adventurers agreed to set out in the morning.

Treasure: 80 gp from The Regent as a reward and 47 gp in a pouch that Marsam carried, plus 22 sp from the other Orcs.

Comments

My summary does not do the justice to the roleplaying we did in this session. We had a ball playing characters this session to set up the campaign and to interact and figure out the mystery that Marsam presented. As such, we only had two small battles, but the session was rich.

Using pre-determined characteristics and ability checks helped me play Marsam, and the other NPCs in Travensburg (fearful and serious Traven; bold and charismatic Captain Wellhorn; Cranky, old merchant). The ability checks also gave the players chances to sense motive, intimidate, try to persuade and cajole. Based on their rolls, and what I felt was appropriate, it took them a while to break Marsam and figure out that the guard had contact with Marsam before. One player used cultural lore (human) and political lore to gain leverage, and that also helped me build the story.

Not having skills made it really easy to move the story along. I let the players say/do anything they thought using wisdom, charisma, intelligence checks as applicable. It was refreshingly easy. Sometimes I asked them to roll so that I could gauge general reactions that helped me steer the action/conversations, but at a crucial moment, I asked the group to pick one representative to do the speaking and make the roll (most notably right before Marsam cracked under the pressure). At this point, Nalcon made an opposed charisma check vs. Marsam, with advantage, and Nalcon won). This worked well. From listening to the latest WoTC livestream, this seems kind of like the direction WotC will be going as they develop their interaction rules.

On the other hand, Cultural Lore was strange. It felt awkward. First, as I was making some pre-gens for some of my players, I found it difficult to decide what types of cultural lore to give. Cultural lore based on race seems strange. How can you know about all humans in general? Would regional lore be easier to judge? Lore by region? Or is cultural lore just too difficult to include? Can someone know the culture of the Northern Realms? The underdark? The drow of the underdark? All orcs or only the Bloody Fang Clan? It is hard to judge and decide what to do with cultural lore.

Also, after the game, we thought about how Lore works with Expertise Dice. How does any lore work with the Assassin's keen intellect? Assassins add Expertise to Intelligence checks? If they have human lore and they use their keen intellect, they will be rolling d20+10+expertise dice. Chances are, they will know too much. Why should they know more than a mage when it comes to knowledge based checks? I'm not sure Assassins should get the expertise in intelligence. Maybe they should just get Poison Lore or Trap Making Lore. Maybe they should get extra lore like that instead of the Expertise...or maybe they should just get Dexterity Expertise like the thief rogue.

I'm interested to see what WotC does with skills in the next package. \

As far as the combats went, I wanted them to be easy to average encounters, and they played pretty much that way (about 3 rounds each). The Dwarven Fighter was hurt pretty badly by the wolves (gang attack helped them hit). The Dwarven Druid was hurt moderately by Marsam’s ray of frost, but the use of entangle twice really saved a lot of damage and ultimately prevented Marsam from escaping.

Oh…that dang Orc “relentless” abilty…I always forget to use it. I think it is too much of a pain in the butt to incorporate. It adds extra calculation and rolling to the game

Fun all around. After the session all PC went up to 2nd level. I’m accelerating increase in level so that we can playtest more levels each week as we continue the adventure.

As always, my summaries are only approximations of the game session.
 

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Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
In again for a great start it seems ! Always fun to read your campaign play and feedbacks Rhenny!

Interesting to read that not having skills made it really easy to move the story along for you. I also think Skills only bring more granilarity to the ability score based resolution system and works fine without it. I prefer to use it with Skills, but found it work fine without.

How worked the +10 Lore check with DCs you've set? Did you found the bonus a little too high?
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
I didn't mind lore at +10 (although it may be too high). I'd probably like a DC 15 to be pretty automatic for someone with the appropriate lore, while a DC 20 should require a little bit of luck.

Fid the Dwarf had Trade Lore (blacksmith), so I gave him the bonus when he spoke with the Cranky Old Merchant. It helped the story move along. I'm really just uncomfortable with Cultural Lore rulings.

Thanks, Plague.
 



variant

Adventurer
It was a good idea, so I ran with it. Hey...my dogs eat almost anything I drop on the floor. lol

When Fawnsworth took out the rations, the plan was solidified.

A note for later though. Wolves aren't dogs. Wolves can't digest starches like dogs and have an aversion to eating anything with starches in it.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
A note for later though. Wolves aren't dogs. Wolves can't digest starches like dogs and have an aversion to eating anything with starches in it.

I guess the wolves in the imaginary, fantasy world that we play in are different. Who would have thought?

When players come up with interesting idea, I try to reward them...call me crazy. lol
 



Rhenny

Adventurer
August 23, 2013 Session 2nd level August Playtest of D&DNext

We continued our mini-campaign in Travensburg and played for about 2 ½ hours.

Squeak, the Halfling rogue thief.

Erkas, the Dwarven Druid

Nalcon, the Human Lightbringer Cleric, a noble

Fid, the Dwarven Fighter, an ex blacksmith

Kleeeg, the Human Barbarian of the North

Fawnsworth, the Forest Gnome Mage, an ex-Jester

Previously, the group had captured an evil mage who turned out to be Marsam Trembler. He vowed that his brother and his gang of Orcs would rise up against the village. In order to give Marsam a fair trial, which Nalcon insisted upon, the Regent and the Captain of the guards agreed to hold Marsam (and his Orc companion) in the brig until dawn. Then they would assemble a tribunal. The adventurers were uneasy, especially Erkas, so he decided to climb a tree near the village road and spend the night on watch, sleeping when he could. Fid invited everyone back to his humble abode, all except for Nalcon, who seems too tidy and arrogant at this point for some of the others. Nalcon paid for one of the best rooms at the inn. The night passed uneventfully, it seemed as if Marsam’s words were just empty threats.

When the party gathered to set off to find Marsam’s brother and his band of Orcs, Nalcon never showed up so the party went hunting without him. (Nalcon’s player couldn’t make the session so Nalcon overslept, and when he woke up, he decided to help the Regent and the Captain of the guards run the tribunal).

The party found where they encountered Marsam and the Orcs, and they followed tracks in the snow to the south through a forest of pines. Coming to a clearing, they scanned the area and saw some rolling, snow covered hills to the south and west. Fid was lucky enough to spot a cave opening to the west, so the group decided to head for the cave, especially after seeing many humanoid footprints heading to and from that direction. To obscure their numbers and possibly distract any creature at the cave, Fawnsworth whipped up an illusion of a mound of snow that moved slowly in front of them. The group was able to get within 40’ of the cave when Fid saw some movement within. Erkas, decided he would turn into a hound and sneak up to the cave. He did so, and he was even able to nuzzle up closer to a pair of Orcs who seemed to be joking with each other. To distract, and lure the Orcs out, Erkas bit at one Orc’s belt pouch, and tried to snatch it. The Orcs were amused by the dog’s attempt, but instead of taking arms, the Orc just beat the dog on the head with its bare fist. The dog started to beg, so the Orc threw a piece of meat at it, but as Erkas (the dog) was nibbling at the meat, he saw 3 other Orcs behind the two, and two of them picked up bows. It looked like they wanted some target practice. Erkas bolted from the cave and turned south as 3 Orcs followed him; still the Orcs did not ready their axes, it seemed as if they wanted to have sport with the dog, perhaps just catch him or beat him with bear hands. This gave the others a great chance to ambush..and they did just that. Unfortunately, Erkas was the only one who knew there were two more Orcs in the cave, so as the others were fighting the 3 Orcs in the clearing, arrows began flying out, injuring Squeak. When the fight began, the dog danced around, dodging around and through the legs of the Orcs, and when he was clear, because Fid and Kleeeg engaged with the Orcs, he turned on one and ripped at its achilles tendon, and in the succeeding round, the dog ripped out the Orc’s throat. Eventually all but one of the Orcs outside went down, and the remaining Orc yelled to his buddies in the cave in Orcish, “Go get help. We are under attack.” Fawnsworth could speak Orcish, so he alerted the others. The battle moved closer to the cave and Fid could see that one of the Orc bowmen was running deeper into the cave. He would have gotten away too, except for that pesky dog. The dog bounded towards the Orc and took him down with a vicious bite. It was dark inside the cave, but now it was quiet. At the back of the cave, Fid saw a crude wooden wall with a swinging 5’ door in it. It seemed as if this was a passage into a more finished ruin.

Although the party wanted to rest and bandage its wounds, they feared they would not have time so Erkas (still in dog form) crept through the door and down a more finished corridor. He could see some light flickering in the distance in a larger room adjacent to the hall, so he went back to the group to report. After a brief discussion, Erkas crept forth again. It seemed as if the other room was a storehouse and Orcs were lifting and stacking boxes and barrels so they did not notice the dog. Luckily for him, as he got closer to the storehouse, he was able to spot a trip wire as he neared the other room so he stepped gingerly over it. Then, he hid behind a bunch of boxes and waited for the others to call the Orcs forth. Fawnsworth and the others discussed a plan to use an illusion of an Orc to draw the Orcs to the door where the party could attack from surprise, but as they were discussing, one of the Orcs from the other room started to walk towards the door they were behind. There were a number of openings in the crude wall and door, so Fid and the others could see through it. They realized they had no time, so when the Orc got to the door, Fid swung the door open violently smashing the Orc in the face. The Orc was strong enough to push the door back though and then the commotion drew a few more of the Orcs. Seeing how Fid did this, little Squeak tried to do the same, but alas, her strength was not enough to cause the Orc harm. To clear the door area, Fawnsworth used his fear spell, and the others breached the doorway. Inside the room, Erkas kept hidden and watched. He saw one of the other Orcs hide behind some boxes, and the final Orc went to another door to the east and started to open it. Meanwhile, as each of the heroes tried to move into the storehouse, Fid first, Squeak next, and then Kleeeg, none of them spotted the trip wire, and each of them stumbled and fell into the storehouse. Erkas jumped at the hidden Orc, but missed so the Orc turned to slash the dog badly. Attempting to change the dynamics of the situation, Fawnsworth issued forth a brilliant spray of colors; unfortunately, none of the Orcs were affected, yet one of the others was still under the influence of the fear spell so it ran and joined the other escaping Orc.

In a dramatic moment, Erkas, turned himself back into Dwarf form and cured himself. The fight continued, as the others got to their feet and tried to dispatch remaining Orcs. After taking another wound, Erkas blasted the Orc that injured him with a Thunderwave. The Orc resisted the major effects of the blast, but took some damage. Then, it raised its wicked great axe (a hit would surely have knocked Erkas out of the battle), but the blade swung harmlessly over Erkas’ head. Squeak, took down an Orc with an accurate bow shot, and then the others faced down two remaining Orcs in the east doorway, while two others kept running deeper down a corridor in the ruined stronghold. At this point, Erkas and Fid were pretty badly wounded, but Fid’s adrenaline pumped and he continued to attack the 2 Orcs…he also took a few more wounds, so it looked pretty grim. Kleeeg had seen enough, he began to rage, and he cut down an Orc, and continued to run after one of the fleeing Orcs. Although Kleeg could not catch up to the fleeing Orc, he nocked an arrow in his longbow and let fly before the Orc could round the corner. The arrow stuck squarely into the Orcs back as it toppled to the ground. Unfortunately, one other Orc had escaped to the north around a corner.

When the battle ended, the group realized they were hurting, so they tried to fortify their position inside the storeroom and take a short rest. Squeak was able to remove the trip wire and set it up to the east so if Orcs came at them, it might trip them up. In 10 minutes (before the group could gain any benefits from resting), more Orcs attacked, but all 4 of them hit the trip wire and fell….that gave the party a surprise round to fire arrows or move into position. To hamper the Orcs more, Erkas used his final spell, Entangle, which grasped 2 of the 4 tightly (at least for the first round). The battle played out, and the heroes defeated the Orcs before any of them could run. Bloody and exhausted, the group finished resting in the storehouse, and luckily no other Orcs arrived.

As they rested, they saw a corridor turning to the north (where the other Orcs ran) and directly to the east, another small corridor that ended at a door, blockaded from their side with some wood tables and other scraps. It looked as if the Orcs wanted to keep this door barred. In the storehouse, the boxes contained an assortment of crude weapons, some old armor, picks, shovels, 4 bottles of lamp oil, 4 lamps, boxes of rations, 10 barrels of wheat, 3 barrels of fresh water and 3 barrels of ale. It looked as if this was where the bandits stored the spoils of their plunder. Fid, using his merchant experience, estimated that all of the stuff could be worth about 400 gp if they could get it back to town, but more importantly, the rations and the wheat could help feed the villagers who were getting hungrier and hungrier as winter continued. Each PC used a HD of healing to bind some wounds, and Fawnsworth studied his spellbook to recall 1 more spell.

Comments

Smooth game play. Lots of room for improvising and making decisions that are not listed on PC character sheets.

Although I used only Orcs as foes, the Orcs were varied. Some of them wielded shortsword and dagger, some were the greataxe wielders, and a few others were longsword and shield. Changing weapons made each feel different in combat.

Without the cleric (and because the Druid did not play his PC like a healer), the group did not have as much healing, so this session felt a little more gritty. The players snuck around more and tried to set up defensible positions or ambushes. I like that style of gameplay a lot.

As DM, I originally didn’t like that short rests were 1 hour, but I’m not so against it now. My players don’t like it that much though. Knowing that the rest was 1 hour did add a little more decision making into the adventure, and it gave me a chance to attack the party as it tried to rest (to be fair though, even if it was a 10 minute rest, I could have had the reinforcements interrupt…but whatever).

The illusionist did not like Color Spray. It seems to be a much inferior spell to what an evoker (burning hands) would use. Only affecting the creatures for 1 round and having random results makes it a poor choice unless the party is in a horrible position where they are severely outnumbered (any foe who sees the spray has a chance to save…so that could cause a room full of baddies to make saves). If it allowed the caster to choose the effect and the effect lasted until the foes made a save, it would be a better, more versatile spell.

Fire seeds spell also seems a little wimpy as a cantrip. Since the Druid makes 2 attack rolls with the seeds, maybe each should do 3 points or 1d4.

As always, my summaries are only approximations of the game session.
 
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