Sunday, September 07, 2014

Jeff goes Phandelving

So on Friday night David, Thaddeus, Kara, Katy, Ben, Mark and I gathered around David’s newly purchased plastic folding table.  I first meet Thaddeus, Kara and Katy at the orientation for new graduate assistants a year ago and they’ve been friends ever since.  David and Mark are new to my department this year, and as such they may labor under the impression that I know what I’m doing, as I was one of the leaders for their orientation.  But they’ll wise up soon enough.  Ben is Katy’s boyfriend and is the only person in the group who isn’t in grad school for English studies.  He has a real job, working for the local megacorporation that secretly controls all our lives.  As a group, they have a wide variety of role-playing experience, much of it in the 3e/4e/Pathfinder range of D&D variants.

For this get together I had purchased, opened and even slightly read the 5e Starter Set.  I hadn’t followed the development of this set very closely, so a lot of it was new to me.  Since the box comes with 5 PCs and I wasn’t sure how many people would show up, I also printed the pregens from this post at Beyond the Black Gate.  Thanks to Chris Sheppard for pointing that out to me.  Three of the Starter pregens were selected: the dwarf cleric, elf wizard and halfling rogue.  The rest of the party were Malakus the Wizard, Gorum the Butcher and Frodoric the Halfling (renamed Frankoric for reasons unknown) from Beyond the Black Gate.

Selecting the characters took longer than I thought it would, so we didn’t get too far into the adventure.  As per the book the party started out in Neverwinter.  I told the players that they were all drinking individually in this seedy bar when one by one they all figure out that everyone in the room knows Gundren Rockseeker.  I decided that dude is the Bill Brasky of dwarfs: twice as big as any normal dwarf, with a beard of three different colors, and capable of legendary exploits.
To Gundren Rockseeker!
As they are enjoying another round of toasts to the health of their infamous friend, who should walk in but the dwarf himself, who immediately begins buying rounds like Ragnarok is scheduled for tomorrow.

The next thing the party knows, they regain consciousness hung over as hell and walking alongside a donkey cart.  Gundren in finishing his speech thanking them for agreeing to escort these supplies to Phandalin and rides off on his horse.  (Gundren Rockseeker is the only dwarf big enough to ride a fullsized horse.  Everyone knows that.)  So of course the players needed to futz around with the cart for a while and inspect its contents and try to secret the beer barrels away in their backpacks (not happening).  And then there was the debate as to whether or not to just got back to Neverwinter and sell the stuff.  Standard player behaviour.

Later, the party stumbles across two dead horses, one of them obviously Gundren’s.  They search for clues but soon come under attack by goblin archers.  The combat went fairly smooth except for a couple of minor problems:
  • I spent an extra moment or two hemming and hawing over whether there was such a thing as a Ranged Touch Attack in this edition or if hitting with a firebolt, etc. was the same as shooitng someone with an arrow.  I still don’t know the right answer.
  • I forgot about the stupid fire-and-pop-back-down ability of the goblins.  This is partly my fault, as my prior rules knowledge kept telling me that of course goblins don’t have special abilities.  But the decision to put all the monster stats in an appendix in the back of the adventure also kept me disoriented.

But this was a test run anyway.  Goblins were slaughtered and looted (at least the ones that weren’t burnt to crisps) and the party eventually tracked the little blighters back to their lair.  That’s all we got to before we were all pooped out, especially me.  I was double booked that night and had come from a grad school thing where I had made tacos for a dozen people.  That’s how busy grad school is for me nowadays: I had scheduling problems on Friday night.

Overall, the new system seemed pretty decent.  I’m not sold on it as a replacement for my B/X rulebooks, but for my purposes it seems like a perfectly cromulent iteration of D&D thus far, much moreso than 4e.  And it seems to have a lighter touch to it than 3.x.  However, the adventure itself isn’t really lighting anyones jets.  Many people at the table, myself included, were annoyed by the plot rails we felt attached to.  I understand why many adventures are structured that way nowadays, but I just don’t want that sort of set-up.  My guess is that we’ll finish the goblin lair next session and move on to something else.  Whether we switch systems or not, we’ll see.  But we’ll probably go on some other type of adventure.  You know, like a bigass dungeon or a wide open sandbox.