A few weeks ago, we went to Kim’s oldest brother’s house for vacation and a bit of a family reunion. A few of the grown-ups in the family enjoy Dungeons and Dragons as a common interest to various extents: I play every other weekend with some friends; Kim and I both watch Critical Role together; her youngest brother, JJ, plays a few types of tabletop games, including formerly being Dungeon Master for a D&D group. A few of the kids that were at the house were interested in playing for the first time as well. JJ had recently bought the D&D Fifth Edition Starter Set which comes with an adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, which I had just finished playing through with my group, so we figured it would be fun to give some interested family members their first D&D adventure. I volunteered to be the DM for these sessions since I was already somewhat familiar with the content (from a player’s point of view), and because Kim’s brother hadn’t played 5th edition before and was interested in being a player, anyway. We knew we wouldn’t have the chance to run the entire campaign on vacation, so we went into it as a one-off adventure that ended up having a second session as well.
We divvied out the pre-made characters, gave the adults and kids a moment to read over the characters’ abilities and backstories and pick one to play, then we got started. Our first session consisted of:
Ghoti (6 years old)Flash-o, a lightfoot halfling rogue JJ (I dunno, 20-something)George, a human fighter and folk hero Kim (A lady never tells)Raelshel, a high elf wizard P (Like 12 or so)Fred, a human fighter of noble background
Insert Plot Hook Here
The adventure began in a somewhat run-down area of the city of Neverwinter. The four adventurers found themselves coincidentally at a common tavern, just sitting near each other while a dwarf approached them all asking for help. He introduced himself as Gundren Rockseeker and said he was in need of some help getting supplies down to the town of Phandalin, just a few days’ journey to the south. He mentioned that his brothers had made a discovery outside of town and were in need of more supplies than Phandalin was able to provide. He thought these folks looked trustworthy and offered to pay them 8 gold pieces each upon arrival. Gundren had heard rumors of bandits along the road south, so he just wanted to bring some extra muscle along for his trip. He mentioned his associate Sildar Hallwinter would be going on ahead of them shortly, scouting out the area, as he also had business in Phandalin. [ed: I completely expected the party to negotiate the fee; the campaign materials say Gundren offers 10 gold, so I thought I’d start at 8 and settle at 10. They didn’t.]
After short deliberation, most of the party said they would help out this stranger. Flash-o told him that he wasn’t interested in joining them and went elsewhere. The remaining party asked when he needed to leave and requested some time to gather their own supplies for the trip. Gundren agreed to wait while they went to purchase whatever they thought they’d need. He promised to feed them from the provisions he had in the wagon, and said he’d wait near the gates.
Shopping Ain’t Easy
The party members split up and a few of them picked up assorted supplies they thought they’d need, a secondary weapon or trinket for the most part. But, things got interesting when Raelshel decided she wanted to pick up a sling as an additional ranged weapon. She was able to find a shop that had a few slings in stock, but not at a great price. After other purchases, she didn’t have a whole lot of money left, and this shop was (seriously) coincidentally selling slings at a price that she could just barely afford. She didn’t want to spend the last of her money on it, but she really wanted one. Unfortunately, her attempts to haggle with the shopkeeper weren’t very good. She started making a scene, which attracted the attention of a passing city guard, who walked into the shop to observe. In a final attempt to avoid spending full price, she used her prestidigitation to create smoke and sparks as she tried one last attempt to intimidate the shopkeeper, and stormed out of the shop. The guard followed her out. She tried to get back in the shop to just go pay full price, but the guard wouldn’t let her back in, suggesting instead she go on her way. At this, Fred came up to try to help solve the problem. They both talked to the guard, and Fred asked him, “Do you really want to keep dealing with her? Just let her buy what she wants and she’ll leave.” He acquiesced, and she got her sling. On her way out, Raelshel used one final bit of magic to blast mud upward all over the shopkeeper’s behind.
As this was going on, Flash-o was observing the goings on in this shop and climbed up on the roof. He had a moment where he considered dropping down and trying to knock out the guard, but changed his mind on the second time I asked, “are you sure?” Instead, he snuck to the back of the shop, unlocked the door, crept into the storage room, and stole an additional sling to give to Raelshel. [ed: Yes, now the shopkeeper thinks that crazy elf lady somehow stole one of his slings.]
The Road to Phandalin
After this scene, and other far less notable shopping trips, the party was ready to meet Gundren by the city gates. Due to the hoopla (and, due to a need to account for the fact that P had to go home at this point in the game), Fred got to the gate early and met up with Sildar Hallwinter, starting on the way to Phandalin ahead of the others. George, Raelshel, and Gundren eventually met up and started south on the path toward Phandalin. Flash-o stuck to the forests and side paths, stealthily following them on their way.
Raelshel took a moment to get to know their oxen. She felt it important to know the animals that were helping her. After a moment, she declared one of them Buttercup. The other was Bob, “and we don’t talk to Bob” she told the others. George and Gundren drove the cart while Raelshel walked along beside them.
A little over half a day’s journey, Gundren and the party came upon two deceased horses in the middle of a forest road, clearly shot by multiple arrows. As they slowly approached, they were ambushed by a small party of goblins. In the trees along side them were four goblins who immediately rushed in to attack. One of them ran to Raelshel and got a critical hit, immediately knocking her unconscious. Gundren panicked and jumped into the back of the cart and attempted to hide among the provisions while the other goblins attacked the oxen to prevent the cart’s escape (and to ensure a few free attacks for the party since their wizard was unfortunately knocked out immediately). George was able to kill one of the goblins that was charging from the front. Flash-o stealthily killed one that ran to the back of the cart to steal some of the goods, hiding again in the trees. At this, one of the goblins in the distance just turned back and ran into the forest to get away. The last remaining goblin killed the second ox, Buttercup, and tried to get away as well. George and Flash-o both fired arrows at it; George’s arrow went wide, but he saw the goblin die anyway. He looked to the side and saw Flash-o had caught it with his arrow and disappeared back into the woods.
Oh Deer, What Ever Will They Do Now
The team took a moment to recover and search the goblins that attacked them. Flash-o remained in hiding for the time being, but noticed goblin tracks that went into the hills beyond the forest. George also noticed tracks heading in a similar direction. Raelshel was healed and upset that she was incapacitated while the oxen were killed. Yes, even Bob. Gundren was very worried about Sildar and whether he made it past this ambush. They tried to calm Gundren and decided that instead of following the goblins to stop the roadside banditry, they would do what they were being paid to do and get the supplies to Phandalin. Without any beasts of burden.
The team tried a few different things to get the heavy cart to move, but they were lacking the strength that was previously being supplied by the oxen. They tried freezing the ground beneath the wheels to get it started, but quickly realized they weren’t going to get anywhere. They considered a makeshift sail and wind spells, but decided against trying to work out how to pull that off. So, they figured they needed more animals. They set traps in hopes of catching something big enough to help pull their cart. They put out some traps, and camped for the night. During the evening, Flash-o approached the group and told them he’d like to join them.
In the morning, the party found they had caught a deer. After some surprisingly successful animal handling, they were able to convince the deer to be yoked to the cart and help pull. The following day, they caught another, and made the rest of the trek to Phandalin. On their way, they could tell they were being watched, but nothing else attacked them on their way.
Upon their arrival on Phandalin, Gundren paid them 10 gold pieces each for their trouble, and we stopped our first session.
Stay tuned for Part Two which promises to be even stranger, I assure you, largely because we added two more kids and removed one grown-up.