Five gamers joined DM Dallas at the Reaper Game Store on 4/30 to begin a new campaign using D&D 5th Edition; for most of us it was our first experience with this version, although several have played and/or GM’ed various other versions of D&D, Pathfinder, and Savage Worlds. Once all the character generation and preliminaries had been completed we had the following group:
Andy: Playing Thandiina, a human female fighter with an emphasis on sword-and-shield. (In fact, she’s essentially a trained professional meat shield.)
Matt: Playing Deegan, a human male monk, armed with a short sword because the martial arts aren’t so powerful when just starting out.
James: Playing Aevay, a dragonborn female rogue. This character began the quest at 4th level as she was imported from an earlier aborted campaign.
Sean: Playing Errs, a male of a race with no name but fey origins of some sort, a bard.
Robert: Playing Anima, a dragonborn female fighter.
Apart from Thandiina and Deegan, all the characters were of some chaotic alignment, and it showed during this adventure. In addition, although all the players were male, three of the five characters were female, and by coincidence were sitting on the same side of the table, so we had the “girls’ side” and the “boys’ side.”
Each of the characters had received a separate invitation to the palace of a nobleman in Neverwinter, and answered. This nobleman was a powerful wizard of some sort, it would appear. While being escorted to his audience chamber Errs was having difficulty keeping his hands off some of the lovely artwork in the hallways; he received a telepathic order not to touch anything. Being somewhat contrarian (not to mention chaotic) he proceeded to palm a valuable-looking ring, which he slipped into Deegan’s backpack. No one else (including the nobleman) appeared to notice.
Upon arriving in the audience chamber the mismatched band was presented with a proposition. It seems that a number of outlying villages in the nobleman’s domain had been suffering from depredations from orcs. Thandiina (who bears an unreasoning hatred of them) was on board from the moment he said “orcs.” The rest of the group was a bit more hesitant, the more so when informed that they would need to sign a contract in blood in order to receive the payment once the mission was complete. Eventually, after a good deal of wrangling, the group all signed the contract, received a healing kit and two healing potions in case they needed them, and were told where to go to acquire horses to make their way to the region where the villages were.
Upon acquiring the horses the group discovered that riding was more difficult than they believed; Deegan actually fell from his horse taking some damage. Errs found that so amusing that shortly thereafter he slapped Deegan’s horse to see what would happen. Aevay became annoyed with Errs by this point and punched him — almost knocking him out in one punch. (Aevay is very strong for a rogue). The chaos did not seem to be diminishing.
Eventually the band set up camp in an open plain and planned on watches, when they were approached by a group of riders. The riders seemed peaceable enough, and reported they had been on the track of a group of goblins. As it turned out, the goblins were on their track instead, and soon overtook the newly combined group. A quick, sharp battle broke out, but the goblins were quickly annihilated. Thandiina was forced to fight next to a half-orc from the other group. (But is wasn’t a problem, because “the poor half-orcs are greater victims of the orcs than most others.”)
Although the combined group had managed to defeat the goblins easily enough the goblins did manage to scatter the team’s horses, and as night had already fallen the group was in no position to track them down immediately. Instead, they determined on a watch schedule. The following morning, Errs and Anima set out to find the horses, while the rest of the group waited at the campsite, the allies of the previous day having departed as peaceably as they had come. The pair of trackers managed to track the horses successfully until they came to a small entrance to a cave, where they found one horse and the tracks of the rest. Continuing the trend of being disorganized, while Anima busied herself signaling the rest of the group, Errs followed into the cave. A short time later Errs found himself hit by a number of spears and losing consciousness.
By the time the rest of the adventurers reached Amina and the cave Errs had been missing for several hours. With two human and two dragonborn characters the question of light became pressing immediately. Ultimately the two human characters followed the others ready to light torches but leaving them unlit at first. Spears came out of the darkness but missed, at which point Thandiina lit a torch and held it up, seeing a number of small, scaly humanoid forms in front of her, which she identified as kobolds. The kobolds cowered before the light, whereupon the heroes promised to extinguish it if their friend was returned to them.
In the meantime, Errs awakened, severely wounded, in a wooden cage deeper in the cavern. Because he has dark vision he was able to see that there were a number of other cages in the chamber, along with some kobold guards. Not knowing what else was going on, he laid his plans to escape, although still severely wounded.
Back at the entrance to the cave, the kobolds were sufficiently intimidated by the remainder of the party to agree to release Errs to them. They agreed to take one member to Errs and lead the two back. Thandiina agreed to follow the kobold leader. However, since Errs didn’t know this was happening, he implemented his escape plan, which was to cast the thunder strike spell at the door of his cage. The spell blew the cage apart, impaling two kobolds into a wall. Errs, who also possesses darkvision as a racial trait, looked around to try to find the way out.
The thunder strike was loud enough for everyone in the cave complex to hear. Thandiina and her guide began to run toward the sound, with the remainder of the party and the bulk of the kobolds close behind them. When they arrived and saw the tableau — particularly the two kobolds impaled on the wall — everyone halted. The kobolds actually bowed down before Errs, impressed with his prowess. Aevay was disgusted and attempted to punch Errs again (triggering multiple facepalms) but immediately backed down from the large group of threatening kobolds. (The entire sequence was reminiscent of the scene from Return of the Jedi — “It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity!” Errs had no such compunctions.)
Having backed away from the precipice of a large battle with a horde of kobolds, the intrepid explorers began asking the kobold leadership if they knew where any orcs were. (Thandiina had a special interest, but everyone was anticipating being paid for eliminating the orcish threat.) The kobolds commented that they knew there were a number of orcs deeper in the caverns — the kobolds feared them — but they were beyond a gate which was kept locked.
And which was guarded by a troll.
[Really? A troll against a 1st level party? Talk about confidence in our tactical acumen! We didn’t even really have any healers, although Errs had a limited healing ability.]
When asked about the missing horses the kobolds, completely unembarrassed, pointed to their stomachs; the horses would no longer be available, but they aren’t really useful underground anyway. The party decided to release the other kobold prisoners, one of which was a kenku who agreed to assist against the troll. The group then went to face it, having been fully healed by the kobold tribe’s shaman. The plan was for Aevay to approach it stealthily and attempt a sneak attack, followed by the rest of the party charging. Aevay would take a lantern so the humans could find their way to the troll.
This plan, clearly flawed from the start, failed. The troll saw the lantern from a great distance, preventing Aevay from succeeding in a sneak attack on it; the trolls counterattack almost took her out. But at least the lantern was there. Anima, Deegan, and Thandiina charged; Errs remained at a distance firing arrows at the troll. Of the kenku there was no sign, but that’s usually the case with them. The troll took out Anima in its first attack. Aevay and Errs both suggested retreat, but Thandiina was unwilling to leave Anima behind. The troll wounded her and then dropped Deegan. Thandiina was able to use the second wind ability to recover, and was wounding the troll effectively, and the group saw a number of other wounds appearing on the troll inexplicably. (These were due to the kenku.) [While this fight was going on there were chants of “TPK! TPK!” coming from the peanut gallery.] While in the thick of this fight Errs, who had had enough of the punching, shot Aevay in the back and dropped her before running to stabilize Anima and Deegan and eventually even Aevay.
Finally the troll dropped, having severely wounded Thandiina again, forcing her to use one of her healing potions. A knowledge check allowed the group to realize the body needed to be burned, which it was, and troll ashes swirled through the air.
All the 1st level characters reached 2nd level as a result of this fight [Note: 5th edition has a very different experience progression from the versions most of the players are familiar with.] and prior to going past the gate the group decided it was a good time to rest and recuperate since the kobolds were friendly. But there was bad blood brewing between the bard and the rogue; only time would tell if it would tear the group apart or lead to healing.
[In the aftermath, realizing the party didn’t really have a healer, Andy got permission to create a second character, and will be running a cleric in the next installment.