The Adventures of a 5e GM and her players, part 4 + 5

Because I’ve been super duper busy this week with work (things are looking somewhat up!) I didn’t have time to write this up. However, I am here now and I am writing this up from memory of what happened, as I largely remember everything last week and definitely remember this week. Well, enough excuses, let’s get on with the juicy details.

As a reminder, the group consists of:

  • Joey “Gruzark” Smith – Half-orc barbarian (berserker)
  • Ownka Bronson – Half orc bard (college of lore)
  • Hank – Human ranger (beastmaster)
  • Andarius Rhyn – Half elf druid (circle of the moon)

Our adventurers found themselves outside a village that they had been heading towards last session. They couldn’t see much activity and saw that the village did not have any walls or farmlands. The group, conscious that most of the world outside was rather xenophobic, approached the town cautiously. However, they weren’t met with torches and pitchforks; or rather they weren’t met with anything. It was incredibly quiet. The streets had no activity and as the group continued into the village they started to notice it was strange. They headed towards the centre of the village, finding the local tavern. They knocked on the door and were greeted by a human in chainmail, wielding a greatsword.

Now this human was… a tad hostile. He didn’t attack the PCs, but also had no interest in talking to them and it was only due to one of the other citizens stepping forward that the PCs were even allowed into the tavern. This civilian told the PCs that a strange man had come into the town last week, but had left soon after. However the next day the town found themselves under siege by the undead. Most of the village population was dead (and risen into undeath) and most of the survivors were sick and injured. The armor clad human turned out to be a paladin of Ghyllis, the god of death, and was protecting the town as best he could, but was only one man.

The PCs rested, but were rudely awoken by an undead attack during the night. A flesh golem was at the head of the charge, with a pair of skeletons and a pair of zombies. Joey looked out the window and took an arrow to the shoulder immediately. He proceeded to jump out the window and go into a rage, which started the combat in full. It was not a particularly challenging fight, with the main issue really being the fact that the flesh golem seemed to absorb their attacks and took a while to go down. Well, and the fact that my players were introduced to undead fortitude when one of the zombies just refused to go down until the paladin hit it with some radiant damage.

The group rested and then tracked the undead the next day, following their tracks to a small, wooded area (where Andarius failed a nature check to notice something plot related. Oh well…). Within this area they found a tunnel that led underground that seemed to be a natural cave (though Joey was insistent they were elven. Rolling a 0 on an intelligence check will do that to you).

This is where the session really ended. It was a bit of a shorter one as I think one of the players had to go and I didn’t want to start the dungeon crawl at that time as I knew what was coming up in room number 1…

Zombies. And skeletons. A whole lot of them. The PCs got into a fight with a room full of undead as soon as they entered. Due to torchlight, the PCs were well illuminated and got shot by crit archers. I call them crit archers because the number of natural 20s I rolled with them this session was disgusting, though they were all firing from out of the PCs’ darkvision and torchlight, so they were getting advantage. The PCs took a surprising amount of damage from the sheer weight of numbers, but were able to come out on top, though Andarius triggered an explosive trap when he cast a spell over it without knowing it was there, dealing Joey a hefty blow as Joey was standing on the other side of it. Joey then proceeded to charge right over the next explosive trap, the blasts totally incinerating his pet mouse.

After a short rest, the party moved ever onwards, more cautiously since the two explosive traps almost incinerated Joey as well. Joey felt wind from one way, so they decided to take that tunnel, managing to avoid the trap that lay in wait for them there. Exiting the tunnel they found a huge underground chasm and some spider webs. Andarius decided to start burning the webs like the good(?) druid that he is, which saw the PCs get attacked by a pair of giant spiders. However, the two spiders were quickly dispatched by the players and Hank harvested enough venom for a single dose of spider poison.

The PCs walked along the chasm, which Joey discovered had water at the bottom by dropping a pebble down and hearing the (very) faint splash. As they made their way along the chasm, using a dancing lights cantrip from Ownka to light their way, they found a naturally formed bridge across. While they debated whether or not to cross, Ownka’s lights came into sight of more undead who immediately attacked the party, firing arrows at Joey. It was here that the dynamic lighting feature in Roll20 came into its own. Joey, having been shot, went into a rage. He could see a pair of zombies advancing through the tunnel and charged down to them. As he reached them he noticed there were more than just two and quickly got swamped by zombies and skeletons, while the archers continued to harass the others as they came around the corner. As they were all grouped up, Ownka used shatter on the melee, hitting the entire crowd of undead but also hitting Joey in the process.

And this is where something big happened. Joey went down in a flurry of zombie attacks. The first one didn’t drop him. The second caused his half-orc endurance to trigger, as it would’ve knocked him down but instead reduced him to 1 hit point, the third attack dropped him unconscious and the fourth caused two failed death saves. Once again, for the third time this campaign, Joey’s survival came down to a d20 roll, but this time luck was not on his side and he failed his third and final death save. Yes, we had a player character casualty this session.

The party eventually managed to fend off the remaining undead, with two zombies being particularly stubborn and causing more damage than they really should have through constant undead fortitude successes, but a fog cloud cut off the archers sight lines so they were unable to harass the back line and stopped causing the multitude of failed concentration checks that they were causing. The party retrieved Joey’s body and retreated outside the cave system to lick their wounds and plan their next move.


I enjoyed this session, though the death of a player character is never an easy thing to deal with as a GM. This particular player character went down with very much a fight, but the PCs were just unable to carve a path to him in time as he was surrounded by zombies and skeletons. I (hope) it has put some foreshadowing into the players’ minds that their three months of jail time has meant that things have definitely progressed in the world and the threats are very real.

I do like that this is a very threatening location. Necromancers in this setting are incredibly dangerous and should be approached carefully; there are reasons why the majority of the non-elven population fears magic and I feel like the PCs are encountering one of them now. I was happy to start introducing another aspect of a big bad as well, rather than just bandits and wild animals.

I believe that next session the players are diving back in, but I sincerely hope they re-evaluate their approach. There’s a lot of potential XP on offer here, as well as a very decent reward, but there’s also a large risk associated with this.

I look forward to see what next session brings.

3 thoughts on “The Adventures of a 5e GM and her players, part 4 + 5

  1. Nice write-up.

    I couldn’t see the beginning of the first fight due to the cool dynamic lighting. Am I right in thinking Andarius actually supplied the lighting from his flaming sphere to give the archers advantage to crit him?

    • Amusingly enough, that did contribute. There was also some unfortunate timings in initiative where Hank was still around with the torch, but the flaming sphere did illuminate him for the archers

      • Yeah, Hank’s thinking was, well first of all WFT?!

        Then “I need to get the light away ASAP, so at least the archers’ darkvision won’t see them and hopefully they’ll stop firing. They can kill the melee undead and then we’ll group up and take out the archers.

        “I cast flaming sphere”

        :facepalm:

        Also, cute Avatar 🙂

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