The adventures of a D&D 5e GM and her players, part 3

Apologies for the late entry, but there’s a reason that I will go into at the end. Regardless, back to our regularly scheduled chaos, despite being a man down; this week’s session was actually short and simple. The PCs were moving from Jahkiir, the small town they were incarcerated in last session, into the city-state of Logran to complete their given job. The players had done their purchases and were ready to move. We were down one player, so it’s useful that it was a shorter session as my absent player really didn’t miss much.

As a reminder, the group comprises 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)

So the players left the safety of the town and elected to travel off road, as there was a war going on and they didn’t want to walk into any foot patrols, considering most of the group is non-human and the other city states can be… xenophobic. So they made their way along the lake, heading towards where the main road forked in two different directions. So I thought “hey, why don’t I use the random encounter tables?” and rolled some dice. I rolled two that would make sense:

The first encounter was the PCs coming across a severed hand in a bloody net. That’s all the book said, so I thought I’d inject something extra into it. The PCs were cautious, examining the area and ensuring it was not a trap, however when they finally decided to grab the net, Joey just walked straight up to it and carried it away from the shore. They found a silver ring with what was identified as “not-quite-celestial” engravings on the inside, though nobody could tell if it was magical or not. As they made their way away from the short, the ground shifted slightly as some sort of undead humanoids clawed their way out from beneath the earth and attacked the players. The party fought the undead humanoids off, a few of them almost falling prey to their paralysing claw attacks, and hurried away. It was later mused that this could’ve been a trap and that they should stay alert moving forward.

In staying alert, however, it appeared that the PCs weren’t being very quiet and wandered too close to a nest of giant toads, who attacked them as they were hungry (and the PCs looked like a tasty meal). This time, the combat was a bit harder and Fiona, Hank’s wolf, was knocked unconscious, failing a death save before the PCs managed to carve her out of the belly of a dead giant toad that had swallowed her. Even Joey was eventually swallowed, after failing to break free of the grapple despite having advantage on the skill check. It was hit or miss for parts of the battle, but eventually the PCs managed to kill off the giant toads. Joey took some meat from one of the giant toads (and rolled rather poorly on his survival check to do so…) which led to him taking some additional poison damage and throwing up all over the place when the party took a short rest when he tried cooking and eating it.

The party continued their journey to the crossroads and eventually came across a small town… which is where we ended the session.

Yes, yes, I know it was a short and kind of simple, but I didn’t want to go into the town without all four players. There are… reasons for this. I don’t like players missing important stuff, and important stuff is coming. The PCs being in jail for 3 months has escalated things a little and stuff is happening. More on this next session!

Anyway, the reason why I was a bit late with this is because with one player working night shifts for the next month, I am moving to run Cyberpunk 2020 with the remaining three players in the interim. Once I have a better job with better hours, I will end up running both games in parallel, once a week each, however that is just impossible at the moment because I work silly hours. Therefore I have been spending a lot of time this week preparing that game, making the generic NPC tokens, thinking up the plot and writing up the lore and houserules / homebrew content for my players.

I will be doing the same with the other game as I have been doing with this one, so expect some Cyberpunk 2020 write ups in the coming few weeks!

The adventures of a D&D 5e GM and her players, part 2

It has certainly been a while between part 1 and part 2. It wasn’t meant to be this way; in general we are a weekly session, but scheduling and real life commitments left us without a session for three weeks, as I will not run with half of the group missing (especially considering what the players were going into).

As a reminder, the group comprises 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)

And important NPCs that popped up this session were:

  • Hemerith Niltherin – Wood elf scout captain (rogue, scout)
  • [Name not revealed] – wood elf druid (circle of the land)
  • Izran al-Shaziin – Trade Prince of Mahraz (custom)
  • Izran’s bodyguard – Human fighter (specialisation not revealed)
  • Izran’s bodyguard – (brown haired) Wood elf (class and specialisation not revealed)
  • Izran’s bodyguard – (red haired) Imperial elf sorcerer (specialisation not revealed)

We picked up where we left off last session. The town mayor was dead, as well as his cultists. Three town guards were also dead with the last one knocked out by Joey. The flying demon’s corpse had disappeared and the other, larger demon had escaped after knocking Joey and Hank out and killing Fiona, Hank’s wolf.

With time quickly running out, the first thing that happened was the departure of the wood elves. Enemies of the state already, they knew they would be executed on the spot, as there was no immediate, solid evidence to prove that the mayor was a demon cultist. They quickly conversed in hushed tones and then darted out. The druid wild shaped into a house cat and left through a window, while the scout captain used his speed to make some distance between himself and any nearby guards, before using his skill in stealth to make his escape. With the wood elves out of the picture, I waited to see what the PCs would do. Andarius searched the mayor’s body for evidence while Ownka tried to rouse the unconscious guard. Due to the time sensitive nature (the town guard were coming!) I  made them roll skill checks; Andarius rolled investigation and Ownka rolled medicine. Andarius rolled a 6 and Ownka rolled a 3, so they were unable to both find the evidence or rouse the guard quickly, which was a shame because the mayor had a separate arcane focus to his tome, that had turned to ash upon his death, which was clearly a demonic focus.

Following this, the PCs decided the best course of action was to try to talk their way out of the situation. They made their way up the stairs, Joey carrying Fiona’s body and Andarius using one of his final spell slots to rouse the guard with a cure wounds spell. They made their way up the stairs, but their previous attempts at finding evidence and rousing the guard led to them reaching the top of the stairs as the guards made their way in. Ownka managed to talk them down from immediately trying to kill the party to merely arresting them with a persuasion roll in the twenties. With some minor resistance, the guards put the PCs in chains and led them to the prisons where they were dumped and left to their own devices.

The PCs spent their time trying to annoy the guards who wouldn’t speak to them or even acknowledge their existence. Once in the cells, the guards didn’t even care that the prisoners had slipped out of their manacles or were casting spells, at least for the first week. Essentially, the guards didn’t have the manpower to keep the PCs contained if they really wanted to leave. The sergeant was around CR 1ish and the guard NPCs themselves were CR 1/8. They had no real magical support as the town’s wizard was basically awful in combat, so if the PCs wanted to break out, they easily could have; Andarius spent his first week making frequent sorties out of his cell as a rat, as the guards didn’t seem to care about rats. However, after a week the town wizard managed to erect some anti-magic wards around the prison, disabling all magic within the perimeter. This was a strange moment in the session as I believe the PCs thought I was waiting for them to break out whereas I was actually waiting for them to just… be done with what they were doing. In the end I just asked “are you going to try and break out and is there anything notable you want to do?”

Once this was sorted, the PCs were in prison for three months, which caused universal “wait, what?” responses. The PCs were in prison for three months because the guard still believed they were demon summoners. The guards were scared out of their minds of the PCs and wanted to escalate it to the highest powers, as demon summoning is literally the worst thing to do; it’s even worse than necromancy! After about three months, the PCs were visited by a slightly rotund man, who Ownka identified as Trade Prince Izran al-Shaziin, the big boss of the Mahraz city state, as well as what appeared to be a personal bodyguard and two elves, one brunette and one redhead. They walked up to each cell to which the brown haired elf merely said “no,” or “not this one,” as she passed by each player character, before leaving. As they left, Ownka requested some more food and perhaps an opportunity to see the sun, as they had been underfed and kept in the dungeons for three whole months. He rolled well on a persuasion check, so the trade prince said he would see what he could do. Shortly after, due to a communication issue, Joey destroyed his bed. Don’t look at me, I don’t know why either!

The next day the PCs were brought out of their cells and led out to the mess hall where I was originally going to give them food, then forgot about it. Whoops. Anyway, they were led to the mess hall and sat down at a table, where the trade prince, who was revealed to be one of the chosen, proceeded to make a deal with the PCs. The PCs were not shackled or anything, and I was curious to see if the PCs would do anything stupid at this point. The reason they weren’t shackled is because the trade prince was confident that even if they were demon summoners there was nothing they could do to escape from this group, as while he wasn’t that strong in combat (built to about level 9 with no combat abilities other than “hit with sword for 1d6 damage”, the individuals accompanying him were a bit beefier (just a bit…). Regardless, the PCs were compliant and were led to the mess hall where the trade prince made a deal with the party in exchange for essentially brushing everything under the rug. The PCs asked what would stop them simply running away after they get turned loose, to which the red haired elf said that she would track them down and end their existences. Met with some skepticism, she asked the trade prince if he could afford a new bench and proceeded to disintegrate the bench next to the PCs. Now, there were two interesting things there; the lesser interesting point was that disintegrate, which the PCs failed to identify through arcana checks, is a fairly high level spell. I don’t make strong NPCs for no reason. Furthermore, after the PCs asked what would stop them from running, the trade prince, who is in charge of the entire city state, is the head of his family and one of Ahtar’s chosen champions (god of commerce), had started to speak, but the red haired elf interrupted him and cut him off.

Details were given for the assignment and the PCs learned that war had broken out between Logran and Mahraz since Khan al-Shaziin (Izran’s younger son and 2nd in line)  and his friend, a paladin who worked with the PCs in the early days named Clara Teverton, took evidence acquired by the PCs earlier in the campaign to a meeting in the continental capital and accused Logran of sabotage. The players were tasked to:

  • Kill Dennis Harding – Spymaster in Logran who was in charge of the bandit operation (so PCs wanted him dead anyway due to previous family threatening)
  • Kill Lewis Gambrill – General of one of Logran’s armies stationed near Divinity Bay, the main port town in Logran
  • Retrieve a relic of Ahtar being held in Logran’s temple district, as Logran had barred any pilgrimages to visit this holy relic, with Ahtar being the dominant religion in Mahraz.
  • Retrieve a collection of books and scrolls, which they were given a list of, from Logran’s city hall.

There is no half-way house and nothing for partial completion. Either the PCs need to complete every task, or they will be executed for the unlawful removal of a town’s government, as while the trade prince knows they didn’t summon the demons, they were still guilty of working with terrorists (the wood elves) and staging a coup.

Finally, Hank managed to revive Fiona. Since I’m using Matt Mercer’s “The Fading Spirit” resurrection mechanic, he almost failed to revive her, but used a re-roll I had granted him before to try again. Initially, a 4 was rolled, but the re-roll was an 18. Again, the PCs narrowly avoided a casualty due to the luck of the dice.

So I was conflicted on this session. I enjoyed running it, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as the last one. However, this was to be expected as last session culminated in fighting a demon cultist and the demons he summoned. It was interesting to throw in a few more subtle hints at the intrigue going on in the world, but the three month time-skip puts us closer to the central plot becoming an issue. This is a good thing as when I say issue, I more mean an issue for the PCs. Things happened in those three months while the PCs were stuck which I’m going to have to get down in detail and there are definitely big things on the horizon.

Dealing with petty bandits is now mostly behind the PCs now and I am concerned that my players don’t work as a team much. When faced by a coordinated foe, I feel like the party could be in real danger of collapsing, as shown by the CR2 encounter with the wood elf scouts on their way to the town. it scared them away when they were level 4 a few sessions back. Time will tell, but I think casualties could be coming…

Also, in terms of things that do happen, not everything is as it seems and I don’t give things away here because my players can read it (and I’m not in the habit of giving away plot for free)