First Time Dungeon Master – The Journey Continues

With one dungeon complete, it is time for a rest, a trip to town, and the start of a new leg of the adventure.

Introduction

With two sessions in the bag, my time as a Dungeon Master in Dungeons & Dragons was coming together. The nervousness was decreasing as I began to get more comfortable in the role. Still, there was quite a bit of chaos behind the DM screen. My game prep was taking the majority of my free time between sessions. Part of that was due to massive projects designed to make Dungeon Mastering easier on me. Another part was taking the time to learn tools I would use. The goal was to reduce that prep time and allow the sessions to run smoother. A test for that would be the next leg of the journey. The characters would soon be arriving in a town with much role-playing and investigation ahead of them.

NOTE: SPOILERS ahead for the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure! You have been warned.

Heading to Town

Rest and Regroup

Before the next session, I had some work to complete. I revamped my excel spreadsheets and tables, creating encounter sheets (with initiative order, key player and enemy stats, conditions, etc.), better character and monster tags, homemade weapon and magic cards, and other such short cuts for running a session. I also wanted to improve my maps.

Ready to Roll

The maps I had were sheets of grids that I printed out from Campaign Cartographer 3 from Profantasy. I couldn’t find good battle maps that I liked in that program and struggled to make my own, so I printed out the grid paper and drew them based on the maps in the adventure booklet. It worked but was a bit much. I looked at other mapping tools out there and finally settled on a program called Dungeon Fog. I recreated the map of the next dungeon in adventure (at least, the next likely dungeon), and printed it out to scale for miniatures. I then cut out each “room” and glued them to a poster board. Finally, I cut out the poster boards to each room, and I had nice, tiled maps that I could lay down for visualization. I was proud of this endeavor.

When we began the next session, the group rested, following the endeavor in the cave. They learned from the NPC Sildar a few more details, such as a castle where their patron, Gundren was taken to, though not the whereabouts of that castle. They gathered the supplies, including the supplies recovered from the cave, and set out the following day. By midafternoon, they were riding into the town of Phandalin.

The Town of Phandalin

When the adventurers roll their wagon into Phandalin, they are greeted with curious stares by the local people. Ruins of the city that once surround the region could be seen while a few newer buildings formed the core structure of the revived town. They settle the provisions for Gundren, see Sildar off to the inn, and turn the lost provisions over to the proprietor of the Lion Shield Coster. One mistake I made was I described the proprietor of the Miner’s Exchange, Halia Thornton, as a dwarven female, though the adventure describes her as a human. I went with it though, and the players seemed to enjoy it.

As they made their way from location to location, they learned of a few potential quests. Those quests included a trip to see a banshee and make a trade with her, orcs causing trouble on the Triboar Trail to the west, a missing wizard from Sildar’s guild, and most immediately, a group of bandits that have taken over the town.

While meeting with one villager, a local priestess who tends the shrine in the town square, they are accosted by four men wearing dirty red cloaks. They are members of the bandit group known as the Redbrands. They battle the group in the town square and determine that they must deal with the bandits. Several townsfolk request aide in dealing with the bandits. Sildar points out to Xavier that he is a noble without a home and the town is without a noble furthering the incentive.

Into the Hideout

            They seek out a halfling boy who they learned found a cave nearby. The boy directs them to the cave entrance where he saw some Redbrands exiting. They follow the directions and locate the cave entrance. Following the tunnel, they come to a large cavern with a crevasse running through. As they pass through, they feel odd intrusions on their mind, but it is not strong. They quickly make their way to the first side tunnel. That tunnel leads to two doors. Behind the first one, they hear the sounds of gruff goblin voices and laughter, along with the sniveling sound of a smaller goblin. They enter the room to find several bugbears tormenting a goblin. The goblin faints right away at the sight of them.

            The players had a brief exchange with the bugbears trying to convince them that they were new recruits of the Redbrands and had not received their cloaks yet. The leader of bugbears, Mosk, was buying it, but one of the other bugbears became suspicious. In the end, initiatives were rolled and recorded, and we had to end our session there (quite the cliffhanger).

Scouring the Hideout

The Fainting Goblin

Unfortunately, life got in the way due to kids’ birthday parties (including my oldest daughter’s) and late summer colds (including me). Finally, we were able to reconvene, and it was go-time.

I prepared the encounter ahead of time and we were able to jump right into the action following the “previously on” recap. The party made quick work of the bugbears, taking out two of them and with ease and the only remaining one fled in terror (especially after watching his buddy cleaved in half by Xavier’s axe). They woke up the goblin, Droop, who was grateful to the party and vowed to serve them for saving him from his tormentors. After Gary the Goblin’s sacrifice, they took to him, and he provided information about the hideout. Namely that a wizard led the rebrands and a monster inhabited the cavern.

Partial map of Redbrand Hideout with miniatures
Running into bugbears in Redbrand Hideout.

Drunken Brawl

They proceeded to the next room where they found several Redbrands around a table in the common room playing at dice and drunk as could be. The party filed in like they belonged, and Xavier attempted to get into the dice game. One of the drunken Redbrands kept mocking Xavier and soon a fight broke out. DM’s note, I gave the players advantage in this fight and the Redbrands disadvantage due to their inebriated state. Despite that, the encounter did last a little longer than expected due to dice roles They finally did leave the drunken fools splayed around the room.

The Chase

The group proceeded out the next door which opened to a corridor that led back to the main cavern and had a door across from the one they exited. They chose to enter this door to find a room, only occupied by a single rat, filled with tubes and vials. The noise of somebody scuffling around could be heard from an adjacent room. Xavier and Araqwyn went through to investigate while Suzah and Zam stayed behind to search the first room. The warrior and cleric found a living quarters, now empty and saw a section of wall cracked open to a hidden chamber.

They ran through in time to see a shadow at the upper end of the secret corridor disappearing through a door. Araqwyn called to the others, and they followed the figure. When they reached the exit, the entered a storeroom that opened to the main cavern. Araqwyn caught sight of the figure running through the cavern. By this time, Suzah and Zam, followed by Droop, backtracked out of the room into the earlier tunnel that led to the cavern. When they reached it, Suzah spotted the figure and launched a crossbow bolt at him, striking him in the leg.

Redbrand Hideout

As the party started closing in from both sides of the crevasse, the man was calling for help. Xavier felt an intrusion into his mind bringing up his fears and Suzah rounded a stone column to find a monster standing before her, a Nothic (Note, for a miniature, we used the Beholder to represent the Nothic). For those that don’t know, the Nothic is a creature with a single eye and it insane. It communicates telepathically. Due to tiredness from working the night before, I mis-roleplayed the creature and forgot to include its insane cackling.

In any case, the party continued to subdue the man that attempted to escape. Finally, finding that the Nothic wasn’t going to outright help him, he surrendered. When they questioned the man, Glasstaff, about the missing Wizard from the Lord’s Alliance, Iarno, he told them that the wizard was dead. After some prying, he revealed that he was, in fact, Iarno. This revelation shocked the party. They promised the Nothic some food, pointing him to the remnants of the Redbrands in the common room.

Conclusion

            This is where we ended the session. It is also the last session that we played. From here on out, I will post the results of each session as we play. We have not set our next date, but it is tentatively next Sunday (this Sunday was taken up by my youngest daughter’s first birthday). In any case, I have been having fun with our sessions as we play through. If anybody has any comments for feedback they would like to share, please feel free to do so below. I would love to hear from you all. Future session recaps will try to include more insights into my experience as a DM. Until we meet again, raise those swords and roll those dice.

Links

ProFantasy Software – Map Making for Games

Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3) RPG and fantasy map making software (profantasy.com)

DUNGEONFOG | Free RPG Battle map editor for D&D / Dungeonfog