The Decrepit and the Noobs

Chapter 1 – Beginnings

After thirty years I have been forced out of retirement and have committed myself to running a D&D campaign. I’m lucky to have a fairly captive group of technical nerds who were eager to either get into a D&D campaign for the first time.

The group consists of:

Me – the DM.

Gary – playing as Quaite, a 1st level human paladin.

Dave – playing as Talwin (the Tof), a 1st level halfling rogue.

Adam – playing as Flint Dankil, a 1st level dwarf fighter.

Joshua – playing as Gerome “The Trippy Gnome”, a 1st level gnome rogue.

As it’s been such a long time since I have run a game and that everyone is effectively new to gaming, I decided to use the Lost Mine of Phandelver “starter campaign” as I thought this would give everyone chance to get familiar with what was happening.

We are playing at the office, which is a good location as it’s easy for everyone to get to  and has sufficient space and whiteboards. (Anyone who has never used a whiteboard for D&D doesn’t know what they are missing!). Oh yes, and is close to the pizza’s which Gary dashes out and gets.

Now, I gave everyone plenty of chance to get their characters organised and written up – so how did that go? Well Gary’s was done over a week ago, an ad-hoc chat with Dave in the local supermarket during the week revealed his was nearly complete, and Josh managed to get his done the day before. Adam? Whoops. Looks like he missed the memo. So everyone piles in and helps him get a character sorted whilst Gary waits for the pizzas.

So we start. Rather than trying to even come up with a starting point I told the group that they already knew each other – problem one out of the way. So, to keep the game moving I threw them straight into the job of transporting some goods down to Phandalin in a wagon. A quick introduction to their boss and his bodyguard and they are let loose.

The next fifteen minutes are taken with the party, being led by Gerome trying out a variety of their skills on the contents of the wagon and trying to work out if it was going to be worth just stealing all the goods.

Luckily I manage to shut this avenue down and almost physically push the group out into the adventure.

The first encounter comes along. A simple ambush by four goblins. Naturally, I expect the team to leave the wagon and take the fight to the goblins. Well, I was almost right. Talwin sneaks off through the bushes and, whilst taken by surprise, kills a goblin. Quaite uses the wagon as cover and attempts to carry out some ranged attacks, whilst Flint lumbers slowly into motion.

Gerome decides to climb inside a sack in the back of the wagon, cutting a couple of holes to see out of, he pulls the reins in after him. A clever idea, however the Oxen pulling the wagon are not actually very fast. (Quaite: “it’s at this point that I suddenly realise that Gerome has led my cover DOWN THE ROAD, leaving me exposed… I’ll talk to him later.)  

It does confuse the goblins though – one of which manages to pull a critical off against one of the oxen, dropping it in its tracks and stopping the wagon in its tracks and causing Gerome to reconsider his options.

With an incredible display of acrobatics, Gerome tries to leap from the sack, (and fumbling his skill roll) catches his feet in the sack and face-plants on the driving board at the front of the wagon. Luckily the others have managed to dispatch most of the goblins saving any potential risk and Gerome rises to the occasion and dispatches the last one.  (Gary: “It’s at this point we start to consider the nickname: Gerome the Trippy Gnome”)

Quickly the group find the tracks leading into the woods – an obvious hint for them – only to have Gerome decide that he was going to stay in the wagon. In the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by dead goblins and animals. A heated discussion amongst the group takes place with Gerome sticking to his guns. He wants to stay with the wagon. I encourage him to move with the team by indicating that staying in that location would not necessarily make his character feel safe – that is enough to encourage him to join the party.

Before they leave the scene, Gerome decides he wants to take the thumbs of the goblins. Ah, looks like someone remembers their history lesson. However given this is D&D and its goblins they were fighting I suggest that their ears might be more appropriate. Bad suggestion. He now has a collection of eight ears and is currently trying to find a way of sticking two of them on top of his large gnome ears.

I keep it easy for the team and give them a chance to spot the next ambush which they do. Spotting the goblins outside the cave they quickly dispatch them increasing their confidence.

Cautious now however, they enter the cave and discover three chained wolves. Gerome seeks to see if he can communicate with them leading Quaite to consider using his animal handling. In the meantime the others decide to engage them in combat. Quaite instantly forgets about the animal handling and it quickly descends into a one-sided bloodbath (I decided to ignore some of the rolls I made as wolf’s can be quite dangerous to first-level characters).

The bulk of the dungeon crawl proceeds without mischance until the characters make it to the main goblin lair. Here Gerome proves his perfect timing again with yet another failed climbing role causing the rest of the team to have to surge forwards to his rescue. Flint demonstrates his innate ability to miss by failing to roll anything higher than a nine, quickly emulated by Tof. Its like watching five year olds fight. Quaite comes to the rescue and soon the goblins are dismembered as the team finally get some lucky rolls.

Their leader has a small pouch which Gerome pockets before anyone can see – living up to his reputation as a sneaky little rat – before scurrying off to relieve the dead of their ears. At this rate I am going to have to check his encumbrance level!

Now it’s time for the big fight. The team know it’s coming because they cleverly scouted the area up after taking out the wolves earlier. A heated discussion takes place resulting in a plan where Gerome will enter the leaders cave via a natural chimney from the wolves den, Tof will sneak in from the main entrance and hide in the shadows, then when Quaite and Flint charge in. the two hidden rogues will be able to attack from the sides causing mayhem.

Sounds good. Pity it didn’t work.

Gerome manages to get into position hidden from view. Then Tof tries the same thing from the other side of the cave. Ok, being a rogue he has a reasonable chance of succeeding. Well, at least it wasn’t a critical failure, but rolling a two meant that his sneaky maneuver didn’t get off to a good start. In fact the wolf in the cave (with the bugbear and two goblins) watches Tof with interest as Tof attempts to sneak along the edge of the cave. Getting about halfway in, Tof realises the wolf is watching him and frantically back-pedals. The bugbear roars, and all hell breaks loose.

I give the guys a break and hold the bugbear back, letting just the wolf and the goblins attack them to start with.

Time for some initiative rolls. Amazing. Nearly everyone rolls an incredibly low number – with the exception of Gerome who is still hidden in the back of the cave who rolls a 20. So what is he going to do? The party are shouting suggestions at the gnome who appears to be uncertain as to what action to take. He wavers, dithering, before deciding to reposition himself further into the cave with an aim to launch a blistering attack on the enormous bugbear.

So how does that go? Well not good. Lets just say its a critical failure and Gerome ends up face down slightly to the side of the bugbear.  (Gary: “It’s at this point we lock in the nickname: Gerome the Trippy Gnome”)

This could get very nasty very quickly.

The wolf is next, and takes a bite at Quaite (Quaite: “I was surprised at the size of the chunk a wolf could take out of my leg.. A huge chunk… like ‘rump steak from a butchers’ size chunk) – a critical hit – and with Gary peeking over my DM screen (Gary: “ok so i’m so used to the computer showing all the hits I forgot we aren’t supposed to know… facepalm”)  I don’t even get chance to fake the roll – he knows it’s bad and announces it to everyone. Silly sod! If he hadn’t peeked I could have at least just claimed a normal hit, as it is he knows he is going to take a lot of damage. Luckily he doesn’t know how much damage a wolf really does so I punish him with ten points of damage (rather than the eighteen he should have taken – and which would have killed him) – he retaliates and performs a solid hit on the wolf in return.

By now the party has recovered somewhat and Tof sends a poisoned dart into the bugbear, (his second one as the first had missed), causing it to stagger but not fall – I use its confusion – and the attack on its pet wolf by Quaite to ignore the fallen Gerome and stagger forward towards Flint and Quaite.

With the next turn the goblins are dispatched and the wolf killed. The team is on a roll – literally. The bugbear takes heavy damage – and before it even gets chance to flee is finally floored by the team.

Celebrations all around – quickly followed by Gerome running off to discover any treasure in the cave. Ooooh! A treasure chest – stuff looking for traps, Gerome throws it open and quickly pockets all the good bits leaving just the copper coins which he proudly shows to the rest of the team and shares with them.

Quaite is looking fairly sickly with a single hit point, so in a gesture of pure good will, Gerome offers to sell him a potion he “purchased” earlier (actually one of two that he found in the treasure chest a few minutes ago) – Quaite takes him up on the offer but decides to keep the potion rather than use it. Gerome is happy having increased his stash of gold, but is now lumbering due to the huge number of silver coins he also secreted about himself as well as yet another collection of goblin ears. I really must work out how much this is weighing him down.

So with it getting late, we fast-track to Phandalin so they can get their reward and level up.

The evening is over. So a quick clean-up and a discussion on whether they want to continue the D&D and if so when – “Oh Yes!” is the chorus – and an agreement is made to reconven in three weeks time.

Will let you all know how that one turns out. I have a feeling I won’t be quite as gentle on them.

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