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Sunday, 22 January 2017

5e Dungeons & Dragons - The Chronicles of the Backbiters

Listeners to our podcast - The Hub Systems - will know that Oscar and I have embraced 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons since last Autumn. I think it's one of the best editions since my imagination was first captured by AD&D v1 back in the 1980s - it captures the feel of the original game whilst dealing with some of the more anomalous and detracting points of the game (like Magic Users only having d4 hit dice!).

Anyway, I used to DM a lot, and when a group of like-minded people got together through Meetup (having never met each other before!), I volunteered to DM again and we set off on a small starter adventure so everyone could get the feel of the new edition. This was "The Master's Vault", a RollD20 scenario which is a really nice way of getting into a new edition with players who don't know each other - lots of introductory stuff, it's not highly paced but has combat, traps and puzzles to solve. The party are a bunch of students of an old mage who now trains all types of adventurers. A couple of people couldn't make the first sessions, so I also had a couple of NPCs in there (handy as well for being the fall guy if the new edition proved unfortunately lethal at some point). 

Now this presented me with a couple of small issues - although I played AD&D as a teenager, and have been gaming for a long time, I don't actually own many fantasy figures - those I did have got lost or sold at some point. In addition, I didn't have any particularly good method of mapping that kept the required FOW/mystery element without requiring a lot of messing about in-game. Now for the former issue there are a few speciality manufacturers, but buying all the monsters, NPC etc was going to be expensive. I knew some of the players would have their own minis, but many wouldn't as they were first-time players or new to 5e after a long break.

In the first instance I tackled the mapping issue by printing out some sheets of A4 with 1" squares and then laminating them. This would give me a reusable grid that I could pre-prepare rooms etc on. It wasn't perfect, but it was fine as a starting point considering I didn't know how long this group would stick to things. I also thought about 3D printing as a solution, so started with a bunch of barrels and bookcases for the first adventure - they went down very well with the group. 

Figures require more finesse, however, and my M3D was very limited in terms of speed/throughput, so I looked to GW for some figures, buying twenty-odd unpainted Skinks from ebay for very little, modifying and painting them to be kobolds. They went down well too, and it was nice to paint something different.

Here was the party as it started;

Lander Hornraven - Male Human War Cleric
Thor (the mighty) - Male Human Druid
Uro Quo - Male Half-Elf Warlock (Great Old One)
Darrien Fellweather - Male Halfling Bard
Alonna Torlinn - Female Dwarven Rogue
Ranger Jon - Male Gnome Ranger
Mifregg (NPC) - Male Tiefling Fighter
Myrddin (NPC) - Female Tiefling Sorcerer (These two Tieflings were siblings - I had a plan!) 
Sirethnis Duenlyn - (Couldn't make first sessions) - Female Elven Fighter

This finished, we were then going to start Hoard of the Dragon Queen - mainly because I'd heard good things about it, and Lange from Jaded Gamercast has run it a few my mind if its good for him then it's good for me. I had Sirethnis be one of the students from the first adventure, but recalled to her home in the Greenfields after getting word from them that trouble was afoot. At the end of the RollD20 adventure they then received a request from this character for help, with word to meet at Greenest.

The issue of figures now raised its head again - HotDQ has a lot of stuff right from the outset - dozens of enemies. Lots of raiders, guards, veterans & berserkers - humans, basically. I checked out my newly found FLGS (Triple Helix Games - here's a call out for them) which has a whole bunch of Perry Miniatures figures - The English Army and Foot Knights are ideal for D&D, and incredibly good value. They also sell GW stuff at good prices, so I picked up some Lizardmen (no, I'm not going to use the silly new tentacle-porn name) including some cavalry to use as Ambush and Guard Drakes.

At this point a tragedy struck - my M3D printer broke...after contacting support, they basically said "Tough crap buddy, you don't live in the US so it'll cost you £400 to send you a new one". My reaction was to broadcast this as widely as I could so people don't buy from that PoS company, and to buy a new printer from a UK distributor - a Wanhao Duplicator i3 v2.1. For those that know, this is a cheap Prusa clone, as I wanted something between a fully "out of the box" product (expensive) and "here's a bunch of components in a box". As it was it took me 40 minutes from receiving my shiny new printer to producing a perfect first print, so I was VERY happy. It is also at least 100% faster than the old M3D, has a massive print area and a heated bed, meaning ability to print in different materials (all for much less than the "replacement/repair" service from M3D).

With the newfound speed and versatility of the new printer, I looked to Thingiverse to broaden the immersive style for the game, and found a whole bunch of different tile sets.

I printed out a load for the next session, which would form the basis of some of the pivotal encounters within the first episode. I also magnetised them with a thin magnetic sheet on the bottom so I could put them into place on steel sheets without them shifting about...

I also embarked upon my most ambitious print to that point, a dragon for the attack on Greenest...

In the interim, one of the original guys who couldn't make it dropped out, and we had another two join (one a Half-Orc Barbarian named Othrod Tranganth, the other a female Dwarven Wizard named Kylantha Marbleshield). I ran a small preamble for these three, where Sirethnis rescued Othrod from an execution by his former clan mates following the death of his father (as there was no-one left to protect this half-blood runt).

Othrod then accompanied Sirethnis, who returned home to find his father missing after going with other village men to find the source of recent raids. Tracking down her lost father, Sirethnis witnessed both her mother and father murdered by a mysterious Dragon Cult. Before he died, Sirethnis' father told her that he'd found out the next target was Greenest, and she should get help and warn Governor Nighthill before the attack came. Of course they arrived too late, though they managed to rescue him  with Kylantha, and make it back to the keep - where I had them meet the rest of the party in the next session. The player with Ranger Jon couldn't make it, but as is back story was that he was a bit of a wanderer, didn't like crowds and was actually really good at getting lost, I had him say he would meet them at Greenest as he would make his own way....getting lost and arriving late (for the session after).

Episode 1, the attack on Greenest, took a few good sessions to get through, but all in all it went pretty well - I'd managed to tie in the new characters, have them all on comparable experience and give them a compelling reason both to go to Greenest whilst under dragon attack and a desire to investigate the Cult of the Dragon (though Sirethnis took this as pure revenge...). Now we had a lot of players, so I got Mifregg electro-cremated by Lennithon in the party's encounter with the adult blue dragon, which also made Myrddin go mad and vanish (she was a wild magic sorcerer, and had done this kind of thing before!). I had plans for Myrddin to return at later points to plague the party after blaming them for the death of her brother - there's nothing quite like like setting up a long-term adversary who used to be one of the party, is there? 

At the moment the party are just completing Episode 6, but I'll cover some of how they got there in another post. Until then, happy gaming!

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