Wednesday, June 22, 2022

5E Assumptions

As I wrote Tuesday, the weekend was fairly busy for Yours Truly. Rest assured that D&D continues in one form or another 'round my house, but this weekend we'll be traveling to Skagit County for a three day soccer tournament, so who knows when I'll have the chance to write again...figured I should get something up on Ye Old Blog NOW, while I can.

Last Wednesday (before school let out) we had Diego's buddy Kieran over to the house. Kieran is a kid that Diego introduced to D&D the previous school year (I believe at the time it was still just B/X) but who then went out and got the 5E books and started playing in a 5E game, much to my son's chagrin. Back in February, Kieran expressed interest in starting up his own 5E campaign, but it ended up falling through as these things tend to do. Kieran, all things considered, isn't really cut out for the role of "DM" at this point in his life. He'd much rather just sit down and play.

So we offered him the chance to play in our campaign. Here's how it went:

At the time, the players were still in Coeur d'Alene ("Orlane"), tidying up some last bits before starting their new "boat adventure." As this was Kieran's first time playing 1E...and because I was making lunch for the kids...Diego led him through the character creation process (standard Option I procedure from the DMG). He was trying for a paladin, but couldn't quite make the scores and ended up settling for a human ranger. And UN-like our usual practice, I gave the character 4,600 x.p. (50% of the party average) for a number of expedient reasons:
  • While this was Kieran's first time playing AD&D, he wasn't an unexperienced gamer...he's been playing 5E for about a year and has had characters in the teens.
  • It brought the character up to 3rd level, comparable to the other party members, adding survivability while not grossly affecting overall effectiveness.
  • I expected Kieran would NOT end up being a regular member of our campaign (as he was already involved in a weekly 5E game). If he does in the future, we will - of course! - have him create a new 1st level character.
Finally, I thought that the party would be adventuring in MY "Ravenloft" (rewritten for levels 3rd to 5th) and I didn't want him getting one-shot by a half-vampire.

However, we never made it there. 

Our "warm-up" for the session came courtesy of the Inn of the Golden Grain (still in N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God). A secret room in the inn cellars had a barred door that the party had not taken the time to investigate prior to their abduction by (and subsequent conquest of) the titular cult of the adventure. While the party discussed mounting an excursion (while swilling wine and victuals procured from the inn's larder), who should enter the inn but a wandering ranger looking for adventure! "Revlin" was quickly enlisted for the task at hand.

Down into the cellar went our brave adventurers, searching after an ivory idol that one-time cult member (now loyal henchman) Misha had memories of. The network of tunnels beneath the inn were crude, narrow, and only recently dug out, only (occasionally) widening into large caves. For the most part, the cramped conditions required single-file lines and stooping to avoid low ceilings. "Hey, Revlin: what kind of weapons are you proficient with?"

Well, my main weapon is the two-handed sword. That's a 'greatsword,' right? 

"Um, yes, but you're not going to be able to swing it very well (or at all) in these conditions. Two-handed swords are a lot more useful in the open than in underground environments. What else do you have?"

I've got a (horseman's) flail, too.


The ranger ended up walking point, light crossbow in hand. However, it wasn't long before found their way into a large(r) cavern, able to spread out a bit.

At which point a giant constrictor dropped from the ceiling, achieving complete surprise. Random roll determined that it landed on the ranger.

[the adventure location has the constrictor wrapped around a rafter and achieving surprise with a whopping 5-in-6 (!) chance. Rangers, of course, reduce the normal chance of surprise from 2 to 1. After adjustments, it still ended up being 2 full segments of surprise]

Fortunately, the other party members have excellent response times (high DEX). While the ranger literally "flailed away" (he got out his flail and tried to whack the no avail) his companions stabbed the snake repeatedly with short swords and daggers. The serpent snapped at the harriers repeatedly even as it continued to constrict its coils around the hapless ranger....

He was saved, healing was provided via the party cleric (no "short rests" I'm afraid) and play continued. More exploration, the elf now walking point. Cursory inspections of "empty" caves and wariness (ceiling checks!) became watchwords of the party. They avoided spending time in partially collapsed chambers (avoiding the concealed mudvipers that lay in wait) and eventually stumbled upon a huge ivory carving of the naga "god." Realizing it was too large to carry, they broke it into several large chunks, filling their bag of holding with as much ivory as it could hold and vowing to return for the rest. They then proceeded to search for the exit.

And instead wandered into a huge chamber filled with several cadaverous humanoids, hissing at them with drooling, hungry eyes and brandishing filthy claws.

"I've got this!" declared the courageous ranger, dropping his crossbow and pulling his two-hander from its back scabbard. The party dropped back, hurling daggers, as the ranger advanced upon the foes, sword in hand. I think the ghouls hit him 7 or 8 times? I know he was paralyzed by the end of the 1st round (even though I only require one save per creature, rather than one save per successful attack).

The cleric attempted to turn the monsters but failed, and the party was forced to do battle with mace and blade. Fortunately, elvish blood and well-worn iron carried the day: the ghouls were destroyed and the party set a watch till the ranger revived and they could exit the catacombs. 

All told, it was a good haul of treasure, and the party was most satisfied with having secured the cellars of their newly acquired tavern. Revlin agreed to accompany them on their upcoming voyage via ship, and even contributed to the cost of the ballista ("We have a ship in our 5E game, too! It has three magic canons and an aboleth chained to the bottom!"), though some party members had doubts about the young ranger's overall effectiveness. In total, he'd inflicted two points of damage over two encounters while sustaining 28 points of damage himself. 

Kieran DID have fun, however.
; )


  1. "We have a ship in our 5E game, too! It has three magic canons and an aboleth chained to the bottom!"

    That's sound about right for any young kids campaign. For us it was flying castles and subdued dragons.

    1. His 5E DM is an adult parent.

    2. Oh My! 5e seems to be going in a silly direction with a lot of fanciful whimsical adventures far removed from the gritty Sword and Sorcery. Different strokes I guess....

      But hopefully this new kid will be swayed to a more classical mindset.

    3. Not everything needs to be grim and bloody…and it certainly doesn’t need to lack for whimsy and the fantastical. But gonzo weird isn’t really my style.

      “I’d think the aboleth would balk a bit at being keelhauled,” is what I believe I told the kid. “And I wouldn’t really want to get on its bad side.” Yeah, well…

      Mm. Consequences. Very important part of superior world building. Very necessary if wants an enduring campaign.

  2. Perhaps if you'd started him as a first level, he'd have been more conservative in his actions and not quite so gung ho. Of course, you know him and I don't; but it doesn't seem that starting him at 3rd did much good.

    1. Yeah. Next time I’ll probably do it different.

      [somehow, I doubt there would have been more conservatism…probably just a quicker and surer beat down]

      I’ll readily admit: I acted (at least subconsciously) under a presumption that a 5E player needed to be somewhat coddled…or, rather, “buffered”…to ensure their enjoyment. This turned out to be wholly NOT THE CASE. Fact is: the kids don’t care. They just want to have fun, and they just [appear to] want a strong (or, at minimum, steady) hand running the game.

      I can see how, at some point in the future, I could very well reach a place where I’d need to “curate” the group…turning away players not just because their disruptive jerks, but because a HIGHER STANDARD of player is desired at the table.

      I never really thought that was possible before. And I don’t think I’m there yet. But I can see how it could indeed become a possibility. Pretty wild.