D&D5 – Lost Mines of Phandelver Session Report

I’m not sure what I’m going to use this for really, I suppose a session report is as apt a title as any. I’m not going to write a whole summary of what happened because I don’t want to spoil the adventure for other people who are going to play it, rather I thought I’d offer my thoughts on some of the mechanics used in the system and talk about a few highlights of our first session playing this adventure. So if you’re on the fence about playing this new system hopefully this might persuade you, and if you already play D&D then it’d be cool to have a discussion about it!

As a bit of background, I’ve played a bit of 4e but we started playing through a beta campaign of 5th edition over the summer. We completed that a few weeks ago and had our first session of Lost Mines of Phandelver last week. Most of us had created our characters but there was one guy who had to do it on the night. It’s an easy process though, especially because he’s playing a barbarian and it’s quite a straightforward race. As a group we’re looking forward to playing an ongoing campaign with regular sessions, and also honing our role-playing skills. I wanted to place more emphasis on role-playing and I felt I did a good job, but this is made easy with the traits I have. I rolled for my background and a couple of the traits that were easy to role-play were that free-thinking and curiosity are the pillars of progress, and that I feel great empathy for any creatures who suffer.

When I first met the party I asked a lot of questions to play up to my curious side, and also took the lead as we explored new areas. When we came across two horses that had been shot dead I was overwhelmed by grief and made sure that they were given a dignified burial. Some traits are more difficult to bring out though, being rather circumstantial. For example, my friend is playing a half-orc sailor and one of his traits is that he thinks a tavern brawl is the best way to get to know someone, but we haven’t been in a tavern yet so he hasn’t had a chance to explore that. But I like how it’s easy to pick a background, and with them being present on your sheet it gives you a reminder of how to play your character. It also comes into play with inspiration, which is a new mechanic for 5th edition. Basically, if you do something that the DM thinks is true to your character and an example of excellent role-play he can grant you an inspiration, and you can use this to gain advantage (roll two d20 and take the highest result) on any skill check, which is handy to have!

However, this did lead to a bit of fishing for inspiration, where people would do something in character and then try to get the DM to grant them inspiration. While I think inspiration is a good trick to get people to role-play, it’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t role-play just to get inspiration, it should be a bonus that the DM grants in rare circumstances. The other problem is that if the DM doesn’t know your traits then it’s not going to help you get inspiration, as was the case with me (but I didn’t mind so much because I wanted to role-play for the sake of role-playing). So I think a balance will need to be struck about what constitutes excellent role-playing otherwise we’re going to have inspiration rolling about all over the place. But I do believe that there’s a limit of one inspiration at a time so it can’t stack.

Our group consisted of Corrin Lyvan (myself), a half-elf Monk who was a hermit. Eirrich, a halfling sorcerer with severe memory loss. Quimby, a halfling rogue, Trip, a half-orc warlock sailor, and Aslan, a human barbarian. We’re all level one (of course) and the session was quite combat heavy, mostly featuring goblins. It was actually more difficult than I anticipated because although the goblins had low HP many times we dropped unconscious. We didn’t start with any healing potions, which didn’t help. I think I dropped unconscious twice, while Quimby was up and down about four times! It added a lot of tension to proceedings though, and so far we’re still alive (just about).

There were a few highlights of the session that made us laugh uproariously. We found Eirrich alone beside a charred corpse, and a burnt piece of paper. Written on it were some words, which we soon figured out were triggers for his spells. Our wagon was riding along when we were attacked by goblins. I held the piece of paper and thought it would be a good idea to use this list. I dramatically called for thunder and…..everyone screamed, “NOOOOOOO”. Cue Eirrich using thunderwave, and attack that hits a 15ft radius from where he’s sitting. The wagon was blown open, I and the good we were transporting were flung outside and no goblins were harmed. That was the first time I was knocked unconscious.

The moment of the night, in my opinion, came with my friend James, who was playing the human barbarian Aslan. We had managed to corner a single goblin and Aslan declared that he wanted to knock him out so we could question him, rather than just killing him. DM said that was okay but if he crit (rolling a 20) then he would kill the goblin. Now, James had been rolling poorly all night (and would continue to do so after this incident) but of course he rolled a 20. Then he had to roll for damage. Now, a critical hit does the maximum damage of your attack plus any damage that you roll. His damage die was a d12, and he had a bonus of 3 for his strength. He rolled a 12. So that was 27 points of damage on a goblin that had three HP left. All Aslan wanted to do was knock out the goblin but instead he pulverised the head into mush.

From my point of view I was disappointed that none of my bonus attacks worked. As a monk I get to make a bonus unarmed strike when attacking with either an unarmed strike or my monk weapon, but any time I tried to attack only one landed so I wasn’t able to be as damaging as I had hoped. But overall I really enjoyed it. The layout of the character sheets is simple so you can easily see what you have to roll and then what modifiers to add. We were able to get into playing very quickly and the game flowed well. I’m not sure if I’m going to post these after every sessions or just post them now and again, but I’m looking forward to the next one and if anyone else has any questions or thoughts about D&D5th edition I’d love to hear them.


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