First D&D Session

[Preface – I have never DM’d before,  I have only played a single one shot adventure with another GM, and my only other experience with D&D was from likely 20 years ago and I never really go into it.    Recently I had been watching Matt Colville videos’ and a few others and had felt like I’d like to tell a fantasy story and this all happened quickly.   The players are also all new to D&D,  I think one may have played it a couple of times but other than that they are all brand new and were creating their very first characters for all this.   I didn’t spend a LOT of time doing prep, likely totally an hour or two in terms of getting a grid ready and writing down stats for monsters and just reviewing player character sheets… I likely spent MANY hours daydreaming about the story and coming up with how this adventure would go and where it would go from here if we chose to continue it.   I made it clear to the players up front that there would be mistakes with the rules and that we would just keep trucking forward and look things up later and make sure we get them right in a future session – for now if it made sense to me then that’s the way it would go, and for the most part that seemed to work well, it never felt like we were lost and not sure how things should flow even though I know we got many rules wrong.   Here is our story]

Our four adventures are walking down a narrow country road on the way to uxbridge a small mining and trading town.   Spirits are high and they are joking and telling stories of their past.   The group comprises of Stouthearted a small gnome who fancies himself a famous fighter (that no one has ever heard of), Thia a dwarvish cleric who has taken on an assumed name and is trying to find good in the world, Varis a drunken dark elf who has reluctantly agreed to join the group and is trained in the way of the rangers, and Dahlia an Aasimar (very rare in these parts) who is a righteous paladin.

[I didn’t put any restrictions on what characters my players could create, they are all level 1.   We had earlier had a player creation session where they all rolled in front of each other and I had given them homework to come up with some backgrounds (two players have DEEP awesome backstories) and insure that they have some reason as to why they all know each other…  apparently they had met in a bar in some other town and bonded…. This let me skip the “how do you all know each other phase”]

As they made their way down the road evening has started to fall and the sun is just starting to dip below the tree line and they hear a call for help.   After some investigating they find just up the road there is a traders cart on it’s side and under it’s wheel a Dwarvish man is trapped.  Stout challenges Varis to lift the cart and he struggles to get it high enough to free the dwarfs leg.  This prompts several jeers and jokes from Stout at Varis’s lack of strength to which Varis says fine you try then and drops the cart back down on the dwarfs leg much to his discomfort.   Stout attempts to lift the cart and does so easily flipping it back up on it’s wheels.

[This was my way of introducing the characters to the ideas of perception and strength checks and also to see if they would lean more good or evil in helping this person]

Drumo the dwarf gets up and is very hobbled and very thankful to be free,  he asks if the group is headed to uxbridge and offers to buy them a round at the bar – the finest ale he claims.   As he hobbles along it’s clear he’s quite slow and Thia the cleric offers to pull his cart for him, and instead of offering to put Drumo in the cart Strout jumps in there instead to take the free ride.

[I wanted to play up Drumo’s leg being hurt to see if I the cleric would waste one of her healing spells on him… she did not thankfully]

Once they reached the town and entered the bar Drumo bought them a round and then went to mingle with his friends.   The party had some interaction with the bartender and attempted to get freebies and these attempts all failed.  Eventually Thia decided to really take a look around the bar and see who was there, she noticed a dwarf standing near Drumo’s group that was giving Stout a hard stare and a fairly well armoured human with a hood in the back corner rolling dice.. She let the group know what she saw.

[This was my first real chance to be like, yes you passed a perception roll and this is what you see – however they don’t know what you saw even though they heard me tell you.   So got a little bit of roll playing out of her as she told the rest of the group]

Stout looks up and makes eye contact with the Dwarf who is staring him down,  the drunken Dwarf comes over and is saying that Drumo told him that Stout was strong but he looks so puny.   There is a bunch of back and forth and eventually this Dwarf challenges Stout to an arm wrestle challenge for beer.  

[Stout critically fails his strength check and loses, however manages to goad the Dwarf into a “double or nothing” situation and defeats him easily the second time.   This was again just to give some RP time and to get them used to rolling for checks]

Around this time a well dressed human and a very senior / important looking dwarf walk into the pub.   The players learn from overhearing mutterings and murmurs that this is the owner (human) and foreman (dwarf) of the local mine.   They describe that that there will be no work tomorrow morning as strange dog beasts and hyena’s have swarmed the mining site and killed the guard… they are trying to see if anyone will take up arms.    The Foreman notices the human fighter in the back of the bar, he is obviously well armed and has seen battle and they ask him if he will assist… he asks how much.   A price is stated of 4 gold for each dog beasts head and a copper for each hyena head… the mystery fighter turns him down saying it’s not worth his time.

Drumo speaks up and tells how his group of adventures saved him and that Stout was very strong and he was sure they could help.   The owner and foreman look them over and remark how they look very untested and offer them almost the same deal as the human but instead of 4 gold pieces per head he offers them 3.   The players object to the price change and after some haggling get it back to 4 gold pieces and agree to clear the mine.

[I wanted to make sure I made clear that the mystery fighter wasn’t “good” and that he looked like he could handle himself.  I also wanted to somewhat remove the chance of the players not going on the adventure by having Drumo volunteer them and having the owner “insult” them by saying they didn’t look ready.   Finally the persuasion check was done to get the price back up and at this point I felt they understood checks fully]

The adventures were eager to embark on their journey, but just before they left they had the “idea” to ask the owner what he knew about the beasts.   He described them as vicious things that had no fear of death and would fight to the bitter end.   He gave an estimate on numbers but said he couldn’t be sure.

[I had to prompt the players here before they set out that they might want a bit of information about what they were walking into]

They made their way up a fairly short twisty path to the mine and were careful to stay unnoticed.   As they came up to the final crest they could see four hyena’s gnawing away at the body of the dead guard.   Three Gnolls are standing around just behind them and furthest back is a Gnoll that looks like he might be in charge, they dubbed him the Gnoll Commander.

[In hindsight I may have outnumbered our players too much here.   They are brand new and not at all used to the tactics.   Possibly subtracting a Gnoll and two Hyena’s would have made this combat much faster and more in line with what I wanted.  The Gnoll commander was just a “suped” up Gnoll with some extra HP and very slightly better damage.   I gave him the ability to issue a “command” howl and that came into play later.]

As the players observed the enemies for a little while discussing what they should do.   They came to the realization that the Hyena’s may smell them if the wind shifted and just as they thought of that they noticed the smoke and flames of the fires start to shift and the head of the Hyena’s pop up from their meal and look in the adventurers direction…  ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.

[I had created a hex grid with all the players and enemies on them as various tokens,   I gave lots of room for movement and planning however I had done not a great job of explaining all the core parts of fighting in D&D and as such to avoid breaking the moment many rules were ignored during this fight… things like advantage, reaction / opportunity strikes were all skipped.. This mostly worked in the players favour as they put themselves in horrible locations.   This was all explained after the game and will be again before the next one to avoid this in the future.   The players quickly got the concept of rolling for hits, what AC is, and how to then roll for damage]

The players rushed into the middle of combat and it became quite clear that they were not seasoned fighters.   Lady luck was not on their side and many horrible misses on their side and many direct hits from the enemy.   Varis the ranger was very effective standing in the back and getting several hits on enemies.  At some point during combat Dahlia the Paladin decided she wanted to try to talk the Gnoll commander down and see if she could end the fight peacefully, despite not speaking Gnoll and apparently forgetting what she was told about the beasts earlier and the rest of her party questioning if it was a good idea she walked directly up to the gnoll commander and attempted to persuade him to stand down.   This plan failed horribly and the Gnoll commander looked to the sky and howled a mighty howl and pointed at her,  this was apparently a war cry to the other Gnolls who all disengaged from any fights they were in and swarmed the Paladin.    Over run by Gnolls the Paladin quickly fell and layed on the ground unconscious.

[This move unfortunately kept this player out of the game for basically all of the rest of combat as she moved herself so far away none of the other party members could get to her to heal her, and now the party is down someone who has the ability to do heals… this is when I realized things could go bad.   Over time she does her saving throws and stabilizes so does not completely die and is ignored by the monsters for the rest of the fight]

The battle continues, at one point Varis ignores two Hyena’s that are right in front of him nipping away and continues to do long range arrow shots (and hitting for the most part) at the Gnolls and Gnoll commander.  He eventually gets taken down to zero HP and falls to the ground.    The Cleric gets in close during battle and has the worst luck in attempting to hit anything,  and the fighter is also takes a critical hit from a Gnoll and takes damage to his leg reducing his walking distance.

[At this point it’s almost comical how badly all the players are rolling and how well I am rolling… I’m actually kind of regretting not rolling behind a screen so that I can fudge these numbers a bit.  I’m also getting worried that this party is going to wipe before I can get to the main “plot hook” … and as it turns out I actually have to change things up shortly]

Not long after Stout gets his leg injured and we have both Dahlia and Varis down Thia gets chewed on and goes down as well.   Things are looking very grim for our party when they hear a shout of “I knew you people were too green” and the human fighter from the bar runs in to the fight drawing the attention of all the monsters away from Stout.    He is holding a greatsword and makes a mighty swing hitting three gnolls that are all standing together hurting but not killing them…  the two remaining alive hyena’s get spooked and head for the hills and we are now left with the Gnolls, two dead hyena’s (killed earlier by the players), and the Gnoll commander versus this new fighter and Stout.   Stout notices that the fighter’s satchel is open and he can see healing potions in it,  he calls for the fighter to hand him some and gets flipped off,  Stout attempts to pickpocket the fighter and is successful and pulls 3 healing potions from his bag.

[The fighter was not supposed to show up at this point in the battle at all – however I figured I could insert him into the story here and maybe get this party through the encounter.   I actually didn’t expect the pickpocket to work however Stout got a natural 20 on the slight of hand roll and it may have been a turning point for the battle]

The battle continues with stout healing Thia [ Who had almost died by having failed 2 of her stabilizing throws]  who in turn uses her healing abilities and brings Varis back into the fight.   At one point the Fighter gets hit in the shoulder with a flaming arrow from the Gnoll commander and his great sword goes flying out of his hands and he switches to his axe.  They can’t get to Dahlia and she remains having a long sleep for the time being.   The fighter has now taken some damage and realized that he is missing his healing potions and can’t heal himself… he falls back to the edge of the battle just behind Varis and watches the now re-engaged party attempt to finish off these monsters.

[One area I started to struggle with is coming up with good descriptions of how “hits” were done .. it was mentioned to me later that I seemed to focus on the shoulder getting hit alot! ]

The fight goes on for a while with monsters starting to fall and in many ways is a comedy of errors.   One Gnoll has a critical failure attempting to stab someone with a spear and ends up hitting his fellow Gnoll with it instead.   Stout attempted to swing his sword at a Gnoll and completely misses in an amazing fashion and drops his sword,  the Gnoll then attempts to bite Stout but also has a critical fail and trips on the sword, falling on it and killing himself.    Varis continues to fire arrows from the perimeter and manages to take down the Gnoll commander and Thia eventually figures out how to use her war hammer and crushes the spine of the final Gnoll.   

[At this point the party is pretty pumped having won the fight and I feel bad for Dahlia as she didn’t really get to do much over the last hour or so but at this point I decide to spring what was going to be the original twist on the players]

The mystery human fighter who is standing just behind Varis grabs him and holds his axe to his neck.   He demands that the party throw down their weapons, any gold they have and to leave this area – he is going to take the heads for himself.   The party is stunned and not sure how to respond and Varis decides to do a dexterity check to see if he can use a free arrow and stab the fighter in his injured shoulder.   This works and the fighter howls in pain and throws Varis away,  Varis quickly draws his bow and fires at the fighter hitting him and wounding him more.   The Fighter realizing he is going to lose this fight throws a smoke bomb on the ground making it so no one can see and slips away and they can’t find him.

After healing Dahlia and getting her back on her feet they loot the dead body that the Hyena’s were originally chewing on and find some coin, they cut the heads off the beasts and turned to head back into town before Varis decided to do a check around the area to see if they missed anything.    This is when they noticed the dropped sword from the fighter… it was very nicely made and had a very decorative pummel of a bear head and the steel was bright and clean as if it had never seen battle… even though it clearly had.   They attempted to see if they knew anything about it and decided they did not and will ask in town about it later.

[This is where we ended,  the players have the heads to turn in for a reward, they have a sword that seems special but they don’t know why, and they are all alive.    At this point what I had planned to take just under 2 hours had now stretched out to 3 hours.   Everyone seemed to have a great time however and wanted to continue this story further.. We had a small chat about some of the things that I kind of glossed over in combat and things that could go differently.   I then asked them each to write up a recap and post it in the discord of how they viewed things.]

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