Thundertree Post Mortem

We ended up using last nights’ Dungeon World Slot to run D&D. We thought we were going to be down more people than we were, and there was a lot of 5e curiosity, so we decided to make some characters ant take a swing at it. We had more folks show up than planned, so it got a little bit crazy, but we worked through fast and dirty chargen for 6 characters, and bumped them to 3rd level because there was some interest in seeing how the characters played once they were into their subclass.

Table was: Human Cleric of Knowledge, Half elf Bard, Tiefling Draconic Sorcerer, Dwarf Paladin of Vengeance, Dwarf rogue thief and a half orc monk. A few things have slipped my memory since we were juggling a lot. I opted to run them through the Thundertree portions of Lost Mine of Phandelven, so spoilers ahead.

Chargen was educational. Rolling up characteristics is fun for one shots, but it’s very much a shotgun approach, and rarely tells much of a story. I admit that when the time comes to run a real campaign, we’re going to take a bit more time on chargen (or do some of it offline) so backgrounds and details are not just pulled from thin air.

it also revealed that for all that this is streamlined, there can still be a lot to write down and keep track of (a good argument for starting at level 1). If they’re reasonably priced, I will almost certainly buy the spell decks when they come out to spare myself a lot of photocopying. It also pretty much guarantees I’ll be redoing the character sheets playbook style, for my own ease of use.

So, Thundertree is an abandoned town with zombies, twig blights, giant spiders, cultists and a green dragon. When I read the adventure, it seemed like it was WAY too nasty, since a group might be as low as 2nd level when they encountered it. But we had a larger-than-normal group at 3rd, so it seemed like maybe this was about right.

It was not.

Part of it was that the group was a little bit haphazard in their approach to the town, so there were a few early attacks (by blights and spiders) while they were separated. The spiders, in particular, were quite nasty. They would have dropped our monk in the first round if he hadn’t used the half-orc death denial ability to stay standing. They cut a deal with the druid to get rid of the dragon, talked with the cultists and agreed to join them to talk to the dragon, but the cultists then tried to feed them to him.

The dragon was a nasty fight for a couple reasons,some fair, some not. It did not get surprise (because they were ready for betrayal) but it dominated the initiative roll by virtue of everyone else sucking very hard. That meant it got to open with a breath weapon attack before the party could spread out. That caught 4 characters. I ended up rolling the damage dice because if I took the average (42) that would have been enough to insta-kill the sorcerer, which seemed douchey. They got lucky and I rolled a 39, so they Sorcerer and Monk were merely dropped, but the Paladin and Rogue stayed standing (barely), largely by virtue of it being a poision attack and them being dwarves. Much of the rest of the round involved getting the injured ones back on their feet and scrambling away. The monk engaged got in some hits, but not many, and all three of the Sorcerer’s Scorching Rays failed to hit.

It looked bad, and the second round could have gone very badly indeed, because the dragon successfully recharged his breath weapon, and two of the characters (the cleric and paladin) were tied up recovering their downed allies. Thankfully, the bard had thrown a Tasha’s hideous laughter on the leader of the chanting cultists, so the dragon used its breath weapon on them, feeling disrespected. That bought the party the round they needed.

Because THIS round (thanks to the Cleric’s bless), the paladin got off a smite, the Monk got off a successful trip, the rogue got off a sneak attack, and the sorcerer hit with all 3 rays. All told, they did over 60 damage in one round, and at 68, the thing turns tail and runs, so with the small amount of damage it had on it, it made a break for it (and got away clean).

Hard fought success, absolutely, but also educational. I think they could have done much better if they’d had time to plan, and if they had been the ones initiating the conflict, it would have been less frantic. But if it had gone one round longer, it would have turned ugly again, as the breath weapon had recharged again (though a claw-claw-bite could also probably have taken out a target or two as well). If it had not been inclined to run away, I think the party would have lost, since they’d largely burned their whammies. But it might have been close, depending on breath weapon luck. Design-wise, I think my biggest concern is that possibility for a one-hit-instakill on the sorcerer. That could have been a real funkiller.

But here’s the key – we started a little after 7:30, did chargen from scratch for 6 players, 3 of whom had not even seen 5e yet, and had 3 fights, 2 social encounters, some exploration and plenty of scenery chewing. We wrapped up by 11:00. That’s a little slower than dungeon world (especially on the chargen) but it’s a good clip for D&D. Everyone is pretty gung ho for more D&D, enough that the question of when DW is going to wrap up has been floated. That’s a good sign.

4 thoughts on “Thundertree Post Mortem

  1. Sandra

    I am so stoked for running more of LMoP. I’ve read through, but haven’t ran or played in, the section you played in above.
    Also not sure the PCs will even get there ever. 🙂

    As for playbook style chargen (which I think the pregens in the starter set already somewhat approximates) I would want to make like separate sheets for class, background and the type of being you are (e.g. halfling, dwarf etc).
    We tried a little chargen and a lot of the time sink was writing the special features that each of those three things gave you.

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  2. Terry O'Carroll

    With proper planning and a little luck, the dragon is killable. One party did it by climbing on top of the tower, throwing a Fireball from a scroll down into the dragon’s lair (which then caught fire), causing the dragon to panic and try to climb up out of the small hatchway in the roof of the tower. To do that, it had to squeeze, granting advantage to attack rolls… and the fighter and cleric use their reactions to hurl nets as it tries to emerge. Wizard uses Web on the dragon, which it saves against with disadvantage because it is squeezing and restrained (twice!) It gets stuck (again) and basically has to waste its action each round trying to get out of the mess.

    Dragon uses breath weapon, but only catches two dwarves in the cone, which hurts them but not badly. The dragon slashes at the nets and keeps trying to escape the web, but has difficulty. Meanwhile, rogue is doing a lot of damage each round with a crossbow and Sneak Attack, the cleric gets in a couple of solid hits with Inflict Wounds and that spiritual weapon spell, the wizard chucks in some magic missiles… pretty soon the dragon is at half hp and still restrained. It panics, no longer trying to escape the web, slashing madly at the fighter and cleric with claws and bites but just can’t hit them because of their high AC and the disadvantage. Before you know it, dragon is dead.

    PCs lose much of the treasure because the building burns down, so they don’t get the scrolls, and the coins melt. Still, full XP for that bad boy brings them up to 4th level.

    I think that in any case, setting the dragon’s lair on fire would be enough to drive it away – it likes the lair, but if you burn the building down it’s going to try somewhere else.

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