Sword Coast Campaign

"Meet me in Phandelver"
My first 5e campaign

Foreword

I’m starting a fifth edition campaign for two players. The option of a DMPC is being left open, but I prefer not to run DMPCs – if the party feels the need, there will be plenty of companions available for the players to recruit.

Due to the party being much, much smaller than calibrated for in the published material, there will be significant changes made, in order to balance everything out. Mostly, it will be a reduction in monster numbers, though single powerful creatures may get replaced.

The Players and their Characters

Names have been changed to protect the shy and innocent.

I will be linking characters some other time.

Svetlana is playing Nasir, a male human Cleric of Chauntea.
Anastasiya is playing Draco, a male human Barbarian.

Backgrounds: Draco used to be a member of the Mintarn mercenaries, but left due to chafing about the corruption and bullying he saw among the mercenaries stationed in Waterdeep. He’s now heard of a gang called the “Redbrands” harassing people in the frontier village of Phandalin. Through his mercenary contacts, he heard of a miner looking for escorts to the village, and convinced his old friend Nasir to accompany him.

Nasir is a member of Chauntea’s wide-ranging clergy. An elder member of the church has received a vision of a descrated shrine to the goddess, and scholars indicate it is within the ruined walls of Cragmaw Castle, somewhere in the Neverwinter Wood. With equipment and blessing from the church, Nasir was more than happy to help Draco as well.

The Setup

The characters have been hired by Gundren Rockseeker, a dwarven miner, so escort a wagonload of supplies to Phandelver – for what, the dwarf isn’t saying.

After a few days of uneventful travel, the wagon turned east onto the Triboar Trail. Around midday, the pair saw dead horses ahead in the road. Instinctively, they suspected an ambush, and were soon proven correct as two goblins stepped out from behind trees. Draco’s sword and Nasir’s crossbow made short work of the filthy creatures. Discovering a footpath on the north side of the trail, the intrepid pair hid the wagon, tied up the oxen, and followed the trail to a small cavern tucked into the side of a hill, with a cold stream flowing out of the cave mouth. Approaching cautiously, they spotted two goblin sentries cooking something over a small fire. Draco attempted to sneak up on the sentries, but alerted them. Nasir was watching, and before they could even draw their weapons, planted a crossbow bolt in one goblin’s eye, following with a second bolt into the other goblin’s chest as the filthy creature swung its sword at Draco.

In a cavern off to the side of main tunnel, the pair of spelunkers found some wolves chained up to a stalagmite, apparently used as guard dogs by the goblins. Some food and gentle behavior bribed the wolves sufficiently to let the two pass without a problem. In the back of this cavern was a steep natural chimney. Draco climbed some ten yards to the top, where it opened into a large cavern. From his hidden position at the lip of the fissure, he could see a bugbear and a goblin sitting around a fire. Eagerly, he climbed out and advanced towards them, drawing his greatsword. Nasir, at the bottom, saw his friend climb out, and followed, clambering as fast as he could up the steep, rocky surface.

The fight with the bugbear was brief, but brutal. Klarg, as he called himself, got in a strong hit on Draco with his massive morningstar, almost dropping the human to his knee. Draco’s rage took over at this point, and soon thereafter, the bugbear lay dead at his feet. This display of strength and superiority prompted the goblin to surrender in gibbering fear. Upon questioning, the goblin revealed, in its pidgin Common, the presence of a captive in the caverns, but that the dwarven prisoner, along with his map, had been taken to Cragmaw Castle to King Grol, by the orders of someone or something named “The Black Spider.” The goblin was also able to impart the rough location of Castle Cragmaw. However, the goblin was so frightened, it soiled itself and Draco’s boots, and the furious soldier slammed the goblin into a stalagmite, knocking it unconscious. The sojourners quickly bound their wounds, then ventured forth to find three more goblins, unaware of their leader’s demise thanks to the cacophony of the waterfall feeding the stream. Though the goblins were slain, they inflicted grievous wounds on the pair of explorers, who withdrew once again to the bugbear’s cavern, where they rested for some time, reflecting on their adventures and the enemies they’ve been facing.

To be continued….

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The Redbrands are causing trouble
Session two of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

After resting in the large cavern, the two adventurers, Draco and Nasir, decided to continue exploring the caves. Making their way to the far side of the stream, they entered the “eating room” which was a big communal rooms for the goblins to eat and sleep in. The warrior hired by Gundren Rockseeker as an escort was being kept here, a human named Sildar Hallwinter. Though the alarm was instantly raised, the goblins fell easily before Draco and Nasir, and the Yeemik, the goblin’s leader, threatened to drop Sildar off a precipice if the two did not cease their attacks. They did so, and Yeemik demanded the head of Klarg, the bugbear and Yeemik’s only rival to dominating the goblins of Cragmaw Hideout. Despite Sildar gasping out a pained warning not to trust the goblin, the two adventurers agreed, but Draco turned to leave, then drew a javelin, and spun back to face Yeemik, hurling the javelin into the foul creature’s chest, in a risky, deceptive ploy. Nasir completed the rescue by using the last of his healing magic on Sildar.

At this point, there was a metagame moment, as Svetlana mentioned she was not having fun playing Nasir, and wanted to change her character. Given the essentially resolved nature of this stage of the adventure, I agreed, and Nasir was replaced with Joswin, a human fighter of noble birth.

After recovering, Sildar filled the pair in with what he knew. Draco and Joswin explored the only remaining portion of the caverns, a fungal farm guarded by a would-be goblin alchemist. Something mysterious seemed to be going on in the fungal room, but lacking any expertise, the spelunking pair agreed to return with an alchemist, druid, or other knowledgeable person.

The three humans left the hideout, returned to the wagon of supplies, and continued to Phandalin. they arrived without further incident in the early evening, and headed straight for the Stonehill Inn to drop off Sildar, then delivered the supplies they’d been escorting to Barthen’s Provisions. Upon hearing of Gundren’s abduction, Barthen filled them in on the dwarf’s goals, and urged the pair to rescue him.

Wandering around town after dealing with Barthen, Draco and Joswin tried to get more information on the exact location of Cragmaw Castle. Passing the Lionshield Coster, they recalled the stolen supplies they had left in the hideout, and entered to inform the proprietor, a woman named Linene, of this. After quizzing the men about any connection to the Redbrands, she showed them to the back room, where she keeps armor and weaponry, and offered them a modest sum of store credit for their information about the lost supplies. Draco eagerly accepted the opportunity to acquire some armor, having been bloodied rather heavily in the hideout due to his lack of any protection whatsoever.

Their next stop was the house of the local priestess, an elven follower of Tymora named Sister Garaele. She welcomed the strangers, feeding them a light supper and supplying what information she could, encouraging them to deal with the Redbrands, but she could offer no further advice on finding Cragmaw Castle. She did present her own task, asking if the pair could convince a banshee at Conyberry to answer a question regarding a legendary mage. She also pointed the adventurers to the Alderleaf farm, confident the halfling family would have information to lead to the answers they seek.

Draco and Joswin decided to look into the Redbrands that everyone had been talking about, and headed straight for the Sleeping Giant taphouse. The swaggering Redbrands lounging outside immediately provoked a fight, but having double the numbers, quickly forced the pair of strangers into a retreat. Chafing under the ignominy of this defeat, the pair licked their wounds and skirted the taphouse, heading to the abandoned Tresendar Manor, which they’d heard was where the Redbrands were coming from. It took them almost no time at all to find the unguarded entrance to the basement.

In the wine cellar beyond this unguarded entrance, they methodically searched the room, finding a hidden treasure cache, but also attracting the attention of a pair of Redbrand guards. With the numbers being equal, Draco and Joswin slew the Redbrand pair without too much difficulty, then decided to proceed through a hidden door that they’d found. The hallway beyond led to a large rom, fractured by a steep chasm running the length of it. Draco spotted a hideous, one-eyed abomination peering at them from behind a pillar, which he recognized as a Nothic, a creature of insanity formed when a mage seeks out forbidden knowledge. Keeping their distance, they crossed the chasm using a bridge the Redbrands had crudely built, and headed down another hall, when a mad, cackling voice echoed inside their heads. It was the nothic, who bargained with the pair for food. Sufficiently bribed, the nothic helped the pair defeat four Redbrands in the underground Common room, rotting the flesh off of one Redbrand and disfiguring another while Draco and Joswin slew the remainder. On their end, the pair of adventurers paid off the nothic with salted pork from the wine cellar, and it scampered off, happy to have a meal larger than the scraps the Redbrands had been throwing him.

Not further on, the intrepid pair found Iarno’s hastily-abandoned library and alchemy room, and gave chase. Stymied by the lack of his secret escape satchel, and lacking the endurance of his pursuers, he finally turned to face them after a brief chase through the fields outside of Phandalin. Joswin and Draco were not your typical mindless thugs, however, and Iarno’s enchantments had no effect on either. Within moments he was pinned down by the pair, and immediately surrendered. Draco had several choice words for the despicable, power-hungry wizard, but refrained from any violence, and Iarno was escorted to a cell in Phandalin’s Townmaster Hall.

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Rescuing Gundren Rockseeker
Session three of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

After a well-deserved rest, the adventuring pair questioned the captive mage and former head of the Redbrands, Iarno, hearing details about the mysterious “Black Spider,” the approximate location of Cragmaw Castle, and the fact that Gundren Rockseeker is prisoner there. The grateful townsfolk threw a small celebration for the local heroes as well. Joswin and Draco decided that the highest priority was rescuing Gundren Rockseeker, so they purchased some horses from Barthen’s Provisions and headed north into the Neverwinter Woods. A strong internal sense of direction and Iarno’s instructions allowed them to find the castle with ease. Not seeing any sentries posted outside, they approached cautiously, taking the time to surreptitiously stalk the perimeter and examine the crumbling fortress from every angle. Finally they decided to try the postern gate due to its secluded location, and this turned out to be a wise choice, as they made it to the locked door without being noticed. the iron door gave them some difficulty, as neither one was prepared for nor skilled at the art of unlocking. It took them quite some time, but they managed to avoid notice by a hobgoblin patrol, and finally made their way inside.

Once inside the castle, they worked their way stealthily and ruthlessly through the interior, taking out group after group of surprised and undisciplined goblins without alerting others. After much searching and resulting bloodshed, the pair of adventurers burst into King Grol’s chamber, interrupting a heated exchange between the aforementioned bugbear and a dark elf, with an unconscious dwarf in the corner. Thinking they’d already found the “Black Spider” the team leapt into action. Draco bounded in, his fury boiling over as he tied up King Grol and the bugbear’s pet wolf. The Draw attempted to escape, but the more level-headed Joswin spotted her and intercepted her down in the corridor outside Grol’s tower.

Draco finished off his foes in quick and brutal fashion, and joined Joswin just as a pair of hobgoblin guards, investigating the fracas, joined the fray. however, even these reinforcements were too little to change the tide of the battle. Defeat of the dark elf revealed that she was actually a doppelganger – clearly a mere agent of the Black Spider. Bloodied but triumphant, the pair of rescuers revived Gundren, recovered his map, and fled the castle, leaving the few remaining inhabitants to be dealt with another time.

Returning to Phandalin, Gundren filled them in on what he knew, and the location of Wave Echo Cave, urging them to travel there and rescue his brothers as well.

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Wave Echo Cave: Part 1.
Session four of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

Having procured much information from Gundren Rockseeker, as well as the all-important map, the heroes set out to rescue the dwarf’s brothers, after convincing the miner to stay behind.

Pushing their horses a bit, the pair managed to reach the tunnel leading into the ancient mines by lunchtime. Their first discovery was an unfortunate one; a recently deceased dwarf, apparently one of the Rockseeker brothers murdered by the Black Spider. Face with a tunnel leading northwest and east, the pair decided to go east, Draco taking the lead. In a large cavern with many tunnels leading off of it, the pair had their first encounter with a flock of stirges. Though quickly dealt with, the voracious beasts left the duo tired and in pain, so they decided to rest for a spell. Unfortunately, their rest was interrupted by a trio of wandering skeletons, but once these undead were violently laid to rest, the pair managed to get a peaceful break.

Continuing to follow tunnels heading east, the adventurers pushed past a cloud of poisonous spores released by a carpet of glowing mushrooms, and entered a fantastic cavern, the ceiling glittering from the torchlight. Within this spacious cavern, two masonry buildings had been erected centuries ago, and the walls and floor were scorched with evidence of the spell battle fought equally long ago. The floor was littered with the desiccated remains of the slain combatants.

Finding a hostile wraith inhabiting one building, the pair left the spirit alone, and entered the second building. There, a floating creature with four eyestalks and one central eye greeted them telepathically, and it didn’t take long for the adventurers to realize the creature was an insane guardian. Unable to get the location of the Black Spider from the orb-creature, they returned to the wraith, where it agreed to help them if they slew or drove off the Spectator guarding the Forge of Spells. With more than a bit of regret in their hearts, the pair slew the beast, lugging its corpse to Mormesk the wraith. Upholding his side of the bargain, the wraith informed them where they could find the black spider, as well as rewarding them with the coins and gems from his chest. perusing the magically preserved books, Draco and Joswin found a dwarven tome with a map sewn into the lining, which they also took.

Following Mormesk’s instructions, the pair entered an ancient smelting room, and were immediately set upon by a cackling flameskull and a pair of zombies. Though the fight left the pair blackened and bruised, they successfully slayed the undead.

To be continued…

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Wave Echo Cave: Part 2
Session five of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

After a bloody fight with zombies and a flameskull last time, our heroes withdrew to the cavern entrance, and set up camp.

Feeling refreshed and ready to tackle more of Wave Echo Cave, the duo headed deeper into the mines. There were few foes left to fight, so it was mostly a mop-up operation, fighting bugbears and another doppelganger on the way towards the temple. The doppelganger did give them false hope that they’d found the black spider.

The temple of Dumathoin served as their final battleground, and though the webs from the giant spiders were frustrating, Joswin and Draco’s strength allowed them to inexorably make their way to the black spider, who put up a fierce but ultimately brief final stand. The two heroes were certain to examine the corpse carefully to ensure it was not yet another doppelganger.

Their mission accomplished, the pair returned to Phandalin, giving Gundren Rockseeker a mix of news; his goal of finding and clearing out the mine was achieved, but his brother Tharden had perished.

The heroes were given another victory party and Gundren rewarded them with a 10% stake in Wave Echo Cave, though it will be months before operations resume.

They also got the dwarven map from Mormesk’s quarters translated. It leads to an ancient dwarven delve named “Khundrukar” (in Common: “The Glitterhame”), and translating the accompanying descriptions and icons on the map place it in the mountains north of Luskan.

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Ranging beyond Phandlin
Session six of the Lost mine of Phandelver

Having accomplished their most pressing goal, Draco and Joswin decided to clear up several other problems they’d heard of from various townsfolk.

They rode to Wyvern Torn, a hill famous in previous times of being home to wyverns, hence the name. But here, near a cave in the hillside, they found an Ogre named Gog and an orc named Brughor Axe-Biter along with his small warband of half a dozen orcs. Managing to slip away unseen, they returned when most of the group was sleeping, and with a combination of luck and skill, took out the meager watch. heading inside the simple cave, they quietly bound the ogre and an orc before they awoke, making the fight much easier, though the ogre did manage to break free after struggling for a while.

Another victory for them, Joswin and Draco cleared out the cave and used it as a camp, resting up after the fight. the night went by peacefully. In the morning, they mounted up again and rode to Old Owl Well, were they found the rumors of undead were indeed true, but in this case it was a bunch of zombies led by a Thayan necromancer, who was seeking more information about Old Owl Well. After talking a bit, he offered a reward if they could get him the name of the wizard who originally built Old Owl Well.

Continuing west, the pair rode to the ruins of Conyberry, and set up camp for the night in one of the less ramshackle ruins. A pack of hungry wolves menaced them after nightfall, but Draco’s loudly drove them off.

In the morning, they made the short journey north of Conyberry to Agatha’s hut, and with some trepidation, confronted the banshee. Joswin used his social acumen to convince Agatha to answer Sister Garele’s question, then offered the heirloom in exchange for Hamun Kost’s information. The banshee was very happy to get her comb back, and so Draco and Joswin picked up their reward from Hamun Kost, and returned to Sister Garele in Phandalin. She offered them membership in the Harpers, which they both gladly accepted.

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Rumblings
Transitioning from the Lost Mine of Phandelver to Storm King's Thunder

We rejoin our triumphant heroes on their way to Thundertree. They are investigation the long-abandoned hamlet at the request of Qelline Alderleaf, the halfling owner of Alderleaf farm in Phandalin. Her druid friend, a human named Reidoth, went out to check on some disturbing news he’d gathered from his woodland friends regarding Thundertree, and she asks the heroes to check on him. They agreed, and made the trip to Thundertree without incident. Once there,they find the hamlet is overrun with bloodthirsty plants and disgusting ash zombies. Reidoth finds them, and reveals the reason he’s been staying here: a green dragon named Venomfang has taken up residence in the tower in town, and Reidoth has been observing it to determine if it poses a threat to Phandalin. He also informs them that some humans have recently ensconced themselves in a hut on the far side of town, and he does not know what their intentions are. Draco and Joswin decide to investigate them first. Draco’s approach is very simple: knock on their door. After a long wait, while the inhabitants obviously try to pretend they’re not there, an Illuskan man opens the door slightly and tries to shoo Draco away. A heated argument ensues, and eventually the Illuskan reveals they are members of the Dragon Cult, here to worship and forge an alliance with Venomfang. Eventually, Joswin and Draco decide to force the confused people out of Thundertree, and they draw swords in response. Joswin and Draco’s skill completely overwhelm their foes, and they chase down the fleeing head cultist in the fields outside of town in a dramatic finish. Regrouping, they nervously enter the tower at the top of the hill. It seems deserted, but then a dragon’s head on a long, serpentine neck appears in one of the interior doorways. Venomfang mocks them, and chuckles, asking what tribute they’ve brought. Draco rarely needs an excuse to fly off the handle anyway, and draws his greatsword, bellowing the battle frenzy. At first, the heroes appear doomed, as the toxic cloud of gas that the dragon breathes their way leaves them barely clinging to consciousness. However, in the confines of the tower, the two can put their impressive martial skills to best use, and with Reidoth springing in to magically bind their wounds, the pair manage to slay the dragon, though only just – Draco collapses in shock and exhaustion immediately after. Their spirits buoyed by this incredible achievement as well as the small hoard left by Venomfang, the pair camp out in Thundertree, then return to Phandalin the next day. Draco pries out the largest scale he can find on Venomfang as a trophy; it’s approximately as big as a tea saucer.

Having enjoyed what few luxuries Phandalin has to offer, Draco and Joswin are contacted by Linene Graywind, who is in charge of the Phandalin branch of the Lionshield Coster, a branch of the Lionshield merchant company based out of Yartar. She asks the pair of heroes to be couriers for her, ask she has a small but fragile and exceedingly valuable package that she needs delivered to the Lionshield branch in Triboar. Upon hearing that Triboar is a much larger town, with more luxuries and pursuits to engage in, Draco leaps at the opportunity, and Joswin is interested as well.

The two ensure their supplies are adequate, as the road to Triboar is a long on, and set off. The trip is mostly uneventful, meeting a few brave merchants along the way and having to deal with occasional sleeplessness due to terrifying noises from the nearby Neverwinter Woods. After several days of this travel, the pair reach Triboar. It’s evening, and they notice a crowd of concerned citizens is gathered in front of the small fortified tower in the center of Triboar. A Chondathan in armor is standing in front of the tower, urging townsfolk to stay calm and return to their homes. After the crowd disperses, Draco and Joswin query the Chondathan lady, who informs them that orcs have been spotted to the southwest, and the townsfolk are concerned. She’s sent the Twelve, Triboar’s elite cavalry, out to investigate. Upon learning that Joswin is a member of the Lord’s Alliance, she looks relieved and asks the two to stay in town the following day in case more manpower is needed to deal with the orc threat. Joswin and Draco retire to the Northshield House, Triboar’s finest inn, wondering what will happen the next day.

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Trouble in Triboar
Storm King's Thunder in full swing

(This post is a placeholder – description to follow when I get my notes in order)

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