Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure how this adventure was going to go. In the last two years when we’ve done our holiday game with the kids we’ve done a more traditional dungeon crawl. This adventure has some roleplaying aspects to it and honestly as beginning gamers I was concerned that those elements would be a bit lost in the shuffle. We had players as young as 6 and 9, teenagers, and as old as, well, me… I’ve been gaming with my friend Kevin since college – 1988 was a long time ago and we’re now in our 40s with kids and wives.
First of all, know that my GMing style is a bit rough around the edges these days. I tend to keep the mood light as much as possible. Puns, silly voices, leading questions, etc. all come into play – especially with young kids. Don’t want to get TOO dark – so there was a lot of laughter from the beginning. I read some of the encounter text verbatim and paraphrased elsewhere.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you’re planning on playing the adventure!
They quickly made it out of town and found their way to the first encounter. Amazingly there was a call for diplomacy, which made things go better. The party spoke with Lorelei the Hamadryad and were kind enough she actually gave them a few potions to help them help her. Shocking. Nobody was hurt – even the poor thralls Lorelei had in her power.
The next encounter involved six giant mosquitoes as written. I doubled it. A couple of characters were hurt in the melee, but they eventually squashed the bugs and moved on.
But after that, things got weird.
The encounter after the bugs involves a naiad drying out in a muddy riverbed. One of the characters approached and wanted to check to see if she was alive. She did this by picking up the naiad and shaking her in a misguided attempt to wake her up, then throwing her over her shoulder. At that point, the naiad was in a bad state of mind and stabbed the PC in the back with a dagger. The character then threw the naiad about 6 feet away in the mud to get her off…
To say the naiad wasn’t pleased is an understatement. She was unconscious at this point however and the party decided to tie a rope to her foot and drag her along the river bottom to the shore. You might imagine a river bottom as being covered in rocks and mud, so the poor creature was dragged, bouncing from rock to rock until she was finally on shore.
The cleric healed the poor creature, who immediately opened her eyes and leaped to hug the healer asking to be protected against the PC who had hurt her earlier…
After a brief exchange, the naiad told the party of the bear who was troubling the pond where her fellow naiads were staying hydrated. The bear was hungry, hurt, and they worried might decide that naiads were on the menu.
So part of the group went to check out the pond. The druid and the bard managed to not only calm the bear, but heal it, and convince it to move on to find food elsewhere.
The naiads might have given the party some treasure, but decided that the initial encounter had soured them on doing more than offering a “thank you”.
And we moved on to the third encounter of the evening. Of course, by this point the party had decided to take a long rest. They may have actually done this before the naiad encounter, but it was somewhere before the third encounter. They got hit points back and rested until it was dark.
Marching in the dark, they were eventually set upon by a group of giant frogs. The encounter is written for three giant frogs, but I decided that wasn’t enough and added two more for good measure. Except for the gnomish wizard being swallowed whole, nobody really took much damage and they dispatched the frogs pretty quickly.
They continued onward in the dark to the dam, which has been causing all the issues downstream… no water for the naiad or the hamadryad.
The lead characters manage to hit two snare traps, which alerts the frogfolk on top of the dam itself… We managed to get through one round of combat at the top of the dam with one group of enemies while another was on the way from the other side before we ran out of steam and called it good for the night.
So a few observations came to mind…
First, it’s been a long time since I have played with a drow anywhere near the party. Not sure why she decided to play one, but didn’t really bother me. I totally forgot about the whole “daytime” disadvantage of the race until the player reminded me. So from that point on I was happy to use the “Advantage/Disadvantage” mechanic in 5e to make it harder for her to hit anything. She was good with it and it added a bit of an inconvenience more than anything else.
Second, eleven PCs and twelve players is INSANE. That said, we got through more than 3 encounters pretty easily using what I’ve heard described as the “theatre of the mind” approach that we used to favor in old school D&D. I didn’t use big tactical maps. We did initiative and worked through things in order from top to bottom until each combat was resolved. And it worked great. We hardly got bogged down and when we did it was usually a spellcaster figuring out what their plan was going to be as we got used to certain spells.
But all in all, I was impressed by the fact that we really didn’t struggle without having a laptop or a map or any of the things we had used in the previous two years with 4e. I did it all on paper and just winged it.
Third, the mechanics of 5e are much simplified – to the point where I felt like our 6 year old player was just as with it as our 40+ year old players were. We rolled dice, mechanics were pretty streamlined and consistent all along the way, and we just chugged right through it all.
Were there some speed bumps? Sure. But I don’t think it could have gone much better.
Overall I think everybody had a good time, including me. And we may try and finish off the adventure over the Christmas break when everybody is in town again. If that happens, there will be more to the story to relate!