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Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition)» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Polemar open table adventure 1 rss

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Danny Stevens
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Danny's big session index


I am preparing an open table campaign as set out in the article Constructing an Open Table Campaign for D&D 5e. I have not done much more than note new information for the ruin areas on the map and assign the green dragons some children, one a young blue dragon.

As this is a low prep game I intend to run all monsters "as is" directly out of the Monster Manual with an exception here and there when I feel like it.

Phaedra and Tara happened to be around so I invited them to try a quick adventure. This is how it played out.

The girls made new characters, working on my new character sheet. This was a good shake out. We needed somewhere to place tool and vehicle proficiencies. Update in the works.

Phaedra created a half elf, barbarian folk hero called Gudrid Irenmundottir. A character who helps the weak and has a history of robbing the rich to help the poor.

We fit this to the game by inventing a local Lord Binare who has a keep at Grass Meadow and who runs a good deal of merchant trade between the towns. Gems and iron from the dwarves, lumber from Polemar, grain, meats and alcohol from Grass Meadow and master craft furniture from Druidstone. The dragons often extract a toll from his caravans which he allows for. Lord Binare is Lawful Neutral, and very bigoted toward elves. He considers them lazy, criminal, and untrustworthy.

Gudrid, chaotic good, some time back held up one of Lord Binare's caravans to help supply food and shelter for a group of elves to the North East of town. Since then Gudrid has had to hide from bounty hunters and the like, although with the help of poorer folk it has not been too hard.

Tara's character, Katrali, is a neutral good wood elf druid with a hermit background. She decided that Katrali and Gudrid are cousins. Initially Lord Binare held Katrali responsible for Gudrid's bad behaviour and Katrali became a recluse. She may have done that eventually anyway as she is oblivious to social conventions.

This side of character creation also helped flesh out a bit of the local story, where elves are the surviving outcasts of a once noble civilisation. The city of Lost Resome is a largish elvish tree city, long abandoned and now haunted.

So with that we were ready to play. I quickly invented a problem where the lumber folk of the city were encountering poisonous snakes in unusual numbers, and quite aggressive. They approach Lord Binare as he is overseeing the preparation for a caravan of iron being sent to cities in the south. He tells them that they should do something about it themselves and doesn't see why they should come to him for wood people problems. Katrali and Gudrid, hoods up, overhear this exchange and decide to go see what is going on in the woods.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

The source of the problem is a dark elf druid who is trying to keep the lumber folk out of his domain. The druid is also mucking around with weather and lightning which I decide is of interest to the blue dragon.


The two intrepid protagonists head out into the woods and after a couple of hours they leave the most cleared areas and enter the denser forest. They see momentary bright glows of blue light deeper in the forest and head toward them. There they spot an axe woman lying against a tree and moaning. She is obviously in a bad way.

Katrali spots a giant snake hidden among the undergrowth when they get to within about 15' of the woman. The snake has also spotted Katrali, but not Gudrid who has managed to be exceptionally stealthy. The snake raises its head and looks away into the forest waving its head back and forth.

Katrali climbs the nearest tree ("Snakes can't climb trees" she is convinced) from where she casts flame at the snake. At the same time Gudrid hurls a javelin that runs through the snakes body. In response the snake coiled about the javelin, snapping it and climbs the tree the woman leans against. Her moans are fainter now.

Katrali and Gudrid see that a second snake is probably approaching as the undergrowth in the distance is being disturbed in a sort of wake. Katrali climbs out to the side on a tree limb, which dips a little alarmingly. She then carefully places a fairy fire spell on the other side of the snake's tree which illuminates the snake trying to climb across to her tree and four other smaller snakes hiding in the under growth, but not the new comer still advancing fairly rapidly into combat range. The smaller snakes, alarmed by the spell begin immediately slithering away in all directions.

Gudrid goes into a barbarian rage and with murder in her eyes goes roaring across to confront the new comer. Katrali pulls out a small vine root and casts a Thorn Whip spell that cracks out toward the snake approaching her.

In a blaze of glory Gudrid's great axe takes off her snakes head in one swipe while the thorn whip pierces the high snakes eye and kills it, pulling it from its branch to fall heavily to the ground below. Gudrid needs to make a quick side step to avoid the falling coils.

Our heroines go quickly to the woman who has a savage snake bite to her arm and appears to be dying. Katrali is able to use her medicines and knowledge to stabilise the woman and bring her back from the brink. They decide to rest up for an hour so that the woman can recover a little before they try to move her anywhere.

They sit companionably for a while, talking about the battle they have just experienced and what it may mean. Then a shadow falls across the forest and looking up they see the blue dragon in the sky above.

DM NOTE Just a random encounter roll. Commonly these will be interesting woods creatures but they may also be "wandering monsters", or what I call projections, from keyed encounters within range of the location. How do two 1st level characters survive an encounter with a dragon? a) don't draw its attention b) don't poke it with a stick c) hope its not really, really hungry

Gudrid and Katrali both dive for cover among the bushes but the dragon has noticed something about their location and has begun a slow downward spiral toward them. They both realise they have left the woman laid out on a bed roll in plain sight from above. However, the dragon neatly folds its wings and lands on all fours near the beheaded snake, picks it up and begins chewing on it. It then reaches over for the body of the first snake and sniffs it, grimaces slightly and zaps it with a tiny bit of lightning, making it slightly crispy. After a bite the dragon turns to where Gudrid and Katrali are hiding.

In slightly accented common the dragon asks "these yours?". Katrali stands up, a little terrified and replies that the snakes aren't theirs. "Hmmm", the dragon ponders, and lowers its head to stare in Katrali's face "where from then?". Katrali points into the forest from where the second snake came. The dragon drops the chewed remains and trots off, wings folded, in the direction indicated.

As you can imagine there was quite a release of player tension at that moment as much as for the characters being played. Tara started contemplating the idea of having a dragon "friend" although considered that friendship might be a tad one sided and just a little tricky. Tara also correctly guesses the dragon is young by its size and behaviour.

With that they decided it was time to revive the woman and get her back to town. She awakened confused and groggy, obviously unable to do much (3 exhaustion in game terms), but also very distrustful of elves. She starts their relationship with "what have you taken elves?".

DM Note I play a variant on damage. If you are reduced to zero hit points you immediately gain 1 exhaustion. Each failed death save gives you one more. The effect of this is to make serious wounding have some lingering after effects not as quickly bounced back from as the hit points. Magical healing will restore exhaustion 1 level for each hit point of healing used to heal exhaustion instead.

The elves support the woman on either side as they get her back. In the woods a mile from town they seek out a few lumber jacks and pass her over to their care. One of the lumber jacks recognises Gudrid the folk hero. He asks what happened and Gudrid just states they fought two big snakes and four smaller ones. Then they return to the woods to continue their investigation. Katrali laughs that Gudrid missed a great opportunity to big note herself. Gudrid shrugs.

I decide they will probably meet the dragon again as it snoops about that bit of the woods. At the same time a random encounter pulls up some bandits. What would bandits be doing in the woods? Heading to the road to waylay someone with money of course! Ok, let's have one of Lord Binare's wagons heading home from Druidstone. It will be carrying the Lords profits in a chest and be guarded by some men at arms in livery. Complicating matters the dwarf driver is the inside man on the bandit hold up. When the action starts he will get some surprise shots off with his cross bow. Good enough, ok lets roll.

So Gudrid and Katrali hear the bandits over a rise. 5 men, 3 women, discussing excitedly how much money they are going to make as they make their way to the woods toward the road going from Polemar to Druidstone about 4 miles out from Polemar. Its late after noon and our heroines begin to follow the bandits quietly. Then Gudrid notices that they themselves are being followed. By a blue dragon some 90 feet behind them. They decide to just keep following the bandits.

As the sun begins to set behind them the bandits arrive at the road, a roughly 8 foot wide cart path between the thick trees. They quickly clamber up into the trees, onto branches only about 8 feet off the ground, on either side of the path and they ready their crossbows. Gudrid and Katrali can hear in the distance an approaching wagon with guard marching along side it. The wagon is coming from the south so, with a glance back at the dragon who has sat down to lick his tail for a bit, they work their way around to the north to get a good look at what is going on.

Now the way I saw this transpiring was something like the bandits taking out the guards with the dwarf's help and then the dragon showing up and expecting to be given his due from whatever treasure they have gained. That's what I thought would happen. Yep.

So the wagon comes into sight. The dwarven driver has a grey, white beard forked into two somewhat sideways prongs with ribbons on the end. He has a cross bow across his lap. Behind him a small chest that could hold around 5,000 coins when full. Six footmen with halberds march along with the wagon. They have conquistadores style helmets and white surcoats with a red unicorn emblazoned on them. The livery of Lord Binare.

The girls see the bandits in the tree tense up and begin aiming their crossbows. They note that the dwarf has readied his crossbow and is pointing it circumspectly at the guards. They also see the dragon has adopted a pounce pose, watching the wagon, the bandits and themselves with fierce attention.

Katrali is having none of this and quickly signals to Gudrid that they should attack the bandits now. Gudrid hurls a javelin at the nearest bandit on the other side of the path while Katrali casts flame at the nearest bandit on their side of the path. The bandits are startled. Those attacked flinch about. Some of the others fire their bolts at the guards but they all fly wild. The guards lower their halberds and charge toward the bandit location, some toward Gudrid and Katrali.

Katrali yells out to the guards that they should concentrate on the bandits. The dwarf has stopped the cart and lowered his crossbow, all innocent and waiting to see how things turn out. A pitched battle ensues with bandits firing cross bow bolts, guards jabbing halberds into the trees, Katrali firing flame after flame at the stubborn bandit nearest her who mercilessly returns fire with crossbow bolts. Gudrid draws her great axe and with two strokes is able to jump up and dispatch the bandit she threw the javelin at.

The guards are a little pressed by the archery but manage to take out one of the bandits, and another that is wounded drops their bow and yields. Gudrid takes a swing at Katrali's opponent, jumping with the swing to get height. Her axe thunks hard into the tree limb and Gudrid finds herself hanging from the haft of her axe a few inches off the ground. Katrali, wounded and having used her healing word spell, is worried but her next attack with produce flame is decisive.

Four of the bandits are dead and the rest surrender. The guards are a little worse for wear but none are seriously wounded. Katrali claims the right to loot the dead. The captain of the guard disagrees, claiming all goods of the vanquished property of Lord Binare and his trusted servants.

Just then the dragon pops his head out from behind the trees. "Nope" he declares. The guards drop into cowering positions as the dragon heads toward the cart. Gudrid retrieves her javelin as Katrali loots the nearest bandit body. The dwarf screams and leaps off the cart running into the woods away from the dragon. The dragon grabs the chest and then majestically leaps up and takes flight. Gudrid and Katrali scarper leaving the guards with their bandit prisoners and an empty, driverless cart.

We ended the session here, as my current back injury was giving me a bit of grief and we had been playing for about 3 hours. The girls had each accumulated a couple of hundred raw experience which they were pleased with. By the rules of the open table time at the start of the next game session must match time in the real world, so they will probably have two weeks to go about converting that experience at about 5 points a day. They don't have much money so they will not be able to speed the process up or live in a comfortable lifestyle during that time.

For my rules about experience conversion from raw to usable see https://strangeflight.blog/2016/01/28/dd5-rpg-raw-experience... This was explicitly designed for use with open tables although I use it in my dedicated table games too.

On to Session 2
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