Lost Mine of Phandelver: Ep. 0 Introduction

In D&D, D&D Actual Play, Roleplay by PaulLeave a Comment

As I noted in my bio and in the first podcast, my first gaming love is roleplaying and Dungeons and Dragons was the first ‘grown up’ system that I ever got my teeth into.

My first D&D product was one of the Basic sets, but a purchase of the Rules Cyclopedia by judicious parents (“So, let me just understand this… That book has all of those boxes in it…?”) turned my relationship from an on-off ‘game with benefits’ into a smouldering love affair that has lasted for more than my adult life.

I still recall reading through the Classes available to me; awed by how cool the Mystic class seemed, particularly with the allure of the (optional) tag attached to it… If its optional then it must be complicated, and complicated is cool right?

And if your mindset is complex = good, then the word advanced simply blows your brains out much like Marvin’s in Pulp Fiction (link NSFW).

Advanced is the same as ‘Better’, right?

My first long-term campaign was AD&D 2nd Edition and I have owned every single edition since then, playing everything except 4th. I have no axe to grind with 4th (heck, look me up if you want to run a game for me), but none of my play circle were interested and we stuck with what we knew (3.5 mostly). I stopped playing for a while, got back into it all again and investigated Pathfinder to see whether the fun was there.

However, I find that 3rd edition’s approach just didn’t do it for me anymore. I struggle to manage the maths at the higher levels whilst still having fun and I am susceptible to a lot of the chatter around the internet about what is the “right way” to play this class or ability. The feats system led more to paralysis of choice than it did refinement of character concept and I felt that the system just didn’t deliver some of the pure fun that I’d enjoyed back in my youth.

Without a doubt much of this was nonsense; I could have played a fiction-heavy 3.5 game with sub-optimal characters and the gaming group was clearly not populated by people who judged your play on the ‘tier’ of character you brought. Rose-tinted glasses were kicking in, and I ignored the fact that the time I was looking back on was an innocent age of college –> university rather than, you know, work and a significant other that was expecting me to be home to watch a BBC 4 documentary.

A History of Art in Three Colours, the kind of BBC 4 documentaries that stop me gaming.

A History of Art in Three Colours, the kind of BBC 4 documentaries that stop me gaming.

Is there a point here?

“…5th Edition is 2nd Edition with a modern design aesthetic and clearer, simpler core mechanic. So I get all of that juicy, chaotic fun in a much more teachable package.”My love of 5th

Anyways, the point I’m coming around to, albeit slowly and with a level of pre-amble that is likely to end on the cutting-room floor, is that I really enjoy the feel of AD&D 2nd Edition. Or more accurately, I love the DM-interpretative, low number of modifiers, play whatever you like, focus on the fiction that I believe it gives me the permission to play.

Which is a kinda strange way to phrase it, but there you have it. I feel like 3.5 was always looking at me slightly disapprovingly as I tried to buckle-my-swash in precise 5’ increments calculating the best way to avoid attacks of opportunity. In contrast, 2nd Edition was passing me the chandelier with a grin and a hefty shove off.

To my mind, 5th Edition is 2nd Edition with a modern design aesthetic and clearer, simpler core mechanic. So I get all of that juicy, chaotic fun in a much more teachable package. For free, so my skint mates can have their own copy of the rules as well.

Right, so we get you’ve played a while and 5th is a gameplay renaissance. What now?

I get energised hearing gamers tell stories; I wait (patiently-ish) in turn to talk about the time Khayle Amberweave, my elven mage, who became sur-coronal of the mainland elves towards the end, messed with the wrong Leprechaun and ended up worse for wear (Bardic Song: “Khayle Amberweave was a pillock / He died on a hillock”).

Sharing these stories is a large part of what gaming is about, and you’ll find that session reports from RPGs, card games, board games and so on is a large part of what mostly-offtopic is about; hell we’re named for those kinds of conversations!

So, I want to take you dear reader on my journey through the most recent D&D edition. This is the first in a sequence of article that will take me from the starter set (Lost Mines of Phandelver) through the first published adventure (Hoard of the Dragon Queen). A capitalised SPOILER applies from here on as I will be covering the material from the point of view of my character and also out of character. If you’re gonna be playing through these adventures, be sure to separate player knowledge from character knowledge.

The aim of the in-character observation is to chart the course of the adventure through in-world materials. The conceit of those articles is that Ellywick Fizzlestop is writing back to her dear family to update on her travels. They are intended as a slightly whimsical look at the group’s adventure as well as to serve as aide-de-memoires for me as a player.

This will have spoilers for the story, but only as our group tells it. No knowledge of system is required, but a knowledge of the assumptions and genre of D&D will be helpful.

The out of character articles will focus on the changes that I make to Ellywick as she (hopefully) progresses from hero to zero. In the first article I will talk about her character creation; some system specific discussions will feature here but I will try to write in a fairly generic fashion. This will have softer story spoilers, but it won’t be possible to avoid them entirely as Ellywick will develop in large part in response to the fiction she is involved in.

That being said, I will aim to keep this peripheral and focus on both the mechanic of 5th Edition and how I am trying to join the fictional concept of my character into something that is useful at the gaming table.

I hope that by sharing these experiences through the blog you will have some insight into the pure fun that can be had roleplaying, the benefits that 5th Edition brings in that heroic fantasy space and perhaps even be inspired to record your own exploits. Hell, maybe even get involved in creating some stories of your own if you’re not already involved!

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