Play Report: Dyson’s Delves level 1

My Lost Mine of Phandelver group has been sporadic lately due to real life causing scheduling difficulty. So I ran a dungeon crawl in Roll20 on Sunday using the first level of Dyson’s Delve. After I picked it up in a recent Bundle of Holding, I knew I wanted to find a way to use more of the work from that site.

Real life scheduling caused problems again, and I almost had to cancel since only two players showed up. But one of them used his Phone-a-Friend special ability and saved the day. In old-school fashion, I didn’t spend much time on backstory. Instead, the characters belong to the Relic Hunters Guild and ventured out in search of treasure. This party consisted of a human noble fencer named “Alexander”, a paladin half-elf named “Halder”, and the warlock half-elf “Kraz”. The conflicting alignments & belief systems led to some fun interaction between the characters.

That approache worked well. RHG will evolve into a type of open table campaign. It won’t run every week, especially before LMoP completes. But when it does, we will look to fill open slots with new players. And the campaign has no penalty for not signing up for a given session other than the obvious opportunity cost. Repeatedly signing up and cancelling at the last minute might cause some issues, of course.

19th-century goblin illustrationIn this session, the party only ran into goblins, hobgoblins, and a giant badger (which I used in place of the giant ferret as originally written). Halder and hobgoblin had engaged in an epic sword-and-board duel. After four or five rounds, neither had landed a blow with any success. But goblins swarmed the fencer and finally stilled his rapier. The surviving goblin turned to attack the paladin. This distracted Halder enough for the hobgoblin to drop him, too. But Kraz strode forth into the room, charmed the remaining monsters, stabbed the goblin in the back, and felled the hobgoblin with poison spray. They searched the room with care and found the key to unlock the treasure.

During their rest, though, a hobgoblin patrol found them. They threw a flask of oil at the ground in front of them, then set a salvaged bow on fire and threw it into the puddle. This frightened off the hobgoblins and gave them time to complete their regrouping. Later, when a goblin patrol found them, they again improvised a molotov cocktail from scraps of clothing on dead goblins and an oil flask. They used that tactic one more time in their final fight, so I think the hobgoblins will have to consider how best to counteract it for next time.

Hobgoblin squads prepare to repel adventurers throwing flasks of oil
Hobgoblin squads prepare to repel adventurers throwing flasks of oil

By the end, they’d recovered a total of 36 electrum pieces, 5000 silver pieces, and a badger pelt for the noble to fashion into a cloak.

I loved how much roleplaying we did in a simple dungeon crawl. Most of the time, they played characters rather than character sheets. This earned them several Inspiration awards during the three hours of play (including an hour of character creation). When they came up with particularly creative solutions and got the dice to fall their way, everything really clicked. Certainly it provided more entertainment than the railroad adventure of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In truth, I think I liked it even more than Lost Mine of Phandelver – which says a lot considering how much I love the Starter Set adventure. That stems at least as much from roleplaying cinematic moments as it does the adventure writing itself. The rules as written tend to encourage cautious tactical play that doesn’t get the blood flowing. Instead, how about mocking goblin mothers and stabbing burning creatures that bear an odd resemblance to Rodents Of Unusual Size?

 

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3 thoughts on “Play Report: Dyson’s Delves level 1

  1. I like Dyson’s stuff. But a few months back he started spewing forth a lot of annoying and rude comments on G+, Twitter, and Facebook. Since then I have made sure to steer clear of anything to do with him.

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  2. I’ve played through the first few levels of Dyson’s Delve with a S&W group that contained two kids on the upper end of the age range you had. I agree with your assessment – the Delve is deceptively simple, and surprisingly full of RP opportunities, especially when you use the random encounter generation tables, some morale rules (to have the bad guys run away!) and a little imagination to tie things together.

    One of the players was DESPERATE to capture a mouse they found to keep for a pet. And I played the dire rats as almost swashbuckling foes, taking crazy chances and once squeeking defiantly in a way that surely must have been rat-speech for “Not Today, Not on my watch!” before charging the fighter.

    The take-away is that in my experience, humor, even if it’s slightly dark humor, is essential when playing with kids. I also had a lot of luck with making Goblinoid foes unreliable and disloyal to their friends. My players almost never killed the last Goblin in any encounter. They would generally toss their coin pouches and run away when their morale broke. Since S&W only gives XP for treasure, this worked out ok, and helped alleviate the “chopping wood” effect some.

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