Fifth edition has surprised me. What I expected to be a dumbed down version of the iconic tabletop RPG has supplanted Pathfinder as our regular game. I am so thankful that the latest D&D iteration has allowed me to bring my daughters into the fold. They have taken such joy in their characters' adventures, talking with their friends and grandparents about their latest encounters and the treasures they have now berated from their foes. While my brother visited with his family, he asked if I could run a short adventure for the whole family to try.
My brother, who we will refer to as Max Power (per his request to remain anonymous) had played D&D back during First edition but wasn't familiar with any of the recent rule changes. His oldest daughter had been hearing about our regular game night from my kiddos and both she and Max were interested in trying out the game for themselves.
We spent one night rolling up characters for everyone involved. Max settled on a snooty high elf ranger with a penchant for smithing that we named Senthon. His daughter became Rhogar, a dragonborn fighter and occasional con-man. We even convinced my mother to roll a half-elf paladin. The background trait tables made the creation of nuanced characters simple, even for new players. Gone are the days of two hour character builds.
The rest of the party was filled out with Wesley playing an old dwarven cleric, and my girls playing a half-elf barbarian and a tiefling sorcerer. Max's wife, Mary Power trusted me to build her a character with the caveat that she may not be able to play the entire session, and I ended up making a halfling rogue who could come and go as needed.
We knew from the start we would only be able to play one or two games before they left, so I started looking for something that would encapsulate the principle elements of a D&D campaign in one evening. While parts of the official campaigns could be adapted to a one shot adventure, I didn't find any that had a good mix of puzzle solving, story and combat. I did unearth an old 8 page first edition game called the Jade Hare, but thought it might prove too much for first time players.
I dug through the fifth edition DM's guide and found a series of tables that put together the bones of an adventure randomly. It was easy and intuitive, taking the span of five minutes to create an interesting scenario for all our new players. All I had to do was work out some names and details of the encounters and puzzles for the party to overcome.
The group was in a caravan returning home from the Midsummer festival when they were attacked by Fangrinth, a hill giant bent on conquering and looting the area. Our heroes held in their possession an artifact once used by a powerful warlock. Long ago this warlock was defeated by the hero who later founded the party's town of Silvard. Little did they know that the object could reveal the location of a secret cache of treasures and powerful magical items, but it would only reveal this at mid-day of the longest day of the year in the warlock's old lair.
The giant attacked the caravan with a number of orcs and goblins, knocking over the carriage the party had been riding in. The crash left two party members unconscious and the rest more than ready to fight off the beasties. They drew their weapons and engaged Fangrinth's flunkies, killing a number of them before being incapacitated by a poorly aimed color spray spell. When they finally came to, the giant was gone.
The Ranger's skill in the forest made tracking easy. After helping the other survivors of the attack, they set off after their prized artifact. I wanted the chase to have a sense of urgency to it but leave some room for the group to familiarize themselves with the mechanics before forcing a final confrontation. I built two tables; one for the party, the other for Fangrinth's raiding party. Rolling a d6 determined what happened along the trail. Fangrinth got an early start by finding a shortcut while the party encountered some giant spiders not long after starting their pursuit.
It looked grim for my first hosted family game, but there was still a chance to catch up before it was too late. With the giant gaining ground while our heroes were delayed dealing with enormous arachnids. Check back this Thursday for the conclusion to this adventure!