A few months ago, we
gave up decided to put our D&D game on indefinite hiatus. After some time, we decided to try out the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons: the 5th edition.
Our new campaign titled “Steps to Horizon” is now DM’ed by Tyler while I am
the one who does all the hard work “Deputy DM”.
Our new adventure began in a forest clearing . . .
NOTE: None of the pictures are original creations. They are simply results of a google search and some basic image manipulation.
Berrian Lackman was tired. He had been walking all morning into the woods following what he believed to be Lathander’s call. When he finally came upon a clearing, he decided to rest and sat down against a nearby tree. His ringmail armor scraped the bark, and his shield and spear tumbled to the ground haphazardly.
He grabbed the flask of water hanging from his belt, drinking only a few sips before putting it away to conserve what little he had. “If only I’d had more time,” he muttered. Berrian began to recount the events that led to his flight from his home temple. Just thinking about it made his blood boil.
“Calm yourself, Berrian. ’Let not the wrath consume you, for you shall lose sight of the path.’” He said. Quoting scripture always reassured him.
He surveyed his surroundings. The clearing was just large enough to fit a large house. It was ringed with dense woods and seemed to be the sole light in the darkness of the forest. It was only under this close scrutiny that he noticed the pedestal sitting in the center of clearing, and the field of small metal chunks surrounding it.
Berrian picked at one of the metal pieces in the ground. It clung to the earth, not moving an inch. Berrian dug further, revealing a small helmet. Intrigued, he decided to place it inside his backpack.
“Why would Lathander lead me here?” he wondered aloud.
As he stood up, two others appeared in the clearing. One was a muscular dwarf that wielded a battle axe in his right hand and a shield in his left. The other was what looked like an unusually small Halfling. He wielded only an inquisitive countenance.
The dwarf stopped and spoke. “Who are ye and what are ye doin’ here?” he said in his thick dwarven accent. He still gripped his battle axe firmly.
“I am Berrian Lackman, a Cleric of Lathander. I felt him call me here, and so here I am. Who are you?” Berrian replied. He tightened his grip on his spear too.
“I am Nordri Forgefist of the Dawnhammer clan. Jes passin’ through,” Nordri answered, still alert. “Ye haven’t run across any of tha dirty Holderhek clan have ye? I got a bone to pick with ’em.” He asked.
Berrian shook his head ‘no’ in answer. He then turned his attention to the third of their group. “And you, mister Halfling?” Berrian asked.
“I am a Gnome, sir,” he replied, “not a Halfling. My name is Finnian Thornhill,” he answered. He smiled and stroked either side of his chin.
Still wary of each other, they approached the pedestal. Resting on top of it was a large crystal. It was as blue as the ocean, and within it was a small heart the color of a pearl.
“Mine!” Finnian declared. He lunged for the crystal. Not one to be left out, Nordri also rushed the pedestal.
But as soon as they laid hands on it, they stopped. They seemed suddenly relaxed; as if they had no cares in the world.
“Are you alright?” Berrian asked.
“Splendid.” Finnian answered.
“Like a fine wine.” said Nordri.
Berrian stepped closer, and as he did so, he heard a rustling noise behind him. He turned to see a Halfling (he was sure this time) slink out from a tree’s branches and approach the pedestal cautiously. He was dressed in dark, leather clothes and had two daggers sheathed on his belt.
“And who are you, sir?” Berrian asked.
“Call me Finkle,” he answered.
His gaze drifted to the pedestal. “What are you all looking at?” he asked.
“It’s some kind of crystal,” Berrian replied, “and these two seem enamored by it.”
Finkle joined Finnian and Nordri at the pedestal. He seemed puzzled by the interaction.
“Curious,” he said. “I wonder how much it’s worth . . .” Slowly, he brushed the crystal with the backside of his hand. But as soon as he did so, he too felt suddenly calm and peaceful.
“Join us,” said Finnian. He extended his other hand towards Berrian.
Berrian hesitated, but he recalled a line of scripture. He spoke it aloud, “’Blessed are they who do not see, yet believe.’” Lathander must have brought him here for a reason, he thought. Turning away would be rejecting his call. His face set with new determination, he placed his hand on the crystal.
The crystal glowed brighter and brighter. So bright even, that the party could not even look at it. Suddenly, the crystal shattered and a shockwave threw the party to the ground. Once they collected themselves, they found the pedestal empty. They exchanged glances, passing each other silent queries, but no one knew what had happened.
Their pondering was cut short by mischievous laughter that wound its way through the forest like winter’s chill. They scanned the forest trying to find the source, but in their fervor, they failed to notice vines crawling along the ground towards them. The vines sprang up from the ground and wrapped around their arms.
Only Finkle reacted quickly enough, freeing himself by slashing one vine before both of his arms could be captured. He jumped onto the pedestal and threw his knife in an arc. It cut the vines that held Nordri, and landed blade-first in the ground. He then cut Finnian free while Nordri hacked off the vines that restricted Berrian.
More of the living vegetation rose up from the ground and closed in around them, blocking off any escape.
“I hope you all know how to fight.” said Finkle. He retrieved his thrown dagger as he spoke.
“Lathander grant us strength” said Berrian. He readied his spear, shield, and prayers.
Finnian’s face lit up in a toothy grin as his hands lit up in crackling flames.
Nordri beat his shield with his axe. “Bring ‘em on.” said the Dwarf.
The beginning was a bit slow in my opinion. Much of it was spent fumbling our way into introductions and the DM trying to guide us into touching the
psychedelic drug crystal. The embellished short version was given above. The crystal is a basic plot hook. It gives us something concrete to ponder and lets us ask any later NPC’s more targeted questions.
While Berrian’s spear wasn’t very effective against the living vegetation, Nordri’s axe, Finnian’s fire, and Finkle’s skillful slashing were more than enough to end the threat.
Once again, mischievous laughter flowed through the clearing.
“Wonderful! Now, let’s see what you . . . ‘heroes’ can really do . . .” said the voice.
The metal pieces in the ground hummed with energy. A large group of them flew out from their earthly shackles, gathered together, and formed two humanoid shapes. They each grabbed a large shield and a sword and advanced toward the party.
Nordri heaved a spare hand axe at the nearest enchanted armor. The axe smashed into the armor’s helmet and they fell to the ground together. The headless armor stumbled. Finnian stepped forward, placed his hands in front of him, and shouted arcane words of power. With a roar to match a dragon, flames spewed forth from his hands. When the fire subsided, the armor was no more than molten slag.
Knowing his spear would not be effective against such heavy armor, Berrian parried and blocked the second armor’s attacks. He kept his shield close and his prayers closer, letting Lathander guide his movements. Distracted by the cleric, the armor did not notice Finkle sneaking around the pedestal. He leapt at the armor silently and swiftly, landing on its back. With his two daggers, Finkle pried the armor apart piece by piece until finally it collapsed into a heap. Finkle himself was caught underneath the armor’s chest piece.
Combat in the 5th edition is much more streamlined compared to the 4th edition. They removed a lot of extraneous stuff and simplified the combat mechanics. The new advantage/disadvantage mechanic (The better of two rolls/The worse of two rolls respectively) simplifies a ton of situations and allows improvised actions to be more easily implemented.
Unfortunately, there was still a lot of “Can I?” and “Do I?” type questions rolling around, and the rules were referenced quite frequently. It was, however, our first 5th edition session. Eventually, I hope to write scripts for the campaign to help with the rules in combat.
No amount of struggling could lift the armor and free Finkle from its unrelenting weight.
“What in Lathander’s name is this armor made of?” Berrian exclaimed. He let himself collapse on the ground. Sweat rolled off his brow.
“Beats me, an’ I’m a blacksmith!”, Nordri said. He sat near the armor and ran his hand over it, inspecting it for clues. Finnian was also inspecting the armor, but with the aid of a floating, ethereal hand that he had conjured instead of his own. It rapped its ghostly knuckles on the armor. Finnian stroked his chin again as he pondered the possibilities.
Finkle himself seemed resigned to his fate and simply laid back. He looked around at the edges of the clearing and noticed something that the others did not.
“There’s fog,” he said, sitting back up as he did, “and it’s closing in.”
The others jumped back into full alert and faced outwards, ready to tackle any new threats. Once again, they heard mischievous laughter float through the clearing. But what followed it were loud, rumbling waves of sound like thunder.
“By Lathander . . .” Berrian said. His voice trailed off in awe as towering silhouettes appeared on the edges of the fog all around the party. They creaked like a thousand branches as they moved, and their footsteps shook the earth beneath them. Piercing yellow eyes locked onto the party as they closed in.
Finnian gathered power in one hand and pointed it at the nearest silhouette. A bolt of fire erupted from his hand, sailed across the clearing, and impacted against the figure. The bolt sputtered and vanished upon impact, not even inciting a reaction from its target.
“Uh oh,” said Finnian. Berrian turned to look at the Gnome and noticed something new about him.
“Thornhill, your belt pouch is glowing!”said Berrian. Finnian opened his belt pouch and retrieved the object responsible: a tiny shard with the same blue hue as the larger crystal from before.
“Where’d this come from?” He wondered aloud.
“Berrian,” said Nordri, “I think there’s one in yer pack too!”
Berrian opened his backpack and, sure enough, found an identical glowing shard. Nordri too found a shard among his belongings. The crystals glowed brighter the closer they were to each other. The trio looked to Finkle. Blue light glowed from beneath him . . . and beneath the armor.
“I can’t reach my pouch with this armor on me.” He said. He pointed to the small of his back where the pouch was fixed to his belt. The armor prevented him from twisting his body to allow access to it.
“Dig him out!” exclaimed Nordri. He began using his axe as a shovel. Finnian followed suit, using a conjured hand to aid him. Berrian could only use his two hands. The gigantic figures stepped into the clearing, revealing their gnarled and twisted forms. Their footfalls were deafening now.
Finally, the hole was big enough for Finkle to reach in and grab the crystal from out of his pouch. He raised the crystal as high as he could, and the others held theirs near it.
A bright light flashed between the crystals. Lights and sounds like wind chimes danced around the group. The towering monsters faded from view as did the clearing itself. Each of the crystal holders felt a tugging sensation in their guts as the dancing lights swirled faster and faster. The sounds intensified until they were nothing more than a screeching cacophony.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the lights and sounds stopped. Once again, the group was in the clearing. No behemoths in sight. Even the pedestal was missing. But still clutched inside each of the party members’ hands was a small crystal as blue as the ocean, with a heart the color of pearl.
This was the most suspenseful part of the session, and the new addition of music and sound to the campaign really sold it. It wasn’t until this part that I realized how much details like music and sound can add to D&D. The downside is that the DM has even more things to handle. Again, I hope to implement scripts that can play sounds automatically in the future (especially in combat).
Have you played D&D 5th edition? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Got any tips for us? Let us know in the comments below!