D&D Diary – Lost Mine of Phandelver – Session 1

Well we know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we’ve been… We’re on the Road to Phandalin, we’ll take that ride.

My two boys want to learn to play D&D.  What’s a good dad supposed to do?  The smart ones tell them to go play “Skyrim”.  The dumb awesome ones say, “Hey, I used to play D&D. This will be easy.  I’ll teach you.”  Guess which one I am.

After buying the Starter Box Set, I quickly realized that I needed to relearn the game too.  Almost all of the game mechanics are different from what I knew.  Here is my review of the 5th Edition Starter Set.  Fortunately, the Starter Set is designed to be played right out of the box.  Almost.

But before you can play you have to have players.  First, we started with some of the friends around the neighborhood.  But when the other boy in the group named his character Sir Shitty McPisspants Farts-A-Lot, and the two girls spent the entire time on their phones, I knew this wouldn’t work out.

So, much to the chagrin of our wives, the semi-regular game night that we shared with another family just became a regular game night.  With two hours added on to the front to play D&D.  Worse yet, neither wife has any desire to play.  So, they sit together and knit and make fun of us dorks, whilst we slayeth thy nefarious dragon and saveth thy kingdom.

Phandelver Ext Map
I love maps! This is the map that comes with the adventure, except that all the stuff the players shouldn’t know about, like the location of  the “lost mine”, have been removed.

Our gaming group consists of me, my son, Andrew, and three dudes named Jim.  Yeah this won’t be confusing at all.  Actually, we call my youngest son James. The other dad is called Jim and his son is Jack. Andrew and Jack are 12, James is 10.

Andrew really wants to be the Dungeon Master, because he likes to be in charge.  I want him to be the DM because I know how obsessive I can be when I run a campaign.  More on this in the weeks to come.  But I tell him that he needs to learn how to play a character first before he can run a whole game.  He begrudgingly agrees to this.

We are using the pre-generated characters that came with the game.  Andrew picked the Lawful Neutral human fighter whose back story made him a penniless Noble, born to lead and command respect.  I’m beginning to sense a pattern here.  James, the youngest, picked the Chaotic Good elven wizard because he loves Sorcerer Mickey and “Chaos is cool”.  Warning lights are flashing.   Jack picked the Neutral halfling thief because it seemed cooler than the cleric.  And Jim got stuck with the Lawful Good dwarven cleric because someone has to keep these guys alive.

Forest w players
And new characters means new minis! May I present Callan Claviar, Regizar Imperium, Riandon Moonwhisper, and Clarissa the Creepy Cleric. (that’s her real name.)

Now these characters all come with prewritten characteristics, traits and flaws.  They’re good characters but none of my players felt any connection to them.  They didn’t get a chance to roll their stats and they didn’t get to pick their own backstory, so they really had no idea who these characters were.  To their credit, they all took the time to read and understand who they were playing and at various times even roleplayed aspects of their backstory, thus improving the main story.  I was impressed.  These kids put more effort into roleplaying than many adults.

Enough of this blather.  Let’s play.  The adventure starts with the players on the road having been hired by a dwarf named Gundren Rockseeker to take a cart from Neverwinter to Phandalin. These are a city and village in the official D&D world called the “Forgotten Realms”. More on this later. Gundren has gone on ahead with some other guy, Sildar Hallwinter, for plot purposes.

FR Map3
The Forgotten Realms is HUGE!  This only shows the West Coast.  In comparison, this map is about 4X bigger that the U.S.  Neverwinter is the tiny dot with the white arrow.  Phandalin is the red arrow.  Have I mentioned that I love maps?!

Many, many people have complained, ad nauseum, about this intro.  Some complain about how unoriginal and boring it is (completely valid point).  But most complain about how “railroad” it is.  A railroad adventure is one that can only follow one track and has no options for the players to explore.  Basically, these players feel that, as a roleplayer, they have the right and the freedom to do whatever they want, even completely ignoring the adventure, regardless of the enjoyment of the other players.  Some day, I’ll post my thoughts on the sandbox vs. railroad argument.  But here is my short answer.  Get over it.

Every adventure is a railroad to some degree.  Yes, good adventures and good DMs give many options and choices to the players.  But sometimes, especially for novice players, it is best to just start the adventure.  And this module is designed for novice players.  Later, this adventure does offer many divergent paths for players to take. But for now, just play.

If you want to start with a small element of roleplay, add that while on the road to Phandalin you camp for the night and have all the players introduce their characters then.  My players basically just stated their names and read the backgrounds of the back of the character sheet.  Including parts that read “don’t share this with the other players”.  This is fine.  They will get better.  Have an uneventful ride to the ambush site.

LMOP Session05
Gather round the fire kids and I’ll tell the tale of the four Murder-Hobos that an oppressive and omnipotent god forced into becoming heroes.

If your party is more experienced and you’re starting a new campaign, then start the adventure in Neverwinter.  “Your character sits in a dockside tavern, a stranger to all.  You each sit alone mulling over your life, thinking back on the events that led to you sitting alone in this particular tavern on this particular night.  Suddenly the door is kicked open by an unusually jubilant dwarf, who announces, “A round of drinks for everyone!” The dwarf then produces the largest ruby you’ve ever seen and slams it on the bar as payment.

The dwarf is followed by a stern human male with an enormous broadsword.  He is clearly not a man to be trifled with.  He rolls his eyes at the exorbitant behavior of his employer but silently stands guard. This is Sildar Hallwainter.

The dwarf bellows, “I’m looking for stalwart men (and women) to share an adventure, guiding my caravan south along the High Road to the sun swept foothills of the Sword Mountains. 25 gold to a man.  For all those of brave hearts and good character, may fortune be ever in your future!”

Obviously, the players will speak with this dwarf.  But for the sandbox enthusiast who needs choices, have a second NPC, covered from head to toe in muck and smelling like a sewer, kick in the door a few moments later and yell, “I need ten blokes to help shovel shit out in the mosquito infested swamp north of town.  The pay is 5 silver for the day!”

Have the party introduce themselves to the flamboyant dwarf, Gundren.  He will ask them what brings them to Neverwinter and what skills they bring to the table.  Have another NPC challenge a player for a spot on the party, with an arm-wrestling competition or best slingshot on that mouse in the corner, etc.

Tavern Charro
Here’s a cool random fantasy tavern just to break up a ridiculously long block of text.  I stole it from this guy, Javier Charro, who hopefully won’t sue if I can throw him some new folllowers.

This intro works for a number of reasons.  Most important, it creates its own story hook.  With just a few lines of dialog you’ve created a memorable and fun NPC. And hopefully, one that the players will actually care about rescuing when the time comes.

The thief might try to pickpocket Gundren.  Let him succeed and gain a small rough-cut gem worth 10 gold. At the end of the encounter have Gundren say, “My light-fingered friend can keep the trinket as a down payment.  There’s plenty where that came from.”

They might attack Gundren (some parties are dumber than others).  Gundren sits back, snaps his fingers and Sildar destroys them, knocking them all out.  The party wakes up on the road in a wagon heading south with four other NPC guards.  One guard says, “Gundren liked your spirit, but he thinks you’re confused about your motives.  He’s willing to give you a shot at redumption, (purposely mispronounced) whatever that is.”  The party’s been shanghaied.  Of course, these NPCs will immediately perish in the coming goblin ambush.

Have the trip to the ambush site take 2 days.  Roll for random encounters, once each day, and once each night.  Make whatever percentage chance you want.  It doesn’t matter.  The whole point of rolling dice as a DM is to keep up the tension in the players. Sometimes I’ll just randomly roll dice and act relieved or disappointed or concerned just to keep my players on their toes.

If an encounter occurs, keep it simple and low level.  A half dozen kobolds, a couple of lost orcs, a lone starving wolf, etc.  There is a terrific website called Kobold Fight Club that can help you make leveled monster encounters on the fly.  Okay, enough tips for advanced players, back to the novice adventure.

Kobold Inventor
The first rule of Kobold Fight Club, is that you Do not talk about Kobold Fight Club, Yip, yip, yip!

At the ambush site, I ran it as is from the book.  Make sure you stress knowing the general location of each party member.  Who investigated the horses, who stayed near the wagon, who stayed in the wagon.  Players will get attuned to expect something when you do this.  Later you can mess with your players by asking for this info and nothing happens or not asking for it just before a major encounter.

If the encounter is too quick add a couple of goblins to attack from behind.  But only if this will increase the dramatic tension.  Learn to gauge your group and know when you need to back off the pressure if your players (ie. your friends) need a breather.

James the wizard immediately took down two of the goblins with a sleep spell, but then they had a hard time killing the last two.  They even had to chase down the last one before he could warn any other goblins lying about in wait in the woods.  The group did not know that there were none.

After an unnecessarily long discussion on how to tie up a goblin, the party interrogated their captives.  I play goblins like bigger, meaner gremlins.  I mean the wet, nasty ones like Stripe, not cute, furry Gizmo.  They are stupid, and silly, and really mean.  There was a lot of cackling and gnashing of teeth on my side, and far too many back handed slaps on my party’s side.  Apparently, the ACLU hasn’t gotten around to promoting goblin rights in the Forgotten Realms.


Later, as a parent, I did have a discussion with the kids that the torture and physical abuse of captive goblins (and little brothers) is frowned upon in modern society, but in the pseudo-Medieval, semi-wild frontier it’s a morally gray area.  This would have sunk in better if it wasn’t the other adult leading the goblin abuse parade because his dwarven “character” despises goblins.  “Look it’s written on my character sheet”.

The captured goblins agreed to lead them to their cave.  But they didn’t tell them about the traps along the way.  This led to Andrew, the fighter/leader, falling into the snare trap and dangling upside down.  There was much cackling coming from the DM, I mean goblin, side of the table. That is one of the reasons why this game is great.  Where else can a parent laugh at his kid and say, “He looks like a piñata!” in an evil, goblin voice and not offend said child.

This also teaches a valuable lesson about party order.  Put the guy with high perception in the front.  Which helped them avoid the second pit trap.  I also probably helped put them on alert. After the snare trap, the party asked the goblins if there were any more traps.  They responded, “er, NO, -snicker- -snicker-,” while giving each other elbow nudges and winks.

LMOP Session01
Goblins rule!

Did I give too much away?  Did I ruin my own trap?  Yes.  But the job of a DM is to lay the foundation for a good story, not sadistically wear the players down.  Sometimes, it is good to whittle down the PC’s resources; hit points, healing, and spell slots, to then have an intense combat encounter.  But not here. Here, the purpose is to teach about party order and Perception checks. Again, if you have an experienced party, then make tougher traps, add spikes to the pit, unleash wolves on the snare trap victim. Whatever.

The party makes it to the cave entrance. They quickly dispatch the four goblins out front.  The book says two, I made it four.  Modify the adventure in any way that improves the drama, the tension, or the story.

Just as the party is about to assault the goblin hideout, I halted the session.  And this is the biggest tip when playing D&D with children.  Know when to stop.  Even though we only did 2 combat encounters, 2 trap events, and very little role-play, after about 2 hours I could tell that all the boys were losing focus on the game.  It is better to end with a short session, than to drag one out into a long slog.

All in all, the kids said that they had fun.  Granted, Andrew would say he had fun even if he didn’t, but James doesn’t pull any punches and he said he had a blast. I assume the other two had fun. They didn’t complain and showed up for the next session, so they’re good.

Ice 2 Arguement thumb
And nobody fought or argued or complained. Yet. Don’t worry, they will.

So, here are my initial thoughts on playing D&D with kids.  It was a lot of fun but it was exhausting.  It did not help that no one knew any of the rules.  Except me, sort of.  And the three boys had never role-played anything before.  Plus, all three are kind of shy and introverted, so playing a “character” was uncomfortable for them.  But they were trying and that’s the important part.

But teaching a role-playing game to a group of kids at the same time requires a lot of patience.  You will have to remind every player, every round, what dice to roll to hit, what dice to roll for damage, and where they can find this info on their character sheet.  Every player.  Every round.

This was a very difficult task, when added to the task of keeping track of the adventure as well.  I will say that this does get better, although some players, regardless of age, pick up on the mechanics of the game quicker than others.

Player folder
Here is the folder from James’ Elven Wizard, Riandon Moonwhisper.  The handout is a copy of the draconic alphabet.  He doesn’t know it yet, but he just became the dragon translator.

In the intervening weeks, I created a folder that I gave to each player to keep their character sheets and other handouts in.  Also, in the folder, I wrote up a four-page Rules synopsis.  One page of Adventuring basics, a page of Combat rules, and a page about Combat Conditions and Dying rules.  The last page is a Home Brew page expanding the Critical Hit and Critical Fail chart.  Here is the link: Rules FOUR PAGE

Hopefully, having access to these rules will help the player take better control of their characters.  We will see.

Next week, the party infiltrates the Cragmaw Goblin Cave.

As always, never abuse your goblin hostages, and Game On!

Now, goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. – J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve also created a Lost Mine of Phandelver Resource Page that includes everything I used to run this adventure all in one place. Session Diaries, Maps, Handouts, Stat Sheets, Everything. I hope this helps. Enjoy!

55 thoughts on “D&D Diary – Lost Mine of Phandelver – Session 1

  1. You are the best dad (and friend) EVER for doing all this work to play D & D with the kids. It helps that my husband is crazy enough to make a computer monitor table solely for the purpose of gaming. Diane and I will continue our role as support staff (snacks and cheese purchasers).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sensational content, thank you. I’m an experienced player/DM but teaching my 11 year old son will be a step up. He has been very keen to play with his friends. Wish me luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I stumbled across your diary looking for the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, for backstory/knowledge of Phandalen to use in my Aquisitions Incorporated game. This first is great, and if you have any idea where to find the adventure please let me know. Although, the main thing I am looking for is where the mine is in relation to the town and what the mine’s setup (map) looks like. I will readjust with whatever information you can share about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. If you keep reading the latter posts have the info you seek. And if you go to my Phandelver Resource Page, I have all the maps and what not you were asking about. Happy hunting.


  4. This site is awesome. I stumbled across it as I just bought the Starter Set to play with the kids (and wife) and am researched how to run the campaign. I have never DM’d before and this will be a big help. Quick question for you; when did you give players the player maps? Did you give them out as they reached a location?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Have fun playing with your family. I cannot get my wife to play. As for the player maps, I don’t always use them. Sometimes I only describe the dungeon and the players can either visualize it or draw their own map. When I do use a player map, I have cut up the pieces and assemble it like a jigsaw puzzle as the discover each room. Then one player build an insert for his dining room table that holds a monitor attached to my phone, and we’ve use the setup like a giant, scrollable battle mat. Yeah we’re nuts. I discussed this use in session 6 of LMOP. Again thanks for the praise. Enjoy. 😉


  5. WOW! I just started this adventure a few weeks ago and got here looking for the map without locations… thanks for sharing this it was so helpful 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just got into DnD (with over 35years) and bought to StarterKit to try it with some of my friends (still have to presuade my girlfriend)
    (just to say, english it not my native language)

    you made an awesome job here!!! And I will probably take some of your ideas to enlarge my LMoP campaigne if my friends will like the first session 😉
    and I’ll continue reading the other campaigns time by time 😉 great content here!

    one quick question that bothered me
    what kind of font did you use for the letters from the Black spider?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In case you don’t get my first reply: Welcome to party. Good luck with your girlfriend. My wife still refuses to play. I’m glad you enjoy my campaign diary. I hope that you find it useful.
      As for the drow letters, the font is called Viner Hand ITC. To make it more weird, I made all D, K, V, and W always capitalized. There is an excellent drow language translator that I wish I knew at the time to sprinkle some drowish words in the letters. That website is eilistraee.com/chosen/language.php
      Again Thanks for checking out my site. If you have any other questions, please ask.
      Game On!


      1. Thank you very much! 😉 I am curious. How would you integrate drow-words in this letter? where would the people get the translation from? by history-check? if not said in my first post: you blog here is a gold-mine of inspiration! Thank you for sharing all this!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Again, you’re welcome. I’m just glad people find it useful.
          As for the drow letter, I would swap a few nouns with the drow equivalent. Yes, I would have the correct translation based upon an Intelligence check, that could be based upon the character’s backstory. An elf or resident of Luskan would have a better chance that a Dragonborn Barbarian.
          For example, the handout from the module could read: Senger Albreck, my velxunai in Neverwinter tell me that niki are due to arrive in Phandalin. They could be working for the hargluck srow…
          In this instance, this is just added flavor, and should be easily solved. But you could allow for a mistranslation that could lead to all manner of confusion and fun. Such as: the translation of hargluck srow is “dwarven scum. But on a bad roll, the player my translate it as haruk sarol, the doom weapon. Or mistake the word for map (mapat’drachim) for drachir, which means moonfire and have them spend a session trying to figure out what that means. But don’t torture them too long. Have a kindly NPC correct their mistake. Maybe Daran or Redoith. This should be fun not frustrating. BTW, I don’t know these words by heart, I looked them up in about 5 minutes. Anywho, I hope this verbose response helps.
          Thanks again for your time.


  7. I am a new DM planning to run LMoP for my friends and their kids, age 7 and 11. Your site is a gold mine, not just of useful reference sources but for tips on how to run the adventure for children. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for your very kind words. Obviously, they are a great boost to the delicate ego. If you ever have a specific question, feel free to ask.
      I’m curious. What is the gender makeup of your players? I only ask because you’ve given me an idea for a post about gender bias and inclusion within the game.


  8. Great blog to come across! This is my first DM game with a group of friends, and I was searching for a map without showing the location of the “lost” mine…then I found this! Really helpful and I am glad your kids are having fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is an amazing blog! Incredible job with documentation and thank you very much for the ideas. What “map” did you use for the first encounter when the Goblins surprised the party on the Triboar trail to Phandelver? (when they had the wagon and investigated the dead horses).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks JB, I’m glad you liked it.
      I didn’t use a map for that encounter. Just theater of the mind. I usually only draw out the big boss battle of the dungeon on a map before the session. Many smaller fights don’t need to worry about distances and movement rates. For that particular fight the group just used ranged weapons until the fighter ran to the goblins for hand to hand combat.
      I did use some minis on the table, but only because everyone likes it when I knock the bad guys over when they die.


    1. My son was given the starter pack for Christmas but none of us have ever played. The role of DM has fallen on my shoulders and I feel like I’m in so far over my head that I don’t know which way is up. Your site is going to salvage what would have probably been a lackluster experience and ruined it for him.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel your pain. I was supposed to teach my sons how to play, teach the oldest to be the DM, then I’d walk away. 3 years later, I’m the still DM of 2 campaigns and player in one. But it’s been great and I wouldn’t change a thing. Playing D&D with my kids is one of the most fun things we do.
        Don’t worry about forgetting rules (I do it all the time and make stuff up) and don’t worry about skipping details, or rooms, or entire dungeons (your players will never know).
        I love being able to help new DMs whose first thought is “Oh god, what have I gotten into?” If you ever have any questions, feel free to ask.
        Good luck, and welcome to the cult, I mean club, welcome to the club.


  10. I’m playing D&D for the first time (ever) with my 6 and 8 y.o. sons and my wife (who would definitely rather be eating cheese). Your site has already been so helpful helping me to organize as DM to have smoother games so we can fit a decent amount of action into a short session so that the 6 yo doesn’t completely lose it. I’m loving watching them problem solve and deal with moral dilemmas (6 yo cried when he wanted to let the last goblin flee the Cragmaw cave because “he’s alone and he can’t cause that much trouble” but the rest of the party shot him in the back and killed him as he ran away.)

    We’re really learning some thing about one another!

    I love all the materials that you’ve provided. I wondered if you had made all of your maps downloadable, too? I’ve found the resource page, but the maps seem to be the only thing that aren’t accessible.

    No matter what, thank you a million times for making this game so much fun for all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love hearing from Dad like you who are teaching the world’s greatest game to their families. You are exactly why I write this blog. I’m glag your wife has decided to play. Mine has never shown any interest and has never even rolled a d20. Such a waste. I love the moral dilemma this game gives to our kids and I love your son’s reaction to the lone goblin, it broke my heart. Mine youngest still tries to capture the monsters instaed of killing them. Keep me posted on how the campaign is going. I love to hear the diverging paths each group takes.
      As to a better version of the maps, I’m working on it. Posting bigger versions eats up a ton of my storage space on the blog. plus I have to look into the legality of it. Technically the maps are “owned” by WotC who I’m sure sell digital versions especially the clean PC versions. I don’t want to infringe on their business. For my PC maps, I use photoshop to fix the published maps, but I might need to create wholly new ones to avoid copyright.
      But as for saving and printing images, here is what I bet is the problem. You are using Google Chrome to view websites. When you save an image it saves it as a WebP file which you can’t open in any other program. Here are three solutions: 1. Use Internet Explorer to view the website; any pics you save will be saved in jpeg format and can be opened using any program. 2. In google chrome, right click on the image and open in new tab; picture can be printed direct from that tab. 3. MS Paint (available on most computers) does work with WebP format and you can print from there.
      Good Luck and Game On!


  11. I got a good giggle from the second NPC bit. Shared it with my best friend and she was like “yeah 3 seconds and any character I have would have looked at the first npc and said I will do it, I dont care what it pays!” Thanks for the laugh, and I look forward to reading the rest of your trip through the campaign.

    My best friend and I started playing when we were 13 and 11 respectively. She is now DMing a game for her daughter 11 and step daughter 12. and I am running two campaigns with different groups. Honestly I think the kids picked it up faster than some of my adult players. it has been months of weekly sessions and I still have to remind people what they need to do, and we even play VTT and it prompts you for half the stuff. Meanwhile the girls are immersed in roleplaying, reminding their mom about things or asking really well thought out questions. They are the type players every DM wants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a great point. While we always search for satisfying hook to motivate players, gold is the perfect motivator for a 12 year old. Since they don’t have any money in the real world, they will gladly jump at the chance for some in the fantasy world.
      And I totally agree that kids make the best players. My “adult” group frankly sucks, never enjoying the game at face value and bringing a ton of baggage along. While the kids work with the game. And telling a far more compelling story along the way.


      1. I thank my mom for being the amazing DM she was back in the day! I took a long break(skipped 3.5 and 4, didnt start back until 2019) because I couldn’t find a DM to replace her. I still dont think I am as good as she was but I am trying anyways. At least 5e is way easier to run than 2e was.
        I have finished reading this campaign and you gave me some fun ideas to throw at my newbie party that I am running this campaign book for, so thanks for that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I also took a big break between 2nd and 5th edition. I couldn’t find any good players. Good luck with the campaign. I’m glad some of my ideas were useful. Keep me posted on your progress. I love hearing about the unique ways others handle the same adventure.


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