D&D Diary – Lost Mine of Phandelver – Session 9

Starter Phandelver

Our simple 5th Edition D&D game turns into Warhammer, while the Village of Phandalin burns, but just the lousy parts.

Finally, we go to war. After months of prepping and weeks of delay, I can finally spring my epic finale to Chapter 3 of The Lost Mine of Phandelver. This battle was so big that it took two sessions to complete.

When last we left our heroes, they had been traveling around the countryside mopping up minor bad guys and killing time until the Festival of Greengrass. Their druid ally, Edoith of Greenwood, had agreed to meet them in the village of Phandalin during the festival to give them the location of a lost castle that the party needs to find. Phandalin has been the default player base and the party is very popular there, especially with the innkeeper, Toblen, and the tavern wench, Elsa.

The players know that I’ve got something cooking, but they don’t know what. Also, I had been seeding their treasure with some pretty powerful one-shot magic items. Both spell-casters have some good area effect scrolls like Fireball and Flamestrike. Then there are potions of Heroism, Giant Strength, Invisibility, and Speed for the fighter and thief. The cleric also has a scroll of Revivify which can bring a just-killed player back to life. I want the battle to be crazy and epic, but I also want them to survive.

Until now, Jim, the adult player, had been keeping track of all the treasure. This is great for gold but bad for one-shot magic. So I gave each player some sheets of scratch paper to keep track of their own items. The tiny boxes on the character sheets are totally impractical. This should help the kids become more self-reliant players.

Mini Jebediah Tower
Remember me from the Old Owl Well? It’s your ole’ pal Jebediah. I’m dead now, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be back. So youse just watch youseself, ya’hear!

The party is at the Old Owl Well, about a day and a half ride to Phandalin. As they travel back to town, I have them come across an area with dozens, if not hundreds of tracks; goblin, hobgoblin, and something else even larger. They are pushing some sort of heavy carts with them. These tracks clearly come from the woods to the north and continue south/southeast. Nothing is nearby and the tracks are about a half day old, probably made during the night. One of the kids says, “Well, I’m glad we didn’t have to fight whatever that was.” Oh, these poor fools don’t know me at all.

When the group arrives in town, it appears deserted; no one is at the trading post, stables, or smithy. But they can hear a thunderous roar of activity coming from the center of town. They leave the horses at the stables and to go investigate.

Phandalin Village
It seems peaceful enough, but where is everybody?

As the party enters the town square, they find the entire village is in joyous celebration. Children are all dancing around a huge maypole that has been erected in the center of town. Toblen the innkeeper has moved his entire tavern to the field and everyone is eating and drinking raucously. Four dwarven miners have set up some sort of arm-wrestling / wheelbarrow / drinking competition. An impromptu band is playing all sorts of handmade instruments; drums, washboards, pipes. Everyone is signing, shouting, laughing. The noise is deafening.

The players join the party. Eventually they find the druid, Greenwood, carousing with some squirrels. Just as Greenwood is about to tell them the location of Cragmaw Castle, a heart-wrenching scream comes from the far side of the square. The entire town stops and stares.

Elsa, the player-favorite tavern wench, is standing about 100’ away from the group. She cries out, “Goblins,” and falls over, dead, four arrows stuck in her back. The players are stunned into silence.

WP mini Dead Elsa
This is just great! Who is gonna serve us grog now? And she didn’t even card us.

Before they can recover, I bring out the town-wide battle map that I made for today. I place the dead Elsa in the town square and the player minis on the western edge. I tell the group that as they shift their focus up from the now lifeless body of Elsa, they see at least 30 goblins arranged on the far side of the square. Then I drop 30 goblin minis onto the battle map. Jack just groans. The DM (me) cackles internally.

But then the players did something so unexpected, and heroic, and sacrificing that I was genuinely moved. Mostly I was proud. Proud of my players in how they role-played and proud of them as kids growing into honorable adults. Maybe that’s a little over stated, but at least they were growing in to damn good pulp fiction storytellers.

They didn’t know it, but Elsa was always meant to be the sacrificial lamb. She was meant to die and show how deadly the world can be, and how evil the villains were. And the players were supposed to avenge Elsa, and then move on and forget about her.

But the players refused to accept her death. They didn’t care about the goblins, or the war, or the risks to their own player’s lives. They wanted to save Elsa. By any means necessary.

WP mini Battle 1
I got a bad feeling about this.

James wanted to use Misty Step to teleport to her and teleport her back. Jack wanted to go invisible and drag her back. Jim wanted to run up and heal her as if she were a player. None of these plans would work for various reasons.

In the end, they used up three one-shot items just to save her. The noble fighter, Regizar, (Andrew) drank the Potion of Giant Strength and the Potion of Speed. Then Regizar ran up to Elsa and flung her lifeless body like a Frisbee back to the group. The wizard, Riandon, (James) cast Feather Fall on the flying corpse and the thief, Callan, (Jack) with the high dexterity, caught her. Then the cleric, Clarissa, (Jim) used the scroll of Revivify to bring Elsa back from the dead.

This is the type of epic fantasy storytelling that can only happen in D&D. One single author could not come up with a tale like that. But five random people improvising a scene on the fly? This was one of the best moments of the entire campaign, and I just wanted them to fight some goblins.

Just as Regizar runs up to poor, dead Elsa, the goblin leader yells out, “Fire!” and thirty arrows fly toward the crowd of villagers. With a wave of his hands, a wall of wind fans out from the Druid Greenwood, and all of the arrows are knocked away, harmlessly falling to the ground. Except for the two that struck Regizar while he shot-putted Elsa toward the rest.

Yeah, I get to use this picture again.

Most of the villagers are frozen in panic, but several join the players to help defend the town. Daran Edermath, the NPC who is clearly a retired high-level fighter, holds his hand out in the direction of his house. A sword magically appears in his hand. With a word, “Dur-goth” the sword ignites into flame. Toblen and the bouncer, Hark, take up clubs. Sildar Hallwinter, one arm in a sling and wielding a borrowed sword, stands by their side. The owner of the stables, an ex-ranger, notches an arrow in her bow, while the dwarves grab whatever they can find; one is wielding a broken chair.

The players thought that this battle would be long and hard but I knew with this many leveled NPCs on their side that the fight would be quick. Several goblins are tangled in the druid’s vines. Sister Garaele magically binds a couple more. Daran Edermath is able to take out three goblins with each furious attack of his flaming sword.

Within a few rounds, the goblin invaders lay dead. The villagers and the players breathed a sigh of relief. That was when the town began to hear the incessant drums, pounding from the east. That was when I, as the DM, played the YouTube track “Medieval War Drums 2” on a constant loop. And Daran Edermath gave the only prepared speech of the entire campaign.

War Drums
Click on the pic to hear the sounds of the Phandalin Invasion

Daran calls together the village leaders and the party. “We will have only five minutes, at best, before the next attack. Elmar, Linene and Hob, you and your boys grab every sword, bow and arrow you can from the smithy and your stores.” Those three and several sons run off to the stores.

“Quelline, Trilena, Mirna. Gather up the women and children and take them to my home. It’s fortified, but if you have to flee, Carp will lead you through the orchard to escape over the river.” The others return from the stores, loaded with weapons.

“We can’t let them flank us. Elmar, Tomas, Winneth, Ralan; take your boys north and funnel them here,” pointing to the road heading east out of the square. “Linene, Reddor, Milcor, Lanar; you and your boys go south and do the same. Use the ruins as cover and use your bows, never fight them directly.”

Daran addressed the players, “You once said you wanted to prove your worth. Prove it now. Stop those drums. These goblins will kill so long as those drums sound. Stop the drums, save the town. You are the spear, straight into their heart. I need fifteen volunteers.”

WP mini goodguys
Daran is the guy on the left. He was the first miniature I painted with actual paint and he looks like crap.

The four dwarves and five miners step forward. “Aye, Right down der gullet we’ll gut them,” says one of the dwarfs. Toblen, the innkeeper, come up to you, “You’ve saved me an’ my kin a’fore. I’m with you. Hark, you’re with me.”

Daran looks to three other men, “Gunter, Surthen, and Bob; you claim you’ve given up your Redbrand days. Help them now to save your town.” Daran looks to a giant of a man who has stood by Halia Thornton the whole time. “Kurgan will you go too?” Kurgan looks to Halia, who nods her head yes. Kurgan joins you.

Daran continues, “Everyone else barricade that street to 5 feet, then line up on the roof of those building. Hit them with everything you’ve got. Sister Garaele, Sildar, Ed of Greenwood, I’ll need your skills with me. For Phandalin!”

And so began the Siege of Phandalin.

Phandalin Village Map
BTW, this is my modified village map that included more shops and villagers and goes hand-in-hand with the Phandalin Village Roster below.

Now, I love the Lost Mine of Phandelver. It is a great basic adventure. But I don’t want to run a basic adventure, I want Epic Fantasy! Therefore, Instant Goblin Invasion.

In preparation for war, I first drew the large town-wide battle map. Each inch was 30’ to represent one round of movement. It was over two feet tall by three feet wide but I wish that I had made it larger, because I didn’t take into account having 50+ minis on the board. I ended up taking photos of parts of the map and then blowing them up in size using our gametable insert monitor.

Phandelver Map Phandalin Battle
Each red square is 30′. The itty-bitty blue ones are 5′. And those broken circles are the ruins of something, I don’t know what.

I also bought about 75 miniatures. Most of them came from a cheap tub of Halloween props so the cost was acceptable. Half of the goblins were really kobolds for use in “The Sunken Citadel”. And I bought twenty more 20-sided dice just to give it that extra level of crazy. Total cost was about 50 bucks. Don’t tell my wife.

As for the logistics, I named almost every villager in Phandalin, especially the “leaders” and everyone that was in the party’s suicide mission. This made the town feel alive and subsequently gave every villager death more gravitas. Also, I love having high-level NPCs like Daran or Linene the Ranger to show off their cool abilities that give the players some hint of what’s in store for their characters. But then I need to have them leave so that the players can’t depend on them to just take care of everything. Here is my copy of the Village Roster that works with the modified village map above. Phandalin Village Roster

Next I made a Goblin Battle chart that had all 5 planned encounters on it.  Every encounter had goblins in it and my basic plan was that the villagers with the party would battle the goblins and the players would battle the tougher monsters. I use a modified version of the 4th Edition minion rules. Every goblin has 5hp and every villager hits for 5hp, therefore every goblin takes 1 hit to die. Every villager and hobgoblin has 10hp or 2 hits to kill. Bugbears and worse took more hits to kill. Players rolled damage normally with a minimum of 5 hit points. Here is a copy of the Battle Chart that I used during the siege. Phandalin Battle Chart 

Phandalin Battle Chart
The Phandalin Battle Chart. The link below will take you to a clean PDF copy.

Since posting this, a lot of people have asked for more information about running this siege. So, I wrote an entire post that clearly lays out all the “rules” of running a simplified Mass Combat Scenario, as well as an even more in-depth look at evrything I did to run it, All the prep work, making your own Battle Chart, complications during play, EVERYTHING. It is my longest post ever, but the rules are short and simple and they are presented first so you don’t get lost. Here is the link: How To Run a Fantasy Siege.

One of the goblins is a goblin boss and these are my new favorite bad guy. They are found in the Monster Manual and they have this awesome ability of redirect. If another goblin is nearby, any attack on the boss will hit the other goblin instead. This guy drove Andrew nuts. Andrew, of course, kept targeted the leader, but for every hit he made, another goblin took the damage. One goblin tripped and fell in the way of the blow, another deliberately jumped in the way to protect the leader, like a goblin secret service. My favorite was when the goblin boss grabbed a goblin and used him as a shield. Andrew hated this guy. I loved him, and I had six of them throughout the battles.

WP mini badguys
Here’s a few of the main bad guys today. Yes, my ogres are really small cyclops (cyclopses? Cyclopsi?). The little guy is a goblin boss, and I love him.

Now during the battles, I made one huge error. I rolled for both the monsters and the NPCs. Each battle was still exciting and the players liked having their own group of minions to deploy, but it meant that each round I was rolling 40-50 dice while the players rolled 1. One. I wish that I had given each player 4 or 5 villagers to command and roll for; that would have been much more satisfying for the players. Oh well, there’s always the next war.

Back to the Suicide Squad. The party now includes Toblen, Hark, and the mysterious Kurgan; four dwarfs, Guth, Fromathorn, Balthravin, and Vox; five miners, Eldereth who is elven, Vaz, “Lucky” Lem, Wheezle, and Primrose, who is the only female; and three ex-Redbrand thugs, Gunter, Surthen, and Bob.

As this motley crew leaves the relative safety of the town square, I describe that they have walked into Hell. Several buildings are on fire, the heat is oppressive, and they can smell burning flesh and hair in the air.

Phandalin Flames
How did the party not notice this before? Well… the wind is blowing north-east and the noise from the party drowned out all the other noise, and…

A vile gang of goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears are laughing and cackling as they force a small group of terrified villagers to walk into a burning building or be put to the sword. A couple of dead villagers on the ground make this point abundantly clear.

There are 10 goblins, 5 hobgoblins, 3 bugbears, and a Hobgoblin Elite. They have not noticed the party yet, so the party will gain surprise. Enraged at the abuse of their neighbors, the villagers attack.

During the course of the battle, two of the villagers fall, Wheezle the miner and Vox the dwarf. Halfway through the fight, a teenaged boy runs in and immediately decapitates one goblin and guts another. After the battle, he introduces himself as Kovar, son of Winneth, and he broke away from his group to go where the real action was.

WP mini Battle 2
Battle #2. I forgot to put down all my little red disks to show which building were on fire.

The main road toward the drums is blocked by fire. As they decide where to go, I have everyone roll a Perception and a Dexterity check. The DC was only 8 each so everyone passed. Except for Bob. A flaming boulder crashed and exploded into the building nearby, sending rock, timber and flaming thatch everywhere. And Bob exploded with it.

Through the haze, the group could see two catapults on the hills to the north. I explain that this is the reason the eastern part of town is on fire and that within a few more volleys, they would begin targeting the center of town, including the buildings where they have set up defenses.

The party decides to take out the catapults. Using the ruins and the town wall as cover, the group quickly sneaks up near the catapult hills. One quick note about these ruins. My ruins are all circular and I describe them as being similar to the fallen tower at the Old Owl Well. My history of Phandalin has been heavily influenced by the Netheril Empire; more foreshadowing.

There are two catapults and at each one, there are 10 goblins and 5 hobgoblins. Five goblins stand guard with bows, 5 goblins load, and the 5 hobgoblins winch. There are also two Hobgoblin Elite and a Captain. As the group approaches, one goblin doesn’t clear the winch in time, and when the catapult releases, the goblin goes flying off to his explosive doom, screaming the whole way. Humor is important in these dark times.

WP mini Battle 3
Battle #3. I really wish that I had made the map bigger. And had catapults instead of ballistas. And painted more of them. And…

The Wizard, Riandon, uses his scroll of Fireball and obliterates one of the catapults and all the goblinoids working on it. The villagers charged the goblin archers while the players attacked the remaining catapult. Two more villagers die in the assault, the miner Vaz and the redeemed criminal Gunter, but soon all the goblins and the catapult crew are dead. And thanks to the fireball, they were able to do this within 8 rounds, which was one of my secret battle objectives, but I’ll talk more about that later.

Every member of the assault team is hurt and the Cleric, Clarissa, uses another scroll, Circle of Healing, on the group. This is a homebrew scroll that heals 10 points to everyone within a 20’ radius, basically healing all the villagers in one shot.

Continuing east, the party can see its main objective. At the top of the hill leading to the Tresandar ruins, the goblinoids have set up a crude war camp. Over a dozen hobgoblins, some in fine armor, mill about while another dozen goblin archers stand guard overlooking the burning village of Phandalin. But the most obvious feature is the two giant ogres wearing enormous drums which they are pounding on using two huge clubs, one in each hand. At the foot of the hill, protecting the winding road to the top is another mixed regiment of twenty goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears.

WP mini Battle 4
Battle #4. Notice the brave heroes sneaking up from behind?

The players correctly surmise that a frontal assault would be suicide. They ask if it is possible to climb the hill out of sight. Of course, it’s possible; in fact, it’s another secret battle objective. Everyone, even the villagers, pass the easy dexterity skill check.

The group now stands behind the war camp and they have not been spotted yet. They easily spot the Hobgoblin General, who is the second biggest hobgoblin they have ever seen and is protected by four Hobgoblin Elite. He is barking orders to his underlings, “Why have the Slingers stopped?! Send a grunt (goblin) to find out what happened.”

In addition to the goblin archers and the ogre drummers and the General and his guards, there are another five hobgoblins, and a matron hobgoblin shaman and her bugbear bodyguard. This fight is nasty.

Yeah, I’m with the band!

The players remember that their main goal was to stop the drums. Clarissa the cleric had saved her Flame Strike scroll and used it here to devastate one of the ogres. The ogre barely survived the damage but the drum is completely destroyed. Callan the thief has the great idea to shoot an arrow into the other drum. He moved into position and succeeded. When the ogre continued drumming, he smashed a huge hole in the drum. Mission accomplished; the war drums have stopped. But was it in time to save the town?


Andrew quaffed his potion of heroism and took on the ogres. James rolled high and was able to put three hobgoblins to sleep, which were shortly hacked to death by the villagers. Then he thunderwaved another three goblins right off the hill, before tackling the shaman.

The battle was long and hard. Thanks to Clarissa’s Flame Strike, Andrew was able to take out one of the ogres quickly. He ran to face the other ogre, but not before the beast got an opportunity attack on Lucky Lem and his luck finally ran out. Lem was sent flying right over the edge and fell 40 feet to his death.

The shaman proved to be a nasty foe. She was particularly adept at acid spells. Her Acid Arrow was the spell that dropped the first player, the thief Callan. Fortunately, Clarissa was nearby to save his life. Clarissa spent the rest of battle healing the party and keeping them in the fight.

Phandalin II – The Wrath of Klarg

The wizard, Riandon, was the second to fall. Moments after killing the shaman, her bugbear bodyguard took his revenge on Riandon, only to be stabbed in the back by a certain sneaky, and newly revived thief. Fortunately, Callan had a spare healing potion to force down the dying mage’s throat.

The villagers were able to handle most of the goblins but it came at a heavy price. Eldereth, Balthravin, and Hark the bouncer all fell to the goblins’ blades. To make matters worse, the goblin guards at the foot of the hill have noticed the fighting above. They are running to join the fight, and are only slowed by the winding path of the road. The heroes may win this battle only to be overrun by the goblin reinforcements. Time is running out.

Regizar, badly wounded, strikes a fatal blow to the ogre’s gut, and the monstrous savage falls backward crushing another hobgoblin in the process. The Hobgoblin General and his guards had not yet joined the battle. He wanted to see how his minions performed. His Progress Report would state that they performed pathetically.

You’re lucky I waited to see how my guys did kicking your butt! What d’ya mean they’re all dead?

Now the party and the seven remaining villagers have to fight the Hobgoblin General and his elite guards. All by itself, this was a tough fight. The General has 75 hit points, 2 attacks per round, and can parry an attack.

It took every resource to take him down; every spell slot, every special ability. In the end, Clarissa cast Guiding Bolt and lit the General up in holy fire. Clarissa was then struck down and no one was able to heal her, so she was on her own with the death saves. Yet again. At some point during the battle, every player went down except for Andrew. I just can’t kill this guy.

With the General bathed in holy light, the rest of the party could easily target him. The General died, gurgling in a pool of his own blood, followed shortly by his remaining troops.

But now the party, running purely on fumes, had to face an attack from the reserves at the bottom of the hill. An attack which will surely kill them all. An attack which never came.

“Run away!” “Bree-yark! Bree-yark!”

Because the players took out the drums first, the goblins began to flee. The town rallied and sent reinforcements to help the party. The villagers were fighting the goblins stationed at the foot of hill. Soon they were routed and running away.

Yes, I know, of course I intervened and saved the party from a certain doom. But because I was able to use the players own actions as the reason why they survived, the player felt that they had earned a reprieve. And so they had.

I firmly believe that the DM’s job is to present interesting scenarios and challenge the party and yet not be a vindictive jerk. The DM’s plans are ultimately supposed to fail, but it shouldn’t be easy. Today, the group fought 74 goblins, 6 goblin bosses, 25 hobgoblins, 8 bugbears, 7 hobgoblin elite, 1 shaman, 2 ogres, 2 Captains, and 1 General. Hardly easy.

The players were triumphant against an unbeatable foe and impossible odds, and they deserved to be rewarded. There was no gold or treasure to be found, only glory and experience. All the monsters added up to 14000 xp. Too much for 3rd level players. I decreed that the four players earned half and the villagers the other half. This gave each player 1750 xp. Plus, I had included some secret battle conditions.

Goblins Banner

I had four secret conditions; keep villager deaths to less than 6, destroy the catapults in 10 rounds or less, do not attempt a frontal assault of the final hill, and target the drums first in the final battle. Each one was worth 100 xp per person. The only one they missed was keeping the villagers alive; they lost 9 villagers total. This brought the total for the battle to 2050 xp. That is a lot, but it did not unbalance play. The players still stayed at 4th level until the last chapter, as the module intended.

I love the use of conditional experience. It reminds me of the old school tournament modules. The experience and the treasure didn’t matter; winning was based on your score. When I run the players through the Lost Shrine of Tamoachan, which was also a tournament module, I will use many of the OSR tournament rules. We’ll see how well that works.

I had not given the party any clues or advance notice of these conditions, but I did give them every advantage I could; extra magic, slightly (though not by much) decreased enemy stats, and the extra Inspiration bonus, which they totally earned for saving Elsa. And they used every bit of it. But it was worth it, because the players felt that they had really accomplished something, even if it is only make-believe. On to the epilogue.

In the aftermath of the invasion, the players found a crude note on the body of the General. But this time it was not from the Black Spider. Instead it was a note that read “Kil Evrywon” and sealed with the bloody mark of a clawed hand with only four fingers.

LMP Handout6 Kill Everyone
Who the hell is this guy we gotta kill now?

Weary and exhausted, the heroes slowly make their way back to town. Toblen is walking with a severe limp and one of the dwarfs needed to be carried back to town, complaining the whole time that he was fine.

The fires that blocked their way earlier are being put out by dozens of villagers, mostly women. Thankfully, the destruction was limited to just the eastern part of town. The Sleeping Giant Inn is ruined and good riddance, but the rest can be rebuilt. The villagers cheer as the Saviors of Phandalin (as the stories told would later call them) walk by.

As they approach the center of town, corpses are strewn all over. Most are goblin but a few are human. The Battle of Phandalin was hard-fought, and the survivors are grateful, but the price of victory was high. The town smith and the wheelwright are dead. Sadly, they were not the only ones. Of the thirty families that call Phandalin home, almost every one of them lost a husband, or father, or worse, a son to the goblin horde.

Sildar Hallwinter is sitting on a lone chair in the middle of the carnage. He has apparently broken his other arm as well. He has to hold his sleeve up in his teeth and winces when he gives the heroes a thumbs-up. Toblen finds his wife and son and holds them close, then you see him shake his head “no” and they start to cry, presumably talking about the fate of Hark. Kovar, the stableboy who ran away to join the fight, finds his mother who first slaps him hard, but then embraces him tightly and won’t let go. Everywhere families and friends are reunited. Thanks are given for those who lived, and tears are shed for those who did not.

Daran Edermath approaches the heroes. Despite being over 150 years old and almost singlehandedly holding off over 100 goblins, he isn’t injured or even breathing hard. “You’ve done a remarkable thing here today and the town will never forget you. You truly are heroes. You are the Saviors of Phandalin.” And thus a legend was born.

Next week, the Saviors (no relation to the Walking Dead) seek out the Four-Fingered Monster who tried to destroy an entire town but more importantly why. Oh, and they might even find that dwarf who still owes them 50 gold from way back in Chapter 1.

If you want even more details about running this invasion check out my link to How To Run a Fantasy Siege.

And to further help your campaign, 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!

As Always, For Phandalin!, and Game On!

War means tears to thousands of mother’s eyes. When their sons go to fight and lose their lives. I said, war, hunh, good god y’all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again. – Edwin Starr

P.S. I find that these Campaign Diaries are getting longer and longer. I apologize. Let me know in the comments if you find these useful, or entertaining, or god forbid, both. Do you enjoy the story elements of the campaign or do you just want the “Running the Game” advice or do you like the mix of the two.

46 thoughts on “D&D Diary – Lost Mine of Phandelver – Session 9

  1. I can’t believe there are no comments on this. This is freakin awesome! I am tempted to try this in my run with my friends but it seems super intimidating and complex.

    How did you keep it fun while having to spend the time rolling so many dice per turn for NPCs and monsters? Also how long did this session take?


    1. As well as keeping it fun how difficult was it to manage everything? I imagine keeping track of everything would be a really tedious affair.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I kept a paper with a “G” for every goblin “H” for hobgoblin etc. Every hit on a goblin was a kill, two hits killed a hobgoblin etc. I will go back to this post and add a pdf of the battle.


        1. Ahh of course, that removes the need for damage rolls for any players and NPCs attacking goblins or hobgoblins. That would cut down the time taken by a fair bit. That’s a clever solution. I look forward to seeing the PDF. Thanks for the response 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Exactly. And if I were to run it again, I would have each player be responsible for their own squad of 4-5 villagers, so that I don’t have to roll so many dice and they get to play more with the strategy of the battlefield.


  2. This is great! I discovered your blog a couple of months ago and I’ve read your entire D&D campaign dairies (sorry to hear the cleric and rogue left the campaign; sadly this isn’t the first group I’ve seen that had to call a hiatus because of COVID-19 ☹️). I’m thinking of running this war in my phandelver campaign, with the hobgoblins replaced with orcs cause my king grol is a orc war chief. PS by the way, I see in the comments on this that you said you would add a PDF of the battle but I don’t see it anywhere in the post. I’m asking cause it would make my sad attempt to run this a lot easier 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I am actually working on that PDF right now and I’m trying to decide whether to include everything such as Daran Edermath’s rallying speech or just the battle framework. Hopefully it will be up this week. And in other good news, the campaign is still running. We have a new player and I am writing up our first session with him in it now. And we are scheduled to play again Sunday, so fingers crossed. Thanks again for your comments.


  3. Thanks for answering! I look forward to seeing the PDF. My group (my family) will not be expecting this! Btw, I was tired when I wrote my last post and just realized I miswrote it. I meant to say that this isn’t the first MEMBERS of a group I’ve seen that had to take a hiatus because of COVID-19 🤦🏼 I look forward to reading about the adventures of Regizar, Riandon, and Aragon. PS include Daran Edermath’s speech please! It’s one of the best moments of the whole battle 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just added the Battle Chart PDF to the Session 9 post and the Phandelver Resource page. I about a day or two I will post a full How to run a Siege page. I did not include Daran’s speech in the PDF but his entire speech is in the Session 9 diary and I wanted to keep the PDF to one page. Hope this Helps. Game On!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi there, I love love this siege idea with phandalin and I want to run it on my own campaign. I was looking for the post where you said you were going to talk about how you ran the siege of phandalin but i could not find a link! is there an explanation for how you handled the battles that took place and how you had the players act, I could really use your insight. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Im really enjoying all the insight on how to DM these adventures from reading all your blogs. Can’t wait for the siege battle instruction pdf!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Did you by chance finish the pdf on how to run the siege of phandalin? my party is almost there and I really want to do this siege but i need more help on how to run it. thank for all your work!


      1. Hi again, Rich.

        Sorry to keep bugging you about the siege war instructions. Looking forward to when you complete that.
        I love these diaries so much that i am re-reading them all again and landed on this one again 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi again, Rich.

    Sorry to keep bugging you about the siege war. Looking forward to when you complete that.
    I love these diaries so much that i am re-reading them all again and landed on this one again 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grey Fox, the post is up. Thanks for pushing me forward to get this ridiculously long and difficult to write post completed. I hope this helps. Enjoy and keep in touch. Let me know how it goes.


  6. These posts are so amazingly helpful. I know my PCs won’t do any of the cool stuff that yours did, but I am so excited to find out what cool stuff they will do! You are setting a great example for how to let them tell their own stories while managing the necessary mechanics and keeping them engaged. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, EJ. And thanks you. I’m glad you enjoy the posts and find them useful. I’m dying to hear what cool stuff your players do as well. Keep me posted.
      My best tip for letting them tell their story, is to always let them “try” whatever they can think of. But give them a skill check. If the “it” is ridiculous, complicated, or potntially game breaking (like letting a player steal a dragon egg) make the DC High (20-25). If you think “it” is cool, make the DC low (5-15). And if another player chimes in and also thinks “it” is awesome (which often happens), AND can give any example of how that character can “help” the attempting player, let the player roll with advantage. Good luck on your game and have fun!


  7. Man I wish this was recorded on video

    Reading it is so epic and I’d love to mimic this!

    I’m running Lost Mine with my wife, daughter and another husband and wife duo. We just decided to run a D&D campaign on a whim, and to nobodys surprise I was made DM having to learn everything about the game on the fly

    Needless to say, I’ve bookmarked this diary. Pro tips, and great characters in the story (also the D&D characters are cool too)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Answering the question “if you find these useful, or entertaining, or god forbid, both. Do you enjoy the story elements of the campaign or do you just want the “Running the Game” advice or do you like the mix of the two.”

    Please don’t change a thing. I have loved reading these. I’m a 40 year old guy and your descriptions have left me emotional. I pride myself on being a good story teller, but it’s clear you’re either more talented more practiced and likely both at both running these things, then writing about them.

    I see you’ve encountered the same issue I had with Lost Mines…that all the characters and encounters are devoid of motivation. I couldn’t stand that the Black Spider seems so toothless. The adventure never describes who the Red Wizards of Thay were and that the Wizzard at old owl well was one (I learned that from you). I couldn’t see any reason the Cult of the dragon are camped in front of Venomfang. I can’t fathom why a doppler would be sided with a strategically incompenent wimp like the Black Spider, let alone to risk her life to barter against a bugbear (King Grohl) for him and felt Virieth and the other Doppler were misplaced. I couldn’t even see enough reward for Iarno to abandon the Lords Alliance for some small shtick leading a group of thugs. Poppycock, all of it.

    So I changed it all.

    First my big bad is Venomfang. She’s found a useful idiot in the form of the Black Spider, a pompous and proud Drow who fancies himself of great strategic ability who has come from his Underdark home seeking the magic of the Forge from the Forge of Spells. The Black Spider is useful to her because he’s a fall guy for all the things she wants to do in the area. For now he’s under her thumb, and resents her. Lucky for him he just happened to be approached by two Dopplegangers who sided with him to help him and he think’s he has it made. The two dopplers, however, are actually agents from Venomfang pressed into service from their forest home. Venomfang has promised their families will die unless they serve him. The brother stays with the Black Spider while while his sister Virieth runs errands, ostensibly for the Black Spider, but mostly to report to venomfang.

    Venomfang also came into possession of an artifact, the Bracers of Domination, anybody who wears the left bracer is dominated by the possessor of the Right bracer. Then he had Virieth change into a Lovely brunette to go to Phandalin and gain an agent there. She found Iarno and after a few drinks and winks got him to put the Bracer on. She then, by order of the dragon, informed the Black spider of the usefulness of Iarno who, because he was dominated quickly allied himself with the Black spider.

    Iarno was eventually freed, Grohl was made much tougher but died, Virieth tried to hide who she was, but was found out then escaped. I had a great scene back in Phandalin where the Black Spider, who received word of how much the party has already monkey wrenched his plans (with the Redbrands and now Grohl) who had a late night dinner table meeting with the party (they were lured out by Dancing Lights). Learning they were Do-gooders he encouraged them to head to Thundertree and kill the Dragon there. Virieth was punished by Venomfang, and locked away. When the party met Venomfang they were about to have a conversation when my wife / Cleric Noped that and just came in with death in her eyes and Venomfang then almost died by the party. For her failures and out of frustration Venomfang killed Virieths family which, when the party found Virieth in Chains under the dragons tower released her and she helped them navigate Thundertree and then check on her family. She made a Pact with her Great Old One Forest Deity over the smoldering remains of her family and becomes a Warlock and swears to help the party so she can get her brother and avenge her family.

    They’re now going through Wave Echo cave. I love the ideas that you’ve had and especially interested in the siege of Phandalin that you’ve done. I may have to steal that. Thanks so much for documenting all this fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the high (and very undeserved) praise. I assure you that I am an average DM and so long as your players are having fun, then you are an excellent DM. I absolutely love what you have done with the campaign. You did a far better job of making all of the separate and often incompatable elements fit together. I’ve been thinking about revisting the campaign setting and exploring some other ways that a DM could approach the story. I would love to include what you have done with it, if I could have your permission. Bear in mind that I am over 12 posts behind on the various campaigns I’m in, so if I were to do this post, I this ne Phandalin post would be months away. Let me know and keep me posted on all the other cool stuff you guys are doing. Game On! -Rich


  9. Rich,

    I would love for you to steal these ideas. It’s my main motivation to post is to share back with all the ideas I’ve borrowed elsewhere. Thanks for the intricate posts on sieges, I look forward to doing this with my own groups.

    Keep up the great work, and great blogs.


    1. Wow, thanks both Rich and Aaron for your great takes on how to make this campaign more epic!

      I love the BBEG Venomfang idea, I think I need to steal from you both now that my newbie party has almost dealt with Iarno, still time to give him one of those bracers!

      And note to self: Always read comments…

      Liked by 1 person

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