2 hours ago
Monday, January 2, 2017
TPK for the In-laws
We spent New Year's with my wife's parents, and she really wanted to introduce them to D&D. They are avid gamers of the Catan/Carcassone/Pandemic sort but had never played an rpg. On the way to their place, we bought the 5e Starter Set (mainly to get ahold of the Lost Mines of Phandelver intro adventure), but also for the sample characters.
I'm sorry to say Squire Bill the Dwarf Cleric, Maggie the Elf Wizard, and Sara Longstreet the Fighter, were all lost in a goblin den. It was the first TPK of the new year. Hell, it's my first one as a DM in decades, perhaps.
While this was sort of on the fly and an introductory game not the start of a campaign, I did reskin a few thinks to make them more in line with my sensibilities, taking some suggestions from Gus L's critique of the adventure here. The PCs started in media res walking along the road from Knarr to Fandlin, where they know there is to be a festival honoring St. Frithona. I vaguely had in mind a Canterbury Tales riff, and I may differ a bit from Gus in my stance on funny names (I want them to be consistent in a way that suggest culture and interesting, but I do not necessarily see facility of player use as primary concern. If they can't remember them, they can take notes.) so I actually added more than are in the adventure while I altered the ones they were there. So the PCs soon encounter the gruff dwarven outfitter with a secret, Rockseeker Gev, and his associate, Silfer, and soon after, a pilgrim camp with Maudrey (a corpulent merchant), Eilmer (a used car salesman-esque relic seller), Bregwin (a taciturn female fighter with a hatred of goblins), and Karthusa (a nervous tinkerwoman).
After Gev and Silfer are apparently kidnapped in a goblin attack--and the player's find a tantalizing but unreadable map to the ruins--they track the goblins back to their lair.
In the end, it was mostly bad rolls that took them down and even then it was a close thing: the last PCs was felled by the last goblin in a room who was himself hanging on only by 1 HP. I suppose I should have had the goblin flee at that point to raise alarm (and give the PCs time to maybe attempt escape), but it happened relatively fast and the contest was so close. In any case, the player's seemed to enjoy the game, despite feeling they had "lost" in the end. Being more conformable with boardgames with role-playing the combat was more to their liking than the NPC interaction, so this introductory thing suited them better than one of my adventures might have.