Actual Play – Keep on the Borderlands [D&D] Part 1

So, I actually ran a D&D game Sunday for the first time in forever.

I haven’t exactly kicked off a campaign or anything. Two kids I knew from my old job (though now they’re 16 and 17) had just gotten into the game; one of them received the Red Box for Christmas. In the true spirit of the game, the one who got the box DMed the first adventure with his single friend. Hijinks—I am led to believe—ensued.

D&D Encounters: Keep on the Borderlands has been going on at the store where I now work for a while. Even though I kicked it off, circumstances (i.e. work) have prevented me from running it as I originally intended. I passed the mantle on to one of our regulars quite some time ago, and he has proven to be a very popular and competent DM.

Still, I had these extra copies of the chapters floating around, so I decided to run with them. My two players brought two more along with them, and off we went.

Character creation took a bit of time. Only one of the players (the original DM) had really had any time to read through his copy of Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, which I convinced him to buy on New Year’s Eve. I had my own copy of Heroes of the Fallen Lands in tow, but only one player wanted to make a character out of it. After about two hours of sharing books and answering questions, the characters were:

  • Quinn Farglade, half-elf druid (sentinel, druid of summer)
  • Aessakayks, eladrin wizard (mage, enchantment apprentice)
  • Reinhalt, human ranger (hunter, crossbow hunter)
  • Guinevere, human paladin (cavalier, spirit of valor)

Reinhalt and Guinevere both had last names as well, but I believe I discarded the sheet I kept notes on and can’t remember them so easily as Quinn’s.

Quinn’s player had already devised a backstory the previous evening. Abandoned by his elven mother, Quinn grew up in a fortress near Fallcrest and became part of the guard there. However, about a year ago, he felt a strange disconnect and found himself unsatisfied with his life. He went out into the wilderness in search of his roots, fasting and meditating. A vision of Pelor came to him, and he felt the call of the wild stir in his half-elven blood. Shortly after he met his bear companion, Bosco, and has embraced the elven side of his heritage.

Decent stuff! Running the adventure by the book, the adventurers arrive at Restwell Keep via trade caravan. We were pressed for time, so rather than allowing some free roleplay I got right to the heart of the action. Reinhalt was traveling with the rest of the group because the caravan master had paid him, and the others impressed him. Guinevere’s ultimate goal was to get to the Chaos Scar, and the caravan was simply the most expedient way. Aessakayks had taken a liking to Bosco and, lacking anything better to do, decided to tag along with him and Quinn.

Given Quinn’s backstory, I simply changed the unnamed fortress to Restwell Keep, which allowed me to easily convey a bit of information about the environs. The adventure began in the apartment of Benwick, a monk (of the religious type, not the kung-fu-fighting type) who tends to the shrine of Avandra, Ioun, and Sehanine.

Benwick informed the characters of Ferdinand Ronnik, a banker who was once a thief in Fallcrest. The monk is suspicious of Ronnik, believing him up to no good. He had a friend of his in Ronnik’s employ, named Gordi, investigate the matter. Gordi discovered that Ronnik had accoutrements of Tiamat about him, and had also gained possession of a religious item known as the Serpent’s Eye, stolen from Moonsong Temple by agents of the evil serpent god, Zehir. However, Gordi ended up getting kidnapped and dragged to a swamp in the northeast.

Naturally, Benwick asks the characters to track down Gordi, and the Serpent’s Eye, and to link Ronnik to Tiamat’s cult. Everyone agreed, except Aessakayk’s player who demonstrated a healthy bit of skepticism. “Am I sure he’s telling us everything?” he asked me. I told him he was more than welcome to make an Insight skill check to suss out Benwick’s intentions. He rolled an 11. I informed him that Benwick’s story seems to check out, and furthermore Quinn knew of Benwick’s exemplary reputation from his own time at the keep.

I was impressed with the player. Rather than becoming even more suspicious given his roll, he decided he was quite alright with the explanation. I find players who don’t roll high sometimes begin to question whether they really discovered anything, or just failed at the check. I disagree that the solution is to keep such rolls secret. Understanding that the purpose of the dice is to decide in-game outcomes, even if it is just a subconscious kind of realization, is definitely a point I admire in others who play D&D.

The group was off to a good start, with three quests: rescue Gordi, expose Ronnik, and get the Serpent’s Eye back to Benwick. Now all they had to do was come up with a plan.

Next time, dear readers.