Isle of Dread Campaign (IoD spoilers)

Session one
Characters: Human paladin, Human barbarian, Halfling rogue.


Character creation times:

Paladin: 2 hours (player reading through paladin spells and channel divinity)

Barbarian: 30 minutes (pretty quick'n'easy, not too many choices)

Rogue: 10 minutes (used pre-genned rogue, tweaked weapon choice slightly and changed isolated strike to backstab)


Session notes:

Since the characters are starting at level 3, I explained that the three of them had already done some adventuring together in Baldur's Gate, culminating in them slaying the Dire Rat King and cleaning out the sewers (of dire rats).  Unfortunately, they have not received much notoriety from this from most people, most townsfolk seeing them as glorified septic waste engineers.  When they were offered 1500 gold by a ship's captain to help guard him and his crew while opening a new trade route on a newly (re)discovered island, they jumped at the chance.  The rogue also brokered a deal with the Cartographer's Guild to provide them a map of the island for another 1500 gold.

Sadly during a violent storm, the ship they were on, Mystra's Blessing, ran afoul of a reef and sank.  The players made it out on a shore boat, but got separated in the storm from the rest of the crew.  Following a red glow (an active volcano), they made it to shore with limited supplies (one barrel of fresh water, one barrel of salted pork (5 days’ worth), one 10-foot pole, their weapons, three flasks of oil, and their adventuring kits).

While the barbarian was scavenging for food, she found three giant crabs, which she immediately charged.  By the time the rogue and paladin got to her, another three crabs had snuck up on her from the ocean and surrounded her.  During her turn she killed one crab and Cleaved, doing damage to but not killing another. She raged, which prevented quite a lot of damage (gives resistance to pretty much all physical damage, which from my understanding means she takes half damage), but was grappled by two of the crabs, giving advantage to hit her.  The rogue and paladin were able to kill one of the crabs behind her, but were each hit (and grappled) by a crab.

Here's where an odd part of the rules came in to play.  Because the rogue was grappled, he had disadvantage to hit the crab.  Because the crab was next to the rogue's ally, the rogue had advantage, cancelling disadvantage (using Backstab).  However, Sneak Attack can be used when the character does not have disadvantage, and grants disadvantage to hit as well as extra damage.  According to the rules, any time the character has at least one advantage and at least one disadvantage, it just defaults to no advantage, even if there are two disadvantages and only one advantage.  So the rogue was able to use sneak attack without taking disadvantage.  Am I interpreting the rules incorrectly?

Anyway, the three characters each took some damage but were able to fairly easily defeat the six crabs, and cooked/smoked the crab meat on a fire made out of driftwood to add 5 more days’ worth of meat (one of the crabs had been completely pulverized.  In the morning, they noticed a ship marooned high on the cliffs surrounding the volcano and decided to investigate it.  It took them several hours to navigate through a small jungle, during which they noticed some tracks belonging to Dire Rats.  All three of the players decided that their characters would have no more to do with Dire Rats, and ignored the tracks.

Once the characters had made it up to the marooned ship, they saw it had a hole in the bottom where someone had set up camp in the ship's cargo hold and seemingly lived there for some time, but not recently.  The rogue and barbarian scavenged some supplies (mostly a few more lengths of rope) and found a journal.  The paladin heard a noise and climbed the stairs to investigate.

It turns out that a Troll had made its home in the ship as well and was asleep.  The paladin made no attempt at stealth, awoke the troll, and promptly lost 2/3 of his HP to an attack.  The barbarian and thief ran out of the ship and attempted to set up a tripwire with rope.  The barbarian used Lay On Hands to patch himself up, then slammed a door in front of the troll and ran down the stairs.  During his next turn he opened one of the three flasks of oil and dumped it in the ship next to the entrance, and the barbarian lit a torch and dropped in into the oil.  The ship, which had been right next to an active volcano for decades, was very dry and immediately lit on fire.  The troll, fearing the fire as one of the few things that can hurt it, started running back up the stairs to get to the deck and jump off.  The paladin made a crude Molotov cocktail with the flask of oil and another torch and threw it on to the deck.

Once the troll realized he was trapped on both sides by fire, he started using his turns smashing himself on to the wall of the ship to try to burst through.  The rogue had the bright idea that since the troll was trying to smash through the wall that was downslope, if the party could go upslope of the ship and push, maybe they could dislodge the ship.  Synchronizing to the next time the troll bashed the wall, the paladin and barbarian rammed themselves in to the ship just hard enough for it to be dislodged, slowly tilt end over end, and roll its way, still flaming, into the jungle at the base of the volcano.

The session ended with the three of them taking a much needed break, and reading the journal of "R.B." that they had found in the ship.  The rogue was delighted by tales of 5 perfect emeralds, and a partial map of the main island (they discovered they were on a tiny volcanic island not connected to the larger island). They planned to start making their way to the main island, and some form of civilization, the next day.



Overall, the first session of D&D next was fun for everyone.  There are less 'powers' than in D&D 4, and this seems to have led to the players being a bit more creative.  During the first night, the rogue wanted to try weaving a basket from palm fronds to store water, so I had him roll a dex check (which he critted on).  Little things like that were lots of fun.  They also had fun with first setting the ship on fire, and then rolling it down a mountainous volcano.

The three classes that my group are playing seem fairly balanced, with the rogue using backstab to hit more OR sneak attack to do more damage (I like that the there's a choice that needs to be made between better hit chance or more damage), the paladin buffing and healing while doing good damage, and the barbarian just utterly murderizing enemies while raging.  I am somewhat concerned that the challenge may be low because the characters are on a large island and will probably not be fighting more than one or two battles a day between travelling.  The buffs seem to last a long time as well.  Bless and Rage both last up to 10 minutes, which is probably the entire battle.  The barbarian can rage two times a day starting at level one, and three times a day at level 5.  Will it reach a point where the barbarian can just rage through every battle?

I'll be running this campaign on Saturdays, so assuming this gets any response I’ll write up the following sessions as well.  Feel free to ask me questions, or tell me if you think I’m DMing something wrong.

Great report. I loved reading it. Like you said, I also think that less powers and the ability checks with flat DCs really encourages creativity and makes it much easier for players and DM.

I've been running a number of sessions with the barbarian, and it does seem overpowered except....officially, the barbarian needs to take an extended rest to be able to rage again even if he has multiple rages per day. If you let them rest for 1 hour, he'll be able to rage. If you interrupt them or have wandering monsters attack while they are recovering, you can prevent the barbarian from raging. I still don't like it. I'd rather the rage be less powerful (especially the 1/2 damage)and not require the short rest to activate again. Actually, I'd love it to get Temporary hit points instead of resistance.

It seems like you are doing a great job DMing, especially if everyone is having fun.

Keep playing and enjoying.


A Brave Knight of WTF


Rhenny's Blog:



Oh, good point on that rage limitaion. It's tough to keep track of every ability and none of us wrote down the ability information to that level of specificity. Hopefully that will keep it balanced in the future. Thanks!
If you already have a disadvantage, you can't use sneak attack. This keeps rogues from just using sneak attack every time they're already at disadvantage.

Gald to see you guys are having so much fun with the campaign, makes me want to set something on fire at my group's next session.
The Oberoni fallacy only applies to broken rules, not rules you don't like. If a rule you don't like can be easily ignored, it should exist in the game for those who will enjoy it.
Yeah, that should balance out sneak attack some. The troll was quite a bit higher than the party's exp guide, and I was hoping it would teach them the value of running away. Unfortunately, I think it just taught them that there is never too much fire. Ah well, it was fun and interesting regardless.
Yeah, that should balance out sneak attack some. The troll was quite a bit higher than the party's exp guide, and I was hoping it would teach them the value of running away. Unfortunately, I think it just taught them that there is never too much fire. Ah well, it was fun and interesting regardless.

Creativity, knowing thine enemy, and throwing firebombs should always be rewarded (in game).
Did you use the Exploration rules from the adventure or the latest packet, or neither?
Did you use the Exploration rules from the adventure or the latest packet, or neither?

Kind of a mix.  I'm using exploration roles and travel pace from the packet, and water movement speed, weather, and wandering monsters from the adventure.

Session 2, players Human Paladin, Human Barbarian, Halfling Rogue.  (Same group)


The players, having received a partial map of the island, decided to head toward civilization.  On their way down the volcano, they stopped to pick through the remains of the ship they had immolated, but found that the only thing salvageable were the troll’s charred head (which the Paladin took for a trophy, and to try to sell later), and iron nails which had previously held the ship together (which the Rogue made his companions help gather to sell later).  When they got back to their rowboat, they chose a route which led past a nest of aquatic giant spiders.

The boat got stuck in spider webs and seaweed, and while the party was trying to pull out their oars and cut themselves free, four giant spiders attacked them.  They hit the party a few times before being slaughtered, and the party easily succeeded the DC10 constitution check to not be poisoned.  It was not a very hard fight, but the EXP guide in the DM Guidelines PDF rated it as ‘average’.  From what I have read on these forums, generally ‘average’ is somewhat easy.  The party has also had each fight once a day only, so they have all their spells/rages etc. during each fight, which makes these fights much easier.  I also could have played the spiders more cunningly, and had them drag characters underwater to try to drown them, but I did not think of that at the time.

After the battle, the rogue asked if he could retrieve poison from the spiders, so I had the party roll nature lore rolls (which the Barbarian is specialized in and easily passed), followed by a Dex DC 15 check for the rogue to successfully extract a few vials worth of poison.  I appreciate this being included in the equipment PDF.  Due to the Barbarian’s high roll, she realized that giant spiders usually store any valuables that victims have in their webs, so the Rogue did some diving and found two potions of minor healing and a potion of heroism.  This being done, the party continued rowing to the peninsula containing several native villages.

When they arrived at one of the smaller native villages, they were asked politely (by a large group of guards) to meet with the four village elders, Hawk, Elk, Tiger, and Turtle.  The elders wanted to make sure that the party was not there to make trouble, and initially thought that the party might be part of a group of pirates that had been bothering the village and taking slaves.  The party assured the elders that they would not cause trouble, and offered to help with the pirate problem.  They thought that perhaps the pirates had captured and imprisoned the crew of the ship they had travelled to the island on.

The next day, the party sold the troll’s head and the iron nails for a good profit (there is little access to iron on the island), asked the village chiefs to spread word that they were setting a trap for the pirates, and set out for a beach that seemed to be a favorite ambush site for the pirates.  Once there, the party got ready for an ambush of their own, digging pit traps, putting up tripwires and snares.  15 villagers joined them, a few a day, and the party set up a smoky fire to hopefully attract the pirates’ attention.  After a few days, they were successful.

During the wait for the pirates, however, the Barbarian was antsy.  Wanting to impress the villagers, she set off on her own to hunt down an animal to kill and bring back to camp (despite the other players warning her that splitting the party was a bad idea).  She followed tracks from a giant snake and found a giant boa constrictor.  During the fight, she was grappled and then pinned by the constrictor, per the bestiary.  There are no rules I could find on ‘pinned’, so I ruled she was unable to attack until she rolled a strength contest to free herself.  The snake had advantage on attacks because she was grappled, and her rage wore off because she could not attack, so she nearly died before being able to free herself.  Once she was free, she drank one of the two potions of minor healing, and managed to kill the snake.  The player thought that this was a fun fight (I assume from the adrenaline of nearly dying).

Once the pirates showed up (in a group of 15), the villagers ran into the forest to draw the pirates into the traps.  The Barbarian was with the villagers playing bait (a group of five total), and managed to fall into one of the party’s own pit traps (the player rolled a natural one dex check… he tends to be an unlucky roller).  The pirates noticed her fall in with a high wis check, and most of them were able to avoid similar traps, though a few of them fell prone from tripwires or fell into pit traps.  The ensuing battle wasn’t particularly challenging, with 15 pirate warriors and one pirate elite warrior vs 15 village warriors and 3 player characters, but the players did have fun nonetheless.  All the pirates were killed, except for the elite pirate, who was captured alive so the party could get information from him.  Next week they plan on taking on the pirate base.



This was a fun session for everyone again.  There were a couple of minor issues that I felt could be clearer in the rules (What is ‘pinned’?), but I am really loving the Isle of Dread campaign.  Having faster battles than in version 4 is also nice.  I didn’t mention this during the first session, but explaining the rule changes to the players (who hadn’t really read the playtest packet, shame on them) was very easy.  The players’ experience with D&D is fairly broad, 2/3 of them playing D&D version 3, and all of them playing D&D 4 and Star Wars RPG (which I’m pretty sure is based off 3.5).  Still, it only took me about 10 minutes to explain the new rules before we were up and playing.

I still have some concerns about the fact that each battle they fight they have all of their resources, because the campaign setting is a large island and it takes days to get anywhere.  I don’t want to throw TOO many wandering monsters at them per day, or it will take forever for them to get anywhere and we will all probably get bored.

Pinned should be the "restrained" condition on HTP20, although I think taking away attack may be possible too.

CAVEAT:  This was played last weekend, before the new playtest packet had been released.

Session 3, players Human Paladin, Human Barbarian, Halfling Rogue.  (Same group)


The session started with the party interrogating the pirate prisoner they had taken at the end of last session.  He caved quickly, but only after extracting a promise for his freedom once he had given them information.  He bargained further to give them information on the pirates’ treasure and a back way into the pirate camp (through a secret passageway into a cave the pirates store their treasure).  In return, the party had to give him back his weapon and armor, so that he could defend himself from the perils of the island (or so he said).  He showed the party where the pirate base was located and told them where the back entrance to the pirate’s secret cave was.  He also informed them that half of the pirates left in the base were currently on the mainland, selling slaves and trading for supplies, leaving around 20 pirates back in their base.

After this, the Paladin and Rogue had a minor argument on whether or not to actually release the pirate or give him back his gear.  The Paladin had given his word, and ended up winning the argument.  As the party sailed away on the pirates’ outrigger canoe, the last thing they saw on shore was the pirate, silently watching them.  Yeah, there’s no way that pirate will come back to cause them more trouble in the future (Devious grin).  I’m only annoyed at myself for not giving him a name.

Since the boat trip to the pirates’ base was about 24 hours away, the party stopped to rest.  They were attacked overnight by a wandering monster.  Using the random encounters table, I rolled 5 giant lizards.  The party was dispatching them VERY easily, so I added another wave of 5 to climb down the nearby trees and attack them from behind.  This upped the challenge to about moderate, and the party finished the enemies off and finished resting for the night.

In the morning, the party finished sailing to the pirates’ island and found the secret backdoor to the pirates’ treasure cave.  They had little trouble sneak attacking the five pirates that were guarding the treasure, but were unable to stop one pirate from escaping the cave to warn the rest of the pirates.  Not having much of a plan at this point, the group decided to run to the huts in which prisoners were being kept, free the prisoners, and arm them.  This lead to the longest running battle so far in this campaign.

The Paladin and Barbarian just ran to the closest hut containing prisoners, creating a distraction, while the Rogue snuck under a different, farther away hut with more prisoners.  Unfortunately, once they all got inside the huts, they realized the prisoners were shackled.  The Rogue had no trouble lockpicking the manacles in his hut, but the Paladin and Barbarian decided to pull the shackles off the walls, which I decided would be a tough break object check.  The barbarian used Rage to gain advantage on the strength check, and was able to rip the manacles off the wall for one prisoner.  The Paladin failed (but just barely) his strength check, and was only able to free one arm of a prisoner.  By this point, a wave of pirates had charged the room the two of them were in and they had to fight.  They traded blows with the pirates, usually finishing the pirate off in one round, but there were lots of pirates (around 15 left), and they just kept on coming.  By the time the Rogue finished releasing the 4 prisoners in his hut and got back to the fight, all that were left were the pirate captain and his two lieutenants.  However, the Paladin had used all of his healing, and the Barbarian would have already been knocked unconscious if she hadn’t been raging.  With the Rogue’s (and emancipated prisoners’) help, they managed to defeat the remaining pirates.

After that, all that was left to do was cleanup and loot.  The party released the rest of the prisoners, looted a hefty sum of gp, sp, and ep, and also picked up a Waterwalk Ring and a Magic Longsword +1, Fimbric.  The Rogue laid claim to the ring, and the Paladin got Fimbric (the Barbarian preferred her greatsword).  They then spent several hours digging pit traps with spikes at the bottom, to hopefully take care of some of the pirates who were on the mainland at the time, and stole the pirates’ remaining outrigger canoes.  That’s where we wrapped it up for the night.



Everyone is still having fun.  This session, I took advantage of using waves of enemies to challenge the party.  This seems like a good strategy.  If they had fought all 20 pirates at the pirates’ lair at once, it almost certainly would have been a TPK, but with one surprise attack wave, followed by three more waves, the party was challenged but not wiped the floor with.  For most of the enemies, the party had about 65% chance to hit, plus advantage if they were flanking, using Rage, or using Isolated Strike.  So far I’m liking “Bounded Accuracy”.

Without the DR from Rage, there’s a good chance the Barbarian, and then the Paladin would have been knocked out or killed.  I predict the Rogue would have just run away and/or hid at that point, possibly enacting a rescue mission (which could have been fun).  Of course, next week we’ll be using the new packet, so we’ll see how this all changes.