The Lost Mine of Phandelver Isn’t Lost Anymore (Spoilers for D&D Basic Set Adventure)

For about 11 2-hour sessions, a group of friends online have been playing through Lost Mine of Phandelver. We’ve been playing this as an Adventurers League game, although I’m not sure how many of the players are going to be playing in AL games with their characters.

Cast of Characters

Ormar, Gold Dwarf Cleric of Kurtulmak (formerly Lathander, and Kurtulmak via Saint Hubal, Kobold Patron Saint of Allying with Bigger Folk for Gain and Prestige)–Ormar is a combat medic from the south who has traveled with a number of adventuring companies over the years. He’s grumpy, but generally compassionate, but also just prone to doing weird, impulsive things.

Thokk, Tiefling Bard–Thokk likes to lie about everything, so his origins are a mystery. For a while, he was convincing people that he was a Warlock allied to Zargon the Returner. He also convinced people he was fleeing from, or working with, a goblin organized crime syndicate. He convinced the local bandits that one of his adventuring companions was a powerful sorcerer, and finally, he started spreading the world of Saint Hubal, kobold martyr.

Squinkie, Dragonborn Rogue–Squinkie is sneaky and a little bit paranoid. She likes to know that any time she meets someone new, she could kill them, and then can let them live if they don’t seem to be a threat. Squinkie isn’t a coward, however, as she tends to volunteer to scout in the most insane of situations, and is usually pretty good at it.

Lo-Kag, Goliath Paladin of Kurtulmak (via Saint Hubal, see above)–Lo-Kag started life as a Goliath sell sword that couldn’t even speak common. A simple being that enjoyed testing his limits, he fell in with his fellow adventurers, but eventually the powers that be wished to be able to speak to him to make sure he understood his missions. Thus they hired a half-giant translator to speak with him, and Lo-Kag fell in love with the woman. To prove his love, he became more studious, learned common, and even studied culture in the North at a record pace. Moved by the sacrifice of Hubal, he became a man of faith, and won the heart of the translator who once dismissed him as a simple, yet charming, thug.

Tangled Narrative

Lo-Kag and Thokk were both rebuilt, Lo-Kag from being a low intelligence fighter, and Thokk from being a half-orc warlock. In both cases, we tried to work the rebuild into the narrative, and whatever doesn’t make sense we chalked up to Ormar telling stories in bars and getting mixed up about what adventuring band he was currently with. “I could have sworn this was the group with the dumb fighter and the half-orc warlock.” “No, that was the group you traveled with 20 years ago that died horribly.” “Oh, yeah, right. Who is in this party, again?”

Adventures on the Road

The group started off as hirelings of Gundren Rockseeker, sent to escort goods from Neverwinter traveling to Phandelver, and they ran across an ambush, which appeared to have been sprung on their employer. Following a trail into the woods, they dispatched goblins and  hungry wolves, and rescued Sildar Hallwinter of the Lord Alliance, and found out their boss had been kidnapped by goblins allied to this band.

Local Heroes

In town, Squinkie and Thokk met with Halia Thornton, local Zhentarim contact, and were told about the Redbrand Ruffians, and that she wanted their leader dead, but the group more or less intact so that they could be hired as needed. Ormar met up with Daran Edermath, who shared some stories about undead haunting Old Owl Well. Lo-Kag attempted to get a job with the Lord’s Alliance through Sildar Hallwinter, but had to wait for Ormar to translate for him.

Upon hearing about the Redbrand Ruffians, the group promptly set to work, and instead of just fighting them or tracking them to their hideout, Lo-Kag beat one of them senseless in the Sleeping Giant tavern, and Thokk convinced the rest that Squinkie was a powerful dragon-blooded sorceress, and that she was displeased with their activities. Terrified of the dragon-thing, they gave up information on the organization, and one of them started working as a mole for the adventurers.

The double agent smuggled the group into the Redbrand hideout, and tried to convert some of his fellows into agents to work for the adventurers. In the mean time, the adventurers killed the horrific one eyed Nothic, and rescued a goblin named Droop from his bugbear tormentors, and between the informant and Droop, the party crept into the Redbrand leader’s quarters, and managed to kill the wizard, in the process finding out that he was a former Lord’s Alliance agent, and that he was working with someone called “The Black Spider,” who was organizing local bandits and goblin tribes into a single force.

Thokk convinced the town to spare the rest of the ruffians (so Halia could hire them), and the party negotiated that the lands near the abandoned estate where the Ruffians had their hideout should be managed again, and that Droop should serve as the overseer of the estate, with the Ruffians working out their criminal sentence as his caretakers. Halia reinforced to the Ruffians that they needed the legitimate cover and they could kill the goblin if they needed to. Droop was thrilled to have an important job and new friends.

Side Note–Both times I’ve run this adventure, the adventurers have more or less adopted Droop and tried to better his station in life. I kind of like that.

Urban Renewal

With the Ruffians managed, the Townmaster wanted to hire the party to look into orcs raiding near Wyvern’s Tor, but Sildar had moved into the Town Master’s hall and essentially displaced him and the local ruler while doing “official Lord’s Alliance Business.” Sildar also hired a half frost giant translator to help him issuing missions to Lo-Kag, and Lo-Kag became smitten with her immediately.

Squinkie found a kobold being tormented by some town folk, and used her fearsome reputation as a sorceress of great power to scare them away, and Hubal, the kobold, adopted her as his new mother. Hubal generally liked to eat any carcass that was lying around, but to make things more palatable the group taught him to add hot sauce to them. He became the group’s mascot and followed Squinkie everywhere.

Droop’s instructions helped to lead them to Cragmaw Castle, where the “goblin king” was consolidating local tribes under his control, and via his control, under the Black Spider. Thokk managed to talk the goblin sentries into bringing them into an audience with the goblin king, but the hobgoblin bodyguards were more wary, and just outside of his chambers, a fight broke out. The adventurers killed the goblin king, saved Gundren Rockseeker, and ran like hell because of how beat up they were and the fact that any reinforcements were likely to kill them outright.

Also, in the wilderness, the adventurers kept running into owlbears. Owlbears all over the place.

In town, Gundren and Sildar both fully displaced the Townmaster from his own hall, and asked the adventures to find the Wave Echo Cave so that they could secure the Forge of Spells for clan Rockseeker. And maybe find out of Gundren’s brothers were alive. In the mean time, the townmaster convinced the party to look into the orcs, and they agreed to look into the undead at Old Owl Well.

While waiting for Gundren’s map to the Wave Echo Cave, the group headed to the ruined tower at Old Owl Well, and ran into some ghouls (note: I substituted fewer ghouls for the larger amount of zombies in the original encounter). Upon defeating the ghouls, a wizard, wearing red, with head tattoos came out to greet the party, but Thokk decided he might be responsible for the undead, and attacked.

Thokk, Squinkie, and Hubal all ended up dead from an area attack, and the surprisingly cultured Red Wizard of Thay, Hamun Kost, apologized for the deaths, and told the surviving adventurers that he would gladly entertain them if they came back peacefully sometime in the future.

This is when the era of Hubal began. May his legend ever grow.

Back in town, the Harper agent and cleric of Tymora Sister Garaele offered to have the adventurers raised if they party agreed to meet with a banshee called Agatha and ask her about a lost spellbook. The surviving adventurers agreed, and Sister Garaele used her resources to have them raised (normally, the Zhentarim would have done it, but discussing it with the group, this solution fit the narrative better).

Surprisingly, the adventurers returned to Hamun Kost’s encampment, and found out about his well appointed extra-dimensional space inside the tent, including a bath, and his lacquered skeletal servant, who brought them all tea and dinner. Kost mentioned that he, also, would like to know something from the banshee, in his case, who built the ruined tower he was camped near. He told the group that the undead weren’t actually his making, but the remnants of a Netherese curse, and one he might be able to lift, if they could get the name of the wizard whose tower this was. He also mentioned that he really wanted the orcs to the south dead as well.

Suicide Mission

The group headed to speak to Agatha, the banshee, and strangely, Lo-Kag did most of the talking. Giving her the comb as a gift from the Harper agent, she shared the information on the spellbook, and she was about to dismiss the group, but they asked another boon.

Normally, she only allowed one question, but she told the adventurers that if they amused her, she would grant their wish, and if they failed, she would kill them all. The adventurers agreed, and Thokk sang about Hubal, patron saint of kobolds that found more powerful people to give them things and grant them prestige, who was immediately welcomed into the halls of Kurtulmak for his bravery and cunning.

Agatha was amused by the unlikely ballad, and also gave them the name of the wizard whose tower the Red Wizard was interested in. On the way back, they told the wizard his information, and he lifted the ancient Netherese curse. Additionally, they told him about Bowgentle’s Book, which the Harpers were also looking for, potentially setting up a confrontation between the Harpers and the Red Wizards, but the adventurers really liked the Red Wizard when he wasn’t killing half of them.

Provisions and Proselytizing 

Lo-Kag and Ormar started to think there might be something to this Hubal thing, and found that they were being granted divine power by Hubal’s patron, Kurtulmak, for helping to spread Hubal’s legend. Thokk sang more songs of Hubal in town, explaining how the weak should always look to make powerful friends.

Squinkie was now revered not just as a powerful sorceress, but as the mother of a saint.

Then the group set back out to kill the orcs at Wyvern’s Tor.

I Told You So

Squinkie scouted out the orc camp, and even stole some weapons, but was eventually caught by the orc’s leader (I subbed out a half-ogre ogrillon and an orog for fewer orcs in the encounter). Squinkie was badly hurt when she was discovered, but half the camp of orcs was sleeping, so once the two most powerful of the orcs were killed, the rest were easy to pick off.

The surviving orc told the group that the band was a scouting party from the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, but that they were traveling as envoys attempting to hire legitimate mercenaries so that they could register their formal grievance and declaration of war against Mithril Hall for breaking a treaty, so as to keep the rest of the Lord’s Alliance from intervening. The party made him cut his ear off so they could get the bounty on him, and then let him leave.

When the townmaster was told they were a scouting party from Many-Arrows, he reveled in pointing out that Sildar didn’t think it warranted Lord’s Alliance attention.

Wave Echo Cave

Finally ready to retake Wave Echo Cave, the adventurers consulted with Gundren and left. On the way, they ran into a chimera that had killed a funeral procession carrying the dead body of a noble knight of the Order of the Gauntlet. The chimera nearly killed the party, but they survived, stowed the body to be safely taken back to town later, and acquired his sword, an enchanted weapon made to drive off orcs.

(This encounter was to give the PCs some of the treasure they had missed earlier, if they were willing to take the risk with the chimera, which itself was a thematic substitution for the green dragon that they could have run into had they wandered into another optional encounter)

In the cave, there were bugbears. So many bugbears. And there were undead. A flameskull, which Thokk used a spell to turn into a smokingskull so he could then taunt it, as well as zombies, and eventually a wight (I swapped out the wight for multiple ghouls in some of the encounters later on).

Badly hurt and in need of rest, the party retreated from the caves, and rested near where they had stowed the knight’s body. The next day, they ventured back into the caverns, and were ambushed by bugbears and a drow, who, upon being defeated, turned out to be a doppelganger.

Side Note–As written, the Black Spider, the drow “boss” of the adventure, isn’t all that exciting, and the moniker gives away what he is way too early. To rectify this, in my version of the adventure, the random doppelgangers in the adventure are all agents of the Unseen, a power group out of Waterdeep composed of doppelgangers and answering to mind flayers. The Unseen killed a group of drow, and used their reputation to take over the goblins and bandits in the area as they attempted to secure the Forge of Spells for the Unseen’s use.

The adventurers spared the last bugbear, and bribed him with gold coins and cheese, to recruit other bugbears, in part by exposing the doppleganger’s ruse to the bugbear. Also, Thokk, Ormar, and Lo-Kag attempted to convert the bugbear to Kurtulmak/Saint Hubal. He was a bit confused, because Hubal didn’t preach being the Alpha Predator like Hruggek did, but was still okay with being sneaky. In the end, he recruited some other bugbears to hear the adventurers’ offer.

The group set up an ambush on the Black Spider, sneaking in some of the bugbears to swap out for his bodyguards while giving cover to Squinkie to sneak in and attempt an assassination. The ambush set, the group kicked in the doors, with Ormar disguised as a bugbear for no particularly good reason but for even more chaos.

The bugbears helped to injure the Black Spider while the adventurers came in a finished him off, and Thokk and Lo-Kag attempted to convert the bugbears to the church of Saint Hubal while Squinkie became increasingly annoyed that she wasn’t getting much help killing the last of the giant spiders.

Eventually the group found Nundro Rockseeker alive, kept that way so the doppelganger could find out what he knew about the Forge of Spells. Eventually, the group rested for a bit, and crossed the dungeon to confront the guardian of the Forge, and spectator summoned by wizards when the mines were still active. Nundro asked the adventures to come with him in case the guardian wouldn’t stand down, but thankfully the guardian was convinced that Nundro was related to the miners that had once worked the mines, and let him pass.


Returning to town, Lo-Kag swept the interpreter off her feet with his tales of conspiracies that he helped to squash. Squinkie and Thokk reported the weaknesses of the Lord’s Alliance to Halia and told her about the Unseen infiltration. Ormar held a huge festival for Saint Hubal in the town square and prepared the holy Hot Sauce for them.

The party used their clout to have the former townmaster appointed ambassador to the Lord’s Alliance, and installed Droop and his new bugbear bodyguards as the townmaster instead. Townmaster Droop promises to be a boon to Phandalin, and in no way will be too busy to notice the Zhentarim activity that his former farm hands will be getting into.

Next Up

After a few week hiatus due to everyone in the group getting simultaneously busy, next month the group starts Princes of the Apocalypse. It should be an interesting experience with this group.

One comment

  • I've enjoyed running and playing 5E – system-wise, it's my favourite edition of D&D. However, starting with Phandelver, WotC has hitched it to the most anondyne, bland, vanilla-fantasy setting and tone possible. They have published nothing for 5E besides the core rules that I find worth using. Strange to say, but WotC published much more imaginative content in the 4E era. Thunderspire Labyrinth, Vor Rukoth, the Madness at Gardmore Abbey – WotC has proven they can still write evocative, original adventures. But the die was cast when they announced the Forgotten Realms would be the official setting for 5E.I agree with pretty much everything in your review, from the awful milqtoast town full of awful milqtoast NPCs to the uninspired dungeons that could have been churned out by a random dungeon generator, to the NPC and place names that make me want to stab my eyes out with a pencil.The acclaim that Phandelver has received is just the latest blow to my already bruised confidence in the judgement of today's reviewers. I shudder to think of what adventures would be on the bad side of the ledger for Phandelver to rate so highly in their eyes.I'm not sure I even blame the authors of the adventure, who have published some imaginative adventures in the past. It seems 5E under WotC is under a mandate to peddle only the most generic and tepidly accessible setting content. I have no idea why they think that's all the tabletop fantasy wants or can handle. I just finished watching Mad Max Fury Road, and it positively crackles with Cool Shit. It also made a killing at the box office. So don't tell me weird, vibrant, dangerous fantasy has no appeal in today's market.Download it on PDF:


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