Last night, I ran my first game of Expeditions. Our group has been playing through Hoard of the Dragon Queen almost exclusively, so I felt like it would be a nice change to run through something different. Plus, my players wanted renoun and magic items, so to Expeditions it was! The choice of Shadows was because I had heard great reviews of it, and I liked that it wasn’t completely combat-focused, which was a change for my players.
To go through this discussion, I’ll break it down by the parts of the adventure and give a little reflection/commentary on each, then finish up with a few overall thoughts.
Part 1: At the Open
One thing that I immediately felt was a bit missing here was a player hook. I don’t mind coming up with them, but I’m also used to seeing one at the beginning. The group did what I never would have expected here – They didn’t immediately ask what the pay and/or reward was for taking Doomguide Yovir’s quest on. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the players picked up on the connections of the ghost ship attacks, and they were asking great questions of the NPCs that they interacted with. They ended up not even needing to go to Delacrae Gentleblossom, and instead were able to get a good night’s rest before setting out the next day.
Part 2: On the Road
As many others have done, I skipped the encounter with the dire wolf. It didn’t move along the story, so it was just a snag in the road, rather than a developmental piece. The players again jumped right in to interacting with Gilfron Milon and his son, and thanks to a good roll, were able to decipher what the meaning of the hand symbol that Gilmont had seen the boatman do. This put the players a bit on the defensive, as there was something clearly out of place as they started their interaction with the gruff boatman. The boatman came to regret his assertiveness as he found himself at swordpoint and grudgingly took the party to the island the next morning.
Part 3: The Village
The party’s druid was more than happy to interact with Elisande, which moved the party quickly along finding out about the nastiness going on throughout the island. Elisande was excited to show the party around the village, and took them to her former home as she told them about her past. Once arriving at the wreckage of her home, the party got a chance to interact with the “madman” that the village had taken in. They saw through his act, and he fled to the woods. An effective search later, they found his journal and vial. Again, their dice rolls were fantastic, and they identified what the green powder in the vial was, and the group’s sorcerer was able to read through the journal. The cave marked on the map caught their interest, and decided that must be where the madman had run off to. They left Elisande at the forest edge with the sorcerer’s mastiff and headed off to find the cave. After locating the cave, two of the party members were not able to enter the main chamber, finding themselves too spooked by the dark feeling of it. After looting what they could from the cave, and discovering that the madman was not there, the party decided to head back to the village and explore what was left of it. Unfortunately, a Lemure was waiting for them and two of the party members found the climb up out of the ravine more of a challenge. The two party members that remembered how to work a rope climbed up and finished off the Lemure, and then helped up their two clumsier companions. The party then returned to town and met the crones, which they took a bit of a liking to because of their riddles. The party threw a couple riddles back at the crones, but they were able to handle them easily. The crones were pleased with the way the party played their mental games, so they agreed to help get the village ready for the coming attack. Next to agree to help was Ulburto, who was excited to be a part of a fight. The party wasn’t able to convince the greedy Warsh to help, but through the crones and Ulburto, the town made preparations.
Part 4: Bump in the Night
The raiding parties that came ashore were no match for the party, but they quickly discovered that the “undead” creatures were nothing more than standard monsters with bones glued to themselves. After the fight, there was a moment of pause, as the party realized that the crones had summoned another Lemure, but that it wasn’t going after them. The party decided to continue on with defending the village, and then decide what to do afterward about the crones.
Part 5: High Seas
This was where the real fun was. The party found themselves in the middle of a battle between two groups, their ships locked together and on fire. Many of the underlings fell quickly, leaving the captain of the red-skinned buccaneers and the wearer of purple for the party to deal with. A well placed thunderwave shoved Ixas into the water and the sorcerer finished him off with a chromatic orb. The captain was locked in combat with the bard and found himself blasted with a bolt of lightning from the party’s druid, ending his newfound life. The party quickly looted Ixas’s quarters on the boat, then jumped back to their longboat and returned to the village. After letting the village know that the threat had passed, they returned to Phlan to report on their success and see if the dracolich statue found in Ixas’s quarters would be of any use to Doomguide Yovir, which he happily accepted to try to use to restore the mind of Yip.
This adventure pushed the party a little, even though they were already at the top end of the levels for this module. A couple members of the party are significantly more focused on the combat of the game and aren’t as concerned with the RP elements, so they had to go into this with a different mindset. After the adventure was over, they all seemed to enjoy the experience and have still been speculating about some of the unknown elements that came out of this. If I spin this off into homebrew play, the island will certainly come into play again, as they generally left the island to itself. The island may be a bit more trusting of the party, but they are still outsiders and may be to blame for the broken contract…