D&D 5E – Vault of the Sentinel/Tomb of the Orc Slayer

My friendly local game store, Wild Pig Comics, is amazing about letting people run their own games. It really is the best in a long line of comic book Mecca’s I’ve had the chance to patronize. So a couple weeks ago I had the chance to run a Lost Mine of Phandelver on a Saturday game day. Usually I run games during the week but the attendance was really good and a lot of people said they couldn’t make the normal Encounters game during the week.

I got offered the chance to run it as an RPGA sanctioned game, which sounded great, except then the week before the event I was informed that I could give out one magic item and 100 XP per chapter. Lost Mine is a big damn adventure, the players can easily get to level 5 at the end and we would’ve gotten to level 3 during our play. For comparison, that’s a reduction in XP from 6500 to 500. Now that’s some fuzzy math. The only conceivable reason is so you could take the PC to play Hoard of the Dragon Queen at a lower level when that encounters season started.

Okay that’s a plug and a rant out of the way.

The Tomb of the Orc Slayer is a 4E adventure Chris Perkins ran for the creators of Robot Chicken. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube. It is a straight up dungeon crawl as befits an adventure set in Undermountain. There’s an Ice room, spiders, a grotto, and it ends in a room full of orc skeletons. The adventurers are trying to recover something one of the three Sentinel Shields which together open a vault in Undermountain.

I decided for my first ongoing 5E game I wanted to do an old school dungeon crawl and Tomb of the Orc Slayer seemed like a good idea. I don’t do many dungeon centered games. I have a tough time creating them, running them, doing them right. So this is as much about stretching my boundaries as anything else.

I took three things from Chris Perkins adventure. 1) The names. There are three tombs, the Tomb of the Orc-Slayer, the Tomb of the Iron Warlord, and the Tomb of the Heartless Dwarf. Those are awesome names, I’m stealing them. 2) The Sentinel Shields. Each tomb has a shield, they open the 4th tomb, the Vault of the Sentinel. 3) The climatic encounter. The reason they call him the Orc-Slayer is because he killed so many orcs. And his burial chamber is lined with the skeletons of dead orcs which attack the party on their arrival. Badass. Stealing that.

I changed the rest of the adventure. For one, because I was expecting a lot of the Phandelver players, I wrote it that Sildar Hallwinter gives the PCs this quest in Phandalin. And I built on the sword Talon the PCs found in Tresendar Manor. In this version, the Orc-Slayer is Aldith Tresendar, a hero of old entombed near Phandalin. The tomb is a map I took from Dungeon #22. He was an adventurer with his companions, the Iron Warlord (a Dwarf Cleric) and the Heartless Halfling (a Halfling Rogue). Stealing from the trailer for Game of Thrones season 2, I think of them as a Knight, a Priest, and a Trickster standing in a room with their fourth adventuring companion, the Sentinel.

Players wanted to spend a surprisingly long time in Phandalin getting drunk before the adventure proper started. But as much as “lets get drunk and find chicks” is a red flag, these are great players. They play smart, but not in a way that slows down the game of deflates the fun. For example. My big idea was okay, each of the four adventurers has a room dedicated to them. The Orc Slayer has the climax and a challenge of valor. The Sentinel (a Druid) has a room with vines. My idea for the Heartless Halfling is that he’s kind of a dick. He messes with people’s heads. For his room I thought, two chests, one key. One is a mimic, the other has gold. Then the room has a tapestry of all four adventurers. In the halfling’s picture, he’s holding out two goblets. The implication is pure Princess Bride.   One goblet is poison, one chest is trapped. No way of knowing which is which. He’s a dick. However, because I described his picture on the tapestry first, one player immediately took the hint that one chest is trapped. He asked, is one goblet in the picture different? I hadn’t thought of that. I thought, this is just what he does. So, still in Princess Bride mode, I said, he has six fingers on his right hand. They immediately said, open the left chest. I didn’t know if left or right meant safe, but, I made it the safe chest because goddamn it that was a clever question to ask.

So yeah. Great group, can’t wait for next week.