To recap, the party consisted of:
- Firstborn, age twelve: Dragonborn Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline) named Dragolyd Toruv, with a penchant for setting things on fire. His goal is to restore his honor and re-enter his House.
- Secondborn, age eight: Drow Rogue (aiming for assassin) named Shadow, whose basic approach is to kill first and ask questions later. His goal is to find the man who murdered one of his parents, and kill him; that man is part of one of the other Banner Companies. (More about those in a minute.)
- Friend #1, age twelve: Mousefolk Cleric, I've forgotten the name, deeply suspicious of the sort of hooligans he's been assigned to work with. His goal is to get back into the primary dungeon, find his mousefolk tribe, and get them out.
- Friend #2, age twelve: Halfling (Lightfoot) Rogue named (I think) Barrith, with an eye for treasure of any kind. His goal is to earn enough money and influence to get his brother out of jail and set them up for a better life.
Lord Aldenmier has vowed to restore the fortunes of his house, and has gathered Our Heroes together to see if they can serve as the new generation of the Ivory Scimitars banner company. But before he signs them up (a formal contract, magically binding) he has a small task that they must complete in order to prove their worth: they need to venture into his Training Dungeon, and retrieve a bottle of wine from his wine cellar.
That was the tiny dungeon that I thought we could get through in about an hour, and boy was I wrong about that. The in-character introductions outside the dungeon were a bit rough. (Secondborn's immediate announcement, "Hi, I'm Shadow, I want kill things first and ask questions later," did not inspire immediate confidence from his teammates, nor did Barrith's relentless what-could-go-wrong cheerfulness. Nobody particularly established themselves as the party leader, and in fact the adventure got underway when Secondborn announce that he was going down the stair and everybody sort of half-chased after him.
They managed to succeed despite doing essentially everything wrong. The found the secret door, found a key, realized that the key was trapped, and then set off the trap in attempting to disarm it. They used the key to unlock the first set of doors, saw another door beyond them, and the sorcerer used Mage Hand to open that one; that set off the first of the traps, but fortunately everybody was out of its range. The sorcerer and the cleric deciphered a message indicating that there was trap in one particular hallway; they blithely sent the rogues off in that direction. (Also, for a party with two rogues, this group is remarkably bad at spotting traps.) The Drow Rogue stepped onto the trap, but managed to catch himself on the edge instead of falling into the pit. The Cleric and the Sorcerer spent a good deal of time figuring out how to get across the pit, and found a room with a sarcophagus in it on the other side. After carefully investigating the room they elected to open the sarcophagus anyway, with fairly predictable results. Despite the dangers already in evidence, they still kept the party split and so it was the rogues who found the ghost in the room full of junk and the secret door that led to the actual wine cellar.
With a focused, cooperative party they could have made their way in, located the wine cellar, and been back out with a minimum of trouble. Instead, this played out like the first half a Marvel superhero team movie - The Avengers, or maybe Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm hoping they'll do better at supporting each other and keeping the party together going forward; splitting the party is not only a bad strategy, it's really hard on the Dungeon Master. (Me. I mean me. Holy hell, jumping from one half of the group to the other was amazingly headache-inducing.)
But, they made it through (albeit in the clumsiest possible fashion) and maybe they now have a better idea of what lies ahead, and they've had an object lesson in how valuable the Help action can be, especially at early levels. I recommended that next time they not split the party, as that clearly caused some issues, but that was out-of-character; they players got it, but their characters are still going to have to find reasons and willingness to work together until they've built up some genuine trust.
Then they all rushed outside to tear apart our back yard and do their absolute best not to have to end their time together, despite the gathered parents waiting to take them home. But that's really an entirely different headache, and honestly neither surprising nor entirely unwelcome. After everybody had gone home/settled back down, I kind of collapsed; that was a lot of work. Absolutely worth it, but a lot of work.
Next time, Lord Aldenmier is going to front them a bit of money for supplies, and we'll probably be introducing one more player. He's ten, and a family friend; he was actually part of Firstborn's First Attempt At Dungeon Mastery. I'm told he's already building a character, though I have no idea what kind. Honestly, though, with the character spread that we currently have I'm not entirely sure it matters; more magic, more stealth, a tank... any of them would be useful, and the party doesn't really have any significant holes in its overall composition.
I also think that at some point a bit later on, probably about the time that they hit third level, I'm going to let them undergo a Ritual of Renewal -- basically, a magical initiation that allows them to re-balance their characters. It won't alter their races or classes, but if we've made trouble for ourselves with, say, poorly-selected ability scores we can look at tweaking that. I may even add some extra points for some of the characters; the Mousefolk Cleric rolled her ability scores, and while I haven't had a chance to look closely at her character sheet, I think she's overall a bit higher than everyone else (who were built with standard distribution). I'm not going to pull her down; I'd rather just lift everybody else up to match.
But those, my friends, are concerns for another day.
TL/DR: Daddy is absolutely exhausted, but the kids had a great time and we're going to figure out a regular schedule for this.