WARNING. THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WIZARDS OF THE COAST’S “LOST MINE OF PHANDELVER”, INCLUDED IN THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 5th EDITION STARTER SET
Session 09 turned out to be a rather quiet session but one that appears to have been received favourably.1 It also introduced the players to one of their favourite characters to date, Hamun Kost.
As the party approached the well, those with a high perception skill caught the foul stench of death. Slowly, they spread out amongst the ruins to find an advantageous position. As I have come to expect, the group immediately moved to attack the zombies inside but were interrupted quickly by Hamun as he bellowed “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”
I had a voice in mind when I first read about Hamun. He’s an older man and I wanted that to come across so I’d envisaged something not too dissimilar to Ian McKellen. I got it completely wrong, I went far too wheezy and it worked really well.2 For this reason Hamun immediately became memorable. At some point, we do need to talk about voices.
As I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier posts, I am starting to notice that my players have very little fear of death and, today, I was ready to take them down a peg or two. Hamun was my chosen instrument. When Tsetung walked up to the slight figure and ordered him to take his zombies and leave, Hamun looked the big man squarely in the eyes and told him precisely where he could go. Never one to back down, Tsetung doubled down on his threat and I was just about to have the ageing necromancer thrash Tsetung within an inch of his life when Lucius stepped in.
“I want to try and intimidate him”.
As a DM I believe that this is one of those areas where you can encourage your players to roleplay a little more and I’ll add this as a tip – Don’t let your players get away with just announcing what dice they want to roll. I could have just said “Sure, make an intimidation check” but, honestly, where is the fun in that? Learn these questions and learn them well;
What would that sound like?
What does that look like?
How would you do that?
So I asked. “OK. How?”
“I make my eyes glow purple” he replied, “and I say “Take your zombies and get out of here!”. He then rolled a 16 for his intimidation check, giving him a total of 24. You might imagine his surprise when I responded.
“Hamun looks at you then, after a second, begins to smile softly. His eyes suddenly start to glow a bright purple before returning to the watery grey you had seen moments before. “A simple trick” he says, his own eyes glowing purple. “Any novice could perform it. No, I think I will leave when I am ready, thank you!“
Then, turning to Corlan, busy trying to rifle through Hamun’s tent without being seen, he announced: “And I’ll thank your little friend there to come out into the sunlight.”
Lucius, still stunned could only utter “But I rolled a 24!” Corlan was just as surprised considering he had also rolled fairly high for his stealth check.
Hamun exuded power but, more importantly, he did it without fanfare. He could have obliterated any of them with a wave of his hand but the desire was not there. That doesn’t mean he’s going to let a bunch of upstarts show him disrespect.
So why did I have them roll dice when I’d already decided that there was no chance of success? After all, this is in direct contradicts one of my earlier lessons. The answer is that I was looking for an opportunity to remind my players that rolling a high number does not guarantee success. Again, another useful tip.
With the scales now reset the party approached the conversation differently. Once they settled into the discussion, they began to like the elderly necromancer. His argument was clear. He was no harm to anyone and, although they found his use of corpses distasteful, they soon managed to strike an accord.
Firstly, Hamun would tell them where Cragmaw Castle was if they would help him. They could do this by finding out the name of the wizard who built the tower at Old Owl Well, or they could do this by clearing out the Orcs at Wyvern Tor.
Secondly, Hamun would leave the well, disposing of his zombies, when his research was complete. In return, he would keep himself to himself.
As a gesture of goodwill, he translated the name of the book that Agatha had suggested to Lucius. “Eir Eyeth Var Alterach Deis” – the old Cormyr for “The Altars of the Gods”
The party bade farewell to Hamun and set out in search of Wyvern Tor.
1 I had to rewrite this sentence three times because “it went down well” was an unintended pun I was less than comfortable with.
2 Drink a shot each time I use the word “well” during this post.