It is fair to say that the D&D Starter Set adventure, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”, is a good adventure. I’m currently running it for the third time, and my players are doing things my other groups haven’t done. It’s a really good introduction to the game, and just by being a fantastic adventure. There’s a lot in it for experienced players as well as new players.
In Lost Mine of Phandelver, you agree to escort a caravan of supplies to the mining town of Phandalin at the request of Gundren Rockseeker, a local dwarf. Things don’t quite go as planned – and the player characters will find themselves drawn into a number of events revolving around the small town of Phandalin and the legendary Lost Mine. Along the way, you get to meet (and possibly befriend and work for) members of the five major factions that support adventurers, as well as proving yourself as skilled (or lucky) adventurers.
The adventure will advance characters from 1st level to 5th level. What do you do next? Well, why not try one of the other published adventures? However, what happens if you want to use your characters from Lost Mine in the new adventure? That’s fine: each of the adventures has a point that allows new characters to enter it. It’s not always explicitly stated, however. So, here’s how I’d integrate characters who’ve finished playing the Starter Set into the published adventures.
Tyranny of Dragons – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat
The Tyranny of Dragons story has two adventures; Hoard of the Dragon Queen is levels 1-7, The Rise of Tiamat concludes the story with levels 8-15. The beginning of Hoard of the Dragon Queen sees the characters aiding the small town of Greenest in the south of the Sword Coast against a sudden attack by the Cult of the Dragon, who burn the place down to the grounds and take as much loot as they can carry. The characters are then asked to investigate the Cult’s camp, where they discover the treasure is being shipped up the Sword Coast.
At this point, the five factions (Harpers, Order of the Gauntlet, Emerald Enclave, Zhentarim and Lord’s Alliance) are now really paying attention to what the Cult is doing. The Cult is beginning to attack towns all over the Sword Coast. So, they begin sending out agents to discover what’s going on. The characters are some of those agents. In the adventure, they’re asked to investigate by agents of the Harpers and the Order, but it wouldn’t be hard to adjust things so they’re asked by their own factions to investigate. The fourth episode of the adventure sees the PCs following a Cult’s treasure caravan up the Sword Coast until it reaches a work camp near Neverwinter (on the edge of the Mere of Dead Men). The characters should be about 4th or 5th level moving into Chapter 5.
This is where characters from Lost Mine should be introduced. Players who have adventured through Lost Mine will have gained a number of contacts with the factions, most likely with the Lord’s Alliance (Sildar Hallwinter), but with other factions as well depending on their actions (check page 15 of Lost Mine, it’s got a list of the important NPCs and which ones are the faction contacts). Have those contacts inform the players that the Cult of the Dragon has been attacking towns all over the Sword Coast and shipping their treasure to secret locations. One of the treasure caravans is about to arrive at the work camp, so could they go there and investigate where it’s going – after all, it’s only a couple of days travel away!
From this point, you can play through the rest of Hoard as written, and then continue through Rise as well.
Elemental Evil – Princes of the Apocalypse
The main adventure in Princes of the Apocalypse is for levels 3-15. It is a sandbox adventure, which allows the players a lot of freedom of where to go. As a result, players can get to dangerous areas quite quickly.
Material is also provided for levels 1-2 in a chapter of side treks, but this isn’t important for people moving to this adventure from Lost Mine.
A group moving from Lost Mine will immediately enter the main story, where they must investigate the disappearance of a trade delegation in the area. The adventure takes place not very far to the east of Phandalin. There are guidelines in Princes that make linking the two adventures together easier.
You don’t need to adapt Princes very much to play it after Lost Mine. The major problem – that the characters are level 5 instead of level 3 – is negated by the sandbox aspect of the adventure. Yes, there will be a couple of locations that the party will find easy, but that’s part of this style of adventure. (They’ll probably end up in one of the high-level sections too early, anyway!)
The best way to transition to the adventure is through using the faction contacts in Phandalin. The trade delegation going missing means that agents of the factions need to investigate, especially due to all the other reported weirdness in the Sumber Hills, and so the party are asked to investigate.
If you know that you’ll be going from Lost Mine into Princes, you may want to include some of the backgrounds and motivations from Princes into the player character backgrounds as they begin Lost Mine – yes, they’re doing this job for Gundren at the moment, but once they’re finished with it, they know they’ll be travelling to the Sumber Hills to discover what’s going on. However, even if you just finish Lost Mine and then decided to go into Princes, you can adapt some of the motivations to hook the players into the story, in addition to the request from the factions.
Rage of Demons – Out of the Abyss
Out of the Abyss is an adventure for levels 1-15. It begins with the characters prisoners of the drow! Obviously, this will not lead to a fulfilling and happy life (or a particularly long one), so the characters need to escape. And that’s the start of the adventure. The players need to escape the drow, and make their way back to the surface. That journey will get them to around level 7. They’ll get hints on the journey up that things are even weirder than they suspected in the Underdark, but eventually they’ll emerge to the surface. Where? Oh, in the north of the Sword Coast, not too far from Phandalin and Neverwinter.
And sometime soon after that point, King Bruenor Battlehammer will summon them, inform them that things are now Really Really Bad in the Underdark, and having heard of their exploits, he thinks they’re just the people to save the situation. Well, one of the situations, because there are probably other parts of the storyline which characters in the novels (Drizzt) and computer games and D&D Expeditions adventures are dealing with… And so they head back underground to deal with the rest of the adventure.
There are two obvious possibilities for transitioning between the adventures.
The first is to have King Bruenor to summon the characters after hearing of their exploits helping Gundren Rockseeker and finding the Lost Mine, and tell them of the dreadful trouble down below and send them to face it! This will likely mean they’re a couple of levels too low, but throw a few of the Underdark encounters at them they missed from the first half of the adventure, and they’ll gain those levels quickly.
The second is to just have the drow capture them anyway. Starting Out of the Abyss at level 5 will make escaping easier, but the Underdark will still be challenging. This would be my preferred option. The travels through the Underdark will allow them to understand what’s going on, and the adventure is written so the party should escape when they reach level 7 or 8 in any case.
Curse of Strahd
Curse of Strahd is written for level 3-10 characters, so characters coming out of The Lost Mine of Phandelver will be slightly higher than its starting point. As with Princes of the Apocalypse, this shouldn’t affect play that much: the first few challenges will be easier than normal, but you’ll soon find yourselves in a part of the adventure that is more challenging.
Curse of Strahd is a much more exploration-based and role-playing heavy adventure than the others currently available, mainly because it draws upon the tropes of Gothic Horror for the story. It became available in select stores on March 4th, 2016, and goes into wide release on March 15th, 2016.
Incidentally, the adventure name is the same as the season name!
You can also use your Lost Mine characters to play any of the D&D Adventurers League games that are available through the DMs Guild. If you keep an up-to-date Log Sheet, you can play your character at any store or convention running D&D AL content, and you can even run them at home!
Note that the Expeditions have limits on what level characters can play them: tiers of levels 1-4, 5-10 or 11-16 at present. So, make sure you have a character of the proper level. (A character at level 4 or 10 can spend downtime and gold to immediately advance to the next level, which is useful when you’re just short of having a character at the proper tier.
There’s a lot of adventuring opportunities out there. So, if you’ve started with the Starter Set, there’s no reason not to just continue with those characters into any adventure that interests you. There are adventures made by other publishers. Or you could always write your own adventures!