This scenario features my seven-year-old boy’s character, who plays Elec the 5th-level rock gnome rogue arcane trickster, and my four-year-old daughter’s character, playing Lektra the 5th-level halfling ranger who wields a lance and rides a pony named Tablehead. Also, by the end of the first adventure in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, Elec is now a kobold with a half-black/half-green dragon hatchling named Bomber that follows him around. My character, Tobias Hyrthstone, a 5th-level dwarf cleric, rounds out the party. After our heroes tangled with the undead wizard Tresendar and buried him under their manor, I decided they hadn’t heard the last of him. Enter Frothsof’s The Town of Bridgepuddle.
This is a standard zombie invasion, in which an artifact causes undead to spontaneously animate. There are two types, your more traditional zombie and the brain-thirsty kind. I used the 5E zombie and 5E ghoul as the boss monster for each encounter.
As you may recall from the last adventure, Elec made a deal with “Auntie Alicia” down below. Her job was to keep the monsters below the manor under control and in turn Elec and his extended family didn’t bother her crypt. Alicia gave Elec a clockwork cat as a means of communicating with him, but since the cat can’t speak I had it use Morse code to communicate. My son used the Morse code cipher to learn that zombies were pouring out of the Tresendar crypts.
Our heroes reached the crypts in time to face the zombies and two ghouls mounting a full assault on the manor. Tobias stepped up and, using his war aspergillum of turning, thoroughly turned almost all of the zombies (who failed their Wisdom saves spectacularly), leaving just the two ghouls. Bomber’s breath weapon, Lektra’s lance, and Elec’s flaming arrows did the rest.
Concerned about his adopted family (who still hadn’t fully moved into the manor house), the heroes reached the town square. More zombies there, but this time Elect got the bright idea that the ghoul might be controlling the zombies. At heart, fighting zombies is a pretty boring proposition — you just hack at them until they hit 0 hit points, and then they might not even drop. My kids have low tolerance for long combats, so I let him mix it up.
Elec hoisted himself onto Bomber, flew over the intervening zombies (leaving Lektra to deal with them), and leaped off the dragon onto the thirty-foot high statue in the square. Tobias cast sanctuary on Lektra to keep the zombies off of her, but unfortunately they just moved on to attack him.
The ghoul was busy trying to deal with the dragon strafing him, but he didn’t catch sight of Elec rocking the statue, and with a successful Dexterity (Acrobatics) roll he toppled it onto the ghoul and its two guardian zombies. The other zombies collapsed with the death of the ghoul.
Moving on to the Alderleaf Farm, Elec was relieved to discover his aunt was still alive and holed up in the basement. He evacuated them to Tresendar Manor, but they insisted on bringing along their neighbor Daran Edermarth as well. Edermarth was dismayed to discover what was happening but he had a theory — the Old Owl Well ruins a few days northeast of Phandalin was the site of some Netheril artifacts that might be responsible.
Once Elec was confident that his extended family was safe, the heroes forged on to Old Owl Well. This part of the adventure is actually from The Lost Mine of Phandelver (a testament to the flexibility of the Starter Set). Approaching the ruined tower, they encounter Hamun Kost. Kost is curious as to what the intruders want, but once he realizes that an artifact he discovered is in fact animating the dead, Kost has no interest in giving it up.
Things move quickly after that. Kost casts greater invisibility and commands his zombies to attack. Elec charges right through the front door of the ruined wall, his dragon Bomber behind him, dodging zombie attacks as he goes. Once again Lektra and Tobias are left behind to deal with the bulk of the zombie attacks. Tobias casts dispel magic, revealing Kost, who responds with a cone of cold that knocks Lektra to 1 hit point, knocks out Tablehead, and freezes most of the zombies. The round after that, Kost casts ice storm on Bomber and Elec, knocking Bomber to 1 hit point, and eliminating all zombies but one.
It’s do-or-die time. Lektra fires an arrow and hits with a crit. Tobias casts a healing spell on Tablehead. And Elec throws his lightning chromatic orb, connecting with Kost. The wizard falls to his death from the ruined wall. But the one zombie makes his way toward Lektra.
Elec enters Kost’s tent and discovers a curious-looking cone. Using his gnomish ingenuity, Elec unscrews the top, and deactivates the artifact. The zombie crawling towards Lektra crumbles and Phandalin is saved!
Overall this adventure has some interesting ideas that are difficult to adapt to a typical fantasy campaign because it uses gunpowder technology. There’s also a distressing number of zombies thrown at the PCs that, unless they have area-effect attacks, makes these combats long and boring. There’s no real guidance as to where the PCs should go, which creates a sandbox feel but also means that it’s possible to have the PCs spend their entire time wandering aimlessly and fighting for hours. Phandalin is considerably smaller than Bridgepuddle, which is covered in its pre- and post-zombie state, building by building. It’s entirely possible to rob the bank and get 20,000 gold pieces. The artifact causing all of the trouble is randomly placed and there are no clues as to how it might be the source of the trouble. In essence, this all feels very random — great for a horror scenario, not so great for a game like D&D.
This isn’t a bad scenario. It’s an interesting town with fleshed out NPCs. But the zombie piece is chaotic and doesn’t require additional zombies. The Type I zombies get both a claw and bite attack (which makes them more powerful than 5E zombies) and the Type II can throw its entrails in a 25-foot cone requiring a Constitution save at disadvantage or take 10 poison and necrotic damage.
This is more of a scenario you pick and choose from. But for a free adventure it’s meaty enough to provide DMs with their own ideas for a zombie apocalypse.
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