There is a trope in Fantasy Roleplay that your first adventure always involves going into a cellar to kill some rats. I never understood this till running my first ever D&D game…
You see, when running for totally new people the first session really has to be set up like a video game tutorial. You need options for them to explore multiple mechanics giving you a chance to more than just explain them, but to show them to the player. You also probably just finished a few hours of brain-frazzling character genning for new players and they just wanna get into it!
When building my first session I realised the Rats in the Cellar is the perfect way to do things. I ran it last night, it was a success, everyone had fun, everyone killed something, and everyone came out the other end with a clearer understanding of the basics of the game. Was it flawless? Oh lordy do, due to having no idea how hard the Heroes would hit, and how hard the enemies would hit I picked a selection of Rats…turns out a Wizard can hit up to 4 creatures at once with Magic Missile and do up to 1d4+1 Force Damage to them…our Wizard wiped out the 4 Rats I threw at them in seconds…
Thanks to some weaker rolls on the second combat things went less smoothly but still, it was a walk in the park for the players. This could be seen as overly easy and boring, but for my players luckily I think they loved the power trip of one hit killing things when they could hit them, the quick combat, and just being able to try some fighting so although I’d say it may be best to weak the health of the enemies or maybe raise their AC, for me if I was to run this scenario again I think I’d leave it as is and maybe just throw a few more Rats at them or maybe stick a Mimic in to punish greed…and because I’m a dick.
Below is the full adventure, the Standees, the Battle Maps, and the Scenario Basics but I would encourage you strongly to add your own flair to this adventure!
TUTORIAL SESSION: What Goes Squeak in the Night?
DRAGON BELLOWS TAVERN
Print these at 100% on A4 and they should be on a 1×1 inch grid perfect for minis.
NOTE: The Trap Door behind the Bar leads down to the stairs on the Cellar map. Doors are placed over the entrance to the Pub/Tavern and in the Cellar to separate the main room from the back room. The Chest is placed next to the Wine Rack in the Cellar – if searched they players will find an empty Strength Potion, rat droppings, and 10 copper coins.
Included are Standees for 6 Rats, 1 Giant Rat, 2 Doors, 1 Chest, Tavern Boy Jim, and Glennis Tugbeard the Tavern Owner.
The party arrives at the Tavern after travelling for a while. Inside they find an old woman (Glennis Tugbeard) who welcomes them. If they do a Perception Check and get over 10 they can clearly see she’s concerned.
The Tavern its self is empty except for Glennis. Everythings a bit of a mess.
If the players ask for food or drink she will tell them she has none “sort of”.
If pressed further she will admit that they have supplies in the Cellar but there was a problem with Rats. She sent down the Tavern Boy days ago and he’s not been back since. She will then offer the party that if they investigate she will reward them with free drink and food.
If questioned about the Dragons Head on the wall she tells the party of her late Husband Braun Tugbeard, a mighty dwarf who took down the Dragon with nothing but his hands and will reference his strength a lot (this is a nod to the Giant Rat the players will meet shortly who got into Braun’s old stash of Strength Potions).
Once in the Cellar, the players will find it quite dark, any with Darkvision won’t be affected but anyone else will have to light a torch or use magic to light the room up. Causing light will activate the first combat as they are jumped by 4 Rats.
The combat plays out normally.
Once combat is complete if the players try the door they will find it’s locked. This allows for a lock picking situation, use of strength to kick in the door (Str Check 14), or they can go ask Glennis for the key. However, they break through the lock they will find the door pinned shut. Jim the Tavern Boy is holding it shut. They can talk to him or use a Strength Roll of 13 or higher to push the door open knocking him back.
Once the conversation is started with Jim he will ask if they’ve killed the Rats. Once they confirm this he will ask if they also got the ‘big one’. This instantly activates Combat 2. This one is against 2 Rats and 1 Giant Rat.
This is a normal combat although I’d recommend having the Giant Rat start on top of one of the big Beer Kegs giving him an advantage against the players allowing him to roll advantage and forcing the players to roll disadvantage (teaching them this handy mechanic).
Once defeated Jim can be returned to Glennis, the Party are rewarded with food and drink, maybe even a Silver each for their efforts and the Scenario’s script ends here.
I rewarded my players with 100exp for this session. Way more than the monster challenge rating demands but I reward for Roleplay too, plus at 300 they will hit level 2 and I’d love to give them that exciting kick of levelling up not too deep into the game- that’s up to you and your type of players though.