When I found out Wizards of the Coast were releasing a Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things adventure, I knew I had to run it for my wife and kids. I play D&D with my family as a great way to gather around the table and create stories together. I have four kids and two of them have autism, so D&D is a great way to run a game that I can adapt anytime when needed. More about that here.
Running a game with four kids is difficult, especially when two are autistic and that vary in ages from 5 to 15. It is also part of the reason I love to run D&D for my family, as I can give each of them time and adapt the game for them individually, whilst creating a shared story together.
When I was preparing the adventure I was really disappointed with it as it was, so I built on it and made my own using the book as a guide more than anything else. I recommend you do the same as this is a great opportunity to get a lot of references and events, as well as some of the characters into the adventure.
My players started in a tavern called The Grog and Goblin using the character sheets it comes with, they didn’t have much time before one of Sir Tristan’s men came bursting through the door to scream at the party, The Ramsey Sauce (kids came up with this) that Sir Tristan had summoned them as there had been another attack. Behind the man the players could see a blood red sky and swirling black clouds . It was a storm.
Instantly the party are suspicious and spend a long time interrogating the man. Eventually the man called Robin had enough and shouted that Sir Tristan had been wounded. The party followed and arrived at the castle. One of my sons decided to go around the back and find another way in, you can tell these are veteran D&D players.
The party were greeted by a bloody and weak Sir Tristan who explained that the creature had returned. Here it is described to the players that the area has been attacked by this creature before, the ‘mind flayer’ from Stranger Things. The creature has moved on and the storm is disappearing, the players heal Sir Tristan and listen to what he has to say. He tells the party that the creature appeared and attacked them again. He asks for the parties help which he has done many times. He offers to head out with them once they are all well rested and fed.
One of the guards shakes his head at the party and widens his eyes. Sir Tristan is very old and although once was very strong and capable, he is now a shadow of his former self. The players convince him to stay here and guard the castle and surrounding lands. Sir Tristan offers his sword (Winter’s dark bite) and some supplies, he also agrees to reward the party with 1000 gold pieces each when they return with the head. He also supplies them with two bags of holding.
Sir Tristan invites the players to feast and rest, my daughter tries to gather information from a servant as he approaches the table, unsuccessfully. Eventually the party head out after desperate attempts to snoop around the castle. Sir Tristan gives the party all the information he has, including some rumours from various farmers and townsfolk. Here the party are given the opportunity to follow up on any rumours they wish and even investigate for themselves. They chose to split up into three groups, the DM in me is screaming inside. Players never learn do they?
Two of my sons head for a nearby forest, they investigate and eventually stumble upon a cave entrance. My daughter and wife have headed into the village for clues, stories and witnesses mention a young girl has been seen in the area. She has a shaved head and some claim to have seen her use great powers. Instantly the table is excited and sure it must be Eleven(it is), I wanted her to feature in my version a lot more than the standard adventure.
Back with my two sons, they enter a small cave entrance, instantly they feel a sickening case of vertigo, and for a brief moment feel that they had been turned upside down. The entrance starts to close with a pink organic material. Black vines and echoes from liquid dripping greet the two boys. They travel deeper inside and trigger a trap, the ceiling starts to collapse but after some incredibly lucky roles they dodge all the falling rock and make it to the next chamber.
My youngest autistic son wants a spider to fight at the castle, so I give him one and he kills it instantly. He told me it was dead after one swipe with his sword. This is what is great about D&D, we can all play together but I can react and run a game for all of them. Now the girls have arrived at the forest and eventually find footprints. It appears a small person travelled through here recently and it leads them to a rock face. They investigate and they find a small crack with some pink/red goo, just enough for their fingers to fit in.
My oldest autistic son was tiring of role play at this point and I struggled to keep his attention. He needed something significant and exciting to happen. So while he and my youngest started playing their own game, I carried on with the others needing some time to think.
Another party split, my daughter heads back into town whilst my wife pushes her hand in and she finds it starts to expand, just enough for her to squeeze through. The two boys stumble on the Troglodytes treasure room and investigate, this leads them to an unusual and not very stable wall. They push through it easily and wake up a dozen Troglodytes who hear and run off deeper into the caves.
Back with my daughter she arrives in the village and meets a woodsman along a path. She offers to help him chop wood and engages with him for information. He explains that he has also seen a little girl watching him before he saw her run away deeper into the forest. He warns of some nearby caves that ‘Once you enter, you get lost in the twisting tunnels and never escape’.
Eventually she leaves in search of local law enforcement at the Grog and Goblin.
To be continued…