My players and I just started up Lost Mines of Phandelver and upon discovering the Cragmaw Hideout at the start of the adventure, they decided to double back to where they left the oxen at the initial ambush site and attempt to take a long rest after a close encounter with the Goblins taking watch outside, which is where our first session ended.

To clarify, they killed the watchers before fleeing with their downed comrade (who took two arrows in the chest during a surprise round) but left the bodies. Obviously the goblins will take note of the corpses left at their front door, so my two ideas are:

  1. The goblins are now more prepared for an intruder in their hideout so setup extra traps in and around the dungeon to catch the killers.

  2. Goblin scouts are sent out to find the players, eventually stumbling upon their camp near the ambush site whilst they rest. I plan on this disrupting any potential for a long rest.

Does anyone have experience doing these kind of adjustments to an existing adventure? If so how did you make sure that the players were made aware that taking a rest at a critical moment (even though it was necessary to heal a downed team mate) has had consequences making their initial task more difficult.

I'd also like to know which of my two ideas seems more fair to the players to get my message of resting in a hostile location across to them. I want to punish them but not too harshly due to them being only level 1.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! If you have time you can take the tour to find out more about our site. This question looks answerable to me. Thank you for participating! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ About your option 2, I'm not sure if this is what you mean but you might like to check this related question: Does a short combat or casting one spell interrupt a Long Rest? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Update: ran this with my players last week and opted to go for a role-playing aspect to the scenario rather than actively try to make things harder for the players. 'Punish' was likely too strong of a word here and I appreciate the advice I've received. They encountered Goblins attempting to re-setup the traps they had already disarmed on the trail leading to the hideout, and promptly surprised and killed the little green-skins. I also 'replenished' the entrance guards and had them spot a scout whilst resting by the oxen. It went well and they realised they would need to clear a new path. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, there is no "surprise round" in 5e. Characters, maybe even the entire party, may be surprised, but they could have a better initiative roll than the enemy and would no longer be surprised after their turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – sirjonsnow
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:21

5 Answers 5


The answers provided by Niel B and CaM are good (and both have my upvotes), but I want to emphasise another aspect of this, based on my own experience with running this adventure (although this exact thing didn't happen to me; the first long rest was some time after this):

Level 1 characters are weak as hell, and this first dungeon is quite difficult for level 1 characters.

I agree that their carelessness should have an impact on the goblins, but I would advise away from anything too gameplay related like extra traps or extra enemies. Instead, I would focus on the roleplay and environment.

Stealing from Niel B's answer:

The bodies are gone. The entrance has been re-covered. Goblin sentries are hiding in the bushes. Have the goblins call them by name to signify they've been spied on.

The bodies being gone and there being goblins in the bushes (assuming these are from another area, not extra goblins) who address them by name are nice touches expressed through narrative to show the players that their actions have in-game consequences.

Also stealing from CaM's answer:

... once the goblins were alerted to the PC's presence, drums began beating. That helped keep the goblins from forgetting that they were at "red alert" status. Hearing those drums would warn your PCs that things were not on a peaceful footing. This might be enough for the wiser of the PCs to want to enter with more caution than usual. Maybe.

This, again, shows a narrative feature (the sound of drums that wasn't there before) that shows that your party's action have consequences, and although goblins will now be paying more attention, if there's still the same number of them in the same rooms, not much has changed regarding the dungeon's difficulty, but the goblin's behaviour has, which may give the party a harder time sneaking up on them or something, but otherwise doesn't make the dungeon any harder.

As for traps, I dismissed them just now, but it might be good if you add a couple of obvious traps, or something that your most perceptive PC would be able to spot with their passive perception (so the traps don't have to be super obvious, but will still be spotted by at least one of the party); this way, it won't make the dungeon any harder than it already is (you don't actually want to punish your players, simply teach them that the world reacts to them), but it shows some effort on the goblin's part to counteract their actions, just not successfully enough to actually change the difficulty of the dungeon.

I wouldn't recommend pulling punches quite as much as this ordinarily, but they're level 1! Level 1 characters are weak as hell, like I said. Saying that, level 3, for example, they won't be as weak, and if they haven't learned yet, then not pulling punches might teach them to start paying attention. But this early on, they're still learning, and they're still weak, so try to show the consequences in a narrative way, rather than a gameplay "punishment" way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your focus on the narrative side of things. What about also telling them about "lost opportunities" that were never actually there but might encourage them to be more careful in the future. Maybe something on the lines of: "you see a couple silver coins on the floor of this storage room. Nothing else" and they can hear a couple of guards saying "Yeah, three mates broke them backs when we had to move all that shiny stuff to BigBadFortress, you know, the one far away with the big three headed doggie. We couldn't leave it layin' here after all those wannabe heroes came poking them noses." \$\endgroup\$
    – xDaizu
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ DM styles that are based on lying to your players can backfire, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm not sure about pretending there was stuff when there wasn't, especially in a published adventure where some players could talk to others that have played it; "So what was in that treasure that we missed in that first dungeon?" "What treasure? There's no treasure in that dungeon..." "But we... oh... hmm..." \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 9:14

Rather than judge the Goblin's response based on what is fair or what will teach the Players a lesson, shift your focus.

What would your Goblins do, upon discovering their brethren lying murdered at the front door?

View this from their eyes and respond accordingly. I'd see several specific actions that they could take, immediately:

  1. Beef up security at the entrance(s). There should be better guards, locked doors, etc.
  2. Anyone leaving the security of the Hideout will travel in larger groups. This should include but not be limited to scouting parties.
  3. Scouting parties. These should be on high alert, as they're searching for a murderer. If the Goblins have the skills to realize it's a party of people, then the scouts will be even more cautious. They won't risk a head-on confrontation; they'll flee back to the compound.
  4. Defenses inside the compound will go from relatively passive "normal" to high alert. Those goblins without combat abilities (children) will be guarded at all times. Food or treasure will be as well. There will be combat-ready goblins near the entrances. If they have traps, those will be beefed up, too.

(The more lawful they are, the more preparations they will have made or will quickly be prepared to make. And the longer they will hold onto their state of readiness. Conversely, the more chaotic they are, the more likely they are to go on a rampage through the forest, seeking vengeance at all costs...)

Remember, this is their home. And they know that weakness means death. So they're going to be as ready as they can for whatever is coming.

Do your PCs realize any of this? The answer to that may be important to their safety.

There was one module in AD&D 2e (Reverse Dungeon, maybe?), where once the goblins were alerted to the PC's presence, drums began beating. That helped keep the goblins from forgetting that they were at "red alert" status. Hearing those drums would warn your PCs that things were not on a peaceful footing. This might be enough for the wiser of the PCs to want to enter with more caution than usual. Maybe.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Alignment is worth noting. Lawful monsters are more militant and orderly whereas Chaotic are more sporadic and disorganized. This should temper their response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I've added a bit to address that, because you're quite correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – CaM
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a good point, the goblins may not know the nature and makeup of the force which attacked them, and so would not plan a response capable of defeating the party. All they know is the force is tougher than the gate guards, but have no idea how tough. They may also be biased by past encounters with other raiding parties, who would be a lot tougher than a few level 1s. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 15:34

These kinds of adjustments are common, not specifically in this scenario, but in published adventures across the board. You'll often want to change things up in response to the players' actions... which is why published adventures are often just as much, if not more work than home-brew.

Next I'd forget the word 'punish'. It is not your job to punish the players, it's your job to find the most fun way for the goblins to react to this intrusion. A single combat wouldn't invalidate a Long Rest, but in any case, don't try and strip their Long Rest away from them at this level. Perhaps one of the watches notices someone observing them from the bushes: a goblin spy, sent to get a measure of the party before reporting back. If that guy gets away, it could spell trouble.

Your option number 1 is by far the best. Give guards advantage on Perception checks. Have the flood trap be ready at a moment's notice. Work out a simple retreat plan for goblins in the caves to fall back to the boss (Klarg?). Have the goblins bluff the adventurers about reinforcements.

And signal this to the players when they get back to the caves. The bodies are gone. The entrance has been re-covered. Goblin sentries are hiding in the bushes. Have the goblins call them by name to signify they've been spied on.


I would strongly recommend against taking punitive action against the players - you're all there to have fun and setting up an adversarial relationship early in the game is unlikely to benefit the table long term.

In this case your players have signaled to you that they fear for their characters and want a chance to heal up before going on. Rather than focusing on a 'realistic' take on what might happen, ask yourself how you can get the most fun out of this situation. If this were a movie, what might happen?

  • Maybe the players have a chance to capture the Goblin scout and either make a new ally or learn about the layout inside the caves to skip some of the content or make it a little easier.
  • Maybe the Goblins have time to prepare a trap for the PCs but they manage to spot it (Goblins aren't always too smart) and reverse the situation, turning this trap to their advantage.

Either route goes a way to help everyone at the table get used to play that is more than 'kill them and take their stuff'. Show that (semi) intelligent sapiens can be bargained with, out-foxed, frightened away and so on.

Many players (especially new players) can get wary of the game when their HP starts to drop, feeling that they are close to 'losing'. It's only once they have some trust in their DM that they can relax this a little and be confident that the game isn't confrontational, it's about fun.

I think of your two options, I would modify option 2, having the Goblin scout(s) make enough noise to alert the party and fail to find them. That demonstrates your point that alerting the enemy is a bad move, but allows you to introduce some new factors and allow the characters some time to recover.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Big fat +1 Realism should be tempered with "fun", players need to get a break especially at level 1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 13:22

The campaign is a guide, not law. Don't railroad your players; they won't enjoy it and you'll enjoy it less. Let them lash out against the world, and certainly let it lash back at them. Here's ideas on deviations from the campaign.

Maybe while leaving they stumble into the locked-up owlbears' nest. The remainder of its family is agitated and on edge and attacks any creature that passes by.

The goblins send to the Black Spider for additional aid after the attack.
The courier with the letter is another doppelganger looking like Gundren.

The Black Spider tells them to abandon the site and reinforce the Lost Mine.

Maybe the goblins aren't smart enough to think beyond, "Hey, if the guard died, they need to be replaced."

The goblins get paranoid and double their guards.

The bugbears blame the hobgoblins and so the hobgoblins then plan a coup to overthrow King Grol.

Maybe King Grol takes it personally and begins an assault of a goblin militia against the folks of Phandalin. When the party arrives in Phandalin, goblins are everywhere and everyone needs help.

The party sees the doppelganger shift/change from one humanoid to another as it leaves the castle.

The goblins think it's another nearby tribe and begin to see goblins fighting against goblins. Maybe battles between green goblins vs. yellow goblins become rampant afterwards.

There a tons of possibilities if your players deviate from the prewritten campaign; these can all work.


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