My group took 27 sessions ~ 75h, but could be done in 40-45h by a faster group
My group consisted of 5 players – 4 new players (one of whom joined a few sessions in) and one moderately experienced one.
This was all played over zoom, which slows things a bit; our sessions ran about 2.5 - 3h of play (but more like 4h with catching up, chit-chat, lamenting covid, discussing character choices, etc).
The first few sessions in particular went very slowly as they got used to the mechanics and to roleplaying.
The group are also fairly slow overall:
- they tend to investigate everything, which keeps me on my toes, and means I need a lot of random stuff prepped ready for them to find
- they plan combat carefully before they go in. Planning up from is their kind of fun; they synergise well and it's rare for anyone to get KO; but it is slow).
I've kept records of sessions, so I can give you a breakdown:
- Session 0 – Session 0, introduce characters & goblin attack
- Session 1 – fight with redbrands
- Session 2-3 – cragmaw cave
- Session 4 – Banshee & Wyvern Tor
- Session 5 – journeying encounters, shopping, exposition
- Session 6-8 – Redbrand hideout + a lot of discussion about what to do with the nothic
- Session 9-11 – sidequests related to Levelling up: travelled to Triboar, a feywild encounter to justify the ranger's Fey Wanderer subclass; Paladin oath; meeting Big Al from DoIP & claiming his ranch for him (crossover event for the experienced player who was also playing DoIP in another group I DM)
- Session 12 – the well – including a slightly extended investigation of the ruins
- Sesson 13 – Travel encounters, investigating where the castle is
- Session 14-17 – the castle, including the excellent sidequest https://cros.land/2019/09/quest-the-redemption-of-agatha-the-banshee/, which is well worth running Didn't get the map.
- Session 18-19 – Thundertree. This encounter is very dangerous; if your players are used to level-appropriate encounters, make sure you telegraph the danger; taking Venomfang head-on will probably be a TPK. My group parlayed but even still just averted a permadeath.
- Session 20 – travelled to Neverwinter, shopping, seeding of future plotlines
- Session 21 – ransacked the castle convinced they needed to find the map; essentially off-plot, but it'd re-filled with new monsters in the time they were away
- Session 22-26 – Wave Echo Cave. A lot of time wasted discussing which enemy to betray to which, and repeatedly fighting the flameskull.
So, of those 27 sessions, only 20 were 'on plot' – though some off-plot is to be expected and breaks up the pace – but a more efficient group could probably get through all the content in 15.